There are countless ways to demonstrate your love, but women still like to hear it spoken. Open and continuing communication is key.
My father-in-law used to brag (presumably tongue-in-cheek), “I told my wife I love her on our wedding day and promised to let her know if that ever changes.”
His implication was clear: Once should be enough.
But it isn’t.
Not for most women. Not by a long shot.
Once a day would be a closer approximation, and even that may still fall a little short of how often your wife would like to hear verbal assurances of your love.
Of course, words not backed with action are meaningless: Remember Christ’s parable of a father who asked his two sons to come work in the field with him?
The first son said, “Sure. I’ll be right there,” but never showed up.
The other son initially refused, but later regretted it, sought out his father, and worked alongside him for the rest of the day.
The question Jesus then posed to his listeners is this: Which son actually obeyed? The same principle applies to love as applies to obedience.
If forced to choose between the two, your wife would probably rather have you demonstrate your love for her through your actions without expressing it in so many words than to have you repeatedly declare, “I love you,” then behave in a way that contradicts what you’ve said.
Hollow affirmations don’t carry a lot of clout.
But why make her choose, when it’s within your power to do both?
Show her you love her. Yes, by all means. But then speak your love, as well.
Tell her you love her. Tell her how much you love her. Tell her what you love most about her.
Tell her clearly. Tell her sincerely. Tell her often. Then back it all up in the way you treat her.
This post is adapted from my new book, 25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife: A Handbook for Husbands, on sale now. Pick up your copy today and give your wife the gift of LOVE — in both word and deed.
Praying for patience is a little like asking some one to tape a “Kick Me” sign on your back. There’s no easy way to learn it, except to endure countless events that drive you crazy.
Opportunities to practice patience fall into two broad categories, and I’d be hard-pressed to say which is most important.
The first category is acute circumstances that call for patience: You’re stuck in traffic. You’re waiting for a reply to an important text or phone call. Somebody is doing something that drives you absolutely nuts.
What’s your instinctive response? If it involves angry words, exasperated sighs, long-winded lectures, or skyrocketing blood pressures, then it’s time to change your habits. Take a deep breath and focus on being kind, remaining calm, and not overreacting.
Of course, exercising patience does not mean you don’t deal with the problems that arise; it only dictates that you deal with them in a logical, loving way, rather than in a cycle of rage and regret.
Scripture implores us to “admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:13-14, NASB)
The second (and more difficult) category of patience-trying opportunities involves chronic or long-term problems.
These would include major life changes: You go bankrupt. You lose a loved one. You’re diagnosed with an incurable, debilitating illness.
But it can also include comparatively minor stuff: Nobody is actively getting on your nerves in a dramatic sort of way, but nonetheless, you must still draw deeply and repeatedly from your reserves of patience as they slowly mature over time.
Your spouse, your children, your friends — and, indeed, you yourself — are all works in progress. We emerge from the womb knowing nothing, and go to our graves knowing little more. In every area of life, we are in a continual process of acquiring knowledge and experience, of progressing from nothing to little of nothing.
By definition, every person we know is either behind us, ahead of us, or right there beside us on this continuum of growth. If ahead, we call them a teacher. Behind us, we call them a student. With us, we call them a companion.
You will find that your wife is a combination of all three of these roles. She will be ahead of you in some areas and behind in others: Sometimes, your teacher. Sometimes, your student. Always, your companion.
God designed each of you to complement the other. Accordingly, you both have different strengths and different weaknesses.
When we fall short in the area of acute patience — snapping at people because they didn’t do things precisely the way we like them — the underlying issue is usually one of pride.
It is a forgetfulness of where we once were on the learning continuum or an exaggeration of where we are now on that same continuum.
Patience recognizes that proficiency grows over time — we have not always been as skilled as we are now. Patience is also mindful of the fact that, even at our present skill-level, we can still make mistakes.
When we fail in the area of long-term patience, it is often due to a lack of vision. We fail to see what the other person could become; we see them only as they are now.
Goethe once said, “If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”
This goes for your wife, too. God has charged you to live with her in an understanding way, to treat her with patience and gentleness, as a weaker vessel. So bear with her. Don’t expect perfection from her. Be patient with her. Love her.
This is what the Word of God requires of us, not only in the way we relate to our wives, but to our children and to the other people He places in our path, as well:
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”(Colossians 3:12-15, emphasis added)
The peace of Christ, ruling in your heart. Is that what your wife and children witness when you are irritated? Is it what your friends and family see when you face frustration? When somebody’s pushing your buttons, do you respond with humility, kindness, and gentleness?
As a Christian, that is what we are called to do. It’s a tall order, and I’ll be the first to admit that I often fail the test.
I’ve never cheated on my wife or beaten her or abandoned her, and in light of that stellar track record, it’s tempting to excuse ￼the fact that I sometimes lose patience or say things I shouldn’t say using tones I shouldn’t use.
But God has been convicting me lately that, in His eyes, there are no “small” sins. My impatience is grievous to Him, and they should be grievous to me — just as yours should be to you.
God isn’t interested in excuses or explanations or justifications for why we let our patience lapse. Nor is He impressed by half-hearted apologies or requests for forgiveness that aren’t accompanied by genuine repentance.
It isn’t enough to admit impatience is sin if we then persist in our bad habits.
God is calling us to turn away from our sin. To give up our irritated, impatient, prideful ways and allow Him to remake us in the image of Christ.
Surprisingly, I drew criticism for making LOVE the focus of my list, rather than RESPECT. This offended some of my readers, who (rightly) felt that women are every bit as entitled to respect as men.
But while I agree that women deserve respect, I do not believe they crave it. Certainly not in the same way most men do.
The thing women crave most is love.
I’ve been around smart, powerful women my whole life. Usually, they are awash in respect. They find respect wherever they go.
Their talent, intelligence, and wisdom command it.
Their employers respect their hard work and dedication; their colleagues respect their insights and integrity; their church and charitable organization leaders respect their contributions of time and resources to the various causes; their children’s teachers and coaches respect their involvement and commitment; even their neighbors respect their polite disposition and manicured yards.
Respect is all around them.
But love? That is something else entirely.
Love is not so easy to find and often even harder to keep.
For a woman to be loved by a man — deeply, passionately, unconditionally, with all that he is towards all that she is — that is a rare thing indeed.
It’s an ephemeral thing that cannot be earned the way respect can.
But it’s a gift a husband can give to his wife every day of her life. And when he does, it is both beautiful and magical.
All organizations have a hierarchy. It’s impossible to function well without one. But being a leader isn’t the same as being a dictator. The best role model is Jesus Christ, not Joseph Stalin.
Although it’s a challenge to exercise authority while maintaining a spirit of humility, that is what being a godly leader entails. Jesus washed his disciples feet, then died on their behalf. Husbands are called to love their wives in the same self-sacrificing way:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” (Ephesians 5:25-26)
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant….” (Philippians 2:5-7)
The best leaders exhibit several qualities: They are transparent; they expect as much or more of themselves as of those they’re attempting to lead; and they put the good of the organization (or, in the case of a husband-leader, the good of the family) ahead of their own interests or any personal gain.
Let’s look at each of these three qualities in closer detail:
First and foremost, a servant-leader is transparent.
Transparency implies there are no hidden agendas. Everyone is on the same team, working toward the same goals, and those goals are clearly defined and understood. Transparency means honesty, fairness, forthrightness, and above all, accountability.
Transparency with a spouse can be difficult. Some things are hard to talk about with anybody, let alone with someone we care about, someone of the opposite gender, someone whose admiration and respect we so deeply crave.
A good rule of thumb is, if you’d be uncomfortable discussing it afterward with your wife, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.
Of course, personality differences can make even innocent discussions more difficult than they should be — I dreaded telling my sentimental wife when I recently traded in an old Ford truck she loved for two small economy cars, even though it made good financial sense to do so — but that isn’t what I’m talking about here.
When it comes to being transparent with our children, that can be hard, too, but it is important that they know our weaknesses as well as our strengths, our failures as well as our victories. Because our kids share our humanity as well as our genes, their weaknesses will often mirror our own, and they’ll benefit from hearing how we’ve overcome various struggles. There is no need to go into great detail about your failings, but don’t pretend you are without faults.
A servant-leader is quick to accept blame, apologize, and ask forgiveness whenever the situation warrants it. And he understands the importance of maintaining a clear conscience and therefore strives to behave in a way—both publicly and privately—that is honorable, dependable, and above reproach.
Second, a servant-leader is not above the law.
Nor does he consider himself above the law. The US Congress provides a classic example of the opposite of this principle, routinely passing bad legislation from which the lawmakers themselves are exempt.
With a true servant-leader there is no such hypocrisy. The rules are applied equally to all. He expects as much or more of himself as of the people he leads, for he knows that as their leader, he will incur a stricter judgment.
The father who smokes two packs a day, but warns his kids to never take up the habit? He isn’t doing himself, his children, or his health any favors.
I may not struggle with hypocrisy in such an obvious way as this, yet I sometimes expect things of my wife and children that I am unwilling or unable to do myself:
I want them to hear me out, although I often interrupt.
I expect them to be patient and thoughtful and self-controlled, even when I haven’t been.
I would like for them to look their best, even if I skip shaving or look a little shabby myself.
I want them to control their emotions and refrain from pouting, crying, or acting moody in any way, yet sometimes I fail to control the temper that provokes such moodiness, sulkiness, and tears.
And I do these things, despite the fact that Scripture repeatedly warns against such behavior:
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)
“[Love] does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth….” (1 Corinthians 13:5-6)
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
The take-home message? We need to be and do the things we want our wives and children to be and do. We should expect as much or more of ourselves as we do of them. We must lead by example.
Third, a servant-leader thinks of others first.
He puts the good of the organization ahead of his own needs or personal advantage. He leads selflessly and sacrificially. He considers the interests of others as more important than his own. (Philippians 2:3-4)
I’ve known both styles of leaders: Those who use the organization to serve themselves, and those who use themselves to serve the organization.
Although I’ve crossed paths with a few embezzlers over the years, embezzlement is not the only way to steal from a company. It’s just the most obvious way. Many people manipulate vacation schedules, work assignments, and tax credits to their own benefit. They are always watching out for number one, always looking for loopholes. Whatever will garner the best perks or put the most money in their pocket with the least amount of effort is what they will do, every time — whether it’s ethical or not.
A servant-leader is the opposite. He does what is best for those he serves, even when it requires great personal sacrifice to do so. For the family man, this may mean driving mini-vans instead of sports cars, going on family vacations instead of golfing excursions, living in a modest home in suburbia instead of a high-rise apartment in the city, or getting braces for Junior instead of that new flat-screen TV.
The term “servant-leader” is what Buddhists would call a koan — a seemingly contradictory statement that forces a person to stop and think more deeply about a subject, so as to bring about an even greater enlightenment.
Yet leaders should serve those they lead. The only reason servant-leadership seems like a koan or an oxymoron to our society today is because we have grown so accustomed to leaders who abuse their power and use it to benefit themselves, often to the detriment of the people they are supposed to represent.
Plato felt that those who most desire to rule are least suited to do so, because they invariably have ulterior motives. His solution was that leaders be conscripted into service the way soldiers are drafted into the military.
In a sense, the Biblical command for husbands to be leaders in their homes is exactly that — men being conscripted by God to serve their wives and children.
Unfortunately, most men are not natural leaders, nor do they naturally love their wives in the self-sacrificing, Christ-like way God commands. If these things came naturally, there’d be no need for the associated directives in Scripture. Commands in Scripture almost always run counter to our natural inclinations and underscore our need for the supernatural intervention of a loving Savior!
Do you long for your wife to shower you with respect and admiration? Do you wish she would follow your lead without arguing or questioning your every decision?
You will never get the results you are looking for by being harsh and demanding. Even if you were to gain her cooperation, it would be given begrudgingly. That isn’t what godly servant-leadership looks like.
If you want your wife to follow your lead, then you must walk in a way that is worthy of respect. Lead in a way that inspires your family to follow.
Lead prayerfully. Lead gently. Guide them with humility, understanding, patience, faithfulness, temperance, and love.
As a husband, the responsibility falls to you for taking the lead in improving your marriage. Don’t blame your wife for your own failures in this area. You must work to earn her trust and confidence.
Prove yourself to be a man of integrity, a person who thinks things through — not a man who is shortsighted or rash or vindictive.
It is a sobering proposition to be the spiritual head of one’s home, to be held accountable before God for the spiritual health and welfare of one’s family.
We should shoulder this responsibility with an attitude of meekness. Inwardly, our focus should not be, “Alright!! I get to call the shots!” Rather, we should be thinking, “God has entrusted this responsibility to me, and I don’t want to flub it up.”
Such a heavy responsibility calls for a posture of prayer. Pray that God will enable you to relate to your wife and children as a wise servant-leader should: Love wholeheartedly. Love sacrificially. Love unconditionally. Love extravagantly. Consistently shower your wife with that brand of love, and chances are, it will eventually win her over. She’ll then happily follow you to the ends of the earth.
But what if it doesn’t? What if she won’t?
Then you’ve got to keep loving.
Love her, because God has commanded you to love her — not because of what you stand to gain from doing so. Love her and keep loving her, because you want to be obedient to Him.
He will receive the glory from your doing so. And that is the only success that will matter in the end.
I commissioned my wife to do a little subway art for me this week. Here’s what she came up with:
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it might serve as a good reminder for husbands that showing love to your wife is something you should do every day of the year — not just on special occasions.
Want to print a copy to keep? You can click on the image above to download a free printable PDF of the graphic.
You’ll find a matching “Respect Your Husband” graphic on my wife’s blog this week. Follow this link if you want to print that one.
My father-in-law used to watch a lot of television. He was a little hard of hearing, so he usually kept the volume turned up pretty loud.
My wife’s mother would sometimes try to talk over the television to tell him something, but instead of muting the program and focusing his attention on her, Dad would just cup his ear and lean in closer to the set. Rather than tuning out the TV, he tried to tune out his wife!
Although we don’t have a television at our house, my wife still catches me “tuning out” occasionally. She’ll be in the middle of telling me a story, and I’ll be staring off into space, mentally rehashing some event or conversation from earlier in the day. Whether the distractions are internal or external, our wives can easily tell when we’re not paying attention.
Calvin Coolidge once said, “It takes a great man to be a good listener.” And do you know what? He was right.
So how can we learn to listen better? Here are five basic things husbands can do to hone their listening skills:
First, minimize distractions.
Kids who are being boisterous should be made to settle down or sent to another room. Televisions and radios should be turned down or completely off. Laptops should be closed and cellphones pocketed. I normally place my phone or tablet face down beside me to physically demonstrate to my wife that she does, indeed, have my full attention.
Second, make eye contact.
It may feel awkward at first, especially if you are accustomed to staring at your shoes or at the newspaper, but this is essential to letting your wife know you care about what she has to say. Look into her eyes, even if it’s hard. One of our sons had a difficult time looking people in the eye when he was younger. Even so, we insisted he do it, because we realized his habit of avoiding eye contact would cripple his ability to communicate and might even make him appear untrustworthy. With practice, he was able to overcome that unconscious quirk and is now one of the most comfortable, confident, and outgoing young men one could ever hope to meet.
Third, give frequent affirmation.
Do you get what your wife is saying? Nod your head in understanding. Do you agree? Let her know that. Say positive things like, “Uh-huh” and “I see.” These things will communicate to her that you are paying attention and following her train of thought.
Fourth, ask questions.
If you don’t understand something your wife has just told you, don’t pretend like you do. Instead, ask insightful, intelligent questions. This allows you clarify any ambiguities in what you think you heard her say (and it also helps her know for sure when she’s gotten her point across).
Fifth and finally, summarize.
Repeat back, in a nutshell, what your wife just told you. This serves to cement what was discussed into your memory and reassures your beloved that she has truly been heard.
Although these five suggestions may seem difficult initially, they will begin to flow more naturally after you’ve gotten a little practice doing them. The best part is that, once you really begin to listen, you’ll be amazed at what interesting thoughts your wife has to share!
Whether you reference this prayer guide or not, I hope you will make it a habit to pray for your wife daily. If you’d like to download a free printable version of our head-to-toe plan to use as a reminder, just click on the image at right. Enjoy.
Pray for Her Brain:
Pray that God would mold her into a capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman and would keep her thoughts centered on whatever is true, lovely, right, pure, noble, and worthy of praise. (Proverbs 31:10; Philippians 4:8)
Ask that God would fill her mouth with skillful and godly wisdom, that the law of kindness would remain on her tongue, and that she would only and always speak the truth in love . (Proverbs 31:26; Ephesians 4:15)
Ask God to gird your wife with strength, making her arms strong and firm. Pray that He would bless the work of her hands and that she would do her work cheerfully, as unto Him. (Proverbs 31:17, 31; Colossians 3:23)
Pray for Her Womb:
Pray that God would bless the fruit of her womb by giving her children who walk in truth. (Psalm 127:3; 3 John 1:4)
Pray that her feet would be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace so that she might faithfully pursue righteousness and love. Ask God to lead her in the path of wisdom and truth and to keep her foot from stumbling. (Ephesians 6:15; Proverbs 21:21; Proverbs 4:11-12)