I have a love-hate relationship with personality tests. I find them thoroughly fascinating, and yet, I sometimes “break” the test. I often end up with results that have me evenly split between two opposite categories! Regardless, I enjoy the process of learning how I can grow. Augustine said “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself, that I may know Thee.”
I find this true to a certain extent. We should not view God through who we are, but through the truth of his Word. However, knowing our own strengths and weaknesses can make us aware of how we might err in relating to an all-perfect Heavenly Father.
So this week, I was sitting across the table from two of my best friends, trying to maintain a train of conversation while 11 children ran around us. One of my friends had just read a personality book that received the highest recommendations from her small group leaders. They claim it has transformed the way they communicate in their marriages. We were all curious. My friends had already taken the online assessments, as well as their husbands, and were urging me to partake. After insisting I couldn’t because I need to think too much to do it in front of people (and explaining that I break these tests), they both decided to take it for me. I was intrigued how they would end up pegging me after 14 pages of quizzing. While they answered the questions, I looked at the descriptions of the 9 personalities and surmised I was one of 6 options, but certainly not 3. To my shock, both friends finished the test and received the same results. They wanted me to take it to confirm, and lo and behold… my results corroborated with theirs. I didn’t know if I felt it completely “fit”, but I had to admit that there was some conclusive evidence here.
That night I was explaining to my husband that I was a “Helper” according to the test.
“Really….” was his slightly skeptical reply. I don’t think I was supposed to notice his tone, but I did.
Ouch. My best friends thought it fit, but my husband didn’t see it. The man I am biblically-commanded to help as my life’s work thought the test had pegged me incorrectly. The old Stephanie would have cried at how much she was “failing” at a job she wanted so desperately to do well. My more mature self has learned to reflect and repent.
Why did it hurt? Because I knew exactly why he was skeptical. In these chaotic years of raising toddlers, I have found it challenging to put my husband first. What does it even look like when your babies’ needs are so pressing? When we are up turning food into humans during pregnancy, up all night with newborns, and caring for toddlers all day, it can be hard not to expect our husbands to pitch in right when they walk in the door. The other reality in our case is that I often don’t communicate to him how I try to help him. I shoulder responsibilities that I think he doesn’t want to do. Often I am right, but sometimes I am just wasting my energy. Also, I am very passionate about providing our kids with great experiences, and sometimes I drag Travis along for that vision when he just wants a nap!
What may be even worse than neglecting my husband’s needs—and I recognize my arrogance here—I know at times I have believed my job is more important and more holy than what he does all day. Yes, we need him and the fruit of his labor, but I am spending my entire day with the purpose of directing souls toward eternity with their Maker. He is very talented and does things that make my brain hurt just hearing about them, but does it really have an eternal purpose? These are the subconscious sinful ponderings that have passed through my mind at times. Am I alone? Do any of you young mothers struggle with this?
When Travis is done with work, you bet I want him to join me in the task of raising our boys. I’m not wrong in wanting his partnership. Truly God wants us to be a team. Malachi 2:14-15 says, “Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.”
What is wrong with my attitude is the prideful way I have sometimes believed God has called me to spend my day in a more important manner than the way God has called him to spend his hours. If Travis wasn’t working so hard, our kids would be in daycare, learning lessons from someone else, and I would be working full-time too. His work provides for my work. In addition, he is building relationships with non-Christians at his workplace that may change someone’s eternity—just as I am striving to do all day long. When he uses his gift of evangelism to witness to a stranger on an airplane, he is planting seeds. I should be his biggest cheerleader in this!
Enough of my incorrect attitudes. Let’s get to the solution! How do we put our husbands “first” in this season? Well, I don’t think it is making him a literal “first.” (For example, If your child has potty needs and your husband wants to tell you a joke about his day, there is a clear priority. Your husband can be patient and wait, or follow you to the restroom to tell you the story.) As I pray about how it should look, i can picture Jesus in Matthew 14, right after he found out John the Baptist was beheaded, and he was tracked down and ended up feeding the 5,000. He was completely spent in his flesh, but he had compassion on the crowds and served them with everything he had to give. God wants to provide us with the capacity to love our husbands well. Here are some tips on what I think it can look like in this season:
- Our attitude is the first thing to get in order. Do you pridefully believe that your work is more important than your husband’s? Ask God to change your heart so that you value what your husband does each day. Maybe he gets to sit at a desk and have adult conversations. Maybe he also has a stressful boss breathing down his neck! There are challenges he deals with that he may not even be sharing with you. Make sure you are grateful for his sacrifice. Maybe you don’t believe that particular lie, but perhaps you think you shouldn’t have to serve him because of all you do each day. Realize that pouring into your marriage will grow and bless it, and often make your husband want to serve you too!
- When he comes home, let him talk about his day too. Don’t bombard him every day with stories about the kids. Take turns hearing from him. If he is on a business trip, when he calls home, don’t spend the whole call talking about the struggles of your day. He may have things to share too. I have a friend that tends to space out when her husband is talking to her. Long days with the kiddos wear her out, and she has little left when they are all in bed. Perhaps they need to have some time in the morning to go over the previous day, or maybe she can give him five fully-focused minutes before she goes to bed or works on anything else. It doesn’t need to be an hour to show him that you care. Just make him a priority.
- Make sure his intimacy needs are met… especially before he goes away on a business trip. Occasionally there will be a time, such as after the birth of a baby, or another medical reason and your husband will need to be patient. In these times, tell him how thankful you are for his patience…. And try to be creative with how you might help him. Okay, I’m moving on now before I start blushing. :)
- When the kids are in bed, try to do something simple to let him know you want to serve him too. Travis loves it when I bring him a snack before we start watching a show together. It really doesn’t take a lot of effort on my part, but I am letting him know I feel he is worthy of being served. Your husband might not care about acts of service. Perhaps, he just wants you to cuddle him a little. I know there are days when little ones have hung on you and touching is the last thing you want from your man… pray for God to give you the capacity. Once in awhile I think it’s okay to ask for some space; just reassure your husband that you love him and it doesn’t reflect your feelings for him. The basic point: Serve him how it counts most for him.
5. As I shared in a previous post, I have often served Travis in ways that cost me a lot of energy, but don’t matter as much to him. Save yourself some energy and ask what he values the most. Pray for the energy to do just that one thing each day. As your kids grow and you have more energy, add more acts of service. Until then get the most bang for your buck!
6. Make choices that reflect his preferences for the family. Does he hate going to the zoo? Go without him. Would seeing a movie with the kids really excite him? Schedule that around him. What are his favorite dinners? Make those even if they aren’t favorites for your kids. That is a minor example. Here is a bigger one: My husband really values peace and relaxing, so I try to make sure we don’t “go-go-go” too much in one weekend. I want him to have down time to relax, and not feel like his weekends were taken over by my agenda for our family. In the long-term, his desire for peace will be reflected in how we have bonded as a family. Also, when he does something fun with the kids that he may not always have the energy for, be thankful!
7. Teach your children to serve their father. (For more on this click here.) I recently had my oldest ask if he could wash his daddy’s feet. He initiated it, so I can’t take credit, but it was one of my proudest moments as his mama. His dad loved it! For younger ones, it might be as simple as getting a napkin for their dad at dinner. As soon as they are able, include them in the process! Teach them that Daddy has a place of honor in the family. Also, back him up in front of your children. You are a united front. Stand by him, and support him. (If you have any disagreements, speak to him privately.)
8. Put him first with regard to how you spend money. Do you want your kids in every activity, yet have a hard time saving money for date nights? Do you go over the top for your kids for Christmas and birthdays, but give your husband very little? This may be communicating a message to him that you don't mean to convey.
A couple nights ago we were on a family walk, and our children were running ahead of us. They are really growing up now! Travis reached over and held my hand. I have to admit it was a weird feeling at first. Usually my hands are needed by little ones, pushing a stroller, or they are patting the baby I am holding in the baby carrier. As much as I want to savor these days with my young children, I am looking forward to having more time and energy to focus on my marriage. I know that I can’t just put Travis on the back burner until then; I need a greater capacity to love now. Praise God that He always answers that prayer!