What Does Being a Wife Entail?
In our culture there are a few representations of what it means to be a wife that are false stereotypes. Being a wife is not living only for your husband, serving his whims as some contractual duty. Alternatively, being a wife is not a chance to wrangle a husband into some "perfected" version concocted by imagination and unattainable expectations.
Since we were married 4 years before becoming pregnant with our daughter, we shared a lot of time together as a couple. In those years we developed our relationship and we both learned a lot about what it takes to be married. A marriage begins with deep attraction, trust, and mutual respect. A married couple is the model of true partnership; two people whose strengths and weaknesses complement each other in a way that together they are an unstoppable force.
So what does being a wife entail? Some of you may have your own advice on the matter. Recently I was asked by a friend what it means to be a Perfect Wife, knowing that woman does not walk this earth, but as a discussion.
After some reflection, I defined a Perfect Wife as a woman who is altruistic, vulnerable, and flexible. Altruistic, because a generous heart and loving actions bring peace into the home. Vulnerable, because humbly admitting our failures and fears brings deeper intimacy into our marriage. Flexible, because life throws so many unexpected turns and we must be willing to learn new ways to tackle challenges by scaling back or enforcing boundaries when necessary.
Altruism is selflessness. As a spouse, we are called to love our other with a deep concern for their contentment and long term prosperity. What this means, is that we (hopefully) chose our spouse with the intention of being by their side through all of life's trials, and that we will always look out for what is best for them with a generous heart. It does not mean that we tirelessly put aside our own needs and desires to a fault, and therefore grow in resignation, but that we can recognize opportunities to give ourselves over to what is best for the future of the family, not only for one person.
Sometimes that means quitting a job you love to take a great opportunity elsewhere, taking on a job to make extra income, or being patient as you watch your spouse go through interior difficulty. Being altruistic in thought and deed is often an act of solidarity to your husband; like saying, I'm here for you, I'm with you on this, and I'm not going anywhere.
This one might sound easy, and it is especially so in the first stages of marriage because your spouse is your closest confidant, biggest supporter, and most valued opinion. But vulnerability can slowly evaporate as a couple endures trials together, especially if trust is damaged or if one spouse feels abandoned or betrayed.
The key to renewing trust in a relationship is being vulnerable; showing the scars and relating the pain, even if some of it was caused by the love of your life. The very crux of what we believe about love is that forever-love is a gift to our spouse who loves our strengths while also appreciating our flaws.
Discussing shame and fear is difficult, even with the person you love most. Even worse, it can be painstaking to tell your spouse that you've made a mistake that affects the family, like over-spending, over-committing, or over-sharing. The moment we start to keep things from our spouse is the same moment we start living for ourselves. Follow any story of a broken marriage and the spouses started living with little care for their spouse, only with concern for themselves with the "I deserve it" attitude. If you deserve it, find a way to present your desires to your spouse so that you can achieve your goals together; it's meaningful and fosters trust.
As a wife, flexibility has been my new middle name. Just the same way you can't plan for your car to break down on the highway, you can't plan for everything to work out according to The Plan. Sometimes The Plan gets switched before your eyes, with the loss of a loved one, a job, or an opportunity. Other times, The Plan is just a means to an end.
Flexibility can get lost on the idea that we have to silence what we want or how we envision our life, but just because something isn't working out according to The Plan now, doesn't mean it will never happen. Being flexible means being prudent, making decisions after discernment, and knowing that we are in control of so little.
None of us can be all things to all people, but we certainly can try to be the best version of ourselves, and insodoing be the best wife to our husbands by living generously, loving vulnerably, and tackling challenges flexibly.