Our children and I once watched a new shopping center go up near our home. Initially, progress was rapid; the lot was cleared and the concrete pads were poured in one week. Then the walls went up, quickly followed by the framing for the roof.

But one day, we turned the corner and slowed our van in disbelief. The entire structure had collapsed! The wooden roof trusses lay flat in neat rows, surrounded by the remains of the crumbled brick walls. It appeared that there had been an explosion.

Puzzled, we asked what had happened and learned that the carpenters had failed to secure and brace the new structure properly. The building’s roof, held in place only by two boards, had collapsed under the weight of two carpenters.

As I reflected with amazement on the need for support in the building’s structure, I saw a parallel in our marriage. The roof is like my husband’s self-esteem.

Ephesians 5:23 teaches that the husband is “the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church.” When we first married, I committed to being under the roof of Dennis’s protection. He had all the structural basics, but he was brand-new at being my protector. Like that roof, he appeared to be solidly in place, but he needed me to help secure him—to brace him by believing in him.

Fortunately, I did come alongside him. Through the years, the weight of life’s pressures has sometimes shaken him, but he has remained solidly over me as my roof, my protector. Today, although still not perfectly secure, my husband’s structural integrity is much more stable. He tells me that I have had a major part in helping him to feel more sure of himself as a man and as a husband.

Likewise, you can strengthen your husband’s self-esteem. But first you must recognize where he needs bolstering. Many women today are so caught up in finding their own identity that they, like the carpenters who were building the shopping center, make assumptions about their husband’s self-confidence and security. Your mate may be full-grown on the outside, but inside he undoubtedly feels some insecurity. He’s not so sure how to be a man in this world where women have growing independence and society is changing the traditional rules of relationships.

How does a wife build her husband’s self-esteem? Basically, by making her responsibility as wife her number-one focus. By developing the right attitudes, a wife can meet some of her husband’s needs—needs to be believed in, supported, and encouraged.

It has been said, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” There is a famous story of one woman believed that literally. She and her husband, the mayor of a large city, walking down a city street one day when a construction worker on a nearby scaffolding leaned over and shouted, “Hello, Peggy.” She turned to look and recognized the carpenter as an old boyfriend from high school. She returned his greeting, and they had a brief conversation before she and her husband continued their walk. The mayor chuckled and said to his wife, “See there, if you had married him, you’d be the wife of a construction worker.”

She looked at him and said, “No, dear, if I’d married him, he would be the mayor of this city.”

No matter what type of man you are married to, God wants you to set your sights on building his self-esteem.

Excerpted from Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Copyright © 1995 by Dennis Rainey. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Publishers. All rights reserved.