I remember it like it was yesterday. My husband called me “an un-supportive wife."
He said I didn't support him in his pursuit of his dream career.
We've had many arguments in our 10+ year relationship, but this comment insulted and hurt me more than anything he's ever said to me.
All I do is support him.
I couldn't believe he just uttered those words. I was shocked to silence when he first spat that out at me. I looked around in disbelief that he could actually feel that way.
I looked around at the janky old apartment in Jersey City (above my mother in law, mind you), that I agreed to move into for him from my beloved city of Manhattan so he'd be close to school for his needed prerequisites. I looked at the bin of freshly washed laundry done so he'd not have to worry about having bright white shirts ready for work, and I looked at my non-existent workspace since he has the entire office to himself…
Then my rage came.
I had an Ally McBeal moment of bashing my laptop right onto the top his head. I spat right back at him. Listing all the things I've done that show my support in his future career. From helping him with research, writing, to small things that make his life easier so he can do what he has to do. It was a laundry list, and by the time I'd finished, my face was soaked, I was standing over him, shaking and much louder than I started out.
“Yeah, but you never SAY supportive things."
I wanted to punch him in the nose.
Words? I thought. You want words?
Had I known that all I needed to do was shake a pom pom and say “Go John, go!" I'd be happily living in a cute uptown Manhattan apartment and not be so far from all of my friends, family, and support system.
If I'd known that words mattered more than actions, I'd have done a LOT less, been a lot more comfortable, and just tossed a few saccharine sentiments at him each day while maintaining the lifestyle I wanted. Sigh.
To me, words are worthless. Anybody can say whatever they want, but what I value are actions. Politicians say “no new taxes" and then raise them five minutes later. Cheaters say “you're the only one for me" and then go hook up with their side piece. People talk about getting healthy for years as they continue to lay on the couch eating junk food. Words have very little value in my eyes.
Actions matter. What you actually DO means a lot more than what you say to me. There's a big difference in the friend that visits you in the hospital after you've given birth saying “girl, I got your back" and the friend that pops up a week post-partum with two casseroles, forces you to lay down and starts tidying up your home while you rest.
I had a moment of resentment-tinged clarity after my “I'm oh so supportive" tirade. My mind went to Gary Chapman's book “The 5 Love Languages" that I read very early in our relationship, and re-read last summer. I gave my husband the book to read, and he didn't. So I sent him the quiz to help him discover his love language in lieu of reading. He never sent his results. ::sturdy side eye::
THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES ARE:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
After reading, I realized that acts of service, and quality time are my languages. (Don't get me wrong, I love a gift as much as the next girl!) But I feel most loved when you actually do something meaningful for me. I think this stems from what I saw my dad modeling toward my mom growing up with little things like filling up her gas tank and keeping her car clean.
I wanted to say (in the nastiest, attitude-filled, ratchet, neck swiveling way) “If you had actually read the Love Languages book…maybe you could have communicated this earlier…."
But instead I was silent (for once). He was finally telling me his love language!
My husband was communicating his feelings. In his way. He was letting me know that he was hurting and feeling unsupported and needed something different from me. It didn't matter how I felt about my level of support towards him. It didn't matter how I felt about what it was that he needed.
And it was my job to ensure he had what he needed. Period.
Words may not hold much weight with me, but it's irrelevant if it's what's required for my husband to feel like I've got his back. Just like him doing the dishwasher each night is just a random chore to him but makes me feel loved and like he values the time I have to spend in the mornings with our son.
Since this conversation I've changed the “language" I speak with my husband. I'd be the person to clean the bathroom because he hates doing it almost as much as I hate doing dishes, thinking that he understands it as an act of love. But it doesn't translate. He doesn't speak that language. Now, I've been trying my best to speak (literally) words of affirmation, words of love, words of appreciation, words of encouragement and words of support to my husband. He's my best friend and I want him to always feel like I support him in his endeavors no matter what language I have to speak it in.
Knowing his love language has made me a better wife.
I now encourage everyone in a relationship (or looking for a relationship) to read "The 5 Love Languages" or take the Love Languages quiz and figure out their own first. This allows us to be able to effectively ask for what we need in our relationships. If you are being supportive, pouring out words of affirmation and doing household chores as a way to show your love, but your partner's love language is physical touch, they are not going to feel happy and completely supported and loved if they aren't shown affection.
I also encourage everyone to have their significant other to read the book or take the quiz as well. It's important to be able to speak the language of love that your other half understands. It makes for a happier, more intimate, an deeper connection. Who doesn't want that?
Maintaining a strong and happy marriage requires so much effort and energy. There's a saying, “happy wife, happy life." But I believe it goes both ways. I want my husband happy, which in turn makes me happy, and we both get a happy life and family out of that.
It's a work in progress.
What's your love language?
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I am not sure if it's a recent trend or if I just happened to stumble on the posts altogether, but I'm noticing a lot of “pray for your husband" and “why you should pray for your family" type of thinkpieces and listicles. I am all for it…ish. I'm all for anything aimed at bringing a marriage together and making it stronger versus making you feel better about letting it go astray.
Praying for your husband and family's health and well-being, a more peaceful household, or a more productive, understanding, affectionate, driven, loving household is great! (Praying for your husband or child to change his evil ways…not so much.)
Now, I don't follow any organized religion but I do "pray". Prayer to me is not about getting on your knees with clasped hands, bowing your head and asking some deity up above to help you out with something.
In my opinion prayer is any mental or emotional attempt to shift energy.
So when that creepy guy at Costco is staring at you and you're avoiding eye contact, saying "go away" repeatedly in your head and hoping he doesn't come up to you and start a conversation…that's prayer. When you're hoping, wishing, lamenting, cursing someone out, belittling yourself in your head -- any and all of that is prayer to me because all of that is energy in motion. I'm a firm believer that thoughts are things, and any thought, especially when imbued with emotion, are powerful and equates to “prayer".
In terms of praying for your husband or family, I saw a few pieces on it and really liked the sentiment but was left with an "OK, but then what?" feeling after reading it. Prayer is great. It's useful and empowering and starts to get energy in motion. But let me tell you what's even more powerful: action.
There's a big difference in praying for something and waiting versus praying for something and then doing.
You can pray every night for two months for “a hot sexy body that I love" and wait for something to happen, or… you can eat clean and work out every day for two months. Prayer may help. You may have an emotional and mental shift in how you view your body and begin to see yourself as beautiful the way you are (because you so are), or maybe you'll randomly win a “mommy makeover" package from a local plastic surgeon. Either of those things are totally possible. But you know what's probable? Getting closer to "a hot sexy body you love" after two months of steady exercise and healthy eating. Feel me?
Prayer, intention, meditation, thoughts, hopes wishes… it's not enough. It's an excellent start, though.
So, however prayer looks like to you: a bowed head, zen meditation, or a bonfire on the full moon with amulets and crystals in a star formation and an animal sacrifice -- here are a few ways to add energy through action to the “prayer" you're doing for your husband and/or family.
Build them up with words, daily. Out loud.
Speaking good stuff over your family is the natural progression from private prayer. Your spoken words are so powerful and can build up and empower, or break down and depress just as easily. With our children, John and I praise and empower them constantly. After finding out John's love language is Words of Affirmation, I have been pouring into him with positivity and it shows. It makes me feel good seeing my children (and husband) beam with pride after I've verbally loved on 'em.
Pamper them and PAMPER YOURSELF!
I encourage you to substitute the word "pamper" with whatever quality it is you're hoping to make manifest in your family's lives. Spoil, encourage, praise, treat, respect, and acknowledge are just a few examples. There's a saying that you teach people how to treat you. There's also another saying that children *COUGH* and husbands *COUGH* do as they see and not as you say. For these reasons, it's important to not only treat them in the way you want to be treated, but also treat yourself the same way.
I wanted more compliments from my husband. I not only started complimenting him more, but I also started complimenting myself, out loud…in earshot. Hearing me say "damn I look good in this outfit" and "my hair looks so cute today" has sparked something in him to let me know he notices these things as well. The children have caught on and do the same. (Although we're working with Rohan to stop telling his sister she's "one handsome man.")
Work on an affirming project together.
I'm a big fan of the family project. This can be anything from a family date night, at-home movie and popcorn night, a monthly family meeting/check-in, or an actual hands-on project activity. Many couples and families get together to do projects: vision boards, bucket lists, art projects, planting a family herb garden, or making a family mission statement. You can also try out creating a family motto, secret handshake or dance move! The point is to shift the energy between the couple or the family. If you're sitting around praying for your husband to stop smoking and drinking, you may not have great results. But if you convince him into join you for a walk for charity, salsa lessons, or a daily bike ride, he may realize that his not-so-healthy habits are holding him back, and may slow down or even stop.
Encourage them to pray and take actions for themselves.
If you're praying for your husband or family member to make some sort of change in personality, habit or action (e.g. addiction), let me just tell you right now, you need to release that burden. It's not yours to carry, nor does your prayer do anything to impact it directly. What you can do is encourage them to do that energy work as well as make positive moves for themselves. I'm good for suggesting books and websites (once the door has been opened or I've been asked for my input). Once it's out there, let it be. Constantly bringing it up and asking (read: nagging) will not have the desired effect.
How ever you pray and to whom doesn't matter. As long as you follow those energetic efforts with action, you're sure to see an effect.
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