I’m a person who believes in equality, fairness, and logical thinking. I’m also stubborn, independent, and outspoken. When my first daughter was born nine years ago, I wasn’t about to become a traditional wife and mother. Because of that back story, and the events that followed, I was fascinated by Sharlee’s comment about not being a natural born wife.
I launched into marriage with the idea that I was an enlightened, modern woman. I bristled at the suggestion that might be any absolutes in gender or marriage. Instead, Don and I built our marriage around what we believed to be our individual strengths and needs. I went to grad school and got a job. Don stayed home with the baby. I loved my work, and my friends all congratulated me on my modern, enlightened relationship. Don was a great homemaker. He cooked wonderful dinners, packed me a homemade lunch every day, and made sure I never ran out of deodorant. It drove us to the brink of divorce.
I can’t logically explain why our marriage crumbled from the inside. It still seems to me that it should have worked. But it didn’t. When the Spirit told us that our home was not properly ordered, we finally responded. I came home, and Don went to work. And as hard as that was, the rewards were immediate. Our relationship blossomed. And what’s more, in the intervening years, the positive turning points in our relationship have always involved me figuring out another (usually “traditional”) piece to the puzzle of what it means to be a wife.
So what’s a modern, enlightened girl to do?
I’ve been reading Beverly Campbell’s book, Eve and the Choice Made in Eden. I especially love the section in which she analyzes the original Hebrew in the section of Genesis dealing with the creation, and she suggests that a more accurate translation of that passage might be something akin to “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a companion of strength and power who is equal with him.”
Strength. Power. Equality. Now we’re talking. And it occurs to me that if I had understood myself that way from the beginning, perhaps I would not have struggled so much to embrace my own feminine side. Perhaps a little more of my attention would have gone to understanding feminine power and influence, and perhaps a little less into making sure I could prove myself on a masculine playing field.
Of course, there are advantages to developing traditionally “masculine” attributes, but when it comes to that feminine side, I’m still learning. I had to learn how to be comfortable with my husband earning the living, leading out in major decisions, and even presiding over family prayers. More recently, I’ve learned that I can have a tremendous influence for good by creating a safe space in our home where my husband feels respected, and where he is reminded of his own divine nature and nobility of character. That’s not to say I didn’t respect and love him before. We’ve had a great marriage for years now, but despite that, communicating my respect and love wasn’t my focus. It was something I squeezed it between loads of laundry and editing projects. I’m discovering that I want it to be my focus.
So here’s my latest epiphany. Promise you won’t think me unenlightened? You know that saying about “Behind every great man there is a great woman?” A couple of months ago I finally started to grasp what that means. I used to visualize the great woman either running her husband’s life like a puppeteer or picking up the pieces he left behind. Mostly I wondered why the heck she was wasting her time standing behind him. But I’m realizing that I have the ability to impact many, many people for good when I nurture my husband. The spiritual feeding that he gets in my home extends out in ripple form, touching our children, our extended family, and our friends, neighbors, and associates.
So what about you? Were you a natural born wife? What have you learned along the way?