Did you know that your husband—and most men—view romance through different lenses than most women? To confirm this, the next time you are in Bible study or Sunday school class, divide the men and women into separate groups and ask them to answer the same question: “What is something romantic that you would like your spouse to do for you?”

We will guarantee you that, if they are honest, the men will focus on physical intimacy: “Dress up in a sexy negligee” … “Meet me at the front door without any clothes.” The women, however, will say things like, “Take me to a romantic, candlelit restaurant” … “Spend time talking with me” … “Sit in front of a fire together and cuddle.” Men are generally motivated by sight and touch, while women usually want to develop a relationship.

Meeting your husband’s romantic needs involves seeking to understand that they are likely different than yours. It also means being willing to sacrifice your own needs at times to meet those of your husband. We have learned the hard way that selfishness and romance do not mix well.

We’d like to help you become an even greater student of your husband. This article can’t teach you everything you need to know; you’ve got to carefully investigate the real thing. But here are four areas to start with as you pursue a deeper understanding of your husband.

Need #1: He needs your sincere respect. One of the deepest needs a man has is to be respected by his wife. Notice we said it’s one of the deepest needs. There are others, but your respect—or lack thereof—impacts his view. Respecting your husband includes listening to him, not simply hearing the words that come out of his mouth, but taking what he is saying seriously. If Barbara listens to me (Dennis) when I express a desire that I think is important for the family or the children, but never acts on what I have said, she has not shown me respect. It does not matter what the reason might be for her to ignore what I told her; it still hits me in the stomach. If she were to do this frequently, it would have definite consequences in our relationship and in the bedroom.

Another way to respect your husband is to honor him for what he is doing to meet the needs of the family. Showing gratefulness to a man is like feeding him his favorite meal. It is a feast to his heart and soul. Even if he is doing a poor job in some areas, there must be something he does well—providing for the family through his job, keeping the house clean, or perhaps leading the family in devotions.

Need #2: He needs to feel desired by you sexually. I will never forget an encounter with the young wife of a seminary student. She came up to me after I had spoken in a class for wives about how they could communicate love to their husbands, and she began to giggle.

“We were driving home the other night from youth group,” she said (her husband was a youth pastor). “I turned to him and I said, ‘Sweetheart, what would really encourage you to be a man of God?’ There was a moment of silence, and finally he said, ‘Well, it would really encourage me if I came home from class one afternoon and found you at home with no clothes on, welcoming me home.'”

The wife giggled again and asked, “Do you think he really meant it?”

I said, “I don’t know. Maybe you ought to try it!”

Now, isn’t it interesting that this man who has immersed himself in the study of the Scriptures answered his wife this way? You would think he might want a set of theology books or some time with a great man of God. No, he wants time with his wife, alone, just to be affirmed sexually.

This is a powerful picture. Your husband’s sexuality is so much a part of who he is that it affects virtually every part of his life. The wise woman understands that her man longs to be needed sexually by her. If you really want to get to the bottom line for men, and you really want to express love to your husband in a powerful way, just express to your husband that you need him sexually.

Need #3: He needs your adventurous companionship. When we began dating in the summer of 1972, you would have to say it was an intense relationship from the start. We went out 52 out of 55 days, and we missed those three days only because of sickness! Although there was no sexual involvement of any kind, we enjoyed plenty of romance. We did all sorts of things together—picnics, hikes, long drives, late night talks sitting outside her apartment … no two dates were the same.

We’ve had some great highlights in our years together since our wedding on September 2, 1972—a trip for our tenth anniversary to New England in the fall to view the foliage, a getaway at a cozy bed-and-breakfast inn, a trip to the hill country of Texas … For us romance has always been spelled a-d-v-e-n-t-u-r-e. On one of our dates I asked Barbara, “Out of all the adventures and romantic times we’ve had together, what has been your favorite?”

I wasn’t surprised by her answer: “Our honeymoon.”

Now I know that’s not true for some folks. But for us it was an all-time memory maker. I won’t bore you with the details, but I took weeks to plan a two-week honeymoon in the Colorado Rockies. We camped, hiked, explored the magnificent Rocky Mountains, fished, took tons of pictures, and stayed in a cabin next to a roaring river.

She loved our time together because it was an adventure with plenty of time for just the two of us to talk and share our thoughts and our dreams.

Need #4: He needs to feel that his sexuality is received and affirmed by you. Your husband is a sexual creature made in the image of God. Many wives misunderstand this. They think the male sex drive is something dirty. They wonder if God holds His nose every time a man initiates. Why do some women think this way? Because, in all likelihood, they fail to remember the male sex drive is God’s idea.

I’m not surprised that this gift which God intended to use as a means to draw husbands and wives closer, Satan twists to drive them apart. Most men, for example, find initiating the sex act one of the riskiest ventures they could ever make. Why? Each time they initiate sex, they risk rejection.

When a man is rejected often enough, he typically internalizes his anger, his hurt, and his disappointment until such time when the rejection drives him to one of several reactions—none of them are good. Either he will give up on the relationship, he will seek alternative sexual outlets such as pornography, or he might compromise his wedding vows by pursuing female affirmation elsewhere.

Can you see how a wife has the power to affirm or to wound her husband? Let me add, when she affirms him she brings joy to her heavenly Father, too. Isn’t that powerful? When you embrace your femininity and affirm your husband’s sexuality, you are an agent of blessing.

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A final encouragement

Our enemy does not want husbands and wives to be intimate—sexually or otherwise. In fact, everywhere we turn, inappropriate sex is on television, in the movies, in popular music, in advertising, and especially on the internet. Satan serves up a powerful counterfeit in order to keep couples from enjoying God’s good design for sex.

This is why we implore you to try something you may not have done before. Consider praying together about your sexual relationship. Pray that God will be honored in your marriage bed. Ask God to give you the wisdom and strength to be selfless as you meet each other’s needs. The Holy Spirit can guide you and lead you to be a better lover.

Really? Absolutely!

Why not pray softly and give thanks for your husband during the “afterglow.” What finer moment to say, Lord Jesus, thank you for this man You’ve given me. Thank you for what we have just enjoyed together. Thank you for him. Thank you for his love and for his trust in me as a woman.

There is something about prayer and asking the Holy Spirit into your relationship that invites a selfless attitude, one that truly seeks to put the other person first. As you are sensitive to God’s Spirit, you will become more sensitive to your spouse—even when it sometimes means denying yourself.

God longs for you and your husband to learn how to please each other and experience this incredible act of oneness that He reserved for marriage.

Adapted from Simply Romantic Secrets. Copyright © 2003 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved. Used by permission.