By Jaclyn Weidner
Looking back at what feels like a lifetime ago, I stood around a kitchen island with a bunch of friends, newly married, complaining about our husbands. It. Was. Awesome!
It was like this deep itch I wanted to scratch and releasing these words did just that. It felt so good to share about all of the dumb things my husband did and hear other women contribute theirs. It was like I was suddenly part of this exclusive club and these women “got” me.
I was shocked when, years later, as part of another group, a woman shared that this would not be a space for “husband bashing.” What? Really? Is that not ok? It had never occurred to me that I shouldn’t throw my husband under the bus. Wasn’t it funny if I referred to him as another one of the kids? I grew up watching TV shows that depicted dads being aloof, isn’t that just who they are?
It was a little while later I realized the power of our words, and not just that it was unkind to say these things about my spouse, but it actually did damage in my own heart. You see, when I complained about him, I cultivated negativity towards him. It may not have grown fully in that moment, but my heart was building a case, creating a distance.
So I decided that while I could share with friends when things were difficult, I didn’t have to needlessly bash him. This wasn’t great for him, for me, or for our marriage.
[As a side note - one of the best conversations I have ever had with a great friend was that we could share the struggles we were experiencing in our marriages without the other one holding a grudge against our husbands. A fear we can have as wives is if we share about something negative in our marriage then our friends will think negatively about our spouse. There is a fine line between sharing about difficulties and simply venting. It is important that we seek counsel, professional or otherwise, when we are walking through a challenging time. This article in no way promotes keeping everything to yourself. We can engage with a trusted friend for wisdom, prayer, and perspective. An ideal friend is not simply one who will “take your side” but will thoughtfully listen and then offer feedback even if it means pointing out your fault in the matter. Cheerleaders are easy to find - champions of our marriages are gold.]
I’ve been on a journey for a little while now. God has been taking me on a process of stripping away all of the things in my heart that are stopping me from living a light and free life. Some of them have been incredibly obvious, others much more hidden and surprising.
One of the most challenging by far has been the act of complaining. I am not an overly negative person by nature. But I am very skilled in analyzing details and best practices. I heard recently, “The line between critical thinking and being critical is razor thin.” And in my own life I have found this to be so true. After attending an event and being asked the question, “How was it?” I would express which aspects were done well but quickly my comments would become negative, pointing out each of the areas that could be improved. This is a great skill if I were an event planner. But it is not helpful in my marriage.
One day my husband shared a sentiment that stung hard with the truth. “You have so much more grace for yourself than you do for others.” Ouch. I’m sure my response back was uplifting and thankful ;) But as I sat with that feedback, I knew it was true. And I wondered why.
As far as I can tell, it is because I always know exactly what I am going through. I know my context. Each and every decision and action is made through the lens of MY experience.
And what exactly was I criticizing and complaining about regarding my husband? Looking closer I saw I would often try and control how he spent his time at home. In my mind, when he was home, his job was to work for me. I would never have said it that way, but that was how I treated him. With a ‘honey-do’ list and an expectation that he would have no need to rest or be refreshed from his stressful and full work load.
So, if he chose to rest first, I viewed him as being lazy. But if I had a full day of work and then chose to rest on the couch before taking care of my household responsibilities, I was simply doing what I needed to do, to care for myself. I had a hard time extending this same grace to him.
After many (read MANY) conversations, much of it came down to trust. I had to trust that he was able to make his own wise decisions instead of trying to control him and treat him like a child. This was not an easy process, especially when it had been my habit for so long, and habits are difficult to break.
In his words, he knew what was expected of him, he knew his household responsibilities, and my micro-managing (nagging) took away any internal motivation to do them as well as any internal good feelings of accomplishment.
Something had to change.
It is not easy to change a habit. And quite honestly, we can’t really change things on the surface without first dealing with the heart. Whenever I find myself complaining about my husband, I know there is something deeper going on that I need to deal with.“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Matthew 12:34 Essentially, whatever my heart is dealing with is going to come out of my mouth one way or another. This is actually great! It lets me know what I need to deal with.
Often it involves a good hard conversation with him, and some time of prayer. As much as I would like to blame all of my challenges in life on my spouse, more often there is something that God would like to deal with in my own heart - and whatever issue I am having with my husband has merely helped identify it.
It’s a gift really, to be able to turn a desire to complain into a moment of connection - both with my spouse and with God.
Jaclyn is a part-time high school teacher, and full-time mom to 3 energetic and talkative little girls. She loves to dive deep in conversation to get to the good stuff. In the words of her 4 year old she’s “just a little bit funny”. Her and her husband Brendan live just outside of Vancouver, Canada. Check her out on Instagramand Facebook.