Men, have you ever asked yourself,
“‘Have I been the kind of person my wife has been able to love?’ If you have, you certainly are in the minority. And if you’ve asked your wife, ‘Have I been the kind of person you love to love?’ you are in an even greater minority. So many wives are desperately trying to understand their husbands. But many husbands don’t know what it means to open his heart and let his wife in. When a wife sees that her husband has discovered her need to know what is in his heart, and that he is genuinely concerned about becoming the kind of man that she can truly love, she will be ecstatic.” (Ken Nair from Discovering the Mind of a Woman)
After Cindy addressed “What Men Want in Marriage” last week I thought it was only fair that I (Steve) turned the tables and addressed the other side. At the outset I need to say that I don’t consider myself an expert on what wives “need” in marriage, though I’ve read a lot in an effort to learn how to be the kind of husband Cindy needs.
By no means is this going to be an exhaustive list. If anything this will only scratch the surface. But one thing I know about men is that most of us can become easily overwhelmed (flooded) by too much relationship info and we’ll withdraw if we start to feel that way, so I’ll be brief.
My goal is to give husbands a few of the key areas to begin to work on so that our wives will sense we’re willing to open our hearts to them and genuinely want to meet their deepest needs. So the following is a partial list (that I’ll expand on) derived from what women wrote to Promise Keepers a few years ago as compiled in a book by Holly Phillips called, What Does She Want From Me Anyway?
“A WOMAN NEEDS a husband willing to assume spiritual leadership of the family. This doesn’t mean a husband who quotes or twists scripture to get his wife to do what he wants.”
Sadly, many men have abused the scriptures for centuries and as a result have left a wake of badly injured wives as a result. Spiritual leadership is not memorizing the Bible or preaching a sermon. It’s understanding what the scriptures say and using them as a guide for loving (not manipulating) your wife. “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12) If we spent the next year focusing just on developing those spiritual qualities it would make a radical change in how we love our wives.
Spiritual leadership also means being willing to pray with our wives and not just for them. Cindy and I know how awkward it is to start this practice and how uncomfortable it can make you feel. But we also know that this is the one spiritual leadership practice that can have the most positive and dramatic affect on your marriage.
Start simple. Maybe just by taking your wife’s hands in yours before you leave the house in the morning and praying, “Lord, thank you for this precious gift you’ve given me in _____. Bless her richly today and protect her while I’m away; in Jesus name, Amen.” (We have more articles, which you may find helpful posted in the Prayer topic of this web site.)
One woman said of her husband’s prayers for her, “When Ron prays for me, I feel as if I’m covered by a velvety blanket of protection. Even though I still face problems and setbacks, his prayers shelter me from the sharpness of the pain.” [Cindy says she feels the same way when I pray over her.]
“A WOMAN NEEDS a husband who will listen to his wife.”
I admit this doesn’t come naturally for me or most men. But that doesn’t mean we’re to be given a “pass” on it. It means we have to be willing to learn how to listen (Webster’s Dictionary says it is “to make a conscious effort to hear; attend closely”) I’ve found that if I am to truly listen (make a conscious effort) to hear Cindy I’ll have to put down what I’m reading, or turn the television off and look her in the eyes.
I like the way Ken Nair puts it. “Listening to her means to stop placing little or no value on her words. Concentrate on what she’s saying. Learn to hear what her feelings are saying —not only what her mouth is saying.”
This is another skill that takes time to develop but the payoff is tremendous in building intimacy with our wives. After 40 years of marriage I’ve found that when I take the time to connect with Cindy at this level it’s like I’ve just given her the most expensive diamond in the world. That’s how much she longs to be heard and understood.
“A WOMAN NEEDS a husband who’ll protect his wife and make her feel secure. This means more than protecting her from physical harm. It also means protecting her from emotional harm.”
I don’t believe there’s anything (short of adultery or physical violence) that’s more destructive in a marriage than a husband who belittles his wife in public. What many men consider a “harmful little joke” about their wife’s cooking, her appearance, the way she keeps house, etc. can in effect be tantamount to verbally raping her. That’s how hurtful our words can be. Proverbs 12:18 sums it up. “Reckless words pierce like a sword.” And the second part of the verse sums up how we can protect our wives: “but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Protecting our wives also means we’re to defend their honor and integrity to our family members. If we have parents or siblings who try to belittle our wives down it is our God given responsibility to defend them and make it absolutely clear that we will not tolerate any slander or verbal abuse against our wife. As for security, that comes when our wives know there is no one or no thing that comes before her —not our jobs, our family, friends, our hobbies, our sports, etc.
We also build security in our wives when we as men take responsibility for our thoughts and actions, especially when it comes to sexual temptation. I’m not talking about just pornography, I also mean the way we look at other women or talk about how other women look. If you want to find out how well you’re doing in this area, just ask your wife to read this part of the message and then ask if she feels secure.
“A WOMAN NEEDS a husband who is a full partner in the marriage.”
I like expressing this is by using the term, “Oneness” in marriage. This means in areas like disciplining and caring for the children, making financial or other major decisions, sharing responsibilities, we are to be in “oneness,” which is partnership. The opposite of oneness is alienation and if we as the husband don’t become full partners with our wives they will feel alienated from us, and that is not God’s plan.
I realize that there are dozens of other needs that our wives have, but I must stop here. Please know that in the For Married Men topic of this web site, you will find many articles and tips to help you better know what women need in marriage. But I’ve given you enough to begin to make a huge difference in your relationship if you will but ask God to help you to implement the areas where you have identified that you are weak. God promises us husbands in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
As always, Cindy and I pray that we will make our marriages a priority and learn what each other needs so that God will get all of the glory. We pray this has been helpful! God Bless you!
Steve and Cindy Wright