I was recently given a link to a blog called Butler, Party of 2, on which a woman documents her journey as a new bride and her life with her husband. One post she made last summer was entitled, “Being a Godly Wife,” and itemized ways she thought she could be the best possible wife and what her responsibilities as a Christ-following woman are. I’m no longer a Christian and often my atheist friends will send me posts like this one out of shock and awe that women could still possibly uphold such 1950s gender roles in 2013. The shock factor is lost on me after years being raised in an evangelical Christian household and hearing many of these teachings every Sunday morning, but the friends who share these pieces with me still expect that I will shun everything these articles espouse. Truth be told, I think there’s a lot of value in many of these traditional views and can help men and women who want to be better husbands and wives serve their partners, even if they’re liberal, atheist, feminist, bisexual women.
So, in response to Danielle’s post about being a godly wife, I wanted to rewrite the guidelines she shares in a way that’s accessible for non-religious people and how I apply these traditional values in my own relationship. (A note: my language uses female pronouns and “wife” so as to simplify things and not write “him and her” all the time, but substitute appropriate pronouns as necessary.)
- Keep your wife first. Many relationships fall apart because wives stop focusing on their own relationship and throw themselves completely into raising their kids, defer to their parents’ opinions on their love life, or listen to their friends. Eventually, children leave and you are left with your spouse. You may move away from friends and your parents eventually won’t be around any more. But by honoring your wife and putting her first, seeking her opinion in important life decisions, you build a healthy foundation for decision-making and compromise and make a good role model for your children.
- Understand the covenant. Marriage is not temporary. It’s not an agreement or a consensus based on feelings. It’s an unbreakable promise. In a society where divorce is the easy answer and common practice, we seem to have lost the gravity of a marriage covenant. Marriage is work. When things get tough, that’s the time to cling to each other, not time to bail.
- Speak edifying words only. It is not acceptable to talk negatively about your wife. No excuses. We should always speak edifying words about her and build her up to others, even if there are things about her that drive us crazy. It is so tempting to get sucked into a pattern of nagging, complaining, or badmouthing our spouses to our friends, but language like that will not change the things that bother us. We have to be especially careful to guard against speaking negatively about our spouse to our family because it can change their opinion of them permanently. Sometimes we just may be angry temporarily, but that is not something you can erase from others’ minds as easily. Similarly, praise your wife! If she works hard, let her know you appreciate it. If you love that she always makes your coffee, tell her how much you enjoy it that. If she’s an awesome mom, let her know you think so. Whatever it is that you love or appreciate, say so!
- Do it anyway. There are lots of things we don’t want to do. Though we enter into marriage claiming unconditional love, our actions are often very conditional. We want to cook her dinner when she does nice things for us first. We only want to compliment her when she compliments us. If she doesn’t do this, we won’t do that—that’s not how it works. You are her wife. Her helpmeet. Her companion. You should do things for your wife because she is your wife, not because of things she is or isn’t doing for you. Of course it’s easier to want to do nice things for her when she seems to notice and appreciate them, but she may not. Do them anyway. Serving your wife on a conditional basis is selfish and immature. (A note: I’m not suggesting here that you give unconditionally if your spouse is abusive, gives 0% back to the marriage, or cheats. There are legitimate grounds for separation—just don’t let whether she takes out the trash be that dividing line.)
- Communicate. She is not a mind reader, and it’s not fair to expect her to know or understand your desires and needs if you don’t tell her. This is such a simple concept, but so many disagreements result from a lack of communication. Learn to communicate with her. Ask her questions. Listen. Don’t nag, fuss, or yell. TALK. Like a normal person.
- Remember the 80/20 principle. You married your spouse because she had 80% of the qualities you wanted in a woman. Lots of affairs happen because people are seeking to find someone else to fulfill that which their spouse is lacking, forgetting the strengths they married for. Be content with what you have. It’s all about your attitude and perspective. If you are constantly ruminating on the things you wish your wife would change, you are setting yourself—and your relationship—up for failure.
- Strive to please her. After years of being told we can be whatever we want and have whatever we strive for, it’s easy to think that we deserve so much. Thinking about ourselves and what others can do for us is our default setting. Imagine for a moment how happy it would make your wife if you tried to cook meals she likes, talk about and take interest in things that interest her, and do things with her that she likes to do. She would be tickled to death! Yes, you may hate watching basketball, but that’s not the point. The point is the woman you love does. When you are willing to sacrifice with the small things, your love grows deeper.
What do you think? Do these things apply in your relationship whether you’re religious or not? Are there things that should be added to this list?