Our friend Crystal (name changed), married twenty-five years, visited us recently. She was deeply troubled and angry at her husband. She had had it! The words came spilling out. “I can’t take his disrespect for me any longer! I’m through!”
She was extremely upset and her frustration spewed out like an erupting volcano. “I do everything for him. I fix his breakfast, I pack his lunch, I fix dinner, I do his laundry, I do everything! I even give him a massage when he’s tired. And he does nothing for me in return. Nothing! He expresses no appreciation for all I do. I’m done!”
We let the venting continue, then asked a few questions. “Does he work hard earning a living? Does he faithfully attend Church? Does he attend the temple with you?”
She answered, “Yes, he does all of those things, but nothing’s sinking in. I have a part-time job and work hard, too. He doesn’t care. I write out and pay all the bills. He so thoughtless he won’t even put his dirty clothes in the hamper, just throws them on the floor and the furniture. It’s like he never met a hanger in his life. And his smelly socks are just tossed on the floor in our bedroom. He says he’ll take me on a date or an overnight trip but it just doesn’t happen and when it does, which is rare, it’s only to where he wants to go, not where I want to go. I simply don’t matter to him!”
“Is there more?” we asked. Might as well lay it all out.
“Yes. He won’t listen to me. And I told him he never listens to me. He said, ‘Yes, I do, I just choose to ignore what you say.”
Appalling! It’s a good thing he wasn’t present or we would have been sorely tempted to give him a well-placed NCIS head slap.
Crystal didn’t want to divorce her husband, she just couldn’t stand being treated like a servant any more. She said she didn’t mind doing some things for him, but not everything. “And,” she said, “some words of appreciation would definitely help.” We gave her a few suggestions about how to set boundaries, and encouraged her to keep praying and hold on.
Fortunate for him (and her) General Conference was that weekend. She reported to us that, as usual, he attended the priesthood session. Of course, she had no idea what had been talked about. Her husband came home, didn’t say a word about the talks, just began immediately to change. The following days were even better. She was amazed. Apparently he had listened to the prophet and took it to heart. An answer to her prayer.
What had President Monson said that made the difference? Here are a few excerpts from his talk to the priesthood brethren. Read and see for yourself what might have been this man’s wake up call from the Lord.
President Monson’s Counsel
President Monson said, “I believe the saddest and most discouraging responsibility I have each week is the handling of cancellations of sealings. . . . The vast majority of requests for cancellations of sealings come from women who tried desperately to make a go of the marriage but who, in the final analysis, could not overcome the problems.”
That comment must have snapped a few heads to attention. President Monson went on to say, “Your wife is your equal. In marriage neither partner is superior nor inferior to the other. You walk side by side as a son and a daughter of God. She is not to be demeaned or insulted but should be respected and loved. Said President Gordon B. Hinckley: ‘Any man in this Church who … exercises unrighteous dominion over [his wife] is unworthy to hold the priesthood. Though he may have been ordained, the heavens will withdraw, the Spirit of the Lord will be grieved, and it will be amen to the authority of the priesthood of that man.’ (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Personal Worthiness to Exercise the Priesthood,” Liahona, July 2002, 60; Ensign, May 2002, 54. 8)
It sounds like serious attention to your marriage, to your wife, is vital to being a righteous, worthy priesthood holder.
Husbands, this may be the perfect time to take a look at your own marriage, your own worthiness. What are you doing to show respect to your wife, to show her that you and she are equal partners, helping with home duties and paying attention to her needs and desires. Not “demeaning or insulting” your wife. Are you treating her like a servant, or an equal partner?
Ask Your Wife
Be brave and ask your wife how you measure up. Better to know now and correct the problems than to be blindsided by divorce papers later on. When you ask, don’t get upset at her answers, just thank her for her honesty and make your plan to improve.
We recently learned of a young couple on the east coast whose wife “out of the blue” walked away from the marriage. He knew they were having some communication struggles but had no idea she was carrying such animosity toward him. He came home from work and everything of hers was moved out. He was stunned. Clueless.
Several years ago this same thing happened to a friend of ours. He, too, was stunned. In both cases these young husbands’ hearts were broken. It was so sad and so unnecessary. Maybe if these husbands would have examined more closely how they were treating their wives their marriages could have been saved. In the latter case, children were involved and suffered a world of hurt.
President Monson went on to say, “If any of you are having difficulty in your marriage, I urge you to do all that you can to make whatever repairs are necessary, that you might be as happy as you were when your marriage started out. We who are married in the house of the Lord do so for time and for all eternity, and then we must put forth the necessary effort to make it so. I realize that there are situations where marriages cannot be saved, but I feel strongly that for the most part they can be and should be. Do not let your marriage get to the point where it is in jeopardy.
“President Hinckley taught that it is up to each of us who hold the priesthood of God to discipline ourselves so that we stand above the ways of the world. It is essential that we be honorable and decent men. Our actions must be above reproach.” (Pres. Monson, April 2011 Gen Conf Priesthood session)
It is vital that husbands become aware of what matters most to their wives. In fact, what matters most to her must be top on the list of what matters most to you. If you love and adore her, then let her know by your actions. Do not diminish what is important to her. If you can’t figure out what matters to her then ask her. As you pay attention to this, showing honor to her, she will return the love and will, likewise, adore you. What matters to you will then become vitally important to what matters to her.
We have noticed that far too often when divorced men come in for counseling they say they didn’t even know anything was wrong.
Husbands, you need to know that nothing like this comes “out of the blue”. There may be one final act that pushes a wife over the top and she can’t take it any more, and WAHM! The marriage is over.
A man can get very comfortable treating his wife like a servant, expecting her to do everything around the home, or at least most of it, without lifting a hand. This will boil inside of her and eventually erupt, sometimes beyond repair.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself and act upon so this won’t happen to you.
• Do I come home after work and plop down in a chair with the TV remote in hand?
• Do I kiss my wife in an affectionate way when I come home from work and ask what I can do to help?
• Do I give the kids a quick hug and then send them off to their mother when they need some help?
• Do I take care of my own clothes by hanging them up, putting dirty ones in the hamper, including my dirty socks?
• Do I help with the laundry?
• Do I tell my wife how much I appreciate her and all she does?
• Do I get specific in my compliments to her, such as “Thanks for making this delicious beef stroganoff. You know how much I like it. It was really good. Thank you so much.”
• Do I help clean up after dinner and help wash the dishes?
• Do I help fix meals? (Particularly important if both of you are employed)
• Do I really listen and act on what she wants, or do I ignore it?
• Do I keep my promises to her?
• Do I take her on a weekly date?
• Am I honest with my wife?
• Do I speak to her respectfully, never in a demeaning or insulting way?
• Do I kneel and pray with her and tell the Lord how thankful I am for her?
• Do I look after her when she’s ill?
• Am I completely faithful to my wife?
Many other things could be added to this list. If you have that conversation with your wife, asking her how you measure up, you’ll know what else belongs on the list.
Like Crystal’s husband, there are many who have an epiphany-type experience that is so powerful that they not only decide to change, but they actually do change. The important thing is that this change is one that lasts. A bishop recently counseling his ward members said, “When you make a decision to change for the better, make it a life-long decision.” Too many times people change, but then the change fades away and they are back in their old habits. That won’t save a marriage, it has to be a lasting change.
There are Many Good Husbands
We recognize that many husbands are true to their covenants, who respect and honor their wives, working hard to keep their marriages strong. To those husbands we salute you. If you are in that category, we still urge you to make sure you are doing all that the prophet has counseled husbands to do. We all must continually examine and improve our relationships with our spouses.
Just so you know, there will be a follow-up article, “Wake-up Call for Wives”. If you want to share your thoughts on this subject please write to [email protected] We will welcome your suggestions.
Gary Lundberg is a marriage and family therapist, his wife, Joy, is a song writer and author; they present marriage retreats, firesides and seminars and write books on creating happy relationship, see their website at https://www.garyjoylundberg.com