Marriage Missions International

Be Careful: Your Husband Will Seek Affirmation Somewhere

Have you ever noticed how the adulterous woman in the book of Proverbs seduces the unwitting young man? It’s not with sex (okay, it’s not just with sex); it’s with flattery. “She threw her arms around him… and with a brazen look she said, “I’ve offered my sacrifices and just finished my vows. It’s you I was looking for!’ …With her flattery she enticed him. He followed her at once” (from Proverbs 7).

Flattery is simply a seductive counterfeit for affirmation. As one marriage counselor told me, “Affirmation is everything. When a man is affirmed, he can conquer the world. When he’s not, he is sapped of his confidence and even his feeling of manhood. And believe me, he will, consciously or unconsciously, seek out places where he receives affirmation.”

Home is the most important place for a man to be affirmed. If a man knows that his wife believes in him, he is empowered to do better in every area of his life. A man tends to think of life as a competition and a battle, and he can energetically fight it out if he can come home to someone who supports him unconditionally, who will wipe his brow and tell him he can do it. As one of our close friends told me, “It’s all about whether my wife thinks I can do it. A husband can slay dragons, climb mountains, and win great victories if he believes his wife believes that he can.”

Don’t tear him down!

If instead of affirming, a wife reinforces her husband’s feelings of inadequacy, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if we focus on our attention on what he is doing wrong in the relationship, we can unwittingly undermine what we most want—for him to do it right.

But I discovered a dismaying fact. Of the men I surveyed, only one man in four felt actively appreciated by his family. And 44 percent of men actually felt unappreciated at home. More pointedly, men in their prime years of responsibility for home, children, and work —men between their ages of thirty-six and fifty-five —felt even less appreciated.

I’ll bet that many of the wives or girlfriends of these men would be surprised to learn that they didn’t feel appreciated. My guess is that most of us do appreciate our men but don’t show it enough.

He’ll seek affirmation somewhere

If a man isn’t convinced that his woman thinks he’s the greatest, he will tend to seek affirmation elsewhere. He may spend more hours at work, where he feels alive and on top of his game, or he may spend too much time talking to the admiring female associate. He may immerse himself in watching or playing sports, feeling the thrill of the competitive rush. Or he may retreat to his workshop or his home office, feeling like he can control things there even if he feels inadequate and clumsy elsewhere.

“Why else do you think,” one man asked me, “so many men take sports so seriously? It’s something they feel good at, something they’ve practiced. They are admired and encouraged by other men on the field. People say ‘good hit?’ or ‘good shot!’ or show by tightening their defense that they know you’re about to smoke them. There’s nothing like that feeling. But I feel that same way at home when my wife applauds me for bringing in a big business deal or brags to her friends about what a good father I am. It’s that same feeling.”

During my clinical research for The Lights of Tenth Street, several experts told me that a chronic lack of affirmation is one reason so many men slip into pornography addiction. For whatever reason, they feel like less than a man, so they seek —and find! —affirmation in pornography. As one man pointed out, “All those women in the men’s magazines convey one message: ‘I want you, and you are the most desirable man in the world.’ My wife may be nagging me at home, the kids may be disobedient, and I may be worried about messing up at work, but look at the woman in that picture makes me feel like a man.”

If affirmation is indeed everything, why should a man have to look for it in other places when he has a wife who loves and respects him? There’s nothing wrong with work, sports, or hobbies— it’s wonderful for him to feel alive and encouraged in those pursuits— but they shouldn’t have to be a retreat from an un-affirming home life.

Create a safety zone

Obviously, if many of our men spend their workdays feeling like they are always being watched and judged, it is no wonder that they want to come home to a totally accepting environment, where they can safely let their guard down. Men need a place where they can make their mistakes in peace and not constantly worry that they are one misstep away from being exposed.

If we don’t realize this and are perhaps too attentive to their mistakes at home, we risk creating a situation that is the opposite of what we want. Most of us want our men to be able to relax and truly open up to us. But in many ways, it is up to us to create the intimate, safe environment that makes that possible.

We may think that the adage, “his home must be his haven” is antiquated and unnecessary these days, but that is far from the truth. In fact, as the workplace has gotten harsher and less loyal, more demanding and less tolerant of mistakes, I’d say it’s even more important that a man’s home be a haven. Most of the men I talked with crave a retreat from the daily pressure of always having to perform.

The gift of confidence

I heard from many men, “Men put a lot of pressure on themselves.” On the survey, one husband pleaded, “I want my wife to know and understand my weaknesses, failings, short-comings, and still want me. I need her to be my number one source of encouragement to become the man God created me to be.”

We might think we wouldn’t have the ability to change our man’s feelings of workplace inadequacy, but we would be wrong. By staunchly supporting our men, showing that we believe in them, and providing an emotionally safe environment to come home to, we can help give them at least the emotional confidence they need to dive back into the daily workplace fray.

In his autobiography, Jack: Straight from the Gut, Jack Welch, the famous chairman and CEO of General Electric, provides an insight for businessmen that is important for every wife —and mother —to hear. Speaking about his mother, he wrote:

Perhaps the greatest single gift she gave me was self-confidence. It’s what I’ve looked for and tried to build in every executive who has every worked with me. Confidence gives you courage and extends your reach. It lets you take greater risks and achieve far more than you ever thought possible. Building self-confidence in others is a huge part of leadership. It comes from providing opportunities and challenges for people to do things they never imagined they could do —rewarding them after each success in every way possible.

A wife can give her husband that confidence (just as, hopefully, a husband can for his wife). It’s not about being the supportive “little woman.” It’s about realizing that despite their veneer of confidence, our husbands really do “carry their treasures in fragile containers,” and they crave our affirmation for how they did on that play. It’s about sending the man we love into the world every day —alive with the belief that he can slay dragons.


The above article comes from the book For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men -by Shaunti Feldhahn, published by Multnomah. This is a GREAT book to help women learn about what motivates men and their thought processes behind their actions (or non-actions). Shaunti had interviewed over 1000 men in researching this book. As a result she found that she didn’t know the mind of her husband and others like she thought she did. So what she does in this book is reveal the findings her research brought out so that other women can better understand the men in their lives which will help them to better interact with them.

— ALSO —

There is also available: For Women Only Discussion Guide: A Companion to the Bestseller about the Inner Lives of Men, written by Shaunti Feldhahn along with Lisa Rice, which is published by Multnomah. It’s designed to be used in small groups, or even for having a one-on-one dialogue with the man of your life. Many women, after reading the For Women Only book may wonder, “So what do I do with the information I’ve just been given?” This discussion guide is designed to answer that question. It contains personal stories, questions, and situational case studies to help equip you to apply the truths you learn in your own life.

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Comments

80 Responses to “Be Careful: Your Husband Will Seek Affirmation Somewhere”
  1. Victoria from United States says:

    Ah, the lovely legacy feminism has left for women. Nobody wants to say it but if she didn’t have a fancy career she would probably have had everything she wanted by now. The truth is, when the woman makes more money there is a significantly increased chance the marriage or relationship will end. The more women move up in the economy, the more unhappy they become. Experts here in the states are baffled that women supposedly “have it all” yet from every angle their happiness has been declining over the last 40 years relative to men’s.

    I don’t work. I’ve never had a career. I’m one of those “deadbeat” housewives out there that “doesn’t do anything” (or at least that’s how modern society has come to view those like me thanks to feminism the truth is I do a lot). This story really made me want to cry but I know there are millions of other women just like her out there. I think hopefully my generation is slowly catching on that the feminist movement has been bad for us.

  2. Anoyn0401 from United States says:

    It’s our job to take care of home, affirmation of our husband is just part of taking care of home! A man’s work is sun to sun, a woman’s work is never done!!!

  3. Dee from United Kingdom says:

    We spend so much time affirming that we get tired and it becomes unrealistic. I can say that my husband is everything to me and the thought of him not being around scares the living day light out of me. But this is me being insecure and deep down I know that it is through male psychological dominance that I’m feeling this way. I should respect and be a good house wife with all the shirts washed and ironed.

    On the other hand we are threatened by feminism even by our husbands and the wives at home including myself, are made to feel guilty. In addition, we have to receive the stress that the husband brings home from work whilst our baby brains shrivel up even more and gradually it us us who feel hopeless, so we can’t win? And the saying Ladies of Leisure, tugs at my hair! I would love to hand 20 pooey nappies to any working person and smile whilst they run a mile.

    Affirmation should work both ways and it is not only about building confidence in the man but also receiving it back and every once in a while hear that we too are doing a good job, not told that we have it easy and aren’t paying the bills.

    We have it hard enough and a relationship works two ways. Affirming a man who can’t see past his own tail, is living a dishonest fairy tale. If my husband is stressed from work and moans about the house having a crumb on the floor, I will tell him that he should get the hoover out. I am in no way going to turn around and say, yes sweetheart you are right, I am your slave and you are a wonderful king. In the end you will praise and praise and they will only recall the bad things about you in return and all your efforts are unnoticed. Finding something good to say in both is good but placing a heavy weight on one side of the seesaw is only asking for trouble. Accepting each persons flaws forms a healthy relationship, masking them builds one huge house on sand. So yes, I guess we can keep all our feelings in a glass bottle but one day it will break.

  4. Sharpsheep from Canada says:

    I guess I’m a little bothered by the lack of solid theology in this article. To want affirmation and encouragement is human and so is wanting to be genuinely honored and respected when we are doing a good job. But when we don’t get it and we sin in response, then we’ve made that desire into a demand. Anything that causes us to be willing to sin when our desires aren’t met is an IDOL. This article somewhat normalizes sin and comes close to making it sound as if it’s not an adult choice to do so and as if men are not responsible to examine their hearts and police their own motives, as any Christian is. Men don’t stray because they aren’t getting affirmation. They stray because they’ve made their wives’ responses their source of worth and identity.

    I would be the first to admit how hard it is to put down the flesh (the part of us that rises up and says we are entitled to something and if we aren’t getting it, we are justified in doing whatever in response). I’ve poured affirmation into my husband. When he wants or needs something, I go gang busters to help him get it. I usually have supper on the table when he gets home I’m often able to spot when something is bugging him and through prayer, get an idea of how to help him. I have areas of lax discipline as well where there is a need for improvement and lately I’ve become a bit shrill and bitter towards him so I am not perfect. Yet there’s little in the way of encouragement from him. He has been verbally abusive, irresponsible, selfishly one sided and disloyal when it comes to standing with me when someone else is treating me badly. Yet I have not withheld affirmation and encouragement from him for the entire decade we’ve been married. No matter how much I do, he sees only the negative. It’s really, really frustrating to live with someone who only sees obstacles, barriers, negatives and impossibilities and since this is an anonymous post, I will tell you that quite honestly I’ve struggled lately with being fed up with him, sick of constant miserly and critical attitude. He’s a glass half empty kind of fellow. I can do 8 out of ten things well or right and he sees only the two not done right. He has an amazing ability to turn a positive into a negative.. Its as if he delights in taking away every bit of joy in every little thing and negating my contributions. He refuses to examine his own life and be honest with himself about what is particular issues and their roots are. There is very little reward in being his wife and plenty of discouraging, crazy making frustration. It’s hard to live with someone who worships his own proud image of himself and is not interested in seeing anything else. So should there be a commensurate article that says “Be careful men, if you don’t value and encourage your wife, she will eventually kick your sorry hiny to the curb”? That does actually happen so does that mean we should orient our responses around fear of what our husbands or wives might do? No, I don’t think so. That idea just promotes fear based idolatry even more. Idolatry is already the problem, promoting it won’t fix it. Much idolatry in marriage has to do with getting married and then attempting to turn marriage into the nurturing and secure caretaking we didn’t get. There’s that need turned entitled demand thing again. This is why some folks get married and immediately sag to the floor and become helpless sandbags, looking to their partners to provide these things for them and then falling apart when the spouse can’t or won’t. When we aren’t granted our idol, a defiling root of bitterness sets in. Been there. Am there but aware of it.

    Here’s what I think is a wiser and more scriptural alternative. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Seek to worship Jesus first in all that You do and make having a good connection with Him Your most important and fulfilling priority. I’m not suggesting that Christ being first means we don’t have problems or that marriage can’t disappoint. But it can mean that we have peace in the midst of a storm and that our fulfillment isn’t resting on another person’s performance. This actually frees us to accept that we’ve married a sinner full of weaknesses and flaws and to love based on Christ instead of performance. It also frees us to have the moral authority to confront when it is bibilcally needful, such as in cases of abuse that are ongoing. If you’ve become dependent on something you dare not rock the boat. I think the church is elevating marriage to a place that is near idolatry of marriage. The success of life doesn’t rest on solid marriages. It rests on solid commitment to Christ and all the rest of it follows after that. No matter how legitimate some of the things we want from our spouses are or how biblical they are, the fact remains that God designed marriage as an opportunity for serving and giving to another person, for becoming Christlike and holy. Approach marriage with an eye to seeking to be happy and it short circuits. In fact I’ve heard a rumour that He will purposely sabotage our idols until we are seeking Him as the well spring of our lives and hearts. It’s a rotten trick, I know, but He’s gone and designed the whole universe so that it only really works and hums when the focus is on seeking Him as the Supreme love object, and self giving without thought of anything in return. The real ironic rub is that when we do this, those things we were panting after come around on their own. But turn and pursue them and they flee like frightened deer who decline to be corralled. Woe to the person who successfully manages to corral his or her idol. Like the manna that the Israelites were told not to hoard, it changes form into something repugnant and nasty when we do so. From my human perspective I’m tempted to exclaim, what a dirty trick! But I know that the universe was designed around Him and not me and that there’s perfect, glorious wisdom in this.

    RE Andy: Andy I’m sorry that you have suffered being flamed for attempting to say that men juggle too. I don’t know if you’re a single dad or married. But I do know of men who have “sandbag” wives who aren’t doing their jobs for various reasons, and so these guys come home from a long day at a physical job, and push a vacuum and don an apron and lift dripping children out of bathtubs to help make their homes run smoothly. Then they go out and mow the lawn or change the spark plugs in the car or fix the shingles on the roof that blew off in the last windstorm. No one has an exclusive corner on righteousness and no one is without sin.

    I know at least two men whose wives are in a wheelchair and so these guys do their own jobs and also shoulder the lion’s share of what would usually be her duties. It’s true that there are a lot of guys who whine and complain and make out like they do it all when really they just attend to their own corner of the world. But it’s not always that way. Folks having the blind mentality of a teenager who has no clue what it takes to put food on the table or run a household are not new and are not restricted to one gender.

    • CC from Singapore says:

      Well said! This is by far the most realistic and balanced view. Yes, the answer is in first seeking God –to build, heal and restore every part of our being (Mind/Soul/Spirit) and not in attempting to look to our spouse to complete us. This will never happen for they are just as imperfect.

      In close intimacy with God, everything on this earth just pars into insignificance –one becomes more forgiving, gracious and loving. To Respond or To React –the choices just become easier. In Christ-likeness, there is a palpable sense of Holy reverence that even our spouse can feel –surely respect, honor, protection and wisdom comes from Him.

    • Esther from United States says:

      Great post!

  5. Michael from Romania says:

    Well Jen and other people, I was abandoned completely by humans from maternity and with many years with many people. I never was loved by any woman. For contrary I was always used for revenge and dirty sentiments inter humans and cry again and again and again and again disappointed. I wish all that time to be loved and offer my love to a woman but it never happened. So I realize again one fact, curiously, I do not hate humans for contrary I discovered they are like flowers, very sensible, very jealous, depending from many things like climate change, atmospheric pressure, chemicals from aliments, negative and positive bio-energies, if they have opportunity of good education or have bad education, if they are involved in hate and revenge and many material ideas collected from this Social System where this System teach people from childhood most concurrence material life who represent for to many people from this planet, just material way but, no sentiments.

    Even from little child I was marginalized and many ugly things were done to me, from many others. But even when I was tortured many times I have never had complexes and wish to be loved and feel a woman to wish from me my love and my protection. Of course, that never happened. I do not know why. I came on this world of God where I feel others around me and give each other affection or true love and from when I realize an existing relationship like that each others I tell my self, I am not from this World God and I always was grey and nonexistent. So, curiously, even in pains to feel always abandoned, I discovered an single sense of Life, Love, but not any kind of imagination just True Love when man and woman construct this, they will never die.

    Any way, a life for people may not be a material life but an opportunity to construct and give each other man and woman True Love what I do not feel from anybody. I want mean with this, is curious when an orphan man feel other in love or each other receive affection why they can’t construct True Love when they have just one opportunity and contrary, transform that opportunity in negative way? What’s happened with Humanity and with the World of God?

  6. Annie from South Africa says:

    I just wonder how you are supposed to affirm if your husband is always to tired, always working, and always puts the kids first. What happened to meeting each other half way?

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