When my husband, Jim, and I pledged lifelong love to one another more than 30 years ago, we thought we had a lot in common. We had grown up in the same city, shared many of the same friends, and enjoyed similar leisure activities.
Still, we soon learned that men and women are very different. Shortly after we married, Jim bought me what he thought was the perfect Christmas present: an outboard motor for our sailboat. Needless to say, I was not pleased.
When I recently asked Jim to go down memory lane and recall why in the world he gave me an outboard motor for Christmas, he said “I knew you’d love it … often there was no breeze on the lake [that we sailed on].” In his defense, he was right about the breeze … but really, who gives his wife an outboard motor for Christmas?
Then he said, “It was a five-horsepower, air-cooled Eska outboard motor.”
I couldn’t believe that after all these years my hubby remembered what kind of outboard motor it was! Yes, many times men and women just think differently. No wonder the apostle Peter said, “You husbands … live with your wives in an understanding way” (1 Peter 3:7a).
Would you like a little help in understanding your wife? I asked some women to send me a list of their “no-no’s” for husbands—the things a good husband should never do. The following are some of their common answers.
1. When your wife is sharing a problem, don’t tell her how to solve it before she’s even finished sharing.
We women need to talk—probably a lot more than you do. If you don’t say a word and just listen to our problems, you are saying to us, “I love you. I want to understand you. I am here for you.”
Apparently, God has wired the brains of many men to think: Alert … alert … problem to be solved. Need answer right away. But that’s not what most wives want to hear. Their brains say: Alert … alert … problem … need to tell husband all about it—every last detail.
Your wife wants your undivided attention. She wants you to look at her when she is talking. She wants you to put down the newspaper and turn off the TV and hear her heart … feel her pain … and just be there for her.
2. Don’t tell your wife how to feel.
Winston Churchill once said, “Never, never, never give up.” And women say, “Never, never, never tell your wife how to feel.”
For example, please don’t say, “You shouldn’t be afraid or worried about that.” The fact is, we are afraid or worried about that. Just acknowledge our feelings. Tell us that you will pray for us. Ask us what you can do to help us not be afraid/worried, etc.
One woman said it this way: “Don’t try to use logic to explain away her feelings.”
Imagine that a woman is feeling nervous and her husband says, “You have no reason to feel that way. Calm down.” Or maybe she feels anxious, and he comments in a matter-of-fact way, “You worry too much.” Or, what if someone hurt her feelings and he says, “You’re too sensitive.” These responses make her feel dismissed, unheard … unimportant.
And, horror of horrors, please don’t discount your wife’s feelings by blaming them on hormones!
Okay, let me try to put this in man-talk. Your favorite football team is the Dallas Cowboys and they are playing the Indianapolis Colts. You are on the edge of your recliner as the score is 28-27 with 30 seconds left. Dallas is preparing to kick a field goal when your wife strolls into the family room. She sees you sweating as though the winning points are up to you.
“What are you so uptight about? Calm down, it’s just a football game,” she says. “It doesn’t matter to God who wins.”
Well, you are uptight about the game and it does matter to you. Get my point?
3. If your wife is trying to describe a hurt that you are responsible for, don’t dismiss it. Be sensitive to her feelings and be willing to apologize.
One woman put it this way, “If you made a mistake, be a man and admit it.” Another said, “Be humble. Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness when necessary.”
We all make mistakes—both husbands and wives. As strange as it may seem, when a husband owns up to his mistake and says “I’m sorry,” it makes a wife feel treasured. And when he prays for God’s forgiveness in front of her—wow! That makes a wife want to trust her husband’s leadership because he wants his life to please God.
Your wife wants a transparent relationship with you, not one where faults are swept under the rug. She wants a marriage where two imperfect people can come together, admit their faults, and depend on Christ’s forgiveness to weave their hearts together as one.
4. Don’t assume that your wife views sexual intimacy the same way that you do.
One of the reasons that your wife married you was because of her desire to be close to you—and not just in a sexual way. A wife needs to feel (there’s that word again) loved and appreciated by her husband.
For many women, thoughts of intimacy conjure up images of talking heart-to-heart … walking side-by-side (not with you walking in front of her) … holding hands. One woman wrote to say that husbands need to “understand a woman’s need for intimacy, not just sex.” Another said, “Don’t make the expectation of sexual intimacy the only time you do something special for her.”
Another warned that when a wife provides “physical touch in non-sexual ways, don’t try to turn it into a sexual experience.”
God wants husbands and wives to put one another’s needs—even sexual needs—ahead of their own. We women want to feel respected and cherished before thinking about sexual intimacy. This might not make sense to you, but it makes sense to her. Just ask your wife.
5. Don’t come home from work and think your job is done.
Whether your wife works all day inside the home or outside the home, she needs you to come alongside her to care for the children and the house. When you do this willingly, it brings her great joy.
When I walk into the kitchen thinking that the dishes need to be unloaded from the dishwasher, and discover that my husband has already done it, I think, Oh, he loves me! And no words can express the joy in a mom’s heart as she watches her spouse connect with their kids—being the father that only he can be.
6. Don’t ignore your responsibility to be the spiritual head of the family.
Wives are told in Ephesians 5:22 to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. When a Christian man has a close, intimate walk with Jesus Christ, it gives his wife confidence in his leadership. Why? Because he is looking to God as his leader.
One woman said that having a Christian husband brings her security because “My security lies in God.” When her husband makes mistakes she doesn’t nag him; she waits for God to put him on the right path.
When you study the Bible in front of your wife, she breathes a sigh of relief. That’s because you are showing her that you want to follow the only One who always knows what you should do. The more you model a desire to follow Christ as you lead your family, the more your wife will want to follow you.
Are you patient, kind, and (unconditionally) loving? Have you chosen your wife over your parents? Do you pray with your wife? Do you forgive her?
If so, then your wife can see God working in your life. And the more your life models Jesus Christ, the more your wife will feel you understand her.