I had a one-hour phone meeting at home. My wife, Brenda, and I were planning to go to a church event afterward. Forty-five minutes into the call, Brenda came into the room, pointed to her wrist and mouthed, "We need to go." A few minutes later, she came in again and stared at me. I was totally distracted from the call.
When I got off the call, I told her she had behaved rudely, and then she said I'd been rude, too. I didn't realize until after our attitudes started heating up that she thought the call was supposed to last only 30 minutes and that I was running late as usual.
Brenda and I have turned such everyday misunderstandings into all-out arguments hundreds of times. This time we didn't. We rarely do anymore. I've learned there's something else going on underneath our disagreements: It's an unspoken, subconscious test. Of me.
It's as if I hear a question hinted at in my wife's voice: Are you man enough to love me?
For a long time, I bought into a stereotype of manliness. A manly man was physically strong and athletic. Courageous in the face of danger. Maybe he would even eat his steak rare, shave with a chainsaw and punch bears.
But I've had to learn a more complete definition of manliness, one that is healthier for my marriage. My wife needs me to love her when I think she is not acting very loveable. If I can't pull off being strong and courageous in the relational and emotional areas, any outer manifestations of manliness are just shadows.
Loving her amid conflict
I don't know how physically strong Jesus was or if He ever punched a bear, but He was a rock at handling rejection, being misunderstood, and loving and sacrificing for people who hated Him.
So when that heated argument begins — or hopefully before it begins — ask yourself: Am I man enough to love her even now? You'll prove you are man enough when you show the internal discipline to stay calm and in control, trusting Jesus' love and sufficiency within you, regardless of how you feel.
When you give up arguing and insisting that she understand you, you'll feel stronger than ever. And she'll feel more loved than ever.Gary Morland is the author of A Family Shaped by Grace.