Happy Is the Wife Who Understands Her Husband

A few days ago, I read a story about a wife who was completely frustrated with her husband. She had been wanting him to paint their bedroom for nine months, and he had never gotten around to it. One Saturday, a warm, sunny day that she thought was a perfect day for him to paint that room, he spent instead washing and waxing his car. She came outside and essentially chewed him out for not painting their room.

Soon after this, she had a chance to meet briefly with Gary Chapman, PhD, the author of the book The 5 Love Languages. She explained to him how her husband was driving her crazy because he wouldn’t paint their bedroom. Dr. Chapman asked her if her husband ever did anything right, even something as small as taking out the garbage or paying the electric bill. The answer was yes. Then he gave her this advice: Don’t bring up painting the room again. Only pay attention to what he does right, and then sincerely compliment him on those things. But don’t bring up painting the room.

She did not like that advice. She didn’t understand how that was going to get the room painted any sooner. But nevertheless she agreed to try it.

Three weeks later, the woman came back to Dr. Chapman and excitedly told him that she had followed his advice and that her husband had painted their room without her ever mentioning it again!

“Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop; but a good word maketh it glad.” —Proverbs 12:25

Okay, how does this work? Is a husband really that easy to trick? Is this just old fashioned reverse psychology or what?

I may be wrong, but this is what I think went on. Most men are not that hard to figure out. The most important thing a man wants from his wife is her respect, honor and support. That’s what matters most to him. That is his rocket fuel. Now you’ll get some variation on this theme, but that pretty much sums your husband up.

If he does not get that positive input from his wife, a primary defense for him is to simply shut down or to become cool and distant. It will be much easier for him to wash and wax the car, so to speak, than to deal with the subtle message of “you won’t paint our bedroom so you can’t do anything right” message he is getting from his wife. In the story, it was easier for the husband to just head out to the driveway and ignore the disrespect.

However, when his wife started noticing the good things that he did, though small, and set her expectations to the side, what happened? You’ve got it.

So to get what you really want from your husband, try feeding his need for respect, honor and support.

I know this sounds ridiculous to some of you. You’re saying to yourself, “This guy is crazy. He doesn’t know my husband.” That is true. I don’t know your husband. But after a lifetime of observation, and hundreds of hours of counseling, I have a pretty good idea of what makes most men tick, and even though it doesn’t make sense to you now, if you will resolutely fulfill his need for respect, he will pay you back a hundred times. Just as I said in a previous blog that if a husband loves his wife the way she wants to be loved, she will pay him back a hundred times, so will your husband pay you back if you honor and support him.

“He that watereth shall be watered also himself.” —Proverbs 11:25

To be loved and cherished by her husband above all else, what does a wife want more that that? Sure, there will be exceptions, but that is mostly what our wives want most. There is another thing she wants that is next to this, very close next to this. It’s romance. She needs it like a flower needs sunlight. There is nothing like romance, and the attention and fun that comes along with it, that will brighten her life more.

Next to respect, honor and support, what does your husband want? He wants your tenderness—your gentleness, your caring, focused attention, a gentle hand on his shoulder, your understanding and your warmth. A wife often thinks that all her husband wants is physical intimacy, but what he really wants is her tenderness, but he can’t get it any other way.

When husbands and wives lose track of what is really going on inside themselves or their spouses, they wind up in desperately lonely, parallel marriages.

So once again, marriage is a dance. Your husband loves you, of course, but he is a little embarrassed to dance. He doesn’t understand how important laughter and fun is like you do. He may seem unwilling, but he is really just waiting for you to show him the steps so he will be a little less embarrassed to expose his awkwardness. He wants to learn from you, but he is not sure how to communicate that. If you will lead him tenderly and show him the steps patiently, in time, he will be absolutely and irresistibly entranced by you.

Try this experiment for three days. You must follow these steps precisely if you want it to bear fruit. Just try it: (1) don’t say anything negative about your husband for three days; (2) don’t have any expectations of him, just trust that he will make good choices, even if he hasn’t in the past; and (3) offer him at least three sincere and heartfelt compliments over those three days. What will you get in return? If your marriage is on reasonably good footing, though responses from husbands will vary, you will like his response. Some men take a little more time than this, but most I think will respond positively in three days.

2 thoughts on “Happy Is the Wife Who Understands Her Husband

  1. Anonymous May 6, 2010 / 1:17 pm

    Interesting advice. I'm sure it works in most marriages.

    In abusive marriages, it only makes things worse.


  2. Mike Fitzgerald May 6, 2010 / 3:30 pm

    You're absolutely right about these things not working well in an abusive marriage. And I am very sorry for anyone who finds themselves in such a relationship. In an abusive marriage, one spouse hijacks and attempts to hijack all the power, making it almost impossible to function with any mutual respect and trust. Any one of us who is in this kind of relationship needs help. I personally believe that no human being, no matter what they have done or not done, deserves abuse of any kind. If anyone who reads this blog is in a abusive relationship, you can contact me personally and, while I am not a professional counselor, I can still provide you with some resources that will help you. God bless you.


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