I was listening to a radio show recently and the lady being interviewed said that a lot of women have difficulty in relationships because they are trying to be the men. She said, “Do you WANT to be the man or are you willing to be the woman?”
It made me think about my relationship with Chris (my husband) over the past 20 years…
When we were first married, I was looking for a man. After all, I had never had one in my life – no father, my brother and I lived in different houses, I never had a boyfriend, etc.; I really wanted a man, but truthfully, I was probably looking for a man who would fill all those roles, not the role of a husband.; After all, I had never seen how that role was supposed to work with a wife, especially in a Christian home.
My grandmother, who mostly raised me, had a husband and I dearly loved my grandfather, but he would disappear for days at a time when he was staying with his “other women.” Also, he wasn’t a believer, abused my mom and her siblings, and so the example there was less than desirable.
My mom was married four times – to three different alcoholics (one of them twice). These men were so abusive and cruel that I choose not to remember most of my childhood, which once included a two day stint being locked in a roach motel with my younger brother, left alone, while one of the men hid us from my mom to be spiteful. There are many worse memories, things I vowed my children would never experience.
I had a few friends from decent families, but honestly, most “good” people don’t want their children hanging around with poor kids from “trashy trailer park” families. It wasn’t my fault my family was that way, but they didn’t seem to care. It was rare that I was able to hang out with a “good family.” When I did, I studied them intently and the desire to be like them burned in my heart and soul.
Finally, when I grew up, I kind of knew what I wanted … I wanted a man who would allow me to retain my independence, yet who would be the father I never had, the brother I barely knew, a daddy to our own children one day and a husband to me – even though I still had NO idea what “husband” meant. Chris seemed to be all those things and so we were married. (I should probably note here that HE was in love. I honestly think I was being practical – no one else wanted me and he did so it was a perfect arrangement.)
Shortly after we were married, we lived with and cared for an elderly lady dying of cancer. After about seven months, she passed away and that same week, we found out we were pregnant with Sarah. We were never really ever alone in our marriage. We began caring for someone right away and then, for the next seven years, I was pregnant and/or nursing non-stop. I gave birth to five children in a period of six years and one month. All the while, we were also doing foster care and I was beginning to homeschool (even though when they were younger, I didn’t realize this yet!). During this time, I also managed the household (because I was at home), mowed the lawn (because I LOVE to mow!), took care of our finances (because I’m more responsible than Chris), disciplined the children (because I was gentler when needed and firmer when needed), cooked the meals (because that was my job), decided when and where we would take vacations (because I’m a better organizer), led family devotions with the children (because I knew if I didn’t, no one would), and the list could go on and on… You get the picture. I DID IT ALL!!!! And I told Chris what he should do. And he did it. He’s a great follower so this worked out very well for us!
Sadly, I was wrong in my actions… very wrong. I was being the woman of the house, but I was also being the MAN OF THE HOUSE, denying my husband the opportunity to do so.
When I became sick with Hannah, my behavior changed. The Lord really used my illness to show me all the things I couldn’t do on my own. I’m telling you, when you have other people taking care of your children for nearly a year because you can’t get out of bed, it really puts you in your place quickly!
Over the next six years, my relationship with Chris deteriorated more each year. I could no longer be the “man of the house” because I was physically unable, but I resented the fact that he was taking over that role and trying to do my role of being the “woman.” As a matter of fact, he was doing it all and I really resented him for it. I was mad at God that I was so sick. I was mad at Chris because he wasn’t. I was mad at the world because no one seemed to understand my frustration!!! After all, Chris was cooking meals almost each night, reading aloud to the children, cleaning the house, doing devotionals, and everything else I used to do! It was very discouraging to me to see him taking over all my jobs!
The fact is, however, that he wasn’t really taking over my jobs. He was helping me with some of my jobs (like cooking and cleaning), but he was really taking over his jobs – the ones I said he’d never do, or that he’d never do correctly or in a timely manner, and he was doing them well.
These days, I’m feeling much better, but I still have difficult days. I am able to care for my children and we have a very full life – lots of reading, board games, play time, travel, family time, etc. – but there are a lot of days when I have to sit back and watch rather than participate. I cook meals when I can and I still love to clean, but I have to do this on “good” days when I’m feeling well. As for the finances, Chris and I share that responsibility now. It turns out that it works better when you discuss things and work together for the common good. When I became sick and stopped doing devotionals, he actually took over that responsibility and hardly a day goes by that he doesn’t lead family devotionals with our children, without any prodding or reminding from me.
The boys are big enough to mow the lawn now so I’ve even lost that fun job, but honestly, I’m not physically able to do it most of the time and I also want them to have skills that will enable them to be MEN when they grow up. I want them to have practical skills, but also feel like they can accomplish something. Right now, accomplishment for an 11-year-old boy partially means being able to earn sweat from a hard day’s work.
Chris and I now discuss most things – vacations, whether we’ll watch a movie and which one, etc. – together. Before, he would never make a decision, but I see that this is partly because he didn’t have to – I did it for him. The other reason he didn’t is because even if he did, I would disagree and do it my way anyway! I know some of you ladies reading this out there must admit, if you’re honest with yourselves, that you do the same thing. Now, when Chris wants me to do something, even if I don’t want to (like go to a friend’s house to play cards when I have a headache), I do it – to please him. I also do it because before he would never ask me to do anything anyway and it’s wonderful to see that he now makes requests, asks me to do things, or even tells me to do something every now and then.
I guess I’ve learned over the past sixteen years – through trial and error, illness, and a lot of suffering, mostly due to my own stubbornness – that marriage isn’t a relationship with a father or a brother or the perfect husband you dreamed about as a girl. Marriage is a relationship with the man you chose to marry that involves intimacy, sacrifice, and allowing the other person to be the person they were meant to be. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my role as the man of the house, our marriage has been one hundred percent better since I’ve allowed Chris to take on that responsibility. We are both more in love now than ever!
He has always been there for me – through better and worse, sickness and health, financial stress and struggles (we’ve never reached the “richer” part!) – and I believe he’ll be there “’til death do us part,” as will I. The only difference now is that for the first fifteen years of our marriage, I was the man of the house. For the remainder of our marriage, I plan to let him be the man and I will be quite content with my role as mother, wife, and woman of the house.
Sonya Haskins, author of Homeschooling for the Rest of Us