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Renegade Gentlemen Books
Copyright © 2016 by Phil Potts
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If your wife were asked to rank your marriage on a 1-10 scale, what would she give it? 10 is outstanding. 5 is average. 1 is struggling.
Seriously. Take a guess.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Did you know that the average woman scores this question 3 points lower than her husband? So what would you give it? What’s 3 points lower than that?
Years ago, my wife and I were given this task at a Chick- fil-A marriage retreat. I circled a 7. And my wife . . . you guessed it . . . a 4.
Can you imagine your wife ranking your marriage a 10 out of 10?
After the retreat, I spent the next years obsessed with— completely immersed in—the quest to do whatever, and I mean whatever, was required of me to accomplish this. Fast forward a decade . . . and God has blessed my efforts with a marriage that most would think is too good to be true.
Habits of Heroic Husbands is a story of transformation. Whether your wife would circle a 1, a 4, or an 8, this is a map that you can follow. The journey to that 10 out of 10 is not only possible, it’s attainable. And YOU can give her this gift. If you do, she will love it more than any other gift you have ever given. And truth be told, you’re gonna love it too.
Want more . . .
. . . become more
A decade ago, my wife and I were invited to attend a marriage retreat at Chick-fil-A’s Winshape Retreat Center in Rome, Georgia. I knew nothing of the event, nor of marriage retreats. But I did like Chick-fil-A, and I did like our friends who invited us, so, I packed my bags.
When we arrived, the facility was beautiful. We expected nothing less. We went for walks on wooded paths. We ate. We enjoyed the company of our friends. When it came time for our first “session”, I had almost forgotten that we had signed up for some kind of marriage school.
But I wasn’t worried. I knew that Shannon and I both loved each other. I even knew that we liked each other and that we really enjoyed being together. How hard could this be?
The speaker began our time together by asking us to rank our marriage on a 1 to 10 scale. 10 was outstanding. 5 was average. 1 was struggling. I gave it some thought and circled 7. That seemed like a reasonable answer. I knew we weren’t perfect . . . But who was?
After a few moments, I got to see Shannon’s score. She had circled . . . a 4. I later decided to ask her about her vote, hopeful that she was feeling a little better and would at least give us a 5 or a 6. I could live with a 6. The conversation went a little something like this:
Me: “Sweetie, about that 4 out of 10 that you gave us . . . Do you really think our relationship is below average? I know we have room for improvement, but everyone does, right? Don’t you think we are at least a 5? Or maybe even a 6?”
Shannon: “Phil . . . when I gave us a 4, I was being generous. I chose 4 because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
I no longer liked marriage retreats. Couldn’t we just go for another walk and maybe grab a bite to eat? I had just been railroaded, and I mean railroaded, with the fact that I was smack dab in the middle of a relationship that my wife thought was slightly, or possibly significantly, below average.
Now, I wasn’t new to relational conflict. In fact, relationships that were in my past had been full of conflict. And I was the cause of much of it. But I never dreamed that I would find myself in that place with Shannon.
Shannon was different. Shannon was very different. Our first year of marriage was utopia. We were that couple that liked being together so much that it slightly annoyed our family and friends. We were head over heals for each other and loved every single minute that we got to spend together. I knew that we had slipped from the peak of that mountaintop, but I thought that the change was slight. But below average? I had no idea . . .
After a few hours of recovery, I realized that I stood at a crossroad. It seems simple looking back, but at the moment, it was monumental. I could either continue on the same path, or I could change. I decided to change.
And so, I began my quest. I made it my assignment, my job, my number one priority to learn what was required of me to make our relationship extraordinary. I read. I asked questions. I observed. I interviewed. I spoke with experts. I studied. I listened. I experimented. For ten years, I com- pletely immersed myself in the mission of regaining and then surpassing the relationship that we once had. If ever asked again, I wanted to be able to circle 10. I wanted her to circle a 10. And it wasn’t just for the obtaining of some random number at a Chick-fil-A retreat. I loved this girl. What we had was special. I knew that. She knew that. I believed passionately that God had put us together. And if He did, I believed that it was His desire for us to both delight, absolutely delight, in our relationship. My mission was to start doing everything within my power to experience that. Even more, I wanted her to be able to do the same.
This book is a summary of what I did that worked. These are the “habits” that—when I did them consistently—transformed my marriage to Shannon. Whether you have slipped from your mountaintop, or are trying to climb it for the first time, this is a path that you, too, can follow.
If your relationship is hanging on by a thread, you know that a change is in your best interest. But even if you and/or your wife would give your marriage decent marks, don’t settle where you are.
Jim Collins is credited with saying that “good is the enemy of great”. And I believe that he is right. Nobody struggles to see that they need help when they are bouncing along the bottom. But comfortable can be equally dangerous. Whether you are desperate or comfortable, dare to consider possibilities. Dare to take a fresh look in the mirror. Dare to ponder what “more” would really look like. Dare to entertain the thought that she may want more.
I find pictures and stories to be helpful. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sit at something like King Arthur’s roundtable? I have taken this classic image and connected it, in my mind, to marriage. Picture with me, if you will, a castle. Inside this castle is a huge meeting room, and in the middle of the meeting room is a very large, round, wooden table. The round table has wooden chairs surrounding it, and an inscription at the center . . . “Roundtable of Heroes”. This is the meeting place of the men who have truly become heroes in the eyes of their wives. There are not many chairs surrounding the Roundtable of Heroes. The men who hold these seats are noble. They are rare. A vacant chair sits at this table, and in the near future, you are going to be considered to fill it. The king is going to hear your story, he is going to analyze the evidence, he is going to collaborate with the other heroes, but ultimately, he is going to ask your wife if you belong sitting at this table.
My goal is to give you the information that you need for her to be so crazy about you, so overwhelmed by you, so impressed with you . . . to have so much love, so much desire pouring out of her heart toward you that she can’t wait to vote “yes”. And as you will see very clearly in the upcoming pages, there is much, much more at stake than just an imaginary seat at an imaginary table.
Want more . . .
. . . become more.
“The most important thing in life is not what you do; it’s who you become.”
HABIT #1: He Wins the War on Words
It’s been said that it takes 16 positive statements to offset every 1 negative statement, in order for someone to feel “back to neutral”. Though thought-provoking, my talking with people in the trenches, as well as personal experience, has led me to conclude that this statistic is a pile of garbage.
A number of years ago, I worked in a clinic where we would often get letters of feedback. The overwhelming majority were very positive . . . maybe at a ratio of 50:1, or even 100:1. But that one negative response would hang over my head for days, months, even years. I did everything that I knew how to do physically, emotionally, spiritually, but the memory was never erased. I received one particularly brutal letter in my time there, and despite all of my efforts, if I’m fully transparent, I’m still not completely over it. At the time, I had learned that 16:1 statistic, and so I went back and re-read 10, 20, 30 of the kindest, most flattering letters that I had received. And yes, they were definitely an encouragement. Who doesn’t like reading a letter of accolade? But despite the joy brought by the many, many positive words, I still had not forgotten the pain of the negative ones.
Whether you consider yourself to be soft-hearted or tough-minded, I bet you can remember something that someone said to you in the past that left a painful mark. And it doesn’t matter if 10, 20, or even 30 years have passed. When you recall those moments, it still hurts. Words matter. Every word matters.
“Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
When we are talking about our marriage relationship, the effects of our words are massive, and the guys who become heroic husbands know it. Something you said that you thought was small and in the past—I bet your wife can quote back to you word for word. Just ask her . . .
Winning the war on words is actually a habit that I learned from my wife. She is the most cautious, i.e. wise, person with words that I have ever met. I, on the other hand . . . not so much. You have heard of a type A personality. I had someone once tell me that I was a type “AAA” personality . . . like the baseball league. I had another person tell me that I was the most direct person that she had ever met. My natural tendency is to be guns-a-blazing. I shoot first . . . I aim later.
Shannon, on the other hand, is aim…aim…aim…shoot, especially when it comes to her words. And I have learned that she has the far better approach. There is a whole lot in scripture to back her way of doing things, and I’m still looking for the perfect verse to support mine.
“You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”
—James 1:19 (NLT)
“Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.”
—Proverbs 12:18 (NLT)
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”
—Proverbs 15:1 (NLT)
“Gentle words are a tree of life . . .”
—Proverbs 15:4 (NLT)
“. . . Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
—Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words . . .”
—Ephesians 4:31 (NLT)
“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.”
—James 1:26 (NLT)
Early in our relationship, when we would have a disagreement . . . ok, let’s just call it a fight . . . what would have taken another couple 15 minutes to say, would take us 5 hours. Until I met Shannon, my previous experiences in arguing with someone had gone something like this:
I say something. Other person says something. I say something. Other person says something. I say something. Other person says something. Lots of interrupting . . . voices are probably raised . . . fast forward a few minutes and the flames are out, smoke and embers remain, and we both have said a number of things that would have been much better off not said.
In contrast, this is how an argument with Shannon, early in our relationship, went:
I said something . . .
10-30 minutes later (this is not an exaggeration)
She finally said something. I said something (right away, often before she even finished her statement) . . .
another 10-30 minutes of silence . . .
She would speak again. I, once again, would interrupt with my next statement . . .
another 10-30 minutes of silence . . . She said something.
The length of pause that she would take before finally responding was enormous. It was awkward . . . awkward . . . awkward. The tension was through the roof. We were in the middle of a fight, for goodness sake, and she would just sit there . . . in silence . . . and sit . . . and sit . . . and sit some more. She wasn’t retreating or running from the conflict, as many often do. She was simply working through how to best respond to whatever I had just blurted off the top of my head. At the time, I thought it was absolutely ridiculous. Now, I think it was absolutely amazing.
At the conclusion of our “fight”, many hours later, the flames would be finally be out, smoke and embers would remain, and she had said nothing, and I mean nothing, that she regrets. I, on the other hand, had spewed foolishness. After observing her put on a verbal clinic for a few years, along with her occasional reminder to me about the power of words, I knew that she held a habit that I needed to learn.
Before I started working to change my ways, I attributed my volatility to both my personality and the fact that I grew up in New York (state, not city). “I’m a yankee, I can’t help it” . . . Similar to someone saying, “I’m Italian”, or “I’m Greek”. But God has used Shannon to show me that it doesn’t matter if I’m from NY, have a “AAA” personality, or anything else for that matter, every single word that I ever speak will either breathe life, or it will take life. And which way the pendulum swings is 100% my responsibility.
“A word is dead when it is said, some say.
I say it just begins to live that day.”
There is never an excuse for a “hot temper”. We are to be slow to get angry. . . We are to be slow to speak. . . We are to only speak words that are edifying . . . For some, this comes more naturally. For others, like me, it requires complete deconstruction and reconstruction.
We have all struggled in this area to some extent. The purpose of this book is not to tell you that you’re doing a lousy job. It’s to offer a better way. So what can we do? Simply put: Stop saying mean things to your wife. Stop hurting her feelings. That’s what a heroic husband will do. If you can do this with 100% success, the results of this one habit alone will astonish you.
But if you’re anything like I am, your intentions will outweigh your actions. I would say something that hurt my wife’s feelings, realize my error, vow to never do it again, pull it off for a very short period, and then repeat the entire cycle from the beginning. After chasing my tail for a few years, I realized that I needed a much more drastic approach. And I have noticed that others seem to need one, too. Either it comes pretty naturally to not say things that hurt her feelings, or you have to go off the deep end to beat it.
I was one of the guys who had to go off the deep end.
Brace yourself, this is going to, at first pass, sound ridiculous, but it’s the only solution that I know to really work:
At the end of every day, I tried to recall everything that I had said to my wife throughout the day. I took a sheet of paper and divided it into three columns. The column on the far left was “It hurt her feelings”. The column in the middle was “Neutral”. And the column on the right was “It encouraged her”. I then took everything that I had spoken to her throughout the entire day and put it into one of those three columns. (This exercise can be done either on physical paper, or in your head . . . whatever works best for you.) After many days of doing this, I realized two things: First—I was putting 90% of everything that I had said into the middle, “Neutral” column. And second—I was putting a lot of things into the “Neutral” column, that my wife would have put into the “It hurt her” column.
The exercise, to this point, had increased my awareness, but not changed my behavior. I knew that I could not continue to fail in this area. When I would say something un-kind, or curt, or passive aggressive, my words were wounding my wife’s heart. And a repeatedly wounded heart is incapable of intimate connection. I had seen this first hand . . . I had to take it to the next level. So here is what I did:
I forced myself to continue the same exercise every evening, but I eliminated the middle column. Every single word spoken to my wife throughout the entire day either “Hurt her” or it “Encouraged her”. I no longer gave myself the privilege of having a “Neutral” category. Friends, let me tell you . . . the first days of doing the exercise this way were brutal. My nightly report card was bloody. It was a stark realization that showed me just how far I had to go. But I had resolved to win the war on words, and so I persisted. I kept the two columns on the forefront of my mind all through-out the day. I did not want to hurt her. And so day, by day, by day, I pressed on. Day, by day, by day, I fought harder. And day, by day, by day I started to have less in the “Hurt her” column and more in the “Encouraged her” column.
I continued the quest, and then . . . finally . . . the glorious day arrived. One evening, I realized that I had 100% of everything that I had said throughout the entire day in the “Encouraged her” column! And victory births momentum. And momentum births more victory. It wasn’t long after that first day that I started stringing some days together . . . and then some weeks . . . and then some months . . .
We can argue to what extent the old wounds actually heal, to what extent they are forgotten, or if either of these really ever takes place. But the outcome of this conversation is fairly irrelevant. When you string weeks and months together with not a single word in the “It hurt her” column, her heart can begin to heal. It can begin to trust. It is no longer a repeatedly wounded heart. And the positive repercussions of a healing, trusting heart will nothing short of blow your mind.
Some common hang-ups: Our mind will tell us that conveying our frustration to our wives, either verbally or non-verbally, when they do something that we don’t like will help things, either in the present or down the road. This is a lie. Frustration with your wife never moves your relationship forward . . . never.
It’s also easy for us, as men, to downplay whatever we have said or done that is negative. I can’t tell you how many times I have observed a man do this. I will watch a guy be rude, unkind, passive aggressive, downright mean to his wife. I will see his non-verbal communication with my own eyes. I will hear his every word with my own ears. But when he talks about the situation later, he has downplayed it in his mind so much that his statements of reflection are a mere fraction of what actually happened. He often, in hindsight, will view his words and actions as nothing more than a mild infraction, a slight slip, something that can be brushed under the rug.
I believe that we naturally do this for two main reasons. The first is pride. It is very difficult to admit (in a humble, non-martyr, non-self-serving manner . . . that type of admission is a form of self-service and is prideful, in and of itself ) that we have hurt someone, especially someone we love. The second reason for the downplay is hope. We hope that the damage that we did is not significant, because we really do love that person.
But men, your wife has not downplayed the situation, nor should she. Whether she is willing to let you know, or whether she will pretend that everything is fine, she has been hurt. The girl that you love has been wounded. And the arrow that pierced her heart was shot from your bow.
As I have shared, I am not writing with the intention of swinging a hammer. Most of us are naturally wired to fail in this area. I am no exception. I have failed my wife miserably. I am writing to offer an alternative. I want to propose another option . . . a better way:
When conflict arises, remain kind (like Shannon). Always be honest. Discuss what needs discussing. Don’t run from it. Don’t ignore it. Stay present. But remember . . . always remember . . . the two columns. Every single word that you speak is breathing life, or it is taking life. There is nothing in between.
“Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.”
Let me tell you about a friend of mine who realized how he needed to change his pattern of criticizing words after many, many years:
Jim and I were at a retreat with our wives, and he is about 20 years older than I am. We were discussing life with each other one evening, and he mentioned that there was a counter-top in their home that he liked to keep completely clear. His wife, on the other hand, liked to set things on this counter when she walked in the door, hence leaving it “cluttered”. This drove Jim up the wall, and he told me that for as long as they had been married, he had been telling her how much it bothered him. He believed that continuing to vent his frustration would eventually result in “positive” change. (Side bar . . . If it ever does, this is very unhealthy change and will often have resentment attached to it.)
That evening, I asked him a question: “Jim, after all of these years of sharing your frustration with your wife about this counter-top, have you made any forward progress? Is she any ‘better’ about the counter-top today than she was many, many years ago?” He paused for a moment, and then jokingly said, “No, but I’ll just have to keep praying”.
Here is what I love about Jim: The next morning when we met, he immediately pulled me aside. He said that he had been thinking a lot about our conversation, and that the more he pondered it, the more that he realized that not one single little thing had changed in all of the years that he had been venting. He resolved then and there to stop “getting on to her”, and to just accept the fact that she wasn’t as organized as he was.
It takes a big man to admit what Jim did that day. He de- cided that it was time to start winning the war on words. It was time to stop saying things that were in the “It hurt her” column. If Jim stuck with his resolution, he is on his way to becoming a hero in the eyes of his wife.
So do I still fail my wife with my words? Once in a great while, yes. But it is very, very rare. And when I do, instead of easing my conscience with something like, “I’m just a human”, or worse, spiritualizing it . . . ”I’m just a sinner”, I refuse to condone the unacceptable. I go straight to her, offer my sincere apology, and then start my new string of days with every single word being in the “Encourages her” column. I will win this war on words . . . You can count on it. This time I plan to get my “days in a row” up to a million.
Want more . . .
. . . become more.
HABIT #2: He Chunks the Checklist
Checklists are fabulous. To some of us, they are the GPS that helps us navigate life. They let us organize, prioritize, and quite simply, survive. I love checklists. While a lot of them are now on our phones, my personal all-time-favorite will forever be the neon-colored sticky note. If that doesn’t help you get through a day, I don’t know what will.
Stephen Covey taught us how to not only make these checklists, but how to also rank them for highest effectiveness. Talk about moving something from good to great. Dave Ramsey has taken this to his own special level, with his “A-1 steak sauce” checklist. His “A-1 list” contains his “essential of all essentials”.
Checklists are helpful in so many ways—not only when it comes to productivity—they also just help us feel better. I know people who can’t go to sleep unless they get what’s on their mind onto their checklist. It helps them sort out their thoughts and plan for the next day. And there is nothing wrong with this. It’s how some of us are wired. It’s how we survive.
But there is another kind of checklist that is not just blue skies. While lists can be a tremendous asset for many areas of life, such as household chores, maintenance, work tasks, etc., heroic husbands consider a checklist toxic to a relationship. Let me explain. The “checklist spouse” has convinced himself that all is well because he has an “x” in the box to the left of what he has deemed essential. Went to work (was a provider) . . . check. Card for her birthday . . . check. Flowers for Valentine’s Day . . . check. Helped with the dishes . . . check. Mowed the lawn . . . check. Folded some laundry . . . check. Took out the trash . . . check. Changed a diaper . . . check. It goes further. Told her “I love you” . . . check. Didn’t have an affair . . . check. Not addicted to porn . . . check.
Are these bad things? Of course not. Aren’t they actually good? Sure they are. Here’s the problem: Not a single thing on the list equals connection. It could, in theory, be the same list for your wife, your mother, or the sweet elderly person down the street. Now I know that you probably do the things on the list for your wife because you love her, and that’s great. And I know that you wouldn’t really do all of those same things for your mother or the person down the street. But do you see the point? While those things are good—very good—it’s not connection. And heroic husbands have relationships that are defined by connection.
Let’s talk about connection for a minute. Have you ever tried to define this word? I have difficulty. Sure, the dictionary gives us things like “joined”, “linked”, “united”, “fastened together”. And this certainly gets the ball rolling. But the definition still feels so broad. It’s like trying to define love. It can mean a million different things to a million different people. Walk down the street and ask people what “love” or “connection” means to them. You will be astounded by the diversity of response.
But true, deep connection is something that is really beyond what words can do justice. Some will say that they are connected to their wife simply if they are married. But my wife will sometimes tell me that she doesn’t feel connected, even though we are just as married in that moment as we were the week before. When I say that heroic husbands have relationships that are defined by connection, I’m talking about the stuff that my wife is bringing to my attention. This connection is emotional. It is spiritual. Yes, it may be unspoken. It may be invisible. It may be difficult to describe. But it is also so very clear and present to the people who truly have it. Many also know what it feels like to have had it, but lost it. If you have ever been in this position with another, you know exactly, exactly what I am struggling to define. If you have not and seek to obtain it, you are in for a pleasant surprise.
Back to the checklist. Let me give an example: Last year, Shannon and I had the privilege of going on a date to a play. It was located at a theater that was known for outstanding performances, and we were both thrilled to have the opportunity to go. We went a few minutes early so that we could grab some dinner at a deli that was just around the corner from the theater. This deli had booth seating with low backs, so the back of one person’s head was not far from the back of the person’s head in the next booth. As I sat in our booth, across from my wife, I noticed another couple in the booth right in front of me (behind Shannon). Shannon and the lady in that booth both happened to get up at the same time, leaving me staring straight at the face of the guy who was now just a few feet in front of me in the next booth. There was nothing in between us, and we began to feel the social pressure. We were both dressed above the normal attire for that restaurant, and we gave each other a friendly nod. He broke the uncomfortable silence:
Deli guy: “You going to that . . . thing?”
Me: “What thing?”
Deli guy: “That . . . play thing?”
Deli guy: “I hope it’s not too bad.”
Me: “I hope it’s good.”
Deli guy: “You going to get points?”
Deli guy: “Yeah . . . chick points. The only reason that I’m going to a play is that I’m hoping to score some major chick points with the wife.”
Me: “Oh . . . chick points . . . No . . . I’m not trying to get points. I actually like plays . . . Sorry that you don’t . . . Maybe it will surprise you. Maybe you will like it.”
A few more awkward moments . . . Then we were both relieved when our wives finally returned. As Shannon and I left the restaurant, I told him and his wife that I hoped they enjoyed the play. I wondered if she had any idea . . . I bet she did.
A variant of the checklist is keeping score. This is when you are not only keeping a mental list of your accomplishments and contributions, but you are also keeping a list of your spouse’s . . . and constantly comparing them. “I watched the kids when you went shopping, so will you watch them while I play golf?” “I cleaned the bathroom last time, so it’s your turn this time.” “I mowed the lawn, you need to wash the dishes.” “I take care of the outside of the house, I expect you to take care of the inside.” “My job is to bring in the money, you take care of the kids.” “I do this, this, this, and this . . . so I expect you to do that . . .” “If you do this for me, I will do that for you . . .” Or maybe you don’t actually say those things, you just think them inside and resentment builds because she’s not “measuring up”. This variant is analogous to the “checklist” and is equally toxic.
Shannon told me (when I would sometimes keep score) that she wants me to do things for her just because I love her, not out of some sort of obligation. She said that it was completely unromantic to feel like you owe your spouse something. And she was right . . . A debt/debtor relationship, of any kind, will never result in connection.
If you struggle with being a “checklist spouse”, you may also struggle with anger. Many of the men, though certainly not all, whom I have observed are fighting to overcome both of these issues. This type of man may be known by most as very congenial, very capable, and very likable. But he has another side that few have seen. This side can do and say things that are hurtful—very hurtful—and his wife is often the recipient. I believe that if a man struggles with this, he is often frustrated that his wife does not have a “checklist”. He feels that there are things that she should be doing to “pull her weight”, or “uphold her end of the deal”, and she is not. He also may wish that she kept a “checklist” of his doings, so that she could give him the recognition that he feels he deserves.
The bottom line is that you should do something for your wife just because you love her. You bring her a blanket because you don’t want her to be cold. You take out the trash because you don’t want her to have to do it. You take her to a play because you want to bring her joy. If you ever do anything because of something that you might get in return, it is selfish. Selfishness expects. Love does. (Thank you, Bob Goff, for that wonderful phrase.)
So what exactly needs to change? If you keep a checklist and want to become a heroic husband, you need to let it go. Let go of your checklist. Let go of wanting her to keep a checklist. Let go of keeping score. Let go of doing things expecting something in return. Let go of doing things hoping that they will be noticed.
Instead, do things expecting nothing in return. Do things that will never be noticed. Do things for which you will never even be thanked. This was my biggest personal struggle for this habit. I didn’t mind doing the work. But I wanted at least some of it to be noticed, and I wanted to be thanked. I had to learn to let that go. Love lays up treasure in heaven. Selfishness seeks praise on earth.
In place of all of your “checklist behaviors”, seek connection. Connection is a matter of the heart and is what your wife, at the depths of her soul, longs to have with you. It is also a human parallel of what God longs to have with us spiritually. Connection with your wife, or with God, will never be obtained from a list, though we often wish that it could. It will only be obtained from genuine pursuit.
If you’re a “checklist spouse”, I’m not saying that you are evil. In fact, I think that you are quite normal. It is what makes sense to you. It is what comes naturally. It is the only way that you currently know how to relate. I understand. I really, really do. But if you want more than you currently have, if you want your relationship to be something that you both enjoy, if you want to sit at the table of heroic husbands, it is imperative that you chunk the checklist.
Then, what is pursuit? How do I practically do this? A fair question. You have probably heard it said before that you should never stop dating your wife. While I do believe that life goes on, and that you don’t have to really keep all of your behavior at the same point that it was when you were dating, there is significant wisdom in the suggestion. When we are trying to get a girl to like us, there are some things that we do that just come naturally. We try to get to know details about her . . . What makes her unique? What are her likes? What are her dislikes? We really want to know her. So, we spend time with her. We do what she wants to do. We listen. We ask her questions. We truly want to know her thoughts. We want to know her dreams. We defer to her preferences usually, if not every time. We do things that make it clear that we think she is special. And the list goes on and on and on.
Gentlemen, this is pursuit. And it is what we must do if we ever want to find true, deep, meaningful, lasting connection to the girl we say we love. Pursue her. Go after her. Chase her. Find her.
If your wife says she would like to go out to eat, grab the keys. If she prefers to stay home, put on your apron. If she loves to travel, pack your bags. If she wants a purple bedroom, buy her some paint. If she dreams of taking tap dancing lessons, strap on your shoes. If she wants to eat at a deli and go to a play, enjoy the show. You get the point . . .
Common is the man who thinks that he places his wife’s needs, wants, and desires above his own. Rare is the man who truly does.
Now I’m not suggesting that you should never discuss your differences of thought, feeling, preference, and opinion . . . You should. And I’m not suggesting that you simply become a doormat . . . You should not. But what I am suggesting is this: Genuine pursuit is characterized by significant sacrifice. When dating, this is instinctive. When married, a choice.
“Chunking the checklist” will not be easy. But you can do it. I know that you can. It will feel crazy at first because you don’t “stop” doing the things that are on your “checklist”. You just stop “keeping track”. In place of mentally checking the boxes, begin the scary, non-systematic, non-secure, seemingly abstract, may I repeat . . . terrifying struggle of pursuing your wife’s heart. In the absence of connection, the things that you do that are on the “list” will mean very little to her. But in the presence of connection, those exact same things will touch her heart and become heroic.
Want more . . .
. . . become more.
from Habits of Heroic Husbands
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