Yesterday, I offered five general tips for husbands on how to love your wife. Today, I offer a similar list for wives.
Let me start by stating the obvious. Men are weird (at least compared to you), and the better you understand their weirdness, the happier your marriage will be. But don’t think of their weirdness as a bad thing. God can take what you might see as annoying quirks and use them to mold you into a better and even a holy person. So a general lesson would be: Celebrate his unique qualities rather than demean them.
In order to learn best how to pull this off, let me recommend a great book for married couples to read, Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs. This book is especially helpful for wives. There are many great marriage books, and all of them talk much about how couples should love each other. But no other marriage book I am aware of delves into the topic of respect for husband like this book. In many marriages, this is the missing element that leads to a strained relationship, what the author calls “The Crazy Cycle.” Much of the following list flows from the ideas articulated in this book.
Let me offer one simple passage of Scripture as a foundation for the list:
Ephesians 5:33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
With that great wisdom as our springboard, we begin with –
1. Train yourself to actually respect him, and tell him you do
Most wives know their husbands, as men, need respect, and they need respect most of all from their wives. But many times wives are not willing to provide this respect because many wives don’t actually have any for their husbands.
It is difficult to show someone respect if you don’t genuinely respect them in your heart.
However, without respect, men often respond negatively and coldly. This is just as true in a marriage as it is on a football field. Most men who feel disrespected will run, fight, or shut down (although many Christian men are learning that the successful answer to disrespect from their wives is to offer her pure, genuine love).
Ladies, if you want to change the atmosphere of your marriage, you have to train yourself, in the very core of your being, to actually respect your husband. Learn to respect his work and appreciate him for it daily. Ask him about his job, and listen to him tell you about it. Show genuine interest, and be appreciative of his support. Respect his fathering skills, and appreciate his efforts, even if you disagree with his methods (unless he is abusive, which is a different scenario). Respect his need to unwind and relax through hobbies or watching sports on TV.
If you cannot respect what he is, then respect his potential – what he might could be.
If you think your guy needs to do a few repairs around the house, don’t nag him about it (sorry, I had to say it). Respect his schedule and his opinion of what needs to be done. Instead of demanding, try asking. If he is slow to get around to it, don’t throw it in his face. To a man, these are the types of things that make up basic respect.
Is it true that many men are not worthy of basic respect? Yes, it is true. The world is populated with a great number of slobs and thugs, and you might very well be married to one. But try giving him respect anyway. If you cannot respect what he is, then respect his potential – what he might could be. Indeed, showing genuine respect for a man who has not earned it, very often motivates him to exert a greater effort. And even if it doesn’t, a wife who respects her husband can at least feel she is being obedient to the commands and wisdom of God.
Obviously, so much more could be said about the major issue of respecting your husband, but not in this brief blog post. My strong recommendation is to read Love and Respect to learn more.
2. Smile at him and be proud of him
My son reminded me of this recently while we were shooting hoops in the driveway. He is nearly thirteen and is showing signs of independence, especially from his mom. She has to work really hard just to get a hug from him these days! But when he and I were playing basketball, he was dreaming about playing in a real game on a real team with a real crowd. He said something like, “I can image shooting a free-throw in a real game. I’ll have to concentrate and focus, because I know if I hit it, I will hear mom screaming for me at the top of her lungs!”
Do you see what this son desires? He wants his mom to be proud of him. Yeah, sure, he wants to grow up and be an independent man (not seen as a mamma’s boy), but the thought of her smile and of her being proud of him ignites a passion inside his soul to do well.
The same is true for grown-up boys with their wives. I’ll even admit it. When my wife, Page, smiles that inviting smile at me, and says or even implies she is proud of something I’ve done — man, oh, man! It’s like I’ve conquered the world! Nobody else can make me feel that way but her.
It seems clear to me that God has designed men with this trigger. A man wants to make his lady proud. He wants her to admire his talents and skills. This can happen everyday when he walks in the door from work. Show him those pearly whites and let him know you’re proud of him.
But don’t be surprised if you’re proud smile makes him talk. If he believes you are proud of him, he might talk your ear clean off your head. He might tell you every detail of everything that happened to him during his day, hoping you might flash that smile one more time! Be patient when he does this. It is that little boy inside him bubbling to the surface. Just know this means he needs you real bad.
3. Practice shoulder-to-shoulder friendship with him
I’ve read several marriage experts who say something like, “Women naturally enjoy face-to-face relationships, but men naturally enjoy shoulder-to-shoulder relationships.” Women like tables where they can see each other and talk, men like couches where they can sit beside each other and watch the game. This is his natural posture.
If you really want to be in his heart, practice standing at his shoulder periodically. If he likes to hunt, see if he would mind you sitting at his shoulder in a shooting house. If he likes to play golf, see if he will let you ride at his shoulder on the cart. If woodwork is his hobby, stand at his shoulder and be his assistant. Many men love the idea of their wives doubling as a friend.
I would caution, however, that if you try these shoulder-to-shoulder activities with him, make sure to go back and apply #1 during the process! If you are in the shooting house with him, don’t mention how stupid you think hunting is! If you can both respect him and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him in some of his favorite activities, you have a much better chance of awakening the love in his heart.
4. Take him to church
This one also appeared in yesterday’s list for the men. There, I coached the men to be spiritual leaders, to get up out of bed on Sundays and get the family to church. But some men just won’t do this. What then?
I would advise wives to do everything you can to get him there, but without showing him disrespect. There are ways you can show him how important church attendance is for you, and how you deeply want the kids to be there, without flinging mud in his face for being a poor spiritual leader.
If your husband grows as a man, especially if he grows spiritually, he will be a better husband to you and a better father to your kids.
For example, you may mention something from the sermon and ask him what he thinks about it: “Today, the pastor mentioned something I’d never heard. He was talking about how Herod had John the Baptist beheaded, and said a person’s behavior can lead to irrational fears. You know, like somebody who was a thief early in life feeling like the Wal-Mart security cameras are always watching them when they are in the store. What do you think of that?”
This approach does two things: (1) It lets your husband know you respect his view and opinion on what the pastor said, and (2) it might raise his interest level in what is happening at church and could motivate him to actually come.
The bottom line is this: Your husband needs to be at church. If it is Bible-believing church, full of grace and love, and ideally populated with a group of Christian men his age, he will grow as a man. And if he grows as a man, especially if he grows spiritually, he will be a better husband to you and a better father to your kids.
5. You know
Finally, and I won’t say much about this one, wives need to be willing to… You Know. I am using Rick and Bubba’s definition of “You Know,” which they define as “a term for intimate relations between married folks.”
As far as the details of this one, I’ll leave that to the experts (again, Love and Respect is a great book that contains a thoughtful chapter on… You Know). Just keep in mind that You Know is really important to him for a number of reasons, and that if he is faithful to you, he has no other outlet for You Know.
This list will be much easier for some ladies than for others. Much of it depends on the personality of both wife and husband. But for any wife willing to commit to doing these 5 things, consistently and authentically, the end result will likely be much better than what the alternative would have been.
Tomorrow, we will put yesterday’s list together with today’s list, and discover what happens when a man actually loves his wife well, and she loves / respects him in return. What happens? Unbelievably wonderful things!