What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in your marriage?

Painting: "St. George and the Dragon", by Paolo Uccello (~1456)
Painting: “St. George and the Dragon”, by Paolo Uccello (~1456)

A friend who just got married sent me this video, and ask me to comment on it, in light of my views on courtship and marriage.

It features famous pastor Matt Chandler and his wife Lauren answering this question:

“What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in your marriage?”

Here’s the video, pay close attention to Lauren’s answer, since that’s the one I want to talk about:

I liked Matt’s response but nothing much occurred to me when I saw it. It’s always a man’s job to listen  to the woman completely, then encourage her to be specific about what is causing the feelings, then propose alternatives to her for how to move forward in a way that solves the problem. I used to think that feelings were crazy, but now I see how to handle them – which is you listen first, try to get her to be specific, then suggest practical things that you can do to remove the underlying triggers or causes. In the old days, I would just point a finger at the woman and say “You’re crazy!”, because she was acting so differently than my car or my computer does. These are things that everyone knows about women except me, apparently. Phooey!

Lauren says her biggest problem was inside her, and not caused by her husband. Basically, after she married Matt, she was always thinking up a plan B for her marriage to Matt, in case something happened to Matt and he could not protect her. It started even before Matt’s brain cancer, when she was pregnant with their first child. She had this fear that Matt would die and she would be left alone as a single mom and no one would take care of her. So she started thinking about other men who she could go to for help. There was no sexual attraction, nor any romantic interest. She just realized that as a single mother, she would not have any security, and security is very important to women. Women can’t be vulnerable with a man until he gives them that sense of security, and obviously providing for her is a big part of that. So she was already thinking ahead to when Matt left her or died, what will happen, and what is her backup plan. It started out innocently, and it grew into a huge problem that resulted in her putting up walls between her and Matt. And she was able to resolve this by relying on God for her security (which I only partly agree with, as we’ll see).

My response to this was very positive. First, I love when women are deep and in touch with their feelings and they provide me with useful, actionable information like this. Because everything she says is stuff for us men to do, and I like that.

First of all, I think her feelings are really, really natural and normal for a woman to have. They are valid feelings, rooted in the real world, not crazy at all. If I were a single mother, I would be 100% rationally justified in being fearful about the future and finances. Especially if I had put being a wife and mother first over keeping up a career.

I disagree with her solution though, if we take it as a full solution. I don’t think that she needs to only have more faith in God in order to resolve this.  That is OK, but I actually think that it is her husband’s job to resolve this, and it starts when her husband is in school, deciding what to study, and when her husband starts to work, deciding where to work, and when she gets pregnant, and her husband needs to provide for her as Christ provides for the church. For example, he takes out a term life insurance policy so that if he dies, then she will be taken care of until her retirement.

I also think that a woman needs security from being abandoned or being cheated on. I deal with this in two ways. I have long-term commitments in my life that I keep in order to demonstrate to women I might be interested in that I can keep commitments. So, my pet bird is really, really long-lived. His species only lives 16-20 years with excellent care, and the record is 33 years. He is 27.5 years old right now! And my whole life is wrapped up in making sure that he is all right. In addition, my summer car is 17 years old now, and I have had her all that time. When my parents suggested that I might trade her in for a newer model, I started to cry and told them to never say such things again. A car is a knight’s horse, after all – that’s part of chivalry.

As far as the infidelity thing goes, I’m a virgin and I’m never even kissed a girl on the lips. I’m saving that for my engagement, which may never even happen, but so what. What do I care? I’m going to have eternal life with Jesus, I’m not trying to have a good time in the here and now. All through courtship I am communicating to women that marriage is a boundary, and some things are not OK outside of marriage. What do you think she will think after we are married? She will think that all the things that were off limits to you when you were dating will be off limits to you with other women you’re not married to. She will think that sex was never a big goal for me, that helping her and leading her to make a difference for Christ and his Kingdom were more important to me.

In addition, women I am courting would know who the women I look up to are: Nancey Pearcey, Ann Gauger, Heidi Cruz and super-mom Michele Bachman. My friends know me – they know that I am mentoring a lot of younger Christians to make a difference, and not pursuing pleasure the way that most young people do. My goal is to provide God with able laborers, and my future wife has security from that, knowing that her value lies in her ability to serve God, and not in her youth and appearance. A woman is not just arm candy. A woman is a partner. I have work for my future wife to do. And I need her help. That’s the main thing she is for.

My education and career was specifically chosen in order to provide for a stay-at-home wife and mom, and four children who I expected would all be little Ted Cruz clones. I take the provider role seriously. There are so many things that I am not good at with women, but the provider role makes sense to me, and from high school on I was making decisions to say to my future wife, relax, this is my responsibility to provide for you and to make it safe for you to get pregnant and have children. It’s on me to demonstrate that to her with my academic transcript, resume, investment portfolio and assets. Her fears are natural and rational, and it’s my role to alleviate them with actions and evidence – not with promises about the future.

11 thoughts on “What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in your marriage?”

  1. Love your intentional actions in the area of preparing for marriage and parenthood. Your wife is going to be one lucky lady! I love Michelle Bachman and Heidi Cruz. I’m not familiar w/ the other 2 ladies, I’ll check them out.

    Note: Am I the only one who is shocked by a Pastor using the word “friggin”?????


    1. I know you won’t like me saying this, but sometimes guys swear like that when they feel they are in a safe environment. I have been around military people and they swear a lot, especially Marines. I actually swear the most when I am around my male Christian friends. I hide it everywhere else. Pearcey is a Christian apologist, and Gauger is a pro-intelligent design scientist.

  2. I don’t like it. My hubby says guys “talk that way” when they are in work environments. I do expect more from a Pastor, especially in what appears like a church setting.

    I did have a Pastor swear in front of me and my son once. My son, who was 16 at the time said, ” Insert name” you are a PASTOR!

    I didn’t have to say a word. : )

  3. What did I do wrong, as a whole, not being the husband that God called me to be. I did not live right. I allowed pornography to get a foothold and in the end I think the consequence of this is part of our demise. True, she had committed adultery, but that just gave me a reason to file for divorce.

    But I blame myself for the most part. Had I done what was right, it is possible that this sin may not have been at all. For me, the question is, what led to her cheat on me?

    I can sit here and second guess, throw blame around and try to justify it all, but for me, taking the blame has actually made me a better husband to my wife now of almost 15 years. I do not carry guilt or regrets. If I did, would I not be robbing my wife now? Would I not be questioning my marriage now wishing for something that never will be?

    The best marital advice I have ever heard is this, and is very simple, “If you work on your relationship with Christ, your marriage will fall into place.” The truth of the matter is, this is correct. Matthew 6:33 says “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” If we applied this to our marriage, would not the health of the marriage remain spiritually strong and firmly founded since it is Christ that remains at the center of it?

    I take Matthew 6:33 to be applied to all parts of our life, not just our daily needs. Although in the context of the preceding verses, this is exactly what Christ was talking about. But if we seek Christ first in everything, would He not follow through and care for our marriage as well?

    Just my thoughts on this matter.

  4. My biggest mistake was giving my wife veto power in our marriage. I was taught at church to listen and ask my wife for advice. This is good and I still recommend husbands doing it. But, I found that I was letting her make the final decisions whenever she had strong feelings about an issue.

    The husband as leader needs to consider the wife’s input but make the final decision himself, even if the wife won’t like it.

  5. Idolizing my husband instead of God. Have to disagree with you on this – as a wife, I have to understand that it’s God who is my shield. No shade cast on my husband, who provides well for me in all ways. But he’s just a human. I need to have my trust in God.

    I think your comments are great – because we have a responsibility to God to be the best spouse we can be, and part of being a husband is that providing. You’re taking it seriously, thinking it through, getting things in line. And that’s obeying God’s call to love your wife as He loved the church.

    But there is no certainty in life. If you put your faith in a human, then their human failures can dump you on your head. If your faith is in God, God will provide for you, no matter what happens and how things go down. Read around and you’ll see people speaking from their fear, trying to “do” things to prevent their fears from coming to fruition. Of *course* we should do things right… but having done all, having obeyed, you rest.

    Which enables you to freely give yourself to your spouse, even when things are weird. (Living with another human, sometimes things are weird. Because humans). Ultimately, you’ve lived your life to please God, and how it works out is His problem, not yours.

    1. I agree with you mostly on all your points Hearth, I think putting your faith in a human though, is a little more difficult to discern biblically though.

      In Proverbs 31, it clearly says that “her husband’s heart safely trusts in her,” and from what I’ve researched, the Hebrew for “trusts” is translated into “to be of good courage, to take heart and to feel confidence.” It is only ever mentioned when a person “trusts” in God elsewhere in the Bible.

      Here is an excerpt from a book I found on this subject,

      “Throughout the book of Proverbs trusting in any person or pursuit other than God is equated to foolishness (Proverbs 3:5). But God makes one exception to His principle: Whereas a man usually enjoys wealth as a result of his trust in God, here in Proverbs 31:11 his profit is a result of the value of his wife – in whom he can solidly trust. He trusts his wife in the same way he trusts God! “The heart of her husband safely trusts in her” – and in the Lord! As one translator sees it, “The heart of her husband has faith in her”!” from Beautiful in God’s Eyes by Elizabeth George.

      So yes, we should wholly put our trust in God, but that does not mean that we should also not have faith in, and have full confidence and trust in, a valuable, virtuous mate. They may let us down, and we’ll still have our faith and trust in God, but that doesn’t negate that it’s not idolatry to also put faith in our husband (or our husband trusting in us).

  6. This was really good! I would add that talking for a women tends to be different than for a man. Men like conversations that are goal oriented so it is natural for you to try and help her solve the problems that are bringing her emotion distress. But most of us women don’t think that way. Most often we are not talking about our problems because we want solutions but because it’s the talking itself that helps us feel less stressed if the listener is sympathetic. I’ve had this problem with my husband. I couldn’t figure out why he keep offering solutions to my problems when all I wanted him to do was listen, as my girlfriend did. Men are problem solvers, and my engineer husband even more so, so it really bothered him to see me upset and not able to fix it. I finally realized this and got him to understand that in most situations I already know what I ought to do or know that there is nothing that can reasonable be done. But if he listens to me and is sympathetic then I feel as if my problem is not so bad even if nothing about it has changes.

    My biggest mistake was hiding how much my husband was hurting me rather than trying to solve the problem.

  7. I am not married; probably at this point will never be. I can deal with that. I have seen about six “Christian divorces” at this point in my community of faith. I have been a solid Christian for about seven years. Not one wedding since I have been in my church if I may add…….

    The biggest mistake I have seen? Have witnessed? Pride and greed.

    Couples argue over money (the lack of it), and they don’t seem to forgive each other. Each partner seems to think they are “it” or someone “better” is just around the corner. I see women living a fantasy in their marriages….and they get mad or disillusioned when their husbands can’t deliver a “Disney-princess-happy ending” on everything. I see men crippled in their marriages; but they are unwilling to even lift a finger to better themselves or taking a situation realistically (their marriage) and holding themselves to lead it….even if their wife disagrees with a decision or choice………

    Men retreat to their “man cave” and women dive into their romance novels……..and it just gets worse.

    Great, the Chandlers have a good marriage. It happens. It takes work. Dedication, and humility. Both need to be focused on Christ, and it’s NOT a competition. They put up a good show, but we in the flock forget that it took a TON of work to get it where it is, and even more work to keep it at that level. I give credit where it’s due.

    1. I’m seeing a lot of Christian women initiating divorces as well, even just recently. It’s always the woman thinking that she can change the man after marriage. If men were just equipped to detect the warning signs that you mention, then things would be better. But most men aren’t.

      Here are some warning signs: thinking that their feelings are the voice of God, the Disney princess mentality, the “I can change him later” fallacy, thinking that a man can read a woman’s mind if he loves her, thinking that men don’t have distinct feelings and needs – i.e. that they are just hairy women, thinking that men don’t need respect, not knowing what respect is, not letting the man lead, etc.

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