By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
Yes, your husband loves you. Yes, he wants to be with you. But if he’s typical of most men, he also needs his space, perhaps even more than you do.
While you juggle your work and your kids’ schedules, and try to coordinate dinner times, evening meetings, volunteering at church, and getting together with friends now and then, your husband juggles a lot, himself. He’s often trying to meet demands at work, satisfy the expectations of his wife, be available to his children, take time for his aging parents, and carry the responsibility of spiritually leading his family.
In my own husband’s words, “Sometimes I just need time to breathe.”
Yet, without realizing it, you and I can suck the life out of our husbands through our emotional insecurities or drain them dry through constant talk about finances, our fears and failures, our anxieties, our weight, or whatever else is stressing us out at the moment.
I did that to my husband just recently. I emotionally reacted to a financially stressful situation without taking it to my spiritual Husband first and letting God filter out my feelings, fears, and anxieties. The result of my emotional meltdown was that I sucked the life and enthusiasm out of my husband’s morning and ended up with another example for a Crosswalk article on what NOT to do.
Here are seven ways to give your husband breathing room so he can decompress, think straight, and desire your presence again:
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1. Lower Your Expectations
Every wife has expectations when she marries. High expectations. And then later she either raises them, refuses to lower them, or loses them altogether. But when you keep in mind your husband is a man, not God, he has his faults like you, and he operates well after being fed and having time to relax, you won’t be as disappointed.
I know you don’t consciously expect your husband to be God, but we all look to someone or something to fill us, calm us, and comfort us. When we expect our husbands to come through for us like God would, they will disappoint us every time. And no husband wants to disappoint his wife. So don’t set him up for failure. Keep yourself in check, emotionally, by asking yourself often “Who is the one I am ultimately depending on?” If the answer to that question is anyone other than God (yourself included!), confess your misaligned priorities and invite God back onto the throne of your life.
When you give your husband emotional space by looking to God to be your “spiritual husband” (Isaiah 54:5), you are saying “I love you, but I’m not expecting you to be God.” And that will keep you and your husband breathing easier.
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2. Lighten Up with the List
Every man is familiar with the “Honey-Do List” (“Honey, will you do this for me?). The list most often includes household repairs, delegated responsibilities with the kids, things to pick up from the store on his way home, and so on. Most men expect them. Some even, bless their hearts, ask for them. But no man wants to come home to a list in his face. And once he has his list, he needs a little breathing room to accomplish the items on it.
One man told me: “When my wife says ‘Are you going to do it now?’ or ‘When are you going to get that done?’ she sees it as reminding me. I do need a reminder now and then, but I can tend to see her continual asking as nagging. I wish she’d trust me to do it once I’ve had some time to relax and enjoy some downtime.”
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3. Leave it for Later
My friend, Allison, wisely learned in her early years of marriage to not launch into big discussions or problems with her husband right when she and him reunited after a long day or upon the heels of his return from a business trip.
“It really helps to take some time to get readjusted and caught up and to wait awhile before dumping the big issues on him. He not only needs the breather, but everything looks better (for both of us) after a nice dinner together, or even a good night’s sleep!”
Proverbs 15:23 speaks to the fine art of “leaving it for later”: “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!”
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4. Let Him Relax
Another way to let him breathe is to let him relax.
Sometimes we get the idea that all our husbands do when they get home is lie around in front of a television or computer. But it might help when we realize that sometimes the “downtime” is needed after a long day of physical exertion or a lot of mental work on their job.
My friend, Judy, said: “Sometimes it bothers me when my husband spends a couple of hours in front of the TV when he gets home from work or on weekends. But then I remember he’s older now, he’s worked hard, and he needs that time to relax. Sometimes I’ll sit there with him, if I sense he’d like me there. And sometimes I let him have his ‘veg’ time if I sense he just needs his alone time.”
Rest and relaxation isn’t laziness. It’s a necessity. Let your husband know it’s okay to take a breather, and encourage him to relax now and then if he feels guilty for doing so.
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5. Stop the Smothering
You and I can smother our husbands when we feel the need to be with them at every waking moment, or when we feel the need to talk with them about everything. No “chick chat” should be a rule of thumb so we don’t unknowingly smother our husbands with information they don’t need or want. There’s a reason it’s called “chick chat.” It’s the kind of talk we would engage in with our girlfriends.
Ladies, your husband is generally not interested in what happened at the mall, what that shampoo is doing to your hair, or how many calories you saved by making better choices at lunchtime. Save it for your girlfriends who really do want to hear about it and share their experiences, too.
And if your man has been working alongside you, answering to you, helping you, or listening to you all day, give him enough physical space to want to be near you again.
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6. Cut the Mothering
A mentor once told me: “Every man wants a girlfriend, not a mother.” That’s not to say he wants someone in addition to you. It means he wants YOU to act more like his girlfriend than the woman who raised him. Don’t tell him things like “be careful” because that’s what his mom would say. Say instead, “Have a great time, Babe.” Don’t say, “Call me as soon as you get there so I know you made it safely.” Instead, say, “Can’t wait to hear how it goes.” Don’t say, “When are you going to take the trash out? I’ve told you three times and I’m not going to tell you again!” Try instead, “Hey, Babe, do you mind taking out that trash when you get a chance?”
Do you get the idea? Treat him like a lover, not a mother and you’ll not only be giving him breathing room, but making him want less room between the two of you!
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7. Halt the Hovering
You’ve heard of helicopter parents – those who hover over their children and never let them out of their sight, even when they’re perfectly safe? Well there are helicopter wives, too. And, according to the husbands I interviewed for my latest book, they drive their husbands crazy. Women hover when they feel the need to oversee, supervise, make sure he’s safe, or just be a part of his everything. Your man needs to know you trust him on his own, with the kids, with important decisions, and so on. Don’t emasculate him by making him think you always have to be there to make sure things go well.
When you give your husband physical space by letting him do something outside of your presence you are saying “I trust you when I’m not around.” And when you continue to allow him to breathe in this way, you just may find that you become a breath of fresh air that he is longing for once he’s back in your presence.
Cindi McMenamin is a national women’s speaker and author of 16 books who has been married 30 years to a pastor and introvert. For more creative ways to increase the joy in your marriage, check out her newest book, 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband: More Trust. More Passion. More Communication. You can find this and other resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, and your parenting, at her website www.StrengthForTheSoul.com or anywhere you buy books.
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