For nearly 11 years of marriage, I thought I had the wife thing down pat. I was by no means perfect, but I loved being a wife, and I tried really hard to be the best one I could possibly be. I had shelves filled with books on how to be a better wife, how to pray for my husband, how to survive difficult marriages … I actually thought I was a stronger, better person for staying married despite some very serious challenges.
A lot of the advice I sought out on how to be the best wife possible went something along the lines of “show love to get love.” No husband wants a nagging shrew of a wife, right? To make my marriage work, I just needed to be the best wife I could possibly be, and my husband would be compelled to love me back.
Maybe that works for some people. Maybe I did it wrong. Maybe I didn’t do enough. I don’t know. What I do know now though is that some of the very things I thought were right ended up being very wrong for my particular situation.
Here are seven things I got wrong about being a “good wife.”
1. Being non-confrontational: I’m a people-pleaser by nature, so confrontation is definitely not my thing. What this translated to, unfortunately, was letting things slide when they really bugged me. Sometimes I tried to talk to him about it but was usually countered by my own fault in something. I figured if I wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t fair to be upset with him for not being perfect either. I wish I had stood up for myself more often.
2. Covering for him: My ex is something of a homebody. I used to try dragging him out to things, but he was just so miserable most of the time that I eventually left him home, saying he had to work or something. Or take care of the kids, even though we could’ve easily gotten a sitter. Sometimes when his social anxiety got the best of him, I excused his behavior as work stress, or allergies, or something. I should have realized that was his battle, not mine.
3. Never saying no: The first time I remember saying no and sticking to my guns was on my 10th anniversary. We got into a cataclysmic fight over it, and now I wonder if it was so shocking to him because I’d always caved to him before.
4. Taking responsibility for his happiness: It’s exhausting trying to keep someone happy all the time. I wish I had let him take ownership of his moods and worked harder at not letting them affect me so much.
5. Submitting to his leadership even when he was wrong: The church we attended for seven years excommunicated me for the “sin” of divorcing my husband. My closest friend there called the day after I left my husband and reamed me out. They publicly announced to the entire congregation that I had been “trapped in the snare of the Devil” and must be avoided. I had begged for years to leave there, but that’s where we went, so we went. Now I wonder if things might have been different if I had gotten our family out of there years earlier.
6. A fake it ‘til you make it mentality: I knew something was off in the weeks leading up to our wedding. But you know, I figured I just had normal wedding jitters. Over the years I learned that if I could just tough it out through whatever it was that my husband was going through that made him a bear to live with, my fun, care-free guy that made me the center of his universe would eventually return. I longed for the day that guy would come back to stay, but I didn’t see him at all the last couple years. It broke my heart, but I had to let go of the fantasy and accept the reality.
7. A good wife would never abandon her marriage: My ex-husband and I ended up being very different people than the ones that said “I do” once upon a time. We not only had nothing in common, we had no common ground. Maybe a good wife recognizes that she will never be able to be what her husband wants, and she takes one for the team by ending the marriage when it’s obvious there’s no fixing it.
I honestly don’t know what constitutes a “good wife” anymore, but I’m pretty sure there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
What do you think makes a good wife?