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“Man, today is rough.”
That’s the text message you get from your husband at work, and it’s only lunchtime. You nod in sympathy, then decide to make him his favorite dinner to help cheer him up.
You run to the store, get the ingredients, and spend about two hours slaving over the hot stove. He almost always gets home at the same time, so you plan to have it ready and waiting when he gets there.
The table is set, dinner is served, and you wait with anticipation for him to walk in the door.
15 minutes passes, and the clock’s ticking gets louder.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Finally, an hour late, your husband comes in the door. He grunts in response to your greeting, and sits down to eat his cold dinner. Without another word, he puts his napkin on the table and heads off to the sofa to watch TV.
He didn’t clear his plate.
He didn’t thank you.
He just….was there.
How do you feel right now?
While this exact same situation might not have happened with you, I can guarantee that at some point in your married lives, your husband has had a bad day.
Often, that bad day ends up affecting you as well, leaving you with hurt feelings to deal with.
When we encounter this, we think there are two “adult” ways to respond.
You follow your husband to the living room and ask him what’s bothering him.
Whether or not you actually discuss it, you will most likely end up telling him how you’re feeling as well.
You can’t help it – the feelings just come out. You’ll point out that you made his favorite dinner to cheer him up, and he’ll feel bad and apologize.
It may even escalate into a fight, depending on your personalities and how bad of a day he had.
(Note: this blog post is intended for a healthy marriage where both partners are working towards its success. If you are in an abusive relationship, please seek professional help.)
The problem with this scenario, even if it ends with an apology, is that while you feel better (you’ve gotten his gratitude), he now feels worse. He had a bad day and now also feels like a jerk.
Your feelings come at the expense of his.
You decide to take the “high road” and don’t bother him about it.
After all, I didn’t really do this for the “thank you,” you tell yourself.
But it still bothers you a bit. As you clean up dinner, the cold plates are evidence of his ingratitude.
You end up going to bed feeling a bit sad and hurt, but you reassure yourself that you did the right thing in not bringing it up with your husband.
The problem with this choice is that you sacrifice how you feel for your husband’s feelings.
The Unknown Response #3
What you (and almost every other married couple) often forgets is that there is a third response!
Unlike the other two responses, this option is one where both of you get to feel good without the other one feeling bad!
The reason that there is a third choice is because there is a third partner in your marriage – the Lord. Your wedding vows were with each other and with God.
Because of that, when your spouse is acting imperfectly, you can turn to your perfect God to make up the difference.
How do you do that? Well, it’ll look something like this:
After your husband leaves the dinner table, you begin cleaning up, tears filling your eyes. You realize that he’s hurt your feelings, but it was most likely unintentional. You want to talk to him about his day, but you don’t want how you’re feeling to get in the way of helping him feel better.
After the kitchen is tidied, you go to your bedroom, close the door, and kneel down to pray:
Heavenly Father, this has been a rough evening. I tried to help cheer up my husband, but it’s ended in my feelings being wounded. I was expecting to feel joy and happiness for my service. Since my husband is struggling right now, can You please help me feel Your love and approval for doing something kind for Your son? This way, I can go continue to help my husband work through his day with peace in place of injured feelings.
I promise you, God will always answer that prayer. You have done something out of love for His precious child, your spouse, and He will fill you with His gratitude and appreciation.
Now, to be clear, this is not to make you into a doormat for your spouse’s bad temper. That’s something else entirely.
The purpose of this is so that you can put aside your feelings for a while to help your husband resolve his without your hurt coming between you. That really will only make things worse.
Now, you can go to your husband with his best interest in mind. Your emotions can be laid to the side for a bit because they are no longer overwhelming and overpowering. God’s perfect love made up the different in your imperfect marriage.
And you may find that as you hear about the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day that your spouse had, you won’t even need to talk about what happened at dinner. You’ll understand what was going on his mind, and you’ll both feel closer to one another.
Odds are, he will even end up thanking you for the dinner, and maybe even apologizing for not saying it earlier.
It goes both ways
Now, I’m speaking from the wife’s point of view, but can this work if the roles were reversed? Of courseI
Husbands, you may come home from work and your wife is upset you didn’t take out the garbage that morning. She doesn’t even mention what you did do to get the kids ready for school.
You can turn to the Lord as well, to soothe your pride and allow you to help her with whatever is probably stressing her out (usually the kids!).
I promise that as both of you do this, you’ll have more harmony in your marriage. You’ll fight less. Your home will be filled with the Spirit of God, with peace and joy and love.
If you try to handle your marriage with two imperfect people alone, then your imperfections will be magnified. If you allow God to be a perfect, third, involved partner, then His perfections are large enough to cover all of your combined imperfections.