The word support has been on my mind a lot lately, as there always seems to be a stream of stressful things coming up in life. Sometimes when John is stressed out I have a hard time knowing how to help him, and I also tend to feel guilty for not keeping our home clean and lovely and the children under control all the time. I am no natural-born homemaker to be sure! As I think about my role as a wife, that word support keeps coming back to me. A few perspectives on what it means to support my spouse:
- The support system in a building, vehicle, or really anything, holds everything up. It gives stability and balance, and allows that thing to carry out its purpose. It is usually hidden, and no one really notices it unless something goes wrong.
- Support staff in a school or hospital take care of all of the background tasks that facilitate the care and teaching of others. They organize and maintain. They prevent many messes and clean up many more. Again, their jobs go unnoticed by all who don't personally interact with them unless something goes wrong (at which point they get handed a lot of blame).
- Support can also connote enduring, uplifting, sustaining under trial, supplying necessities of life, upholding, or advocating.
- Both husbands and wives are counseled in the scriptures and by modern prophets to support one another. We are specifically told that women have claim on their husbands for their support both temporally (D&C 83:2) and in the church (D&C 25:9). And I think that women naturally tend to take on a support role in the home to complement the husband's injunction to provide temporally for the family, but don't always give ourselves credit for our own role and influence and the ways our husbands support us, leading to a martyr complex among many and the modern view that women shouldn't be "just housewives."
For us, part of becoming one as husband and wife has been learning to support one another in our various roles. It requires us to help each other by expressing our desires and needs in loving and timely ways so that we can understand and meet each other's expectations. It requires us to recognize and thank each other for the contributions we each make. It requires a great deal of give and take when one or the other of us may be struggling, and it requires us to learn to scale back our expectations when we are both struggling.
Like the support structure in a building or the support staff in a school, we tend to overlook the importance of that supporting role until some crisis comes about, and then suddenly we see all the holes in the foundation of our habits. In times of stress it is suddenly clear how unwisely I've used my time, or how I've failed to express frequent love and gratitude, or how letting little things go over time has lead to a lot of extra work and trouble. I think that is why our Church leaders constantly counsel us to pay attention to the basics that comprise the support structure in our lives and families--to evaluate our choices and relationships, and to cultivate love and understanding through regular, planned togetherness where communication can take place under the influence of the Spirit.
And frankly, being a support for a spouse and family is a whole lot of work, requires a lot of diligence, and can seem thankless at times. I just have to let go of less important things and work, work, work away at the important ones, because in the end that is what upholds us when the trials come along.