Homeschool Mom’s Dirty Little Secret #1 – The Unhappy Marriage

by Carletta on February 14, 2011

I guess Valentine’s Day is a good day to talk about marriage – yes, even unhappy marriages.

I know the ideal homeschool family has either:
1. A wife who is wholly submitted to her righteous spiritual leader of a husband, or
2. A husband who never complains, never argues, and does most of the housework, homeschooling and child-rearing in addition to working countless hours outside of the home.

I also know that there are many homeschool families who don’t fit the ideal, and I’ll let you in on my dirty little secret – we’re one of them.

You are not alone.

Although my husband and I dated happily for 4 years, marriage seemingly brought out the worst in us. I actually remember feeling embarrassed upon a chance meeting the neighbors who shared an apartment wall with us during our first year of marriage. I still shudder to think of all the shouting they must have heard.

I wish that I could say it only got better from there.

However, I am glad we sifted through the bad and the ugly, until we unearthed the good. Here’s some of what I’ve learned along the way.

Live By the Golden Rule

One of the first steps to improving my marriage was realizing that my husband has needs and desires that are just as important as my own.

I studied my husband to find out his likes, his dislikes, what motivates him and what deflates him. I discovered his dreams, his priorities, his fears, and his goals for me and the children. I grew to know and accept him for who he was, without judgment for being different than I wanted him to be.

If your marriage is filled with conflict, take time to discover your husbands needs and desires. Consider asking your husband how he ranks the following in order of importance:

  • Education
  • Discipline
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • A Clean House
  • Good Food
  • An Attractive Wife
  • Sex
  • Free Time
  • Family Time
  • Religious Activities

Then find out his definition of education, a clean house, good food, etc. without expressing any judgment.

My husband feels the house is clean if there are no dirty dishes in the sink and the dirty laundry is out of sight. He doesn’t even notice dusty ceiling fans and baseboards, so those tasks are at the bottom of my list. His definition of education includes completed workbook pages, so we set aside an hour or two for book learnin’ every day.

The goal here isn’t to become a Stepford Wife or a slave to your husband’s every whim, but to work towards understanding your husband’s priorities so you can be a better wife.

Find out your husband’s needs and desires and work hard to fulfill them.

Do unto your husband as you would have him do unto you.

Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood

My husband and I used to argue almost every time I met him cheerfully at the door. The problem wasn’t that he was rude and ungrateful. The problem was that I was meeting him cheerfully at the door.

It didn’t occur to me that he been working right up to the minute he pulled into our driveway, and needed time to set his briefcase down, take off his jacket, use the restroom and sit in the big chair before he put on his husband and father hat. It didn’t occur to me that his need to decompress for 10-15 minutes might trump my need to chat about my day.

Sometimes we need to look beyond our hurt feelings so we can understand the root of the problem.

  • Is your grumpy, critical husband simply stressed, exhausted, and worried that your overspending will mean he won’t have enough money to pay the bills?

  • Is your husband complaining about your housekeeping because he doesn’t understand how hard your job is or because you spend hours a day on Facebook while the dishes pile up in the sink?

  • Did your husband ask you to put the kids in school because he’s unsupportive or because you’re continually complaining and seem to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown?

I am not a person who believes wives are at fault for every problem in a marriage, but sometimes we are at fault. Sometimes it really is that simple.

With all of the modern conveniences available to us today, we should be able to do our jobs well. Not perfectly, but well. If you don’t know how to keep house, and I will readily admit that I didn’t, you can learn. If this is a major sore spot in your marriage, there’s good news – small changes can make a big difference.

I am convinced that many common problems in marriage boil down to a lack of understanding of different personality types. I always find it funny that I can tell by a wife’s complaints that she’s married to an engineer. (Can you tell I’ve btdt with the questioning, analyzing, and quest for “excellence” combined with a total lack of regard for feelings?)

From Dave Ramsey’s simple definition of Nerds vs. Free Thinkers to Myers-Briggs’ 16 personality types – there are many different tools available to help you better understand the conflicts that arise when you’re married to someone who views and interacts with the world in an entirely different way than you.

I learned a great deal from Dr. Rohm’s DISC personality profiles. If you ever have a chance to attend one of his seminars, he’s hilarious!

For years, I’d approach my husband about scheduling or financial issues, only to have him ask me to put them in writing. Boy, was I offended. (I’m a wife, not a secretary!) I now gladly send e-mails, write notes and create spreadsheets because they help my husband understand me.

If we seek first to understand, we’ll often find that our problems have simple solutions.

And then there are those problems that don’t have simple solutions, which bring me to my next point…

Choose to Love, Forgive and Let it Go

It’s okay to compromise in order to appease someone you love.

It’s okay to let your husband be wrong or even very wrong. Really, it is.

It’s okay to end a discussion without being fully understood. It’s okay. Really.

It takes two to argue.

Instead of breathing life into the conflicts in your marriage, let them die.

Cancel the pity party, and look at your spouse through rose colored glasses. Don’t compare him to other men. Don’t complain about him to your friends. Build him up with your words and actions. Realize you aren’t perfect either, and give him time to grow.

The best advice I ever received about marriage was from an online friend named Rose who told me to, “Choose to love, forgive, and let it go.”

When I was focused on all the problems in my marriage, I wasn’t focused on the fact that my husband is an awesome provider, and a loving father. We agree on every single one of the biggies – religion, child-rearing, education, finances. He is my best friend, and he makes me laugh every single day.

My marriage began to heal when I started looking at my husband as a human being with needs, wants and feelings that were just as valid and valuable as my own. We are far from perfect, but we love each other, we are in love, and we feel blessed to be on this wonderful journey called life together.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephanie February 14, 2011 at 8:56 am

VERY good article. My husband and I have been married for 18 years and it took WAY too many of those years to begin to understand some of the things you listed. It is hard to realize they are human too and have feelings and desires and are not Prince Charming on his white horse waiting to make OUR life perfect.
Keep up the good work, I really enjoy your blog.

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Carletta February 15, 2011 at 6:07 am

So true. If only I’d known these things when we first married!

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MamaBear February 14, 2011 at 9:20 am

thank you for sharing your story. you’ve made some great points, too:)
love is work! happily ever after has nothing to do with gowns! :)

melinda

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MarbleEyez February 14, 2011 at 10:50 am

This is a fantastic post. My husband and I live by a little quote by Dr. Emerson Eggerich: “Not wrong, just different.” We spent a few months going through a DVD series called “Love and Respect.” It totally changed the way we view marriage and each other. It is very refreshing to see another homeschool mom value the same things. The best quote: The goal here isn’t to become a Stepford Wife or a slave to your husband’s every whim, but to work towards understanding your husband’s priorities so you can be a better wife.

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Carletta February 15, 2011 at 6:10 am

I read Love and Respect a few years ago, and I probably need to pull it out again. I love that quote by Eggerich.

@MamaBear – Marriage really is hard work! If only we spent more time preparing for it that we do picking out those gowns…

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Laura Grace Weldon February 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Wonderful and deeply honest post. I read once that the top indicator of a successful relationship is how positively your partner believes you see him. And vice versa. Which makes it pretty tricky. But it also indicates what can heal a troubled relationship. Most of us work so hard at advancing our own agenda that we don’t realize what our behavior(angry, condemning or silent distance) may shape our partner’s perception about what we think of him.

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Carletta February 15, 2011 at 6:16 am

I totally agree with you, Laura! I wish I’d understood that sooner.

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Ro February 25, 2011 at 11:17 am

Wow. This just hit me dead in the face. WOW… silent distance is the thing i use most often… WOW. I am so convicted right now.

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mary March 31, 2011 at 2:35 pm

same here!!! silent distance is the name of the game…thank God, i read this article at the peak of my pity party…

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Kat February 19, 2011 at 10:45 am

Carletta,
I am so glad I found you today. I really needed this. I needed to be reminded of who he is…who he is as a human, who he is in Christ, who he is as a man. We have been stuck in a rut these last few weeks…and it is time for me to refocus on how I can come alongside him.

I am so glad I found your blog today, Carletta.

Blessings to you,
Kat

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Carletta February 19, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Thank you, Kat. Best wishes to you and your husband!

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Henry February 19, 2011 at 3:06 pm

You make some great points. Thanks for sharing.

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terry@breathinggrace February 22, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Very well said, Carletta. Just wonderful!

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Susan February 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Thank you for not being afraid to tell it like it is, this is a great article.

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Annie Kate February 23, 2011 at 8:17 am

Aha, another wife who took years to learn not to meet hubby cheerfully at the door! LOL

Thanks so much for your wonderful post.

Annie Kate

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Ro February 25, 2011 at 11:17 am

Found you through Terry. Great post!

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Carletta February 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Thank you, guys!

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Marlis February 26, 2011 at 4:09 pm

What a great post! Thank you. Found you through CoH

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kelli March 21, 2011 at 7:18 pm

I remember a time earlier in my marriage ( 11 years almost now) when I was letting my anger get the best of me- at that point it was snowballing on me. I remembered my mother telling me (my parents are still happily married) not to EVER START THINKING NEGATIVE about my husband. At first I wondered how in the world I was supposed to do that when he was obviously so wrong and causing me so much trouble! I didn’t know where to start to get rid of negative feelings and thoughts.
So, I prayed. And prayed. And then God and I agreed that every time I started to think negative- I would stop and pray. Each day I started the day by thinking of one good thing I loved about him. I would stop and THANK God for that quality in my husband each time I started to focus on any other. . . . . It Worked!
Here we are- 3 kids and almost 10 years later since that time. He is the hardest working, most kind and loving, unselfish, cutest, most intelligent, Godly, giving, fabulous husband and father who adores me and puts his family first! And just think- I could have let Satan mess it up over stupid personality differences- I am so thankful and use that little technique any time stress starts to take a toll & stop in my tracks to remember all I have to be thankful for! Being grateful and thankful to God can “fix” many many so called problems!

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Carletta March 21, 2011 at 7:21 pm

What a wonderful testimony! Thank you for sharing!!!

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Sally March 25, 2011 at 8:32 am

I love posts based on honesty and reality. Thanks for sharing your story with your readers! I am going on 7 years of marriage, and I have to admit, the first 5 years were so hard, I wasn’t sure we’d make it. But, we both somehow learned to understand one another, and see each others needs, and live by that Golden rule. I am so thankful we prayed for guidance, otherwise I don’t think we would have made it. It’s nice to see I am not alone.

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shadowspring May 23, 2011 at 6:10 am

I was not as positively impressed as many of your readers. I know too many home school wives who have been super-supportive, forgiving and kind to their husbands who still wound up abandoned in middle age.

It’s not all up to the wife.

I like how Sally points out that BOTH must live by the Golden Rule.

Many home school marriages are distressed, but I have yet to know of one that was stressed because MOM wasn’t trying hard enough to live a life of love. It is the women who are buying and reading the books, going to the seminars, seeking ways to make life better for their families.

A woman can be completely committed to loving and supporting her man, as well as her children, and still have problems in her marriage. In fact, the (foolish) call for a wife to give unconditional respect to an undeserving husband and to overlook, excuse and ignore immature, selfish and ugly behavior from a husband makes problems worse. It won’t heal or help at all; it just postpones the day of reckoning.

If your home school marriage is hurting, visit http://joelandkathy.com/ and get some sound advice. Wife try harder is not sound advice, but it is common.

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djkoll June 6, 2011 at 5:38 am

Great post. I think I need to do that list with my husband; I THINK I know what he would say but my guess is that I’m wrong LOL And the part about meeting him cheerfully – great reminder. I’m quilty of that . . .he never gets mad at me but as we get ready to sit down for dinner 15 minutes after he walks in, I often get miffed that he is still putting his keys and stuff away, changing clothes and going to the bathroom. I think I understand it more 😉

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A Husband's View June 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Thank you for sharing your insight.

I find one opinion dominating the web – that husbands are not loving their homeschooling wives “as Christ loves the church.” (duh!). The logical conclusion of this is that if I only did that then all would be well. But my sincere question is what does “loving your wife as Christ loved the church” look like in the contemporary context, particularly as a homeschooling family? What is a homeschooling husband left with when he feels he has done that to the best of his ability and his wife disagrees? How much of a husband’s death is enough?

We live in an age which benefits women above men. In the current homeschooling context men are told that they should do everything to support their wife’s efforts. Was this the traditional view of the church? Seems to me it was the other way around. Even though homeschooling seems christian I see a strong feminist streak running through it. Many christian women want it all from their husbands.

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rachel July 15, 2011 at 3:56 pm

thank you for being “real” about the struggles of a h/s mom. so often it’s assumed we have it all together, the perfect marriage, the perfect children, home, etc…

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ulu September 12, 2011 at 9:06 am

Thank you! Perfect timing to stumble upon your blog x

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