She was my pleasing companion, my most affectionate friend, my judicious counselor. I seldom, if ever, repented of acting according to her advice. And I seldom, if ever, acted against it without being convinced by the event that I was wrong.

John Newton’s words about his wife, Polly.
Newton, a former slave ship captain, became a
Christian leader and wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace.” William Peterson, from 25 Surprising Marriages

Our first couple years of marriage, Clayton and I traveled together full-time. He often introduced me from stage, saying what a wonderful woman he had married, how lucky he was, how great I was, and so on. People probably wished they had someone to brag on them like that, but I always saw it as a way for Clayton to break the ice, a way to entertain the audience. He was communicating love to me in “his language“—and I was missing it.

We would return home and I’d wash the clothes, fold them, and pack his bag neatly. I was loving him in “my language,” but he just felt like I was doing what needed to be done to get on the road. We were showing love to one another, but in our own ways—and neither of us was seeing the other’s love.

A few years and a few children later, I finally started to notice how consistent Clayton’s pleas for verbal encouragement had become. But I reasoned it away. I saw him as a confident person, and besides, other people were always encouraging him. At each event, I watched as students, parents, and youth pastors showered him with compliments. After these, it seemed like mine would be inconsequential. When I would share this with Clayton, his response was always, “Yes, but you are my wife and I need your encouragement. I don’t need theirs. I need you, Charie.” He tried to explain how much he valued my admiration and approval, but I didn’t feel prestigious enough to make a difference.

It didn’t matter how many times he reassured me, I was unable to embrace the concept. I was intimidated by verbal affirmation because we didn’t really do this much in our home growing up, and because I think I was scared to sound foolish. My pride was trapping me. And finally, since I’m confessing, you should know I kind of resented the fact that he often received praise from everyone while I sat in the shadows. Yep. I think my pride was the main obstacle.

My stubbornness didn’t make sense, but I simply refused to humble myself. I avoided giving him what he needed. Instead I worked more around the house and even started to point out everything I was doing for him. I bet you can guess that my increased servitude and guilt-provoking comments didn’t change Clayton’s emotional makeup. He still needed the same thing—my verbal approval.

Loving someone can be tricky because our motives for love are sometimes unclear. Did I truly want to serve and love my husband, or was I really serving myself by looking for appreciation? It was probably a little of both, but if I wasn’t willing to love him in the way he needed, I was really only pleasing myself.

She had one abiding purpose: to show him she loved him, and she peeled away the layers of pride one by one until she was humbled by her own nakedness…She thought she had been saved by his love for her, and in part she had been. It cleansed her, never casting blame. But that had only been the beginning. It was loving him in return that brought her up out of the darkness.  1

—Francine Rivers, from Redeeming Love

Will You Make the Choice?

The passage above from the book Redeeming Love describes what took place in my heart toward my husband. I remember the day my heart truly embraced his need for respect.