I did it again.
My husband came home from a church meeting. Naturally, I asked how it went. He hesitated to open up about it because I have this bad habit of responding with not just my two cents, but with two big ceramic piggy-banks of opinions on whatever issue was being discussed at the meeting.
I’ve been trying so hard lately just to listen. To nod empathetically and ask active-listening questions like “How did you feel about that?” and “What happened next?” I had actually been doing fairly well at this recently.
The trouble is, my husband can read me like a book. Though I was saying, “Hmm…that’s interesting,” he could tell my eyes were saying “I totally disagree with your perspective.” He called me out on my transparency and of course, I had to spill it all then. (Why couldn’t I have just said “I’m sorry,” and worked harder on my poker face?) Instead, I stopped listening and started talking.
I don’t know if it’s because I also have theological education (my husband and I met at div school) or because I edit the writings of megachurch pastors in my day job, or if I’m just plain too opinionated and think I know the best way to do everything (probably that), but I find it so hard to stay detached from what my husband experiences in his job—to just listen and support him, and not make it about my feelings or what I think he should do.
I don’t go around telling family members who are accountants, lawyers, or scientists how to do their jobs! And dear hubby certainly doesn’t tell me how to do my job! So why do I persist in trying to tell him how to do his job?
The reasons (excuses) I mentioned above may certainly have a lot to do with it. But I also wonder if it is something peculiar to the clergy family. I can imagine few other work environments that have the spiritual significance to the worker’s spouse that a church does. While it might bother a person that her or his spouse’s office does things a certain way, those practices likely do not directly affect people’s relationships with God (including their own), nor is that office chiefly charged with facilitating God’s work in the world. Additionally, the clergy spouse is present and aware of things in the church that perhaps spouses to people in other fields are not. In what other profession do they have “bring your spouse to work day” once or twice a week?
I’m being glib there, but I am curious. Do you have trouble staying detached enough to be a neutral sounding board and empathetic source of support? Do you think it’s a function of the job or just the personality of the spouse?
I’ll admit, I would probably be a snarky loudmouth even if my husband were a dentist. But then again, I only go to the dentist twice a year.
Jessica Miller Kelley tries really hard to be a good wife and mother, despite her snarky streak! Read more from her at The Parsonage Family.