My Son Has Three Practice Wives to Make Him a Better Husband

My Son Has Three Practice Wives to Make Him a Better Husband

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The wedding day is not the best time to learn how to be a spouse. Too many young couples begin this way. Without prior marriage training, they had to figure out how to get along with each other in the school of hard knocks. Some of them do not endure their marriage, which is why we chose to give our son three wives. If practice makes perfect, the assumption is that we could help him get close to what it means to be a biblical husband—should that day come.

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Husband Practice

No, we have not joined the Mormon faith, and we’re not polygamists. I have one wife, and she’s sufficient—praise God. One’s enough. Two is too many. Three’s a crowd, but our son is different. He’s in training. He has been in marriage training since he was about three years old. The hope is that by the time he ties the knot, the art of husbandry will be like painting by numbers. Three practice wives will give him many opportunities to get his reps in.

We figured if he could get along with the three ladies in our home—his mom and two sisters—he would have the necessary up-fitting to marry a young lady to love, learn, and lead her well. I introduced this notion of three wives to him as wearing leg weights (Hebrews 12:1-2). After you remove them, you feel like you can run forever. During his childhood, he persevered under the burden of his three practice wives.

An explanation may be helpful. Every home is a tight, inescapable community where sinners live elbow to elbow with each other. How each family member treats the other members is a snapshot of their strengths, weaknesses, qualities, and quirks. The paying attention parent sees these relational clues in their children, which signal areas where work must happen to make the other a better, relational human being.

Marriage Reveals

A marriage certificate will not make a person mature or immature. The wedding day sets the long-term context for people to be who they were before the wedding. There is no upgrade when a guy becomes a husband. Whatever he brings to the wedding day will determine the kind of marriage he and his wife will have. This perspective applies to girls, too.

Some dating and newlywed couples do not understand this perspective. They fall prey to myopic love, which restricts them from seeing beyond what’s in the moment. The good news is that they can see into their mate’s past—beyond the hot date—because each one has a history. There were shaping influences that molded them into the people they are today. Sadly, after the honey drips from the honeymoon, myopia burns off, and reality bites hard.

Ladies, the man you married is like a long train with many baggage cars. Just because you were not aware of his baggage—or chose to ignore it—it does not mean that it never existed. A parent could help their child to avoid this problem if they provide the appropriate training in the art of marriage while the child is young. I’m speaking from an under-the-sun perspective because even proactive practice will ultimately not bring what the child needs. It’s by grace that any of us is doing anything well, but you don’t want to presume against God’s grace by not being all you should be for your child.

Future Prep

Sadly, most parents are concerned more with their child’s college choice than equipping them for the most important and longest relationship they will ever have. They steer him to the ideal university and motivate him down a prospective vocational track, but too often, they don’t equip him to be a spouse. This miscalculation is why a son should practice the art of husbandry long before becoming one. Here are five of the more common responses when I bring up this concept.

  • He’ll figure it out after he snags a wife.
  • We require him to go to premarital counseling for this.
  • I’ve never thought about teaching the art of husbandry before marriage.
  • Ain’t no big deal! Nobody ever taught me.
  • I don’t know how to do that.

Most boys who do not learn to respect, honor, and serve the women in their home will not intuitively pick up on these concepts after marriage. These character traits are habits. Like all habits, they take repetition to become second nature. A boy’s home is the perfect laboratory to teach and test, hoping to release him into the best version of himself when he’s older. Think about some of your bad habits. You can trace most of the roots back to your childhood. Many of our unappealing traits started as children. Why not use that time to build healthy biblical habits into the psyche (soul) of a child?

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A Boy’s Kryptonite

The similarity between childhood and marriage is striking. Both are two long-term relational constructs. The child is within a family dynamic where he learns interpersonal and relational skills. One of the most important things he will gain as a child is how to humbly, practically, and wisely respond to sin, which is everyone’s kryptonite. His immediate family will give him ample opportunities to sin, and they will respond in kind.

Sinning is what fallen people do. Living well with other fallen people is the most challenging thing you’ll ever do, which is why some folks choose to isolate themselves from others. Living well with others is the ultimate litmus test of a person’s maturity—especially those inescapable situations. If external relationships turn sour, you can unfriend them and find new ones.

A child can’t leave his family—at least not as quickly as some of them would like to exit. Some teens talk about how they can’t wait to get out of the home. They are marking the days until the great emancipation. They typically choose college, military, girlfriends, or careers. They don’t perceive their shortsightedness or factor in how the doctrine of sin is their core problem. Even worse, they don’t see how the next long-term relationship will be a different dance but a similar song. They may leave the home, but they take their baggage with them.

The Golfer’s Fantasy

These kids live in a golfer’s fantasy. The retiree shanks the ball on the number seven hole and says, “I’ll get it right on the next one.” There is always one more hole to play, even after the eighteenth, because there is still tomorrow. Though the scratch golfer can live in his dream world, it will prove disastrous for the immature relationship expert to stay there. I’ve heard some of these disillusioned teens say, “I didn’t choose my parents or my siblings, but I can choose my wife. When I get to make the decision, things will be different.”

Sin does not care who’s doing the picking. It corrupts all people—completely. (See Romans 3:10-12; 5:12.) You may feel better about being in charge, but you will soon learn that you were a primary contributor to your past dysfunction. There have been millions of young people who jumped from the frying pan of a disappointing home life into the fire of a disappointing marriage.

They thought the primary problem was the other person (Matthew 7:3-5). Then, they married another sinner—the only type you can marry. Guess what? The old patterns resurfaced. The baggage is back. They blamed their parents. Now, they blame their spouse. Some of these ignorant adult children choose to divorce; it’s a golfer’s fantasy. Of course, sin will be waiting, crouching at the door of the next relationship. Fallenness is the tie that binds all Adamic people together.

Practice for Life

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

Children need a sin plan. The first step in implementing a sound sin plan is in the home. One way you can think about this is to use marriage, husband, and wife language when you talk to your children. Let this language be a steady drumbeat in the home, which applies to a son or daughter. Discuss and demonstrate what it means to relate to a husband or wife within the marriage construct.

For example, teach your son to open the car door for his mother. If he has a sister, talk to him about serving her, too. When he’s entering a building with the females in the family, train him to stop, grab the door, and open it for the ladies. There are many other ways to do this, like not talking over each other in the home, never hitting another sibling, or looking her in the eye when talking to her rather than your phone. Of course, no yelling or name-calling are no-brainers. Self-control, restraint, and discretion are golden jewels in all relationships.

The most effective means to equip a son with the skill of husbandry is for him to imitate his father. Pictures have a much more powerful impact than words. A dad’s teaching is secondary and supplementary to how he treats his wife and girls in the home. If he acts like Jesus to them, it will profoundly shape that little boy. If he does not, the adverse effects are powerfully and potentially devastatingly real and long-lasting.

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Focus on the Heart

Imagine a child receiving eighteen to twenty years of marriage messaging about the art of husbandry. Your steady stream of messages about being kind and thoughtful toward the opposite sex could become so ingrained that he’d never depart from what he learned from his home laboratory. The primary things you are looking for in your children are the heart attitudes they exhibit toward each other.

It’s possible to teach them rote behaviors, which could transform them into a relational legalist if you don’t address the heart behind the actions. There is a world of difference between a spouse ticking the box of right relational responses versus one who has a deep affection for the other person. Some of these heart attitudes are honor, love, and respect. I have already mentioned self-control, restraint, and discretion, which are observable fruits of those heart attitudes.

The most accurate way to measure a child’s heart attitude is by his reactions when he’s not getting his way. There will be times when he’s having a bad day, and in other instances, a family member will be mean to him. Both situations are snapshots of his future marriage. By observing his current attitudinal responses, you can make at least two conclusions: How he responds now is how he will react in the future when his wife is selfish and irritable. How he is responding today gives you the data you need to prepare him for his future marriage.

Do Not Miss This

Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10).

It’s vital to wrap up these concepts by circling back to the most crucial relational training you will ever give your child. If you’re not modeling the person that you want your son to become, all of this will fall flat in one of two ways. He will reject your relationship teaching if you’re not practically practicing what you’re telling him to be. Or he will choose to be different from you, which could be a better version, but his reactions will come from a heart of anger, not because he’s head over heels in love with God and others.

Let him see you honoring your wife, experience your affection for your wife, and, by your example (Mark 10:45), let him know what sacrificial serving looks like. Let him biblically compete with you as you both try to outdo each other in loving the women in your home. If you have girls, treat them as wives. Let them experience what it is like to be cherished, nourished, loved, respected, honored, served, and led.

It provides the right view of what a biblical man should be, providing them images of what to look for when the time comes to marry someone. If daughters experience this from you, they probably won’t crave it from boys. You should be their man. Show them what biblical manhood is like by your example to them and their mother. Please don’t leave them to speculate on these matters. Be clear by the life you display before them in your home.

Call to Action

Yes, we joked around about our son having three wives, but he also knew it was serious business. We cherished the women in our home. We didn’t presume on them. We sought ways to serve them. We wanted them to feel our love and affection. It was part of being a man to lead and protect a woman. When Lucia and I go out on a date, I have told our son many times, “You’re the leader. You take care of the girls.” He loved stepping up to this responsibility. He loved practicing being the man. Someday, he will be the man.

  1. Describe the relational dynamics in your home.
  2. What are the positive things?
  3. What are some areas that need improvement?
  4. What are your specific plans and steps to implement those required changes?

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