One Saturday morning I was in our bedroom closet. I noticed that my wife’s side of the closet looked much better than mine. I thought, I need to make my side look better, and decided I would arrange and clean my side of the closet. Now, I am not really wired for arranging and cleaning anything—certainly not closets. When I see something that needs to be arranged, I typically rearrange the piles so they are in different places, but they’re still piles.
My wife, Mary Ann, walked in and asked, “What are you doing?”
“I’m cleaning the closet.”
And then she kindly and graciously said, “No, you’re not. Here, let me help.”
I was so grateful! I was grateful that God gave me somebody who is better at closets than I am.
That is a simple and silly illustration, but God made us different to complement one another. Sometimes our differences annoy one another.
I believe that when God created us male and female, He made us different in more than just biological ways. I believe that different skills, abilities, and interests are hardwired into the souls of men and women. Not all differences between us are defined by gender, but there is enough evidence to support the legitimacy of certain gender distinctions.
I believe the following characteristics are true for most men, but maybe not all men. What this means is that there are some common ways men are broken or messed up or in need, and there are some common ways a wife can help her husband be what God wants him to be by understanding his flesh patterns.
1. A husband needs a helper. He doesn’t need a wife who nags or scolds or shames. He doesn’t need a wife who complains about him to others or who tries to control him. He needs a wife who will be his ally and his partner.
God knew your gaps and He knew your husband’s gaps and He said, “I am going to put the two of you together.” Some of that gap-filling will take some sandpaper, because there are rough edges to get it working. But when it fits, it’s a beautiful thing.
There may be gaps in your husband’s life in the area of finances, parenting, taking care of the house or the car, or leading the family spiritually. God said, “Ladies, a man needs help. I gave you to him to be a helper.”
2. A husband needs his wife’s perspective. He doesn’t see 360 degrees. He needs the benefit of your intuition and your insights. He needs you to share your perspective with him humbly and respectfully, and he doesn’t need your harsh, hard judgment or criticism of his failures or mistakes.
3. A husband needs his wife’s support and encouragement. No matter how confident he may appear, men are insecure and have self doubts. He needs his wife to provide support and encouragement.
4. If a husband feels he’s not winning at something, his impulse is not to keep trying, but to quit and spend his time doing things where he can win. He needs to feel like he’s succeeding at the things he’s doing. And that leads to the next point …
5. A husband needs his wife to believe in him and cheer him on. He needs to know that his wife is on his team even if he has just messed up. He needs to know that his wife is with him, no matter what, and that she wants to be part of the solution rather than just pointing out what he did wrong.
After I speak at a conference, people will often approach me and say things like, “That was so helpful” or “Thanks for that message—it was just what I needed to hear.” I appreciate those comments, but I’ve got to say that if Mary Ann is in the audience, I’m even more encouraged when she says, “You did great!”
We need a cheerleader. We need to know you love us and you’re going to stay with us no matter what.
6. A husband needs his wife to give him grace and still love him even when he makes mistakes or fails. In other words, a husband needs his wife to respond to him in a way that demonstrates the mercy and grace of God.
7. A husband would rather be respected than loved. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to be loved. It just means that respect is huge.
I’ve observed that many men who do not feel respected at home will try to find respect somewhere else—a business, a hobby, or even in the arms of another woman. Don’t misunderstand me here—I’m not excusing infidelity, and I’m not rationalizing the sinful choices of a man. I’m just observing what often happens in marriage.
8. One of the most powerful ways a wife can encourage, affirm, and minister to her husband is by responding to him sexually. I’ve already discussed a man’s need for affirmation and respect; probably the most powerful way you can affirm and respect your husband is when you respond to him sexually.
9. A husband needs his wife to have an unshakable confidence in the goodness and sovereignty of God. This will mean that she will respond to her husband’s leadership. She will not seek to control him or to control things that are in God’s hands.
With God, we have to learn to trust Him and surrender to Him. That can sometimes be difficult even though we know that He will never leave us or forsake us, that He has promised good to us, and that He is working all things together for good.
It can be much harder to surrender to a husband who is fallible—who has demonstrated that he is not perfect and that he doesn’t always have your best interest at heart. The only reason you would surrender control to a husband is because God has directed you to do that, and because He promises to always be with you, even when your husband messes up.
Ultimately, it is God who makes it possible for us to honor each other and serve one another and care for each other and forgive each other in marriage. Our differences make it difficult to live in harmony, but God gives us the power to work through those differences with love and humility.