I was reading the book For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and ran across these words. “While it may be totally foreign to most of us, the male need for respect and affirmation—especially from his woman—is so hard wired and so critical that most men would rather feel unloved than disrespected or inadequate.” The survey indicated that if they had to choose one of the following two situations, 74 percent of men would rather be alone and unloved than feel inadequate and be disrespected. Only 26 percent chose the other way around. Shaunti comments,

Finally the lightbulb came on: If a man feels disrespected, he is going to feel unloved. And what that translates to is this: If you want to love your man in the way he needs to be loved, then you need to ensure that he feels your respect most of all.  2

The minute I read this, I saw just how blind I had been. I was letting other people love Clayton the way he needed to be loved while I watched, all because I was afraid to sound ignorant and insignificant. So I looked at my choices: Hide behind my pride and ignore my husband’s feelings, or believe him and hope to make a difference.

In her book Satisfy My Thirsty Soul, Linda Dillow shares,

One night when I couldn’t sleep, I looked up the word encourage. The root word is courage. The prefix en means “to put into,” so when I tell my husband how much I respect him for responding with love to someone who hurt him, I put courage into him. What a great thought! I also looked up the prefix dis. It means “to separate from.” So when I speak discouraging words to my husband I separate him from the courage he needs to be a godly man. Not such a great thought.

If encouragement does not easily flow from your lips, it might feel as if you’re speaking a foreign language when you begin to use words to build up others. But persevere, because words of encouragement give fresh energy to your children and also to your friends.  3

Linda’s words reminded me of myself. I needed to know that I could put courage into Clayton. It’s not that I was negative, nagging, or oppressive—I was simply withholding love by not giving respect. But if you think about it, if I wasn’t “putting in” to him, I was actually separating him from something he needed. Something he had asked for, not once, but many times. I tried to reason that he didn’t need it, but he wouldn’t give up—thankfully.

My Choice… and What Followed

The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius is reported to have said, “Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible.” Taking Marcus Aurelius’ and Linda Dillow’s advice, I decided to take the plunge. I would nurture and cultivate Clayton’s confidence. I would express my undying devotion to and delight in him. I would tell him how wonderful I thought he was and how much I loved him. I’d been hesitant too long. Now I would take action and respect his need to hear my words of affirmation.

I wish I could tell you God miraculously intervened and poetic words of eloquence and power fell from my lips. It was quite the opposite. After an event, we were finally alone in the car. Pumped up on adrenaline, I nervously I blurted out, “You did a great job. I really thought the scriptures and illustrations were neat. That was really great and I felt like everyone thought you were neat.” (I won’t be offended if you laugh at me right now.)

Silence followed, and I thought, Where’s a thesaurus when you need it? “Great” and “neat”? Nervous sweat began to drip down my back, and my face turned red. My hands were clasped and felt clammy. I couldn’t look Clayton in the eye because I was so embarrassed. I looked down to the floor mats. Why was this so hard for me? Then he turned to offer me a grin. I think my blunder had surprised us both and we relieved the tension with laughter. He took my hand, looked into my hesitant eyes, and thanked me. We held hands for a long time. If Clayton’s dry soul could have spoken, it would have gushed a delightful “ahhh.” In this moment I was convinced that humbling yourself for someone you adore strengthens you both. It truly is better to give than receive.