1. Men and women are different and do not speak the same language. There’s an old joke in our house, once while I was cleaning the oven my husband got frustrated with me and said “I don’t care about the oven, all I need is bacon, sex, and the remote control!” It’s a funny memory because he was totally serious, but my brain at the time could not conceive of anyone having such simple needs. I honestly believed he should be pleased with my oven cleaning efforts. Why? Because I would be pleased if someone cleaned my oven! But men are not us, men tend to value different things.
2.Men and women perceive love differently. It’s a terrible injustice but what men tend to need in a marriage is respect, encouragement, and sex. All I really need is provision, protection, guidance, wisdom, someone to address my emotional life, identify my needs, build intimacy, establish trust, create loyalty, provide romance, encourage, nurture, support…..are your eyes glazed over yet? Oh, and also I am insane, so in my case those issues are going to be a bit more complex.
All in good humor here, but those needs of mine seem perfectly reasonable to me. That is how I relate to other people, that is how I express love. That is often how women relate to each other. Should be a piece of cake, we do it all the time. This is a perfectly normal way of being in the world! Men however, are not women and it is not reasonable or fair to expect them to be. Men have their own way of loving women and it is really rather sweet, but we have to give them room to express it.
Good husbands often get to know their wives very well and will grow into being able to meet many of those needs, over time. Just as I learned that cleaning the oven was not an effective way of earning my husband’s favor, men too adapt and learn how to respond to their wives. My husband now knows me better than I know myself.
3. Men really need to feel respect to feel love. To this day, nearly 3 decades into marriage, this one still throws me sometimes. It is simply not my world so sometimes I forget, but it is genuinely important for men to feel respected by their wives. It is so easy to make a glib joke or an off hand remark and hurt them. It is so easy to unconsciously undermine them. Men need to know that they have great value and worth in our eyes and we have to show them. How we perceive husbands means everything to them. To not have a woman’s respect is actually painful.
4. Men have to teach their wives. That’s probably politically incorrect to say in a world that seems to want to resist all implications of authority, but how else are wives to know what husbands need and want? We are not mind readers either (although we are better at the mind reading than you are.)
Consider this young man I know wryly telling me recently how his wife looks at him with such disgust in her eyes when he comes home from work. He’s now avoiding her, he’s becoming unhappy, there is tension there. So has he talked to her? No! Well sorry, but you’re going to have to actually talk to your wife! I honestly have no idea what is going on there, maybe he is tracking mud in the house, maybe her face is just frozen that way, or maybe she’s trying to get a reaction out of you. Regardless, ignoring it won’t make it go away and she may well be twice as frustrated as you are simply because you are completely ignoring her. Do not try to live that way, speak up.
Hubby and I are quite playful these days and know each other well, but there have been many times he’s had to speak up because I had no idea I was doing something to offend him. A few times I knew perfectly well and just didn’t care. Turns out he doesn’t like that either.
4. Contempt is the enemy. There are some studies coming out now that seem to verify that precise thing, that the leading cause of divorce is actually contempt. I see that reflected in the world around me, too. Contempt can be a sneaky bugger, women especially can slide into it, because it’s a tool we have, it’s the opposite of respect and it has the power to wound. Also, our culture currently promotes a great deal of contempt towards men, almost as a way of life. Contempt however, kills love, on both sides of the equation. Men do not feel respected and women do not feel safe.
One thing I did get right, I knew to put my relationship with Christ first. There is a hierarchy there and Christ is always at the top. When people get that wrong, we can start to put unrealistic expectations on our spouses, start to believe that they should be able to fulfill us and meet all our needs in a way that really only God can. Marriage really can be the most amazing tango and spouses can become very near and dear to us, but we love from an overflow, not a deficit.