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When was the last time you stopped to consider how many voices are in your marriage and in your own head. I have a passion for reading and learning but sometimes my head gets crowded with voices and thoughts that don’t belong there. This was strongly pointed out to me last night as I was reading before bed.

It was a book that had been gifted to me, The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. This book had come from a friend whose sister thought this book useful enough to keep as reference guide. Always interested in learning new things, I dived in and was intrigued by the idea of praying over individual aspects of my husband’s life. This was something I had considered doing. My interest turned to irritation when I read Chapter 4: His sexuality. While comfortable with the idea of serving one another in our relationship, I was struck by a stereotypical image of servitude from another era. Or worse, a medieval concept of women as property. I have no doubt that this was not what the author intended. It was the idea that I should put on lip gloss, do my hair and put on something pretty before bed that got to me. The implication in these pages was that if I don’t dress to impress my husband, he will be tempted elsewhere and that it would be my own fault. I find this highly insulting to both of us.

It is not only in Christian literature that I find these types of comments. How many relationship books, magazine articles and television shows have fed us this same information? I have seen it countless times. The difference this time was that I was aware of it. My poor husband was too, as I felt the need to point it out to him. Interestingly, this didn’t register for him. However, when I mentioned the book also talked about “his finances,” he got angry and pointed out that they were “our” finances. It seems we each have our own triggers. Each aware of different messages society is trying to “teach” us.

What I learned most from this encounter is not how I should treat my husband, but how I should be aware of the number of voices in my marriage. By my count there should be three – my husband’s, God’s and mine. Too often there are others who would like to add their opinions: countless relationship “experts,” magazine columnists, news commentators, and well-meaning friends and family members. I am not saying that we should never ask for help and support, we SHOULD! I am suggesting that we first consider the agenda of the source and the point-of-view of the speaker. A 2013 Pew Research study suggests, “The divorce of a friend or close relative dramatically increases [75%] the chances that you too will divorce.” Sociologists use the term “social contagion” to describe the phenomenon.

 The good news is that a strong support system can strengthen marriages. By spending time with other couples (or part of a healthy couple), we can be encouraged and strengthened in our marriage. We can choose to deliberately look for positive voices to add to our inner monologue rather than accepting everything we hear or read as truth that should be internalized. The women friends in my life encourage me and my relationship. I have also found websites and Facebook feeds, such as Happy Wives Club” that inspire me to think positively of my spouse on those days I need a little help remembering why I like him. Whether consciously or not, the people and ideas we let in influence our thinking. Being aware of what these voices are saying to us can help us decide what path we want to follow. The not-so-subtle messages I read last night reminded me to think carefully about what advice I follow. I hope this post will do the same for someone else.
picture by Amy Nielson Photography

How Many Voices are in Our Marriage?
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