So, I am finally going to reveal my secret experiment. I know you have been barely sleeping over this one… It was my 30 day trial (and error) towards an attitude adjustment in my marriage. 

I just read a statistic which said that long-term marriages make men drink less, and women drink more. I don’t know if that’s true, but in our first year of marriage–you know, the honeymoon phase?–I threw a water bottle at Kevin’s head. About six months ago, I wanted to throw chips and salsa at him. I didn’t, thank goodness. But, it got me thinking that I need to readjust my attitude. Kevin and I will be sharing some of the good, bad, and ugly of those thirty days in the weeks to come (post-holidays…don’t need to add drama to anyone’s life right now.) 

In the meantime…

My MOPS group had a dad panel a few weeks ago. Three husbands (all pastors) from different stages of life were given a series of anonymous questions entered by the women at MOPS. The husband’s acted as a “panel of experts” and shared their answers. 

With their permission I thought I would share the discussion. Obviously, no one man can represent all men. My husband’s answers will be very different than yours (In fact, you’ll read my husband’s unedited answers here- oh my!) And remember, this is ONLY from the man’s perspective. You might be tempted to read these answers and think, “Are you kidding me? What about me?” 

We’ll get to a woman’s panel one of these days…for now, here is a peek into the mind of men. I’d love to know your reactions.   

Panel Members: Joel Sission is a Pastor of Children’s Ministry at Community Fellowship Church Church in West Chicago, and has been married for almost seventeen years. He and his wife Rhonda have three children, ages 9, 7, and 5 1/2.  

Gordon Spahr is the Executive Pastor and has been married for thirty years to Dawn. They have two children, ages 24 and 16. 

Kevin Sampson is the Pastor of Small Groups and Young Adults, and is blessed to have been married to me for almost twelve years. We have three kids, ages 6,3,and 1

Questions from MOPS:      
 1. I know that I should be thankful that my husband helps out a ton at home and is great with the kids. However, he doesn’t seem to put things in the same place (like a can opener in the wrong drawer when unloading the dishwasher) or fold the towels the way that I would like. I don’t nag or anything but I know if someone helped him out at work with a project and they rearranged all the columns of his spreadsheet, he would be a little peeved. I do lovingly let him know where it goes or show him how I fold it, but it does not matter. What’s up? Also please tell me how to get him to close the cabinet doors in the kitchen. That is driving me crazy! Do you guys just really not notice?

Joel: Honestly, it depends on the guy and what the issue is.  But yes, as men, we just don’t notice some things. Before I was married, I never knew the “real” Laws of the Universe like: 
  • The toilet paper roll must be replaced when it’s empty and it must roll in a certain direction (over the top).
  • Clothes must be folded a certain way. It took a few years of me trying to help fold the laundry, then ultimately, my wife banned me from helping because I don’t do it right.
  • And apparently socks are not to be left in the middle of living room floor. Who knew?

Nagging, scolding, or guilting are the not the best strategies when trying to communicate expectations or lovingly convince your husband that something is amiss. In fact, many times we feel disrespected by these methods of approach. Most men want to help and solve a problem. So, in a respectful way, with sensitivity to timing, ask your husband to solve the problem of the open kitchen cabinet doors, lost can opener, or errant toilet paper roll, etc. 

Kevin: It can be annoying when someone doesn’t do things the way you want them done, but there is a good chance he probably doesn’t notice. I don’t know your husband, but I bet he doesn’t do any of those things to drive you crazy on purpose. (Wait, why is your can opener in the dishwasher?) There are certain tasks at my house that I am not allowed to do because I don’t do them “right” and there are certain things I don’t do that annoy my wife. Some of those things will probably never change. Make sure your husband knows you are thankful that he is a good with the kids and helpful at home. Men need that encouragement too. 
Gordon: We men are different, not wrong (well, maybe sometimes). There will be every day annoyances that often boil down to trivial misunderstandings for unclear expectations. There needs to be give and take and I suppose the old adage applies – “don’t sweat the small things.”  The couple needs to learn how to cooperate even on these issues. They may have different roles that need to be respected. A retired missionary friend of mine who had a wonderful 60+ year marriage told me that in their relationship they referred to him as the “boss” and to his wife as the “manager.”  Although that might be a rather traditional and business-like approach, I think there is a lesson we can apply.  It takes both positions working together to create smooth and efficient family dynamics. Many woman/moms I think do carry the day-to-day manager role.  This important role requires the elements of planning, leading, coordination and control. The hope is that the “manager” will be able to create some accepted and respected expectations and efficiencies resulting in minimized tension.
 2.  I often get frustrated that my husband doesn’t help more around the house.  What has worked in your household for dividing the responsibilities of cleaning, raising a child, etc between a working dad and stay at home mom? 
Joel: My wife and I learned together that I am a “Deadline Guy.” When it comes to completing jobs around the house, I work better when I have a time-frame and deadline.  Here’s an example:  My wife often asks/reminds me to take my stack of clean clothes upstairs to our bedroom to be put away, and I typically respond positively. But in my mind I’ll get to it later and in her mind she wants it done now!  So she now asks me with a deadline, like “Will you take your clothes up before dinner or by tomorrow morning?”  

Gordon: Based on the roles described in the question it seems like the stay-at-home mom will end up doing most of the home front responsibilities. The working dad must carry his share of the load but it will be less since he is away much of each day. Part of his role must be to recognize and show appreciation for what his wife did accomplish each day and not only notice the things that were not done. This simple acknowledgement may build the tired mom up enough so give her strength and will power to do it again the next day. In our many years of marriage we have identified our own little areas of responsibility…some we handle alone others we share…and these areas have changed at different stages of life. Some get done out of necessity and others due to interest or passion. It took a lot of give and take and years of practice and cooperation. These responsibilities need to be shared by both spouses and don’t hesitate to get the kids involved with helping as early as they are able. It is so important for them to learn to help and have responsibility in the home.

Kevin: Kevin didn’t answer this one…his mind was drifting off to his next answer…
3. How can we get our husbands to acknowledge or give us attention when they come home from work? How Do you make your wife feel appreciated? 
Kevin: Be naked! I know, I know – You are probably thinking, “but what about the kids?” You asked how to get your husbands attention and that will do it!  Other than that, realize that when your husband gets home from work it is a world-changing event for him. He is literally going from one world to another and he may need to find ways to transition well. Take time to talk about it and appreciate the magnitude of the change for him when you talk about it.  Me personally, I need to go to the bathroom and eat a little food right away. Other than that, I am excited to come home and be with my family. In fact, being with my family is precisely what I want to do and not be burdened down with a list of tasks that need to be done. I am fine if the house is messy, but I want to be with my family, interact with them, and not deal with mundane tasks right away that can be done later. 

As far as appreciating my wife, this may sound stupid but she tells how she wants me to appreciate her. My wife likes gifts and cards. She actually made a list called “gifts that make your wife feel loved.” There are gifts of different price range and size.  When she needs to feel appreciated she tells me and I get something off that list. Guess what? She feels appreciated when I give it to her! The point is, make it easy for your husband and don’t assume he knows what you want when you want it. He may actually be doing something that he thinks is showing you he appreciates you, but he doesn’t know he his missing your mark. Talk about it with him and work hard at appreciating him in process.   
 Gordon: This is so hard because by nature we are individualistic and selfish.  My interest and needs tend to be more important than hers. As tough as it is, I need to put her interests and needs above my own when I get home. And she may need to do the same for me.  If we both have each other in mind the attention is both given and received more naturally. Touch points (text, email, phone call) with each other during the day help give at least a glimpse into each others worlds, so that each is a little better informed and prepared to know what to expect. I find that if my wife appreciates something I have done I am more likely to do the same for her. Show appreciation for him first and I bet in time he will reciprocate. 

Personally I find that I must be very intentional about trying to enter into my wife’s world. I need to show interest and listen carefully. I need to get beyond the surface comments and try to really engage on a feeling level. If she initiates, I can’t ignore the opportunity to talk and listen, unfortunately I often do. If she doesn’t initiate, I need to. This is tough relational stuff, it’s work – don’t give up.
 Joel: I love coming home after a long day! Usually my kids will come running and attack me with their love, but I can’t wait to see and connect with my wife, Rhonda. We committed long ago to keep our marriage relationship primary and give our children the number two spot.  Here’s what I mean by that: my wife and I chose to love each other and we chose to live our lives in a covenant relationship with God and before men. We believe that when we took our vows almost 17 years ago that what God had put together no one was going to separate – not even our kids. Our 3 kids are truly gifts from God and we believe they are His blessings, but our commitment to each other takes priority among our human relationships.

I know that my wife feels appreciated when I follow through and do the things that she has asked me to do for her and when I thank her for ALL that she does for us every day to make our family better and manage our home.  I am trying to help my kids appreciate her in the same way … that’s a work in progress for all of us.  I also make it a priority to “read” her – to understand and study her.  I can tell when she needs a good cry, or needs to vent, or is feeling stressed. I try to step it up on the support at home when the signals warrant it. But I also need her sometimes, to just tell me what she needs.  Sometimes, there’s nothing more attractive (and helpful) than my wife telling me she needs me – and how I can help her.       
 4.  How can we (as wives) be more encouraging to our husbands?  What is most important for us to be aware of (in terms of needs for encouragement – ie, areas of encouragement)?
Kevin: This is a great question. Your husband needs to be encouraged in lots of ways. God brought you into his life to do this very thing.  How you encourage your husband will be unique to your him, so work hard at identifying ways to encourage him that he receives.  One important point – Make sure your encouragement isn’t tied to an agenda. I know this isn’t always easy, but if he senses that you are encouraging him just so you can get him to do something you want him to do or be someone he isn’t, it won’t work. Your husband isn’t a perfect man and if you try to encourage him with an agenda of changing him or making him better, he will be able to tell right away and won’t be encouraged at all. 
Joel: Respect! Above all respect your husband and he will love you in return. When I answered this question at MOPS, I joked about how notes, especially hallmark cards, are not always the best form of encouragement for me. But for those who write and give cards … I think they are truly a blessing because they are using the gift that God has given them to encourage others. Most people encourage or express love based on how they themselves want to receive love or encouragement, but real encouragement is giving it to the other person so that they feel it. In other words, speak their language. Ultimately, know your husband. Get to know what encourages him. I think the Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages is very helpful. I feel loved and encouraged when my wife makes an effort to give me a hug and kiss and tells me what she appreciates about me or what I’m doing.
Gordon: I think what I said in the answer above ties into this question. This may sound selfish, but I need to be valued, recognized, needed and appreciated. Find ways to build your man up both privately and as appropriate in public. As much as is possible, respect him for who he is and what he does. Love him. Be fair and honest. Don’t hold grudges. Point our his positive character traits. If he is a believer, encourage him to take the spiritual leadership role and thank him when he carries that role. There is so much more that could be said but maybe that is enough.

We’ll stop there and continue with Part Two later this week. 
I’d love to know your thoughts, reactions, shocking moments, inspirations… 

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