She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
-- Proverbs 31:10-12
1. Praise Him Verbally
Private nagging and public nitpicking are common temptations for wives of husbands who are sinners, by which I mean wives, but a wife ought to know that this is Chinese water torture on his heart. Most men carry around in their souls the question "Do I have what it takes?" The gospel answers this question, "No, but Jesus does, and what's his is yours." This is the only acceptable way to answer in the "negative." When you nitpick and nag, you give mouthpiece to the accuser who wants your husband to know not only does he not have what it takes, he is worthless because of it. So find ways to constructively criticize and help him repent, but more than that, tell him what you like about him, how you find him attractive or admirable, how you respect him or are impressed by him. Outdo him in showing honor (Rom. 12:10).
2. Submit to His Leadership
This is not a call to be a doormat, but in my pastoral experience I encounter many a wife who says she wants her husband to lead her but then makes it clear in some way that this will only occur when she agrees with his decision. There are few things more demoralizing than a demand to lead with no commitment to follow. Instead, if your husband is not leading you into sin, your followship of your husband is a reflection of your trust in God. Peter writes:
For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (1 Peter 3:5-6)3. Reject Relational Legalism
If your husband always feels as though he is only in your good graces when he has performed to your standards or met your expectations, he will not see you as his lover, friend, or partner, but as his boss. Do you know how deeply you want to feel approved of despite your flaws, sins, and failures, that your husband would know the real you and love that you? He wants the same thing, even if he never expresses it.
4. Take an Interest
It's not always that your husband doesn't like to talk. It's just that perhaps he's learned that your favorite subjects are things he doesn't have much to say about. Communicating with you in ways that edify and engage you is his command to obey with joy; communicating with him in ways that edify and engage him is yours. This might mean asking him questions about sports or hobbies or movies or power tools. Or maybe it doesn't mean talking but sitting on the couch to watch the game with him or invading his "man cave"* with your presence but not your agenda.
5. Make Love to Him
This is not universally true, but it is generally true: The number one way a husband feels encouraged is when his wife has sex with him. I put it last because it's likely the touchiest point (no pun intended), but it is (again, generally speaking) top of the list. If you're thinking, "Well, for some husbands maybe, but not mine," ask him. For most men, sexual intimacy is directly wired to feelings of encouragement, confidence, approval, attractiveness, and self-esteem. The things that you likely need in order to feel open to sexual intimacy are the things he typically feels afterwards -- closeness, respect, approval. I know it's weird that God set it up that way, but I think he did so that we would serve each other graciously with our bodies, learning to put each other first in a neat little "No, after you" kind of dance. In any event, one of the chief ways -- if not the chief way -- you can build up your husband is by bedding down with him.
Carolyn Mahaney's chapter "Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Wife Needs to Know" in the Piper/Taylor book Sex and the Supremacy of Christ is excellent on this subject. You can download the entire book for free here.
* Dudes, if you have a man cave the sole function of which is for you to spend regular amounts of time sequestered from your family, you need to repent and reorder your priorities.
Previously: 5 Ways Husbands Can Sanctify Their Wives