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:
- Extracurricular Activities
- A Clean House
- Good Food
- An Attractive Wife
- 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.