I have a journal where I write down ideas and thoughts I want to keep. When I go back to review it, I wouldn’t even believe that I wrote it, except that it is in my own handwriting. Friends! Collect good sentences and thoughts, and then bathe your mind with them! That will change you!
Please read chapter 7, “Sixth A: The Approval Lesson,” in Wife School.
Week Seven, Day One
Thoughts about the A of Approval
In chapter 7 in Wife School, the Genie tells Jessica that “spouses can read between the lines to hear if the other spouse communicates approval.” The overall approval rating that one feels from his or her spouse is often indicative of that person’s 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” (Prov. 16:24).
As we learn 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. For example, “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 they do 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 reworded like this: “This car has two hundred thousand miles on it. Maybe we should consider getting another car in the near future.”
“Look at all those people flying 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 and a personal trainer” makes a husband feel as if 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 reworded 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 (Prov. 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 speaking only 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 were 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 husbands’ “fragile, easily cracked, egg-like egos.” I think it would be helpful if men would carry a warning label on their chest: “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; again, I quote her brilliant statement: “God called you not to make your husband good, but to make him happy.” Friend, let God humble your husband, not you. God is working on him to humble him. But that is not your job.
Your husband wants you, the wife, to think he is 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, 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 his weaknesses, of which 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 whom you were given to love.
I cannot tell you how many times God has pricked me with thoughts such as, “Your husband, not you, was right about how to handle that.” When I say 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 about an issue. 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.
Week Seven, Day Two
When Your Husband Is Selfish with His Time
Men need hobbies and time to relax. Helping your husband find some time to do this is a gift you give him. Many husbands greatly appreciate your giving him the green light to some time for himself (and not feeling guilty about it). However, with that said, some husbands neglect family responsibilities (in the wife’s opinion) because of extremely intense and demanding hobbies. Some husbands are on golf teams and travel many weekends with their buddies, leaving their wives home with the kids. Some husbands are training for triathlons, bodybuilding competitions, or bike races, or they work out for many hours, again leaving their wives with the responsibilities at home. I know of many wives whose husbands hunt every weekend once the season opens. And don’t forget good old TV. Many men love ESPN, the NFL, and the NBA.
Realize that you are not angry about the individual activity or sport. In fact, if your husband had unlimited time and resources—and you and the kids had the help and attention you needed—then you would be fine with his bowling, mountain climbing, or volunteer work. You are not angry at golf. It’s the limited situation of time that is the problem, as well as the unmet needs. After the children are much older and the demands are fewer, many women are no longer upset if their husbands intensely pursue hobbies. But in this season, the hours are few, and a husband being overly active in activities outside the home (in the wife’s opinion) can be a great source of conflict.
As you will see throughout Wife School, many problems have the same answers. Always remember that husbands are better coaxed than commanded. We remember that husbands change only when they want to and that we increase their desire to please us when we live the 8 A’s and get hold of our emotional turmoil.
An obvious principle is to encourage your husband’s enjoyment of family time by bragging on him in front of the kids and doing activities as a family that he enjoys. Thank him for every investment of time he pours into the family, large and small. Learn to look for opportunities to say, “I can’t tell you how soothing and fulfilling it is to me to watch you play with the kids and see their happiness. What a gift to our children to have a father like you.” When you ask him for more family time, you don’t want to bash his hobby, such as, “Why do you waste all that time on that stupid hobby?” (You know better than this by now, don’t you?) You want him to enjoy his interests and tell him that. You like him to be happy, and you know how much he enjoys activity x. So, you don’t want him to quit; you simply need to figure out together how to (insert what need you here).
If he barks, try to soothe him. “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1). When he sees that you are not trying to force him to give up his activity, only to get some needs met, then he is more willing to consider your requests. If the conversation goes south, just say, “Well, we can think about it. I really care if you are happy, and I know you relax/enjoy when x is happening. I am just trying to figure out how to get the need accomplished.”
Men like this rational approach. No bashing. No hysterical demands. Just state what your needs are, and let them stew around in his pot. He may act rude and insensitive, but if you are living the 8 A’s, the ground of his heart is being plowed, and he will want to consider your requests.
Again, this takes months and even years. Don’t expect him to change by Labor Day. Most men are extremely reasonable when a sane, loving, adorable wife asks for something. It’s the angry, demanding, critical wife whom a man tries to escape. Proverbs 21:9 says, “It is better to live on a corner of the roof than to share the house with a nagging wife.” Men hate few things worse than a nagging, upset wife. (But you have taken steps to get rid of that woman, right?)
For centuries, wise women have had husbands who are selfish with their time. But with strength, tenacity, and perseverance, these wives have made princes out of toads. I have seen the most immature, egotistic husbands want to move into responsible manhood, with the right wife. Again, we can stomp our feet against heaven, but the fact that the “wise woman builds her house” while “the foolish woman tears hers down” is true. The call for the wise wife is to have an ability to suffer, be humble, and yet persevere with kindness. Your husband has to want to change. I’ve never seen a man change because a woman let him have it or because she called him a dope.
For your birthday or Christmas, ask to go to a marriage conference (marriage conferences are not nearly as threatening as counseling). Or ask him to read Husband School, Where Men Learn the Secrets of Making Wives Happy.
Become the godly woman of the century, learn to pray like a madwoman, get your needs met in the Lord, rock the Wife School principles, and get ready to see the Red Sea part. Humans respond to other humans. And your husband has no choice but to respond to the new you.
Again, try not to demand that this happen soon. Give it a year or two. How old are you? Don’t you have this kind of energy and time for the most important relationship in your life? Men change all the time when they want to, and they want to change when you meet their 8 A’s.
Week Seven, Day Three
Something Only a Man Can Give to Your Kids
Many years ago, Gary Smalley wrote a book called The Blessing. In this classic, Smalley discusses Old Testament examples of when fathers gave their children a blessing. Being older now, I have experienced watching various families when the children either did or did not receive the blessing from their father. We women have to wrestle with the fact that God made families a patriarch institution. Although women are incredibly important in the family, there is something about a wise, godly, faithful father who blesses and loves his children that you, as a woman, cannot give your children.
Women love their children beyond belief. You know this. You know that you would cross a narrow board between two skyscrapers to save your children. Somehow, God zaps women with this love after childbirth that even surprises us.
Many men do not naturally have this same zapping. (If your husband is one of the few who got this unquenchable love for your children, then thank God for him.) John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, and one goal he had was to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children” (Luke 1:17), meaning that the fathers’ hearts were not naturally turned to their children. Don’t get angry at your husband because he does not have womanly hormones. One of your jobs in being a wise wife and building your house is to “turn the heart of your husband to your children” and “turn the heart of your children to their father.” Praising Dad to the children is one of the wisest and kindest things you can do for your children. Their closeness with Dad gives them inner stability and security that you cannot give them. Never be jealous of their relationship!
When I lived in Virginia, a woman told me that she told her husband she was jealous of how he picked up their little girls and loved them. So, the husband quit doing this to his little girls. Isn’t that the saddest story? Can you believe how ignorant and foolish that woman was? Oh my goodness! Praise your husband to the moon and back when he loves and adores your children. He is pouring iron into their veins.
You will lose a lot of control over your teenage boys when they get around eleven, twelve, and beyond. They will love you, but they don’t want to be girls. They want to identify with manly Dad. So if your husband is close to your boys, he will be able to influence them. You will always influence your boys, too, but not in the same way as Dad. Your daughter will more likely develop the ability to say no to bad boys when she gets love, attention, and affection from Daddy. Women, you don’t love anything more than your children, so get this right. Stir up the affections for your husband toward the children. Tell him all the cute things they say about him. Tell him how they admire him. Build your house. Build it! God gave your husband the leadership but gave you the greater power of influence!
OK, I’m calming down. But I see women stealing the hearts of their children away from the husband all the time because the woman is resentful toward the husband and wants to punish him. You are punishing your children if you do this.
Yesterday, one of our six children had an unpleasant situation. We were on a conference call with him and a fourth person. My sweet husband talked and spoke with such love and protection for our child. I wanted to cry, watching how my husband rose and defended the child. The child’s heart was more open to David than I’ve ever seen. It was beautiful, simply beautiful. The security it gave our son to see his father’s affection and respect for him was very emotional to me. Women, you build your house by helping your children love and respect their father, and vice versa.
My think tank friend, Kendall, has helped me see this even clearer in the past few years. If your mom didn’t live this, then you need to witness it in another woman. This is too important to mess up.
Week Seven, Day Four
Understanding Your Need to Release Emotional Tension
Soon we will discuss the A of Affection, which is the chapter on sex. Your husband, if he is in the 80 percent of men, regularly builds up sexual tension that needs to be released. But if you are in the 80 percent of women, you regularly build up emotional tension that needs to be released. Today we are going to discuss what you can do about your need to release emotional tension.
Just as there is a continuum of men with a high sex drive and some with a low sex drive (and all of that is normal and fine), there is also a continuum of women with high emotional natures and some with low emotional natures (and likewise, all of that is normal and fine). However, just because you are a woman with a high emotional nature, that does not give you license to spew out your emotions. That’s crazy. A man has to keep his sexual desires in check, and you are called to keep your emotional crazies in check. (We have discussed the problem of emotional turmoil numerous times.)
A man needs to have sex with his wife to release sexual tension. And you need to talk to release your emotional tension. Your husband can have sex with only you, but you can release emotional tension with several people. Sisters, best friends, and mothers (the ones who listen and don’t give too much advice) can all help you with releasing emotional tension. Talking and being heard is incredibly therapeutic to a woman.
Many women want their husbands to be the primary person who gives them emotional release (like me, for example). That is fine, but try not to wear him out too much. God gave us other women to talk to because men usually don’t want to talk as much as we do. Have several women you share with so you don’t wear out any one person too much.
Many women have found that exercise is an incredible means of reducing emotional tension. A great workout or a fast walk can be amazingly helpful to dial down emotional crazies. Praying out loud and walking seem to calm me down a lot. Journaling is another tool wise women use to help them sort out their frustrations. We have many twisted knots, and talking helps us untie those knots.
I understand that you want your husband to be your primary source of emotional release. And once you are eager to meet his need to release sexual tension, he will be much more willing to give you the time and energy to listen, which releases your emotional tension. Just remember, he has no idea that your emotional tension equates with his sexual tension. Most of the time, men think we women are a little emotionally unbalanced. Actually, haha, we can be. But when we release emotional tension by talking, we become more balanced.
Girls, we have a real need to talk! Women have gathered for centuries in knitting circles, have washed clothes in the river together, or have gone to the market together. When you recognize you are in an emotional hissy, realize it’s time for a good chat. But remember, husbands don’t have this need, and most husbands don’t understand it. (Guess who the lucky duck is who gets to teach him?)
The lesson next week is the sex lesson. Oh dear. Oh my. It’s coming. And your husband is going to love it.
Week Seven, Day Four, Continued…
Tips for Traveling with Your Husband
As you know, we women are very opinionated, and trips seem to present many situations in which those opinions tumble out. Which rental car should we pick? Which restaurant should we choose? Which side of the bed do you want? What type of clothes are we going to wear on the plane (dress-up or jeans)? How much should we tip? If you are like most women, you have all sorts of opinions on everything.
One thing to try to do on trips is try not to criticize glitches. Opportunities for glitches abound on trips: the airplane’s tardiness, the hotel room’s poor view, the service in the restaurant, etc. Instead, try to comment on everything nice you can. This past weekend, David and I took a trip. When we arrived at the hotel, one of the lamps didn’t work, one of the electrical sockets didn’t work, we couldn’t figure out the TV system, and the refrigerator wasn’t cooling. But instead of complaining and criticizing the hotel (because my husband planned the trip and arranged for the hotel), I just called the front desk three times. They sent very friendly, helpful people up and fixed everything in ten minutes. So after everything was fixed, I could honestly say, “This is a very nice room. I’m going to like being here for three days.” This may seem small, but instead of criticizing inconveniences (because they will happen for the rest of your life), just roll with them and thank your husband for the nice things. Do you see how much more pleasant of a companion you are?
Trips always have the unexpected glitch. Get the glitches fixed, don’t complain, and focus on what is nice. Say true things such as, “I’ve enjoyed just traveling with you today” (with a smile). A husband loves a grateful, contented wife. He feels as if he’s providing the trip and you’re happy about it. It’s the difference between night and day for a man to have a happy, contented, noncomplaining wife! We women can be such dopes!
Week Seven, Day Five
Dealing with Difficult Parents/In-Laws
Many of you adore your parents and in-laws, and that is fantastic. Rejoice greatly! This section is not written for you. It is written for women who struggle with difficult parents or difficult in-laws (or both).
In chapter 19 of Wife School, the Genie discusses these principles extensively. But for now, I want to remind you of a couple of principles.
To begin this discussion, please remember that the fifth commandment in the Bible is to honor your parents. In a previous lesson, we discussed how we are not necessarily called to have affection for those who have mistreated us, but we are to forgive them and to treat them with agape love—that is, doing good to them. In the case of parents/in-laws, an additional command to honor them is given.
Let’s discuss honor. We previously discussed how we honor the judge by standing when he comes in the courtroom, but we don’t stand for him in a restaurant. We honor the position of judge. Honoring our parents/in-laws is a biblical call because of their position as parents/in-laws. We don’t decide we will honor them if they deserve it. We don’t have to be best friends with them. But there is a call from God to treat them with honor. When you marry, you become one with your spouse. Therefore, his parents are now a type of parents to you, and the call to honor them is now binding to you, also.
Think about if you are in a courtroom, and the judge says something you don’t like. You don’t go haywire. You react with, “Your Honor, if I may, I’d like to address the court with another perspective, please.” That’s honor. Treat others with great respect, even though they don’t deserve it.
A young woman once told me that her mother was extremely critical of her. The young woman’s mother came to help her when she (the young mother) had a baby, and she did help in many ways. But the young mother couldn’t wait for her mother to leave because she continually criticized the young mother. “Don’t you have more food in the freezer? That’s such bad planning.” “Look how big your stomach is. My stomach wasn’t big like that after I had a baby.” “How do you live in this mess? Your kitchen drawers are a wreck.” “Your other children certainly look raunchy. Can’t you dress them better?” And so on and so on. Can you imagine the emotional turmoil that this new mother felt, having her hormones all jacked up and then her mother criticizing her at every turn? So let’s pull apart and analyze this young mother’s situation.
After you are married, your husband is your new authority. You are now a new unit. The husband leaves and cleaves, and you two are now the new family. You and your husband decide how much you see the in-laws and your parents. When relationships are strained with parents/in-laws, a wise practice is for you and your husband to decide how often you are going to get together with them and also how often you feel you should communicate by phone/text, etc.
For example, this same young girl from above, along with her husband, decided that her mother could come visit four times a year and stay four days/three nights each visit. So, when her mother planned her trip, the young mother said, “We are thinking you could come Thursday through Sunday.” Her mother started a meltdown. “Three days? That’s so selfish of you. I don’t understand why you are telling me how long I can stay.”
The young mother was physically shaking. She had never stood up to her mother before. The young mother said respectfully, “We are glad you are coming for a visit, and Joe and I have decided that with how busy our lives are, four days/three nights is a good length of time for a visit.”
Her mother again lashed out. “That’s stupid, your telling me how long I can stay. Selfish and stupid.”
The young mother again, with great self-control (although she was still physically shaking), said, “I want you to enjoy your visit, and we have some fun outings planned. But Joe and I decided that three nights/four days is the right length of a visit.”
The young mother insisted on honoring her mother, but she was no longer going to be bulldozed by her. After you are married, you and your husband decide what the boundaries are. It is even good to write them down so you can be sure you are both on the same page.
This young mother told me, “This is helpful information, but I dread the week before my mother comes, and then I mull over her visit for days after she leaves.”
I said, “Don’t do that. You get to decide what you think about, and don’t waste that week before she comes by dreading it. Simply say to yourself that you will gear up for four days/three nights and try to overlook things. You will honor your mother and treat her with great respect. When her trip is over, it is over, and you won’t mull over it. You choose to set your mind on something else. After you once (or twice) process what you learned from her visit, it is not helpful to keep mulling the situation over in your mind, so don’t your waste time thinking about it.”
Remember, you get to set the boundaries with your parents/in-laws when you are married. You and your husband are now in charge of how much and when you see the parents/in-laws. Remember the principle: honor them. But that does not mean they get to set the boundaries. You set them. If they react, honor them. If they decompose, honor them. But hold to the boundaries you set. You now have all the power. They don’t want you to know this. They try to act as if they still have the power. They don’t.
To summarize, you are called to honor your parents. And if they are in need, you are called to help (see Matt. 15:3–6 and 1 Tim. 5:4). But you do not have to have phileo love for them (love with affection), only agape love (doing them good). This releases many of you from the guilt you have toward parents/in-laws who have mistreated you (see previous lesson on resentment; you must forgive them and do them good). However, honoring your parents does not mean they get to tell you what to do or they get to be in charge or they get to ramrod you with whatever they want. No, you and your husband are now in charge of your new family unit and you set the boundaries. You focus on forgiving, agape-loving them, and honoring them.
The young girl in the above example is now years down the road, and her mother has given up some of the earlier hysteria. But the young girl has continued to endure some criticism from her mother over the years. She still chooses to forgive and honor, forgive and honor, but to set firm boundaries with her mother. The relationship has now healed to an extent, but her mother still comes in with some sharp needle jabs. The young mother says to herself, “Honor, forgive, and set appropriate boundaries.”
Life is not easy; it is messy. We understand that, and we choose God’s principles when we have a mess. Don’t focus on your problems. Understand the principles, try to solve your problems the best you can, pray like a madwoman, and then move on and focus on all the good stuff in life (of which there is so much!). Give up the fantasy of an uncluttered life. 🙂
When I think about you and your goodness, knowledge, and power, it is as if I’m thinking about the vastness of the heavens. And when I think about my inner qualities, it is more as if I’m thinking about a little mud puddle. Sometimes I feel so small and self-centered. Please pour your character into my heart, which desperately needs reworking.
I think about all the multitude of blessings you have left on my front doorstep, and like a spoiled child, I stomp my foot because there are not more. Please forgive me for letting small things upset me. Please give me a heart of perennial gratefulness. Help me be glad for our health, indoor plumbing, safe neighborhoods, good schools, Kroger, friends, freedom to worship, our eyesight, my children’s laughter, and my husband’s job. Help me focus hourly on all I have instead of the things I don’t have.
My husband does much that I do approve of. Alert me to when he does something that I approve of so I can tell him. Help me be a wife who focuses on all that he gets right in life, instead of the portion where I think he misses it. Help me see where I miss it, and help me turn from those mistakes.
Thank you, God, for the unequalled earthly joy of intimacy and closeness in marriage. Give me the perseverance to deposit the 8 A’s daily into my husband’s empty tank.
In Jesus’s name,
- Knowing that “giving—or denying—approval in marriage is either healing or destroying,” how would you rate your approval and its effects in your marriage?
- Are you still trying to make your husband holy instead of happy, or have you given that job back to God? Explain.
- Knowing that the best environment for another to change and grow is one of approval and acceptance, how would you rate the environment you have in your marriage? __________________________________________________________________
- After reading the section on “When Your Husband Is Selfish with His Time” (assuming your husband is guilty here), how have you changed your strategy in dealing with him? __________________________________________________________________
- Do you understand that there is something only a man can give your kids? What are your thoughts on this section?
- Did you realize you have a need to release emotional tension that is mainly met by talking? Discuss your thoughts about your emotional tension. __________________________________________________________________
- What are your thoughts about the next time you take a trip with your husband? __________________________________________________________________
- If your parents/in-laws are great, skip this. But if you have difficult parents or in-laws, what principles do you need to think about adopting for the future? __________________________________________________________________