June 29, 2017

Young Husband: It Might Not be Her; It Might be Her Situation

Gary Thomas — 

Preachers and teachers on marriage (and I have been among them) often warn young moms about being moms first and wives second. It’s certainly a dangerous and ever-present temptation that deserves attention. But this post is for the young husbands who have their own temptation—expecting their wives to be more than any one woman could possibly be while raising their kids.

One August morning in Houston I waited just a little too long to go out for a run. The sun was unmerciful, and all the shade was gone. My pace slowed, and I even had to walk. I thought I could power through the run as planned but it was stupid not to shorten it before turning around, and I paid the price for my stubbornness.

About a mile and a half from home, I noticed the distinctive bounce of my wife as she pedaled her bike my way. She had a towel and a bottle of electrolyte-laced water.  “They said on the news that it was dangerously hot and humid today and I thought you should have been home by now so I figured I better go find you.”

I fell in love with my wife all over again. She is the best.

But she’s also an empty nester.

When she was a homeschooling mom of three, I don’t think, number one, she would have had time to watch the news in the morning. Number two, I don’t think it’s likely she would have noticed I had left, as she would be trying to keep child number one from ripping up her assignment, child number two from throwing a ball through the window, and child number three from having a diaper accident. Not to mention keeping our dog Amber from eating somebody’s shoe.

I suspect, fifteen years ago, had we lived in Houston and I had gone out for a run, I’d limp home, my wife would see me dripping sweat on the floor, and she might say, “You went for a run? In this? Are you crazy?”

As an empty nester, I now get all her care. There’s a lot of it, but it’s just…different when it’s not divided among four people. There’s just me now. We don’t even have a dog anymore.

Young husbands, please give your wives a break. Try to understand. She wants to be a world class wife—most women do. But when she’s got a job, kids, a pet, and a house, never forget that there’s only one of her and about ten of them (if you add everything together).

Yes, she should be a wife first. But you’ve got to do your part with understanding. I wish I had been more empathetic as a younger husband. Back then, I could occasionally be resentful. Lisa would freely admit there were seasons when she was definitely a mom first.  I thought the problem was her, but now I’d tell my younger self that the problem was really her situation. “Give it time, Gary,” I’d say. “Let her work this out. By the way, some amazing years are coming.”

If your wife really cares for your kids, she’s a caring person. When the kids are gone, all that care will be poured out on you. If you leave her now, she’s likely to end up with someone else and then her care will be poured out on that person. You’ll have endured the years in which she was stretched the most, only to miss the years when she could focus on you and love you the most.

It’s not a coincidence that I wrote Sacred Marriage about embracing the difficulties and challenges of marriage when I was in my late thirties, and now, in my fifties, I’m writing about building a marriage based on cherishing each other.

Same wife, but a different life.

So, young husband, be gentle with your wife while she figures all this out. Don’t let a very exhausting decade or two define your marriage or her.

I’ve been in a number of running groups. We meet Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday mornings in our running gear, and leave looking sweaty and hot and tired. Every now and then there will be a “social.” And the most common comment you hear runners say to each other is “Wow, that’s what you look like all showered and clean!”

Defining your wife’s love and care by how she acts when she’s raising small children is like defining a woman’s beauty by how she looks in the middle of a marathon.

It’s not fair.

Give your wife a thankful hug. Even more, give her truckloads of understanding. And remind yourself whenever you feel neglected: it might not be her. It might just be her situation.

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.

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59 responses to Young Husband: It Might Not be Her; It Might be Her Situation

  1. I like how you provide insight for men into the stretched experience of taxed moms. As a mommy of 3 kiddos, in a family that home schools (and I lead a busy life in other ways) I appreciate the desire here to help husbands gain more of that perspective. On the other side of things – I think it might be better to focus on the fact that moms are stretched because they are giving, help provide insight to their husbands….WITHOUT making the presumption that “once the kids are gone, fella, its ALL going to be about YOU!” (Your words are “When the kids are gone, all that care will be poured out on you.”) While I love my husband dearly, and we remind each other to enjoy these days that are full, but fleeting, with our children… we both see the future (when they are not with us) not as a time when we will focus on each other to the exclusion of all else, but as a time when we will both have more time to focus on what God calls us to in that time. I am not endorsing a departure from support of the family – but simply a request that you not make promises for wives to expectant husbands that are not yours to make. While I do look forward to more time alone with my husband in the future, I feel our work in the future will be side by side in the calling that the Lord has for us..

    • I would like to add – parenting is a 2 person endeavor. It would also be great to hear you challenge the husbands to jump in participate with that taxed mother. Go beyond “Give your wives a break” to “Be part of the solution – lend an extra hand, parenting should not be left to the moms alone”.

  2. Gail Sollazzo July 5, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    My husband and I have been married for 47 years. We have had a lot of great times but some real tough ones. I thank God that we never gave up and are enjoying our retirement, our sons, daughters in law and nine precious grandchildren. The tough times consisted of the stillbirth of our first baby, my move 3000 miles away from my family, some drinking problems, my husband’s uncle being murdered, and caring for my mother as she suffered with arthritis and dementia. I can honestly say that I am so grateful for my husband who stood by me through those emotional tough times and for our faith and our Catholic church and Christ-centered friends and especially Jesus which has kept us together all these years. He is faithful!

  3. Maybe the admonition should be, young husbands, don’t forget you’re DADs too. Why is Mom doing all the work?? Maybe if more young fathers took the Dad role as seriously as they take the expectations of their wives, the balance would become clearer, and easier to maintain.

    And, young men… Trust me. There’s nothing sexier than a Daddy playing with his little one, or even changing a baby. You want her to fall in love with you all over again? Love your children and be present. You’ll never regret it.

  4. I appreciate your insights. There are many expectations placed on women both by others and some pretty high standards which are self imposed. I have four children and a wonderful husband, but I’ll admit that at times he gets what’s left of me at the end of a day of chaos and diapers and laundry and life. At 10:00 in the morning, I have the kids clean and presentable, the house put together and I feel like Wonder Woman, but by the time he walks in from work in the evening, I am not that 10:00 woman anymore. I’m tired, so very tired. My children are in various states of dirty, the once cleaned house isn’t clean any more and supper is only half cooked because… because… because… and somewhere in me is that girl he dated, but all she really wants right now is a nap. It is a season, a beautiful but crazy season.

    I love that he gets it. My husband remembers who I was before the twins and the baby so close on their heels, and he knows how many tiny movements make up a day. He blesses my heart by saying, “Here, I’ll finish the dishes.”