I can promise that I will love him everyday, though that love might not look like hugs and kisses and thoughtful gifts. I can promise to respect him and his hopes and dreams, even if they don’t perfectly align with mine.
In my twenties and during the early stages of my relationship with my now husband, I probably would have defined ‘a good wife’ a someone who provides intelligent conversation, support and encouragement. Someone who has a good sense of humor, is thoughtful and kind, a travel companion, a spontaneous gift-giver, and a passionate lover. We did some pretty incredible stuff together back then, including several years working in Doctors Without Borders.
We are now ten years down the line, and in a very different phase of our relationship. We are still lovers, but also parents to four young children. Needless to say, my definition of ‘how to be a good wife’ has changed.
With more life experience and maturity (and less sleep), I now bring different attributes to our marriage: improved patience, greater selflessness, and heightened self-confidence. But, as a consequence of sleep-deprivation and the daily pace of life with young kids, my capacities have changed. There is now a long list of things I can’t provide.
Tonight, as I fold the second load of laundry, the house is unusually silent; all kiddies are asleep soundly at 7:45 p.m. Our home is tidy and calm, there’s a neat pile of my husband’s clothes on the bed, a big delicious kale and quinoa salad prepared for when he finally makes it through the door. Today I even baked four loaves of bread!
In this rare moment, I feel like a good wife. I feel a sense of pride at my daily accomplishments, at which my twenties-self would be horrified. I’m aware I sound like more like a 1950’s wife than a modern, ‘enlightened’ woman, but out of necessity we evolve, and expectations change.
When he does arrive home, there is very little of me left for him both physically and emotionally. I have little energy to greet him with adult conversation and pose an interested question about his day. My brain and body are tired. Salad for dinner yes, sex tonight, no. Four babies and six sleep-deprived years later I am not a glamorous wife in thick, fleece pajamas, with hair needing a cut. It’s breastfeeding bras rather than sexy lingerie for this mama, but my heart is still full of love. It’s just expressed to him in different ways.
As women and wives and mothers, all our relationships, family situations, personalities, and working lives are different, but there are ten things we all can do in our relationships to be a good wife or partner:
- Be pleasant. Always strive to treat others the way you want to be treated. After a long, exhausting day, the words you exchange may be few, but let them be nice.
- Treat him with respect. If you expect respect from him, you must treat him with respect.
- Communicate. Communication is the key to a good and solid marriage. Try to find time to touch base even if it is for a few minutes each day.
- Be supportive. Love him for both his successes and failures.
- Appreciate each other more. Be more appreciative and thankful. You both work hard, regardless if it was in the home or office. Recognize each other’s efforts.
- The small things. It isn’t about being or doing everything; small gestures of love can mean everything.
- Avoid blame and guilt. You’re a team, accept joint ownership of problems and find solutions together. It’s not a competition for who got the least sleep!
- Laugh in the face of adversity. Marriage and parenting are both hard; be a good wife by maintaining humor, sharing laughs, and smiling often.
- Tell him he is loved. If you only say three words before you fall asleep, make them ‘I love you.’
- Take care of your body and appearance. This is definitely one from the 1950’s list of how to be a good wife, but don’t do it just for him, do it for yourself, too. Confidence and self-esteem are vital for your happiness, and it just so happens they also exude sex appeal.
So mamas, we may not be rock star wives everyday, but if our husbands are not perfect then we shouldn’t try so hard to be either. Repeat after me: ‘I am a good wife. I am a good wife.’ You got this!