How Can I Help My Husband? (Part 2)
What a husband and a wife value in their relationship often differs significantly. The way women process emotions and situations can seem like a foreign language to many men. Kathy Gallagher joins Nate in the studio to discuss her thoughts on this and explain how a wife can learn to love and support her husband, even through their many differences.
Nate: In the past you’ve said that it's really important to praise your husband when he succeeds, even if it's a small thing. What makes that so important?
Kathy: I don't know that I actually ever did that literally with Steve. I was just very, very grateful. I really respected Steve for the effort he put into getting right with God. Also, gratitude and respect were just coming out of me, I wasn't saying it, it was just flowing from what was in my heart towards my husband. I'm not the type that would walk up, throw a hug on him and say, “Honey, I'm so proud of you.” That is totally not my style. He knew how I felt. I wasn’t just saying those things, I was showing him I was proud of him by my actions.
He absolutely knew I was supporting him and that I was totally on his team, but I never used those words. It was my life that spoke to him about where I was at, and that's what he needed. What's in us comes out of us and that's where we have to be very, very careful. Especially when we're getting very upset inside, when there's this rumbling going on inside and you want to just let it come out. It will come out, even if you don't open your mouth at all. It just shows up in your disposition. What's in the heart does come out of the mouth, but it also comes out of the life.
Nate: Yeah, it does. The looks, the tone of voice, even the lack of words can speak volumes to people. I would think that gives an opportunity for a husband to misread you. Sometimes when things are not said we are quick to fill in the blanks. We try to interpret what the other person means, and it can be real mess.
Kathy: That's a mess. That's a very big mess.
Nate: Yeah, that really feeds into something that I was thinking about, which is really interesting. I was listening to a sermon by Paul Washer a month or two ago and he said something that I thought was fascinating. He was talking about the difference between men and women and what husbands need versus what wives need in the relationship. Basically, he said, “I don't need my wife to send me little notes or a text telling me that she's thinking of me and loves me. I can go a long time without needing that. What I need is for my wife to believe in me. If she doesn't believe in me, I'll fall apart.” And that was really interesting, because it resonates with me as a man and I'd like to hear your perspective on that as a wife.
Kathy: It’s hilarious to me that somebody else is saying that, because I think I said something like that in my book. Your husband does not want to sit around and talk about your emotions and your feelings - he's not your girlfriend and he is not wired that way. He doesn't want to talk about feelings and all the gooey stuff. The whole idea of trying to get men to think like women doesn't work. A woman’s needs are very vastly different than a man's needs. She's the one who needs all of the things that would be classified as more emotional. I think because of the differences in the way men are wired and the way women are wired there is a lot of strife created in marriages. As a woman, I think I need him to tell me how awesome I am or how much he loves me and that I'm his forever, and he's looking at me like I have two heads. A man doesn't have a point of reference for that, because that is not what he needs and he is not wired that way. Men don't think like that and there are a lot of problems in marriages because of that dynamic.
<pull-quote>The whole idea of trying to get men to think like women doesn't work. A woman’s needs are very vastly different than a man's needs.<pull-quote><tweet-link>TweetThis<tweet-link>
I cracked up when I heard Paul Washer saying that because it is so true. A husband doesn't need a text message and he doesn't need you to put love notes in his lunchbox. He doesn't need that stuff. He doesn't operate and think the same way that you operate and think. As a wife, you have to learn that he is wired so completely differently than you are and to not be offended when he doesn't have the same needs and responses that you have. Also, don’t fall into the notion that he's this ominous ogre or brute or beast, because he's really not. He's operating the way that he was created to operate by the Lord. Now obviously mixed into that are sin issues, but I'm just talking about the way our minds work.
The other thing I would like to add is about the differences in the temperaments of a man and a woman. That helped us so much in the early days of our marriage, because me and Steve are opposites. We could not be more opposite if we tried to be. Learning the different temperaments that we had really helped me to understand that what I was misunderstanding about him is just the way he is. I have a much different temperament than my husband, and on top of that I am female. A male and a female with opposite temperaments can have so many issues if they don't understand the temperaments they have. But if you understand those things, things start to make more sense to you. So, I encourage wives to take some time to try and explore those two different situations, because they're very helpful in marriage.
<pull-quote>A male and a female with opposite temperaments can have so many issues if they don't understand the temperaments they have.<pull-quote><tweet-link>TweetThis<tweet-link>
Nate: Yeah. The thing that I'm thinking about as you're talking is that it really is all a matter of the flow of the heart. If a wife is coming into this marriage relationship demanding that her husband meets her needs, most of the time she is going to find out, “Wow, he can't, because he's not like me.” But if she comes into the marriage thinking that what she wants to do is give and learn, then she will find more unity in her marriage. This requires real death to self, because usually as humans what we want to do is give to people what we value. So, a wife thinks, “I can love him by being super emotional and telling him about all my feelings, because that's what I want him to do for me.” In his mind, he didn't ask for her to do that and he doesn’t even know what to do with all of that. So a wife needs to learn what her husband values and the husband needs to learn what the wife values. But having the knowledge of what a spouse needs and values is only one step in the battle though. Actually taking the step to give of yourself that which isn’t as much a value to you takes real death to self.
Kathy: In a certain sense, yes, it takes a ton of death to self. But if in your heart you are more of a taker then this will feel like it is killing you. On the other hand, if you are more of a giver, you will really enjoy the process of learning how to please your husband. If your heart is, “I want him to be so happy. I want him to get what he needs,” you're going to win. But if you're a taker and you're always needing your needs met from a guy who's pretty clueless to your needs, you will be very, very disappointed. The problem with so many marriages, and this was true for me too, is that we come with a list of wants. I didn't come with a list of how I could bless him and how I could make his life richer and fuller. I came looking for how he could bless my life and make my life richer and fuller. That is a setup for disaster on both people's part, because men do the same thing.
A man falls in love with a woman, and he falls in love with his attraction to her in mind. That's not a very good recipe for an enduring relationship. But if you're walking with the Lord and you are putting Jesus at the very center of your marriage, you learn how to love because none of us know how to do it right. Does anybody that can hear my voice right now love perfectly as is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13? Love believes all things, hopes all things and it never fails. I don't have that testimony. But just as any Christian seeking to be more like Jesus, I want that to be my testimony. I may have already said this in another podcast, but it's worth repeating. After a message at one of our conferences several years ago, this young girl came rushing up to me after the meeting and said, “I have to just share this with you, because it goes so well with what you just talked about. Someone told me at a camp I went to that marriage is a death march to a life camp.” And that is exactly what it is. It's a death march. Death to self. That’s because if you're going to love rightly, if you're going to be the right kind of wife and the right kind of Christian, it's a matter of losing your life in this world. But you're headed to a life camp and the eternal life of Jesus Christ becomes yours. His life is being formed in you through all of it and it's worth it and there is joy in the journey. But it is joy mingled with pain.
Nate: I'm not married, but I’ve experienced where I set myself up to try to meet the needs of someone else and I found my own needs being met somehow. It puts in you a spring of satisfaction and contentment, and this grasping goes away, because you're satisfied. So, if husbands and wives could learn to set themselves to meet the needs of others, it would remove the source of so much conflict.
Kathy: That's very, very true. It's a spiritual principle that is very much active and alive, and it's real. We women have the profound privilege of helping our husbands learn how to meet other’s needs, because women tend to be more naturally wired to be givers or nurturers. We nurture, we coddle and we naturally want to take care of others. So, by selflessly laying down your life and giving up your rights, you can show your husband how to do that. That is a beautiful thing, because men do not naturally have a nurturing side to them. I know this is going to sound bad, but men tend to be more takers and women tend to be more givers. So, I would just encourage women to go for it when it comes to laying down their lives. I know a lot of women, including all of my friends that are mothers, lay down their lives for their children. If you're going to be a good mom, you need to lay down your life, but you can easily cut off the spirit of giving with your husband if you've got issues with him.
I just want to encourage you not to stop with your kids. In fact, I would say that your husband should be the recipient of all that you have to offer. It's not wrong for you to give yourself to him, even if he's not exactly doing the same for you, because that is the heart of God. God didn't stop doing the mercy to us. He came to us while we were yet sinners, while we were His enemies. I'm not saying that we are able to do that perfectly in the way that God did it, but He is our model. He has shown us how to build relationships and that is the framework for it. We are commanded to follow Christ’s model for how to love. It is very hard, but I don't have a day of regret being a Christian or being a wife married to a man who was horribly addicted to sexual sin. I'm grateful for all of it because of what it did in my relationship with Jesus and how it brought me closer to Him.