Blinders are used on racehorses to keep them focused on one thing and one thing only, the track ahead of them. Everything on either side and to their rear is blocked by the blinders. They have no idea what is happening anywhere around them. While this is a very effective tactic to utilize with racehorses, wearing blinders can be deadly in a marriage.
In January of 2019, Rhonda and I will celebrate our 37th Wedding Anniversary. For the vast majority of those years, it has been an exciting, beautiful ride. However, early on, I unintentionally did my best to derail things by putting blinders on.
I believe we fit the model of many young couples of the day. I worked for a high-profile organization, and my goal was to succeed. My success would, in turn, provide for my family financially. I would provide a nice home, have a nice car, and get my family the things that I never had. I worked long hours with a lot of travel and late nights involved.
Rhonda was a young “stay at home” mom. She was caring for the household, three young children, and everything else that goes along with such duties. For example, she mowed the yard, took care of repairs, served as an AWANA Commander at church, homeschooled, took kids to midweek service (I was usually out of town), transported kids to cheerleading and all sports programs, attended all PTA meetings, and monitored friends and activities.
I thought my career was important; I thought that all the travel was necessary, all the late-night dinners critical because I was, after all, providing for my family.
Now, don’t misunderstand me; providing “things for one’s family” IS nice. But, please, don’t fool yourself into believing it is the MOST important.
In hindsight (which I specialize in), I clearly see that Rhonda’s job was not only more important but far more difficult as well.
As stated, my job required much travel as well as late-night activities including dinners, shows, sporting events etc. Of course, this was all very attractive to me as I got to do all this while the vast majority of the time Rhonda was handling all the tough battles of everyday life at home.
I thought I had it made! Most of the other guys would often talk about how upset and angry their wives were that their husbands were involved in all this “stuff” and not taking an active role at home. Of course, it was all for the noble cause of “getting ahead!"
I thought I had it made because Rhonda never said a word. She never expressed anger or disappointment or feelings of rejection. I was the luckiest guy in the world! When I let Rhonda know about some upcoming trip or event that would take me away for days or bring me home late, she would smile and say "be careful...make sure to call me...have a good time!" I actually bragged about this to the people I worked with. Most shook their heads in amazement (and envy) and tell me how fortunate I was to have a wife like this.
Ah, but I had blinders on! I didn’t look behind the exterior, behind the smile and the acceptance of this lifestyle. Why would I? I had it too good! Why rock the boat and look for leaks that were not there, right?
Well, the leaks were there, but I was just to self-consumed to see them.
I didn’t ask the probing questions and look deep into her eyes and see the hurt and, in many cases, the resentment. I was too busy playing Mr. "Up And Coming" Marketing Manager.
For many reasons, Rhonda didn’t tell me what she was feeling. She was not an assertive person; she was a “giver.”
I can almost hear some saying, “Well, if she didn’t tell you, how were you supposed to know?”
I was supposed to know because it was my job to know.
She should have been priority one and I should have made every effort to ensure things were on track. I missed the signs. I missed the hurt in the eyes. The disappointment when I said I would be late. The smile that said a lot more than “I’m happy for you.” It was a sad smile, and I totally missed it.
These feelings built up until she finally had enough and let me know how she was really feeling. She held nothing back. I was surprised and even tried the old “how was I supposed to know if you didn’t say anything” excuse.
God didn’t let me get away with that one. He slammed me pretty hard with the realization that I had been acting very selfishly. I could have lost her if not for His Amazing Grace. Self-reflection is a hard task, but that’s what was needed. I didn’t like what I was seeing in the mirror.
Rhonda made big changes as well. She went from being non-assertive to very assertive, and I am very happy about that. She still tends to keep things inside but not anywhere near the level she once did. I have learned the hard way to look deeper. To look for the veiled signs.
Please also note, that while I wrote this from the male perspective, it is easy for ladies to have blinders on as well. We men are pretty adept at putting on masks. We like to put on the “I’m tough” mask; I can handle it. We wear the “I’m not afraid” mask well. We love the “I have everything under control” mask (even if things are falling apart around us). How about the “I’m confident “mask?
We hate to let our mate see that we are insecure and vulnerable. I guess society shares some blame in this. But most of it falls on us for buying into what society says we should be rather than who God says we are.
So, ladies...Be aware of your blinders as well. Just because he says the right things and acts a certain way is no guarantee that “it is so.” Talk to him, ask the right questions, reassure him (yes, we need that), pray for him, and be aware.
Bottling Up Emotions
There is also a lesson here about keeping things “bottled-up” inside as Rhonda did. There are many valid reasons why this was so and, again, being aware of these reasons should have led me to be all the more aware and alert.
I ignored them or relegated them to “the past”. Nevertheless, in a marriage, it is critical to tell your partner what you are feeling. Even if you think what you are feeling is "dumb" or "silly"…let the other person know. These feelings are extremely relative, and if they are important to you, they should be important to your spouse.