Thanks so much for joining us for our Encouragement for Imperfect Wives Series! We hope you’ll be blessed, encouraged, challenged and comforted all at once. Please let us know if you need prayer – we’d love to pray for you!
(A letter to myself on my wedding day, February 20, 1993)
The day you’ve been dreaming about since you were little has arrived! Best of all, you and Paul can finally be together without saying good-bye. You won’t be dependent on the post-office and long-distance phone calls to make your relationship work. By the way, you are going to be so jealous of your own kids in a couple of decades – there won’t be such a thing as a long distance calls anymore and this awesome invention called “texting” is going to come into existence. They will have it so easy in their own dating years!
The wedding is going to go fine – a couple of hiccups, sure, but overall, you’re going to have good memories of this day. Try not to get too mad at Paul when you catch him stuffing his face in the kitchen when he’s supposed to be out wandering around the reception hall with you, greeting guests. Unlike you, he still gets hungry when he’s nervous.
Tonight is going to be great. A snowstorm is moving in and you’re not going to make it to the hotel you had planned. But you’ll always have sweet memories of the Lamplighter Inn in Charles City, Iowa (even if it doesn’t have a bathtub).
Soon, the wedding festivities and honeymoon will be over and you’ll be settled into your new life as a wife in a new and strange city and you’ll be learning about Paul in ways you never could when you were only dating. You’re going to have a lot of fun!
And you know what? Even though you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to do an awful lot of things right. From time to time Paul will think to express that to you. He’ll mention how he appreciates how you’re always seeking to improve yourself so that you can be a better wife. He’ll like your cooking (once he quits comparing it to his mom’s – refrain from smacking him the first couple of times he does that). He’ll tell you that he appreciates your adventurous spirit and he’ll laugh at the things that come out of your often unfiltered mouth. It will bring him great peace to know that so many of his goals and desires are shared by you.
But you’re going to do some things that aren’t so good, too. And that’s where I’d like to wave some red flags, in hopes that you’ll listen.
The first thing you need to get straight in your mind is that you didn’t marry a project.
Paul is his own person and the harder you push him to change, the more he’s going to resist. Some of that is because he’s stubborn. Part of it is because nobody likes to be bossed around. He needs you to accept him just the way he is and love him despite his flaws. You picked him, remember.
Paul needs an encourager. You, my friend, are not that good at being that type of person when you feel that your own security and comfort are threatened. He needs to know that you have his back, no matter what. When he gets down, you need to be there picking him up, rather than pointing out how he could have done better in the first place.
Don’t pick fights with him right before bed. Do you know how many sleepless nights the two of you will have because of that? Paul does best when he has a day or two to think things over. More than likely, he’ll come around to your point of view then. But if you try to shove it down his throat, he’s going to shut down – which will only make you more angry. Don’t do it.
Get it together with the money. You two are going to be terrible communicators about this subject. Do NOT wait for fifteen years to take over the checkbook. You will save yourselves a whole lot of heartache, irritation, and debt if you just do it now. I’ll let you in on a secret – you may feel brainless a lot of the time, but you’re actually better with money than Paul is. Once you do take it over, he is going to be so relieved. Oh, and start contributing to that 401K a lot sooner. It’s just good sense.
Guess what? You’re going to be a mother six times over with this man. God will be so good to the two of you, giving you your hearts’ desire to parent a lot of children. But it won’t be without struggle. You’ll discover how quickly life can change when one of those precious souls is born with significant special needs. The two of you have got to pull together to meet that little boy’s many needs. You’re going to weep over a baby gone to Heaven before it can ever be born and you’ll cry with frustration when God seems to answer your prayers for more children with silence. And one day you’ll pick up your two youngest children, born to another woman, and they’ll be so little and so scared of you. You’ll look at Paul as he views his new daughters for the first time and you’ll see him wiping away tears as he gazes on their little brown faces. You’ll know you couldn’t love him more than you do in this moment.
Here’s the thing, Self…you need to grab onto every moment you can with this wonderful man. Work through your issues, but then let things go. You are terrible about holding onto grudges and you are only going to hurt yourself by continuing to do so. You need to love this man with everything in you. You need to go wherever he wants to go. You need to drop everything to be with him and to show him that he means everything to you.
You need to make sure the kids know that Daddy is number one in your life. You need to forgive him – repeatedly. You need to laugh with him and most of all, you need to never let go. Love him without reservation and without thought for how he is loving you in return.
Because one night, a little over twenty years from now, he’s going to climb into bed and he’s going to kiss you goodnight and tell you he loves you.
And a few minutes later, without warning, he’s going to suddenly die.
You don’t have much time.
Your older, wiser, and sadder Self
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Sarah Heywood is a middle-aged widow, a mom to six, a college student, and a sometimes writer living in the Midwest. She blogs at Mothering Men to Be, Marriage and Miscellany (she’s been here for years – one of these days she’ll start something with a more relevant title).