Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Proverbs 31 Reflections: Verse 11

"The End of the Quest" by Sir Frank Dicksee

"Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize."

How much do you think about your husband's heart? How well do you know it? How well are you keeping it?

Do you stop to think that it is in so many ways like your own? Do you realize that, in many ways, it is unlike your own, that it must be handled, nurtured, and kept in ways that are not necessarily identical or even akin to those which are best for your own heart?

There is a saying that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Another idiom says it is through his eyes. Some say that a husband's heart is touched most profoundly through love making. All of these things are true. If you notice, they all have to do with the body.

So many times, we women equate the heart exclusively with feelings, with emotion. In other words, we view the "heart" as something intangible, rather like electricity. Men, however, have hearts that are more like lightbulbs. Resultantly, women have come to be accused by men of being unfathomable and insubstantial, and in turn women have charged men with being simple and carnal. But, I see these differences of heart as something to be celebrated, not ridiculed, and it behooves us wives to celebrate and learn to touch the unique hearts of our husbands.

If you want to be cherished as a peerless, "unfailing prize," then spend some time really considering how you can speak to your husband's heart. Find out what makes him feel loved. Some ideas which may or may not pertain to your particular husband:

Tell him you're proud of him. Be specific about why. Words of affirmation and praise go such a long way with men; often we women (though we enjoy praise in our own right) hardly comprehend how much it means to them.

And please, whatever you do, do not speak ill of your husband. Not to anyone. Not even in jest. It is pure poison for his heart and for yours.

Respect him. Understand that undermining, belittling, or shaming your husband is akin to him shunning you in times of emotional distress. There is a reason Scripture tells husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. Respect is your husband's "love language." If you value his heart (and if you want to see an increase of lovin' coming your own way), then learn to speak it!

Plan a romantic evening...and I'm not talking about roses and bubble bath. I mean the sort of romance your husband is hankering for. You know what I'm talking about. Plan for it. Let him know you were thinking about it. Make it special.

Incidentally, that stuff I said above about respect? This sort of goes for sex, too. Rejecting sexual advances from your husband is analogous to if you were having a really hard day and you needed his shoulder to cry on and he said, "I'm just not in the mood right now." Think about it. This isn't to say that you're meant to be available for love-making 24/7, just as your husband can't always drop whatever he's doing to comfort you. But, try to be sensitive to the reality of what sex means to and for him, and don't treat him like he's a chauvanistic caveman for coming on to you. If that's what you really think, then you're missing the boat entirely, and the two of you need to have a serious talk, possibly with the aid of a counselor or pastoral mediator.

If you need to let your husband down, do it gently and kindly and above all, let him know how much you still want him even if you really are bone tired just at the moment. Then, make the effort to plan another romantic evening real soon--as in tomorrow!--so he knows that you mean what you say.

Treat his tummy. That phrase I quoted earlier about the stomach? It wasn't created in a void. Try, at least a couple of times a week, to cook a meal that your husband truly loves. Make his favorite dessert on Sunday. If he has dietary concerns or particular aversions, be sure to take them into account whenever you cook. And, don't underestimate the power of a good breakfast.

If you can manage it, I highly
encourage you to get the whole family at the breakfast table to share a unified meal and time of prayer together to fortify you all through the day. It can be especially important for husbands (and school-aged children, if you do not homeschool) who have to leave the safety and peace of home for many hours.

Do what's important to him. Does your husband value a clean house? Does he like it when you look pretty? Does he enjoy hosting parties? Or is he more of a homebody? The things that you value or enjoy are not necessarily the things that bring pleasure to your spouse. Try catering to some of his desires. If you only have enough time to clean the floors or bake a dessert, and you know your husband loves pie and could care less about clean floors, then start rolling out the dough, sister! If, conversely, you're the one with the sweet tooth, and your husband is stressed by disorder and uncleanliness, then break out the broom!

You may balk at the idea at first and feel like you're playing housemaid, but remember that Christ Himself came not to be served but to serve. Your husband should be your best friend, your partner in life, and your head and the head of your family. Is it really too much to ask that you do a few things his way? You'd want him to do the same for you, wouldn't you?

You're the one who vowed to love, honor, and cherish this man until death--you and no one else! So, devote yourself to speaking to his heart. It is a privelege, and it is meant to be yours exclusively. If you don't, there are only two options: Either no one will, or someone else will. Neither one is something you want to have happen. But, don't do it just to avoid a bad fallout. Do it because he's your husband and he's worth it! No, really, he is worth it. And so is your marriage.

And, so are you.

If you don't feel like an "unfailing prize," then turn over a new leaf. God is more eager than any of us to make all things new, and He will give you all the help you need.


  1. Great post, Bethany! Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. I can't tell you how much I needed to hear this today. Thank you, Bethany!

  3. I would love to see a post where you draw out the idea of showing respect to your husband. Here you say briefly, "don't undermine, belittle or shame him." And beyond that? This is an area where I really struggle because my husband says he doesn't feel respected, and I just don't know why or what would make him feel respected. He has not been able to explain it to me and I have not read anything that gives me specific, practical tips for how to show respect for my husband. How is being "respectful" different than being patient, kind, understanding, etc.?

  4. Anonymous - Hmm...Being patient, kind, and understanding is a good first step, and that is all a part of respect--it's the same sort of respect that our husbands owe to us. But, there is something "more" to respecting our husbands--something that registers with them in a specific way and which they feel the lack of in its absence--and that is harder to pin down as a woman. It seems you're sensing this, and so is your husband, but neither of you can name it.

    Now, to some degree this is going to be unique to your husband, and it may take some trial and error for both of you to hit the nail on the head.

    An example: My husband never minds if I rattle off my opinion on any given matter, as long as I defer to him for final, important decisions (sometimes his decision is to go with my idea, actually). Other husbands I know really dislike when their wife is always offering her two cents every time he makes a suggestion; they see it as disrespectful of their own thoughts and often call it "nagging" even though that's an inaccurate term for what their wife has done.

    Another example: Something that really grates on my husband is if I get dreamy about moving to another house. I don't even complain about the one we live in--I like it. But, if I start browsing for houses on the internet (just for fun), he gets upset, and feels like I don't think he's a good provider. This translates, in his vocabulary, to disrespect. So, I keep off the MLS sites and try to make our home as lovely as possible.

    I think that maybe a good place to start is to check if your husband feels respected in all of several key areas: decision-making, leadership/headship, career/provider, socially, parenting, and sexually. It sounds like you two have already been talking about this, which is wonderful! Maybe it will help if you can pinpoint certain areas where he does feel respected and certain ones where he doesn't. Then, you can focus your efforts on finding out what makes him feel respected in those "underdeveloped" areas.

    I'll be lifting you two up in prayer! This marriage thing really an be tough sometimes, can't it?

    God bless,

  5. I have to admit, the sex issue has become an issue lately. I was diagnosed with PPD a while back, and between the antidepressants, graduate school, the kids, and just LIFE garbage happening, I haven't been feelin' it. Which is funny too, considering he's usually the one turning ME down. Now I feel terrible!

    His yearly review was today at work, and he got a 3.5% raise in this economy. Praise God! But I'll be telling Aaron exactly HOW grateful I am that he's a great provider for all of us tonight! ;)

    And I hear you on the MLS sites - that place is POISON. We have a 2 bedroom condo as well, with a finished basement. It's enough for now, and in a great neighborhood. But isn't it amazing how the Devil can make us feel discontent by just the little things? I stay away from them too.

  6. Thanks for the post! I need to get better about planning the "romantic evening." I don't turn my DH down in this area but I don't initiate enough or plan ahead for this, so thanks for the reminder.

    To the anonymous poster above asking about respect, there's a book called "Love and Respect" by Emerson Eggerichs that has some examples. Just FYI, it appears the author is Protestant, so if you are Catholic, there is a chance there could be some theological differences, but at quick glance it doesn't appear to get in depth about doctrine or theology.

  7. Thank you for a beautiful exposition of this particular verse, Bethany. You're absolutely right that respect is SO critical for men! I appreciated your suggestions about making his priorities my priorities -- I hadn't considered it that way. :) I'll definitely return to this post ... there's a lot of wisdom here to consider (as is often the case with your writings!)


  8. My friend Elizabeth was having trouble posting, so here are her comments:

    I enjoyed reading the comments to this post. A few ideas:

    Joslyn mentioned Eggerichs's book "Love and Respect." I've read it, and she's right, it doesn't get into theological issues; I would call it Bible-based psychology. I would recommend that any wife read it, especially if you have identified respect as an area in which to improve. Keep in mind that every marriage is different and there may be things he says which are not true for you. Before you shove ideas into that category, though, really give his thoughts a chance; there were many examples which didn't exactly apply to us, but the underlying principle /did/ when I really thought about it.

    And regarding romantic evenings and respecting our husbands in this area: I support the idea that we need to be open and sensitive to his needs in this area, and that we should not be selfish when we could provide him "love and respect" through this. That said, though, remember that sex is a physical thing and sometimes a woman /can't/ have sex. I'm not talking just about sickness or menstruation; there are physical changes that happen to the woman through arousal to enable intercourse, and sometimes because of exhaustion or stress this won't happen. There seems to be a prevailing opinion that a woman can /receive/ intercourse any time; based on my experience I don't agree. To proceed with no arousal for the woman, no matter how much lube, can be painful or even physically injurious for some women. Every woman's body is different; please be aware of your own body and communicate with your husband about this as you find the right balance of respect in this arena.

    We have found that to proceed when my body won't cooperate, no matter how much I want to do it /for him/, is ultimately very emotionally damaging for both of us and makes me prone to anxiety attacks in future romantic evenings. So be open, be respectful, be communicative and be aware of yourself!

  9. I agree with what Elizabeth had to say, and second (third?) the book recommendation. Sex is NOT meant to be what our culture is selling. It is a mutual and complete self-giving of man and woman, united in the sacrament of marriage. Neither party should be selfish, and the goal should always be the betterment of the couple and a godly use of sexuality within the blessings of marriage.

  10. P. S.: You wrote, "And please, whatever you do, do not speak ill of your husband. Not to anyone. Not even in jest. It is pure poison for his heart and for yours."

    Words can't express how much I agree with this. There's one blogger I read - a very conservative, homeschooling, Catholic mom - who mentions about once or twice a week something that's "wrong" with her husband, or something he did that she didn't like. (She never gives any indication that she discussed her complaint with him prior to writing about it.) To say that I cringe is a terrific understatement. It makes me feel ill. Perhaps her husband WAS mean or made a bad & unjustified decision; who knows? But what I can't understand is - why, why, why would someone belittle her husband publicly in such a manner, so that even people who she doesn't know and will never meet will know his flaws?? What good comes of that?

    Husbands and wives disagree. Husbands make poor decisions sometimes. Wives make poor decisions sometimes. We're human! Of course we're going to make mistakes, and we need the Lord's grace to forgive each other during such times. But, why wouldn't we want the world to think the absolute best of the person whom we love most in this world????? I would never, EVER want someone to think ill of Randall (my husband) because of something I said or wrote on my blog. Even if we had a disagreement and I felt compelled to write about it, I suspect that putting a problem out in the "blogosophere" would only cement feelings of resentment. It certainly wouldn't seem conducive to the cultivation of marital happiness.


  11. Luci -

    AMEN! I often tell my friends, when they expect me to commiserate about how boneheaded and dumb our husbands are (mine is not, by the way) when they are complaining that, "I'm a dork sometimes. He's a dork sometimes. No amount of kvetching about HIM to YOU will change the behavior that either one of us has issue with. Bad behavior is between husband and wife, not husband, wife, and extended family or friends."

    Obviously, it goes without saying that if he's verbally, emotionally, or physically abusing me (he would never do any of the three), I'd expect someone to bring it up to me, and those that love and respect me WOULD do so. But honestly, what does it accomplish to complain about him to other people? This includes our mothers, ladies...

    And as far as Anon. Elizabeth's response, I do agree, to an extent. There are times I'm definitely not totally in the mood for "time" with my husband...and he usually knows it when he initiates. Often then, for him, it is more of a challenge, so to speak, to see how quickly he can convince me otherwise. And while there are most certainly times that physically, sex just isn't going to work with many couples, often, I find that a quick attitude adjustment, a quick prayer (for us, it's usually, "Lord, I want to love him. I want him to love me...help us love each other the way You want us to. We're open to love and any other blessings You choose to give us right now...), and it helps me a bit. But then again, and I'll be truthfully honest here...I love lovemaking with my husband. Yeah, we have other hobbies apart and together, but...really, I'm a 16 year old boy in a 29 year old woman's body. ;)

    And who knows..someday, that lovemaking might break a hip, so we're going to enjoy it while we can. Hehe.

  12. What a beautiful piece of work and well worth reading. We were blessed.


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