Do you remember the first time you met your husband?
I do. I remember the butterflies in my tummy as I walked towards him that night before church, planning to say, “Hi, I’m Brittany.” I remember turning around after the church service was over and seeing him standing near me with a smile, wanting to talk some more. I remember playing “leap-frog” with him in his car on the freeway as we both drove to our separate homes that night. I remember that out-of-breath, giddy feeling of realizing he actually likes me!!!
Whew! The first days and months of falling in love are such a whirlwind of emotions! Heady feelings associated with our new love often carry us wives into marriage and then, slowly (or sometimes with a jolt) those feelings start to fade away. They’re buried under the endless piles of laundry dropped on the floor next to the hamper, not in it, or the steady stream of glasses perched around the sink that have only been used once before a new one comes out of the cupboard the next time he’s thirsty.
A year or two into marriage, when her husband still hasn’t changed much, a wife may find herself asking, where did those feelings go? Why do these things he does bother me so much? How can I change him? Can marriage really be fulfilling? Or is is meant to be two people who just tolerate each other, live in the same house, and raise children together over the next 20 or 30 years?
Unless she’s expecting it and prepared for this season of “disappointed love,” she might even think, “I must have married the wrong person.” Or even worse, “I don’t love him any more.”
Is there a way to keep from traveling down the path of disappointment and dissatisfaction in marriage? I believe there is.
Going from loneliness to oneness.
Back in the early days of dating and new marriage, my husband and I were such good friends! We did everything together. I lived to please him and the newness of starting our life together was one big adventure after another. I never thought we could end up like the grouchy old couple who sits around and argues for fun.
But 5 years into it, I sat in our living room with my little boy on my lap and wept because I was so lonely. As my tears dripped onto my child’s soft head, I wished I could just leave it all and go back to the days when all my friends and I worried about was whether we got our college papers done and what we’d eat for dinner.
I was married and had a 2 foot tall shadow following me everywhere but I felt so completely and utterly alone. I thought marriage took away this feeling? I thought, when I got married, that my permanent relationship with this man would mean that I would always have a friend. I thought our marriage would just “happen” because we loved each other so much! I thought we’d somehow look up 30 years later as we sat on our front porch, feeling like best friends, and wonder “Wow! How’d we get here?!”
I’ve discovered that’s not how marriage works. Those happy old couples you know didn’t magically get there by accident. It took me 5 years of doing it the wrong way, stubbornly going my own way, choosing the lonely way, before I finally learned that yes, marriage can be fulfilling. It can be wonderful. It really can feel like the two of you are one flesh. (Ephesians 5:31)
Now, I can honestly say that my husband is my best friend. Our relationship is relaxed and fun. Even when we do get upset with each other, restoration comes quickly and easily.
How did we go from that lonely afternoon of crying on the couch to being best friends?
I believe it’s because I learned what I’ll call the ABC’s of marriage. A wife has the power to radically transform her marriage by starting with the ABC’s: Adapt, Bless, and Choose. (In this article, we’ll start with just A. In the coming weeks, we’ll delve into B and C.)
A is for Adapt.
Chances are, when you first got married, you thought, “Yeah, that thing he does kinda bugs me. But it’s ok. He’ll grow out of it. He’ll change.” Maybe you even thought, “I can change him.” Or maybe you were like me and you spent the first several years of your marriage desperately trying to make your husband be more like your dad…or your pastor or some other man you admired. When he failed to live up to your expectations, you slowly withdrew, bit by bit, nursing your hurt feelings, remembering every wrong, until you’d backed yourself down into the pit of loneliness.
Well, guess what. God didn’t make you a wife to your particular man so that you could change him into a different man! God designed your man just like he is and then he gave you to him so that you could be his helper. His completer. His companion.
Not his conscience or his critic.
Not his mother, his manager, his boss, or his accountability partner.
You are his wife.
Perhaps over time, you may take on roles he requests that assist him with managing his time or keeping him accountable, but that is not your primary role.
So then, what is our role? God says in 1 Corinthians 11:9,
“Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
Since the husband is clearly not designed nor commanded by God to change to fit his wife’s specifications, as wives it is our responsibility to adapt to our man.
What are some ways a wife should adapt to her man?
A wife should adapt to her husband’s habits.
- Does your husband like to get up early? Stay up late? Eat at the same time every night? Go on lots of outings? Travel? Spend evenings at home?
- As much as possible, change your personal habits to match his schedule and his preferences.
- Train your children to adapt to their daddy’s preferences as well. If he works late, train the children to go to bed later and sleep in. I know one family with 4 kids who stay up incredibly late because the husband works a late swing shift. This wise mom has taught her children (even the little ones) to stay up late and sleep later in the morning in order to be more similar to her husband’s sleep schedule.
- If it’s important to him, it should be important to you. You may not understand why he likes to have dinner on the table at 5:30 every night, with all the plates set out and the silverware to the right of his plate, but if it’s important to him, make it important to you.
- Conversely, if it’s not important to him, let it go. Maybe you think it’s absolutely necessary to mop the kitchen floor on your hands and knees and scrub the inside of the kitchen cabinets every single day because that’s what your mom did. But if you are doing those things to the neglect of something your husband would rather you be spending your time on, stop doing those things. Instead, adapt to him and his habits and spend your time doing what he deems important.
- Buy and prepare food he likes. Maybe you can survive just fine on carrots and prune juice, but chances are, your man eats more than a hummingbird. Quit trying to make him lose weight and make him the food he likes. If gourmet food is important to him, then learn to cook.
- Overall, show him you love and respect him by adapting to his needs and desires.
One way I’ve chosen to adapt to my man is in sleep (or lack thereof). My husband gets up at 4:30 a.m. to go to work. So, although most mornings I’d rather stay snoozing for a couple more hours, I get up with him and get his coffee ready to go out the door when he does. Getting up this early also means that I must go to bed while the sun is nowhere near the horizon in the summertime. I really have to plan my afternoons and evenings to make sure I get everything done early enough in order to go to bed when my husband does.
Adapting like this is not easy! My brain comes alive at night with ideas and thoughts. (The idea for this post came to me just a few evenings ago as I lay there in the semi-dark room, unable to fall asleep.) 🙂 But I’ve learned it’s really important to my husband to have someone to talk to in the mornings as he gets ready. And my man is worth enough to me to sacrifice a little sleep. I spent many years sleeping in as he got ready for work. I won’t do that anymore.
Every man is unique and you know best what things are important to your man. Become a student of your husband. Observe closely his habits and preferences. If he’s specifically asked you to do something (or not do something), then start there. If he’s more like my husband and not one to make his opinion about things known, you might have to ask.
- “What can I do today that will be a help to you?”
- “Is there something I’ve been doing that bothers you?”
- “Is it important to you that I ______________ (go to bed when you do, buy you snack foods, cook a certain way, keep the house spotless, etc.)?”
- “Is it helpful when I plan ahead and schedule activities for our family, or would you rather be in charge of that?”
- “What could I do differently with our children that would be a help to you?”
A wife should adapt to her husbands beliefs and convictions.
This one will get me in trouble with all the “righteous church ladies” out there but guess what? Skipping church is not a sin. Being disrespectful and dishonoring to your husband is.
If your husband doesn’t want you to go to church, don’t go! If he wants you to go to a different church than you’d prefer, go with him willingly and have a joyful heart! If he would rather go fishing as a family on Sunday morning, then go fishing. When you honor and respect your husband, you are honoring God.
“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)
God has given you your husband as your rightful head. Your husband will answer to God for how he leads. You will answer to God for how you follow and adapt to the man He’s given you.
Church attendance and spirituality seem to be areas in which wives justify a rebellious attitude towards their husband because going to church just seems so “holy.” Even if the wife isn’t openly rebellious to his face about it, she’ll feign hurt feelings and nurture a bitter spirit thinking, “if he was really a good Christian, he’d go.” She pulls out the verse in Hebrews 10, “not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together” and uses it as a battle cry, proclaiming her own righteousness.
She thinks, “I’m a good Christian and that’s why I want to go!” when in reality, she’s far from God, disrespecting her husband and his leadership in their home. She ignores all the verses in the Bible about wives honoring and respecting their husbands, and dogmatically insists on stubbornly going her own way in this one area.
Why am I so hard on you for wanting to go to church? Because just a few years ago, I was that disrespectful wife I’m talking about here and worse.
My life as a “good” Christian wife
I was a “three to thrive!” churchgoer growing up–Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night. “Every time the doors are open, you’d better be there!” (I guess you could say I had to be, since my dad was the pastor, but still. 😛 That’s how I was raised.)
Then, to make matters worse, during college I developed the idea that to be a good Christian, you had to “earn your attendance badge” by attending lots and lots of services and hearing hours of preaching every week. Even though I occasionally nodded off during some particularly long-winded chapel speakers, I maintained that I was “highly spiritual.”
I knew all the terminology. I could hold my own in a discussion of Bible doctrine with just about anybody. But inside, I was far from God. I did not seek Him in private times when no one saw. I had doctrine but no depth. Performance but no passion.
I really did want to follow God and do His will, yet I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know what that looked like. Especially as a wife.
When I got married, I carried all my expectations and convictions about spiritual discipline into my marriage. When my husband failed to live up to my standard, I “cracked the spiritual whip” so to speak, making him go to church with me even when he would have rather spent some quality time together as a family. I often mentioned something about Bible reading or prayer with the attitude of “why can’t you do any better?!” I took it upon myself to become the “Holy Spirit” in my husband’s life and, in doing so, pushed him away to the point of such extreme isolation, I wanted to give up on my marriage.
I thought that if I “lowered my standard” of how I expected a “good Christian” to act, and instead, chose to accept and respect my husband right where he was spiritually, I was somehow changing my beliefs. That is not true. Adapting to your husband’s beliefs and convictions is not synonymous with changing your beliefs! Your beliefs and convictions can remain the same or even grow stronger as you willingly choose to actively honor and respect your husband in all things.
And you will probably find what I found. Once you come down off your spiritual pedestal, your husband really isn’t lacking any spiritual depth at all. His “spirituality” just manifests itself differently than you’re used to.
Spiritual growth isn’t about going to church
What I’ve learned over the last couple of years is that true spiritual growth and maturity has absolutely nothing to do with how much church you attend. Spiritual maturity is internal, secret, and nurtured best in isolation with God.
Church attendance is outward, visible, and easily feels like it’s making you grow spiritually simply because you attend. You can check it off the to-do list. “Eat breakfast–check! Go for a run–check! Go to church–check! Ok, I’ve done my spiritual growth for the week!” Certainly, organized church services can and do help many Christians grow spiritually, but that’s not the only way we grow and definitely not the primary way. Our relationship with God is just that–a relationship! Not a performance of duty.
When I say “don’t go to church if your husband doesn’t want you to,” someone might ask, “How to you expect me to be a good Christian or grow spiritually if I don’t go to church and get fed?!”
Wife, you can still “get fed” and grow spiritually without public church attendance. You should be wholeheartedly pursuing your personal relationship with God. You should be poring over His Word daily. You should pray often. You should seek God’s will above all else. And it is clearly God’s will in Scripture that you respect and even reverence your husband.
“Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)
So, maybe the first step you can take to grow closer to God is to willingly submit and begin honoring your husband. Even if you think your convictions or “spiritual knowledge” are higher than his, you are called to submit to your man. You are to reverence your man. And you can visibly show your willing submission by adapting to his convictions about spiritual disciplines.
If your husband does not pursue God, go to church, etc., then begin praying for him. Pray specifically for his spiritual growth and that God would show you areas in which you are not honoring your husband. Pray that you would be the helper your man needs. And then, the next time you see him, ask him what you can do today that would be a help to him! Don’t withhold your love and respect until he changes. Give it freely and trust God to lead him.
When I first realized the importance of adapting to my husband’s personal beliefs, I decided to begin praying specifically that we would be able to start attending a particular church where I thought we would be encouraged as a family. However, I never mentioned a word to my husband about wanting to go there. In keeping with my decision to never again “lead” in this area, I decided to just wait and see where God led him. Eight months after I began praying, out of the blue, my husband said, “Hey, let’s go to (the church) this Sunday.” Tears came to my eyes as I realized God had so clearly answered my prayer. Never again would I try to manipulate and make us go where I wanted to go. We have loved our new church home and still attend there today.
Wife, if your husband isn’t at all interested in God, you must diligently search out ways to grow spiritually without being disrespectful or usurping your husband’s leadership. If he doesn’t mind if you go to church, then by all means–go to a good one and take your children with you! But if he doesn’t want you to go, then listen to preaching online. Find a good Christian radio station. Read your Bible and other books that equip you to grow. Search for other wives who want to honor their husbands and start a small group Bible study.
Find a ladies Bible study at a local church and make friends with other women who also want to honor and respect their husbands. But don’t fall into the trap of getting together with other women and gossiping or complaining about your “hard lot in life” being married to an “unspiritual man.” If that’s all your “women’s Bible study” is about, find a different one. Seek places and people who challenge you to grow closer to your husband, not ones that draw you away from him.
Always defer to your husband, even in matters of “spirituality.” Do not fall into the trap of thinking it’s ok to be disrespectful because you are “following God” instead. Unless your husband is asking you to sin, God commanded you to follow that man He gave you. Do that and you automatically fulfill God’s plan for you.
If you struggle with wanting to “preach” to your unsaved or “unspiritual” husband, consider this verse:
“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;” (1 Peter 3:1)
You won’t win your husband by “preaching” at him. Instead it will be your respectful, loving submission and your conversation–the practical way you live every day, relating to your husband with kindness, gentleness, and deference. That alone will soften his heart, making him want to know the God you serve.
I don’t know the areas in which you may need to start adapting, but every wife can begin to heal or improve her marriage by choosing to adapt to her man today, just as he is.
Read the next article in this series here! We look into what it means to bless our husbands. 🙂
What’s one thing you can do this week to show your husband you value him and are adapting to him?