There are differences in the way that men and women perceive and express love. Understanding them will strengthen your marriage as you communicate love to your spouse in a way they best understand.
One of the key ways a man shows his wife he loves her is by his attention. (The post on “Making Your Wife Feel Loved” deals with that in detail. You can read it here). God has put it in the heart of a woman to enjoy meaningful conversation. When a man does this his wife feels he loves her.
A man is different. God has created a man to enjoy, even crave, respect. When a wife voices her admiration for her husband he feels that she cares for him.
Perhaps a lady might think this is vain. But it isn’t. This is one of the primary ways a man interprets love. This isn’t a principle borrowed from psychology. It is given clearly in the Bible.
“Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)
God succinctly summarizes the basic needs of men and women in marriage in the above text. A man is to love his wife; a wife is to reverence her husband. The word “reverence” means “to have respect for”.
This doesn’t mean that a wife doesn’t want or not need to be respected. Those we love we are respectful toward. But it is a greater need for a man to feel respect from his wife.
I told Paula one day, “I don’t just want you to love me, I want you to like me”.
A lady knows someone is her friend when they are able to have small talk, sharing details, listening without a bias to action. A man knows someone is his friend when there is a mutual respect and appreciation for each other.
I’ve had men say to me, “I know my wife cares about me, but I don’t think she likes me”. Perhaps they mean there is no question that love is there, but the friendship component is missing. In a man’s language that is admiration.
This is where it gets sticky. What if a man has glaring flaws in his life? What is a wife to do when her husband has some work to do in his character? What if it’s difficult to respect him?
No wife would think her husband truly loved her if he loved her conditionally. We even use the phrase “unconditional love” to describe genuine love. True love pursues a person in spite of flaws.
Is it right for a wife to put qualifications on admiring her husband before she will do so? Is is possible to have “unconditional respect”? Will true love seek areas to respect in spite of flaws?
I don’t have time in a blog post to cover this idea thoroughly, but here’s my thesis: you can give unconditional respect toward someone, even when there are inconsistencies in their life.
We are commanded from the Bible to do this with governmental authorities, even when we disagree with them (I Peter 2:18). The same is true of a wife’s attitude toward her husband.
When a wife shows sincere admiration and respect for her husband it resonates deeply within his heart, especially when he knows he could be and do better.
Don’t brush this off by saying, “Well, that’s just vanity. I’m not going to feed his ego. It’s already too much now. If anything, he needs to be taken down a notch or two. He has a lot of issues he needs to be working on and when he makes some progress, then I’ll show some verbal appreciation”.
A wife has to learn to do so even when there is imperfection – and there always will be.
What are some practical ways you can do this?
- Look for areas where he does some things well. It may be that he is diligent in his work. Tell him so – and give concrete examples. He may be a good friend, a good father, or honest. What does he do in your marriage that is positive? Focus on that area and share it with him.
I’m a pastor and speak twice to our church each Sunday. It’s nice to hear people acknowledge my work in the pulpit, but the most important person to hear it from is my wife. When she tells me I did a good job it means something extra special. If she doesn’t say anything, sometimes I wonder if I hit the ball or not.
I’m aware that some ladies have husbands that contribute very little to the spiritual or emotional health of your home. It’s so important that you not become cynical, but ask God to give you something for which you can be grateful.
The Bible teaches that an unbelieving husband will be influenced by the godly example and lifestyle of his wife. One of the chief attitudes that draws his heart to yours is your respect for him.
“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” (I Peter 3:1-2)
- Praise him more than you correct him. The Bible talks about receiving constructive criticism and growing from it. However, it also talks about affirmation and encouragement. Both are important, but when criticism outweighs praise the relationship begins to wither.
One of the most common expressions I say or write to my children is, “I’m proud of you”. I do so because I know how important it is that they know I believe in them. I like to hear my wife say it to me, also. Call it ego, if you will, but God put it in the heart of a man to want to be admired.
Years ago I was speaking at a men’s conference in another state. After one of the sessions one of the men came to me and shared with me that he hadn’t planned on attending the conference.
He said, “I really didn’t want to come to the conference. I know I’m a lousy husband and a bad father and I didn’t want to come to hear someone tell me what I already knew about myself. But you encouraged me and told me how I could do better and I’m glad I was here tonight”.
Most men are aware of their shortcomings and already feel guilty. Don’t be his Holy Spirit. Pray for God to change him in the areas where he is weak. Sure, there’s a time to talk to him about it, but above all, be his cheerleader and primary encourager.
- Express sincere appreciation to him. All of us like to know we have made a contribution; a man hungers to hear words of gratitude from his wife.
If a man senses that people have lost respect for him in an area he will not want to return to that area. That’s why he doesn’t respond well to nagging. It reminds him of his failure.
When respect is absent so is gratitude. That is a dangerous place to be. When gratefulness is gone, contempt will fill the vacuum. When contempt is one’s attitude, nothing a person can do will please them.
I have known men that were married to an attractive lady and left her for another woman. Later people saw the woman he ran off with and noted that she wasn’t as beautiful as his wife, even very ordinary in appearance. Why would he do that?
Here’s my thought – it wasn’t because of the way the new woman looked that won his heart, but her attitude toward him and the way she talked to him. She praised him and was grateful for little things. (Please know I am not justifying this behavior, only making a general observation).
Respect is a powerful issue to a man. Gratitude is, too. Where one is present you will find the other.
Here is what typically happens in a marriage over time: the things that initially attracted us to each other now get on our nerves. What was once a strength has become a weakness. (A strength to an extreme becomes a weakness).
The longer we are married we drift toward this type of thinking.
He was funny then, but now he doesn’t know when to stop.
She was serious then, but now she is a stick in the mud.
He was a strong leader then, but now he makes decisions too quickly.
She was spontaneous then, but now she doesn’t clean up after herself.
He was careful and thoughtful then, but now he takes too long to make a decision.
She was quiet and a good listener then, but now she hardly talks to me.
He was fun and the life of the party then, but now he talks too much.
When we lose appreciation for the very quality that was responsible for drawing us to that person it will be replaced by aggravation and then contempt.
On most week nights Paula and I watch reruns of the Andy Griffith show at 10 p.m. before we go to sleep. Recently she went on a trip out of town with her childhood friend to spend some time together.
When I came home that afternoon there was a post it note on the night stand by the bed. It read: “I will miss you tonight when Andy Griffith comes on. I love you, Paula”.
That little post it note hasn’t moved from that spot since she put it there. It’s a reminder every time I see it that my wife enjoys my company and that she not only loves me, but she likes me. I like her, too.