Well I’ve just written a post which was indirectly all about trying to communicate my needs to my husband – as usual! I guess this shows human nature, that even with all the best will in the world, to make this blog an objective analysis of how to have a great marriage, I tend towards talking about about my own needs, and trying to communicate what those might be in marriage, instead of thinking about how I would be a great wife, and fulfilling my husband’s needs! I guess that I need to consciously and deliberately apply thought to this area, as I would expect to do in marriage, constantly asking myself that question: what are this man’s needs and how could I fulfil them, as far as I am able?!
This thought has just occurred to me, that even where I have managed to acknowledge my husband’s needs, I have just tended to make them a mirror image of my own needs. That is, wherever I have acknowledged something I might want, it has been easy to flip it on its head and say “Well my husband will probably need this too!” I guess the challenge then is to think about a husband’s potential needs, not merely viewed through my own needs, but rather asking what he might need, in his own right, and how I might be able to cater to those needs.
I guess that in writing this blog I always assume that (of course, by God’s grace!) I am going to be a great wife! Because I am so sincere about all of this, and I think about it so deeply! Surely from all this I do not need to sit down and explicitly spell out the ways in which I plan to be my very best, for him, in that I have indirectly spelled it out so many times, and I have endlessly communicated my determination in this area!
Hmm, maybe so, but perhaps someone out there needs to see this, all the same!
So then these are all the ways in which I hope and plan to be an excellent spouse for my husband:
1. Prayer: Whenever I pray for my marriage, which has not been a lot lately, admittedly, I pray that God would enable me to be an excellent spouse.
This makes me sit down and think: OK, so what exactly would it mean for me to be an excellent spouse from my husband’s perspective? I always assume that it must be a “husbandified” version of exactly the same thing as what I as a wife would be looking for – but what if it is not?! OK so then men, for those of you who are reading this, please comment and let me know! What to you does it mean for a wife to be an excellent wife?! (And then there is also that small fact that people will say one thing about what they want, but the truth can actually be quite different; unless someone is truly used to honestly and thoroughly examining himself, he might sincerely not know what he truly wants! Which could be one explanation for the high divorce rate in society…)
While waiting for men to comment, I will after all proceed on the basis of the mirror image of what I want! Is this a further, possibly false assumption: that a happy marriage is simply composed of two individuals who are both happy and fulfilled in the marriage? On that assumption I have been thinking of ways to make my husband feel happy and fulfilled. However, could the truth actually be more sophisticated than that? Could it for instance be that marital happiness is not about “happiness” at all, but rather about oneness? If that is true then perhaps the challenge is not to think of ways of making one another “happy”, but rather ways of increasing communication and understanding between ourselves, even possibly allowing ourselves to argue and express frustration at one another.
Thankfully communication was going to be top of my list of things to do to fulfil my husband’s needs. Overall I think that my general strategy would not just be to find daily ways to make him smile, although I hope to do that too! Rather I would aim to build systems whereby he and I can communicate freely, where each of us can feel free to express exactly whatever we need to express, where we both can feel heard and understood. I would also work to build an ongoing interaction of complete candour between him and me. This would involve complete honesty not only about positive things, but also about disappointments and frustrations. I would not want to overstress my marriage with negativity so it would need a delicate balancing act. Even while striving for candour, not everything needs to be said at once, or even at all.
I would also work deliberately on building and maintaining communication channels; working out how to talk when we’ve had a fight, for instance; how to quickly get rid of the negativity and channel that energy into pressing forward in our marriage, in a way that makes sense to our particular marriage, and how the two of us relate together.
None of these things might actually fulfil his needs in and of themselves, however all of this is like building the infrastrucure of the marriage. It is like the difference between going to the stream every day, which is like trying to find something positive to say to your husband, and laying pipes and a pump for fresh water from the stream direct into your house. So all the positivity would literally be on tap. It is also like the difference between fighting your way through woodland and forest daily to deliver an item from one village to another, and building a highway between these villages for those needs to constantly be delivered with minimal effort. Finally in terms of communication it is like installing a telecommunications network for constant easy and effortless communication, rather than trying to communicate via tin cans – or “no specific nationality” whispers! (Apparently the game “A racist phrase” Whispers is commonly known outside the UK as “a game of telephone”.)
So this is infrastructure, and in a way it is very similar to a foundation, but the big difference is that it would require constant maintenance, and it can also be changed as suits the needs of our relationship at any given point. So then by God’s grace, through this I would hope that he and I would share an extremely high level of intimacy, where we know one another inside out, and where we can openly and fearlessly share our needs with one another. Also I hope that through this we would share a deep level of understanding of one another; I would work to know who my husband is truly, how he is likely to react in different situations and why, what motivates him. So then it is not a matter of trying to guess what the other person might need. And then it is also not a matter of trying (or pretending) to be positive with one another all the time, but letting one another be, and allowing one another to express a full range of human emotions, and continuing to accept one another in that.
And then on top of that I would also aim to actually of course fulfill his actual needs, both expressed and unexpressed. I would do my best to listen not just to what he says, but to how he says it, trying to distinguish the various emotions that are there. I would do my best to constantly watch him, to see what I can glean about him. My constant prayer would be “Lord, please give me understanding of this man!” I bet that in many marriages if not most marriages, there is a clear dynamic at play in both directions, where your spouse might say one thing, but actually be getting at something else, and where, moreover he expects you to understand what he is truly getting at, and to deal with that! And I am not talking about an established code for speaking in public! I just suspect that some issues are very difficult to talk about, so it would be very difficult for people to be totally candid about them.
And then above all, I would also endeavour to pray for him so deeply!
So these are the things that I can think of “off the top of my head”. I expect that in practice, once by God’s grace I actually am married, I would be able to think of other things and other ways that I could work to fulfil his needs.
However something gives me great pause at this time, and that is simply this thought: surely in most marriages, there will be deep knowledge of and understanding of one another, even if they don’t sit around talking about “foundations” and “infrastructure”? Surely most wives would know exactly who their husbands are – and vice versa? So in that case, why do so many marriages struggle? Perhaps it is because there is not a sufficiently deep desire to serve one another, possibly because each spouse is fighting for their own needs to be fulfilled first; possibly because the spouses do not truly believe in one another, and it just does not make sense to invest the effort to serve one another. Additionally, it might be one thing for me to be writing all these things now, in that glorious optimism of “please Lord let my marriage be amazing!” of a romantically-inclined single woman. It might well be a very different thing once someone has been married for a few years or more and they are busy running between work and family (including spouse and children) and other commitments – foundation? infrastructure?! – seriously, who has time for any of that?! Perhaps then, this is where this “date night” idea comes in; as well as a regular time dedicated to sheer fun and getting glamorously dressed up for one another, that time could also be used to regularly examine and repair the “infrastructure” of the marriage. 😉
Hmm, in addition to all these things I guess I should also talk about those more conventional things that people often talk about, in talking about a husband’s needs, for instance all the adulation, adoration, praise, honour support and respect that I spoke of in my previous post! Also submitting to him, of course, which is his right as a Christian husband. It is because of these reasons that I have got to make sure I marry a man whom I can respect and adore and submit to. Beyond that, I wonder if there is any infrastructure I can build for myself to not merely “give” him these things, but to actually lavish them upon him. Perhaps what I could do for instance is to greet him in the morning by thinking of 5 lovely things to thank him for, that he did the previous day. The problem with ideas like this is that it is easy to fall into the routine where you are doing these things mindlessly and the heart has been wrenched out of the idea. But at least it is an idea. And as each day is different, then the five daily things will be different too. Hmm, if done right and sincerely this would be great practice in vulnerability, and it would be a great way to start each day off on a positive note. Perhaps I could combine regular things to do every single day with unusual and unexpected things and one-offs to catch him by surprise and delight him!
Thinking more of it, perhaps I would need to sit down and identify daily ways of fulfilling each of the different needs
1. that are common to all husbands
2. that my own specific husband might need – both of these in a way that is relevant to my own husband and our own specific marriage.
And then to these regular and daily things I could add exciting one-offs.
Submission is the hard one. As well as actually submitting to him in big areas, I guess part of the issue is making him feel “submitted to” in everything. I guess what I could do is to ask him if there are any areas in which he feels that I am not being submissive, asking him also if there are any areas in which he would particularly need my support or submission, and then finally for various issues or perhaps any issue that he raises with me, asking him what it would take for him to feel that I am being fully supportive or submissive in that issue. And then doing it, of course! In that way, then, submission would become something that is actively practised and nurtured – and discussed – in the marriage, and also an issue that he feels fully able to raise with me at any time, without fear of causing an argument. So then it would hopefully never be the case that I think that I am being the queen of submission, but he thinks me to be completely unsubmissive.