Would you take a bullet for your wife? “Yes!” is the answer most husbands would emphatically and unequivocally give.
Would you be willing to get closer to your wife, take care of the kids, or clean the toilets? Not so much.
Let’s be honest, men. The first is natural to us. We will provide and protect, but getting close to our wives in a way that is meaningful to them or helping them in the domestic sphere is not as natural or easy.
It is easy for a man in particular to get focused on the work world and the development of his skills in the world. It is easy to forget that as married people, we are there not only to get support in our own work but to give support to our wives in the development of their life in the world.
The Old King Jimmy describes Eve as a “help meet” for Adam. What that means is that Eve fit with Adam. She was a great partner to help him with the tasks that God had given him.
It is important to note, however, that Adam was also a “help meet” for Eve. He was a great partner to help her with the tasks that God had given her. As The Westminster Confession of Faith (the historic confession of the Presbyterian Church) puts it: “Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife . . .” (24.1).
What does this mean concretely? Basically, as husbands, we’ve got to ask not merely what our aspirations are but what our wife’s aspirations are. What does she want? What are priorities for her? What would she like to become? What would she do if she had more free time?
When I think of the general orientation of men, it is an outward face toward the world. So, the basic position of camaraderie for men is side by side. For women, it is face to face. The result of this is often that the woman is facing the man, and the man is facing outward. This is good because the wife can help her husband do and be more than he could do and be alone.
The only problem is that sometimes men forget the aspirations of their wives. If men think about the aspirations of their wives, they will probably find that the first aspiration of most wives is to have him focus more on her, to make her the seal on his heart (Song of Solomon 8:6). This means that the husband has to turn toward his wife and focus on her. It means accepting the face to face companionship that women appreciate. This is how we can love our wives well.
Beyond this, after we have learned to relate our wives face to face, heard from them, and understand them better, we can begin to let them face outward while we face them. In other words, we help them fulfill their aspirations in the world. In this way, we can be a help meet for our wives.
I have to admit that these questions have not often been the focus of my own marriage. I think my wife and I would both say that we have had a good marriage, but I think it could have been and can be a lot better.
Over the past two years, I have tried to ask my wife questions about her own life goals and things she would like to accomplish. One thing I realized as we talked about this was that she needed more time and more money in order to become what God had called her to be. My wife’s profession is that of a homemaker and homeschooling Mom, but that’s not all she is. As we talked about it over the past year and half, we concluded that she needed more discretionary funds and a day off from homemaking. We have made that happen. On Friday, I am the homemaker, and she can do what she wants.
The results are that she has had greater ability to pursue her own goals. She has started volunteering at a local organization. She has gotten together with other women. She put together a retreat for the women of our church. It’s been pretty amazing. As an added bonus, she always comes back to her homemaking tasks with greater energy. She also has more to bring back into the marriage. The result is that our relationship has been enriched. I now only wish that we had thought about these questions more carefully 16 years ago (when our first child was born!).
As a couple, you may decide to do things differently, and your own situation may demand different parameters to more equitably dividing the domestic duties. The main thing is to love your wife, ask what her goals and aspirations are, and commit yourself to helping her with that. That’s sacrificial leadership that models the way Christ loved the Church.