Wednesday, December 14, 2011

5 Ways Wives Can Encourage Their Husbands

An excellent wife who can find?
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


Jay Beerley said...

My favorite comment there is about man-caves. Amen, brother.

bobw said...

amen to all of them, especially #5 ;-)

Ashley Ramsey said...

Jared, could you do another post expanding on the third point? I know if my husband read this he would most resonate with that point. I'd really like to grow in this, but have no idea where/how to begin.

Jessica said...

Very good points, I was especially helped by number 3. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Agreed with Ashley Ramsey.

Anonymous said...

"confidence, approval, attractiveness, and self-esteem"---Do we REALLY want to motivate and cultivate these qualities in husbands? And, equally important, is sex to be a means to a selfish end beacause it produces certain reactions? No, sex is self-giving. This sort of recomended psycho-babble is injurious to marriages precisly because it is unscriptural.

Jared said...

Ashley and first Anonymous, I've preached quite a bit on the relational legalism thing, in the context of gospel-driven relationships. I will see about turning some of that into a blog post, probably not specifically for wives to husbands but believers to believers.

2nd Anonymous, it's not psychobabble to want to edify our spouse. It's the opposite of "injurious" to, in the power of the gospel, cover their shame, weakness, fearfulness, and timidity with selfless love.

It's also the opposite of selfish to give sex to a spouse to make them feel approved, attractive, desired, and honored. That's that whole thing about honoring each other with our bodies that you seem to have missed.

Finally, if you think I'm promoting doing what's right only to provoke certain responses, you missed point #3 (relational legalism) and also proved you aren't very familiar with the content of this blog in general.

Anonymous said...


"Self-esteem" is indeed psycho babble; it is an unbiblical, but not harmless, category.

You seem to be missing the entire notion of design (natural law) here and are thinking pragmatically, using sex as an instrumental good, rather than as an instrinsic good; moreoever, this blog post implicitly detaches the unitive act from the procreative act, something no Christian tradition did until 1930 and which the Washington Post realized would lead to the deconstruction of marriage and proliferation of immoral practices. Eg., see the new Driscoll book which concludes that only abortive birth control and coercive sex (rape) is sinful and that therefore, sodomy, self-stimulation, and cybersex are permissiable. Your encouragement to utilize sex instrumentally coheres with this dark path

Should we graciously debate further in another context?

Jared said...

"Self-esteem" is indeed psycho babble; it is an unbiblical, but not harmless, category.

Self-esteem in the therapeutic sense, sure. You are assuming I mean the same thing by this word as the world does, conveniently ignoring the context of the rest of the post. We are made in the image of God, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, we are not given a spirit of fear but of power. God indeed makes much of us in our union with Christ precisely to make much (more) of himself. I have criticized self-helpy moralistic therapeutic mish-mash umpteem times on this blog and elsewhere. I suspect you're a new reader perhaps linking over from Challies or somebody.

When I speak of self-esteem positively -- in this instance, for instance -- I simply mean the positive sense of well-being God gives us and wants us to help build up in each other.

You seem to be missing the entire notion of design (natural law) here and are thinking pragmatically, using sex as an instrumental good, rather than as an instrinsic good

It is one point in one blog post within the scope of 8 years of writing online. It does not reflect the whole of my thinking, nor is it any basis on which you could justifiably say I miss the notion of natural law. I am only making an applicational point that wives loving their husbands through the service of lovemaking builds them up. I'm not writing a doctoral thesis.

moreoever, this blog post implicitly detaches the unitive act from the procreative act

Again, one point. Also, your criticism here would equally apply to Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, which makes no mention of procreation and speaks of marital sex as I do here -- as an edifying and "protective" service to our spouse -- as well as to the entire Song of Solomon.

Your encouragement to utilize sex instrumentally coheres with this dark path

This is simply silly. Again, read 1 Corinthians 7. I'm making the same exhortation here that Paul does there. Give sex to your spouse because it's helpful.

Should we graciously debate further in another context?

No, not any further, because a) I don't have the time, b) I don't have the interest, and c) I don't make it a habit to debate anonymous people online.

Anonymous said...

jared, I wanted to thank you for your great blog. I am a wife in ministry and my husband is in the middle of a very difficult time in seminary and so I am very thankful for your reminder. please do NOT let the anonymous person discourage you from preaching the truth and encouraging our hearts. Thank you for your time as I am sure you are very very busy impacting hearts with the truth.

Lauren said...

I wish this post included an embedded video of Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love to You." Just saying.

Unknown said...

I think point number five holds very dangerous "between the lines" context. You are essentially suggesting that men feel as though they are receiving respect through the act of sex. This is the exact same message that is beaten into women's psyche in this modern age-Sex is love is sex! Women give sex to "receive" love! This is such a twisted, unbiblical notion, that you probably need to reevaluate how you've termed your point. Men should not come to demand sex to earn respect, just as women should not give sex to earn love! Try a different approach, please, I want my sons growing up in a world that does not teach they only have earned respect when they're getting laid. It will be hard enough to train my daughters to feel loved without giving of their bodies!

True intimacy isn't plied or given without desire, true intimacy is equally shared. My husband and I give of ourselves freely, without being bribed, or coerced. I don't have to entice him to show him I respect him, just as he doesn't have to demand I seduce him in order to feel loved!!! This is why I enjoy our marriage, we share our bodies as intended without the fraudulant acting you are ascribing to.

Jared said...

Jessica, I don't "ascribe" to any of the negative things you listed, nor does any part of my post support them. I have no idea where you'd gather I am advocating bribing, coercing, or husbands "taking" from unwilling wives. It's not even "between the lines" except that you imagined it to be there.

Anonymous said...

I am a good wife and do follow all of these points, even when I don't feel like it (#5). But it seems like my husband is not satisfied and many times makes me feel like I'm not worthy of his love. What do I do?

Jared said...

Tell him. If he does not repent, tell your pastor(s)/elders.

busymomof10 said...

Don't quite understand all the negative criticism of this excellent, biblical and balanced post! Just "happend upon it" while looking for an image to go with my own blog post on how wives can encourage husbands. Thank you for sharing this from the male perspective. I think you are accurate in including #5, even though wives don't necessarily view the act of marriage in the same light or understand how it works for a man. We just have to accept that God made our husbands differently and that He clearly assigned us the job of being Help Meets to our husband - if we don't help meet their needs, they will find other ways of meeting them.

Blessings on your ministry,