I’m sure you are aware of the ways you and your husband differ in your background and personalities. You may also have different ideas about how to spend your evenings, what kinds of movies you each prefer to watch, and what your ideas of an adventurous weekend would look like. But when you add to the mix their uniquely male qualities, it surely could be a case for your girlfriends that your husband is from a different world than you are.
This should go without saying. Yet, I’m amazed at how many women expect their husbands to be just like their girlfriends and talk about everything, listen intently, and “go deep” with their feelings. Men are not wired for “chick chat” and the biggest mistake wives make is interpreting this to mean their husbands don’t care. Well, they don’t. But that doesn’t mean they don’t care about you.
You can understand your man better when you realize he approaches life differently, tending to focus more on the detail of fact, while you tend to focus more on feelings. While you tend to ask for help, advice and directions, he often will not. When you offer sympathy, he offers advice and analysis, and while you desire to understand problems, he is driven to solve them. Instead of thinking If only he’d be more sensitive, or If only he’d be more interested in what I l like, try changing your perspective to I appreciate the way he brings balance to our marriage.
Countless studies have affirmed that a man would rather feel respected than loved. While women long to be cherished, loved, and pursued, there’s a sense in which a man can live without love. It’s respect he can’t live without.
It’s interesting to note that in the Bible, husbands are commanded to love their wives. And wives are commanded to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-33). Have you ever thought about why a woman isn’t commanded to love her husband in return? We are commanded throughout the Bible to love one another, and that includes our husbands. But when it comes to this passage, which speaks specifically about the marriage relationship, God apparently knew a woman desires more than anything else to be loved and a man desires more than anything else to be respected. God must have known that as we respect our husbands, we are demonstrating love to them in a way they can more easily see and appreciate.
Your husband is wired to be competitive, and therefore winning, succeeding and advancing are extremely important to him. If your husband feels he is in a no-win situation or is failing at something, it will show in his attitude of feeling stuck or wanting to give up. If your husband isn’t succeeding at something, he at least needs to feel like he’s winning. Let him know he is succeeding in the areas that are most important to him and to you. And if what is important to you isn’t necessarily important to him, let him know every now and then how well he is doing in that area, and it just may become an important area to him after all.
Many a man will give up altogether and go passive when it comes to parenting if you are insisting your parental skills are better. A man may stop communicating if his wife lets him know he is a failure at communication. To the contrary, if you are praising his efforts—even if at this point they are just efforts—he will likely want to continue to please you. Treat him like a winner at home, and he’ll want to be there more often. Praise him for his handiwork around the house, and you’ll find him offering to be your handyman. Encourage him and tell him how good he makes you feel in the bedroom, and he’ll be more likely to initiate intimacy. Encouragement goes a long way. And making your husband feel like a winner will make him want to be around you— especially if you’re his No. 1 fan.
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4. Allow him time in his "blank box."
Sometimes it’s difficult for us to understand how our husbands can sit on the couch with the TV on, not particularly watching it, and not hear a word we say, nor be capable of responding. I call that my husband’s “veg box.” Some wives call it their husbands’ “blank box.” And when you ask him “What’s on your mind?” or “What are you thinking?” and he stares off into space and says “nothing”—it really is true; he’s in a “no words, no feelings” box.
Women, on the other hand, constantly have thoughts swirling around in their heads. We are continually connecting events of yesterday to situations today and drawing conclusions. Our husbands appear clueless at what we’re doing, because they are. They don’t understand how we think and we don’t understand how they can be thinking of nothing. Allow your husband to spend time in his blank box doing nothing and thinking about nothing. It’s his way of decompressing so he can come back and re-engage with his wife and family again.
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5. Ask him about his dreams.
Proverbs 20:5 says “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” You can better understand your husband when you can draw out of him his dreams and desires. When your husband has unmet dreams, it might affect how he is processing life or whether or not he is enjoying it. Whereas you and I might conclude he has a bad attitude, he may be dealing with feelings of missing out because he isn’t living from his heart.
Ask your husband what he’d love to do if time or money were no object. Give him permission to dream and don’t discount his ideas if they don’t sound practical or realistic. You can understand what makes him tick, what he secretly longs for, and even how you can share in making some of his dreams come true when you take the time to ask, learn and discover the dreams on your husband’s heart.
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6. Treat him like a king, but not your God.
There’s a difference between treating your husband with the respect and loyalty you would give a king, and depending on him like he’s your God. Many women marry with high expectations, only to be gravely disappointed shortly thereafter when they discover their husband can’t possibly meet all of their emotional needs.
Because your husband is a man, he will never be able to meet your needs for sensitivity and understanding like another woman. Because he’s not your dad, he can’t make up for what you might feel was lacking in a father-daughter relationship. And most important, because he’s not God, he can’t possibly fulfill you in every way. Instead of looking to your husband to be God in your life and fill your every need, look to God as your spiritual husband (Isaiah 54:5). There is nothing that will free up your husband to love you more than taking your emotional expectations off of him and leaving them with God. Your husband can then love you in the best way he is able, without feeling he has an impossible task in front of him. (For practical ways to live this out, see my book, Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs).
Unlike women who appear to multi-task, men function better with a singular focus and they have a way of compartmentalizing their thoughts and actions. Like his ancient ancestors, your husband is, by nature, a hunter-gatherer, so it’s easy for him to zero in on—and stay focused on—a single topic (Picture a cat sitting by a window watching a bird – he doesn’t move, but is totally fixated).
As you are sensitive to this single-focus characteristic of his, it may help you understand his response—or lack of response—to you when you go from topic to topic in your conversation or are tending to “merge” the areas of your life when he prefers to keep them separate. For example, talking about finances just prior to intimacy will confuse him. If he’s in “finance mode,” he will not know how to transition well to “romance mode.” Likewise, if you are talking about the kids’ schooling problems or your aging parents’ needs while he’s trying to set up the tent on a camping trip, he will likely not respond to your words, let alone hear them.
Men are designed, physically and physiologically, to enjoy sexual pleasure with their wives. Your husband wants to enjoy that activity and experience with YOU. And you are the only one he can enjoy that with and still be right and pure before his God. And he knows that, even more than you do.
In Ecclesiastes 9:9, Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said this: “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given to you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.”
King Solomon wrote a whole book on the meaninglessness of life. And among the few things he found meaningful for a man to enjoy were a good meal and pleasure with his wife. Now think about that! When you prepare a meal for your husband, isn’t it your desire that he enjoy it? Similarly, will you prepare yourself for him, physically, as his reward after dinner? God paid you quite a compliment when He gave you to your husband as your husband’s reward. God considered you a great prize to bring pleasure—in many ways—to your husband. That should make you and I want to be our husband’s reward, not his consolation prize.
Do you ever find yourself wondering why your husband constantly thinks about food? Or how it is he can down a whole steak in minutes when all you feel like eating is a salad? Your husband, if he’s like most men, loves to eat. He’ll prefer a meaty meal to your low-calorie morsel every time! And get thisenjoying food is biblical! In Ecclesiastes 2:24, the wise King Solomon says, “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.”
For a man to be able to sit down and enjoy dinner—or a hearty, messy barbecue lunch—is one of the ways God rewards him for his work here on earth. So let him eat. And don’t knock him when he does. It’s one of the simple pleasures in life he was designed to enjoy.
Your husband typically values different things at different seasons of life. In his 20s and 30s, he may prioritize making money and advancing his career because he is in his prime “provider/achiever” mode. When he approaches his 40s and 50s, he may be more concerned about making his life count and not “wasting time” doing something that doesn’t matter in the long run. When he reaches his 60s, he may value slowing down to enjoy life or attempt ambitions or “bucket list” items now that he has more time.
Keep in mind, though, that even when his priorities shift with age, he’s still the same man you fell in love with and married. His priorities just change through the years, as do yours.