A special thanks to Blue Shepard for allowing me to publish his weekly e-newsletter here on Vigilant Wolf. The Blue Shepard is a friend and past guest of Ever Vigilant podcast (episode 43). I personally look forward to his weekly thoughts on Christianity, Manhood, and Brotherhood and I believe you will feel the same.
Here it is, men. Do with it what you will.
I do not know much about your specific relationship or history, but I do know that, according to scripture and good sense, some aspects of marriage are quite universal. I hope you will consider the things I say with some amount of decorum. However, if you write me off altogether, my feelings will be unharmed. Know that my wife has also received a copy of this letter, so it is not at all a secret rambling from the safety of anonymity.
For whatever reasons, you are found in the situation of marriage. I will not delve into the many backgrounds from which your union may have likely sprang; let us stick with the present invariables. I will, for the sake of this context and the fact that your husband has likely provided you with a copy of this letter of his own accord, make the assumption that you and/or your husband are of some form of Christian persuasion or background and have some semblance of a healthy relationship. With that cardinal value, let us discuss your husband.
I do not intend to fully describe the role of a wife with this letter, only to shed light on what, in my estimation, are common areas of misunderstanding and miscommunication. As my own wife wisely declares: Miscommunication takes two. I will allow you to conduct your own Bible study, rather than cite the many verses and resources form which I will draw the content to follow.
Your husband, though society screams otherwise, has been commissioned by God to fulfill a very specific and intensive role in your life. That role is simply defined as: Husband. It would seem that this word (husband) no longer will suffice: for our society has altogether cast away what it means to be a husband, down upon the rocks inscribed, "Things which are no longer needed"; and has, with a single tidal wake, lapped wholeheartedly upon the high and mighty shores of worldly civility. What we have remaining still wears the face and label that once was, "Husband", but is merely a scarecrow, stuffed to the point of bursting with the straw of confusion of purpose and role ambiguity. It's not just husbands who don't know what they're supposed to be anymore; wives don't know what their husbands are supposed to be either; thus, this letter.
What so many loving and well meaning wives simply overlook is that, sometimes, their own impulses and what they believe to be their desires are fully capable of hindering their husbands from fulfilling the very role with which they have been commissioned: Husband. This letter will sound as if I am giving instructions for wives that only benefit husbands. What you, as wives, must realize is that, as one flesh, your husband will be incapable of benefiting you or your relationship as long as you withhold from him that capability. You, as the wife, have the power to unlock your husband's potential, or to shut it down and ensure that he is just as miserable and useless as any other daytime TV idiot. I will function off of the following three assertions as both reasonable and necessary to engendering good husbands:
Husbands Need Other Men.
Wool will not sharpen iron. Iron sharpens iron. Wool may clean iron. Wool may sheath iron. Wool may preserve iron. Wool may decorate and beautify iron, but it will never effectively sharpen iron. Nonetheless many wives persist in isolating their husbands (whose substance is iron) from other men and masculine influence (more iron), isolating them to an environment of wool (you, as a woman, and all of your womanly essence, as well as most of the civilized world around us); still anticipating, irregardless, that he will shine forth as a super-male, impervious to the general lack of male companionship. This is typical of relationships: guy has friends; guy meets girl; guy spends more time with girl; girl wants even more time; guy hangs out with friends less; etc. No matter how instrumental you are or have been in the betterment of your husband's character, you can not impart to him the values and shaping afforded by masculine influence and guidance.
I often find that wives recoil at this notion because it arouses one of their deepest and most primal fears: that you are not enough. What I ask you wives, as a husband, to understand, is that it is a different level of development altogether. Just as you must accept that your husband must sometimes place greater priorities on certain responsibilities (i.e., work, church, and personal devotion), there are times that the proper development of his manhood, and in turn his benefit to you as your husband, necessitates his dependence on Godly men. It has nothing to do with your sufficiency or validation. He just needs a healthy and colorful diet of masculine influence along with your companionship.
Husbands Need Time, Space, and Things
It seems counter intuitive to many wives that spending less time with their husbands will be beneficial to their relationships. This is not always the case, and neither is it with space or things. Although an invariable need, men do often abuse the desires for time, space and things. But within a healthy realm (which seems to be more than many wives think) these three things fill a vital role in making a complete husband.
I spend very much time with my wife compared to many marital relationships. I enjoy my time with her, but I enjoy my own time as well. It is not always at work. There are times that I leave her at home to go and spend time with other men, whether church, work, or fraternal engagements. The mothering instinct in you tells you that you should smother him with attention (until and unless you are embittered and now seek to make your time with him as brief as possible, which is an opposite and unhealthy extreme). When you smother your husband you assume the role of his mother and effectively convey the message that he should consider you just that; thus he has even more incentive to behave as another one of your children.
All of that is intrinsic with affording him space. A man who is not given room to be sharpened by other men will inevitably become a dull husband. Wives sometimes ridicule their husbands as boyish and immature for desiring male companionship. When you do this you are throwing poisonous darts into his core. If it does not lead to him resenting and becoming embittered toward you, he will at least struggle with those impulses. Your husbands should be yearning to go run about with other men, finding exploits and accomplishing goals.
Have you seen those boxes which contain the items belonging to our deceased elders? I have seen this very practice often and it is a good one, if rightly heeded and not altogether a farce. My mother-in-law has one with items which belonged to her father: some pocket knives, old photographs, a watch, perhaps a wrench and a couple of other tools, a carpenter's pencil, and a handkerchief. In the simplest yet most sufficient of terms, these were his things. I have seen similar practices among other families. What I have also seen is the disregard of this value among the same ones who maintain the practice. As mothers see boys with their toys, often so do they see men with their things. I have heard from many a wife (especially millennials) who seem to think negatively of their husband having any particular attachment to any material possession. I have heard wives of mechanics ridicule their husband's pair of pocket pliers, wives of paramedics ridicule their husband's EDC (Every Day Carry) trauma shears, wives of police officers boasting about convincing their husband to leave his badge at home, wives of veterans mocking their husband's attachment to his unit's or division's challenge coin, and wives of redneck deer stalkers publicly humiliating their husband over his favorite hunting cap. Many of these same women will gripe or shed tears to no end if they lose some beloved photograph or bleach their favorite blouse. Perhaps you, as a wife, have no emotional attachment to any material possession. But like knights of old would spend much time, money and tedious effort personalizing and customizing their swords and armor, a manly man imparts his identity into material things, whether they be his boots and jacket or the hammer that has faithfully put bread on your table for decades.
Husbands Need Spoils
Herein lies the great disconnect: Interpretation. Husbands most often misunderstand their wives when they try to interpret what their wives are saying or doing as if another man were saying or doing it. Vice versa; wives misunderstand their husbands when they interpret his ques as if they were given by another woman. With a few exceptions, men and women have very different forms of high context communication. Let's call these different languages Manish and Womanese.
When he says, "Come to the garage with me while I fix the mower," he is not soliciting your mechanical expertise. He wants one thing and one thing only: your presence. If he wanted you to help, he would ask you to help. Other men, who are fluent in Manish, would understand this, and say, "Yeah bro, sure," and go hover around the garage with him while your he works. You, however, are most likely are a native speaker of Womanese. You probably hear, "I want your help, advice, continual conversation, advice, advice and advice while the two of us labor side by side on our mower, together." The truth is that he literally just wants your presence. Conversation is usually even optional. But you being there, to him, is simply quality time; like watching a movie together.
But when you say, "We REALLY need to fix the screen door," he may misinterpret your Womanese into Manish, "I am planning at some point in the near future to schedule a time when we both can address the broken screen, so keep that in mind." What you were really trying to convey, if you spoke fluent Manish, was "Beloved husband, inasmuch as we apparently have some free time, would you be so kind as to repair the screen door, post haste?"
I hope I have not utterly confused you, and I hope I have in some way helped you to understand what I mean by interpretation. It would be foolish for me to attempt to decipher English syllables out of Spanish phrases. It is equally foolish for me to ascribe manly context to feminine communication. The same goes for interpreting Manish as Womanese. We must learn to be considerate to each other as it pertains to context of communication, and ensuring that we arrive at a correct interpretation.
With that preamble, I will define spoils. Men are motivated by incentive. This is a natural inclination exhibited even in boyhood. The following is an excerpt form a newsletter I wrote on 16 May 2018 entitled, Disciple: The Forgotten Call to Activism, and the Pandemic Failure of Mainstream Christianity Part IV a: Circling the Drain
"While assigned to a post as a school resource officer, I recently dealt with a young man in the fifth grade whom we will call Tom. Tom is the rowdy one. People get some laughs out of Tom, but he's a bully. If he wants your food, he takes it. If he gets the notion in his head, he will read your notes and diary, break your pencils, curse at students, shove them around, and take their erasers and other supplies. Tom consumes a lot of discipline.
I spent a significant portion of lunch and recess interacting with Tom on a personal, friendly level. I disregarded his playful violence, ignored his jabbing remarks, and averted his insults to everyone but myself. Whenever Tom said something to me I just ignored him. Tom thought it would suit his fancy to try on some handcuffs, but I said no. Tom began to gradually do more and more to try and earn the handcuffs - from pulling girls' hair to taking a sandwich and even tripping a classmate. Each time Tom would come back to me and say something like, "Did you see that? Do I get to wear the handcuffs now?" Ensuring that everyone was okay and got their property back, each time I said no. Tom finally asked why. I told him , "I don't have to give you a reason, their my handcuffs." "Is it because I'm dumb and do bad things?" Tom asked. "No, and you're not dumb but you are doing bad things," I replied. "Then why can't I wear the handcuffs?" he whined. "Because they're mine, and I am not letting you wear them because you did bad things." Tom seemed to understand.
Although in a trivial and just plain annoying manner, Tom illustrated a common concept that is understood by so few, especially mothers and housewives. Men and boys are motivated by reward, and that reward is defined by a desired outcome. For Tom, wearing the handcuffs was the desired outcome. Violence and general nuisance were his logical means. Had he been put in handcuffs he would have achieved the reward."
The vigor of the battle is predetermined by the expectation of spoils. Men pursue a woman because there is an aim; a goal. Men stop pursuing their wives when she no longer offers them any prize to pursue. When you are married, and you are now satisfied with having hooked you a man and reeled him in, and you kick back and set affection of cruise control, you render him just as unmotivated as you are. When you ask him to do things and he attempts to please you, and you have the impulse to thank him and show appreciation, but waive it off by telling yourself, "I shouldn't stroke his ego for doing something that he should have took the initiative to do in the first place," then you are ensuring that he will still fall short of that initiative.
For example: I forget to water the indoor plants; she reminds me that I forgot to water the indoor plants; I make it a point to water the indoor plants and she doesn't say anything, but I forget again soon; she now reminds me that she has already had to remind me to water the indoor plants; I now feel stupid and agitated but don't understand why, and for some reason I now have no motivation whatsoever to water the plants. What is wrong with me? Why can't I just truck on like a champ? Why is it such a big deal? Is it a big deal to her too, or am I exaggerating it in my mind? A little of all of it, actually.
When we fail to complete menial tasks that our wives perform routinely and without prompt, it makes our wives feel like we think those tasks don't matter. Therefore (subconsciously) they feel that, to us, they're not important or vital. This prompts a host of natural behaviors rooted in both an instinctive fear of abandonment and a general, overwhelming need to feel necessary and valued as a component of the family unit. What it does not trigger in you as a wife is the realization that men are motivated by reward.
You have the power to greatly influence the shaping of your husband. Wives who foster the proper responses and environments to stimulate Godly manhood will find not only that their Husband becomes more and more the man he ought to be, but that their marriage, home, children and own personal lives will benefit tremendously. Every day;every moment; every interaction; every encounter with your husband is an opportunity for you as the homemaker to reinforce and motivate the homeleader within him. Conversely, it is also an occasion for you to throw another dart, or pull another rug out from under him. When your allow base impulses to govern your behavior toward your husband and justify it by his own impulsive and base behavior, you are hard boiling him in the shell that you already despise. There are lots of things that will roll off a man's back: usually not the treatment he gets from his wife. You are helping to forge your husband, one way or the other. If you act like a mother to your husband, even if he was already acting like a child, you only ensure that he will continue to behave in that manner. But if you reaffirm that the reward he desires is within his reach, he will relentlessly pursue it. Sometimes a few simple, forced "Thank-you"'s is all the patronage takes to start him down the path of glorious husbandship.
Due to my colloquial background, I have a strong tendency to use generalizing phrases (i.e., saying "Everybody" when "many people" would be more appropriate; or saying "Women" when I actually mean "Some women"). If I have overlooked any such generalizations in this letter, please translate them with a grain of salt. If you have and questions or contentions, please conduct scriptural and other research before rebutting this letter.
May God richly bless your marriage in his will.
The Blue Shepard
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