UNDERSTANDING YOUR WIFE'S DEEPEST NEEDS
The Secrets of a Satisfying Marriage - Part 6 of 12
I Cor. 7:3 & I Peter 3:7
I Cor 7:3 (GN)
"A man should fulfill his duty as a husband and a woman should fulfill her duty as a wife, and each should satisfy the other's needs."
"Husbands, in the same way BE CONSIDERATE as you LIVE WITH your wives, and treat them with RESPECT as the weaker partner, and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." I Peter 3:7
HOW I TREAT MY WIFE DETERMINES ______________________________
As a husband, I am to do three things according to 1 Peter 3:7.
1. ___________________________________ my wife! "Be considerate"
DEF: "Thoughtful of the needs and feelings of another"
2. ___________________________________ with my wife! "Live with"
DEF: Share my life . . . do things together . . . be companions
3. ___________________________________ my wife! ". . . respect . . ."
DEF: Honor my wife. Value her . . . Appreciate her value
THE FIVE DEEPEST NEEDS OF YOUR WIFE
Dr. Willard Harley is a Christian psychologist who directs a network of mental health clinics in Minnesota. During the past 25 years as a marriage counselor he has interviewed thousands of couples and discovered the 10 most important needs of husbands and wives. They are discussed in his highly recommended book, His Needs/Her Needs, (Revell, 1986).
1. My Wife Needs My Affection
"The love a man gives his wife is the extending of his love for himself to enfold her." Eph. 5:28b (Ph)
"Husbands give your wives much love; never treat them harshly." Col. 3:19 (Ph)
(Amp) ". . . be affectionate and sympathetic with them."
"Affection is the ______________________________________,
Sex is the _____________________________________________."
Four Ways to Show Affection
"No man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and carefully protects and cherishes it, as Christ does the church." Eph. 5:29 (Amp)
Her greatest need is to feel "cherished":
The feeling that she is ______________________________ to me than anyone or anything else!
2. My Wife Needs Conversation With Me
". . . Live together in harmony and love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you." Ph. 2:2
"Reliable communications permits progress. . . " Pr. 13:17 (LB)
"Don't just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others too, and in what they are doing." Phil. 2:4 (LB)
3. My Wife Needs My Honesty and Openness
"Insincere talk hides what you are really thinking . . . it brings nothing but ruin." Pr. 26:23, 28
"The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful." Pr. 12:22
4. My Wife Needs Financial Security
"If anyone does not provide for his relatives, especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Tim. 5:8
"It is better to be an ordinary man working for a living than to play the part of a great man but go hungry." Pr. 12:9 (GN)
"The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets." Pr. 21:20 (LB)
5. My Wife Needs My Commitment to the Family
* "Be faithful to your own wife and give your love to her alone." Pr. 5;15 (GN) (Pr. 6;32)
* "Fathers, don't over-correct your children or make it difficult for them to obey . . . Bring them up with Christian teaching and Christian discipline." Eph. 6: (Ph)
* "If a man is lazy, the rafters sag; if his hands are idle, the house leaks." Eccl. 10:18
* "You husbands show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the church when he died for her, to make her holy and clean. . . " Eph. 5:26 (LB)
UNDERSTANDING YOUR WIFE'S DEEPEST NEEDS
The Secrets of a Satisfying Marriage - Part 6 of 12
I Cor. 7:3 & I Peter 3:7
A book for leaders, Strategies for Taking Charge by Warren Bennis and Burt Nannis, is probably one of the top three of all the books I've read on leadership. It's not about marriage. I'd suggest you get this book and read it regardless of the career you've chosen, the business you're in. They did a study of 90 top CEO's in the United States to find what are the common denominators of men who rise to the top. They studied 90 top CEO's in many different fields: business, entertainment, television, politics, sports. They found they had nothing in common in terms of background, ability, education. They only found one common denominator: In all 90 CEO's were still married to their first wife. They all claimed to be happily married and they all were very enthusiastic about the institution of marriage. They concluded that the stability that takes place when a husband and a wife have a good relationship is one of the factors of success.
I Corinthians 7:3 (Good News) "A man should fulfill his duty as a husband and a woman should fulfill her duty as a wife and each should satisfy the other's needs." Meeting your spouse's needs is a purpose of marriage. God expects husbands to satisfy the needs of their wives. God expects wives to satisfy the needs of their husbands. The problem is the needs of men and women are very different. Your wife's needs are not the same as yours. If you try to meet her needs thinking, "This is what I need" you're going to miss the base.
Freud, "Despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, I have not yet been able to answer the great question, What does a woman want?"
We're going to look at five basic needs of your mate. If I had a title for this it would be "How to Make Sure Your Wife Never Wants Another Man". If you meet these needs she's not going to look anywhere else. It doesn't matter who you are. You can be irresistible to your mate. Doesn't matter how old you are, how young you are, how you look. If you will meet these needs, you will be irresistible to the woman in your life. This really could be called "How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage".
I Peter 3:7 "Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect as the weaker partner as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life so that nothing will hinder your prayers." Circle "be considerate", "treat them with respect", and "live with them". You do these things so that nothing will hinder your prayers. It's interesting that the Bible says that how I treat my wife determines how effective my prayers are. Treat your wives in a certain way so that you can get through to God when you need an answer to prayer.
As a husband, I Peter 3:7, says I am to do three things with my wife:
1. Understand my wife. Notice that it says "be considerate". What does it mean to be considerate? Being considerate means thoughtful of the needs and feelings of another. You give it thought, you've thought about it. Obviously you've got to understand your wife's needs before you can consider her needs and meeting those needs. You've got to know what they are.
This is a life-long process. Every day it seems I understand something about my wife that I didn't know before. Women are very complex. Every time you open a door there's another door behind it. There's always another room in their life that you haven't experienced or explored yet. It will keep you interested the rest of your life if you put some effort into it. You need to understand your wife.
2. Live with my wife. Spend time with her. That is a basic assumption. If you're going to be best friends you've got to develop some mutual interests and some things you do together. To live with means share my life. Do things together -- be companions. We compartmentalize our lives: marriage, work, sports, hobby, etc. The Bible says your wife is to be aware and knowing of all of those things. You are to share your life with her not just your bed and meals.
3. Respect my wife. Study after study has shown that the number one determining factor in a wife's self esteem, in how she feels about herself, is the response of her husband to her. A woman largely gets her self esteem from how her husband responds to her -- how he speaks to her, how he treats her, how he feels about her. I'm to honor my wife, value her, appreciate her value.
Appreciation means to raise in value. Depreciation means lower in value. Every time you appreciate your wife you make her more valuable to you. My wife is much more valuable to me than she was 15 years ago. The more I appreciate her the more I raise her value. You can determine and mold how valuable your wife is to you all by the way you appreciate her. Appreciation means to raise in value.
The five deepest needs of your wife. These are from a book by Willard Harley, a Christian psychologist, director of a network Mental Health clinics in Minnesota. He's spent the last 25 years as a marriage counselor. He's interviewed thousands of couples and discovered the ten most important needs of husbands and wives. They are discussed in his highly recommended book His Needs/Her Needs. The material I'm giving you is the result of studies of thousands of couples over a 25-year period.
Men have five basic needs and women have five basic needs.
1. MY WIFE NEEDS MY AFFECTION.
This is the first thing a woman cannot do without. Affection is the cement of a relationship. Affection symbolizes security, comfort, and approval. When a husband shows affection to his wife, you are sending a powerful message to her, "I care for you, I'll take care of you, I'll protect you, I'm concerned for your needs, I approve of you, I'm proud of you."
Ephesians 5:28 (Phillips) "The love a man gives his wife is the extending of his love for himself to infold her." We are to love our wives as we love ourselves. When we love our wife we're actually loving ourself because the Bible says, "The two shall become one." We have become one in God's eyes.
Col. 3:19 "Husbands, give your wife much love and never treat them harshly." Circle "much". Amplified says "be affectionate, sympathetic with them." As long as Jesus Christ is first place in your life, I don't think it's possible to give your wife too much honor. The more you appreciate her, the more you love her, the more you show affection for her, the more valuable she becomes.
It says, don't deal with them harshly. Have you seen the guy who instead of giving his wife affection, gives his wife affliction? He's always beating her down, tearing her down, putting her down. You need to understand, affection and sex are totally different issues. To men they're the same. Affection to a man means foreplay. It's the stuff you do before you get to the real stuff. But to a woman, affection is totally separate from sex. There's a lot of misunderstanding on that.
A hypothetical couple: Brenda and Bruce. They've been having tension lately because Brenda has not been responding with much enthusiasm for Bruce's request for sex. As our scene opens up she senses that Bruce has "that look" in his eye again and she tries to head him off at the pass. Bruce: "Let's just relax for a few minutes. Then maybe we can hold hands and hug." Brenda: "I'm not ready for sex, just like that. I need a little affection first." Bruce bristles with a bit of macho impatience: "You've known me for years. I'm not the affectionate type. I'm not going to start now." Bruce fails to see the irony in wanting sex but refusing to give his wife affection. It would seem amusing if it weren't so pathetic. A man who will growl, "I'm not the affectionate type," while reaching for his wife's body to satisfy his desire for sex is like the salesman who's trying to close a deal by saying, "I'm not the friendly type. Here. Sign, you turkey." When it comes to sex and affection you really can't have one without the other. You need to understand she has a very deep need for that.
Most marriages, most problems -- most affairs start because men don't get enough sex and women don't get enough affection. It becomes a vicious cycle: she doesn't get enough affection so she shuts off her husband. He's shut off from her and doesn't give her affection -- it's the last thing he feels like doing.
The cycle is best illustrated by this "Dear wife" letter:
To my loving wife, During the past year I've tried to make love to you 365 times. I have succeeded only 36 times. This is an average of once every ten days. The following is a list of reasons why I did not succeed the other 329 times:
too late -- 23 times
too early -- 15 times
too hot -- 16 times
too cold -- 5 times
it would wake the children -- 27 times
the company in the next room -- 11 times
the neighbors whose windows were open -- 9 times
you were too full -- 10 times
you had a headache -- 18 times
... a backache -- 26 times
... toothache -- 13 times
... giggles -- 6 times
you pretended to be asleep -- 46 times
not in the mood -- 36 times
you had a mud pack on -- 11 times
you watched late TV -- 17 times
I watched late TV -- 15 times
the baby was crying -- 17 times
you had to go to the bathroom -- 19 times
... for a total of 329 times. During the times I did succeed, the activity was not entirely satisfactory for a variety of reasons:
6 times you chewed gum the whole time
7 times you watched TV the whole time
16 times you told me to hurry up and get it over with
6 times I tried to waken you to tell you we were through
1 time I was afraid I hurt you before I felt you move
Honey, it's no wonder I'm cranky. Your loving husband.
Affection is the atmosphere. Sex is the event. There is a big difference. You need to learn to be affectionate. You can't have sex all the time but you can be affectionate all the time. Love expressed through affection. Someone said: "If you want the oven hot at night, you've got to light the pilot in the morning." There's a book entitled Sex Begins in the Kitchen. Women don't get turned on as quickly as men do. For most of you men it takes you 3 seconds, another 15 seconds to do your thing, and then you're history. Women aren't that way. It takes them a long time to build up. The atmosphere is affection.
I believe that any man can learn to be affectionate. You say, "I'm not affectionate. I never grew up in an affectionate home." Big deal. You learned a lot of things you never learned at home. Affection is a habit. Like any habit it takes time to develop. When you first start doing it, it may seem awkward to give extra hugs and kisses and notes of affection. It's seems awkward like any new habit does. But when you begin to do it, it will become part of your life and you'll see dramatic results.
What I would suggest you do is you ask your wife what does she like. What makes her feel special?
But here are four ways to show affection:
1) I can show affection by my words -- how I talk to her. Every wife needs a steady diet of compliments. Keep her emotional tank full. Compliment her on how she looks. A pro at verbal affection is Songs of Solomon. This guy raves about his wife. He's a pro at expressing affection. Chapter 4, "How beautiful you are, my love. How your eyes shine with love behind your veil, your hair dances like a flock of goats bounding down the hills of Gilliad, your teeth are white, not one of them is missing, they are all perfectly matched. Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon. How lovely they are when you speak. Your cheeks glow behind your veil. Your neck is like the tower of David round and smooth with a necklace around it. Your breasts are like twin gazelles, twin dears feeding among the lilies. How beautiful you are, my love. How perfect you are."
You see what this guy's doing? He's verbally caressing her. This guy is a pro at verbal expressions of affections. You need to think of fresh ways to express love.
You need to express affection for every area of her life. When Kay and I were first dating, the first verse I used to quote to Kay was Proverbs 31:30 "Charm is deceptive and beauty disappears, but a woman who honors the Lord should be praised." That is a verbal caress.
2) By my actions. Acts of kindness. You need to plan some things that show you're thinking of her while you're not with her. Leave her a note that she'll find in the middle of the day. Call her up just to say you love her. A proven and effective tool is greeting cards. Women love to get cards. But most of us don't have time to go in and get greeting cards. You know you're going to get her one for Mother's Day, Valentine's Day. When you go in for her birthday, don't just get that one, get about 9 or 10 other ones and stock up for the year.
Flowers is an all time favorite. Flowers don't last but that's why they're good. It says "I'm buying something that's not going to last." But you need to ask your wife. Some women don't want flowers. If you're on a tight budget they may rather have ... a fishing pole, or skillet or something.
Candy is not always a good gift anymore. They may appreciate the thought but be n a diet. What that says is you aren't alert enough to know what she's doing. Candy is not always a good idea.
3) By the way I touch her. It's a time honored tradition, holding hands is still a great thing to do. I love to see couples holding hands when they're walking into church. I love to see it in church. I like to see more than just the teenagers with their arms around each other. I think it's a good sign. And hugs do wonders.
Studies have shown that a woman cannot get too many hugs. They did a survey that life insurance companies study and found that men who kiss their wives every day before they go to work have fewer accidents on the freeway. They also discovered that men who kissed their wives the last thing before they go to bed at night live longer than any other men. If you want to avoid an accident and live long, begin and end the day with a kiss.
One of the most common complains I heard in counseling is ladies who say, "He only touches me when he wants sex. Then at that point I'm not interested." You need to learn to give affectionate touch without it having to go to the bedroom.
4) By focused attention. Look her in the eye when she talks. Nothing turns a woman on more. It is saying you value her opinion. You value what she's talking about. In your wife's mind, conversation is affection.
Ephesians 5:29 (Amplified) "For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and carefully protects and cherishes it as Christ does the church." Circle the word "cherishes". My wife's greatest need is to feel cherished. Above any other need that she has that you can meet, she needs to feel cherished.
What does it mean to feel cherished? Cherished means the feeling that she is more important to me than anyone or anything else. Next to Jesus Christ, no body is to be more important in your life than your wife. When you honor and value her, God smiles on you in that relationship.
The problem is that men are achievement oriented. The way we work at things is we set a goal and go for it. Women are not destination oriented for the most part. That's why there's conflict like on vacations. Most fathers/husbands get into the car and drive and drive and never turn back. There is a destination he's going toward. When a man is dating a woman, before he marries her, he is highly motivated to be romantic. She is the focus of his attention. Right up to the wedding. Suddenly, I doubt if most even recognize this, after the wedding occurs, a subtle change of focus takes place. We've accomplished the goal. You now have a wife and men, being achievement oriented, says it's now time to move on to another goal. Usually the goal is the career. Within a matter of about six months, many of the things you did with your wife and for your wife when you were dating, has been completely eliminated and your wife has no idea why it's happening. She's in confusion. "I don't understand why he changed. Before we were married we talked until midnight. Now all he does is grunt at me when he wants sex, food, or change of channels. What happened?" It's the fact that we've reached a goal. It's in order. We have a home, family, we're going to have kids, now let's get on to another goal. The intensity you used to woo your wife most likely you're not using now. So we have to focus our attention and that's what it means to cherish your wife.
One of the ways you can show you cherish your wife is this next need.
2. MY WIFE NEEDS CONVERSATION WITH ME.
Circle "conversation". Philippians 2:2 (Phillips) "Live together in harmony and love as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you." You need to have fellowship with your wife. Koinia. Fellowship. Live together in harmony, in love, as if you had only one mind, one spirit between you. There is only one way that is possible -- communication. If we don't communicate there is no way we're going to have oneness.
Study where they wired little girls and little boys with microphones to study the noises coming out of their mouths: One hundred percent of the time the noises coming out of the mouths of little girls had something to do with conversation. Either conversing with somebody else, or conversing with somebody imaginary, or conversing with themselves. All of the noises of little girls, ages 2-4 were making had to do with conversation. Studies also have shown that women tend to talk to themselves more than men do and women tend to talk with each other more than men do. It's a need, a need to talk.
For little boys, they discovered, that only 60% of the sounds coming out of the mouths of little boys had to do with conversation. The other 40% were simply noises. It's a factor than men and women are different.
Little girls have a better ability in conversing and communicating than little boys. This becomes a lifelong habit. Your wife has a much greater need for conversation than you do. The biggest complaint I hear from women, "My husband won't talk to me."
Definition of conversation: Verbal attention. He values what I have to say so he's giving me attention. When you set and talk and listen and interact and look your wife in the eye, regardless of what she's talking about, it means you're interested in her day, in her, and especially interested in how she feels. If you say, "But I'm not interested in how she feels," then you need to learn to love because love means being interested in how other people feel.
Proverbs 13:17 "Reliable communication permits progress." If you want to have progress in your marriage, you've got to learn to communicate. It's not our nature to set around and "chew the fat" to converse, to talk. Women do it more than men do. But it's a need of your wife, her second greatest need. When you simply make conversation with your wife, you're doing a big favor. It doesn't have to have an end to it, a goal. Make time for conversation.
Kay and I have a weekly date. Our date is Monday morning. What do you do on a date? It doesn't matter. The activity really doesn't matter. The activity is simply an excuse to get together to talk and show affection.
Why is communication so important? Some people erroneously believe that they can fulfill their separate needs in marriage by going to other people outside of the marriage. For instance, if my wife needs to have conversation she can have a bunch of girl friends. The wife who's husband won't talk may think it's fine if she finds a friend to talk to her instead. Farming out her need but remaining faithful to her husband sexually may seem OK at first. The problem is she inadvertently undermines her marriage by loosing the bonding that intimate conversation with her husband creates for her. Deep down she knows if she is to feel united with him, he's got to talk to her.
"George, let's talk."
"What would you like to talk about?"
George's innocent inquiry would raise the ire of most women if they heard it coming out of their husband's mouth because it shows how little a man seems to understand how conversation alone meets a woman's real needs. He might understand Mary's aggravation better if she had a conversation with him like this:
"Mary, let's make love."
"Fine, George, are we ready to have children."
Do you have to have a purpose in it? Why can't the act be something that is enjoyable? When we see Mary's conversation with George about sex we can begin to appreciate how ridiculous George's question about having a talk looks like to a woman. Yet in many average marriages, the same dialogue is repeated frequently. Why? I believe that neither understands how the other looks at conversation. Just as George finds sex enjoyable in its own right, Mary needs conversation. As with most women, it makes her feel more romantic love for George because she can share deeply her life with her husband. The atmosphere it creates contributes much to her happiness. The man who takes time to talk to a woman will have an inside track to her heart. George sees conversation primarily as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. That's the problem.
I've learned this in dealing with Kay. Many times she comes and has a decision to be made. I learned real quickly that what she doesn't want is for me to make the decision. She just wants me to listen and talk with her about it. The very act of conversation is what counts. I tend to be a quick decision maker. Men are. When your wife comes to talk with you about something she wants to talk about all the intricacies, the various shades and fashions and all the possible options. Because I love my wife, the very act of conversation is meaningful to her. She's not looking for a decision. She's looking for talk.
Marriage Takes More Than Love, a woman sharing her actual feelings about conversation:
Every once in a while I become a bit broody over the fact that my role as an exotic enchantress has become something of a bit part. Not that I expect my husband's nostrils to flare whenever the hem of my skirt brushes his knees, I don't even expect him to quiver with erotic delight when I scratch the place on his back that he can never reach, but I have the uncomfortable feeling every morning, that if I greet him at the door stark raving naked he'd tell me I have lipstick on my teeth. What I object to most is unless one counts the sparkling, one sided conversations I carry on with the dog, the cryptic remarks I address to the washing machine, and an occasional chat with Dial-A-Prayer, I spend ten hours every day virtually incommunicado. By evening I am soberingly eager to be recognized as the gay, witty nymph I really am and perhaps engage in a spot of repartee. "How was your day?" I began last night addressing my opening gambit to the back of the sports page. "Umm." "Did you have a good lunch?" "Ummmm." "I'm having the roof reshingled with gold plated clam shells," I remarked casually. "Ummmm." "The TV repairman is madly in love with me. We're running off together Wednesday morning, right after I get back from Weight Watchers." "Umm". "Talk to me!" I finally shrieked. He stared at me as if I'd just demanded that he shave his legs. "I've been talking to you." "You haven't been talking, you've been ummmmming. You haven't heard a word I said," I complained. "I heard everything you said," he argued, "By the way you have lipstick on your teeth."
Look at these diagrams. It has Bill's interests on one side and Joyce's interests on the other. If the goal is to become best friends with your wife -- and it is -- then you've got to develop some shared interests. If never the interests meet there's never a way you're going to become best friends. There's some things she does you're never going to like to do. There's some things you do she's never going to like to do. It's OK to have some things you do individually. But if you don't have anything that you do together, you're missing the boat.
One of the things Kay is talking about in her section is the need to have recreational companionship and wives to be involved and doing things together with her spouse. You've got to develop a common interest. He's got his interests, she's got her interests, but together is "our mutual interests" rather than going separate ways. When you have mutual interests, you do things together, you spend time together. When you spend time together, you talk.
The fact is in many marriages, you don't see your wife more than 10, 20 minutes a day. You get up in the morning and you're rushing to get ready, maybe you have breakfast together and then you're off to work. You've got 10 minutes and none of it was in depth conversation. You come home at night, you're tired, you set down, eat dinner, watch television, go to bed. Day after day goes by without having any meaningful conversation. You've got to develop some common interests that you can do some things together.
When your wife does not have you talk to her, she feels further away from you. You may not, but she does. This happened last month with me. I spent a three week period where I was at the computer during that period for about 150 hours. I was writing the 101, 201, 301 class. I was up in the morning at 5, typing, studying, working. I was working sometimes until midnight trying to get those three classes developed. During that time -- only a 3 week period -- I got very little conversation with my wife. When I finished that, my wife felt like a total stranger. I didn't feel that way. I felt just as close to her as three weeks earlier. I was ready to be real close! But her love tank was empty. Conversation had been drained all out. Before we could get some things established again in our relationship, we had to set down and have some talk and talk and talk. She didn't feel close to me any more because she hadn't had her allotment of my attention. Nothing serious, just neglect. We were behind in our conversation time.
Philippians 2:4 "Don't just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others too and in what they are doing." Develop some common interests. When was the last time you set aside your plans in order to do something you wife wanted to do? It comes back to this thing about being an achievement oriented person. That's why men don't shop with women. Men don't shop, we're hunters. You go into the store, you find the shirt, if it fits, you buy it. It doesn't matter how it looks. When men have to shop they go in with an objective.
Think of the three best times that you could suggest to your wife that would be good times for extended conversation. Look at your schedule and think it through. When might be a time to shove the kids off to a babysitter and go out to eat and just talk?
Cartoon: husband and wife setting on a couch together. The husband is reading the paper and obviously not paying attention. The wife is saying, "A philosophical question: If a woman falls over from trying to communicate and there is no one to hear her, does she make a sound if she falls off the sofa?" Next line the guy says, "Penny for your thoughts, hon."
Another of a husband who is definitely out of touch with his wife: Escondido woman hid pregnancy and childbirth from her husband. "We were in the living room playing with the toys Santa Claus had left. She was in the bathroom having a baby. I wondered how did I miss that."
3. MY WIFE NEEDS OPENNESS AND HONESTY
When I say openness I mean that your wife has a deep craving to know the details of your life. She wants to know the innermost thoughts, your feelings, the details. The fact is, she has a right to know those things because you're married to her. She ought to know you better than anyone else in the world. If you're not open with her and give her accurate information she won't trust you. And a woman who doesn't trust you is going to be difficult to satisfy. You've got to build openness.
A couple of things I do to make Kay a part of my world:
I've told at the office (we've now got about 45 people in our office and because we're a large church there are several layers of people you go through to get to me on a phone call) that there is one person who has automatic access to me and that is Kay. When she calls she is automatically routed to me. Regardless of what is going on I will make the decision whether I have the time to talk to her or not. The receptionist is not to say "He's in a staff meeting" or anything like that. I want to make that decision. I never want another woman between me and my wife. I never want another woman controlling the access to me.
Another thing I do that has meant a lot to my wife is I bring home many of the letters I get and let her read them. Many times things she would be interested in, I would never think to talk to her about because I don't consider them important. She makes the decision what she wants to know about. This way she's involved in my life.
Proverbs 26:23 & 28 "Insincere talk hides what you're really thinking. It brings nothing but ruin." Most men are afraid to be open with their wives. We're afraid of our feelings. We're especially afraid to share our fears. That's not manly. But from personal testimony, I want to say, my marriage was turned around when I started sharing the things I feared most. I don't know what your particular fears are -- the fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear that you won't be a provider, the fear that you won't be a spiritual leader, or whatever -- but when I started sharing the things I feared most related to my life and life's goal, we went to a level of intimacy I did not think possible. Rather than having her think less of me, I was raised in value in her eyes because she got in to my mind. I found that when I shared those things with my wife, they didn't scare me anymore. Because I opened the closet and let the bogey man out. The things I feared most about our relationship and about my own self and my capacity to make it in life rather than making her think less of me, she became my biggest supporter.
One of the things I have a fear of is speaking in front of other people. It scares me to death. Every week when I stand up in front of five or six thousand people I think, "God, what in the world am I doing here? You've got the wrong guy! Get somebody else. I could pastor this thing when it was small but all these people coming and they're looking to me to say something witty and intelligent from your word. It doesn't matter if I hit a home run next week, I'm up at bat in seven more days! I've got to do this the rest of my life!" I shared that with Kay. I didn't want her to know that for a long time. When I did the tension in my life dramatically went down. I remember before I really got a handle on this that sometimes I'd stand up to speak and I'd look over at her and she would know exactly what was going on in my mind and she became my team mate, my partner, my prayer mate. I'd look at her and she'd wink at me and I could take on the world at that point! It is sharing who you really are in openness. It's scary but if you do it you'll never regret it.
I have learned that it is foolish to lie out of fear that you're going to hurt your mate. "The Lord detests lying lips but delights in those who are truthful." It talks about lying and being insincere -- when you say one thing yet mean something else.
Example about being honest with your wife and how you feel:
A man's little white lies about his feelings and his attitude about his wife can cause withdrawal from her account in his love bank. For example, suppose a wife feels concerned about being overweight and her husband is even more concerned but he decides it would do no good to tell her how disappointed he feels. Instead he tells her she looks great. Well, she thinks, maybe a few extra pounds aren't so bad after all. So she looses no weight. In fact she continues to gain. Her husband grows increasingly displeased with her unattractive figure but bites his tongue. This time the love bank shoe is on the other foot. Daily withdrawals come out of his wife's account in his love bank (He thinks less of her. He's loving her less.) and she is never aware of them until the day he finally lets a cutting remark about her weight slip out. When that does it causes a hefty withdrawal from his account. The husband who lies to "protect his wife" is often guilty of the worst sort of chauvinism. Subtlety or not so subtle treating your wife as if she were emotionally unstable becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. It's a great way to drive her a little bit crazy. But when a husband tells his wife the truth it builds in her emotional stability. The truth may be painful at times, and he should strive to deal with it gently, but the truth does not drive a woman crazy. Dishonesty does.
No marriage can survive a lack of honesty. Honesty is the best marriage insurance policy. Granted, you need to be tactful. And if you're dealing with an issue like weight, a new dress, hairdo, you need to choose the right time. I would not tell your wife you don't like her hairdo the moment she walks in the door and says, "How do you like it?" But point out something attractive about her and then later...
If you've been lying to your wife, she's not going to believe you overnight. Trust is not a light switch you turn on and off. You're going to have to prove your trustworthiness by telling the truth.
4. MY WIFE NEEDS FINANCIAL SECURITY AND SUPPORT
I Timothy 5:8 "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." The Bible says, if you're the husband you are the provider of the home. It is your duty to provide for her financial needs. It's not your duty to provide for everything she wants and that may be an issue you have to deal with. But it is your duty to provide for her financial needs.
I have a conviction that if your wife does not want to work outside of the home, then it is your job as the provider and protector in the home to figure out a way that you can lower your life style standards that it makes it possible for her to live and not have to work outside of the home. Even if it means moving out of the Saddleback Valley. I'm dead serious about that. I believe even if it means moving out of the area, to find a cheaper place to live, that if she doesn't want to work and would rather stay home with the children, then it is your job as the provider to give her that option. That means limiting our life style.
Proverbs 12:9 "It is better to be an ordinary man working for a living that play the part of a great man and go hungry." I have a sneaking suspicion that many times unemployment is incredibly long because sometimes we don't want to take a job that might offend our ego. If my wife is going hungry, I'll go flip hamburgers. There is no job that is beneath my dignity as a provider of the home. "The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets." Prov. 21:12. (You might want to give this to your wife, too.)
You need to provide for your wife's future. Specifically, I think it's a Christian duty to provide life insurance. If I'm not going to be around I want my wife to be taken care of. I think it involves writing out a will, making sure the state doesn't take away what is hers. I think it involves setting up a trust to avoid probate. Do whatever it takes to say, that if God were to take me out of the picture, my wife and children could live comfortably the rest of their life. I pay hefty life insurance on myself. I feel good because I know if God takes me out of the picture, my wife is set. It is not her responsibility to have to provide for herself. It's my responsibility and that's what the Scripture says. That's one of her basic needs.
5. MY WIFE NEEDS MY COMMITMENT TO THE FAMILY
How do I show that I'm committed to the family?
1) Be faithful to my wife. Obviously. Proverbs 6;32 (LB) "He who commits adultery is an utter fool for he destroys his own soul." Tell her. "I know there are a lot of pressures, billboards, things going on in the office but I'm going to be different from the world."
2) Share the parenting responsibilities. Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers, don't over correct your children or make it difficult for them to obey. Bring them up with Christian teaching and Christian disciplines." By far the greatest way you, as a father, can help your wife is to assume the responsibility for the discipline. Father's don't over correct your children, don't make it difficult for them to obey, don't nag them. Let me say this about wives too. If you want your wife to be a thoroughbred, don't treat her like a nag.
Guidelines for disciplining:
(1) Be consistent -- Inconsistent fathers produce insecure children. Whatever you're doing, be consistent with it.
(2) Discipline, don't punish. There's a big difference. Punishment is payment for past sins. Discipline is training for the future. Why do I say don't punish? Because if you're a Christian, God doesn't punish you. God never punishes His children; He disciplines them. The difference? Jesus Christ took all the punishment for sin on the cross. If God punished Jesus Christ, He took that and then if He punishes me too, that's double jeopardy. If I'm going to be punished for my sins after I trusted in Christ, there was no reason for Jesus to die on the cross. So God does not punish. The Bible says, "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." He never punishes a Christian. He does discipline us. The Bible says "Discipline for the purpose of godliness." It's training for the future. Always say to your children, I'm doing this to help you not do it again. Not as punishment for the past, but in training for the future.
(3) Be unified in your approach. Don't contradict each other's discipline in front of the children. If you've got a disagreement on it, and you will have them, you need to work it out in private. Kay knows that when she makes a decision with the children, I'm going to back her even if I think it's wrong. She's going to back me even if she thinks what I'm doing is wrong, publicly. If we go into the back room and talk about it, that's a different issue entirely. But we would never contradict each other in front of the kids. It produces insecure kids.
(4) Control your anger. Proverb 29:11 (LB) "The fool who provokes his family to anger and resentment will finally have nothing worthwhile left." Don't take it out on your kids.
3) Take the initiative in home repairs. Men, I am an absolute failure at mechanical things. Eccl. 10:10 "If a man is lazy, the rafters sag. If his hands are idle, the house leaks." One of the ways you show you cherish your wife is that you take care of the things at the house because the house is her domain. If you let things go on and on you're saying it doesn't matter. It does matter to her. So it ought to matter to you.
4) Be the spiritual leader of your home. Ephesians 5:26 "And you husbands show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the church when He died for her to make her holy and clean." That's what it means to be a spiritual leader. It means you sacrifice yourself for your wife. Sacrifice is the key. Many of you say, "How can I be the spiritual leader in my home? My wife has been a Christian years longer than I have." Spiritual leadership is a matter of attitude not knowledge. I don't care if she has been a Christian for 30 years and you've been a Christian for one or two days, God says you're the leader because you're the husband. You're to be the spiritual leader of the home. You only have to be one step ahead to be the leader. You don't have to be way out front, just one step ahead.
There are many ways you can take the lead spiritually. Pray together, take the initiative. Take the initiative to memorize a Bible verse together. Take the initiative to read the Bible with your family, to take them to conferences. All leadership means is that you take the initiative.
Dear Rick, I am so angry at my husband. At first, when I came last Sunday, I was angry to hear that I was to forgive him again. I don't think I can do it again and again. He's hurt me so many times. I've built up a wall so he can't hurt me any more and I've compromised on my own happiness and self dignity to the point that I've thought of suicide many, many times. My heart is breaking. You say I should keep forgiving him because the Bible says so. Thousand times, forever, for better, for worse. I'll die before I give him another twenty years of my life. Please tell me to what extent I must take this. How far must he push me? How much must I take? Please, tell me the answers in the next three sermons.
It is our job and our responsibility to be the spiritual leaders in the home. What does it mean? It means you give your life to meet the needs of your wife. When you do that, the Bible says, you cannot outgive God. What you sow you will reap. What you put into your marriage, you will get out of your marriage. Without a doubt the most challenging thing in my life has been what I've done to put into my marriage. Far more than building this church or any business enterprise I may have been involved in. The greatest challenge of my life has been what it's taken to build my marriage to what it is today and to not quit. And it's also the most fulfilling thing.
If God told me to walk away from this church right now I could do it. Because my self esteem is not wrapped up in my accomplishments. My self esteem is wrapped up in (1) whose I am -- I'm God's; I belong to Him and (2) what I give and receive in my family. If God wanted to take it all away I wouldn't go into deep depression because I know where the value is coming from.
Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for these men. It is an honor to be able to talk to them tonight. I thank You for each one of them individually and I love them as brothers in our church family. Father, what thrills me so much is that these men took the time to come tonight to say "I want my marriage to be better." That shows real godliness. It shows the desire to do the right thing. Lord, we work with guys all the time who couldn't care less about their marriage. They're cheating on their wives. They're carrying on affairs on the side. They treat their wives like dirt. They're basically a bed and breakfast at home and nothing else. Yet these men here tonight have said "I want my marriage to be better" and I thank You for that. I honor them for that. I ask You to give them the power and the strength to meet the needs of their wives. I know, Lord, that the reward is worth the effort, that the benefit that comes out of it is so great. Lord, I know that our churches and especially Saddleback Church will never be stronger than the families that make up that church. I pray for strong families. I pray for families here tonight that are hurting, for marriages that are on the verge. Whatever it takes, Lord, save those marriages. Give us all strength. Help us be open and honest. Help us as brothers in Christ to share our needs, our hurts, to pray for each other, to lift each other up. It's tough being a Christian man in this world. It's not easy when everything in the world says, "Put your marriage last" it's hard to put it first. But help us to do the right thing. I pray Lord that You would raise up a generation of godly, spiritual men, who are spiritual leaders in their home, spiritual leaders in our church, and spiritual leaders in our community. You put us in a strategic place and a strategic time, that Your hand is on this church and You're using it in a great way and it's to a large part because of men like these who are here tonight that make up our family. I ask you to give them spiritual, emotional, physical strength to be the men of God You want them to be and You know in their hearts they really want to be. Help us to honor our wives, to cherish our wives, to put them first next to You. We know that You will bless our lives that way. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.