APPRECIATION--WHAT EVERY WOMAN NEEDS!
--By Ruth McRoberts Ward
First of all, for a happy marriage, husband & wife must communicate with each other, openly & honestly, about their inner feelings, thoughts, wishes & intentions.
Second, in order to keep a marriage working smoothly, husband & wife must help & keep on helping each other. They must offer appreciation & support.
Do these things & keep on doing them in your marriage, & all will be well. Fail to do them, & you will run into trouble sooner or later!
Effective communication in marriage is what this is all about. Some couples live together for years & never reveal their real selves. Some spouses are reluctant to divulge their intimate feelings, desires, & needs for fear that they will be misunderstood or rejected. Other mates, willing to share & listen, just need assistance in learning how.
Just as men yearn for & respond to encouragement, women hunger for appreciation. It surprises some men that women even need any kind of encouragement because they seem to operate very well without it. "After all," I've heard some men say, "they have the children who need them & hang on to every word they say." Others have defended their neglect by saying, "She seems very happy with running around, her job, & taking care of the house."
Appreciation, synonymous with love, is so vital to women, that husbands must make it their daily concern!
THE WOMAN'S ROLE
In bygone days, a woman was expected to marry soon after highschool graduation, have a family, & depend on her husband's decisions & financial support. Only if one went unclaimed or chose a religious career was she socially free to enter the man's World, support herself, & make her own decisions. Very few women mixed career & marriage.
Since the majority of couples had large families & few modern conveniences, the mother's week was consumed by survival.
A woman with six or seven kids--or fourteen in some cases--was on duty until her mid-fifties, always having a little one at home to keep her from being lonely. Married children, often living next door or on the next farm, prolonged the mother's sense of worth by depending on her assistance as a grandmother. These women never ran out of things to do. In fact, women were so domestically involved, they hardly had time to wonder if they were happy as individuals!
But now, men & women alike are challenging many of the traditional limitations of female roles.
HUSBANDS--BABIES OR KINGS?
Expansion of women's roles is naturally affecting men, exposing insecurities & fears in many, selfishness & impatience in others, but gentleness, consideration & encouragement in those who are open-minded & willing to care, listen & learn.
Bold, bossy women really frighten men, & rightly so. Some men, coming from homes where their mothers ruled, are actually so intimidated by women's powerful influence that they choose to be babies.
On the other hand, men from male chauvinistic homes seem almost afraid to encourage their wives at all for fear their wives will take advantage of them. In order to protect their authority, prestige or personal welfare, they become bold & bossy kings.
We will compare these two common types of husbands.
Mommy-Wives. Some men get married primarily because they want someone to assume their mother's role--wake them, feed them, take care of their belongings, nurse them, keep them from being lonely & bawl them out when they are late or negligent.
Because a mommy-wife assumes the bulk of running the home, children & finances, she often becomes very domineering & treats her mate like another child, talking down to him & ordering him around. This not only destroys the respect children have for their father, but chips away at a man's self-esteem as well. Because some men choose to be so dependent on their wives, they are often labeled "hen-pecked".
Some women receive lots of satisfaction from being mommy-wives, especially those who have little else to occupy their minds & time & those who like to be in control. At the same time, as much as men enjoy being pampered, this lifestyle impedes a growing marriage relationship. There is a difference between being a mommy-wife & pampering a husband with loving & thoughtful support & attention.
Doormat wives. The opposite view--husbands as kings--is really the same song, just a different verse. The husband's word is law. He dictates like a Prussian general.
Some wives are doormats by force, others by choice. The former are sometimes noisy martyrs who let off steam by complaining regularly behind their husband's stiff backs to women friends & relatives--often children--about their unfair treatment. Those who choose the doormat roles are like obedient slaves, enduring verbal & even physical abuse & neglect, while quietly taking the blame for every domestic problem.
Many Gospel preachers sincerely advocate that God intended woman, because she was created second, to be totally subordinate to man, pouring her total personality & abilities into making him successful, comfortable & number one. Many women agree. They completely overlook the admonition for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. Christlike love is sacrificial, tender & uplifting. Therefore, men should treat women as equals & not as doormats.
Only a very insecure man whips a woman into submission or subordination. In a home where a man sets himself up as a tyrant, no one can be happy, not even the man!
Companion wives. Not all husbands fall into the "babies or kings" patterns; but many have tinges of one or both in varying degrees. The husband goes his way, the wife goes hers. Both may work hard at jobs they enjoy but be disappointed & disillusioned about the joys of matrimony.
Women yearn for meaningful male companionship, particularly with their husbands. Most men don't know how to give emotional support because the average woman does not understand men well enough to know how to draw from them the support they crave. A woman has a greater emotional need than a man has, consciously at least, whereas the husband finds it more difficult to express his feelings, even though in doing so he would be giving his wife the support she needs.
How to establish a relationship through understanding & appreciation is our purpose. We all know that opposites attract, though opposites do not get along easily. In nearly every marriage combination that I have encountered, I find natural differences to be the main source of friction & drawbacks to understanding & acceptance.
A non-talker chooses a gabby person, & a bubbly personality is attracted to a super-serious one. Many partnerships harbour a night person & an early riser, a slow-motioned one & one who chomps at the bit, a positive-prone person & one who thinks negatively. Throw in cultural & sex differences & it is easy to see why sparks fly. But these individual qualities, when blended properly, produce wholeness, strength & security.
WHY WOMEN ARE DISSATISFIED
Taken for granted. A marriage is on the rocks. Bev knows it, Mark does not. He goes his way & she goes hers. They rarely talk, never argue. She takes care of the house, works, disciplines the children, pays the bills, maintains contact with his & her relatives etc., but she is restless.
Women don't mind taking care of their husband's domestic needs, but they want to be liberated from being expected to treat husbands as spoiled children & from feeling obligated to manage the home alone just because they are female. Wives want to be understood as persons & to be appreciated for who they are, not just for what they do. Women instinctively like to serve, but they resent being taken for granted.
Lack of conversation. "I learn more about Mike when we visit someone or when I listen to a phone conversation," Sue said. "He doesn't volunteer anything about himself or ask anything about my day or my feelings."
Passing on family, neighbourhood, or office gossip & exchanging daily health & financial information is not real communication but shallow chit-chat.
In-depth communication. In counselling husbands & wives together, it is amazing to me how little couples really know about each other's deep yearnings, ideas, goals, feelings & dissatisfactions. In-depth communication is not possible until people intentionally try to understand from where each is coming & purposely appreciate & consider the other's needs.
Bruce & Cindy had been married nearly five years. They had bought & furnished a suburban split-level, acquired two automobiles, adequately provided for two children, & afforded golfing & bowling supplies & fees. Bruce, content with earning a good pay check & coming home to a wife, children, clean house & dinner on the table, had settled down. He was satisfied.
Cindy, on the other hand, outwardly happy with her financial security & a husband for which other wives envied her, was extremely busy--resentfully confined--with child care, housework & an absent husband. She assumed that the lack of excitement & luster in her life must certainly mean that her love for Bruce had died.
Since feelings for a spouse may lose some tingle & excitement because of familiarity, a couple must school themselves in the reality that true love is based on trust. The routine of child & home care plus jobs needs to be blended with plenty of adult companionship & quality time with each other.
Bruce & Cindy had not learned how to communicate. He was unaware that she needed encouragement, attention, approval & assistance. Neither had they learned the art of in-depth sharing but assumed that lack of argument guaranteed good communication. So Bruce was shattered one day when he found out Cindy had left him.
Lack of companionship in marriage plagues all types of couples who discover much to their surprise, after spending a lifetime together, that they share only material things, relatives & health problems.
MATE OR MONEY?
Male/female differences. A man draws considerable strength from the interest he has in things, while a woman is interested in things to the extent that she feels that a person is interested in her.
Psychologists confirm that men are more likely to suffer deep depression, even to the point of ending their lives, after loss of job, position or health, more so than from domestic problems, while most women can endure almost any problem better than a relationship failure. In short, a woman wants to be most important to a man while a man usually considers being financially secure of first importance.
Vying for prime time. "Ronnie has been a faithful mate & dependable husband for 15 years. But I'm not happy," Julie shared. "Ronnie & I just don't have any fun. There's no time for it, for one thing. He brings work home every night. By the time I handle chauffeuring the kids, supervising homework, dinner & so on, it's late. I don't think he even minds that we never talk, go places together, or laugh any more.
"He plays golf every weekend with his buddies. I wait for him to come home, wait for him to get rested, then wait until he watches his favourite TV show. By then, there's no time left for us, or I'm so tired that I don't care if we have time together or not."
I find that most husbands are agreeable to more time with their wives, but, as a rule, they are not good at thinking up interesting things to do after work. If wives wait around for their husbands to work them into their schedules & suggest recreational ideas, they will end up like Julie--neglected.
Before they yield to someone else's attention, women have a responsibility to explain their need for attention & prime-time activities with their husbands.
Receiving recognition. When I was 25 & had several children, I felt like running away. We lived on Rattlesnake Hill in far west Texas where neighbours were few & far away. Jim managed a gas business & pastored a mission church as well. I felt like a robot, taking service calls for him, fixing meals for his unpredictable arrival time & serving as unofficial assistant pastor.
Jim was often so tired after a 12-hour work day, that he had little energy to contribute to my emotional needs. Although I was busy all day doing the things I enjoyed--sewing, studying, teaching the children, visiting for the church, cleaning, baking, etc., I was still not satisfied.
I was so hungry for adult conversation & Jim's approval that I would follow him into the bathroom, pelting him with one question after the other. I would ask him, "Did you think about me today?" to which he would often reply with regrettable honesty, "No, I didn't. I had too many other things on my mind." Then I would cry.
I didn't know it then, but realised later that all I needed to hear was, "Ruthie, I appreciate how hard you have worked today," or "My, it's good to be with you," or "I appreciate your taking the business calls & making the visits to the church people."
Fortunately, Jim is a very fast learner & I keep little to myself. So we discovered each others' needs. Our communication has been on good footing ever since we learned to understand each other's preferences & appreciate each other's needs.
In turn, then, I shower on him those things he needs to hear, & do for him those things which he revels in having done for him. We are busy helping each other become the best person each can become, helping each other reach personal goals. To me, that's an ideal set-up. This does not mean that we never disagree or suffer disappointment, but we have learned the value of talking & listening.
Bestowing attention. A husband's public pride in his wife satisfies the woman's craving for belonging. Most women conceded that they like to be seen with their husbands in public so people will know "this handsome, important man loves me, is proud to be with me & chose me for his companion."
Many women also enjoy their mate giving a little public expression of affection & recognition so that others will know that he really does adore & approve of his spouse.
Women delight to hear from their husbands, "I enjoy being with you," "You are so sweet," "I like the natural way you have of making others feel important," "You're beautiful", & similar uplifting statements.
Flaunting attention. Wives love to brag to other women, "My husband cleans the bathroom," "scrubs the kitchen floor," "brings me breakfast in bed," "carries out the garbage," "helps me clean house" etc. It is not that the women want their husbands to be their servants, but that they need reassurance of their personal worth.
I feel important & appreciated when I get into bed & see that Jim, very conscious of my dislike of getting into a cold bed, has already turned on the electric blanket. It is a little thing, but it is important!
Innocent oversight. Eleven months after we were married, anticipation mounted as my first birthday as his wife approached. The day was about to end without one sign that Jim was aware it was my special day. Birthday celebrations in my family were always a big deal--decorated & candled cakes magically appeared & wrapped gifts were always creatively camouflaged until just the right moment.
Jim had indeed forgotten my birthday--an unforgivable oversight. I was crushed. As usual, I about drowned in bitter tears of self-pity.
Jim took me into his arms, dried my tears & inquired tenderly, "Honey, what had you wanted me to do?" It never dawned on me that birthdays in his family were no big deal. How did he know what I expected? So I told him what I had anticipated, risking that he would reject my need for attention as immature & childish.
The risk was worth it! He has not missed my birthday since. In fact, I have had a delicious, homemade cake every year & a gift--even when he has been out of town--for the more than 25 years that we have been married.
Ladies, don't keep your desires to yourself. You not only hurt yourself, but deny your husband the privilege of giving you the attention that will build his ego as he meets your needs.
Falling out of acquaintance. George & Jenny, both Christians in an evangelical denomination, have been married 17 years. Marrying right out of high school, Jenny sacrificially encouraged George through college, like many wives do, & on to a managerial position. She has taken great pride in her personal beauty as well as in maintaining a lovely home & in lavishing exceptional care on her husband & children.
The fact that her self-confidence & personal happiness rested totally on George & the children never concerned Jenny until George became fascinated with a co-worker.
George--the last person in the World anyone would suspect--fell victim to a brief affair.
What had happened? Whose fault? Mostly Jenny's. Here's why.
Because Jenny lacked confidence & felt educationally inferior to George, all through the years she had willingly accepted the blame for problems, ignoring her own personal dissatisfaction with their lack of conversation & companionship. She had kept disagreements to herself. She had placed George on such a high pedestal that she was afraid to infringe on his time to satisfy her hungers for his attention.
Because she kept all these feelings to herself, George naturally was unaware of her need for his support & was also blind to his own selfish immaturities. Since he received the bulk of his self-esteem from his work & assumed that Jenny gleaned her quota from homemaking responsibilities, Jenny's negligence fashioned George into an insensitive husband. This pattern was killing their marriage. They were falling out of acquaintance like a battery running out of juice.
George had learned to regard Jenny as his personal maid & mistress. Though he loved her, he searched elsewhere for a challenging companionship with someone who stood up to him as an individual & admitted needs that he could fill.
Wives function on appreciation! In fact, a wife will ordinarily put up with any inconvenience or deprivation if she knows her husband sincerely appreciates her contribution &/or sacrifice.
But many wives are reluctant to express their needs to their husbands because they are afraid of two things--that their husbands will not care or understand, & that praise will not be spontaneous.
So women imagine what they want to hear or have done, & when they do not hear it or experience it, they are hurt.
David & Vera Mace in "Christian Freedom for Women" say: "The average husband is ham-handed & helpless when he is confronted by his wife's real emotions. So she learns to bottle them, & he learns not to ask her about her deeper thoughts & feelings & not to tell her about his. Since their attempts to achieve intimacy produce alarming results, they back up & settle for a superficial relationship which is not really satisfying & is not really what they wanted. They become disillusioned & drift apart. This is a pretty good description of how millions of American marriages get onto the rocks."
Pleasing for praise. Dozens of women have admitted that they plow through a messy house, prepare delicious meals etc. for the same main reason--their husband's approval. "Let's straighten the house before Daddy comes home," a mother instructs.
Everything I did was for Jim--every floor I scrubbed, meal I prepared & pie I baked. I wanted him to appreciate what a good wife I was & to know how much I loved him. But Jim did not realise that at first. When he did discover my motive he did not want to be to blame for how tired presenting a spotless house made me! And expressing approval about the condition of the house was not one of his natural talents. When 10 or 15 minutes had passed after Jim's arrival home from work, & he had not said anything, my disappointment would surface.
"What's wrong?" he would ask.
"Didn't you notice the kitchen floor? I waxed it today. I also washed & starched the bathroom curtains."
"It always looks nice, Ruthie", he would say.
"But I did it for you," I would reason. That always blew his mind.
"Well, don't work so hard, then, if you do it for me," he would scold. "I don't demand that." Jim was a good teacher.
I have relaxed a lot in my personal slave-driving efforts as my security & trust in Jim has grown.
Jan & Carl were at each others' throats about everything. They could not agree about finances, recreation, disciplining the children, or even on menus.
Carl was very organised. Jan was more casual. She washed laundry when she got ready & not at the beginning of each day as Carl suggested. He griped about her not taking his shirts out of the dryer immediately. Though he admitted she would press them, she did not do it on his time schedule.
He also disapproved of her emptying the dishwasher as she set the table for the next meal rather than as soon as it was finished washing. "Why can't she be more organised?" he asked.
Because Jan did not meet Carl's expectations on all these matters of organisation, his approval of her was nil. He demonstrated displeasure by picking at everything she did & did not do. He continually criticised, thinking she would finally learn how to be a decent housewife.
The more Carl criticised, the more defensive & stubborn Jan became. Although Jan was acutely aware that her husband was not happy with her, she did not know how to alter his opinions without changing her own personality. She was just as unhappy about his finicky ways, though she withheld criticism.
The mechanics of conversation. Before communication happens, couples must understand & appreciate the others' unique characteristics, then accept each other as he or she is.
"One gripe I have," Carl shared, "is that Jan never shuts the kitchen cabinet doors. She is so sloppy. It just takes a second to close them. I've asked her over & over to please shut them. I just can't stand to eat a meal with 11 doors wide open."
"It's my turn," Jan declared. "First of all, I don't leave all the doors open all the time. Second, I don't think he understands what a drag it is to open & close those doors all the time. He threatened to put locks on them," Jan said. "I don't think he has any right to talk to me like I'm a child. I resent that! Furthermore, I can't see anything wrong with doors being open while I'm working. My shelves don't look that bad. It is just a lot of trouble to close them every time I get something out. It's my kitchen. I don't see why it is any of his business how I choose to keep it. I don't bother his workshop & tools."
Carl verbalised disappointment that Jan was not organised & neat. Unfortunately, he thought that pointing out all of her shortcomings (in his opinion) & failures would encourage her to become neat & disciplined like he was. He could not have been more wrong. He accused her of even becoming worse on purpose. She admitted that the more he complained, the less she felt like pleasing him & the messier she got. Neither wanted to budge an inch. Jan wanted Carl's approval & praise, which is an outgrowth of respect. Carl wanted her to care enough about him to keep the house as he wanted it. They had reached a dead end.
In finer analysis, we discovered that the gaping cabinets actually violated Carl's natural bent to orderliness, making him feel insecure & untidy. When Jan learned that the open cabinets had more to do with him than with her, she was quite willing to try harder to keep them closed. So they compromised. She promised to close the doors, & he promised not to be critical of her home lifestyle.
During the next visit, Carl was delighted to share that the problem with the cabinet doors was indeed solved, that Jan had bent over backwards to keep them shut. And he sincerely appreciated her effort. Likewise, with smiles, Jan reported that Carl had kept criticism to a minimum. They had a good week.
A picky little problem was solved, but not without miles of conversation. In the process of exchanging true feelings, Carl & Jan gathered up deeper understanding & new appreciation for each other.