This weekend has certainly been a weekend of growth for me.  We had a retreat for the ladies of our church on Friday night and Saturday morning where we had the opportunity to hear a courageous lady named Beverly Ross speak, who is a Christian counselor for marriages and families in Wise County.

I did not really expect to spiritually grow this weekend, more of I expected to create closer bonds with more women from my church and hopefully with some other young married women–but I’m not prejudiced–I love and welcome friendships from women of all ages!  However, it was evident that God certainly had bigger expectations for me this weekend.  When I left the Lakeview Camp on Saturday morning I was really more in a state of shock than excitement, or perhaps awe would describe it.  The love that God has for us took on a whole new meaning and it really began to make a whole lot more sense to me.

Aside from all of that though, I have been reminded of the many, many blessings in my life and particularly of my marriage to Cliff.  We have been married for a little over four years now and really in a way, its difficult to remember my life before him.  Life with Cliff is very natural to me and its almost as if its always been that way.

Overall, I’d like to say that our marriage has been easy, but maybe I’m just naive and waiting for the hard stuff to start since we haven’t even hit five years yet. We certainly have had to make compromises with each other over the last few years, and we’ve had to learn how the other works, but I am completely certain that Cliff was meant by God to be my husband.  He is everything I am not, yet the same as me in male flesh.  Where I can be very impatient at times, it seems like he is the most patient person I have ever met, yet does not allow himself to be run over.  He is slow to anger and very calm when he is–which has been very good and worn off on me–making even arguments almost pleasant at times.

I could go on and on about the miraculous things about my relationship with Cliff that I love and appreciate, but I know that would be boring and what I’d really like to share is a book recommendation that originally came from my mother, who gave me a copy about three years ago and at the time I disregarded it and put it to the side, thinking I MIGHT read it eventually.  Last year I finally picked it up again and was very pleased and comforted by what Dr. Laura had to say about the marriage relationship and some of the battles it goes through in today’s society.

The book, titled “The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands” mainly focuses on what women can do in their own actions in order to improve communication and the overall relationship with their husbands.  Some of the philosophies she focuses on we had already put into practice within our marriage, but reading them and seeing the responses and interviews from husbands she had done helped me put even more focus and importance on those things.

Probably the most valuable idea that Dr. Laura had in this book was that with many women and men working outside the home today, men are expected to help around the house significantly more than what was once normal, and women tend to have pretty high expectations of their husbands in terms of helping with housework, children, etc.  Many of the men interviewed for the book seemed to mention they did not feel appreciated, or whatever they did was wrong, so eventually they just gave up trying to help.  In many cases, the men gladly helped their wives around the house, but did not appreciate the idea that he was essentially chewed out for either not helping or helping wrong.  Dr. Laura’s idea is that wives need to make the effort to let their husbands know they are appreciated for their help, and that delivery of a statement can mean everything.  I have been so fortunate to have Cliff who gladly helps with dishes, laundry, caring for our pups, whatever, and I thought I often remembered to thank him for his help–not in the fact that those things should really be my responsibility, but because I appreciate the care he does give regardless; however I have now been reminded of how important it is to feel appreciated and I am much more conscious of letting Cliff know I appreciate the help he gives.  (Really—he is the laundry MASTER and the king of breaded pork chops around here!)

When consideration and appreciation are regularly expressed, it positively reinforces the activity, and the person is more likely to repeat the action in the future…(less laundry for me!!!!!) In turn, Cliff actively shows and voices appreciation when I do something for him….and I am a lot more likely to find comedy and laughter in him holding up his beer bottle as his way of asking for another one when he’s watching a game on tv!  (yes, that’s a true story! –and it really was funny!)

This book overall reinforces that as wives, we are not princesses, we are partners with our husbands, who do want to love us and provide for us, but sometimes do not know how, and communication is a way to help make our relationships much more pleasant.  If these principles are put into practice early in the relationship, it’s much more likely to continue over the years and make for a much happier marriage.  It is so important to support each other, because one day, all we may have is God and each other.  Even when it comes to Cliff mowing the yard outside or working on the car, I aim to show my appreciation for his contribution by offering a cool glass of water or anything he may need from inside.  (I did even mow the yard once this last year so I knew I could do it if needed–but we established, he’s probably MUCH better at the job!)

On another note, I realize I am fortunate in another way because Cliff did grow up with parents who did not entirely reverse traditional gender roles in the house, but they did not live by society’s set gender rules.  Cliff’s dad was the official cookie baker (due to an unfortunate wooden spoon in batter incident Tricia had in the early years, haha!) and Tricia was the person who mowed the yard until her transplant in 2007.  Patricia was even delighted with a fancy new lawnmower one year for her birthday because that is what she wanted when so many women would balk at such an inconsiderate gesture! Because of the example Cliff’s parents set forth for him, he has not been a “typical man” when setting up house in our marriage and more willing to do things such as cook, clean, etc; than what is the “society norm.”

In some ways our marriage probably seems dull to some–we aren’t big on public display of affection, nor do we frequently have purposed “date” nights on a set night, and Cliff has NEVER said that I was “beautiful.”  Some friends have even expressed sympathy when Cliff plays pool every Tuesday night and golf on the weekends, nicknaming me “Pool Widow,” but our marriage works for us, and I am completely happy with the way we do things and he seems to be as well.  The idea is that we support each other and are happy with ourselves, and in turn our marriage is healthy.  I don’t NEED to hear Cliff say that I’m “beautiful” because I have learned that is not his way of expressing that he appreciates my beauty.  When someone makes the effort to really learn their partner and the way they work, words just become words, and “Nice” or the occasional “pretty” develops just as nice or better of a meaning than “beautiful.”

My hope for you if you are a wife is that you show appreciation for your husband and he reciprocates the same, and that you make a marriage that works for you.  If you are a woman who’s hoping to eventually get married, my hope is that you make it a priority to appreciate the efforts and servanthood your partner/boyfriend/future husband does for you and make that known to him.  Maybe with increased consideration, we could turn the increasing divorce rate in this country around!

I’m sure I’ve gone on and on at this point, and this post was probably poorly written, but my desire is that others are as happy in their married life as I have been thus far, despite some of the challenges we have faced.

The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands  

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