If You Love Her Let Her Go

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned to a friend that I’d spent the previous weekend alone at a cabin doing some writing and recording.

He stared at me and said “how did you sell your wife on THAT?”

I was surprised for a moment… and then reminded that this kind of freedom within marriage is the exception in our culture.

Most of us have been brainwashed into believing that a “good marriage” is one in which husband and wife spend every waking moment together…

…that the more shared friendships, shared interests, and shared activities the better…

…that NON-shared interests and activities are, inversely, a threat to the relationship, and proof of marital unhappiness and “disconnection.”

In my experience, this belief is arbitrary, misguided, and a sure path to misery for both spouses.

You and your wife are not “one.” You are two individuals who have committed to love and support and expand each other.

It was your DIFFERENCES that drew and mystified you to each other in the beginning…

…and it is your DIFFERENCES that draw and mystify you to each other now… NOT your clung-to similarities.

When you flatten your personalities to match each other…

When you cut out or minimize the things that make you different…

When you saddle the marriage with sameness… something essential is lost: the marriage becomes weaker, brittle, forced.

For example, if you hate going to community events like festivals or parades, but your wife loves them, you likely “suck it up” and go. You suffer through it, your reserves of will power and affection steadily draining away, like the fuel gauge visibly dropping as you climb an endless mountain pass.

According to the brain washing, you have “proved your love” by your sacrifice.

But in reality, you have merely created an ineffective compromise where neither of you are happy: you have spent an afternoon stewing in resentment for having been put in this familiar “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” situation.

And for your wife’s part, your sacrifice does not “count” because you did not do it cheerfully… because, as she points out angrily, you were “just going through the motions.”

There is a better way.

If you want her to release you from the tyranny of her expectations, you, as first mover, must first release her of yours.

If she hates camping, or cooking, or watching “those violent movies” with you… release her of that expectation. Do those things by or for yourself. Or, in the case of chores she detests, hire someone else to do them, as you are financially able.

If she loves opera and you detest it, buy her two tickets so she can take a girlfriend and have a night out. While she’s away, use the occasion as opportunity to create an outing of your own designs with your children: to do the hiking, fishing, or bouldering that you enjoy and she does not.

When you make this shift, several things will happen:

1. You will each start spending more time doing the things you truly enjoy, without the burden or dampening effect of dragging along the other.

2. The time you spend together on interests you DO share will be far richer.

3. You will feel more affection and gratitude and attraction for each other. Having been freed to pursue those activities that entrench rather than diminish otherness, the marriage will be further imbued with the mystery that drew you to each other in the first place.

Too many men treat marriage like an enforceable contract by which you are able to, after having run the exhausting and uncertain gauntlet of courtship, legislate an end to relational mystery, ambiguity, wilderness.

Marriage should be, rather, an arrangement where two free lovers build a mutually rewarding and pleasing life… to support and expand each other’s freedom and joy, not place selfish demands upon it.

If you love her…

If you want to see her happy… to see her relish in her passions, regardless of whether or not you share them…

Let her go.

There is a world of joy within marriage that you will never know until you take the unspoken expectations, the selfish demands for sameness, the desire for control… and toss them to the flames.

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Comments

  1. Timothy poplin says:

    True words of wisdom

  2. Scott Brown says:

    I agree. The best times in our marriage have come after my wife got past being hurt or offended if I wanted to do the things I enjoy on my own or encouraging her that is not destructive or selfish to make the time or create the event of doing what she wants by herself or with someone other than me. For example, once or twice a year I load up the truck and drive to Yellowstone and spend a day or two just camping by myself. The first time she thought it was weird and suspicious that maybe things were “bad” between us. When I returned and was still jacked up from the trip and she saw the excitement and gratitude with which I shared the details of my trip etc she began to figure out that me doing the things I enjoy without her do NOT constitute a symptom of something wrong between us. Rather genuine concern for the others happiness. Great article and message!!

  3. Well said. My wife and I love our time together and choose to spend a lot of it together. I have challenged her to try some things I like. Some she has enjoyed, going bowling & to baseball & football games. Others she has not enjoyed so much, RUSH concert & NASCAR race. She has prevailed on me to enjoy more the arts and trivia games but not to partake in bargain shopping or showtunes, ugh. We encourage each other to spend quality time with our own family members and friends as we find it healthy to have time apart. The time apart always makes us long to be together again.

  4. I disagree. There is some truth to what you say, but you can not let a woman’s expectations override yours. A Man needs to manage his relationships and he needs to be there more often than not. It’s almost as if you’re saying if she wants to get fucked by another guy then let her do it. Not good.

  5. My wife is a social butterfly !!! She knows & talks to 500 people !!! I on the other hand am a loner, I avoid crowds like the plague !!! What if her happiness comes from her showing me off to her friends & family ??? What if she strives on new introductions & confirming she is in a serious relationship and here is my man to prove it ???

  6. Bryan you nailed it. I arrived at your conclusion during an attempt 12 years ago to separate from my wife. During the confrontation the truth flowed out of me to her, because I was never interested in simply giving up, and the truth I spoke to her was that each partner must be an independent soul, free thinker, with a degree of separation between us, and that if there was something there to bring us back together it would be self-evident. 15 years of marriage between a strong-willed wife and an appeaser got us to that point, and I had finally figured it out. My move, which was taking a stand for my uniqueness and establish my “space”, a task she resisted with the ferocity of a Cat 4 hurricane, saved our marriage.

    You are wise and a gifted writer. Best wishes to you.

  7. Ty Welch says:

    I am a Christian and God’s word says in marriage that the two shall become one flesh. How does that square with what you are teaching in this article?

    • God’s word also says not to cut your hair or eat shellfish. It is unwise to take ancient writings that have been over translated as literally as you must. Words then do not mean what the same words may mean now. You can be both one and separate. If you read the entire passage from Ephesians 5 that you are referencing, it is filled with convoluted analogies and only half of the sentences are literal to begin with. Eat the same meal every day 3 times a day for 10 years. Surely you will grow tired of it, even of God told you it was the only meal you may have. The same is true of anything in life. I also imore to explore this idea… what happened during the times of Christ and the apostles when the husband had to go to market or travel for days to the next village to but a cow? The man and wife were separate for many days with no modern technology to keep in touch. Give yourself the space and freedom to love your life and truly enjoy it, so that you may in turn love your wife and truly enjoy her. That is all.

    • Jon Aldis says:

      There are several examples in the Bible of men/husbands going off and doing their own thing without their wives and becoming closer to God in the process. You can do things with out your wife that make you a better marriage partner in the long run. Believe me, she will have more respect for you if you follow your own convictions and not sacrifice them for her when she probably doesn’t want you to. Women do not like doormats. They want men who know what they want and aren’t afraid to get it all while maintaining their loyalty to the woman they love.

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