While the Bible is clear on love and respect between a man and a woman, it does not provide detailed guidance on the subject. Here’s what some research shows us. ◊
Of course, many are familiar with Ephesians 5 passage and the call for a man to love his wife and for a woman to respect her husband. While the Bible does not give further detailed guidance on the subject, there has been some excellent research and materials on the matter.
Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn conducted extensive survey research for their books For Women Only1 and For Men Only.2 Here is a summary of the very practical keys and actions for both men and women to help them live up to their Biblical calling in marriage.
For Men Only – How to Love Your Wife
- Provide Consistent Relational Reassurance – even in healthy marriages 82% of women have some level of insecurity about their relationships and their husband’s love. Action: 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. Don’t argue your position. Slow down and soften your approach. Words of affirmation, love and physical touch do wonders.
- Free Her Thoughts and Fears – 79% of women often have multiple things on their minds as they do not necessarily “compartmentalize” thoughts, pains and fears as men do. Action: Don’t assume she can just “stop thinking about it.” Knowing this, be proactive and help her resolve the open issues on her mind. Know and be sensitive to her past “wounds” and worry tendencies. Pray for her daily and withhold judgment or expression of how you yourself can let go of little things.
- Provide Emotional Security – “Money talks but emotional security sings.” Closeness and intimate friendship are more important than financial security for 70% of woman. Action: You may have to rethink your provider/protector assumptions. Believe it or not, money and material 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.
- Provide 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.” Action: Don’t fix it. Without the right emotional support 95% of women don’t believe a reasonable solution will fix the problem. Rather, give her your full physical, mental, and emotional attention, listen for the right thing (how she is feeling about the problem), and acknowledge and affirm her feelings about the problem.
- Provide 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. Action: 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.
- Provide 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. Action: 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.
For Women Only – How to Respect Your Husband
- Provide Freedom to be a Man – Men particularly 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 feel fully alive as we were created. 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.
- Validate that He’s a Winner – This one is loaded. Men are broken, sinful, insecure and fearful of exposure. Our emotional and psychological 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. 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.
- Provide 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. 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.
- Be His 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 yearnings 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. 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.
So there you have it. Perhaps just the renewed awareness of these highly practical keys and actions for both men and women will provide good fodder for deep and helpful discussion over a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.
Have a very Happy Valentine’s Day!
‘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 5:31-332
1 For Women Only – What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men, by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn, Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2004.
2 For Men Only – a Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women, by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn, Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2006.