Husbands: Be Careful with Female Friendships

Couple Dining

We all have friends and colleagues of the opposite sex, and it is important that we learn to interact with them in a healthy way — especially once we marry.

If you’re newlywed, then you have likely spent a good portion of your life trying to “find” the right girl to marry. Now that you’ve found her, you must get out of “search” mode. The charm and flirtatiousness that served you so well when you were single is now a liability, not an asset.

If you have been married awhile, then you’ve probably already figured out a lot of the things I’m about to discuss. Nonetheless, the occasional reminder can be helpful, since many of us tend to forget or neglect the basics as the years go by.

To begin, let me state that being married doesn’t make you a monk. You don’t get to live in a monastery somewhere, shielded from any association with females outside your family. You still have to live in the real world, work a job, and interact with living, breathing human beings, roughly half of which are women.

For this reason, a few basic rules of engagement are in order. Four basic principles should guide a husband’s interaction with women other than his wife:

  1. Protect Your Reputation
  2. Reputations, as they say, take a lifetime to build but only an instant to destroy. This is even truer in the modern era where people thirst for negative news and are quick to believe the worst. Superimpose the lightening speed of modern communications, and you have a recipe for disaster. Don’t let it happen to you.

    There are several simple ways to avoid this problem:

    • First, do not be alone with any woman who is not your wife.It may sound a little old-fashioned, but this sound advice may someday save your reputation and very likely your marriage if only you will follow it. Why risk ever becoming embroiled in a “he said/she said” misunderstanding when it can so easily be avoided?

      Life is too full of traps and temptations as it is, why set snares for your own feet unnecessarily? Once there is an asterisk by your reputation, it never goes away.

    • The second principle is a corollary to the first: Don’t spend an excessive amount of time with a woman who is not your wife, even in public.
      When your co-workers or friends notice the two of you together all the time, either laughing and joking or engaged in deep, serious conversation, they begin to wonder why? Their imaginations will quickly answer that question for them, regardless of how innocent your relationship may be. It’s no longer a “he said/she said” situation, but becomes instead a matter of what “they said” — behind your back.

      Steer clear of clandestine rendezvous with friends or acquaintances of the opposite gender. Always be honest and forthcoming with your wife concerning what you do when you’re apart from her, and with whom. Keeping secrets spells trouble no matter how you slice it.

    • Furthermore, some subjects should be off limits for discussion between you and someone of the opposite sex.
      Bawdy humor is an obvious example. Another is the discussion of marital discord, either yours or hers. Such discussion, if necessary, should always be redirected to a trusted friend or counselor of the same sex. Expressing dissatisfaction with a spouse very commonly becomes a pretext to finding solace in someone else’s arms. Don’t take that chance.

    I don’t mean to imply you cannot have female friends, nor am I advocating making such relationships weird and awkward. I’ve known people who refuse to even look members of the opposite sex in the eye, lest they come across as being too familiar. In my opinion, they’ve let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction, making it hard to have even the simplest of exchanges.

    Interacting with other women is both possible and necessary, but you must be careful how and where you invest the bulk of your time and energy. It’s more a question of degree — if your dearest and best friend is a woman who isn’t your wife, then it’s clearly time to reassess.

  3. Guard Your Heart
  4. Tread cautiously when relating to female friends and acquaintances. Affairs don’t happen in a vacuum, they develop over time. Don’t let them.

    Remember, also, that not all affairs are physical ones. Honoring your marriage vows means remaining faithful in thought and word, as well as in deed.

    It’s understandable that we would become close with our coworkers. After all, we spend forty hours or more together every week. In some cases, this may mean we actually spend more waking hours together with them than we do with our spouses.

    Some of those coworkers may be single. Some may be happily married. Some unhappily married. Many of them will be smart, attractive, kind, filled with many admirable qualities that your spouse may or may not share. But at the end of the day, no matter how wonderful your female colleagues may be, none of those women are your wife, nor should they be treated as such.

    Your wife is the only woman with whom you should cultivate physical, spiritual, and emotional intimacy. She’s the one you should live with, confide in, depend on, and bare your soul to. The harsh reality is that the woman at work or the gym who seems to get you only does so because she doesn’t have to live with you. She’s only observed the “fitness” version of you or the “dressed up and working hard” version of you.

    She has never seen the “flatulent, half-dressed, hair a mess, haven’t bathed in two days, sports-watching, short-tempered, forgot to pick up the milk, bring in the mail, or pay the bills on time” version of you. And that version of you isn’t nearly so attractive.

    Your wife sees and knows all of you, not just the cherry-picked, carefully polished facets of your personality. She knows you as a real and complete person, not some smoke and mirrors illusion. That other woman doesn’t.

    In similar fashion, the notion that you’ve found a “soul mate” other than your wife is pure fantasy. That woman at work or the gym only seems amazing because you don’t have to live with her annoying idiosyncrasies, her inexplicable mood swings, her spitefulness when upset, or any of a myriad other things that can so quickly extinguish the hottest flames of passion.

    Men who stray eventually come to realize the grass on the other side of the fence isn’t as green as they initially thought. Unfortunately, that realization often comes after it’s too late. Don’t destroy the hope you have for happiness in your present marriage by seeking happiness elsewhere. All meaningful, lasting relationships take work. They demand intentionality.

    To know and be known requires an investment of time and energy. Invest in your wife.

  5. Consider Your Wife’s Feelings
  6. The third rule is to be considerate of your wife’s feelings in how you relate to other women. Sounds simple, but it can be more complicated than it seems. How men view certain words or actions and how their wives view them can vary significantly. Beware the landmines!

    Such consideration comes in two varieties: how you interact with other women and how you speak about other women. The short version is: don’t be too positive or negative in either situation. Relative neutrality is key.

    Let’s start with how you interact with other women. When your wife is present, assume her radar is up. You shouldn’t eyeball the gorgeous woman in the skimpy outfit who just walked into the room, even in your wife’s absence, but when your spouse is sitting right beside you, you certainly better refrain from gawking.

    The same goes for such women in the movies or on television. Your wife needs your assurance that you have eyes only for her.

    Likewise, don’t get enmeshed in a two-hour conversation off in the corner at a party with that cute new girl from work, as steam slowly pours from your spouse’s ears. And, most importantly of all, never ever ever flirt with anybody but your wife!

    Of course, you can be kind and hospitable without being flirtatious, and I recommend you do so, especially when relating to your wife’s friends. Her friends are constantly judging you and providing feedback, solicited or otherwise, and it would serve you well to be in their good graces. This really isn’t that hard. Common courtesy and small talk can go a long way. While you don’t want your wife’s girlfriends to think you’re coming on to them, neither do you want them to think you are rude. Learn to walk the line. Be friendly, not flirty.

    But how you behave toward other women is only half the equation, and the more straightforward half, at that. The really tricky part hinges on how you speak about other women.

    You obviously can’t be too complimentary — especially about looks. However, if you are too dismissive of unusual beauty or talent, your wife will become suspicious and question your judgment, including your judgment of her.

    A good rule of thumb is to compliment talent without gushing, but say nothing regarding looks, unless she specifically asks. If she does ask, be careful — she is testing you. The correct answer is to mildly acknowledge beauty, so as not to appear dense, but to include a modifying caveat, so as to reaffirm your loyalty.

    You might answer, for example, “Yes, she is tall and thin, but it makes her seem frail. I have always preferred a more athletic build, like yours. It just seems healthier and more robust.”

    Again, you must also be cautious with the flip side. You should not be overly critical of other women, especially of their appearance. The most serious and stoic of women are highly self-conscious about their looks. In their minds, criticism of one woman translates into criticism of all women.

    This is especially true regarding weight. If you casually mention some other woman has gained weight, your wife will immediately assume that you are insinuating she, herself, has packed on a few too many pounds, as well. Just don’t do it. That discussion is a tar baby made with extra sticky tar.

  7. Be Considerate of Significant Others
  8. All humans are territorial, and men particularly so. It doesn’t take much to instigate jealousy or even anger in their partner if you aren’t careful. You don’t want the spouse/fiancé/boyfriend of your female friend or co-worker to view you as a threat or a competitor. You should be neither, and your behavior should reflect that fact.

    A moment of cuteness or flirtatiousness on your end can translate into a lot of heartache and misery on hers. Don’t do that to a friend.

    Just as you should avoid flirting with other women, you should also take appropriate measures to keep them from flirting with you. Neither engage in it yourself nor encourage it from them.

    That’s why it’s so important — not only for your own marriage, but also for others’ — that clear boundaries are set. Rarely if ever do these boundaries have to be explicitly stated. Usually just talking about your children and your spouse in glowing terms early on and repeatedly thereafter will clarify the situation for everyone involved without things becoming unnecessarily uncomfortable or awkward.

    The same principle holds true in social settings — especially whenever alcohol is served. I remember attending an out-of-town, obligatory social event several years ago at which a woman who’d obviously had too much to drink came over to me, draped her arms around my neck, and asked what I’d be doing later that night.

    When I politely explained that I would be talking on the phone to my lovely wife and our eight kids, she dropped her arms in stunned surprise and quickly moved on in search of a more receptive companion.

    A couple months later, the woman was divorced. She evidently found somebody who shared her lack of concern for maintaining proper boundaries or showing appropriate consideration of her spouse.

    If you want your marriage to last and your wife to feel loved, you’ll have to do better than that.

25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife -- by Doug Flanders, MDThe above post was adapted from a chapter in my marriage book, 25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife. Each chapter is followed by action points that makes it easy to apply what you are learning. My wife has written a companion volume, 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband. These books make a great couple-study for husbands and wives wishing to strengthen their marriage and improve communication skills.

Loving AND Respecting Your Wife

Back when my wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, she published a post on her blog called 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband, and I published a post on mine called 25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife.

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.

Women DESERVE RESPECT, no question, but what they CRAVE 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.

This post is excerpted 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 LOVE she craves, as well as the RESPECT she deserves.

Special offer for Valentine's Day: Discover God's Design for Love, Sex & Marriage

What Is a Servant-Leader at Home?

3 Indispensable Characteristics of a Servant-Leader | All Truth is God's TruthAll 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:

  1. First and foremost, a servant-leader is transparent.
  2. 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.

  3. Second, a servant-leader is not above the law.
  4. 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.

  5. Third, a servant-leader thinks of others first.
  6. 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.

This post first appeared on All Truth is God’s Truth. To read more, check out my novel:
The Prodigy Project by Doug Flanders, MD

25 Ways to Show Your Wife You Love Her

The key to a successful marriage is putting your spouse’s needs ahead of your own. Here are 25 practical suggestions gleaned from 25 years of happy marriage.

  1. Listen
    To be truly heard is the longing of every human heart, and your wife is no exception. It sounds simple, but listening can be harder than it seems with so many distractions around us and within us. Set aside some time every day to look into your wife’s eyes and really listen to what she has to say. You may be surprised at what you hear. (James 1:19, Matthew 11:15)
  2. Communicate
    Don’t make her guess what you are thinking or feeling.
  3. Sing Her Praises
    Shamelessly brag about her good qualities and quietly pray about her bad ones. Her reputation is your reputation. (Proverbs 31:28-29)
  4. Pray For Her and With Her
    Praying on your wife’s behalf not only enlists the help of the Almighty, but also puts her and her needs at the forefront of your heart and mind, right where they belong. Praying alongside your wife will strengthen your relationship like nothing else. Studies show that couples who regularly pray together stay together, enjoying a 1% divorce rate compared to the usual rate of 50% or more. (Philippians 4:6; Matthew 18:19)
  5. Value Her Individuality
    Your wife is wonderfully unique. Don’t compare her to your mom, or your ex-wife, or your old girlfriend. Your mom may make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, but unfavorable comparisons won’t win you brownie points.
  6. Put the Seat Down
    Perpetually raised toilet seats are a pet peeve of wives everywhere. And while you’re at it, tidy up a bit. A little consideration goes a long way. (Philippians 2:4)
  7. Throw Your Dirty Clothes in the Hamper
    It’s likely just a few steps from wherever you are dropping them anyway. Make this a habit, and it will let your wife know your don’t consider her your personal maid.
  8. Turn Off the T.V.
    Lay aside the video games, pocket the iPhone, and shut off the computer, as well. It is staggering how many hours we waste gazing at some sort of screen instead of interacting with the real people in our lives. Consciously set limits on your tube-time, whatever form it takes. Use the time saved to invest in your marriage: take a walk with your wife or play a board game together instead. (Psalm 90:12)
  9. Loosen the Purse Strings
    We all have to keep an eye on our budget, but an occasional splurge can be well worth it. Seemingly frivolous things like flowers, jewelry, and overpriced restaurants let her know that she is more valuable to you than a number in your bank account.
  10. Practice Servant-Leadership
    All organizations have a hierarchy. It’s impossible to function without one, but being a leader isn’t the same as being a dictator. The best role model is Jesus Christ, not Joseph Stalin. Jesus washed his disciples feet and then died on their behalf. It’s a challenge to exercise authority while maintaining a spirit of humility, but that is what being a godly leader entails. (Matthew 20:28, Philippians 2:1-8; Mark 9:35)
  11. Remember that Intimacy’s a Two-Way Street
    Unfortunately, men are notoriously selfish in the bedroom, yet are dumbfounded when their wives are less than enthusiastic in this arena. Make this area of your relationship as pleasurable for her as it is for you and it will pay huge dividends. It may mean washing the dishes or helping with the kids, so that she has energy left at the end of the day. It may mean cuddling and candlelight, so that she can relax and let the worries on her mind drift away. If you aren’t sure where to begin, just ask her, and then listen. (1 Corinthians 7:3)
  12. Give Her Time to Herself
    Everyone needs an occasional break to rest and recharge, and this is especially important for a wife who is at home all day with young children. Yet it’s very easy to neglect this legitimate need unless you regularly and intentionally schedule time for it. (Luke 5:16)
  13. Set Aside Couple Time
    Soak in the tub together each evening or go on a date night once a week — whatever gets the two of you alone on a regular basis. (Genesis 2:24-25)
  14. Be Careful with Female Friendships
    We all have friends and colleagues of the opposite sex, but tread cautiously. Not all affairs are physical ones. Honoring your marriage vows means remaining faithful in thought and word as well as in deed. (Matthew 5:27-28)
  15. Use Good Hygiene
    It is amazing how meticulous guys can be prior to marriage in their attempts to impress a girl, but once they walk down the aisle, all bets are off. Clean up a little; I promise it won’t kill you.
  16. Limit the Gross Stuff
    Few women find burping and farting nearly as hilarious as the typical guy does. Good manners are always a win. (Ephesians 5:4)
  17. Be Patient
    In whatever way this applies to you and your situation, apply it. (1 Corinthians 13:4, Proverbs 14:29)
  18. Cherish Her Children
    A mother’s bond to her children runs immeasurably deep. When you invest time or energy in them, you are investing in her as well. Kindness to them counts as kindness to her. (Malachi 4:6)
  19. Choose Her Over Hobbies and Buddies
    Invariably there will come times in your relationship when you will be forced to choose between your wife and something else that you enjoy. Always choose her.
  20. Provide for Her Needs
    This is so much more than just putting food on the table. It is all-encompassing. Whether it is physical needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs, you name it — do your best to provide. Sometimes life’s circumstances hinder us in one area, but we can compensate in another area. Often the effort is as important as the outcome. (Galatians 6:2)
  21. Dial Down the Anger
    Your caveman instincts are handy on the battlefield, but horrible for a happy home life. Every outburst or flare-up is a relationship setback. To go forward, the first step is to stop going backwards. Learn to control your temper or it will control you, your marriage, and every other aspect of your life. Just because your wife puts up with it and your co-workers tolerate it, doesn’t make your short fuse an asset. Do whatever it takes to gain victory in this all-important struggle that has haunted man since Cain slew Abel. (Ecclesiastes 7:9, Ephesians 4:31)
  22. Cut Out the Condescension
    If you have been blessed with a quick wit, you can either be the life of the party or a pain in the neck depending on the circumstances. Condescension is anger’s younger brother. It isn’t as loud or as dramatic, but it can be equally hurtful and all the more so for its subtlety. Lay off the snide remarks, the sarcasm, and the belittling. Speak to your wife in the same way that you would speak to a respected colleague. She is, after all, your partner in the most valuable investment of your life — your family.(, (Ephesians 4:29, Colossians 3:19)
  23. Actively Seek Your Wife’s Insights
    Value her input and give it a preferential place in your decision-making process. (Proverbs 19:20; 12:15)
  24. Learn to Forgive
    Freely forgive your wife’s past, present, and future offenses. Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel and at the heart of every meaningful relationship. (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13)
  25. Verbally Express Your Love
    There are lots of ways to show your love, but women still like to hear it spoken.

Obviously no list is comprehensive, and one size certainly doesn’t fit all, but hopefully this one will prompt you to compile a list of your own, tailor-made for your own wife. For any women reading this blog, you may be interested to know that my wife has published a similar list entitled 25 Ways to Show Respect to Your Husband. Check it out and let me know what you think.

25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife - Must reading for any man looking to improve his marriage. 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband - Read the post. Sign up for the challenge. Order the book.Update: If you liked this post, then you’ll love my book — 188 pages filled with Biblical wisdom and sensible suggestions for putting these principles into practice. And while you’re at it, check out my wife’s companion book, as well.

Also, for those who’ve requested printable versions of these articles, you’ll find the list for husbands here and the one for wives here, with an option to print either article in its entirety or as a one-page summary.

Special offer for Valentine's Day: Discover God's Design for Love, Sex & Marriage

The Road Less Taken

My wife asked me to write the foreword to her first book. Here’s what I wrote.

The Road Less Taken

“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14 (NIV)

This is the story of the road less taken.

Are you being herded along the highway of conventional wisdom, jostled by every whim and worry? Are you marching lockstep with hordes of unhappy people to destinations unknown? Are you starting to question where you are going? Why you are going there? And how come everyone seems so miserable along the way?

Then push your way to the edge of the crowd. You may have a bit of a struggle because everyone is packed in so tightly. You may step on some toes. You may get some angry looks as you squeeze by. You may even hear a few harsh words muttered in your direction. Just apologize and keep moving.

Once you break free of the masses, look down the little knoll into the meadow below. Can you see the narrow trail of pushed-down grass cutting through the field of green? Let your eyes follow it until it disappears into the golden wood. Now look at the forest. See the trees as they sway gently in the breeze. Notice the glint of sunshine in the distance, perhaps from a hidden lake, and the little wisp of smoke rising as though from a single chimney.

Turn back around and look at the crowd. Most of the people are expressionless, sullenly tramping along. Some are angry, shoving and elbowing their way forward along the giant conveyor belt that reaches to the horizon. Here and there you see an occasional smile. Your previous companions have moved on and are disappearing into the distance.

Now you face a decision. Do you rejoin the crowd or follow that little grassy trail to see where it leads?

This book is a letter home from someone who took the little grassy trail.

It has been my privilege to hold the author’s hand and walk side by side with her along that trail for the past twenty-two years. Nothing you read here is hypothetical. It is all very real. She has lived out daily every single bit of advice she gives. Although it is packed with scientific studies and Scripture references, her book is as much a journal as anything else: a very personal answer to the question, how do you make it all work?

In fact, this book is just the first of a three-part series answering that very question. Each installment is written in the spirit of Titus 2:3-5, which tells older women to encourage younger women to “love their husbands, love their children, and to be workers at home.” The series gives a detailed description of what each of these three imperatives looks like in a modern context. This first book deals with successful husband-wife relationships. The second book addresses meaningful parent-child relationships. And the third gives practical advice on managing a home.

When you read these books, you will be challenged to step outside your comfort zone. You will be asked to be more than what you are, maybe more than what you think you can be. As you follow some of the advice, you may find yourself frustrated, skeptical, and possibly a little afraid. From time to time, you may even look back over your shoulder, across the meadow, at the slowly marching crowd and wonder if you made the right decision.

Fear not. What awaits you at the end of the trail is well worth it. I’ve been there. I know.