This is a guest post from my wife Andrea Isaacs.
“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” Proverbs 25:24
If you haven’t read Jason’s post about our first years of marriage and his struggle with maturity and manhood you really need to read it before you continue reading mine. This is intended to be a compliment to his article so it’s important you read, “There’s Hope For Your Husband” first. Read his article here.
“I will not be a nagging wife, I will not be a nagging wife, I will not be a nagging wife”- this was my mantra as I headed into marriage.
I didn’t know much about marriage at 20, but I knew I wanted my marriage to be cheerful and exciting and full of passion. I was pretty convinced we could live on love and laughter (nauseating I know) but that mantra, the one about not nagging, proved harder to hold onto when the piles of laundry were spilling into my kitchen floor and the toilets became so dirty I started using the guest bathroom just to avoid a fight. I mean I shouldn’t have to tell a grown man to stop peeing on the seat, right?
Those first few years, Jason and I were both working and I was also in school, and while I could have probably worked harder to be a better housekeeper, I for sure was feeling overwhelmed and even hurt at the lack of interaction and help from my new husband. He seemed to have plenty of leisure time, while I struggled to find a moment to think. I knew spending time together was important, but I didn’t want to waste any of that time arguing, so for better or worse, I resolved to complain as little as possible. Focus on the good, right?
Free Download “31 Ways to Encourage Your Husband that will make him feel appreciated, respected, & motivated to change” by Andrea Isaacs.
Silence Isn’t Golden
The result of my resolution was a perfectly content husband who was clueless anything was ever in need of improvement and my own feelings of total disillusionment. I was to blame. That’s right- it was on me. I was partially right- limit the complaints- but that shouldn’t have been a stand-in for not communicating at all. I was by no means ready to call it quits, but I desperately believed there had to be a better way. I started trying to share with Jason some of the frustrations I had. I wanted him to be more romantic. I wanted him to help out more. I wanted him to…. fill in the blank. There were a million things I had unwillingly cataloged away that he wasn’t doing “correctly”, and I was discouraged that he claimed I was asking him to be something he wasn’t. It was infuriating and lonely. He blamed personality for any shortcomings instead of acknowledging his selfishness, and I remember a night I finally reached my end, and during one of our fights, I screamed, “This isn’t what I signed up for!”
Celebrate the Win
By the grace of God and the reminder that I had married someone who, despite what his actions might have conveyed at the time, did care about me- he made efforts to change. It wasn’t overnight, in fact, it was probably about five years in, but there were efforts, nonetheless. I knew I needed to cash in on those efforts; I decided to throw the proverbial parade. What you praise gets repeated, so I started telling him how big of a deal it was when he did the dishes or went to the grocery store. I complimented his sweet text messages and made sure to mention how much I liked it when he wore nice clothes. I was grateful when he took out the trash, even if I had to ask multiple times, and always tried to encourage him anytime he came to bed instead of staying up late. We were not the ideal couple, I even had a few friends tease me saying things like, “We get it, you like him!” because I was probably going a little overboard bragging on him or coming to his defense, but I was still really discouraged our married life lacked spontaneous romance and felt like all of our quality time was on his terms. So, I started pushing for a date night. Obvious, I know. Every marriage blog or couple’s retreat will tell you how important date night is and he even agreed to try and make it a consistent habit. The problem was he expected me to plan them! Initially, I was hurt he wasn’t putting forth more effort, but I had to decide, did I want to improve our relationship or win the argument. I picked improvement even if it meant I had to settle for less than ideal for the time being. No doubt, I was putting forth more effort, but my focus was on the small wins- we were going on a date after all! He started cooking more. Yes, it meant dishes piled up, but I was determined to celebrate the behaviors I appreciated and not magnify the annoying ones.
I think one of the biggest shifts that had to happen for me was realizing that before you can ever really be an encourager, you have to stop the thinking that you are always right and he is always wrong. If not, you are only making it harder on yourself and you’ve already set him up to fail. You assume he’s going to get it wrong instead of believing that he can get it right.
Talk About Him Behind His Back
I was not blind to my husband’s faults- contrary to what some of my well-intended friends might have thought. I was painfully aware, but I was finding the balance between silence and sustenance. I knew our marriage needed to be nurtured. Silence was helping neither of us, but the slow wins were feeding our relationship and helping to grow a better marriage. Encouragement became my number one source for creating change. I tried to be as vocal as possible about every area I could think of. I complimented his work ethic. I bragged on his musicianship and golf scores. I thanked him for handling the bills. I talked him up to my girlfriends. I never lied or exaggerated, but I was definitely intentional to accentuate the positive. The more I bragged on him to others, the more it settled in on me that I was really lucky to have him.
So where are you at right now? Are you struggling to find the good? Have you lost your mind trying to get him to change? I know your man isn’t prince charming right now. I know he is probably overweight, unmotivated, fine with just “getting by”, never considerate, or always letting you down, but there is hope! You can’t make him change, but he can change. I think we as wives hold on so tightly to our ideas of how things should be and we fear that if we give in one iota then we are done for completely. Here is the secret, it’s actually more empowering to compliment the areas your husband is trying in than it is to keep pointing out the areas where he may be failing. Because the honest truth is, we are never satisfied. If he got the kids ready and packed their lunches, he probably forgot to put a drink in the lunch box. Or if he manages to start the laundry, he probably left out the fabric softener even though you’ve shown him 100 times. He isn’t doing it on purpose- I promise. He actually wants to make you happy. He actually hates disappointing you. It bothers him when you are upset, but if we are being honest, it’s probably so exhausting trying to do it your way or live up to your unreachable expectations, it’s easier to just not try at all.
I have seriously watched close friends of mine give their man the cold shoulder or throw a fit in a situation when it was obvious to everyone else that the husband was actually trying but missing the mark in regards to pleasing his wife. It’s heartbreaking, but we all do it. We feel like if we aren’t “letting him have it”, he will stop trying, but I think it’s all the complaining and nagging that is actually making our husbands shut down. I want to empower my husband to be a better man, not gripe him into trying to meet my standards.
Your husband is good at something, probably several things, you just have to pay attention to notice them. If your husband is great at handling the budget, don’t take it for granted simply because he’s always handled the money. If your husband enjoys cutting the grass it shouldn’t be any less appreciated than if he sees it as a chore. Complement those fancy edges. He worked hard with that weed eater! Look for the areas where he is doing well, but maybe you have failed to appreciate his efforts. What’s normal for you would probably be exceptional for someone else. If he is good at apologizing, be grateful and acknowledge it. If he doesn’t mind cooking dinner- let him, and then say thank you. There are plenty of wives who would love to have help in the kitchen. Don’t make it harder than it should be. If he enjoys giving the kids a bath but hates doing laundry, don’t put him to the test and make him prove his love and devotion to you just because. Here are a few things to appreciate that you may have overlooked. If your husband:
- never yells at you
- doesn’t flirt with other women
- coaches your kids’ sport teams
- does the grocery shopping
- keeps the cars maintained
- has a job
- puts the kids to bed
- is handy around the house
- is kind and generous to others
- has strong convictions
- takes your family on vacation
- always says I love you
Acknowledge and appreciate these. Talk them up. He wants to be the man you want him to be he just needs to know that you believe he can be that man.
I have provided a free pdf, “31 ways to encourage your husband that will make him feel appreciated, respected, & motivated to change.” I hope this helps you encourage your husband even if your marriage is not where you want it to be at the moment.
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