With thanks to Thomas Nelson, publishers of Erin Smalley’s new book 10 Things a Husband Needs from His Wife, for sponsoring this post.
Sometimes I get so caught up in my own disappointment or frustration that I forget what Keith needs from me.
And a lot of that is because we simply approach life differently.
I was recently sent a copy of Erin Smalley’s new book 10 Things a Husband Needs from His Wife, and as I was perusing through it, one part stood out to me and I asked if I could share that part today. We’ve been talking all week about misperceptions that women have about sex, but sometimes we just plain have misperceptions about marriage in general because we approach life differently. And if we’re not aware of those differences, we can build up walls of disappointment between us.
Here’s Erin with a great marriage thought to contemplate this weekend, right before Valentine’s Day:
Isn’t it surprising when you look at your husband after years of togetherness and realize how different he is from you? Maybe you were charmed by these differences from the beginning, or maybe now that he has relaxed into the relationship, he feels comfortable being authentic around you. Either way, at some point, most couples come to a point at which they realize they have different methods for handling normal, everyday moments. And those moments can add up to wondering: How in the world can I connect deeply with my husband when we can’t even agree on the small things?
From the time we said “I do” 25 years ago, Greg and I have been constantly confronted with our differences. Over the years, I’ve let myself become bothered and annoyed by issues that weren’t, in the end, all that important. Generally, my negative reactions had more to do with my own heart than with Greg’s actions or inactions. I didn’t really care about the counters being wiped down; I cared about feeling taken advantage of or disregarded. Once I was able to share the deeper-level feelings, the actual issue seemed less important.
Although you may not have personally experienced these specific frustrations, I would guess you have similar experiences. Here are a few situations in which I’ve learned that I can start by asking myself where my husband might be coming from—not to excuse poor behavior, but to allow my heart to express more grace in navigating our differences.
He Doesn’t Help Around the House
Greg went years without making our bed in the morning. As a matter of fact, he thought it was crazy to make the bed. Still, faithfully, I did it every morning. And honestly, I had no bitterness over this whatsoever. Actually, as I made the bed, I often thought about how blessed I was to have a husband sleeping next to me every night. I looked at it as one task I did for our team.
Until the day came that I had a cast on my leg. I was pathetically flopping my large, heavy new appendage all over the place, ferociously struggling to make the bed, when Greg walked in on me. I immediately saw it in his eyes that he finally got it. He asked me, “Is this really this important to you?”
He knew the answer before I could answer. “Yes,” I replied, “It really is.” From that day forward, he has made the bed every single day. And when he is out of town, I find myself praying for him and thanking God for my husband while I make the bed.
He Always Tries to Fix Me
Men communicate to achieve something, fix a problem, or give advice. Their goal is to take action. Women communicate to connect relationally, sharing feelings and needs. Their goal is to form a deep connection. As you can see, we have very different goals in our communication and connection styles. I gained a lot of insight the day I realized that when Greg tries to fix something for me, what he is really saying is, “I love you, and I care enough about you to fix the problems.” Whether it is offering advice or filling my car with gas, from his perspective, his actions are saying, “I love you and value you enough to spend my time doing this for you.” However, as most of us have learned, men are not mind readers. Your husband doesn’t have a clue what you truly need unless you tell him.
He Wants to Have Sex All the Time—Even After We Fight
Did the Lord make us different sexually or what? Men are more easily excited sexually, and sexual intimacy is one of the key ways they feel more connected. After a fight, when he is feeling distance from you, your husband’s desire for sex may be his attempt to reestablish a connection. (Remember, he can compartmentalize and keep your fight separate from what happens in the bedroom.) For a woman who connects emotionally and then warms slowly into a desire for sexual intimacy, her husband’s on/off switch can be difficult to understand.
He Doesn’t Connect with Me at the End of the Day
When your husband comes home from work, does he head straight for his favorite chair instead of catching up with you or playing with the kids? It’s not uncommon behavior. When men are stressed from a long day at work, they tend to isolate and disconnect. This can also be a personality issue if you are married to an introvert. You might try a gentle talk about what you desire—and don’t do this when you’re steaming mad! Acknowledge that he is made differently and that his body responds differently to stress, but also tell him that you would like to work together to come up with a plan that gives him the time he needs to decompress, but also gives you time to connect at the end of the day.
How do differences create conflict in your marriage? Communicating with each other year after year is the key to understanding what works and what doesn’t and to keep growing as couples and as individuals. Rather than judging and giving into frustration, it’s important for both you and your husband to hear that your differences are valued—that you are valued. When you give thanks for the things that make your husband unique, you just might be surprised by how your small frustrations can turn into appreciation and make you fall in love with him all over again.
Adapted from 10 Things a Husband Needs from His Wife. Copyright © 2017 Erin Smalley. Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 97408. www.harvesthousepublishers.com. Used by Permission.
What was a huge personality difference or habit that you and your spouse had to learn to live with? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!