Men are a different sort of people that are very hard for us more emotionally balanced females to understand. To prove this statement I would like to bring to your attention one very bad male quirk. They become obsessed with something: their jobs, a project (meaningful or otherwise), a sport or hobby, or any number of “I'm too busy” projects.
I know most of you ladies in our readership have assumed Mike is the perfect husband. I can't imagine what gave you that idea. Here is a true story of just what a rotten fellow he used to be. Now, forty years later, he has finally become a bit embarrassed about the dead, stiff, stinky rabbits. He has never actually said so, but I know. I can tell from the way he grins when the word “rabbit” happens to come up in any context. He has grown, but he is still given to obsessions.
The year we married Mike was obsessed with rabbit hunting. He talked about it all week long and prepared for it for days. After the before-dawn-to-after-dusk hunt he spent the rest of the week recovering.
I, being a new wife that had predetermined to be sweet, uncomplaining, and basically wonderful, tried to smile sweetly and tolerate his misuse of my loving self. But enough is enough; I'll skip the part where I lost my determination.
By the day of the hunt Mike had already spent not just the previous three days getting ready, but also a good chunk of our very limited income making ready for his rigorous day of hunting. He explained he needed an abundance of 12-gauge shotgun shells and every accessory the store carried that pertained to rabbit hunting.
On the chosen morning I just slept in, knowing that it would be a long lonesome day. I had no children to care for or distract me, we had no TV, and the web and DVDs would not be invented for decades. He took our only car, and we lived too far out of town to walk anywhere, so I was stuck. Rabbit hunting was only in season during the winter, so there was no gardening or other outside work. I mostly muddled around and wished I had a book to read. I read a lot during those days.
About an hour after dark he would stumble in the door half-frozen, smelling like blood, guts, and other filthy things. He always—always—returned from the hunt with a blinding migraine headache. He never spoke as he handed me six or eight stiff carcasses. I knew by the motioning of his head he meant for me to do something proper with them. By that time the poor old rabbits had ridden on his hip for most of the day. They were ripe, foul, and disgusting. That was exactly how I was feeling.
Hey, but I was a Created lady in the making and I was not going to let a small thing like being expected to skin and clean a few rotten rabbits (then figure out how to make them taste decent) deter me.
After two or three hunts I knew the scenario. He first took something for his migraine and then a long soak in a deep hot tub. After that he was ready for a good hot meal, but only if I had finished cleaning the rabbits and gotten the awful odor out of the kitchen.
For the next couple days I would wait on him hand and foot while he recovered, and then the process started all over again. Every year I was sure he would grow out of his obsession for rabbit hunting. Finally it happened. That was when he took up...well, that's another story.
Why am I badmouthing my husband about something he did 40 years ago? Well, memories might be old, but so am I, and they are still there in my brain just as fresh as the day he handed me my first batch of six dead rabbits. I smile as I look back to those crazy days and I smile as I try to write to all you SANE females. I want you to know you are not alone in your quandary of having a husband that is too obsessed to do what he should be doing when he should be doing it.
Let's face it: most men are given to obsessions, for even if they are good obsessions they are still obsessions. These obsessions come in many forms. Some are evil (I will not address these problems), but most obsessions are just an expression of the male’s will to conquer and dominate his environment.
Many men, deprived of an environment where they can meet challenges in the real world, resort to watching someone else conquer on the field of sports. They know the names and the accomplishments of men who played years ago. Who could possibly care? They do.
Some men like to fix up cars. Old cars, big trucks, fancy cars, weird vans, or even tractors. I'd be embarrassed. They’re not.
Other men like to train animals, usually horses. This seems more “normal” to me, but not much. It still seems close to childishness.
Some men are into hunting and fishing. The country boys where we live are mostly of this addiction, so it seems almost normal to me.
And then there are those men who just like to work. Work is a sport, work is a challenge, work is fun. They don't necessarily want to run the company; they just like to see their contribution making a difference. They are movers and shakers. They have ideas and like to run with their ideas and make things happen in a big way, no matter how much they have to sacrifice. They see that what they do makes life better for a great number of people. Now, this kind of man seems stable to me. Alas, Mike was never in this particular category.
Have I missed your man’s obsession? Well, feel free to write in your own paragraph. I am sure there are thousands of other strange things that capture the minds and hearts of men. It is not as if your man has a disease and is abnormal. Almost every male I know is or has at some time been afflicted with this obsessive-compulsive disorder. The big question is how we, as stable, hard-working, family-committed wives, respond to what feels to us like an unhealthy imbalance.
I said it “feels to us like an unhealthy imbalance.” We can cultivate the feelings that cause us to criticize and feel self-pity, or we can change our Stinking Thinking and discover a balance that keeps us from becoming the Crazy Lady I described in Created to Be His Help Meet. The pity party will not win his affection or compliance, at least not the kind we desire. I veto this strategy.
Another common approach is anger. I’ve tried this before. I am talking about a real fit-pitching, foot-stomping, “you get your act together or else” anger.
Or else WHAT? You don’t even want to go there. Nip this one, too.
I’ve even tried winning him away from his obsessions with my sweeter side. It distracted him for a few minutes; then he was back to being focused on his obsession. I was more irritated than ever.
Then there is the idea to make him obsess over something that you want him to obsess over such as starting his own business or ministry. Most ladies would love their husband to obsess over the family. Don’t hold your breath. Some ladies want their husbands to move, get involved in the latest political crisis, or another dozen or so things we regularly hear in our letters. No matter how worthy your dreams, a man can’t obsess over your obsession. It is not in his nature. The sooner you learn that, the happier you both will be.
What's a lady to do? Some ladies get a life. Sometimes it is the only remedy. The problem is that when he comes off his high, he wants you there to clean the road kill, and if you are too busy to be his help meet, then what you're doing is not good. Sad, is it not?
So what is the answer? How does a woman stay loving, kind, and sane when her husband spends much of his life obsessed?
I found an answer for me, but it would not work for all ladies. I worked with Mike, I learned to sort of enjoy his type of working and playing, and when I couldn't be a part of his obsession, I studied. I love learning, so it became my sidekick. I never signed up for classes. I went to the library and got books on many different subjects. That is how I knew how to run a business when God opened up the possibility of No Greater Joy Ministries. At a yard sale 15 years earlier I bought a set of tapes and books on the subject of managing a company. I studied while the kids slept. When To Train Up A Child was published, I was ready and able. The trouble is that not all women like to study, so my solution will not work for everyone.
While I was contemplating and writing this article, my oldest son Gabe stopped at our house to borrow our four-wheeler to go pick up a deer he had killed an hour earlier. He seemed the right kind of man to ask (obsessed), so I said, “What can a woman do that would help her stay happy if her husband was obsessed with some project or sport or even work?”
His reaction was classic. He threw back his shoulders and lifted his head, making him look seven feet tall, but he still looked guilty. “Why?”
When I explained the unchallenging nature of my question, his stature relaxed and he had a ready answer. He said he knew a lady who was married to a man that was obsessed with working. Mr. Workaholic loved his line of work and could not leave if he was needed. So after his lady raised a houseful of kids, she took up a competitive sport and has become successful and satisfied. Not my cup of tea, but hey, it worked for her.
This is all very amusing as I write, but I know there are women reading this article that are weeping because they feel so deprived of their husband’s love and attention due to his obsession. I wish I had an answer for more of you, but alas I don’t. But I know among our audience there are hundreds of ladies who found a way through this abyss.
What was your solution? How did you maintain being a godly wife while your crazy husband worked or played too long, too much, and too hard?
Do you have an answer for the thousands of frustrated wives out there who read our literature that need a way to make it through cheerfully and constructively? What have you done that could help others learn how to grow as a person so that they no longer need to control their husband’s man-thing of obsessing.
If you have managed to break your husband’s spirit and turn him into a submissive, mindless robot, please don’t write and tell us how you did it. I don’t want to know. I am not looking for ways to change a man, break a man, destroy a man, or generally make a man into a woman. I am looking for ways you have found that caused you as a woman to grow to meet this challenge.
My experience tells me that nearly all men, maybe all, have a tendency to obsess. This should ring a bell in your mind, a bell that says this is a natural man-thing. If that is so then God must have given females the means to have the woman-thing reaction that is both resourceful and constructive.
The man-drive could have been put there for a number of reasons—good reasons. Survival has often depended on man being obstinately driven. Look how a man cuts firewood and stacks it for the winter, or how he gets a building project started and works night and day like his life depended on it. It may be a farm combine that must be fixed to get the crop in or just a motorcycle he is overhauling in the garage, but he is driven to ignore the clock and all things and people around him until he completes his job. It is the way of men, necessary in more trying and demanding times but often out of place in our modern world. Today, men are forced into cultures where the man-drive is not so necessary, but that doesn't make the drive go away. Of course, the Scripture teaches a man needs to learn temperance—but from God, not their wives.
This article is not finished. I have deliberately left you hanging. I want your input. If you have some good ideas I may just publish it in your name, unless you indicate otherwise. So share with the other frustrated ladies how you adjusted to this man-thing of obsession.
Our next article is going to encourage wives to grow, stretch and become a woman of character that stands to serve and honor her husband but also stands strong in her own drives and hopes. As long as your mind is focused on just tolerating his “problem” then you lack personal growth. The Scripture has an interesting way of bringing to our attention how we often can't see our own lacking. “Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:4).
Join the conversation at PreparingToBeAHelpMeet.com. We will be posting many of your letters there. Until then...just be thankful you’re not being handed six stiff, foul rabbits to clean. There’s always an upside. Your job is to find it.