There was a period of several years – early in my marriage – where things were very difficult. It seemed that there was always tension in the relationship and I felt like nothing was ever enough to please my wife. I didn’t understand why she wasn’t happy because I thought that I was a pretty good husband. I was a nice guy who generally got along with people. I was reasonably sensitive and a lot of fun. I mean, c’mon, I’d written my senior thesis in college on “Family Ministry In The Church” - I knew how to be a good husband. Nevertheless, my wife still seemed unhappy and her anger was never far away. It seemed to me that she complained a lot and always wanted something more from me. I could only conclude that this was her problem. If she would just lighten up and listen to me, she’d be a lot happier and our marriage would be a lot better. In my frustration, I started pulling away from her – distancing myself from an unpleasant situation for which I believed that I was not responsible. Like the guy driving the old beat-up pick-up truck who wants to make sure that others know that his truck is not a reflection of his true investment, there were moments when I wanted to slap a bumper sticker on my wife’s rear end; maybe one that read: “My Other Wife Is A Harley”.
Feeling unappreciated at home, I directed my energy toward my job and my recreational outlets. Life wasn’t all that I’d hoped for, but I was rocking along okay. Then, around the sixth year of our marriage, a thought – hanging on eight painful words - popped into my head: “You’re doing more to her than for her.” I don’t know where those words – that thought – came from. But once it was there, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It haunted me for months before I seriously tried to understand it or act on it. During this same period of time, I was studying the book of Ephesians and when I got to chapter 5, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was confronted with the call for a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church. I’d read the passage a dozen times before, but this time it penetrated my heart. And as the picture painted in Ephesians 5 came into focus for me, I was terrified. Could I say that I had given my life for this woman? Dedicated each day to her growth and betterment? Was she, as a result of my work in her life, “radiant”, “blameless” or “without blemish”? And what if I was, literally, asked to present my wife to Christ as he will present His bride, the church, to Himself? I would be mortified. A quick audit of how I used my resources - my time, my money and my passion – was damning; I’d clearly invested more of myself in my ministry and my hobbies than in my wife. That moment of exposure felt like a nightmare coming true: the one where you suddenly realize it’s the end of the semester and somehow you never attended any classes!? You stagger into the classroom dazed and confused, realizing that in the rush you forgot to put your pants on. And as you become aware of what’s occurring in the classroom you see that the professor is handing out the final exam! That was the feeling; that was the nightmare - except this time there was no waking up. It was real.
By the grace of my God and my wife, I began moving out of the nightmare. A little counseling and a little honest reflection made it clear that I wasn’t quite the husband that I’d thought myself to be. Awash in my own self-serving and self-protective way of relating, I’d invested my heart and energy into those things that made me feel good about myself. I now see that I had, in fact, done more to my wife than for her. I started investing more of myself – my time, my passion, my money - in her and in our marriage. Although this new investment cost me something, the return quickly equaled – and then exceeded - my investment. Twenty years later, we share a passion and sweetness in our marriage that I could never have anticipated. As a marriage therapist, I now find myself asking men the same questions which I had to face. Have you disinvested yourself from your wife and marriage? …pulled away? …taken on a passive stance? …invested your time and energy into something that provides a more immediate and predictable return? If so, I would challenge you to invest as much of yourself into understanding and bettering your wife as you have invested into your career, your hobbies… your Harley. If you genuinely do, I can almost promise that you will be surprised by what you get back in return.
Posted on Mon, July 23, 2012
by Jeff Pipe filed under