This year I actually bought a Valentine’s Day gift for my husband. We don’t usually celebrate the holiday–I’ve just never been a fan. I think cards are a waste of money (somebody else’s thoughts on card stock for $5?). I don’t like chocolate (I know; I’m weird). And flowers are best enjoyed in their natural habitat and not dyed different colors and shoved into that mushy green stuff. Don’t get me wrong: I do believe our love should be celebrated, just not on someone else’s terms.
But I surely don’t want to minimize the love and affection that people take the time to show one another on Valentine’s Day, thus the gift this year. Never mind the fact that I forgot about it, got it out of a drawer, and crammed it into a bag literally as he was walking in from work. He wasn’t all that impressed. Honestly, neither was I.
But, hey, I tried. And that’s really what counts anyway, right?
You know what I think my husband would appreciate from me more than the $20 shirt I bought him? Love. Real love. Not a card but a commitment; not a gift but my giving; not just words but the willingness to be there and to share the best part of me with him. I am certainly no expert on marriage. The two of us still have much to learn, but the few things I’ve learned in almost twenty-five years of marriage (this December!) I’m happy to share with you.
Because this blog is designed to minister to women, my thoughts today are for wives, so please don’t feel they are one-sided. I’m a woman, so I write for women. I can’t speak to a husband’s role from experience, so I will refrain from commenting.
That said, I want to share four characteristics of love within marriage (learned the hard way).
Four Ways to Love Our Husbands
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33, NIV 84).
Unless we make time to seek God first, we will not be the wives God wants us to be. For the first ten years of my marriage, I put myself and my own needs first. I wanted Kenneth to meet all my needs, but the truth is that only Jesus can meet all our needs. No man needs to live under that kind of pressure. I made both him and myself miserable, until I began to seek the Lord first every single day–not just on the days I felt like it, but every single day.
That commitment not only transformed my life; it transformed my marriage. I began to sit before the Lord and let Him show me the things in my life that needed to change instead of always trying to change Kenneth. Ladies, we must make the Lord our number-one priority if we want to have a peaceful marriage.
Our second priority should be our husbands, not our children. That was one really difficult for me to learn. Once a woman walks around with an extra heart beating inside her, she never quite feels the same about anyone else on the planet. At least, that’s how I felt. Once I became a mother, my life revolved around my children. Kenneth took the back burner for quite some time, which was so unfair to him. As my children got older, I began to realize that I had neglected time with my husband because I felt so “responsible” for my kids. Truth is, they would have been better off seeing me put their father first instead of them. What a godly example that would have set for their future marriages!
One day, our kids will be grown and leave home. (Trust me, it happens sooner rather than later). Then we will be left to pick up the pieces of a marriage we didn’t nurture for twenty or so years. Wouldn’t it be better to show our kids that their daddy is important to us by sending them to their grandparents while we go on a date? Our children will find great security in seeing their parents care for and build their relationship with one another.
“Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).
I know we have all heard a gazillion times that men need to feel respected. We know it, but how well do we actually put that into practice, and what does it look like? Well, I can tell you what it does not look like: belittling, criticizing, or nagging our husbands in front of others. We live in a culture that finds satisfaction in a woman who is smarter, better-looking, and more in charge than her man. From Disney shows geared to seven- and eight-year-olds to sitcoms that make fun of men, our society exploits the marriage relationship in which the woman wears the pants.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wear the pants. I’ll admit, there have been occasions on which I criticized my husband in front of others, but I realize now how demeaning that is. I recently listened to a young lady berate her young man over something, and, honestly, I was appalled–not at her, but at the realization that I have sounded just like that before.
When we put our husbands down, we destroy their confidence that attracted us to them in the first place. Love honors and prefers one another above ourselves. Friends, we don’t have to always have our way or always be right. (Siri solves most of our arguments now anyway). Besides, being right is highly overrated. How much better would it be to let our husbands have their way, defer to them, prefer them, build them up, rather than always trying to get our way? And what a much better witness that would be to our children of the roles that men and women should fulfill in a marriage.
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life…Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land” (Proverbs 31:10-11, 21).
You know why this noble wife’s husband has confidence in her? He knows she will respect and protect his reputation. Her husband doesn’t have to fear going to the city gate where the men hang out to do business and hear that his wife has disrespected him behind his back. He trusts her to always speak well of him, even though he knows he is not perfect.
Think about it: we are not perfect either. How would we feel if our man was always complaining to his friends about us? We would be horrified, yet how often do we gather with our girlfriends and talk about how lazy or insensitive or selfish our husbands are? Listen, it may seem funny and cool on the latest sitcom, but there is nothing humorous about trash-talking our husbands behind their backs.
No matter what our friends are sharing about their husbands, and no matter how rotten ours have been lately, we should protect their reputation. Let’s keep our business where it belongs–at home. Men need to feel respected, not only in our presence, but also when we are apart. Let’s protect them as we would our children.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2).
Do you want your husband to grow spiritually, to walk in the Spirit, to bear much fruit, to lead his family with wisdom and grace, to be a godly example to his children? Then by all means, pray that for him and with him! If he is uncomfortable praying aloud, ask him if he minds letting you pray for your family with him each night. Take him by the hands and pray for him in a way that will encourage and build him up.
Friends, we have so much influence on our families and our marriages. True love will prioritize God first and our husbands second. True love will prefer him, protect him, and pray for him daily. The more we treat our husbands the way we want to be treated, the more they will become the men of God we long for them to be.
After all, helping our men fulfill the call of God on their lives to be the priest, prophet, pastor, protector, and provider of our families–isn’t that what love is all about?