How can a husband help preserve his marriage?
God gives the husband the role of authority and responsibility in the marriage covenant. He is to faithfully, lovingly lead his wife in a responsible manner, not to dominate her, but to care for and protect her.
Scripture presents a pattern of loving leadership for husbands to follow: “The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:23–25).
As a husband, your actions are a deciding factor in whether or not the marriage is successful. By seeking to demonstrate love and Godly leadership in the following areas, you will help preserve your marriage and honor the vows you made to God and to your wife.
Treasure Your Wife
Among all the people, things, and activities in a husband’s life, when he makes his wife his first priority, he honors God’s design for the marriage relationship. “. . . He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife” (I Corinthians 7:32–33; see also Ephesians 5:25).
- Take your wife out on a weekly date. Aim to have a designated date night so that you can both plan ahead and anticipate the time you will invest in each other.
- Contact your wife occasionally during breaks at work, and allow her to have direct phone access to you at work.
- Be alert and sensitive to times when your wife needs extra help. Lighten her load by helping with household chores and repairs. Ask her what you can do to help.
- Be enthusiastic and attentive to your wife and children when you return home from work. This can be the most exciting time of their day.
- Meet your wife’s deepest needs by providing time for intimate conversations. When you serve as her confidante, you make a significant investment in the long-term success of your marriage.
- Surprise your wife with lunch dates, love notes, flowers, or gifts. Let her know that you are thinking of her and that you appreciate her role in your life.
Your wife perceives what delights your heart, and she is keenly aware if your interests in other people or activities begin to rival her place in your affections. If you are preoccupied with your job, a hobby, or another relationship, your wife will begin to feel insecure.
Provide Spiritual Leadership
One of your most significant tasks is caring for the spiritual needs of your wife and children. When you seek after God and take time for spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, fasting, witnessing, and memorization and meditation on Scripture, you will be nourished spiritually and equipped to lead your family in seeking after God.
- Set aside a specific time each day when you can pray with your wife and read Scripture together. Focus on areas where you need to grow together or where one of you has questions. Seek to meet your wife’s needs in this time. (See Ephesians 5:25–28.)
- Lead your family in devotions. Gather the children for a time of worship, learning, and fellowship around God’s Word.
- Take time to pray with your family before meals, at gatherings, or when someone needs extra support and encouragement. Share spoken blessings when you say good-bye for a time and on special occasions.
- Become committed to a local church in which you and your wife can grow, learn, serve, and fellowship with other members of the Body of Christ.
- Stand up for your Scriptural convictions, even when you have to make sacrifices to do so. Uphold Godly standards in your personal life, marriage relationship, and business responsibilities, no matter what the cost.
If you show a lack of interest in being a spiritual leader, your wife may hesitate to place her full confidence in you. She may seek spiritual leadership from others or shoulder the brunt of this responsibility herself.
Help Your Wife Resolve Secret Fears
Most wives have deep fears and emotions that they have never shared with their husbands. Your wife may shy away from exposing her deepest feelings to you because she feels guilty for having fears, she hopes the fears and emotions will pass, she wants to avoid your teasing or rejection, she desires to reduce your burdens, or she knows that you don’t have solutions.
Your wife may try to find out how you will respond to her fears by telling you about another woman who has the same problem. She will watch to see if you have compassion, understanding, patience, and practical help for the situation before sharing her own struggles.
- Become aware of her fears. During times of conversation, ask her if she is concerned about the following areas:
- Insecurity if you die
- Failing as a wife and mother
- The loss of your job
- Having a mental breakdown
- Social awkwardness
- Educational deficiency
- Physical danger when alone
- Failure of the children
- Being displaced by another
- Becoming unattractive to you
- Growing old
- Poor health, disease, or terminal illness
After listening to her first response, ask, “In addition to that, do you have any other feelings about it?” Give her time to think and speak. Patiently take in her answers.
- Seek to compassionately address your wife’s fears. Listen to her concerns. Help her identify her fears and gain wisdom from God’s perspective. Lead her to find security in God, whose “perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18).
- Ask God for wisdom to resolve the fears your wife expresses. Turn to the Scriptures that address her fear. Study and memorize them. Consider the steps of action you can take to ease her fear, and begin doing what you can. Are there steps of action she can take? Encourage her to take them. For example, if your wife feels threatened by issues such as the loneliness that would naturally occur if you died, she can be comforted by putting her faith in God’s care and trusting His assurances in Hebrews 13:5 and John 14:27. She can take practical steps to counteract the fear of loneliness by deepening friendships with Godly Christians through fellowship and service in the local church.
Praise Your Wife’s Godly Character
Words of praise should focus on inward qualities that a person is developing and demonstrating. Praise differs from flattery, which is often spoken with hidden motives for gain and highlights physical features over which a person has little or no control. Praise will motivate a woman to pursue Godliness, while flattery may cause her to stumble. (See Proverbs 29:5.) “Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).
- Be attentive to your wife’s words and actions. Tell her how her character is benefiting your life and influencing those around her. Your words of praise will motivate her to concentrate on inward Godliness and to continue doing things that honor you and bless others.
- Learn to recognize as many Godly character traits as you can. When you see or hear of your wife demonstrating a specific quality, praise her for it. Here are some examples:
- Availability: “Thank you for being so willing to drop what you are doing and help me with my needs.”
- Boldness: “Thank you for letting me know that what I said offended you. That took courage and boldness, and I’m grateful that you love me enough to tell me when I’ve done something hurtful.”
- Reverence: “When we meet for prayer and Bible reading, your reverence for God’s Word motivates me to study more diligently.”
- Faith: “I was inspired by your faith in praying specifically and confidently for our neighbor’s need—and now we see God’s answer in such a clear way!”
Fight Against Lust and Anger
Self-control is key to your relational success and your ability to protect your wife and family. In Scripture, King Solomon warned, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).
Lust and anger are two areas where most men are vulnerable to temptation and defeat. Moral impurity will leave you with a weight of guilt that often erupts in angry outbursts toward your family. These sins severely damage your relationships with your wife and children.
To overcome the cycle of defeat, you must live in the power of Jesus’ victory over sin—including the sins of lust and anger. As you confess your sins, repent, receive forgiveness and cleansing, and walk honestly with God, you will become more like Christ and reflect Godly purity and patience in your relationships with others.
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. . . .
Be ye angry, and sin not . . . . Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God . . . . Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children: and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor (Ephesians 4:17–5:2).
If you lack discipline over anger and harbor moral weakness in your life, your wife’s admiration and respect for you are greatly damaged. Without the redemptive, healing power of God at work in your heart and life, it is only a matter of time before your relationships deteriorate.
Guard Your Eyes
Wives are alert and sensitive to what their husbands look at, yet many husbands are oblivious to the betrayal that wives feel when their husbands stare lustfully at other women. Out of obedience to God and love for your wife, guard your heart and mind from lust and your eyes from sensual images.
If you view pornography or look at women with lust, you succumb to the bondage of sin and pave the way for the decline of your marriage. In God’s Word, there are many warnings and admonitions for men to guard their hearts and control their eyes.
- “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. . . . Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee” (Proverbs 4:23, 25).
- “. . . Rejoice with the wife of thy youth. . . . And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings. His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins” (Proverbs 5:18, 20–22).
- Job made a covenant with his eyes to help him maintain freedom from lustful thoughts. “I made a covenant with mine eyes: why then should I think upon a maid?” (Job 31:1).
- Jesus warned that adultery begins in the heart: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:27–30).
Your wife will be deeply wounded if you lust after and delight in the appearance of other women. She will feel devalued, betrayed, and compromised. Her sense of self-worth and self-respect will weaken and she will become envious of other women and insecure in your marriage. Because of her grief, she will not be able to respond to your affection.
Allow Time to Prepare for Changes
A wife finds security and fulfillment in wisely managing her home and family. When a significant event or change is about to affect your family, your wife needs sufficient time to mentally and emotionally prepare for it.
- Discuss the implications of a move to another city, a change of employment, remodeling your home, or finding a new home.
- Listen carefully to your wife’s perspective. Share what you see about the situation. Talk through what you can do to work together to make the change as smooth as possible.
- Give your wife forewarning about events such as vacations, rearranging furniture, or reorganizing belongings so that she can gear up for the change and prepare to maintain her priorities in new surroundings.
- Wait to move forward until you and your wife can do so with agreement and unity. Don’t rush ahead if she is uncertain or disagrees with your plans. Take time to talk through her concerns and discuss your perspective.
Be sensitive to your wife’s needs. She may become insecure, apprehensive, and bitter if you are inconsiderate of her need for time to adequately prepare for major family changes.
Recognize Your Wife’s Efforts to Please You
Women tend to be quite attentive to details and they find pleasure in investing extra thought, time, and effort in special meals, gifts, or events for their husbands. In turn, it brings them great joy when their husbands enjoy and appreciate what they have done.
- Take notice of the things your wife does for you, for your children, and for others. Tell her what a difference she makes in your life.
- Praise your wife. Just as you have a need for admiration, your wife needs to hear your words of praise.
- Express appreciation when your wife makes a special meal, decorates a room, or finishes a task that you have asked her to do. Tell her what you like about what she has done, and recognize the skills and talents she employed in the process.
Do not be insensitive to the special things your wife does to please you. Recognize her efforts so that she will not be disappointed and subsequently seek admiration and praise from others.
Avoid Correcting Your Wife in Public
There is a time and place for discussing changes that may need to be made in your wife’s attitudes, language, mannerisms, conduct, or money management. However, the worst way to go about correcting your wife is to do it in front of other people. Instead of resolving a problem, this approach creates more problems.
- Be sensitive to your wife’s feelings and do not deliberately embarrass or disgrace her in front of other people. Respect her dignity.
- Speak to your wife privately when you need to correct her. Share your concerns with her in an affirming way so that she knows she has your support and encouragement.
- Listen sincerely to her response. Perhaps your wife is motivated by issues that you haven’t considered. Work out a solution that is satisfactory to both of you.
If you make public jokes or cutting remarks to emphasize something you dislike about your wife, her sense of self-worth will be damaged. She will most likely want to publicly retaliate.
Value Your Wife’s Opinion
Sometimes God gives a wife special insight that He does not give to her husband. It is important for your wife to share her cautions and for you to listen carefully.
- Talk to your wife about major business decisions. Explain the details to her and listen carefully to her response. She may have wise insights about the people involved or the timing of the decision. It is not wise to move ahead until you and your wife can do so in unity.
- Consider your wife’s frame of reference. Try to see beyond your own perspective and to understand the factors that are motivating her response.
If your wife sees that you disregard her cautions, she will be hurt and often will refuse to share any further insights with you, no matter how valuable they may be. By neglecting to listen to the cautions of your wife, you will most likely face the consequences of a faulty business decision and a damaged marriage.
Be Consistent in Family Discipline
Fathers and mothers must work together to provide consistent discipline for their children. “My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee: and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life . . .” (Proverbs 6:20–23).
The “law” of the mother should clarify and illuminate the “commands” of the father. For example, a father might say, “I want you to keep your room clean.” Then the mother would explain how to do it: “Put your clothes here and your toys there.” Together, the parents lead the children to fulfill their instructions.
- Give clear direction to your wife and children about how you want them to live. Don’t expect them to automatically know what you envision for them.
- Agree with your wife to work together to maintain discipline in your home. Study the Scriptures about raising children, and pattern your parenting after Biblical models and priorities.
- Hold your children accountable for obeying the household rules. Make sure they follow through on your direction and also honor their mother and obey her instructions.
Many family conflicts develop if parents disagree about child training techniques or if they are inconsistent in discipline. As the father, you should take leadership in this area and provide direction for your wife and children. If you give the children a command and then fail to reinforce the corresponding rules that your wife gives to carry out the command, she will feel betrayed and blame you if the children rebel.
Communicate Love Through Good Manners
Your wife wants to know that you cherish her. One of the ways you can demonstrate genuine love is to practice good manners. When you are aware of your wife’s presence and honor her with your attention, she is assured of your love and protection.
Which of the following manners do you consistently practice?
- Helping your wife on and off with her coat
- Seating her at the table
- Opening doors for her, including the car door
- Lifting heavy objects for her
- Knowing and using table manners
- Picking up after yourself at home
- Being punctual
- Introducing her properly
- Telling her your schedule
- Refraining from crude language, criticism, and inappropriate conversation
- Attending to personal cleanliness, neatness, and grooming
If you want to work on developing manners, tell your wife about your goal. Ask her to assist you by patiently waiting for you to open the door, standing by her chair as she waits to be seated, and gently reminding you of other ways that you can show courtesy to her and to others.
Even small steps of love and consideration will bring joy to your wife. However, keep in mind that the manners you develop should be carried out consistently. If you treat your wife like a queen one day and neglect basic manners the next day, she will feel insecure and may resist your attentions so that she will not be disappointed and hurt in the future.
Acknowledge Failures and Ask for Forgiveness
Your humility and sincerity will greatly influence how your wife and children respond to you. If you willingly admit that you are wrong and ask for forgiveness when you have offended the family, their respect and love for you will grow. Your example leads them to live responsibly as well.
- “Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Few things can be more frustrating to a wife or child than a husband and father who will not admit his faults and refuses to take responsibility for the wrong things he has done.
- Be humble. When you realize that you’ve hurt someone or have made a bad decision, admit it. Ask for forgiveness. Do what you can to make things right.
- Keep short accounts with your family members. Don’t let little conflicts simmer in the background of your lives. Bring them out into the open and resolve them.
When you do not both admit your failures and ask forgiveness for them, your wife and children react to your pride. They lose respect for you if you are not honest and upright in your relationships. If offenses are not addressed, your relationships are bound to become unstable. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
The Apostle Peter admonishes husbands to live with their wives “. . . according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (I Peter 3:7).
Take time to demonstrate your love with words and actions. You won’t regret this investment in the success of your marriage!
This material is adapted from pages 61–70 of the Training Faithful Men Resource Manual.