I hate decorative pillows. That seems like a rather harmless innate object to hold such strong feelings about, but I do. They serve zero purpose. You can’t sleep on them. You have to move them every time you get in the bed. For some reason, they’re sometimes not even called decorative pillows, but rather “shams”.
Here lies the problem with my disdain for these pillows: my wife loves them. We have them on our bed. Two are huge square-shaped space eaters (one for each of us to “not use” I assume), then two more regularly shaped ones that have our initials neatly embroidered on the pillowcase as if to state that no way will these pillows be drooled on by me or anyone else in our house. We also have what seems like dozens on our guest bed, enough for even the clumsiest of snoozers to cover the floor around for safety should one fall out of the bed.
Recently, my wife mentioned to me that she found a great deal on a bedding set for our soon-to-be-four-years-old daughter so she can be moved into a full bed. She showed the pink, flowery quilt to me, which I approved of. Then the shams. Yes, the decorative pillows that are completely useless and will be on my daughter’s bed.
As I began to question the need to spend money on a set that included items I deem pointless, I saw my wife recoil. Her enthusiasm over her purchase died, and she shut down completely from showing me the remainder of the set. It took a few moments, but then it hit me.
Sometimes I just need to shut up.
In many marriages today, the smallest silliest things divide spouse from spouse. He forgot the one thing from the store she needed. She didn’t iron the right dress shirt for the big work meeting he had the next day. Tiny cracks in a permanent foundation that seem harmless at the time can slowly make the strongest of bonds break.
Fighting is inevitable. The key to fighting isn’t who wins, its how we fight. It’s the listening before we speak, the calmness in our voices, and the understanding in our hearts. Sometimes, as I’ve realized, it’s not so much what we did or didn’t do or say, it’s how it made our spouse feel. Was it uplifting? Encouraging? Kind and gentle? Loving?
In our ten years of marriage, my wife and I have had countless arguments. Some last a few minutes, but some last days. These are the ones that seemingly have no true winner. But there is a way that, as husbands, we can fight with our wives, and still come out as winners in the end.
First, we must realize marriage is modeled after Christ’s love for the church. A deep love like that obviously requires passion, something husbands should know well. Without passion we would never have pursued our wives with abandon to gain their love and affection. The love of Christ, however, doesn’t stop at passion: it requires full-on sacrifice. The willingness to do anything to show how much we love our wives. This means sometimes letting go of petty things that bother us. It means forgiving more than we condemn. It means letting go of ego and embracing humility.
Secondly, we’ve got to let the past go and grow up. Too many men try to maintain marriage but live like teenagers. The days of hanging out with the boys every weekend drinking beers and watching football is over. This is true especially of husbands that are dads. Take it from me, a husband with two little girls. I’m spending more time playing tea party and watching Cinderella than I am shooting hoops and watching ESPN. We’ve got to grow up and be men. Not easy to do, but our wives (and children) need it.
The last key to fighting with our wives is the desire to place them first and the acceptance of being wrong, no matter if we think we are or not. If I place the feelings of my wife first before even my own, then I’ll be able to love her and care for her on a whole new level. Many disagreements my wife and I have, I have difficulty seeing where I’m wrong. What I see though is that regardless of my guilt or innocence, my wife was hurt at some point, and that takes precedence over any finger-pointing. In his book “If Only He Knew”, Gary Smalley points out “A loving, understanding attitude can melt a wife’s heart and give her the security she so desperately wants.”
Certainly some arguments within marriage are more serious than others: severe money mismanagement, infidelity, and lack of emotional responsiveness are just a few examples of fights that can damage marriages to the point of no return. Husbands are called to be leaders of the home. This doesn’t mean a dictatorship; it means humble service, loving our spouses even in the midst of traumatic marital despair.
The saying goes “a happy wife makes a happy life.” No doubt there’s truth to that sentiment. But in a day where half of all marriages end in divorce, being happy isn’t good enough. Our wives need to feel love, affection, appreciation, and honor. They need husbands that will place them first, above work, above sports, above hobbies and even our kids. When we do that, we win. We win because our relationship is more than just a happy marriage: it becomes a reflection of Christ and his love for the church.
I’ve given in on the decorative pillow fight in our house. I know it’s pointless to debate the merits of these cushiony artifacts in our bedrooms. I’ve given in because if for no other reason it causes my wife to smile, to feel loved, and to feel important. And that’s something that makes our whole family winners.