July 2, 2022

Miniature Sweaters

Today, I was not thankful at all that my husband washed our dirty laundry.

Danijela Schubert, Adventist Record

I am very fortunate that my husband likes to help in the house. He often puts washing in the washing machine, vacuums floors, washes dishes. I always thank him, although he doesn’t always hear it. 

Today was different. I was not thankful at all that he washed our dirty laundry. So much so that I sought God’s help: “Please deal with my husband. If I say something it will not be good. I am too hurt and annoyed.” 

See, I specifically told him not to wash two new woolen tops. They were so soft and delicate. Only cold hand wash would do. 

While I was away, he put all the light colors together on a low temperature. He had learned something from past experiences, when I had to say goodbye to several of my whites that were washed with dark clothes. 

But for those woolens, that was still too rough, and too hot. Of course, what came out of the washing machine were two miniature sweaters that might fit a five-year-old. 

Rubbing salt into the wound, he asked if I would check online how to fix the problem. “No,” I replied. 

“How can you not look for a solution for this?” He was bewildered. 

Short of rolling my eyes, I calmly but firmly said, “I can. I didn’t cause this trouble in the first place. What is done is done, and I can get myself a new top. Don’t worry about it.” Oops, sorry God, I already said too much! 

To make matters worse for him, he knew that I only recently bought those tops. For him, seeing me buy clothes for myself is a rare delight. Mostly it’s a battle. “This would look great on you,” is how he might start a conversation. 

“Yeah, it might. But I don’t need it,” would be one of my usual answers.

Shopping is one of the worst things for me to do. Send me shopping clothes for myself and I’ll come back depressed and empty-handed. 

But I did go shopping, and I did buy two lovely tops that were now miniature ones.

So, he went looking for answers. The solution he found on the internet required soaking, rinsing, rolling, and stretching. I came to help at the stretching phase, as he requested, knowing full well from experience that it would not work. 

I had to bite my tongue. I was so tempted to go on with “Told you so” or “You should have listened to me” … but I stopped short of saying it. 

We were able to stretch one of the tops so maybe an eight-year-old could wear it. The other was not as lucky. From the serious stretching, it broke. It went straight in the rubbish bin. 

My prayer was being answered, though, while I went on peacefully doing other things. As evening approached, I was stirring our dinner on the stove. With a humble face my husband came up next to me and said, “I’m sorry I ruined your woolens.” Positively surprised, I thanked God in my heart!

“Apology accepted,” was my answer to my husband and a beautiful end to quite a day.

I would say that if you have read this far, you may have found this true story relatable. Perhaps you have had a similar experience in your relationships with others. 

I thought that after being married for 37 years, we would be experts in communication — in showing love that the other understands, and we would not have any cause for arguments or disagreements. But it is not so. 

Regardless of how little or long you have been married, Satan will try every means to destroy your relationship. Once you get married, you don’t live happily ever after unless you decide to do whatever it takes to live happily ever after. 

It is not easy, but it’s worth it.

Looking back, I can clearly see that we both came into our marriage with heavy baggage. I came from a dysfunctional, alcoholic family, and he came from a very different family — also dysfunctional in some ways. From those backgrounds we started our life together and used whatever survival modes we knew from our childhood. But those don’t work well in adulthood. On the contrary, they make life more difficult. 

Once we were aware of our differences — several years into our marriage and many arguments and tears later — we needed to work on ourselves individually and as a couple. I remember how eye-opening one counseling session was when we discovered our different personalities. We’re diagonally opposite. Yes, opposites attract, but they also have lots of friction points.

One of the points the counselor told me then, I struggle to put into practice even today — that of reflecting back, a simple practice of checking that you understood what the other person said. We are just so quick to reply rather than acknowledge what was said.

Even now, after we’ve had some couples counseling — and I’ve had individual counseling, coaching, and mentoring — there are still days when old ways of relating to each other, old ways of thinking emerge, and we need to deal with them.

The Bible offers many examples of couples working together. Some are good examples to learn from; some are there so we can learn not to make the same mistakes. There is Abigail and Nabal, a beautiful and intelligent woman and a husband who was surly and mean (1 Samuel 25). She did not argue with her husband. She knew that his actions would not lead to any good solution. But, unlike me, she had no time to wait. Something had to be done immediately, and she did her best to avoid the disaster that was coming due to her husband’s foolishness.

Then there are wives who were a very negative influence. For Solomon, “his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God” (1 Kings 11:4, NIV).

I wonder how many times our relationship would have been better if I had put into practice Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (NIV).

For husbands, the apostle Paul in Ephesians 5 says several times to love their wives as their own bodies. Loving is not easy, but it’s beautiful and so rewarding. Paul explains what love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (NIV).

Just read through those slowly. Love is patient. Am I patient toward those I claim to love? Hmm, I could be more patient.

What about the one, it keeps no record of wrongs? Hm, how many times, especially in our early marriage, would I bring up stuff from the past, over and over again? That didn’t work! We didn’t solve the matter at hand; we only added it to our list of failed communication.

What about the part, love is not self-seeking? What does that mean? The NLT translates it as “does not demand its own way.” I realize I may demand my own way when I’m insecure and lack self-esteem. But fortunately, I’ve also realized that not all my needs can be met by my husband. The deepest needs we have, only God can satisfy, and yet we fail to go to God to satisfy those needs. Other needs can be easily satisfied with friendships that we need to cultivate. 

I am grateful that there is much help and knowledge available for couples these days. I would encourage anyone who is in a relationship to search for ways to make it work and how to make it better. This may require reading, researching, self-awareness, counseling, coaching, mentoring, and definitely prayer. But it is well worth the effort. Even scientific research is showing that “having a happier spouse is associated not only with a longer marriage but also with a longer life.”*

I wonder if we could slightly change Proverbs 31:10,11: “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value” to include men: A husband of noble character who can find? He is worth far more than rubies. His wife has full confidence in him and lacks nothing of value. 

I am very fortunate to have a husband who is worth far more than rubies. He still loves me with all my failures and still shows that love by various means, such as putting the washing in the washing machine. I always thank him, and he’s learning to hear and appreciate it. And so, we are both growing in love. No miniature sweaters will change that.

The original version of this commentary was posted by Adventist Record.

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* Olga Stavrova, “Having a Happy Spouse Is Associated with Lowered Risk of Mortality,” Psychological Science 30, no. 5 (2019); DOI 10.1177/0956797619835147.

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