I've been married eight years now, and sometimes I feel I still don't understand my wife, especially in the area of romance. What can I do?
Barbara: In our marriage, Dennis and I have continued to discover things about each other—and we've been married since 1972. It's just a lifelong process. I would just encourage husbands not to give up, not to lose heart, and instead to be encouraged by the challenge. You really wouldn't want to marry someone if you could figure her out that quickly.
Dennis: The challenge to live with our wives "in an understanding way" (1 Peter 3:7) should be embraced by every husband. I wouldn't be too concerned that a husband doesn't understand his wife after just a few years of marriage. Barbara and I were with a Christian leader and his wife who had recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. I'll never forget what he said when asked if he understood his wife. Speaking with the utmost love and respect for his wife he said, "I'll never fully understand my wife—she's a woman, she's different. God made her that way."
When it comes to romance, the sexes speak a different language. Is God playing a cruel prank on us by making us so different? I don't think so. As the years go by we need to ask God to give us the ability to meet each other's needs. Every husband should seek to listen to and truly understand his wife's language of love (and vice versa) and then begin finding creative ways of communicating romance to her.
I've found it helpful to ask, "What can I do to let you know that I love you? Or, what communicates love and romance to you?"
If what communicates love to her is surprise, then find a way to surprise her. Maybe it's just conversation—just spending some uninterrupted time talking. Or taking a walk. There needs to be variety and creativity. She needs to feel like you are thinking about her in different ways at different times and not just the same old prescribed pattern. Many times I think that Barbara doesn't want to be figured out. She wants to see if I really do care enough to seek to understand her. Understanding is an ongoing process, not a goal to be achieved.
Barbara: A wife wants her husband to love her and be willing to pursue her and continue to know who she is and who she is becoming. She wants to be more complex and intriguing and more of a challenge not easily figured out.
Ephesians 5:25 states, "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church." And Christ gave Himself up for the church; He denied Himself. When a woman sees her husband denying himself for her, she responds to him just as the church responds to Christ. I believe when she sees his genuine sacrifice, she understands that it's because of love.
On the other hand, if a woman senses her husband is romancing her in order to meet his own personal need, then she feels manipulated, or controlled, or less valued ... used. She may begin to fear that she would be taken advantage of, taken for granted sexually, and unappreciated in any number of ways.
A wife's ultimate need is to be loved as Christ loved the church. No man can or will do that perfectly. But a husband who is seeking to become the man God wants him to be will be learning to practice Ephesians 5:25 in his marriage. The result is a wife who begins to feel and experience unconditional love and a marriage of growing commitment, trust, and fulfillment.
Dennis: I think men want romance to be like arithmetic: A + B = C. And therein lies the frustration as well as the intrigue. If he knows that is the way it works, then she knows that he will do A + B = C every time, and that gets boring. That's why the equation changes for a woman and why a husband needs to be attentive to his wife's needs.
That's why one of the best things we have done over the years is to have a regular date night. Just an evening to reconnect relationally and emotionally to one another. Romance has a better chance of being nurtured away from phones, TVs, and the demands of children.
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