To all you husbands out there…do you ever feel as if your journey of your relationship to your wife is similar to paddling solo in a canoe? What do I mean? Simply that navigating my marriage can at times seem complex at best, confusing at worst.
There are seasons where figuring out how to make my marriage work is like canoeing solo in a canoe. Granted, like in the picture, my dog may be there, but despite their looking ahead and engaged, they are probably only thinking about the next tree to mark as their own.
Thanks, man’s best friend.
Going solo is a bad idea
I admit the journey of marriage can feel like a canoe: solo, looking ahead yet not really sure of where I am going. And when going solo in my marriage, it is too easy to begin to disengage from my wife and not feel the need to let her into my world. Especially when I see the brokenness going on in my own life – I feel the need to keep the “curtain drawn” so there is no full transparency.
There is a cycle to this that we must understand if we are going to have the intimacy and trust with our wives that both God and our wives desire. Here is how it typically works: I struggle in my life as a man and as a husband. I see my own pitfalls and they appear ugly to me. I also see the ideals of what a husband should be and how a husband should behave. And at times there is a great chasm between the two. I then respond in one of two ways: I either ignore the tension going on within and think it will just go away, or I endeavor to remedy my brokenness through self effort.
I have this great fight within me to preserve face – to make sure that my wife does not see the pain going on within. She must not know what is really going on inside of me. I have this fear that in my wife truly and authentically knowing me, she would think less of me or be disappointed in me as her husband. That she would not forgive me. And so I keep masking the hurt of desiring to change but not knowing how to change. I don’t even understand what is going on within me and now I am supposed to let my wife into my mess?
Not a chance. Vulnerability is too difficult and too risky.
Too many guys have lived here, including myself. It can be a lonely place to be. And if you break down the situation, there is one defining thought that rises among the others: my wife will reject me if she knows the real me. And so we put much effort into managing her perceptions, creating a false reality and ignoring the pain or shame within.
This is the question that often paralyzes us: “What will my wife do with my brokenness and will she reach out in forgiveness?”
God has worked me through this same question in more than one area of my life. It has not been easy. It has not been pleasant. But it has produced more intimacy and joy in my marriage than ever before and I never want to go back.
The misplaced fear of vulnerability
But it took being vulnerable. This means that I was willing to pull back the curtain of what I was trying to minimize or hide in my life and allow my wife to fully see me. All the mess that I have falsely allowed to define me. All the shame that I have managed to suppress. All the fear that has dominated my thinking. In doing so, I realized the wall between my wife and I was of my own making. Brick by brick, over time, the wall grew thick and tall.
My guess would be that if you fear being vulnerable with your wife over your brokenness that there is a good chance you also fear being vulnerable with your God. I would also guess that if you struggle believing your wife will forgive you that you might also struggle believing that God has already forgiven you in Jesus Christ.
When we try to hide our sin and brokenness from God, it destroys all trust and intimacy with our Father. Hiding implies a poor view of God, fearful of what He will do when He finds out what a screw up we are. He will always discipline us when we rebel against Him, but we must not forget that He does so for joy. Remember, God is more about your joy than you are.
This issue of vulnerability is so key in determining the level of trust and intimacy you have with your wife as well.
Settling for dysfunctionality
Here is an example: let’s say that you injure your back and there is lingering and chronic pain. Some days are better than others – there are days where the pain is manageable and others where you are flat on your back. It just becomes the new norm for your life and you learn to live with it. Take that example and apply it to your marriage in the area of being vulnerable with your wife. If you are keeping your wife from seeing your heart, over time there is a dysfunctionality that begins to define your marriage. Some days are good with your wife and others are painful. The problem is that you have become so used to your dysfunctional relationship that you are not even sure what normal looks like anymore.
This is the insidious nature of sin.
I can say with confidence that my allowing myself to be vulnerable with my wife has ramped up our marriage to new levels in multiple areas. Yes, there was fear to work through. I have learned that though she may be disappointed with what she hears from me, in the end the gospel has taken center stage and I see grace and love overflowing from her life.
This is a big area for us guys and very real. The good that you conjure up from keeping things hidden only pales to the freedom and joy that Jesus gives when we choose to be vulnerable and transparent with our wives.