It’s been over twenty years, but I can still remember so clearly the shock I felt at my husband’s words. “Let’s go down to the beach.” Now, you may be asking yourself what is so shocking about that statement. Let me give you a little background.
Newlyweds for less than a week, my husband and I were on our honeymoon in Myrtle Beach. On this particular day, we left the beach earlier than normal and returned to our rental house. Storms had begun forming all around us and having been struck by lighting already once in my life, I was not eager for a repeat experience. Upon returning to our rental, my husband jumped in the shower, and I turned on the tv just in time to see a local weather alert come across the screen. Several counties in the area were under a tornado warning, and the weather anchor was encouraging people to take cover immediately. Glancing around the mobile home that was home sweet home for us that week, I could feel my panic start to rise. If we were indeed in the path of this storm, I had no idea where we would take cover. We were in the middle of a sea of mobile homes with no basements in which we could take shelter. I called into my husband, who was still in shower, and asked the name of the county in which we staying. His answer confirmed for me that we were one of the counties included in the warning and in the direct path of this storm. Trying to control my now racing heart, I told him we were under a tornado warning and were being encouraged to take cover. His response caught me completely off guard. He suggested we go down to the beach and watch the storm go through. Now, in all fairness to him, he was joking . . . a little bit. I knew that he would never do anything that would put me in harms way. But, at the same time, I also knew that he has always loved storms, and I very much believe he would have enjoyed watching that particular storm roll in. His words shocked me, however. Who in their right mind would choose walking down to the beach instead of taking cover during a tornado? What kind of a man did I marry?
That hasn’t been the only time that I’ve been struck by the differences between my husband and I. In the last twenty years, I’ve learned that as a man, his mind works differently from my own. He experiences different emotions and feelings than I do. He often sees things from a slightly different perspective than I do. And though I don’t always understand his perspective, I’m learning to appreciate it and to see the wisdom in how God created men and women differently. I’ve also been learning that the needs he has from our relationship are far different from my own, and for our marriage to thrive, I need to understand and be supporting those needs.
If I were to ask you what you think the greatest needs of your husband/partner are, what would you say? I think most of us would say sex, right? Though sex is important for a healthy marriage, it’s not the only thing our men need. Men need respect and affirmation, they need to feel competent and successful, they need to feel that they are good providers, and they need to feel desired. There will always be some men that are an exception, but generally speaking, these are the greatest needs our men have.
Let’s look at Respect and Affirmation first. To respect someone is to value him, recognize his worth, and to hold him in high regard. To affirm means to validate, to support (someone) by giving approval, recognition, or encouragement. How intentional are we when it comes to respecting and affirming our men, and is it really that important to do so?
In her book, For Women Only, social researcher and author Shaunti Feldhahn, says,
“The male need for respect and affirmation, especially from his woman, is so hard-wired and so critical that three out of four men would rather feel unloved than disrespected or inadequate.”
Three out of four. That’s pretty significant. She goes on to say that men actually equate love with respect. A man who feels respected feels loved; a man who feels disrespected, on the other hand, feels unloved. Your man needs to know that he has your respect and that he has that respect unconditionally. Shaunti says,
“Just as you need the man in your life to love you unconditionally, even when you’re not particularly lovable, your man needs you to demonstrate your respect for him regardless of whether he’s meeting your expectations at the moment.” He needs to know that you respect him unconditionally not just because of what he does, but for who he is.”
Now, I understand that for some of us this feels really hard. But, even though it feels hard or there are times when we feel as though our respect is not deserved, we need to make the choice to respect our man. We need to make the choice to respect our husbands not only to show our love for them, but because God tells us to do so. Ephesians says,
“However, each man among you [without exception] is to love his wife as his very own self [with behavior worthy of respect and esteem, always seeking the best for her with an attitude of lovingkindness], and the wife [must see to it] that she respects and delights in her husband [that she notices him and prefers him and treats him with loving concern, treasuring him, honoring him, and holding him dear].” - Ephesians 5:33 (AMP)
Your man need your respect and your affirmation for it shows him that he is loved. But, how specifically can we do this? How do we show our men that we respect them? There are several areas in which we can do this.
The first is in his judgement. Your man needs to know that you respect his knowledge, his opinions, and his decisions. Now, you may not always agree with him, and that’s ok. But, it is important that you pick your battles and that you are not constantly questioning his judgement. I don’t always agree with my husband. There have been times over the last twenty years, especially as we’ve been raising our kids, that I haven’t agreed with his thoughts or how he has chosen to handle something. But, I have learned that sometimes it is wiser to hold my tongue and consider his perspective. Most times, he is doing what he truly feels is best for our family, and though I may not always agree with him, I need to respect that.
Many men have shared that their opinions and decisions are valued in every area of their lives except for at home. This is breaking our men. Don’t allow this to be the case in your home. Ask your man for his knowledge on a given subject, ask for his opinion on a decision you are facing, and tell him that you trust and support the decisions he makes when he’s got your family’s best interests at heart. Trust and respect his judgement.
Next, our men need to feel respected for their abilities. Men love to figure things out for themselves. It gives them a sense of accomplishment, a sense that they have conquered something when they tackle a problem using their own abilities and are able to solve it. This is why men sometimes will not use the provided instructions for putting together a piece of furniture or not rely on a map to get where they are going. I see this very thing in my youngest son. He is one that will set aside the instructions, intent on figuring it out on his own. As women, it can be difficult for us to understand this need. If we see our man struggling, we immediately want to step in and help, offer solutions. However, when we do so, it suggests to our men that we don’t trust them or have confidence in their abilities. It suggests that we don’t believe they can solve the problem. It is often better to offer our encouragement, tell him that we know he can do it and then back off and let him figure things out on his own. This shows that we respect his abilities.
Another area in which you can show your respect is in what your man accomplishes. In her studies, Shaunti found that even though men may appear extremely confident on the outside, many of them question whether they measure up or if they are good at what they do. Our men need to know that we notice what they have accomplished. It is extremely powerful for a man to know that he tried something, accomplished it, did it well, and someone noticed. Tell him that he did a great job at fixing the car. Tell him he does a great job at giving the kids a bath. Tell him that you appreciate how hard he works to provide for your family. Tell him that he is an amazing dad. Many times, these words will mean more to him than hearing that you love him.
One thing to note, however. When you show your respect for what your man accomplishes, take care not to point out his flaws. I’ll never forget a number of years ago when we were cleaning up our house for a showing. My husband folded our bathroom towels and put them away for me. When I walked into the closet, not all of the towels were pointed the same way. It sounds crazy, but in that moment it really bothered me. I proceeded to refold all of the towels. He was so hurt that I did this, especially because he was trying to be helpful. It was a long time before he would fold towels for me again. When we praise our men and quickly follow it with a critique, all he hears is that what he accomplished wasn’t quite good enough. Take notice of what your husband accomplishes and show him respect in that.
This next area is really important. We need to respect our husbands as we communicate with them. As women, we have the incredible power to build up our men or completely tear them down. Because of this, we need to choose the words we speak to our men wisely. Proverbs tells us,
“Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim.” - Proverbs 15:4 (MSG)
Every day, you have a choice in how you will choose to communicate with your man. You can speak kindly and encourage and build him up. Or, you can speak hurtful words over him and exasperate and tear him down. When your criticize or nag your man, he often interprets that as disrespect and disappointment in him as a man. Choose your words carefully. Your words are powerful. They can either be life-giving or life-draining.
Another area where our men need our respect is in public. It is important to never criticize, tease, put him down, or question his judgement in front of others. To do so shows disrespect and because it happens in front of others, it can deeply wound a man and cause him to feel inadequate. Shaunti quotes her dad as saying,
“Men don’t let down their guards easily . . . The only time a guy’s guard is completely down is with the woman he loves. So she can pierce his heart like no one else.”Dick Reidinger
It is so important to be supportive and respectful of our men in public. And this is true even when we are not physically present with our man. As women, we sometimes like to gather in our little circles with other women and vent our frustrations about our men. We like the feeling that we are not alone in our struggles and the validation that comes with sharing our frustrations. Here is the thing though; there is danger in that. If we make a habit of sharing our frustrations or dissatisfactions with other women, those frustrations and dissatisfactions are actually going to lodge more deeply in our hearts. If we’re not careful, what we see as harmless venting can begin to affect the relationship we have with our man.
“ . . . The heart overflows in the words a person speaks; your words reveal what’s within your heart.” - Luke 6:45 (VOICE)
There is wisdom in privately seeking wise counsel if you are struggling in your relationship. But, the venting, the complaining, and the airing out of our disappointments and frustrations with our girlfriends is actually causing more dissatisfaction. Satan is using it as a breeding ground for lies and discontent. We need to stop putting down our men in public and instead make the choice to show them respect and build them up in front of others.
Lastly, we can show the men in our lives respect through our assumptions. Assumptions are those things we accept to be true or are certain will happen without actually having proof. We make assumptions about others every day. If I find graham cracker crumbs on the floor, I assume my daughter has been in the pantry even if I didn’t actually see her in the pantry. If someone is tailgating me, I assume that they’re just a jerk of a person even thought the reality may be that they have a family emergency. We make assumptions daily, but when it comes to our men, we need to be very careful in this area. Far too often, we make negative assumptions concerning our men. These negative assumptions can lead to distrust and a breakdown in our relationships.
There are two particular assumptions women often make about men that we need address. The first is the assumption that when you ask your man to do something, he will need reminded in order for it to get done. If we ask our man to complete a task, and it is not completed in the timeframe we expect, we make the incorrect assumption that he needs to be reminded to complete the task. Now, sometimes he honestly may need to be reminded. There have been times when I’ve asked my husband to do something, but I’ve asked when he was completely focused on another task and my request honestly did not register with him. But, most times, my request has been heard, he does remember, and he does intend to do it. It just may not be as close to the top of his priority list as it is mine. When we make the assumption that our man needs us constantly reminding him to do things, it can be interpreted as he is incapable of remembering on his own, or that we don’t trust that he will get the job done. We need to remember that his priorities may be different from our own and to not make the assumption that he needs reminded in order to complete a task.
Another incorrect assumption that women tend to make is that when it comes to doing work around the house or helping with the kids, men make the choice to not help. I have to be honest and tell you that I’ve made this assumption before. If my husband didn’t help around the house in ways I thought he should, I thought it was because he didn’t care about me or was simply choosing not to help. But, I’ve learned that that was never the case. Usually, if he didn’t help with something I thought he should, it was simply because he didn’t see it. And usually, that’s the case with our men. It’s not that they don’t want to help. It’s that they don’t always see things the same way they we do. He may honestly not see the laundry that needs carried upstairs. He may honestly not hear the baby cry in the middle of the night. Instead of making the assumption that your man doesn’t want to help, choose to believe that he honestly doesn’t see the areas in which help is needed. Clearly communicate your needs and the ways in which he can help you. I’ve found that my husband has always been willing to pitch in when I’ve asked.
We show respect when we guard our assumptions. Make the choice to always assume the very best of your man. Our men need our respect and affirmation.
Another need our men have is the need to feel competent and successful. Men have within them a deep need to succeed, and though they may appear quite confident on the outside, in reality they have moments of extreme vulnerability and insecurity and times when they doubt themselves and their abilities. Men question daily whether they are measuring up to the expectations others and the expectations they hold for themselves and strive to meet those expectations. So, how can you support and affirm him as he works hard to prove himself?
First, believe in him. Take an honest look at the man you love and remind yourself what makes him so amazing. Then tell him. Tell him why he is amazing. Tell him he is amazing at his job. Tell him that he is great with the kids. Tell him you love it when he chases you around the kitchen island to steal a kiss. Tell him. Your words alone and knowing that you believe in him is incredibly empowering. One man is quoted as saying,
“It’s all about whether my wife thinks I can do it. A husband can slay dragons, climb mountains, and win great victories if he believes his wife believes that he can.”
Secondly, make your home a safe place for your man. What do I mean by this? Your home should be the one place where your man can find total acceptance. Shaunti says that many men spend their workdays feeling as though they are always being watched and judged, and they need a place where they can let down their guard. Your home should be that place. Your home should be the one place where he feels loved, accepted, and respected for who he truly is.
And lastly, another way that we can help our men feel competent and successful is by overing supportive sex. One husband was quoted as saying the following,
“A man can be having a horrible time at work, rejection in his industry, and every other area can be going rotten – but if his wife wants him physically and affirms him in bed, he can handle the rest of the world, no problem. Conversely, if he gets the same imposter message at home (‘You don’t measure up. Don’t touch me.’), it will devastate him far worse than any career blow.”
Men also need to feel as though they are providing for their families well. Shaunti says,
“Being a provider appears to be at the core of a man’s identity as a male and as a person of worth: he feels that to be a man, he needs to be a provider . . . Providing for those he loves is not just what a man does for a living – in a unique way, it is an enormous part of who he is.” The need to provided is deeply rooted within men and though it can be a heavy burden for them, it is their primary way of loving their families.
How can we help our men feel as though they are providing well? First, support and affirm him in his efforts to provide. Tell him that you see and appreciate all he does to provide for you family. Secondly, do your part to help relieve some of the pressure he feels to provide. Examine your spending habits. Are they placing an additional burden to your family’s financial situation? Are you in a position where you could take a part-time job to help with expenses? Examine what you can do to help ease the burden he feels.
Lastly, one of the greatest needs our men have is the need to feel desired. Sex fulfills a physical need for men, but it also fulfills a powerful emotional need as well. According to her research, Shaunti found that a regular, mutually enjoyed sex life was critical to a man feeling loved and desired. A wife’s desire for her husband gives him the confidence he needs to face the rest of the world. It counteracts his stress, his fears, and his loneliness. On the other hand, when this intimate need of a man is not met or a wife approaches intimacy as more of a duty that out of desire, a man feels incredible rejection. The perception that his wife doesn’t desire him can tear down his self confidence, cause him to withdraw or send him into depression.
Now, I get it. There are some nights that you just . . . can’t. Caring for little people can leave us worn out and weary. Some nights, all I want is to take a hot bath and then go to sleep. I get it. But, friend, I would encourage you to not let the weariness that comes with being a mom keep you from having the intimate relationship God created you and your husband to have. Yes, God created sex. He designed it to bring you and your husband close together, and He designed it to be fun.
I would encourage you to do several things when it comes to this need of your husband. First, make it a priority. I’ve learned that you will never be completely caught up on your household chores. Never. There will always be something that needs your attention. You have to make your sex life a priority. Mark it on the calendar if you have to. (I would suggest you come up with a code word or symbol if marking it on a calendar in the event that your children see it and uncomfortable questions are raised.) Arrange for a babysitter, put a movie of for the kids. Teach your children that a locked bedroom door means leave mom and dad alone. Intentionally set aside time to be intimate with your husband.
Secondly, make it fun. Sex was designed to be enjoyed. Try things differently sometimes. Openly communicate about your individual needs when it comes to sex. Take the initiative every once in a while. Have fun being close to your husband. He needs it and if I’m honest . . . so do you.
Lastly, take care of yourself. As moms, we are really good at caring for everyone else, but ourselves. When our kids are small, caring for their own physical needs tends to consume our days and leaves us little time to care for our own physical needs. Anyone ever made it to dinner time still wearing their pajamas? On those days, how desirable do you feel? Not very, right? Some days will be like that. But, on those days when you can, take care of yourself. Grab a shower, do your hair, put actual clothes on, take time to enjoy a hot cup of coffee, curl up and read a book for a few minutes. Do something to care for you. We feel better about ourselves when we’ve taken the time to care for ourselves. And you know what? Our husbands notice when we do. He feels securely loved and cared for when he has a wife who tries to take care of herself.
Sex fulfills a powerful emotional need for your husband. Be intentional in fulfilling this need.
In closing, I want to remind you of a few things. First of all, remember that you have the incredible power to tear your man down or build him up into the man God has created him to be. Secondly, pick your battles and be willing to forgive. Folded towels are not a battle worth fighting. Be slow to anger and quick to kiss and make up. Lastly, pray for your husband and invite Christ into your marriage. Ecclesiastes says,
“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” - Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)
God can and will strengthen your marriage. He needs to be invited though. Invite God to be a part of your marriage.
One man is quoted as follows:
“It is so true that behind every great man is a great woman. There are a lot of men out there who are mediocre simply because their wives will not support them and bring them to greatness. And there are a lot of mediocre men who are destined to become great men-who are becoming great men-because their wives love and support them. My wife expects great things from me, even though I’m a pretty ordinary guy, really. She looks at me like I’m a genius in my field. She respects me in public and affirms me in private. I love her. And like all men, I want to live up to her expectations.”Unknown
Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 28 Feb. 2022.
Feldhahn, S. For Women Only. Colorado Springs: Multinomah Books. 2013.