If a man is to “love” the woman, what’s a woman to do for the man? The Bible is clear on this. But how this is actually done is not delineated. Here’s some guidance. ◊
As that classic movie Camelot does not have a corresponding song giving direction for How to Handle a Man, are we to assume that women are left only to their own good judgment when dealing with the opposite sex? Common sense says that men need to be loved too, just like a woman. What’s interesting is that the Bible, God’s Word, has something very distinct and different to say on the matter.
“However let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)
As covered in a previous post, while men can and need to demonstrate love for the woman in necessary and proven ways ranging from relational and emotional security, attentive listening and sensitivity, sexual intimacy and assurance of beauty and attractiveness, there is a different set of needs that men, as husbands, require from their wives to maintain healthy marital relationships.
Respect for Husbands
Paul, the apostle, calls for wives to simply respect their husbands. Respect is the key to the heart and expression of love for any man, and specifically husbands. Just as an understanding of how to really love your wife will help a marriage, an understanding of this pillar in the care and handling of men will unlock the mystery of why we men do what we do. It is as varied and nuanced for men as it is for woman.
Only God could have known. That should be proof enough of His omniscience.
So let’s focus on husbands. While wives are told to “respect” their husbands, they’re not given any further specific information in the Scriptures. Again, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ book Love and Respect1 highlights the marital dysfunction that arises from the Crazy Cycle, the vicious cycle that occurs when a husband fails to love his wife (as himself) and she fails to respect him (lacking trust). As the husband withholds love, the wife withholds respect. The Crazy Cycle can lead to damaged relationships and even divorce.
There was extensive survey research conducted by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn for their books For Women Only and For Men Only.2 Here are 4 practical takeaways and actions for wives to help them live up to the Biblical call for a woman to respect her husband:
- Freedom to be a Man – Men want to fly, fight, compete, create, climb, perform, risk, win. They crave adventure in all its forms, even in their minds. There is an innate core desire to be alive – fully alive as we were created. Practical Action? Know that men are already being stifled in many ways. Men need space to operate in their creative gifting and nature. There is certainly potential for abuse here if men are not careful and godly. But they will love a wisely encouraging wife who understands this essential need.
- Validation He’s a Winner – This one is so loaded. Men are broken, sinful, insecure and fearful of exposure. Our wounds go back to our youth and have been layered over with facades of bravado and worldly accomplishments. In truth though we are all like scared little boys wondering if we even have what it takes or when will we get found out that we are lacking. In research studies, 72% of men admitted fear of being exposed as imposters. Practical Action? He needs to know he’s a good doer and provider – that you trust him to get things done. Also, know your husband’s story and his deep wounding. Give him affirmation and express appreciation. Let him know you’re proud of him. Affirm his triumphs and pray with him over his hurts and losses. He needs to know that God and his wife forgive and love him in spite of his past or current setbacks.
- Sexual Satisfaction – It’s not that he just needs physical sex to be satisfied, it’s that it’s tied to validation and affirmation that he is loved and desired. 97% of men say this is true. That’s not to say men aren’t also thinking about sex. Not necessarily about the sex act, but the images he carries in his head over the years like a visual Rolodex. It’s not that he doesn’t love his wife or find her attractive, it’s that these images pop up with only minor prompting for 87% of men. And of course, Christian men struggle with this as well. It’s a battle for every man, but one that can be won. Practical Action? Know that your rejection of him sexually, though not intended as a rejection of him personally, nevertheless comes across to him as rejection that does not help his fragile and tender heart covered up by male toughness. Make sex an openly discussed priority. Understand the battle; don’t cover up the problem.
- A Beauty to Love and Protect – He really wants to slay dragons, save you the princess in distress and live happily ever after. This satisfies his need for adventure, love of risk and danger, sexual satisfaction and desire for validation and top performance. While 84% of men desire romance, 46% are unsure they will do it well. His desire to provide and protect is significantly entrenched in his DNA, at least for 78% of men. Practical Action? Be his princess; let him love and rescue you, even if he’s a bit clumsy and falls off his horse while dropping his sword. Be the beauty; his beauty. Keep him your number one, even a priority over the children, and you will free and attract him to love, protect and cherish not only you but the entire family.
At many levels we should acknowledge that the God-given makeup of men and women is unique and distinctly designed. And if God says for a man to love his wife and she respect her husband, then we should be set on doing just that. The wisdom of God is profound. If men and women understand and practice these essentials, then watch as both husband and wife come alive and blossom in natural response to a beautiful God-designed cycle of a loving and respectful marriage.
Are you respecting your husband?
‘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
1 Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs, Dr. Emerson Emmerich, Integrity Publishers, 2004.
2 For Men Only, by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn, Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2006.