One of the most popular concepts in modern marriage counseling is the idea that a husband should "date" his wife. Men are told, repeatedly, that the real problem in marriage is that they no longer treat their wives as they did before marriage. So, they are told, it is time to "date your wife." Plan for meals out or for special nights in the home. Send her flowers or bring her gifts. "Never stop courting her," he is told.
But, I have not heard of the same thing being told to wives. Wives are not told to "keep courting" their husbands or to set up special "dates" with him, except that they are supposed to enjoy him dating them. No one even really explains why this is a man's duty toward a wife, but it seems to harken back to that 1950's attitude that the man is already happy because he goes off to work every day while she stays home or to the idea that he is the only one with any creativity. This attitude is wrong because going to work every day is not a pleasure, it's his job, (2) a very high percentage of women go to work as well, and (3) women tend to be more creative anyway.
So, let's strike a blow for equality and date our husbands for a change. Why should you have to wait for him to take some action when you can take action. It's Friday, which remains the "end of the workweek" for a lot of people. Why not date him tonight? If you have no children, then go somewhere you know he would like to go. A restaurant he likes is always a good idea (he is always told to take you to something you like).
If you have children, then date him at home. Get a movie he would like to watch (not a "chick flick"), feed the youngsters early, and then have a quiet evening together with a movie, some popcorn, or some nice dessert.
Or, eat a normal supper and just have some special time together after the children are in bed.
Keys to dating your husband:
1. Do something he would like to do. Do it willingly and happily. Why? Because you love him.
2. Do not do this in order to "get him to talk." If you take him out to get him to talk, then you are serving yourself
and not him anyway. If he wants to talk, he will talk If not, he will just enjoy the company of his wife.
3. Be prepared for quiet, because he may not talk much, or a long conversation, or whatever.
4. Do not be negative while dating. You weren't negative when you dated him before, don't be now.
5. Be prepared for the fact that a nice evening spent with the women whom he loves is very different when,
instead of a good-bye kiss at the door, you go in the bedroom together.
You date your husband because you love him, not because you want a particular experience. You date him because he needs a night out sometimes. You date him because he needs to be the center of your attention sometimes. You date him because he spends week after week, month after month, earning a living, so he ought to "live" occasionally.
You date him for the same reason he is told to date you, because there was a time when he was special to you, when you looked forward to seeing him come to the door, when your time together was precious. It was a nice time, wasn't it?
Why should he have all the burden of somehow bringing back the sense of love you had in those days. You should date him.
You never know what might happen.
We have been looking at the verse that begins with "She opens her mouth in wisdom." But the same verse continues and adds "and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." What does this add to the picture? There are two possibilities.
First, of course, it could have reference to the kindness of her own words. In this sense, it would mean that her speech (her "tongue") is kind, that the "teaching of kindness" is manifested in what she says. If this is its meaning, then it is sympathetic with the first part, because wisdom is always kind. By emphasizing this aspect of wisdom, the writer identifies what is most evident about her speech - its kindness. In her wisdom, she speaks the appropriate word, the word that her listener needs to hear, in the way the listener needs to hear it. Scripture tells us that kindness and gentleness characterize all that the godly do in relation to others. We are to instruct in kindness and even to rebuke in kindness when someone sins. The kindness of the excellent wife is a great gift to those who know her. Her words are like silver.
Second, it can mean that she actually "teaches kindness" to others, that is, that she gives instruction, not just example. Some translations adopt this meaning when they translate it as "faithful instruction" rather than "teaching of kindness." If this is its meaning, then it means that, being wise in her own speech, she teaches others the same practice. She instructs her children in kindness, of course, and others as well (you would expect). How does she teach them? It does not say, except that she speaks to them.
A woman of wisdom, who speaks with wisdom, will find many opportunities to teach others. People will share their concerns, their frustrations, their anger over things that happen to them, and she will have the chance to instruct them in how to respond appropriately. We see this a lot in women's meetings with friends. Women, like men, often share their hurts and their anger with one another. What does a woman of wisdom say to a young wife who is angry at something her husband has done? What do you say to someone who comes to your lunch get-together seething with anger?
Too often, women believe the best option is to share her own complaints or "build up her sister" by agreeing with her. Meetings can become "gripe sessions" where each woman leaves convinced that she is right. Instead, there needs to be a wise woman in the group who can tone it down and teach kindness.
The woman of wisdom not only manifests kindness in her words but also in her actions and her teaching of others. She calms the angry waters and builds up the heart and spirit of everyone with whom she speaks. She sends people back to their lives with something extra for those with whom they deal, a touch of kindness.
She opens her mouth in wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
So, what does this mean anyway? We have talked about the whole "best friend" idea a lot, so let's talk about this a little.
What it means, in its simplest terms, is that she thinks before she speaks. How often have we been guilty of the opposite, of speaking before we think? How often have we said something (a quick comment, a small mean remark) and wished we could take it back? The wise person has learned that nothing which is ever said can be "taken back" effectively.
A woman who opens her mouth in wisdom is not, thereby, "repressing" herself. She is disciplining herself. She has learned that her husband (and children and everyone else) has feelings, too, and that a concern for their feelings is wise and godly concern.
This is hardest for those who were raised by people who were not wise in their language. Many parents (too many parents) simply dump whatever they are thinking on their children. Many women were raised by mothers who did not control their words at all, but were hurtful. Many fathers were harsh and unfair, even cruel and cutting. We all know the things that were said in our youth.
But you may not realize how much what happened in your youth has affected how you interact with your family. There are women (and men) whose language in the home is cold and, yes, cruel. They insult out of habit, not out of evil. They have learned (from their experience as children) that a wife can be abused and must "stand up for herself," and they do not realize that their husband is not like their father.
You've seen them. At the mall, at restaurants, at public events, all the parents whose children are learning the same lessons of bitterness and cutting remarks. There are people whose tone of voice communicates hatred, even though they do not hate. There are people whose choice of words is bitter, although they are not bitter. You can recognize them when the husband or child reacts to their display of anger, and they respond with "no, I'm not mad." But they acted mad.
You hear it in the cursing used in commonplace conversations between parents and children. You see it in the way they grab their children and jerk them around. You see it in little asides and cutting comments. You see its results in the way the children react to their parents and the way the parents react to each other. Sometimes, it has become so much a part of who they are that they seem to be unaware of the horror with which everyone views them.
The excellent wife knows that her words are of tremendous importance in the home. She can be a great source of good, of peace, of a loving home. Or she can be the source of bitterness, hurt feelings, and a desire to escape.
How do you open your mouth in your home? In wisdom? Or in carelessness and self-deception? An excellent wife opens her mouth in wisdom, and her family is warmed and nourished by her words.
The final point I would make in this question of whether to look to a husband as a "best friend" is about you personally. Already, we have looked at two issues -- what it says about our view of husbands and how it is confusing to men. Now, let's look at it from your perspective.
One of the reasons we will say "my husband is my best friend" is because we have lost our understanding of how much it means to be a husband. We think that saying he is a "best friend" adds something to his being our husband, something precious and valuable to us. Every woman who uses the phrase does so as a compliment and should not feel guilty for having done so.
But the idea of the "husband as a best friend" contains its own danger. What happens when he does not act like a best friend but, well, acts like a husband? What happens when you tell him about some problem and he does not resolve it in the way you would wish? What happens if you are not his "best friend"? Finally, of course, what happens if a new "best friend" comes along? We have seen many divorces arise from a husband or wife finding a new "best friend" who is their "heart's companion," or whatever phrases are popular at the time.
You see, friends are not, in fact, "forever," no matter how many BFF shows we watch. The actions of friends are always free actions and may change. You may have a great friend with whom you spend a lot of time, but then their children age and activities change and somehow, you don't see them anymore. A friend may be transferred to a different state or take a new job that changes your relationship. A friend may grow suddenly cold and distant or simply fade out of your life. For most people, the friends they have today are not the same people they had as friends 20 years ago.
What about your husband? What happens when he is no longer able to "be your friend" because he is hurt, or he is ill, or his job takes him away somewhere else for months at a time? What happens when one of you grows in a way that is different and, for awhile, you find everything the other one does to be annoying or shallow? What if one of you finds a hobby the other one does not like?
The proper attitude toward a husband is not "he's not just a husband, he's my best friend," but "he's not just a friend, he's my husband." He is the man whom I chose out of all the men in the world to marry. He works so that we can have what we need. He comes home every night to me. Our time together is more precious than time with friends, our relationship is deeper than any other relationship I have in the world. He belongs to me. We are one in Christ.
Do you argue? Sure, sometimes, you will argue. Sometimes, you will be so angry with him that, if he were a friend, you would "cut him off" from friendship. But he is your husband and you are not allowed to cut him off in any sense. When you fight, you must also reconcile. You must not let the sun go down on your wrath. You are married.
One of the most telling statements we make in our marriages is to say, when angry, "well, I will just go home," meaning to return to our parents. As long as "home" means the place where your mother lives, you are not really married in your heart at all. You have kept something separate that you have never committed. You leave your friends when they make you mad. But home is where your husband is.
When we lived in Washington State, people would ask me if I were "going home" for the holidays (meaning back to Georgia). I knew what they meant, but would smile and say "no, I'm already home," because home is where my wife lives. I wanted them to understand that I was married and that all the home I needed was included in that marriage.
We were not always "friends," but we were always husband and wife.
So, my first objection to the "husband as best friend" language arises because of the attitude this shows toward what it means to be a husband. By assuming (as it does) that a husband is somehow less than a friend, rather than being much more, it degrades the importance of the marriage commitment.
My second objection is similar, the "my husband is my best friend" idea (or that he "ought to be") is also an error because it creates confusion for the husband, who is trying to be what he really ought to be - a good husband. If he goes to church (or reads and studies) on marriage, he will find lots about being a husband. He will learn about supporting his wife financially, about supporting his wife emotionally, about leading his wife spiritually, about praying for her and listening to her and caring for her. He will focus (we hope) on doing all the "husband" things he has been told are God's will for his life. He wants to be an excellent husband.
Then, suddenly, he is confronted with a new demand -- that he be "your friend." More than that, he is supposed to be your "best friend." What does this mean? He will sit down one night with his wife and be confronted by a woman who feels he has "let her down" by not being her "friend." He has no idea what this means, just as no one else really knows. I can tell a man what it means to be an excellent husband, because God tells me in scripture, but what does being a "best friend" mean? God certainly never tells us.
Well, to hear women tell the story, it means listening to problems without trying to fix them. It means listening to your wife "vent" about things that you are then supposed to forget about. She will tell you about how much she hates her boss, but you are not allowed to tell the boss or do anything about it. She will tell you, just before bedtime, about some particular problem and then go right to sleep, leaving you to a wakeful night of worry.
But, a husband is supposed to do things, to fix the things that are troubling his family. A husband's natural tendency is to protect his wife, but as a "friend" he is supposed to just listen. As a husband, he wants her to be happy, but as a "friend" he is supposed to listen to her unhappiness without taking any action. He is supposed to listen whenever she wants to talk (as a friend) and without judgment, but, as a husband, he has other responsibilities and must always be judging.
If she is wrong, then a friend will not tell her, but a husband will. If there is a spiritual error in her reasoning, a friend may not tell her, but a husband will. If she is angry with someone without cause, who is supposed to tell her? Her friend or her husband? If she is unfairly judging someone else, is he supposed to tell her? Or let her go on in error?
A husband is a man, after all, and (we hope) a spiritually minded man. He wants his wife to grow spiritually. He wants her to understand the truths of God and the truths of people around her. But if he tries to explain to her exactly why her boss took a particular action (if he acts like a husband) he will be accused of not being a friend. If he tries to inject "love thy neighbor" into her revelation of anger over a neighbor's dog running loose, he will be accused of not being "supportive."
He is your husband. To expect him to take off his husband hat and put on a "best friend" hat is an error. He is a husband. His nature, his heart, his scriptures, and his God all command him to be a good husband. How can you ask him to be less?
It has always been true that married women had friends, girlfriends, with whom they could do all the "friend" things they want to do. They can talk and laugh and cry and sip tea and converse about everything in their lives. Then, they go home to their husbands. There, as husband and wife, they relate on a level utterly unknown to best friends. A great husband is so much more than a "best friend."
Well, our recording plan went awry yesterday, so we have no recording of the class. I will post some of what we did on the "Being Wise" page as the week goes along.
One of the major issues was a comment I made about the current practice of saying "he's not just my husband, he's my best friend," or of saying to a husband "I feel like my best friend has been missing," when he has not been what you wanted him to be. I know this hits at one of the most popular modern ideas, but I have my reasons.
My first reason is simple -- he is your husband. He holds a unique, special place in your life that no one else holds. He is the person with whom you go to bed and with whom you wake up. He shares your home, your children, your finances, your troubles. He is there for everything and involved in everything. No one has a "friend" like this, even a 'best friend." Yet, you feel like you have done something important when you say he is your "best friend." Why?
Because of the error of thinking of "just a husband" as an insult. The error is taking the greater (being a husband) and making it lesser (being a friend). The trend toward this conversational style evolved from people who wanted to compliment their husbands and the only way they could feel good was to say he was not really "just" a husband, but was also something else. Something lesser in reality but greater in their minds and culture.
The problem is that we define "husband" to mean nothing more than the person we married. "Just a husband" means "just the guy we married" and we feel no obligation to that role. We, to put it simply, do not value his marriage to us as much as we value things like listening and sharing, which we think of as "friend" things. We do not even think of how much listening and sharing he has already done and does daily.
Every time I hear a woman say her husband is "her best friend" I remember when it was enough to be a good husband. I remember the days when marrying a woman was considered a greater commitment than merely listening to her complaints. I remember when a husband was expected to be more than just a "best friend" with his wife, he was expected to be one with her. He belongs to her. That is what marriage is all about.
There is no sin in referring to your husband as your "best friend" or even of thinking that way, but it well illustrates how little you expect from a husband. No "best friend" will love you as Christ loved the church. No "best friend" will be the life partner that a husband can and should be. There is no "best friend" to whom you owe the highest regard and consideration, as you owe to him. "Best friends" are seldom BFFs and we normally have several during our lives. But there is only one husband.
By reducing him from a husband to a friend, you have removed a very important truth about your daily life -- that you are married. He does not listen to you out of friendship, but out of commitment to you and to God. His patience, his love, his consideration do not arise from friendship, but from love and partnership. You are married.
We are fond of saying, in regard to parenting, that parents are wrong to try to be their child's "friend." "He does not need a friend, he needs a father" or "he needs a mother," we will say. Why? Because there are levels of commitment beyond friendship. The level of commitment in marriage is greater than in any other human relationship. It is much more than being a friend.
We do not need to think of our husbands as "best friends" but as husbands. As men to whom we are married, who married us out of all the women in the world, who have a relationship with us unlike any they will ever have (we hope) with any other person they ever know. "He is a good husband" is a far greater compliment than "he is my best friend," and includes a great many more truths.
Perhaps the better option is to say "he's not just a husband, he's a good husband and he's my husband."
It is a rainy Friday here in Augusta. Farmers and gardeners rejoice in the rain.
Scripture tells us, again and again, that rain is part of God's gift to us. He created a world in which rain is a means of blessing and cursing and He has used rain as both a blessing and a curse on people. The rain becomes a means, also, of testing the value of someone's service. In Matthew, we are told that rain is a proof of God's love and an example of how we should love.
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?"
So, on this day when God sends the rain upon the just and unjust, I would ask a somewhat different question. God has commanded you to love even those who hate you, but how are you doing in loving those who love you? When your husband left this morning, did he leave with any token of your love, with any sign that you loved him? Did you do anything to manifest your love for him this morning?
What about tonight? Will there be a loving welcome when he returns? Will there be a moment of closeness, a hand in his hand, the touch of a woman's love in his life? Or will it be an evening of just both being in the same place.
If you are to love your enemies, and you are, then how can it be that your husband does not, every day, receive a token of your love for him?
Being an excellent wife is not the result of getting up early or doing anything else. The excellent wife is a type of person, not a list of duties or activities. She is someone who does what is needed. She loves her husband.
Think about that last sentence. "She loves her husband." This means that "SHE loves her husband." It is her nature that is at issue, her heart, her mind, her way of thinking and acting in regard to him. It is not about him, it is about her.
"She LOVES her husband." It is love that she shows to him. It is the active, caring, effective love that scripture always commands. She does not act out her desires or try to "be herself." She loves.
"She loves HER husband." He belongs to her. He is her husband. Paul's words remain correct. "each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband." He belongs to her. He is her husband. Who else can love and take care of him? Who else can love and take care of her, but the man whom she loves?
"She loves her HUSBAND." He is hers for life. He has committed the entirety of his life to her. He is hers today, tomorrow, and forever. They are MARRIED, which means united forever.
"She loves her husband." Not because he is everything she hoped he would be, but because he belongs to her. Her life and his life are tied together forever. To love him is to love herself, because they are one.
In dealing with wives, we must face the reality that wives occupy very different roles in different homes. In particular, there is a real and definite difference between the "stay at home wife" and the "working wife," that is, between the wife whose job is the home and the wife who has another job in our economy.
Now, we have not talked about this much because, to be honest, it really does not matter with regard to being an excellent wife. As Proverbs 31 makes clear, the excellent wife can certainly work outside the home (she buys a field, she plants a vineyard). There is no sin and should be no spiritual question about a wife having a job or career outside the home. The modern notion of a home as (1) a woman who says home with the children all day and (2) a man who makes all their money is not a biblical notion. There is no wrong whatsoever in a wife working and making money. Women have always worked, except for those who were wealthy. They did not always "have jobs" because "jobs" as we think of them are fairly modern ideas.
So, how does a job affect being an excellent wife? Only in the details, that is, in the way that things work out in the home. Obviously, a wife who works at a job does not have the time or freedom of a wife who stays home in regard to taking care of the home or children. Different decisions will have to be made with regard to housework, with regard to child care, with regard to the various aspects of what are normally considered to be a wife's duties. Those situations have to be worked out between the wife and the husband. If both parties work, then they must find a way to fulfill all the duties of being a couple and, ultimately, with being parents. But the requirements of an excellent wife are the same.
Being an excellent wife is not about how much time you spend doing this or doing that. It is not about lists or schedules or tennis lessons. It is about being what scripture tells you to be -- a trustworthy, diligent, wise woman who does good. A woman who spends time at work must use her wisdom and diligence differently, but still must open her mouth in wisdom, still must be worthy of trust, and still must be diligent.
She also must avoid trying to "do it all" in a material sense. A woman who spends her day at a job simply cannot maintain the home the way a woman ought to do if she is at home all day. She cannot work 40 hours a week at a job and do all the same things that a "stay at home" wife does at home.
But this is an application question, not a spiritual question. An excellent wife who stays at home or an excellent wife who works at a job are equally excellent wives; their husbands are equally blessed in them. As we discussed last week, women have always been economic assets to their families, if they are excellent wives.
Being an excellent wife means being an excellent person who is a wife. It means being trustworthy. It means being diligent. It means doing good for her husband. It means being wise in her life and her speech.
It means serving her God by all that she does, whether at work or at home.
It is interesting that the excellent wife is described as speaking with wisdom. She "opens her mouth with wisdom." And, it says, the "teaching of kindness is on her tongue." Here, we come to one of the great mysteries of marriage -- the way women speak.
Proverbs has much to say about the "other way" a wife can speak:
"A foolish son is ruin to his father,and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain." Pro. 19:13.
"It is better to live in a corner of a housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife." Pro. 21:9; 25:24. "It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman." Pro. 21:19.
"A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one’s right hand." Pro. 27:15-16.
There is certainly a commonality among these verses. A woman has the ability to either be a blessing in her speech or a curse.
To "open your mouth with wisdom" is a great blessing. To say things because they are helpful to others is to manifest love in your everyday speech. To be quarrelsome or negative or complaining is to make everyone miserable. How miserable?
Well, it says that a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain. The slow, steady, relentless "drip, drip, drip" of water can drive a man crazy (consider the old Chinese Water Torture from older movies). A quarrelsome woman is like that drip: constant, annoying, and inevitable.
The second principle is that it is better to live in poverty (an attic, a desert) than to live in wealth with a "quarrelsome and fretful woman." No matter how comfortable things may appear, there is no comfort in a home with a complaining wife.
Finally, there is nothing you can do (as a husband) about a quarrelsome wife. You cannot stop her from being quarrelsome. You cannot talk her out of it. It is like trying to grasp oil in your hand or trying to stop the wind.
This truth remains as real today as the day it was written. A quarrelsome wife is the wife who always thinks she has to change whatever is happening, who always believes things ought to be better, who always wants to worry about every little thing that might go wrong. This quarreling wears a man down over the years and drives children away.
To "open your mouth with wisdom" means to think about what you say before you say it. It means to say things that are loving and kind, pure and peaceable, gentle and kind (remember James 3 and the definition of wisdom). The teaching of kindness is manifest in the words of the excellent wife.
Remember that a wise woman looks to the health of her home. "The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down." Pro. 14:1. This morning, did you build your house with your words, or tear it down a little?
The excellent wife opens her mouth with wisdom and builds her house.