Posts tagged loving your wife

A husband nourishes and cherishes



Nourish and cherish your wifeHusbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:28-31).

Nourishing your wife

When the Apostle Paul challenges men to “nourish” their wives, he uses a unique word. In fact, the word for nourish, ektrepho, is only found one other place in the Bible. A few verses later, Paul tells men not to exasperate their children but to “bring them up” (ektrepho) in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (see Ephesians 6:4).

So, is a husband to “bring up” his wife? Does that mean he should treat her as one of the children? The answer, in a special sense, is yes. But he is not to think of his wife as a child. Nor is he to relate to her as a child. She is his partner. She does not need to be brought to maturity the way a child does. But the Bible is teaching here that a husband is responsible for his wife’s ongoing spiritual, mental, and emotional growth. She is in his care, and he is to shepherd her.

Now, we think of nourishment in physical terms. We provide nourishment for someone when we give him healthy food to eat. The word ektrepho carries that same meaning. But Paul expands on the idea. A man should not only nourish his wife by being a provider who makes sure there is healthy food for her to eat, but he should also nourish her soul. For his children, he nourishes them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. He knows that man does not live by bread alone.

The old Puritan preachers knew this well. They would remind men that failure to provide for the physical needs of their families made them worse than the pagans (see 1 Timothy 5:8). But what good does it do, they would ask, if we care for their bodies but neglect their souls? Should we work diligently to satisfy their material and physical needs in this life, and to take no regard for their souls, which will live forever?

Paul reminds husbands that we are quick to satisfy our own need for nourishment. We rarely neglect our own bodies. Our care for our wife’s needs should be just as acute. We are to labor to provide nourishment for her body, and we are to strive to provide nourishment for her soul.

Cherishing your wife

But a wife is not only to be nourished; she is also to be cherished. One again Paul uses a unique word, thalpo. It shows up only one other time in the New Testament, in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. There, he reminds his readers that he and his fellow missionaries had “proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares (thalpo) for her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

A husband, then, is to tenderly care for his wife in the same way that a mother gently and tenderly cares for a new baby. As a father of five, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to observe the special bond that grows between a mother and her child. After each child was born, I would watch as Mary Ann spent hours caring for our new son or daughter. She could sit for what seemed like forever to me, stroking his hair with her hand, talking to him, reacting to every coo or every facial gesture the baby would make. Even in the middle of the night, when the child had awakened her from a few precious hours of rest, she would gently care for, nurse, and talk to her baby. Her regular routines were interrupted, but it didn’t matter. Nothing would get in the way of caring for the new little life in our home.

That’s what it looks like to cherish someone. The word literally means “to soften or warm with body heat.” It means we make another person our priority relationship. We cherish our wives by providing them with a warm, safe, secure environment, where they will never doubt our love, our care, and our commitment.

Think of it this way. If I were to ask you to name your most cherished possession — the one you’d run into the house to save in a fire — you would begin to mentally sort through the things you own. You would quickly eliminate the things that are easily replaceable. If you can buy the same item at Wal-Mart for under $10, it’s not likely to appear on your cherished possession list.

You would slowly begin to narrow the list down to a few items. All of them would either be very expensive or even irreplaceable. There would also very likely be some kind of emotional attachment to the items on your list — something that tied them to a special time or a special person in your life. If you were finally able to narrow the list down to a single item, it would very likely be something you alone would find valuable. Your cherished possessions would be a unique part of your life.

That list of valued possessions gives us a taste of what it means to cherish our wife. She is highly valued. She is our priority. She is cared for. We ought to regularly reflect back to her how cherished she is.

It’s in the small stuff

Many husbands express their love for their wives with a big event. A cruise. A trip to Europe. Expensive jewelry or gifts. We know how to go all out with the spectacular displays of love. The real question for us? Can we sacrifice to do the little things that show our wives that we cherish them day after day?

The big events all play a part in expressing our affection for our wives. But unless we are doing the little things that say “I cherish you” every day, the big events ring hollow. A wife will come to resent the diamond bracelets or the dresses, if that’s all there is. She will see them as an attempt to buy her affection. Cherishing a wife, and letting her know she is cherished, requires constant expressions of love and devotion.

Pastor Tommy Nelson from Denton Church in Denton, Texas has gained notoriety in the Dallas area for a series of messages he gave to a singles Bible study, taken from the Song of Solomon. During an interview on the FamilyLife Today radio program, Tommy described romance as a marriage discipline. A husband may have some natural abilities or instincts in that direction, he said. During courtship, these natural instincts flow freely. But in marriage we have to refine our instincts and abilities through regular romance workouts. We can’t rely on our spontaneous romantic urges to communicate our devotion for our wives.

He’s right. I need to let my wife know that I cherish her, and I need to find ways to do it regularly and creatively. They don’t need to be expensive or extravagant. They simply need to be genuine and regular.

A great example

One night several years ago, after Mary Ann had gone to bed, I took a notepad and a pen and sat down at the kitchen table to write her a series of short, one-line love notes. Each one said something very simple: “I’m glad you’re my wife,” or “I love you very much,” or “I still find you wildly attractive.” Once the notes were written, I went to work. I placed them strategically all over the house. One was in a spot where she would see it the next day. Another was tucked away in her Bible. A third was put in a recipe file in the kitchen. And so on.

For the next few weeks and months, the notes continued to pop up in unexpected places — glove compartments, mailboxes, hidden in the fine china. That one night of note writing sent its message for weeks to come. In fact, the one in the recipe file is still where I put it, more than a decade ago — not because Mary Ann hasn’t found it, but because she has left it right where I put it!

A husband nourishes his wife by caring for her physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. He shows her that he cherishes her when he makes her a priority and regularly expresses his affection, his devotion, and his commitment to her.

Caring for our own flesh

The Bible reminds us as husbands that we ought to care for our wives as we care for our own flesh. The reason? She is! We have entered into a “one-flesh” relationship with her. Charles Hodge put it this way:

“It is just as unnatural for a man to hate his wife as it would be for him to hate himself or his own body. A man may have a body that does not altogether suit him. He may wish it were handsomer, healthier, stronger, or more active. Still it is his body, it is himself; and he nourisheth it and cherisheth it as tenderly as though it were the best and loveliest man ever had. So a man may have a wife whom he could wish to be better, or more beautiful, or more agreeable; still she is his wife, and by the constitution of nature and ordinance of God, a part of himself. In neglecting or ill-using her he violates the laws of nature as well as the law of God. … If a husband and wife are one flesh, the husband must love his wife, ‘for no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it.'”

A commitment to love our wives involves not only proactive, self-sacrificing love, but also the responsibility of being an agent of sanctification in our wives’ lives. The goal of our love is to see our wives become more like Christ. I must be ready to die to self as I cleanse her, nourish her, and cherish her. This is no job for some mushy, romantic, hormone-crazed, self-absorbed man. Only real men need apply. Are you up to the challenge?

Excerpted from Bob Lepine’s book The Christian Husband, Bethany House Publishers. Copyright © 1999 by Bob Lepine. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “A husband nourishes and cherishes,” by Bob Lepine on the Stepping Up blog for men. 

STEPThink - 10-point checklistNourishing and cherishing means continuing to pursue. Justin Buzzard tells how to Date Your Wife on FamilyLife Today.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistIn “30 Ways to Love Your Lover,” Dennis Rainey reveals ways to cherish and affirm your wife through words and actions.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistStormie Omartian shares “10 Things a Husband Can Say When His Wife Feels Overwhelmed or Frustrated.”

50 ways to increase your wife’s worth



EDITOR’S NOTE: What’s more out of place: a post to men on a blog for women, or a post by a woman on a blog for men? This blog post from a friend of mine originally appeared on Stepping Up’s sister blog, Mom Life Today. But the advice she gives is clearly aimed at men. As I read over it recently, I couldn’t resist sharing it with the readers of this blog. One of the best ways to increase your wife’s worth (in her eyes and yours) is to treat her as worthy.

An old story told from the island of Kiniwata relates the account of a man known as Johnny Lingo. The youngest and strongest man from the island, Johnny shocked the islanders by paying the father of his bride not the traditional two to three cows for his wife, or even the four to five cows for an exceptional wife. For Sarita, he paid eight. No one could understand:

“It would be kindness to call her plain. She was skinny. She walked with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked. She was scared of her own shadow.”

Eight cows!? The entire island laughed at the audacity.

Curious about the story, writer Patricia McGerr visited Johnny’s home. She was fascinated by what she describes as the most beautiful woman she’d ever seen. She wrote about this in a Woman’s Day article,   “Johnny Lingo and the Eight Cow Wife”: “The lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin, the sparkle of her eyes all spelled a pride to which no one could deny her the right.”

When McGerr later pressed Johnny Lingo for his reasoning, he explains, “Many things can change a woman. Things that happen inside, things that happen outside. But the thing that matters most is what she thinks about herself. In Kiniwata, Sarita believed she was worth nothing. Now she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the islands … I wanted an eight-cow wife.”

Now, for obvious reasons, please do not immediately tell your beloved, “Hon, you’re an eight-cow wife.” But remember that, at least in part, a man’s impact may be measured in the joy and character of the people closest to him.

The way that a man sees his wife, the way he cherishes her, has a lasting effect on her beauty within and without. How does your wife feel about you and your relationship to her? How do you want your children to remember your acts of love for their mother?

Here are 50 ideas to get you started toward inspiring an eight-cow wife.

  1. HeartCarvedTreeBe a student of her. Where do her passions, gifting, and abilities lie? What energizes her? When does she lose track of time because she’s enjoying herself so much? What weights does she bear? (Can you learn incredible things about this woman that even she doesn’t know?)
  2. Ask God for special wisdom in understanding your wife and in loving her well (James 1:5-6).
  3. Make a list of 30 things that you love and/or appreciate about her. Write them on separate sticky notes, and leave one somewhere in the house every day for an entire month.
  4. For what ministry has God created your wife in order to build up His people? Give her time and energy to pursue it.
  5. Take care of the kids for a day so that she can have a personal spiritual retreat to recharge.
  6. Listen to her sincerely: Observe her words, body language, and circumstances in order to compassionately understand her. Make eye contact with her, and ask thoughtful questions, like “How did that affect you?” or basic who/what/where/when/why/how questions.
  7. If she’s got a budding hobby or one that’s been neglected, purchase something small but high-quality that she would enjoy: quality paintbrushes, a beautiful journal, photo software, a top-notch cooking knife, new gloves, athletic equipment (ahem … only if she loves athletics), a well-recommended book on her hobby. Include a note: Just because I love the way you’re made.
  8. Pray with her, and for her, on a regular basis. Consider making it a regular item in your schedule, such as before you leave for work or go to bed.
  9. Compile a CD with songs that specifically encourage things you love about her. Let her know that you intentionally chose these for her and about her.
  10. When circumstances, conversation, or even movies or songs bring up an area in which she excels, lean over and whisper, “You know, you do that so well. I love how you use ___ to bless the people around you.”
  11. Identify the “life-suckers” in her life. What saps her energy? Consider the points of friction that she often faces in her daily routines. Prayerfully ask God to help you see not only what weighs on her, but also how you could help her.   Initiate conversation to compassionately find solutions with her. Ask, “What could be done to make that less painful (or less difficult)?”
  12. Gently encourage your children to thank her for different ways she serves them: When they have clean laundry, when she serves dinner, when she drops them off at school. (Make sure you’re modeling consistent gratitude for little things, too.)
  13. Identify your wife’s “love language” — what makes her feel loved and valued. Is it words of affirmation, gifts, physical touch, quality time, or acts of service? She may have more than one. Become fluent in each of her “languages.”
  14. What pleasures in your life do you enjoy that your wife isn’t able to enjoy? She might not be into fishing like you are, for example, but maybe she’d like her own version of alone time. Like you, she might be honored by accolades for her projects well-done, a chance to finish a conversation, or sleeping in on a Saturday.
  15. Allow your wife to set your standard of beauty, and make it clear to her that she is secure: Your eyes are only for her. Enlist the help of a trusted friend or pastor and accountability websites like x3watch.com to develop monogamous eyes that come from a monogamous heart … and a husband she can trust. Security gives way to confidence.
  16. Talk through your budget together with her. Make sure you both have the resources you need to care for your family well. If you primarily manage the budget, ask her to make at least one change before finalizing it. Esteem wise financial decisions she’s made.
  17. Be a student of her body. Ask her, both while you’re in bed and at a completely separate private time, how you can please her sexually and make her feel secure and beautiful. Seek tenderly to understand her past and how it affects her in the bedroom. Be prepared to humbly accept what she says, embracing her without defensiveness.
  18. Gently protect her. Lovingly help her set boundaries with her time, energy, resources, and relationships (kids and mothers-in-law included).
  19. Give her a massage — one that doesn’t lead to sex, unless she’s clear that making love is what she would enjoy most.
  20. Send her an e-mail. Example: “Praying for you today. Thanks for being so courageous in ___.”
  21. Give her one night on a regular basis to do something she loves. Occasionally surprise her with an afternoon “off” so she can do something fun or just be alone.
  22. Consistently mention ways you see her growing to be more like Christ.
  23. Ask her about her “bucket list” — the top things she’d like to do in her lifetime.
  24. Give her a book or audio CD to learn about something she loves doing.
  25. Text her on a stressful day. Example: “REMINDER: I BELIEVE IN U.”
  26. Leave a message on her voicemail: “Thanks for serving our family every day. You are so good at ___.”
  27. Be proactive about doing something together that she really enjoys. Make a date, get her excited, and share her enthusiasm!
  28. Ask her, “If there were one thing I could do to love you better, to really cherish you — and you knew I would listen — what would it be?” Be prepared to follow through.
  29. Tell her areas she’s gifted in. Don’t stretch the truth: Be honest so she can trust you.
  30. Talk with her about setting aside a small part of the budget to pursue the unique ways God has designed her (including her gifts, abilities, and passions) — through education or through sheer enjoyment.
  31. Post on her Facebook wall: “I love being your husband. You still take my breath away.”
  32. Have your children write her notes or letters about what they love about her as a mom.
  33. Ask, “If I could do one thing that would really empower you and inspire you, what would it be?” Listen and follow through.
  34. As you think of them, remind her of specific times when she has made an impact in the lives of others. “Hey, I was thinking the other day about all the times you’ve invested in all those kids who come over here. You do such a good job making people feel welcomed and loved on.” “I don’t think I could count all the meals you’ve brought to people who are sick. You are wonderful at seeing people’s needs and giving of yourself to them.”
  35. Do something fun and unexpected together. Here are a few ideas: play paintball, laser tag, or sand volleyball; organize a picnic and bring the books you’re reading; take photos of each other; play a pickup game of a sport together; go to a drive-in movie, bringing popcorn and her favorite candy (let her initiate any physical advances for this one).
  36. Think about a way you’ve been hurting her or annoying her. Maybe there are ways you’re not “seeing” her — not stepping into her world to understand what it’s like to be her, with all of the things she cares about (see 1 Peter 3:7). Apologize, and work hard at showing true change.
  37. Find a mutually enjoyable activity you like doing together on a regular basis, even if it’s working outside together or playing the Wii together after the kids are in bed.
  38. Create a fun, life-giving atmosphere when you come home.
  39. Design a date night that will help her to de-stress and have fun. (Dare I suggest ballroom dancing lessons?)
  40. What’s difficult about her life right now? Pray for her endurance, and encourage her specifically. Galatians 6:9 is a great start for both. Think, What can I do to ease the load she’s carrying today?
  41. Organize or clean something of yours that you know she finds messy.
  42. Talk with her about her fears — both deep and insignificant. Over time, lead her as you work together to replace those fears with faith in God as expressed in His Word.
  43. Send a snail-mail love note to her at home, affirming all she does for your family.
  44. Think of something on her to-do list that she finds overwhelming or for which she doesn’t have much time. Talk with her (respectfully and gently) about the possibility of having it hired out (maybe you could pay a responsible high school student to log a few hours on housework). Communicate clearly that it’s not because you find her incompetent, but that you want to free her up from a burden.
  45. If your wife likes to dress nicely, go with her to shop for clothes in which she feels confident and looks fantastic.
  46. Be an advocate for her rest. Gently help her to evaluate and set limits on her to-do list, reminding her that she loves others best when she takes time to replenish.
  47. Let her overhear you speaking well of her on the phone — among friends, to your kids, in public places, and to your mother. Tenderly but firmly keep family members from speaking disrespectfully to her or about her.
  48. In her area of weakness, pray about how to subtly, gently step in and help her.
  49. Request, “I’d like you to think about something for me. I’d like you to tell me one area in which you want to challenge me, but you wonder if I will listen and if I’ll receive it well. If you’ll do that, I commit to listen to you without getting defensive or somehow punishing you for telling me.”
  50. If and when she messes up, respond with the kind of grace, compassion, and mercy that God gives us. Respond in a way that communicates, You’re safe with me — and I’m not going to rehash your failures. This is a secure place for you to grow … and I love the journey with you.

One final note: Maybe you are a man who initiates many kindnesses to your wife and you don’t receive much respect or kindness in return. May you be gently, compassionately encouraged: Giving without mutual gain puts you in good company — the company of Jesus. May God give you significant grace as you pray for your wife and encounter the nitty-gritty, everyday battles against resentment and, in many cases, injustice. Our God is the God who sees (Genesis 21:15-21).

Copyright ©2012 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in MomLife Today.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “50 ways to increase your wife’s worth” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistMuch of what your wife thinks of herself is tied to how she thinks you feel about her. Do you regularly make her feel valued?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistFor more encouragement and inspiration, read Bob Lepine’s article “Nourishing and Cherishing Your Wife.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistChoose just one thing from the list to do today. Then choose another for tomorrow or another day this week, and so on.

6 lessons from a first-time dad



Eight months ago my wife, Emily, and I received our first son, Isaac, through the blessing of adoption.  We have spent many years praying about the right time for our family to adopt and felt God moving us toward adoption last year.  Though we read tons of books on parenting during five years of marriage, I was shocked by how under-prepared we were for the realities of the task.

Becoming a father adds a strange and new dynamic to marriage, even if you have a healthy relationship. There are multiple lessons to be learned—about being a dad and about being a good husband/leader.

Dad lessons

1. Just survive. Even though we were not expecting a fairy-tale baby, we drastically underestimated how hard the adjustment would be.  Everything that he needed we had to provide, which meant less time for our own interests. A lot less! Those first few months were just downright hard.

The temptation for any new dad is to escape the madness.  If you are expecting your first child soon, all I can say is … just survive.  Grit your teeth and just get through it.  Every parent goes through it.  I guarantee you, better days are coming.  It will get better.

2. Understand your anger.  In general, I’ve rarely struggled with a temper.  In 20 years of playing organized basketball I have only been charged with one technical foul.  But during the first few months as a parent I was shocked and even embarrassed at how angry I could get.

All the crying can really take its toll.  There was one Saturday that I decided to give Emily a day out to herself, which meant Isaac and me, all day, together (I can hear every woman laughing now).  He literally cried from the moment she started the car until five minutes before she returned.  She was gone for eight hours.  It was as if someone was scraping five-inch nails across a chalkboard all day long.

After opening up to a few people, I found that I was not alone. I found that most new parents wonder if there is something wrong with them because of how angry they get. My mother-in-law even admitted she scared herself with how angry she became.

Although our anger reached new levels, I learned that this is a perfect opportunity to become more like Jesus.  Often with increased anger, sin follows closely.  In Ephesians 4:26, Paul tells us, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”  I’ve often had to seek forgiveness from Emily for my attitude, and way before the sun ever started to set.

I also started asking forgiveness from Isaac.  He may not understand what I am saying, but it provides great practice for me as he grows up.  Forgiveness is something that we continually need to seek from others as we follow Jesus.

3. Remember that this is God’s child. One night Emily and I were talking about different decisions we would make as Isaac grows.  At some point in the conversation we just stopped.  We realized that we can’t protect him from everything.  And we can’t provide everything he will ever want or need.  But we know who can.

God loves my son more than I could ever love him.  He cares for Isaac more than I ever could.

I can’t explain how liberating it is to say out loud to each other that, “We can’t, but God can.”  He has given us the awesome responsibility to train this little boy.  This is His child.  What an amazing thing to know that God loves Isaac more than I do.

Husband lessons

1. Man up and grab a diaper. As a new dad, it’s easy for me to withdraw and make an excuse that Emily is better at taking care of Isaac and that she doesn’t need me.  But she does need me.

This gives me great opportunity as a man to be creative.  I must look for ways to serve around the house and play an active part in raising Isaac with Emily.  I’ve found that I can be very helpful by taking care of all the dishes, changing diapers, keeping up on household cleaning, and taking out the trash.

Part of being a family leader is learning to anticipate needs that are coming before being asked to do them.  When I look to serve Emily—just to purely serve and take some burden off of her—it goes a long way. In Ephesians, Paul calls all men to love their wives as Christ loves the church.  Christ lived so sacrificially for the church that he died for it.

Why is it that we would be willing to take a bullet for our wives, but we forget the simple act of serving them?  It could be as simple as holding the baby for 30 minutes after work to give my wife a needed break.  So when I feel the urge to flop down into the recliner, I just need to make sure I have the baby with me.

2. Dates are essential. Getting away together is essential to our marriage.  This allows us to fight isolation by feeling like normal people.  We can concentrate more on each other rather than the needs of Isaac.  Isaac is very important, but our marriage is the top priority.

It is also very important to spend some time in conversation about things other than Isaac.  We are still real people.  What has been going on with each of us?  What has God taught us?  Where would we like to go on our next vacation?

This is essential in keeping our sanity.  Our family can’t be all about him.   And dates don’t necessarily have to be in the evening.  Dropping Isaac off at someone’s house on a Saturday to get a few hours out together, even if it is just going to the grocery store, is worth it.

SheafferDanEmilyIsaac3. Stop and enjoy the moment. There have been so many special moments with Isaac.  It was exciting to see his smile develop and to watch him learn to laugh.  I think I could sit for hours and just watch him peacefully sleep.

Many dads miss these little moments.  They miss the birth.  They miss the first few years.  They miss the school years.  They are living in the same house, but miss speaking into the lives of their children.  I know many parents who turn around after their kids leave the house and ask, “Where did the time go?”  No offense to these parents, but I want to be able to turn around when my kids leave the house and say, “I know exactly where the time has gone.  Emily and I have been there hand in hand every step of the way.”

God calls me as a parent to train up our children.  That means it is my responsibility, not someone else’s.  I won’t miss the moments with my kids.  There are so many things in this world vying for the attention of Isaac, and I need to be the voice of truth and love in his life.

I may never achieve perfection.  In fact, I will screw up.  But learning is a process.  Striving to be more like Jesus and love my wife is hard work.

The same is true for you, whether you’re a first-time dad or you’ve been at it for a while.  You don’t have to be perfect today—just work a little each day to love your wife and kids better.  Love with your children is spelled T-I-M-E.  That starts right now.  Go get ‘em, dads!

© 2013 by Dan Sheaffer. Used by permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “6 lessons from a first-time dad” by Dan Sheaffer on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhether a new dad or a veteran, what are some areas where you could be more intentional about fathering?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead the article “Dad University” by Dennis Rainey and get a quick course about being a godly father.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPass either of these two articles to any young dads or expectant fathers you know. Encourage them in the fraternity of dads.

Real manhood: Black & white, not Fifty Shades of Grey



This is the final post in a three-part series about “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?” The second post, “Man up to Christian Grey and Fifty Shades,” offered ideas about what you can do to reflect real manhood: Be a man of integrity, love your wife unconditionally, and show your daughters their strength. This post picks up that list with four more suggestions.

4. Raise men of honor.

The way a young man treats a young woman tells her what he thinks of her, and even feeds into how she thinks of herself. We need to remind our sons to value young ladies like we value their mom and treat them with the same honor and deference. The same axiom I mentioned earlier works in reverse: “Be a gentleman; get a lady.”

We also need to remind sons that they need to take responsibility for the self-discipline of the relationship. Just because of how we’re designed, we men are more likely to be the pursuers in a relationship. We will advance as far as we are allowed, and even push the boundaries to find out how solid they are.

As dads, we endeavor to raise our sons to be men of honor and integrity. And our desire is that they date young women with high moral standards as well. But we know that, as romance and hormones blossom, the tendency is for those physical boundaries to get mushy. In generations past, a young woman might put on the brakes if the passion got too high. Today, though, young women are just as likely as young men to be the aggressors.

We need to remind our sons (and the guys who date our daughters) to not let the passion rise to those hard-to-stop points, even if their dates seem to be giving the go-ahead. When things have settled down, she’s likely to appreciate him taking the leadership, and more trusting that he’s watching out for her.

5. Warn the women in your life about pornography.

At one time, porn use among married men wasn’t something “polite” women brought up. In recent years, women have bravely begun to speak up about how it hurts them and makes them feel inferior to the sex objects on the pages of magazines and computers. But at the same time, strangely, pornography has become more accepted among women.

Men who have battled porn addiction should be the first to speak up to warn and protect women.  We know firsthand how pornography lures us with the promise of sexual fulfillment and release, but it eventually dominates our thinking. Advances in neuroscience have confirmed what we already knew from experience: the more we give ourselves to porn, the more our brains are trained to want more of it, more often, and more graphic. Eventually, we’re more drawn to the instant fulfillment of a sexual fantasy than to work through a real relationship with a real woman.

The same thing is beginning to happen to women. Many are becoming obsessed with pornography and erotica and the fulfillment it offers. They become trapped in a world of fantasy where they attempt to meet emotional and sexual needs with a fantasy man. They may not be as attracted as much to the visual stimulation as men are, but they do notice the beautiful, sexy women in porn and imagine those women as themselves, the objects of desire.

With the power of the smartphone, young women have discovered they have the ability to create their own porn in the form of nude selfies and videos. They do it to connect to a love interest or to get noticed. With all the increase in women’s use of porn, the bottom line is that they seem to be willing to put up with objectification and debasement in order to find a way to be desired and fulfilled.

6. Be open with your wife about romance and intimacy.

Many married women defending the book often say it has improved their sex life. Certainly a film like Fifty Shades that blends heavy doses of romance and flesh can’t help but awaken many women’s sexual desires. It’s the same reasoning a man might give for watching pornography with his wife—to jump-start their sex life. But that’s trying to create a reality based on fantasy.

There is a much healthier way to jump-start romance and intimacy in your marriage. It’s called communication. Open, honest conversations about intimacy and sexual fulfillment keep romance and passion alive through years of marriage.

Talk honestly about how each of you assess your love life, frequency, likes, dislikes and wishes. Maybe you can start with some simple questions that you answer together.

  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate our intimacy?
  • What things that I do make you feel most wanted and fulfilled?
  • What would you change about our love life?

God has designed marriage as the place to enjoy a lifetime of intimacy between “the wife of your youth” and her “beloved” (Proverbs 5:18-19; Ecclesiastes 9:9; Song of Solomon 7:6-10). Talk and explore together how to get out of the intimacy rut and together create a more fulfilling sex life. Not sure what’s okay and what’s not (especially in light of all the junk passed off in Fifty Shades of Grey)? Here are some helpful guidelines borrowed from Marriage Today:

  • Is it forbidden in Scripture?
  • Does it violate your conscience?
  • Does it violate your wife, or is it against her conscience or will?
  • Is it physically safe or might it cause health risks?
  • Does it treat your wife in a disrespectful way or damage your relationship?
7. Understand submission God’s way.

What is presented in Fifty Shades of Grey is being called submission, but it’s actually subjugation. Subjugation is defined as “defeating or gaining control of a person for their obedience.” Submission is when a person voluntarily places themselves under the authority and guidance of another.

The Bible teaches women to submit to the God-given leadership of their husbands in the same way that Christ submitted to the will of God the Father. But here’s a reminder, guys: God doesn’t command a husband to remind his wife to submit. Instead He calls the husband to unconditionally love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave his entire life for her. Subjugation is the furthest thing from God’s design in the marriage relationship. Our wives are His gift to us as our completers, and we are God’s gift to them as shields of protection.

Out of reverence to Christ, both husband and wife are to put their personal desires aside to serve each other (Ephesians 5:21). That brings out the best in a man and a woman. It brings us together in mutual trust and fulfills the deepest longings of our souls.

When you rely on God’s word to guide you on how a man should treat a woman, it’s easier to see black and white. Thankfully, a real Christian doesn’t have to muddle through fifty shades of grey.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Real manhood: Black & white, not Fifty Shades of Grey” in the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“7 Things to Remember About Sex” is one great way you and your wife can start a discussion about your sexual desires.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistTwo broadcasts, “Fifty Shades of Deception” and “Longings of a Woman’s Heart” point women to what’s really at stake.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistLet women see a better example of manhood by passing “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?” along to your male friends.

Man up to Christian Grey, Fifty Shades



This is the second of three posts on what a real man should do with Fifty Shades of Grey.

On Valentine’s weekend, Fifty Shades of Grey dominated the box offices with $85 million in ticket sales, even though the movie was almost universally panned. In my first post, “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?,” I expressed concern that the main character, Christian Grey, is a pathetic role model for true manhood. Rather than respect and care for an innocent and vulnerable Anastasia Steele, he subjects her to sexual abuse and degradation to fulfill the warped desires left from his own childhood sexual abuse.

Sure, Christian Grey is a fictional character, but his influence on the culture (through Fifty Shades of Grey) is troubling. Have women lowered their standards for men so far that Christian Grey is the object of desire? Reportedly, the books and movie have a heavy following among 25-55 year old women.  But it’s also reaching our young daughters. According to IMDB (Internet Movie Database), the movie drew the highest reviews by far from girls under 18.

And just in case you’re wondering, a Barna survey found that women who identify themselves as Christians are reading the books at the same rate as the general public. It’s captivating women everywhere.

That should concern any self-respecting man.

For decades, the objectification and hyper-sexualization of women in the media has been a problem. A majority of all young women today have been exposed to pornography before age 14. As they are encountering sexual material at younger and younger ages, we appear to be reaching critical mass.

In years past, that exposure would be met with disgust. But now it’s being embraced in our culture. About half of young adult women now consider viewing pornography as an acceptable way of expressing their sexuality. One in three visitors to online porn sites are now women, and one in five women use the Internet weekly for sexual purposes.

These are our wives and our daughters who are being affected. So, as a godly man, what do you do?

1. Be a man of integrity.

Women are looking for a man to admire, not just someone to buy them off and beat any sense of high standards out of them. As a husband, you need to make it your goal to treat your wife as your greatest earthly priority. As a father, you model for both your sons and your daughters not just what real manhood is all about, but the value of women.

Pastor and author Robert Lewis defines an authentic man:

  • He rejects passivity. He doesn’t allow the enemy to distract him from reflecting the image of his Creator God, and caring for the woman and the world that have been entrusted to him.
  • He accepts responsibility. He recognizes that his wife and children are dependent on him, and he seeks to correct his mistakes rather than make others continue to suffer in the wake of his bad choices.
  • He leads courageously. He doesn’t force women to step in to fill the vacuum of leadership left by passive men. But he also recognizes that his leadership is a position of voluntary submission to Christ, who voluntarily submits Himself to the Father.
  • He expects God’s greater reward. He recognizes that Christ didn’t give in to the temptations of Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), but submitted his own desires to those of the Father so that he could redeem His bride, the church (Philippians 2:5-11).
2. Love the one you’re with.

Your wife should be the object of your desire. She longs to see in your words and actions that you are always seeking the best for her. Rather than expecting her to sign a contract listing your demands, remind her that you have made a covenant to cherish and care for her, and to love her as much as you love your own body (Ephesians 5:29).

weaker vesselScripture tells us (1 Peter 3:7) to live with our wives in an understanding way (be considerate), as a weaker vessel. That’s not a cut-down but a comparison; a compliment. I think of it as delicate vs. durable; Ellie’s demitasse china cup and saucer vs. my gunmetal grey travel mug. My wife is strong and capable (she would have made a great pioneer woman). Yet I know Ellie is created to be a responder, nurturer and empathizer. She flourishes when I treat her with honor and respect. And God reminds me that His receptivity to me is tied to how receptive I am to my wife. Strength and submission aside, we husbands need to remember that we are equal to our wives before God, as joint heirs of His grace. We need to become lifelong students of extending that grace to each other.

3. Show your daughters their strength.

Too many girls and young women today don’t realize the power they have to set the expectations in a relationship. In our sexualized culture, they are led to believe that their only real worth is as sensual creatures. They expect that by gratifying the natural desires of a man, he will come to desire her. The truth is that a woman who holds high standards for herself and the man she cares about will call him up from his basic instincts to his true calling as leader, protector, lover.

A young girl needs to know that she’s loved—by her Heavenly father and her earthly father. We daddies need to remind our daughters of their intrinsic worth to us, and especially their value to the God who created them, who knows them intimately, and who loves them unconditionally. The more they accept this, the more likely they will be to look for a man who recognizes and respects their value.

And often it’s the little things they do that begin to bring out the best in a guy. One of the things I’ve told my three girls through the years has been “Be a lady; expect a gentleman.”  Wait for him to open the door, to pull out her chair, to call for a date. Sure, she can do all those things, but in waiting, she’s offering him an opportunity to step up and to show her he values her.

If there’s a positive message in Fifty Shades of Grey it’s this: A man will give honor to a woman when she raises the bar and expects to be treated as a unique creation and not just an object of desire.

The final post in this three-part series will continue the suggestions about what you can do to challenge the image of Christian Grey  by being a real man. We’ll cover raising sons, warning women about the dangers of porn, developing intimacy with your wife, and understanding submission from God’s perspective.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “How to challenge Christian Grey and Fifty Shades” in the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistRead the original post in this series, “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?” and come back next week for the conclusion. 

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRobert Lewis and William Hendricks share “What Every Husband Needs to Know” about ministering to his wife.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistA daughter is stronger when she has a relationship with her dad. Read “How to Really Know Your Daughter.” 

 

3 things I know about my wife



Last week I had lunch with a new friend, Rob Thorpe, who spends his spare time running a ministry called All In Marriage.  Hearing his heart and the wisdom of years of ministry to marriages (including his own), I had to share his most recent blog post with the Stepping Up audience. It’s a great reminder to all us husbands, no matter how long we’ve been married.

3 things I know about my wifeWhen you’ve known someone for most of your life, you get to know them quite well. My wife and I have known each other since we were about 14 years old. We dated off and on from middle school through college and got married the summer after college.

Spending that much time with another person is a mixed blessing for sure. You know them better than anyone. The good stuff and the not-so-good stuff. What I want you to know are three things that, sadly to admit, took me far too long to recognize and appreciate about her.

1. She is God’s daughter

As a fellow Christian, my wife has also been adopted into God’s family and is a precious daughter of His. He personally hand-crafted her in her mother’s womb (Psalm 139), knows every hair on her head (Matthew 10), and loves her enough to send His son to die on her behalf. He created her on purpose and has a wonderful plan for her life.

2. She was created specifically for me

Since the very first marriage (Genesis 2), God declared that it is “not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” God handcrafted Eve for Adam. Out of all the women on the planet, He handcrafted a wife specifically for me also. He knew I would need help and so He created a “helper” with the exact specifications needed to partner with me in this lifetime. How awesome is that?

3. She is a sinner

Like her husband. We are both addicts. We are addicted (by birth) to ourselves. Neither of us has it all together and neither of us will ever be able to be a selfless spouse who loves with unconditional love. Our sin nature automatically defaults to “me” each morning of our lives, and we must remain desperate for God’s direct intervention and help if we are ever to make our marriage work. Each of us, with God’s grace, must extend truckloads of grace and forgiveness to the other and constantly remember that our spouse was never intended to make us happy or meet all of our needs … that is God’s job.

I wish I had realized and appreciated these things about my wife much earlier in our marriage, but I am thankful to be able to share them with other couples these days as we mentor and teach on marriage. I want to believe that our marriage would have been even richer/fuller than it has been and that I would have been a much better husband along the way.

Surely I would have treated her with much more honor and respect if I had truly comprehended that I was marrying one of God’s daughters and He was watching to see how I was treating her.

Surely I would have never been tempted by other women (real or imaginary) had I fully appreciated that God made her specifically for me, to help me, to partner with me, and to impact the world around us – for His glory.

Surely I would have been much quicker to apologize, to forgive, and to give grace to my fellow sinner instead of somehow thinking she was the problem. Surely we would have prayed together more, said I’m sorry quicker, and battled our real enemy together, instead of pointing fingers.

Wouldn’t I have?

Will you – now that you know?

Thankful,
Rob

© 2014 by Rob Thorpe. All rights reserved.

ThorpeMugRob Thorpe is the founder and director of All In Marriage, a marriage mentoring and equipping ministry. He is also a frequent men’s and marriage conference speaker. Follow Rob on Twitter and subscribe to his blog at http://www.square1ministries.com.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “3 things I know about my wife,” by guest poster Rob Thorpe on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistDo you take your wife for granted? Listen to “Where Self-Centeredness and Marriage Collide” on FamilyLife Today.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistLearn about “Nourishing and Cherishing Your Wife”  from Bob Lepine, author of The Christian Husband.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistWhat are three things you appreciate about your wife? In the next three days, tell her those things.

5 things that make her happy



If research showed you that there were five little things you could do to turn a marriage around or to keep a marriage strong and that they were easy and free, what would you do?

Well, here’s your chance.

5 things that make her happyShaunti Feldhahn spent years interviewing couples to find the ones who had the happiest marriages. Her purpose was to ask them their secrets, and pass them along to others. The research in her recent book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, is thorough and her findings are a game-changer.

She took the five most common actions of the happiest couples and compiled them in a list she calls the Fantastic Five (for him and for her). So, guys, when it comes to your wife, here are the five things that make her happy …

The Fantastic Five for Her OR How to Make Her Happy
  1. Take her by the hand.
  2. Leave her a voice mail message, text message, or email to tell her you love her and are thinking about her.
  3. Put your arm around her, or your hand on her knee, when you’re sitting next to her (especially when you’re in public).
  4. Sincerely tell her she’s beautiful.
  5. Pull yourself out of a funk.

Yep, that’s it. Believe it or not, when Shaunti asked wives, between 72-82 percent said these five actions deeply pleased them. That’s not just the happy wives, but all wives. Even two-thirds of the wives in struggling marriages strongly agreed these are the things that make her happy.

In addition to the five actions that seem to be common attractions to all women, Shaunti encourages each man to understand that there are also unique actions that speak specifically to his wife. Knowing and being able to speak your wife’s love language is a huge step toward understanding this. Maybe she likes to receive gifts or likes your undivided attention. She may like you to do little things for her, or speak words of encouragement. Or maybe it’s your touch that does it for her.

Whatever the case, the initiative you take is almost as important as the action itself. It says to your wife that you truly care about her. That’s great comfort and security for her.

So why don’t you make her happy and try them out? What do you have to lose besides a stale marriage?

. . .

Oh, you’re probably wondering what five things she found that a wife does that pleases her husband most. Here they are …

The Fantastic Five for Him
  1. She notices your effort and sincerely thanks you for it.
  2. She says “You did a great job at __________.”
  3. She mentions in front of others something you did well.
  4. She shows that she desires you sexually, and you please her sexually.
  5. She makes it clear to you that you make her happy.

I’d encourage you to get this book, or any of Shaunti’s books. They’re quick reads, and chock full of well-researched, but very practical advice.

make her happyYou’ve just completed reading the article, 5 things that make her happy, on the Stepping Up men’s blog.

Shaunti Feldhahn details more Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages on the FamilyLife Today radio program

STEPembrace

Pick one of the Fantastic Five to help you build up your wife. Next week, pick a different one and work on that.

STEPpassShare this blog post and the FamilyLife Today broadcasts with your wife so you can work on your Fantastic Fives together.

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