First, a little levity…
You probably don’t need me to tell you that God did something interesting when He created women. But what you might not know is that brain research shows that women, generally speaking, have a deeply wired need for reassurance. This shows up in a myriad of ways, but here are a few that appear impact YOU because they show up in marriage:
- Reassurance of financial security
- Reassurance of her attractiveness to you
- Reassurance of her importance to you
- Reassurance of your affection for your children
- Reassurance of physical safety
And research tells us that at the core of these is the deep need for reassurance of your love for her. The interesting part is that this reassurance shows up as a frequent need – not once a year on an anniversary, but daily. Research also shows that most of us women have our perceptions of our relationships clouded by our most recent interactions – if there is a lack of positive feelings communicated towards her, she feels (in her heart, mind you, not her head, she’s smart enough to know the difference) that she is not loved by you. In other words, we want to know, “Do you think I’m pretty today? Do you love me today?”
Please be patient with me, this is a little long, but there’s very helpful information here. Stick with me.
So why is she unhappy? She doesn’t feel loved by you.
If you know your wife is unhappy with your marriage and don’t know what to do about it, if you hang in here to the end, you’ll understand much and have some things you can actually DO to change your marriage.
Your wife might know in her head that you love her, but if you have a disagreement and you are harsh with her, or if you put her down, or do something discourteous, selfish, or unkind, while she still knows you love her, she is losing the feeling that you love her. (I should note that this is different than the “settling” that most marriages go through – that infatuation stage should grow into mature love, otherwise no one could get anything done.) Or if you have certain ways that you show your love for her that are NOT the love language she speaks, it will feel very much to her like you might if this were to happen…
This might be a very nice sandwich, maybe a turkey club with bacon, crisp lettuce, and a tomato and just the right amount of mayo. But it is not what you want at that moment. Now pretend you spend a decade wanting sex but getting sandwiches instead.
Disappointed? Unfulfilled? This is how your wife feels when you show her love, but do it your way instead of what speaks to her heart.
Because she loves God, she won’t just walk away from the marriage until she’s in so much pain she feels like there’s nothing left to do to escape it. But she will eventually become discouraged and apathetic, especially if she is working on your marriage and you still are not doing what makes her feel loved by you. She is then fertile soil for the enemy’s tricks and might start thinking about divorce or an affair, or just start living a life separate from you.
Understand that 2/3 of divorces are filed by the wife.
You may have heard the old joke about the long-married couple, where the wife asks the husband why he doesn’t ever say he loves her – he replies, “I told you that the day we got married 40 years ago. I’ll let you know if it changes.” Everyone politely laughs, but most women in the room experience a crack in their hearts – because we all know something you don’t… most of us don’t feel loved by our husbands.
You might think this is our problem to figure out, and to a certain degree, it is. I speak to women to help them do what they can to impact their marriages. But I will also tell you that some of this resides with you, as well. You CAN make an impact in your marriage. And you should. As God would have it, He is not silent on the matter.
There is some specific communication to the Ephesian church in the Bible that pertains to marriage and Christ’s relationship with the church. I’m going to give you the verses and then summarize the teaching here. At the end you will find a link to David Wilkerson’s discussion on how this applies solely to your relationship with God. Stick with me. We’re getting closer. It will be worth it.
We’ll begin with the most important question of your day:
What if God gave you your wife so you could learn how to love Jesus?
1 Peter 3:7 (ESV) Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
When you are harsh with your wife, you are not being loving. Remember when you first started dating? Maybe even in the early months or first year of your marriage, how gentle, kind, understanding, and honoring (respectful) you were towards her?
Do you see that you are damaging your relationship with God when you stop being like this with your wife?
Do you see that God does not even want to talk to you if you are dishonoring or not understanding towards her? She is as precious to God as you are – and she is your equal in His eyes.
Ephesians 5:22-24 (ESV)
22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Understand that “submission” is a willingness to place ourselves under our husband’s leadership in a given situation. It is a CHOICE we make – it’s not something you get to force upon your wife, or hold over her head. You don’t get to demand submission. You can lead, but harsh treatment and unloving behavior makes it hard for your wife to follow. If you find yourself in a mindset of ever thinking, “Why won’t that woman submit?!!” you have the wrong attitude. If you are shoving your authority down others’ throats, it is not honoring to God. Jesus, our role model, never did things this way.
This authority, by the way, is just responsibility – God holds you accountable for your family. He doesn’t mean for you to control every little thing in your house. Your wife will know more about relationships and your children than you do. If you can’t defer to her expertise, or if you view her as “less-than” you, you clearly miss something fundamental. God created man and woman as equal heirs in the sight of Himself. Check 1 Peter 3:7. You are to respect and honor her. And check Genesis 3. She was created because you need her help. You are doing your family harm if you are not considering her counsel in decision making. Yes, when you can’t agree, you have the final say – but if you are making decisions without including her in them, you are missing a viewpoint that God wants you to have.
What the verse in Ephesians 5:23 refers to with regards to the husband being head of the wife, in addition to the responsibility for the family that God has given to you, is that you are the one that “brings life” to your wife – like Christ came to give His church life as a servant-leader. Are you doing that? Do your words and actions bring her life? Or do they bring her discouragement and emotional death? And before you misunderstand something, know that you are responsible to God for your family – she is your equal, but the Genesis 3 account is clear. God holds Adam accountable. And God created Eve out of Adam’s rib, instead of out of the dirt, as he created Adam and the animals. But these verses say something completely different than what you may have thought in the past – they are not about ruling over her.
Ephesiasn 5:25-33 (ESV)
25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Your love is to be sacrificial toward your wife. That might mean doing things you aren’t really comfortable with. Do them any way. You’ll get used to them. Your actions and words are to bring life and take care of your wife. You are not to be subject to your parents, either – they no longer matter as much as your wife does. Yes, your wife is to submit to you when the two of you cannot agree on a decision. And yes, she is to respect you. But even if she’s not, you are to be loving towards her.
You are to love her unconditionally, as Christ loved/loves His church, sacrificing Himself for us, loving us regardless of our behavior towards Him. You are not off the hook even if she is not being respectful or submissive.
James 4:17 (NIV) Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
Are you intentionally withholding love from your wife? Do you know what her love language is? Know this is disobedience, and disobedience is sin.
Now check what Jesus Himself says to the Ephesian Church in Revelation 2:
2I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
Jesus is telling you (and your wife) that He understands how hard you have worked. He knows you have been at it for a long time. He knows you haven’t given up yet. He knows that you have suffered for His name. He knows this. But in His heart, He wants you to know that He has something against you: You have forsaken your first love. He wants you to do the things you did at first in your relationship with Him. He wants you to remember, daily, the depravity of your soul, the depth of your sin, and respond with repentance, worship and love for Him at the great gift He gives to you. He wants to be first in your life, not in the immature infatuation sense, but rather in the deep, steadfast, mature, focused love of Him as the most important One in your life sense. If you do not, He will issue a consequence. Understand this: Repentance is not repentance without changed behavior.
Do not miss that this is the Ephesian Church. Most Bible teachers use these verses in application to marriage, also. And there is research that demonstrates that to reignite your marriage relationship, one of the most helpful things you can do is do what you did in the beginning.
Your wife’s heart is similar to God’s.
She needs daily reassurance of your love. Your God wants daily pursuance of Him. Your wife understands this – that’s why it’s easier for her to connect with God and develop her relationship. You can read more about the differences in how God created men and women by reading Why Respect Him?
If you literally don’t know what to do to begin to show your wife your love, I’d like to highly recommend The Love Dare book by the Kendrick brothers. It’s awesome. They even have an app for your phone. I’d also recommend reading our list at 101 Things a Husband Can DO to Show Love to His Wife. I’d also highly recommend asking your wife. For me, it’s just a couple of little things each day, so don’t get discouraged.
Double dog dare you to beg God to help you love your wife so she feels loved by you.
It will change everything.
His love always does.