A friend posted a comment on Facebook for Mother’s Day. He said something about his wife being stuck with him. He was being funny, but it struck something in me.
I used to say that, too.
No woman is ever stuck with her husband. Divorce isn’t the only escape clause for a bad marriage. Any woman who feels neglected, abused or just plain miserable will find an escape. Some just leave. Some check out emotionally. Some find distractions to disconnect. Some take more drastic measures to the really bad situations.
For the first ten years, we did pretty good. The second ten years, not so much. My attitude went dark. I got angry and abusive. I neglected her. I didn’t think she would leave. I didn’t think I was a bad husband. Actually, I just didn’t think much about the marriage at all.
I was mostly guilty of neglect and control issues. It was all about me and what I wanted. Every decision had to be for my benefit first and foremost.
We went on dates, but only to places I wanted to go. We lived where I chose. We ate what I wanted. Every decision was made based on whether or not I maintained control. I was the man of the house. She was expected to be the submissive wife and support whatever stupid idea I had. She was at the mercy of a tyrant.
Then, she had enough.
She figured out that life was too short to live like that. She figured out that her life was too precious to be treated that way. She wanted more. She wanted out. She filed for divorce and started planning a new life that didn’t include me.
My first reaction was the same as most guy when that happens. Similar to a toddler that has a toy taken away. Something of mine was being taken from me, against my will. I suddenly didn’t have as much control as I thought. My world shattered. I went into depression. I panicked. I publicly displayed how immature and foolish I had become.
She wasn’t impressed. She didn’t come running back. She was done.
My desperation let me to several marriage counsellors who had the same conclusions. There was nothing wrong with her, and they didn’t know what to do with me.
It wasn’t until I ended up on the phone with Joel Davisson from BestMarriage.com that I understood the damage I had done and why she wanted out so badly. He didn’t pull any punches with me. I was an arrogant jackass who ruined a good marriage with selfish and immature behavior. I pushed her away. She deserved better than I had given her. I wasn’t Christlike. I was a bad husband. Not her fault.
I made three good decision after that.
First. I decided to shut up and listen. I let Joel coach me through the process, without defending myself or demanding anything from her.
Second. I stopped blaming her and decided to cover her. It was my fault. I could only change me. Nobody was going to hear me gripe or complain about her. Nobody was going to hear about anything she did wrong. I took ownership of my failures in the marriage.
Third. I decided to love her without expectations. I was going to become a better husband and father. She fell in love with me once, I wanted to become that guy again. Whether or not she came back, I wanted to do better for her. I wanted to become the kind of guy she needed. I didn’t want to be a jerk for the rest of my life. She deserved better. Our kids deserved better.
Four years later, life was completely different. I had won her heart back. She was in love with me again. My whole world came together by learning to listen to her needs and put them above mine. By becoming an Ephesians 5:25 husband, my entire life changed.
She was no longer stuck with me. She wanted to be with me. She made a choice about her life and future, and I was part of the plan. It was a better place than we had been in twenty five years. And, it gets better everyday.
None of it was easy. It was a daily fight to get past the attitudes and habits I had developed. I still haven’t become the man I want to be. There’s still “jackass residue” in my system. I still catch myself doing and saying things that aren’t in line with the man I want to be. The big difference now, is that I am willing to listen to her and she feels safe enough to to talk.
We are on the same team. We are equal partners in this thing. Everything that matters to her, matters to me. She is my first ministry. She is my best friend and the most important person in my life.
That’s a whole lot different than being stuck with someone.