The second the words left the woman’s mouth, floating in the air like a little bomb on the cusp of detonation, I knew I had to chime in. While her comment was probably not malicious–if left unchecked –the game of husband bashing could do irreversible damage to the Christian ladies gathering.
I’ve noticed this sport usually starts with a hefty dose of female empowerment masked in affirmations and coy compliments… “Ladies, I have been so blessed by this group and by these AMAZING female friendships to the point where I feel like I don’t even need a man around anymore. Don’t you agree?”
Subtle wink…dainty pout …lips parted with just a hint of an invitation.
And then each woman, happily married, bitter and single, or somewhere in between… makes an instantaneous but crucial decision –do I jump on the bandwagon and annihilate my husband’s (or ex-husband’s) character or defend him and take a stand against the crowd?
Unfortunately, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. I was the bitter chick for a few years after my divorce that turned tea parties into toxic parties and now I cringe at my past behavior.
(Hurt people hurt people, right?)
Just as the first few lovelies dove onto the slippery slope of male abuse, I jumped in and loudly interrupted, “Look ladies…the beauty of healthy female friendships is how it enhances marriage –not replaces it. When our uniquely feminine emotional needs are addressed by empathetic girlfriends who understand us then we don’t place false expectations on our man to decipher our complicated hearts.”
I paused and waved my arms around for emphasis. “This allows our husband to operate as a real man who loves to fix and struggles to listen to chick-speak without the burden of fulfilling our every whim. My husband is a tremendous man who both refines and compliments me. And while I certainly love all of you, I am first and foremost my husband’s biggest fan and I refuse to act like he is big dolt or a Homer Simpson wannabe.”
The table went silent and tongues poised to launch a volley of verbal assault paused and retreated. The claws went back in and then a chorus of agreement chimed in. “Oh yes, we do need our men…they are so wonderful…I do love my husband.”
I sat back down in turmoil –glad I had spoken up but frustrated I even needed to. Sadly, I see this happen all too often –women gossiping loudly about their husbands faults and complaining to whoever lends a willing ear. I know if the shoe were on the other foot and I discovered my husband trash talked me in public I would be devastated. So why do women act like we have a hall pass in this area?
In an ideal world there would be no double-standards in marriage. And though I far from perfect in this area and still consider myself a recovering gossiper, I try to remember I can’t expect my husband or our children to act differently than the behavior I model. So what am I teaching my son and two girls when they accidentally hear mommy dissing daddy on the phone to her BFF?
What if we –as wives –chose to affirm our husbands instead of nit-pick? What if we saw the best and let go of the little irritants? What about truly forgiving and FORGETING, instead of forgiving and then repeating the offense to the gals in Pilates to get a big laugh?
I want to be the type of woman who champions her husband at all costs. I try to speak of him and about him in the highest regard. And I’ve found, quite inadvertently, my words and actions are helping him become the man he wants to be because he feels supported–even when he makes mistakes and even when he struggles. This allows him to take bigger risks and move towards the best in life because he knows I am his team-mate and not a passive aggressive opponent licking his face and simultaneously peeing on his leg.
Harold Macmillan –a British politician once said, “No man succeeds without a good woman behind him.” I think Harold is on to something. And I think starts by being an advocate of marriage and learning the art of keeping our mouth shut.