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Marriage • 6 minutes to read
Over 25 years ago, the question she asked me still resonates in my mind:
“How do you do it?”
At the time, we were both new brides. She was married to one of my husband’s friends and recently had a baby. We weren’t close, yet, for some reason, she turned to me when her young marriage was already showing signs of stress.
“How do you do it? How do you make him happy?”
I remember looking at her, mumbling some trite answer, and quickly changing the subject. Unfortunately, she and her husband divorced a few years later, when she ran away and joined the circus—really, she did! Her husband was left raising their two children alone.
How Do You Make Him Happy?
I have been a wife for 27 years. For the last six years, I have partnered with my husband at Pure Desire to provide support and guidance to struggling couples. During this time, I have come to understand that my friend had greatly oversimplified her question.
You don’t just “make him happy.” Instead, you have to consciously, prayerfully, and humbly strive to learn your husband.
What Does Learn Your Husband Mean?
As women, we want to feel pursued by our husbands. We feel secure when we hear him speak words of love and devotion; we feel safe when he puts his needs or wants aside to make ours a priority. Most women crave safety and security in the marriage relationship.
When was the last time we thought about what he craves in the marriage relationship?
When we think of what he wants or needs, we usually think of activities that we can do with him or ways we can speak his Love Language. We tend to focus on learning how to enjoy the things he enjoys—figuring out whether he is an “Acts of Service” guy or a “Receiving Gifts” guy. While these are important and valuable, there is an underlying issue that is even more crucial than whether you learn to enjoy watching NASCAR with him or you bring him a cup of coffee in the morning.
Author Shaunti Feldhahn conducted research with thousands of men for her book, For Women Only. She discovered some enlightening revelations about men; the things that encourage them and the things that hurt them. Feldhahn also revealed how these can be very different from the way women are encourage and hurt.
What your man really craves—what he needs, just as you need safety and security—is respect and admiration: respect for who he is and admiration for what he does.
To your husband, respect means valuing his judgement and his abilities. Men need to feel that their opinions and decisions are actively valued by their wives. When we question their decisions, they feel we don’t trust them. Men are hunters, warriors who want to conquer something. They don’t want to follow directions; they want to figure it out on their own! So instead of getting frustrated the next time he’s driving around in circles trying to find that new restaurant—or even worse, telling him how to get there—just sit back and enjoy the extra time in the car with him while he figures it out. When you respond this way, you are respecting his judgement and abilities. You are pursuing his heart.
Many times, my husband has expressed how important it is that those he trusts “have his back.” It reminds me of a very uncomfortable dinner party conversation: a wife shared how her husband failed at something and then laughed loudly, as if it was a big joke. During that conversation, the amount of pain on her husband’s face was difficult to behold, yet the wife never even noticed.
As wives, we have incredible power to either build up our husbands or tear them down. When we choose to use our words and actions to be the person our husband can always count on to have his back, we are pursuing him in a way that fills his heart and allows him to “rise up and call her blessed.”
Your husband’s heart is far more vulnerable than you realize. Shaunti’s research unearthed the fact that deep in the heart of most husbands is a secret question: “Am I able? Do I measure up?” Deep down, they wonder whether you think they are a good husband.
Your husband needs to hear words of admiration, appreciation, and affirmation—words that tell him he is good enough. We cannot assume he knows how we feel; we have to actually tell him. With words! After all, don’t we need to be told, “You are beautiful” and “I love you”? In the same way, he needs to hear, “Thank you for taking out the trash, unloading the dishwasher, and going to work every day, even when you don’t feel like it. I appreciate you.”
I must admit, this has been an area of challenge for me. I grew up in a home where the underlying tone was, “You don’t thank family.” Family members were just supposed to do what they were supposed to do. Take out the trash? You’re supposed to do it, so no thanks should be expected. Go to work or school every day? You’re supposed to do it, no thanks should be expected. Gratefully, my husband has been a good and patient teacher in this area. Early on, he let me know that he needed to be appreciated for what he does; that those few simple words speak volumes to his heart. It was a big eye-opener for me, and set me on a path of learning how to meet his needs in this area.
Why Is Sex Such A Big Deal To Him?
We often hear sex referred to as a physical need for men. However, sex is much more than a physical act for him, just like it is for us. And, most men want their wives to enjoy the entire sexual experience just as much as they do. When we flirt with our husbands, when we send him a loving text, when we reach over and take his hand, when we kiss him passionately, when we respond willingly to his sexual advances, when we initiate sex, we are saying something very powerful to his heart: “I desire you. You fulfill me. You are more than enough!” Sex feels like emotional affirmation to our husbands.
I think of the words the bride says to her lover in Song of Songs 1:2-4:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine. Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the young women love you! Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring into his chambers.Song of Songs 1:2-4
What husband wouldn’t want to hear these words from his wife?
As a wife myself, I would challenge you to consider these suggestions and even ask your husband what he needs from you to feel respect and admiration. Then, every day for the next month, think of one thing you can say or do that would communicate that he is “more delightful than wine” to you. I think you will be surprised at the results.
As you come to understand and strive to meet your husband’s most basic needs, you are pursuing him in a manner that touches his heart in a profound way; in a way that only you, his wife, can.
You are learning your husband.