Marriage is not easy. Many do not make the finish line.
Divorce does not happen in an instant. It results from unresolved failures and hurt over a long period of time.
In an effort to strengthen marriages, here are 5 essential actions husbands must take, but too often miss:
- Love God with high accountability. Let’s be honest. How easy is it to appear godly on Sunday mornings? It doesn’t take that much. Say “hi” with a smile. Sit in the sanctuary during the worship service. Thank the nursery worker for holding your inconsolable infant. How much harder is it to actually be godly while at home? There is nothing that has grown me in my relationship with God like my relationship with my wife. She will not permit me to live less than God’s best for me. The Bible says one person will sharpen another as iron sharpens iron. I used to read that only as a recipe for mentoring. But it’s also a great rule in marriage. When done biblically, husband and wife sharpen one another, quickly pointing one another back to God.
- Bear responsibility in marriage. Before marriage, I took care of me. Only me. Even at that, I did a poor job. I’d watch 20 hours of football a weekend on a steady diet of Cheetos and Mountain Dew. Marriage catapulted me into responsibility. And I mean that in the most positive way possible. Somewhere responsibility got a bad rap. Responsibility became an object to be avoided by husbands rather than embraced. So much so that there’s a joke where husbands are counted in the family as one of the kids. That joke needs to die. It will, as husbands bear more responsibility. Men crave the respect of their wives. One way by which they will show themselves respectable is by bearing a greater amount of responsibility in marriage.
Many of you who are husbands will also become fathers. Bearing that title is not easy. For example, I can walk into just about any group of people and instantly be given some measure of respect. It may be less. It may be more. But people will grant me that, even ones who don’t know me that well. Then I walk into a room with my (then) toddlers, the only two people on the planet that can call me daddy. I tell them to hold on to that, but they drop it. I tell them to drop it, but they hold on to that. I say, “Come here,” and they run away. No obedience. No respect. The beautiful thing is that they don’t stay this way. They grow. They change. They begin to show hints of obedience and respect. And we get the privilege to share in that.
Men can have the tendency to eject themselves out of situations where they don’t have the answer. In marriage and parenting, that is going to happen often. Many of life’s challenges (e.g. miscarriage, loss of a parent, unresolved conflict, unemployment, sexual issues, unmet expectations, parenting, the holidays, the in-laws, sinful choices, etc.) do not have a clear-cut good option. There aren’t easy answers. But husbands must keep showing up. Too often marriage and family get eclipsed by work pursuits. It’s easier for men to stay in an environment where they feel exceedingly competent and highly compensated. But there’s only person on the planet who can be a husband to your wife and a dad to your kids – you. Stay engaged. Bear the responsibility that is rightfully yours.
- Connect emotionally. Too much of a stereotype? In all my years of marriage counseling, I’ve yet to hear from a wife who says their husband shares too much of his heart. There are rare couples where the husband is more of a “feeler” than his wife. Yet vastly more common is the stereotypical couple. She shares from her heart. He does not. Or he does so very little. In such cases I often ask the wives, do you want to hear more from him? “Absolutely!” “Well, of course!” “I would love it!” I’ve yet to hear a wife say otherwise.
So what an opportunity you husbands have! Your wives want to hear from you. They want to hear about your work project, next home remodel idea, and family vacation dreams. Believe it or not, husbands, you feel a certain way about these activities. You may feel stressed about a deadline, angry over a remodel bid, or eager for that getaway. She wants to hear about that.
Wives, you tend to start with emotion. You unwrap this bundle of feelings as you talk with your best friend, co-worker, mom, and husband. Some of these emotions have arisen out of something concrete. But not all of them. With some of the feelings you are unable to discern their cause. You just feel this way and you don’t know why. Husbands have been baffled by this for centuries. It’s why we ask, “Could it be this? This? That?” We don’t get it.
Conversely, wives, your husband likely starts with something more concrete – a golf score, paying bills, hitting a work deadline. Each of those activities absolutely brings emotion. It’s just men don’t start with their emotions. They start by describing the activity. For example, “I had driven the golf ball 250 yards. It left me 230 yards out. I can never hit my 3-wood straight. It always ends up in the trees or out-of-bounds. But I hit that ball straighter than I ever have. It rolled up the front edge of the green, tracking toward the pin, and then disappeared! I fell over with excitement. Guys were hooting and hollering. It felt amazing.” Hearing him describe the event is often the tunnel through which you must pass to arrive at their emotions. What baffles wives are the activities husbands choose to get excited about. She questions, “So, you don’t like either of these football teams, but you’ve created your own team, which has a player from each of these teams, and if they get you enough points, you win a fake game.” To which he replies, “It’s not a fake game. It’s fantasy football.”
- Measure your time. It was a perfect summer day. You know the kind that comes around only once or twice a summer? (I don’t live in SoCal. This is Minnesota.) I was on the north side of my house doing I know not what. But I’ll never forget it. On this day, this perfect day, I wanted what I wanted. I didn’t want to be doing this. And in a moment of frustration I silently cried out to God, “When do I get to do what I want to do? When do I get control over my time?” And as I stewed in self-pity God came to me gently and clearly. “Who said it was your time?” In that moment I was reminded that it’s all God’s, including my time. In marriage my time is used under God in service to my family.
Husbands, your time is not your own. It’s parceled up into countless different commitments. If you need a break or some time to yourself, talk to you wife. Do so long before the break you consider is divorce. And, those of you with children, realize that your wife hasn’t truly had a break break since nine months before the kids were born. As a bachelor, you measured free time in weeks and days. As a husband that often shrinks to an hour here and an hour there. As a dad free time is measured in minutes and seconds.
- Bring her pleasure in sex. Imagine that. Husbands, sex might actually be for her pleasure, not just yours. One of the more common but less known realities of marriage is how sex becomes a one way street. It becomes just for him. She “gets it over with.” She “services” him. She “avoids it all costs” whether through headache, tiredness, or monthly cycle. While not discounting the differences between the genders, let me state unequivocally, wives are designed for sexual climax and fulfillment too! It is intended to be intimate, sensual, arousing, and pleasurable for her too. If it’s been one-sided, change that. Sit down to discuss what needs to change. Do you need to learn about her body? There are books for that. Do you need to carve out more time for it? That is doable. Do you need to connect to her emotionally? Take time to talk with her, listening to what she is excited, worried, or thinking about. Do you need to bear greater responsibility with the kids so she might have a bit more energy for sex? Do it. Do it now. Sex is designed to be a two-way street, a mutual give and take. Husbands, make sure you’re giving.
What do you think? Add your comment to the conversation. We’re here to help one another learn and grow. You can help us by sharing your thoughts.
Or read of other posts on marriage and sex:
- Christian couple questioning value of abstinence before marriage
- On being single in the Church
- On divorce – from three people who’ve experienced its pain
- Should your spouse be your best friend?
- Learning about sex from making brownies
- 105 (respectful) comments regarding gay marriage