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Husbanding by Design

6 plans of a God-honoring man

Before I got married, I dreamed about how happy I was going to be as a husband. Six months after marriage, however, I was more miserable than I'd been my whole life—and so was my wife. I'd entered marriage with visions of what my wife would do for me. I had the attitude, I know how to have a good marriage. Listen to me and we'll have one. There was only one problem: she wouldn't listen.

Our marriage didn't turn around overnight. In fact, we were several years into the marriage before I realized I was part of the problem. Out of desperation I asked God to show me what it meant to be a good Christian husband. Through the next several years I learned these six lessons.

1. View your wife as a partner

,not a trophy to be won in courtship and then placed "on the wall" for all to observe along with your 10-point buck. She's a person with whom you have a relationship. She isn't a person to be dominated and controlled to satisfy your goals, but a partner in accomplishing the goals God has for each of you.

2. Communicate with your wife.

Partnership is shared primarily by communication. One of a wife's deepest desires is to know her husband. When he talks about his thoughts, feelings, and desires, she feels he's allowing her into his life. When a husband goes long periods without talking about what he's feeling or thinking, she senses that he's cutting her out, which leads her to feel isolated.

3. Put your wife at the top of your priority list.

For most men, vocation ranks near the top of their list. In our society, men draw much of their sense of self-worth from their work. This doesn't necessarily conflict with the relationship with their wives unless the vocation comes to possess them. One wife complained, "He's married to his job. I get only the leftovers."

Jesus is our example. He's the head of the church, so the church is his top priority. He's looking out for her interests so he can present her to the Father as one who is "holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:27). We all live by priorities. These priorities are revealed most often by our actions. Answer these questions: "How do I spend my time? How do I invest my money? How do I use my energy?" Then you'll have the answer to the question, "What are my priorities?"

4. Love your wife unconditionally.

The apostle Paul writes that God showed his love for us in that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). This is unconditional love. Uncondition-al love means that we seek our wife's best interests regardless of her response. Modern thinking is much more contractual: "I'll love you if you'll love me." The focus of our effort is to get our own needs met. Unconditional love, on the other hand, focuses on meeting the needs of the other person.

5. Commit to discovering and meeting your wife's needs.

I've noticed through the years that many husbands simply don't understand the needs of their wives. Consequently, in their ignorance, they make no effort to meet those needs. Some husbands believe if they work at a steady job and bring home a decent salary, they've completed their role as husband. However, her emotional needs for love, affection, tenderness, security, kindness, and encouragement are as fundamental to her emotional health as is food to physical health.

6. Model your spiritual and moral values.

By moral values, I mean a set of beliefs about what's right and wrong. By spiritual values, I mean a set of beliefs about what exists beyond the material world. For the Christian both spiritual and moral values are found in the Bible. The closer a man comes to living by biblically sound spiritual and moral beliefs, the more his wife will respect him. The greater the gap between what he proclaims to believe on these issues and what he actually does, the greater the disrespect he engenders.

Seek diligently to be authentic. Paul once said, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice" (Philippians 4:9). On another occasion he said, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). Guys, I pray all of us can honestly say this to our wives and children.

Gary D. Chapman, Ph.D. is a marriage and relationship expert and best-selling author of The Five Love Languages (Moody) and Covenant Marriage (Broadman & Holman).

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Husbands; Love; Marriage; Needs
Today's Christian Woman, Spring, 2005
Posted September 12, 2008

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