At some point, almost every man feels incompatible with his spouse. During those times, most men secretly wonder if they should’ve married someone else. They harbor that secret from their wives for fear of hurting them. But truth be told, from time to you’re your wives probably entertain similar thoughts.
The real news here isn’t that people sometimes wish they’d married someone different; it’s that they’re misdiagnosing the issue at hand and the challenge it requires of them. Everybody goes through difficult periods in marriage. At times everybody feels like throwing in the towel. And if you want to know the truth, everybody’at least in one sense’did marry the wrong person!
While teaching a marriage course at Notre Dame, a professor used to give his students one absolute: you always marry the wrong person. ‘It’s a reversible absolute, though,’ said Hauerwas, ‘You always marry the right person. The point is we don’t know who we are marrying.’
Professor Hauerwas is right. The knowledge you have of your spouse on your wedding day is unavoidably incomplete. Furthermore, both of you will change and develop over the course of your lives. Consequently, neither person knows exactly what the promise they’re making to one another will entail. The promise is bold, challenging, and ripe with reward.
Therefore, rather than ask if you’ve married the wrong person, try asking how you can learn to better love and care for the person you’ve married!
Men tend to be less romantically inclined than women. In itself, that’s fine. However, we shouldn’t let that tendency cause us to fall short when it comes to stoking the fires of our marriage.
It’s easy to think, ‘Okay, now I’ve got a wife. What’s next on the agenda?’ But men, that’s a big mistake. Romance lies at the heart of the female essence. Most wives are incurable romantics, and it’s highly unlikely that your wife’s an exception.
Bring her flowers on your anniversary, or sometimes for no particular reason at all. Take her to eat at your old haunts; drive by your old homes and apartments; skip a Monday night football game to take her to dinner; walk together at dusk holding hands; and give the gift of your time generously.
Romance tends to become less a priority after marriage. To make matters worse, many of us tend to confuse sex for romantic intimacy. One married woman put it like this:
‘I love the romantic intimacy of a hug and extra attention, but any little hug and kiss I give’seems to suggest that I want to make love. How exasperating! I just want him to know that I love him, and I just want the same response back without feeling that I have to jump into bed. I just want him to hold me and talk to me; I just want to be near him.’
Men, being mindful and responsive to your wives’ need for romance is one of the most practical and powerful ways to love and honor her.
Our fragile male egos can easily present a barrier to oneness and intimacy with our wives. One woman made this candid comment that makes my point: ‘Most things in our marriage are his plans and desires.[He never shows me any of his deep feelings, and I can’t say that I’ve ever felt one with him. He once said, ‘If I let you in and show you my feelings, I’d be vulnerable to becoming hurt.”
A husband’s refusal to be emotionally vulnerable is a sure sign that his fragile male ego is presenting an obstacle to marital health.
Another sure sign that the fragile male ego is at work is when a woman’s gifts and talents are perceived by her husband as a threat to his competency. This is an issue I’ve seen come up time and again in marital counseling.
My point, men, is that an overly sensitive male ego undercuts our ability to be vulnerable and humble’two necessary characteristics for strong and growing marriages.
One of the church’s great theologians was fond of referring to marriage as ‘the school of character.’ That’s because marriage, by its very design, will teach us things like vulnerability and humility’that is, if we’ll only commit ourselves to becoming attentive and teachable students.
The lessons we need to learn aren’t always easy. Yet they’re profoundly rewarding.