Your goal should be to become a gentle, loving, and tender husband who does not lecture. Lectures during stressful times only create more stress. This was a new concept to me because I wasn't fortunate enough to have a father who knew how to be tender to his wife. I wasn't aware of my wife's needs for tenderness until a few years ago. No one had ever told me that one of a woman's greatest needs is tenderness and a husband who will listen instead of lecture, and even if someone had, I don't think I would have understood. (I should have been able to figure it out, though, because when I am down, I like people to be gentle and comforting to me.)

I'll never forget what one woman told me: "If my husband would only put his arms around me and hold me, without lecturing me, when I am feeling blue!" But lecture #734 would begin as he told her she would feel better if she took an aspirin...if she were more organized...if she wouldn't wear her self down so much...if she would discipline the children better....

"Have you ever told him what you need?" I asked.

"Are you kidding? I'd be embarrassed," she laughed. "Come on, you're kidding."

"No. He probably doesn't know what to do. He doesn't know you need to be held instead of lectured. Why don't you tell him during a calm conversation some day?"

"That does kind of make sense to me. A lot of times when I am down and crying and all upset, he'll ask, 'What do you want me to do?' I just flare up and say, 'If I have to tell you what to do, it would wreck the whole idea.'"

As a husband, I recommend that you ask your wife when and how you need to hold her when she needs to be comforted. Ask her what circumstances prompt her to seek your gentle caring arms and touch. You can't dream them up on your own. We just can't perceive the deep feelings of other people. We've got to draw them out and then practice, practice, practice the skills of meeting our wives' needs.

The first time I ever tried to ski, I rode a rope pulley to the top of a small hill. The hill looked a lot bigger from the top than it did from the bottom.

I thought, no way am I gonna go down this hill. So I sat down on the back of my skis and scooted all the way down.

Even if you have to scoot instead of ski your way through the skills in this chapter at first, remember that you'll eventually be able to get to your feet. This book is certainly not an exhaustive marriage manual, but it is a start. Believe me, if you practice what is written here, you and your wife can have a more loving marriage.

When I was first learning the art of comforting my wife, we had an experience that took every ounce of self-control I could muster. But I came through a stronger man, encouraged by my new-found strength. I want you to imagine yourself in my situation. How would you have reacted?

I had bought a dumpy-looking boat for $400 because we wanted to do more things together as a family. That same night my son and I decided to take it for a quick trip to the lake, only five minutes from our house, just to see how it ran. Because of my inexperience as a boater, the wind blew the boat back to the bank the first time I put it in. I got wet and frustrated trying to push it out again. After an irritating ten minutes trying to start the cantankerous thing, the boat wouldn't go faster than ten miles an hour. Something was obviously wrong. I was quite a way from the shore before I realized I had better get back in case the motor stalled.

Then? "Dad, the boat's sinking!" Greg cried. I looked behind me and saw the foot of water that had gurgled in. The previous owner had taken the plug out the last time it had rained but had forgotten to tell me. With the hull full of water, I couldn't find the hole for the plug. Luckily we didn't sink. I put the boat back on the trailer, determined to take it back first thing in the morning. I was a little embarrassed to have the dumpy-looking thing parked in front of my house anyway.