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.

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 28.5 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 18 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.

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

  1. Wow. That is a lot to take in, seriously.

    Let me opine that women also need to demonstrate to men that they are committed to being a good wife and mother. There is too much emphasis on the man proving himself worthy and acceptable to the woman. This one sided approach distorts our understanding of marriage. This is a feminist trap. The man must always work to win the woman’s approval. You may say that I am misinterpreting your post. But, marriage is a 2 way street. When one spouse or the other is put on a pedestal and the couple is in this power dynamic where one spouse is always having to prove him or herself, the marriage is at long term risk of failure. Givers eventually tire of being used by takers.

    As to your concern over a woman’s fear of her husband’s sexual fidelity to her once married, you say that you would demonstrate to her that sex was not the main or a major factor in your interest in her (or something to that effect). WK, as every Christian marriage blogger knows and as every casual reader of marriage blogs knows, sex is a very important factor in marriage. We can choose to deny that as the Christian churches have done since the time of Augustine, but that is contrary to man’s (and woman’s) nature. A better approach might be to tell the woman you are courting that you desire a strong, mutually fulfilling sexual relationship with her once you are married as that is important to you. (This advice is to men in general. When I use the term “you” I am not singling you, WK, out personally.)

    Husbands do not have to “earn” sex from their wives. And, there is way too much of this sexual “gate keeping” in marriage by wives who use sex as either a bribe or a tool of punishment (by withholding it from their husband). You want to know the biggest cause of extramarital affairs in the US? It is when one spouse’s emotional and sexual needs are neglected by the other spouse for years. (This is not my personal assertion. It is what is said by those who actually run a website to facilitate such affairs, sorry to say.)

  2. //then suggest practical things that you can do to remove the underlying triggers or causes.//
    Buy life insurance. There done. It was invented precisely for this reason: to ensure financial stability is something happens the breadwinner so that the widow and kids can be cared for… That is what makes the story so strange, an obvious simple solution exists to the stated problem such that if that really was a long ongoing problem, there must have been more to it.

  3. Wow! I have the same fears as the woman in the video. I also sometimes find myself thinking of backup Christian guys I know that I could marry in case my husband dies (I wouldn’t be able to support myself without him). I don’t think that is good for our marriage so I am trying to convince my husband to buy life insurance.

    1. This is where your faith is being tested and how will you act in faith?

      The Reformers used three different Latin words to speak of faith: notitia (the cognitive content of faith), assensus (similar to our word ‘assent’, the personal aspect of faith), and fiducia (the word root from whence we get ‘fiduciary’ — or trust, the volition aspect).

      Preachers often use the illustration of Charles Blondin — “The Great Blondin.” Blondin was an amazing performer and tightrope artist and became famous for crossing the Niagara Gorge. He did so many times, sometimes blindfolded, trundling a wheelbarrow — with and without a large load. In any case, the story goes that Blondin had just crossed the Niagara — and he was very capable of working a crowd into a frenzy as to heighten their anticipation and excitement.

      “Do you believe I can cross the Niagara on the a tightrope?” he hollered.
      “Yes we believe it!” returned the crowd.
      “Do you believe I can cross with a wheelbarrow?” Blondin pressed.
      “Of course you can, you’re the great Blondin!” the crowd would cheer.
      “Okay — who wants to ride in the barrow as I cross?” Blondin would ask — and the crowd would go silent.

      And that’s where the rubber meets the road regarding faith. If people so believed that Blondin could cross with a wheelbarrow and keep it (and its contents) safe, would they entrust Blondin with their lives?

      And only one man dared to go — and that was Blondin’s manager.

      You may know the Lord’s Prayer.
      You may even agree with the Lord’s Prayer.
      But will you place your trust in God, after saying, “Give us our daily [or coming day’s] bread”?

      As a Christian man, I have heard that husbands have more nightmares and worries over how to provide for their kids. I fret over it a minor amount. I have no idea what the future holds. I have no idea whether I will have a job (and I thank God for my employment) or how my kids will turn out. I do not trust the size of my checking account or the size of my savings or what’s in my 401(k) plan. And sure, I am wise about all those things.

      But at the end of the day, I trust that God is good; He’ll provide for my kids, and often using natural causes. Natural causes like my [full-time] employment and my wife’s part-time employment. If the Lord should call me home, my parents and cousins (who are Christians and have a son a year older than my oldest son) will help out. Or that Christians in the church will step in.

      And I’m not being ignorant or acting in “blind faith”. I do have life insurance, but having discussed this with a friend (math professor) and I do know about the Social Security Administration life/death tables e.g., https://www.ssa.gov/oact/NOTES/as120/LOT.html
      and how actuaries use this information to calculate things like annuities (i.e., you pay a lump sum up front, they pay you amounts at regular intervals until death) or insurance products (you make monthly premium payments, they pay you a lump sum upon death).

      I guess I’ll take it as a personal project to do some analyses and so on to figure out if I should cancel my supplemental life insurance or at what point to cancel it (given say, how old my kids are and what’s in our 401(k) plans).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s