What is the gift that makes any relationship work? We think the process can be summed up as being “tough on yourself” and “tender-hearted toward your spouse.” Tough and tender: Remember those two words.

The natural tendency in our human nature is to excuse our behavior while we judge others for not living up to our expectations. We can be tough on the other person, demanding a pound of flesh when they make a mistake or make our life harder, but when we make an error, we want grace and tenderness. Instead, own your issues and be tough on yourself and grow. Then give tenderness, grace, mercy and compassion on your spouse, children and friends.

The Path Less Traveled

Powerful, lasting love does not happen by accident. It is reserved for couples who are willing to venture onto the scarcely traveled path of Ephesians 5. In verse 21, Paul charged couples to: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The term used here for “submit” comes from the Greek and is a military term for  “to line one’s self up under” to help fulfill the mission. Paul repeated the command to wives to “submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (v. 22) because a wife’s submission helps meet a man’s deep need to succeed. A man is drawn to the areas of life in which he senses proficiency and he loses interest in the areas of life in which he feels incapable or inefficient. When a wife chooses to give of herself to help her husband fulfill his dreams and responsibilities, she becomes extremely valuable to him. His motivation increases, his interest in her grows, and his impact on those in his life grows more positive.

As a newlywed, I (Pam) came to a crisis point one day when I read, “Wives, honor your husband.” I was in a place where I was angry at life’s circumstances so I shouted at God, “So what does honor really mean anyway?”  What surprised me is that the more I studied the word “honor” the more I wanted to do it!

God broke down the “honor” code in a way I could easily see why I’d  want to “submit”:

1. See your husband as a gift from God’s heart to yours
2. Talk to your husband like he is a gift to you
3. Treat him with actions of a gift that you cherish

When you see your husband as a gift, it is easier to want to do and say things to him and about him that will help him be his best. 

Shifting into Selflessness

Paul had a lot more to say to a man who wants to be in love with a woman than he ever said to his wife. Husbands are called to love their wives in three different ways: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:25–27).

1. A Husband is to Sacrificially Love His Wife

Just as Christ gave himself so that the church could have eternal life, a husband is to selflessly give of himself so that his wife can reach her potential. This certainly includes the commitment to die for her, if necessary. Most men would admit that the heroic act of dying for their wives is easier than the day-to-day sacrifices that make wives feel valued.

2. A Husband is to Give His Wife Secure Attention

Paul used two pictures to get his thoughts across. A loving husband is to do all he can to “make her holy,” which means she is set apart for special purposes. The idea is that your wife is to be set apart in your heart and your life decisions as the most valuable person in your life who engages in the most important activities. The second picture is that of “cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” “Word” here denotes the spoken word and carries the idea of preparing her for the special purposes she holds in your life through words you speak that make her realize the supreme place she holds. In other words, God calls husbands to sincerely, consistently, and abundantly compliment their wives!

3. A Husband is to Give His Wife Synchronized Affection

The idea here is that a husband ought to take the same care with his wife as he takes with himself. A man who truly loves his wife will “feed” her, which means he will do whatever it takes to bring the nourishment to her that she needs to fully develop. As we’ve mentioned, a man will also “care” for his wife, which indicates he will carry out his responsibility to her with tender love and affection. In other words, he will work as hard to take care of her as he does to take care of himself.

God knew we needed a system to help us practice this “tough on me, tender on you” concept so he gave us the keys in Ephesians 5. This passage models how a husband ought to be tender and lay his life down for his wife and how a wife can be tender by honoring and respecting her husband. Both are tough calls to maintain, but will produce a marriage full of tender moments.  


Bill and Pam Farrel are relationship specialists, international speakers and authors of over 25 books including best selling Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti, and Red Hot Monogamy.  They have recently released a new marriage DVD series for Lifeway, and will be guest speakers for Festivals of Marriage this fall. To order Red Hot Monogamy, discover more about their DVD for couples or learn about their speaking schedule, go t http://www.farrelcommunications.com/.