To read the previous article in this series, “What Every Husband Needs to Know,” click here.
The following excerpts are from the new book, Wake-up Call: What Every Wife Needs to Know, second in the series of Wake-up Call e-books by Gary and Joy Lundberg. The first was a wake-up call for husbands. Now it’s the wives’ turn. This book, written for people of all faiths, can be downloaded for 99cents at amazon.com.
The Alarm is Blaring
You know what it feels like to be sound asleep when the alarm clock goes off. You reach over and hit the snooze button, hoping for a few more minutes of blissful sleep. You’re just not quite ready to wake up yet. However, you know you have to or life will pass you by.
Imagine that alarm going off right now, only this time it’s far more important than waking up to greet a new day. So don’t you dare hit the snooze button! This is a wake-up call to help you see what you need to do to make your marriage the best it can be. And nothing is more important than your marriage.
Wives, you are about to find out what you may be doing that’s causing your marriage to be less than it can be. We hope you’re ready. Fasten your seat belt because you are about to speed off on a journey to reality. A reality that will bring you much more happiness in your marriage than you may have thought possible. In fact, if you take this seriously and put the points into practice, you are going to have a very happy hubby, and that, in turn, will create a very happy you.
Swallow Your Pride
It may not be easy, but if you want to know what changes you need to make in your marriage you need to ask your husband that pride-swallowing question: “What can I do that would help improve our relationship?”
This will likely be difficult for him because he doesn’t want to rock the boat. He may think if he is frank you’ll be mad at him. He has to know that you really want to know and you will listen as he shares his thoughts and desires with you.
Don’t rush him. Men need time to mull things over, so give him that time. Sometimes men are also afraid that if they say something you will feel criticized and hurt. Most husbands don’t want to cause this kind of pain for their wives, even though they know some changes need to be made. He needs to be assured that you really want to know and you won’t be upset at him for saying what you need to hear. If he is confident that your purpose is to improve your marital relationship he’ll more likely tell you what you need to hear.
When he starts to open up make sure you listen. Don’t defend or justify yourself by saying something like, “I do, too, listen.” Or “Well, the reason I do that is because . . . “ Don’t do that. Just listen.
Popular author and speaker Zig Ziglar, gave wise counsel regarding this when he said, “More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them.”
It’s not about denying or justifying your actions, it’s about gaining an understanding of what your husband needs. So make sure you understand clearly what he’s saying. For instance, if he says “You don’t appreciate me.” Reply with a comment like, “Could you give me a specific example of what you mean?”
He may say, “I work hard every day, but I don’t think you even notice or appreciate what I do to provide for our family.”
Your mind may be thinking of the times you expressed your gratitude. Don’t remind him. Just listen and know that if he said this, it’s how he feels whether you feel that way or not.
Say something like, “I’m sorry. I do appreciate how hard you work and I will try harder to let you know how much your efforts mean to me.”
Continue with, “What else can I do to help our relationship?” He’ll open up more and more as he sees you are genuinely interested in learning what’s bugging him about the way you treat him. Keep in mind that you are on a fact-finding mission, not a defend-my-actions mission. Remember, you don’t have to agree, just understand.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Now comes the time when you must be brutally honest with yourself. This is one of those moments in life when Shakespeare’s words take on a new and personal meaning: “To thine own self be true.”
When we wrote Wake-up Call: What Every Husband Needs to Know we identified questions they needed to ask themselves. These questions revealed less than desirable traits, so we had a little fun with it and gave these traits descriptive titles. We could do no less for you.
Look them over carefully and see what describes the areas you need to improve upon. Be straightforward with yourself. Don’t sugar coat your behavior. Don’t justify your actions because of his. You’re reading this to make your marriage better than it’s ever been. So take a deep breath, and press forward to learn all you can. This is your chance to wake up to what you need to change about you.
We’ll now skip to the chapter called “Ask Yourself”. These are questions to help in your self evaluation of what you need to do. In the book there are 23 questions. Due to limited space we will choose 6.
1. The Opinion Squelcher
Do you consider your husband’s opinions to be as valued as yours?
By not letting your husband express an opinion you just might be putting on the identity of a bully. You may think it odd to be considered a bully. Look at the meaning of that word. A bully is a person who deliberately intimidates or persecutes those who are weaker. Sometimes a husband can become submissive to his wife’s constant demanding to be right, so much so that he appears weak.
A wife can put a husband in this weakened position by not allowing his opinions to be worth consideration. You might as well be throwing rocks at him. He may be too much of a gentleman to throw them back and lets you get away with it in order to keep the peace. That’s what kids who are bullied do. They let the bully get away with it because they don’t quite know how to fight back. We all know how much the bullied one likes the bully.
To show you what we mean, let’s say you are out shopping with your husband for a new couch for your family room. You both agree that a new one is needed. So here you are at the furniture store. After looking at several couches you see one you really like. You sit down on it and the conversation begins.
You: Oh, this is the one! I love this couch. It’s perfect for our color scheme. And it’s quite comfortable.
He tries it out.
Your husband: Hmmm. Well, the color’s right, but I don’t think it’s very comfortable.
You: Well, I do. You could get used to it.
Your husband: I think we should keep looking.
You: You’re always thinking about yourself. I really like this couch. We could look all day and never find one we both like. We need to buy this one before someone else does and it’s gone. You always have to go somewhere else and just keep looking and looking. You drive me crazy. Stop being so selfish. We need to buy this one. Now!
Your husband: Fine! Buy the stupid couch.
You have bullied him into submission. All that does is hurt your relationship. His opinion has not been respected. What’s wrong with looking further until you find a couch you both find comfortable? That’s what caring spouses do.
Be lovable. Listen to his opinion. Thoughtfully think about what he is saying without correcting him. It’s a happy man who has a wife who will consider his ideas as much as she considers her own.
This principle applies to all aspects of your marriage. Working with your husband on a challenging problem can bring a far better result than ignoring his ideas and plunging forward on your own. When you respect your husband’s opinions he will feel loved and valued by you. That can’t help but increase the love you feel for one another.
Wives need to recognize their husband as an equal partner. Neither of you is the boss. Working together unitedly for the good of the family will bring peace and harmony into your marriage.
2. The Over-the-top Spender
Do you honor your husband’s wishes to stay within a reasonable budget?
We know a couple who had this problem. Actually, they are no longer a couple. They’re divorced. Misuse of money can cause huge problems in a marriage. In this case the wife was never satisfied with average. She wanted the best. The kids needed designer fashions. She wanted the new car, not a used one. Her husband made a reasonable salary that was sufficient if well managed. He was continually frustrated by her credit card use, and her never-ending wants.
If you are in this category you need to consider carefully the pit you are digging yourself into. Wives often are the managers of the money. It’s a sacred trust to take care of the family funds. Even if you don’t have the major responsibility of managing the money you have a responsibility to use what is in your care in the wisest manner possible.
We heard a husband say, “No matter what I do, it’s never good enough for her.” That creates a perpetual state of discontent for both husband and wife.
Be satisfied with less when he’s doing his best. We are reminded of a high school teacher we met at a seminar. As we visited with him privately after the session, we asked what his occupation was. He smiled broadly and said, “I’m a school teacher. And I love it.” His wife, who was by his side, said, “He’s really a good one. The kids and the parents love him.”
He went on, “It isn’t the best salary. I wish it were more, but . . .”
His wife quickly interjected, “But it’s enough. I have a part-time job to add to it for the extras we need and want. It really matters to me that he’s doing what he loves to do and is so good at. Many students’ lives are better because of him.”
He smiled at her with what we can only call a look-of-love, and said, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I have a wife who loves me and wants me to be happy in my career. I can’t thank her enough for being wise with our money and helping out the way she does.”
She smiled back, with that same kind of look. Being satisfied and making enough be enough, will bring peace and contentment into your marriage.
You may be asking, but what about her needs? As we spoke further with this couple we could see she was happy to be able to be at home with the kids most of the time. Her thrifty habits and part-time work made that possible. She seemed content with this arrangement. That doesn’t mean that further down the road when the kids are out of the home things can’t change. Renegotiations need to happen at every new stage in a couples life. Even then, couples need to decide what is enough and stick within their budget.
3. The Dream Smasher
Do you allow your husband to have his moments of joy without discounting them?
Allowing your husband to share his dreams and hopes with you can go a long way in building a loving relationship. Just because he may want to buy a boat that you know you can’t afford, doesn’t mean he can’t wish for or dream about it. Sometimes just sharing a dream with you can be fulfilling enough. When you put the kibosh on it, it only makes him more determined to have it. Enjoy his hopes and dreams with him.
Talk about how fun it would be if it could only come true. If it’s something you can’t afford right now, start a savings account for it. Even just a little each month shows you care. At some point before the goal is reached he, like some, may lose interest in it. That’s when you can renegotiate the savings and have some unexpected fun with it, together.
What if he just wants to share something with you that is bringing him a moment of joy? Maybe he looks out the window and sees a beautiful sunset and calls you to come and see it. Are you too buried in your iPad or TV show to stop and enjoy the moment with him? Take that minute to be by his side enjoying what he is enjoying. It will express feelings of love in a way that few other things can.
According a Gottman Institute report, “The alternative is, people who give their partners the cold shoulder—deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally—damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. . . Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together.” Enjoying each other’s enjoyment builds a strong relationship.
To sum it up, marriage expert Diane Sollee, said, “The most important marriage skill is listening to your partner in a way that they can’t possibly doubt that you love them.”
4. The Unforgiver
Do you forgive and set aside his past misdeeds?
No one should be continually reminded of repented sins. What’s done is done. To keep bringing it up is a marriage killer. Don’t do it. Marlene Dietrich gave wise counsel when she said, “Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.”
A troubled husband said it this way, “My wife doesn’t get hysterical. She gets historical. There is no statute of limitations in our arguments. If it ever happened it is brought up and rehashed, even if I have changed.”
What if he forgot your birthday? Or missed an event he promised to take you or the kids to? Or didn’t take out the trash? Or a myriad of other disappointing, yet insignificant events. Talk it over with him, let him know of your disappointment, but don’t make it into more than it is. When he says he’s sorry, believe him and leave it there. We all need second, even third, chances to get things right.
When your husband has changed his ways and is doing better, be loving and forgiving. Even if his past behavior fits in the category of something major, such as adultery. This was the case with the following couple (names have been changed).
Carl and Marilyn had six children. Marilyn had no clue what Carl was doing “on the side.” His work required him to be gone a lot. He earned a good living for them, and was a caring father. She thought all was well.
What she didn’t know was that Carl was having affairs with associates. This had gone on for a few years. Finally, he could no longer bear the guilt and confessed his sins to his bishop and then to his wife. She could hardly believe her ears. How could this be! She thought he was a devoted husband and father.
Carl didn’t want a divorce. All he wanted was forgiveness. He begged her not to leave him. He pledged his fidelity to her for the rest of his life. Marilyn felt so betrayed she didn’t know what to do. After counseling and heart-wrenching prayers, she decided to stay.
There is no way to condense the repentance process, except to say that it was deep, sincere, and full of his begging for her forgiveness. He gave her time to grieve. He didn’t lose patience and say, “When are you going to get over this?” No. He did everything in his power to prove his loyalty to her and their family. She knew leaving him would be tragic for their children. They knew nothing of what had happened, and didn’t need to know.
She prayed for the power to truly forgive him. It took time, but eventually came. If you knew them now you would never dream they had endured such a difficult period. Their children are grown and have given them many grandchildren, which they enjoy together. Their life is full of joy as they journey through their retirement years. It’s obvious they are deeply in love. All because he was willing to repent and she was willing to forgive, which helped him have the power to stay true to her.
This story proves the point: forgiveness works. Let it be an important part of your marriage, in the little things and the big, and you, too, can enjoy lasting happiness.
Some of you may be thinking, but what about abuse, do you just keep forgiving and ignoring it? No! Forgiveness isn’t about ignoring a problem. It’s about dealing with it properly. There is no place for abuse in marriage. If it’s happening, a wife needs to protect herself. It needs to be reported to the proper authorities. No woman should ever stay with a man who harms her. Keep yourself safe before something tragic happens.
5. The Self Insulter
Do you show respect for yourself in his presence?
Sometimes a wife is not satisfied with the insults others may rail against her. She has to add to them by insulting herself. For instance, do you go around thinking you’re too overweight? Do you ever ask your husband this question: Do you think I look fat?
What’s the man to say? There is no good answer to that question. If he says, “Honey, I love you just the way you are,” you may respond by saying, “So you do think I’m fat.” Or he may say, “No, you’re just right.” You may be thinking, “He’s lying.” What if he said, “Well, you could lose a little weight.” You’d be devastated.
Don’t ever ask your husband that question. You’re insulting yourself by doing it. You’re asking for trouble. If you look in the mirror and think you need to lose some weight then do something about it. Don’t lay it on him.
Or how about this: when you make a mistake do you say, “I never do anything right. I’m such an idiot!” If so, you’re insulting yourself big time. Don’t bring your faults to the attention of your husband. He’s probably not noticing, or is likely not dwelling on it like you are. Don’t force his mind to focus on your faults by continually mentioning them to him. That gets tiresome. Pretty soon that’s all he’ll see. Leave it be. If your nose is bigger than you like, keep that thought to yourself. It obviously didn’t bother him or he wouldn’t have married you.
If your husband has to keep talking you out of your self insults, it can get very old. That’s a heavy burden for a man to carry. No husband enjoys the continual duty of having to jack up his wife’s ego. So start jacking up your own. Recognize the good qualities you have and stop paying attention to the ones you don’t.
Remember, he made the choice to marry you. Don’t make him second guess his decision with your self- deprecating remarks.
6. The Disrespecter
Do you speak to and about your husband with respect?
There is a passage of scripture in the Bible that states: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but [only] that which is good [and] edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).
A former schoolteacher told us of an experience she had riding in a car pool with two other teachers. She said, “Everyday, and I mean every day, they spent the whole time bashing their husbands. It was almost like a contest to see who could report the worst about her husband. They seemed to relish it. I refused to join in. It just didn’t seem right.” As it turned out, she said one of the women ended up divorced, but she didn’t know what happened to the other.
When you say negative things about your mate you cease focusing on the good in him or her. Everyone has a few less-than-desirable traits, and everyone also has positive traits. So it is with your husband, or you never would have married him. Tell the good stuff to others, not his imperfections. What you concentrate on grows. If you see and comment on his positive traits they grow; concentrate on the negatives and they will grow. Share the good about your husband and your love will increase.
We wish we had space to give you the other questions from the book that wives need to ask themselves. They address sexual intimacy, being stuck to your computer, being an active spiritual partner, and many more. In the end we hope each of you wives reading this will give an honest look at ways you can improve your marriage. We also hope that men reading this will read the wake-up call book for husbands. Sometimes we don’t realize how important the little things are. A wake-up call is what we all need from time to time. Your marriage is too important to not give it your full attention.
To download the complete book Wake-Up Call: What Every Wive Needs to Know, for only 99cents, click here.
To download Wake-Up Call: What Every Husband Needs to Know, also only 99cents, click here.