If someone would have asked me on my wedding day what I loved about my husband Dave, I would have enthusiastically responded with, “Are you kidding? EVERYTHING! In fact there isn’t ONE thing about him that I don’t love!”
Fast forward to the same question six months later and I would have quickly responded, “There isn’t ONE single thing I like about him!”
That is when I began my quest to change my husband into the man I thought he should be. The man who would bring me the happiness I longed for.
Fifteen years later and not much progress had been made. I had no idea why my efforts were not making headway.
One morning Dave and I were speaking to a group of young moms at our church. Dave began enthusiastically telling the women what almost every one of their husbands probably experienced growing up.
Outside our homes, our husbands, friends, and children are being bombarded with negativity. We can be the ones to bolster their sails and bring them joy.
“You see, when your husband was a boy, he most likely had a mom or a dad or a relative cheering for him telling him, “Good Job!” As your husband got older he might have had a coach or a teacher, or some mentor telling him he was good at something, and that coach or teacher, cheered him on and encouraged him to work harder.”
Dave was totally into his talk now.
He told them that as a college quarterback he had coaches and fans cheering him on and shouting, “Dave Wilson, You’re the man!” As he said those words, he started clapping his hands energetically. His passion was filling the room as he had completely captured the women’s attention. He then continued his story by saying that when I said yes to his marriage proposal, I was shouting, “Of all the men in the world, I choose you!” As he yelled those words, he looked straight at me with a look that said I was his biggest cheerleader.
I was thinking, “Man, this is good.”
And then he lowered the boom.
“But ladies, after we have been married awhile”, he sadly said, “we men walk in the door and all we hear is BOOOOOO!
My heart dropped. Was he saying, that I boo him all the time? My face turned red as I picked my heart up off the floor.
On the ride home I defensively asked, “You think I boo you all the time?
I then said, “I’m not booing you. I am HELPING you!”
“It doesn’t feel like help”, Dave quietly said.
He wasn’t angry or defensive and that bothered me because he seemed to be broken.
His battered soul worried me and made me wonder if I was the cause of the wind going out of his sails?
Dave then added, “You don’t literally boo me, but you are constantly critiquing the things I do or say. I feel like I can’t do anything right. You constantly remind me of all the things I’m not doing and all the things I should be doing…and what other husbands are doing. Really, who wants to come home to that?”
Silence engulfed the car.
I was shocked! I had no idea that he was feeling any of this.
When we got home I went upstairs and began to ponder what things would be like if I were to constantly cheer for him… you know, tell him he was awesome all the time and such.
The answer was swift and clear: it wouldn’t work.
Just think about. If I did that, then Dave would think I was happy with the way he was treating me.
I rationalized that if I didn’t critique Dave’s performance, he would think I was satisfied… and thus I would be enabling him to remain where he was, instead of growing into the husband and father he needed to be. And that wouldn’t be good, right?
I went on like this for several days until I felt God tugging at my heart. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I knew He was calling me to surrender this situation – to give Him my worries, fears, and disappointments. I could tell that God wanted me to ask Him what He wanted me to do. I was afraid of what He might ask of me. The truth was, I didn’t want to become a doormat. Or lose my voice. Or feel like I was just a passive, weak-willed woman.
But finally, I took a dive and let God win. I told Him everything I was feeling. I shared all my fears and I asked him what He wanted me to do.
It did not take very long to sense a still small voice deep in my soul:
“Cheer for him.”
It was time to change – so I prayed. “Father God, forgive me! I have not been respecting Dave and in fact, I have been nagging him, criticizing him, and I haven’t been cheering for him. I give you my marriage and I give you my life. I ask that you help me to see Dave the way You see him. I give up my control of trying to change him. And I ask that you would give me Your power to cheer and appreciate Dave, even when I don’t want to… even when I feel like he doesn’t deserve it. I’m asking that Dave would know how much You love him by the way I treat him. I can only do this with your help, Father! Amen.”
It started with that simple prayer, but it didn’t end there.
One evening a few months later, as our family of five sat down for dinner I said, “Hey, before we pray and eat, I want to stop for a minute and say thanks to Dad for working so hard every single day to provide this meal – and every meal for our home.” Then I turned to Dave and continued, “It’s easy to take your hard work for granted. You are a really good man. Thanks for all you do for us.”
Dave’s face was beaming as we shared the moment. Later that night, Dave told me my words were the best thing that had happened to him all week. What? A few measly words that took less than a minute to convey? Seriously?
Yep… all he heard in that moment was applause.
As I began looking for the positive things that Dave was doing – things in which I could genuinely encourage him, I began to see God actually change me inwardly. My crusty, dissatisfied heart was starting to soften.
Joy began to displace my discontentment.
Peace began to weave its way in and throughout me as my anger and bitterness began to ebb. And no, I did not lose my voice. Rather, I took my complaints to God first and asked Him to help me speak my heart and mind in a way that Dave could really hear it – in a way that didn’t overwhelm him with constant booing. The change was simple: positive words of affirmation flowed in abundance so that when negative words needed to be shared, they could be actually heard – and swallowed – a little easier.
Our words have the power to bring life and death! I want to be a woman that my family can’t wait to come home to. Outside our homes, our husbands, friends, and children are being bombarded with negativity. We can be the ones to bolster their sails and bring them joy.
As Dave often says, “A man will always go where he’s cheered!”
I want my man to come home.