Please read chapter 3, “Second A: The Admiration Lesson,” in Wife School.
This is one of my favorite A’s. If there ever were an A that pulled a husband’s heart to his wife, it would be the A of Admiration (well, this one and the seventh A).
Week Three, Day One
An Overview of Admiration
Recently, a friend told me she had made the coffee at their church the previous week. Because there were so many compliments on the coffee, a staff member asked my friend to make the coffee every week. This friend said jokingly, “I am now the official coffee manager.”
We laughed together at how starved we all are for compliments. Even someone telling us that we make good coffee makes us feel good about ourselves.
Human beings are ravenous and famished for admiration. You are. And your husband is. Humans all naturally crave and love admiration. Now, you and I both know that laying down this desire for the praise of man and instead being humble is what God wants from us. But we are to have two different standards. We have one for ourselves, which is to forgo rights and get our approval/admiration from the Lord. And then we have another standard for others, which is to love them and meet their needs. (To a husband, filling his tank with the 8 A’s is how he feels loved by you.) This situation of having one standard for you (humility) while having a higher, giving standard for others is one of the major tenets that define mature people. How rare to find someone who takes personal responsibility for his or her own needs yet passionately attempts to fill others! The Few. The Proud. The Godly.
Getting rid of emotional turmoil (week one) and getting off your husband’s back (week two on Acceptance) are both to precede giving the A of Admiration. Your husband will think you are deranged if you are still having meltdowns and barking orders but then turn around and give him the A of Admiration. Put the brakes on those negative behaviors, and then begin to fill his tank with the A of Admiration.
Admiration has the polar opposite effect of emotional turmoil and trying to correct/fix your husband. Admiration draws your husband’s heart to you. Men lo-v-v-e admiration! We all know the simple truth that we like being around people who make us feel good and don’t like to be around people who don’t. But somehow, we forget to apply that to husbands.
I read business books all the time to help my husband with his business, and one of the three pillars of building a good business is to develop raving fans. The method to develop raving fans is to delight your clients/customers. Why? Besides the obvious reason that you have a good product/service, it’s because people shop where they are treated well. People do business with people they like. A man recently told me he quit going to an excellent dentist because he didn’t like the receptionist. No surprise there. So why would husbands be any different? They want to be where they are treated well, too. The idea that we can be our natural ratty selves around our husbands is wrong. The idea of saving and exclusively using your best china for company is wrong. Our husbands should get our best—and especially our best words.
Proverbs 16:21 says that “sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” Give your husband some sweetness of speech if you want to increase your persuasiveness. Admiration is the sweetest of speech. Even the most talented, brilliant, and gifted of men need and desire admiration.
Recently, I was talking to a group of women, and this question was posed to me: “What do you say to women who are not getting anything emotionally from their husbands but are still instructed to give them the A of Admiration?” My answer was that we give our husbands the A of Admiration by pulling first on the Lord to meet our needs. Then, because we are commanded to love our husbands, we simply give admiration to them because admiration feels like love to husbands. Even if there is still much resentment in the marriage, this will begin to break down those boulders.
One woman whose marriage was still very full of resentment tried to admire her husband. (We will discuss resentment soon.) Obviously, the husband wasn’t used to this. He said, “What? What junk is that?” She felt so discouraged that she gave up. Of course, one little Admiration Moment is not going to turn around this giant ocean liner of resentment in her marriage. Why, she needs to realize her marriage may take months to turn around. Now, honestly, most marriages don’t even take weeks, but some do. Be prepared to persevere.
Why do the 8 A’s work? They work because of something God said, not me. 1 Corinthians 13:8 says, “Love never fails.” Isn’t that incredible? That’s why we are to love our enemies, because humans have no shield on their heart that can resist love. We soften to love. And the 8 A’s are how men feel loved. So even if he doesn’t respond and soften quickly, remember that the soil of his heart is being plowed. So fill, fill, and persevere! Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Week Three, Day Two
Add Empathetic Listening to Your Admiration
If I had written the 9 A’s instead of the 8 A’s, I would have added Empathetic Listening as the ninth A. Admiration builds up a man and makes him want to spread his peacock feathers. But empathetic listening is a very necessary gift also. It is in deep listening to a man’s struggles that a wife is then able to give him understanding and compassion for the stress and hardships that he faces. Empathetic listening is another cry of the human soul, and learning to give your husband this gift is almost unmatched for pulling his heart to you.
When a husband complains or shares how hard his situation is, it is common for a wife to feel as if she should help him get over his sadness with her great advice. She is inclined to tell him, “All men have it rough. So buck up, buddy, and get over it. Also, here’s what you should do.” That is an incredibly harmful strategy.
As tough as men appear, they need compassion and pity at this moment, not advice.They love it (just as you love it) when others say, “Wow, that sounds really hard. That sounds difficult to me.” We women forget that men have a fragile side that they hide from the world but allow you, the sweet wife, to see. You must be trustworthy with their hardships, not giving direction and orders but giving tenderness, understanding, and compassion.
Recently, one woman’s husband was overlooked for a promotion. A coworker got the job that her husband wanted. In the privacy of their bedroom, he slumped in a chair and told her how utterly disappointed he was that he didn’t get the promotion. Women, hear this. When your husband has disappointment and failure, it is a golden opportunity for you to win a crown in his opinion. Men want to share their hardships with their wives and want to receive compassion and understanding, not a three-point lecture how they could have done it better. This wise wife sat quietly in a chair, listening until he was finished. Softly, she said, “I’m so sorry. I know how disappointed you are because you wanted that job.” Then he went off again about how unfair it was, how overlooked he felt, yada yada. Yes, she wanted to tell himhis blind spots and why he was probably overlooked. But this was not the time. This was the timeto step forward with compassion and empathy.
This next advice is for you A+ students out there. Are you ready? After the compassion has been given and he has thoroughly dissected his sorrows and disappointments, it is helpful to him at this moment for you to bring up some positive quality he has that relates to the conversation (drumroll…Admiration!). After you let him talk and get it all out (and you express the appropriate sincere empathy), now is the time to pour a little concrete into the man’s veins with some Admiration! Maybe you say, “Although you didn’t get the promotion this time, your creative idea of how to increase the department’s sales won’t go unnoticed for too long. That was brilliant how you devised that plan! Maybe Joe got the promotion this time, but I think it’s just a matter of time until they realize how valuable you are. Remember the way you devised that program for reducing expenses? That was very smart of you. I was incredibly impressed with your insight in that project.”
He needs the one-two punch when he feels as if he’s failed. One, empathetic listening. Two, a heavy dose of Admiration. This one-two-punch approach buoys up a man as few things can (again, the seventh Ais huge, but I must demonstrate patience here and wait until week eight to discuss that A).
Wise wives build their houses. They learn the secrets that build their men. They practice the art of being an exceptional wife. What affection men grow for this rare, beautiful gem of a wife. We give our husbands empathetic listening and admiration because we genuinely try to love them by giving them what they want and need.
Don’t be a know-it-all around your husband. There may be an opportunity for you to softly fingertip drop your ideas later, but we will learn that the best way to give a man some advice is to make him think it’s his idea. (This takes a lot of humility not to insist on getting the credit for your brilliant ideas. But remember, in life, humility is exalted, and pride is abased. This is your husband, and his success is yours because you are one. Never bemoan not getting credit from your husband for your ideas.) More on this will be in another lesson.
Week Three, Day Three
Drip Some Honey
Today, we are going to let adulteresses teach us this lesson. That’s right, women who seduce other women’s husbands. People never change, and women used to seduce other women’s husbands the same way four thousand years ago that they do today. They dripped some honey. Proverbs 5:3 says, “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.”
Why do adulteress’ lips drip honey? Because men love the honey of admiration! Men have always been drawn to women who admire them. We have wives barking orders and adulteresses dripping honey. Christian wife! Drip some honey! This man of yours is drawn to it, taken by it, and attracted to it. Honey is sweet and alluring. Fill your husband’s mind and heart with the sweet honey of admiration.
The Problem with Familiarity
You’ve heard the cliché “Familiarity breeds contempt.” If there were ever familiarity, and if it ever bred contempt, it is in marriage. But we don’t allow what is normal to rule in our homes. We are Proverbs 14:1 women, and we intentionally build our homes.
Often when we don’t know people, they can appear to have it altogether. We can even find ourselves idolizing them. I think of how common this is with actors or even prominent Christians. But once you live with anyone and get to know that person, the shine comes off, and what you have (as we discussed last week) is a set of half strengths and half weaknesses. Admiration is often a feeling we have when we know only the half strengths. That is why in dating, we are infatuated (well, we have hormone support for this, too). But after the honeymoon, the rose-colored glasses come off. Familiarity makes admiration difficult. A man recently told me, “Don’t get to know your heroes too well.” What he meant was that once you get to know someone, you will see his or her humanness, and then that person will cease to be your hero.
Familiarity makes admiration difficult because you are very familiar with your husband. However, your husband needs admiration from you during the entire life of your marriage. After you get to know him well and his subsequent weakness package arises, you don’t feel admiration. This very normal situation is why you hear many couples start to pick at each other. The man is starved for admiration, but because of familiarity, the wife no longer fills that need.
Wise women don’t let natural inclinations rule! Wise women reverse the downward pull of marriage. We talked extensively last week about the Turquoise Journal lists. There are two skills needed to keep your admiration high. Number one is overlooking his weaknesses. (Remember how the Genie tells Jessica to turn Matthew, so she’s looking at his strengths, hiding his weaknesses, like an eclipse?) And number two is bathing your mind with his strengths, virtues, nice actions, kind words, etc., which of course is done by adding to and rereading your Turquoise Journal lists. (How are you doing with that?)
After you turn thirty, you begin to lose muscle mass. And unless you work out, you will lose more and more each year. This causes your metabolism to drop, and that causes weight gain. This is the norm. These are the natural inclinations of the body. Energy (working out) is needed to override this natural phenomenon. In the same way, energy is needed (overlooking and reading the Turquoise Journal lists) to overcome the natural downhill phenomena of the marriage’s familiarity (that keeps you from admiring your husband and giving him the oxygen that he will need until he dies). Decide you will give him an Admiration Moment daily until death do you part. Again, this is not because he deserves it but because that’s what he needs, and genuine love gives others what they truly need. This is how wise wives build their houses. They do what works, what is right, and what is good, not what feels easy and comfortable.
Week Three, Day Four
Praising Other Men
Let’s begin this section with an example about how you feel if your husband praises another woman. Pretend you and your husband are out getting a nice lunch. On the way home, your husband says, “Did you see that woman in front of the flower box outside the restaurant? I don’t know who she was, but man, was she beautiful! She had that movie star glow…Did you notice? She walked with the ultimate confidence and grace, too. I can’t get over how stunning she was.”
If you are like most women, your heart drops if your husband raves about another woman’s beauty. And, friend, he does not enjoy you raving about other men’s success! “Joe was just offered the vice president position of his company. I heard he’s getting a lot more than six figures.” Your husband is feeling pretty crummy at this moment, considering he’s only an average breadwinner.
Don’t do this, women! Don’t brag on other men. It makes your husband feel bad, just as you felt bad when the husband earlier was bragging on the beautiful woman. We can be so dense.
If your husband is a doctor, and you see another younger doctor who is amazing, please tell your husband about the younger doctor’s virtue in a way that doesn’t make it seem as if you admire the younger guy more than you admire your husband. If you say to your doctor husband “I went to see Dr. X today. I can’t believe what incredible bedside manners he had, as well as seeming very brilliant. I just loved him,” I promise that if your husband is like most husbands, he is thinking, “Is he better than me?” Men are roosters, and roosters want to be the best rooster in the chicken yard. Always protect your husband’s fragile ego. Foolish women think this is ridiculous. Wise women are always thoughtful of their husbands’ fragile ego constitution. He wants to be your hero, not anyone else. You can talk about another man’s skills, but always do it with a mind-set of “My rooster husband is listening to me talk about another rooster, so I must be careful with my words.”
Week Three, Day Five
How Do I Find the Time and Energy to Give a Daily Admiration Moment?
You can’t have it all. That’s just life. One reason some of us are exhausted is because we are trying to have a great marriage, be great parents, have wonderful businesses, serve at the church for hours, work out for hours, have a great social network, grow a hobby/interest, and achieve four other goals. Seth Godin has taken Zig Ziglar’s goal system from the 1970s and has basically boiled it down to this: determine only four goals (Ziglar said to have six goals). If you try to do more than that, you’ll end up doing nothing because you’ll be scattered. Focus is the key to productivity. So pick a few things in life that you know God has called you to do, and let other things go. (If you are young, read Titus 2:4–5 for your assignment from God for now.) You can’t have it all or do it all.
Faye Hardy, a Sunday School teacher I had twenty years ago, said, “I barely know what God is telling me to do. How would I know what he is telling you?” So I am not trying to give you too many specifics. When I was a young mother and repeatedly got overwhelmed with all there was to do, I’d camp out in Titus 2:4–5. Often, I would (stupidly and pridefully) demand of God, “What great work do you want me to do?” And the still, small, quiet Voice (humorously) would say, “Clean up your house.” God was always directing me back to the Titus 2 list for the young woman. (I have always loathed housework, but God says that the Proverbs 31 woman “looks well to the ways of her household.” Honestly, for years, this verse was a continual battle for me with homeschooling six small children. God’s Word is beautiful in its ability to give guidance and direction.)
Now all six of our six children are grown, and I have freedom to use my gifts in a way that I couldn’t for years. However, you young women have to choose exceedingly wisely how you spend your time because there is not very much of it. Being soaked in the Titus 2 mind-set will help you figure out the few things you should be about. Grow in your walk with God, love your husband to the moon and back, pour into your precious children, be good managers of your household, etc. When your children are young, add one or two more goals. That’s it. You can’t do it all or you’ll not do the main things well. Have some margins. If you’re exhausted, you will have trouble giving your husband the 8 A’s.
(And while I’m on this subject, women love to blame their husbands for how exhausted they are. If there were only three things I could teach you, one of them would be quit blaming your husband and start taking responsibility for your own needs!)
The first thing I think of when I study Admiration is how empty I am and howI would like to be admired by my husband. My emptiness again brings me before you for a filling. I often want this filling from my husband, but now I know I am to get it from you.
The familiarity of knowing my husband so well—his weaknesses!—makes me reluctant to give him the A of Admiration. Why, this man is obviously a cracked clay pot. But that’s not the way wise women live. We live by your standards and principles. I know this, but it’s easy to forget. I salute the position and office of husband because you want me to, not because he deserves it. This man is starved for Admiration, and I am the designated person to fill the man’s tank. I accept my assignment.
Focusing on giving when I want to focus on getting is going to be a huge switch for me—me, myself, and I. That is my favorite trinity. Forgive me, Lord, for my self-consuming ways. The coldness and harshness of my heart continue to surprise me. What a tendency I have to criticize others! When I look inside myself, I realize that I don’t even want to love the man you gave me to love; instead, I want to focus on his weaknesses.
God, when I look deep into my soul, I see how I mainly care about myself (well, and my children, but that’s not surprising because I view them as an extension of me). I see how selfish and self-focused I am. I want comfort, I want praise, and I want to be noticed. I don’t like it when others get treated better than me (or better than my children). My heart is full of wretchedness and self-preoccupation like this, Lord, and you see the ugliness in full. Right now, I repent and receive your forgiveness. And with that great ocean of forgiveness that you extend to me, I now extend a bathtub portion to my husband. (Reader: See the parable of the unmerciful servant, Matt. 18:21–35.) I forgive him for all his weaknesses, disappointments, and failures. This is very difficult to do, because I wanted to marry a Savior, someone who would love and adore me and fill me to the brim. But you are the only Savior.
How prone I am to falling away from you all the time. Keep my heart on the narrow path.
In the name above all names, Jesus,
- Do you understand the cry of the soul for Admiration? Do you see that your husband depends primarily on you to meet this need (although most husbands would never tell you this)? Describe your attitude toward giving your husband the A of Admiration.
- Empathetic Listening is as valuable as Admiration. What kind of listener are you? Are you a stern army general? Or are you able to communicate understanding and compassion to your husband? Explain.
- Can you relate to dripping the honey of admiration on your husband? What do you plan to do?
- How has familiarity kept you from praising your husband?__________________________________________________________________
- Have you previously had a habit of praising other men in front of your husband? How do you feel about that now? What do you intend to do differently? __________________________________________________________________
Just like the game of chess, there’s a lot to learn about becoming a Marriage Champion. We have barely learned the names of the pieces and how they move. So much more is to come!
One more thought:
Admiration Is a Picture of a Biblical Concept
You have heard that marriage is an analogy of Christ and his bride, the Church. The husband is the picture of Christ, and the wife is the picture of the Church. If we meditate on those roles, much wisdom opens up to us (Eph. 5:22–32). One recurring theme in Scripture is for believers (the Church) to praise the Lord. This is analogous to women praising and admiring our husbands.