Be Careful: Your Husband Will Seek Affirmation Somewhere

Photo by Ambro, courtesy of
Photo by Ambro, courtesy of

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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153 responses to “Be Careful: Your Husband Will Seek Affirmation Somewhere

  1. A good article. I’ve always thought that too much “not so useful information” during school years like algebra, calculus and trigonometry not to mention ancient history etc., could have been better by being replaced with Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people.”

    Let’s ask ourselves, what do our children learn about future life in school? Knowing how to get along with other people, especially our partners is of foremost importance. There will always be time for “deeper studies.” Good advice could be given to all our young folks taking their first steps “out in the open.”

  2. Wow I’m speechless. I did a Google search “why does a married man feel the need to seek attention from other females” and found this read. This is the first time I’ve ever felt inclined to comment on a web-based forum post. I would honestly watch paint dry than read a book and I plan to research the authors from this particular posting and plan to make a purchase.

    I’m currently in a high-school sweethearts, 18 years together, total marriage that’s in a HORRIBLE nose dive with my spouse losing almost 150 lbs and changing. Thank you for shedding light on my situation and hopefully my spouse will change now I can explain it to her.

  3. I feel like my wife does not appreciate me at all. I do the best I can for her. We do have a 2 year old which can be exhausting at times. I am usually the last one to bed and the first one to wake up. I get up with our child 7 days a week so she can sleep in. She has a physical job with being a hair dresser and even though she is working only part-time, it can take a toll on her body. I rub her feet for her almost everyday. I make her coffee every morning, I usually do her laundry (wash, dry, fold, put away) for her without even asking along with our son’s. I empty the dishwasher without her asking. I do my best to be a good spiritual leader by doing devotions but I feel like she never pays attention or does not want to do them.

    She always criticizes me for the smallest things and reminds me of my screw ups not matter how big or small. She repeatedly rejects me when I attempt to initiate any sort of intimacy. She makes me feel unloved and unwanted. And if I don’t notice something that she did around the house such as laundry or cleaning or something like that, she gets angry and says I don’t appreciate her. She expects me to notice everything she does. She expects me to be a mind reader.

    Now I will say that her mother is very disrespectful towards her father. She constantly belittles him and embarrasses him in front of people and makes him feel worthless. I’m not sure if that is where my wife is getting it from. But the funny thing is, my wife NEVER used to be like this. She was the exact opposite. She was the most loving person in the world and she made me feel loved and like I mattered to her but she does not do that anymore. I’m not sure what I am doing wrong. I do my best to plan dates, write her notes, and send her surprise flowers. And when I do that, she seems to like it for a day or 2 and then everything goes back to her seemingly not even caring about me.

    She puts housework before me as well as yard work. She is more concerned with the floors being slightly dirty than talking to me about my day or spending time with me in general. I don’t feel like I’m the most important person to her (besides God of course) as I should be now that we are married. I don’t even feel like I’m in the top 10. I feel like our child, her parents, her brother, and her friends/coworkers matter to her more than I do and that she does not even care about how I feel about anything. I’m always the last to know about anything new or exciting in her life. And something else that bothers me is that she try to make it seem like our marriage and home life is perfect to other people. I can’t tell if she actually cares about our marriage or what people think of our marriage more.

    I don’t do these things for my wife to gain accolades, I do it because I love her and I want her to know that I appreciate her and that I love to serve her. I’m not saying that I’m perfect and I never do anything wrong. I mess up all of the time. The difference between her and I is that I own up to my mistakes and she whenever she does something wrong or messes up she become petty and spins it enough to make it seem like I am the one who caused her to mess up. Now I will say that going outside of my marriage is not even an option for me. I love my wife more than anything in the world and would do anything for her. I’m just trying to figure out the best way to handle this. Whenever I try to talk to her about this and how I feel, she says I’m too sensitive and says she doesn’t have time to always make me feel better when I’m down. I’m not looking for that. I just want to feel loved and wanted by the woman that God chose for me.

    1. Hi Tony,
      My first queston is, Have you shown this text to your wife? It is a well written account of where you are right now… and she may not have the least idea you feel this way.
      I wonder also if she sees all the things you do for her as indications that you love her. She may not you know. Are you aware of the “5 love languages?” By this I mean that everyone has a “love language” such that, if others “speak their language” then they perceive that they are loved. Yours may well be “acts of service” ie. things you do around the house, and chores you do to make her life easier. Hers may be something different, like “quality time” or “words of affirmation” More about this here below>
      She needs to hear from you where you are. I have an idea that she really has no idea.
      These are only “first thoughts” but I hope these words help….. and I hope to see things go better!!
      I am married now 36 years… we have 2 grown children. (I am the husband) I hope to hear from you…. WP (Work in Porgress)

    2. Look for the article “she felt unloved” and read as many of his articles as you can.

  4. I have been married to a man for 24 years that has sought the attention of other women like I didn’t even exist. I found this terribly crushing in the beginning of our relationship. In the first year of marriage he has an emotional affair; at a time when we should be enjoying each other he was seeking attention other places. I asked him why and he said that I didn’t laugh at his jokes…seriously? I didn’t laugh at his jokes so he had to seek attention elsewhere? I had been the one seeking him and he was eating that up but the chase was not mutual. He was caught up in lust and fantasy and spent time he should have been working on the marriage seeking to please his lust.

    I am actually leaving, filed for divorce which will soon be final. Our years together never changed no matter how much counseling we had. He felt it was his right to seek other women and blamed me for not giving him attention when actually I see that he never showed any interest in me as he was seeking other women, daily thru porn or some other means. With time I disengaged as I did not feel he loved me and he did not want to spend time with me, would not speak. I did try but his only solution was for me to engage with him sexually…trust me I tried it repeatedly and he was never able to give on his part and his behavior never changed. He wanted his cake and eat it too.

    I spent over 4 years in therapy and realized that a man who has to be filled by seeking the attention of other women is empty inside and he using this attention to fill himself and feel good about himself. I do not believe a wife can fill a man who is empty inside. I think it is the responsibility of the husband to seek what is harming him and his marriage

    Too much is passed on to the wife to “fix” in the marriage and somehow we are held responsible for their actions but that is saying I am responsible for my alcoholic husband’s problems and that I can fix that. This is not possible. We each have to find ourselves. We can support our spouse but it take two and if one spouse chooses actions that harm a marriage they make the choice and the consequences will follow.

    I do not feel women are obligated to walk around in some state of denial for the sake of family or their religious beliefs.

    1. I found this article and the discussion today and it is the best thing I have found after looking for answers as to why my marriage ended. Without writing an essay my husband was unfaithful. He says that he felt undervalued. I have felt very guilty about this and have been questioning my part. I have reached this conclusion: Yes, I did undervalue him eventually, but as an earlier post said ‘I felt empty and had nothing left to give’. He was not a bad man, but allowed other things (gym, friends, alcohol, his hobby) to take precedence over myself and our children. It seems he was searching for happiness and approval wherever/however he could to build his low self esteem. He is the product of an over-protective mother, a domineering father, was bullied at school as a child and sexually abused by a family friend. He had no real life-experience when we met and I suppose that I did become a mother figure.

      My point is this: while I loved and cared for him, I have needs too, and I am worn out from being all things to him. I want someone to care for me too. I agree that both men and women need positive dialogue, but sometimes our partners have stuff going on inside that they need to work out. I feel he needed to go off and explore and learn, although this has of course caused much heartache. I did my best, but I’m not perfect, just human. Even so, I feel that I should have handled things better, been open instead of becoming resentful and being passive aggressive. I’m learning, not sure he is though :(

  5. Must have been written by a man …gimme a break …”be careful your husband will seek affirmation somewhere” obviously whomever wrote this article doesn’t know the first thing about marriage and he misses the point altogether both the husband and wife should give affirmation to each other and most importantly put God first!