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Admit it. You’d like to be one of those couples that prays together daily, conducts family devotions regularly, and models to others what a spiritual home should look like.

But if you’re like us – and most couples we’ve talked to – you’re not quite there.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever be.

Although my husband was a pastor for more than 20 years and I continue to be heavily involved in ministry, too, it took us a good 20 years before we started setting aside the time to pray together regularly. And when we did, we realized it was the single most important factor in creating a closer connection between the two of us.

And yet, why did it take us so long to prioritize praying together?  The reasons – or maybe I should say, excuses — abounded.

As my husband and I began researching and writing our book, When Couples Walk Together, we interviewed many couples on the subject of praying together and learned we were not alone in our struggle. Nor were our reasons unique for finding it difficult to come together to pray.

The Schedule Dilemma

We found the number-one reason most couples cited for not praying together was conflicting schedules and the inability to find the time to do so. For years, my husband and I cited this excuse, too. He was up earlier and out the door for work while I was helping our daughter get ready for school, which made morning prayer together nearly impossible. And praying at night before bed was out of the question as he would fall asleep much earlier than I would. But we realized that we make the time to do what is most important to us, so we had to start getting creative. Other couples we talked to also struggled with making the time, but once they did, they found another difficulty arose.

The Intimidation Factor

In talking with many couples about why they don’t pray together, the schedule is often the first excuse. But lying underneath that is the feeling that one’s spirituality will be measured by the length or depth of one’s prayers.  Many wives expect their husbands, as the spiritual heads of the household, to initiate prayer, to comfort their hearts through prayer when they are feeling misunderstood, to be their spiritual strength. And those kinds of expectations can be intimidating to any man. Likewise, wives can feel intimidated, too, if they feel their prayers don’t match the spiritual depth of their husbands. Some spouses tend to be more verbose in their prayers, while others feel more comfortable internalizing their thoughts and pray silently to God. Prayer makes anyone feel vulnerable, especially if someone other than God is listening in.

The ‘Unseen’ Battle 

Finally, praying with one’s spouse is difficult at times because the enemy of our souls doesn’t want us praying together.  Anything that strengthens your bond with your spouse and causes you two to come together in like mindedness will be considered dangerous to Satan and he’ll do what it takes to prevent it — through distractions, misunderstandings, interruptions, feelings of intimidation,  personal fatigue, and so on. That doesn’t mean every time your prayer time is interrupted or needs to be postponed that it was the work of the devil. Nor does it mean each time your spouse needs to cancel or doesn’t feel like praying it is his or her fault, either. It just means that our battle “is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12).

Pushing Through the Obstacles:  

Just as there are many reasons why it’s difficult for couples to pray together, there are equally as many ways to push through the barriers and incorporate a habit that will draw the two of you closer to one another and closer to God.

  1. Pray it through – Talk to God first about your desire to pray with your spouse. First John 5:14-15 assures us that “whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.” So, ask God for the time in your schedule, for wisdom in how to suggest it to your spouse, and that God will prepare the heart of your spouse to desire this time with you, as well.
  2. Set a time –  By setting an agreed-upon appointment for prayer with your spouse, both of you are more likely to keep it. But, as with any appointment, there will be times you or your spouse will need to postpone or reschedule. That’s life. So, be flexible, and extend grace.
  3. Ease into it – There’s a reason prayer is considered a spiritual discipline. And as with any habit or discipline, it will take work. So ease into it. You might even start with praying together once a week for a brief time, then gradually increase your prayer time to two or three times a week until it becomes a part of your daily schedule.
  4. Keep it short – There is nothing wrong with limiting the time that the two of you can spend in prayer, especially when you’re first starting out. There are jobs to attend, tasks to complete, and children to care for.  Be respectful of each other’s time and put parameters around how long your prayer time will be. My husband often instructs couples in prayer as he would a team of backpackers. When a group of backpackers hit the trail, there’s a general rule of thumb that says everyone should walk at a pace that is most doable for the slowest-moving member of the team. It’s the “leave no man (or woman) behind” motto. So let the spouse who tends to pray the shortest set the tempo.
  5. Keep it simple – You can keep it short and simple by limiting your prayer time together to the basic or most pressing needs on your heart. A couple’s prayer time should never replace an individual’s prayer time. And in my opinion, our prayer time alone with God, one-on-one, should far outweigh the amount of time we pray with our spouse. God is always there. He’s always available. And you don’t need to schedule a time to talk with Him. But that’s often not the case with your spouse. Respect his or her time and pray only about pressing needs that concern your family, such as job, health or financial issues, the salvation or spiritual life of loved ones, the behavioral issues of your children, and so on. You might even consider praying together for certain things on certain days:  Monday – God’s provision; Tuesday – family and extended family; Wednesday – ministry opportunities; and so on.
  6. Keep it safe – Remove any possibility of intimidation by letting your spouse know that your prayer time together is not an arena for judgment or assumption. In other words, anything that is prayed for is “safe” – and won’t be analyzed, critiqued, shared with others, or brought up again in a non-supportive way.
  7. Keep it light – I don’t mean to sound irreverent here or to imply our prayers should be shallow. I mean “light” in terms of encouraging. Praying with your spouse about sensitive issues in your marriage or situations in your past that may cause him or her to feel regret or remorse might not be best. Save the heavier, deeply personal issues for God. He can handle them and many times your spouse won’t know what to do upon hearing prayers that might be directed at him or her and any trouble or anxiety they may be causing the marriage. Aim for a goal of togetherness and encouragement as you pray. If your goal, after praying together, is that both you and your spouse emerge from that prayer time feeling more powerful and strengthened together, then you will know what to address with your spouse and what to keep for an extended prayer time with just you and God. As you begin praying together regularly, the Holy Spirit may impress upon your hearts to pray about deeper issues and, when that is the case, you both will simply be following His lead.

Finally, you can apply the principles of Philippians 2:1-2 as a guideline in praying together by “thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal.” That one goal should be that each of you emerge from your prayer time together feeling stronger, more supported, and more unified in order to take on the enemy of your souls.

 

(This article is adapted from When Couples Walk Together, co-authored by Cindi and Hugh McMenamin.)

I remember the day marriage finally made sense to me. I was flying to a speaking engagement and complaining to God in prayer.

God, you knew what I was like and what I would need in a husband. So are You sure You knew what You were doing when You led me to Hugh?

I was convinced God brought the two of us together. I knew He was in it from the day I met Hugh. But certainly God knew that my husband would not be one to express himself verbally in the way I was expecting. Certainly God knew that I would many times need more, emotionally, than my husband appeared able to give. So why did God let it happen? And why wasn’t He transforming my husband so he would be the kind of man to meet my needs and expectations?

It was then as if God had pulled me aside and whispered something profound to me: “Perhaps I was looking at what he needed.”

According to the Bible, man was created in the image of God. And woman was created to be man’s helper. Woman was created so man would be complete. God didn’t create Adam so Eve could be romanced. To the contrary, He created Eve so Adam would have a helper…one suited for him in every way (Genesis 2:18).

In other words, it wasn’t all about me. Ouch!

I’m embarrassed to say that for the first 15 or so years of our marriage, I never really thought too much about what my husband needed in a wife…but I thought quite a bit about what I needed in a husband and how he was falling short of my expectations. I hadn’t put my own feelings aside long enough to say “God, show me why you brought me into this man’s life and how I can truly help him be all that You created him to be.” I hadn’t put myself on the shelf long enough to see the bigger, more beautiful picture of what God has in mind when He brings two people, who are very different from each other, together to form a union.

It’s tough to leave self on the shelf. Self wants to rule. Self wants its own way. Self suffocates. And self destroys.

The Bible shows us what the opposite of self looks like when it describes love, which is self-less:

Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails! (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, CEV)

Sometimes our marriage looks the opposite of the biblical description of love. We can be unkind, impatient, jealous, boastful, proud and even rude! There are times we are quick-tempered with each other. And God knows there are times we keep records of the wrongs we do to each other. But recognizing what we don’t want our relationship to look like is one of the first steps to walking together toward a newer, fresher, lovelier one.

When I got home from that speaking engagement, I had a new perspective on my marriage. Instead of praying for my husband to meet my needs, I began to ask God to show me how I could meet my husband’s. Instead of looking at his short-comings, I began to ask God to expose to me my own. Instead of focusing on my desires, I began to pray about how I could meet his. And it not only gave me grace to extend to his weaknesses (as I became more aware of my own) but it changed my heart. And our marriage.

My friend, Rhonda, told me how she was able to leave herself on the shelf in her marriage, when it came to expecting her husband, Steve, to meet all of her needs:

“As I grew more intimate with Christ, I let my husband off the hook. He no longer had to be my everything. I could find joy, rest, security and peace in my relationship with Christ. My husband no longer had to be my god. He could be my husband, my friend, my ministry mate. The intimacy in our relationship has always been healthier when I pursue intimacy with Christ first over trying to squeeze every ounce of life out of my husband to make me feel like we are intimate. As we each work on growing more intimate with Christ we find we are more intimate with each other.”

Women are not the only ones who need to take their primary needs to God in the relationship. If a husband is expecting his wife to be his all in all, he, too, will be disappointed. She can only give so much. He must look to God, his Heavenly Father, for his affirmation, sense of worth, and validation as a man. As he becomes certain of who he is in God’s eyes, he won’t depend on his wife to fill a hole in his soul.

Marriage is tough. It shows us how selfish we tend to be. It shows us how much we need God to mend the brokenness in our lives. It shows us how far we really need to go when it comes to being Christ-like in our individual lives and in our marriage. But when we get a glimpse of what God wants to do in and through each of us to help us become more like Himself, we find we have an awesome privilege and responsibility in front of us in this arena called marriage. To be part of God’s work in our spouse’s life is to say “God, not what I need, but what my spouse needs. Use me to build up and encourage my spouse and make him (or her) the person you want them to be.” When we say “Not what I need, but what my spouse needs” we are, in a sense, imitating Jesus’ prayer shortly before going to the cross, in which He said to His Father: “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus was literally giving up His life for ours. So can we, then, be willing to give up our own comforts, needs, and expectatiocouples-five-ways-to-encourage-your-husband-to-dream.htmlns for the other?

There is no more direct way to draw your spouse’s heart toward yours than to put yourself on the shelf and say “not my will, but yours.”

  • Not my choice of a restaurant tonight, but yours.
  • Not my choice of a movie this time, but yours.
  • Not my night to have uninterrupted sleep, but yours.
  • Not my story to dominate the conversation, but yours.
  • Not my feelings to protect today, but yours.
  • Not my dream to pursue right now, but yours.

As you develop a habit of putting the other person first, you may be surprised to find that the phrase eventually becomes “not my ______, but ours.”

Can you leave yourself on the shelf long enough to truly put your husband or wife first? It doesn’t come natural. At times, it doesn’t come easy. But it does bring priceless – and precious – results. You will end up drawing your hearts closer together.

  • November 2, 2014

Hugh was ticking me off.

I didn’t realize when he opened the restaurant door for me and I walked in, that he didn’t want me going straight to the restaurant hostess and “taking charge” by telling the waitress there were “two of us for dinner.” What’s so wrong with that?

Then as we were being escorted into the “loud room” at one of our favorite restaurants, I asked if we could instead sit in a booth we had just passed, located in the quieter section. As the hostess walked us to the booth and laid the menus on the table, Hugh tossed his phone and keys onto the table and sat down with somewhat of a scowl.

Great! I thought sarcastically. We’re in for a lovely evening. I asked him what I did wrong. (Not a good question to start off with, by the way.)

“Can you let me lead once in awhile?” he asked, curtly. I sat there, like I’d been hit in the face. I wasn’t aware that I was offending him by taking charge of the situation as soon as we walked through the door. I looked down. I wanted to cry. I don’t want to be here, I thought. I want to leave right now and walk home. My expectations for the evening weren’t panning out. Neither were Hugh’s.

I (Hugh) wanted the evening to be more of a date with me treating my wife to a night out. You know guys, the made-the-reservations, pull-out-her-chair, order-for-her kind of night. So she wasn’t the only one disappointed. My wife was being a little too controlling for my taste. I didn’t need her to have everything in hand or taken care of – that’s what I wanted to be for her that night and I felt that being taken away at her every move.

For a moment, both of us were thinking “this stinks.” The tension was high. I (Cindi) panicked for a minute…how do we get something so stupid to just dissolve so we can redeem the evening? I opted to be quiet for awhile. Sometimes the less I say, the better, especially when I’m feeling wounded.

Thank God Hugh was the bigger person that night. He took a few deep breaths (careful to not make them sound like exasperated sighs, of course) and asked me what looked good on the menu.

“I know,” he said. “Let’s both try something we’ve never had before. Let’s make this an adventure.”

To be honest, the only adventure I wanted at that moment was to show him what it really looks like when his wife takes charge. I wanted to give him the adventure of a nice meal to himself! But the fact that he instantly became a young boy (“Let’s do something we’ve never done before”) and the fact that he was trying to redeem the evening got to me. Eventually I softened up. I ordered the Burrito Gigantic, he got the Carnitas Quesadilla and we truly enjoyed the rest of the evening.

How do you redeem the moment when it looks like everything is quickly going downhill? How do you recover from a stinging comment or a rude response? How do you forget about the little irritations that make you feel that you’ve finally really had it? By showing grace, realizing you do the same things to your spouse that you accuse him or her of doing to you, and becoming tender.

Often when you’re in the midst of the irritation (or the heat of the battle, whichever applies), neither one of you wants to make the first move. That would be like admitting you were at fault But look at it this way: making the first move is basically being the bigger person… extending in love. And as Scripture says, in 1 Corinthians 13:8, “love never fails.” That’s why it’s so important that one of you extend. And you can be the bigger person. Whatever it is that irritated you isn’t worth flushing the evening down the toilet. So, when the tension starts rising, try one of these tender gestures:

  • An inside joke or something just the two of you share. It’s a connection point to make you realize that underneath your irritation, you are best of friends.
  • Touch tones down the tension. Reach out and grab the other person’s hand. Or, like we do, offer the other person your pinky finger. That’s like saying “I know you don’t feel like holding my hand right now, but will you take just my finger?” It’s humbling. And your spouse might need that. That move of Hugh’s softens me every time.
  • Practice gentleness. Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Harsh words come naturally, and are quick on the tongue. But gentleness can be practiced and rehearsed so it’s prepared and ready to serve up at the appropriate time.
  • Make your spouse laugh. Hugh will pull a geek face on me and it never fails to make me smile.

Looking back now, in all fairness, it was the dinner hour and we were each probably just as hungry and grumpy as the other. Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt might be helpful in pulling the two of you closer together. When things get tense, try offering an extra touch or just flat out admitting you were wrong. Love covers a multitude of sins.

  • November 2, 2014

When was the last time you really splurged on your spouse?

We don’t seem to have a problem splurging on our children when they do something fantastic, or on a best friend or someone who has helped us out a great deal. But how often do we take the time or money or effort to pour it on for the one we are married to?

Some couples are able to splurge on each other all the time. But having always lived on a pastor’s salary, we’ve never been able to splurge regularly on each other, especially when it comes to spending money. Thankfully, splurging on each other doesn’t have to take a lot of money. You can splurge by being creative and working with what you have. That’s what Hugh did the other night during another one of those “tight budget” weeks.

We were getting ready to watch a movie. Hugh likes eating ice cream while watching movies. But we had only enough for one of us. I conceded. I didn’t need it anyway. And really, I was fine going without the extra calories. But Hugh, to my surprise, got an idea. He told me to get the movie ready and not come into the kitchen. In the meantime he whipped up a treat for me—a banana split complete with the remaining ice cream, slices of our last banana on either side of the dish, some chocolate syrup and some blueberries. It was creative. It was a sacrifice (because he went without any that night) and it was a splurge. Banana splits never tasted so good!

Splurging on the one you love implies going the extra mile, whether it be effort-wise, financially, sacrificially or with your time. You are giving beyond what you normally would because the one you love is priceless.

God set the splurging model for us, when He lavishly loved us by sending us His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. In 1 John 3:1 we read of how God splurged on us: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” He set the splurging bar rather high when He spared no expense in sending His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. We’re also told in the Bible that God is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20). That is not a God who holds out on us. That’s a God who splurges to show just how “wide and long and high and deep” His love is for us (Ephesians 3:18) If God lavishes that kind of love on us daily, can you splurge a little to show the extent of your love for each other?

To splurge on each other does not mean heaping material blessings on your spouse, although you might take that approach once in a great while. Here are seven ways you can splurge on each other when money is tight:

1. Save it Up

Rich and Ashley save their spare change in a jar all throughout the year. Then every Valentine’s Day they take the entire contents of the jar and spend it on a special date for the two of them. This past year, they had more than $100 in the jar and Ashley thought about only spending part of it on dinner and using the rest on something the family might need. But Rich insisted that was their splurge money and so they had dinner that night at a very expensive restaurant they wouldn’t ordinarily have been able to visit. So now, each year, they can truly splurge on Valentine’s Day.

2. Dole it Out

Bill was a husband who loved to splurge on his wife, June. Bill and June didn’t have a lot of money in their 49 years together as they raised three children in a small, rural town. But Bill knew how to spoil his wife with love, attention and praise. Today, their children will tell you “Dad spoiled mom. He’d do anything and everything for her.” That is the legacy Bill left when he passed away after 49 years of marriage to his beloved, June. Are you leaving a legacy of being one who splurged on your spouse with love, attention and praise?

3. Write it Out

Remember what it was like to receive a love letter? There’s nothing quite like it. Yes, firing off a text from your phone is easier, but a hand-written letter is much more personal. There’s something about seeing your spouse’s own handwriting and being able to keep that slip of paper. Write out what is on your heart. If you haven’t said it in awhile, it should be said about now, don’t you think?

4. Plan it Out

Sometimes the best gift we can give our spouse is our time. Are you a couple that is often over-scheduled? Take some intentional time off just to be with each other. Or better yet, plan a date and take your spouse as a surprise. It could be as simple as lunch out and a walk in the park to reconnect. If you’re the busy type, taking time for the one you love is a splurge that may be much appreciated.

5. Whip it Up

It’s been said that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But cooking for your wife might melt her heart as well. Plan an evening to whip up your spouse’s favorite dish or dessert. It’s a wonderful way to say: “You were worth the time this took to prepare.”

6. Give it Up

How long has it been since your husband or wife had a day off to themselves? Try giving up something you need to do to offer your spouse some much needed time to relax or work on a project they’ve really wanted to complete. Take the kids for an evening or take back the “to do” list on a Saturday and say “this one’s yours…do whatever you want to do and enjoy it as a gift from me.”

7. Pour it On

There’s nothing like extending grace when your spouse deserved a lecture instead. I’ll never forget the day I opened up another notice by mail of a red-light traffic violation. The others had just been cleared from my record. My face went white and my husband, upon realizing what it was, shook his head in resignation and handed over a rebate check he had just endorsed which would now be applied to my latest ticket! I stood there stunned at his composure, and humbled. I knew that my reaction toward him (if he had been the one receiving the fine) wouldn’t have been nearly as gracious as his toward me. I learned that day what it really means to receive undeserved kindness.

To splurge on each other is sometimes to show God’s incredible love toward your spouse, as He has shown it to you. You can lavish each other with love, patience, kindness, gentleness, trust, forgiveness, and understanding. To cultivate a closer connection between the two of you, splurge on each other – and love each other – as God loves you.

  • November 2, 2014

Go ahead. Admit it. Your marriage isn’t everything you expected it to be, is it?

But that’s okay. That doesn’t mean it can’t someday be all that you hoped it would.

We all enter a relationship – or marriage – with a pie-in-the-sky dream of what it will be like. Then we find we married someone who was more different from us than we thought. But marriage isn’t about the final destination – the happily ever after with the person of our dreams. It’s about the journey – getting there, walking together, enjoying the adventure en route to our final destination: a true sense of oneness with the other.

We’ve noticed through the years that walking together as a couple is a lot like flying together. There are certain things you must do as you walk aboard that aircraft and commit yourself to the flight, and many of them are the same things you must do as you walk down the aisle and commit yourself to one another in marriage.

Like air travel, living life with another person is all about making adjustments, dealing with delays, realizing you’re not in control, and having to – at times – make the best of it, so you truly enjoy the journey. We have been married long enough to be able to say that life with the opposite sex is certainly not predictable or routine. With all the flying we have done, we’ve learned to laugh at incidents that should be predictable by now (delays, missed connections, lost luggage, annoying seat partners, and so on). Having been married more than 20 years, and having counseled many other couples over that time, we have yet to see a marriage that runs like a routine flight – exactly as planned. We both have flown often and have seen that marriage, like air travel, can be as enjoyable or as miserable as we choose to see it.

In spite of unexpected delays (when it comes to having children, buying a house or achieving a dream), missed flights (or promotions or vacations), and unexpected turbulence (who expects those bumps and dips in marriage, anyway?), marriage can be a wonderful trip if you’re prepared and you go with the flow. We don’t try to jump off the plane when there’s a problem (that would be suicide), rather we’re committed to sticking to it in this God-ordained union. So if you long for your marriage to be a pleasant experience (and who doesn’t?) and you want to enjoy the trip (and marriage is a trip, alright!), then buckle up, pay attention to the emergency instructions and sit back and enjoy the flight. Marriage, like an airplane, is not an end in itself but a vehicle through which you arrive at your Final Destination: A greater sense of oneness.

Here are some guidelines that we’ve learned through the years to help you make sure you enjoy the journey:

journey-lrg1. Remember You’re in it for the Long Haul

Marriage really is designed to be forever. The problem is that we live in a society that doesn’t know what forever means anymore. Hopefully, your vows were the traditional ones that had meaning to them: “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, ’til death do us part.” That means forever…while you’re both on this earth. Knowing you and your spouse are committed until your dying day will save you from some disasters that might seem bigger than they really are. There were times, early in our marriage, when Cindi would fear that it was over (or I didn’t love her anymore) because I (Hugh) was upset over something that had nothing at all to do with her. I would have to remind her that my “’til death do us part” was sincere and I wasn’t planning on either of us dying anytime soon! Just like when you’re on a flight, you can’t get up in the middle of the trip and demand that the pilot turn the airplane around or tell him to land in a different location. (Yikes! They arrest people for stuff like that!). You’re committed for the duration of the flight – bad company, turbulence, little leg room, bad food (or in some cases no food) and all. Realize you’re in your marriage for the long haul and it will help when you are struck with panic mode.

2. Receive Help Along the Way

Once you get onboard a flight, you are putting your trip – and very life – into the hands of a skilled, capable pilot. Whether you acknowledge personal trust or confidence in the Pilot or not, He is still the one getting you where you need to go. In addition, there are skilled flight attendants on your flight who know far more about flying than you do. When it comes to your marriage, your relationship is in God’s hands whether you realize it or not. He’s the Pilot and He knows where you’re going and He is the Only One who can truly get you there. In addition, He has strategically placed certain skilled couples or individuals in your life who may know more about marriage than you and your spouse. Take advantage of their experience. Heed their advice when it comes to what might make your trip more enjoyable. Be willing to accept help and even ask for it when you need it. They, too, want your experience to be an enjoyable and successful one. It’s those kind of people in your life – your pastor, your friends, your parents, a mentor couple in your church, that couple who is evidently so “in love” after all these years – that you need to turn to and ask for assistance. There’s a reason they are on the same journey that you are taking and headed in the same direction.

3. Handle the Take-offs and Landings Carefully

The two most dangerous segments of any airline flight are the take off and the landing. And how well you get started and how well you finish are the two most crucial steps in a marriage, as well. For some of you, it might seem a little late to think about “starting well.” But the beauty of marriage is that every day can be a fresh start. Every morning, as you greet your husband or wife with a hug or kiss, you can be ensuring that it’s a good take-off. And every night, as you fall off to sleep together – or touch base on the phone if you’re apart – you can make sure it’s a good landing.

Remember, it’s the choices you make every day during the sometimes monotonous moments of your marriage flight that make for the success of the journey. Enjoy the journey. You both know it’s worth it.

  • November 2, 2014

When I started dating Hugh, my youth pastor – a longtime friend of Hugh’s – pulled me aside and felt he needed to warn me.

“Cindi, Hugh is an awesome guy, and I’d highly recommend him as a husband, but he’s also the moodiest person I know.”

“Hugh’s not moody,” I responded, defensively. “He’s a deep thinker. He takes a while to think about things before speaking, instead of just blurting out of his mouth whatever comes to his mind, like I tend to do. I appreciate that about him. That’s what I want in a husband.”

Now, after 22 years of marriage, instead of appreciating my deep thinker, I find myself, at times, thinking things like Hugh is the moodiest person I know.

Well guys, (Hugh here) see if you can relate. I loved how my wife was able to express herself back when I first met her. Being a journalism major who wrote beautifully, she could also speak confidently and had a way with words. That’s nice when you’re getting a love letter or praise and affirmation from a woman in love with you. But after more than 20 years together, there are days when I wish she wasn’t quite as verbal, especially when she finds something she thinks is wrong with me. Sometimes, today, when I think about her “way with words” it isn’t always in a fond way. She’s reciting her thoughts unabridged and I’m looking for the Reader’s Digest version.

How is it that when we fall in love, the object of our hearts can do no wrong? We overlook their weaknesses or, at times, don’t see them at all. Love is blind. And oh how blissful the blind state can be! Then, some time down the road, the one we fell in love with – the one with all those wonderful character traits – is simply being who he or she is (a deep thinker or one who verbally expresses herself) and they are hammered for being annoying, irritating and difficult to live with.

My, how we need to become blind again – blind to each other’s faults, blind to the things that annoy us, blind to bitterness. And open to grace and forgiveness.

We’ve been told that the characteristics in your spouse that irritate you today are manifestations of the same characteristics that drew you toward each other, originally. What once you found attractive, you now find annoying. We can see that in our marriage, too. I (Cindi) was drawn to Hugh’s depth, his seriousness, his contemplative nature. And Hugh was drawn to my confidence, my social skills, and my ability to express myself. Yet those characteristics, after a few years of life together, can grate on our nerves rather than give us a sense of appreciation for each other.

We’ve learned that we have to pick up a new set of lenses that seeks out and focuses on the positive in each other, if we’re going to be in love again. Love, after all, is blind. Or, maybe a better way to say it would be: Love chooses to be blind to the less flattering traits of its lover.

In Philippians 4:8 we are told how to keep our minds from focusing on the negative: “Keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise” (CEV).

That advice works not only in life, but in marriage, especially when it comes to how you choose to view your spouse. We say choose because it is a choice. Human nature will see what is there. It will notice the negative and focus on it. A divine nature (God’s love working through you) will see the best in the other – “the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8b, The Message).

By looking for the good intention, the silver lining, the shred of goodness in something your spouse is doing that annoys you, you will condition yourself to be one who praises the positive in another person.

Here are some ways you can praise the positive in your spouse:

    • She makes you wait by talking too much to other people after church. Be grateful she is friendly and other people enjoy being around her. How embarrassing if she were someone no one wanted to talk with or be around.
    • He under tipped the server again at your favorite restaurant. That really bugs you. But you realize his intention was not to insult the server, but to save an extra buck. His prudence, although annoying at times, may be keeping you out of debt and allowing you to enjoy some things you wouldn’t otherwise enjoy. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s saving that extra money to spend on you.
  • She interrupted you and came across as the one who was in control…again. That annoys you to no end. But realizing she’s a take-charge gal has saved your family in numerous situations in which you weren’t there to protect them. For that, give her an extra squeeze and tell her (gently, and at a more appropriate time) how you would’ve preferred to handle the situation.

There have been situations when Hugh clearly did not want to attend a social event that I insisted he accompany me on. Once there, he became lively, interested in the conversations around him, and we truly had a great time. After we arrived home, I made a point of thanking him for accompanying me even though he wasn’t thrilled about going, for extending to others the way he did, and for not letting his previous attitude about the event affect my enjoyment of it. I noticed, later, that he was more willing to accompany me to social events after I had praised his efforts and his willingness to do something for me. A little praise goes a long way.

Has it been awhile since you’ve praised the positive in your better half? Go ahead, make a list of at least five things you appreciate about your spouse and then leave that list for him or her to see, read it the next time the two of you have dinner together, or call your spouse once a day for the next five days simply to tell him or her one thing on that list that you truly appreciate.

You’ll be surprised at how praising the positive will draw the two of you closer together.

  • November 2, 2014

Hugh and I were going through the mail together when he held up an envelope and my heart nearly stopped.

“Superior Court of California? What’s this?” Hugh asked in a cautionary tone as if to say “you didn’t actually do this again did you?”

I can’t tell you what it feels like to open another red-light traffic violation notice, complete with picture and all, when you don’t even recall having seen the camera flash! My other two red-light violations had just been cleared from my driving record, which meant we had just started to enjoy a decrease in our monthly auto insurance payment. My face suddenly went white as I realized I had just received my third violation in three years! I looked up at Hugh, ready to feign ignorance, ready to cry, ready to stream out a constant flow of words in my defense, but all he did was shake his head and say “Cindi Lou.” He happened to be holding a $100 rebate check he’d just received for a tire purchase a few months ago and he quickly signed the back of the check, handed it to me, and said: “Better put this toward your fine.”

I was stunned – and humbled – by his reaction and his composure. Primarily because I knew my reaction if he had received the ticket – and a third one at that! – wouldn’t have been nearly as gracious as his reaction toward me. I would have gone off, verbally. I would’ve railed him about the money it was going to cost us. I would have lectured him about the insurance increase and questioned him about how he could have possibly erred like this again. And yet my husband didn’t do any of that to me, when I so deserved it. I learned that afternoon what it really means to receive undeserved kindness.

The Bible refers to undeserved kindness as “grace.” And Hugh and I have seen – through 22 years of marriage – how grace is truly the glue that holds the two of us together.

Hugh and I have come to believe that it is by grace (undeserved favor) that we are loved by each other, too…not because of anything we do…it is a gift from each other so that we can’t boast in ourselves and how good of a spouse we are.

When I (Cindi) am aware of how unlovable I can be at times, it makes me more loving to my husband who, by the grace of God, still puts up with me. Now compare that with the attitude that comes so quickly and naturally to our minds: I deserve better than that. He has no right to treat me that way. I can do better somewhere else and so on.

A person who extends grace says: “I’d be honored if you would still love me.” It’s humbling. But it’s how we are loved by God and how we are called to love one another as well. Sometimes to extend grace means resolving quietly to not react to a situation or comment that annoyed you so that the other person never even realizes it bothered you. That’s difficult at times. But that is unconditional love in action. That is extending grace.

So how do you become a husband or wife who quickly extends grace?

Be humble and remember you are human, too. Because you, like your spouse, are not perfect, that means you, too, make careless mistakes, just like the mistake your spouse made that is really grating on your nerves. Maybe your spouse’s tardiness has become a real problem. Realize you, too, have been late before.

Don’t assign motives. That often involves taking yourself out of the equation. A friend of ours told us her husband doesn’t remember things like he used to. “That’s a struggle with me because sometimes I confuse that with him not listening and paying attention to me, when that might not actually be the case.” Grace says “I won’t make this about me or how you’re treating me.” Grace says “I won’t try to figure out why you said or did that. I will just consider you didn’t mean it the way it came across.” Using the example of your tardy spouse, realize there may be a good reason they are late, and it’s not solely because they just don’t respect your time.

Be understanding. The easiest way to remember to extend grace is to realize you are capable of doing the very same things (or similar things) that you dislike in your spouse. For every five things that irritate me about Hugh, I’m sure there are at least ten things that I do that irritate him! By being understanding and extending grace, you are hopefully putting on reserve a deposit in your spouse’s bank of understanding so when you are someday in the same situation, he or she will extend grace to you, as well.

If you remember nothing else throughout your marriage journey, remember this: Grace is the glue that holds the two of you together.

  • November 2, 2014

Having a difficult time getting your husband in the mood?

Sometimes he simply needs a boost. A boost to his ego so he will believe you want him, physically as well as emotionally. And a boost to get him in the mood to connect physically with you again. Sometimes he needs some extra effort on your part to be enticed and drawn toward you. Just as there are a myriad of reasons he might seem to have lost interest in you, there are also a myriad of ways (or at least 26…one for every letter of the alphabet) to recapture his interest and make him want to pursue you again. Here is what I call “The ABCs of Being Irresistible in Your Husband’s Eyes:”

A – Affirm him.

One of the things your man finds most attractive about you is that you were at one time (and hopefully still are) attracted to him. A man wants to be around a woman who makes him feel like he’s winning. Let him know he’s a great provider, he is great at what he does, he can still get your heart racing– whatever it is that you can compliment him on. And mean it. A woman who sings her man’s praises is a woman he’ll come after…so he can hear more!

B – Be a mystery.

Men still love a challenge; just don’t make it too complicated. Does your husband know everything there is to know about you? If so, develop a new skill or idea or come up with a secret he’s dying to discover. When you become a mystery to your husband there are things about you that he still wants to know, things you’re thinking that he’d like for you to divulge, secrets in your soul that he’ll be challenged to draw out. You don’t give him a chance if you tell him everything. Be mysterious, in some ways. Be to him a treasure chest full of secrets he’s dying to unlock!

C – Cultivate your relationship with Christ.

What makes you truly attractive, and one worth pursuing? The beauty of Christ in you. When you have an intimate devotional life with Christ, and are controlled by His Spirit, your life will produce the fruits of His Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23). What man doesn’t want to chase after a woman who is truly joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and – they love this one the best – self-controlled!

D – Dress for him.

Some women don’t think much about what they wear, with the excuse that they’re just not into the “latest” fashion. Or, they will dress nice when they go to church, or out with girlfriends, but not put much effort into how they look for “just my husband.” But men can recognize “frumpy” even if we can’t. And dress for him at night, too. Your husband might be majorly turned off by a “grandma” night gown that resembles something his mother used to wear! So, it may be time to invest in some lingerie or just something ‘form flattering’ or feminine.

E – Exude confidence.

He once found it attractive in you. He still does. So, regardless of how you might feel about your weight, body shape, “big knees,” “small chest,” cellulite, veins or whatever, get over it. He has. Honestly, he doesn’t see all the body flaws you think are so very obvious. Men tend to not analyze or critique our bodies nearly as much as we do. When you are confident in your speech, your walk, your relationship with him, and your role as his wife that, too, is attractive.

F – Flirt with him.

If he loved it back then, he’ll still love it today…maybe even more. Flirting is a hidden art among women today. We usually have too many other things on our mind to even think about saying something to get his attention and let him know we’re thinking of him. But flirting can be sending a text message or leaving a voice mail telling him he’s on your mind. Think: what did I do back when we dated? And that will help with your flirt factor.

G – Give him the best of you.

We tend to give the best of ourselves to our jobs, or our children, or our homes. And our husbands tend to get the leftovers – of our time, energy and even our looks. I know many women who enjoy remodeling their homes. But what about remodeling ourselves now and then? The Bible says our bodies are the temple of God. So how long has it been since the temple’s been remodeled? Do what you can to keep your body in shape, healthy, and holy for the Lord and for your husband, too. The Bible tells us that we are not only the temple of God, but we belong to our husbands. So we take care of ourselves for them, too.

H – Have a positive attitude.

Can your husband always count on a smile or a kind word? Or does he enter the house walking on eggshells, and unsure of what kind of mood you’ll be in? Positive people are enjoyable to be around. If you’re pleasant, he’ll generally want to be in your company.

I – Initiate.

I can’t say enough here. Initiate a hug. Initiate a kind word or compliment. Initiate lovemaking. Chances are your husband dreams of the “wild woman” within you. Let your inner tigress come out now and then and show him he’s still the one. You want to be pursued. So does he, now and then. Surprise him. And show him there’s a side of you he has yet to discover.

J – Join him in something he enjoys.

Michelle told me she began to be more interesting – and more of a pursuit – to her husband when she adopted his interest in working out. “I was complaining to my husband that I was tired, bored, and didn’t have time to exercise. He told me that the kids were always going to take my time, but that I was the only one who could make working out a priority. I started to listen. I made time for my workouts a priority. I made the kids ride their bikes, while I started running. Now, years later, I’m not the nagging, tired, old wife. I am the new wife, with a cute body, and more interesting things to talk about. We talk about workouts, nutrition, and even exercise together. It has really ignited a new passion within our marriage. I can’t keep up with my husband, but the fact that I try makes it more interesting.” By taking up a particular interest that her husband had, Michelle was able to accomplish nearly every one of the A-B-C’s in that one “J.”

K – Kiss him with passion.

Not just a peck on the cheek, like you’d do to your child. But really kiss him. Studies show that couples who kiss each other daily enjoy a higher satisfaction rate in marriage than those who don’t. So take the initiative and kiss him. Yes, you’d like him to kiss you first, but do for him what you’d like him to do for you. Kiss him like you mean it. And see what happens.

L – Leave the lights on.

Need I say more? As a man, your husband is visually wired. And it’s believed men see in soft focus anyway, meaning your man is not nearly as critical of your body as you are. Make the most of what you have to offer him and trust he’ll appreciate it.

M – Make his favorite meal or dessert.

The best way to your man’s heart may still be through his stomach. So let him know you care and whip up what he loves to eat. Food is still good foreplay when it comes to men.

N – Notice the little things.

My husband really does want me to notice his latest haircut even though I really can’t tell the difference. When you notice things about your husband it says to him that you’re aware of him, appreciating him and – convey this one, too – admiring him. Make your observation into a compliment not a complaint. (In other words, don’t notice that his shirt is wrinkled or he’s wearing athletic socks with casual shoes. Notice that he still looks nice when he dresses up – or doesn’t.)

O – Offer to do one thing that will make his day go smoother.

You might be surprised at how simple his one request is – pick up his suit at the dry cleaners, pack him a lunch, pray for him during a crucial meeting? Just offering to do something for him will show him your heart is tuned toward his needs.

P – Plan a surprise for him.

Men are, at times, like little boys. They love surprises and spontaneity if at the appropriate time. Find out what he’s been missing and bring it back whether it’s a hairstyle on your head or a favorite place to eat.

Q – Quit directing, correcting, and controlling.

(That one came from my husband and I tried not to take it personally!) Let him lead. It will show him that you do believe in him and his ability to handle a situation.

R – Respect who he is and what he does.

He needs that from you more than you realize.

S – Spontaneity.

Be unpredictable, but in a good way. Suggest you eat somewhere you never have. Wear a color you never have before. Go outside your comfort zone and take a risk with him. It will make him feel like he has a brand new wife, especially if you’ve been mothering him more than dating him lately.

T – Text him endearing messages

Such as “You’re still the one,” “I’m a lucky woman to have you” and “You still take my breath away.” Chances are, he may begin to text some of those messages back.

U – Use a soft voice with him.

Few men are attracted to loud and boisterous. Talking softly conveys femininity.

V – Visibility.

See “L – Leave the lights on.” It’s that important to him, which is why I’m mentioning it – twice!

W – Watch his favorite movie or show with him.

Even if you can’t stomach sports or another episode of “Man vs. Food,” if he loves it, watch it with him. And try to enjoy it – for his sake.

X – Xercise

(Ok I cheated on the spelling here…but how many words start with X?) Exercise will improve your mood and overall health, which will, in turn, make you more enjoyable to be around. Even better, exercise along with him, if it’s possible.

Y – “Yes” – say it often.

It may be his favorite word from you. “Yes, we can invite your friends over for the game.” “Yes, I’ll try that new type of food with you.” “Yes, I’ll wear that just for you.” Think: “Your will, not mine.” Self sacrifice goes a long way in marriage.

Z – Zealously pursue Christ and your husband.

As you look to God first as your Heavenly Husband (Isaiah 54:5), your earthly husband can’t help but notice Christ-like character in you…the essence of true beauty. And when you pursue your husband, you are affirming to him that he is worth the pursuit.

  • November 2, 2014

As women, we long to be pursued.

We were made that way. It’s natural for us, then, as wives to want our husbands to continue to pursue us – long after our honeymoon. So why doesn’t he come after you the way he used to?

I used to think the reason my husband wasn’t actively pursuing me was just a matter of growing complacent in marriage. He knows I’m here, he knows I’m available to him, so after awhile, it’s just no big deal. Then one day I decided I must be doing – or not doing – something that is making him lose interest in me.

Hugh denied that there was a problem. No, he hadn’t lost interest in me. No, it wasn’t the extra weight I’d gained since my “too-skinny-anyway” days when I’d met him (my rationalization for midlife weight gain). No, it wasn’t that his eyes or heart had been lured away by another “mistress” (like work, or sleep, or a new hobby). For the most part, he said he was often just too drained of emotional and physical energy when he came home from his stressful job to think about anything other than sleep.

One of the ways we can wound our marriage – and our husbands – is to generalize a situation we’re going through and compare it to everyone else. If we read statistics in women’s magazines that the average couple has sex once or twice a week and it doesn’t happen that often in our homes, we can become concerned and wonder what’s wrong with our husbands, or us on weeks when we aren’t meeting that “quota” and thus being representative of the national average. We need to stop comparing our husbands to everyone else and start looking at who he is and all that makes up his life – the number of hours he works, his health habits, what he eats, the amount of sleep he gets, whether or not he exercises, the pressures he faces, the projects he’s working on, and add to those factors his age, his medical history, any medications he is taking, and his physiological makeup, and you have one man with about a billion reasons for why he might be not meeting the “national average” when it comes to how much he is – or is not – pursuing you, sexually. In other words, don’t take it personally.

Sometimes, your husband’s lack of motivation to pursue you might come down to his fear of rejection. Perhaps he’s been burned. If you’ve ever brushed off his advances (and who of us hasn’t when we have children to take care of, work to finish, deadlines to complete, dinner to cook, laundry to fold, or just a million other things on our mind?), then he has already experienced the risk and resulting humiliation of you telling him “no.” And that may be why he refuses to take that risk again. He may figure “I’ve initiated so many times, I’m not going to anymore. If she’s interested, she’ll come after me for a change.”

As much as a woman can feel hurt when she experiences rejection by her husband, a man can feel that wound even more intensely.

husband-pursue-lrgAuthor and marriage expert Dennis Rainey says: “Most men find initiating the sex act one of the riskiest ventures he could ever make. Why? Each time he initiates sex, he risks rejection.” Rainey goes on to say “When a man is rejected often enough, he typically internalizes his anger, his hurt, and his disappointment until such time when the rejection drives him to one of several reactions – none of them are good. Either he will give up on the relationship, he will seek alternative sexual outlets such as pornography, or he might compromise his wedding vows by pursuing female affirmation elsewhere.”

Can you see how very important you are when it comes to your husband’s need to feel affirmed as a man, sexually? It isn’t a desire or need based on selfishness. It is a normal desire and need. He was created that way. Rainey continues: “Your husband’s sexuality is so much a part of who he is that it affects virtually every part of his life. The wise woman understands that her man longs to be needed sexually by her. If you really want to get to the bottom line for men, and you really want to express love to your husband in a powerful way, just express to your husband that you need him sexually.”

Maybe He Needs a ‘Boost’

With age, comes inevitable loss. Loss of (or decreasing) memory, loss of energy, loss of hair, decreasing metabolism, and – for men, especially – decreasing testosterone levels. It’s just a fact. A man’s sexual drive decreases as he ages. So in many ways, the roles reverse as we get older. He initiated back when you first got married, back when you needed a long time to warm up and get in the mood. Now that his testosterone level has decreased, he may be the one who needs help with the “warm up.” That’s where you come in.

Remember the days you thought long and hard about what to wear, how to do your hair, even what to say when you were around him? You wanted to make the best impression on him so he would ask you out again. Deep inside, you wanted him to love you for who you are. But first he needed to fall in love with what he saw.

As one marriage and family therapist says: “When we’re dating, we’re flirty. We do our hair all cute and wear cute clothes. We are appealing to their sexual desire. But when we get married, we resent their sexual desire. We expect them to just love us for who we are inside.”

Well of course our husbands should love us for who we are inside. But they are still very visually-oriented when it comes to their sexual drive. Males are naturally attracted to the beauty, softness, and sex appeal of females. So be the woman he loves to look at just as much as you once were. And be the woman he enjoyed spending time with, just like you were when the two of you were dating. Chances are you behaved much differently toward him when you were dating than you do now, a few or several years into marriage.

You can once again be the woman your husband fell in love with by asking him what three qualities about you attracted him the most when you first met or married. Then, write those three things down, pray about them, and seek to incorporate those qualities into your life. Think of practical ways to focus on those three on a daily basis so you remember (and apply) what first attracted him to you.

  • November 2, 2014

If I asked you “What makes your husband feel loved?” would you be able to tell me?

As I interviewed hundreds of wives for my book, When a Woman Inspires Her Husband, I discovered most wives are more focused on what their husband’s aren’t doing to meet their expectations, than on what they can do to make him feel loved.

I, too, was once in that camp. I continued to let my husband know how he was failing to meet all my needs and expectations. Poor guy. I never thought to ask him how I could meet his.

Then I decided that if transformation was really going to happen in my marriage, it had to start with me. So I prayed: “God, help me to love him as You do. And as I do that, I trust You will take care of the rest.”

God is faithful. He will always bring about transformation when we are willing for it to start with us. And I’ve found that “Change me, God” is a much more effective prayer than “God, please change my husband.”

As I began to focus on loving my husband as God loves me, transformation began in my marriage. God began to turn my husband’s heart around toward me. In other words, the less I complained about what he wasn’t doing and the more I focused on loving him for the sake of loving him (and not to get something out of it), the more he began showing love to me, as well. Or maybe I just began to notice it for the first time. Regardless of whether he changed or my perspective changed, the fact is that my marriage changed – for the better. And it can happen in your marriage, too.

Love Him in Spite of His Faults

When I asked husbands who had been married 10-40 years to tell me what makes them feel loved by their wives, nearly all of them alluded to their wives’ responses to them in light of their mistakes and failures. Listen to their responses from their hearts:

  • I feel loved when she accepts me without feeling the need to fundamentally change who I am.
  • I know she loves me when she upholds my character and personality to others and doesn’t feel the need to apologize for who I am or explain it to others.
  • I see her love in the way she’s always willing to start over.
  • She can show me she loves me by still being nice to me even when I’m a jerk.
  • She doesn’t compare me to others; she doesn’t try to change me.
  • By telling me I am a great husband and father and that she is fully satisfied with who I am today and not who she hopes I can be molded into tomorrow.
  • When she tells me and others that she is honored with who her husband is, I know that she loves me for who I am.
  • When I come home, my wife might do something that irritates me and rather than giving her grace, I’ll snap at her. But despite things I’ve done, which have been very unattractive, she still extends grace to me.
  • She loves me in spite of myself, just like God does.

Did you hear it? The sound of humility from husbands who realize they’re not so easy to love? The gratitude that they’re even loved in the first place? The conviction of their own behavior which happens when they see their wives being selfless?

speaks-love-lrgYour husband does notice when you love and accept him, even when he’s not being so lovable. In fact, he notices it especially when he’s not being so lovable. Your husband may be tough, but he is also tender on the inside. And if you dig deep enough, you will find in him a heart like yours – longing to be loved and appreciated for who he is, and wanting to be forgiven for the times he blows it.

Love Him Sacrificially

As I prayed about loving my husband as God loves me, one of the things God showed me is how very easy it is for me to put myself first. It’s shameful when I think of my Lord’s example of washing His disciples’ feet and dying for the sins of mankind. I’m sure my selfishness is displayed in my marriage more than I realize. My husband sees it. But that is not sacrificial love. Jesus told His disciples in John 15:12:

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

And then, in case there was any question about how much Jesus loved them, He clarified His statement with a definition of the kind of self-sacrificial love He had for them and expected them to have for one another:

“Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command” (verse 13).

We are to love our husbands the way Jesus Christ loved us when He laid down his life for us.

How can our husbands not be encouraged, inspired and motivated when we show – and demonstrate – to them, the kind of love that sacrifices itself for the benefit of others? Show him the kind of love that says “Not my will, but yours.” “Not my happiness, but yours.” “Not my preferences, but yours.” “Not my fulfillment, but yours.”

Practice Protective Love

Throughout the Bible, God is seen as a protective and loving God. He comes through for His people. He protects His own. Do you have a protective love going on for your husband? My husband is a pastor and there are times when I hear something hurtful that someone said about him. The inner tigress in me wants to claw out that person’s eyes and rip out their tongue so they never say something hurtful like that about him again. Do you ever feel that urge when your husband is being attacked?

Chances are your husband is in some kind of arena where he can be “beat up” too – by co-workers, a boss, some who may be competing for his job, and so on. There may be days when your husband is quite possibly disrespected at his office, at his workplace, by his grown children, by someone in his extended family. Whether he’s a coach, an executive, a supervisor, a teacher, or an employee working under someone else, he has his days, be sure, when he is the target of accusation, the brunt of jokes, the disappointment of others, the one who let the team down. Those are the days he needs your understanding smile and the reassurance that no matter what anyone else thinks of him, the most important woman in his world still believes he’s her hero. That’s the kind of protective, reassuring love he needs to get back out there and face it all again the next day.

Practice Persevering Love

Scripture speaks of God’s loving kindness that lasts forever. It also speaks of His unfailing love. I believe the most thorough description of love that we can find in Scripture is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Quoted at many weddings, this passage describes enduring love – love that just won’t quit. In case you’ve read through this portion of Scripture many times, I want you to get a fresh look at it by reading it in a more contemporary translation so it hits you in places that perhaps it hadn’t before. And ask yourself: Does this describe my love for my husband?

“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end” (The Message).

As you love your husband unconditionally, sacrificially, protectively, and with perseverance, he can’t help but notice you loving him as God does. And that is the kind of love that 1 Corinthians 13:8 says “never fails.”

  • November 2, 2014

I was once a wife who was quick to point out my husband’s faults. Quick to let him know when he was falling short of my expectations. Quick to let him know when he wasn’t loving me as God does.

You can’t really blame me, can you? There isn’t a wife on earth who doesn’t want her husband to love her unconditionally – as God does. But when I turned it around and started trying to love my husband as God loves me, that’s when things began to change in our marriage. I began focusing less on his faults and more on my own…and my own need for God’s grace in my life.

My husband and I were talking the other day about how there would be far less marriages struggling today if just one partner in every marriage practiced the Bible’s definition of love. Now, can you imagine what marriages would look like if both partners practiced unconditional, sacrificial and persevering love? There would be no strife, no stress, no bitterness, no built-up baggage. There would be no devastation or divorce. There would be two people, giving up their rights to themselves so they can serve one another. There would be a perfect picture in our love toward each other, of God’s love toward us.

Maybe your husband doesn’t seem like the man he once was. Yet you are still with him. That is persevering love. That is love that says “I made a promise…now I’m keeping it.” God did the same with you and me. Take a look at His never failing, unending, persevering love for you and see if you can’t try modeling this to your husband:

He has promised He will never leave you.

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

Can you say this to your husband, and truly mean it as God means it toward you?

He is always thinking only the best about you.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. (Psalm 139:17-18)

Can you say that your mind is always filled with only good thoughts about your husband?

He is gentle toward you when you’re broken.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

Are you gentle toward your husband even when he is angry or unlovable – which is how he often responds when he’s hurt?

He promises nothing will ever come between the two of you.

(Nothing) will be able to separate us from the love of God… (Romans 8:39)

Are there any conditions or exceptions in your mind when it comes to loving your husband? Is there something in the back of your mind that he could do that would end it for the two of you? God holds none of those reservations about you. He has promised nothing – that includes nothing you can do – will ever come between you and God. Can you say the same to your husband?

He delights in you, quiets you with His love, and sings over you.

He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Can you delight in your husband and rejoice over him, simply because of who he is – one who is loved by his heavenly father and by you? Think about the joy and comfort you have, knowing God feels that way about you. Now what would it add to your husband’s life if he knew you truly delighted in him?

He loved you so much He was willing to die so He wouldn’t have to live without you.

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

I once heard it said: don’t marry someone you believe you can live with. Marry someone you know you can’t live without. Have you cemented your love for your husband so deeply that you are convinced you would not want to live without him? In many ways, that’s how God felt toward you. He found a way so that the two of you would never have to be separated.

He loved you in spite of yourself and still does.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Would you show sacrificial love to your husband even if he didn’t deserve it? Even if he had turned his back on you?

Scripture tells us: “This is the kind of love we are talking about – not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.

“My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other.” (1 John 4:10-11, The Message).

Now, from what you’ve seen about God’s persevering love for you, can you love your husband:

  • Even when he’s annoying you?
  • Even when he’s inconsiderate?
  • Even when he’s clearly ‘unlovable’?
  • Even when he’s clearly wrong and unrepentant?

Because we are not like God who never grows weary or wounded, we must know how to renew love for our husbands. We simply can’t wait for the feelings to be there. I’m so glad God doesn’t depend on His feelings for us. He has determined to love us, regardless. We must love our husbands that way, too. Because the world will take it out of us. Pain will take it out of us. The everyday stuff of life will take it out of us. But thanks be to God that He can replenish it in us.

In Isaiah 40:28-31, you have encouragement about this God who can fill you up with love for your husband:

“Do you not now? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

How do you renew that love you once had for your husband? How do you get back that delight in him when he – or something in this life – has taken it out of you? By waiting on the Lord for His strength to love your husband through you and by going back to what first drew the two of you together.

Sometimes the easiest way to fall back in love with your man is to remember what first drew you to him.

Next time you’re tempted to start listing what your husband is doing wrong, I encourage you to start listing what you love about him. It’s what God would do, if He were in your shoes. By remembering what your husband does right, it will not only turn your heart back toward him, but it will be an outward sign to others that you love your man as God has loved you.

  • November 2, 2014

Do you ever feel threatened by your husband’s dreams?

As I was writing my book, When a Woman Inspires Her Husband, I realized I had unintentionally become a dream destroyer to my husband by not embracing his dreams as expressions of his heart.

Proverbs 20:5 says “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.” And I believe a woman of understanding can not only draw out the purposes and dreams in the heart of her man, but she can encourage him to keep dreaming, and eventually pursue those dreams, as well. On the other hand, I have witnessed many wives, perhaps unknowingly, stifle the dreaming heart of their husbands.

Facing your fears

A woman has the ability to snuff out dreams in the heart of her husband through her fear of what she believes is unsafe or too expensive, an intolerance for what she believes is foolish, or a lack of understanding of the importance for him to live from his male heart. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been a dream destroyer of Hugh’s, at times, although unintentionally. For me, it’s usually centered around concerns for my husband’s safety (like when he wants to scale the top of another mountain) or concerns for our family budget (like when he talks about traveling to another country). Maybe you’ve dampened the dreams of your husband, too, by your response to the verbalization of his dreams, or by not encouraging him to dream in the first place. But it’s not too late for you and me to help resurrect those dreams within their hearts and be a helper to our husbands in seeing their dreams through.

“If a husband wants to do something adventurous but doesn’t include his wife, it doesn’t mean she’s any less important,” Hugh told me. “It just means he wants an adventure.”

Whether your husband’s dreams sound outrageous, impractical, too expensive or just too risky, they are nonetheless, his dreams. And a man needs those dreams to keep his life in focus. We’ve seen far too many men give up their dreams altogether and settle for what life brings them.

Recognizing their need to dream

“Too many men are doing something they have to do to make money and not what they really want to do when it comes to living from their hearts,” my husband told me. As a pastor, he sees many men suffer through burnout or depression because their jobs are draining them of energy and passion. What they really need is something to revive their heart and remind them of why they’re alive, he said. That sometimes comes in the form of a dream.

“If I’m not careful,” one man told me, “I’ll spend my entire life working and never really do anything that I’ve dreamed of. My life will consist of one long resume of work. That’s why it’s important for a man to keep dreaming, and for his wife to come alongside him and give him permission to reach for something more in life, even if that more is something as simple as a long vacation, a car he’s always admired, or a feat he’s always wanted to accomplish.”

Sometimes those dreams are in the form of adventures that your husband feels he’s never experienced and needs to. Deep within his heart is a drive for adventure, a desire to test his limits, and a need to engage the deep longings of his masculine soul. Men are all about the adventure…and they sometimes need their wives to affirm those dreams and help make them happen.

Sometimes it’s a phase

Granted some dreams on the heart of your husband may just be for a season. We might say it’s a “phase” he is going through. Or maybe some dreams represent challenges that, once accomplished, give them the sense of having reached that dream so they can move on to something else.

After getting married, Bob dreamed of getting his scuba diving license. His wife, Mary, took a diving class with him. But she ended up hating it.

“The equipment was heavy and uncomfortable and being out in the open sea was much different than the training pool where she took her class,” Bob said. “She really didn’t like it. It was unfortunate and it would’ve been kind of cool to have a built-in dive partner, but she didn’t discourage me from continuing to dive.”

Rather, Mary encouraged Bob to dive with some buddies.

“I think she was happy that she didn’t have to go,” Bob says, laughing about it now. Mary was happy to let her husband live that dream and adventure without her, which he did for a few years. He went on a few more dives, and taught diving classes for awhile. But when they started having children, he gave up diving and hasn’t gone back.

“I never really felt like I was missing anything, having not continued it all those years the kids were growing up,” Bob said. For him, it was important to pursue the dream while it was brewing in his heart.

Dreaming stretches his faith

I once heard a man, in passing, say that a dream is just that. It’s something that is out of reach. And therefore there’s no possibility of, nor reason for, pursuing it. He called himself a realist. But I would call him a cynic. And I believe the cynicism is indirectly aimed at God. I’ll tell you why.

God is a big God who makes big dream-like claims in His Word:

  • In Genesis 18:14, God said to Abraham “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” when his wife, Sarah, laughed at the thought that her dream to have a child would come true when she was 90 years old.
  • In Matthew 21:22, Jesus said “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” And in John 16:24, He said: “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
  • In Ephesians 3:20, God is described as the One who is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”
  • And in James 4:2, we are told “You do not have, because you do not ask God.”

Now, God’s Word clarifies some of these “ask and it’s yours” statements. In James 4:3, we are told: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (There’s the reason God doesn’t grant you or your husband’s dream to win the Lottery!) But when our dreams are similar to God’s dreams for us – and do not tear down our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our homes, our marriages, or our relationships – He is pleased to grant them.

Psalm 37:4 instructs: “Delight yourself in the Lord; and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The next verse tells us to “commit” our way to the Lord and trust in Him. Those are the conditions He puts around our requests and our dreams. In other words, as we put God first, He delights to grant our hearts’ desires.

Do you realize that encouraging your husband to dream is not setting him up for failure but it is stretching his faith and enlarging his view of God? And whether he’s a believer or not, he needs a big view of God…even if just by seeing your faith that God is the redeemer and restorer and the giver of every perfect gift under heaven.

  • November 2, 2014

As I was writing my book, When a Woman Inspires Her Husband, I discovered that a man expresses his heart in a very special way when he expresses a dream.

But often we, as wives, can discourage – or even destroy – that dream if we’re not careful in how we respond.

Rather than saying “That’s not safe” “That’s not practical” or “That’s just plain stupid!” here are five ways (in an acrostic spelling DREAM) that you can draw out of him his dream and encourage him to pursue it for the sake of his heart and your own.

D – Draw out of him the dream

When it comes to the dreams on your man’s heart, they may be stuffed deep and it may take some creativity and some luring to get them out of him. There may also be some wounds attached to some dreams he’s had, especially if they go back to childhood. Maybe he once dreamed of doing something with his father and his father is gone now, so he doesn’t talk about it anymore. Or worse yet, maybe he dreamed of something that his dad – or someone else – discouraged him about or made him feel he wasn’t up to it. Tread lightly, yet affirmatively. Ask your husband what he’d love to do if time or money were no object. If he’s stuck in practical mode or insists he has no dreams, give it time. And listen for ways that he implies a heart’s yearning. It could be something simple like: “I’ve never been to a pro football game. That would be pretty cool.” Encourage him to dream by telling him you’d like to see him achieve his heart’s desire so it’s about time you start talking about it.

R – Respond positively

Instead of telling him: “Yeah, right, like that could ever happen!” be the optimist (and cheerleader) instead: “I think that’s a wonderful dream. What could we begin doing now to see that it happens someday?” If his dream seems far fetched, start praying about it. If it’s clearly beyond his reach at this season in your lives, then get creative in ways that can reinforce the dream and keep it alive.

Lisa’s husband, Rick, has always dreamed of visiting other countries. So Lisa got creative and started finding a way to honor Rick’s dream, and to keep him dreaming of what they hope to someday experience together.

“We have monthly date night,” Lisa said. “Sometimes I choose a country, go to the library, borrow musical CDs and books to get ideas for clothes, culture and so on, and then dress for the occasion, decorate accordingly, order take out, and let him enjoy a ‘night in another country!'”

E – Encourage him to take the first step

For years, Jodi’s husband, Troy, has been talking of renting a charter boat and going walleye fishing with his friends. So for his 40th birthday, Jodi surprised him by booking a six-man charter boat to walleye fish on Lake Erie.

While some men might feel a little uneasy about their wives planning their dream for them, there are those who might never get out the door if you don’t lend a hand – or a push – to help them. Jodi found the balance. She surprised her husband with his dream as a gift, to get him started, and has since turned over the helm so he can now make it happen for himself.

A – Acknowledge his adventure

It is natural for one of your husband’s dreams to be something that implies risk, danger or adventure. And one of the most discouraging things a man can hear from his wife is “that’s too dangerous.” Or “not as long as I’m your wife” or even “you could never handle that.” One very important aspect of encouraging your husband to dream is letting him live from his heart. Many times a man will want to do something that doesn’t seem safe or practical. But those may be the times you need to smile, nod and tell him “Have a great time, honey.”

I remember when Hugh first told me he wanted to climb Mt. Rainier. Now, Hugh is an experienced climber, who had been to the tops of several Southern California peaks. But I’d also heard of the reports of climbing accidents and missing climbers and the deaths that have occurred while climbers attempted Rainier. So, naturally, I had reservations when Rainier was next on Hugh’s list of mountains to scale. He spent a few days, off and on, explaining to me the conditions under which certain accidents happened and how he was not foolish enough to climb alone, to climb without proper equipment, or to attempt a scale or descent if weather wasn’t permitting. But finally, when I still didn’t relent, he sat me down and said: “I don’t need to hear you say ‘be careful.’ That’s something my Mother would say. I really need you to be excited about this with me and to be confident that your man can accomplish this and to say ‘Hugh, I hope you have a great time.'” Honestly, I thought he was hearing “I love you and don’t want to lose you” in the words “Be careful.” But he was, instead, hearing “I don’t think you’re capable of this and therefore I’m worried that something will go wrong.” I gritted my teeth, tried to sound enthusiastic and told him “Have a great time.” And he did.

Nothing speaks to your husband’s male heart more than encouraging him to enjoy his adventure, not tiptoe through it. He doesn’t want to be burdened by the thought that you’re worrying. And besides, he wants you to be confident he’s man enough to handle whatever is coming his way. Whatever you do, don’t say something motherly like: “If you do something dangerous, I’d be better off not hearing about it” or worse “If you’re not careful, I’ll never let you go again!” Say, instead, “Have the time of your life. And I want to hear all about it when you return.” What release! What empowerment. And only you can empower him that way.

M – Make it happen – or make it a matter of prayer

Some husbands just aren’t planners. They can talk about a dream for year – as Jodi’s husband did – but might not have the confidence or knowledge of where to start to make it happen. That’s where you might come in, if he’s open to letting you help him get there.

Edie’s husband, Bill, dreamed most of his life of taking a trip to Africa. But to him, it was just that, a dream. When he retired, Edie planned his dream for him. “I wanted to support his dream because I believed that he deserved it after all his hard work.” She worked on the details, did the budgeting so they could afford it and upon retirement, Bill, his wife, and their two grown sons went to Africa and experienced a real-live safari.

If you do not have the ability or finances to help your husband achieve his dream, then it might be time to lean on God for what only He can do. Start praying for open doors that your husband can walk through in terms of his dream. God knows what he needs and what you need, too. And God is faithful when you commit this to Him, even if you’re the only one committing your husband’s dream to God.

Can you be the big dream believer alongside your husband? Can you be the big dream believer for your husband? As you encourage him to dream big, he may begin to resurrect some of those lost dreams or begin to believe that he, too, can experience the wonder of a life that is about more than his work.

  • November 2, 2014

I once heard a disgruntled wife say she thought Valentine’s Day was hypocritical. “Why can’t he just treat me that special every day?” she asked.

She had a point. But I wonder if the question has ever been turned around at her. “Why don’t you treat him that special every day?”

I’ve found that the special treatment – whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not – is often in proportion to how well we can dish it out to the other. Think about it. If your husband is treated like the king every day, won’t he begin to see you as his treasured queen? And if you are treating your wife like she’s a cherished vessel, won’t she think you’re her everything?

While my husband and I were writing our book, When Couples Walk Together, we talked about ways that we could treat each other every day as if it were Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t about gifts or chocolates or exchanging cards. It was more about what we call “simple acts of love.”

No matter how long you’ve been married, simple acts of love – those things you used to do to express your love to one another – keep you both knitted together in love.

In Colossians 2:2, Paul prayed that believers in Christ would be “knit together in love.” In other words, he prayed that a common love for Christ would have them so intertwined that they wouldn’t unravel. What if we took that principle to heart in marriage, as well?

Our brother-in-law, Bob, had a mother who would knit him thick wool sweaters. Bob remembers one time when she was knitting and noticed a dropped stitch about 20 stitches earlier. She seemed really upset about that one dropped stitch and undid several minutes of work to go back and pick up that one stitch.

“I asked her why the fuss about one stitch, and told her to just forget it, no one would notice it anyway,” Bob recalls. “Mom said: ‘Because that one dropped stitch is where your sweater will start to unravel.'”

Bob and his wife, Mary Beth, have been married 33 years and they are the best of friends today. That’s because Bob learned a lot about watching his mother knit sweaters.

“We are to be knit so tightly together – as a couple – that we don’t unravel, not one dropped stitch.”

We can unintentionally drop a stitch by doing something careless – not remembering a birthday or anniversary, failing to be there for the other when we are needed, saying a careless word, or making an unkind gesture. The list goes on. There are a million different ways to drop a stitch in your relationship with your spouse and to cause the unraveling to begin.

But, there are also a million simple acts of love to pick up the dropped stitches in your relationship so you two can be tightly knitted together once again.

We surveyed several couples and asked them what simple acts of love they practice in their relationship:

  • When my husband comes home for lunch I try to have everything ready for him so he doesn’t have to bother.
  • He likes to have my hair a little longer. I prefer it short, but I’ll wear it longer for him.
  • Just sitting on the couch and being together instead of one of us being on the computer.
  • I’ll do the dishes for her or vacuum the house, so she won’t feel she needs to.

And what are some simple acts of love couples love to receive?

  • When he does something and makes it feel like an ‘us’ thing – that makes me feel loved.
  • When my spouse drops things to do stuff around the house for us, that speaks love to me.
  • When my wife makes me something special for dinner that she knows I like.

What simple acts of love can you practice? Here are some ideas:

  • Hug and kiss each other every morning before one of you leaves the house. (Research indicates that marriages that practice this simple discipline are much healthier than those that don’t.)
  • Make your spouse coffee in the morning before he or she heads off to work.
  • Clean their car
  • Pick her some wildflowers and walk through the door with them
  • Set the table for whoever is doing the cooking
  • Send an intimate personal text message
  • Ask him or her to meet you for a quick lunch break
  • Reach across the table, the front seat of your car or the couch to hold her hand, even if only for a few moments.
  • Go an entire day without saying anything to your spouse except praise…affirmation for who they are, what they mean to you, and so on
  • Go to bed at the same time as him/her for a week. Talk, read or share the quietness together.
  • Call, send an email or text message mid-day just to see how the other is doing
  • Open the car door for her; pull out the chair for her at the dinner table; help her put her coat on
  • Fix his favorite meal without him having to ask
  • If you haven’t yet learned to do this, then by all means now is the time – put the toilet seat down after you’re finished (yes, guys, that’s you!)
  • Brag on your spouse in public
  • Compliment your spouse in front of your children
  • Find creative ways to tell each other “I love you” in code
  • Add a candle to the dinner table as a way of telling your spouse you consider the evening special and romantic, simply because they’re there

Simple acts of love are just that – simple. They don’t take time to prepare or money to maintain. They are mostly impulsive. Perhaps pretty soon, they’ll be habitual.

  • November 2, 2014

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a wife complain that her husband won’t lead.

Whether he’s failing, in her eyes, to be the “spiritual head of the household” or just not appearing to want to take the lead in parenting, budgeting, or planning the family vacations, many wives believe their husbands are passive.

After 25 years of discipling and mentoring women, I’ve learned now to ask the obvious – but sometimes uncomfortable – question: Have you ever let him lead?

It’s a question I’ve many times had to ask myself. And the answer often rubs against the grain of our pride.

“Basically, men lead best in their homes when their wives let them,” says Bob, who has been married 35 years, and teaches a married couples’ Bible class. “Wives need to know how to step back and acknowledge that their husband has an opinion that is as valid as theirs.”

Bob (and my husband who has more than 20 years experience as a pastor attests to this as well) will see a husband shut down many times because his wife has jumped in and taken the lead, whether it be in a class when they are called upon for input, or in the home, where there isn’t any room for them to be the “head.”

Some men won’t shut down, they will, instead, go head to head with their wives. But they don’t really want that power struggle. They want to lead as a way of ministering to their wives, so their wives will not feel the burden of having to, themselves.

In his book Sacred Influence, Author Gary Thomas says “The typical man remains unmoved by power plays or criticism or by a wife who disrespects him. He’s moved by a wife who lets him lead and then helps him get where he wants to go.”

This is particularly challenging if you are as much of, or more, of a leader than your husband!

Mike, who has been married 12 years to a very capable wife, says: “My wife is a take-charge woman and quite frankly that is the only type of woman that attracts me and interests me. The drawbacks are that her personality can be over-controlling in the household, which can lead to frustration for me and the kids.”

“We both want the same types of character developed in our children, but our methods and communication styles are quite different. I think she can find that God would use her husband in more special ways to alleviate her burden of controlling the household by giving me more space to lead the home.”

Our desire, as women, to lead in our homes is natural. We love our husbands and children and we want the best for them. But we can forget that is truly the desire of our husbands, as well. Fathers care just as much for their children as mothers do. And we can forget that our “dark side” is showing when we, in the depths of our hearts, believe we can lead and administrate better than they can.

Why We Won’t Let Them Lead

Our desire, as wives, to take over in our homes is a built-in hand-me-down curse of Eve’s that goes back to her sin in the Garden of Eden. In the Genesis 3 account, we read that Eve succumbed to the temptation by the serpent to disobey God and eat of the forbidden fruit, and then took it upon herself to suggest that her husband, Adam, do the same thing. When he in turn followed, God punished all three of them. The serpent had to eat dust and crawl on his belly all his life. Adam and all men after him would have to work the land, which was cursed with thorns, in order to make a living. And Eve would not only have her pain multiplied in childbirth, but her “desire” would be for her husband and he “would rule over her.”

Now, that curse did not mean Eve would have an emotional or sexual desire for her husband. It meant she would long for his position of authority.

We know that because when God said to Eve: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16), the Hebrew word for “desire” in that verse is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 4:7 when God confronts Eve’s son, Cain, about his attitude toward his brother, Abel, whom he eventually murdered, and says: “Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” That same Hebrew word for “desire” – in both those verses – refers to an unhealthy desire that could bring about destructive results.

Thus, you and I, as wives, have an ingrained destructive desire to take that lead from our husbands.

Now, maybe you’re thinking at this point, but somebody has to lead in my home. Well, that somebody is your husband. Many times he just needs to be allowed – or encouraged – to lead. I realize it may be difficult, at times, for you to let your husband lead, especially if you are a get-it-done woman who tends to accomplish things at a different pace than your husband. And the better you are at getting it done, the more difficult it may be to stand back and let him lead the way in getting certain things done – at work, at home, in your marriage, in his parenting, and so on.

But here is what I’ve found by interviewing numerous husbands: Most of them want a partnership with you, not a dictatorship. They want to work with you in the decisions concerning their job, their marriage, their family. They value your opinion; they just don’t want it lorded over them. They want your advice; they just want you to ask for theirs, too. They sometimes – maybe many times – don’t know how to best handle a situation but they realize the tension in that they still feel responsible to lead. So they want your input and then your trust if it comes down to the two of you going with their decision.

What It Looks Like to Let Him Lead

Consider the viewpoint of husbands and what it looks like in their homes for their wives to let them lead:

  • “Ask for my opinions and input on decisions.”
  • “Don’t assume he’s going to always agree with your ideas or suggestions. Be willing to adjust or re-arrange your ideas to be in line with his.”
  • Offer statements like ‘What do you think?’ ‘What would you like to do?’ “Do what you think is best – I trust you” and really mean it.
  • “If a decision of his flops, don’t chastise him or berate him for it – we all make mistakes. Talk about how the situation can be turned around or recovered (think in terms of solutions because that’s probably how his work world operates).”
  • “She can let me lead by valuing my opinion, telling me she trusts me, telling me her needs, bringing her concerns to me in a constructive way, making suggestions not making demands, and respecting my point of view in front of others, especially the kids.”

True partnership is coming alongside your husband to solve problems or make decisions. Not dumping something in his lap and saying “You figure this out!” and not running ahead and being the CEO without his consultation. And the beauty of partnership in a marriage is that you and your husband can bring your different perspectives, ideas and modes of thinking together to examine something and come up with the best possible solution or decision.

Why does a man need a helper when it comes to decisions?

“We don’t decide very well at times,” Bob says. “We need help with that – but not to be dominated with that.”

Steve, a husband of ten years and brand new father, says: “I love my wife’s ability to think completely opposite than me; it makes me feel like we make better decisions because we come at it from two completely different planets. Of course that can be problematic at times, but in the long run it’s better. It means we’ve covered every angle. And that makes me feel better”

When your opinion differs from your husband’s, it doesn’t have to result in an argument. Offer it as a way of putting something else on the table. Then see what he or God might do with it. If it’s not the opinion or action that your husband decides to go with, your reaction is key to what happens next.

  • November 2, 2014
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