So I’m back from my daughter’s wedding! We don’t have all the pictures yet, so I’ll do some longer posts on it next week, but right now we’re relaxing at home and recovering. And you can see some sneak peeks at a few pics up on my Facebook page here and here (complete with a stalker photo by her little sister).
And remember that tomorrow is the last day to enter the contest for a $100 Visa card, courtesy of Monistat and BlogHer! Check out the instructions on this post about insecurity in the bedroom.
Today I thought I’d run an interesting guest post from anonymous reader Your Feathered Friend. She struggles with a chronic illness, and is trying to come to terms with needing help in everyday life when her husband just doesn’t “see” what she needs.
This is a theme in both my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum and in my upcoming 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage (which releases in less than a month!): sometimes the pat Christian answers to just “love your husband and he will show love back” don’t work, especially when you genuinely need help. So what do you do? She shares her struggles here, and I’d love to hear your take on it in the comments!
When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis five years ago, I learned that everyone has a suggestion to “fix” me. Bee stings, acupuncture, yoga, pilates, weight lifting, gluten free, dairy free, no carbs, all carbs Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, the list goes on. I’ve tried many of these and guess what…I still have MS.
Some of the most frustrating times since my diagnosis were when I was trying to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, and reduce my stress, and I was still having relapses and symptoms. Was the advice I received bad?
Not necessarily. (Although, I can’t fathom getting stung repeatedly by bees is good for anyone!) What works for some doesn’t work for others. Sometimes, the “cure” just causes more stress and therefore more harm. That doesn’t discredit the solution for others though, and we should avoid being condescending.
This doesn’t just apply in medicine. As a newlywed, our friends and family are clamoring to offer their advice for a happy, healthy marriage. Don’t get me wrong, we need all the help we can get!
But in this instance, I realized that what was good for many relationships, was actually unhealthy for mine.
The Unhealthy Advice. I had been told over and over to “kill him with kindness”. When my husband is disrespectful, I should show him respect anyway. When he lacks empathy, I should try to see it from his perspective. When he doesn’t want to help around the house, I should do as much as I can to give him a break. When he isn’t there for me emotionally, I should support him even more so he realizes how important it is. I will know I’ve done everything I can for our relationship, and eventually, my generosity will change him. Right?
Wrong. To my husband, what I had been doing was encouraging his poor habits. I was saying to my husband, “My fatigue is really weighing me down; I’m struggling to get out of bed”, but then when I realized we had no clean towels, I was dragging myself to the laundry room. He couldn’t see the agony I was in, just that we had clean towels. I was complaining that I didn’t have enough time to go to work, grocery shop, and have dinner on the table when he got home. But when pressured, I overextended myself to get all done. Again, he didn’t see that I had to conduct a conference call at the grocery store, he just knows he came home to a stocked refrigerator.
The straw that broke this camel’s back was when I had outpatient surgery last month. The situation was off to a bad start when my husband refused to go to the hospital with me. In the days that followed, despite the fact that I was in a lot of pain, he didn’t help out around the house. As I saw the dishes piling up and dinner going unmade, I did the only thing I knew to do: hobble into the kitchen to take care of it. He never stepped up because he never saw the need.
I realize now that I was sending mixed signals.
For some men, it might be enough to simply tell them you need more help, but for my husband, it’s not. Since I can’t change him, I need to change my behavior. I spoke with my husband calmly and lovingly and informed him that I can’t continue this way; I need his help. In order to allow him to help, I need to be patient, let go, and let him do it in his time. If it doesn’t get done, that’s OK (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself).
To clarify, I am not advising that women who feel mistreated throw down their aprons and walk out. Keep in mind that I approached my husband with love and told him where I was coming from. I didn’t just start giving him the cold shoulder and pouting. I wasn’t doing anyone a favor by letting him continue in his ways, but instead I’m doing what is best for our relationship by helping to work through some unhealthy habits. I’m sure he is frustrated that I’m electing not to do some of the things I’ve been doing, but I hope he will gain perspective with time.
The next time you are given advice, good or bad, here are some things to consider before you act on it:
1. Be respectful to the people giving advice.
Whether someone is telling you how to cure your child’s autism or how to spend less money, resist the urge to tell them to put their advice where the sun don’t shine. More than likely, they care and want to help.
2. Be respectful to yourself.
You don’t have to act on every bit of advice someone gives you. Consider how this advice really applies in your situation. Be willing to step out in faith and try new things, but also be OK saying “no”.
3. Be respectful to others in the situation with you.
When your friend is tells you to cut off sex from your husband until he does the dishes, consider if that is really being kind to him.
4. Don’t make an emotional response.
Easier said than done. For women, our emotions are tangled into our decision making process, but that doesn’t mean they should drive our decisions. Fear and anger have helped me make some of my worst mistakes, while removing myself from the situation to get a level head has never hurt in the long run.
5. Consider your motivations.
Am I doing what my mom suggested just to make her happy? Am I taking my friend’s advice because I think it will be hurtful to my husband?
6. Pray about it.
I don’t always hear God when I pray about my decisions, not because he doesn’t care, but because he will work through whatever I do. When I do hear from him, it’s best to listen.
What’s the best well meaning – but bad – advice you’ve received?
World traveler, avid reader, cat lover, and Jesus follower. These are just a few words to describe Your Feathered Friend. She’s juggling a new marriage, working full time, and living with Multiple Sclerosis. In many ways, she’s just your average woman. She’s trying to figure out how to keep her family happy and healthy, and writing about it along the way.