I have a confession to make. I broke my wedding vows. Now, before you panic — it’s not what you think! Exactly 18 years ago, my husband asked me to marry him. Just nine months later I said “I do.” When we said those vows, I’m pretty darn sure that I promised to love him “in sickness and in health.” And therein lies the problem for me. Well, at least the “sickness” part of it.
A couple days ago, he came down with a high fever and aches and pains. He looked like he felt just terrible. But instead of being kind and loving, I rolled my eyes and let myself get irritable about the whole thing, dreading what I knew would be expected of me.
When my children are sick, I can manage to be compassionate and nurturing, and sympathetic to every little whimper of pain or discomfort. I’m a regular Florence Nightingale, soothing fevered brows, doling out Tylenol and Gatorade, and rubbing their backs while they’re throwing up. So why is it that when my husband is sick, I suddenly turn into a grumpy, impatient, unloving and unfeeling woman?
Now I do have to say that my husband is very dramatic when he gets sick. He has certain comfort foods he wants immediately — not an hour from now when I’ll be going out anyway. He wants me to take his temperature, get a cool cloth for his head, and basically mother him. But from what I hear, this seems to be pretty universal among husbands. So what’s my problem?
Well, I’ve realized that what it really boils down to is this: I’m extremely low-maintenance when I’m sick. Just leave me alone, and let me sleep, and I’ll be fine. So I have a hard time understanding someone who is the complete opposite. And in my selfishness, I simply judge what I don’t understand, and become impatient instead of compassionate.
The beautiful thing about marriage is that if you work at it, it gets you out of yourself and makes you a better person. I didn’t promise to like my husband in sickness, but I did promise to love him. And love is a choice — an every day, nitty gritty, in-the-moment choice to act with compassion, often in spite of what I might be feeling or thinking.
If I really think about it, it’s pretty pathetic that I can’t manage to drum up a little sympathy and extra nurturing for the man who sacrifices so much on a daily basis to provide for us so I can stay home and live my dream of motherhood. It’s pretty pathetic that I treat my children better than I treat him, since he is supposed to be my first priority after God. So what if he’d like a little extra attention when he’s sick! He certainly deserves it every once in awhile!
I guess thinking about the anniversary of our engagement made me realize just how good I have it, and so, before I start taking that for granted again, I’d better go apologize to my husband for being so mean, and tell him just how grateful I am for him.