I'll never forget that night. Our church was growing fast. It was a season of growth that most churches would never get to experience. It was fun. New people, salvations, and life-change stories abounded.
On this particular night my wife and I were lying in bed talking. I was going on and on about things at church and how exciting they were, and we were seeing God do, and the new people I was meeting, and the opportunities that lay ahead. In a moment of brief silence from my side of the bed, she spoke up and asked me,
“Babe, am I still an adventure to you?”
“What? Of course you are.”
“I'm worried that I am not as great of an adventure as everything else you are a part of.”
I do not remember my response that night. But I do remember what my heart felt in that moment. It was one of the most painful questions I had ever been asked. It was painful because I knew that in part my wife was asking it because I had forgotten her in the midst of chasing this adventure, and she felt that blow.
It can happen so quickly men. Be aware of this. We can go day after day chasing the adventures of our jobs and fail to look at our wives as an adventure. She may be ok with this for a day, a week, a few months or possibly even a few years. But a wife who is not pursued as an adventure, who is not fought for, who is not wooed over, will eventually break down.
Here are a few things I've learned to do so that my wife does not feel forgotten:
Lose All of the Little Battles
I first heard Matt Chandler say this many years ago and I have done my best to consistently practice it. I lose every little battle. She chooses our decorations, the color of our walls, the movies that we watch, the food that we eat, and the towels that we use. I make it an active practice to say, “Whatever you would like honey.” This does not mean that I stay quiet about my opinion or avoid the discussion. You can ask my wife, I am very opinionated. I share my thoughts. However, at the end of the conversation I let her choose. In doing this I let her know I see her and I hear her because I entered into conversation with her about it. It also let's her know that I will lay down my desires for hers. My wife feels heard, seen, and loved. This is a small way in which I live out Ephesians 5 of serving her as Christ does the church (and when you've seen as many chic-flicks as I have, it often feels like it's to the point of death).
Make Dates Priority
In March, Tish and I were blessed with our first child (a 14 year old girl) and we are expecting another in early January 2015. Date nights have definitely looked different since we became parents and we are learning how to prioritize them in our new lives. But date night must be a priority. In this new season of life we have found that one date night and then several date days are working well with our schedules. These are times for us to connect. My wife and I need one on one, look each other in the eye, hold hands, laugh out loud, time with each other. It's essential. A husband who stops dating his wife is a husband who's wife will soon feel forgotten.
Communicate about Seasons
There are some seasons where I get to be at home with my wife more than others. In other seasons, I find myself traveling or staying at work later than normal. The key to this working in a marriage is communication. I do my best to communicate with my wife about the week ahead, the month ahead, and even the season ahead. I remember the few weeks in February leading up the big announcement of the Midwestern Training Network at Midwestern Seminary. I knew we were about to go into a few long weeks, so my wife and I talked about this. The week or two prior to announcing the network were filled with me working from 5am-6pm, coming home for dinner, and then working from home from 7:30-11:00 or 12:00 almost every day. This would have been a nightmare to spring on my wife. But we were prepared. She knew what to expect. We launched the network on Valentines Day and despite only having a few hours of sleep the night before, I made it a priority to go out with her that night for a nice dinner. Communication about seasons is essential.
Turn the World Off
I have to admit, of all of the tips shared, this is the most difficult for me. My phone is a habit. One of the ways I can show my wife that she is not forgotten is by intentionally leaving my phone in another room, turning it off, or giving it to her. This weekend we will leave for a week of family vacation at the lake. I will turn my phone off and give my undivided attention to my wife and family. There will be a few designated times I look at my phone throughout the week, and certain people who might need me in the case of an emergency will have my wife's number to get in touch with me. But I do not want my attention to be stolen randomly by a bad email, bothersome phone call, or mind-gripping text.
I am by no means perfect in these areas, but I strive to be better each week. At the end of my days I am not primarily concerned with someone standing over my casket and saying that I was a good preacher or an attentive pastor. I want my wife to say that I loved her well.
I do not want to forget my wife.