Sunday, February 10, 2013

In the Beginning...

Last year, in the middle of an argument, my wife blurted "why can't you be more of a man?" She retracted it immediately, but the damage was done. We've never been a couple for name calling, and my wife has never said anything to me simply to be cruel or vindictive. This was an unvarnished truth; an opinion my wife was thinking that slipped out of her mouth before she could catch it. I wasn't sure what my wife's definition of a man was (she refused to give me any details other than "I shouldn't have said that"). Whatever the definition, I fell short.

I brooded. I worked steadily and brought in good money. We're financially stable. I rarely drank. I never used drugs and never gambled. I had focused on being a good Dad and was involved with our child. I've never laid a finger on my wife in anger. I'm not verbally abusive (in fact, my temper has a fuse that is a mile long). I don't yell, scream, or curse (at least not in my wife's presence).  I had never cheated on my wife. Nor had I left her side during the "or worse" and "in sickness" parts of our marriage.

It's true that I can be moody, uncommunicative (I have always been known as the quiet type), opinionated, independent, and at times so focused on what I'm doing that I forget what else is going on around me. I don't like banging heads over a dispute; I'll take a calm, rational approach over an emotion driven approach every time, which has in the past made people think I was an easy pushover (I wasn't, but as the old saying goes "perception is reality").

Most of all though, I was steeped (by both my upbringing and my church) in the idea that marriage should be a partnership. That husbands and wives were equals. That neither spouse should dominate the other in any way. That decisions should be made together. That men should share the housework and take care of the kids, and women should have careers outside the home if they so chose.

In my opinion, I had been a good husband. Maybe not great, but certainly a long way from bad. Yet there was something about me that was setting off the "not a man" bells in my wife's head. After reading multiple essays on what it meant to be a "real man" from a Christian perspective, praying, and contemplation I decided I should take more of a leadership role in our home. The Bible is pretty straightforward about a husband's leadership responsibilities. And, I could not honestly say I had been the leader of our home--spiritually or otherwise.  So, I gently broached to subject with my wife. Her reply: "I've longed to hear you say that."

Really? The person who once owned a "a women needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" T-shirt longed to hear...that? While reality has greatly mellowed my wife's feminist instincts over the last few decades, I never expected that response. I wondered if she knew what I was talking about. Heck, I wondered if I knew what I was talking about. I soon found out I didn't.

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