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Giving My Husband More Respect

alec vanderboom

The backlash against the US Bishops makes me cry. Those poor dear shepherds. They are trying to wake us up to the dangerous limitations to our religious freedoms. Yet all anyone seems to do on the internet is yell that they have no business telling women what they can and can't do with their bodies. (Didn't all these bloggers have Fathers what told them what they could and could not wear as teenagers? I know my Dad and I had intense discussions about the appropriateness of eye make-up and miniskirts when I was in the seventh grade. That's a Father's job to tell his daughter how to tow the line).

Since the HHS mandate stuff began, I've been praying, and reading blogs, and signing FB petitions. Everything I read or hear tends to make me fall into despair.

Lately, I've started working on the micro-level. The Bishops are married to the Church. Its their job to guide and protect her. It's heartbreaking when the Church is defiant and close-minded to their call.

In the proper order, children learn how to be obedient to their Father. That natural obedience translates gradually into respect for the spiritual headship of the Pope and His Bishops. But what if no one grows up learning how to respect their loving father?

When so many Catholic complained that Obama didn't listen to the US Bishop who visited the Oval Office (I think it was Cardinal Nolan) about ending the HHS mandate, I was rich in sympathy. We're talking about a president who was abandoned by his own father at age 2. How was this man supposed to take a spiritual father suddenly directing him in his late 40s? How can we expect an unbaptized President to suddenly start showing a supernatural pattern of respect and obedience?
I'm praying for Obama's conversion. I trust God to hear the prayers of our entire nation--(especially during the coming Fortnight of Freedom prayer jam from June 21 to July 4th).

In the meantime, I'm working on myself. To help my beloved Catholic bishops, I'm reexamining the patterns in my own home, and in my own marriage. St Paul tells us in Ephesians "Husband love your wives, wives respect your husbands." I know that my own feminine nature delights in being "cherished." I love the cuddles, and the flowers, and the sweet emails for no special reason, and the twinkle my husband gets in his eye when he greets me at the door after a long day at work. I love being "loved."

I also get that men and women are complimentary, but fundamentally different. So it made sense to me that my husband's love language would be this necessary thing called "respect"-which is different than mine.

As a thoughtful wife who does far too much internet research, I read about this "men need respect" thing on a Catholic marriage enrichment website. So I went downstairs into our laundry room where my husband was newly experimenting with starching his work shirts, and said cheerfully "Okay, so talk to me about this male respect thing and how I can better show it to you." Then my husband and I spent 20 minutes drawing a perfect blank! What is respect for a husband and father? How does that translate into normal family life? We both had no idea!

His father was a Cop. My Father was a College Professor. Both men commanded tons of respect from the community at large. Both men got next to zero respect inside their own homes. My Mom spent most of my life saying loudly that her husband was a giant nincompoop who does everything totally wrong and would be totally lost without her.

Thankfully, I have a steadier relationship with my own beloved husband, but I'm also not someone who actively promotes his spiritual leadership over our family either. My husband and I tend to make joint decisions comfortably together. However, if there is an issue that we seriously disagree on, I don't take his direction willingly. I tell him he's wrong, I roll my eyes if he doesn't listen and wait for him to change his mind. I'm not naturally obedient, flexible, or accepting that my husband may have a special connection to the Holy Spirit that is not readily apparent to the naked eye.

In a radical experiment, I'm trying to change my tune after 11 years of marriage. I'm praying to have a greater respect for my husband. I'm asking him to give me direction on what he needs.

When I asked Jon for three things I can do to better respect him, I pictured him saying something easy like "starch my shirts" or "keep your hair goop out of our sink." Instead, my husband said that he'd like me (a) to pay our tithe, (b) say evening prayer with him, and (c)  stop using my father's credit card.

These are all things that are very hard for me (I steal the money we budget for our tithe to pay for our overages on our skimpy grocery budget often. I feel like my evenings with colic girl are still way to crazy to restart saying Evening Prayer. The credit card my Dad gave me for emergencies is currently funding the "I'm totally stressed out by all my children and need to dump everyone at the Chic-Fil-A playground for an hour while I sip a Sweet Tea and regroup" emergencies.) These three things are all my little hiccups in my spiritual life. Deep down I know my husband's right--but inside my stubborn head I also arguing "giving up anyone of these three things is impossible! Besides, doesn't God understand? My life is so hard right now!"

Self-delusion. Attachment. Clearly my husband knows me better than I know myself and has my best-interest at heart. It's still really hard to trust him. It's hard to give him respect in the big things, the hard things.


Its hard. Good things are hard. Respect for my husband must be a great spiritual good because that seems totally counter-cultural.

You gentle readers are so ahead of me on the spiritual path. Anyone have stories or insights about St. Paul's directive to "respect our husbands?"