Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Your husband is not your girlfriend. The importance of friendship outside of your marriage.

   (My wedding day June 11, 2009: with my dearest friends Mel, Meagan & Lo) 

Here is the best advice I can give to any woman about to get married: 
Your husband is not one of your girl friends, so stop expecting him to be. 

When I was newly married I quickly learned that my husband was A.) Not a woman B.) Not one of my girlfriends, and yet I had put that expectation on him. After a long hard day at work (back when we both worked full time) I would want to sit on the couch and commiserate, and essentially have "girl talk". I didn't realize that is what I was doing, but I quickly learned something was wrong. At first I blamed him, "WHY AREN'T YOU SAYING ANYTHING?!", "WHY ARE YOU JUST STARING!?". He would then reply calmly, "I'm just listening. What do you want me to say?". Well NOT THAT. If I was explaining a problem, I didn't want a solution I wanted him to pat me on my back and tell me .... well... what my best friend Juliann would tell me. I wanted him to tell me how hard it must be, or how great of an employee I was, just like one of my girlfriends would. But men are not women. They don't commiserate about the same things we do. They don't have the same priorities and science has time and time again shown us that our brains ARE NOT wired the same. There are hundreds of books on this exact subject for a reason. 

(My wedding day June 11, 2009- with my best friend Juliann) 

So was something wrong? Well yes, but with me not with him. Now, I am in no way saying my husband is perfect, or that his communication skills don't need work, but I will say that most men have two modes of operation - listening while staying quiet or problem solving. Neither of which do I appreciate as much as much as I should.  When pouring out my soul I prefer sympathy with a dash of going over the same problem a hundred times with a friend who is "interrupting", adding in her own experience while sharing a box of tissues and a bottle of red wine. Simply put the problem was my expectations (unfair ones may I add). But alas there is a solution and it is easy, and it is important. 

Friendship with other women. 

More than ever before, I recognize how important it is for me to have GIRL TIME. I need my friends. I need to vent. I need to be honest and real without worry of judgement. I need to say the "bad" things I think sometime. I need to word vomit. I need to "have my feelings and eat them too". I need friendship, and other women in my life. I need mentorship, I need to mentor, I need peer relationships, and I need to learn from others experiences, teach from my own and stay teachable. I notice when I go a prolonged time without deep meaningful conversation and community with my girlfriends I become very emotionally restless in my marriage. I start to get mad at Thomas quickly. I start to resent him. 

For me, this balance is still a struggle, but I am able to more quickly realize that after a "disappointing" conversation, that it was I who wanted something that he cannot give. Not because he is not good at having a conversation; in fact my husband is one of the most articulate, well read and interesting people I know. He is thoughtful, funny and we truly enjoy each others company, and share many common interests and hobbies (which is a huge blessing that I am so incredibly grateful for). He is not lacking anything. But he is NOT a woman. Women have a way of relating to one another that is different than the way men relate to women and men relate to one another. Women talk over each other and go off on rabbit trails, following along, jumping from subject to subject like popcorn in oil. I know often times I can sit with my best friend and we can talk for three straight hours about a thousand different subjects. The conversation flows so naturally, and both people are blessed by it. Often times the next day my voice is hoarse from talking for so long! 

The other thing I have to recognize is that I often want my husband to be my God. I want him to meet ALL MY NEEDS. This is unrealistic and I know many women do this - married or not. Thomas is not my GOD. I can't worship him, and he can't worship me. He cannot fulfill my deepest needs to be loved, understand and belong. Often, new marriages or even a new relationship can trick women into feeling this way. Some might say they even become a different person - they seem happier, more content. All the flowers, wooing, dating, and compliments really create a "glow" in some women. But alas it is only another idol that will let you down. Sorry to sound so harsh here, and I am not saying falling in love isn't wonderful and fun and hey! I had that glow too! It is good to be loved! But what  saying is that I am so imperfect, and I do not love Thomas perfectly on any day, Only God does. Thomas does not love me perfectly on any day, only God can. Asking our husbands to be our God, our girlfriend, and meet all our voids (that is often there in our very isolated society) is a sure way to create discord, discontentment and contention in marriage. We each have roles; wife, friend, sister, mother, girlfriend, friend - and in a healthy thriving relationship you can be to each role what is needed in that role. God gives us his spirit, his word and his people to allow us to grow closer to him and walk with him. For me I have seen God meet my need to be understood and counseled through my friendships. It is blessing so great, and I feel like many women miss out on this instead asking their husbands to do this. 

So, pick up your phone and call a friend, they would love to hear your voice. You won't regret it!

(My sister Libby & I, on my wedding day in June 2009!)

Monday, December 2, 2013

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Changing the focus.

It begins the week of Thanksgiving. Relatives start to come into town, the grocery store causes a near anxiety attack, and the meal that takes five hours to prepare is over in less than an hour. My once spick-and-span house has turned into an army bunker complete with cheerios on the floor, dirty dishes, and sticky counters.

My fuse is blown. My head is spinning. I feel hung over, even though I barely had a glass of wine the whole Thanksgiving holiday. I try to muster up my "holiday spirit" with Christmas jingles in the car,  a wreath on the door, holiday candles, and hot chocolate by a fire. But what I came to realize this morning is that I really have it all wrong this year. Don't worry this post isn't about shaming you in regards to your holiday traditions and me telling you how "superficial" and "sinful" they are. This isn't about not getting a christmas tree or how certain carols we sing have pagan roots. This post is about me, and my need for Jesus and his help to shift my heart; worshiping at the altar of Christmas greeting cards, frosty the snowman bowing down to the "holiday god's" to make me feel better even just for a brief second.

I have forgotten that the reason I celebrate Christmas is to glorify the TRUE Prince of Peace. Everyday this Christmas I need a reminder that Jesus loves me, he humbled himself to be God made man, to be a King born in a manger and hung on a tree for my sins. Nothing, no amount of good hosting and glad tidings will bring me peace. No amount of charity work or donations, no amount of gifts I give or receive will make me feel whole. Only Jesus can fill me with complete joy, peace and love. I can not do it on my own, my flesh is self serving and weak.

Every year I dream of perfect family holiday where everyone gets along and we all laugh, and everyone has a helpful spirit, but I set my expectation and hope in these desires. Every year I am let down. I focus so hard on making the perfect day, planning, cooking, prepping only to be let down mostly by my own performance. I become controlling, even if I don't outwardly mistreat someone I hold resentment and martyrdom in my heart. Ask my husband how he feels during the holidays. I am pretty sure the guy walks around terrified to voice any of his own desires because if they aren't in-line with mine I may (or may not) have an outburst. Almost every Christmas we get in a fight when we bring our tree home, because no matter what I put these crazy expectations on how the "tradition" should go! I sabotage it, and I hurt my best friend in the process.

Glory be to God that Christ has changed me in so many ways, but as I grow in my relationship with Jesus I am more aware of my shortcomings and sin. I sympathize with Paul when he wrote in Romans 7:15-19 ;

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.

As I sat down this morning I desired so deeply to stuff my Christmas cards and play christmas music, and I kept asking myself "why?" and then I realized that it was to momentarily escape. Escape from the reality of my own sin, and to use Christmas to make myself better instead of Christ who is the only and true healer. So I confessed, and I confess now - and I hope it will be encouragement to you. I don't say these things to heap shame but instead to say take heart! In Christ we have the ability to put to death the desires of the flesh, and love others the way Christ loved. In Christ, there is freedom and forgiveness of sins. We don't have to "try harder or do better". We can truly rest in his completed work.

Philippians 2: 1-11 
1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I pray that this Christmas I would be more like Christ. Not that I would make everyone "happy" and "oohhh and ahhh" over how wonderful of a host I am, or how perfect my house looks. I pray that I would simply love and respect my husband, and that there would be peace between us.  My "grown up christmas list" is that I would remember that Christmas is about remembering the greatest gift I have received, that is salvation in Christ, and that I would keep my focus there. While sitting by the fire, driving in my car, shopping with friends, making christmas cookies I pray that we will all enjoy all the many blessings we already have bestowed upon us. Filled with hearts of gratitude in this season where it is so easy to get preoccupied, and become increasingly unhappy by succoming to the consumeristic spirit the holidays can often bring. Let us refocus, begin this season with Thanksgiving in our hearts and merriment in our homes.

Merry Christmas Friends! God Bless you & keep you!