When John and I got married, I memorized the perfect formula to have an ideal marriage:
Respect your man.
That's what the married ladies told me when asking for marriage advice, that's what all the experts said in books, and it is what scripture commands.
On paper, my naive-wife mind patted myself on the shoulder as I claimed: "Easy, peasy. Done. And got it."
John and I’s income trajectory over the course of our marriage has been interesting. John is brilliant, went to great business school, and landed a solid job right after graduating from college.
I on the other hand, graduated with a political science degree, less than stellar grades, and zero job prospects.
But I was determined. I was determined that one day, all this lack on my part would be something else. I would figure out how to make and do and achieve just as John had. I would be able to compete with his income. I would hold my own, make my own, and prove I did not have to be dependent on his paycheck.
And I did just that.
I landed in a profession with unrestricted income potential. It took time, but over the years, I became the coveted title of breadwinner within our household.
And that’s when it happened.
The posture of my heart towards John changed. I became superior (so I thought).
I questioned John’s capacity as a husband and provider because he was making less. I questioned his ability to lead our family. And I straight up defied the thought of submission.
Because how could I submit to someone who was making less?
How could I respect his profession when I was the one bringing in more dough?
So you know what I did?
I pressured the hell out of him. I belittled him.
I looked down on him. And I resented the fact I made more than him.
I told him implicitly and explicitly, what he was doing, what he was making, it wasn’t enough.
I told him he was selling himself short. I spewed discontentment on him.
I did everything but respect him.
Work has been interesting this year. My capacity has been shrunk. I've not been able to handle and produce like years past. And it has humbled the heck out of me.
In the world of sales, if you're not producing, you're not making. Past trends would indicate this should be my best year but instead I've taken a serious cut. A kind of cut that has my ego bowed down in humility.
Financially, I've been left in a place of dependency on my husband. The kind of dependency that makes me very uncomfortable. The kind of dependency that makes me feel ashamed for not being able to stand on my own two feet.
It has taken several months of walking in this kind of dependency to realize for me, there was a destructive correlative between how much money I made and my ability to respect my husband.
The world doesn't warn you about the competing dynamics that will enter your marriage when traditional breadwinner statuses are challenged.
Instead the world just screams: Go do more and go make more...don't worry about the effects of your income levels.
Over coffee a couple weeks ago, a friend asked how John and I were doing.
I told her we are the best we have ever been.
I told her it has taken six years, but finally, my stubborn heart has learned what it means to respect my husband.
As my income has been stripped and my ability to make and do have been severely impacted, I've been forced to come to John in submission. I've asked for his help. I've had to lean on him in more ways than ever before.
And he has met my surrender with an insane amount of grace.
Turns out he had been waiting on me. He had been waiting on me to get off my high horse and let him lead.
And lead he has. In a season where I am darn near close to drowning on most days, John is thriving.
I've never seen him so strong.
He has testified to my heart over and over again that he can be trusted. He will not abuse my weakness and he will not pressure me to get back out there and produce.
No, instead he has said: Just rest. Just heal. Just breath. I've got you. I've got us. I am going to lead you out of this season. I am going to lead us.
And as a result, my heart, has been overwhelmed with admiration for John's response to my shortcomings. I've fallen more in love with him. But more than anything, I've learned what true respect in marriage looks like.
If you are reading this, I hope your heart can't relate to a word of it. If you are a female, and wear the hat of breadwinner, I hope you have handled this title with far more grace than I have. But if you feel these tensions, can I challenge you to make a change? It took a hell of a storm for my prideful heart to learn what true respect for my mate looks like and I don't want that for you.
An action prayer:
Forgive me. I want to submit to you. I want to honor the command to respect my mate. Show me how.
Thank you for the gift of being able to make and do...but Lord, cleanse me. If these things are hindering my ability to respect my husband, clean house.
Provide the wisdom to know how to do better. And then help me do better. I long to be a wife that respects her husband.