rising to a standard of love and respect

I have been considering the next topic I want to tackle and it makes me nervous because it has to do with the female gender role. Every time I read an article, a book, or discuss the female gender role with a friend/acquaintance there is always this hoard of people who chime in about the abusive or controlling man/husband. I do realize that there are indeed those men out there and I don’t agree with that kind of behavior. However, though I know I will have to address that issue because it is one, I don’t like being a man-basher. I think men, especially the good ones, all seem to get lumped into this category of being either abusive, controlling, sexist, and violent, OR they are lazy, good-for-nothing, dead-beat, spineless losers.

I see a lot of advice, quotations, and theory posted on social media about children and the effect of bullying and belittling speech toward them. May I submit that a person – man, woman, or child – will rise to the standard to which the person whom they respect (parent, spouse, employer, etc.) sets for them. If you belittle a person, and society and family enforces this mindset, they more likely than not will conform to that standard.

An acquaintance on facebook, referring to her husband, said these words, “I wouldn’t have married him if he were that way.” and I absolutely respected that statement.

It seems to me that, at least with church girls, they want so badly to meet “the one” and get married and live “happily ever after” that they don’t stop long enough to make sure that cute Christian guy in their youth ministries class giving them that bashful look is suited for them. They just need to get that white dress, and that handsome guy to make them happy.

Ladies, before you make promises and commitments and covenants before God think about the person you are marrying and if you can deal with his personality and character. Because divorce is something that is all too common and God equates with murder. Murder.

Malachi 2:16

“For the man [woman] who does not love his [her] wife [husband] but divorces her [him], says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

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I love my husband. I chose my husband. Out of every man in the world, I decided that I would stand beside, follow, love, honor, and cherish this one. I was not coerced, forced, threatened, manipulated or anything else into the agreement and covenant. I went into it with my eyes open, with realistic expectations, and with love in my heart. I wasn’t in it for the money, for the fancy wedding, for the status, the sex, or the security. I made sure this was a man I could live with and who I could agree with. I made a commitment and promise and it was my own regardless of what may come in the future.

I told Joe something I borrowed from my cousin. “I don’t believe in divorce, but I do believe in murder.” I don’t actually believe in murder for the record. The statement was made to enforce the seriousness in which I believe in the promise, “Till death do we part.”

When I met him he was (and still is but not as much) self-depricating, and a worrier. He was finicky about food and textures, germs and dirt. I won’t go into all of my husbands flaws because I’m not here to bash him. I just want to make it clear that he has flaws, he’s weird, he’s got insecurities. All men do. If your husband has flaws, it is not an abnormal thing. And guess what? We ladies do too. Our flaws just may be different ones.

The beauty of marriage is that you have two people with both strengths and weaknesses and you work together as partners who help one another overcome. Or at least that’s what we should be doing. Instead of pointing out each others weaknesses and being bitter about it.

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I am not a farm girl. Talk to my parents sometime and they will tell you that I dream about living in the city with retail all around me, and coffee shops that are open all hours of the night. I dream of opening a cafe/bookstore in some old New England city with cobble-stoned streets. Joe’s dream is to live on a secluded farm and work to heal the land bringing forth a self-sustaining crop and having a few animals from which we receive meat, eggs, and milk. Our dreams can either compete with one another or we can make sacrifices for each other. I chose to sacrifice my dream. I also wanted a family, and being a kid in the city is not as fun as being a kid in the country. I remember being a kid in the city and longing for a big open backyard to play in.

I support my husband’s dreams and will raise my children to support that dream as well. He does not require this of me, but it certainly makes his life easier because I do.

So since I have chosen on my own to support my husband in his pursuits, to encourage him with my words, and train my children to respect him I have noticed something about him. He is changing. No, no, not into a different man. He still has all the same flaws he started out with. But he has risen to the standard of love I am setting for him. My admiration causes him to think that maybe there is something admirable in him. When I support his dreams without a complaint to having sacrificed mine (and it doesn’t feel like much of a sacrifice when I consider the joy my family brings to me), he is more driven to accomplishing those dreams. When I tell him he is a good husband and a father, he becomes an even better husband and father. I show him in my actions that I honor and love him by not nagging him when he doesn’t accomplish tasks I’ve asked of him, but just end up doing them myself OR respond to him in intimacy whether they are his advances or making my own. He doesn’t question my loyalty to him, his jealousy becomes less (though I do appreciate being jealous over), he trusts me because I prove myself trustworthy.

Now don’t think this is a relationship of me bending over backward to please my man. I don’t. I find what I do for my husband gives me fulfillment AND when I can’t do something I receive understanding and help. It is a partnership after all.

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When I have a rough day with the children, he steps in and reinforces discipline. Our children are being taught by him to respect their mother. When I have a home birth, my husband brags to his colleagues and friends about what a tough person I am and how he doesn’t want to mess with me. In fact, my husband brags about me a lot, which I happen to love. I love that I’m not the wife who is getting complained about among my husband’s friends. I love that my husband thinks I’m awesome. Why would I not rise to that standard of love?

I may not be a feminist. My #1 dream may be to actually be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. I don’t think this should be every woman’s dream, and I don’t think it’s realistic for it to be every woman’s dream. But I do think women have choices, and I think women should be willing to carry out their end of the consequences that result from those choices. No one is making a woman get married (not in this country anyway). But if she does, she should love the jerk she chooses and make an effort to be an equal partner whatever that may look like.

Set a standard of love and be encouraging instead of nagging and bullying. If you wouldn’t like to receive it from him, don’t do it to him. This is the principle that rests at the heart of gender roles.

Matthew 22:37-40

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Luke 6:31

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”