Ladies, if you have been struggling in your relationship with your husband (and sooo many women do), I know a way that you can begin to change -- even save -- your marriage. In five minutes.
Trust me on this. I've seen it happen first hand.
Caveat: If what I'm about to say doesn't apply to you, then it doesn't apply to you. The women to whom it applies will know it. I knew it. Countless other women have known it and will know it.
If your husband is physically abusive, or if he degrades and is cruel to you as a rule, then this post is not applicable. Most husbands, however, are not physically abusive nor willfully cruel. Most husbands are generally decent guys. If you are married to a generally decent (if imperfect!) man, then what I am about to recommend will likely improve your marriage, even to the point of a complete renewal. And the results and changes will begin in less than a day. Perhaps even in five minutes. And no, I'm not kidding. You will save a lot on therapy bills and get a markedly better outcome.
Some background: Over the past few months, I have been shocked and dismayed by the number of women -- faithful Catholic women -- who have contacted me to tell me of their unhappy marriages. Some (not all) of these women were hinting that they even wanted out. I was shaken by the frequency of these conversations as well as the seeming lack of sin and guilt in the husbands -- at least nothing that should be the basis for divorce, a broken family, and devastated children. That these sentiments were and are coming from devout Catholic women who do not believe in divorce and who understand marriage as a sacrament is deeply troubling.
And yet at one time, I might have felt similarly.
Let me be clear: Divorce was never, ever an option for my husband and me, nor was it even in our lexicon. But there was a time in our marriage when tensions were high, feelings of affection were low, and things had generally broken down. Communication was terrible, and we had ceased assuming the good intent of the other. For my part, I had lost respect for my husband, whom I felt was not "a real man" (gosh, it's hard to type those words!). I almost disdained him, and I nagged, nitpicked, and criticized my way through most of our days.
Then one day about ten years ago, something happened that was the equivalent of getting a 2x4 smashed over my head. It was nothing outwardly dramatic, but in this event I recognized in one instant that I had created in my husband all the things that I in turn despised. I was immediately ashamed of what I had done to this man who had married me and who loved me, and I made a paradigm shift on the spot. Nothing has been the same since the day I had my epiphany, and our marriage is now strong and happy. I love and respect my husband dearly.
|Cheesy shot, but yes, I love him!|
Not long after that redemption of our marriage, I heard about a book by Dr. Laura Schlessinger called Woman Power: Transform Your Man, Your Marriage, Your Life, which I learned was the companion and follow-up to her best-selling book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. After reading the first few pages of Woman Power, I recognized my past self, and I knew that every woman in America needed to read it (including those not yet married).
Years passed, and of course, the book(s) left my mind.
But the recent conversations I've had with these Catholic women brought the books to mind again. Where one might expect that I would recommend a religious book or spiritual reading for these crises, I knew that the women needed something right now, something practical and immediate, to turn their marriages around. And so I started recommending The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands to the women who came to me. My only fear was that they would not follow through. Praise God, at least two of them did, and I want you to hear from them now.
First, a lively and intelligent Catholic woman with a Ph.D, children, and a lot going on outside of the home. She had written to me several times over the months about the sad state of her marriage, blaming it almost entirely on her husband and his "unreasonable demands". Her myriad complaints about this generally decent man were painful for me to read, and even more excruciating was hearing of the cutting, hurtful way she spoke to him.
I urged her to read Proper Care. To her credit, she did finally pick up the book and began to read. Before she even finished it, I received the following:
Started the book today. Yea, embarrassed. You nailed it. And all the little things I thought made our situation different...don't. So really we are just one more example for her book.
You saying you were ashamed of your behavior. I couldn't identify until I started the book. I couldn't see outside of how justified I was. I am so embarrassed.
Here I work in positive behavior support and couldn't apply it to my home. I even knew of the author and didn't want to be seen with the book and be judged by other women. Ha!
We even went to therapy. The result? The therapist listened to me gripe, somewhat made me feel justified, and [my husband] got nothing out of it and finally asked if we could stop going. I felt like we failed therapy, but I also knew it wasn't a match for us and therefore wasn't helping.
And thanks for being someone I could go to. I am careful to only choose people to speak to that will support our marriage and not fuel the fire, but still I felt so alone because I wanted to protect my husband. Also, I didn't feel like I could identify with the Catholic women and their incredibly holy marriages. I was just feeling worse about mine. I am so thankful I had the wild hair to contact you about this. That must have been all God! And desperation. Thank you times 1000!
Here is a quote I told to [my husband] just a month ago -- "You are not my world. I know you want to be, you just aren't." And I felt justified to hurt him that way because it was true.
I conveniently ignored that part about leaving my family to become one with my husband. I regularly chose my family over him, among many many other errors like giving everything I had to the kids and expecting him to take care of me. Despite the fact I didn't even shower three days in a row, get dressed, etc. He would ask me to exercise, be healthy, want time to talk, be intimate. All ridiculous requests from someone who clearly didn't get how exhausted I was. I thought he was another demanding child instead of a helper with the kids. I was resentful. Exhausted. Felt justified.
The therapist didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with what I was saying.
My husband loves me, provides for us, loves his kids, plays with them, spoils me, gives me affection, takes me on regular dates, sends flowers to my house, bought me the biggest diamond when he proposed. And my response? I don't like roses, I like lilies. (I didn't say that out loud.) And he knows I love chocolates but none of those. Or, I didn't want a big diamond -- he clearly doesn't he know me and that I don't care about that stuff (I told him before we got married I preferred quality to size -- he bought both).
You know what I sounded like? One big spoiled brat. All the while he works long hours at a job the last 8 years where he is verbally abused by his boss. A job he absolutely hates. But can't leave. Because our lifestyle doesn't afford him to make less. I say step down, we will make it work, but he has told me time and time again my spending habits don't back up my words, so while the sentiment is nice...I just kept thinking when he leaves the job, things will be better. The truth is, our marriage maybe wouldn't have lasted to another job.
And also, what about "for better or worse"? He was going through one of the most trying things of his life and I was focused on how much it was negatively affecting me. Most of his anti-my-family is really attempts at protecting me from the drama. He is a good man. He is trying. I am ashamed. I don't deserve him. But I will make it better.
I asked her if I could use her words for this post and she readily agreed:
Anything I can do to help others. I felt so trapped, lost. I thought, "I blew my one chance at happiness and now I have to live with this man forever. Poor me. My bed. Now lie in it." Feeling so hopeless and alone. Very much felt controlled and indignant. Fighting mad. I would not be walked on, etc. He isn't perfect, but I never considered his point of view. Never thought I could be even half the problem. And there is something very wrong with that.
Ladies, let's be honest. We all know women like this, and it might very well be ourselves. But reading just a few pages of one book has saved her marriage. In minutes.
And then, another woman who was a virtual stranger reached out to me telling me how alone she felt in her marriage. She laid out her complaints against her husband and sounded, to me, like she was near despair. I asked if her husband was a decent man and she said he was a "great man". I asked her if he was a faithful Catholic and she said that he certainly was. After hearing that, I proceeded to gently, lovingly "let her have it", and I recommended The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. A few months later, I received the following:
I've been meaning to tell you that I did read The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands after I spoke with you a few months ago, and it helped tremendously!!!!
…I love my husband very much and sometimes I need a new perspective to help me realize how good things really are. Anyway, thank you for recommending that book….
When I asked her if I could share, I got this generous response:
Yes of course! With so much divorce and brokenness in the world, I told [my husband] I want our marriage to be in protest of that. Thank you for sharing the testimonies that will only help so many hurting couples!
Now to the second caveat: Dr. Laura is not Catholic (she is Jewish), so these are obviously not Catholic books on marriage. I hope it goes without saying that I do not endorse or condone anything in these books that contradict the Catholic Faith. But the bulk of the content is sound and takes into account the inherent dignity of man and woman, and the truths of human nature.
Also, feel free to read Woman Power first (as I did). It is can stand alone, and will lead you to want to read Proper Care anyway (though by then you may not even need to!). In fact, I read Woman Power first and only read Proper Care last week for the first time, as I wanted to make sure both were fresh in my mind when I wrote this post.
Women, I want us to love our men -- our decent, loving husbands -- in the self-donative way that God intended, and not with the disposition of the current toxic culture. We can crush our husbands or uplift them with a word, a glance, or an attitude. Honestly, ladies, we hold all the power to destroy or save our marriages. Read the book(s) and tell me what happens in the aftermath (either here in the comments, or email me privately).
Too many marriages end in divorce or go on for years and decades with both spouses in misery. It does not have to be that way. Marriages can be saved, children's homes and stability preserved, right now. Change your marriage in minutes. No joke. Please, try it. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
*I did a follow-up post of women's reactions after reading the book, here.
Also, I was thrilled when the Diocese of Omaha linked this blog post to their website!
I should state that I am not a paid promoter for Dr. Laura or her books (although I have always loved her work). In re-reading both books last week, I checked them out of my local library. No doubt your library has a copy or two. Check them out! And if you buy through a link on my blog, not a penny goes to me -- all amazon proceeds go to the orphans and the families working to bring them home.