(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!)