Have you ever noticed that our kids are often easier to forgive than our husband? We can chalk up their dumb behavior to not knowing better or, hey, being a three-year-old. But what’s our husband’s excuse? We hold our husband to a higher standard (which isn’t completely ludicrous), but this shows a misunderstanding of grace on our part.
We think someone should get more grace if they deserve it. If they should know better, they should get less grace. But this is anything but grace. What if we could forgive the offenses of our spouse just as quickly as we forgive the offenses of our kids? Grace, by its very definition, is not given to those who are worthy of it. Hebrews 12:14-15 says,
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (NIV).
This isn’t a passage you normally hear at weddings, but it is packed with wisdom for marriage. When we live at peace with our spouse, it glorifies God. People who are on the outside looking in will see the Lord’s character when we choose forgiveness, grace, and peace.
Prioritizing Kids Over Spouses
One of the reasons we prioritize our children over our spouse is because our kids’ needs are usually more obvious. My husband can make himself dinner. He can dress himself and even turn on the TV by himself. If we feel like we’re in survival mode, our instinct is to respond to the loudest noise. Our days are often determined by which fires need to be put out instead of by our priorities. My husband rarely has the loudest need in our home. Because of that, I have to be really intentional about hearing him. I have to be diligent in asking how I can serve him. If I don’t, I forget that he has any needs of his own and simply see him as a workhorse.
In her book Lists to Love By for Busy Wives, Susan Merrill says, “I thought of [my husband] as an extension of myself, two more hands to keep our family of seven operable.” 1 I can’t tell you how this quote has had me thinking over the last few weeks.
Focusing on Tasks Instead of Each Other
This is me. When my husband comes home, I think of all the things he can help me do. He can bathe our youngest while I tidy up. He can take the girls for a walk while I take a few minutes to myself. After a long day, this is naturally where my mind flows. This is simply what being in a partnership and raising a family together is about, right?
It’s true that this is part of the marriage relationship, but if this is our sole focus, our souls will wither and we’ll become the mom with the butler husband who uses her kids as her security blanket. Or the husband and wife who have to awkwardly rediscover life as a couple when their kids leave the nest. Depth in motherhood requires depth in marriage. So where can we start? How do we stop seeing our spouse as another set of hands to help tackle our to-do lists? (Scratch that. It’s actually my list.)
Let’s start with this classic example. The day-to-day responsibilities of motherhood often have me wishing I could sit quietly and not talk for a while. I’m weary from telling my kids to get that electrical plug away from their mouths, to stop standing on the chair, to be nice to their sister. I get tired of hearing my own voice. I long for moments when I can clock out from the command center. By the time late afternoon hits, the witching hour has begun. I’m mentally ready for bedtime, but I’d just be satisfied with seeing my husband walk through the door.
I have a load to dump on him. It comes in the form of chores, a recap of the rough part of my day, and sometimes literally my kids. By the time Tyler gets home, I’ve spent the last nine hours barking orders. By that point, though, I’m on a roll. Is it any wonder that wives are stereotyped as nags who constantly tell their husbands what to do? We are expected to keep order from sunrise to sunset, and then we’re supposed to instantly turn it off when our husband walks through the door?
I remember my mom telling me that this desire wives have to control their husbands is actually biblical. Not good biblical, but based-in-truth biblical. She pointed me to Genesis 3:16:
“[God] said to the woman, ‘I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.’”
This tension we feel in marriage is part of the curse. We will long for control over our husband against God’s design. And then I’m reminded that my husband is not off the hook when it comes to the curse either. In Genesis 3:17, God says to Adam,
“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.”
Doesn’t this describe a common struggle men experience—feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility to provide for their families? As I consider these struggles from the curse, I see how they play a role in our everyday lives. Your family might not have the same roles, but I think this biblical truth represents something that goes beyond each family’s unique circumstances. I’ve heard it said plenty of times that husbands should use the drive home to switch gears from their work stresses so they can be present and enjoy their families. (And when I say I’ve heard this, I mainly mean I’ve suggested it to my husband.) But now I’m starting to see that wives need to do the same thing.
Switching Gears to Help Focus
How can our husband’s arrival at home act as a trigger for us to switch gears from instructor to loving wife? And how can we do this without ditching the kids for an hour-long massage first? We have to decide to be content and not place the same weight on the small things that we do on the big things.We have to decide to be content and not place the same weight on the small things that we do on the big things.Click To Tweet
It’s true that there are some deep wounds that come in the context of marriage, and I don’t want to minimize those in any way. But we need to be careful to ensure that our emotional, mental, and physical responses match the size of the issue. It’s time to stop being overly dramatic about the small problems in our lives and marriages, in conversations with both our spouse and our friends. Let’s step back and see the big picture and address big things with seriousness and small things with less intensity. I’m ready to send Grumpy Wife packing. Will you join me?
1 Mark and Susan Merrill, Lists to Love By for Busy Wives (New York: FaithWords, 2017), 21.
Adapted from Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday: Say Goodbye to Stressed, Tired, and Anxious, and Say Hello to Renewed Joy in Motherhood by Valerie Woerner, releasing in April, 2019 from Tyndale House Publishers.