By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
One of the most profound pieces of advice my grandfather shared with me when I first got married was to never start doing something you aren’t willing to do for a lifetime. I think he offered this up in jest, but as the years have started to add up in my own marriage I can see how much truth there is in this simple statement.
Change is hard! Once we form a pattern of behavior either positive or negative it can be really challenging to break away from that pattern.
For many women we have some “go-to” patterns that many of us struggle with that can be unhealthy for our marriages.
Keep in mind, every relationship is unique. This list is not to try to push anyone into a box but rather a tool to help you consider some common traps our marriages can fall into.
I know from personal experience that it is easy to be blind to your own negative coping strategies. We first have to wake up to the ways our automatic responses are hurting us before being able to grow and change!
Here are 10 things that wives should stop doing in their marriages.
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1. Stop Putting Your Friends over Your Spouse
We all need a tribe to lean on but there is a fine line between having your people and neglecting your husband in favor of your friends.
Honestly, after many years of marriage, friends can feel easier or more fun than your spouse. Friends don’t come with all the added demands of married life.
For some reason, it can be so much easier to extend grace and forgiveness to your best friend than to your husband. We can begin to start choosing easy over leaning into the relationship that should matter most in our lives.
We have to make our marriage a top priority. We live distracted and crazy full lives! Without conscious choices to put each other first, our marriage will fall to the wayside.
Be wise about the friendships you choose to invest in. These people should come alongside your marriage offering you helpful advice, encouragement, joy, and support.
In a best case scenario, they would also be friends with your spouse. Your tribe should enrich your homelife--not distract from it.
2. Stop Being So Serious
Adulting is so hard. There are so many times I just stop to grieve how hard being an adult is. That is exactly why we need our spouse to help bring fun back into our lives!
No one wants to be the serious one all the time so give yourself permission to be fun every now and then.
For whatever reason, most men are able to embrace fun a little more easily than women. So why not stop resisting laughing at their silly jokes and embrace the lightheartedness they bring to the table.
Life is too short for it to all be about work and to never be about play!
Embrace fun and make time to laugh together, plan a date night, or play a game together! Take a break from adulting and enjoy being with the one you love. This will help lift the tension so many of us are carrying as well as strengthen the bond that you have with your husband.
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3. Stop Resisting Being Intimate with Your Husband
The sexual needs of men and women tend to be pretty different.
Men typically would like to be intimate much more frequently than women. It’s okay to express that you have different needs than your spouse but it’s important that we aren’t always the wet blanket to our sex lives.
I have found that communicating about different life circumstances around intimacy is helpful for both me and my husband. In some stages of life, long and elaborate may not be even possible. On the other hand, when the kids are out or in bed asleep, it’s time to go slow and make the most of the time together.
There is value in every chance we take to connect physically. Making an effort to communicate openly and do what you can to get excited about your sex life goes a long way! If we always are too tired, too stressed, or too uninterested we are neglecting a very important part of our marriage.
4. Stop Making Plans without the Input of Your Husband
If we want our husbands to be our true partners then we have to start including them in the details of our days. The truth is when we stop asking our spouse for their input, they stop expecting to have a say.
Most women are so capable of making decisions that our husbands easily begin to defer to us when a choice has to be made. But an important thing to remember is that partnership is a choice.
Choosing to lean on each other does not mean you are incapable of doing something on your own, but rather it’s a decision to go in on something together. Just because we are able to solely guide the ships of our homes doesn’t mean we should.
When we start navigating it all on our own, our marriages usually begin to suffer.
Marriage by design is two lives becoming one. That can’t happen if one life stamps out the other one (of course this is a two-way street).
We need to be intentional to share in our decision making processes with one another so that our partnership can thrive and ultimately so our bond can continue to grow.
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5. Stop Treating Your Husband Like He Is Useless
All the women I know are full of drive, intelligence, and moxy. We are forces to be reckoned with!
These are all amazing qualities that should not be tempered but they do have to be applied to our marriages in the proper way. If we aren’t careful, we run the risk of railroading our husbands right out of a job in our homes and marriages.
God knows this about women and that is why he instructs us to approach our husbands with submission and respect (Ephesians 5:22-23). God created woman to be the Ezer-helper which means help, savior, rescuer, or protector. We came on the scene from the beginning with a purpose!
Our purpose is to be the helper, get the job done, take care of our homes, and we are fierce! God knew that alongside our strength can be a drive that can make it hard for us to pause and consider that our husbands may have something to offer too.
I know firsthand the struggle is real… most men approach problems so differently than most women. They often are living moment to moment while we tend to be connecting all the dots and always working to prepare for the future.
It’s easy to see our differences as a barrier to us working well together, but in reality, we need each other to live our lives well. We each have strengths and weaknesses that the other can help compliment.
Practically, this dynamic may look like us realizing our kids need a nap while our husbands are engrossed in whatever activity is happening in the moment. Our Mamma bear instincts can come out in a way that communicates disrespect to our husbands.
We may begin to push towards a quick solution that gets our kids home to rest, which is a valid need. Meeting a valid need does not give us license to ignore, disrespect, or demean our partner.
We married them because we want to consider their perspective. We have to be careful to not let our “rightness” in our minds turn us into difficult people.
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6. Stop Retelling Events with Our Husband Cast as the Fool
Laughing at the expense of our husbands is not okay.
My confession is that I am so guilty of this! My husband is not great with directions… there have been many occasions we have gone miles out of the way because of a missed turn. After we have experienced one of these unexpected detours I love to share with anyone who will listen how frustrated his mistake made me. I marvel out how he can so often miss familiar turns!
While the story I tell may feel lighthearted and funny; for my husband it can sound like I am insulting his intelligence, and in front of other people at that!
This is not the message I want to send to him or to our loved ones.
My husband is a very smart guy, and telling stories that paint him as unintelligent are both harmful and don’t tell the truth about who he is. Not to mention I would hate if he made it his mission to retell all of my less-than-stellar moments with all our close friends and family.
If we want our marriages to thrive we have to do our best to use our words as something that elevates our spouses. All of us want to believe that we have something to bring to the table.
When our stories continuously push down our husbands we are making it very hard for our spouses to have the confidence they need to partner with us in our daily lives.
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7. Stop Treating Your Husband Like He Is the Part-Time Babysitter
If you have kids together with your husband then I would like to set one thing straight: your husband is not the part-time nanny, he is their Father.
Your kids need him, he should have input on every decision you make as parents, and he is also able to care for your kids too (with the noted exception of cases of abuse, neglect, or other extenuating circumstances).
Most Mom’s nearly immediately and passionately gain mothering instincts when they become a Mother. Oftentimes Fatherhood takes a different path and men need time to grow into their role. Sometimes we have to step aside to give them a chance to rise up as a Dad.
In our marriage I was forced to step aside and allow my husband to grow as a husband because when our boys were both toddlers I began to work weekends. While I went to work Daddy was in charge.
This season came with challenges but in many ways it was such a great chance for my husband to realize what a great Father he is! He had to problem solve and learn our kids all on his own which gave him confidence to step up as a very involved Dad for all seven days of the week.
If you desire your husband to grow as a Father then you have to make sure you are giving him space to pour into your kids his way.
His way may include more adventures, less handwashing, and bigger messes but those are the moments that your kids will treasure. God gave us Mom’s and Dad’s because we both bring something unique and special to our families.
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8. Stop Doing All the Chores
There are so many studies out there telling women how overworked we are these days. Many of us work all day and then come home just to work all night. When we push ourselves to give 24/7 stress, burnout, and unhappiness are inevitable.
Fact is our husbands can’t help us unless we stop doing it all and we have to communicate to them what needs to be done. Create a chore chart, a rhyme for your day that includes space for you to rest, or practice telling each other what needs to be done in a day so that you both are aware of that mental to-do list running in your mind and can get after it together.
I am going to share a truth that hopefully is freeing for you… if you are married then there is no reason you have to plan every meal, buy all the food for every meal, cook every meal, and clean up after every meal.
If you are doing all three of these things every night of the week then you are doing too much!
My advice is that if you plan, shop, and cook then please leave the dishes to your spouse and kids.
Take those 10 minutes of daily kitchen clean up to grab a walk, read a book, or just sit to talk while you watch them do the cleanup. Whatever the chore is, make space to allow everyone in your home to contribute.
It’s important for your mental health plus it is also good for your husband and kids to take responsibility for the lives you guys all share.
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9. Stop Feeling Bad for Taking Up Space
This is my struggle one-hundred percent! To my absolute horror, I have found that I am full of emotions, needs, limits, and desire, and I have internal guilt over each and every one of those things.
I can hate my emotions and how they tax my easy-going and fun-loving husband. I would love to believe I live in a world where I can give and give but not need anything from my family. I hate admitting that I have real limits to my patience and more.
My desire to be seen, to achieve, and to just pursue my own passions honestly feels selfish.
Some women are so much better at owning these things than others but I think many of us have grown up subtly being told in one way or another that taking up space as a woman is problematic.
The trouble is that it is completely impossible to be in an intimate, honest, supportive, and ultimately healthy marriage relationship without taking up space.
Granted, there are better ways to express ourselves than others. We all have to work on sharing our needs in ways that communicate love and respect. Yet, being imperfect in our delivery is not a reason to shrink back and hide ourselves away from our husbands.
Take up space and even more than that be proud of what you bring to the table! Say sorry for when you take up space in a less than graceful way--and then keep on going.
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10. Stop Looking to Your Husband for Things That Only God Can Give You
There are many seasons in a marriage in which you may be looking for something that your spouse does not have the ability to give you.
As a young mom, I began to experience severe anxiety and consequently suffered from bouts of depression. Recently I have realized that I have carried around some pretty nasty unforgiveness in my heart towards my husband.
The truth is, I was completely incapable of clearly sharing what I needed in those moments and was pretty difficult to be around. What I needed was peace and healing and those are things that only God can help me find.
Rather than seeking God in those moments or in the times that I felt good, I began to build a story in my mind that told me my husband had carelessly abandoned me in my time of need.
This was an awful lie that I believed and this lie has created a lot of turmoil in our relationship. I am only beginning to shift my responses to hardship and instead of dumping all my heartache onto my husband I go to God in prayer first.
This is not easy… our husbands are right in front of us. They become an easy target especially when we are really hurting. Nonetheless, blaming them only adds insult to injury.
Married life is such a journey! There is never a point in which we get it all right. What we need to make it is constant access to God’s grace and a neverending willingness to forgive each other.
May you have the grace to grow in the areas that have become hurdles for your marriage.
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