By Tilly Dillehay
Stop comparing your husband to other men. Stop it right now.
Am I assuming too much? I may be interpreting the looks, sighs, and minor spats I’ve witnessed incorrectly, but it seems to me that this is a serious stumbling block in the hearts of the young Christian wives I see.
And I should know about this. I almost lost my own husband over it, before I had even married him.
See, nobody ever told me about this complicated problem, when I was a young girl imagining the simple process of getting married. I always thought it came down to these few questions: Does he like you? Good. Do you like him? Good. Are you both Christians? Okay. Get married.
It never occurred to me, back then, how important another question would become to me:
Does everybody else ADORE him?
I broke up with my then-boyfriend (now husband) early on in our relationship. He was gracious enough to see past what I was doing and take me back a month later. But the breakup was caused 100% by my obsessively watching all of his interactions with other people to see what they thought of him.
Girls start asking these questions early in a relationship: What does everybody else think of this guy? Does everyone respect him? Love him? Want to be around him? Want him on their team? Listen to his advice? Laugh at his jokes? Cheer, or at least look glad, when he enters a room?
A lot of us got used to asking these questions as picky Christian daters. Then we never stopped asking them when we married a real human man and settled into living with him.
And these are not all bad questions to ask, when you are trying to decide whether to marry someone. You ought to know his character, and you ought to be able to face his reputation square in the face. Can you handle it? His reputation will soon make up a large part of your reputation. Will you be able to happily stand with him as a single unit? You will be creating a new reputation, together, the Family Reputation. That Family Reputation is something that you will live with for the rest of your life.
Also, it’s very important to know whether other trustworthy people consider him to be a basically responsible human being who is capable of sharing adulthood and following Christ with you. Wise people who know you well—these are the opinions that should matter to you. If they don’t like him, you should seriously wonder whether you have been blinded by your infatuated state.
Ask those questions, and ask them realistically. But ask them humbly, too. Ask them in such a way that when you do finally say “yes” and the ring is on, you will be able to stop asking them.
Why? Why would it be a negative thing, to be on the watch? Why shouldn’t you constantly be alert to what others think of your own husband… how others interact with him, how he measures up at work, etc.? After all, the Family Reputation is at stake.
Here are 9 good reasons:
1. Because it’s done. You are now married to him, and your reputation is now his. You are no longer dating the man, and it is no longer your job to find out whether he is a good match (read: good enough) for you. HE IS YOUR MATCH.
2. Because it is clearly disobedient to scripture (which calls it Pride). When you watch like a hawk to see that he’s getting proper honor, you are actually just watching like a hawk to see that YOU are getting proper honor. This is plain, old-fashioned pride. Pride will fell you like a tree, every time.
3. Because when you compare your husband to men in general, you will soon find yourself comparing him to specific men you actually know. It’s hard to say which is more dangerous. Another man is obviously preferred as a party invite. Why isn’t MY husband preferred like that?Another man sounds more spiritually wise or intelligent. Why doesn’t my husband say things in such a way that people listen?Another man gets better work and is more in demand. Why isn’t my husband skilled like that? Another man is fearless and charismatic. Why is my husband so quiet and unassuming? Another man is joyful and plays with the kids. Why does my husband get so crabby? And worse, why does he let other people see it?
4. Because you will set patterns in your first few years of marriage that will probably stick. When you set a habit of comparing your husband unfavorably to other men now, you will find that your mind soon slides there automatically. It may take years for you to reset your thinking, if you are ever able to at all. If you start your marriage with these kinds of shifty, restless mental habits, you will end up with two options: A) either settle into a kind of sarcastic resignation, or B) worse, you will sow the seeds that grow into adultery and abandonment.
5. It is exhausting and unsatisfying, being a self-appointed honor guard. You can be a better friend to your husband, enjoy his company more purely, and give better advice (gentle, solicited, winsome advice, on career moves, personal/social gestures, or spiritual disciplines) when you are not on a one-woman mission to make sure nobody is better liked, better looking, or better respected than he is.
6. He will get more and more confused, the longer you play this game. Have you ever heard a woman quibble to her husband as they leave a double date or party? “Why did you say that, about Sherri? It was so embarrassing.” “I wish you wouldn’t drop food on yourself.” “You acted like a child when everybody decided to leave early.” At least this quibbling is not completely incomprehensible to a man, although the heart behind it is clearly a selfish one.
Much worse is when a wife decides with a panicky feeling that she is married to an idiot, and silently tells him about it for the rest of the night. He doesn’t know what the problem is. She may not know herself. He will simply not be able to understand what’s going on, without any form of real communication from you. And you aren’t going to say what you really mean because it’s too awful to say aloud: on this particular evening, he has offended you simply by not being the husband you think you deserve to have.
7. What exactly is it that you ‘deserve to have’, again? Let’s just take a moment to remember what kind of friends you had as a single girl, and what kind of reputation you had then. Was it actually so much better than the duo reputation you now have with your husband? I doubt it. Growth in character, in service to others, in career, and in spiritual maturity is something the two of you are now working on together, as partners. Your new family is not, by the grace of God, stagnant. Don’t you think this man will be used to sanctify your rough edges and immaturities, just as you will be used to sanctify his?
So maybe you know a bunch of men who are already more like what you wanted your husband to be. (That, of course, assumes a whole bunch about their public personas being exactly like their at-home personas, but we’ll leave that alone.) Are you everything that YOU hope to be as a mature Christian adult? I thought not.
8. Thankfulness is the best way to fight this beast (and is commanded in Scripture… remember Eph. 5:19-21). God has given you a man. He comes home to you every night. He kisses you sweetly in the morning. He doesn’t beat you (I am making an assumption here). He is a Christian man who is learning to love the Lord of Heaven. Although I might risk sounding like one of those mothers who harp on the plate-less children in China, I’ll go ahead and say it… do you know how rare he is?
9. God intends that you not be a foolish woman. Stop being one. Proverbs 14:1 gives sober advice. “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (NIV). This is a commentary on all the things a woman does to attack the foundations of her own marriage. These include things like nagging, withholding, criticizing, being lazy, and being willful.
Comparing your husband to other men is one of those things, make no mistake. You are young now, and you can’t see the long term effects of this. But you’ll find yourself in a house without walls if you don’t nip it in the bud now. God would have you to build your house!
This post is not intended to be unduly harsh, or to presume that every young marriage is affected by this feminine tendency. But it is meant to be hard on sin that will eventually be hard on you and your husband. Be encouraged: if you see this tendency in yourself, it should give you great hope to diagnose the sin in your heart. Diagnosis of sin, when it leads to true repentance, is the kind of pain that always leads forward into joy.
Remember what you are now: an adult, involved in one of the most sacred and precious institutions God has laid before man.
Social pressure is nothing to the gravity of this thing you’re doing. Do it to the glory of God.
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