We all come into marriage with a different perspective. A man at work decided to show his wife how much he loved her, and before going home, showered, shaved, put on some choice cologne, bought her a bouquet of flowers. He went to the front door and knocked. His wife answered the door and exclaimed, “Oh no! This has been a terrible day! First, I had to take Billy to the emergency room and get stitches in his leg, then your mother called and said she’s coming for 2 weeks, then the washing machine broke, and now this! You come home drunk!
Every person comes into the marriage with different expectations and definitions of what “normal” is to look like. We also come into marriage with different expectations. We all have expectations on how we think our spouse should behave, what role they should play, and how they should respond to situations. In our dating relationship, we don’t talk about these expectations. We just assume the other views the world through the same set of lenses we do. Then we get married.
Many of us have experienced the big gap between the husbands and wife’s expectations. We seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrums at times. Take the word “intimacy” for example. Ask a man how to define it and it will often be something about sexual fulfillment in marriage. Ask a wife the same question and you may hear about taking long walks on a summer night while holding hands. It is amazing how one simple word and how we define it can expose the different set of expectations we come into marriage with.
Most issues come in marriage when our expectations are not met. Consider what James 4:1 says in the Contemporary Jewish Bible translation, “What is causing all the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it your desires battling inside you?” These desires that James is speaking of are our self-centered desires that breed the expectations we come into marriage with. In the Greek, the word desires has an extremely aggressive spirit attached to it. When our selfish desires are not met, we may find a demonstrative response to our spouse that shows the true root, our selfish motivation.
Three dangerous ways people respond when their expectations are not met:
- We pack up and leave. I believe this is where many get the term, “irreconcilable differences”. This is not a Godly response to issues in marriage.
- We give in. Usually, there is one partner that is more powerful and influential. They are a better arguer and more convincing. The other person just gives in to their dogma. This can work for a little while but not in the long run. They become exhausted by the conflict and just choose to tolerate their spouse.
- We choose a compromised marriage. This is a marriage that says, “I will meet one of your expectations if you give me one of mine.” This type of response never works long term because both people feel they are giving more than the other person. The motive behind a compromised marriage is selfishness and selfish marriages never go very far.
In our culture today, we are told that there are no differences between men and women. This is a huge attack on marriage today. Consider that almost every cell in a man’s body has a different chromosome than a woman’s body. God designed us very differently on purpose. According to one study, men and women approach life differently. Men are more aggressive than women when they drive sports cars and light trucks. Women are more aggressive than men when they drive SUVs and luxury cars. Women are less likely to be caught and convicted of speeding than men. Women ask more questions and more than three-fourths of interruptions in conversations are made by men.
In his classic book, His Needs and Her Needs, Willard Harley shares how different men and women really are and highlights this by their core needs. Men and women do not share in common any of their top five core needs in marriage. Most difficulties in marriage come because men and women are different. If you have been married for many years or are wanting to be married one day, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with these lists.
Her top needs:
5. Family Commitment: She sees a great husband as a great dad. I have heard women say they when they really fell in love with their husband when they saw the way he treated his family and other people’s children. A wife has an intrinsic need for a husband that does not, “irritate his children and make them resentful; instead, raises them with the Lord’s kind of discipline and guidance” (Ephesians 6:4).
4. Financial Stability: She needs stability, which is different than wealth. She does not need riches but stability financially. I have had wives mention that they would take a decrease in their wealthy for an increase in their stability.
3. Honesty/Openness: Honest is essential to intimacy for a woman. Secrecy is the enemy of intimacy. Deception and white lies erode the honesty that a wife craves. This means that a man’s independence and desire to live life on his own but be surrendered to Jesus. Proverbs 24:26 says,“Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.”
2. Conversation: She needs communication regularly, in the right tone, and with two ears. This is the quantity of conversation and uninterrupted quality conversation. Colossians 3:19 says, “Husbands, be loving your wives with a divine love which impels you to deny yourselves for their benefit, and stop being bitter and harsh to them.”Consider the Chinese Proverb, “The tongue is the sword of the woman, and she never lets it get rusty.”
1. Affection: This is the mega need for women. Women NEED affection like men NEED sex. Affection is living in such a way that you cherish your wife through hugs, holding her hand, calling just to say hello, a text telling her you love her, planning a date, or taking the kids and giving her time to herself. All of these speak to her, “I am thinking about you and appreciate you.” Philippians 2:3–4, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
His top needs:
5. Admiration: The one person’s voice that means more than all others is a man’s wife. He wants to matter the one that matters most to him. Within each man is a young boy that wants to impress his wife and be admired by him. After Jack Dempsey’s death, a reporter asked his widowed wife what it was like to be married to a fighter. Her response captures the heart of admiration. She said, “I didn’t marry a fighter; I married a champion.”
4. Domestic Support: Men were created for teamwork. Men love to partner with their wives in all areas.
3. An Attractive Spouse: Men fall in love with their wives and think they are the most beautiful woman in the world. When a wife takes care of herself, it speaks volumes to a man. Song of Solomon 6:4–6 says,“You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love, lovely as Jerusalem, awesome as an army with banners. 5Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me— Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead. 6Your teeth are like a flock of ewes that have come up from the washing; all of them bear twins; not one among them has lost its young.”
2. Recreational Companionship: Husbands love to share special memories with their spouse. Many women get to hear their husbands heart when she decides to engage in an activity he loves. A Kenyan Proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, take someone with you.”
1. Sexual Fulfillment: God made men this way. It is clinically proven that this is what men think about most. In the bedroom your husband desires affirmation, creativity, and frequency. Song of Solomon 5:10, “My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand.” Most husbands have a greater desire for sexual fulfillment than their wife. When a wife is aware of this, she will meet one of his most important needs.
When a husband gives himself to meet his wife’s needs and a wife decides to meet her husband’s needs over her own, life starts to flow within the marriage team. When it comes to your marriage, God is more concerned with your direction than He is with your perfection. Give yourself to understanding and meeting your spouse’s needs and watch your needs be met.
Here are a series of great questions from the Navigator’s Council to ask your spouse weekly.
- What brought you joy this week?
- What was something that was hard this week?
- What’s one specific thing I can do for you this week?
- How can I pray for you this week?
- Is there anything that’s gone unsaid, convictions, confessions, unresolved
- What’s a dream, desire or thought that’s been at the forefront of your mind this week?
- Thank your spouse for something they did this week.
End your time in prayer, and once a month ask two additional questions that may not be necessary to ask each week.
- How are we stewarding our finances?
- How is our sex life?