I’ve heard it said that behind every good man stands a good woman. I get the sentiment. Marriage is a partnership. You don’t do anything in isolation of the other person you have joined to in covenant marriage. Your decisions, your work, your interests—everything—impacts your spouse. When people make that statement, they are usually complementing both the husband and the wife. The husband is successful, but only because his wife stands by him and supports him. She is a help to him.
I pray people say that about me.
But I also think you can flip that statement and it is still equally true. Behind every good woman is a good man. I’ve read a few articles about the new Ruth Bader Ginsburg movie that follows her early days as an attorney. I haven’t seen the film (or the documentary about her), so I have no commentary on that or even her political leanings. But all of the articles I’ve read seem to focus heavily on how her accomplishments were possible because her husband was so incredibly supportive. He believed in her and what she could do, which led to her being free to do it. They loved each other dearly. They respected each other. They were for each other. That’s compelling to me.
Daniel and I will celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary in a few months. In the grand scheme of things, we are barely getting started. We have so much to learn. We have so much left to endure together. But in the last few years I’ve grown to appreciate something about him that I never even thought to wish for in a husband in the days where I was making lists about what the perfect man had to be for me to marry him.
He believes in me.
Sure, anyone could look at our life and think that we fall into fairly traditional patterns of gender roles. He’s the primary breadwinner. I stay home with our kids. I do a lot of the housework, cooking, cleaning, and childrearing (though he does his fair share, too). But there is no possible way I would ever dream of writing, leading women, teaching the Bible, traveling, or any other thing that takes me away from my family from time to time, if he hadn’t made the decision that it is his (and our family’s) responsibility to steward the gifts I have been given. With each season we evaluate what that looks like based on our family obligations and needs, but that doesn’t remove what he sees as vital to his role as the leader of our home.
I’m not the only woman who has experienced this. I have friends in other fields who can attest that their ability to use their gifts as owing directly to the glad support of their husbands. And it’s not just husbands. It’s fathers and brothers and pastors and friends. I was raised in a home where every person had a voice (even me as the only girl with three younger brothers). To this day, my dad and brothers excitedly read and listen to my work, and pray for me along the way. It never even occurred to me until much later in life that I couldn’t be heard and respected as a woman, and I see that as directly owing to the men in my life.
I think sometimes we are afraid to speak of marriage (and family) in this way. We are fearful that it will take women away from the very good gift of the home. We are fearful that it will turn women into feminists. But I don’t think that will happen. Instead, what I think would happen is that women would feel no need to run to feminism if they felt like they were valued in the spaces they joyfully inhabited already.
As we approach the ten-year mark, I’m thankful for the ways my husband frees me to serve and minister. He doesn’t view anything I do as “mine,” but instead as part of our family’s ministry to Christ’s people. When he watches the kids on Thursday nights so women from our church can gather to learn from God’s word, he’s as much a steward of that ministry as I am. When he tells me that writing another book is a good idea (even if it sounds crazy!), it’s his book project, too. It’s also our kids’ ministry. And in a lot of ways, I don’t have just one man behind me cheering me on, but a long line of men (my brothers, my dad, and my four sons). We are all in this together. I am for them and they are for me. We are a team.
It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to steward our talents and gifts. Our gifts both in the marketplace and in the church are not for ourselves, but for others. So when I free him to work and serve, I’m part of that work, too. And vice versa. Behind every good man, stands a good woman. And behind every good woman, a good man stands, too.