Dear Barbara: I got into a fight with my husband last night because I feel he does not appreciate all that I do and gives no help at all with our daughter, while I am expecting a second child.
Today I’m wondering if I’m looking for something from him that he can’t give. Or that he hasn’t learned how to give. I’d love to know how you kept your mind from resenting your husband when you felt as I feel today.
I’m so glad you asked. Yours is a question all wives can relate to in many seasons of marriage.
Like you my daughter, Laura, had her first baby in November two years ago. Her experience was difficult … over 24 long hours of labor ending in a C-section, then struggling to nurse. Then, two weeks later she caught a bad virus which affected her milk supply. And on it went for many months.
All the change, she felt, was hers to bear. She was exhausted from little sleep, which makes every decision, every relationship immensely more difficult. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all,” said Winston Churchill, meaning lack of sleep depletes us not just physically but emotionally and spiritually. Perpetual fatigue means we don’t think clearly or make good faith decisions.
When she shared her frustrations with me, I told Laura how I remembered feeling resentment toward my husband as he slept like a baby while my baby and I were awake off and on all night. And this repeated itself with five more kids! It seemed so unfair after all I endured that he bore so little.
Over all those baby years I learned many lessons. Here are a few.
1. Feeling resentment is not wrong. Feeding resentment is. Resentment begins when we feel circumstances are very unfair. We compare and make judgments. If we can’t resolve it we feel anger, self-rightness, superiority, or a sense of martyrdom. Refusing to see any fault in yourself, refusing to trust God’s work and timing, and then taking it out on the other person, your husband, is when feelings of unfairness become sin.
It’s too easy in the fog of sleep deprivation to nurse anger toward your sleeping-oblivious husband. There is much he doesn’t understand, he doesn’t know what he’s doing wrong, and he’s baffled on how to help you or “fix it.”
The enemy of your soul wants you to become angry, to feel justified that you are better or more superior than he because of all you are juggling or have suffered.
2. Comparison is a trap. Wives often compare our lot in life with our husband’s. Whether you work outside the home or not, it’s impossible for your life and your husband’s to be equal. You are two vastly different people with very different ways of responding to your life experiences.
The goal of oneness in marriage is learning to understand one another’s God-created uniquenesses. Though it’s impossible to ever fully understand, growing understanding is possible and builds intimacy, depth and oneness.
A favorite story of mine is the encounter between Peter and Jesus after the Resurrection. Over breakfast on the shore of Lake Galilee, Jesus gave Peter his “marching orders” for the future. The intense focus of Jesus’s eyes boring into Peter’s soul likely felt uncomfortable, so he, like we often do, attempted to shift the focus to someone else by asking, “What about him?”
Jesus responded, “…what is that to you? You follow Me!” (John 21:22). God often reminds me of this story, saying, “You follow Me. Keep your eyes on Me, not on your husband or on others.”
Jesus did not come to earth to make everyone’s life equal or fair. He came to redeem us from our comparison struggles, our critical attitudes and our sin that keeps us from knowing and following His individualized unique plan. What He had for Peter was different than John. What He has for you is different than what He has for your husband.
3. God did not design husbands to meet all of their wife’s needs. Neither does He expect wives to meet all their husband’s needs. This truth is a great liberator for us. Read it again and again. We aren’t responsible for meeting everyone’s needs—husband, children, mom, dad, siblings, or friends! God is!
Here is a great verse to remember: “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name” (Isaiah 54:5). I used to think this was a lovely verse for women who never married or were suddenly single again, but I’ve come to see this verse is for married women, too, because no husband will ever be perfect or all that a woman needs. Look to Jesus, know you are His, and trust Him.
4. Conversations are necessary. Seasons of misunderstanding one another are actually wonderful opportunities for growing your marital oneness. God’s desire is for you to have healthy, helpful, honoring conversations about what you are feeling. Your husband can’t learn to help, care for you, or meet more of your needs if he doesn’t know what you are going through.
Here are six keys for conversations:
- Share how you feel and ask how he feels about your common circumstances—the new baby, your toddler who is wearing you out, etc.
- Focus on “me and I” statements like, “I feel like I’m doing it all by myself” and “I know you are trying or want to help.” Accusatory “you” statements like, “You never help!” only create more distance.
- Give him suggestions for how to help.
- Thank him for what he is doing and for the ways he does try hard.
- Don’t expect the issue to be resolved with one conversation. Husbands try to read wives, so after you’ve had one good night he may incorrectly assume all is now well. It takes time for men to understand the depth of your total experience because they think so differently than women.
- Remember that timing and patience is important. Too often we expect our husbands to be instantly mature and wise after one conversation. Usually it takes decades for men to learn how to love the wife God gave them.
One last suggestion: Hymns and worship songs have helped me remember truth. God has reminded me often of two of my favorite hymns, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” and “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less,” to say to me, “Where is your hope? Who are you looking to, Barbara?”
Let great lyrics like these help you remember His truth.
Hope this helps.
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