What if the gift your husband wants for Christmas isn’t something that can be placed under the Christmas tree? And I am NOT talking about what you think I am talking about.
What if the present you gave to the man in your life (and the boys) was something so powerful that it could change the future?
This was the most difficult conversation ever but it ended with me giving my husband a gift he never imagined receiving.
We rarely fight. Maybe once or twice a year. But this year has been unlike the others. It’s been harder.
My husband came into our marriage with baggage (as we all do). However, these emotional scars were much deeper than he could even realize. These wounds were laid on him by the strong hand of perfectionism and calloused by words spoken in anger.
The broken dinner plate
We had been married for only a few weeks when I discovered a chipped dinner plate on a top shelf of his closet.
“Honey, why is there a dinner plate in your closet?” I asked.
He did a two-step (that I would become very familiar with over the next 14 years) and refused to answer.
“You know I’m not mad at you, right?” I gently prodded. “I mean… it’s JUST a dinner plate. It can be replaced.”
Air gushed from his lungs as he released the stress of a hidden truth. He was afraid I would yell in anger or be disappointed so he hid the plate. It was what he learned to do as a child to avoid a disapproving gaze and guilt-trip.
The same type of scenario played out over and over again throughout our marriage.
At the same time, he struggled with making decisions. Whether I asked what he wanted to eat for dinner or if we should spend a large amount of money on a vacation, he could not answer.
“Whatever you want.”
But what I wanted was for him to help me make decisions for our family. I longed for a strong and decisive man so I didn’t need to carry the stress on my own.
And the stress was mounting.
The stress is what brought us to this one evening when I stopped talking.
For two weeks prior to my breaking point, I had been sharing a specific family problem with my husband. He would say a few words about how “it will all work out” and then change the subject.
Then, on this evening, I heard his phone buzz. He glanced at the message and said he needed to take care of a job… a job that was supposed to be done two weeks earlier… a job that would have helped to alleviate our problem and eliminate my stress immediately.
All this time he had the answer within his grasp, knew it, and did nothing.
My mind was reeling and for one of only a handful of times in my life, I was speechless. So I went to bed early, unable to find the words to express my hurt.
The next morning, he started the conversation about how he always hesitated to offer suggestions because he was afraid he would choose poorly. He said he was afraid that I would yell in anger or be disappointed…
It was that dumb dinner plate all over again!
That’s when I spoke the words… words that seemed to come from heaven:
“Honey, I am giving you the freedom to fail. You have my blessing to try as long as you give your best. And if every decision ends in failure, I will still cheer for you and love you.”
His eyes grew wide as saucers as he whispered, “The freedom to fail. No one has ever given that to me before.”
The best gift my husband ever received
Growing up, my husband was afraid to make a wrong decision. He wanted approval.
Now, I have to release part of my drive to do everything and to do it well in order to encourage him to step forward as the head of our household. My words must be a soothing balm to his wounded heart even if…
I would turn two streets before where he FINALLY turns.
Or, I would use a comb on our daughter’s wet hair while he uses a brush.
Or, I would use a knife to cut steak for the kids and he uses a fork.
Or, I would stop by a service station when a child pleads for the restroom as he chooses a restaurant where the kids see ice cream and we end up buying four cones that leave the back seats of our new van a sticky mess.
These simple decisions are opportunities for me to give him the space he needs to feel decisive.
And it is NOT easy. I know how I like for things to be done. I am also very vocal. And, I am driven.
But this is the man I love.
Wounded sons become weakened husbands
Being a strong-willed woman or a perfectionistic woman is not 100% bad. However, I think that we as mothers can inadvertently wound our sons when we express our strength, independence, and desires without remembering our God-given task… to grow boys into godly men.
I am totally guilty.
When one of my boys attempts to help me with a task but doesn’t do it like I want it done, I shoo him away and do it myself.
If one of the boys accidentally breaks something, I freak out when I hear the crash and demand, “What did you do!?”
And what is the message that these reactions place in their heads?
By pushing my boys with perfectionistic force, I am pressing future husbands into indecisive heaps.
They will no longer feel strong. They will wonder if they are capable of making decisions. They will question if their voice is needed.
I must give them the same gift I offered my husband… the freedom to fail.
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