letting the guys off too easy?

First of all–again, brilliant. You guys are brilliant. I’m always blown away by the depth of wisdom and insight you share. Notice I didn’t say “shocked”–just very, very impressed.

I do want to continue the discussion but take it down a slightly different trail. Ali was the first one to say, “Hey, why isn’t anybody defending Kate?” A couple more people alluded to the same thing–“it can’t be all her fault.” And then Lisa R-p said that she was trying not to be offended that all the focus was on Kate respecting her husband when respect should be a mutual thing. I agree. I like the word mutual.

Lisa went on to say that, “focusing only on the behavior of the woman without expecting accountability to the man for the same, changes the focus of this discussion to be about power and control vs. respect, compassion, and partnership.” I see what Lisa is saying, but I disagree. And Lisa, maybe you can help me out here. When you say “power and control,” do you mean for the wife or for the husband?

Let me see if I can explain the thinking behind yesterday’s one-sided post (because, yes, it was one-sided).

Here’s my deal. I’m not my husband. I’m me. In any relationship of mine, there is only one person whose thoughts and actions I can change. Me. Do I believe husbands should love and respect their wives? Absolutely. Do I believe that Christian guys have an even bigger responsibility/obligation to lead their family in a godly way? Absolutely. Would life be easier if some of these men would step up and quit making us women do all the work in the relationship? Absolutely.

Of course, that would require us giving them the reins, which we aren’t about to do. How many of you want your husbands to be the “spiritual leader” in your home but balk any time he tries to “lead” you in any way? (My hand is raised HIGH in the air here, if you couldn’t tell.)

Side note (but totally related): Not a whole lot of guys read my blog (that I know of). A post exhorting guys to love and respect their wives is going to fall on deaf ears. Or rather, no ears. 95% of my writing/speaking is done with a female audience in mind. So, a one-sided post is pretty typical. I could write a post to all your husbands, but how in the world are you going to trick them into reading it? And even if they do, what are they going to say–“Who in the heck is this chick, and why in the world should I listen to her? Besides, she sounds like a complete nag.”

Let’s talk about mutual for a minute. In theory, I love the 50/50 concept. Meet in the middle. I go halfway, you go halfway. Compromise is key!

But somebody tell me how you go about finding that middle ground. That magic, mysterious place. That masking tape line in the sky. My half of the effort is over here, and yours is over there. You do your part, and I’ll do mine.

Who decides where the tape goes? Who decides what’s fair? Do I do one kind deed, then you do one in return? You show me some love, then I’ll show you some? Who goes first? What’s our response going to be when the other person hasn’t done his part (as I perceive it)? Am I going to purposely fail to do mine? Then how will we ever get back to the elusive 50/50 instead of spiraling downward toward 4/4.

Who goes first is a biggie. That’s basically the message I’m trying to get across. Yes, mutual love and respect is the goal. If there’s currently no love/respect coming from either party, someone has to go first. Chances are, it’s not going to be your husband. After all, he’s sitting around watching TV and playing video games. You’re the one gleaning spiritual enrichment from blogs.

I’m suggesting that Kate missed her chance to go first. Would she have been guaranteed that her husband would’ve reciprocated with love and faithfulness? No. But her odds would’ve been better.

I miss chances to go first every single day. You know why? It’s no fun. Especially without that guarantee.

But here’s why I’m striving for that I’ll Go First mentality in all of my relationships: I’m accountable for myself. As a follower of Christ, my goal should be to live in a way that pleases Him regardless of how anyone around me chooses to live.

I’ve seen miracles, friends. Times (in my marriage and otherwise) when I took the high road and turned the relationship over to God (i.e., prayed A LOT) and was stunned at how He worked.

There’s never an excuse to be bratty and stinky. Try killing your husband with kindness (and prayer). You might be shocked at the results.

Now, I knooooow some of you are in tough, tough, TOUGH marriages. I will never advocate becoming a doormat and taking the abuse. I know there are some situations out there far beyond the scope of my psychology degree. Oh, wait. I don’t have one of those. If you’re in that kind of a marriage, please get help. Seriously. If you have no idea where to turn, e-mail me, and I’ll do my best to find someone who can help you.

So basically, it boils down to this: my philosophy is that change always starts with me (this sound eerily similar to a campaign slogan). In any life situation, I need to first make sure that I’m doing my best, trying my hardest, making sure my attitudes and actions line up with God’s Word. Then I can focus on my husband’s shortcomings.

In my own personal experience, after almost 12 years of marriage, I’m still working on my own dumb stuff. But seriously, I’m thinking that by 2011, I should be just about perfect. Watch out, Gabe! Here I come!

Any thoughts?

13 thoughts on “letting the guys off too easy?

  1. Patrick

    Thank you so much Marla for this blog, and I thank everyone for their insights in the comment section. For a young man who is continually looking to be a better significant other to my girlfriend, I have come to realize that the best way I can be a better boyfriend, is to be a better Christian. When my relationship with her is based upon and centralized by my relationship with God, then it provides a guide for me that is simple, genuine, and true. For me, God is my life. I would be ignorant if I didn’t tie my relationship with Him to those who are close to me (though we are called to tie ALL our relationships to Him). When I pray more, I am a better boyfriend. When I go to Church more, I am a better boyfriend. When I confess that I am a sinner, I am a better boyfriend. When I live my moments with God, I am a better boyfriend. When I acknowledge that the Holy Spirit in me desires for me to love God and my fellow people, I am a better boyfriend. Because God is the vital part of our life, let us choose to connect Him to those that are important to us.

    I always believed that when things go wrong, it is not the actual event that we should focus on, but the situations before that. When someone cheats on someone else, it would be unwise for us to look at that moment in its own schema. The failure is not at that moment, but at those that led up to it. In most cases (I only say this to be safe), I feel like responsibility falls upon the cheater and the person cheated by. This is the extent of my argument as there might be disagreements to my statement, but I want to share with you a personal example in my life of how connected our actions are and so we must be aware of this.

    I am a funny person (I think). My girlfriend is a funny person. My sense of humor is sometimes sarcastic towards people in a non-harmful sort of way. I’ve talked about it with people, and no one has ever felt offended by it. However, when I started dating my girlfriend, she started taking on my sarcastic sense of humor, except I felt like she took it too far to which I got offended! So a couple of things: We often forget how influential we are to those who are closest to us. That this influence can impact someone negatively or positively, and (going back to God!) if we allow God to impact our lives, we don’t have to worry about negatively or positively impacting someone, but that we can have faith that our interactions and influence with them will be positive.

    Also, I mean, if I interact with my girlfriend in a sarcastic manner then, what happens 2 years from now? 5 years from now? Sarcasm is funny, witty, and magnetic in the beginning, but in the end, its just tiring, cutting, and hurting. Is this the best way I can show my love to her? And let’s say God does call both of us to marriage and children. If sarcasm is the most prominent way I can talk to her, I can’t even imagine how my kids are going to turn up to be.

    So I guess what I am saying is for yall to NEVER be discouraged to keeping being refined by God and His ways. Revelation 3:18 “I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white garments to put on so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed, and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see.”

    That it is never too early nor too late to choose to deal with our struggles via the Way, the Truth, the Life.
    God bless all of you, and I will keep you in my prayers.

  2. Carrie

    Loved this post, too. You are so right on with the respect issue. I remember someone telling me before I was married, maybe in premarital counseling or something, that 50/50 is no way to have a good marriage, it has GOT to be 100/100 – each party giving 100 percent. And some days, it will be 100/50 or 100/0, but I’m only responsible for my 100. Thanks for this reminder!

  3. Kimberly

    I agree and have to add you are oh so wise. I’m not married anymore, but I think the same is true of all my relationships. I’m accountable for my actions, reactions, etc. in the end.

  4. Elizabeth

    I bet more men read than you think. But even if they don’t, they’ll benefit from your wisdom because their wives are listening. And hopefully putting into practice the things you write about. I know you try to, and that’s one reason I respect what you say.

    Nothing has helped my marriage more than both of us learning MUTUAL respect and MUTUAL submission. Since all us wives can work on is US, I say we do it and watch the changes it can bring about in our husbands and our marriages. I learned that a marriage can be restored when only one partner works on themselves at first, so imagine what awesome things can happen when BOTH partners learn and grow with respect and submission.

  5. Ali

    What do you mean, you don’t have a psych degree?! Is this whole blog a farce? 😉

    Love ya.

    Oh, and you spoke too soon. Of the 6 comments so far, 1/3 of those are from men. And neither called you a nag!

  6. Liz

    I have always said it should be 100% / 100%. It sounds lofty and downright impossible sometimes but when both are attempting to give all they can, the gain is mutual respect and love in a relationship. Most days.
    I’m sure I am on track to perfection too but it might not be obtained until 2016. I’ve had a few set-backs.

  7. krisco

    I think a lot of times we have no set standard. As in, this is how I will treat my husband regardless of what he does or how he treats me. My actions are based off his actions. And it’s okay for me to be disrespectful because he was disrespectful to me first. Hmm….sounds like little immature kids to me.
    It’s dawned on me in recent years that there MUST be a standard of behavior. I have to answer for me, myself and I and I know I’m not going to stand before Christ in that moment and say, “well, he did it fiiiiiirst”.
    So, a standard of respect no matter what the situation, no matter what’s been said, no matter what.
    ….so much easier said than done.

  8. Andrew Northern

    I have to say that when I read yesterday’s post, I read it very much to be targeted toward women. I also read it as an encouragement to men.

    There is a huge obstacle in our culture to women being able to respect men. Reminding women of the need to, while letting men peak, helps me know what my wife faces. It’s not all sunshine and daisies.

    In many ways, I view yesterday’s post as a call to action to men to be worthy of respect. As with all stereotypes, there was a period where a significant number of men acted unworthy of respect, and that action got projected on to all men. We now need to take back the perception, and change the stereotype.

  9. whimzie

    My marriage was in trouble. BIG trouble. And I was pregnant with our first child. For awhile I piled up all the justifications for why I was right and he was wrong and I even had Bible verses to support me that I didn’t share but had in my back pocket just in case I needed them.

    My unborn son didn’t really care who had more points or more supporters or more Bible verses. He just needed someone to fight for him and to give him the home that every baby deserves.

    I had to know that I had done everything God had asked me to do and that I had given my marriage every chance. When I was honest with myself I knew I hadn’t. So I quit telling God on my husband and kept my eyes on my own paper. Apparently, I wasn’t as perfect as I thought I was. And the Holy Spirit was a much better Holy Spirit in my husband’s life than I was.

    Another great post to think about, Marla. Thank you!

  10. janelle taviano

    I have to say from experience….when there was 0 % …. I chose to obey what the Holy Spirit said…with no gaurantee of 1%. 32 yrs later 100%. Because GOD changed OUR hearts. I believe Christ went to the cross for All, but no gaurentee…in fact He KNEW who would choose. He knew it…and still died. If you knew your husband would never give 1% …would you still truly love and sacrifice for him..for better or worse ? Does our kids have the mentality…what is in it for me…then ? It is breeding fast……and where do they see it ?

  11. Jennifer

    This is a great post. I’m accountable for me. And that’s enough of a project to keep me busy for a while. Ha!

    I think we should all strive to be perfect by 2011. THAT should be your campaign slogan! 🙂

  12. Gabe Taviano

    Who would have thought giving 50% would be a goal? When you’re talking about it all adding up, my mind goes to the times of confusion / arguments. The times when you’re probably at 25% – 25% and the other 50% is the devil (pride, anger and a sense of unfulfillment). Isn’t that where the improvement slows down for most of us? When we’re not even 1/2 way to our 1/2 of the deal?

    In the middle of that chaos it’s usually a choice of silence and prayer or realizing that God wants you to actually talk or work through it. Helping each other get to 26% the next time. You should talk about math more often! I feel a “Marriage Math” book coming?

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