More On Marriage: How Do You Work With The Differences?

Many mothers complain that their husbands are so lazy and so incompetent (which, to be fair, seems many times to be true!) but then these same mothers also wonder why their children are disrespectful to both parents.  Whew.  Many mothers also seem disappointed in their sons,  and what they perceive as such large differences between sons and daughters where the daughters seem more well-mannered/more intelligent/ etc than their sons.    Sometimes the differences between genders seems almost insurmountable in the home!  Small children are absorbing these impressions, how we talk to one another, the non-verbal communication, and really do understand the heart of how we feel in our own homes about one another.

Let’s tackle first things first.   Have you all noticed that many men do seem to be rather confused as to what their role is in this day and age?  It seems as if many of them wonder should their role be to work and make money or should it be to be sensitive and loving and able to care for the children?  Some men do seem to handle these roles well, but some do not……  Or is it that none of the roles “fit” and Dad ends up  just unhappy (and then it seems that some  Dads try to escape their own unhappiness through addictive or controlling  behaviors).  In this way, Dad is clearly not the head of the household in any way, shape or form and almost removes himself from family life.  It is Mom holding everything together.

Let me be clear, I am not condoning addictive behavior.  I am not condoning spouses who verbally or physically abuse their wives or children.  I am not writing this to make those who are going through a separation or  divorce feel guilty.  And although I did mention addiction issues above, really I am talking in this post  more about “normal” marriages where things are not going quite as well as one wishes.

To start with, let’s call a spade a spade.  A man is not a woman, and if woman expect a man to behave as a woman that is not understanding the differences!   Besides the obvious differences in physical appearance, weight, weight of the brain, ways the brain works, there are obvious social differences between men and women.  In my church, we have been doing a study of a biblical marriage based on the movie “Fireproof” (Has anyone seen that movie??).   According to my pastor, there was a study done through Harvard University that cited a man speaks, on average, 10, 000 words a day.  A woman speaks, on average, 25, 000 words a day.  (So, in my mind, a man has probably used up many of his words at work before he even comes home, LOL).  A different study cited that women stated they felt having at least a half an hour to forty-five minutes to talk with their partner was ideal.  Men felt about 10 to 15 minutes – a WEEK!- would be sufficient.  So there are some obvious differences!    However, perhaps there are ways to talk with your spouse or partner and at least come to an understanding of what each of you needs to be happy.

What does one do when Dad is not acting as the head of what is going on in the family?  I talk a lot on this blog of how many times the tone of the home needs to begin with the mother, how we are the light of the family, how we set a peaceful tone, how we model what is to be done with the children, etc.  But the truth is that there are two of us involved in making a baby, and there are two of us involved in parenting and two different perspectives to consider.  Mothers often get very upset when fathers do not do things the way they do, but are we the same people? No, of course not, so why would we do things the same way?   Have we shut Dad out by not letting him do anything because it is not “right”?  Have we belittled his efforts in front of our children? 

And what do we do when Dad is not really  participating in household life at all?  (And again, this is NOT about Dads who are fighting addiction issues.  This is more about the normal ups and downs of marriage that we all go through).

I wonder several things:

  • I wonder if mothers can meditate and clarify what they specifically need from their husbands and can these mothers make a specific request that would be responded to by their husbands?  Not just the whole “everything is terrible” but something small and specific to start.
  • Secondly, I wonder about what the husbands need and how those needs are being met in the home.  Men very frequently operate based upon a code of respect.  Is the home a place of nagging, a place where things are falling apart, a place where the man is not the champion of the home?  What would happen if the husband was treated as if he was the champion of the home and respected?  Would that change anything at all (it might not, I am just throwing it out there).   What can you do this week to make your husband feel respected in his own home? 
  • Third, I wonder about family mission statements.  Have you all sat down and figured out a mission statement for your family – which would include what is important to ALL of you.  There is a popular post on this blog regarding writing a mission statement for your family here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/08/creating-a-family-mission-statement/
  • Many times counseling is extremely important for getting through the stage where you are both stuck because otherwise the same patterns play over and over and over.  One type of counseling  I am aware of  is this one: http://gettingtheloveyouwant.com/ called Imago Therapy. 
  • I also wonder if the man has any physical things going on that is impacting his health, his mental health.  What kind of friends does he have?  Does he have any strong models for fathering at all?
  • I wonder if  resentment is taking over in a marriage, can one start just by loving one’s spouse (again, NOT talking about abusive or addictive situations here!).  There is a very old saying that love is a verb.  Sometimes we don’t feel “loving” but as we do actions that show love and respect for the other person, then that “feeling” starts to grow again. 

Fathers do need to re-claim their place within the home.  It is important for a wife to show her husband respect, but it is equally important for a husband and father to show not only respect to his wife, but love.  It is important for a husband to create  a space where his wife feels safe.  Is this happening for you, what would this look like for you and what would you need to make this happen?

One small example I can think of this is where many fathers I have seen  will take their children aside when they are being disrespectful to  their mothers and simply say, “ I cannot and will not have you speak in that manner to the woman I love.”  This carries powerful weight to a child and suggests to the child the importance of this sacred marital relationship. 

My husband has said to me that there are no perfect wives and no perfect husbands (and therefore no perfect marriages!).  However, I hope that if you are at the point of resentment in your marriage, you could both go to counseling, you could both talk, you could both love and forgive each other through this and re-build on your marriage off the foundation that already exists  (and again, this is NOT to make those who are going through or who have gone through a separation and/or divorce feel guilty!).  So many important and wonderful things exist in this sacred marital union that cannot be fulfilled other places – the physical intimacy that is truly emotional intimacy, the communication and partnership that exists between two people committed for the family – it is worth fighting for, isn’t it? It is worth some effort, and it takes some effort, outside of parenting and homeschooling to make this happen. 

Marriage is a powerful and sacred connection.  All of us want to be loved for a lifetime, and I hope in the “busy-ness” of parenting and homeschooling, that both husbands and wives can stop and cherish the wonderful partnership that they  have together.

Much love,

Carrie

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10 thoughts on “More On Marriage: How Do You Work With The Differences?

  1. I watched that movie this spring and am SLOWLY working my way through Love Dare (not the 40 day book.) All so much think about. So much of it goes to being respectful and mindful and considerate. I’m trying harder to be specific about what I need instead of complaining about what I’m not getting. Thanks for the continued thoughts.

    • I just came back to this and I love your comment about being specific about what you need as opposed to complaining about what you are not getting! That is a gem!

  2. Wonderful post. I’d like to share my experience with you. My husband and I have been married ten years. We have a good marriage, not perfect but solid. We laugh a lot, enjoy each others company and are affectionate. We had many changes in 10 years. When we married, he had two children 8 and 11 years old. I worked full-time. He was a single, working parent.

    Our first issue, was that he was used to running his household and was the provider and protector of the kids. I was an independent woman who came and went as I pleased. After being married a few months we had to sit down and decide how to handle these differences.
    I made it clear that I was capable, competent and didn’t need him looking over my shoulder while I cooked, ironed or cleaned. I did things differently, not better or worse.
    He made it clear that his role as protector and provider were vital to him. There were times when we reminded each other of our needs, but we always tried to do it in a loving and playful way. We were always aware of the example we were setting for two little munchins.

    Since then, we had two more children, have seen our two oldest move out. We bought a house, moved to another state, have decided to home school the younger ones. There have been moments of stress and tension. We see it as moments of adjustment. We all had to adjust to having him home for three weeks. He was on vacation and as much as we love having him home, it reeks havoc for a few days on our rythyms. It used to really bother me, like he was intruding. Now we just go with it now and we are all so much happier. Sometimes I have to help him find his groove at home. I don’t ever want him to feel like he doesn’t fit in. (Growing up, I thought my dad felt this way.)

    My sister once said she wished her husband was as nice to her as he was to aquaintances. It broke my heart. At home we keep in mind that we welcome people into our homes and treat them like family.

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  8. I was wondering if you couod give some examples of respecting your husband/making your husband feel respected. My husband and I are good friends, but he says sometimes that he doesn’t feel like I respect him. I don’t know where to start.

    • Mari,
      From what I have heard from husbands in group support settings and in private conversation, the number one respect violator is “the contradiction” – esp, contradicting your husband in front of the children. The other things men have brought up to me is the tone that their wives use with them, like they are stupid and can’t figure things out, that there wives don’t think they can make good decisions (especially, again, when it comes to the children). I advise as much as possible to try to get on the same page regarding family life – sometimes going through the process of writing a family mission statement can be really helpful, try typing that term in the search engine on this blog and quite a few back posts should come up – and also trying to hash through things not on the spot in front of the children but together after the children go to bed. Also, I think many times fathers are last on the list, so putting your husband first, so the children see that. If you look under the Family LIfe tab, there is a subsection on marriage which may have some helpful blog posts for you that I wrote some time ago.

      ( Obviously, this advice applies to normal marital tensions and situations, not physical or emotional abuse of anyone in the household as I am not a counselor or psychologist (that is the disclaimer)).

      Hope that helps to start the thinking process.
      Blessings,
      Carrie

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