My bride and I had a disagreement on a recent Sunday morning as we were getting ready for church. We came to an agreement and went off to the service. But I did not let go. I shut down emotionally. We both knew the oneness of spirit was missing. I nursed my wounds all day. Monday morning helped me see the light. I repented, knelt before Judy, and sought her forgiveness.
As I reflected on my relational “stumbling,” the words, “You abandoned your post” came to me. I was convicted of my lack of sensitivity to my wife’s emotional and spiritual needs. I realized that in acting childishly and nursing my self-pity, I simply walked away from the emotional space I am to help provide in our marriage. I abandoned my wife, leaving her alone and emotionally vulnerable.
I believe, accept, and desire to live out my role to lead in our relationship (Eph. 5:23). Part of my responsibility is to cultivate and protect her emotional space. But what I did was abandon my post. I have done that before; this time, however, I saw how damaging it was to my wife. I could see it in her eyes and in her tone of voice.
In our marriage, our oneness makes me complete in the Lord. I can say with Adam, “Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! Name her woman for she was made from man.” (Gen. 2:23 – Message). I need to treat Judy as I would treat myself. “So men ought to give their wives the love they naturally have for their own bodies. The love a man gives his wife is the extending of his love for himself to enfold her” (Eph. 5:28 – Phillips).
After 55 years of marriage, I am becoming increasingly aware of my bride’s emotional needs and how I can take our relationship for granted. My role is to cherish my wife, giving her space to grow in the Lord. It helps me to see her as a blooming flower. “Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens” (Song of Songs 2:2). Praise the Lord for this newfound sensitivity. I have missed so many cues over the years.
For what it’s worth to men reading this blog, here is some of what I am learning. I still fail, but I’m learning to create emotional space.
First, put my wife’s needs first. This means to not take our relationship for granted. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way” (I Cor. 13:4 NLT).
Second, have a caring, loving attitude. My wife can easily detect insincerity. Only the Spirit of Christ can help me be consistent. “Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly” (Col. 3:19 NLT).
Third, use words to build up. Words can either build my wife up or subtly cause her to doubt herself and fade as a beautiful flower. “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry” (James 1:19 NLT).
Fourth, watch your tone of voice. I never knew how vital this is in communicating and really have to work at this. It is so easy to sound negative and condescending. Love “is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged” (I Cor.13:5 NLT).
Last, be quick to admit failure. “…Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed…” (James 5:16). My ego must go first. That’s what a good leader does (Matt. 20:26-27).