I've shared in articles before that, pretty much every man who I've been intimate with, they have left some one-liner that has remained with me, even all of these years later. And if there's one that I bring up, shoot, at least every fifth counseling session, it's something that an ex once said to me; something that I find to be truly beautiful and more accurate as time goes by — "A woman should be a man's sanctuary."
I think a part of the reason why it hits so close to home, to me, is because I work with a lot of couples where it's more like a proverb in the Bible where it says that it's better for a man to live on the roof than with a contentious woman (hey, take that up with Scripture, not me. It's referenced in Proverbs 21:9, by the way). Someone who's contentious is quarrelsome. Someone who's contentious is combative. Someone who's contentious is contrary (just to be contrary). So, basically what the Bible's saying is, when you live with someone with that kind of energy, the place to find peace would be your roof because you definitely won't get it within your home.
Hey, if that triggered you, I don't know what to tell you because all it does for me is remind me that, even as a single woman, when folks are in my presence, I should want them to feel more peace than a lack-of-peace. And that when I'm talking to my clients — husbands and wives — I need to remind them to offer that same kind of space to their spouse. And an exquisite word that sums all of this up very well — again, to me — is sanctuary.
Why “Sanctuary” Is Such a Beautiful Word
Usually, when folks think of a sanctuary, it's a church that comes to mind. I get that, being that a popular definition of the word is "a sacred or holy place". Yet if you really let that breakdown marinate, do you get how a sanctuary can also be your home and your partner (I mean, even the Bible says that our body is a temple in I Corinthians 6:19-20)? Among other things, sacred means "regarded with reverence" and "secured against violation, infringement, etc., as by reverence or sense of right". Your home should definitely be regarded with reverence (check out "7 Signs That You Truly Respect Your Spouse (& Your Marriage)") and you and your partner should both feel like neither of you would intentionally violate the other. As far as holy goes, one definition is "dedicated or devoted to the service of God" while another is "having a spiritually pure quality". Regardless of what your particular faith may be, being spiritually compatible with your spouse (check out "7 Signs You're Spiritually Compatible With Someone") while making sure that your motives, words and actions come from a pure space as much as possible is also a way to have a supremely healthy union.
Personally, I'm a big Hebrew girl, so I also know that the Hebrew word for sanctuary is "mikdash" which speaks of being set apart, in part, for rest and refuge. And y'all, I can't tell you how many spouses — I'm gonna be real, it's mostly husbands — who tell me that they dread the thought of going home because rest and refuge are the last two things that transpire within their dwelling space. And y'all, this simply should not be the case. If there is any place where a husband and wife — especially a Black husband and wife within these United States — should feel like they can put down their guard, be at ease and seek refuge, it should be within the confines of their own home.
Speaking of refuge, that's a powerful word as well. Let's look into it, just a bit deeper too.
What Does It Mean to Be a Place of Refuge?
No one wants to live in a home where they feel like they are going to be bossed around (check out "Are You His Partner Or His Second Mama?"), nagged, berated, constantly criticized or anything else that cultivates more anxiety and stress than anything else. Well, when a house is a home that is a refuge, it is the opposite of all of these things. When something is a refuge, it is "shelter or protection from danger, trouble, etc." and "anything to which one has recourse for aid, relief, or escape".
When you are married, your home — and your being — should feel like you are shelter from danger and a place where your spouse can escape to, as they provide that same kind of reality for you.
Unfortunately, this isn't even close to being the reality for a lot of couples. Instead of protecting their partner from as much hurt, harm and danger as possible, they are the actual cause of a lot of it. I'd venture to say that a part of the reason why is because many of us did not grow up living in a home that felt like a place of refuge and definitely not like it was a sanctuary (lawd). And so, we've been programmed to think that love and contention, drama, peace-less-ness can — and even should — coexist when really, that isn't the case at all. Just look at the Love Chapter of the Bible. What about it sounds like combativeness, hostility or strife?
"Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, doesn't have a swelled head, doesn't force itself on others, isn't always 'me first,' doesn't fly off the handle, doesn't keep score of the sins of others, doesn't revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies." — I Corinthians 13:4-8(Message)
In all actuality, love reminds us to be a sanctuary space and place of refuge for our spouse. And gee, just imagine how many marriages would improve, exponentially so, if one of their biggest priorities was to make sure, that above all else, this was the case? And just how can you commit to making this all happen in your own relationship? I've got six suggestions.
6 Ways to Make Your Union a Sanctuary Space
1. Create a "You're Safe Here" marriage-themed mission statement.
I'm big on mission statements. They're a concise and to-the-point way to get us to stay focused on any particular mission at hand. So, when it comes to your marriage, get together with your hubby and ask him to create a "you are totally safe here" mission statement for your union. Discuss what it means to be safe and what you both are committed to offering each other so that you both will feel that way. Then post it somewhere where you both can see it on a daily basis. I'm telling you, this simple tip does wonders.
2. Leave being hypercritical at the door.
You should hold your partner accountable as they do the same for you. There is no doubt about that. However, if you are constantly chastising and ridiculing, that is going way overboard which makes it a surefire way for your spouse to build up walls or emotionally shut down completely. You know, I really can't believe how many people will dish out being hypercritical and then cave the minute even a remote correction is sent their way. Oftentimes, that's a sign of extreme insecurity but that's a message for another time. Anyway, supporting and encouraging your partner to live a healthy and responsible life is one thing. Acting like a drill sergeant is something else. You don't want someone to be that in your life, so why would you send your husband through that type of madness? Exactly. Don't.
3. Keep some things ONLY between you and your spouse.
I'm not going to name any names because, well, I'm just not going to (LOL) but there are some celebrity wives that have me thinking, "So, are you just on a mission to humiliate your husband at every turn?" Goodness. When you signed up to have your spouse's back until death parts the two of you, there really needs to be certain things that remain solely between the two of you, no matter what. Some of his past. Some of his secrets. Some of his "tender spaces". And certain things about your marriage too (intimate details about your sex life comes to mind).
One of the best things about feeling like your marriage is a sanctuary is the fact that you know that there are things that will never go beyond your spouse's ears, no matter what, because they care about your heart, just that much. And having that kind of assurance is what causes people to open up even more which cultivates new levels of intimacy over time.
4. Know how to comfort your partner.
How many of y'all remember the Shai song "Comforter"? OK, while ole' boy was slick trying to break a couple up by saying that he would comfort the girlfriend since her boyfriend was a hot mess, my main point is the hook — "I will comfort you." Comforting someone consists of soothing, consoling and reassuring them. It's also about making them feel as physically comfortable as possible. When's the last time you did that for your husband? When's the last time he did that for you? Unfortunately, instead of a lot of people putting forth the effort to "restore to assurance or confidence" when their partner is down, self-doubting or even just had a bad day, they say and do things that make their spouse feel even worse. Being comforting is the last thing on their mind. Make sure that, as for you and your house, it is one of the first.
5. Plan "Peace Dates".
Dates shouldn't go away simply because you're married. That's because dates are all about intentionally setting aside quality time for you and your partner. That said, synonyms for peace include love, friendship and even reconciliation. So, when's the last time the two of you went on a date with this focus in mind? An indoor picnic. A weekend road trip. A sex date (check out "When's The Last Time You And Your Man Had A 'Sex Date'?"). An unplugged weekend. A night when the two of you slow drag to 90s R&B while drinking champagne and toasting each other and your relationship. Anything that will help to create harmony in your relationship will definitely fit the bill. A peace date is a great way to get back to the kind of energy and atmosphere that you truly desire within your union.
6. Strive to be a peacemaker.
I've shared before that the Hebrew word for peace is "shalom" and two definitions of it are "wholeness" and "completion". I really dig that in the marital space because being a peacemaker doesn't automatically or necessarily mean that you say nothing or that you don't even challenge your partner from time to time. What it does mean is, whatever your efforts are, it's for the sake of cultivating wholeness and completion in your relationship — and if it's not, it doesn't need to be done.
Sanctuary. What a "woosah" kind of word. Here's hoping that if you or your spouse (you might wanna ask him) wouldn't currently define your marriage and home as a sanctuary space that you'll brainstorm together on how to make that a reality. Hey, you can't control what happens outside of your relationship or household yet you are quite empowered to control what goes down within it — and being a sanctuary for one another is top-tier loving. It really and truly is.
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