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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What a girl wants

Sunday I had the opportunity to share with the men in our congregation about how to love their wives. I have promised all week that I would post the main points on the blog, so here it is, with all the funny stories edited out. It is still way long. Feel free to break it up into smaller chunks for reading purposes. Just so you all know, I lost power no less than 6 times while trying to post this. Crazy, huh!

"And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her.” Ephesians 5:25

Most men desperately love their wives. I have met a few exceptions, but generally when I talk to men they tell me about what an incredible woman their wife is. However, somewhere in the craziness of life, many men do not communicate their adoration and admiration to their beautiful wives. Then they are confused about why their wife is frustrated, irritable, and not interested in sex.

The verse in Ephesians is a reminder that Christ loved us unconditionally and abundantly. Most guys would stop a bullet for their wife, but I think this verse is about so much more than Christ dying for us. He lived every moment of his life on earth to love his people. He healed the sick, made the lame to walk, and made people whole. He gave away his life every single day to the people around him.

So how do you communicate love to your wife? How do you make her feel like she in an amazing and incredible woman?

1. Your wife needs affection.

“Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.”

1 John 3:18

Affection is expressed with words and with actions. While this verse in 1 John expresses the importance of demonstrating love with actions, it also reminds us that saying we love each other is important. Love must be expressed verbally, and with actions. Women cannot read your mind. They do not know that you think they are amazing unless you say it out loud.

“How beautiful you are, my beloved, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are like doves. Your hair falls in waves, like a flock of goats frisking down the slopes of Gilead. Your teeth are as white as sheep, newly shorn and washed. They are perfectly matched; not one is missing. Your breasts are like twin fawns of a gazelle, feeding among the lilies.” Song of Songs 4:1-2, 5

Solomon was very wise. As he held his beloved in his arms, he begins at the tip of her head, and expresses his thoughts about her beautiful body all the way to her toes. He is generous in his praise....even noticing her complete set of teeth!

If you don't know what to say - I have one word - Hallmark. Buy her a card, send her a text, email her during the day. The point is to be abundant in your praise. Make sure that she hears from you often about how beautiful she is and how much you love her. You will be amazed at her reaction. (Just read the end of Song of Songs, chapter 4 - something about come into my garden....)

“Kiss me again and again, for your love is sweeter than wine.” Song of Songs 1:2

I skipped this verse in the message on Sunday, but I thought it was worth pointing out here that women and men daydream differently. When a man fantasizes about his wife, she's either naked or getting that way. But notice what the bride is saying in this verse. She is fantasizing about kissing her husband. Women daydream about slow dancing, walking in the rain holding hands, about laughing over dinner, about sharing our souls, and about making out with our sexy husbands. We are romantics at heart. Most women need romance in order to be ready for the getting naked part of marriage. Skipping the romance is a large part of what leads women to resentment.

However, women understand romance in a variety of ways. The key is studying your wife to figure out how she understands love, and to offer her affection in a way that meets that need.

“My lover said to me, ‘Rise up, my beloved, my fair one, and come away … Come my love, let us go out into the field and spend the night among the wildflowers. Let us get up early and go out to the vineyards.” Song of Songs 2:10, 7:11-12

Notice what Solomon is doing here. He's planning a date. All women like to be dated. For women like me that are way far over on the spectrum of quality time for our love language, dates are non-negotiable. Back in the day our marriage counselor recommended that we date a MINIMUM of once a month, and that we go away for the weekend at least 3 times a year. Can't afford it? Well, it's far cheaper than a divorce.

Touching your wife is another important part of showing her affection. Many women complain to me in counseling sessions that their husband only touches their boobs - that it has been years since he touched them anywhere else. While men like to go for the goal right away, your wife wants to be touched differently. We like a back rub, a squeeze on the arm, a kiss on the cheek, holding hands, running your fingers through our hair while we watch TV, or a gentle hand on the small of our back. These are the touches that signal love to us - that we are valuable and important in your life - that we matter to you as more than someone who warms your bed at night.

Many women also love small gifts such as flowers, coffee, a favorite snack (I like fudge rounds), or other inexpensive items. Bottom line - experiment. Notice when your wife's eyes light up. That means you have hit the jackpot. Wives - help your husband out. Don't be afraid to say, "I really like it when you....." Despite what Danielle Steele says in her romance novels, men cannot read your mind.

2. Your wife needs conversation.

My dove is hiding behind some rocks, behind an outcrop on the cliff. Let me see you let me hear your voice. For your voice is pleasant, and you are lovely.” Song of Songs 2:14

A woman's soul is like a dove hiding behind a rock. After being wounded in many relationships, we become cautious about sharing our soul. You have to work hard to draw us out into the open. Women want you to want them. They want you to want to know them deeply and intimately. They want to be heard when they are sharing their hurts, joys, pains, and dreams. This is hard for most men. Learning to listen to a woman and not try to fix her problems is like learning to speak Russian for most guys. Keep trying - don't give up!

“His mouth is altogether sweet; he is lovely in every way. Such, O women of Jerusalem, is my lover, my friend.” Song of Songs 5:16

Your wife wants you to be her best friend. She wants you to know and understand her, and she wants to know and understand you. Many men are done talking by the end of the day. They want to come home, sit down and relax. However, most women still have about 30,000 words left to speak. If you do not talk to your wife, she will invent negative things that you might be thinking about - when you are actually just in your nothing box relaxing.

Practical tip - try to head off the storm. God did not make men with the ability to multi-task. You cannot watch TV or play on your phone and listen to your wife at the same time. That's okay, it's the way you are designed. If you will give your wife about 15 minutes every day of your undivided attention, your marriage will change.

I come home every day to a pot of coffee. No matter who's on the phone, what crisis is going on, or how busy he is, Shawn stops his life. We sit down on the couch for a few minutes and talk. "How was your day?" "Alright." "How was yours?" "good." It's usually not anything profound or earth shattering, but sometimes we do have big news to share, or I need to vent about a student, or he needs advice on a ministry idea.

Find what works for you. Some people have coffee before work, some meet for lunch, we visit a lot while we cook dinner together, some people go for a walk after supper, some share a late night snack after the kids are in bed. Spending time talking to and listening to your wife is critical. I can't emphasize that enough. When I counsel women involved in affairs, they all say the same thing. "But he just 'gets' me." Women end up in affairs with men who make them feel understood. You be the man that knows your wife!

3. Your wife needs a teammate.

“And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him.’” Genesis 2:18

Your wife wants to be your companion, your teammate, your best friend. Not your mom. Life is tough. You wife wants someone who can stand beside her and help her weather the storm. There are two major things she is looking for.

a. Your wife wants you to be a great dad.

There is nothing sexier than a man who delights in his kids. We love to watch you affirming, hanging out, playing with our kids. When you love our kids, it's the same as loving us. When I catch my husband patiently explaining Katie's math homework, or talking to James about how proud he is of him, or holding Grace close when she cries - I am awed. When I catch my husband being a great dad, I am so very thankful that I get to be married to him! It reminds me that he is amazing and worthy of respect!

b. Your wife needs help around the house.

I know you hate housework. I know that you work hard and want to relax when you get home. Yep. Me too.

When women come tell me they are thinking about a divorce, the conversation almost always starts like this, "He never helps around the house." I don't know of anything that women resent more than a man who sits on his butt while they are cleaning.

But let me share the positive side of helping around the house. One of my friends said today, "My husband is only one clean house away from the night of his dreams." All the other women quickly agreed. Is your wife too tired at night? Be a part of the solution. Help with getting the house clean so that she has time to relax and shift gears before bed.

How you choose to be a part of the solution may vary. I know couples that have specific chore lists, some hire housekeepers, some clean just on Friday night and then go out to eat, we clean every day (our house is on the market). We just sort of dive in and do whatever needs doing. We don't sit down and watch TV unless we can both sit down.

Ladies - if your husband is trying, notice and compliment him! He doesn't have to do the chores exactly the way you like them. Only correct major issues - things like washing reds with whites, putting dawn in the dishwasher, mixing bleach and ammonia....He doesn't have to do it all your way for it to be right.

“There are three things that amaze me - no, four things I do not understand: how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.” Proverbs 30:18-19

You may feel overwhelmed at this point. Women are complicated creatures, loving them can be challenging. Let me leave you with one last thought - it's okay to change slowly. Rome wasn't built in a day. Be patient. Seek every day to love your wife more tan you did the day before.

Wives - encourage your husband on this journey. He is not a girl and does not understand how God made you. Be patient as he tries. He will make mistakes and do stupid stuff. So do you. So forgive him and try again.

I want you all to know that Shawn and I are praying for your marriages. We believe in you. We know that sometimes you may hit a tough spot. Hang in there and keep trying. The best things in life are usually not the easiest ones.

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