Your husband doesn’t have to earn your respect

Your husband doesn’t have to earn your respect.

I don’t agree with everything Matt says here. I find hyperbole in several of his supporting pillars, but I have struggled with this question for approximately two years (maybe longer). I admit it. And there have been times the vignette he opens with could have been me and my husband. I do find the pervasiveness of the  man-mocking meme curious.  I took my kiddo to a play that was culturally Indian last weekend. Even here, I found women joking about their lazy, good-for-nothing husbands.

I was raised by a strong woman, a feminist, in the deep South… where cultural norms and religious dictates often get confused. I grew up in a family whose tree looks tangled and confusing due to generations of rampant divorce. I don’t say this to shame my family. It just is, and I am daily learning new ways it has influenced the woman I am today.

More than a year ago, during a trying time in my marriage, I sought counsel from one of the ministers at my church. She encouraged me to give my husband respect. That challenge made my stomach turn. I had a visceral response of gut-wrenching “ugh.” This was becoming a more difficult conversation than I wanted it to be. I named the barriers to respect I faced. She named respect as a need for men. “He’s not __________! He’s _________! He doesn’t deserve my respect,” I said. I don’t even remember the specifics of my protest at this time, nor would I want to publish them if I did. Her response was something akin to, “What if you had to earn his love?”

At the time, I did feel like I was trying to earn his love. He wasn’t loving me well, and it was apparent in the level of conflict and dysfunction in our house. He was perpetually trying – and failing – to earn my respect, as I was trying – and failing – to earn his love. But this is not right. As a husband, he should not have to earn my respect. It should have already been established in the dating process. My pastor encouraged me to emulate God in my relationship to my husband. Lofty advice. It felt trite, and I protested so. I am not God. But I yield. Somehow the cycle of had to be broken. No more earning and demanding the other earn what we most needed. Offering him respect was one way I could begin to do something different. And it was and still is at times hard.

Single ladies… please…. Your respect for your man should be well-established prior to saying ‘I do.” Marriage is hard, and commitment takes work, but some of the major hurdles couples face can be circumvented if you can say you trust and respect your significant other wholly, and that he loves you well prior to saying “I do.” But what about those who are married already without this being well-established? Ladies, I am with you. This one’s hard. And all I can say is the result is well worth the cost. He needs your respect. And the deficit thereof can make coming home a painful, rather than joyful process. You want intimacy, yet your disrespect pushes him farther away and makes you an unsafe person for him to be vulnerable with. You have the power to change this. You can change the ugly cycle of demanding/earning. It will cost you, and it will bring peace and joy… and love.

Overall, I agree with what Matt Walsh writes in this particular post, but there are a few things he says and doesn’t say that I feel need to be addressed.  First, Matt speaks from a position of power that he may be unaware of. This is probably part of why he gets so much flack for opining about what women need to do in this manner. Perhaps the culture of disrespect towards men that Matt discusses is a backlash against the demands that men, in a position of power, have imposed on women for numerous years prior. I, on the other hand, may have more license to tell women what we are doing to harm our relationships simply because I am one.

I must argue with Matt when he writes,

“I’ve noticed that the corollary – a message about the respect women must give men, a message challenging wives and encouraging husbands – isn’t quite so palatable for many people” (emphasis mine).

Matt, to challenge a woman to respect her husband is one thing. To state that women at large must respect men at large is absurd and belies your presumed power and your ignorance of the barriers that prevent women from respecting all men. When I open above with the statement (which I copied from and linked back to Matt’s blog) that husbands do not need to earn their wives’ respect, I admit that while I believe this applies to all spousal arrangements, my intended audience here is those women who identify as Christians. This is a Biblical instruction, but not based on the way Matt cut-and-paste quotes Ephesians 5, which appears to rearrange the context. I am looking solely at Ephesians 5:32-33. Our marriages will mirror the ideal of Christ’s relationship with the Church when we live in love as we should. That looks like: Men – love your wives as you love yourself. Put away selfishness which will diminish your ability to love your wife. You promised her you would do this. Wives, respect your husband, because he needs it and your respect has more power to fuel and encourage him than any other human person in his life.

Peace be with you.

Oh Fog

fog

Oh Fog,

you come today, a surprise ephemeral guest

daring me to stay… present.

Pay… attention.

Light hangs in the air, trapped

like a hostage presence

And you hold me

in a pervasive, inescapable

here-ness

and now-ness.

Look back, and what was is no longer visible

Diminished or dismissed into the distance.

Just lingering light and hanging memory.

Look forward, and what is to come feels almost tangible

just beyond reach or view.

To pursue future is to chase a wind

surrendering the reverie of what is.

Oh fog,

hold me like you do the light

Beckon me to

Be

Here

Now

An open letter to my soon-to-be-kindergartener

Hi Love,

I read this Washington Post blog today about kindergarten “standards,” and skills testing that determines students’  placement on a continuum of readiness for public school. It made me sad and concerned me.

Your Daddy and I have debated on-and-off for almost a year whether to let you start kindergarten early (this Fall) or to wait until you are officially 5. You’ve always been small… and starting you early may make this an issue, when it has never been one in the past for you. You are very intelligent (even taking into account my presumed bias) and you’ve always demonstrated a distinct preference for interaction with older kids, if given the choice. You are already reading some words, and not quite 4 years old. You share well, take turns, and tolerate frustration (but not failure) pretty well. I know you could do it, and you might really love it.

For me, the decision was made when I toured a private pre-school/Elementary school in our area. It was a highly structured program, and the director proudly told me that the children there are reading and writing independently by kindergarten. Gulp. Was this a reality-check? Maybe you aren’t the genius I think you are. Maybe you’re just a little bit bright. Then I asked how they accomplished this lofty goal. He proudly spoke of the school’s nationally recognized curriculum, and that many of their kindergartners have been learning in their programmed environment since ages three or four. We then talked about the programs for the three- and four-year-olds. I asked about free play, and was told that free play was allowed during the transitional times from 7:30-9:00 am, and then after 3:30 pm for the kids with parents who were unable to pick them up after the curricular class time.

I just left that school feeling… heavy.

Your Daddy and I have deliberately chosen child-care settings that offered preschool curricula-based programming. You have thrived and excelled in these settings. Where you are, you practice writing letters and tracing things on a daily basis, but you are also given tremendous free time to play with your friends. And you are happy, well-mannered, and socially-adept.

That did it for me. No school for you! Well… not yet, anyway. I want you to have as long to just be a kid as you can. I want to shield you from arbitrary standards and the competition that is inherent in applying those standards. I want you to remain blissfully unaware of the “otherness” that flows from ratings and scores. I am confident that you are ready and would succeed in kindergarten if you began this Fall. But Daddy and I agree that you will not suffer for having one last year to play.

The above blog was a nail in the coffin for your early entrance into big school. You see… you will be graded, rated, tested and placed for (presumably) 13 years (at least). Currently, you are not mindful of your own successes or failures on a regular (much less daily or hourly) basis. You just are. You just do. You just play and learn by default. Let’s keep it that way.

When I was in kindergarten, the biggest concern I had was developing my next scheme for trying to get moved to Emily’s (Yes, Auntie Emily’s) class. The only distinct memory I have of that year is getting in trouble once, because I told my teacher I didn’t want to be in her class. In my defense, I had known Emily for 5 years, and Ms. Sanders (not her real name) was new to me! I had no loyalty to her. And this is as (I think) it should be. Play and learning valuable social skills of frustration management and how to make new friends. (“Hey Mom, I have a new best friend!”)

Daddy seemed most passionate about advocating for your regular (not early) entrance into kindergarten. And no wonder. You see, Kiddo, Mommy grew up quickly–forgetting all too early how to play. By the time I finished college play was a foreign matter altogether. And it took years of therapy (thank you Jewelanne, Trapper, Kindra and Andrew) and retraining (thank you Daddy) for me to dare enjoy it again. I still struggle to play, as evidenced by my antsy-ness after 10 minutes of playing cars, but I’m working on it. And I don’t want you to have to work this hard at it. I want you to play with reckless abandon.