Thursday, January 9, 2014

Gentlemen, do you love your wife at the lunch table?

I meet a lot of men. My husband and I interact with several social groups in our community that happen to be rather male dominated: veterans, bikers, professors, business professionals and the like. I teach in a field that is male-heavy and the college professoriate itself tends to be male dominated (64%). Most of my upper-division college students are male. Growing up, I had a lot of male friends in my church youth group. In high school, my male-dominated social group was certainly cemented when I became the first female commander of our high school’s AFJROTC program. 
As a result, I’m around men a lot and I’m pretty comfortable with it. I've found the topic of wives comes up often in conversation, especially in a group of men. Here’s what I've noticed in the past 5 years: husbands don’t love their wives at the lunch table.

Bear with me on this because I’m going to struggle with my illustrations and explanations. You’ll probably be offended, but this is not my intent. Keep reading.

It seems that with some men, the majority of their conversation centers around stories that illustrate their wives as petty, nagging, emasculating, insecure and frigid in “certain rooms of the house.” (Know what I’m saying, here?) I've eaten countless lunches in my office while listening to a group of male coworkers in the common lunch area right outside my door completely berate their wives in front of each other, laughing hysterically. I don’t work in that environment now and perhaps I’m a little sensitive to it since, but I've noticed this tendency among men at church, at restaurants, shopping, professional functions, etc. 

Wives are reduced to a running joke to get laughs at the proverbial lunch table.

The actual lunch table about which I speak
I’m sick of it.

Before I get too much further, ladies, we're just as bad. See this post.

Because I’m an academic geek and Bible neophyte, I did a little research on the subject of husbands loving wives.
Ephesians 5: 21-33

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church - for we are members of his body. 31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This is a profound mystery - but I am talking about the Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect the husband. 

Dr. Craig Keener, theologian and professor, sums it up nicely. This was Apostle Paul's instruction to the church at Ephesus. He's saying, basically this: Look people, here is what I want you to do. This is how I want you to run your church. Christ is in charge because, let's face it, he made the ultimate sacrifice in love - for you lousy sinners. It's your job, therefore, to follow that model. While you're at it, listen to Christ and pattern your families after this too. Christ gave himself for you. As husbands, you must also give up your selfishness in response to the needs of your wife. Love them as Christ loves you and they will respect you as a man and the leader of the family. 

Wives, we need to respect our husbands when they love on us and when they don't. 

In business, there's always someone to whom everyone is accountable. This comes up often in introductory management courses, of which I'm adept at teaching after 12 years. It usually goes like this:

Dr. Craft: Who's in charge of a company?
Class: The Chief Executive Officer (yawn, check Facebook, scribble "CEO" on lecture notes)
Dr. Craft: Ok, who's in charge of the CEO?
Class: (blink, blink) Well, no one. 
Dr. Craft: No one?
Class: (nervous chatter)
Dr. Craft: So, you're telling me the CEO can just do whatever he/she wants? They are accountable to no one? what if they screw up? Who calls them on it?
Class: (more chatter and now worried looks) Ummmm...

[pause for effect]

Dr. Craft: You do, the customer/shareholder
Class: Us?
Dr. Craft: Sure. CEO screws up. Company tanks. Stock price falls. Customers get pissed and stop buying. Board of Directors respond by firing CEO. Bing bang boom, there you go. 

See, husbands are like CEO’s. It’s not like they have free reign without accountability. As in Paul’s explanation they are accountable to Christ. Husbands are held responsible for this by their wife; to try and “feed and care for” their wives as they do their own body. Nourish and protect their emotional, physical, mental and spiritual health as an equal partner. It is because of their oneness, unity, and interdependence that they are to submit to one another in a relationship of self-sacrificial love. 

So, when I hear wives being used as pretext for male unhappiness and insecurity, I think it's really disrespectful. (And, yes, it totally goes both ways, ladies.) Keep it to yourself. Or, better yet, tell your wife. You know, your equal partner? Remember what I said earlier about men complaining about their wives as petty, nagging, emasculating, insecure and frigid in "certain rooms of the house?" Why do you think this is if they are the laughingstock of the lunch table? We feel it. We feel the distance, the disdain, the indifference. We sense the irrelevance we've become in your life; the disinterested partner.

I’m asking you, husbands, where’s the love? Where’s the love for your wife in public, even if she just pissed you off at the breakfast table? Where’s the public respect she deserves as an equal partner? Do you have the cojones to be angry, but the wisdom to not use it as a weapon at the dinner table or as a basis for collegial entertainment?

When you screw up and have to ask forgiveness from the Almighty, do you think He's been berating you, meanwhile, at the heavenly lunch table for giggles? No. He's waiting for you to get your act together to chat about it. Let's have a one-on-one and work this out, He says. Doesn't your wife deserve the same respect that Christ affords you? (and vice versa, ladies) 

Workplaces can be toxic to marriages. Proceed with caution.

I left a job recently to come to my current University. I left each of my former co-workers a little handmade magnet with inspirational words on them like “peace” or “friend” or “hero” and then a little phrase about why I chose that particular word for them. I’d like to share just a few with you as an illustration of my point. 
  1. One gentleman and his wife had just experienced the birth of their first child. At the lunch table, he always respectfully referred to his wife as Mrs. (last name) and shared only positive things about her. I had a little magnet that expressed a sentiment about being a good dad, but also shared with him how much I respected him for always respecting his wife at the lunch table.
  2.  A few months after I left I was asked a favor from another former co-worker.  He once declined a group invitation at 4 p.m. on a Thursday because he and his wife had a standing weekly cleaning date. Man, did he get crap for that at the lunch table, but he didn't back down.  I agreed to the favor for one simple reason: because you love your wife, even at the lunch table. (In reply via email he was, like, WOW! I can’t wait to tell her that tonight!)
  3. I left another co-worker a magnet that said “passion” and wrote “get some” on it. He was the biggest offender of the lunch table wife-under-the-bus scenario and it totally got under my skin the last six months of my employment. Actually, it was just mostly sad and depressing.

Look, I know marriage isn't perfect. I’m not naive to think that just because former co-workers 1 and 2 always stayed positive about their wives that their marriages were perfect or superior. It’s that they didn't use their wife’s personal weaknesses as fodder for entertaining the troops over ham sandwiches. Plus, think about when co-workers saw perfectly lovely (really, she is) wife 3 at the grocery store, Christmas party or hair salon. 

Think about that...

Husbands, think about what you are putting out in the world about your wife.  Is it edifying? Supportive? Admirable? Loving?

So, who does this anyway? Come on. 

Because I’m an avid once-a-day reader and a country music fan, I've come up with a few entertainers who are passionate about their wives with links to prove it. 

And, the best example in the world. Sarah Vowell talks about how much Johnny loved June in Act 3 of What Is This Thing? from This American Life. 

As a result of my sensitivity on this topic, I've realized the highest compliment I give a married man is this: he loves his wifeThis is a thing with my husband and me. It’s like our own code language when we meet people. I can tell right away, within a few minutes of our first meeting, whether or not he’s a lunch table violator or not. I’m usually not wrong.

We've met a lot of these men at church and some at work, as you can see above. However, do you know where we meet most publicly-wife-loving men? On. The. Road. 

Bikers, people. More bikers love their wives than not, at least in our experience. Sure, they may refer to them as “my old lady”, but whatever folks.

Here are a few real examples of men in our life who love their wife. Two are bikers. Two are from church.
Jim H. – I think my wife is fascinating. I've been infatuated with her for 36 years now.
Dave C. – (after wife’s health scare) My wife is my life.
Fred P. – I loved my wife the first time I met her. I can’t believe she puts up with me.
Bob T. – I’d rather ride (motorcycles) with her than anyone.

And one is my step-dad, Max
Your mom is my best friend and the best person I know. 

My step-dad, Max, is the gentleman who loves his wife in the upper left corner.
My mom is beside him, just like she's been every day since 1993.


  1. So true, Jana. I told Miles the moment I knew I was going to marry him was when, on our 4th date, our the blue, he looked at me and said, "I want you to know that I will never put you down in front of other people." And he never has. Going on 11 years this year. He's a keeper!

  2. I'm enjoying your blog, Jana. I had to ponder this for awhile. I, too, have had similar instances of distaste for the way men talk about their church or in other workplaces, sad to say! But there is also the societal stigma, hyped unendingly by the media, that men are complete dolts and without their wives or girlfriends, well who knows how they would survive this big, mean world! I HATE that, too! Now in my own ponderings, I have wondered how men can be so clueless at times, but I bet Steve thinks the same thing about me! We have to live in this world together, and if the goal is to make someone else look small, helpless or like an idiot, we're doing a pretty good job, unfortunately. The really tough stance is honoring one another, submitting to one another as the scripture you quote tells us to. This relationship thing is not for wimps, but to quote another scripture, "we have all we need for life and godliness" available to us by opening "The Book" and submitting to the Holy Spirit's reign in our lives instead of our own ugly tendencies!