All of us with husbands and wives (mates, whatever) are perfectly positioned to make them better human beings. But it seems to me that most of us squander it. Today I’d like to help fix that.
With the possible exception of your children, there is no one you’re likely to be closer to than a spouse. And that even goes for a lot of people with problem spouses; being with someone day and night over a protracted period conveys more understanding than pretty much anything else. Along with that comes opportunity. No one can present and support more ideas; no one can better nurture attitudes; no one will have more “right times” to insert a useful word, feeling, encouragement or compliment.
And so the position of spouse can be of immense effect. What I’m suggesting today is that we use it consciously and intelligently.
I am fully certain that we can make each other better people. Wives can make their husbands better and husbands can make their wives better. No one is better placed, no one has better reason for doing it, and no one will be better able to make course corrections as they go.
This, in a better world, would be glaringly obvious to us and would come to us naturally. It doesn’t, of course, and so I’ll start by going through the major obstacles I see.
Our Culture of Complaint
Humans like to complain. More than that, we gain a sort of status from it; or, as we used to say, “bragging rights.” We’re suffering, but continue performing our duties anyway. We overcome the stupid obstacles thrown in front of us by stupid people. And so on. It conveys an image of vibrance and nobility, and we can generate that image upon demand.
Bear in mind, please, that I’m not saying the these quasi-boasts are false. Very often they are not. (Though they tend to be poorly-directed). The problem with complaint is that it becomes a go-to, feel-good tool, and displaces more important uses of mind. Uses like actually solving problems.
Ultimately, the culture of complain treats circumstances as fate and absolves us from all responsibility for improving ourselves and our families.
I’m quite sure you can see how this undermines any plan for making our spouses better.
Women and men have always developed adversarial images of each other, and based (at least loosely) on legitimate reasons.
Firstly, we’re born with an innate and overpowering reproductive urge (the need for sex) and thus we are forced together. In a better world, we’d handle this far better and teach our children to handle it far better, but here we are now, and so we must deal with where we are now.
Propelled by our very bodies, we still try to find mates we appreciate in as many ways as possible. Choosing is hard, however, and we’re all doing it under biological pressures, not to mention the pressures applied by other people. (I think we’re generally getting better at this, but it remains an issue.)
The conditions spawned by this, combined with our culture of complaint, seem to promote wives complaining about husbands, husbands complaining about wives and so on. And in some ways, this is fine. Wives, for example, often compare strategies for dealing with the oddities of their husbands.
Still, once this becomes habitual, it focuses us on our spouse’s shortcomings, rather than seeing how to improve them.
Making it worse over the past few generations has been militant feminism. All militant mindsets require an enemy as a focal point, and this one chose men. This is not to say that feminism per se is a bad thing; but any movement featuring an enemy is biased away from improvement and toward destruction.
The consistent message of pop culture is that love is about salving insecurities. How many “I need you” songs have you heard? And wouldn’t “I want you more than I need you” be a bigger compliment?
Our culture, then, sees insecurity as a fundamental pivot, with love turning upon it. I think that’s deeply mistaken. Love is a desire to bless… a hunger to bless. It is not based upon insecurity; rather, it works to remove the insecurities of a beloved.
Far too many relationships involve the matching of insecurities rather than eliminating them. And as that goes on, people learn not to believe in their own worth, finding safety in the fact that their spouse is a little bit more insecure than they are.
The Fields Are White For Harvest
The couples of the West, then, have wide and fertile vistas in front of them. Whether or not your plan is formal and written, you have it in your power to make your spouse a better person and I’m recommending that you give it some serious thought.
If you do this with any degree of success (which I think is as close to guaranteed as we can get), you’ll make your spouse better, make your family better (especially children), and you’ll almost certainly find yourself becoming better.
The whole thing is a massive win-win cycle. And so I recommend starting as soon as possibly and continually revamping your plan as you go.