Men and women are unique and even from different planets, or so say the popular books. There is certainly truth to these differences between the sexes. Indeed we want different things and our make-up is distinct. In the context of marriage the Bible specifically raises up the topics of love and respect between a man and a woman. While lacking in specifics, there is general guidance for us.
Easier Said Than Done
Do you want peace, closeness, understanding, and to experience marriage the way God intended? Then simply love and respect each other; that is, men love your wives and women respect your husbands. It is as simple as that. And God had it right in scripture all along. “However let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). It need not take a stack of marriage books, a lifetime of living and/or years of therapy and counseling for couples to discover this. It is right before our eyes in God’s manual for human living.
Of course this is easier said than done. How do we really do this? A powerful and inevitable vicious cycle occurs when a husband and a wife stumble in this instruction. When a man fails to love his wife (as himself), she fails to respect him (lacking trust). He responds with anything other than love; she responds with anything other than respect. This breakdown in following God’s ways can lead to a breakdown in a marriage.
Healthy Essentials for Wives
Let’s focus on wives. There’s been powerful research conducted that supports this Biblical call for a man to love his wife. Here are 6 healthy essentials for men to understand and actions to take to love and nurture their wives.*
- Relational Reassurance – even in healthy marriages 82% of women have some level of insecurity about their relationships and their husband’s love. What to Do? Consistently reassure her of your love and persistently pursue her. When she’s upset, don’t get defensive as it’s not necessarily about you. Give her a hug. Words of affirmation, love and physical touch do wonders.
- Free Thoughts and Fears – 79% of women often have multiple things on their minds as they cannot easily “compartmentalize” thoughts, pains and fears as men can. What to Do? Don’t assume she can just “stop thinking about it.” Be a hero and help her resolve the open issues on her mind. Know and be sensitive to her past “wounds.” Pay particular attention to a “father wound” (see 4/13 post Essentials for Daughters). Pray for your wife daily – the problem may be deeply buried and has become a spiritual stronghold.
- Emotional Security – “Money talks but emotional security sings.” Closeness and intimate friendship is more important than financial security for 70% of woman. What to Do? You may have to rethink your provider/protector assumptions. Believe it or not, money and things aren’t nearly the priority that you are. Your wife and family want a present and happy husband/dad rather than an overstretched, stressed out and grumpy husband/dad.
- Right Listening – Listen to her feelings, not the words about the problem. For 60% of women what she is feeling about the problem is more important to her than the problem itself. What she is feeling is actually the “real problem.” What to Do? Don’t fix it – without right emotional support 95% of women don’t believe a reasonable solution will fix the problem. Rather, give her your full physical attention, your mental attention, listen for the right thing (how she is feeling about the problem), and acknowledge and affirm her feelings about the problem.
- Sexual Closeness – While most women (not all – 82%) are physically wired to desire sex less than men do, they do enjoy it just as much. Discouraging a man’s advances has more to do with a woman’s physical differences, need for closeness in the relationship, and anticipation time, rather than his desirability. What to Do? Give her time to warm up, flirt and anticipate. Pursue her so she knows she’s sexy to you outside the bedroom. Create a context of closeness and emotional security.
- Beauty Confirmation – 77% of women have a deep need to know that their man finds her beautiful; that she still rocks his world. Women need assurance that she is attractive and measures up in her husband’s eyes. What to Do? Tell her she’s beautiful regularly and make your visual choices show her that she’s the only one for you. In essence, you are the only mirror that really matters.
* Adapted from For Men Only, by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn.
Like a Knight in Shining Armor
These essentials above are keys to practical demonstration of love for one’s wife. Like the great line sung by King Arthur in the Broadway play Camelot: “How to handle a woman? Is to love her, love her, merely love her, love her, love her.” It’s like right out of Scripture. It’s never too late to start anew. We know the directive, now consciously exercise attentive, sensitive and unselfish love as we’re Biblically called to do as men and husbands.
How are you loving your wife?
‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband – Ephesians 5:31-33