Monday, October 27, 2014
What My Sons Should Know
I believe the scripture about men's hearts failing them in the last days is very real. And it's happening now. People are losing the ability to look beyond their own personal bubble to empathize with others' problems and challenges. Hearts are becoming vestigial organs, like the appendix.
If, my son, you are lucky enough to trap a woman into marrying you, there are a few things you need to know for future reference:
The most powerful words in a marriage? "I love you and this is why...." Find something to complement her on every day. Even if she's gained a ton of weight or she's got a bad haircut or something else has happened, there's got to be something you find appealing. Even if it's just her shoelaces or the way her hair shines. Saying something loving will get you miles down the road toward a happy home. And it will do wonders for her self esteem. If she thinks her husband is still interested in her, still loves her even after two weeks of wedded bliss, she'll bloom for you. And she'll try harder to look nice for you. Sometimes she might act like she doesn't believe you, but deep inside she'll eventually believe it if you keep it up. And if you don't, there'll always be that worry that you've lost that loving feeling and she's just running on fumes. Don't make her guess. Tell her.
Take care of your Spiritual Responsibilities. You are the Priesthood in your home. Act like it. Go to the temple. Make it a priority. When it comes time for FHE, call them together and have FHE. Call for family prayers. Give them blessings. Take your son out Home Teaching or to collect fast offerings if that's his job. Call the family in for scripture study. This is your job as a priesthood holder.
Own your own baggage. Everyone has troubles and challenges. Everyone. If you didn't have some flaw, the good Lord would have translated you already. So acting as if you don't, is pure hubris, and it's frustrating for anyone around you. Don't force your wife to consider rigging an angelic visitor because you won't listen to anyone else trying to batter through your lofty throne of pride. You do get some things wrong at times.
She's not always wrong. It's statistically impossible. Someone once said a room full of monkeys typing random letters on typewriters will eventually come up with the works of Shakespeare (poor monkeys). Well, your wife will sometimes be right. You need to acknowledge that. It really doesn't take much effort to let her know. But it will mean the world to her. When you hog all the credit, it's a total mental beat-down. Recognizing this gracefully makes you a real man.
Do your own personal housekeeping. Sure she might stay home all day with nothing to do but eat bon bons and watch Netflix (extremely unlikely) but she isn't your purchased slave. Pick up your own dang socks. Put them in the dirty clothes hamper. Take your place settings to the sink. Do your chores happily. If there is something broken around the house, it's your job to fix it. If you don't know how, learn. It'll save you loads of money not having to pay someone else to do it for you. And best of all, it'll save arguments. Also, she should be able to alert you to the fact that something is broken without being called a nag. If you have to be told countless times, that is firmly your problem.
You need to work. Hard. That's a fact of life. You are the provider for your wife and children. Nobody else should have that responsibility. That means that you need to study hard in school. Put forth the effort to make great grades so you can then get into college so that you can then get a good enough job so you can feed and clothe your family and put a roof over their head. And you need to start that now. Life doesn't have to offer you nonstop entertainment. It's not one big video game convention. And don't just think you can test video games for a living. It rarely works like that. Find something to do to contribute to society. Find the work you love and love the work you find. But you're going to have to get off your rear and DO SOMETHING. Because if you don't make that choice, life will make it for you, and you might not like what it picks.
Your wife is your bride. Never forget that. Even if she looks dragged out or chubby. You chose her. You put that ring on her finger and signed the license. She isn't your love slave, your maid, roommate, or unpaid cook. She certainly isn't your punching bag or doormat. She's your wife. She's your Queen. Treat her like that. Remember that you aren't giving her these rights. She alreadyhas them by virtue of being a daughter of God. She shouldn't have to earn your love or respect. And she shouldn't have to earn her children's respect either. She has just as many rights as you do. Her job is simply different.
Be her champion. And I don't just mean just when you're out in public. Always. Don't make her fight all her own battles with the kids. If you act like it's not a big deal when they yell at her, or tell her "no" when she asks them to do chores, or lie to her, they'll push the boundaries they do come up against. Pretty soon your home will just be an armed camp, and your wife will snap. You'll have 156 lbs of screaming hag on your hands, rightfully. Yes, your wife should act like an adult. But it isn't really your job to raise her. It is your job to raise your children. And if you allow them to treat your wife like she's a third class citizen, you're reaping the tornado. They won't respect anyone. Be her champion with loving patience. Also she won't have to deal with a constant barrage of barrier challenges.
Don't abuse her children either. There's a fine line between being a father and being a friend to the exclusion of your wife. Don't always force her to be the bad guy. Be the friendly father. There are going to be some times when you can't be their friend, but you can discipline with patience and kindness and love unfeigned. Set boundaries for your children. Enforce them lovingly. Let them know with velvet gloves on, that you won't allow them to treat your Queen like they are. Believe me, your life will run much smoother when your children understand that your wife isn't champion-less.
Ask her how she's doing, preparing for an honest answer. When she tells you, respond with kindness. If you give her a calm way to address the things that happen in her day, she'll adore you for it. If you don't, she'll have to go elsewhere to work out her problems, and sometimes it's not where you'd like her to go. More importantly, if she's going elsewhere to talk about you, she's not really fixing the problems with the only person who can actually work on the problem with her.
Pillow talk is a fantastic thing. When she's feeling fragile, it's your job, as the Prince she married, to find out why. It's not always your task to fix it, but you need to at least listen. Find out what makes her feel loved and do that thing if it's right. If what makes her feel loved is drinking a bottle of whiskey or pushing people in front of trains, that's not an option.
I'm convinced that, in general, women think on a broader bandwidth. Men have compartments in their heads. I call them rooms. The big important things have larger rooms. Men can go into a room in their head, shut the door, and ignore all the other rooms. Women can't. That problem will bite at their high heels right up until it gets solved. I once handed my husband a penny-sized box. When he finally asked what it was for, I told him it represented the Heidi room in his head. Everything else had enormous rooms: work, computer everything, Church callings, the kids. He never responded, which made me think the cube I'd given him was much too big. Give her the second biggest room in your head. God and Christ are the only ones who should have a bigger room.
Communication isn't just a perk of a great marriage--it's essential. Talk with her. Respond to her questions and dig deeper. It's utterly essential. And it can't just be surface stuff about the kids or the bills or whether the dog needs a vet. You need to dig into the deeper layers and really get at the feelings and spiritual essence. And you need to do this while you're dating too. Practice something more than face-sucking. Surface talk is for roommates and people you don't particularly care deeply for. And don't wuss out and fall back on the "Oh men don't talk" thing. That's the Natural Man rearing his hideous, lazy head. Caring men do talk.
Show her you care about who she really is. Don't just hand her the flower you got at church on Mother's Day and call it done for the year. This is a daily thing. She uses those words of love and encouragement as fuel. Good fuel can fill your home with happiness. Bad fuel will nuke the place. You choose what you want to come home to.
Don't accuse her of nagging. If she has to tell you repeated times that something is wrong, GET A CLUE. Something is not right in her world. How else is she supposed to address it? Apparently wigging out and lopping off body parts is frowned on. Don't wait until she feels like doing that. And yes, it might be painful, but you have to rip the Bandaid off and examine what's beneath it. Maybe it needs Neosporine. But maybe, since you've left it so long, it's going to need amputation. Don't let it get that far. Hello. Man up and address it.
When you have an argument (because you will) don't lie in wait for her like a lurking shark. Dredging up all her past wrongs and flogging her with them is wrong. How can she address something you've glazed over? It's not fair. She may even have forgotten about the problem, it's been so long. This isn't a court room. She shouldn't have to subpoena witnesses, keep a record of every offense, and formulate a defense. If you have a beef, address it as quickly and Christ-like as you can, and not in front of others (certainly not the children unless you're both doing it deliberately to show them how to do it correctly and with kindness). Saving things for the next big argument will make it World War III and she'll feel like you're sniping at her from the building across the square. Own your mistakes. Work to address what's wrong. Give her credit where credit is due. Be honest about your feelings. Give tangible, logical, workable ways to fix the problem. Don't sweat the stupid small stuff. Be patient. Actually work to change what you've done wrong. Squash pride and selfishness.
Sometimes you're going to have to go out of your comfort bubble. Do it. Her happiness is worth a night of dancing or a trip to the theater. Do things she likes to do sometimes. I don't mean you have to be surgically sutured to her side, but it shows her how important she is to you when you gracefully endure discomfort or boredom to do things she likes (graceful being the operative word here. If you complain, all bets are off). And she'll be more inclined to do some things you like to do. Also, she might need a cooling down period too. Moms never get to go home from work. They live at work, and they don't get paid for it very often. You try working for the occasional child's smile or the split second the house is actually livable.
Don't ask her to do something and then make it impossible to do. My husband hates it if I touch his things. At all. And yet he likes a clean house. But to clean, I need to dust and move furniture and dusty stacks of papers. Sometimes he loses things. If I've moved anything an iota out of the way, he accuses me of their loss. He hates not being able to find tools in the shed but he won't let me clean it, putting everything in clearly marked containers. He wants to do it (or not) because he knows where everything is. But he forgets that he isn't the only one living in his house, or his bedroom. For years we haven't been able to walk into the shed or find anything out there, because he has to have it just so. All my growing up years my dad yelled at me until everything was clean. Now my husband yells at me if I touch anything. This is a great frustration to me. Don't do that to your wife.
When you want to do something, plan it with her. Otherwise she'll feel like she's only accidentally along for the ride. She has valid points and hopes and dreams (and a working brain) too. She should be your first mate, not the skivvy. And when you're out there on that family vacation, treat her like she's your love. Walk with her. Hold her hand. Thank her for things. Ask her how she's doing. If you want to buy a new car or a house, consult with her. She'll probably be spending a fair amount of time in it.
Open her door even after the ring is on. Take her out on dates. They don't have to be expensive, but something with just the two of you. Don't make her beg for them and complain when she does. You chose her, after all. In case you don't realize it, THIS IS BIG. This marriage thing is for real. It should last for the rest of Eternity. It takes maintenance. You can't just flick a ring on her like in a ring toss game and call it quits. You have to work hard at it constantly. And yes, you have to, or you'll fail. Lots of people do. It's never going to be easy with anybody. Ever. If you think it is, someone is selling you a water-spanning structure.
Treat her like you'd like to be treated, or better. If you would rather not be sniped or yelled at, and you'd like the Kingly treatment, imagine how she must feel. Nobody wants to be treated badly, and certainly not from the mate they've chosen to spend Eternity with. You're the guy she's dreamed of and planned for and secretly kissed her pillow for. You're her Prince. Act like it. Believe me, it'll be worth it.
Next time I'll write to my daughters.
(Published in like form on another blog by Me)