Before meeting my husband, I wanted to stay single forever. While other little girls were planning and pretending weddings, I had an office in play area. My dream was to live the single life, tiny apartment in New Orleans, a big dog resting at my feet, while I wrote books, columns and articles for the rest of my life.
And then I met David. My dream changed to include him by my side. When you’re newly in love, the world is rose-colored and the idea this fairytale might end one day is inconceivable. But then, shortly after the honeymoon, reality sets in. The indie soundtrack skips a beat and you realize marriage is not exactly “easy.” It takes work. A lot of work.
I have a selfish side that gets the better of me some days and I have to remind myself that my marriage is not about me. (A recurring theme that God is trying to teach me these days!) I am in a partnership. I’m part of a team.
If you’ve ever played a team sport (or worked on a group project), you know that it takes effort, energy and perseverance to work together. Teamwork takes practice. One of the ways I have learned to work on our partnership is to lean into one another. It takes intention and requires humility but on the days when I do, it benefits both of us and our children.
Lean in when you feel angry or frustrated. Although anger and frustration are two different emotions, I have purposefully combined them because they seem to feed off of one another. Leaning in when you’re angry or frustrated requires you to set aside those emotions, think outside of yourself and put your marriage first.
Has your day gone terrible? Are your children (or job) frustrating you? For me, some days, I can kiss my husband goodbye in the morning as happy as can be but by that evening, I feel frustrated that he’s going to be working later than I thought. Although the frustration may have been building all day long, he doesn’t know that. He only sees the scary wife who takes it out on him. Sometimes it’s easier to take things out on the “safe” people in our lives because we know (subconsciously) that they will still love us unconditionally. Does that sound familiar?
Another time to lean in (despite after) is when they have done something to upset you. Maybe it’s fight that goes unresolved and tension sets in. Resentment builds. Who will break first? Well, as much as I love to win, marriage is not a contest. You are not competing against your spouse. He’s on your team! (I’m talking to myself here.) Winning a fight doesn’t give you extra points. It only creates separation in the union.
Leaning into our husbands when we are mad yields better fruit than turning away from them. Your behavior tells him, “I am hurt (or frustrated) but our bond outweighs my hurt feelings.” It’s interesting to see how they react when they realize that you’re not going to yell (or cry). Their demeanor changes and in my case, my husband tends to do something in return like giving me the evening off from the kids or washing the dishes for me. (Score!)
Lean in when you feel indifferent. I don’t know about you but some days, I’m just plain tired. Cooking sounds like a chore. The kids are put to bed without a bath. And all I’ve been waiting for all day is turning out the light. There was a point in our marriage when I felt indifferent towards David. My job as Mom trumped my role as wife and I clocked in & out without so much as a thought towards spending quality time with him. We lived more as roommates than two people in love.
Indifference sets a marriage up for temptation and sometimes, separation. For David and I, we had to realize that we need to continue building our relationship. It’s easy to only talk about bills, kids and schedules. Your conversations can become more like business meetings.
Leaning in when you feel indifferent can look many different ways. Ask your husband to go on a date. Offer to play a game with him (or whatever his hobby may be). Tell him you would like to spend more time talking/connecting after the kids go to bed. I encourage you to try to connect emotionally, physically or spiritually (whether it’s a kiss, a shared prayer or a quick email/text).
Lean in when you feel like daydreaming. If I asked you to think of a “perfect” couple, could you? I’ve had to realize that there’s no such thing. But for a long time, I thought there were couples who never disagreed. Their lives were perfect. I would daydream about the “what-if’s” and wish I had a marriage like theirs.
But just like indifference sets up for temptation, so does daydreaming. Wishing your life (or your husband) was different breeds misery. You will never be completely satisfied with your partner because he’s human!
Humbling ourselves to realize that we are not perfect allows us lean into our imperfect marriage. If I have felt tempted to “what if this” or “I wish that”, I have to intentionally replace that thought with a positive one. “I wish David did _____. No, I am thankful that David does ______.” And so on.
Replacing your negative thoughts with positive ones can create gratitude and contentment within your marriage, your job, your family, your self-image, etc. Don’t listen to the lie that someone has it better. Everyone’s reality is hard.
It’s dangerous to live your life according to how you feel in that moment. Emotions are fleeting. Building a healthy marriage is about commitment and resolving to work together as a team. It takes practice but it’s possible. Don’t wait for him to lean into you. Serve him in love and lean in first. He will notice and if you have children, they will notice too.
If you have any suggestions for leaning in, please share them below!
Note: Abuse is never okay in any circumstance so if your husband demonstrates physical or emotional abuse, lean the other way. What’s best for your children is what’s best for you and that’s a safe place free from abuse. If this is your case, please seek counseling. You can find more information here.