Dear Friends –
With this being the season of love and celebrating Valentine’s Day, I wanted to write about loving our men well.
Please don’t mistake my desire to discuss this topic as any sort of declaration that I have the answers. Quite the opposite actually. I wanted to give attention to this because after 21 years of marriage and befriending my man for over 23 years…I have been asking this question over and over…”What does it mean to love my husband well?”
I think it was about 5 years into my marriage that it dawned on me how different our hearts were. My realization went something like this…..
“ohhh…he’s not like my women roommates in college…
hmmm…I guess I expected him to respond like my girlfriends…
geez…I wonder why we’re so different…?!?!?
I guess I should find out how he feels loved…
I give up…he’s so different!
Oh…here’s a thought…I’ll just go ask him…”
(It was probably around this time that I also picked up the book, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.)
So, in the hopes of shedding some light on an area that can often be a mystery…
I’m not even entirely sure what this means except I had to often remind myself that I had not married someone like me. I had chosen to marry someone who had different qualities and unique ways of looking at the world. Did I really want to change him just to make myself feel better? I decided I’d rather spend my energy getting to know him and understand him. As I let go of expecting him to respond in the ways I would respond, our trust grew and an openness developed between us that deepened our love and our friendship.
#2 - Use your power for good.
At the young age of 23, I didn’t realize how much power I held as his wife. I don’t say this to diminish him or elevate myself in our relationship, but more as a confession in how sloppy I often was in my communication. As his wife, my words held more weight than any other. I began to learn how much my words could cut down, emasculate, and diminish. As this sobering realization sunk in, I renewed my vow ‘to love and cherish him until death do us part’. But how? I wanted my words and my communication to be uplifting, clear, direct, lovingly truthful, but above all else I wanted him to feel SAFE in our relationship. I’ll be honest, I had my work cut out for me.
Which leads me to my next truth…
#3 – Have the courage and the integrity to ask for truthful evaluations.
If I wanted my man to feel safe and loved in our relationship, I had to ask him how I was doing. But most importantly, I had to learn how to hear the hard truth. It’s not fun to hear how my actions hurt his heart or ripped it open…but it is necessary to feel the weight of it in order for bad habits to be broken and new ones established. Learning how I had hurt my husband was hard, but it continues to be the strongest motivation for me choosing better patterns. Allowing the reflection of myself in his eyes began to be a new habit for me. The good news…as I changed in areas that had repeatedly hurt him, I also got to see how he responded when he felt deeply loved and valued by me. Flowers, gifts, surprise trips…you get the picture. :)
#4 Remember why you love him and do all you can to grow this love.
In my lifetime, I have only said vows to one person. I intend to keep these vows…but I don’t think I really knew what I was getting into when I said them. As my husband and I have ‘grown up’ together, we wanted to stay married, not through sheer determination and grit (although sometimes that is required), but through a growing love that aged like fine wine over the years. Our shared commitment became a renewed effort to love and befriend each other as we aged. On our mirror in our bedroom, we have this quote by Robert Browning, “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be”.
Often our apologies end with….Sorry, Babe…I’ll be better when I’m older. And I know that even as I am asking the question, “How do I love my man well?” I know he is also asking, “How do I love my woman well?” Choosing to love well really is just that….a choice…but well worth the effort. What a sacred journey marriage has been for me…for us. To be in a relationship that honors this sacredness during the highs and the lows…in the beauty and in the mess…I believe we truly learn what it means to live wholeheartedly and show up for our best life. I’m all in.