1. Begin to seek your husband's advice and opinions in decisions. Consult him for reactions to furniture selection and arrangement, style and color of clothing, dinner options, etc. In doing this, try not to ask him open-ended questions like, "What do you want for dinner tonight?" Even though you have good intentions, you force him to think through something he may consider your responsibility. However, if you ask, "What would you like for dinner—steak or spaghetti?" He appreciates your consideration. Don't overdo it though, for it might indicate to your husband that you are becoming too dependent and uncreative. Rather, maintain a balance by looking for special opportunities to seek his opinions and advice. As you carefully evaluate his ideas, he sees you consider him valuable.
2. Make an effort to remember your husband's past requests and desires and begin to fulfill them when possible. A close friend of mine told me his wife had done something that made him feel very special. Several weeks before he had remarked to her, "I wish I could watch just one football game from start to finish without getting interrupted." One day as he started to turn on a game, his wife came into the den, took both kids by the hand, and said, "Let's go up for a nap." After putting them to bed, she came in and said, "I'm going to go shopping now, and I hope you're able to enjoy this game without any interruptions. I've taken the phone off the hook so you won't be disturbed by any calls." What amazed him was that his wife remembered his comment made several weeks before and evidently had looked for the opportunity to do something about it. In appreciation, he began to work on some long overdue household projects.
Some facts about human relationships are as predicable as the laws of nature. As the example above proves: no one can continually ignore considerate, loving actions. If you make your husband feel special, you increase his desire to do the same for you.
3. Look for the occasional opportunity to draw attention to your husband's positive qualities when you're with other people. For example: Praise him to your children, calling attention to his positive character qualities. If you are with friends and he says something worthwhile, tell him you think it makes a lot of sense and ask him to explain it further. Or, relate to friends and relatives a specific incident in the past week that highlights one of his positive qualities. For example: "John is so considerate to my feelings. The other day I hadn't said a word about how I felt, but he could tell I was down. He came over and put his arms around me. Then he told me he knew I was troubled and asked how he could help."
I can't begin to express how good I feel inside when people occasionally tell me something positive my wife has said about me. It makes me feel appreciated—I want to go home and put my arms around her as soon as I can!
4. Make an effort to gain an appreciation for your husband's occupation, trying to understand how important he feels his job activities are. Many men are frustrated with their jobs, feeling that no one really appreciates their worth or value, their talents and abilities. When you appreciate what your husband does, you may become his only hope for achieving genuine self-worth. Until he really believes he is worth something, he will have difficulty focusing his attention on the worth of others—including you.
Don't ever belittle his job or the importance of his activities on the job. Nothing destroys a man's self-esteem more than to hear his wife cutting down his efforts to support her. Though you may not criticize his efforts, you may belittle them by being ignorant of them. If you cannot accurately explain to someone else your husband's job responsibilities during his normal work day, you don't know enough about his job. Don't try to gain this knowledge from him at one sitting, but over a period of time begin to investigate by asking a few questions to gain a clearer understanding of how he spends his day, the types of projects he works on, and how his duties affect or support his fellow workers. (Be careful not to imply by the manner of your questioning that you think he loafs on the job.) Also, he may put down his job by little comments. When a man feels unimportant because of his job, it tears away at the very heart of his being. Help him discover the value of what he does.
5. Carefully consider what your husband says without hasty negative reactions. I am not promoting blind obedience, but rather open-minded listening. Often we demand our way on issues that have been worked out in another way without creating major problems. If you have a tendency to react immediately when you hear his ideas, discipline yourself to withhold your reaction until his entire thought "sinks in" and you've had a chance to consider his idea fully. You will avoid unnecessary tension in your relationship, and he will enjoy being with you more. This is a good time to introduce the concept of submission. Submission is a beautiful biblical teaching that best illustrates genuine love. Unfortunately, it has been misused. Today the word is filled with distasteful connotations. Probably the most abuse has fallen from the hands of misguided husbands and "leaders" who have the mistaken idea that authority means "boss," decision-makers without regard for those under their authority.
Jesus said both in words and by example that anyone who wishes to be leader or ruler must first learn to be servant of all (Matt. 20:26-27). Leaders are lovers. They serve—submit to—and listen to those whom they lead.
When a husband loves his wife with understanding, gentleness, warmth, and communication, it is relatively easy for her to submit to him as a person. But even if your husband is not a loving person, you should still be practicing submission—love in action. It communicates to your husband that he is valuable and that his needs are more important than yours at the moment.
6. Don't let two days pass without expressing appreciation for at least one thing your husband has said or done during those forty-eight hours. Just a reminder. Don't forget how much nicer it is to be with people who make you feel special than with those who don't.
7. Use your sensitivity to detect your husband's personal goals, and lend him your support as he pursues those goals. His personal goals may involve advancement in his company, higher income, or special pastimes. A very successful businessman in Texas told me that his wife has always been supportive of his personal goals. Once she knew how important it was to him to be well-respected by others in his field, she helped him in a variety of ways to achieve this goal—through improving his taste in clothing, encouraging good personal grooming habits, etc. (He welcomed her help in this area because she didn't force her opinions upon him.) She encouraged him during times when he felt like quitting and praised him each time he attained any of him goals.
8. Begin to admire your husband in nonverbal ways. Studies of communication between husbands and wives have proven that words alone are responsible for only 7 percent of the total communication. Thirty-eight percent of marital communication is expressed through voice tone, and 55% through facial expressions and body movement. In other words, when you say something to your husband, the words themselves account for only 7% of the meaning. Take a phrase, "I love you." It can be said in a way that communicates, "Of course I love you; I pay the rent, don't I?" or it could express in a way that says, "I adore you and couldn't live my life without you." Or, "I desperately need you to fulfill my needs right now." That's why I have heard so many wives responding to their husbands' "I love you" with, "You sure have funny ways of showing it."
9. Genuinely desire and seek your husband's forgiveness when you offend him. Both men and women tend to avoid those who offend them. (One of the most common complaints children make about their parents is that parents never admit they are wrong.) The key to "wiping the slate clean" with your husband is not saying, "I'm sorry." That's a phrase even children exploit to avoid a spanking. When we have been offended by someone, we usually don't want to hear a glib "I'm sorry." We want to know that the person realizes he or she was wrong and that he or she hurt us. I believe there are a lot of "wrong ways" to ask forgiveness. They are wrong because they do not bring us into harmony with the person whom we have offended and they may not communicate the person's value to us.
One of the best ways I've found to ask forgiveness is, unfortunately, the hardest and the least creative. All it requires is that you go to your husband, look into his eyes, and say, "I was wrong in what I said or did. Can you forgive me?" Two things will happen when you ask for forgiveness in this way. First, your husband will desire to restore the relationship and will be more prepared to forgive you; and second, it is likely to exert pressure on him to ask for forgiveness in the future for the way he has offended you. As a side benefit, it makes him feel important—you are telling him indirectly that you care for him enough not to leave him with hurt feelings.
© Copyright 2005 Smalley Relationship Center