Today I celebrate my husband. We have four kids and lead a busy life; each of these obligations makes his piece of the pie smaller and smaller. I feel guilty that I am too tired sometimes to even worry about it or put energy into making it different. We, as a couple, are guilty of comparing our days to see who had it worse. He complains about a three-hour conference call, I dealt with potty training. He spent an hour is traffic trying to get home while I had two kids fighting, one flooding the sink , and one screaming all while I’m trying to make dinner. We could go on and on and really what is the point? We both have stressful jobs, good and bad days, and difficult people or tasks to deal with.
I am guilty of having “poor me” days. I get caught up in the daily demands of child rearing, keeping up with laundry, making three meals a day every day , soccer and dance lessons, the list goes on and on. But when I stop to really consider how “hard” my life is I have no reason to complain. My great-grandmother had eleven kids, no washing machine, no microwave, and grew most of their food. I’m fairly certain that her husband didn’t change diapers or clean the kitchen either. I sometimes think my husband doesn’t do anything to help out, then he is gone for a week-long work trip and I realize just how much he does each and every day.
When I think about my husband’s day it really does compete pretty well with mine. There are days that sitting in front of a computer, enjoying a full cup of coffee before it turns cold, and talking with adults all day seems like a vacation. But, then I remember my days in the office and it’s not quite all that. He’s been up since 5:30am this morning, put in a ten-hour day at work, and when he gets home he’ll still get up from the dinner table to clean up the kitchen. Then we both work on bath time, homework, and bedtime stories together.
Every day he works at a job that isn’t necessarily his dream job so that we not only have the income, but also insurance and a retirement. Even after it’s been years since I have worked full-time he still refers to payday as the day “we” get paid just like he did when we both contributed financially. I appreciate this more than I ever express to him.
A few years ago I signed up for the “30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge” http://www.reviveourhearts.com/articles/30-day-husband-encouragement-challenge/ with some friends from church. For 30 days I would get an email with scripture and a short paragraph encouraging me to tell him what I admire or appreciate about him each day. He was not to know I had signed up for this. I was also to not speak negatively to him or about him for these thirty days. I was simply to encourage, compliment, and speak graciously to him each day subtly and see how it changed my marriage.
I thought I was a naturally encouraging wife so I was surprised after the first day. I told him how proud of was that he prioritized his family over work and he looked at me strangely and asked what was wrong with me. Later I failed miserably at the negativity part when I called him a name in frustration during a disagreement. Massive failure already! I kept up with the challenge though. The next day after I thanked him for praying for us he asked what I had done and was he going to be mad about it. So apparently having an encouraging wife was so foreign to him he thought something was wrong with me or I had done something such as wrecking the car.
Gradually though I got better at being subtle and God opened my eyes to really see the kind of man he is, the man I fell in love with. The emails helped me to see that he stands up for what he believes in, he is a hard worker, and he is a good father. I knew these things already; that’s why I married him, but it helps to be reminded and for me to remind him of these attributes I appreciate in him. The funny thing was, or God thing I should say, was sometimes the scripture for the day or words in the email spoke directly to what I was challenged with that day. For example, the day I forgot to pay the credit card bill on time and we were hit with late fees and interest was the day I was to be thankful for how he is slow to anger. I know this about him, but it was pointed out directly to me in a circumstance when he had a good reason to be angry.
I believe God works in our marriage in many different ways. My marriage was changed for the better when I started being a more positive person who appreciated the one I love and spoke that appreciation directly to him. He even began pointing out how patient I was with the kids or how much he valued my opinion. Someone told me years ago that when you truly love your spouse and you say something hurtful to them it bounces back and hurts you just as badly. I have experienced that. There have been times I have said things in anger or frustration that as soon as I said them I felt a sting myself. I think the same is true in encouragement and affirmation. When I point out to him the things I admire it in turn reminds me why I married him and what an awesome person he is in my eyes. This challenge reminds me of a gratitude journal, when you really focus on how blessed you are it puts so many things into perspective.
Truthfully I need to do this challenge again. I have fallen off the wagon and am guilty of complaining, whining, and putting him last. Lately he’s been getting what’s leftover and I feel terrible about it. Lack of sleep, the challenges of four kids, his demanding job, and our busy life has taken its toll and I have slacked. Marriage has is hills and valleys and while we aren’t in a valley now, I don’t want to head in that direction either. It’s amazing how God can change hearts by reading scripture, praying, and appreciating what we are blessed with. I am blessed with a husband who always puts us first, prays with and for us, and loves us unconditionally. Just because he doesn’t pick up his socks and leaves the cap off the toothpaste doesn’t change that.