Mike Berry has built his marriage on always putting his wife first. But his needs get met, too. How does this work?
Last fall I published a post called Sex Starts In The Morning on my blog and here on The Good Men Project. The premise was to challenge husbands to put their wives’ needs above their own and take on a position of servanthood in their marriage. I almost didn’t publish it. Can you believe that? Little did I know that it would become the “post read around the world!” Since its original pub date, on October 20, 2014, over 900,000 people have read it, all around the globe. As you can imagine, I’ve received both positive and negative feedback. The negative responses have taught me one thing—this world is filled with a lot of people who just don’t get it!
I walked into the kitchen a few nights ago and started doing the dishes. I like doing dishes. I’d much rather do dishes than laundry, although I’ll pitch in and help with that if need be. My wife was also in the kitchen, folding laundry, and helping one of our kids with a project. I’m not really sure what the project was.
What I am sure of, though, is that she didn’t force me to do the dishes. Nor would she have demanded or threatened me if I had walked in and then walked out without touching a dish. I washed the dishes because it was something that needed to be done, and, because my wife had spent two hours making the amazing meal that got the dishes dirty. I also did them because we’re a team. There’s give and take. We have chosen to have a marriage that is lived in submission to one another.
I guess the reason I’m telling you this is simple—my wife and I have chosen to serve one another. We believe this creates the healthiest marriage possible. We’re not always the best at it, admittedly, and we’re both imperfect creations. Sometimes we fail! However, we always keep servanthood to one another as the focal point of our relationship. I choose to serve her and put her needs above my own. She chooses to do the same for me.
Of all the comments Sex Starts In the Morning received, most were positive, constructive, and on point. But several were just rude or nasty. Some I couldn’t even approve on my blog. A few people accused my wife of being an abuser, claiming that she dangled sex, like a carrot, in front of me to get me to do what she wanted. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Others asked for my “man-card” or told me I was weak for considering ours a healthy marriage. One guy even told me that I should put my own needs first, before my wife’s, because that would create a healthier me. Seriously?
Truth is, I wasn’t really surprised. After all, we live in a “me-centered, me-first” culture. The divorce rate isn’t skyrocketing because of marital infidelity as much as marital self-centeredness! And if marital infidelity is a cause of divorce, it’s probably due to a marriage partner who put their needs first and left their husband or wife lonely, empty, and longing to feel fulfilled. (It should be noted that some affairs do happen because a spouse is selfish and makes that choice, in spite of having a good marriage with a loving and serving spouse.)
I believe in a marriage built on servanthood. I think my wife deserves to be treated this way. She believes I need to be treated this way as well. As a husband, here’s why I’m committed to the servanthood model.
I never want my wife to want more.
A few years after we were married, I had a dream. It was more like a nightmare. In the dream my wife was married to someone else and she was extremely happy and fulfilled, as if she hadn’t a care in the world. It was kind of like the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, when Clarence shows George what life would be like if he’d never been born, although in that movie everyone was way more miserable. The dream freaked me out. Why? Because I want to be the one who makes my wife happy. I want to be the person who fulfills her. I don’t ever want my wife, because of my selfishness, to look at her life and long for something more.
Now, she doesn’t. She loves her life. Don’t get me wrong here. She’s also the epitome of grace, for which I’m grateful! She is fully committed to me and our family. I’ve never doubted that. But I also know my responsibility is huge. It begins with choosing to serve her and honor her, and that means putting her needs first.
I want to model something better for my children.
My children are growing up in a world plagued by divorce and broken households. They have friends whose parents’ marriages have crumbled. They see and hear about it all the time. I want to model something better for them when it comes to relationships, commitment, and servanthood. I want them to see a mom and dad who aren’t perfect but work hard, even through hard times, to stay together and serve one another. I hope one day, because of the example we set for them, that they each have a marriage build on servanthood and respect.
I don’t want to be a statistic.
Some good friends of ours had neighbors, a few years ago, who were married. The woman was gentle, kind, giving, and loving. The man was a jerk. There’s no other way to explain his behavior than this. No one was surprised when she left him, with her kids in tow, and moved back to her parents’ home. He became a statistic. Frankly, he should’ve seen it coming. He was selfish, never considering her needs above his. He would embarrass her in public and treat it like a joke. He was so consumed with himself that he never noticed the devastated and desperate look in her eyes every time he acted this way.
I don’t want to be a statistic. Neither does my wife.
Fact is, there are a lot of jerks in this world. There are a lot of lopsided marriages because one spouse looks out for their own needs only. They choose to run over their partner with self-centered actions. Or they turn a cold shoulder altogether to their spouse. If that offends you, perhaps you need to self-evaluate. The conclusion I’ve come to in my marriage is this—my wife deserves better. She deserves a man who is committed to loving her, serving her, and respecting her. And if you want to know how the servanthood model works for me, let’s just say I couldn’t be happier.