Who and what is a marriage about? A man? A woman? Both?
Well in some people's cases, it's about the man. Everything revolves around him. Not much is going to happen unless he says it (and in some cases even when he doesn't say it). Every one of his beliefs are the belief of the household. Just the implication that he desires something warrants things going in the "inferred" direction. God forbid a wife feel or express the opposite, because to do so might be an insult to his manhood in some way. It's amazing to me the things people come up with to indicate that someone's "manhood" has been threatened, or that they have somehow been "emasculated." For many all it takes is for them to realize the fact that their wife indeed still has brain cells left after marrying them.
One time I was counseling someone who felt "emasculated" because their wife handled the balancing of the check book and did a better job than they did. (All I had to say to this was THANK YOU JESUS that he was married to someone else besides me. What in the world a check book and emasculation have to do with one another, I'll never know.) There are things Larry knows I do better than him. The check book? No. God has definitely given him ALL the brain power on that one. However, quite a few other things I can do better and you know, he's just fine by that and thanks God for it. He sees it as a gift to him. These things are usually the things he puts me in charge of - like administration. He says, "God gave me a wonderful gift of administration. It's called...Deanna." One time he was villified for not being a good administrator and he said, "I don't have to learn to be a good one. That's what I have my wife for, and I can turn her loose with her gifts while I focus on flowing in the ones God has given me." If you ask me, I think that's pretty brillliant. :-)
In other cases, marriage is all about the woman. Her wants, her needs, her desires. In these relationships the pendulum swings to the opposite unhealthy extreme. God forbid anything happen that inconveniences her, causes her to make any sacrifices, or adjustments. Clearly in some relationships everything is about the wife's contentment and happiness. This would not be so unlike all the men who aren't fulfilling the call of God on their lives because it's too much to ask of their wives. I shudder to think about that and have always been scared to become one of those women because I fear the judgment of God on that. It's a serious thing to squelch another person's call. And if you are married, you do have the power to do that because as the Apostle Paul said - a person who is not married is completely free to concern themselves only with Kingdom matters, whereas a married person also has to be concerned about pleasing their mate. Some people have to be so concerned with pleasing their mate that they don't fulfill the call of God. Tragic.
Yet in other people's cases - marriage is not about either the man or the woman - it's all about the kids! These people run a child-centered home and relationship. That's a whole story in itself that would demand it's own blog, so let's not go there today.
Back to marriage. Who is it about? I submit to you that it's both the man and woman- equally. Truly healthy relationships flow together on the foundation of mutual love, respect and admiration. The Bible tells me that I'm hidden in Christ - not in a husband. When I married him, my ideas, my thoughts, my ways of expressing myself did not suddenly become encapsulated in him. We became one flesh, but I still retained my own brain. God didn't say that a wife was to check her brain at the door of the marriage altar - He just told her to cleave to her husband. Last time I checked, cleaving didn't equal a lobotomy. In many Christian circles though, it appears that way. Certain leaders even teach to not let your husband know that you have a better way of doing things, or that you have the answer that seems to escape his mind, because it will cause him to feel inferior to you. Are men really that weak? I don't think so. And for the ones that are - let them get counseling.
Recently there was a presidential candidate (quite truthfully I don't remember which one) who was asked their position on an issue and they answered, "I feel this way, but my wife, in fact believes the opposite." People were in a little bit of an uproar over that, like, "why in the world would he say that?!" Some thought it was inappropriate, but I myself had total admiration for the answer. It was like he was saying, "my wife and I share differing opinions on this - and I'm okay with that, in fact I even welcome it." Some people in the world today still can't abide a husband and wife who are both thinkers, with freedom of expression.
Contrast this to recently when our fellowship/denomination was on the cusp of many changes and people had many strong opinions about it. Several of my female colleagues had very strong opinions about it, some even more so than me if you can imagine it! A few did not articulate their opinions at all, simply because of their husband. (Whether he agreed with them on their views or not - they stayed silent.) One friend of mine did share their opinion, but anonymously. The funny thing is, my husband saw her comments written on a blog, immediately recognized who she was out of hundreds of other posters by the tone and content of her writing and said, "why didn't Sally (not her real name) just say who she was?" I said, "Because of John. (her husband - not his real name) He always forbids her to say anything. He would hit the ceiling if she did." Larry looked at me puzzled and said, "that's so silly. Why is he so insecure? "
I agree, and I'm so glad to have a husband who feels that way. Not only am I glad, but I'm relieved because quite honestly anything else would probably have me secretly regretting my decision to marry. Some people have asked me, "so have you ever struggled with this? Has it ever been an issue in your relationship?" Yes, earlier on it was more of an issue. I think everybody has these things to work out in their marriage. As you mature, and your marriage matures, things evolve. At least they do in a balanced, equal relationship. In the earlier days, there were things, more or less because of cultural expectations that I felt were expected of me, and that Larry did expect of me in years gone by. And at one point, it made me "not so much myself" anymore. I discovered living this way did make me morph into something completely different, something not good. (Because I believe that anything that has you abandoning or denying your true person and becoming something else to simply fulfill others expectations is a lie.) So at one point in our relationship, I was quiet for several months. I know, it's hard to believe. I didn't want to live a lie, so I just stayed quiet. It was either - say things I didn't mean or be quiet. So I chose the latter. One day Larry said to me, "I want my best friend back." I said, "do you really? Because that best friend is someone of a unique personality who doesn't always measure up to the cultural expectations around you, nor agree with you cover to cover. So let me know if you really want 'me' back and I'll be glad to come back, but it will be as myself and not someone else." He said, "yes, I want you." And I came back and have been here ever since. So I do tell you that through experience I have found, when one is forced through cultural expectations to "hide themselves" in a husband, it really causes you to be depressed and to become someone you're not or to just be quiet. One time a district official even said to me, "pastor's wives who are very opinionated have to realize that to succeed in the ministry you do just have to surpress yourself." To be honest with you that completely sickened me and I thought, "let me out of this box...now!" I began to feel like I was emotionally gasping for air when I heard that. No, that's not the life for me. And if I began to feel pulled that way, I let Larry know it right away.
The awesome thing is, when your husband realizes you still have ideas and shouldn't be dumbed down or silenced and are worthy of equal respect, I believe it makes you more mindful of how it affects them, at least it does me. Case in point. Larry has come to realize thatI have strong views and am not afraid of expressing them. Thankfully he (most of the time) respects the fact that I am not only his wife but an individual who should have opportunity to share the way I feel about something. Because he is that way, it makes it easier for me to decide to not express myself at times- and not only be happy about it - but let it be my choice.
This week something happened in the ministry political realm that I wanted to speak out about. Actually I did. Initially, I said something. What I said was true, was funny, and besides all that made a very concise and clear case for something I and quite a few other people felt strongly about. When I told Larry, he completely agreed with me, but also thought my statement was very controversial. I have to admit, after saying it, I sort of felt like the Assemblies of God Ann Coulter. Was my statement true? Yes, absolutely. I even had documented proof to 100% back up everything I said. It was a slam dunk of a statement if I do say so. Was what I said creative? Yes. Was what I said spiritually wrong? No. But I also realized that while my husband gave absolutely no indication that he was upset or wished I would change it, I also knew that inwardly he probably cringed at it, though he would never take away my privilege to say it. And it was that - his attitude or should I say lack thereof -- that caused me to go back and delete my comments. What made it so easy for me to do that was that Larry never asked nor expected me to. In fact, he was eager to find out how people would respond to what I said. He asked, "hey, what are people saying about your statement?" I said, "oh nothing, because I deleted it." He would have never asked me to but I could tell he was happy that I did. And because of the mutual admiration we have for each other - I'm happy that he's happy!
There have been a few things over the course of 20 years that I've done that with. When I have, it's been an easy choice. No angst. For you see, I truly had a choice. And I think that's what so many women are missing. The freedom of choice. The freedom of truly free speech, free thought, the freedom to create and express without being expected to have their mind and their speech so completely hidden in someone else. Such women, I believe, harbor a lot of inner resentment and rightly so. Anybody squelching their mind and expression for so long is just a ticking time bomb (one of those women who all of a sudden just gets in the car, drives off and never comes back) or a serious candidate for depression.
So, who is it all about? Both. When your lives are both hidden in Christ, that is where true partnership blossoms. God has called us to partnership - not puppetship.
Because I am hidden in Christ, I am given choices, but I am also led by the spirit in making right choices. Not decisions made by force, but choices arrived at by love and mutual respect.
I've heard it said that "Marriage should be a mutual admiration society." Because of my admiration for Larry, I make my choices more carefully. What makes it easy for me to do that is because of his admiration for me he sets me free to make my choices. This is definitely a two way street.
Dr. David Edgerly, marriage therapist says the following: "In relationships of mutual respect there is no "giving in". The concept of "giving in" remains caught in a hierarchical power struggle. This is the core issue. Mutual respect means we often go with an idea other than our own because we have total faith in our partner. Neither active listening nor giving in will lead partners to feel safe if either partner believes himself or herself to be better. The journey for partners is to advance the team through mutual growth, success and respect."