As a woman, your wife’s most fervent desire for your marriage is oneness – a union of souls that creates true intimacy. But that’s only possible when you allow her personality and convictions to influence your marriage as much as yours do. Discovering and valuing your wife’s thoughts and feelings makes you a stronger – not weaker – leader in your home. And it can lead to a better marriage than you’ve ever imagined.

Here’s how you can pursue oneness in your marriage to win your wife’s heart:

Don’t trample on her feelings. Realize that you can’t achieve a close, joyful, and fulfilling marriage if you ignore your wife’s feelings. Understand that you should listen to your wife and take action to please her, just as you hope she’ll do the same for you. Remember that your wife’s feelings, thoughts, opinions, and dreams are just as important as your own. Ask God to help you see her as the treasure He has made her to be.

Understand what submission is all about. Recognize that being a strong leader in your home doesn’t mean demanding that your wife submit to you no matter what. Instead, it means that you should submit to God’s command to love your wife so much that you’re willing to make whatever personal sacrifices are necessary to serve her well. Then your obedience will motivate your wife to submit to God herself. Know that husbands and wives are called to mutually submit to each other by voluntarily deciding to serve each other out of love. Expect that doing so will lead to peace, joy, and righteousness in your relationship. Be willing to be the kind of servant leader who is strong enough to give in at impasses for the sake of honoring God and pursuing oneness.

Make room to allow your wife to use her talents and express her gifts. Get to know your wife’s natural talents and spiritual gifts. Genuinely listen to her. Then give her the time and support she needs to be able to fully put them to use. Be willing to do your fair share of chores to free her up to serve as God leads her. Encourage her to contribute to others in ministry and develop her career. Be willing to work alongside her toward common goals. Give her an opportunity to fully blossom.

Pursue strong character. Daily pray for God to help you grow to be more like Christ, the model servant-leader who made the ultimate sacrifice out of love. Frequently ask for fresh help from the Holy Spirit to develop character traits such as kindness, patience, gentleness, and faithfulness that will help you build oneness in your marriage. Be courageous enough to ask your wife to let you know about blind spots in your character that undermine your leadership. Ask her to evaluate the current state of oneness in your marriage, your spiritual leadership, how soft or hard your heart is, and how well you serve.

Discuss you and your wife’s goals for your marriage. List your top 10 goals for your marriage, and ask your wife to do the same. Then compare lists and discuss the similarities and differences. Try to see if you can reach a mutual agreement on the top three goals for your marriage.

Choose to be a servant – not just act like one sometimes. Understand that service isn’t something you do whenever it happens to suit you. Rather, service should become a constant lifestyle in which you choose to serve your wife regularly because you love her as you love yourself. Don’t settle for a mediocre marriage; be willing to pay the price for a great relationship.

Choose righteousness over rights. Decide that, rather than insisting on your rights, you will freely give them up when necessary to pursue the greater cause of righteousness. Whenever your rights are a stumbling block to achieving oneness in your marriage, be willing to lay them aside so you can enjoy the type of holy, close marriage God wants for you. Know that your example will inspire and motivate your wife to likewise turn away from selfishness. When facing decisions (especially controversial ones such as deciding where to live or making major purchases), be willing to give up your rights for the sake of the one you love.

Enjoy a healthy sex life. Know that, for women, sexual attraction is based on relationship. So if you build a strong emotional and spiritual connection to her, she will be far more likely to open up to you sexually than if you don’t. Remember that neither spouse has the right to withhold sexual fulfillment from the other, or to force the other to perform any sexual acts with which he or she is uncomfortable. Maintain sexual purity, focusing your sexual desires solely on your wife. Offer your body as a living sacrifice to please God and her through your sexual relationship. Choose to meet each other’s needs despite varying moods, emotions, and circumstances. Work together to make mutually satisfying sex a regular part of your schedule.

Realize that your time is not your own. Understand that you shouldn’t ever make unilateral decisions about how to spend your time, because you and your wife are a team and the way you spend your time powerfully impacts her time as well. Know that women often spell love T-I-M-E, so make it a priority to spend as much time with your wife as possible. Realize that quality time only happens in the midst of quantity time, and that the best moments together often can’t be tightly scheduled. Remember that your wife’s time is just as important as yours. Always check with her before planning your schedule so you don’t trample over her needs.

Don’t resent your wife’s weaknesses. Know that your wife is a gift from God, despite her weaknesses. Remember that you, too, have weaknesses. Understand that it’s often the things that irritate you most that God is using to transform you into a better person. Be merciful. Love your wife for who she is today (not who you wish she would be), and allow God to use you to build her character according to His plan (not yours).

Look for prestige in the right place. Don’t make the mistake that so many men do of making their jobs the primary source of their prestige. Understand that God places a higher priority on your role as a husband and father than He does on your role as an employee. Derive your sense of prestige from how well you perform at home, rather than at work.

Lighten your wife’s load. Help your wife with household chores and childcare as often as you possibly can. Don’t expect her to be the one serving you constantly; do your best to serve her, as well.

Make your wife your passion. Intentionally pursue your wife on a regular basis with as much passion as you did before you were married. Make sure she is still your first love. Expect your efforts to ignite the flame of her passion for you, as well.

Become a true spiritual leader. Strive to become the person in your family who develops the deepest knowledge of the Bible, submits to what it says the best, and is the most consistent with prayer and devotions. Be comfortable worshiping at home, not just in church. Try to be the quickest in your family to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Set the spiritual thermostat in your home.

Nurture and train your children spiritually. Don’t shirk your awesome privilege and responsibility to help your children grow in their faith. Agree with your wife on core values, then present them in a united front to your kids. Work as a team alongside your wife to parent your kids well. Help your children tap into the power of Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and their God-given spiritual gifts.

Get rid of sins that are holding you back. Understand that your own personal sins can greatly damage your marriage. Make sure your wife knows that she is free to point out sins in your life that you need to address. Don’t ignore her when she does. Instead, take sin seriously and regularly repent before God and ask for His grace to keep growing.

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Adapted from Every Man’s Marriage, copyright 2001 by Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker, and Mike Yorkey. Published by WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, Co., www.waterbrookpress.com.

Stephen Arterburn is coauthor of the best-selling Every Man series from WaterBrook Press. He is the founder and chairman of New Life Clinics, host of the daily New Life Live! national radio program, creator of the Woman of Faith Conferences, a nationally known speaker and licensed minister, and the author of more than 40 books. He lives in Laguna Beach, California.

Fred Stoeker is coauthor of the best-selling Every Man series. He is the founder and chairman of Living True Ministries and a conference speaker who has counseled hundreds of men and married couples. Fred and his wife, Brenda, live near Des Moines, Iowa, with their four children.