Posted by on May 28, 2013 in Advice, Marriage, Personal | 27 comments

Marriage-advice

We've been married 25 years, a quarter century, over half our lives.

No matter how you phrase it, especially in our culture of divorce-made-easy, that's a looong time.

I like how my friend Patsy Clairmont puts it, "We've survived each other."  If you know Patsy at all – through her blog, books or speaking – you can imagine how she delivers that line with an extra twinkle in her sparkly eyes.  Oh, how I wish we were neighbors, to soak in her wisdom and spunk 'cause, surely, it can't help but splash off.

Far be it for me to put words in Patsy's mouth explaining what she means by "surviving each other" but for us it means celebrating and cherishing the good times and accepting and enduring the hard times. 

God likely enjoyed himself when he matched the two of us, opposites in so many ways–except for we're both strong-willed and opinionated.  Fuel on fireworks.  I'd say we're lovers and fighters.

But I believe our love covers a multitude…

And I've learned sometimes you can't go over or around stubborn mountains, you've just gotta push through 'em…

And when I look at our amazing children I have no doubt that he was and is The One.

During my darkest season I understood how a woman could walk out the door, leaving a husband and children behind.  Mind you, I didn't want to do that, but I was low enough to understand it and That Knowing rattled me to the core. 

He loves and knows me like no other, and mostly that's good…but sometimes that can make life difficult.  For instance, he never tells me what I want to hear, he tells me what I need to hear.  A sword, double-edged.

Now mostly, I think it's dangerous to use words like "never" and "always" especially as they pertain to marriage; but in this case it's good because that means he's speaking truthfully.

Like the other day.

We went out to window shop sofas – our 20-year-old, saggy, re-upholstered sofa is now mostly serving as a bed for our sneaky-in-her-own-mind Australian Shepherd – and somehow ended up clothes shopping for me.  Really, truly, this was no subversive plan by the wife…

but we were out…

the stores were there….

it's Memorial Day weekend and the SALES WERE SCREAMING AT US…

so I found myself in a dressing room trying on a pile of All The Clothes In The Store.  Maybe minus one or two things, but I'm not so sure. 

Speeding through the clothes pile like a well-trained Olympian, I started with shorts (the first pair fit, the rest RUDELY DID NOT) before moving on to skirts, capri's (score!) and jeans (holy heck, BETTER SCORE) and interspersed throughout, all manner of tees, tanks and shirts.

I was just about done when I discovered a pair of shorts, the shorter kind, the kind I've long given up because I'm a Golden Gal, and let's just say my thighs have always been generous compared to the rest of me, and particularly now since I was sidelined for several months with a knee injury, but this pair was cute and looked like a possibility, so I was giving them the ol' college try.  Right?  (breathe)

Except that buzzard of a husband of mine shook his head no and urged me not to try them.  "You look better in capri's than shorts," he says, and "You know you aren't going to be comfortable in shorts that short…."  

I was HIGHLY INSULTED AND INDIGNANT and his advice was GAUNTLET THROWN DOWN, A CHALLENGE TO BE WON, A DULL, UNIFORMED MIND THAT DIDN'T KNOW WHAT HE WAS TALKING ABOUT–I'LL SHOW HIM bygoshbygolly–JUST YOU WAIT 'ENRY 'IGGINS, JUST YOU WAIT…!

So I slipped them on…

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And then I slipped them off.

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Before you get all judgy and think my husband dreadful for telling it like it is (was), take the golden nugget I offer:

Give your husband permission to tell you the truth.  Always.

Because then you can trust if he tells you–

You don't look fat in those pants, you don't.

You look great in that (not short-short) outfit, you do.

He's struggling in an area, he trusts you enough to love him enough to help.

He loves you, he does.

Do you realize the way you react to him (if you don't care for what he says) can make him bite his tongue the next time you ask for his opinion?  Or train him to speak in half-truths?  Or give him reason to resent you not "allowing" him to share his heart?  Or train him to suppress secrets he hesitantly (or desperately) wants to share?  Subtle are the ways a wife can shut down her husband (I know this works both ways, but since I'm not a husband, I'll only speak to what I know….).

Consider yourself lucky if he's the guy who will rightfully tell you you do, in fact, look fat in those pants. 
Don't get mad at or punish him (oh, I think you know exactly what I mean…) for telling you what he honestly
believes; doing so will make him hesitant to be honest the next time.

Sometimes your feelings will be hurt; and I hate that part for you and for me.

But what if you believed, really believed, that he had your best interests at heart? 

Doesn't that change the way you hear him?

It's possible you don't even realize how you've denied him in the past (sometimes we'd prefer hearing what we want to hear, no?).  It was on a road trip with my husband reading For Women Only where I first discovered the value of extending this kind of freedom and permission.

Give your husband permission to tell you the truth.  He may never tell you thank you but I promise he'll be grateful.