“Love to be real… it must cost, it must hurt, it must empty us of self.” –St.Teresa of Calcutta
This is the final installment of the series I’ve referred to as The Dilemma of Marriage. Thanks for sticking with me and reading the most recent Cruxes; admittedly they are heavy. Strong marriages make for strong families and strong families make for a better world…this is one of my core beliefs. Fortunately, my marriage has sanctified me and provided to me the grace needed as I strive to be my best self. In turn, I want to do whatever I can to support and promote great marriages.
For this Crux, I’ve asked my wife Ann Marie to weigh in on this crucial topic by offering a woman’s perspective.
When TD first asked me if I would be open to writing for this Crux, my initial thought was “What could I possibly share that could be relevant to other women?” After a few days, I was slightly panicked, having convinced myself that I am not a writer. Despite my initial misgivings, I offer to you what I am practicing. Perfection is very far from my reality but I can promise you that I consciously work at these personal disciplines.
–In the early days of my married life, I gathered once a month with several other women for a Bible study. It was during this time that I embraced one of the most indispensable lessons that I have ever learned as a wife. Through our monthly study and dialogue, I learned that too often, wives fight for the position of leadership in their marriages. When they succeed, discord is often the result, in large part because the wife blocks God’s direct line to her husband. There is a great line from a movie that I watched recently, “Being submissive means being willing to duck quickly enough so that God has a clear shot at your husband.” The mere mention of the word submissive sometimes sends women into convulsions, though it shouldn’t. Submission, in my opinion is not about being humiliated or losing my voice. TD and I are equal partners. It’s just that he is the managing partner. I think of it this way, who would I rather be responsible for controlling my husband… God or me?
–I have heard it said that a man desires his wife’s respect more than he does her love. Initially, this was hard for me to believe, however I am now convinced that all men desire respect from their wives. Consequently, I have focused on satisfying this need for my husband in a variety of ways. The first has to do with our children; they naturally adore their father and think that he is bigger than life. Even so, there are times when they need a gentle reminder that their father deserves their respect. I never tolerate any disrespect toward him and work diligently to model this behavior for them.
–An important habit of mine is praising TD in public. I have been a part of conversations in which a wife demeans or criticizes her husband in front of him and I can visibly see his entire spirit wilt. At that moment, it’s as if his body is crying out “I cannot believe she just said that. I must be such a loser.” Naturally, those experiences are awkward for me and instinctively, I want to affirm and re-inflate the man’s spirit…but this is not my job. The damage that this public criticism leaves in its tumultuous wake can be soul crushing.
–Another simple discipline that comes to my mind when I think about actively respecting TD is abstaining from the temptation to nag him. Proverbs 27:15 states it most eloquently, “A nagging wife is like water coming drip-drip-drip through your roof on a rainy day.” Research points to women who nag as one of the most common contributors to husbands giving up on their marriages. This is definitely something to which I remain particularly sensitive. I recognize that my husband hates being nagged!
–Also, I strive to show TD that I respect him and that he matters by actively listening to him. In all honesty, this is probably the most difficult discipline for me to deliver on consistently. I am an introvert and TD is an extrovert. Frankly, there are times at which I just don’t have any fuel remaining in my communication tank. There are some days on which I’m drawing from dwindling reserves. When this happens, I simply pray for patience and do my best to be there for him.
–I would be remiss if I failed to address the topic of intimacy, though I recognize that this is an intensely personal and private aspect of all marital relationships. If you are married to a man then, you already know that men crave physical affection. It is woven into the strands of their DNA. The light bulb came on for me once I fully understood this reality and I stopped resisting it. I want my husband to seek only me when needing to have this legitimate need met. With that goal in mind, I believe that it is also important for me to maintain a healthy physique. First and foremost, it is valuable for my own health and self-image. Additionally, the choices that I make that contribute to my health also gently encourage my husband to stay healthy. By taking care of myself in this way, I cash in on an additional relationship dividend…when I feel good about me, it is much easier for me to be intimate and vulnerable with my husband.
–In the final tally, everything else that I have shared with you is grounded in my active prayer life. I pray for wisdom and guidance each day. I pray specifically for my husband. I call for blessings on him by name and ask that God guide him in his roles as provider, husband, father and friend.
I am so grateful for Ann Marie’s influence on my life and her willingness to be so transparent in sharing her perspective. My intent in all of these Cruxes is to trigger reflection and dialogue, I am excited to think husbands and wives will connect on deeper levels as a result of what they read and unpack here.
No one besides Hollywood has ever suggested that staying happily married would be easy. Of course, the things that matter most in our lives rarely come without serious effort. Husbands and wives need to bring their “A games” every day. If your marriage is struggling, I pray that you will redouble your efforts to reconnect and get aligned with one another.
Thomas “TD” Dierker
Live like you’re dying…. cause you are!