It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up by commenting Today we’re going to talk about how to support your husband.
Men thrive on appreciation and admiration. They withdraw when they feel as if we don’t respect or value them. So the question is: do you respect and encourage your husband? We’re in the middle of a six-week challenge to make our marriages better by doing these five things:
1. Thank your husband once a day for something (try to make it something different each time)
2. Compliment your husband to your mother, your children, your friends, whatever, within earshot of your husband, every chance you get.
3. Do not nag.
4. Do not give the silent treatment.
5. Make love with relative frequency (say at least 2-3 times a week).
Those first two are better categorized as “respect” or “affirmation”. They’re part of that whole support thing that we owe our husbands. But how do we manage that support?
Many women feel, “well, I’d respect him if he deserved it”, but this can be a bit of a circular argument. When we respect him and value him, he is more likely to act in a manner that we would respect and value. When we fail to respect and value him, he is more likely to pull away. So waiting for him to change and withholding our respect is not going to help.
One of the best examples of respect and support I have seen is in the amazing movie, The King’s Speech. We tried to go see it the second Tuesday after it was open, and the 5:45 showing was sold out (even though it was over the dinner hour). So we went on a Sunday afternoon, and the theatre was still packed. The movie is doing so well. It makes me wonder why Hollywood doesn’t make more great movies that uphold our values. But that’s a subject for another blog post.
What I want to talk about today is the marriage relationship between the two main characters: King George VI, and his wife Elizabeth, better known to us as “The Queen Mother”. The movie follows the true story of Bertie (King George VI’s real name was Albert) overcoming his stuttering as he is thrust into the role of king unexpectedly when his brother abdicates. The king must find his voice to inspire and rally Britain as the war opens. And, with the help of an unusual speech therapist, he does.
But it is his wife who I was really drawn to. Helena Bonham Carter plays her wonderfully, but I noticed two main things: she supported and encouraged him to find help, but she never once babied him or showed him anything other than, “I believe you can do it, and that’s all there is to it.”
She was very matter of fact about the whole thing. Before he went in to give a huge speech, she wouldn’t hold his hand and say, “don’t worry, Bertie, no matter what happens, I’m still here for you!” She gave him a quick kiss and said, “you’ll do great.” It was that simple.
And she told him, throughout the movie, why she admired him. He was a great man. He was a kind man. He was an honourable man. When he was ready to give up on speech therapy, she managed to make him keep going. When he quit, she managed to get him to start again. We don’t see all these conversations on screen, but I can imagine the way she handled them. She would say, “I see something wonderful in you. And I want others to see it, too.” When a therapist was ridiculous, she put a stop to it immediately because she didn’t want her husband to go through that. But she always believed in him, at his core.
Women make 2 mistakes when it comes to supporting our husbands: the first is that we fail to do it at all.
We notice all his inadequacies, and focus on those, rather than noticing what is good about him.
The second mistake is to confuse supporting your husband with babying your husband.
We constantly offer our “support”, but we phrase it in such a way that we could be talking to a 4-year-old. That doesn’t make him feel supported; that makes him feel like you think he’s a child who can’t handle this without you. That’s not real support; that’s pity. And he doesn’t want pity.
Let’s turn to lack of respect first. If you don’t support your husband because he doesn’t deserve it, you’ve got a huge problem. Your marriage is only going to get worse. It will collapse. You have to have an underpinning of respect in any marriage for it to work. And so I ask you: what did you respect about your husband when you first were married? What drew you to him? Those things are probably still there. Notice them again. Thank him for them. Draw them out. The more you talk about them and mention them, the bigger he will feel, and the more he will want to participate in the marriage.
Maybe he is doing things you disapprove of. Maybe he does spend too much time playing video games, or not enough time talking to the children. These things do need to be addressed. But they are far more likely to be constructively addressed in a relationship where you respect him and he feels it. If you start trying to fix him before giving him respect, he will withdraw and the relationship will become worse.
The woman I know who most radiates admiration is my pastor’s wife Marilyn. Every Sunday, she sits near the front of the church and looks at him, the whole time he’s speaking, with a huge smile on her face. She looks like she adores him—and she does. I often wonder, does my husband know I feel that way about him, too? Do I? No one can miss how she feels about him, and it makes all of us respect him more. If his wife feels that way about him, he must be pretty amazing!
But then there’s the other kind of encouragement—the kind when we think we’re affirming him, but we’re really giving him the message, “I don’t think you can handle this.” The Queen Mum (well, she was just Queen Elizabeth back then) always just patted his arm or gave him a quick kiss and said, “you can do it.” He felt that she believed in him (because she did).
Maybe your husband doesn’t stutter, but he might be out of work and worried if he’ll find another job. Or he may have a horrible one where people put him down. Do you treat him like a 4-year-old, or do you communicate, “I hear you, I want to listen, but I totally believe that you can handle this because you’re awesome.” He wants to know you think he’s awesome!
So give him the key to success. Encourage your husband. Admire and affirm him, but don’t treat him like he’s four-years-old. That’s what a queen did, and it worked on her king.