Please read chapter 5, “Fourth A: The Attention Lesson,” in Wife School.
Week Five, Day One
Inattentiveness Sets In after the Wedding
The opposite of giving attention is inattentiveness. An extremely common occurrence is that after a few months/years of marriage, the husband’s honey-do list no longer gets the priority it once did.
“I think I taste mayonnaise on this sandwich,” your husband says. “I don’t like mayo. Remember?”
“Well…uh…I forgot because I was trying to get the kids out the door,” you say.
Inattentiveness is the opposite of filling your husband’s tank with the 8 A’s. It is draining the tank. Be on the alert to your husband’s requests and preferences. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that if my husband asks me for something (for this is a weakness for me), I will sometimes tape a note to my bathroom mirror. You are probably not as dense as me, but do what works for you.
Examples of inattentiveness abound everywhere. One husband said how hurtful it was that he had written a book and that his wife wasn’t even interested in reading it. If you are not interested in your husband’s job, goals, or hobbies, it is highly likely that he is vastly disappointed in you as a wife. Men long for their wives to be extremely attentive to them in all areas.
Proverbs 31 says, “Her husband has full confidence in her” and “She does him good, not harm, all the days of his life.” This does not describe a wife who forgets her husband’s honey-do list or who is uninterested in his preferences and interests.
Thirty years ago when I was a new believer, I had a wedding luncheon for my friend Gayle. Her father and mother arrived at the event, and the first thing Gayle’s mother said to me was, “Could you please get me a cup of punch for my husband?” Being a new believer and having no idea about marriage, my thought was, “Why can’t he get his own punch?” I now understand how wise wives give their husbands this kind of attention. That woman was Joyce Rogers, wife of the late world-famous evangelist and pastor Dr. Adrian Rogers.
Week Five, Day Two
The Art of Being a Good Conversationalist with Your Husband
In chapter 5 of Wife School this week, you read the section where the Genie instructs Jessica to “hit the ping pong ball back” to Matthew. We will build on that discussion.
Imagine you are having a conversation with a friend about a topic that you truly care about. You go off about this and that because you are very excited about this subject. Then, your friend makes a comment and takes the conversation in a completely different direction. Why, you didn’t get to talk about all you wanted to! Or in contrast, imagine you are having lunch with a dear friend, and she sits and listens, letting you talk and think and turn over your subject and then think and talk some more. What a difference in the friendships! How we yearn for friends who will listen until we have been completely emptied and heard!
And your husband is the same way. The problem is, you are bored with many of his topics. You do not want to hear about the same business proposal again. You do not want to hear about his workout again and how many reps he did. It is normal for wives not to be interested in many of their husbands’ details, but we Proverbs 14:1 women are not normal. We are Marriage Champions! So, you must learn to hit the ping pong ball back to your husband until he is through talking about a subject. Being this kind of good listener—where you pay rapt attention, ask good questions, and don’t give too much advice—is about as rare as finding loose hundred-dollar bills. So many affairs start because someone else had time to listen, understand, and be interested.
When I got my master’s degree in counseling, the very best thing I learned during the whole program was a skill called Active Listening. What you do (and this takes lots of effort and practice) is to listen incredibly attentively so you can figure out how the other person is feeling. Then, you reflect back the feeling. For example, pretend your husband mentions the fact that today at work, the boss overlooked his contribution to the project. Because you’re listening for a feeling to reflect back, you could possibly say, “That must have been very discouraging after all that effort you put into the presentation.” See? Your husband will feel heard because you listened so well that you understood his feeling underneath. (Be careful, though. Sometimes, your husband will say, “No, that’s not how I felt.” Be humble, and try again.)
Let’s look at another example. Say your husband plays church-league basketball. You are not particularly interested in basketball (in fact, you think he should be home studying his Bible, painting the den, or playing with the kids), but your husband is having a blast playing. When he comes home, maybe you ask, “How was your game?” Your husband says something like, “We won, forty-six to twenty-eight.” Then, most likely, if you are like many wives, your response is, “Do you want one or two pieces of chicken for dinner?”
I promise, your husband would like you to ask some good questions to draw him out. This takes work, effort, and time. If you make a bland or common statement (e.g., “Tell me about it”), some men will talk, but most men will go blank. But if you can genuinely learn enough about basketball to ask intelligent questions, he will open up. So you might say, “Were you able to hit your three-point shots tonight?” Men love to talk about their interests but only to interested parties. Learn your husband’s job and activities inside and out. You don’t have to participate in all his activities, but you had better know about them and be interested in them. Wives have an inside track to know and care about a husband’s life, and if she doesn’t, he will feel a deep disappointment.
As you know, an expectation we all have from marriage is for someone to be wildly interested in our details. I will continue to be annoying and remind you that wise women have two standards: the one they give, and the one they expect for themselves. In all of life, the emotionally healthy people think about how to give and are not easily offended because no one is pouring into them. In Young’s Literal Translation of Matthew 20:28, “the Son of Man did not come to be ministered to, but to minister.” Let that model set in. Learning to think about filling others is a habit to learn. When self-pity creeps in (“What about someone listening to me?”), pinch yourself, and remind yourself that you have to learn to think like an emotionally healthy person. (People with addictive personality traits all struggle with being easily offended and with never getting enough attention, respect, and high treatment.)
Week Five, Day Three
An Effective Way to Show Your Husband Attention: Ask His Opinion!
Humans long to give their opinion. You do. Your husband does. We want to give our opinion, have someone listen, and then have someone admire that opinion. Sometime after marriage, though, women quit listening to their husbands’ opinions and instead begin to stuff their husband’s minds with their own opinions. Of course, it is fine to give your husband your opinion. But remember, he likes to be asked about his.
Ask his opinion on subjects such as the sermon at church, the subdivision’s covenant, the school’s policies, and the food at his job. The list is virtually endless. Make your marriage a place where your husband is given the opportunity to give his opinions. He longs to give his opinion, to be truly listened to, and then to be applauded. And you can’t blast him when he says something you disagree with. It is all too common for wives to say, “Really? You think that? My mother doesn’t think that, and I don’t, either.”
James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak.” Your marriage should be the place where you are the best listener in the world to your spouse’s opinions.
Week Five, Day Four
An Important Area in Which to Show Great Attention to Your Husband: His Food!
The Proverbs 31 woman was described as “merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.” I think this verse talks about the effort she expended to bring beautiful food to the family’s table. I heard a sermon once where the preacher said, “The Proverbs 31 woman didn’t just throw any ole thing on the table but took pains to make it wonderful.” I agree with that. Food preparation is a major way to make your husband feel as if you are depositing the A of Attention.
My husband has always been easy to feed. But ever since he got sick four years ago, we are on a very strict Paleo diet. He can have no sugar and no refined starches, as those items feed inflammation (something that harms his autoimmune disease). Even though we have no children still at home, I have never cooked so much in my life. I now feed him a cooked breakfast, pack his lunch (often leftovers, thank goodness), and then prepare a nice dinner. For him to have a lovely dinner and stay in the confines of his diet, I plan and shop and prep and cook. He has to be careful at every meal. No cheating, because his disease could be life threatening if it flares. I am naturally not a little cottage wife who likes to whistle and dust, the proverbial Snow White. But early in my marriage, I saw the calling to have beautiful food in my house to nourish my family’s bodies and souls. Even now, when my family enjoys a meal I have prepared, it gives me pleasure. (I am not a fabulous cook as some of you are, but with effort over the years, I have improved immeasurably.)
With the current culture, we find ourselves busy beyond belief; therefore, throwing any ole thing on the table is more common than ever. I want to look at food in a light that I hope will encourage you to think hard about the food you feed your husband and family. I admit, this is a soapbox for me, but I think it is necessary to confront the quality of food most women feed their families.
For centuries, the family dinner table has been a place of great meaning. In Psalm 128:3, the psalmist writes, “Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.” Eating together has great meaning throughout the Scripture. This centuries-old tradition is worth discussing on many levels. But today, we will discuss only one.
Weston Price was a dentist known primarily for his theories on the relationship between nutrition, dental health, and physical health. He said that the aspects of a modern Western diet (particularly flour, sugar, and modern processed vegetable fats) cause nutritional deficiencies, and these deficiencies cause disease.Dr. Price studied and wrote about many diverse native cultures, including the Lötschental in Switzerland, Native Americans, Polynesians, Pygmies, and Aborigines.
Price argued that when these non-Western groups abandoned indigenous diets (their natural food from the land) and adopted Western patterns of living, they showed increases in typical Western diseases. He concluded that Western methods of preparing and storing foods stripped away vitamins and minerals necessary to prevent disease.
Studies such as Price’s abound everywhere. An abundance of fast food, processed food, and junk food is just plain foolish. The human body is an amazing machine, and it can filter out some harmful substances, but it can’t filter out a consistent overload of unhealthy food. God created natural food to perfectly nourish our extremely complex bodies. The complexity of natural food is actually staggering in the same way as the galaxies are staggering. Nutrition is a mind-boggling subject.
Because you are a wise wife, I encourage you to consider carefully what you are feeding your husband and your children. The Proverbs 31 woman went to a large effort to get beautiful food for her family, but you just have to go to Kroger. It’s what you buy there that is important. Don’t feed your family junk. Sugar is not love. Junk food is not love. Love your family, and feed them well with natural, healthy food.
If you sign up for a daily newsletter from Mercola.com, you will know more about nutrition in six months than many doctors. In my opinion, Dr. Joseph Mercola has written a tremendous book on health and eating called Fat for Fuel.
Yes, make beautiful food to delight your husband and kids. But be very mindful of the nutrition. If you study sugar and white flour and their damaging effects, you will realize that anything with those ingredients should be labeled with a skull and crossbones warning. How deceived we are as a culture that the amount of sugar we consume is ignored. An abundance of sugar causes all sorts of physical/mental/emotional problems. I think of Halloween, a day that overloads children everywhere with a kind of mild poison: sugar. Dear wise woman! Take the time to learn about nutrition.
Week Five, Day Five
If You Have a High-Maintenance Hubby
Giving attention to your difficult husband is tiresome because it is a daily job. Of course, your particular husband has certain things he cares about and things he doesn’t care about. Some husbands care about an extremely neat house. Some husbands care if dinner is ready exactly when they get home. Some husbands want their shirts hung up a certain way. Some husbands…Well, you get it. Figure out your husband’s preferences, and then make accommodations for him. The point is, all husbands care if you pay attention to their schedule, their preferences, and their comforts. All. Husbands. If you have a needy, high-maintenance husband, then give him what he needs as far as attention. Filling up most husbands is akin to filling up a bathtub. Needy husbands are akin to filling up the swimming pool. No husband (unless he is mentally ill) is like the Mississippi River. You might have a tough job on your hands, but you, the Proverbs 14:1 woman, are up for it! Say no to some other things so your husband is happy with the attention you give him. If your child has learning disabilities, you go the extra mile to get him what he needs as far as education. If your husband needs exceptionally high emotional maintenance, go the extra mile. This is the husband you were given to love, so don’t fuss; instead, love him to the moon and back.
Do the Work
I read an article on exercise that said “you have to do the work that others aren’t willing to do to get the results that others won’t get”. This is not to teach you to “lord it over” others, but that the concept that “effort largely determines results” is true in most domains. And in marriage, effort certainly matters. Sure, we would all like to eat ice cream, junk food, and candy and look like Gwyneth Paltrow, but seriously, are we lunatics? We want a marriage to rock the ages but we don’t want to put forth the effort to pour the 8 A’s into our husband’s tanks. We need to wake up and know that it’s a sowing and reaping world.
It’s true that you received some gifts in life without any effort on your part. Maybe you were given brains. Maybe you received a sunny disposition. Or maybe you were blessed with awesome Christian parents. In return for those gifts, you know that you are to offer up great gratitude (I hope you write down all of your millions of blessings.) Now, for everything else you didn’t get, there is one way to get it: work for it. The studies in “success” in any endeavor repeatedly point to the work and effort involved. Learn the skills. Practice the skills. Do this over and over again. Fail but then get back up. Persevere. The obvious sometimes escapes us.
A couple weeks ago, a friend told me that a young girl in college picked up Wife School from her coffee table and after having flipped through the table of contents, said, “I would never do all of this!” Without understanding how men think, we women would indeed think this program was preposterous. We want to believe the daytime TV talk shows that say “everything should be equal in marriage”. That’s fine, but it doesn’t work.
You can demand, overwhelm, be angry, criticize, beg, be sullen, and try all the normal methods that women have tried for centuries. They don’t work. Filling a man’s tank and slowly asking him for what you want (knowing that it will take a while for him to get it) is how wise wives build their homes. Turning around a marriage is much like planting a garden: it is patience and waiting. Till the soil, plant, water, weed, keep animals out, fertilize, and then (much later!), the fruit comes. Dig down into your soul and find the strength from the Lord in prayer to have Him meet your needs while you are turning this giant ocean liner of your marriage around. You can’t flip an ocean liner around in a moment nor can you flip your marriage in a moment. It takes weeks and months, and actually years to flip a marriage. But what you will have in five years is a man who loves you and wants to please you. The only, only, only way your husband is going to permanently change is if he wants to. Do you see that? The only way.
One of my friends and I were chatting yesterday and she said how incredible it was to have a husband “who wants to please you, who is kind and thoughtful of you” (not a perfect husband, but a wonderful husband). Women who have these husbands have been “growing their gardens” for years. The wise woman builds her house and the foolish woman, with her own hands, tears hers down. She tears it down by demanding that her husband change now. She tears hers down by her anger, her disappointment, her commando-mode of telling him what to do. Women, we are learning to be Marriage Champions and champions are not born overnight. It takes years to become a champion. Do the work required: meekness, humility, gratefulness, and a servant spirit!
Remember to record anything on your lists that your husband does that is positive, even the little things. It will encourage you to persevere. Ask anyone who has been divorced what they would give for a great, close, intimate marriage with a loving partner. You can’t buy this. You can only win it.
I feel so unworthy to come before you. In fact, as I sit in your presence, I can feel the smut and dirt on my soul. I bring before you my tendency to manipulate things so they benefit me. I bring before you how easily offended I am when I feel overlooked or that I did not receive high treatment (as I know that is pride like Haman’s). I bring before you my lack of concern for the poor, the hungry, and the needy. Instead, you know that I am primarily concerned about my comfort and success (and my children’s, as again, they are an extension of me).
What do I do about this heap of dung? Where can I find relief for the guilt and shame I feel? Who can help me change?
For me to have great forgiveness and great freedom in my spirit and soul, there is no work I can do, but there is something you did. You chose to provide the Lamb! Not only do I pay nothing for this forgiveness, you give it out and ask only that I now follow you and forgive others. Just like the unmerciful servant, I receive the huge ocean of your forgiveness but then have trouble extending a bathtub portion to others, especially the man I was given to love. Show me my ocean of rebellion toward you and your ways. Show me my utter reluctance to serve others (unless I somehow benefit). Show me how I want my name, not yours, high and lifted up. Show me the Jezebel spirit that I have (although you know how hard I try to hide it from others). Clean me out. May I be a branch on the Vine, receiving the Sap (John 15). May I be so full of you that when I get jostled, I spill the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5). In my own strength, I am a worm. But with your filling, I can have a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pet. 3). In addition, you say I am of great worth in your sight. Imagine that—me, a Jezebel, trading my spirit for yours and becoming a woman of great worth. That is more unbelievable than when you fed the five thousand! God, remind me over and over again of this great exchange. I bring my menstrual rags of good works (Isa. 64:6) to you. And somehow, someway, you will use nobody-me to do your great will. Amazing. Incredible. Mind boggling.
I don’t deserve this, but I do love it, God.
With great gratefulness and a new willingness to forgive even those who have hurt me,
And in the superior name of Jesus,
- How would you rate your natural attentiveness to your husband? Is this an area of strength or of weakness? Explain.
- How are you at hitting the ping pong ball back? Are you good at asking questions to draw your husband out and get him to talk more? Are you a naturally good listener? How might you improve in this area?
- Do you frequently ask your husband’s opinion, or are you usually interested only in filling his mind with yours? How could you improve in this area? ____________________________________________________________
- Do you make a big effort to have regular family meals? What do you know about health and nutrition? Are you aware of the disaster of sugar and the necessity of eating whole, natural food? Discuss your current views and also what you think you might need to do differently.
- Have you made peace with the concept of how much work it is to be a fantastic wife? Do you realize that it is a sowing and reaping world? Do you understand that the only way to a husband’s heart is to win it? _____________________________________________________________
Once again, I would like to say that this advice is not for women with husbands who are alcoholics, are abusive, or are committing adultery. Please contact your pastor or a Christian counselor for those issues. Wife School is for wives with normal husbands (annoying but not evil).
It is not good for man to be alone, and it is awesome to have a sweet marriage!