“Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.”
I said I wouldn’t do it. I said I would never nag my husband. I told myself that I would never try to control him, that I would trust him and let him be his own person…
…If only he would pick his socks up off the floor! Why do I have to clean up after him? He sees me washing the dishes all by myself, and yet does not offer help. I feel like I have a checklist and I’m the only one checking anything off! Why doesn’t he do what I want him to do?
Lately, the idea of being a wife of “a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4) has been sticking with me. In a world where women are fighting and yelling to demonstrate their worth, it is difficult to know what being gentle and quiet looks like. I mean, I have good ideas. I want to be heard. So why not push my way to get what I want?
Nagging my husband gives me a false sense of power. As a woman who spends hours of her day taking orders from various people at work, the idea of bossing around my husband is, quite honestly, enticing. The nagging voice of society telling me what I “should” do pops up every time I have a free hour. And I try pushing that voice onto my husband, to take the load off myself. But he is a man, and he is able to shut that little voice off and go about his business.
And that’s exactly why my husband doesn’t follow my agenda: he has his own! He works the same hours that I do, taking orders from various other people at his job. He drives forty minutes in traffic to get to work each morning, and then fights the afternoon traffic to make it home for dinner. Then he either has class, homework, or some kind of ministry at the church. Finally, after a long day of running around and exhausting himself, all he wants to do is play a game on his computer for an hour to unwind.
While I’m understanding that this is the way life is for now, there’s a part of me that just wants him to do things my way. He says he’ll clean up after dinner, but several hours go by and the dirty dishes are still left in a mound in the sink. He says he’ll make time for me, but I watch him sit in his chair and play video games while resentment builds up inside of me. I’ve come to believe that it is valuable to voice my opinion and to tell my husband what I want and expect. It is up to him to decide what to do with that information, but if he doesn’t responding the way that I want, that’s when I start yelling. That’s when I start telling him to get his act together. That’s when that whiny tone creeps into my voice and discourages my husband from “obeying me.” That’s when I start nagging.
Having only been married for about five months, I’ve learned very quickly that nagging does not work for me. I mean, did it work for our parents when they would ask us to do anything? As a kid, even if I really wanted to help around the house, as soon as one of my parents told me to do it, I instantly didn’t want to do it…simply because they asked!
So, I began to pray for my husband. I began to ask God to intervene, to reveal what was wrong with this situation. And, thank God, He showed me that the problem was my unrealistic expectations. I was expecting my husband to join in on my crazy roller coaster of cleaning, making plans, and spending time with me, while he was already riding a roller coaster of his own!
Now, I know my husband is not perfect. There are things that about him that I would love to change. There are things about him that I’m sure God would want to change. But I need to let God do the changing. God does not need my help. I need to let the Holy Spirit do what only HE can do in my husband’s heart. Why nag when the Holy Spirit will quietly and gently speak to his soul, telling him to do the right thing, not my agenda, but the Lord’s?
That’s where the idea of having a gentle and quiet spirit comes into play. When I simply shut my mouth and pray, I’m allowing the Holy Spirit to work. I’m allowing my husband to take responsibility for his actions, to make healthy (and unhealthy) choices all on his own. I’ve already told him multiple times how he can help me. He knows what I expect from him. I don’t need to remind him. He’ll do it when he can.
Unfortunately, the perfectionist in me has to leave the mound of dishes in the sink until my husband finally has time to clean them. I may have to leave his dirty socks on the floor until he realizes that they shouldn’t be there. I may have to spend some time alone before he’s refreshed enough to have a deep conversation with me. But without a doubt, I will have to stop trying to control each situation and give each situation to God.
For the past few days, I’ve adopted this attitude of letting God take control. I’ve kept quiet about some things around the house that aren’t clean. I’ve left the dishes in the sink after my husband promised to clean them. And after waiting a few minutes, hours, or days (whatever it takes), I see him realize what needs to get done, all on his own, and do it all by himself. To me, that is worth more than him following my orders. He made the decision because he also cares about the condition of our living space. And for that, I am grateful.
After I see my husband helping me, I always thank him. I don’t criticize him for doing anything the “wrong” way (which is my way, of course!). He really enjoys when I appreciate the things he does for me. It makes him want to do more on his own. And it is a reflection of how God speaks to him: gently, quietly, and affirmingly. As a woman who wants to reflect Christ in my marriage, I seek to speak to my husband the way that God would speak to him.
It looks like, when I finally decided to stop trying to change my husband, God has begun to change me!