The following blog is about something husbands desperately need but wives are reluctant to give. It is taken from Lesson 7, Section 1 in the 22-week online course, Wife School Online.
In Chapter 7 on the A of Approval in Wife School, the Genie told Jessica that “spouses can read between the lines to hear if the other spouse communicates approval”. The overall approval rating that one feels from their spouse is often indicative of their satisfaction in the marriage.
The power we have over our spouse’s self-concept is ginormous. I was at a Career Planning Seminar this fall with one of my sons and the speaker said, “If our spouse is for us, it doesn’t matter who is against us”. Giving—or denying—approval in marriage is either healing or destroying. “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
As we learned in Chapter 7, a surprising concept to many wives is the fact that when they share many burdens with their husbands, husbands take it personally, as though they are not good providers/protectors. Examples might be: “I hate driving this old piece of junk.” “Look at all those people flying in first class with the extra leg room and special drinks. That must be the life.” “No wonder she always looks so good; she has a maid and a personal trainer.” “I wish we had more money so we could send the kids to private school.” “Their kids are super talented. The father spends all Saturday afternoon playing ball with his boys.” Those statements often communicate “disapproval”.
We are simply sharing our thoughts but our husbands are thinking, “She would be happy if I provided/protected better. I am inadequate.” And then he does the thing we hate: withdraw.
Of course you can share your burdens with your husband, but be mindful of his “inadequacy radar” and make accommodations to communicate approval. So, let’s take the examples in the paragraph above and see if we can come up with better sentences.
“I hate driving this old piece of junk” could be better re-worded like this: “This car has 200,000 miles on it. Maybe we should consider getting another car in the near future.”
“Look at all those people in first class” should just not be said. Be glad you can afford to fly at all.
“No wonder she always looks so good; she has a maid” makes a husband feel like you are unhappy under his “watch”. If you want/need household help, then consider putting that request on your “list of things you want/need”. We will soon discuss how to ask for the “top things” on your want/need list. But throwing-out-random-statements that communicate your discontent is not wise or loving.
“I wish we had more money so we could send the kids to private school” might be re-worded as “Educating our children in the right environment is very important to me. I’d like to discuss this and get your thoughts on this issue.” There are no issues you cannot discuss with your husband, but again, be mindful of not communicating “discontent with his provision” as that communicates “disapproval”.
There is a better way to communicate that you want your husband to spend time with the kids instead of saying “Their kids are super talented. The father spends all Saturday afternoon playing ball with his boys”. Instead, catch your husband playing with your kids and give him the one-two punch of thanking him and telling him a few times “how happy you are to see their faces light up”, “how happy it makes you when he gives them attention”, etc. Men are drawn to praise and tend to repeat what gets appreciated and admired.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Never, never, never forget that. It is one of the most powerful sentences to help your marriage. Death and life. Tattoo that verse on your brain.
We get to be honest with our husbands, but remember, we are to “speak the truth in love”. Letting whatever feelings we have tumble out is not speaking “in love”; it is only speaking “in truth”. The command is to do both. Be mindful that your husband has a tendency to hear your complaints as an indictment against his provision. Men with grumbling wives do not feel approval from them.
I was talking to a group of young women, explaining how men are roosters and want to be the biggest rooster in the chicken yard, especially to their wives. A young woman mocked her husband by saying he was a ridiculous rooster and wanted to be at the very top of the pecking order, as if this was awful and terrible. Women, realize that most men are like this! They want to be heroes to their wives. So often I hear a repulsion from wives toward their husband’s “fragile, easily-cracked, egg-like egos”. I think it would be helpful if men would carry a warning label on their chest that read: “I am a man with a big and fragile ego. Therefore, if you are my wife, please handle with care!” The fact that most men are wired this way should calm you down about having to pour into—and handle with care—his ego. I’ve quoted Ruth Bell Graham before and again, I quote her brilliant statement: “God called you not to make your husband good, but to make him happy.” Women, let God humble your husband, not you. Of course, God is working on him to humble him. But that is NOT your job.
Husbands want you, the wife, to think they are Superman. If most men are like this, then we wives had better wise up and adjust our communication so we don’t set off their inadequacy alarms. Your husband isn’t some huge psychologically-needy individual; he’s a normal husband. And some of the VERY BEST husbands, the very best Christian men, have fragile egos.
Again, of course a Christian man should be working on his humility because of his call in Christ, but his baseline desire is for a wife who is mindful of his need for much encouragement and affirmation. Your role is not to “set him straight” about all of his weaknesses, of which (of course) he has many. You are not the “coach”, “the teacher”, or “the mother”. You are the wife who does him good all the days of his life.
The best environment for another to change and grow is one of approval and acceptance. We don’t believe that. We think barking at husbands and criticizing them is the best way to help them grow and change. We women can be such dummies.
Finding contentment is one of the most difficult assignments that God gives women. It is absolutely opposite to our natural inclinations. This will be a lifelong battle for most women (there are a few Snow Whites out there who are happy to whistle and dust, but just a few). Finding contentment in the Lord is one of the best gifts you can give to your husband, as you will be able to sincerely communicate approval when your expectations are reduced.
Because our expectations as wives are so enormous, men continually feel a stream of disapproval from us. This is not an optional subject for a wife. Get your heart happy in the Lord and learn how to communicate approval to this man that you were given to love.
I cannot tell you how many times God has pricked me with thoughts like “Your husband, not you, was right about how to handle that.” When I communicate to David, “You were right about that and I love the wisdom/knowledge you possess and how it protects me”, I communicate my approval to him. Be humble and tell your husband how “he was right and you were wrong”. Write down in your Turquoise Journal the things your husband does better than you. Then TELL him. He needs to feel your approval for how he “does life”.