If I were to go into all of the details, this would be a long, tiresome post that would take you back over the last 11 years of my marriage. And while the story is actually quite interesting, I'm afraid it might scare some of you off! This is already going to be long enough, considering I am trying to keep it short.
Yesterday I found myself facing a situation that I really thought was in the past. But apparently it is still haunting me. I will say that this time around, the person who brought it to me took probably the most Christian-like, mature approach and confronted what they thought was a problem in a manner that was not gossip or just downright hurtful. This person came straight to me to confront a concern they had and I think they had good intentions. However, I also think that this person doesn't really know me very well and does not know how Kris and I interact.
I've written previously about the things I say to Kris sometimes that would sound horrible if taken out of context. Yesterday I said something else to him that made him laugh and so he told me I should post it on Facebook. Which I did. It was this: "Everything's going to fall because you're horrible at putting things places!" Kris responded with "I've heard you say I'm horrible at lots of things but never that!" He had set his laptop down in the van on top of his coat and his laptop was sliding around everywhere. That is what prompted my comment. I was teasing him, like always, and we both got a good laugh out of it. Again, HE told me to post it on Facebook.
Later that day, I got an email from someone who I would consider a friend, though we don't know each other well at all. This person had seen my most recent status I assume (as well as others where I have shared the funny out-of-context things I've said to Kris). The email was done in love, I really believe that, and I don't think this person was trying to hurt me or upset me. This person was concerned that I was disrespecting and degrading my husband by saying these things to him and then probably taking it one step further and having the gall to post it on Facebook. And this person implored me to think about exploring my heart and a man's need for respect.
What this did, as it did when it was happening 11 years ago in the form of gossip about me, was leave me feeling like a horrible wife to Kris, and like I had spent the last 11 years disrespecting him. 11 years ago gossip was flying about how I wasn't good enough for Kris and how I was disrespectful to him. People that Kris was close to hated me. Maybe hate is a little strong, but I can't really speak for them-it sure felt like they hated me. But they loved Kris and they were worried that I was going to be the worst person for him to marry. And instead of talking to me about it, rumors were flying all over church and Kris' friends were confronting him, basically telling him that I was disrespectful to him and not good enough for him. It was devastating for me and for months Kris kept having to reassure me that he didn't feel the way everything else assumed he must.
First of all, I truly believe that respect and submission do not look exactly the same in every marriage. What is defined as respect in your marriage may not be the same as how Kris and I define it. And this is an issue that is very dear to my heart. My husband is a patient man who lets most things roll off of his shoulders. He is not a perfect man (I don't mean this disrespectfully-none of us are perfect) but he has never been the kind of man who expects dinner on the table at a certain time, expects the house to be spotless and the laundry to never overflow. He's not a man who thinks that a mother's role is to be the sole caregiver for the children and he is certainly not a man who expects his wife to sit back quietly being subservient and never voicing an opinion. There are people out there like that, even within Christian marriages (and I'm not saying that is wrong). Because of the different individual personalities and views on respect and submission, not every marriage looks the same and not every couple defines respect and submission the same. I do not believe that there is just one picture of respect and every marriage should look the same. I love my husband and would never willingly do anything that would be disrespectful to him, especially in a public manner.
Kris and I have discussed respect and submission so many times throughout the course of our marriage. What should it look it? What is disrespectful and what isn't? What were his expectations for respect and submission? We have had in depth conversations about this because if something bothers him or he feels disrespected, I do not want to continue doing it. Kris and I banter back and forth sarcastically. You know how every couple has their 'thing'? THAT is our thing. It is something that both of us love about our marriage. We have fun and laugh together about me saying things that would sound horrible to an outsider if they didn't know us and know how we interact with one another. The last thing I would ever do is demean him or say hurtful or disrespectful things, especially in public. Kris does not believe that my little sarcastic comments, said with much humor, are disrespectful. And if he did, let me assure you that we would have a very, very boring marriage. He said yesterday that what we have is unique and not a lot of people understand it. But the teasing banter we share is one of our favorite things about our marriage.
So when I was confronted with this again yesterday, it really just sent me spiraling into a pit of doubt and confusion and hurt all over again. And once again, Kris and I had a long conversation about what respect is and how it should look in our marriage. I do disrespect him...at home. When we are fighting or I am upset about something, I am edgy and sarcastic. My body language is withdrawn and I know that my voice carries a mean tone. It is something that I struggle with and will openly admit. In those times when I can't figure out how to effectively communicate what I am upset about, I am not respecting him. And when he responds in kind because of how I am treating him, he is not loving me as Christ loves the church. We don't have a perfect marriage. Shocking right?
And as I am crying, fearful that I have spent the last 11 years doing nothing but disrespecting him, he comes to my rescue to reassure me once again that it just isn't true and people just don't understand us. And I find myself wanting to shout to the world that my husband is absolutely amazing! He is the one who pointed out that what we share with our teasing, sarcastic banter is unique and something he loves about our marriage. Thinking about this, I too realized that it is one of my favorite things about 'us'. It felt good to hear him assure me that he hasn't felt disrespected. That should be all that matters. But for the next few weeks, I will question everything I say and do and constantly need reassurance from him that he is not hurt or upset by the things I post on Facebook. I will eventually move past it, as I have so many times before but it will take me some time. I'm not angry at all with this person who confronted me. I'm frustrated that I am left having to struggle through these emotions that I thought were far behind me. I'm angry with myself that I can't just look back to the past and know that what Kris and I have and share is solid and that nobody else's opinion matters. I'm frustrated that my doubts and fears about this particular topic (respect) leave Kris in a position where he has to reassure me that he loves me and doesn't believe the way others assume he must.
I'd be interested to hear some other thoughts and opinions on what respect looks like in your marriage, or what you think respect SHOULD look like. Do you think it can be defined the same for every relationship? Do you think that my marriage should look like your marriage?