Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of David Murrow's book, What Your Husband Isn't Telling You: A Guided Tour of a Man's Body, Soul, and Spirit (Bethany House, 2012).
Your husband has a lot going on inside his mind. But you may not know much about it, because many men are unwilling or unable to express their thoughts and feelings openly and honestly to their wives. Instead, they communicate in ways they think will protect them from pain, hoping to get what they want in marriage while sabotaging that goal with ineffective communication.
Here’s how you can discover what your husband isn’t telling you and respond in ways that will strengthen your marriage:
Start with prayer. Jesus promises that when you know the truth, the truth will set you free. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the wisdom you need to understand and relate to your husband well. Pray also for the compassion you need to appreciate how hard it is for your husband to deal with a barrage of pressures and temptations every day while trying to live faithfully in his relationships with God, you, and others. Ask God to help you view your husband from the right perspective every day.
Understand your husband’s need to provide. All men derive joy from providing for their family’s financial needs, and if they can’t do so, they become frustrated and depressed. Your husband needs to feel secure and balanced as a protector. If this role is underdeveloped in his life, he can become a lazy slacker. If it’s overdeveloped, he can become a workaholic or a person who is greedy or stingy. Realize that your husband may be struggling with how to best provide for you, figuring out issues such as: how much to work and how much to rest, what to spend and what to save, and what kind of job to choose to balance his need to earn a good income with his desire to follow his dreams. In the process, your husband must deal with fear that his job will be eliminated, his skills will atrophy, or his contributions will be unwanted.
Understand your husband’s need to protect. Men have a strong need to protect themselves, their loved ones, their honor, and their property. Your husband needs to feel secure and balanced as a provider. If this role is underdeveloped in his life, he can become cowardly or passive. If it’s overdeveloped, he can become defensive, controlling, or emotionally remote. Realize that your husband is dealing with the effects of childhood pain that he must identify, confess, and pursue healing from so he can stop trying to protect himself and use his energy to protect you and others, as God intends.
Understand his need to be needed. Society often gives the men the message that their contributions aren’t really needed, and that’s incredibly discouraging to men. If your husband is feeling as if he’s not needed, he may be drawn toward unhealthy coping methods like addiction (to alcohol, video games, or something else that numbs his pain), pornography, passive or antisocial behavior, or even suicide.
Understand the male brain. Men tend to think about the different aspects of their lives in a compartmentalized way rather than holistically, as women do. Since men don’t multitask well, they feel pressured by the demands of modern life. Your husband needs peace and quiet at home to rest from the pressures he faces every day.
Understand how testosterone affects your husband. The testosterone hormone makes men driven, aggressive, competitive, and strongly interested in sex. Younger men have higher testosterone levels than older men do. Realize that, as your husband ages, he will likely feel badly about the changes that less testosterone brings to his life (from experiencing less physical energy and stamina to feeling less motivated). Encourage him by showing him that you still see him as a competent and strong man.
Understand his appetites, and free his body. Your husband’s two primary physical appetites are for food and sex. He will appreciate it whenever you make the effort to prepare delicious and nutritious food for him. Understand the pressure he feels sexually as a man: Men are wired to respond to visual stimulation, and must deal with seeing sexual imagery often in our society today. Your husband can’t escape it, so he must try to resist the temptation of it while fighting to remain faithful to you as God calls him to be. Your husband needs sexual release often in order to be emotionally healthy. Don’t withhold sex from him when there’s conflict between you. Instead, work on communicating with each other through sex, which will calm your husband, bond him closer to you, and motivate him to work on your marriage more. Let him know what you need him to do to help you enjoy sex with him more, and help him learn how to improve your sex life together. Do whatever you can to make yourself physically attractive, such as by taking good care of your body through exercise and eating well and dressing attractively both in public and at home. If your husband refuses to have sex with you, seek counseling to figure out how to solve the problem.
Understand his fears, and free his soul. Men greatly fear any type of disempowerment, such as disease, disability, losing a job or income, losing their families, being publicly embarrassed, or being perceived as unmanly. Your husband will try to avoid situations in which he feels foolish or must depend on others rather than on himself, and he will gravitate to situations in which he feels competent and successful. He will be afraid of sharing his feelings with you if you react negatively to his honesty (such as by criticizing him or withdrawing from him). So the next time your husband shares his feelings – no matter how shocking they are to you – don’t become upset or dismiss his concerns. Instead, be as supportive and encouraging as you can. Give your husband respect (even when he doesn’t deserve it) because God calls you to do so; the gift of unconditional respect will change the dynamic of your marriage for the better. Speak up to share your concerns whenever you need to, and don’t tolerate disrespect from your husband; let him know that you expect to be treated well. Take advantage of every opportunity to show your husband that you appreciate him, trust him, believe in him, and need him. Encourage him through kind words and actions whenever you can.
Understand how your husband relates to God and the church, and free his spirit. Realize that men want to connect with God as much as women do, but many churches don’t fuel men’s need for adventure in their relationships with God, and many don’t make men feel as valued and needed as women feel in church. Help your husband find a church you can participate in together where he can: take the risks he needs to take to grow spiritually, put his talents and skills to use helping others, and connect with a pastor he respects and friends he admires. Never criticize or belittle your husband’s spiritual life; instead, do all you can to encourage him to grow and build his confidence relating to God.
Adapted from What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You: A Guided Tour of a Man’s Body, Soul, and Spirit, copyright 2012 by David Murrow. Published by Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/bethanyhouse.
David Murrow is the bestselling author of Why Men Hate Going to Church and director of Church for Men, which works to restore a healthy masculine spirit in churches. A sought-after expert and speaker on men's issues, he spent 20 years honing his skills as a communicator producing and writing award-winning TV documentaries, commercials, and specials. David has a degree in anthropology. He and his wife have three children and live in Chugiak, Alaska. Learn more at www.churchformen.com.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.
Publication date: April 19, 2013