The other day Pa Pa had a gift delivered to my office. It was a bag with a box of freshly baked, warm cookies made by Tiff’s Treats. Attached to the box of cookies was a sweet love note of encouragement, and attached to the treat bag was a little “I love you” balloon. My office friends and I enjoyed the delicious treat on a stressful work day and I even managed to bring a few cookies home to share with Pa Pa.
It was lovingly suggested that I should write a “Letters to Charley” post called “How to Train a Husband”. I took this as an extreme compliment. Your Pa Pa and I have been married for more than 30 years, as I write these letters to you. It has not always been an easy road – there have been arguments, struggles, hurt feelings, silent treatments, passive-aggressive cleaning (mostly on my part), and the list goes on. And there has also been love. It is our love for one another that helps us push through the hurts and arguments to work together toward a pleasant resolution. Marriage is not so much about “training” your husband or trying to make him conform to your wishes and ways. It is about training yourself, though.
Much of the frustration I have had in our marriage is from miscommunication. Miscommunication happens for a variety of reasons. What I have learned through all the years Pa Pa and I have been married is that I need to understand when he best receives my message. Is it a good idea to remind him of a task he needs to do just before he walks out the door to go somewhere? Probably not. Is it a good idea to have a serious talk with him on Sunday afternoon during his favorite football game? Definitely not. Understanding timing is very important to communication.
Another important aspect in communication is understanding the best way he will receive my message. Pa Pa is a gift-giver. It is one of his love languages and is how he expresses his love. He isn’t buying affection with gifts, but it truly makes him happy to give. This is not necessarily my top love language, but because I love Pa Pa, I find the best way for him to communicate love to me through gifts. I need to be a good receiver of his gifts. It is important in a marriage to allow your spouse to express love in their particular way. My top love language is service, so when I can do something for him, it makes me really happy.
Similarly, we can hurt each other (without intending to) through these same love languages. One time Pa Pa bought me a spring dress. I did not know how much he really liked that dress until one day a few years later, I put it in a pile of clothes I was donating. I did not really like the way it fit anymore and it just was not my particular style. When Pa Pa saw the dress in the pile, he was crushed. I could not have hurt his feelings more if I had said mean things to him. I promptly pulled the dress out of the donation pile and put it back in my closet. It is still there today. I don’t wear it (it really does not fit now) – but I have it and treasure it, because he loved giving me that gift.
One of the things I love doing for our family is laundry. It thrills me to know that all our laundry is clean and put away ready for us all to wear. To me, it is like being able to cross off an important task from my “To Do” list every week. When the dryer is on with that last load inside, I feel especially happy. Of course, the more people you have living in your house, the more often I can enjoy the smell of clean laundry because it takes so much time to get it all done – but even still, it is a good feeling to be done with the laundry. Pa Pa used to have a habit of tossing whatever article of clothing he was taking off in the direction of the laundry room. It did not always make it into a hamper or pile I was working on. This action would really hurt my feelings. To me, it was like he was throwing my love casually on the floor or in a chair instead of his t-shirt.
I could not communicate this feeling of hurt very well with Pa Pa, so I finally stopped doing his laundry and he started doing his own. Now, I find a lot less laundry strewn about on the floor – but the most important thing to me, is that since I removed that task from my “service” for him, I am able to love him through other actions that do not leave me feeling so frustrated. I even occasionally do his laundry, although he has discovered that he likes the way he does his laundry better than mine.
Communication is important in every relationship we have. God provides us with human relationships so we can learn how to relate to Him as well. I am so thankful for the varied relationships I have and for what each one teaches me about God.
One of my favorite verses brings a beautiful image to my mind. The Bible says, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). I love this because I imagine our big, strong, Mighty Warrior who may appear rough on the exterior, being overjoyed and happy in me. He is so happy that He sings over me. I see this image lived out in my marriage because Pa Pa delights in me. He is the first one to support me and encourage me. He is the one who helps me know I can continue to chase my dreams. Pa Pa shows his love for God in how he loves me. I think God has done a great work in training this husband, and wife, too.
I love you, Sweet Girl. I am praying for you as a future wife and for your future husband.