What do you do when there is a “stinky” spell in your marriage? Wendy shares her experience, and what she learned from the book “Love & Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerich.
A Big Stink
My family discovered the hard way it doesn’t take much to make a big stink.
One morning as I entered the kitchen I was assaulted by a stench that reminded me of dead mouse tea. I scurried about the kitchen making my first coffee of the day before pouring some pet food into the cat’s dish, and then I dashed back upstairs to where the odor was barely perceptible. As I sank into my cozy reading (slash) writing chair, I tacked a reminder note somewhere in the to-do part of my brain. What I needed to do was find out where the stink was coming from.
I’d recently cleaned the cat box, so I knew that wasn’t it. The garbage had been taken out the night before—so it’s wasn’t that either. I cringed as I wondered if there was a dead critter somewhere in our house. And then I opened my Bible and forgot about the problem as I sipped hot coffee and started reading from where I’d left off the day before.
Several hours later I descended the stairs and entered the stinky kitchen to discover a note written in bold letters laying on the counter—
–but before I finish that part of my story, I need to explain why I mentioned “dead mouse tea”. As I referred to earlier, a small problem can cause a big stink. When our family lived out in the country, we used a shallow well for our water supply.
Usually when we had the water tested, it passed the good to drink test.
But there was one week when our water had a slight odor to it. It smelled faintly like something my husband had found trapped the previous spring inside our stove top—a dehydrated mouse. Eek.
No one seemed to notice the odor in our drinking water, except me. And because I’ve always had an overly sensitive nose, I thought maybe it was just my imagination. So I tried to ignore it.
But the smell grew worse.
Eventually everyone else agreed the water stunk, and so my husband hauled the cement cap off the well and peered down into the dark hole while I shone a flashlight into the blackness. A small drowned mouse floated in the otherwise pristine water. How could a tiny creature make such a humungous smell?
I cringed as I realized we’d been drinking dead mouse tea for days—maybe even weeks.
My handsome and handy husband (Yes, Red Green, you can be both) immediately bleached and flushed our well so that we enjoyed fresh water from it again.
A “Dead Mouse Tea” Marriage
Relationships can go through stinky spells too. While living in our country home our marriage went through one of the longest and most intense ones. I kept looking outward instead of inward to find the source of the problem. I believed I needed to feel loved before I could behave respectfully towards my husband. I thought that if I gave him unconditional respect, I would become a doormat. So I became the dripping tap that almost drove him out of my life. Most of the time our marriage wasn’t terrible; but it wasn’t terribly good either.
We both knew our relationship was setting off too many stink bombs. But both of us were too stubborn to stop and look inward. The well inside each of us continued to spew out its own version of “dead mouse tea”. We blamed each other while avoiding any bleaching and purging of our own inner sins.
Love & Respect
Then one day I heard a radio broadcast by Focus on the Family about a book called Love & Respect Dr. Emerson Eggerichs wrote. He spoke of how a husband needs unconditional respect in the same way a wife needs unconditional love. He gave examples of how respect and disrespect are shown. I recognized my shortcomings as a wife while I absorbed his message.
Because I was tired of the tension and stench of our marital conflict, I admitted my poor attitude to God and invited Him to help me make the necessary changes.
So I chose to gift my husband with unconditional respect. And soon after I received back what I had wanted all along: unconditional love. I didn’t bother to complain that I had taken the first step. It was enough that we were dancing again instead of warring. I made a point of accepting, admiring, and appreciating that he was a good-willed man. I chose to believe in him, and I gave him my friendship again instead of tossing him grenades of complaints and expectations. Over the next few days, weeks, and months I learned how to put on respect. Our marriage went from good some of the time to great most of the time. The aroma of love and respect permeated our hearts and our home instead of the stench of selfishness.
Love Your Wife, Respect Your Husband
Now let’s return to the stinky kitchen part of today’s story. The boldly printed note I found on the counter said: “Who was the (person) who put raw egg and cooked vegetables in the compost bucket? It smelled like (manure).”
I roared with laughter. For it turned out it was me who’d put stupid things in the compost bucket. Things I’d never put in it before. Things I’d never put in it again. So it turned out to be up to me to make a small shift in my behavior if I wanted to experience the fragrance of grace in my family. I apologized to everyone and we all sighed with relief that there wasn’t anything dead to deal with.
And because my husband and I no longer act like the note on the kitchen counter by demanding to know who the culprit is in our marriage, we continue to enjoy a haven of grace too in our relationship—most of the time. Because remember dear friends, perfection doesn’t exist on this side of Heaven.
I’d like to close with the verse that Dr. Emerson Eggerichs quoted in his book, Love & Respect.
Ephesians 5:33 NIV says, “However, each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Wendy L. Macdonald
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