I recently read an article on the Good Housekeeping website entitled, “12 signs you’ve married the right man.”
I was intrigued, wondering how many of the “signs” I would be able to tick off, and prepared to feel a little smug about how well I’d chosen a husband. To paraphrase, the list contained the following items:
[box type=”shadow”]1. He knows the words to Frozen, and will sing along.
2. He will go out to buy you junk food when you’re hungover.
3. He will happily buy tampons for you.
4. He will tease you about being fat when you’re pregnant.
5. He books a massage for you as a treat.
6. He lets you be yourself.
7. He likes small dogs.
8. He encourages partying and isn’t threatened by other men.
9. He makes more jokes about how fat you are when you’re pregnant.
10. He encourages you to moan about your friends/colleagues/relatives.
11. He remembers everything about your first date.
12. Your father says he will marry him if you don’t.
According to Good Housekeeping, I’m fairly certain I married the wrong man, as after two and a half years of marriage I don’t think I can tick off a single ‘accomplishment’ from this list, unless saying, “you’re so full of baby!” Counts for 4 and/or 9. He would berate me if I was hungover, and he certainly wouldn’t encourage me to party with other men or moan about people.
Sounds good at first
The above 12 things sound pretty good on the surface (though I question which woman wants to be teased when she’s pregnant); who doesn’t want their husband to enjoy a bit of Disney, to buy them junk food and to have a penchant for chihuahuas? Well, actually, I don’t. I like the fact that my husband and I are different from each other. Actually, on the surface of things we don’t have much in common at all.
The man described by Good Housekeeping frankly sounds alternately like a woman and a 10-year-old.
When you stop and think about it, the above list isn’t actually full of things that make for a good marriage (possibly a happy one, temporarily, but not good.) I’m not convinced that it’s healthy for any person to pander to another person’s whims, married or not.
What does the Bible have to say about these things? In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul speaks about what marriage should look like. Verse 28 says that a husband ought to love his wife as he loves his own body. That is deep love, the kind of love that is not based on caprices or ‘brownie points’ for fulfilling certain tasks. If you love your own body, you won’t feed it junk food whenever it feels like it.
What about number 6?
When I first thought about the Good Housekeeping article, I thought that the only number that could really be encouraged was number 6. Yes, I thought, a good husband is one who lets me be myself. But is it? ‘Myself’ is often selfish, lazy and irritable. Is a good husband one who accepts the first two and throws food/gifts/massages my way to placate the third?
Let’s turn back to Ephesians. Verses 25-27 say, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
This kind of love doesn’t allow leaving your wife as she is, in her sinful state but, as Christ lovingly changed his bride and made her holy by dying for her and continuing to sanctify her, calls husbands to make their wives holy. How can this be done? Paul says it’s by “the washing of water with the word” (v26), ie by bringing God’s word into your marriage. He urges husbands to know God’s word, to live it and to make sure their wives do, too.
What are the implications?
What I found strange about the Good Housekeeping article is that it is aimed at women who are already married, rather than saying the list was of things to look out for when choosing a husband. By the time the article is relevant, it’s too late, as you’re already married. So what are the implications of that? If your husband doesn’t sing along to Disney, divorce him and go and find one who does?
On the other hand, Paul in Ephesians states from the outset that both partners are flawed. The men have to be urged to love their wives (which even Good Housekeeping seems to suggest is a given), and women require sanctification. This, to me, seems like a far more realistic picture of marriage, and actually more achievable. Yes, really. It is easy to pop on a film, book a massage and buy a burger, but in the long run it is not helpful. To live out the word of God in your marriage, to change your spouse to be more like Jesus, requires hard work and effort over years.
So how is that picture more achievable? The key is Christ. Paul shows us that marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for his people, the Church. Jesus died for his people, setting them free from sin and making them right with the Father. Because of this outrageous grace, God’s Spirit is working within us.
We don’t work alone. And whether you’re married to a godly husband, an atheist or you’re not married at all, you are already being made holy thanks to Jesus.
So how do you know you married the right man?
Here’s the test: did you say marriage vows? If you did, then you are married to the right man. Simply because you are married to him. We know that God is sovereign, but without even going into that (has God preordained whether you will have Frosties or Special K for breakfast tomorrow?), God calls us to stay married to the person you are married to. 1 Corinthians 7:10 says, “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband.” Jesus, too, speaks about the wrongness of divorce. He says, “everyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery,” Luke 16:18. If you’re married, stay married (I think it is worth mentioning, however, that if there is a situation involving abuse, safety has to come first. Sometimes separation, either temporary or permanent, is the wisest thing, if there is any danger of harm).
Mark Driscoll, an American preacher said something very helpful is about your ‘type’. He says something along the lines of ‘if your wife is tall, your type is tall. If your wife is 20, your type is 20, when she is 30 your type is 30,’ and so on… The same is applicable about husbands. If you are married to a man, then he is the right man for you to be married to. Whether that’s easy or difficult, fun or stressful. God’s grace and sanctification, through Jesus’ death on the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit will help you through it.