Husbands, Love Your Wives
The greatest Bible commands arise out of our most common human needs. As strange as it sounds to courting couples, husbands failing to treasure their wives is the most common problem of marriages. Sadly, as too many a married woman learns, the opposite of love is not always hate; sometimes it is simply neglect.
The contentious woman described so often in Proverbs is a neglected married woman. Being in love when she marries, she has expectations of sharing the life and love of her man. She believes his attentions will bring her fulfillment. At times those expectations are unrealistic. But often, too often, when men have gotten their woman in marriage, they move on to more exciting conquests for their fulfillment. And for the woman, foolishly, her nature drives her to scolding in order to have her husband show her more attention. That so often drives the two further apart.
A married woman without love is vulnerable to many temptations. She will be tempted to fill her empty feelings. Satan’s forces will make sure sin is available within her reach. It may be a forbidden romance. It may be food. It may be bitterness and with it emotional exhaustion. No married man wants to live with the end result of a neglected wife.
A newly married man should understand that any calling in life is for the purpose of refining him. The flesh always recoils at the process of being reshaped or refined. He should see the adjustments of living with his wife in peace and love as part of God’s way of helping him grow spiritually.
One of the basic understandings a man will need is that love is not just an emotion or feeling.
The love men are commanded to have is a choice. It isn’t just something he can have when he feels like it, and let go when he doesn’t. It is a steady decision to think of his wife, and place her interests high in his priority list.
Every husband must settle it in his heart that it is always right for him to love his wife. Loving her will not spoil her, nor raise her expectations beyond livability. Contrariwise, it fills needs and helps her be content. The husband who learns the secret of loving his wife will love himself.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. Ephesians 5:28
While love is a strong emotion, it is so much more. It is a choice that godly character makes regardless of changing feelings. Any person who is serving the Lord and is in a legitimate marriage knows that God wants him to live in peace with his spouse. Since marriages are made of two separate entities, couples will find that disagreements, differences in personality and disappointments are part of normal life. These issues have a way of taking romance out of marriage. However, since a person knows God’s will is for him to love, he will love!
The temptation is for a person to feel that if he could change his spouse, then he could love her. Since she won’t change, then he can’t love. The next step to separation is when one feels he should be allowed to follow his feelings. Thus if he no longer feels attracted to his wife, and he is attracted to someone else, then he can follow that attraction.
Jesus’ example makes it clear that love is primarily a choice of the will.
He has chosen to love us in spite of our faults. Love will choose to exclude all others from one’s attentions and believe the best about one’s spouse. Love is the choice to think about what one’s spouse is facing and then use mental energy to assist his spouse in the struggles she faces.
Jesus’ love was demonstrated by putting the good of His long-term relationship with the Church before His immediate comfort. Christ has seen us at our worst. From the days of his earthly ministry, down though the history of the Church age until now, Jesus has reached out to the depraved and offered them love and forgiveness. Even after we are born again we have repeatedly needed Christ’s love and forgiveness.
Had Christ waited until we were desirable to love us, not one of us would be saved today. This example provides inspiration for husbands today. A man comes home remembering the fresh and beautiful woman he once courted. The lady he finds in the kitchen or on the couch may be a far cry from that memory. Perhaps unfinished chores are all around her. Disheveled hair and rumpled clothes reveal she has been caught napping. Then what?
Most of us won’t need to die on a cross to bring our wives to perfection, but we will need to make sacrifices. These sacrifices are not natural for us.
Love consists of being honest with needs and responding with answers that address those specific needs through making personal sacrifice.
When God experienced love for humanity, He did not ask Himself, “How can I give them everything they want? How can I gratify their every wish?” Rather God sought a genuine solution to man’s needs. He knew man needed a sacrificial remedy for his sin. He knew man needed a call to righteousness and holiness. He knew man needed a heavenly kingdom larger than himself to serve. And God provided all those in Christ and His Church.
In a similar manner a man will some day see through the excuses of his wife and be aware of needs in her life. He may see that she lets feelings rule her life, leading her to slothfulness and discouragement because of neglected duties. He may perceive a woman who does not accept rebuke or correction, and therefore cannot keep long-term relationships. Or he catches her on the phone, gossiping about a fellow sister in Christ, again.
Is there a wise way for him to redeem his wife from her selfish course and the reaping it will bring?
The foolish man will attack his wife because of her needs. He will tell her about her laziness, her lack of discipline in her thought patterns or how she doesn’t like to accept reproof from her friends. But will that bring what he desires? His wife is the weaker vessel. Will it work to force this fragile vessel into supposed perfection?
The cowardly husband will choose to avoid the issue. Perhaps he has tried to help his wife see herself before, and he ended up with someone who pouted for days. Only after he apologized and begged her forgiveness did she begin to treat him nicely again.
What will the wise, loving husband do? Can he go get counsel from his Priest or a Spiritual Counselor? Will it work to let a third person into the sacred territory of the marriage? Maybe there is a place for this, but it should not be the first course.
A wise husband will first go to the Lord in prayer. He will ask for wisdom, and he will ask for God to work in his wife’s heart. He will ask God to bring circumstances into their lives so he can open these subjects and they can grow in wisdom together.
And in the meantime...
He will serve her needs unselfishly.
He will help clean up those dirty dishes in the sink, or pick up the laundry scattered around. And he will do it without self-pity. So what if he worked at the job all day? It won’t do permanent damage for him to serve her with a smile.
A husband may be disappointed by how his wife relates to him, but if he is godly, he is to choose to forgive her and love her. It is only normal for hurts to come in life. Of course the higher one’s expectations, the more deeply one is hurt. The person who thinks he deserves “kid gloves” treatment will be repeatedly hurt. So the first thing unselfish love does is changes one’s attitude to “I deserve nothing.”
But even then, love forgives. It is right to humbly share one’s hurt or disappointment in a loving way. However, the time quickly comes to release the hurt in loving forgiveness. Going around with a grieved attitude is childish, not childlike.
When the tables are turned and the husband is at fault, love will lead him to be sincere in his apology. But let it be underscored; saying “I am sorry if you were offended” is not an apology.
The humble loving husband will think through what he did wrong. He will go to his wife and say, “Remember my reaction? I was harsh. I was rude to you.” Then he will give her opportunity to share how this hurt her. Then he will validate her hurt with, “I know I left you down. I am sorry, will you forgive me?” This loving humility rebuilds trust and relationships.
A godly husband will acknowledge his wife’s virtue with praise and encouragement. Some men have the idea that if they praise their wives it will make them proud and unmanageable. This is not love. A loving husband will sense his wife has many discouragements. He will realize he has a ministry in noticing the areas where his wife excels. Where he notices her strengths or sacrifices, he should praise her. A sincere compliment will put joy in a wife’s heart and help her feel loved.
This is not flattery. A husband will learn how much better a wife operates with praise and may be tempted to manipulate his wife to his gratification. A woman who is flattered will be frustrated, will feel used. She will sense her husband is selfish and only wants to praise her so that she keeps feeding his ego. This will quickly run its course. Praise must be genuine.
God’s plan of married love includes fulfillment for both in the marriage bed. Giving his wife “conjugal rights ” and “depriving not” both refer to the tenderness husbands should express in physical affection. A man who takes time and tenderness with his wife will be rewarded in many ways.
A Christian husband will not permit stray affection to come into his heart.
If there are failures he will humbly repent and make it right. The world has always been filled with strange women. Names and faces change, but when the character is of Joseph quality, there will be a Joseph response.
A Christian man will guard his thought life, his eyes and his admiration.
His compliments will be for his own companions. When he notices areas where other women excel, he will dismiss this from his mind and remind himself of the reasons why he chose his wife from the available options.
The Bible always answers our need. The greatest struggle men deal with is to love their wives. But the commandment is also man’s greatest resource. There is no problem a married man will find in his wife that the tool of love will not serve. God’s Word is always right on target.
Scriptures to Meditate on.
Love as Christ Loved.
Give Honor and Benevolence
1 Peter 3:7, I Corinthians 7:3-4, Proverbs 5:15-21,
God’s Hatred for Divorce
Mark 10:11, Malachi 2:14-16