Monday, September 28, 2015

Maintaining Independence in your Marriage

There are just some things in life an older woman should tell a younger woman before she gets married.

How to maintain independence in your marriage is one of them. 

The old adage about giving up your independence is hammered into every bride-to-be by every premarital counselor ever.

While this is all well and good for those Type A, control freak, wildly independent brides, it is a bear trap waiting to snatch up any woman who already has a tendency to put her husband's needs first.

While the advice says,"You have to be less independent," all we hear is, "take care of him completely. If there is any time leftover, you can have it."

The problem is, there is rarely time leftover for ourselves. We don't take time to meet our own basic needs, because we're so focused on our hubbies. 

This is, of course, entirely unhealthy.

This is talked about relentlessly in the mommy world. Moms are encouraged to take time to eat right, exercise, spend time with friends, pursue interests, and go on dates with their husbands.

This makes tons of sense to us, because we've all seen the mom who has really let herself go, all for the sake of the children. We can tell that, while her dedication is admirable, she looks tired and emotionally depleted.

This same concept applies to you as a wife. 

Before we have children, our sole focus is on our husbands. We want to be great wives. We want to have great marriages. We want them to feel loved and respected.

But the truth is, if we aren't taking care of ourselves, we can't be great wives.

I cannot stress this enough. 

Give yourself permission to take care of yourself first. Often, that means your husband will just have to wait.

In my house, this means my husband has to wait 30 minutes longer to eat dinner because I have to workout before I make dinner. 

In your house, it will look differently. But you should never feel guilty for making time to take care of yourself.

I know this because it took me two whole years to realize that I had been swallowed up by my husband's world. Totally. Entirely. I was just...gone.

It got so bad that when a stranger asked me about myself, I could only respond with things that were going on in his life. Occasionally I could say we. But mostly it was all about him.

Let me be explicitly clear. This is through no fault of his own. He is a wonderful, charismatic, fascinating man.

This is partly why it was easy to lose myself. He is just so interesting, and I pale in comparison.

At least, this is what my subconscious told me.

But it wasn't true. It still isn't true. It has never been true.

All on my own, I am captivating.

I have my own interests, my own intellect, my own ideas, and my own passions. I have cool hobbies, weird quirks, and skills my husband doesn't have.

But because all the marriage advice I read said to lay down my independence in order to have a harmonious marriage and to work together, I laid it down. 

Every bit of independence I had, I gave it up, and I was happy to do so. I thought it was making me a great wife.

But it was not making me a great wife.

I got to a point where I was desperate to gain back my independence, but I felt so guilty. I wanted to join a community service group, but I felt awful because it would take me away from him and his needs. I felt so guilty, I almost didn't do it. But my wise and ever honest friend told me to go for it.

And little by little, I started to understand. While I thought I was giving up my independence for the sake of a healthy marriage, I was actually turning my back on the gifts, the heart, and the abilities I have that make me desirable to my husband in the first place.

My husband doesn't want a meager wife who bends to his will no matter what. That is not a marriage. That is not servanthood. That is not healthy.

It is also not what God intended in marriage.

God intended for me to use my passions, my gifts, and my voice. He built marriage as a grounded place for my faith to grow and for his glory to be revealed.

I can't do that if my eyes are completely focused on my marriage and my husband. My eyes have to be on God first, so that he can shape me into the wife my husband can partner with, love, and respect.

By giving up my identity, I didn't do anyone any favors. Not God, not my husband, and not me.

So now, even though I still struggle to be my own person and value what I bring to the world, I understand that when premarital counselors say to lay down your independence, they just mean to remember to not be selfish with your time, plans, money, and affection. 

You can't just go out with your friends whenever you want. But you can hang out with your girlfriends, and you should. You can't move to Thailand to teach in a Bible school if your husband doesn't feel led there too, but you can serve in a Bible school in your community.

Do you see the difference? I hope so. It's an important one, and it's vital to your sanity and your purpose.

So, if you're anything like me, don't follow my path. Don't forget yourself. Don't lose yourself within your marriage.

Maintain your independence by continuing to seek God first. Ask him to reveal your purpose and place in this world. 

It's ok to have your own things going on. It's healthy to have different passions than your husband, and it is not selfish to use them.

So, while you must love and respect your husband, please, from one married lady to another, stay true to who you are and lean in to your gifts. Follow God first, and you'll be the best wife you can be. I guarantee it.