You can go to bed tonight a better husband than you were when you woke up.
It doesn’t involve buying a magic pill, joining a multi-level marketing scheme, or understanding how the hell you fold a fitted sheet. It’s a simple choice you can make today. And it’s as easy as A-B-C.
The secret to being a better husband is helping your wife chase down her dreams. No, not the recurring one about Daveed Diggs and a romantic sunset over the Pacific Ocean. I mean, the big goals she has for her life. What does she want to accomplish that she hasn’t yet? Write a novel? Enroll in that foreign language course? Run a marathon? Open that small business? Finally start eating whole foods? Learn to sew? Go backpacking across Europe?
Did you notice something missing from the list above? It was you. Can I tell you something that might be hard to hear? You’re not her dream. No doubt, you’re an amazing guy—a real catch, I’m sure. But living a happy little life as your happy little wife isn’t the culmination of her life’s aspirations.
I’m going to make a generalization here—by nature, and it won’t apply to everyone, so gimme some grace. But many couples I know (my own marriage included) live out of balance when it comes to dreams. The husband’s often get pursued, while the wife spends her time patiently waiting for her turn. She contents herself with establishing a home and calls that her dream. She focuses time and attention on raising children and gets told by culture that it should be her dream. She puts energy into deepening her relationships and uses that as a potential dream. All of those things are wonderful, needed, essential. But I don’t think they qualify as dreams. To me, a dream is something (a) you can’t achieve in an afternoon, (b) feels core to who you are as a person, and (c) primarily benefits you.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of being a published author. My wife, early on in our marriage, read every single page of a manuscript I wrote. She gave me valuable feedback. She even agreed to us tapping into our savings to self-publish the thing. We might have sold 200 copies (that’s being generous). We didn’t make back our initial investment, but honestly, that wasn’t the goal. It was about me achieving a dream—it took me months to complete, writing is core to who I am as a person, and the primary beneficiary was me.
But what about my wife’s dreams, you ask? I’m ashamed to say, they’ve been mostly put on the shelf. We’re in the throes of parenthood, with three kids ages five and under. Most days, my wife is content to get all the kids fed and in bed before she collapses from exhaustion. And, I might add, we don’t live a Leave It To Beaver gender-segregated lifestyle. I do breakfast every morning, the dishes a few times each day, the trash, and bathtime with the kids. She prepares meals, does laundry, and homeschools our little ones. We’re all in this thing together. We share chores. We share finances. We share decision-making. But, somehow, her dreams have fallen through the cracks.
That’s why, every morning for the past month, I’m awake with the sunrise and sweating through a women’s video workout. (It’s kicking my ass, by the way, thanks for asking.) That’s why I’m eating only whole foods, practicing intermittent fasting, and drinking enough water to float a barge. One of my wife’s dreams is for our family to be as healthy as possible. She cares about what we eat—I’d rather be eating Skyline Chili right now. She cares about fitness—again, Skyline. She cares about how much sleep we get—the Skyline down the road from us is open till midnight on weekends! Amazing!
My wife has other dreams, of course. She wants to own a bed and breakfast someday. She’d like to learn to sew. She has aspirations to write a book. She wants to travel the world with our kids. I love each of those ideas, but we had to start somewhere. Trapped inside our home (#thanksCOVID), we pulled the trigger on finally getting healthy. And let me tell you, it ain’t easy. There was a financial investment in workout equipment, online coaches, and real food. (Seriously, why are Doritos cheaper than carrots? That literally doesn’t make sense.) It costs me real effort to complete the workouts. It takes commitment to reach for fresh fruit instead of Fruity Pebbles. But it’s worth it to throw our focus behind something she is so passionate about. And, by the way, I feel much healthier, and I’m peeing my dad-bod away. Win-win.
Focusing on your spouse’s big goals and dreams isn’t a novel idea. It’s right there, in the pages of the Bible. Paul, an early church leader, wrote, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” All of our marriages would be served if we could commit to doing that, not only in the big things, but in the everyday tasks, conversations, and subtle details of life.
Obviously, just reading a Bible verse won’t make you a better husband. You actually have to do what it says. Don’t know how to begin? Go back to the A-B-C’s.
STEP 1: ASK
This should be the easy one, guys. Ask your spouse about her dreams. Seriously, it’s as simple as that. You know what they say about asses and assumptions, so even if you think you know, ask again. What goals does she want to achieve this year? In 5 years? In 10 years? What dream seems totally off-the-wall and unattainable? Give her space to shoot for the moon and don’t put any limitations on it—financial or otherwise.
Then, ask her to consider which one she’s most passionate about chasing down this year and how you can help. Not only will the conversation increase intimacy in your relationship (pump the brakes, stallion. Intimacy is just a fancy word for “closeness.” It may or may not involve lingerie, just so we’re clear on the actual goal here), but it’s an easy way to put the focus on the one you love.
STEP 2: BELIEVE
You’ve asked, and your wife (not you) has chosen what goal or dream she wants to run down. Now it’s time for you to believe in her. What I’m not talking about is a “you can do it, champ!” type attitude, but actually taking action in direct support of her.
The New Testament portion of the Bible, the part about Jesus, was written in Greek. The word “faith” in Greek is pistis. It’s a complicated word to translate into English, because its definition carries three meanings that are distinct, and yet overlap.
The first way to define pistis is as “belief”—it carries connotations of mental assent to an idea or truth. That’s a great place to start, but nothing in your life (or your wife’s) will change based upon a belief that stays solely in your head. You have to put it into action.
Which takes us to the second definition of pistis, “trust or confidence.” This correlates to belief put into action. I have confidence that my car will get me from here, to Target, and back again, so I’m willing to turn the key and take it out onto Glenway Avenue. True belief puts rubber to the road and gets moving.
This is the type of pistis your wife needs if she’s going to run down her dreams. What that looks like is based entirely on what your wife wants to do and how she would like to receive help. Maybe it means watching the kids on Wednesday nights so she can focus on that class. Maybe it means helping set up her Etsy shop. Maybe it means crunching numbers on that business idea she has. Maybe it means getting up early and doing an ab workout to heal post-pregnancy trauma (or maybe that’s just me).
Whatever it is, find a way to take action on her dream.
STEP 3: COMMIT
Dreams, by definition, shouldn’t be easily achievable. So if you’re really all-in on helping your wife achieve her’s, it’s going to take commitment on your end, a stick-with-it-ness for the long haul. Remember our fancy new Greek word, pistis? Its third (and final) definition is “loyalty.”
When your wife’s dream gets difficult, you need to be the one with an encouraging word. When she wants to give up, you need to know how to push her to keep going a bit further. When she loses sight of it, it’s your role to help her refocus.
Hear me out—you don’t take over her dream. It’s not yours, remember? It’s hers. But your loyalty to her dream will encourage her to keep going when it’s more than tempting to give up and go back to life as usual.
Your marriage will change as you put faith behind your wife’s passions, dreams, and goals. Ask her what they are. Believe enough to take action. And commit to helping her see it through. Every great adventure was undertaken as a team—Lewis and Clarke, Armstrong and Aldrin, Moana, and that dumb chicken. Now is the time to show yourself a capable and committed teammate.
Get on the road to achieving one of your wife’s goals today, and you’ll be a better husband by bedtime. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta pee—again.