FOR BETTER OR FOR BEST
--By Gary Smalley
--A Valuable Guide to Knowing, Understanding & Loving Your Husband
Fulfilling marriages don't just happen. They are built on proven principles essential to the development of any warm & loving relationship. These principles will help you learn:
--How to increase your husband's desire to spend more time with you.
--How to increase your husband's eagerness to listen to you with undivided attention on a consistent basis.
--How to increase your husband's sensitivity to your emotional & romantic needs & desires.
--How to motivate your husband to comfort you when you're down.
--How to motivate your husband to receive your correction without defensiveness.
--How to inspire your husband to gain a sincere appreciation for you & learn to praise you.
--How to encourage your husband to assume responsibility with the children & assist you with your house & household needs.
--How to motivate your husband to meet your material needs with a cheerful attitude.
--How to increase & deepen your husband's affection for you.
--How to stimulate your husband's desire to be your most intimate friend.
1. LASTING RELATIONSHIPS DON'T JUST HAPPEN
A husband's main problem, shared by thousands of other husbands, is that he fails to understand the basic difference between the natures of men & women. A man often takes two of his wife's greatest natural strengths, her sensitivity, & her intuitive awareness of life, & labels them weaknesses. If only he could remember that her sensitivity was one of the first things that attracted him. If only he understood that her alertness was one of her greatest strengths, & if he began treating her with tenderness, gentleness, & kindness, their relationship would grow stronger & more fulfilling.
The emotional & mental differences between men & women can become insurmountable obstacles to a lasting, fulfilling relationship when ignored or misunderstood. However, those same differences, when recognised & appreciated, can become stepping-stones to a meaningful, fulfilling relationship.
Women, for example, have a tremendous advantage in two of life's most important areas: Loving God & loving others. (Mat.22:36-40). Women have an intuitive ability to develop meaningful relationships & a desire for intimate communication, & this gives them the edge in what Jesus described as the two greatest commandments. Loving God & others is building relationships. God said that it was not good for Man to dwell alone, & He created a significant Helper & Completer--woman. Men definitely need help with making & maintaining relationships, but how women help so that men listen & receive it is the thrust of this book.
When a woman understands her strengths for what they are, her self-image will be practically indestructible, no matter how her husband belittles her. When both husband & wife understand each other & begin to respond to one another accordingly, their relationship can blossom into the marriage they dreamed of. A wife can begin to make her husband aware of her deeper needs for love, assurance, & security, without feeling selfish for desiring fulfillment of her needs.
With the right tools, you can carve a more fulfilling marriage out of a seemingly hopeless one, & this book will provide you with many of those tools. But the tools by themselves will never get the job done. They have to be picked up & used properly & consistently if they are to bring the intended results.
If your relationship with your husband is less than you desire & he shows little concern for your feelings, you may at first find it difficult to take the steps given in this book. However, if you are willing to overlook his lack of response for the moment & put forth some extra effort, the ideas presented in this book can work. I am also confident that your husband's desire for a better relationship will increase in response to the changes he sees in you.
One Big Reason Marriages Fail
It is typical for a man to marry without knowing how to talk to his wife. Some men don't even know that their wives need intimate communication. Often a man is completely unaware of his wife's sensitive nature. He doesn't know that things he considers trivial can be extremely important to her--things like anniversaries & holidays. Nor does he realise why such things are special to her, & so he is unable to meet her needs. Many men don't understand a woman's physical cycles & the hormonal changes she experiences. They don't realise how a woman's home, children, family, & friends become an interwoven part of her identity.
Many women step into marriage equally handicapped. They don't understand that admiration is to a man what romance is to a woman. They don't realise that a man generally relies on reasoning rather than intuitive sensitivity.
I believe the ideal marriage evolves when the wife concentrates on meeting her husband's needs & the husband concentrates on meeting his wife's needs. That combination builds the lasting qualities of a giving relationship. This book was written to show women how to motivate their husbands to improve their relationship.
2. EIGHT WAYS HUSBANDS HURT THEIR WIVES
For most couples with whom I counsel, a week rarely passes without the husband saying or doing something that unintentionally offends the wife, without him even knowing it! However, I have seen men stop inflicting these hurts when their wives began applying some of the appropriate principles discussed in detail later.
1. He frequently criticizes you. Since a woman is not hard & calloused by nature, harmful criticism rarely provides motivation to change. It usually brings deeper despair, which results in a diminished desire to please her husband.
2. He doesn't pay attention to your words & ideas. When a wife begins to talk, it almost seems like a mechanism goes off inside the husband's brain that says, "Now's the time to pick up the newspaper, turn on the TV, or start trying to solve the latest problem at work." A woman can be deeply hurt by her husband's inattentiveness because it indirectly tells her that he considers her concerns insignificant & unimportant.
3. He doesn't assume enough of the household responsibilities.
4. Your needs & desires are always secondary to his activities.
5. He tries to explain your hurts instead of just trying to understand your feelings & empathize with you.
6. He acts as if he's superior & you're inferior. God never created a woman to be a doormat. She is meant to be a vital, life-giving part of the home. Women have many rich, natural qualities not natural to men. Some of these qualities are detailed in the next section. Later we explain how your husband can gain a genuine respect & admiration for your uniqueness.
7. He shows preference to others over you.
8. He doesn't go out of his way to add romance to your relationship.
The goal of this book is to equip you with positive steps of action that will build & strengthen your relationship & fill it with genuine love that lasts. Don't think it's too late. I've seen too many marriages that were supposedly "lost causes" rebuilt beyond the wives' wildest expectations. And yours doesn't have to be the exception.
3. THE HIDDEN REASONS MEN ACT THE WAY THEY DO
How can a man say something to his wife that cuts her to the core & an hour later expect her to respond romantically to his advances? Why does a man feel obligated to lecture his wife when he sees that her feelings are hurt? How can a man lie next to his crying wife, giving her the silent treatment, when she so desperately needs his compassion & concern?
Every marriage & every person is unique, yet the problems people experience are practically universal. Many of the problems couples experience are based on one simple fact: Men & women are totally different. The differences--emotionally, mentally, & physically--are so extreme that if a husband & wife don't put forth a concentrated effort to gain a realistic understanding of each other, it is nearly impossible for them to have a happy marriage.
This should be encouraging to you because it will enable you to see why he does many of the things that hurt you. Chances are, you have always assumed he didn't care about the fact that he hurts you. The fact is, he is a man, & many of the hurtful & calloused actions you have witnessed are simply the result of his basic nature as a man. This does not mean you have to resign to living with a calloused or insensitive man--quite the contrary. Once you understand some of the basic differences we will discuss, you will be able to help him balance his natural tendencies.
Before we look at precise physiological & psychological differences, let me first draw your attention to the general differences & how they affect your relationship. The best example I can think of to illustrate these differences is to compare the butterfly with the buffalo. The butterfly has a keen sensitivity. It is sensitive even to the slightest breeze. It flutters above the ground where it can get a panoramic awareness of its surroundings. It notices the beauty of even the tiniest of flowers. Because of sensitivity, it is constantly aware of all of the changes going on around it & is able to react to the slightest variation in its environment. Thus, the butterfly reacts with swiftness toward anything that might hurt it. (Try to catch one without a net sometime.) If a tiny pebble were taped to its wing, the butterfly would be severely injured & eventually die.
The buffalo is another story. It is rough & calloused. It doesn't react to a breeze. It's not even affected by a thirty-mile-an-hour wind. It just goes right on doing whatever it was doing. It's not aware of the smallest of flowers, nor does it appear to be sensitive to slight changes in its environment. Tape a pebble to the buffalo's back & he probably won't even feel it. The buffalo isn't "rotten to the core" just because he goes around stepping on pretty flowers. In fact, the buffalo's toughness is a tremendous asset. His strength, when harnessed, can pull a plow that four grown men can't pull.
The analogy should be obvious. Your husband is the buffalo (Don't say "Amen" too loudly!) & you're the butterfly. He may tend to "plow" through circumstances, while you "feel" life & your surroundings with much more sensitivity. The "pebble on the butterfly's wing" may take the form of a sarcastic remark, a sharp criticism, or even an indifferent attitude. Whatever it is, it can hurt & even crush you, while he may not even notice what he's done.
The analogy ends in that the buffalo can never take on any of the butterfly's sensitivities, & the butterfly will never benefit from the buffalo's strength. Such is not the case with your marriage. Your husband can learn how to be gentle, sensitive, & romantic, but he probably won't learn by himself; that's why I've written this book...to show you how you can help him. You must realise that your husband doesn't understand how much his cutting words or indifferent attitudes actually affect your feelings. He can learn, but you'll need to help him.
Women tend to be more "personal" than men. Women have a deeper interest in people & feelings, while men tend to be more preoccupied with practicalities that can be understood through logical deduction.
Men & women differ in every cell of their bodies. This difference in the chromosome combination is the basic cause of the development into male or female, as the case may be. Women have greater constitutional vitality. Women's metabolism is normally lower than men's. Women's hormones are different & more numerous than men's. These hormonal differences influence behavior & feelings. Women's blood contains more water than men's (20 percent fewer red cells). Since the red cells supply oxygen to the body cells, women tire more easily & are more prone to faint. Their constitutional viability is, therefore, strictly a long-range matter. Women's hearts beat more rapidly (80 beats per minute vs. 72 for men). Women's breathing power is significantly lower than men's. Women withstand high temperatures better than men because their metabolism slows down less.
Women's sexual drive tends to be related to their menstrual cycles, while men's drive is fairly constant. The hormone testosterone is a major factor in stimulating men's sexual desire. Women are stimulated more by touch & romantic words. They are far more attracted by a man's personality, while men are stimulated by sight. Men are usually less discriminating about those to whom they are physically attracted.
These basic differences are the source of many conflicts in marriage. And they usually surface soon after the wedding ceremony. The woman intuitively has a greater awareness of how to develop a loving relationship. Because of her sensitivity, initially she is usually more considerate of his feelings & is enthusiastic about developing a meaningful, multi-level relationship: That is, a relationship having more facets than just a sexual partnership. She wants to be a lover, a best friend, a fan, a homemaker, & an appreciated partner. The man, on the other hand, does not generally have her intuitive awareness of what the relationship should become. He doesn't have an intuitive awareness of how to encourage & love his wife or how to treat her in a way that meets her deepest needs.
What exactly is this "woman's intuition"? It's not something mystical; rather, it is an unconscious perception of minute details that are sometimes tangible, sometimes abstract in nature. Since it is usually an "unconscious" process, many times a woman isn't able to give specific explanations for the way she feels. She simply perceives or "feels" something about a situation or person, while a man tends to follow logical analysis of circumstances or people.
Knowing now that men & women cannot, without an effort, understand each other's differences, I trust that this has given you a little more hope, patience, & tolerance as you endeavour to strengthen & deepen your relationship with your husband. With this in mind, we're ready to begin to discover how you can help your husband become more sensitive.
4. HELPING YOUR HUSBAND BECOME MORE SENSITIVE
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."--Proverbs 15:1
No one likes to be criticised, regardless of how much truth lies behind the criticism. Whether we are male or female, six or sixty, when someone corrects us, we automatically become defensive. Yet honest communication is vital to marriage. These two basic truths appear contradictory. How do you honestly tell the one you love about something you find displeasing or aggravating without prompting that familiar, defensive glare or indifferent shrug?
The following five principles outline that indirect approach. A husband is far more apt to receive your comments about his insensitivity when he hears them expressed through these five principles.
1. Learn to express your feelings through three loving attitudes: Warmth, empathy, & sincerity. These are common words, but what do they mean? Why are they so necessary?
a. Warmth is the friendly acceptance of a person. It's considering a person to be important enough to give your time & resources to--to share his concerns, not because he has earned it, but simply because he's a human being.
b. Empathy is the ability to understand & identify with a person's feelings--simply being able to put yourself in his shoes & see a situation from his viewpoint.
c. Sincerity is showing a genuine concern for a person without changing your attitude toward him when circumstances change.
Your husband may resist your help unless he sees these three attitudes within you. These are attitudes that anyone can develop. The exciting fact is that you don't have to wait for your husband to change, even though he may be the primary source of most of the problems. You can start the ball rolling by yourself, & the exciting changes discussed in this book will come about!
2. Learn to share your feelings when angry or irritated without using "you" statements.
"You" statements usually cause a man either to dig in & fight or to promptly leave your presence without resolving the issue. Either way, it makes him more determined to have his own way & causes you to lose ground in the situation. For example, the statement, "You're never home on time" will tend to cause him to reason, "Who is she to set my schedule; the World doesn't revolve around her--I'll come home any time I want!" The statement, "Can't you think about my feelings for a change?" makes him think, "Her feelings! What about my feelings?"
3. Learn to wait until your anger or feelings of irritability have subsided before you begin to discuss a sensitive issue.
No matter what you say or how you say it, if you're angry or irritated at the time, it probably will provoke a wrong reaction in him. While you're waiting to cool off, either remain quiet or change the subject to one you can talk about. If your husband wants to know why you're quiet or why you're changing the subject, say to him quietly, "I need a little time to think this through so I can better understand my feelings."
4. When you have cooled off, replace "you" statements with "I feel" messages.
Here are a few examples of what I mean:
Instead of confronting your tardy husband as he walks through the door with, "You never come home on time," greet him with an understanding statement like, "Must have been a rough day" or "I'll bet you're tired." Later (maybe even a day or two later, at a time when he's relaxed), begin to share your feelings. If you can creatively share your feelings in a positive context, that's even better. For example, "You know, there are some things that you do that really make me feel loved & appreciated, like coming home for dinner on time or letting me know if you'll be late. Those are the ways that you show your love for me. I really need that."
Instead of waking your husband with the words, "Can't you get up early & help me take care of the kids just once?", wait until a time when he's not tired & try something like this: "You work so hard for this family. I wish I had your stamina so I wouldn't need your help in the mornings, but I really need your help or I'm afraid I'm not going to have what it takes to meet your needs. And taking care of you is becoming more important to me than ever before." Or..."You work so hard for this family, I hate to ask anything else of you. But I do know something you could do that would make me feel extra special. Often it's difficult for me to handle the pressure of getting the kids ready for school. It would really make me feel like I'm special if you could help me take care of the kids before school."
By learning to share your feelings calmly, you will gradually wear down his tendency to react sharply in anger. It may take time, but if you persist, you will see changes. The principle that "A gentle answer turns away wrath" (Pro.15:1) really works as long as your soft answer is not said with a self-righteous or sarcastic attitude.
You should keep sharing your feelings until he understands. You may have to tell him over & over again for weeks that something he does makes you feel worthless. At first he'll defend his actions or tell you why your feelings aren't warranted or logical. Just keep telling him that you're not trying to justify your feelings; you're just trying to explain them honestly to him. Whether he thinks they're logical or not doesn't change the fact that you have those exact feelings. You are unique, & even if you were the only person in the whole World with those feelings, he still needs to understand how you feel.
5. Abandon "I told you so" statements.
Such statements can take many forms & should be completely eliminated. They reflect arrogance & self-centeredness, & only set your marriage relationship back. As you begin to apply some of the principles we've discussed, you may encounter a bit of failure & frustration. Some of your noblest efforts may be criticised or ridiculed, but don't give up. There is an age-old principle I see proved every day in marriages: You reap what you sow. If you persist in developing & expressing the qualities we've listed, you will ultimately see those same qualities developed in your husband.
5. MOTIVATING YOUR HUSBAND TO LISTEN TO YOU
This principle is not given to be used as a manipulative tool. Manipulation usually results in anger, hurt, worry, fear, & other negative emotions, but genuine love causes joy & fulfillment. Manipulation can't wait to get, & love can't wait to give. If your motive for using this principle is based on love, on enriching your husband's life, it can help you enter into a more loving, attentive conversation with him. You'll be able to search out his deepest needs & selflessly dedicate yourself to meeting those needs.
It's called the "salt principle." Salt makes people thirsty, & the goal of this principle is to create a thirst for constructive conversation in which both you & your husband can learn about each other's needs. Simply stated, the principle is this:
Never communicate information you consider to be important without first creating a burning curiosity within the listener.
How to Catch Your Husband's Interest
And Keep It:
1. The first step is to clearly identify the need or concern you wish to communicate to your husband.
2. The second step is to identify related areas that are of high interest to your husband. This is where some wives fail & others succeed. Some simply communicate what they were interested in (a happier marriage) but fail to relate their interests to any of their husbands' interests. They could not see that they needed any help in becoming better husbands, so becoming a better husband was not of particular interest to them. Let's take an example: Lois didn't have to fail on this point with Mark. Having been married only two years, Mark has told me that his sexual appetite is much greater than Lois' (which is usually the case). I am sure Lois was aware of Mark's high interest in increasing her sexual desires. This is the area of high interest she could have used to increase his interest in reading books about marriage. In the next steps I'll show you how she could have accomplished this.
3. Using his area of high interest, share enough information to stimulate his curiosity to hear more. Since Lois knew of Mark's never-ending physical drive, she could have started with the statement, "I can't believe these two books! I began reading them while you were at work, & I started to get so turned-on I had to put them down. I was really wishing you were home so we could make love."
Knowing Mark, I guarantee that she would have had his undivided attention.
4. Add a little more salt. Don't answer his response to your first dose of salt; rather, pause & build his curiosity even more. Now Lois applies her second dose of salt, without giving any relief to Mark's budding curiosity, with a statement like this: "They really are unbelievable. They tell a man just what he needs to do to prepare his wife mentally & emotionally for sex. Those authors really understand what it takes to turn me on."
5. Use a short question to gain a commitment to his pursuit of your interest or to teach him what you're trying to communicate. Lois, at this point, can gain a commitment from Mark to read the first book by asking him one of several short questions: "Have you ever read a book like this that tells you the five things that women can't resist?" or "Have you ever read about the five things you can do that turn me on?" Lois's goal was not to turn her husband into a manipulator of her sexual desires, but to get him to read two books that would encourage him to do the things that would build up their emotional relationship. She knew the "five things" would motivate her husband to treat her with greater tenderness & respect, which, in turn, would help her to be more sexually responsive.
6. After you have taken these five steps, if he still doesn't show sufficient interest or commitment, keep adding salt. Lois could further salt with a statement like, "I'm glad you haven't learned any of these yet; my sexual drive would probably get so strong we'd never get any work done around here." As I said previously, the salt principle is irresistible if used correctly. Every aspect of loving & communicating can be used either beneficially or detrimentally--the salt principle is no different. To use it effectively, there are a few things you definitely want to avoid.
"What Not to Do" When Salting!
1. Do not begin the conversation with a plea or request for his attention or time.
When you are going to use the salt principle, never start the conversation with statements like the following:
--Can I see you for a minute?
--I really need to talk to you!
--Can we talk about something really important a little later?
--I've been waiting a long time to talk to you. Can we please talk tonight?
Introductory statements like these usually generate a negative response because some husbands can't visualise setting aside time "just to talk."
2. Do not start your conversation with your main concern or your solution.
3. Don't try to persuade him with your first few statements.
Often women tend to think the only way they can get their insensitive husbands to do something is to shove them into action with a strong statement or threat. This may work for the short-range, but it can cause him to hear "Wolf! Wolf!"
Don't give up! Salting really works, even when a person knows what you are doing.
6. MOTIVATING YOUR HUSBAND TO CHANGE
How many times have you tried to tell your husband that you need to be loved emotionally during the day-to-day routine if he wants you to enter wholeheartedly into intimacy with him? You need gentleness, affection, thoughtfulness, & romance before you go to the bedroom if you are to give of yourself unreservedly in the bed. In the same manner, he must see certain qualities in your life that make him aware of your needs & receptive to your feelings before he can respond to those needs & feelings. Because a man may enter marriage with such a low level of knowledge & skill to meet a woman's needs, it is essential that his wife teach him what her needs & feelings are and, ultimately, show him how he can meet those needs. He becomes far more receptive to learning about your needs & how he can fulfill them when six qualities are present in your life.
All six are probably present in your character to one degree or another and, if they are nourished, they will grow stronger & have a greater influence on your personality. As this growth takes place, your husband will have a much greater desire to learn how to love you in the way you need to be loved.
When the qualities of courage, persistence, gratefulness, calmness, gentleness, & unselfish love are present in a person's character, it is easier to receive his or her words & to follow his or her instruction or example. This is no less true for your marriage. These qualities must be present in some degree before your husband will really want to learn from you.
Courage is the inner commitment to pursue a worthwhile goal without giving up hope. Many women have already given up hope that their marriages will ever be any better. When a woman's hope for a better marriage has faded, her attractiveness to her husband diminishes & the "life" of the relationship gradually declines. Regardless of how discouraged you may be, however, it is never too late to rekindle your hope & bring renewed life into your relationship with your husband.
Joyce & Greg had been married for three years. Joyce was pregnant with their first child when she discovered Greg was seeing another woman. Her affections had already begun to fade before she found out about the other woman, & when his affair came to light, her affections died completely. Their relationship went from love, to hate, to indifference.
One day at lunch she broke the usual silence & asked Greg what he was thinking about. With two words he shattered what little hope she had left. "About her," he responded. After he went back to work, she told God that she had no hope left. But she didn't stop there. She went on to pray that if He could give her hope or give her a new love for Greg, she would receive it.
To her surprise, she found herself doing kind little things for Greg, even though she didn't like him. Within three weeks, Greg began to notice such a change in Joyce that he found himself more attracted to her than to the other woman. He even felt ashamed for the way he had been treating her. He broke off his relationship with the other woman & joined Joyce in her growing commitment to build a more fulfilling relationship with each other & with Christ. For Joyce, courage began when she told God that she was willing to receive a new hope & love for Greg. Both Joyce & Greg tell me that their relationship now is so much deeper they can't even imagine how empty it used to be.
The first step toward increasing your courage is to commit yourself to pursue actively a more fulfilling relationship with your husband & to build a better marriage. One major roadblock to a happy marriage is maintaining unrealistic views of what a good marriage is. These unrealistic views begin in childhood & culminate with the wedding ceremony. That's why psychologists say that when you & your husband said "I do," six people were united in marriage.
On the bride's side stood
1. The person you thought you were
2. The person he thought you were
3. The person you actually were
On the groom's side stood
1. The person he thought he was
2. The person you thought he was
3. The person he actually was
The growth & joy in marriage come from combining these six different expectations into a united, realistic relationship. And, yes, it is possible, & it can be done.
While the first step toward increasing your courage is to commit yourself to an active pursuit of a better marriage, the second step is to commit yourself to endure the pressure that may come from your husband as you begin to pursue a better marriage, keeping in mind that his desire to enrich your marriage is probably far less at this point than yours.
Persistence means continuing to pursue a goal until it is achieved.
Several years ago I met a man who had been very successful in his work with teenagers. He had influenced thousands of young people in a positive way. When I asked him the secret of his success, I was surprised by his answer. He said, "It's simple. For every 200 ideas I try, one works!"
Gratefulness is a sincere appreciation for the benefits you have gained from others.
A survey was recently taken among several thousand workers, asking what their employers could do to motivate them to work harder. The employers were amazed that the number-one response had nothing to do with income or benefits. The majority of workers stated that the one thing their employers did to make them want to work harder was to express appreciation for their individual efforts.
If gratefulness motivates a person to try harder on the job, why won't it motivate your husband to try harder in the home? The answer is, it will! Gratefulness expressed through praise is one of the highest motivations for men. If you want your relationship with your husband to become more fulfilling, it is essential that you develop a grateful attitude.
Kathy & John had been married for eighteen years. When Kathy came to my office, she was distressed because John was an alcoholic. In spite of the problems that resulted from his alcoholism, she was still committed to pursuing a better marriage. I told her that gratefulness expressed through praise could provide a powerful motivation for John to overcome his problem. We also talked about the other qualities discussed in this section, & how she could develop them in her life. When she left my office, she had an enthusiastic desire to begin practicing some of the steps immediately.
Several weeks later there was a knock at my door, & when I opened it I had to catch my breath. To my surprise John had come up to my office to talk with me. He told me that since his wife had come to see me there had been so many changes in her life that she was like a new person. He went on to say, "She's become so loving & appreciative, I just can't go on hurting her any more. Would you help me?"
This couple's story graphically illustrates the power of these inner qualities and, more specifically, the power of gratefulness to motivate a man to want a better relationship. You may be wondering what qualities Kathy found to be praiseworthy in her alcoholic husband. She used her greatest strength to detect these qualities.
Using Your Greatest Strength to Detect
Praiseworthy Qualities in Your Husband
It should be evident by now that a woman's greatest strength is her sensitivity. Sensitivity can become your best friend in your effort to detect admirable qualities in your husband. When I first mentioned to Kathy that she needed to express gratefulness to John, she gave me a bewildered look & said, "What's there to be grateful for? Do you know what it's like to live with an alcoholic?" I explained to her that there are many positive qualities that can have negative expressions. We talked about a few of her husband's negative traits in order to detect some positive qualities she could begin to praise.
The most obvious problem she could think of was his self-pity. Self-pity can be a negative expression of compassion, so I asked Kathy if she had ever sensed that John was concerned about the welfare of others. Her eyes lit up immediately. She said she had always noticed how quick he was to show concern for those who had misfortunes.
Note: The following list may help you use some of your husband's negative traits to discern his admirable qualities.)
Negative Behavior/Positive Characteristics:
Slow/Cautious, attentive to details
Fussy/Careful, likes to do things right or "first class"
Can't say "No"/Peace-loving, gentle with people, compassionate, helpful
Talks too much/Thorough, expressive
Too strict/Disciplined, self-controlled, thorough
Developing a Grateful Attitude
The first step in developing a genuine attitude of gratefulness is becoming aware that the benefits in your life have come from two main sources: God & other people. When confronted with this idea, one man said that it simply was not true. He started in business with nothing & had become extremely wealthy. He said, "No one ever gave me anything." He was asked how far he could have gone in business if he hadn't learned to read or write. His obvious reply was, "Not far." Then he lowered his eyes & acknowledged that someone else had offered him an invaluable asset that he had used most of his life. Before he knew it, he could think of dozens of people from whom he had received countless benefits. If you stop to think about it, there are very few benefits in your life for which you can take sole credit.
The second step in developing a grateful attitude is learning to minimise your expectations of your spouse. Expectations can be one of the most destructive forces in your marriage. They can bring unnecessary disappointment & discouragement to you & your husband.
For eight years Ben had been living under the weight of Sue's expectations. Each time he bought her something, either it wasn't enough or it was too late. When he would finally fulfill her expectations, she would express the attitude, "It's about time." He felt like no matter what he did, he could never please her. Ben didn't realise what was happening at first, but after a couple of months it dawned on him that he couldn't remember the last time Sue had asked for anything, especially furniture for their home. He was so encouraged by her change in attitude that he bought a whole houseful of furniture, exceeding any of her former expectations. Ben wasn't the only one who found a new joy as a result of Sue's diminished expectations. Sue discovered that fewer expectations increased her happiness because she allowed her husband the freedom to surprise her.
The best way I know of decreasing your expectations is to change your focus from your husband to God. Psalm 62:1-2 gives us the freedom to expect life from God alone; & Philippians 4:19 assures us that our God will supply all our needs through His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Those two verses have allowed my wife to take her focus off me meeting her needs & put it onto God meeting her needs.) As we rest in Him, we become free to help those around us because we're not expecting anything from human sources, but only from the Lord.
By diminishing your expectations, you can free your husband of a burden that you force him to bear, & you can free yourself from unnecessary disappointments. Diminishing your expectations does not mean getting rid of your needs or wants. That is humanly impossible. It simply means eliminating your time limit & preconceived ideas about when & how those expectations will be fulfilled. The expectations you have are like bombs set to destroy your relationship. The only way to deactivate them is to get rid of the timer.
Calmness is an inner peace that allows you to respond quietly to a stressful situation without fear.
Let's go back to the analogy of the butterfly & the buffalo. The butterfly is delicate & sensitive even to the slightest breeze. The buffalo, on the other hand, isn't even bothered by a thirty-mile-an-hour wind. Although your sensitivity is one of your greatest strengths (because it allows you to "feel" things so much more intensely), it can also be a source of discouragement & despair if you do not balance it with calmness.
I'm not even beginning to imply that you should do anything to reduce your sensitivity. In fact, if your husband has succeeded in making you more calloused, it is important that you regain the sensitivity you have lost. The more sensitive you are, the more beauty, gentleness, tenderness, & "feeling" you can bring to your family & your environment.
At the same time, however, because you are aware of what's going on around you, you may easily react to the slightest changes. When we over-react to a situation, we sometimes can cause greater problems than the ones to which we are reacting.
Your sensitivity enables you to "see" many potential problems that your husband may overlook. You may sense your daughter's hurt feelings when your husband uses harsh words to correct her, while he may be totally unaware that he has even wounded her. Correctly used, your sensitivity can enable you to be aware of your daughter's reaction and, in the right way at the right time, to provide her with the needed comfort. Eventually, it will even enable you to teach your husband how to detect such hurts and, by example, teach him how to bring healing.
The wrong way to use your sensitivity in this situation would be to quickly over-react by criticising your husband in front of your daughter or by defending her action which provoked his correction in the first place. The first step in developing a calm attitude is to control your tendency to over-react.
Over-reacting not only decreases your husband's desire to meet your needs, but it also forces you to go through many problems that could otherwise be avoided.
The second step in balancing your sensitivity with calmness is to realise that the relationship principles discussed in this book will bring about a change. These principles have worked for thousands of couples, including many whose situations appeared very hopeless. At this point, you & many other readers may be saying, "There is no situation more hopeless than mine." You may be right, but see if yours is worse than Mike & Gail's.
The only way to describe Mike & Gail's marriage was "who hates whom the most?" They only stayed together because they didn't have enough money to live apart. They had no feelings of love toward their two children. They viewed them as two mistakes who came along & messed up their lifestyle. Each day after work Mike would stop at a bar, meet another woman, go out & get drunk, & come home late at night. Each night he & Gail would have violent fights with Gail coming out on the losing end since Mike was 6 foot 2 inches tall & weighed 190 pounds. Gail's greatest hope in life was to have enough money someday to leave Mike & the kids.
One day someone told Gail she could gain a genuine lasting love for Mike. She was also told how she could begin to develop inner qualities & express those qualities in a way that would motivate Mike to go through similar changes. She began to apply a simple but life-changing principle. Nothing changed the first week, but by the end of the second week Mike had noticed such a radical change in Gail that he entered into the same commitment she had made. They fell in love with each other & in love with their children. In the thirteen years that have followed, they have helped hundreds of couples to build more fulfilling & lasting relationships. What was the principle Gail used? She began applying what the Bible calls a quiet spirit (1Peter 3:4).
In 1 Peter 3:1-6, the Apostle Peter describes four qualities God makes available to any woman. These qualities not only please God, but are highly motivating in changing a husband. One of these, the "quiet spirit" mentioned in verse 4, is the heart of inner beauty in a Christian woman.
Here's what Gail did. Like the holy women of old, she hoped in God & preferred her husband's needs to her own. She submitted herself to God, trusting Him to meet all her genuine needs (Phil.4:19). She became anxious for nothing, but in everything, by praying & thanking God before she received from Him, she let God know her requests, & this peace began to guard her heart & mind in Christ Jesus (Phil.4:6-7). She knew her needs would be well taken care of, so she was then free inside & able to focus on Mike's needs; that is, she had a quiet spirit--inner calmness. This calmness crowds out the fear so common in a wife's responses to her husband (1Peter 3:6).
Gentleness is showing tender consideration for the feelings of another.
While I was visiting with a friend, we began talking about one of the most unusual couples either of us had ever known. What made them unique was that in their eighteen years of marriage they had never yelled at each other. I know this sounds hard to believe, & you might assume that the husband, Herb, is a Caspar Milquetoast kind of guy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Herb is an excellent athlete with engineering degrees & a very successful business. The fact that he has never yelled at Helen doesn't mean he hasn't yelled at anyone else.
The question is: How can a man who is as aggressive & self-motivated as Herb go 18 years without yelling at his wife? As my friend & I thought about this, we looked at each other, smiled, & blurted out the answer in unison, "How could anyone ever yell at Helen?" Helen is a living picture of gentleness.
The key motivation for gentleness is maintaining an awareness of the extreme fragility of other people's feelings. The more we take others for granted, the less gentle we tend to be in our relationship with them. We lose sight of their precious value & fragile inner person.
There may be times when it is difficult for you to fully appreciate the priceless value of your husband, but the fact remains that he is a very special creation of God with needs, disappointments, hurts, & feelings just like anyone else. In the sections that follow, we will be discussing specific ways you can express gentleness in your relationship with your husband & children.
Unselfish love is an action directed toward fulfilling another person's needs.
There are at least three kinds of love, each totally unique. Of the three types of love--affection, passion, & genuine love--only the latter provides an adequate foundation for the other two types. If this type of love is missing, the relationship will most likely not be long-lasting. One of the most exciting virtues of genuine love is that God can build it within your character without the help of affectionate feelings (Gal.5:22; Rom.5:5). Before we look at genuine love, let's first consider the other two types of love.
The first type of love is recognizable when someone says, "I have fallen in love," or "I no longer love my husband." It's possible for people to "fall in love" & "fall out of love" because affection is based upon someone meeting our needs or living up to our expectations. As long as they meet our emotional, mental, & physical needs & live up to our expectations, we remain "in love" with them. When they cease to meet those expectations or fail to meet our needs, we can easily lose the affectionate feelings we have for them.
The second type of love is aptly described by the word "passion." This type of love is mainly centered around our need for sexual fulfillment. Like the first type of love, it is based upon our partner's ability to meet our needs--more specifically, our desire for romance & sex. This is the basis for most immature marriages--two young people longing for each other & getting married to guarantee that their mate will always be near to meet their needs. Passion is the weakest foundation for a marriage, as is evidenced by the high divorce rate among teenage marriages. A marriage must have passions to be fulfilling, but if passion is the thread that weaves the marriage together, the marriage has a much greater chance of unraveling.
Genuine love is totally different from the first two types. Affection & passion make us aware of our own needs & cause us to look to others to meet those needs. Genuine love, as evidenced by Christ, searches for the needs of others & seeks opportunities to meet those needs (John 15:11-13). Simply stated, genuine love says, "I see your need; please allow me to meet it." Or as the Apostle Paul defined it, "By love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Gal.5:13-14). The focus of genuine love isn't receiving; it's giving. When a person receives genuine love from someone else, it can be one of the most powerfully motivating forces in his or her life.
The first step in developing genuine love for your husband is to begin valuing him as God does (John 3:16). It's committing yourself to care because he's worthwhile & because God cares a great deal about him. As you obey God's Word in John 15:11-13*, you receive the joy & peace Christ speaks of as a reward. God's plan is so terrific: You gain the life He promised, & you meet the deepest needs of your loved one at the same time. (* "These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, & that your joy might be full. This is My commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.")
Developing these six inner-beauty qualities is a lifetime commitment. As these qualities become more & more a part of your character, your husband will find it much easier to learn from you what it takes to have a more fulfilling relationship. The remaining sections will give you precise steps to help you begin motivating your husband to pursue a fulfilling & caring relationship. Many of these steps will produce visible results almost immediately. Others may take more time.
7. HOW TO INCREASE YOUR HUSBAND'S DESIRE TO SPEND QUALITY TIME WITH YOU
I believe that by taking these actions you can increase your husband's desire to set aside special moments with you: 1) Admire him; 2) Express a positive attitude on a consistent basis; 3) Focus more energy & concern on your inner beauty than on your outer appearance; 4) Compete with all his interests; 5) Use your unique feminine quality of gentleness; 6) Seek his opinion in your areas of interest.
Just as there are physical laws, such as the law of gravity, that govern our daily activities, so there are equally forceful & consistent relationship laws. One is the law of admiration. It reads: People are attracted to those who admire them & repelled by those who belittle or look down on them. Admiration is one of Man's deepest & most important needs. That's probably why the Scriptures teach wives to admire their husbands (Eph.5:33). The Apostle Peter states that admiration can even motivate a husband spiritually (1Peter 3:1-2).
The word admire (or respect, honour), in the Scriptures basically means "to attach high value to another." When the Word speaks of "fearing God," it simply means that God is to be most important to us--number one in our lives--and that is the beginning of wisdom (Prov.9:10). Admire, respect, fear, & honour are similar in meaning, & all tell us to consider one another very worthwhile. (Rom.12:10)
The law of admiration is an extremely important part of this book, for it is the basis of all lasting, growing relationships. The vital part is that you don't have to like a person to admire him or her. Admiring someone is a choice, a decision, a commitment, an act of our will. It's telling ourselves, "God loves & values that person, & so can I."
Your husband might irritate you, belittle you, offend you, ignore you, or basically nauseate you, but admiration looks beyond what he does to who he is. It's unconditional. Men tend to gravitate toward those who admire them. The following quiz may pinpoint reasons why your husband does not want to spend as many hours with you as he does watching TV or pursuing other interests.
1. Have you ever shown more appreciation or admiration for other men than for your husband--perhaps for a pastor, a teacher, or another woman's husband? Even without his conscious realisation, your husband can be hurt by your esteem for other men. Be careful not to praise other men in his presence unless you are able to show even greater appreciation for your husband at the same time, or unless he is already secure in your admiration of him & your relationship is solid.
2. Have you belittled or criticised your husband, his abilities, his character, or his activities? This is especially destructive if done in front of his friends or children. Even the military--not generally known for its sensitivity to feelings--recognises as the first basic principle of leadership, following basic training, that it is totally unacceptable to belittle a man's character or ability in front of others. I can think of nothing that demoralises a man faster than criticism in front of his peers or his children.
3. Have you ever had a tendency to exert pressure on him to do something until it gets done? Nagging is another word for pressure from a wife that makes her husband feel incompetent & irresponsible. Rather than motivating him to fulfill his responsibility, it makes him want to ignore it. As you keep nagging, he will seek other people who don't constantly remind him of his inadequacies. It's facial expressions & tone of voice that belittle & devalue a person.
4. Do you find your trivial discussions turning into arguments? He may view such discussions as an insult to his ability & intelligence, while you may be more realistically aware of the long-range problems caused by ignoring small things. But instead of challenging his unwillingness by arguing, look for indirect ways to expand his awareness of your world & get him to consider the full implications of what he is saying.
5. Do you ever find yourself questioning his explanations of his behavior? For example: If he calls you from the office to say he has to work late, do you ask him something like, "Do you really have to work late tonight?" With that one question, you imply you really don't trust his judgment. All he hears is your challenge of his judgment. No one likes to spend time with a "suspicious judge."
6. Can you think of at least three things that you have complained about in the last week (his schedule, his time with the kids, his lack of help around the house)? Complaining has the same effect as nagging. It repulses him.
7. Have you ever compared your level of awareness to his? This lies at the heart of distinguishing maleness & femaleness. The Apostle Peter calls a woman "the weaker vessel." The Greek word for weaker means "more sensitive" or "more fragile" (1Peter 3:7; Rom.14:1). Since women tend to be more aware of relationships & the nurturing aspects of life, it is reasonable to assume that your husband is not as aware as you are that something is missing between the two of you. If you expect him to desire the same level of intimacy as you, & if it offends you when he doesn't notice what seems obvious to you, your facial expressions & tone of voice may communicate a judgmental & belittling attitude. Many women think their husbands lie awake at night thinking of offensive things to do to them. Well, it's just not true. Those things come natural for most men!
If she doesn't understand that a man's basic drive is to conquer & find his identity in his vocation or activities, a woman can become hurt because she takes his attitude of indifference personally. She thinks he doesn't like her or the children. He interprets this anger or hurt as a put-down of him, especially if she says, "You should have known...or realised...or paid attention..." The best way to begin helping a man indirectly is to accept him as a man & value him for what he is today & for what he will be through your loving & patient help. (Incidentally, we men need what a woman can give us for our own sake & well-being. We need to be more aware of feelings & what builds lasting relationships.)
Practical Ways to Begin Expressing
Admiration for Your Husband
In my discussions with various men, I have found that there are a variety of ways that their peers, secretaries, employers, & friends make them feel important. I have taken the nine most frequently suggested & have written a brief description on how you can apply them in your relationship.
1. Begin to seek your husband's advice & opinions on decisions. Don't overdo it though, for it might indicate to your husband that you are becoming too dependent & uncreative. Rather, maintain a balance by looking for special opportunities to seek his opinions & advice. As you carefully evaluate his ideas, he sees you consider him valuable.
2. Make an effort to remember your husband's past requests & desires & begin to fulfill them when possible. If you make your husband feel special, you increase his desire to do the same for you.
In the spaces below, list five requests your husband has made or implied. It could be a special event he wants to see or an activity he's been wanting to do; maybe a special meal you haven't made for a long time or one of his favorite desserts. As you begin to fulfill some of his past wishes, you may not receive any immediate encouragement from him. He may even say, "It's about time!" Rely on sheer willpower in difficult moments to see this project through, because the more you do it, the more fulfilling it will become for you.
3. Look for occasional opportunities to draw attention to your husband's positive qualities when you're with other people. For example: Praise him to your children, calling attention to his positive character qualities. If you are with friends & he says something worthwhile, tell him you think it makes a lot of sense & ask him to explain it further. Or, relate to friends or relatives a specific incident in the past week that highlights one of his positive qualities. For example: "John is so considerate of my feelings. The other day I hadn't said a word about how I felt, but he could tell I was down. He came over & put his arms around me. Then he told me he knew I was troubled & asked how he could help."
I can't begin to express how good I feel inside when people occasionally tell me something positive my wife has said about me. It makes me feel appreciated--I want to go home & put my arms around her as soon as I can!
4. Make an effort to gain an appreciation for your husband's occupation, trying to understand how important he feels his job activities are. Many men are frustrated with their jobs, feeling that no one really appreciates their worth or value, their talents & abilities. When you appreciate what your husband does, you may become his only hope for achieving genuine self-worth. Until he really believes that he is worth something, he will have difficulty focusing his attention on the worth of others--including you.
Don't ever belittle his job or the importance of his activities on the job. Nothing destroys a man's self-esteem more than to hear his wife cutting down his efforts to support her. Though you may not criticise his efforts, you may belittle them by being ignorant of them. When a man feels unimportant because of his job, it tears away at the very heart of his being. Help him discover the value of what he does.
5. Carefully consider what your husband says without hasty negative reactions. I am not promoting blind obedience, but rather open-minded listening. If you have a tendency to react immediately when you hear his ideas, discipline yourself to withhold your reaction until his entire thought "sinks in" & you've had a chance to consider his idea fully. You will avoid unnecessary tension in your relationship, & he will enjoy being with you more.
Jesus said both in words & by example that anyone who wishes to be leader or ruler must first learn to be servant of all (Mat.20:26-27). Leaders are lovers. They serve--submit to--and listen to those whom they would lead.
When a husband is loving his wife with understanding, gentleness, warmth, & communication, it is relatively easy for her to submit to him as a person. But even if your husband is not a loving person, you should still be practicing submission--love in action. It communicates to your husband that he is valuable & that his needs are more important than yours at the moment.
A summary of this special Biblical secret--submission:
* I submit to God. I'll ask Him, & wait for Him, to meet all my needs (Psa.62:1; Phil.4:6-7, 19).
* I realise how valuable I am to Christ because He gave His life for me (John 3:16).
* While waiting for my needs to be met through Christ, I'll attend to the needs of those around me. I'll forget about my needs because God's taking care of them (Eph.3:19-20), & I'll focus on what I can do for others (John 15:11-12).
6. Don't let two days pass without expressing appreciation for at least one thing your husband has said or done during those forty-eight hours. Just a reminder. Don't forget how much nicer it is to be with people who make you feel special than with those who don't.
7. Use your sensitivity to detect your husband's personal goals, & lend him your support as he pursues those goals.
8. Begin to admire your husband in nonverbal ways. Studies of communication between husbands & wives have proven that words alone are responsible for only 7 percent of the total communication. Thirty-eight percent of marital communication is expressed through voice tone, & 55 percent through facial expression & body movement.
Here are a few nonverbal ways to show your husband how important he is:
1. Be attentive to his concerns when he comes home.
2. Look as attractive as possible when he comes home.
3. Prepare appetizing meals.
4. Show interest & ask questions about his job, activities, problems, achievements.
5. Listen attentively by focusing your eyes on him.
6. Don't make him compete with the TV, the dishes, or even the children when he's trying to talk to you.
9. Genuinely desire & seek your husband's forgiveness whenever you offend him.
One of the best ways I have found to ask forgiveness is, unfortunately, the hardest & the least creative. All it requires is that you go to your husband, look into his eyes, & say, "I was wrong in what I said or did. Can you forgive me?" Two things will happen when you ask for forgiveness in this way. First, your husband will desire to restore the relationship & will be more prepared to forgive you; & second, it is likely to exert pressure on him to ask for forgiveness in the future for the ways he has offended you. As a side benefit, it makes him feel important--you are telling him indirectly that you care for him enough not to leave him with hurt feelings.
Express a Positive Attitude
On a Consistent Basis
If you want your husband to yearn for quality time with you, then it is essential that you develop & express a positive attitude. You might say, "But if you knew my husband...if you knew what I'm going through...it's just impossible for me to develop a positive attitude." Just ask yourself these questions:
* How do I act around our dinner guests when I have a headache?
* How do I act when I'm in a hurry at the grocery store & run into a friend with problems?
We usually find it easy, or at least necessary, to have a positive attitude around our friends & associates. Don't you agree that our mates deserve the same consideration?
I am not saying that you shouldn't talk about negative things. But I am stressing that there is a right way & a right time to talk about them.
Negative thinking, especially about ourselves, is a major cause for an overall negative outlook on life. What we say to ourselves about a problem actually has a stronger effect on our feelings than the problem itself. We all tend to bombard ourselves with short sentences like: "I'm no good." "I'm a failure." "I can't do anything right." "He doesn't like me." "This guy is driving me crazy." "I'm coming unglued." "You're blowing my mind." "I'm sick & tired of this." All these short, negative statements focusing on the bad side of things produce a negative attitude. The ultimate result of a lifetime of negative thinking is frustration, despair, & depression.
Our feelings follow our thinking and/or actions. If our thinking & actions are positive, then our feelings will be positive in a matter of hours. (The Scriptures teach that as a person "thinks within himself, so is he."--Prov.23:7)
Gaining a Positive Attitude
The first step in gaining a positive attitude is to discover the benefits of the negative situation. (Incidentally, I haven't heard of a situation yet that lacked positive benefits.) It often seems the more tragic the situation, the greater the positive consequences. I am not saying that the beneficial outcome of a negative situation justifies the situation. Absolutely not. I am saying that as we recognise the positive side of a negative situation, we can be liberated from the chains that tie us to guilt, resentment, despair, & any other negative feelings which have held us captive. The more you discover the inherent benefits of your own problems, the more positive your attitude will become. As a result, your husband will desire to spend more time with you.
Focus More Energy & Concern
On Your Inner Beauty Than
On Your Outer Appearance
It's obvious that women & men alike usually spend more time & energy trying to groom their exteriors than strengthen their interiors. A woman should do everything she can to make herself physically attractive to her husband. However, outer beauty will only attract a man's eye, but inner beauty will keep his heart (1Peter 3:1-6).
We've already discussed at length several inner beauty qualities that can melt almost any man's heart: Courage, persistence, gratefulness, calmness, gentleness, & genuine love. For your convenience, I will review in capsule form the working definitions of each of these qualities.
1. Courage: The inner commitment to pursue a worthwhile goal without giving up hope.
2. Persistence: Continuing to pursue a goal until it is achieved.
3. Gratefulness: A sincere appreciation for the benefits received from others.
4. Calmness: An inner peace that allows you to respond quietly to a stressful situation without fear.
5. Gentleness: Showing tender consideration for the feelings of another.
6. Genuine Love: Meeting the needs of another, prior to your own personal needs being met.
As you develop these qualities, your husband will want to spend more & more time with you.
Compete with All His Interests
The first step in competing for your husband's attention is to make yourself more interesting & attractive. When your husband comes home from work each night, how do you look? Is your hair fixed up? How about your clothes? When he goes into the kitchen or dining room to eat dinner, is the table setting attractive & neat? Do you fix some of the food he really likes the way he likes it? In every area of your life, discover how you can be so attractive that he would rather be with you than anyone or anything else. (Remember, this effort is not just for your benefit; it is for his, too, in all his relationships, especially with your children.)
Giving admiration or respect is the second step in competing for your husband. He hungers for sincere admiration & respect, & he will gravitate toward those who admire him, his personality, or his talents. This need for admiration motivates men to spend time on committees, run for political offices, & enter various competitive sports. In fact, many men compete in strenuous events just to receive a trophy--the tangible symbol of accomplishment.
The third step in competing for his attention requires that you show more interest in his life than anyone else does--more than his friends, his colleagues at the office, or any of his associates. Imagine the impact on your relationship if you gave your husband a daily dose of genuine interest. He would probably leave friends or work early to get home to you. Don't laugh! It's possible.
Use Your Unique Feminine Quality
I'm sure you're keenly aware of your husband's deficiencies; however, it is of utmost importance that you refrain from confronting him with them in anger. A man has a tendency to fight his conscience; & if you become his conscience, he'll fight you or flee you. Whichever route he takes, you've lost your goal of spending more time with him.
You need to tell your husband how important it is to spend time together. But tell him in a gentle, loving way at the right time. Explain to your husband some of the important occasions you'd like to spend with him--anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, & other times that are special to you. Then find out what times he would like to share with you.
It's also important to discuss the types of activities you would like to do together. I believe one of the best ways you can recognise & meet your husband's unique needs is to develop & maintain open communication through a growing relationship with him.
By explaining your feelings & needs gently, lovingly & calmly, it becomes obvious that you're not being selfish in asking him to spend quality time with you. A lack of time with him affects you & your relationship with him.
Seek His Opinion in Your Areas of Interest
Many men appreciate it when their wives ask for help. My wife can always get me to join her simply by starting a repair project. If she asks me to do it, usually I'm not interested. But as soon as I see her struggling with some repair, I jump in & we fix it together. I really enjoy it when she gently asks for my help without expectation & then expresses gratefulness for my time. You may think, "Why should a woman even have to do all that to get her husband to spend time with her? It just doesn't seem fair!" I agree with you. But the fact of the matter is that men are buffalos & women are butterflies. Your buffalo may never gain butterfly sensitivity unless you provide the motivation.
However, you should beware of several pitfalls at this point. First, when you recruit his help, don't criticise him for doing the job worse than you would have done it yourself. Criticising his work is the fastest way to discourage him from working side-by-side with you again. If he does something which fails to meet your standards, bite your tongue.
The six motivating factors we've discussed really work. It would be impossible for anyone to develop & apply all of these overnight, but in time, you will have countless opportunities to use each one. When you do, you will find your husband gravitating toward your admiration & respect; your positive attitude will be a source of encouragement & strength that he'll begin to depend on more & more; & everyone will gain by your commitment to him.
8. HOW TO GAIN YOUR HUSBAND'S UNDIVIDED ATTENTION ON A CONSISTENT BASIS
No matter what your situation is, there are at least four ways to gain your husband's consistent, undivided attention:
Ninety-three percent of our communication is nonverbal. Your husband can be attracted or repelled most often, then, by your nonverbal behavior. If he comes home from work to a worn facial expression that says, "Oh, brother, look who's home--Mr. Gripe," or "It's only you," then of course he will be repulsed. Whenever you see him, you've got to "light up" with enthusiasm, especially in your facial expressions & tone of voice. That light comes from the inner knowledge that he's valuable. My wife shows that sparkle whenever I walk in the door, & consequently, I want to spend time talking to her & listening to her. If she "lights up" when a particular subject is mentioned, she increases my desire to talk about that subject; as a result, I enjoy listening to her, her opinions, & her needs.
Learn More About His Interests & Vocation
As we mentioned earlier, every man needs to feel admired. Because he spends the largest part of his day at work, his identity becomes linked to his job, just as your identity is linked to your home & family or your own vocation. If you aren't excited about his work, it's nearly impossible for him to believe that you admire him for anything. Consequently, it is extremely important that you learn enough about his responsibilities to express a genuine interest in them. You can't learn everything about his work overnight. Take your time about it.
Use the Salt Principle to Gain
Your Husband's Attention
Earlier we discussed the salt principle & how it works. If you are still somewhat unsure about this principle, it might be good to review it before you read further.
The salt principle is undoubtedly the most effective way to gain your husband's undivided attention. Although learning to use this technique does take some practice, once you've mastered it, you will invariably gain his full attention--even if he knows what you're doing. Remember to use this technique with a loving, gentle, kind attitude. If your attitude or tone of voice reflects pride or cockiness, your husband will only resent your attempt to arouse his curiosity. He will consider it a weapon, especially if you use it to create curiosity & then refuse to fulfill it with something like, "Well, I'll just tell you later when you have a better attitude!" I can't think of a better way to immunize your husband against the effectiveness of the salt principle.
With the right attitude, the salt principle is so powerful that it works even when the listener is in a hurry or under pressure. You don't have to wait until your husband is free from tension & deadlines to stimulate his curiosity. Just give it all you've got with salty questions, pleasant facial expressions, & a gentle tone of voice.
Teach Your Husband to Listen to You
By now I hope I've made one point clear: Most men do not understand women. Since you know your needs better than anyone else, you can be your husband's most effective teacher. He needs to learn from you why it's important to listen to you & how to listen.
First, explain why it's important to you that he spend time listening with his undivided attention. (The woman called "virtuous" [also, "excellent"] in Proverbs 31:10 was so called because she had convictions & influence. Convictions bring influence. When you're sold on something, like the importance of a better relationship, it will show through your facial expressions.) Let him know that when he doesn't listen to you attentively, it makes you feel unimportant & unappreciated. Explain that this, in turn, decreases your desire to meet his needs. Make it clear, however, that the opposite is also true. When he consistently listens to you with attentiveness, you feel more important & have a much stronger desire to meet his needs with greater creativity. You may have to tell him these things repeatedly before they sink in. But each time the opportunity arises, you have another chance to stimulate his curiosity.
In addition to explaining why you need his undivided attention, you must show him how to give it. Discuss the nonverbal means of communication with him. As he learns to understand your feelings by looking at your eyes & facial expressions, your communication & your relationship will deepen.
Be careful not to let your times of communication deteriorate into arguments. Use your sensitivity to learn how to side-step issues, words, or mannerisms that ignite an argument. Let your communication be as encouraging & delightful as possible.
Learning to gain your husband's undivided attention on a consistent basis will be a major undertaking. However, gaining his attention is not an end in itself. It is a means to develop several beautiful facets to your relationship.
9. HOW TO INCREASE YOUR HUSBAND'S SENSITIVITY TO YOUR EMOTIONAL NEEDS & DESIRES
Most women have a short, simple definition for romance & emotional tenderness--"the little things." Ever tried to explain to your husband what those "little things" are? One woman told me, "My husband thinks he's doing me a big favor by buying me a new toaster. But for some reason, that just doesn't mean as much as it would for him to greet me early in the morning by taking my hand or kissing me on the cheek to tell me that he thinks I'm really special."
A woman can become so much a part of her children, her home, & her daily routine that she often loses her identity as an individual. Consequently, she feels a deep need to be singled out, loved individually. No woman wants to be viewed merely as the wife, the other laborer, the cook, the cleaning lady, the mother, the ironing service, the laundress, or the family chauffeur. It's not enough that her family show deep appreciation for the role she fulfills. She has a need for her husband to draw her out of that demanding role & love her for who she is rather than for what she does. Once he gains a sensitivity to her emotional needs & desires, he can begin to fulfill them with creative actions that women call, "the little things."
You can provide your husband with the motivation & the knowledge necessary to meet your needs by cultivating three new skills: 1) sow seeds of love; 2) explain your unique needs & desires; 3) express your gratefulness without expectation.
Sow Seeds of Love
We reap what we sow (Gal.6:7). You've heard it a hundred times, but it's just as true now as it was thousands of years ago. If you're rude & contentious, people will respond to you in the same way. Conversely, if you're thoughtful & gentle, it's difficult for others to respond with anything less. As you detect your husband's needs & make special efforts to fulfill them, eventually he will notice your efforts & appreciate you. Out of his appreciation will grow a desire to enrich your relationship. If you start by sowing seeds of love & care for your husband, soon you'll be reaping his love & appreciation.
Discover Your Husband's Distinctive Needs
Some women presume to know all of their husband's needs without even asking them. But I have never met a man who could say his mate knew all about all of him. Get past the superficial by discovering the individuality of your mate. Although your husband is similar to other men, he is totally unique...one of a kind. He is different in temperament, personality, childhood, adolescence, family relationships, heritage, talents, goals, aspirations, successes, failures, frustrations, & disappointments. You must abandon the idea that he's just like all other men, another common, everyday, average guy. Finding out who he is & what he feels can be one of the most stimulating & rewarding investments of your life. Sometime you might ask him, "What really fulfills you as a man?" Listen carefully as he shares some of his deepest feelings. Make a list of the things he shares, & demonstrate your interest in them by talking about them from time to time. Try to discover the things that hurt & disappoint him. In other words, begin to really know your man. Next, consider some general needs common to men. As you think about them, keep in mind that you may have to tailor each one to fit your own husband.
Needs Common to Men
Men need to be loved.
Obviously, if your husband preferred living alone, you wouldn't be married to him right now. Every man needs to know that someone, somewhere in the World cares about him. He needs to feel warm, friendly acceptance from another person. He needs to know he has a committed, intimate friend who will like him no matter what he does. Just like you, he needs the security of genuine love. That's why the older women are to teach the younger women to love their husbands. (Titus 2:4)
Genuine love is far more than a feeling; it's the kind of love that lasts a lifetime. It means a commitment to care for the loved one unconditionally. It says, "I'm committed to you no matter how you treat me or what happens." Genuine love does not depend upon emotions or circumstances. It takes full advantage of the present to bring meaning & joy to the lives of others. If your marriage is to become all that you long for, you must begin today, right now, to develop the unconditional love which forms the foundation of a fulfilling marriage.
As you begin to develop genuine love, it's quite possible that you will lack romantic feelings. Don't be discouraged. I guarantee that if you persist in expressing genuine love in actions & words because he's worthwhile, eventually the feelings will follow. And the romantic love you once shared with your husband will return. The notion that genuine love is something you feel at all times is a drastic misconception. Feelings are changeable--they can come & go. But love is an unchanging acceptance of him as a person--that you value his opinions no matter how he phrases them; that you are concerned for him no matter how unnerving his habits. He needs to know that you carefully, thoughtfully listen to what he says & that you consider his words & actions worthwhile.
Men need to be admired.
Men will do almost anything to gain the admiration of others. They will literally search for someone to love & respect them--and you can be that someone to your husband by letting him know you're interested in him, that you desire to know what's behind his decisions & the direction he's going. Take advantage of the variety of ways to express genuine admiration. When he's down, don't react with disgust. Maintain respect for him as you comfort him quietly & gently. When you've hurt his feelings, admit you were wrong & ask for his forgiveness. When he shares an idea with you that doesn't sit right, don't come unglued. He needs the confidence & security of knowing that you won't react negatively to his ideas. Give him the same confidence that you have in the chair you're sitting in--a confidence that allows him to rest & relax with you.
Men need to be understood & accepted.
You can't hide it. Your husband can sense it a mile away. I'm talking about that subtle thought you've probably had since you married: "I'll make him over someday." Sorry, but with that attitude you probably won't. Show him acceptance & understanding as he is. I'm not saying you have to accept his offensive ways without any hope of change. Just accept the fact that your husband needs to be taught--in creative ways--how to meet your needs. Remember, you are in the process of teaching him, & he is in the process of learning. If you're on the same train, don't expect him to get there before you do.
Men need to feel appreciated.
Your husband probably feels that his biggest contribution to you & your family is the financial support he provides. Obviously, then, one of the best ways to show your appreciation for him is to thank him regularly for his diligence & faithfulness on the job. Even if you are providing part of the income, it is crucial that you show him how grateful you are for his provision.
Aside from financial support, your husband also demonstrates his care for you in "little ways." Maybe he keeps your car maintained, or perhaps he empties the trash twice a week. Try to keep a mental list of little things he does that save you time & effort. Then thank him for them as often as possible. When he feels he is meeting the "big & little" needs of his family, his self-respect increases. As a result, he will begin to feel a deeper love for his appreciative wife.
Explain Your Unique Needs & Desires
Make a list of the needs & desires you would like to see your husband fulfill. Divide your list into four categories: Emotional needs, physical needs, spiritual needs, & mental needs. In some areas you may have an overflow of needs, & in others you may have to struggle to think of one. But delve into your feelings until you believe your list is complete. Condense the list into the smallest number of vital needs so it doesn't appear overwhelming.
As you explain the list to your husband, remember to discuss one need at a time until you've covered each subject. Your husband may have trouble accepting the importance of some of your needs, so you may have to discuss the differences between men & women where sensitivity is concerned. But be sure to maintain the right attitude while explaining. When you appeal to him for understanding, avoid self-pity, jealousy, or whining. These approaches are repulsive to anyone, especially your husband.
Finally, as you begin to discuss your needs, be sure to use the salt principle when appropriate. Look for creative ways & times to share these needs. For example, you might want to write your husband a letter explaining a few of your deepest longings. Be careful not to accuse or imply failures on his part; just explain how you feel. Let him read it alone if he chooses. Be sure he can read it during a calm, tension-free time of the day.
Express Your Gratefulness Without Expectation
Recently I received a card in the mail from my wife. In it, she said that she loved me, that every year of our marriage was more fulfilling, & that she appreciated some of my recent attitudes & actions. There were no hints of hidden expectations in the card. She didn't ask for a thing, but she sure made me want to do more for her. Through the years, my wife's "no beg" attitude has inspired me to search for creative ways to express my love to her.
My wife's complaints accomplished nothing, but her non-demanding patience accomplished everything. Around our house we've noticed several factors make it easier for any family member to change: Expressing the change you desire to see without attaching a time limit; showing appreciation for the slightest move toward change; showing acceptance & love regardless of change.
10. HOW TO GAIN YOUR HUSBAND'S COMFORT & UNDERSTANDING INSTEAD OF LECTURES & CRITICISM
Why do men find it so much easier to lecture their wives than to comfort them? If you could climb into a man's mind, you would see that when he is confused or hurt he seeks a logical explanation for his feelings. Once he has made a clear analysis of the problem, he usually feels relieved. It is only "logical," then, that he respond to your problems in the same way. In essence, he thinks he can "talk you out of it."
But if your relationship with your husband is to be strengthened, it's vitally important that he learn when & how to comfort you. You shouldn't feel guilty about your need for someone to "lean on." That need is not a sign of weakness, as some would have you believe. It's simply a part of our human nature. We all need to lean at times.
I believe there are at least three steps you can take to increase his awareness of your need for tender comfort.
1. Get excited over his attempts to comfort you.
2. Teach your husband how to comfort by being his example.
3. Tell him gently how you desire to be comforted.
(Please see the book summary of "How to Become Your Husband's Best Friend" in this same volume for a full explanation of these three points.)
11. HOW TO MOTIVATE YOUR HUSBAND TO RECEIVE YOUR CORRECTION WITHOUT DEFENSIVENESS
"You pay more attention to that stupid dog than you do to me," Sheila yelled at her husband. "How can a grown man love a dog more than his wife?" Resentment had been gnawing at her for years since Bill took up the habit of playing with Peppy before bothering to say hello to her. Finally the anger & hurt burst through her self-control. Bill reacted with more anger. Another argument had begun.
We will learn how Sheila could have handled her complaint to get the result she desired. Read & study the following seven ideas to learn how to motivate your husband to accept correction without a nasty argument or a defensive response. Then give them a try. We think you'll be in for a nice surprise.
Use the "Sandwich" Approach
Always layer your slice of correction between two pieces of praise. For example, if your husband complains that you overspend on the children's clothing, use the sandwich approach: First, the bread..."Honey, I really appreciate how hard you work to provide so many nice things for us. You really do love us." Next the meat (your correction)..."Sometimes I feel like you think I'm spending money frivolously, buying more clothes than the children need. I just want you to know that I really try to watch how much I spend, & I buy only what I think they need." And now the other slice of bread..." But most of all, I just want you to know how much we appreciate your hard work to make all this possible. The kids & I were talking about what a fantastic father & husband you are...."
Usually, the Apostle Paul began his letters with praise before he sandwiched in his reproofs. Look how he started the Book of Philippians: "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you" (Phil.1:3). Even defensive people are more receptive to correction when it's cushioned with kind words.
One caution about the sandwich approach. You should praise your husband from time to time without any corrective comments. Otherwise, he might become wary of "sandwiches."
Try the "Puzzle" Approach
You can't put a jigsaw puzzle together without all the pieces, & you can't solve a problem without all the facts. (In Spanish the word for puzzle is rompecabezas, which literally means "break your head." And that's just what your husband feels like doing when you don't give him all the pieces.)
The more facts I have about a disagreement between my wife & me, the easier it is to find a clear solution to our problem. The first fact I obtain about her feelings or beliefs represents only one piece of the overall picture. When I lay it down on the table, it doesn't give me much of an idea about the finished picture. So, I add more pieces by asking questions, & the picture begins to take shape. Occasionally I try to force the wrong pieces together, but she lets me know when I do. Sometimes I try to guess what the completed picture will look like, but only when the pieces are fitted together do I know for sure. Often the finished picture (solution) is so simple that we wonder why we didn't see it right away.
Your husband can't put a solution together when you throw him one tidbit of information & stop at that. Nor can he wade through all the facts when you give him five hundred at once. Make it a point to give him one piece at a time until he has all the facts. (Simply give him the facts & let him draw his own conclusions.) When you don't focus on the consequences of his actions in a judgmental way, you'll be amazed how much easier he accepts correction. He may need a week, a month, six months, or more. The length of time depends on the individual problem, your attitude when you give him the pieces, & the strength of your relationship.
Incidentally, the puzzle approach is also useful when making personal decisions or helping your children learn to make sound decisions. Any fuzzy problem comes into focus when you take time to gather all the factors.
Replace "You" Statements
With "I Feel" Statements
Rather than expressing your feelings, "you" statements imply judgment & criticism; they place the blame on your husband. Try to replace "you" with "I feel."
Think back to when Sheila accused Bill with, "You pay more attention to that stupid dog...." Her "you" statement made her husband so angry & defensive they couldn't even discuss the problem. If she had used an "I feel" statement, the results would have been much different.
"Honey, I know that it's not intentional, but I feel like Peppy means more to you than I do. I know how ridiculous this must sound, but I just wanted you to know how I felt."
"Why do you feel that way?" he asked.
"Well, because when you come home from work, I feel you spend more time with Peppy than with me. This may sound insignificant, but if our relationship is going to grow & become all we want it to be, then it is important that I share my feelings."
Had the conversation continued, she could have gently shared a possible solution, but only at his request. "Why can't my husband come up with his own solutions?" you may ask. Unfortunately, some husbands probably wouldn't notice the problem if they tripped over it. In most cases, your husband will need a gentle nudge to notice & correct a problem.
Master the "Salt Principle"
The "salt principle" stimulates your husband's interest in subjects he would otherwise find dull. The secret is in the manner of presentation. If you master the salt principle, he will practically beg to hear what you have to say, be it praise or correction. But you have to withhold your correction until you've created so much curiosity that he can't wait to hear it.
Areas You Wish He Would Change In.--And How to Tell Him by Asking Questions:
Area: He's too critical.
Question: "Honey what bugs you the most about the bosses you've had?" If he mentions criticism, grouchiness, etc. ask him how it made him feel. He'll probably respond with, "It really took the life out of my job." Now the door is open for you to explain your feelings. "Honey, that's sort of how I feel when you're critical of me. It takes the life out of sex & makes it hard for me to respond to you physically."
Area: He's too harsh.
Question: "Honey, do you think it's possible for our relationship to improve every year?" "Yeah, sure I do." "Well, you know, if we would correct one big thing this year, I feel sure our relationship would be much more fulfilling. Would you be interested in hearing about it!" If he says yes, then you can respond with, "Honey, when you're harsh with me about something I've done wrong, I really feel like pulling back from you, especially when I'm already aware of my mistakes. I'd just love it if you would comfort me first, just hold me tenderly, & ask me how I'm feeling." If he says he is not interested in hearing about that "one big thing," wait until later & add more salt to create greater curiosity & interest.
Set an Example by Enthusiastically
Receiving His Correction
An attitude of understanding & receiving his criticism not only is a wise decision, but will increase your love for him. That's what it says in Proverbs 9:8. When your husband finds fault with you, don't dig in your heels by offering a counter-charge. Show him by example how to receive criticism without defensiveness. Admit that there is some degree of truth in his criticism, however small. When you're alone, reexamine his criticism & try to accept its valid points. Then get to work on the necessary changes. Talk about a heart-melter! Nothing gets to the "perfect" husband faster than a pliable wife.
If you really want him to receive correction willingly, then actively seek constructive criticism from him. If you sense he is perturbed about something, ask him to tell you all about it. Draw him out about things you might have done to irritate him. When you see him building barriers between you, don't wait for him to explain. Seek his correction willingly. Only the wise seek reproof & they inherit honor (Pro.3:35). We reap what we sow.
Maintain Open Communication
With Your Husband
Take down the barriers your offenses may have built by earnestly seeking your husband's forgiveness. Don't give him any excuse to avoid communication by leaving the lines crossed. It is crucial that you clear up each & every offense you cause if you want your husband to receive your correction in the future. Use your sensitivity to detect subsurface problems when your husband seems to shut you out, making sure there are no hidden barriers to your correction.
Explain Why You Need to Correct Him
I am often amazed at my wife's foresight, insight, perception, sensitivity...she foresees the consequences of my decisions long before I carry them out. Like most women, she perceives the subtle effects my decisions have on our home & children. I consider it her responsibility to share her observations with me. They are invaluable. By sharing your unique womanly insights, you afford your husband a special steering mechanism that can keep your whole family moving in the right direction. You may not have all the answers & you may not be right all the time, but your insight is a priceless resource to your husband. Explain to him in a tactful way that you would like to help him make the best decisions possible. Share with him that you sometimes notice different angles on a problem that he might be interested in. If you explain your insights in this way, he won't be threatened by a know-it-all attitude.
12. HOW TO GAIN YOUR HUSBAND'S APPRECIATION & PRAISE (See also "How to Become Your Husband's Best Friend")
I have found two ways a woman can increase her husband's appreciation for her & at the same time stimulate his outward expression of appreciation.
The Direct Approach
One way to show approval is the "direct" approach--expressing esteem for your husband verbally or through letters, love notes, & cards. I'm looking at two cards my wife sent me last month. In the past, I would have opened them & thought, "Isn't that nice?" before tossing them into the nearest trash can. But the more cards & letters I receive from my wife, the more anxious I am to reciprocate her "written praise." Now when I receive a note from her, I usually keep it for several readings. When she sends cards that cite specific qualities she appreciates in me, I feel inspired to think about her praiseworthy qualities & reciprocate with a card.
The Indirect Approach
The "indirect" approach is another way to show approval for your husband. Husbands & wives were using this approach long before the flood of marriage books hit the market.
My wife's mother had this approach down pat years ago. Through good grooming & an encouraging 5:00 p.m. greeting, she showed "indirect" approval for her husband. Every day she prepared for his homecoming by bathing & putting on fresh clothing. My wife says she can't remember a single time when her mother greeted her father with problems or complaints. Instead, she let him relax & made him feel important by the extra time & effort she spent to make one part of his day happy.
My wife's mom was a good teacher. I have never come home to the wife portrayed in cartoons--dressed in a sagging, torn housecoat & curlers as permanent as light fixtures. My wife always looks good & smells good.
Praise your husband to his male friends & their wives. Just think what good gossip you'll spread when you say positive things about your spouse. Quite a switch from the usual complaints! At this point, make a long list of the indirect ways you can show approval for your husband. Pick two or three of the best ones & be sure to apply them during the next week.
13. HOW TO HELP YOUR HUSBAND SHARE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR CHILDREN & THE HOUSEHOLD NEEDS
I would like all men everywhere, including your husband, to be a part of one of life's greatest challenges & obligations--family life. Here are several ways to increase his desire to "join the family."
Creatively Explain Your Need
For His Help
In general, a man doesn't understand a woman's need for help with the children & household responsibilities. Also, he may not understand how his neglectful ways affect your feelings of "going it alone." The only way your husband may ever understand you is for you to explain it to him. Many women, fearing ridicule, are ashamed to tell their husbands when they are physically exhausted.
You must paint a picture of yourself for your husband's benefit. Let it portray your physical limitations & your unique needs. Without it your husband may expect more than you're able to give. Paint another picture for him that shows exactly what you do around the house & with the children. Explain how many times a day you change your son's diapers, chase the children out of the street, & pick up after them. Help him picture the fatigue & pressure you face, knowing you'll never catch up with the housework. Open his eyes to the boredom you feel as you fold & refold, straighten & restraighten, tie & untie. Then tell him about the mental drain of answering hundreds of, "Mommy, can I..?" questions.
I learned the greatest lesson of my life not in college or graduate school but right in my own home. In one single lesson, I gained a deep understanding of what my wife goes through every day of her life. If every husband in America could undergo my experience, the wives in America would be enthroned as queens. What was the lesson? My wife had major surgery & spent two weeks in the hospital. During that time I took care of all three of our children. I cooked the meals--forty-two of them, not counting the eighty-four snacks in between. And I attempted to fulfill the thousands of household responsibilities in my "spare time." I soon realised it would take all I had just to keep up with the kids & do "surface" cleaning. I couldn't do half the work my wife normally did. One day she asked, "Have you been able to clean out the closet?" Clean the closet? Good grief, I had been stuffing things in the closet just to get them out of the way! Once I even lost one of the kids & found him lodged between the basketball & the dirty clothes! "Honey, I haven't had time to clean out the closet. I'm exhausted!" I responded. All those additional tasks she crammed into her schedule made me realise how frustrating & exhausting housework can be without help.
Perhaps you are one of the few completely organised women who can keep her household in perfect order with no assistance. I don't see how any woman can do that unless she neglects everything else in life to become the family maid. It would be far less backbreaking to gain your family's support in housekeeping. Try the following simple suggestion: Make it a game for each family member to pick up one misplaced item each time he or she leaves a room. That way, no one has to pick up everything, but everyone picks up something. And you don't have to face the frustration of straightening the house each time your family blows through.
Another suggestion: Once you've explained your need for his help, appeal to your husband for help on the basis of his physical strength & stamina. Let him know when you need his strength to move a dresser or lift a heavy box. Tell him how much more lively you would be in the evening if he joined with you in your many projects. And remember, share your needs in a gentle, non-threatening way.
Let me give you an example of how to empathise with your husband in this area: "Honey, I want you to know how much I appreciate your hard work. I realise you probably don't feel like helping me around the house after a hard day's work, but it sure would help me to meet your needs as a wife if you could do some things with me. Besides your physical help around the house, I'd also enjoy your company. You're just fun to be with."
After such a gentle suggestion, if your husband implies you've concocted a clever plan to get him to do your work, then try again another time. This is the perfect opportunity to express two of the inner qualities we talked about earlier--courage & persistance. Keep explaining in a gentle, creative way how much you need his at-home involvement, especially if you're working outside the home.
A close friend shared my sentiments recently as he recalled the birth of his second child. Calloused & ignorant of women's needs, he let his wife resume her normal chores too soon after a very difficult childbirth. For the next three years she endured severe pain until she finally had to have major surgery. He said he now realises that the pain & mental anguish she suffered could have been easily prevented by his tender understanding & help. Remember, you're doing him a big favor by helping him understand you. "Husbands...live with your wives in an understanding way...and grant her honor...so that your prayers may not be hindered." (1Peter 3:7).
Explain How His Help Will Bring
Lasting Benefits to Your Children
Children desperately need to see a genuine loving relationship between their parents. Experts have found that children who see a deep affection between their parents have fewer mental problems in life. Children whose parents are in conflict can lose their self-worth & can slip downhill into psychological problems.
Even a longstanding marriage can disintegrate if the husband or wife gives more love to the children than to his or her mate. The wife who loves her children more than her husband is endangering both her children & her marriage.
For your children's sake, it is crucial that you & your husband do everything possible to strengthen your love relationship. One of the best ways to demonstrate your love for each other is to do things together around the house. While you enjoy your husband's company, your children will be developing self-worth & security in the knowledge of their parents' healthy relationship.
Motivating Him to Help by
Showing Enthusiasm for His Help
Throughout this book we've stressed the importance of expressing approval through praise or other indirect methods. Perhaps the most forceful method is "lighting up"--showing enthusiastic appreciation with an appropriate facial expression. When you "light up" in response to your husband's help, you not only increase his feelings of self-worth, but you provide an incentive for him to help you in the future.
I've heard many wives say, "Whenever my husband helps around the house, he makes such a big deal out of it that I'd just as soon do it myself." Those women are forgetting that it is a big deal to him. He really believes any work he does after 5:00 is "overtime." Whenever he does a chore at home, large or small, he probably feels he's the greatest husband in the World. Don't pop his balloon by belittling his help. Instead, praise him & show genuine appreciation. Tell him you think he's extra-special since many husbands won't help their wives at all. Your praise will deepen his love for you & increase his desire to help you.
My mother had a knack for making me feel special. A widow for many years, she often needed my help around the house so she could work to support our family. Whenever I came home from school, the kitchen cupboard was usually stacked with breakfast & lunch dishes. Occasionally I cleaned up the mess, doing the best "little boy" job I could. When my mother came home from work & found it clean, she lit up with vivacious facial expressions. She never criticised my job, though I spilled plenty of water & broke a few dishes. She made such a big deal out of my little chore that I really felt great. The appreciation she showed made it all worthwhile.
When your husband does a "big thing" around the house, you can take one of two approaches. You can either drive him out with what he did wrong or draw him in with what he did right. Don't give your husband any excuse to avoid helping you in the future--no wrinkled brow, no disgusted grunt. Those of you who lean toward perfectionism will have to go extra-heavy on the patience until your husband learns how you want it done. Just accept his help, whatever its form, & correct it later.
And remember: It's never too late to change. One husband refused to help his wife with any household duties during nineteen years of marriage. But a personal crisis motivated him to change within three months. Now he clears the table after each meal & looks forward to washing the dishes with his wife. He also helps her with the laundry from start to finish. (His wife could have lost ground in their relationship by insisting on her special towel-folding method. Instead, she had fun showing him how to do it until he finally learned her way.)
Gaining His Help by Introducing
Him to a Real "Man's Man"
Keep your eyes open for a man whom your husband respects. If that man treats his wife the way you want to be treated, then try to spend more time with the couple so your husband can benefit from his example. However, never push your husband to change by comparing him to the other man. Believe me, your husband is much more likely to change as he notices his friend's living example.
Gaining His Help with a
Suggested "Honey-Do" List
My wife frequently gives me a list of four or five jobs she needs help with on Saturdays or after work hours. She's always careful not to overwhelm me with too many tasks per list. And she always explains any details about the list that would otherwise be unclear. Like, "Honey, the doorknob I wanted you to install wasn't available at the hardware store so I need you to order it from the catalog." I happen to enjoy fixing mechanical things, but your husband might not. If that is the case, don't put jobs on his list that are frustrating and/or impossible for him. Give him enough jobs to get him involved & lighten your load but not so many that he dreads your next list. And above all, try to include jobs he can do with you.
Once you've made your list, stimulate your husband's curiosity about it. Explain how his help will directly improve your relationship, make it easier to meet his needs, etc. If he still reacts negatively, either drop the idea for a while or decrease the number of tasks until he begins to see the benefits of helping you.
14. HOW TO MOTIVATE YOUR HUSBAND TO MEET YOUR MATERIAL NEEDS
This section will give you the essential tools to motivate your husband to cheerfully meet your needs as a wife, a mother, an individual, & a homemaker. After all, providing for his family is a basic Biblical responsibility (1Tim.5:8).
Through the years I have pinpointed five ways husbands have been successfully motivated to meet their wives' needs. These five will not necessarily have the same effect on all men, so you will need to determine which approach has the best potential for your husband. For many of you, trial & error may be the only way to discover the best approach.
1. Express your material need with conviction & enthusiasm.
Many women meet less resistance, criticism, & questioning when they express their needs directly to their husbands. Though the direct approach may fail with some husbands, I do know it works on me. I really appreciate my wife's straightforward, enthusiastic, & logical way of expressing the needs of our family. "Conviction & influence" is the Hebrew meaning of the "virtuous" woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31.
Here again we focus on the value of women. Since women appear to be more observant about relationships, it would be reasonable to assume that you more readily notice the special physical needs of your family & your children. And since men tend to be more preoccupied with their vocation, they need reminders. Recognise your strength & let your husband see your convictions & enthusiasm.
Let me also remind you that timing & attitude are crucial to the effectiveness of this approach. Be particularly sensitive to your husband's state of mind before you approach the subject of needs. He may need time to relax, take a shower, or jog before you begin the discussion. Once he's ready, share your needs & your feelings honestly but not critically. Take care not to accuse your husband of being unconcerned. Above all, avoid anger. It can provoke your husband to dig his heels & rationalise his attitudes more than ever.
An enthusiastic attitude can evoke just the opposite response. When a husband picks up his wife's contagious enthusiasm, he too will consider her needs top priority. Get the enthusiasm flowing by recognising that your needs are valid & worth expressing with confidence. Your husband will notice the difference & begin to acknowledge your special awareness of needs.
2. Appeal to his sense of logic.
Most men require an orderly presentation of facts before they can make a decision. That's why it's important that you learn how to express needs in a way he can "process" them. Any time you want to present a need to your husband, ask yourself the following four questions:
1. Why do I need it?
2. What is the best product on the market?
3. Where can I buy it for the lowest price?
4. What will be the consequences if I don't buy it now? As you consider the answers to this question, the weak supports for your need will fall away, hopefully leaving the genuine urgency for it. Thoughtful consideration may reveal you really don't need to make the purchase in the time frame you originally established. If that is the case, the time pressure will be lifted like a burden from your shoulders. On the other hand, you may discover serious consequences that would result by not making the purchase immediately. That kind of evidence would communicate the urgency of the need to any husband.
After you have the answers to each of these four questions, you should be ready to make a logical presentation to your husband. If after plenty of research you still don't know which item to buy or where to buy it, then get your husband in on the act. Anything you can do together will strengthen your relationship.
3. Express gratefulness for the needs he has already met.
There are plenty of creative ways to express gratefulness for the material needs your husband has met. One wife expressed gratefulness by getting rid of a piece of furniture her husband hated. When he noticed it was gone, she told him she had disposed of it to express appreciation for the way he had met a family need.
4. Learn to be satisfied with your husband alone.
For years I was burdened with my wife's material expectations & had little motivation to meet her needs the way she desired. But suddenly she changed course. Nearly every day she expressed genuine appreciation for me. Material possessions took a back seat. After a full year of her direct & indirect appreciation, I finally realised that she did love me just for being me, not for what I did for her. Soon I was looking for every opportunity to meet her needs & our family's needs. I didn't think of denying her that furniture she wanted for years. Now that I knew her expectations weren't on the furniture, I felt free to buy it for her.
I have met wives so content in their personal relationships with God, their husbands, & their families that they are able to live happily in circumstances as they are, with the philosophy, "What you've got is not nearly as important as who you've got."
5. Keep a "honey-do" list of material needs.
This last approach may turn many men off, but for some, like myself, it provides a handy reminder of genuine needs. A "Honey-Do" list is a record of material needs you would like your husband to meet within a given period of time. The items on the list should be reasonable & attainable for your husband with your budget. It serves as a "preview" of family needs, releasing your husband from the pressure of unexpected expenses. Use your sensitivity to determine whether your husband would genuinely appreciate a list like this. If you sense he is interested, begin to work on the list together & put the items in order according to their importance. If you notice your husband feeling burdened by the list, by all means revise it or tear it up. Its purpose is to ease, not increase his load.
I'm for all husbands meeting their wives' material needs in a loving way. I'm confident that you can motivate your husband to do this by living the five approaches I've described. But I hope you will keep your affection & desire centered upon the Lord & your husband instead of material possessions. Only relationships afford lifelong satisfaction, not things.
15. HOW TO INCREASE & DEEPEN YOUR HUSBAND'S AFFECTION FOR YOU
Even in the courtship phase of your relationship, his affection for you didn't "just happen." It grew in response to something he liked about you. Perhaps his feelings were stirred by your appearance, your personality, or the way you made him feel. If you have disposed of these positive qualities, his love for you may have dwindled to apathy.
During the courtship days you probably had limited exposure to your fiance. It was easy for each of you to put the other's needs or best interests first since you didn't have to do it twenty-four hours a day. Obviously, if your fiance was putting your best interests first & fulfilling your needs to the neglect of his own, your heart was melting daily in response to him, & vice versa. After marriage, things quickly changed. The exposure was no longer limited to times when you were both "at your best." His own interests began to take precedence over yours & vice versa. Under these circumstances it didn't take long for swelling affections to subside.
That's why "the other woman" is at such an advantage. She can offer the new attractions your husband assumes you have lost. She can quickly stir the deep, romantic feelings your husband longs to feel toward you. In the context of their brief encounters, both of them can temporarily subdue their self-centered natures & put the best foot forward. What specifically can you do to increase your inward beauty which is naturally reflected through your eyes & facial expressions & definitely increases your attractiveness?
(See also "How to Become Your Husband's Best Friend")
1. Plan activities that make him feel special.
2. Occasionally be the initiator in the sexual area of your relationship. One way to make the occasion more fulfilling for you & your husband is for each of you to concentrate on meeting each other's sexual needs. I have found that a selfless, giving attitude contributes most to sexual enjoyment. A man's greatest fulfillment comes when he puts his whole heart into stimulating his wife & bringing her into a climactic experience. At the same time, a woman is most fulfilled when she concentrates on meeting her husband's needs. Selfish sex does nothing but remove the potential for maximum pleasure.
3. Remain flexible. Most women would like to have their days scheduled from beginning to end, with no surprises. Schedules can be beneficial when they provide a guide for the day, but they can also become inflexible taskmasters. The day is ruined for some women when one item on their schedule has to be changed. All they can think about when their husbands come home is, "I'm behind on my schedule, & tomorrow will be worse if I don't catch up before bedtime."
Occasionally I come home late at night after meeting with a couple or a group. It really means a lot to me when my wife wakes up & spends a few minutes listening to me unwind as I tell her about my evening. Sure she's making a sacrifice, but it makes me feel important & deepens my affection for her. Your schedule is important, I realise. However, you need to maintain a balance by being able to set aside your priorities from time to time to pay special attention to your husband & his needs. That's genuine love.
4. Keep yourself in good physical condition. Health's most bitter enemies are lack of sleep & an improper diet. When they team up with constant stress, they can leave a woman irritable--not exactly an invitation to her husband's affection. One doctor told me that exercise not only improves one's physical condition but also provides an excellent remedy for discouragement & depression. Establish a routine of regular, vigorous exercise, whether it be jogging, bicycling, an exercise class, or working out at a health spa.
5. Increase your responsiveness to your husband. A man loves a responsive woman. In fact, a man's self-confidence is directly related to the way others respond to him. A man will tie his affection to those who respond to him & remove it from those who don't.
In marriage, submission is not always simultaneous. Someone has to begin. If it doesn't start with your husband, then why not let it start with you? Perhaps he'll take advantage of your submission at first, but eventually he may take up your mature approach himself.
Also, carefully consider what your husband says without reacting to him. Give attentive consideration to what your husband says without reacting negatively. Don't just accept the surface meaning of his statement. Ask questions & probe gently until you have a thorough understanding of what he's really trying to say. Don't play mind reader. Too many wives assume they know their husbands well enough to predict what they are going to say. Some wives even claim to know their husbands' hidden motives. If you're going to assume anything, I hope that you will assume pure motives on your husband's part. If you do, you will be much less resistant & much more responsive to his statements. Don't react to his statements while he's speaking, but consider them & retain anything of value in them.
"You're just being weak," one husband said when his wife asked for an occasional, "I love you." Needing reassurance of his love, verbally she had been slapped in the face. Obviously her affectionate feelings were dampened by his comment. Had she only stepped out of the circle of offence & taken time to consider his response, she could have learned a lot--that she needed to share why his expressions of love were important, that he approached the subject from a different reference point, & that he had not intended to hurt her.
As you become more responsive to your husband by learning to yield & not react, you will increase his self-confidence & self-worth. As a result, he'll gain a deeper affection for you.
6. Keep the imagination in your relationship alive. As they say, "Variety is the spice of life." So put some spice into your marriage. One of the best ways to keep the imagination alive in your relationship is to be well-informed. Ask your friends how they add creativity to their marriages. Read about subjects that would stimulate interesting conversation. My wife contributes so much to the variety of our marriage because she is constantly learning. She not only keeps her mind alert by reading, but she also takes courses on nutrition, gourmet cooking, & other special subjects. It seems she always has something new & interesting to talk about.
7. Clear up your past offenses toward him. Perhaps the greatest step toward maturity is learning how to admit when we are wrong. When we can humbly seek another's forgiveness, we not only clear the offence but we also gain the respect of the offended one. What takes more courage--ignoring your offence or admitting it? The only time I ever sensed a negative reaction when I asked for forgiveness was when I asked with an accusing attitude. When others sensed a lack of genuine sorrow, they often reacted with bitterness or anger. But when they sensed a sincere grief on my part, their respect for me seemed to increase. Not only is God drawn to the humble--so are others (James 4:6).
8. Remain a challenge to your husband. I've discovered a deep truth in Proverbs: "If a man is hungry, almost anything is sweet; if he is full, even honey is distasteful" (Prov.27:7, my paraphrase). What a powerful statement of human nature--we all tend to desire what we cannot have & become bored with what we have conquered. Before you married, you probably were your husband's number one challenge. He got more of a charge out of winning you than anything else in life.
A man is often willing to set aside everything--relationships, projects, vocation--in order to pursue the woman he wants to marry. Unfortunately, soon after the wedding his sense of challenge departs, & he "buries himself" in projects, vocation, & other relationships. "Ah, but if I play hard to get, that'll get my husband's attention," you say. No, that may only frustrate him. But if you maintain a confident independence, showing him that he is not your sole purpose for living, he will feel challenged once again.
Before we were married, I dated my wife sporadically over a period of four years. It seemed she was always available. I could call her on a moment's notice & she was always ready to go out with me. She was easy to talk to, & I loved being with her. But I took her for granted--perhaps because she was always available when I called her.
Then one day I heard she was dating another guy. For some strange reason my affection for her increased immediately. I thought I was going to lose her. I pursued her vigorously--all the way to the altar. But once we were married, the challenge was over. Boredom began to set in for both of us. Through many of the principles in this book, we overcame the boredom, & to this day my wife remains a challenge to me. I know she is not totally dependent upon me for her happiness. She has a deep relationship with God & looks to Him for her ultimate fulfillment (Psa.62:1-2; Eph.3:19-20).
9. Use your natural attractive qualities. I realise that your husband's inattentiveness through the years may have drained you of some of these qualities, may have driven you to scream or throw things, may have caused you to ignore him. But if you are to recapture his attention, you must somehow recapture & exhibit those qualities unique to you that first drew him to you. (These same qualities are very likely what might now attract him into the arms of another woman who exhibits them.)
10. Gently teach him by sharing your feelings. Sharing your feelings takes persistence, but it also takes a method that really helps a man to better understand your true feelings. The most effective method I'm aware of is called "feeling word pictures."
These are feeling words related to a man's interests or past experiences. Here are some examples:
* I feel like I'm a sixty-minute cassette tape & you play me romantically at night like I'm a ten-minute tape.
* I feel like a towel after a full day of washing dirty trucks.
* I feel like a two-hour-old McDonald's hamburger.
* I feel like a worm after catching a big fish.
* I feel like a golf ball after 18 holes for one important tournament, discarded or ignored.
16. HOW TO BECOME YOUR HUSBAND'S BEST FRIEND
One of the most important objectives of this book is to help you become your husband's best friend. If you achieve this goal, many of the other objectives we talked about will automatically fall into place. A best friend is someone with whom you share intimately, someone with whom you love to spend time. Maybe that doesn't describe your husband's feelings for you at present--or your feelings for him. But don't give up hope. We will discuss some additional ways you can become his closest companion.
Share Common Experiences Together
A concern for togetherness helps to draw families together, an effort to spend more time in group activities rather than individual activities. Of course, not all individual activities are non-productive or harmful to family life. Your love for antiques & your son's love for caterpillars makes for a healthy balance. There is no reason to cut out or infringe upon all individual interests. Flexibility will allow togetherness & individuality.
However, one family member should not expect another to participate in distasteful or offensive activities. And no family member should attempt to be another's conscience. I don't believe you should force yourself to violate your own conscience just to be together as a family. (Not participating in distasteful activities is an important part of Romans 14.) Neither should you condemn those in your family for any of their activities. If a certain family function is distasteful, simply share in a gentle, noncondemning way that you would rather not participate. I have found that when a wife stands firm on her personal convictions in a nonjudgmental manner, it only adds to her family's respect for her.
Attack & Conquer Tragedies as
A Couple, Not as Individuals
Lasting friendships are built in foxholes. Nothing binds two people together faster than a common struggle against the enemy. Virtually any crisis can draw you & your husband closer, whether it be a stopped-up sink or a death in the family. No one hunts for tragedy, but if it strikes at your door, you can strengthen your marriage by dealing with it as a team.
One of America's great preachers tells how a tremendous sorrow united his family. He & his wife faced the "typical" years of rebellion. Their family life was pleasant but not intimate. One day, to everyone's amazement, his wife came home & announced she was pregnant. No one was unusually excited; the last thing they felt they needed was another mouth to feed & keep quiet.
Soon after the baby was born, things changed. He became the apple of everyone's eye. His sweet, gentle spirit was apparent from the day he came home from the hospital. The children were so in love with him they argued over who would get to babysit with him. When the baby was only a year old, he became very ill & had to be rushed to the hospital. The whole family waited anxiously for the doctor's report. That sweet little boy had leukemia. For three days & nights the family waited together in a single room, watching over their baby, praying & hoping he would live. On the third day he died. Overwhelmed with grief, they went home to start a new life without him. Never again would they take one another for granted. Their mutual love & commitment would remain strong. Without a doubt, the death of their baby was the greatest tragedy any of them had ever experienced, but out of it came a tremendous love, intimacy, & appreciation for each family member.
Make Important Decisions Together
It was the Fourth of July, & my wife & I were getting ready for a picnic when we burst into a heated argument. After a few minutes, things had only gotten worse. We could see we were going to be late for the picnic so we postponed the argument till later.
I was fed up with our history of arguments. It seemed we couldn't stay out of a fight for a day. I asked my wife, "Would you be willing to try a new approach for a few weeks?" She agreed.
What we agreed upon that day has had a powerful impact on our marriage. It has forced us to communicate on deeper levels than I ever thought existed, helping us to gain an understanding of our individual viewpoints. It has forced us to look beneath surface opinions & discover the very root of our own thinking. When we disagree about a situation, our commitment to this principle helps us verbalise our feelings until we understand each other.
On that Fourth of July we agreed never to make final decisions on matters that affected both of us unless we both agreed. If we don't arrive at unity before the bus gets here, we don't get on it. We've relied on this principle in all sorts of situations. Both of us assume responsibility for sharing our feelings honestly because we know we can't go anywhere until we're in agreement.
Develop a Sense a Humour
There are countless ways to add humour to your marriage. Be willing to set aside the serious quest for romance at times to enjoy just having fun together as friends.
PLEASE DON'T FORGET
First, don't expect miracles overnight. Nearly everything of genuine worth takes time to perfect. These principles do work when applied over a period of time with persistence & a loving attitude.
Second, seek after the Lord with your whole heart, & you will find Him real & fulfilling (Luke 11:9; James 4:8).
Third, don't panic or give up when you fail. As you begin to apply these principles, you may "blow it" frequently. For example, you may find yourself using "you" statements instead of "I feel" statements without even thinking about it. Don't worry. It takes time to change habits. When you find yourself failing to apply a principle, make a mental note of the situation & vow to respond correctly the next time a similar situation arises. As time passes, you'll find yourself succeeding more frequently & failing less often. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you're a failure just because you have failings. You're only a failure when you've given up all hope & effort to succeed.
May God bless you as you dedicate yourself to a more fulfilling & loving relationship. Remember, He wants it for you as much as you do (John 15:11-13).