Friday, August 22, 2008

Married for Life Part VI

This is the next in my series of posts on marriage. This addresses how one partner in a marriage can better meet the needs of the other, especially if you better understand the needs of your partner (this post barely scratches the surface).

A significant problem in marriage is that men don’t understand women, and women don’t understand men. That’s why there’s a booming business in marriage books – anything to help us figure out the opposite sex! Reading a few of those books will help you understand how your spouse thinks.

Not only are we different as individuals, but men and women really do differ in how each views the world, how each communicates, and how each perceives and responds to different things.

It may not make sense to you, but that’s how he or she thinks and perceives things, which can be quite different from the way you do. Learning about these differences is definitely worth the investment in time. Two good books on the subject of the differences between men and women are “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” and “Men are like Waffles and Women are like Spaghetti.”

Along those lines, I want to discuss is what women really want from their husbands, and what men really want from their wives.

1. Needs of a Woman

The two biggest needs for women are love and security. They sort of go hand in hand, because if a woman feels genuinely loved, she will also feel secure. In the passages in the Bible concerning marriage, what are men told to do? “Love your wife.”

Ephesians 5:25a:
Husbands, love your wives… NRSV

1 Peter 3:7a:
Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together… NRSV

Colossians 3:19:
Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. NRSV

Women are naturally more loving, but the husbands need to be told to love their wives. This means that the men, while willing to die for their families if necessary, must also demonstrate their love in ways that are meaningful to women.

These include self-sacrificing acts (like devoting more time to the family), giving up some of the things you used to do for the good of the marriage, frequent outward signs of affection (and not just when you want something), remembering her birthday, your anniversary, and other important dates, surprising her with something thoughtful on occasion, and buying her an expensive diamond (OK, we can skip the diamond – besides, it is meaningless if your heart isn’t in it, and they can tell).

2. Needs of a Man

What do men want? Besides the obvious, the other thing that men want most is respect. Women want respect too, of course, but it is a very high priority for men, even though they might not even realize it. You may love a man, but if you act as if you don’t respect him, the relationship is in serious trouble.

Nowhere in the Bible does it tell wives to love their husbands. Women love – that’s what they do. But they don’t always respect. I just read three verses from those sections of the New Testament having to do with marriage and family relationships. The corresponding commands for wives in those sections have to do with respect. God, our Creator, knows that men need respect, because that’s how God made them. As I read these three verses, look beyond the words, and see what is really behind them:

Ephesians 5:22a:
Wives, be subject to your husbands… NRSV

1 Peter 3:1a:
Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands… NRSV

Colossians 3:18:
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. NRSV

Looking behind the words of these verses, what are they really saying? We can see that respect is at the heart of the matter. While husbands today don’t have the same kind of authority over the family that men had in the times of the Roman Empire (when these verses were written), they still need to be respected. Yet our culture puts down men and many wives often disrespect their husbands. Maybe if men were respected more, they would rise to the occasion and be more deserving of that respect.

More on the topic of love and marriage in a future post.

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