The story you are about to read is true, but the names were changed to protect the innocent.
My friend, Jane, has been married to John for over twenty years and the children that they raised have left home. Their marriage was stagnant. They didn't argue but the sparks were gone and they were distant, one with the other.
For six months before my story begins John and Jane had not lived in the same house. When they did reunite the distance between them did not disappear. They returned to the same old patterns. He went his way and she went hers. Their conversations, few and far between, were exchanges of information and requests for accommodation.
"Would you pick up a pack of cigarettes for me when you're out?"
"Are you ever going to mow the lawn?"
"Your daughter called. She's doing well in school."
"Your son called. He can't find a job."
"I left you something for dinner in the frig."
John had practically moved into the computer room where he spent hours on social networks, watching television and smoking the cigarettes Jane would not permit in the rest of the house.
Jane drifted through her days, each one a mirror image of the days before. She would go to work for eight hours, stop on the way home to pick up something ready-to-eat and settle in front of her television for the evening. Some nights she would get out and visit homebound friends. Some Sundays she would attend church, alone.
As I began to design the Respect Cards at Your Husband's Deepest Desire, I would show them off to my friends. Jane was usually distracted but cordial. Soon, though, she began to become interested.
When I had designed a few cards for the "Shoulder-to-shoulder" friendship category, I saw a brighter spark of interest. I challenged her to choose at least one card from that category and give it to her husband. She chose eight and took them home!
Weeks went by and she did not leave a card for him. She was scared. I finally sat down and asked her why.
I discovered that the fear of the unknown was holding her back. She kept playing the "what if" game with herself. From "What if he rejects the message?" to "What if he expects more of me?" Bouncing about between the unknowns had completely immobilized her.
I finally lost patience and (as a loving friend) basically demanded that she stop living outside the moment. She was afraid of the future "maybe". I challenged her to be in the now and reject the fear. My husband has a saying that I love and I quoted it for her.
"Be in the Now. Be in the now right now and stay focussed. And you know what you get? NO FEAR!"
I wish you could see the hand gestures he uses when he says it. I repeated his words and shared those animations with Jane and she took the challenge!
We plotted and planned what she would do with the card. Finally, in spite of her fears, Jane left the card where John would find it. The card was one that Jane considered to be "safe" - with a message that carried no promises but was honest about her feelings.
Jane spent the day battling the fear of "what if" that kept creeping into her thoughts. That evening when Jane got home she sat down, alone, to watch her favorite television show. It was a "girlie" show; one that she knew John did not like.
And then, unexpectedly, John came into the room and sat beside her on the couch, shoulder to shoulder. He laid his head upon her shoulder and silently watched the show with her. He dozed off and on but woke to watch the part that he knew was exciting for her. He shared her excitement with her. A second show started and they settled in, shoulder to shoulder, to watch. They both dozed off.
When she woke, she disturbed him as she got up to go to bed. He asked if she wanted him to come with her. She said yes.
Jane told me how amazed she was by his actions - his reactions to her message. She could hardly contain her delight and her happiness.
One card, one message, one event and Jane was learning the truth of what Emerson Eggerichs taught in his book Love and Respect.
"Men are different. They share their experiences by sharing an activity. This is what your husband wants to do with you."
The weeks of fear, anxiety and what-ifs were forgotten. She had seven cards to go!
I keep remembering the outcome of Jane's dilemma. She finally conquered her fears, accepted my over-the-top challenge and her husband's response was nothing short of miraculous. What was especially uplifting was the antsy anticipation and sheer delight she eventually took in the journey.
I pray that every wife (and husband) could enjoy such a journey in her marriage.