Today’s post is from our friend, Chris duMond, who blogs letters to his 20-year-old self at ChrisduMond.com. Here are some awesome truths he has learned about marriage over the years:
Dear 20-Year-Old Me,
In 10 years, you’ll be married to the most amazing woman on the planet. You will spend the rest of your life trying to figure out how you ended up with her. And then you will spend much of your energy trying to keep her from walking out the door, mainly because you give her so many reasons to do so.
If you don’t want to worry about whether she’s going to leave or not, the following list is what you need to do from Day One of your marriage. I’m able to tell you these things with a high degree of confidence because these lessons have been hard learned. These lessons are still being learned.
Be nice to her. You live in a world full of people who are cynical jerks, sarcastic narcissists, and critical nitpickers. In fact, you’re one of them. Your wife is none of these things. She is a flower—a delicate, fragile, beautiful creature. That doesn’t mean she’s weak, it just means she can be damaged in ways that you can’t fix with duct tape and baling twine. Don’t treat her like one of the guys. She is not judging your every move, she’s waiting for you to move toward her in kindness and gentleness.
Be fully present with her. I don’t care if you’re reading, working on something, looking at your phone, or otherwise occupied, when she speaks or walks in the room, you respond, thoughtfully, with intention and purpose like she matters, like she’s the ONLY thing that matters. She is not an interruption, or an annoyance, or a hindrance to the thing you’re trying to get done. She is a person, your person, to be fully present with. One of the worst things your wife can feel is loneliness when she’s standing right next to you.
Give her grace. She has great intentions, but sometimes she just really sucks at doing life. But here’s the thing, she’s not one of your coworkers and you don’t get to put her on a ‘performance improvement plan’. She isn’t a project for you to fix. She is a person that needs your grace, and lots of it. Fact is, the reason she’s late, or forgot something, or missed something, is probably because she’s taking care of something for you or one of the 327 other things on her list to do. Let’s cut her a little slack, give her the benefit of the doubt that she really is trying and has some really good intentions.
Give up being “right”. This is a big one. No woman in the history of humankind has ever been ‘reasoned with’ or ‘argued into’ loving a man and your wife isn’t about to become the first one. You are the only person on the planet who cares who’s right and wrong in your arguments. She wants your heart, not your brain.
Celebrate her joy. This is really simple but something you’ll miss over and over and over again. When she is excited about something, you respond with ‘yeah, that’s great’ without looking up from your phone/computer/car/video game/etc and keep doing what you were doing. You may as well have just cut out her heart and stomped on it because she just died inside. She shared her excitement with you because she wants to share it with you. She wants to connect with you, and she wants to have someone to be excited with and celebrate with you. As crazy as that sounds, it’s true. So be excited with her. Explore the joys of her excitement, understand why she’s excited, ask her questions about what she’s going to do now. Want to go the extra mile? When she gets good news, or is incredibly excited about something, stop everything, open a bottle of wine, or take her out for dinner, or ice cream, or coffee, or anything. Make her joy, your joy.
You are her knight. You are her man and you need to be all of what that means for her. She is so strong, but you are her protector, her defender, her safety. A book that will change your life has a part in it about relationships. It goes:
Life needs a man to be fierce—and fiercely devoted. The wounds he will take throughout his life will cause him to lose heart if all he has been trained to be is soft. This is especially true in the murky waters of relationships, where a man feels least prepared to advance…”In every relationship, something fierce is needed once in a while.”*
Something fierce is needed…something fierce. You won’t get many opportunities to be fierce. Take them. You must be bold, take risk, explore, leap before you look, take chances…be fierce for her. Being fierce also means not giving her a reason to think you’ll leave, or be unfaithful to her. She already has doubt in her heart that she can captivate you for a lifetime. She knows the women you work with, how pretty, and young, and ‘not married’ they are. Don’t do anything that even remotely fans the flames of that doubt. You have the chivalrous privilege to make her feel safe in every way possible.
Love her. Seems obvious but since you have proven over and over again that you need to be reminded of this, perhaps it’s not. She wants and needs you to love her. She is insecure about herself, her world, her love for you, her love for herself, etc. She needs you to love her the way she needs to be loved. Which means you need to be pay attention and study her. You need to become a student and learn everything about her. Her likes, dislikes, subtle ways she says or does things. Your best course of action is to be intensely curious about her and know her better than she knows herself. Loving her well will produce all sorts of amazing things in her.
The scriptures talk about husbands loving your wives like Christ loved the Church. A lot of smart people have talked about what that means but here’s my take. Jesus gave up His high, honored, and rightful place of privilege next to the God of the Universe to be with His bride, the Church. He got down in the dirt with her, made a bloody mess of Himself, and was killed for her so she could live and flourish. That’s your model of how you need to approach your marriage and love your wife. You are to give up any position of privilege you think you have, be equal with her, take the beatings of life so she doesn’t have to, and lay down your life so she can live life to the full.
She is worth it.
*The book is Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. You will read this when you’re 28, which is, sadly, about 10 years too late.