Happy Is the Man Who Loves His Wife

Something I’ve shared with several husbands in our ward is this quip:

Happy is the man who understands how to love his wife the way she wants to be loved.

If you love your wife the way she wants to be loved, it will be about the best thing you can do for her and about the best thing you can do for yourself.

Of course, your wife has her responsibilities to you as well, but I believe, against the grain of modern culture, that the first step is the husband’s. That’s my firm belief. Here are the reasons why.

These are the Bible verses from which this idea grew:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it…so ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. —Ephesians 5:25,28

So Paul says that a man who loves his wife loves himself. I totally believe that. Why? Because I also believe that if a man loves his wife the way she wants to be loved, that, almost always, she will pay him back a hundredfold. I believe it is her natural response to love you back a hundred times over. (Sometimes other unresolved issues get in the way, that is true—that requires even more love and patience.)

If men took on their masculine role to step forward, to be the ones who express and ask and lead, their wives would be so much happier. If we men overcame our natural tendency to shrink back into our own little worlds, and made some of the following bold efforts consistently, how surprised and delighted our wives would be.

  • “It’s time for family prayer.”
  • “Let’s have scripture study right now before everyone gets too tired.”
  • “I’m taking care of dinner tonight. You don’t have to do anything.”
  • “Will you go out with me Friday night? I’ve already called a sitter.”
  • “We can’t go to your parents’ Saturday because I’m taking you dancing.”

While I believe men and women are absolutely equal, I also believe we are designed, even wired, for different roles, and it is the bringing together or marriage of these roles that brings us the most satisfaction and happiness.

You may disagree or think me old fashioned, but I think it is my role as a husband to pursue my wife and to court her love everyday. If I don’t, how can she be assured of my love for her? How can I be assured of my love for her? There are certain things you have to do everyday, and this is one of them: Assure your wife of your love. Even if she is grumpy at you, assure her of your love. Even if she seems as happy a cow in the corn crib, express your love to her everyday. It is your job to make sure her love tank is full. No one else can do it like you.

Find out how she wants to be loved. Learn the five love languages and then ask which one will make her feel the most love. She’ll tell you. (Figure out your own love language while you’re at it and tell her what it is.) Then work at it. Of course you’ll both slip and fall, but work at it. Your devotion and sincerity will go a long way with her. When she knows in her heart that you sincerely are in love with her and dedicated to her, she will find it much easier to stand by you and support you and forgive you.

If you think all this is too “touchy-feely,” then I have a question for you: When you were first courting your wife, when you were just warming up to the idea of marriage, was there anything you would not do to win her love? The answer is no.

You were “touchy-feely” then, so why not now?

Did you or did you not put all your cards on the table, so to speak? (Uno, of course.) The answer is yes. Of course you did. That’s why she took a risk on you. Does she feel right now that the risk she took out on you was worth it? What are you holding back? As I have said before on other posts, you can “purchase” your wife at only one price: Everything. If you try to “buy” her at a discount, you won’t get to keep her.

Marriage is not permanent until you make it permanent with the absolute constancy of your love and devotion. Without that, do you really have a marriage? Can it last into eternity? You may endure it in this life, but what will hold it together in the next? Delayed repentance? No. True marriage is made of diamond-quality love, starting now. If not that, then what do you have? Really, what do you have?

Marriage is a dance. Not a wild, all-by-yourself, everyone-do-your-own-thing-on-the-dance-floor dance. It is between a man and a woman. One must lead and another follow. It takes an agreement. It takes cooperation and planning and practice and crushed toes and work. But what could be more meaningful, more pleasing, more fun, or more joyful than getting this dance right?

Men, your marriage won’t go right unless you lead out in it. Your wonderful, talented and beautiful wife will fill the vacuum for you if you don’t lead, but it will never feel right to you.

She is waiting. Her hands are reaching for you. The music is playing. She wants you to ask her to dance.

Amos the Steer

I want to tell you about my steer Amos. One year when I was in high school, we selected a good looking black Angus steer from our herd for me to show at the Polk County Fair. But there was one little problem: I waited too long to teach him how to lead.

A few weeks before the fair, my old pal Tony and I got this great idea. We would tie Amos’ lead rope to the trailer hitch on the back of our old International pickup and pull him around until he was broke to lead.

Well, I broke him all right.

Do you have a bad feeling about where this is going? Yes, this is not going to be pretty. I’ll warn you now that it will be a little graphic.

I drove the pickup into the corral and started pulling Amos around like sack of rocks. He was not getting the lesson. I would drive forward, and the tension would build up in the rope, and Amos would lurch forward a few steps.

Then it happened. I pulled the pickup forward one last time, and Amos planted his cloven feet. The tension built up and built up until pow! Amos flew through the air. And when he came down, his left front leg was broken, right at the joint.

I went back and stared at that leg. I stared and stared in unbelief at the fresh, white bone, as if by staring it would go away. I had a momentary delusion that it could be fixed, but it could not. In minutes we came to the conclusion that there was only one thing that could be done.

Tony and I hitched up the rattly stock trailer to the International, drove Amos about 17 miles down to the custom slaughter house and dropped him off.

Amos fulfilled the measure of creation, yes, but way too soon. There would be no steer to show at the county fair that summer.

You do these things when you are young, and then you get to think about them for a lifetime. And think and think and think. If I can share with you what I’ve learned so far from this experience, it would be this: You can’t hurry anything worthwhile. It takes time and thought and planning to get important things right. Slow down, be patient, think things through, and take your time.

You can’t hurry love. You can’t hurry relationships. You can’t hurry raising your children. You can’t hurry learning the gospel or learning to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. You can’t hurry life’s lessons.

Well, you can try to hurry these things, but the results will be less than satisfying. Sometimes they will be unforgettably tragic.

If it’s important, take your time. Plan. Start early. Get it right. Keep your standards high and don’t compromise. Be patient. Wait in hope.

I am sorry Amos, but I thank you for the lessons you taught me.

Look at My Saddle

Most of you know that I was blessed to live on a ranch. We had about 200 head of mother cows—Hereford, Angus, and some Charolais. We had a pasture for sick cattle next to the old hay barn (yes, it was red, but it did not have a gambrel roof). We’d separate them out and doctor them there. Mostly pink eye. It spreads quick, so when one of your critters has it, you don’t want them hanging out with the others.

We had a squeeze chute, but I didn’t like to use it. I’d much rather rope them, doctor them, and let them go. My favorite kind of catch and release.

I went for a horseback ride tonight, and thought about this story. 

One summer day when I was still in high school, my good friend Tony and I had the enjoyable assignment of doctoring a few cows that were in that pasture. I took care of the antlers on the front end, and Tony would take care of the heels. Well, I dabbed a loop on a black cow, and waited for my man Tony to pick up the heels so we could stretch the old gal out and dispense her medicine.

Tony missed the first loop, and I struggled to keep a hold on the cow. She was moving about, trying to lose the evil nylon loop that was wrecking her day. Then I noticed something bad. My saddle. As I held onto her with a dally or two around my horn, the cow was doing a number on my saddle, and it started climbing up the horse’s neck. I did not have a peaceful, easy feeling about the way things were going.

He was rebuilding his loop when I gawked at him and said, “Tony, look at my saddle!” There was that dagger of blame in my voice, as if it was his fault that my saddle was inching its way toward my horse’s ears. (If I remember correctly, I was aboard my little heading horse Stanley’s Lassie, which was the horse I called Stanley and a bunch of other silly names that I don’t repeat in public.)

Well, Tony got his cow roped and we got her all taken care of and went on with our day. But I never forgot the words that I said, “Tony, look at my saddle.” That was a good 35 years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. Why? Because I was flat wrong.

The reason why my saddle was lose was not because Tony missed his loop. It was because I didn’t do my job. I didn’t cinch my saddle right. Tony had almost nothing to do with that. I’ve apologized to him several times. He has good naturedly laughed it off, but that doesn’t make me any more right.

Why is that we human beings always want to point at someone or something else and say, “There’s my problem”? I think it is because we are essentially lazy. We are natural men and women. It takes energy for a lazy, couch-adoring slacker to (1) recognize that he is wrong; (2) acknowledge that he is wrong; and (3) correct what he did wrong. It is just easier to point and bark incessantly. “Bow-wow. Hurry up and rope that cow.” That was me.

As lazy as I was then (and I still wrestle with laziness now), I found it a lot harder to carry the weight of an untruth for years than to be smart enough to dismantle it on the spot and leave it behind. So, the next time you feel like telling someone, “Look at my saddle,” think about a better way than blaming someone else for your troubles.

The heavens will not be filled with those who never made mistakes but with those who recognized that they were off course and who corrected their ways to get back in the light of gospel truth. —Dieter F. Uchtdorf

You know what? It’s not too late. I’m going to give my old roping partner a call and apologize one more time for good measure. What would that hurt? I owe him a call anyway.

Words

We swim in an ocean of words,
but are as dull to their essence
as fish to water.

Gliding over the surface,
we are unaware of the
life and movement beneath us.

Or searching the night sky,
we are the lost captain who
trembles at the gunwhale after
dropping his sextant over the starboard bow.

May it be said “Soul overboard!” and may you
be found swimming for all your life
in the fervent sea of plight and meaning.

—Michael Fitzgerald
April 14, 2010

The Devil Words: Doubt

After distraction takes command of your time, doubt will likely follow. According to the dictionary, doubt is a form of disbelief or distrust that gives rise to uncertainty, hesitation in moving forward, and indecisiveness. It is the opposite of faith. In fact, doubt, it seems, is ever present in the absence of faith.

Lack of action is the seedbed of doubt. Dale Carnegie once said:

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.

Likewise, John Kanary said:

If doubt is challenging you and you do not act, doubts will grow. Challenge the doubts with action and you will grow. Doubt and action are incompatible.

So what if you are faced with doubt? What should you do? Take positive action! Action is your best defense against doubt.

In Lectures on Faith we read:

Faith is…the principle of action in all intelligent beings…it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action in them.

If you are exercising faith and taking action—and taking action is the essence of faith—you will move forward in life. For example, if your understanding of the scriptures is weak, and you set them aside saying, “I can’t understand the scriptures,” what will happen? Your understanding will get even weaker. But if you take time every day to read them, study them and ponder them, and you keep it up over a period of time, what is going to happen? Your understanding will get stronger and stronger. The Lord said:

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. —D&C 50:24

Don’t let doubt be your counselor. We all experience doubt at one time or another. It is a normal part of life. But the antidote to doubt is taking positive action. The only way to truly engage our faith is by taking action. From the epistle of James we read:

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?James 2:21–22

Make your faith perfect by doing something about your doubts. Don’t leave spills on the floor; you will step in them later when you least expect it. Clean them up. Answer doubts with faith and they can have little power over you. Just as temptations and trials will never leave us in this life, doubts will linger like a bad smell unless we take faithful action.

The Shoebox

There once was a husband and wife who had been married more than 60 years. They shared everything, talked about everything, and kept no secrets from each other, except for a shoebox that the old woman kept in her closet. She cautioned her husband to never open it, and he dutifully honored her wish.

One day, the woman became quite ill, and going to the doctor, found that she suffered from a terminal disease and did not have long to live. While trying to sort through their affairs, the old man took the shoebox off the closet shelf and brought it to his ailing wife’s bedside. After talking about if for a few minutes, they agreed that it was time to unseal the box and share its contents.

The husband anxiously removed the lid of the box and found two crocheted doilies, and several stacks of large bills, wrapped in rubber bands. Counting the bills, the total exceeded $25,000. He asked what the significance of the doilies was and why she had hidden away all that cash.

“When we were first married,” the old wife said, “my grandmother gave me some advice. She said that every time I felt angry at you, I should crochet a doily.”

The old husband was moved to tears. After getting a grip on his feelings, he asked his wife, “Only two doilies? In over 60 years you only got angry at me twice? I am astounded. But I do have one question: Where did all that money come from?”

“Oh,” she said, smiling, “that’s the money I got for selling the doilies at a dollar each.”

Thanks to Peggy H. for sharing this story with me. 

Believe in Yourselves

“Elder Maxwell would like to give this message to the children of the Church:

‘It’s extremely important for you to believe in yourselves, not only for what you are now, but for what you have the power to become. Trust in the Lord as He leads you along. He has things for you to do that you won’t know about now, but that will be revealed later. If you stay close to Him, you will have some great adventures. You will live in a time when instead of just talking about prophecies that will sometime be fulfilled, many of them will actually be fulfilled. The Lord will unfold your future bit by bit.

‘All the easy things that the Church has had to do have been done, so you’re going to live in a time of high adventure. You were brought to this earth because you can handle that time of adventure, and you will do well.'”

Neal A. Maxwell (1984)