As newlyweds who married after a brief courtship, my husband and I knew communication would be vital to our marriage. But it took us months to bridge head knowledge with heart knowledge. Our first six months of marriage dealt us many hands-on learning opportunities.

I learned that I couldn’t look at my husband through a veil of tears and expect him to discern telepathically what was wrong – at least, not all the time, and certainly not at first.

During my first medical emergency as a newlywed (I’m a diabetic), we both learned that direct communication went a long way in producing desired results: "I . . . need . . . you . . . to . . . get . . . me . . . to . . . the . . . hospital . . . now."

This was in contrast to my occasional habit of stating the opposite of what I really meant in hopes of receiving the desired response: "No, Honey, I don’t mind if you shoot pool with the guys on Valentine’s evening." That night, my husband came home to a plate in the fridge, extinguished candles and a dolled-up, ticked-off wife. Then he learned the importance of interpreting my "code talk."

After all that exhaustive learning, I was sure we had this communication thing down. It was on to bigger and better lessons – such as how to become the perfect spouse.

Trying too hard

A few trips to the Christian bookstore and I had started my own marriage library. I had a corresponding marriage notebook in which I penned all the tips and tricks I gleaned from my hoard of literature.

I absorbed every word, treating every letter as if it were in red ink and tucked tightly between Psalms and Proverbs. With such reliable literature, who needed to communicate with her other half about an impending marriage makeover?

I can only imagine the perplexity my husband experienced as the woman he married morphed into a nutcase desperate to become the ideal wife.

In an effort to "maintain appearances" for my husband, I developed a sudden and expensive interest in beauty products. Once a makeup minimalist, I soon found myself blending three shades of eye shadow on each lid and experimenting with coloured mascara.

As I did my best to please my husband, I frequently interrogated him: "Do you have a favourite sweater of mine? I’d wear it all the time if you did. Are you hungry? There are three types of cookie mixes in the cupboard, and I’ll make all three if you’d like."

I had previously been an occasional cook, but I began attempting to make three hot meals a day with snacks in between. When my husband ate, I’d watch him intently, analysing his every action and offering to bake a better dish, refill his glass or bring him a napkin.

My true self

After weeks of earnest effort, I was worn out physically and emotionally. I couldn’t seem to keep up with my self-imposed standards. The work I was accomplishing didn’t seem to impress my husband. I was heartbroken.

Freedom came in embracing my imperfections, my husband’s loving advice and God’s help.

When my husband and I finally talked heart-to-heart about my efforts, he assured me there was no such thing as a "perfect wife." I learned he was most happy when I was my true self. My confidence and comfort level made me more attractive to him than seeing the latest Clinique product line plastered all over my face.

He found my favourite comfy pajamas more appealing than a credit card limit’s worth of lingerie. And having grown up as a latchkey kid who fended for himself, he did not need someone to prepare a hot meal for him three times a day. If I wanted to cook, I’d always have a taste tester, but it would never be required.

Of course, I could have known all this up front if I had just bothered to ask.

Weeks of less stress and more meaningful communication ensued. I began praying daily that God would use me – this imperfect, slightly crazy woman – to bless my husband.

I found peace in knowing that even if I had a bad hair day or burnt the Hamburger Helper, I would still somehow be the wife my husband needed – God would see to it.

© 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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