What Husbands Can Do
SUCCESS in marriage depends on the efforts of both mates. Yet the husband bears the greater responsibility for conditions in the family. This is because of his position. God’s Word the Bible says: “A husband is head of his wife.”—Eph. 5:23.
A husband may feel that his wife is primarily the cause of the problems. But even if she is, is it not the mark of a good head that he can successfully handle problems of those under his charge?
Someone may object: ‘Dealing with my wife is different. It’s easier to manage a hundred men in my business than it is to get along peacefully with her.’
There may be some truth in this, for, as a rule, family problems have been the most difficult for men to handle. No doubt that is why the Creator of the family provided husbands with lots of counsel on how to treat their wives properly. Having made them, surely God knows best how wives should be treated by husbands.
The Key to Warm Marital Intimacy
The Creator purposed that a warm intimacy be enjoyed in marriage, and so designed woman “as a complement” of man. Mates, therefore, were not simply to be acquaintances that share the same dwelling place; they were to be “one flesh.” (Gen. 2:18, 24) Their respective qualities were to be balanced, complemented, so well that a truly joyous relationship would be possible. Yet it is rather rare to find such an intimate warmth between mates.
Husbands, for example, frequently complain that their wives are too cold to be adequate sex partners. But why? Where does the trouble lie? As head of the family, the husband should certainly deal intelligently with the problem.
The Holy Bible states: “Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it.” (Eph. 5:28, 29) How important is this advice? Do women really need to be loved by their husbands?
Indeed they do. Marriage counselors often emphasize this. For example, Dr. David Reuben observed: “A wife particularly needs that special kind of attention that involves tenderness, understanding and reassurance.”
It is a cardinal truth: For wives to be genuinely happy they need to feel that they are loved. So the key to warm marital intimacy is for husbands to fill this need. The Bible urges husbands: “Let each one of you individually so love his wife as he does himself.”—Eph. 5:33.
Why Love Needs Expression
However, men often consider expressing love for their wives unnecessary, apparently feeling that supporting them materially is evidence enough of their love. But when expressions of affection are withheld, how is a wife affected? The following letter from a wife may give you some idea. She wrote:
“Here is my problem: I am so hungry . . . for a little sweet talk, a compliment, the feel of his arm around my waist while I’m cooking or a chance to sit in his lap, I’d trade all the material things I have for one affectionate squeeze.”
Yes, wives need to be shown love. They blossom out when they receive it, becoming more contented and often even more physically attractive. They were created with this need for love. That is why God urges husbands to love their wives. Failure to heed this counsel has had tragic consequences. It is, in fact, a principal cause of the unhappiness found in so many marriages today. Why so?
Because a wife starved for her husband’s tenderness and affection is likely to feel insecure and lack confidence regarding her femininity. Even resentment of her husband may develop, including perhaps a subconscious desire to get even with him for his neglect of her. How can a wife with such feelings be expected to be a warm and intimate sex partner?
Giving Expression to Love
Often husbands do love their wives, but find it difficult to express it. Here again the Bible can be helpful, for it shows how we should treat others. It says: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely.”—Col. 3:12, 13.
Some men, however, feel that it would be unmanly to treat their wives this way. And yet this is actually the way wives should be treated. In fact, sex relations for a wife may be unsatisfying, and even unpleasant, if her husband fails to appreciate that she was designed by God to respond to a kind, considerate man, not a harsh, demanding one.
The Creator realized that husbands, confronted as they are with so many erroneous ideas, would need instruction on how to love their wives. That is why he encourages them to be tender and considerate, saying: “You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with [your wives] according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.”—1 Pet. 3:7.
When it comes to sexual relations, it is especially important that a husband heed this instruction. He should act in accord with knowledge of how God made women. They usually are not as strong physically as men, and emotionally they are generally more delicate and sentimental than men. So God tells husbands to give wives honor as to a weaker vessel, to be respectful of their makeup, limitations and vicissitudes.
Thus, there are likely to be times when wives are very tired and do not feel up to having sexual relations. A husband could be demanding, forcing himself upon his wife. He may consider this a demonstration of his manly headship, feeling it weak to accede to her wish that they wait until another time. However, honoring his wife’s feelings in this matter is not a sign of weakness, but, rather, of strength. It requires manliness to exercise self-control and not to take personal affront at his wife’s wishes.
Also, it is important that the husband act in accord with knowledge while preparing for and engaging in intercourse. He should understand that a wife is not immediately prepared sexually to receive him. She is slower to respond in a sexual way.
Therefore, a husband who follows God’s instructions to honor his wife will take this into consideration. He will tenderly and patiently help her to receive him, so that the marriage act can be equally pleasurable and satisfying to both of them. What often occurs when a wife experiences such unselfish love from her husband? The warm love she, in turn, feels for him smooths over friction that may develop in other areas of married life.
Actually sex is only a small part of marriage in which God’s instructions need to be applied. A husband should not forget to treat his wife according to knowledge and with honor at other times also. For example, he needs to realize that her biological cycle may, at times, affect her adversely in physical, mental and emotional ways. She may then do and say things that she would not ordinarily. A husband needs to take this into consideration, and not to be overly sensitive if she speaks sharply or acts rashly, but continue to treat her with kindness.
Yet much more is involved. Successful marriage requires cooperation and communication. Although the husband is head of the family, before making decisions he should consider the opinions, likes and dislikes of his wife, even giving her preference when there is no issue at stake. In this way he shows her honor.
By thus heeding God’s counsel, there will be peace and happiness in the marriage. But if mates do not cooperate in the various aspects of their marriage, what may then happen when it comes to sex relations? One wife wrote very frankly about this, saying:
“Men complain because their wives are ‘cold.’ May I tell you about my marriage? . . . I have tried to draw [my husband] into conversations about my work . . . And he never says a word about his work, although I ask lots of questions, hoping to generate a little conversation between us. . . .
“Sunday night is his night to ‘relax’ so we don’t go anywhere. I go to bed at 9:30 as I’ve spent my day cooking and cleaning. He hits the hay after the late movie. Then he starts looking for an affectionate bed partner.
“I wonder how many married women are eager to make love to a stranger who hasn’t talked to them all week.”
Really, this is something for husbands to think about. If a warm intimacy does not exist in your marriage, could it be that you bear considerable responsibility for this? It takes humility to acknowledge one’s shortcomings and to take steps to correct them. Doing so, however, will surely help to bring you and your wife greater satisfaction and contentment.
But perhaps the problem in your family is of an entirely different nature. There is more that a husband desires in a wife than a satisfying sex partner.
Handling Other Problems
Caring for the home and cooking tasty and nutritious meals are also integral parts of marriage. One husband expressed his complaint bluntly: “Maybe other husbands will disagree with me, but I would rather have a cleaner house and better fed kids than a wife who lets everything go so she can rest up for sack time.”
Your wife, too, may fall considerably short of measuring up to the “capable wife” described in the Bible. (Prov. 31:10-31) What can you do?
Some husbands may, in a nagging way, draw comparisons with the well-kept homes and fine cooking of other wives. But this probably will only cause their wives to feel resentment. How much better if a husband can appeal to his wife in such a way that she desires to improve in her care of the home and in her cooking ability!
Attention might tactfully be drawn to the poor impression created on others if the home is messy, or the family ill fed. And if there are children, it might be noted that they will be affected adversely later in life by poor parental example now. If these points are made with love and kindness, it will give your wife incentive to improve.
If your wife never learned homemaking skills, encourage and help her to learn. Let her know how much you appreciate her efforts. Even when improvement is small, sincerely compliment her. Then, on your day off, or in the evening, why not give her a hand by washing the dishes and cleaning the rugs and floors? This is practical application of the Bible counsel to ‘love your wife,’ and it is certain to produce rewarding results.
A husband, too, needs to be reasonable, avoiding being overly fussy. One husband, who had often nagged his wife about being neat, was on vacation when his wife required a short hospital stay. After caring for the home and children a few days and thus realizing for the first time all that was involved, he sincerely apologized to his wife for his fussiness.
So be understanding and alert to compliment, rather than demanding or critical. Then if you do make a suggestion for improvement, it will likely be welcomed.
Regardless of what problem arises between you and your wife, if you will only remember that “husbands ought to be loving their wives,” you will be aided to handle the situation successfully.—Eph. 5:28.
However, in many families today major problems are with the children. What can be done to handle these successfully?