I have dreams.
Not just dreams but ideas, goals and plans. All of which, are filled with good intentions. The intention to create, to be productive and alive with the talents and skills God has given me, and the intention to fill a need to connect with others. I was created for relationship.
Some days, now that three of my four kids are off to college, I feel like it’s my turn. My turn to finally do the things that I want to do. To cultivate those relationships I was created for and invest in those people and things that have been put on the back burner due to the daily demands of motherhood. Not time wasting things but the things that I’m good at and the things that keep my mind working and my hands busy with creating.
I think it’s hard for men to understand women and their needs. Husbands and fathers seem to carry the world on their shoulders with the burden to provide, lead and protect their families. I don’t even begin to confess that I understand their burdens because the burdens I carry are different. Not better, not worse, just different. Because men and women are different.
So the fact that a spouse may not understand the dream or career goals of the other spouse makes perfect sense. After all, men are from Mars and women are from Venus right?
However, situations do arise in which a decision needs to be made and spouses need to come to an agreement. How are couples supposed to handle those decisions in light of them being so dang different?
It seems to me that communication is the key but isn’t communication always the key? No one is going to say “do whatever you want and don’t bother talking about it” right? I suppose some might but in this day and age that doesn’t work too well. The question is, then, how do we communicate to our spouse when they just don’t “get” our desire to reach for our dreams? The ones we’ve sacrificed in the name of motherhood? The ones we put on hold to raise a family or take care of aging parents? The ones that give us a sense of purpose now that the kids are gone?
It’s a good question and one I seem to have myself. So….. I did some research and have come up with these 6 things a spouse can do in regards to communicating our desires and need to reach for something that means a lot to us.
- Don’t try to Convince - Kathy Caprino says, “Convincing means you are trying to make your spouse see what you see as truth. Forget that. It might not ever happen.” In fact, it probably won’t. Men and women just don’t see things the same way. Share your dreams in a way that is compelling, open minded and be clear that you’re looking to make positive change and you would love their support.
- Talk About Fear - Is your spouse afraid of something? What is it that your spouse afraid of when it comes to your new found passion or career goals? Is it a financial fear? Is it a fear of losing you to the work? Fear of being left out or disconnected? Fear is a huge obstacle in marriage and while one spouse may be motivated to overcome any fears the other may be crippled by it. Donald Miller talks about how personal growth can threaten others. But we were designed to change, we were designed to go through seasons in our lives that bring on new challenges and give us opportunities to grow. But some people are just not comfortable with that……
Other people don’t want you to change because the relationship they have with you is comfortable. If you change (become successful, famous, strong or whatever) their relationship with you has to change. So it’s not in their best interest for you to change.
Other people have a relationship with you in which you play an inferior role. If you change, they are no longer comfortable because they really like you because you’re submissive.
Some people need you to play the role you’ve always played in their lives, a support role or a child’s role or whatever. You changing means that role will no longer be fulfilled and they find this threatening.
Miller goes on to say that change keeps us mentally healthy and we must, at times, be willing to make others uncomfortable to become more of who we were meant to be.
- Set Boundaries - Married couples often feel insecure when the other makes changes in their life. Insecurity can lead to all kinds of reactions, like poor choices in words and words have power. This could be why the Bible says “do not let any unwholesome words come out of your mouth” in Ephesians 4. If your spouse uses condescending words to squash your desires do not let those foul words feed your soul. Walk away from words that are demeaning and cruel and realize that they are coming from a source of fear and insecurity. When a couple can have a conversation wherein one does not condemn the other person for their ideas, then progress can be made toward the support the other spouse needs.
- Ask for it - OK, so your spouse is not into your new cake baking business or flower arranging website. Their lack of interest need not be what makes or breaks your passion. A husband or wife often shuts down when they experience resistance from a spouse. Marriage was designed for relationship and in healthy relationships spouses encourage and support one another. You might just have to ask for what you need. Wendy, from Wendy Speake suggests going to your spouse for advice as apposed to attacking them,…… “since you know me and love me, I thought you might help me figure out how to include this other part of my life into our family life.” This is a great way to stay emotionally well-balanced in communicating your goals and dreams. Remember: we are all broken and in need of healing. We must give grace to our spouse when they don’t get it or when they don’t get us and be clear on what we need.
- Examine your Motives - I don’t know what it is but the grass always seems to be greener on the other side of the marriage. Husband’s envy their wives being able to stay home all day and play with the kids (as if) and wives are jealous that their husbands get to go to lunch, talk with people, and travel, while they’re stuck at home. Jealousy is so deceptive because things are never as good as we perceive them to be. So, before you squash your spouses dream job or passion, check yourself. Is your response because you’re jealous? Or perhaps because you’re at an unhappy place in your own life? Asking your spouse for an honest answer to these questions can lead to some serious truths being shared that may or may not have been communicated before. And if it turns out that your spouse is unhappy with where they are in their life and their reaction toward your new passion makes them jealous, talk about ways you can both go after some dreams or passions that may have been put on hold due to marriage, family and/or finances.
- Respectfully Submit - This is a tough one because submission is one of those words that does not fit into our society too well. It’s uncomfortable and goes against our will and our own agendas for sure. There is something beautiful about the wife that is so committed to God’s will that submitting to the leadership of her husband leads to all kinds of blessings. But there are times, however, when a spouse, the husband or the wife, is dead set on controlling the other person. Most likely from a place of their own brokenness, their actions speak louder than their words and they will do anything to bring order to their own inner chaos including keeping the other from pursuing a dream. This type of behavior is wrong. And hear me when I say this, DO NOT SUBMIT TO ANYTHING OR ANYONE THAT INVOLVES COMPROMISING YOUR SAFETY AND VALUES! Make the necessary changes to respect the needs of the family as they arise but never compromise your morals.
Submission is not about laying down and allowing yourself to be walked on. Submission is mind set. It’s when we say to another person, I’m going to let you lead and trust that you have a better plan in mind. Sometimes it means now is not the right time and sometimes our dreams and passions will totally line up with what our spouse wants and that can be beautiful.
Just know, that part of submission is waiting and waiting is hard because when you get excited about something you want to jump right in with both feet! I totally get that. But instead of ignoring our spouse’s disapproval of our dream or idea and pursuing it anyway, what if we just waited until the dust settles to see if their perspective changes. You never know, that waiting time may cause you to realize a different dream, or a bigger passion that you might have forgotten all about and this time you know, without a doubt, that this is something your spouse will be really excited about!