I, take you, to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.
The Hubbers and I are approaching our fourth wedding anniversary. I know, we are just babies at this whole marriage thing, but my first reaction was, "have we really been married almost four years already?" I guess it's a good thing that it feels like we were just married yesterday. At the same time, I also feel like we have been married forever, not in that the days drag on, but that it feels like we have known and loved each other for far longer. All in all, we have been together almost seven years. We have had our share of ups and downs in this short time and life has kept us busily on our toes.
As our anniversary approaches, our wedding vows came to mind. If you have seen the movie Fireproof, you may remember a line where Kirk Cameron roughly shoves his wife and demands she honor him. While I'm sure it was meant to provide a dramatic moment, the overacting of it all just gave the both of us the giggles. When we approached that part of our vows a few months later, I had to stifle the giggles. Some people thought I wasn't taking the vows seriously, but it was a shared moment both of us understood. So no tears, just the giggles.
The moment still sticks with me though, perhaps because I am not decidedly intentional about honoring my husband. I don't dishonor him by any means, I just don't think on a daily basis, "how can I honor my husband?" While reflecting on our relationship, and how I can do better as wife, here were some things that came to mind about how we can honor our husbands as they cherish us. (These are in no particular order.)
1) Keep the right priority of relationship. God, husband, children. To honor our husbands we have to honor our covenantal relationships. Our first covenant is with God as his daughter. Our second is with our husband as his wife. Our children are a gift, but not we do not share a covenant with them in the same way as God and spouse. While we have to sometimes put aside other priorities to raise them and enjoy our families, we must always keep the order clear. Make time for God. Make time for your husband - he is the one God has miraculously joined you with to create one flesh. Doing this will also make you a better mother and show your children how to stay in right relationship with others. Win win win!
2) Make his dreams your dreams. Be his biggest cheerleader in the truest sense. Encourage him to discern the dreams God has placed in his heart. Support him as he makes his way toward them. Be the great woman behind the great man.
3) Extend grace and unconditional love when you least feel like it. No doubt there are times you will be upset with him. Surprise him by extending grace and loving him unconditionally. When you are upset, perform a random act of love for him, whether it is making his favorite meal, letting him watch what he wants on television, giving him an evening off with his friends, whatever it may be. Show him grace. Remind him that while you are mad, he never has to earn your love, and you will never withhold it.
4) Remember he has feelings too, and ask questions. Stereotypes are often based in truth. I think there is a lot of truth to the stereotype that men hate talking about feelings. It just isn't in their toolbox, be it socialization or genetics. Learn to recognize his nonverbal cues. Don't be afraid to ask that dreaded "how are you feeling" question from time to time - it gives him permission to open up, to not have to be silently strong, to let light shine into the dark corners of his heart and mind. We ladies know what that darkness can do when we get stuck in our heads, so remember to extend your husband the chance to get out from there too. Provide the opening, but by all means don't force the issue either.
5) Speak well of him always. I know this can be hard when he has done whatever it is that he does to get under your skin for the millionth time. Speak well of him first and foremost. I know it is tempting to vent from time to time, so while you may have a close confidant or two, make darn sure they know how wonderful he is first and last. Hallie just wrote a great post recently about some fatal mistakes we make as wives online - take a read for some more great advice.
6) See him as God does and tell him about it. We know too well what it is to be our own worst critic. Unless you have married a megalomaniac (in which case proceed to counseling and do not pass go), he is his worst critic too. He knows intimately all his failings (real or imagined) inside and out far better than you. God has joined you with him to show him who he is under the light of Christ's redemption and mercy and in the vision of God. Tell him often.
7) Give in from time to time. I know - we all love to win a good fight or stand our ground. Every now and then, what does it matter to give in on the trivial things? Sure, honey, you can watch Sharknado even though I think it is pure crap. I will watch it with you because I enjoy watching you enjoy the movie more than I hate watching it. (No dear, that doesn't mean we are watching that tonight.)
8) Be realistic in your expectations, but hold him accountable. Be it fairy tales, sappy romcoms or our own lofty ideals, sometimes we get a picture in our head of what our husbands should be doing or how our marriages should look and then feel we fall short. Tidy up those expectations based on God's truth and healthy expectations based on your situation. Don't lower your expectations on the essentials - you're his partner in the race to heaven, so be sure he is on his way to victory.
9) Pray for him. That whole getting to heaven business is hard work. Oh, that's right, we don't work our way there. Be your husband's prayer warrior. Pray for him to deepen his love and knowledge of Christ. Pray that he experiences healing in his brokenness and strength to conquer his sins. Pray that he is able to be a faithful husband and father. Pray that the Holy Spirit may fill him with joy. Pray, pray, pray.
10) Be kind to his family and friends. No, you don't have to like them. I am blessed that my husband's family has truly become my family. There are misunderstandings from time to time because well, that is humanity, but I have never felt like an outsider. I know that isn't always the case. Regardless of how you are treated, though, treat his family and friends with kindness and never put him in a situation where he has to choose. Let him know if there is hurt or unkindness toward you, but never retaliate or make ultimatums. If he is wise, he will have already seen it and will be your champion where they are concerned.
11) Let go of entitlement. Your husband should love and cherish you, but let go of the notion that your husband owes you something. Regardless of your history and how much you have done for him, let go of that mindset. Remember that all you do for him, you do for Christ, and there is nothing you do that is worth more than His sacrifice on the cross.
12) Withhold nothing - make him your best friend, confidante and lover. In other words, don't keep secrets. The wise stripper on The Office said it best - "secrets secrets are no fun, secrets secrets hurt someone." I know, I made it weird by quoting a fictional stripper - sorry. It is a salient point nonetheless. The minute you begin to keep secrets, the minute someone else out there knows more about your heart than he does, the devil starts to dance. There is no closer relationship on earth than husband and wife becoming one flesh. Keep that close at mind always. Even if you think he will be angry, you can work past that. Think of how angry he may be if he knows you kept something from him, shared something intimate with someone else or lied. Keep no secrets.
13) Seek his opinion. No, your husband may not be the best decorator or fashion consultant, he may not know the most about the decision you are trying to make, but you are on this journey together. Honor him by seeking his opinions, and actually listening to them. Even if in the end you decide that may not be the right course, it is important for him to know that you value his thoughts and respect his knowledge and ideas. So what if the living room stays a light neutral tan color? You can live with that.
14) Let him make mistakes. You're not perfect, and neither is he. Let him off the hook. When he makes a mistake as I'm sure will happen on occasion, let him know you don't love or respect him any less. Don't be that wife. You know, the one "they" call the ball and chain, the one who emasculates her husband if he screws up from time to time. Think golden rule. Think love. Think forgiveness. Then do it.
15) Catch him doing something right. "Help people reach their full potential. - catch them doing something right." ~ Kenneth Blanchard ~ This is true of your husband as well. It can become a habit to only see the blemishes and then get stuck on them. Remember why you married him - keep in mind the things that were (and still are) the wonderful reasons you knew he would be your partner-in-crime for life. Praise him for it, and for all the ways in which he strengthens your family, eases your burden, loves you long time, etc etc etc. Tell him he is a great husband, a great father, a great provider (this one is muy importante for the hubs to be reminded, even if it isn't important in your eyes). In this, though, be sure to...
16) Learn his love language and speak it fluently and often. I think the biggest mistake I make is to love everyone else by how I think they want or ought to be loved. Couples will often ask us for reading suggestions as they prepare for marriage (at four years, we are the experts, right?). I always include Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages. The Hubs and I haven't done this one as a married couple, so on this one, please do as I say and not as I do. Learn his language, so you can become fluent. If you are exhausting yourself honoring and loving him in a way he doesn't understand, you just end up exhausted and frustrated. Speak his love language and watch the beauty unfold with a lot less effort. If you want to go the route of an online "quiz," he can find his love language here. (If you want to find out yours, you can take the quiz too over here. Thanks, Hallie for that link!) And speaking of love...
17) Be open to showing him some lovin' (wink wink). There's a reason Blessed John Paul II emphasized that the marital act wasn't just for babymakin' - the unitive property can be healing, restorative and even science has shown us it strengthens the bond between partners. I know as parents (especially of young ones), it isn't always the first thing on our minds, but be intentional and don't be afraid to surprise him and initiate. I know, it's not a problem for all you ladies, but for those who are a little more on the timid side, there is not one thing wrong with making your husband feel desirable and surrendering yourself completely.
These are obviously not the only ways out there to honor our husbands. In fact, I began this post as a "5 ways" post, but then it grew to 10, and then 15, then 16 and then I had one more convict my heart, and now I've stopped thinking about it so you won't have a novel to read. You can thank me later. You can also share your thoughts in the combox - that would be ever so helpful as I make a commitment to being more intentional about honoring my husband. I do ask that you not take any helpful hints from him, however, if he should approach you with scathingly brilliant ideas.