I didn’t get a guest post lined up for the usual “My marriage survived posts” this week (if you have one you would like to contribute, please let me know). Ryan had this great insight that we often talk about in our class that he wanted to share with you and I got to take the night off. Win-win.
Several years ago, I remember my mom making an interesting comment to me. We were talking about the challenges of keeping the house picked up when there are little kids constantly making messes. She said, “Well just remember, no one will walk in your front door and say ‘Geesh, Ryan keeps a messy house!’”
What she was getting at, and what I’ve come to understand much more deeply since then, is that a house means something different to husbands and wives. In general, men tend to see a house as architecture – a structure that needs upkeep, with a lawn that needs fertilizing, and a price tag that requires him to spend most of his time away from it. Alternately, a wife sees a home – a dwelling that holds her family, along with all of its problems, joy, and future aspirations. And as my mom pointed out, others tend to associate the conditions on the outside of a house with the husband, and the conditions inside of the home with the wife.
The reason this is such an important distinction is that houses can be an unrecognized (and sometimes recognized) source of conflict in marriages. Husbands fail to realize that when we help keep the house running smoothly on the inside, we drastically improve the experiences that our wives have there. Additionally, we falsely assume that paying for the house is the goal, when in fact the real goal is to provide a secure, stable environment for our family to grow.
Likewise, wives fail to recognize the tremendous burden that most men feel to pay for and upkeep a house. It often starts during the house-hunting process, when a husband hopes to provide for his wife’s desires without imprisoning himself in a thirty-year mortgage that leaves no opportunity to escape his job should it take a turn for the worse. And beyond the initial purchase, home improvements such as new blinds, updated appliances, etc. can often leave a husband secretly thinking “Will I ever make enough?” The stress of the golden handcuffs can ultimately and ironically compromise a husband’s ability to enjoy life with his family.
All this to say that somewhere in the middle is an opportunity for couples to create a great home… to live at a standard of living that emphasizes freedom over bondage, and to create a shelter from the outside world where the quality of life is more important than the appearance of the residence.