She was right…
As a teenager, it was something I never thought possible. But today, as a woman, a wife and a mother, I realize that she was right. My mother’s words consistently come back to me these days. I spend a lot of time remembering things she either said while dolling out wisdom to the women in her circle. Or the things she told me directly, in preparation for life and womanhood. Many of the things she said I am now living or witnessing in the lives of others. Of the many lessons she imparted, the most prolific is her wisdom pertaining to marriage and its sometimes strange dynamics.
I vividly remember one winter night in 1980, after my sister was done with her day job, as was routine, she started her second job. She tended the front of the restaurant owned by her husband. My mother decided she’d had enough of watching her daughter work so hard, inevitably digging her own grave! She hurried to the restaurant to give this nugget in person. Hands planted firmly on her hips, she said to my sister, “Go home and get some rest! He will work you to death! And within 6 months, his new wife will be driving your car, poorly raising your children, living in your house and sleeping in your bed!” My sister wisely heeded. But, unfortunately in the case of many women, she was right... Harsh? Yes. But right.
Because my husband is a Pastor, I have attended many memorial services and watched husbands bury wives of 20, 30 and 40 years. And within a few short months, we are attending the weddings of these same men! The vows they gave so many years ago, they now give to their new blushing bride. As hard as I try to be happy for the “new” couple, I can’t help but think about the deceased wife. What would she have done differently if she knew he would replace her so soon? Would she work as hard trying to please him? Like my sister, would she sacrifice so much to help him build a future if she knew someone else would enjoy it?
More importantly, I wonder if the tables were turned, would she marry again so soon? I have witnessed widows, when asked out on a date months after losing a loving husband of many years, emphatically decline even an invitation for a date. Almost as if she is still married and committed to her deceased husband, and far be it from her to entertain the company of another man!
Not only have I witnessed this paradox but I have personal experience. I am the second wife of a man whose first wife committed suicide. We met just two months after he buried his first wife… and I was not even his first date. Before we married, he had to run off several angry women who thought they would be the “replacement wife”. Needless to say, I was not only concerned about his long list of angry women, but I also didn’t want to be a rebound wife. So, I proceeded with caution and we dated until the following year, before we married. This is not a defamation of his character, by any means. He was and is an excellent husband and twenty-three years later, we are still happily married with two wonderful children! But the point still stands that, for some reason, men are just able to move on very quickly!
When a man marries a few months after his wife dies it is troubling for women to accept. If he truly loved her, how can he forget her so easily? And how can he be so comfortable bringing someone else into her home, her kitchen, her bed? Does he remove her things and her pictures to make room for someone else without any pangs of guilt? Why do they seem to move on so quickly without ever looking back to think about or mourn the person who spent most of their adult life loving them? Puzzling!
I talked to the women in my circle about this topic. Many of them feel that men are actually incapable of true deep love. They pointed out for example, it would be unexpected for a widower to make a complete spectacle of himself at his deceased wife’s funeral. It would be strange to see him wearing all black for days, months or even years after losing her. We would not readily expect that. Instead, it is far more “normal” to see him, a short time later, having moved on with a new girlfriend.
We often see this same result after a divorce. A man moves on quickly while the wife mourns the loss of her former life. I know that there may be some women who remarry quickly after the death of a husband or divorce, but these women are generally the exception to the rule.
Why? What’s to account for the difference between how men and women handle the premature death of, or separation from their spouse? One perspective is that a man’s willingness to move on quickly has more to do with the fact that typically, the man proposes marriage. He is the initiator of the new matrimony, whereas traditionally, a woman has to wait to be asked. The implication is that women would move just as quickly, but must wait for the initiation. Though there may be some truth to this perspective, it doesn’t seem sufficient. Mere social norms do not account for how someone can move on so quickly from what was to be a life-long love!
So, let’s go a bit deeper and explore the differences between men and women and why generally, a man can lose the love of his life and begin dating and remarry within the same year. The following possible explanations are not absolutes. They may not fit all situations but I am presenting suggestions brought up to me in discussions on this topic. I know that I am generalizing here, so these are not for us to conclude as definite reasons, but simply to ponder. We would be remiss not to consider these proven (albeit bleak) differences between the sexes. Warning… I’m not interested in not offending anyone… I’m interested in the truth! So in the same vein of my mother’s frankness, here we go:
Women: As nurturers, built to cultivate deep loving, long-term relationships. Dependability, trust and loyalty are crucial.
Men: As hunter-gatherers, built to seek ways to fulfill a need. Relationships are more utilitarian, seen as serving a purpose.
Capacity to Care
Women: Rush to the rescue. Like to feel needed and as a result, will hunker down to see her husband through his darkest hours. Forsakes herself for him.
Men: Does not do well with an ill or “broken” spouse. Regrets being saddled with doctor visits, the work that accompanies an illnesses and the lack of intimacy.
Women: Does not prefer to be alone. However, she is better able to wait for the right man/circumstances. Not physically driven.
Men: Does not want to be alone for an extended amount of time. For Christians, fornication is not an option. So re-marrying is necessary. Physically driven.
The Big “Sea”
Women: For women, there are less good “fish” and she must choose very carefully. She has to give her heart to a new man. No easy task.
Men: For men, there are more eager “fish” in that sea, desperate enough to be under the covering of a man. Easy pickings.
Women: Value and desire a man who will love, lead, protect and provide for them. Needs are more emotionally driven.
Men: Value and desire a woman who can take care of them, their home, prepare their meals, laundry etc. Needs are more task-driven.
Women: Cautious. Prefers a comfortable/familiar love.
Men: Open and excited about the possibility of new love.
Women: Creative and resourceful, will find ways to compensate for the absence. Time friends, church, prayer, etc. More comfortable with unideal circumstances.
Men: As fixers, men feel that after their wife is gone, like any other necessity, a replacement is needed. Problem fixed.
Women: More sensitive to how she will be perceived.
Men: Can more easily cast others’ opinions to the side.
I think these are all valid points to consider. I’m sure that we can all attest to these traits being well-demonstrated in our society today. However, they are worldly perspectives. As Christians, The Word must be our final authority. So as always, to the Bible we go in search for answers to the question “Is the loyalty that wives have for our husbands, which in some women’s cases is unreciprocated, based in scripture?
So I went back to the beginning, to the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 2:24, the proper dynamics between husband and wife were first established. It states “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one.” Then enter Satan, and the corruption of those dynamics. Genesis 3:16 states “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." After “the fall”, the woman, for her sin, was condemned to a state of sorrow, and of subjection. If this is true what can we do?
Well, here’s the Good News! Jesus came to redeem us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13)! So we are not condemned to such a fate. Except for our loving Heavenly Father, we do not have to be subject to anyone ruling over us. We have a choice! We can choose to live under the curse. Or we can choose to accept Christ’s redemptive power! And for one, I choose the latter and advise you to do the same!
How do we do this? How do we choose freedom in Christ when it comes to our loyalty and devotion to our spouses? What does this mean? Do we just cast these things aside, opting for a less committed, indifferent approach to our marriage. NO, NO and NO! There is a way to whole-heartedly love your spouse and serve him, without becoming a casualty. I offer the following:
· First, acknowledge and embrace your nurturing self. God made us this way for a reason (1 Peter 3:7). So do not look at the worldly explanations for differences between men and women, and use them as an excuse to harden your heart. Remain soft, loving and loyal and honor God with these traits by loving your spouse, your children and the people around you. But most importantly…
· After God, love yourself! Take that vast capacity to love and turn it upwards and inwards! Take care of yourself. Set boundaries and limitations for your heart. This doesn’t mean that you are a stubborn, controlling jezebel who won’t submit. It means you don’t give too much of yourself, spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally to the determent of your health. Thereby sacrificing, your rest, your peace, your nerves and ultimately your life! Help within this healthy framework. Some people will take this to mean you have become selfish but do not fall for the temptation of guilt! You are not called to die for anyone! Jesus handled that already! Rest like your husband does. When he’s resting, you rest too!
· Maintain high standards for the care of your temple. Visit the doctor once a year for a complete physical. Do your research to make sure you are receiving the proper care for your age and stage in life!
· Have quiet spaces and places to reflect. Take vacations, laugh, take walks, spend time with God, read devotionals, journal your thoughts, take the time to relax and come back to yourself!
· Don’t worry. Worry kills you from the inside out. Learn to release things and people to God so that it doesn’t hinder your health, mentally, physically and spiritually. 1 Peter 5:7-9 tells us “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” The devil looks for entry points into our lives to weaken us and ultimately destroy us. Be wiser than him and cast all cares and concerns on Jesus.
· Most importantly, put God back on the “throne” of your life! Because we are called to submission, it can be very easy to unwittingly put your husband on that throne. We become so devoted to him and his vision, that we lose sight of who is really our God. It is The LORD our God who is control! He is our source and our provision. Not our husbands. So rest, rely on and return always to Him!!
An older woman of God, Ms. Carol, recently told me, “Be the one to throw the rose”. Women of God, Take care of yourself and live a long, healthy, fulfilled life - leaving nothing unchecked on your bucket list. And make sure you add growing old (Genesis 6:3, Psalms 90:10) to said list.
Take heed to the tips above and remain with us! This world needs you! The Bible promises us long life, so why not enjoy it? This is your only defense against being easily replaced when your body is prematurely in the ground! As women, I know we have a tendency towards self-sacrifice. But I urge you… don’t live life for anyone but God and for yourself! Give time, attention and love to your family and community, as we are called (Proverbs 31) but be sure to give these things to yourself first and maintain your individuality. Lest, as my mother warned, you will be replaced!
With Prayers & Love,
First Lady Lynda