Thursday, October 3, 2013

Advice to the Bride, My Wedding Gift to You

Dear Daughters,

I'm so excited that you are reading this letter, as it means that you are on the brink of marriage.  The days leading up to your wedding day are full of excitement, worries and lists of things to do.  You glow when you think of your betrothed.  His smile shines when your name is mentioned in his presence.  Your wedding dress is hanging in your bedroom and you can not wait to put it on and wear it for him to see.  In your quiet times you wonder what it will be like to be his wife, to wake up with him by your side, to fix him breakfast and spend an entire day with him.  And each day flies by and brings the day you walk down the isle one day closer.

I hope and pray that your preparations for your wedding day are small in comparison to your preparations for being a life time friend and help-meet to your husband, because the wedding is just one day, but marriage is for a life time.  Marriage is the biggest influence in your life as to your happiness and joy besides your love and commitment to serving God and bring glory to Him in your life.  Marriage can enhance your relationship with God and be used of Him to glorify Himself through your relationship with your husband.  But it doesn't always.  But I won't dwell on that now, our world is full of examples of marriages that have failed miserably, so I do not need to spend anytime dwelling on that.  I want to share with you the things that I have learned that have made my role as a wife a blessing to myself, my husband, my family and brought honor to God.  I know there are so many books to read about being a help-meet, a loving wife, a devoted fan of your husband and so on, so I'm not going to deal with generalities.  I'm going to share with you specifically things that I have learned and implemented as a wife for nearly 30 years now.  If you haven't read it yet, I have lots of general "preparation for being a help-meet" in my earlier post, Honoring Your Father, Loving Your Husband, so you might want to start there.  I might overlap here, but I'm going to be doing this a little different, in light of your impending wedding!

But, before I do that, I think I need to share with you why I think I should even do this.  What qualifies me to even begin to share anything for your benefit (besides the fact that I am your mom, if that is the case!).  When I married Daryl, I knew a few things.  I knew how to cook a handful of meals, I also had some rudimentary homemaking skills, and I had some idea of what makes a man enjoy a woman.  But I was not well prepared.  I had a lot to learn!  Through the years I've made my share, and then some, of mistakes.  But I've also done many things right (some of those came from learning from my mistakes!).  But now, 28 1/2 years later, I am happily married to my best friend.  I still want to share things with him before anyone else, and I'd rather go on a date with him than have a girls' night out!  Daryl and I enjoy doing many things together, and we even chat online while he is at work (I try not to keep him from working though!).  We talk on the phone during his breaks, and if one of us is not at home it feels like something is missing and everything is out of order.  In a day and age where over half of all marriages end in divorce, and many other marriages are not exactly paradise, I believe that my relationship with my husband qualifies me to give advice to anyone who asks (and even those who don't ask!).

So, where do I begin?  Well, most importantly, the best thing you can do for your marriage to become/remain strong in your relationship with your Heavenly Father.  Having a regular time of reading the scriptures and talking with Him is ESSENTIAL to a happy marriage!  Your husband can not possibly meet all your needs, or even some of your needs - that is God's job...but more on that later!  You will need to cling to your Savior as you ride the roller coaster of early marriage.  Run to Him when things do not go as planned.  Beseech Him for wisdom for each and every day.  Pray for grace to carry you through the difficult days.  And Praise Him for the good days!  If you haven't yet, please read my letter, Becoming a Woman After God's Own Heart for more on growing in your relationship with your Heavenly Father!  If you do nothing else for your marriage, guarding your daily time with the Lord should be it.

One of the first lessons I learned as a young wife was that using birth control pills was ruining our marriage.  I had mood swings and PMS so bad that I was beginning to think I was losing my mind.  So that is my first advice - don't even go there.  The risks associated with hormonal birth control (and there are pills, implants and other ways to get hormonal birth control) are very scary, and most also allow fertilization of the eggs, but do not allow implantation causing miscarriages instead of preventing life.  I recommend not using any form of birth control except that only one that really works - God!  It's 100% accurate - you will only become pregnant when it is in His design and plan for you and your husband!

The next thing you can do for your husband is to begin to pray for him daily.  A few years back I read the book The Power of a Praying Wife, by Stormie Omartian, as well as her other books on similar themes (praying parent, praying woman).  I purchased some journals and started writing out my prayers.  As a busy mother, this was indeed very handy, as I could be interrupted by my children and yet get right back to where I was and what I was praying for!  I have one journal for my general prayers (prayers for myself and my friends or any urgent prayer requests), and one for Daryl, and one for each of my children.  I rotate through the children's prayer journals (there just isn't enough time in the day), but Daryl's prayer journal comes out every time I have my quiet time.

One of the biggest mistakes I made in our marriage is that I came to marriage with the mindset of what I was taught in all those princess movies and romantic movies - that my husband would be my knight in shining armor and we would live happily ever after, because he loved me and would meet all my needs.  WRONG!  I learned the hard way that our world is out to deceive young women to believe that lie!  What better way to set up a marriage for failure than to come to it with unrealistic (might I say sinful and selfish) expectations!  As I mentioned earlier, that is God's job.  But beyond that, be sure to keep a close relationship with your parents, siblings, friends and church body. Your relationship with your husband is second only to your relationship with God, but you still need the support, prayers and encouragement from your greater circles of relationships.

Daryl and I agreed early on that we would never publicly ridicule or insult each other, and that we would not share each others faults and foibles.  This is a wonderful thing to do.  We even try to never bash the other general sex - so often a group of women will bash men/husbands in general, even when those men/husbands are present and hearing the comments.  Uphold your man, support him even when he is not present.  Never say anything derogatory about him to anyone.  If/when you are struggling with something in your relationship with him or something he does drives you mad, first pray for you to accept him as he is and that God would change you/grant you grace.  You might also read my other letter, Dealing with Daily Frustrations and Trials for more on that.  Then, if you still need to, talk with him about it in a loving way.  If that doesn't make any headway, privately and lovingly talk it over with your mother or mother-in-law (she did raise him and many times sons are very much like their fathers!).  But remember, that God made your husband exactly the way he is, and only God can change your husband.  It's your job to see what God is doing in your life through each and every circumstance.  It is not your job to change your husband, that is God's job alone!

Something that I took a long time to learn was that marriage was not a 50/50 proposition.  It's 100/100.  Many women expect their husbands to "do their part" around the house.  This is a recipe for a disaster.  For a great marriage, both husband and wife need to put 100% of themselves into the marriage, not expecting anything in return.  And even when one of the marriage partners is a totally failure, if the other partner is 100% committed, that marriage can still be a good marriage.  God talks about marriages like that in the Bible, and says that even an unsaved spouse can be won to Christ by the godly life of the other spouse (I Corinthians 7:12-14)!  If you expect anything from your spouse, you can and will be disappointed.  If you never expect anything, then anything they do will be a blessing to you!  For more about this, you can read my other letter, Great Expectations!

A big part of being 100% committed to making your marriage work, lies in the bed.  Literally.  As a wife, your job is to meet the needs of your husband when it comes to intimacy.  And visa versa.  But this can be difficult during times when you are experiencing poor health, fatigue, pregnancy, the newborn stage, toddler, long school days (if you are home schooling), teenagers (they keep you up late), and other life stresses.  Did you notice that I included basically all that can be included in being a wife through the years?  There always seems to be something that makes me tired at the end of the day, or not wanting to wake up early in the morning.  But that does not give me an excuse to withhold what my husband needs.  Granted, there are times of critical health crises, but those are the exception.  Give your husband what he needs when ( or at least close to when) he needs it and you will never regret it.  When you are lacking enthusiasm, that's OK.  It's not about you - it's about him.  It's your job description.  Read I Corinthians 7:1-5 if you don't believe me!  If you do not meet the needs of your husband, you are opening him up to temptations and you do not want to be the cause of that.  And he will love you all the more for it - even when you are less than enthusiastic, he'll know and he'll appreciate that you gave of yourself for him even when you would have rather been doing something else, like sleeping.  I know, I've been there more times than you can imagine (remember, I've been pregnant 14 times now!).

Please, do not manipulate your husband.  There are so many ways that women can manipulate men.  Using excuses to not meet your husband's need for intimacy is the NUMBER ONE NO NO!  I can not urge this enough.  Never use intimacy as a bargaining chip.  It will destroy your intimacy.  There are many other ways to manipulate.  Pouting, the silent treatment, flirting, whining, nagging.  You name it, some woman has done it to get her way.  But the rewards are dismal.  Getting what you want by manipulating your man will never satisfy you.  And it will cause bitterness in your husband.  Just don't do it.  If he does something that hurts you, lovingly tell him.  If you need something, lovingly ask him.  If he is not meeting your needs, prayerfully, lovingly and humbly share this with him.  If you have been wounded and he does not recognize it, admit it, or ask for forgiveness, forgive him.  Christ has forgiven all your sins, so don't hold your husbands faults against him.  You can choose to forgive him even if he doesn't ask, and even if he doesn't change or ever plan to change.  Remember Christ said that we are to forgive 70 X 7 for the same offense.  That means that you husband do the same thing that hurts you over and over again, and you should still forgive him.  That's a tough thing to do, but as I have heard it said by our pastor, "God's Commands are His Enablings."  If God tells you to do it, He will enable you to do it.  So when you feel unforgiving, as God to give you forgiveness and wisdom and He will do it.

Another temptation for many young, and not so young, wives is to put your children first.  It's so easy to allow your husband to drop down a notch or two (or three or four or....) when you are busy with the blessings that God sends your way.  Children have a way of being impatient and demanding your attention right now, and being in your face about it.  Never allow your children to interrupt your conversation with your husband.  I have failed so many time with this, but I'm doing better as I get older and have so much practice at this!  When your husband is at home and wants to converse with you, give him your undivided attention as much as you are able to (granted, a screaming baby is not exactly conductive to a great conversation, so do what it takes to be able to pay attention as quickly as possible).  This is one very important way you can daily make your man know that you are number one earthly priority in your life.  You will reap the benefits of a lifetime for this one little thing you can do for your husband.

Another way to make your man know that he is your priority is to stop anything you are doing and go great him when he comes home.  Show him that you are glad that he has returned home.  We try to do this everyday, and Daryl will expect it, but sadly, I forget at times.  Take a few minutes before he comes home and brush your hair, drink some water, do something that refreshes you and greet him with a kiss and a lingering hug.  It helps to release the tension of his work day!  And ABOVE ALL, do not bombard him with all the details of your day!  Even if there was a crisis and there is pressing/urgent business to attend to, it can wait a few minutes at least.  Allow him time to defuse, rest and recover - imagine yourself settling into a warm bath after a cold day, it's like that.  He's had the rush and stress of his business day all day and he's finally home - his home - his place away from the world.  Let him think that home is heaven for at least a few minutes!  If he is greeted with the cares and woes of home life every day the moment he comes home, his ride home will be not one of great anticipation, but of reluctance to face the onslaught of domestic crises.  Even if you are tired and have had the worst day of your life, take a deep breath when you hear him pull into the driveway, put on your "I love your more than life" smile and great him like he is your prince charming...the rest can wait a few minutes.  Better yet, wait until after dinner if at all possible before launching into the list of crisis!

Now, I want to talk to you about something you can not even imagine every happening right now.  Loving your husband even when you are not completely infatuated with him.  Right now you can not imagine ever losing that wonderful glow of being "in love."  But that is yet another lie that our world has gifted to us.  You do no "fall in love."  Because if you can fall in love, then you can fall our of love.  To fall into something means that the something is a noun.  But LOVE in marriage (and any human relationship) is not a noun, it is a verb.  It is an action.  Love is something you do, everyday.  Love is something that you need to do even when you don't feel loving towards your spouse.  Real love means rubbing your husbands back while he is sick, making breakfast for him when you were up all night with a colicky baby, overlooking the mess of a toothpaste tube, again, picking up his dirty laundry from the floor, again, and washing it, putting the his clean clothes in his drawers so he can find them in the morning, even though just lifting your arms feels like you are lifting weights.  You get the idea. It's the little things that show that you love him.  Meeting his needs even when your needs are unmet.  Doing the things for him that you know will make his day better, even if he doesn't realize it.  Granted, during times of sickness, these little things need to be left undone, but in the general scheme of things, remember to show him your love in the things you do for him and the things you overlook too.

And lastly, please "date" your husband!  This will help so much in keeping the glow in your relationship.  And it is doubly important when things are not going as well as you want, and when life is busy with babies and children!  Make a regular time of going out together.  If your budget is tight, get some grandparents to babysit (yep, I'm volunteering), and make a picnic (eat in your car if it's winter!), bring a game and just enjoy some quiet time together.  You could even just do this at home, but make it special in some way - candles, music.  And when you can go out for "real dates" - dinner, movie, dessert, long walks, bowling or whatever you enjoy doing together.  It's so important to keep your relationship close and alive, especially when life gets so busy.

I hope this letter is not a downer, I know I've had to share some of the many things that can make keeping your marriage strong and healthy difficult, but it is the difficult times that will make your marriage shine or crumble.  What good is a good marriage if it can't stand the test of trials?  Standing together through the tough times, the every day irritations, and the good times will make your marriage a wonderful thing.  You relationship to your husband will improve with the years.  He will become your prince and you will be able to see past his faults and see the heart of a champion - your champion.  He will value you more than any other earthly prize, for he will have found one of the best prizes in this life, a godly wife.

So enjoy your wedding day.  Make the most of your honeymoon.  Appreciate every day that is trouble free, and remember my advice when you need it.  And thank God every day for the blessing of your husband.

With All My Love,


1 comment:

  1. Dear Ruth, I have been married 26 years and I can heartily agree with everything you have written here. I am going to share this with my daughter who will be married this year as I could not have said it better than you did. :) Beautiful!