When I was single, I had a checklist for the type of man I was looking for. Truth be told, I was a sucker for a man in suit, so my checklist included: “man whose work allows him to dress in a suit.” On a blind date with my future husband, the topic about his profession was discussed and because he was in medical sales, he was required to always wear a suit. Hooray…I hit the jackpot! Once we were married, I realized that these beautifully tailored suits required a repetitive visit to the dry cleaners.
Over the years, the fact that he wore a suit to work every day began to aggravate me because those darn dry-cleaning tags seemed to appear everywhere except for in the garbage. Early in our marriage, I explained to my adoring husband that I had a problem with the way he left the hangers, in particular the wire hangers, on our bed after he dressed. I would say something like, “I really hate it when you leave the hanger on the bed when you get dressed.” His response was always the same, and very nonchalant “why.” To which I would harshly respond, “why? … because the hanger could possibly tear the comforter.” Or, I would say, “because it is just not right that I have to pick up behind you.. and oh… those dry-cleaning tags…why don’t you simply pick them up yourself!” At first, the disagreements were light hearted, but after daily hanger and dry-cleaning tag sightings, I grew frustrated and resentful. Did he really think that our marriage was going to carry about with me constantly picking up after him? Were we really arguing over things like this? Why couldn’t he just pick up the hangers and throw away the tags? Geez!!! Soon, I began to believe that he was doing this in spite of me and that he was trying to get under my skin. I am telling you, the struggle over wire hangers and dry-cleaning tags was real! Suddenly, I realized that the very thing that drew me in and allowed me to fall in love with my husband, was at the very heart of creating a wedge between us. And while I understand that it was a very trivial quarrel, every time I saw it, I would spin out and it would cause a negative reaction; sometimes out loud and sometimes to myself.
As married life became harder to navigate as the waves of life rolled in, I can remember getting so angry when I saw the hangers and tags on the bed. One day, I decided that I just would stop picking them up so that he could learn a thing or two about not taking me for granted. I was convinced that once he saw that I was no longer picking them up that he would suddenly be engaged in “picking up” after himself. Guess what? He didn’t!! He would let those tiny tags linger for days or weeks, all the while I would fume inside. When life threw us a curve ball and we’d argue, I would throw up the hanger and tag situation and complain about how disrespected I felt. He would respond with such animosity by saying, “are we really fighting over this; get over it!”
When our marriage hit an all-time low and I was debating if I wanted to stay or leave, I actually tried to justify his love for me based on the fact that he “never” picked up the hangers and dry-cleaning tags and I just couldn’t live like “this.” Seriously, this thought actually popped up in my mind. Certainly, our issues were much deeper than this, but for some reason, this idea just crept in mind early on and it didn’t leave. It is childish to think about now, but at the time it didn’t feel that way.
Part of the healing process in our marriage was to work on the things that made us tick and to learn how our reaction to those little things made a big difference in our mutual love and respect for one another. I realized that his neglect in picking up the tags and hangers had less to do with him and more to do with me. I had created a recording in my head that said, “if he ‘forgets’ to pick up after himself, then I become his servant.” For an independent woman who found great success in self-sufficiency, this was a hard concept for me to accept.
As we began to take apart and put our marriage back together and as I sat with that statement: “if he forgets to pick it up, then I become his servant,” I began to realize and accept that truly it was an honor to become my husband’s servant. I know…the complete opposite value taught to women in this day of gender equality and #metoo movement, but hear me out. In marriage, serving one another is a wonderful gift that unites and connects two people who love each other. Living in a marriage or relationship where partners have the privilege to serve each other daily is the way that God intended it for us to live. God did not intend for people in relationships to serve as a slave to another, but rather to serve each other in love and honor. I had to learn that having a husband who I completely love and respect and who completely loves and respects me, means that I must dofor him and care for him with a loving heart; which includes occasionally picking up hangers and dry-cleaning tags.
Today, when a hanger is on the bed or he forgets to pick up the dry-cleaning tags, I chuckle to myself and happily pick them up. I have realized that what has changed for me is the perspective in which I see those things. I have the power to create the recording that plays in my own mind. I have the power to realize that I “see” what I look for. Now, I choose to see what the hangers and tags represent in our daily lives; a man who wears a business suit (which still gets my goose going!), who is probably in a hurry, working hard to provide for his family by putting his best foot forward every day. His leaving the hangers and tags behind has nothing to do with his lack of love for me, in fact, it is just the opposite. I am called in this life to see what I seek. This concept has rung true for me in marriage, in work, and in life. What remains is a man working hard for his family, with a loving wife by his side working as his partner and companion. It really is all about my personal perspective and the power in that alone makes me very much an independent woman and wife.