Friday, June 16, 2006

What husbands need most from their wives

Some married women out there are surprised to think that their husbands need something from them. I admit, many of us husbands act so cool, calm, and collected that our wives get the impression we don't need them for much beyond sex and a good meal every now and then. Women, I'll let you in on a secret: it's a facade. Inside, most of us are confused about who we are as men and crumbling under a deep sense of failure and inadequacy. We've learned a few tricks to keep those things well hidden and we invest a lot of energy in keeping up the act.

When I think of what husbands need most from their wives, I come up with two main things: respect and contentment. The first is something the wife gives her husband, and the second is something she is as a person, the spirit she radiates toward him and the rest of the world. As I talk with men, and as I listen to my own heart, I am convinced that these two things address the deepest needs of most men.
  • Husbands need respect because, as I said before, we are constantly struggling with feelings of self-doubt and failure. The curse God placed on the ground (Genesis 3:17-19) means that men must work hard for even a mediocre return. We've been designed for achievement and enterprise, but are frustrated by a world that does not cooperate with our plans. It is for this reason that God tells wives to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24). That word "submit" is hated and feared by many women today, but it shouldn't be. It doesn't mean letting your husband walk all over you. It doesn't mean having no opinions. As Paul makes clear in Ephesians 5:33, submit means "respect." Wives are to encourage, affirm, and (yes) admire their husbands. Every man is dying to know that he is competent and desirable, at least in the eyes of his wife. I can personally testify to the power of a wife's loving embrace and words of esteem at the end of a hard, draining day.
  • And husbands need their wives to have a tranquil, contented spirit. The apostle Peter tells women to develop "the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight" (1 Peter 3:4). Yes, I know that the cover of Maxim magazine does not typically glorify gentle and quiet spirits. But men find irresistibly attractive a woman who is at peace within herself and who is confident and happy. A woman who loves life and accepts who she is and where God has placed her, is sexy. A man's world is filled with competition, injustice, stress, and responsibility. His wife has the incredible power to calm his heart simply by her own inner tranquility.
Now let's contrast these two things with what most husbands complain about when it comes to their wives. I've heard men say such things as:
  • "I can never do enough for my wife. I try to spend time with her and she says I need to work more around the house. I try to work harder and she says I ignore her. In her eyes, I'm always doing something wrong."
  • "My wife doesn't care about how she looks anymore. I come home, she's a mess, the house is a mess. What happened to the beautiful woman I married?"
  • "She's just like the people I work with: nag, nag, nag."
  • "My wife hasn't had a kind word for me in weeks."
As I talk with married couples, I find that many wives have developed the habit of being demanding and demeaning toward their husbands. Wives, this wears your man down to a pulp! It kills his heart. Just when he needs his wife to affirm him, she kicks him when he's down. Just when he needs her to calm him by her own tranquil spirit, she adds to his anxiety level and brings tension to an already stressed-out home. You may think that eventually your husband will get the message and give you what you're looking for. He will not; he will only move farther away.

Ladies, I cannot stress enough the power you have to make or break your husband. He is not as bulletproof as he appears.

So what can you do to both respect your husband and develop a gentler, quieter spirit? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Get seriously repentant about your controlling behavior. Ever since Genesis 3:16, wives' sinful propensity has been to "desire" - that is, desire to control - their husbands. Either by appearing weak and needy, or by being nagging and demanding. Get that plank out of your own eye before you try to remove the speck of sawdust from your husband's. (By the way, guys, Matthew 7:3 applies to us too.)

2) Every day, think of at least one thing you can affirm in your husband's character or activity, and tell him about it. Every now and then, write him a note or email thanking him for something he has done for you, for the family, for the world. Your husband will love knowing that one person thinks he's hot stuff. He's not hearing that from TV shows, from his boss and co-workers, or from his own tapes.

3) Look nice for him. Dress like a woman! Watch What Not to Wear on the Learning Channel and follow their instructions! (I know, I know. You think I'm a chauvinist. So be it. I'll take my hits.)

4) Live within your means. Stick to the family budget. Don't be someone who is constantly talking about what you don't have. Make the things that you do have last as long as possible. (Except clothes...see point #3!)

5) Read The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. You may not like Dr. Laura, but she's usually right...especially when it comes to what husbands need from their wives.

6) If you struggle with insecurity and feelings of inferiority...if you fear sex or have unhealthy associations with the subject...if you don't understand men or are not even sure you like men -- talk with someone who can help you get to the bottom of those things. There has got to be a qualified pastor, counselor, or therapist in your area who can walk you to the roots of such feelings. Be assured, these insecurities are keeping you from loving your husband with the abandon he needs and deserves. Don't put it are damaging both your husband and yourself by running from your pain.

7) Last but not least, go to God. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Your weakness as a wife is an invitation from God to draw near to Him and lean on Him. You will not succeed as a wife without a vital relationship with God. To enter that relationship, you must admit your sins and failings and trust - really trust - that Jesus died on the cross to save you and give you a new life.

Now that I've written about what husbands and wives need most from their spouse, tell me what you think. Do you agree? Disagree? Have any other angles that might help our readers?


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mike. Great post. There is a terrific book by Shaunti Feldhahn called "for women only" which I highly recommend on this subject. I have recommended it to every woman I know. Women who have been married for 30+ years have said "I wish I knew this sooner" after reading the book. I wish I knew it sooner. It's a quick read, but full of important info. She and her husband have also written a follow-up called "for men only", which I assume is full of equally as important info for men.
Also, good call on recommending What Not to Wear. I love that show.

Mike said...

Thanks for the feedback Kelly. Good recommendation too. Sounds like a good book.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff to know, sometimes I think about what 'I' want/need to the exclusion of what my husband might want/need. I ask him what he likes, he says "I dunno", I ask how I can do something for him better, "I dunno". It's difficult to know how to bring him 'out'. I think our relationship could be better, he doesn't like to discuss anything 'intimate'. I think that's because he might be insecure, I'd like 'more' of him/from him, but if this is it, and he's happy... guess I should be too.

Mike said...

Well, I don't think you should resign yourself to the situation you just described. Instead of asking him what he likes and wants, could you just take the initiative and do things that honor him and show him love? Everybody has a "love language"...what is his? Find out what it is and "speak his language." Sometimes, men feel cornered when pressed to open up, and they run the other way. Some men can't even tell their wives what they want or need at the moment. I'm thinking that it would help if you just stepped out by faith and made several daily deposits in his "love bank" without questioning him so much. Perhaps then he'll respond better to you. Dr. Laura, in her book "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands," writes that she tells women "to do what they complain their spouses won't or can't do: change! I explain that men are indeed simple creatures, and if you change certain aspects of your interaction, like magic you will see changes in them, too.... I ask them to behave 'as if' things were lovely in their relationship: a call of affection during the day, a kiss at the door, a nice outfit when at home, a request for his opinion about something to do with the family, a comment of appreciation for something well done, a hug, a good meal, a back rub, some alone time after work before dealing with plumbing or financial problems, and a cuddle at bedtime...which might get even more interesting" (pg. 5).

When my wife does things like that for me, I can hardly resist opening up and being affectionate toward her. Now obviously, you shouldn't be the one always taking the initiative. But if you really want to "bring him out," you can do it better by simple, direct acts of love, and not by needling him.

Kaylyn said...

Your article is right on. If only women knew how powerful they are in a relationship with a man and how much they can help a man be all he can be. I've been married 25+ years (to the same wonderful, amazing man) and have slowly learned what you said is absolutely correct. I saw this article and emailed it to my newly married daughter right after I bought her Dr. Laura's book. Women need to realize how much more content THEY will be when they have a contented and respectful relationship with their man. Great article!!!

Mike said...

Thanks Kaylyn! Best wishes to you & your daughter.

Anonymous said...

I just need respect from him, not bad words all the time. need to feel that i have someone to depend on. not someone asking for money from me. feel i'm a woman. not a bad girl he just met in the street. I want to feel i have my own home not a house to be fired from it each otherday. I need to feel i'm a mom. not babysitter and man bring food to the house for someone just drinks and play online games all day long. I need a normal life