Relationship magazines, advertisements for women, submission talks in church, modesty talks in youth group, and my mother's and grandmother's own views about men and their own broken relationships...I brought all these lessons with me into my marriage, ready to be the greatest wife ever! But I have been disappointed by some of this advice and I've had to relearn a few things along the way.
1) As long as you're a good cook and keep a clean home, your husband will be happy. (Ok, there's sex too, but I'll talk about it later) A few dirty dishes, which to me are the end of the world, aren't even on my husband's radar. He'd rather me sit with him and watch a movie or work on a project together.
2) You're too fat, you forgot to shave, your tan lines are showing, your breasts are too small, your butt is too big, your hair is too flat. It was absolutely terrifying to stand naked in front of my husband for the first time-- for the first hundred times. It seems so silly to think about now. He loves my body. Especially the parts I was so worried about.
3) Your feminine parts are dirty. Don't talk about them, look at them, and for heaven's sake cover them up with some sort of fragrance so no one has to smell them! This lesson is made worse by all the companies out there touting sprays, washes, and cloths for my lady parts. The vagina is the cleanest part of the body, and except for infection, only smells like our own natural scent. And far from being shameful, a woman's reproductive organs are amazing! We grow and nourish another human being inside our bodies! But even now I still hesitate sometimes when my husband approaches me because I think I will smell bad...even after a shower!
4) Men only want one thing, and it's all they ever think about. While it's true that my husband thinks about sex more often than I do, it's not all he wants or thinks about. He is worried about his job, figuring out a problem with a co-worker, making sure his employees get paid enough, making sure I have everything I need to be happy. And he wants respect, admiration, support, and companionship. He wants to know his wife is his greatest fan and his best friend.
5) When a man is quiet, it means he's thinking about another woman. I still fight this one from time to time. Usually, my husband doesn't figure out problems by talking like I do. He doesn't give a play-by-play of his day when he comes home. When my husband is quiet, it either means he's figuring out a problem internally or he's just plain too tired to talk. So I've learned to offer a back rub and let him talk when he wants to.
6) A real man will never look at another woman. If he does, get rid of him.
If a handsome man were to come over and brush my face and tell me I was beautiful, I would definitely notice! I was made to be aroused by touch and words. So it's no different for my husband. (There are men who have addictions that need to be worked out, I'm not referring to those men here.) I have learned that my husband will notice a beautiful woman--and I try not to be threatened by this. It means, after all, that all his parts are in working order! It means he was made to be aroused visually, which is a great perk for me later on in the day! I can choose to shame him for being a man, or I can say "She's gorgeous, isn't she? I love her dress!" and show through that confidence that beauty can be admired without perversion.
7) When it comes to sex, just grin and bear it. It won't take long and you won't feel a thing anyway. If my husband wanted meaningless physical satisfaction, there are plenty of ways he could get it. What he wants is to know that he has what it takes to make me happy. He wants to share the most sacred of human experiences with the woman he loves. He wants to know he is safe with me, both in body and in heart.
Advice is wonderful, and I take it when I can get it from those whom I trust. But a mentor once taught me that when taking advice, I should be like an old cow: "chew on the cud and spit out the sticks." I have found more great advice for my marriage in the books below: