My dear Jil, what I’m going to say in this letter may not go down well in certain circles, but you know me…
I’m worried about the spate of your religious attendances and the fact it’s at the expense of your marriage. I pray you don’t lose your family before you realize the importance and potency of your marriage. No one loses a marriage without paying a price. And the price can be steep, incredibly steep in instances. On Sunday you’re in church till late afternoon; on Saturday you’re in church for most of the day. Weekend gone! So, no weekend moments with your husband – no movies together, no sleep-ins, no lazing… You’ve gone to church!
On Wednesday you’re in church as well – for midweek service; then there’s daily prayer meeting after work. Then there are those early-morning prayer meetings before work. And every public holiday you spend in church. Environmental Sanitation mornings are not spared either. You dash out of the house before 7am. Church programme. Then there are the special programmes – church seminars, concerts, camp meetings, focus group fellowships… There are departmental meetings, faith clinics, house fellowships, evangelism, committee meetings…
Pray, what time do you have for your husband? What time do you spend with him? Notice I didn’t say, What time do you have for your family. I said, what time do you have for your husband. It’s deliberate.
When we say family, the emphasis tends to be kids. The common mistake is to build the world around them. But the kids will grow… They’ll go to boarding school and then university. (And pursue their own love interests). You’re then alone with the man you ignored. He’s now a stranger to you. We get so lost in the dutifulness of marriage we lose sight of the friendship with our spouse. Much of what we call “empty nest syndrome” is the gaping hole in the friendship between husband and wife. Your husband ought to be your best friend. He’s the one who knows you intimately, has a stake in your life.
We can’t spend all the time attending to familial ablutions and ignore the most vital friendship – with our spouse. When we then need the love and friendship of our spouse there’s a huge hole, an unbridgeable gap. He’s developed friends outside of you to make up for the gap created by your abscondment. And so the opportunity to integrate our lives beyond the dutifulness of marriage is missed.
Dutifulness can’t hold a marriage together. Note that dutifulness subsists after divorce. It’s not exclusive to marriage. There are good dads but poor husbands, as there are good mums but poor wives. The corollaries also hold. Many Good Mums But Poor Wives don’t set out to be so. The Good Dads But Poor Husbands don’t set out to be so either. They largely became so by devoting disproportionate personal and emotional resources to wrong priorities. They missed the opportunities to deepen relationship with their spouses.
And so two strangers co-habit the same home. The rift starts small but then widens with time. And that’s how some couples become indifferent to each other. They grew apart spending less and less time together. Separate lives, separate social circles, widening rift. It’s no longer marriage, it’s just glorified cohabitation. I’m sure you don’t doubt my commitment to my faith, or the fact that I am very cognitive of sound doctrine. And so when I advice you to balance your home with your religious proclivities, please pay attention.
Paul acknowledges that marriage creates restrictive obligations. That the single can serve God with less hindrance. In God’s scheme of things the home has always been a yardstick of qualification for service in his vineyard. Paul wrote that a bishop must be faithful to his wife. Therefore being a good husband prequalifies the bishopric. Same qualification applies to deacons and by extrapolation everyone else really. The home comes first, your family comes first, your husband comes first – in order of ascending value. The Bishop must not only enjoy having guests at home, he must manage his family well, Paul wrote. And the Bishop’s children must be respectful and obedient. The otherwise is a disqualifier for service. And so we see Paul emphasize the marriage, the home and the family as pre-qualification for service in church.
If you lose your marriage to church activities and religiosity, you’ll very much be surprised you don’t please God. You’ll lose both ways: you lose your marriage, you displease God. Your husband needs your personal attention. He needs your time, your presence, your emotions, your physical. Physical touch means a lot to men. Your husband needs it. And he needs to gist with you, play with you, go out with you. If you’re not available he’ll simply fill the vacuum with an alternate. That’s a man’s natural disposition.
You’ve set your husband up with your busyness, emotional and physical non-availability. (I know I’m speaking politically incorrect, but these are powerful truths only the hypocritical will assail!) Your husband needs to be able to take you out on dates after marriage, to go to the movies with you, stroll with you. Before marriage you did all these things but now that you’re married you take them as done. And men interpret these things differently. He’ll think you’re taking HIM for granted after securing the ring. You forget he married you for those very things. Those were the things that made him want you. You had time for him, but now you devote your energy to other things and ignore your primary relationship.
You need to understand the psyche of men. If a man asks you out but senses reluctance he’ll sheath future invites. Your hesitation becomes an emotional burden. Men are sensitive to emotional availability. And when going out with you becomes something he needs to cajole or beg for he’ll seek willing alternates. If you turn going out with him into an occasion requiring special consideration you’ll lose his friendship. And friendship is so important in marriage. Availability and inclination are major things with men. He won’t beg for his rights. He’ll seek the available.
And I’m not just talking about abandoning your man for church activities. Work, friends, and family occupy the same space. Your husband wants to be the primary thing in your life. He is your primary relationship. Don’t lose your home. You will pay a huge price. You can’t imagine that price I assure you. Seek balance. Serving in church to the detriment of your marriage is NOT balance. Be wise!
Your mentor, LA
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org