In the first part (check it out here), I shared some lessons about what I’ve learned since becoming a husband.
There’s plenty more where that came from, but this won’t be a super long post. This second part of the post is harder to share, because it’s an admission of faults – something men aren’t real good at.
But I’m here to do two things today – share a couple more things I’ve learned and along the way, I’m going to admit a couple of things I got wrong. And when I write “things I’ve learned”, I really mean “things my amazing wife has inadvertently taught me by just putting up with me”.
Let’s talk about the silent treatment. When we first got married, I thought the silent treatment was a great idea. I’m not lying when I tell you I thought I was doing Aimie a favor. I know, it’s ridiculous, but hear me out. I thought that if I didn’t necessarily agree with something that my wife said or did, I’d apply the age-old wisdom of “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Riiiiight. I assure you, this never, ever works if you’re trying to justify the silent treatment. I’ve learned that, by not saying anything at all, I was speaking in volumes louder than if I had just spoken up and said “Honey, I don’t really agree. Here’s what I think…” Being silent, even for a few minutes, is totally cool when you’re with the boys. Not so with your wife. Their minds function differently than ours, and that just doesn’t work for them. Need proof? When’s the last time you caught your wife being silent?
Tough crowd, tough crowd. Let’s move on then, shall we? Seriously though, there is nothing bad that could ever come out of speaking up and letting your sweetie know how you feel. Honesty makes the world go ’round, and never more so than in relationships.
I have also learned to accept her filter. Let me give you a little example. I love Twitter. It’s instant, it’s truth, it’s often visceral and it’s far more human than other social media platforms. It allows us to quickly let everyone know what’s on our mind. And therein lies the problem.
My big mouth has often got me in trouble, and tweeting is a perfect opportunity to get into the same kind of trouble. Today I saw something that made me cringe, and I thought “Boy, I should really tweet that! I’m absolutely certain the whole world will agree with my awesome opinion on this matter.” For some reason, I showed Aimie the tweet before I hit SEND. She looked at it once, looked at me, and before words even came out of her mouth, I realized that what she was about to say was right, and that I wouldn’t be sending it. She said: “I wouldn’t tweet that. Is it appropriate?” The old Wildsau would have bristled at the notion of accepting any such feedback. The Wildsau that has learned many things from his wife sat back, smiled to himself, deleted the tweet and forgot about it as quickly as it had come up.
Go ahead and make fun of me – call me whipped if you want. I’m far from being whipped. I’m just aware that my wife’s mentality differs greatly from mine, and for good reason. It completes me, and her direction has never failed me along life’s road. I’m grateful she cares enough about me, and what people think of me, to say these things to me. It’s just another reason I’m crazy about her. Did I choose not to send that tweet because I wanted to please my wife or because she has the power of veto over my Twitter account? Not in the least. I did it because my wife was right, and I’ve learned to accept her filter on my words and actions – she’s never been wrong about where she’s pointed me. There’s a big difference between being whipped and being tuned into someone who knows you better than anyone else and who cares enough to give you their opinion.
I’ve previously talked about how things that are critically important to me, such as sanitary use of toothpaste, are of little or no importance to my wife. There’s further learning here, and it’s just a crucial. In addition to compromising and making the best of what’s not as important to my wife as it is to me, I’ve learned to find out what’s important to her. This goes a long way, my friend, and serves a number of purposes.
First of all, considering your wife is, or certainly should be, your best friend, don’t you think it’s important to know what matters to her? Take my word for it – it IS important. Vitally important. Secondly, a relationship should go both ways, and if you take the time to figure out what’s important to her, and she realizes that, what do you think will happen? She will do the same for you. And you’ll both come out ahead! What could be bad about that?
Here’s an example out of my marriage. My wife loves to shop. But she loves to hunt for the deals. It’s so important to her to find a sale – for anything. As a matter of fact, I’m quite certain my wife would buy something we’ll never use – as long as it’s on sale. “Oh, you have a baker’s dozen of donkey saddles on sale? Great! I’ll take them!” And what’s just as important to her is telling me about it. Here’s the rub – I couldn’t care less. I don’t ever, EVER look for sales, and certainly don’t celebrate them as victories to be shared with friends. But I’ve learned that it matters to my wife, and instead of saying “Just tell me what you bought, don’t tell me how much percent off it was”, I quietly enjoy my wife’s victories with her now. Do I care about them? Nope. But I want to hear about them now – because it matters to the one person who matters most to me.
This kind of leads into the next lesson I’ve learned. Don’t try to change your wife. I don’t care what topic this leads to, or which facet of life you might be thinking of applying this to – the lesson I’ve learned remains the same.
Don’t try to change the little things. I’ve stopped trying to change her horrifying toothpaste use. Yes, I’ve learned that it’s not really that important in the grand scheme of things.
And don’t try to change the big things. Just as importantly, don’t head into a partnership thinking you’ll succeed at changing her. I’ve also learned that we’ll never really change someone’s character. If there are things that are so important to you, that you know you’ll never compromise on them, such as your faith or your values – and your partner doesn’t share your opinion on these things…. I can almost guarantee that you won’t be able to swing them in your direction as time goes by. Can you live with that?
Changing someone’s core values and beliefs is a virtual impossibility in many cases. And here’s something frightening. The person in your life may love you so much that they will act as though they’ve changed for you – just to make things work smoothly. But in having tried to change them, and their character, we stand a good chance of having shoved them directly into the path of an oncoming resentment train. And so, after having a closer look, you might find the venom of resentment behind that facade of harmony. I certainly don’t have the answers here, my friend, and I would never tell someone how to live their life. But I’ve seen enough of these situations and I’m grateful my wife has taught me, without ever trying to, to stop thinking about changing her.
This brings me to the most important lesson I’ve learned – so far.
I have learned that loving my wife should never have strings attached. Not even tiny threads that are practically invisible. Let me explain. Some loves have very clear conditions. The wife is expected to speak a certain way, or not speak a certain way. Expectations of intimacy are unspoken, but hang heavy in the air between partners. He requires her to support his habits, hobbies, and activities – or else. I have seen it – far more often than I’ve cared to. It’s rarely spoken, but so clear, that it might as well be written on his forehead, or be silk-screened onto his spaghetti-sauce-stained wife-beater. This isn’t “strings attached” love – this is “heavy-gauge ropes attached” love. And if she doesn’t toe the line, his love is, in one way or another, revoked. Stand back and take a broader view of that – is that really love at all?
I’ve also caught myself attaching much finer strings in the past. There were times where I have to admit putting the smallest of conditions on my love. Not my overall love, of course. But parts of it. If Aimie didn’t do something the way I wanted it done, I may have felt a slight twinge of “Are you kidding me?”. It’s tough to explain, but it was there. And suddenly I would realize that I had, subconsciously, placed a condition on fully, truly loving my wife.
And this brings me to my final point. I’ve learned that no love for my wife should ever be conditional. No conditions should ever be attached to the strongest and most powerful feeling that we can ever feel. I talked about true love the first time I wrote about this. I’ve also spent time talking about how we love our loved one. But this time I challenge you to make it unconditional love. I’ve learned that it’s possible, and that it’s not hard to do.
I’ve learned to actively consider how I love my wife, and although I do have to think about it at times, I have learned to love her unconditionally. Why? In my opinion, it’s the only way true love exists. If you can learn to love your girl without wanting anything in return, you will experience more satisfying love than you thought possible. And there is no way that loving your wife unconditionally can ever have a negative impact on your marriage, or for that matter, your life. I give you my word on this.
Thank you, Aimie, for having put up with me for this long, and for having taught me so much – about you, about the world around me, about love and about myself. You still intoxicate me, you are my strength, you are my ray of sunshine on the brightest and darkest days alike – and you, without ever trying, have continued to make me a better man.
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