First, please read Chapter One of Wife School: Where Women Learn the Secrets of Making Husbands Happy.
On page 8 in the first chapter Wife School, Jessica says, “I only want a few things from this short time on Earth and one of them is a soul-mate marriage.” That’s true for you, too, isn’t it? It certainly is true of me.
Would you like to hear what a man, still captured by his wife’s love, once said to her? In this very old love story, the husband is talking to his wife during their later years. He says to her, “Many (wives) have done nobly, but you excel them all.” Do you know what that is equal to in today’s language? That’s like your husband saying to you, “There are a lot of awesome women out there, honey, but you are the best of the best.” Can you imagine your husband being so taken with you that although he acknowledges there are many fabulous wives, you win first prize in the wife contest?
Now I didn’t make up this example. This comes right out of Scripture, Proverbs 31. This isn’t some made-for-TV script to stir you up. This is the Word of God. God knows we women long for our husbands to adore us and He gives us the secrets.
This carrot in Scripture is not dangled out there so we can be frustrated. God left that sentence in Proverbs 31 to show us that marriage doesn’t have to unzip. Marriage can be incredible in your younger and in your later years. (I LOVE marriage!)
But marriage is not about what you read in the magazines at the check-out lane in the grocery store. We will learn the skills and thoughts needed for a soul-stirring marriage. You will be a Marriage Champion when this course is over!
I’m so glad God didn’t leave us in the dark as far as how to be an incredible wife. The Scripture pours out information on how to excel at this art. It loudly and clearly tells us what to do and how to think. We have access to the mind of God about being a wife! So we don’t have to hope we get this right. We can get it right! We have the key to the Treasure Room with all the gems and jewels of knowledge and wisdom—the Bible!
What we will learn in Wife School are the skills and mindset that are needed to make a husband happy, the very oxygen he needs so he feels satisfied in his relationship with you. With consistent deposits of the 8 A’s, your husband will develop affection for you and will turn and open toward your influence. When a woman begins to love and speak in a language that a man can understand, the results are truly miraculous. Marriages flip-flop even when they were previously in trouble.
A wise wife looks at what she is giving, not at what she is getting. A wise wife looks at how she is loving others, not at how she is being loved. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5: “Love is not self-seeking.”) We women must look at the Biblical standard of being a wife, not the culture’s.
Many women come into the study of Wife School thinking “something is wrong with my marriage because it is not naturally and easily a soul-mate marriage.” Friends, the norm is that marriage has tension! The norm! You must learn to be a wise wife and soothe the ruffled feathers of your marriage. You are the relational one (well, 80% of you, which we will discuss in another lesson). So take the time and energy to truly learn the art and skills of being an incredible wife. I’ve said before, you have to study algebra to master it. And you take tennis lessons to get your backhand just right. But most women never invest the time to truly learn what men want and need in a marriage. So even if you are greatly disappointed with your marriage at this moment, try to put that disappointment on a shelf and give yourself to learning these principles. Marriage is a course to be learned and mastered, and that is what you are now doing.
One important word of caution. A farmer sows the seed in the spring. Then all summer, in the blazing heat, he waters and weeds and fertilizes. Months pass and there is no fruit. He sows the seed but doesn’t expect to reap until fall, right? Please put on this mind-set. As you learn to love your husband in a language he can hear, the soil of his heart is being plowed. But it may take weeks or even months for him to respond. You are on the fifty year plan. Many women who were disappointed (or even disgusted with their marriages) now have marriages overflowing with affection, friendship, and closeness. Lay down your expectations to have the marriage turn around quickly.
I detest exercise/weight loss programs that lie and say, “Do this, and in no time, you will be skinny and hard.” Ridiculous. It is weeks/months of eating clean and exercising. Please get a long-road perspective on your marriage. Your marriage can turn around, but you must persevere for the long haul. Are you in?
A study in a magazine recently polled men and found out what they think about 90 percent of the time. Here is the breakdown: 30 percent work, 30 percent money, and 30 percent sex. Where are relationships in that mixture? Again, they are not there! Women are the ones thinking about relationships! Your husband is not a woman. Do not beat him up because he is not geared to care about emotional intimacy. You have to meet his needs and get him to want to listen to you and want to hear what you want and need. Women beat men up all the time because men do not give them enough relationship, care, and love. The poor guy doesn’t even know what his wife is talking about. That’s not what he wants. So let’s give hubby a pass while we learn to love him and meet his needs. In time, in time, in time, he will open to you. But not today. And not tomorrow.
Men Hate Emotional Turmoil
The truth is that men hate emotional turmoil. It is one of the few things that husbands cannot tolerate for long! Somehow, we were fed this lie that we need to say whatever we’re genuinely thinking in marriage, and if we’re unhappy with him, then let it rip! We think our husbands owe it to us to put up with our moods. Wrong! They lose affection for us when we bring emotional turmoil into their lives.
Do you want your husband to want to escape from you? Do you want your husband to not like being around you? Solomon gives an exact prescription on how to drench the affection of a husband and make him want to escape. He says, “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (Prov. 25:24). Men hate emotional turmoil!
Women express emotional turmoil in marriage in different ways. Some women get angry and slam doors (Jessica). Some women use a sarcastic tone and quietly slice with their tongues. Some women give men the silent treatment, hoping he will shape up because mama ain’t happy.
Friends! Pay attention to this! If you are creating emotional turmoil in your house, you are sucking the affection right out of your husband. Yes, he may shape up to make you happier at the moment, but you have lost in the long run because his true affection for you just diminished.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). Did you read that? Death and life? That’s some pretty serious stuff, death and life. So we had better get control of our tongues and the emotional turmoil that we bring into the marriage. I have said this many times before, but most men are satisfied in the marriage if they get enough sex and there is NOT too much emotional turmoil. He hates your PMS-ing. He hates your emotional, hysterical and sarcastic escalation. Honestly, your husband is more vulnerable to other women when you act like this. Give up feeling that you have the right to emotional escalation if you’re upset. (We will discuss in detail how to communicate wisely when we are upset as we progress, but for now, know to get hold of your tongue.)
We all have some skeletons in our closets from moments of which we are ashamed. Don’t waste time with regrets. Pull the curtain down, and leave your mistakes in the past. One of my favorite verses in Scriptures is when Paul says, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Phil. 3:13.) We all have regrets, but they are only helpful if they help us change. The enemy wants us to brood over the past. Draw a line in the sand. It is the past. We will now move on.
An opposite example of the woman whose husband wants to escape because of his wife’s emotional turmoil is a character in Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo. Hugo writes, “Her presence lights the home; her approach is like a cheerful warmth; she passes by, and we are content; she stays awhile and we are happy.” We all know those women who light up the room just by entering it. My hope is that each of you becomes this woman!
You can’t but this disposition on Amazon or in TJ Maxx. You pay the price by soaking your heart in Scripture and in prayer.
One thing you can count on for the rest of your marriage is that your husband will do things that you don’t necessarily agree with (or like). Did you hear that? You should expect that he won’t handle you, the kids, your finances, your friends, the church, his business, etc. exactly the way you want him too. It’s coming. When you realize that all marriages are like this, that spouses do things that disappoint, you realize the importance of learning how to wisely react, instead of unloading your emotional turmoil.
Remember that verse in Proverbs 14 that says, “The wise woman builds her house”? This is exactly what that verse is talking about. The wise woman builds her house by having self-control with her tongue and learning how to react/respond well (future lessons). The norm in marriages is that when the husband messes up, the wife, not having been trained, has a meltdown! (Or she chooses one of her other go-to responses like criticism, sulking, or the cold shoulder.) We are going to learn many great responses to when your husband gives you a pie in the face, but unloading the artillery is not one of them. Paul lists self-control in that short Titus 2 list for wives. Yes, you have the freedom to act and say exactly how you feel, but if it results in emotional turmoil in your home, you pay the price of losing your husband’s affection.
What Exactly Is an Excellent Wife?
There are many aspects to being an excellent wife that Proverbs 31:10-31 addresses. But today, we will discuss only the beginning sentences of this passage.
To begin with, King Lemuel’s mother, from whom Proverbs 31 is derived, talks about how difficult it is even to find an excellent woman. The king’s mother is certainly not talking about an average wife. No, this excellent wife is rare. She is in a small category of superior wives, rated very high, far above expensive jewelry. You can’t find these uncommon wives easily.
Here’s the first thing King Lemuel’s mother says about the excellent wife. Ready? “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” Let’s unpack that.
Those two little sentences say more about an excellent wife than any other two sentences on marriage I’ve ever seen. Read them slowly, and comb through them. The husband has full confidence in his wife to do what? To do him good! To choose the thing that would benefit him! Why, in 1 Corinthians 11:9, we are told the woman was created for the man. Dang, we hate that verse. Because if that verse is true, then we have to realize that maybe we seriously need to think about how to make our husbands happy and successful and help them reach their goals.
Can you say your husband has full confidence in you in every situation? Does he know that you are going to choose wisely for his benefit? Does he feel he lacks nothing because of you? One translation says “he will have no lack of gain.” Why? Because he has a wife who is in his corner, always looking out for his comfort, success, and happiness. See why she’s rare? See why her worth is far above gems and jewels? This is not your average little cutie-pie in yoga tights. No, this is a woman who is hard to find. Scarce. Extraordinary.
Can you imagine how a husband would feel toward a wife who had his back like this or who was always thinking about his benefit? No wonder he exclaims later in life (as the husband did in Proverbs 31), “Baby, you are the most unbelievable woman on the face of the earth!” (Uh, sorry, maybe I took a few liberties in that translation. But then again, maybe not.)
An excellent wife buoys up a husband. She fills in where necessary and helps make him successful and happy, no matter what. Men have car accidents and lose their legs. Men have health issues and can’t work. Men lose their jobs and get depressed. This is life and, obviously, not the pretty side. When your husband has hard times (and he will), that is the time you rise. That is the time you find your strength in prayer, and you get full at the Well so you can pour refreshing water on his wounds. No woman wants these trials. But an excellent wife, a wife of noble character, does him good all the days of his life, not just the days when there’s health, wealth, and happiness.
Don’t fall prey to self-pity and start stomping your foot, saying how much you give and that no one is taking care of you. This is the path of blessing to you. When you treat your husband like this, his affections grow and quadruple for you. God created woman so that nothing on Earth is more satisfying to her than a husband who delights in her. Not her children. Not a size 2 figure. Not a big bank account. There is nothing on Earth that replaces or equals a husband’s true devotion and affection toward you.
But we don’t want to do the work to win a husband’s devotion. The truth is, we want to be beautiful and alluring and have him want to serve us—without us serving him. That is only in the movies, friends. Women who have their husbands’ love after twenty/thirty/forty years of marriage have earned their love by doing them good all the days of their life.
This is so like God. He tells us to lose our lives so that we find them (Luke 17:33). This same principle works in marriage. When you start to treat your husband like the Proverbs 31 woman did—the rare, uncommon, extraordinary woman who seeks to make her husband happy regardless of how he is treating her at the moment—you eventually reap your husband’s affection and entry into his heart.
Wives say to me all the time, “I don’t want to love him like that.” Since when is that how we live our lives? If your baby cries, and you’re tired, do you still get up and take care of the baby? We choose to do the right thing because that is who we choose to be.We choose to be virtuous. We choose to keep our vows. We choose to return good for evil, because that’s the kind of Christ follower we want to be. Not a whiny, lukewarm, self-pitying small clot of dirt. We do our husbands good, not harm, all the days of their lives, because that’s the kind of woman we know we are to be. It’s a choice to be valuable, rare, and uncommon.
I can tell within a few minutes of talking to a woman if she is a self-pitying, woe-is-me, life-is-hard, life-is-unfair, they-treat-me-wrong kind of person. These women wear you out. They suck the life out of you. Decide you will not be this woman. Rise. Pull on the Lord, and rise. You can’t always choose your circumstances, but you can always choose how you respond. You can respond with humility, love, support, kindness, self-control, and goodness. That’s what an excellent wife does. That’s what a wife of noble character does. She is different. She is not the weak, whiny norm. Do you see diamonds, rubies, or emeralds loosely lying around? No, they are valuable and rare. They are desired and adored. You get to choose whether this is the kind of woman you are going to be. Or, instead, are you going to be the norm—a self-pitying, complaining wad of estrogen?
This is not about if your husband deserves this treatment. No husband deserves this treatment. This is about you being the kind of wife who God wants you to be. This is about who you are, not about your husband. Husbands get in messes. When women can give and love (and get their own needs met in the Lord), the husband’s knots are often untangled. I know you want your husband to be perfect and to take care of you. But husbands fall in ditches and need help. When you can rise with an inner beauty and an inner strength and love this man, accept this man, and build up this man when he is low, he will never forget it.
I love the story of a man who lost his job and had to move his family to a little house, leaving a big, beautiful house behind. The man felt very guilty and upset with himself, feeling like a total failure. He came home, discouraged from another unsuccessful day of trying to secure a job, and the wife met him on the driveway. Instead of demanding, “Well, buddy, did you find a job?,” she met him with a full, happy heart. “Honey, the wild flowers are beautiful in the woods behind this house. I picked some for our dinner table. Come in, and let me give you a massage and get you some hot tea and a bath. Then, you can tell me about your day.” The man said he wanted to cry. How could this woman love him and have such a happy heart when he was such a failure? Women, we have a call to buoy up our men. That’s one way a wise woman builds her house. It is our call to do what it takes to fill their tanks. We were created for them, not them for us. You are a gift from God to your husband, to do him good all the days of his life. And especially, you are called to fill his tank when he’s down, when life is kicking him. You have to rise and deposit the 8 A’s. You have to accept that his trial is God’s invitation to you to step up to love and give to him without anyone loving or giving to you. If you are empty, then as I said, drink at the Well, eat at the banquet table of the Lord, and take responsibility to find God’s peace and filling for yourself with him. Psalm 23:5 says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
It’s easy to love when there’s money, health, vitality, and well-being. But you show your true colors when the bottom falls out. That’s when we see who is an excellent wife, a woman of worth, a woman of virtue. This woman buoys up her husband in whatever way she can to help him be successful. She takes responsibility for her own needs, not blaming her husband. If he gives her love or benefits, she sees that as extras, as a bonus. Living without expectations from your husband is the most freeing thing you can do. Because then, all his many gifts are appreciated. And since you have no expectations, you are delighted with what he gives you.
How different this is from having a list of unmet expectations and being angry all the time. Yes, maybe he’s got some huge issues that eventually need to be dealt with. (And we will deal with them!) But with months and years of this kind of devotion from you, you will see incredible healing in your husband.
It Isn’t Fair That I Have to Do All This Work in the Marriage!
I cannot tell you how often I hear this lamentation from women: “Why do I have to go first? Shouldn’t we both work on the marriage simultaneously?” or “Why do I have to learn all these skills and pour into him? When are my needs going to be met?”
I will repeat myself on this issue over and over again because as we come out of wandering in the desert, we have to be reminded and re-reminded of truth. And that truth is that our husbands have no idea that we want a lot of emotional intimacy, conversation, and deep sharing. Husbands think about money, work, and sex. The pressure they feel to support the family is gigantic, and relationships are barely on their radar. They think they are loving you by bringing home their paycheck and by being sexually faithful. You are beating your husband up for not admiring you, not listening to you, and not having enough deep conversation with you. But he has no idea what you want or how to give it to you. Yes, you tell him, and he still doesn’t have a clue. You tell him again, he still doesn’t get it, and then you cry. He proceeds to think, “Oh my, what have I done, getting myself in this marriage with this temperamental woman? How can I escape?” (He might be nice while you’re crying, but this is what he’s thinking.)
Women cry mainly to manipulate their husbands. They are trying to say, “You don’t love me well, and I am sad about that. I will cry so you will pay more attention to me.” Women, this works in marriage for a few months or maybe a couple of years. But guess what? He gets used to you crying, and it becomes like any other background noise, and he can ignore you and your tears. David said I cried every Saturday the first year we were married. (Although I had a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling, I was still a numbskull about men and loving them.) Why did I cry every Saturday? I wanted him to love me more, build me up more, and romance me more. In my small mind, my personal Disney movie was not supposed to be over yet. But after marriage, men begin to seriously think about supporting a wife, about paying taxes, about insurance, and so on. They are not schooled in how to love you in a language you can hear, and they certainly don’t understand what you want or need. After the wedding, men see little need for romance and deep conversation. Instead, what they enjoy is doing activities together and sex.
This is the norm in marriage, but you are no longer the norm. You are finding a way to express love to your husband in a language he can hear (the 8 A’s). And then, you are going to learn to teach him a new language—one that he doesn’t understand right now, the language of how you feel as a woman. But again, not yet! Can you imagine going to work at a new office and telling the boss the first week that you want the corner office? No, you work there a while, show the boss what an amazing employee you are, and then you ask for what you want and need after he sees how indispensable you are. Love your husband to the moon, and then we’ll discuss asking for what you want.
You and I can stomp our feet. We can throw mud balls at heaven. We can yell and scream and have a hissy fit. But we won’t change the fact that men don’t get us and that we have to win them and win their hearts, making them turn toward us and open to us, wanting to learn to love us in a language we can hear. You can’t take the stripes off a tiger, and you can’t change the way men are created. You decide to say you will accept what is.
At some point, wisdom enters our heart, and we say, “OK, I will play by these rules.” If I had written the rules, I would not have written them like this. But I wasn’t in on the Holy Trinity huddle when these rules were written. I realize that if I jump out of a nine-story window, the rule of gravity will win. Likewise, these rules of filling my husband with the 8 A’s to turn his heart to me are not negotiable. Demanding he love me in the way I want doesn’t work any better than jumping out of a building and flapping my arms. I will quit complaining about the rules and start filling his tank.
I know some of you have some difficult and unreasonable husbands. But remember, they are annoying, not evil. Granted, they have some wrong thinking and some wrong priorities. But again, when you fill them with the 8 A’s, over time, they open to your influence. If your husband has some really selfish, wrong priorities, tell yourself that you are going to give this a full year. A year is ridiculous by most standards (women want results next weekend). But give it a full year of living Wife School principles and learning the advanced skills in WSO. Give the marriage a year of pouring and pouring into him. Eventually, gently ask him to move toward a better use of time/resources. No head bashing. No meltdowns. Just sweet requests and more filling with the 8 A’s. A man has no choice but to move toward his wife when she is consistently loving him by pouring in the 8 A’s.
This Program Is Hard to Do!
Repeatedly, I hear from women, “Giving my husband the 8 A’s is so hard.”
No, what is hard is not living like this. Let me explain.
I recently went on a six-hour car trip by myself. I listened to a CD series by Robert Rohm on the book of Proverbs. He talks for thirty minutes on each Proverb. For six steady hours, I listened to about ten or eleven of the talks. At the end of my trip, do you know what stood out from those six hours of being immersed in Proverbs thinking? It is simple but profound. Over and over again, the Proverbs teach (in different words and different examples) this thought: the way of the righteous has one set of consequences, and the way of the wicked has another. That’s the theme of Proverbs. One path in life produces certain consequences. Live another way, and end up with another set of circumstances (for example, read Prov. 13:15). The choices we make largely determine our circumstances.
If you watch a foolish woman, you will see that she tries to live exactly as she wants, choose what feels good at the moment, and still get good results. That is so ludicrous. That’s as if saying, “I am going to eat a diet of sweets and starches and be thin.” Ridiculous. To get the prize we want (a great marriage), we pay the price of living a certain way. At some point, wisdom teaches us that if we want to reap certain consequences (a great marriage), we are going to have to make some choices that might be difficult or uncomfortable in the moment. When wisdom enters our hearts, we realize giving our husbands the 8 A’s is not hard. What’s hard is being in a marriage where there is not kindness, thoughtfulness, or closeness. What’s hard is having your husband’s heart somewhere besides being turned and open to you. That’s what’s hard, not giving the 8 A’s. Yes, the enemy tries to tell us we can live as we want in the moment (Gen. 3 is the first example of this), but wisdom and experience tell us otherwise.
You know how disappointed I’ve been for a lon-n-n-n-g-g-g-g time in my marriage. I’m going to have to hold on to you while I learn this 8 A’s stuff. It all sounds a little much, to be honest.
I pray as the psalmist in Psalm 63: “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” It’s certainly a dry and parched land in my marriage, Lord. You know that. I know that. I’d like you to change that, please.
And you know how I have brought emotional turmoil into my home. I ask you to forgive me for that, and show me if I need to ask my husband to forgive me.
Also, I know I need to get hold of my tongue, Lord. James 3:8 says the tongue is “a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison.” Guard my words, for they are often ugly. My heart is a true piece of work, and I am ready to start that journey of letting you work on it.
I confess the way I want my husband to give to me, to meet my needs, instead of my meeting his needs. Help me give up my expectations for now and focus on giving him the 8 A’s.
In Jesus’s powerful name,
- Have you been waiting for your husband to meet your needs? Are you willing now to learn how to meet his instead? What stands in your way? _______________________________________________________________
- What emotional turmoil do you bring to your house? Anger? Sarcasm? A demanding spirit? A sulking spirit? ________________________________________________________________
- Don’t ask him, but what do you think your husband would say is the emotional turmoil you bring to your home? Why specifically would he say that? ________________________________________________________________
- In day three, Being an Excellent Wife, how do you react to the phrase, She does him good all the days of his life?
- Do you cry to manipulate your husband? Explain.
- Day five says, To get the prize we want (a great marriage), we pay the price of living a certain way. What are your thoughts about doing that?
Women are not given the sole responsibility for growing the marriage in Scripture, and neither are men. But what is true is that the only person you can change is yourself. (In Husband School, Where Men Learn the Secrets of Making Wives Happy, David and I tell husbands that they are the only people they can change.) Hitting men over the head with their inadequacy of being a proper leader, husband, or father has never changed men but temporarily. Men can learn from sermons, from other men, and from the Scripture. But few men will take instruction by their browbeating wives. They usually return to their prior behavior. The only thing that changes men is when they want to change, and the 8 A’s make men want to change.
Even later when we learn to ask for what we want, we still lay down the expectations that they will do it. We ask but don’t demand. It’s tricky stuff, for sure. But isn’t that how we are to approach God? We ask but don’t demand? We will spend time dissecting this issue in the future.