Thursday, January 19, 2012

On being a wife-By my dear mother "I wish I would have known"

My father passed away five years ago due to a 10 month battle with cancer. His death was glorious in so many aspects because he came into the Catholic faith 3 weeks before he died. At his funeral, there were 13 priests and the bishop of our diocese. I know this was a gift to my faithful mother who prayed for his conversion for their whole marriage. We laughed that when we die, we will never have so many clergy offering our funeral mass.
My mother has learned many lessons since his death, but the major one learned was about being the wife she wished she would have been. She didn't understand many things about him until he was gone. Her grief over that one aspect was almost unbearable. I asked her today to write a little of her memoirs in regards to her marriage. Her wisdom of 56 years of life, 35 years of marriage and 10 children is nothing to be ignored. I have an entire Rubbermaid container full of her letters and advice written to me. They are treasures. I have kept every single letter.

Below is her advice regarding marriage AFTER his death:

I WISH I HAD KNOWN…by Damaris Niewald

If I could rewind my mothering career, I would have put more energy and emphasis into being a better wife. Our primary vocation is to be a wife first and then a mother. Because of the exhausting demands of small children, most women lose focus on their marriage. Either they overlook their spouse and put him on the bottom of their “to-do” lists or they begin to treat him “as one of the children.” The bond of marriage is stronger than the bond of children because in marriage, “two become one flesh”—one flesh—you are no longer a single person after marriage you become absorbed into your husband.

I wish I had known how a man feels like a failure at work each day, and look to their wives to make them feel like a hero. If he comes home to a wretch, he feels like a failure at work and at home.

I wish I had known that a man is afraid that he can’t be a good provider, good husband, and good father, and that he doesn’t know what to do with his fear. I believe that anger is a sign of fear. I wish I had known that he wasn’t mad at me and that he was only afraid of NOT having the answers to life’s problems or quandaries.

I wish I had known that a man is afraid of NOT measuring up to other men, sometimes his own father and sometimes he’s afraid of NOT being able to measure up to the expectations of his wife. I wish I had known that God leads through the husband—not the wife. And even if the man’s decisions turn out to be disastrous, that a wife’s obedience will be blessed by God.

I wish I had known that the problems in raising children are the devil’s most powerful attacks on a marriage. The devil is after the marriage NOT the child. If he can destroy the marriage, he has captured the whole family in one swoop.

I wish I had appreciated the 1 million unseen, taken for granted acts of service. When they are gone there is a hole. My dear mother said “when you have a team each player has a role that is irreplaceable. When one member of the team is gone the entire team feels the loss.”

I wish I had been a better listener to his daily ups and downs instead of being focused on the woes and workings of my life.

I wish I had been more willing to fulfill his needs instead of trying to fulfill mine.

I wish I had been a better friend. As St. Francis said perfectly, “Master, grant that I may never seek to be consoled, as to consol. To be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.” I wish that I could have consoled him more, understood him more and loved him more than I expected of him.

Be an excellent wife, you never how long you will have him.

64 comments :

  1. I love this and will keep it close to my heart.
    I miss your mom. Hug her for me!

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  2. Oh, Lindsay, what a treasure your mother is. I learn something every time I talk with her. Thanks for sharing this; I'll certainly read and reread it!

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  3. Thank you for this reminder!!! I need all the advice I can get.

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  4. Thanks for the reminder! this is awesome!

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  5. Please thank your mom for being willing to share something so personal. She has hugged us through all of our tears and yet we don't always notice hers. She IS an amazing person and so are you!

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  6. This post is lovely - thank you.

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  7. So beautiful. This should be given to every wife when she slips on her ring.

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  8. I just happened across this... How beautiful.

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  9. Words that I really needed to hear! Thank you for sharing them.

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  10. This might just have saved my marriage.

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  11. Thanks. This is all very true. And yes, I can confirm that "anger is a sign of fear".

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    1. Thanks for your input! My husband is pretty frustrated about things right now, and it probably is based on his fears of not "getting ahead" financially and not knowing the best next move for us. I appreciate your confirmation.

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  12. Thank you for sharing your great wisdom! I will cherish this advice and hold it near my heart!

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  13. I have 11 children and I think this was took some humility for your mother to write and of course, a lot of wisdom. I really identify with the anger is fear thing. I wish that was made known to more folks, or priests perhaps, spoke more of it. I will try to be a better wife and do little things for my husband every day! We are both 55 now and had the last 3 children in our forties. He is getting more tired now, and I am able to see how our life has unfolded. God has given us many blessings, but I hope I can follow God's command and be a better wife. Thank your mother for me~ and tell her that she is brave!

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  14. It is a blessing to many to read this. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. “when you have a team each player has a role that is irreplaceable. When one member of the team is gone the entire team feels the loss.”

    This is so very true. Though my husband is not dead, I have most certainly felt the loss of him these last 8 months while he has been in jail. I eagerly await the day when he is finally able to come home once again.

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    1. That is so rough! I'll add you to my prayer list; I've known wives whose husbands are in jail, and they said the loneliness is indescribable. Partly because people are comfortable talking to widows.... I pray for wholeness in your family soon!

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    2. Thanks, I could really use the support. It has been a very rough year exacerbated by the 16 year old trying constantly to take over the entire family and control our lives. The decision was made to send her off to the Jobs Corps so that she can no longer be a danger to to the family as a whole.

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  16. I too have a box of letters from my dear Mother, may God rest her soul. And she also, although she was the most loving, giving, joyful and saintly person I've known, would be the first to be humble, to say where she was wrong, what she could done better. This humility is inspiring to me. I remember little things she did as she expected my dad's arrival at home every day. It has been almost five years since we lost her and I miss of her everyday. We have been raising seven kids, she raised 11... her advice was so precious to us from the very beginning of our marriage. I count myself so fortunate to have had such a Mother!
    http://anabragahenebrysjournal.blogspot.com/search?q=mamae

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  17. Brings tears to my eyes, thank you for the wisdom.

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  18. As a mother of four young ones with a husband battling cancer, this is very timely advice. Thank you for sharing!

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  19. This is a really lovely and important reminder. Thank you for finding the strength in the midst of your grief to so generously share this with the world.

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  20. Thank you for sharing this. It is a timely reminder!

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  21. Wow!!!! This makes me cry tears of joy. How I pray that we might all learn these lessons before our husbands are gone. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing!!!!!! This advice is a treasure.

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  22. beautiful will definitely share this on facebook

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  23. So beautiful, so true. Now I will try to apply it! Thanks!

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  24. Oh, oh, oh. Oh thank you for sharing this. Thank you, thank you.

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  25. Wow just amazing! Thankyou for this sharing this it will change the lives of many. God bless you & your family

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  26. What do you do when you have married a self-absorbed, narsascist who places his whims ahead of you and the children? Who has no interest in you except to clean, cook and raise the children. I feel like a concubine.

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    1. Do nothing more than love him with all your heart. Love does not mean absolute tolerance and submissiveness, it means loving them enough to tell them they are wrong. St Monica is a great example of a wife whose love is rarely returned, yet her devotion to God and to her husband eventually won his heart at the end. As a man, I'm sorry that this is the behavior of your husband. Don't give up. There may be reasons he acts this way, usually through upbringing and insecurities. If the two of you can make it through this with cleared slates and renewed love, the victory will be all the sweeter and your bond all the stronger.

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    2. Pray for your husband. My husband was just like yours, really. Every time I told my mom how bad it was, she would say to pray for him. I did. But I never could have imagined the change that has occurred in him in the last 14 years. He has gradually transformed into a caring, attentive, considerate husband. God can do all things. Don't ever underestimate God's power.

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    3. If he is truly a narcissist, get professional help, please! You could be writing about someone who is really inconvenient and a lot of work, or someone who is abusing you; it isn't clear. The other replies you received apply to a well-meaning but foolish husband who has perhaps lost his way, but prayer and perseverance are not sufficient for a true narcissist, since they will cheerfully eat you alive. Ask for help, and don't stop asking until you connect with someone who truly understands the situation and can help you see clearly whether this is a hard situation to work through or a dangerous one to get out of to protect your self and your kids.

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    4. Yes, first start with prayer but as I have seen as I help a friend cope with a narcissistic spouse, it can be a real disorder. This therapist, her book and her counseling has helped my friend immensely. www.eleanorpayson.com You are not alone.

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  27. This was so timely- my husband and I had yet another fight this morning. We are in the midst of raising our first child who is now 2 months old. I thought since we had enjoyed a blissful marriage for 10 years we would be so solid in this parenting thing- great teamwork! I had no idea how hard this would be on our marriage. We love our daughter- she is a gift from God- but I needed to read this today and help recognize how much my words affect him and how I can be an encouragement to him rather than just expecting him to be our hero. Great advice-thank you.

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  28. Evelyn, October 17, 2013 at 2:30p, CST
    May the Holy Spirit of God surround you with his peace and fill you with his love. You are in need of healing, each of you, and I am praying that each of you receive it. We all received divine inspiration from the wife and mother who wrote about the importance of being sure your husband knows he is loved and appreciated. Men seem to take so much verbal abuse out in the world, just what the evil one wants, and you and I as wives are comforters........speaking from 55 years--hang on, don't let the evil one win. All of us who are reading your message are praying for you. "Lord, make me an instrument of they peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love. GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL READERS.

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  29. Thank you...beautiful!

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  30. Amen. The best lesson we can teach our children is the example of how a marriage - the most sacred and natural of all partnerships - is conducted. Based on MUTUAL respect, caring and appreciation. In short: Love. There will be critical times, but looking back you should be able to sing this tune:
    -never lost my way, never turned fool when I reached at the crossroads. The satisfaction of doing the right thing when faced with adversity is a feeling like no other.
    Big up!

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  31. Thank you for admonishing/teaching me yet again. Thanks to my own Dear Mother, I have been a better wife to my husband than I would have been without her advice/input. She taught me that the marriage comes first, and then the children. After 44+ years of marriage, I can honestly say that it keeps getting better and better.
    That is not to say that marriage is easy, but it is definitely a worthy way of living. Thanks be to God!

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  32. How wonderful it is to be so gently reminded of something so important. Thank you! Also, this is my first visit to your blog and I keep going back to look at the gorgeous family picture you have at the top. What a BEAUTIFUL family! God bless!

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  33. Great post! It was God's Grace for me to read this today. May we learn to love, respect, and serve our husbands more deeply today. Thank you!

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  34. Thank you... from a complete stranger!

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  35. While I can't disagree with the almost all the sentiments expressed in her words, I do have to say that traditional Catholic Church teaching states that our primary vocation as married women with children is the same as the primary end of marriage, that is, the procreation and education of children (i.e. mothering) and the happiness between the spouses comes second. Certainly a look back at what we could have done will almost inevitably force us to recognize that there are so many times where we could have and should have been less selfish and more self-sacrificing, but that doesn't mean we can displace the primary purpose of marriage and say we should have put our wifely duties before our mothering in order of importance. Is marriage a zero-sum game in which a woman has to make a choice between being a wife and being a mother? Is there any reason why we can't work on being self-sacrificing wives that really pay attention to our husbands, while also making sure that we maintain the primary purpose of our vocation as married women? I would not presume to judge at all what your parents' marriage was like, I am only commenting based off what she wrote, and I find it worrisome that, as a Catholic, she would come to the conclusion that her role as a mother should have taken a backseat to her role as a wife. Of course the marriage is under attack, but why? For the souls of the children, meaning that the most important thing we can do as mothers is to ensure that we maintain an appropriate understanding of the primary purpose of marriage and carry it out. Whenever we displace the primary purpose of marriage (the happiness of the spouses for the procreation and education of children) we run the risk of introducing an altogether different type of selfishness, the kind that says, "If Mama ain't happy, nobody's happy" and that just opens the way for divorce or "annulments." (In quotations because the annulment rate has literally sky-rocketed since the modern Church revamped what the purpose of marriage was - awfully telling.)

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    1. "I do have to say that traditional Catholic Church teaching states that our primary vocation as married women with children is the same as the primary end of marriage, that is, the procreation and education of children (i.e. mothering) and the happiness between the spouses comes second."

      Where does it state this? I'm curious. Because every single "traditional" priest and Catholic marriage counselor that I've ever read or heard speak talks about the importance of a solid marriage relationship first and foremost. And then the nurturing of children. It would only make sense to nurture the relationship that brings about the children primarily, don't you think?

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    2. Here is an excerpt from the Encyclical, "On Marriage" by Pope Pius XI, written in 1930:
      24. This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof.

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  36. Thank you for this. I hope you don't mind if I share the link on my Food for Thought Saturday Round up tomorrow.

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  37. Ok I just got into an argument with my husband and not 5 min later jm reading this and why does it not surprise. I'm sure this was my mothers doing she is passed away know but she always finds her way back into my head and after reading this I feel I need to have a sincere talk with my husband thank u for a wonderful post

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  38. Wow. What a wholly unreasonable way to live life. Way to bow down to men, ladies. What's wrong with equality, exactly? Why must a woman have to be subservient to any man? Look, if that's what you're into, fine, but how about not being all holier-than-thou about other ways of having a marriage?

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    1. My husband and I have a very traditional looking marriage, but I doubt anyone would think I am downtrodden. I am stay at home, 6 children, homeschooling, farm wife, married 32 years to my high school sweetheart. People being offended by Paul's words about submissiveness always bothered me. (I always wonder why they do not note where he says we are to submit to one another as much as they notice "wives submit yourself to your husband.") I have always striven to be a helpmeet and a partner to my husband in the way God wishes, but was never so sure that I had accomplished it in some small way, than when our youngest child was about 4-5, and she announced: "Dad is the boss of this house!" I thought that was true, but to tweak her and to see what she was thinking, I said, "But Mom AND Dad are the bosses in this house." (Which is also true.) "No," she reiterated, "Dad is the boss of this house...but he lets you do whatever you want!" Out of the mouth of babes.That is my idea of submit to one another. (She also wondered, "Why doesn't he let ME do whatever I want?!" That's a whole 'nother question for another day, honey...)

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    2. Whoops. I was accidentally signed into my daughter's blog. www.artteajannell.blogspot.com .

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  39. Thank you I needed a reminder.

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  40. Thank you.Life is about love

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  41. So very lovely! I have often thought this very thing watching the marriages around me (so many of my dear friends are married with kids) and realizing how my heart falls when I see the spouses revolving around the children isntead of the children around the marriage. Someone above talks about "other kinds of marriage." Um...hello? Until Christ, marriage had the status of a procreative relationship only...Christ elevated it to companionship between equals! Woman was released from the status of low-life-human-being made only as an incubator, and man was released from arrogance and violence. Thank you for this! I cannot wait to get married!!!

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  42. please post more wisdom, such an encouragement, thank you

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  43. What a beautiful letter, and a wonderful tribute to your father. I came from LMLD at Leila's recommendation, and I am glad I came, especially to read the letter, but even for a glimpse of your beautiful family in your header. Beautiful.

    I am so glad your father had a glorious funeral. He was the prodigal son. And we rejoice for his salvation.

    "Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Luke 15:10

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  44. Thank you for this.

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  45. This is exactly what I needed to hear, thanks.

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