When my husband, James, and I were dating, just seeing his face would send me reeling with happiness. Electricity shot through my body when he reached for my hand. One beautiful spring day, we were staring into each other's eyes. He asked me dreamily, "Do you know what I see when I look into your eyes?"
"What do you see?" I asked anxiously.
"I see the letters 'A, V.' Your contact lenses say 'A, V!' "
I went home and popped out my contact lenses. He was right! I couldn't believe I had found a man who looked so closely into my eyes that he knew what my lenses said.
I married that wonderful man 15 years ago. He still looks into my eyes and knows me better than anyone else. But the butterflies which characterized those early days together usually don't fly around my stomach anymore (although they do appear occasionally). You don't have to be married very long before you realize it's not your husband's job to make you happy. He's human and he will fail your expectations, just as you will fail his.
This year I'm on a quest to have a happier marriage, not by changing my spouse, but by changing me. Cindi McMenamin, author of When a Woman Inspires Her Husband, said, "For years I was praying that my husband would change and adapt to me. I finally had to say God, change me. Make me the kind of wife he needs. All of a sudden, there was a different equation. Our marriage changed for good, and I became a happy wife."
Isn't that good news? Being a happier wife isn't about waiting for your man to change, hoping for good genetics, or finding perfect circumstances. It's more about what you set your mind on becoming. Using an acronym for HAPPY, I have decided to focus on becoming more . . .
Hopeful. Hope acts as the foundation and fuel for change. When you place your hope in God, not in your husband or circumstances, you open the door for joy to flow into your life. Sometimes, if we are honest with ourselves, we don't want to be cured of our unhappiness. It's easier to wallow in self-pity or commiserate with friends over coffee about our disappointments. Setting a course for change may be harder at first, but it brings a lifetime of blessings and a much easier life later. Let hope arise in your heart. Feed hope daily by reading God's Word, listening to positive messages about marriage, reading marriage books, and spending time with couples who have strong marriages.
Adaptable. We wives usually aren't known by our openness to change. "Control freak" is a more common description that comes to mind. Marriage has given me many chances to adapt to my husband's needs instead of insist on doing things my way. Learning how to camp in a tent instead of a hotel. Choosing a church because of God's call and not because of my comfort. Drinking James' green power smoothie even when it tastes gross. When you are able to flex with what life (and your husband) throws your way, you are much happier.
Positive. When you see your marriage as a privilege to enjoy, instead of a right to exercise, it's a breath of fresh air to your home. Remember how you felt like the luckiest woman alive when you said "I do"? Don't take your groom for granted. Constantly focus on the positive traits of your husband. Tell him something you appreciate about him today. Choose to use words that treasure your man, not trash him. Think about your marriage in terms of what you're grateful for, not what you wish it was. The more you focus on what's positive, the more positive things you'll discover in your marriage.
Purposeful. Having purpose makes you feel alive. If you have specific goals as a wife, they give you momentum and direction. No more ruts when you're learning new skills, whether learning how to cook or spicing up your love life. One of my goals is to be more affectionate with James. We have three young children, and I get plenty of cuddling from them. So I have to consciously remember to hold James' hand or put my arm around him. Those are little things that make a big difference in connecting on purpose.
Yielded. I stepped in line at the grocery store at the same time another woman did. We looked at each other and I said, "You go first." She thanked me and stepped ahead. It probably cost me an extra three minutes, but it was the right thing to do. I could have insisted that I go first, but that would have been awkward and certainly counterproductive for a Christian witness. This is an example of what it's like to yield to your husband. Submission is a complex topic, but simply said, it's about yielding to your husband and saying, "You go first. What do you think we should do?" It's not about being a doormat or a robot (that leads to resentment, not happiness), but it is about giving honor to your husband. When you are soft-hearted, yielding to God and your husband, you are choosing the "joy" lane.
Even with the best intentions, I can feel grumpy at home or short on patience. When I start feeling irritated at my husband or I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself and my circumstances, I ask myself five questions about being a HAPPY wife:
1. Am I putting my hope in God?
2. Am I being adaptable?
3. Am I being positive?
4. Am I living on purpose?
5. Am I yielded to God and to my husband?
This checklist keeps me on the track to becoming a happier wife. For example, when I realize I am listening to negative voices in my mind, I can then replace those negative thoughts with positive ones, either out loud or on paper.
As the year begins, why not make it your quest to become a happier wife? There will always be resolutions to lose weight and eat healthier (and those are good). But we can't allow our most important human relationships to be left to chance. Husbands and wives drift apart when no one is intentional about nurturing the marriage. Be resolute. You don't want to settle for being an "okay wife" or an "at least we're still together wife." You want to be a happy wife—and thankfully that title is within reach. It's not up to anyone else to grant.
One afternoon, James was driving our minivan through an apartment complex. We needed to make a U-turn, but the first left-hand turn had a "No U-Turn" sign on it. Being a free spirit and not a rule-keeper like me, James flipped the U-turn. After all, we were in a quiet apartment complex and the next chance to turn wasn't within view. Seconds later, a police officer signaled us to the side of the road.
"Did you see that 'No U-Turn' sign?" the officer asked James.
"Yes, I did," James confessed. "I saw it but didn't obey the sign."
The officer paused. "Most people lie to me about that sign, so I'm going to let you go this time. Next time, please pay attention to the sign."
We were all high-fiving each other as we left the scene of the crime. James was off the hook, even though he hadn't heeded the sign. Sometimes in our marriages, we can neglect the directional signs provided by God's Word for our safety and well-being. The two shall become one flesh. Submit to your husbands. Be joyful always. Esteem one another as better than yourself.
It's never too late to make that U-turn and turn toward behaviors and attitudes that honor God in your marriage. Being full of joy—being happy—is a gift you can give to your spouse and to yourself. Isn't it great that God allows U-turns? No matter where you are in your marriage today, the quest to become a happier wife can begin today.
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife and 31 Days to a Happy Husband. She and her husband, James, live in San Diego with their three children. www.ArlenePellicane.com