Editor’s Note: This article is part of our second annual “Impressed” series.
We were newly married. In retrospect, I suppose that I pictured a light bulb going on. Once we said “I do”, we would magically understand each other. How does it go, “Happy wife, happy life”? Or so I thought. It was never anything big. Just little, regular misunderstandings that would occasionally fester into major conversations.
As we worked through these events, I began to see the gap between what I was saying and what he was hearing, and the difference between what he and I needed to feel fulfilled in marriage. I guess I didn’t realize how much effort it takes for marriage to be great.
Eight years in, I have come to understand how much marriage involves service, sacrifice, self-denial, and attentiveness. For most, these characteristics are rarely our natural reaction. For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn invites women into a thought provoking discussion and reflection through hundreds of interviews with men offering new ways to view the inner lives of the opposite sex.
Here are three (of many) major themes that made a lasting impression on me: men are visual – even happily married men struggle with being pulled towards life and recollected images of other women; men need respect – men would rather feel unloved than inadequate and disrespected; and men are insecure – despite their “in control” exterior, men often feel like impostors and are insecure that their inadequacies will be discovered. Let’s dig in.
Lust and Chocolate
Men are visual. Every man, whether young or old, Christian or non-Christian, happily married or single, they all struggle with a visual nature. A simple moment as a beautiful woman walking past them can hold a man’s imagination captive. Prior to this book, I never understood the magnitude of this struggle. In fact, I think I viewed the whole struggle as the outlier. I believed only a few perverted men behaved that way. After reading these chapters I realized that in fact this behavior is the norm.
Upon this finding, I recognized that I had two choices. 1) I could become upset and overly emotional wondering why my husband would allow those lustful thoughts to even enter his mind. This seemed to be my natural response. I felt unloved, not good enough, and unsexy. Why can’t I fill this void in him? Then option two hit me in the face. 2) I could realize this is normal (not ok, but normal) and appreciate the FIGHT he is putting up, and the effort it takes to stay away from images, commercials, and women in general.
I felt unloved, not good enough, and unsexy. Why can’t I fill this void in him?
A great analogy the author uses is chocolate, which has a particularly special place in my heart. Imagine if we weren’t allowed to eat it. Yet, everywhere you turn, there it was. During every commercial, someone passes around a warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie or even worse, a chocolate covered salted caramel… you want it! You keep thinking of it, your mouth waters… “Can I just smell it?” This may seem absurd, but it is the closest I can relate to the struggle men have. Though I may not relate in the least, I must begin to offer God’s grace and do my best to help within this area.
One important side note to this conversation that she talks about is the distinction of men giving in to these lustful desires and men who are striving for Godliness. This was a critical piece in her presentation. Temptation and sin are two different things. The author illustrates that few men can stop themselves from the desire to look away, however, every man can choose to look away. Interestingly, the one variable in whether the men chose to look away was whether they regularly attended a church service. It’s also important for us to realize that not all temptation is sexual in nature, every man is different and that it’s not because of us. Understanding this can free us from assuming the worst, and even worse, thinking it is because something is wrong with us.
Tone and Wording
Have you ever witnessed a woman nagging her husband? Have you noticed her tone, her gestures, his face, and the building anger? It is so sad. The tricky part about this topic is that sometimes we are unaware of what communicates disrespect. Who would have thought that asking, “What are you doing?” while your husband rummages the fridge communicates distrust. He hears, “You don’t know what you are doing, you are going to mess it up.” Rather, asking him, “Can I help you find something?” communicates love and a desire to assist.
It’s all about tone and wording – two things I am constantly praying about! When we communicate absolute trust, we do things inside of our husbands that nothing else can. At all times, they feel judged, scrutinized and evaluated. Home should be the place he feels most appreciated, needed and desired. How we speak to our husbands is a discipline, after all, our tongue is a double-edged sword. (James 3:6) We must pray about this and actively engage in self- discipline in this area.
When we communicate absolute trust, we do things inside of our husbands that nothing else can.
Service and Sacrifice
Ultimately, it is difficult to hear all the “needs” of men and not feel defensive or frustrated. In marriage, we can get into this cycle where we aren’t meeting each other’s needs of love vs. respect or service vs. intimacy. We can keep a tally of all the wrongs and hold grudges, or, we have a choice to serve and to sacrifice. We can stop the bad cycle and start a good cycle.
Begin with a note, or words of affirmation. Tell him how much you appreciate all the work he does for the family, or point out an area he is gifted in. Then, I would make a disciplined and prayerful effort to slow down in every day interactions and assess what he might be hearing vs. what you want to communicate. Get inside of his head. Intimacy plays a crucial role in this good cycle. Engage in regular and meaningful sex. When my husband feels appreciated and needed, something ignites inside of him. The twinkle in his eye is illuminated. The good cycle begins.
The three personal impressions I mentioned here are but a small portion of the many gems contained within this book. I truly believe that no mater how long you have been married, this book will help your marriage if you let the contents change your action. Read it prayerfully. Ask God what areas He wants you to spend some time on. Even if your marriage is in a great place, this book will show you things that will make it even better. And lastly, remember ultimately, you are the only person you can change.
Also check out (or have your husband check out) For Men Only, a book designed for men to get some insight into our minds!
Did you like today’s post? Be sure to subscribe to our email list and for a limited time, receive our FREE eBook Overcoming the Darkness, as our thanks to you!
Image Credit: Patrick, Creative Commons. Some changes made.