Beloved and revered by his players, legendary coach of the UCLA Bruins college basketball team, John Wooden changed the lives of every young man who played for him through the powerful values and life lessons he taught them.
But of perhaps more importance, Coach Wooden was married for 53 years to the love of his life, Nell. Coach Wooden was so dedicated to her that after her death in 1985, he continued to write Nell a love letter every month for the next 25 years. He faithfully placed those letters under her pillow on her side of the bed until he passed away in 2010, going to be with his beloved wife. This is the kind of man I want to learn about relationships from. Coach Wooden had this to say about marriage:
Love means many things. It means giving. It means sharing. It means forgiving. It means understanding. It means being patient. It means learning. And you must always consider the other side, the other person. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving … Young couples get married and don't realize it's different from courtship. You have to work at your marriage; it's two-sided, and you'd better realize that.
I think Coach Wooden was trying to say that we need to be willing to eagerly fulfill the needs of our spouse if we want to have a successful marriage. Here are some needs that men need fulfilled by their wives.
The Need for Companionship . . . and Forgiveness
One of man's greatest needs is companionship. God knew that when he said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him" (Genesis 2:18). God knew that without female companionship and a partner for reproduction, the man could never fully realize his humanity. During the dating process a woman usually accompanies a man on all the things he likes to do. That is one of the things that draws him closer and creates intimacy with her. Many times after they get married she stops hanging out with him and doing things he enjoys. While a man does need time with other men, I think most women would be surprised at how much a man desires his wife to be by his side. Your husband wants to do things with you. He wants you by his side during recreational activities. This is the intimacy of doing things together—it's how males bond. You'll notice when males get together they are generally doing some activity. They seldom just sit and chat.
One way a woman can be proactive about offering forgiveness is to work on her husband's strengths, not his weaknesses. Focus on the things he does right rather than being overly critical of his weaknesses. Then help him understand his strengths—his gifts from God. Be intentional about understanding what strengths you have that he doesn't, and what strengths he has where you are weak. Embrace your differences. Partner with him to use your strengths to compensate for the areas where he is lacking. God gave you this incredible influence in your man's life to empower him. Power is given by God to serve others, not to enslave or crush them.
The Need to Dream and Do
Being appreciated is one of a man's primary needs. He measures himself through his achievements and needs them to be recognized. When a woman seeks appreciation she is likely seeking to be understood and validated. Men derive their worth from what they do, while women derive their worth more from who they are. My wife shows me she loves and appreciates me in a variety of little ways. She screens telephone calls for me so I'm not bothered by telemarketers or other people who would want to waste my time. She protects me from people who would like to monopolize my time at events or who want to do me emotional damage. She goes out of her way to buy my favorite foods. These are small things maybe, but they show me she genuinely appreciates me.
Being an average guy with a job, a wife, a mortgage, and children can be a little boring. It often seems like all work and no play. All boys and young men grow up with dreams, picturing themselves overcoming impossible odds—wounded and exhausted—to eventually and oh-so-gallantly win an epic battle between good and evil. Since for many men what they do for a living defines who they are, they often end up dissatisfied or frustrated with their lot in life. Most men yearn for lives of significance—to be remembered for something other than how many cars they sold or loans they closed. The burdens and stresses of providing food, shelter, and the day-to-day necessities for a family can be daunting. The challenge becomes finding something that brings significance in what he does, some goal or vision to work toward that inspires and inflames his passion.
Having a woman who encourages his dreams can fulfill a man's need for risk and adventure that all men possess, even if it's buried deep within his soul. Even if he never does anything with them, a man needs to dream about things greater than he is. My wife, Suzanne, was instrumental in the development of this ministry. Because of her support I am now living the satisfying and fulfilling life I've always dreamed of—a life of significance and adventure. She encouraged and believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. She supported me anytime there was a decision that required spending money to do something that would further my growth and help the ministry, she insisted I do it regardless of the cost to us or the inconvenience to her.
So listen to your husband's dreams, even if you think they are unreachable. He will love and appreciate the fact that you encouraged him rather than discouraged him. Later in life, he will look at you and say, "Honey, you were with me," not "If only …"
The Need for Respect and Time
Most men have been raised by a mother who nurtured them and took care of their needs. Generally, most men were not raised to be the caretakers within a family. They grow to expect this kind of loving care from women who love them. It is one of the reasons men can be such babies when we are sick—we desire that nurturing touch from a woman. And when the world is beating us up we need the restorative healing that a woman's touch brings. Her understanding and empathy is important in grounding us when the world crashes down upon us. A woman's belief in a man empowers him like nothing else. His need for her respect and admiration is foundational in his self-esteem and belief in himself.
He also needs time to himself. Often when he comes home from work it takes awhile for him to disengage from work mode and transfer into family mode. Having time to himself helps him facilitate this change. Males process information and emotions by thinking about them. Regardless of the circumstances, men need downtime to recharge their batteries. This is not so much physical downtime as it is emotional and psychological downtime. He needs to regroup and ready himself for the next day or week's challenges.
The Need to Be Needed
When my wife needs me it allows me to fulfill my God-created role as provider and protector. When she asks me for help, I am excited to lend a hand. Without those roles, my purpose in life is taken away. Women today are much more self-sufficient and self-reliant than they were in the past. Most women today are capable of earning enough income to support themselves and even their families. Many believe they can raise their children on their own and even live a life without a man. In fact, men aren't even necessary to produce children anymore. Hence, most of the reasons for men being needed (and valued) have been eradicated from our culture. Without those traditional roles, many men are floundering, seeking a purpose in life.
So how can we redefine why men are indeed necessary? Yes, women can create and even raise children without the presence of a man, but those children's lives are enriched by a good male role model. Male creativity and their powerful ability to build things remains vital today. So men are needed. As a wife, make sure your husband knows that he is necessary and that your life is enhanced through your need for him. Your need is a blessing in his life that gives it substance and meaning.
Adapted from The Marriage of Your Dreams by Rick Johnson. Copyright 2012 by Rick Johnson. Used by permission of Baker Publishing Group, a division of Revell Books.