Christmas shopping for my husband is always a challenge. He's a particular guy. He takes hours to pick out a gym bag, and days to choose a watch. On my own, I never get it right. He's also the kind of guy who usually buys what he needs and doesn't wait for Christmas.
Although I found something to put under the tree for him, the best gifts are ones I can't wrap. They are intangibles my husband needs and deeply values. They are not gifts that I can quickly buy, but ones I'm learning to craft throughout the years of our marriage.
Here are four gifts I'm learning to give my husband this holiday season:
Do these pants make me look fat?
I'm getting old—just look at all these wrinkles!
Do you ever wish you had a wife with long flowing hair, with long, sexy legs or big breasts?
Yep. These are all things I've said to my husband over the years. Of course, I never expected him to respond honestly—I expected him to reassure me that my body is attractive to him. Ironically, by seeking his affirmation, I'm highlighting my flaws. For years, his assurance that he thinks I'm beautiful wasn't enough. Then one day it hit me. When my husband compliments my appearance, why do I argue with him? Why can't I just thank God that my husband likes the way I look, and leave it at that?
Do you know what is really attractive to a man? A woman who is happy with her body, and is confident she can please him. Being sexy has more to do with what you think than how you look. So I'm giving my husband the gift of a wife who won't fish for compliments, and one who is grateful for an imperfect body that can still turn him on.
Life is serious. Almost 20 years of marriage has brought some challenges and heartache. Like every other couple, we have bills to pay and problems to solve. Our boys, ages 16, 14, and 10, require a lot of time and energy. But in the midst of all of that, Mike and I haven't lost the art of having fun.
I have my husband to thank for most of the laughter and light-heartedness in our home. I'm the serious one. At times, I've resented my husband's fun nature, feeling angry that I was the one who "had to worry" about everything. He would try to get me to laugh, and I would scowl. He would sleep soundly at night while I tossed and turned, fretting over what the future might hold.
I'm happy to say that resentful worrywart is gone—I've learned to share the burdens of my heart first with the Lord, and then with my husband. And I've learned to delight in his laughter, and share in his fun.
As you've probably picked up, Mike and I don't fit the biblical stereotype of the man being the "leader" of the house. I'm the driven, goal-oriented planner. Early in our marriage, I would bang my head against the wall when Mike wouldn't lead regular family devotions or project where we would be financially in 10 years. How could I follow his leadership when he wouldn't lead?
The truth is, I had a very narrow understanding of leadership. It turns out that my man is a wonderful, creative leader. Over the years, he's led me by teaching me to relax, to pace myself, and to have realistic expectations for our kids. He challenges my faith in God by pointing out how I try to do it all myself rather than trusting.
I love the unique ways my husband leads me.
Voltaire is credited with this proverb: "The perfect is the enemy of the good." This wisdom definitely applies to marriage, as I've had my head filled with fairy tales over the years of what a perfect marriage should look like. To make matters worse, Christians are prone to spiritualizing the fairy tales: "Just follow God, and He will bring you Prince Charming!"
I don't have a fairy tale. I didn't marry Prince Charming, and he certainly didn't find Cinderella. With God's grace, Mike and I have worked to develop a deep friendship, seasons of romance, and a very solid marriage. My appreciation for what we have is directly related to what I compare it to.
Much of my career has been spent doing marriage counseling. Some nights after hearing stories of abuse, addictions, and rancorous conflict, I came home and just hugged my husband out of gratitude. That's a far cry from how I treat my husband when I dwell on perfection—when I wish for what we don't have. I think the Devil is in fairy tales just as much as he is in horror stories. What a tragedy to miss the beauty of the good because of unrealistic fantasies!
I have no idea how my husband will like the waterproof headphones I'm getting him for Christmas. But I know he'll be very happy with the wife who will lie by his side tonight.