I felt like I’d lost my best friend.
My husband had lost his heart. Not his physical heart but the emotional, feeling part of himself. I felt shutout and alone, and I think he felt the same way.
Crying out to God, I asked Him for ways to help my husband find his way back to himself. A wise man said to me, “Nancy, you have poured your love on Ron hoping it would fix him. You cannot fix him, only Jesus can.”
That statement revolutionized our marriage. I had carried the emotional part of our marriage and had deprived my husband of his own emotional journey. I began working on becoming a healthier me, resisting the urge to be needed. I allowed him to feel for himself, and I focused on what I was thinking and feeling (which is called ‘self-differentiating’). During this process, God gently reminded me that He named the man in The Song of Solomon, ‘The Beloved.’ This insight said to me that the Father would love my husband out of this phase. He would heal, redeem, renew and restore. I could rest and learn how to love my man in a healthy, grace-filled way.
As I consider what a gracing marriage looks like, I put myself into my husband’s shoes for a few minutes. As a male reared in the 50’s and 60’s he was told to not cry, get over it, don’t act like a sissy, and basically shut down his emotions. Now, he is married to a woman who wants him to open up and let her into his deepest emotions. Well, I say that, and it is true, until he starts sharing emotions that freak me out a little.
For example, he owns a renovation company. When he confesses that his business has been affected by the economy and he is able to pay all of the employees except himself (because that is the kind of man he is), I can let a moment of fear sneak in and wonder how this will affect our lives. If I don’t do a self-check, my natural instinct is to feel insecure and become his cheerleader saying something like, “It will all be OK, things will turn around soon, God is for you so who could be against you?” None of which hits his target or encourages him to freely share his emotions with me. My reaction is about my need to feel safe, not about his need to be understood. When I do the self-check I respond with, “Honey, it sounds really hard, I am so sorry you are going through this, I can only imagine how hard it is trying to run a small business in this economy.”
You see, the best way I can help my husband become more expressive is by being healthy in my expression of emotions. By giving something of my own spirit and revealing my own feelings, I can go a long way toward encouraging my husband to open up. Being open helps in one surprising way. Curiously, a man who doesn’t express himself easily sometimes fails simply because he doesn’t quite know how. He literally doesn’t know what words to use. Those who are used to being expressive find that the words roll out easily; those who aren’t, however, may not be able to find the words at all. There are many ways to say what we feel; when a wife says, “Thanks for your support when I needed it,” or just “I love you,” she is, in fact, giving her husband a vocabulary lesson.
It also really helps when I assure my husband that I have no doubts about his “maleness.” I remind him frequently of what a good man I think he is. I also encourage him by telling him something like, “It takes a strong man to show tenderness and to be gentle. It makes me feel secure with you.” The more he feels that I am seeing him as “solidly male,” the more he can allow himself the “weakness” of opening up his feelings to me. The Shulamite in the Song of Solomon gives us a beautiful example of assuring ‘The Beloved’ of his manliness.
“Look! Listen! There’s my lover! Do you see him coming? Vaulting the mountains, leaping the hills. My lover is like a gazelle, graceful; like a young stag, virile” (Song 2:8- 9, The Message).
She teaches women how to affirm her man. She is not shy in her desire for him. There is no game playing here, she clearly sends the message to him that she wants him sexually, that she finds him attractive and very manly. Her sexual responsiveness to him makes him feel desirable, loved and confident. Making love to your husband is communicating to him at a deep level that he is not alone or isolated. He is safe to be completely vulnerable with and be totally accepted by you without being judged. This is a solace that goes very deep into the heart of a man. Your desire for your husband is a bedrock form of support that gives him power to face the rest of his daily life with a sense of confidence and well-being.
Another key to his heart is for you to base your security on God instead of on your husband. Firmly rooted in God’s love, you can be secure enough to contain your man’s feeling of insecurity. With God as your main source of strength, you will not need to pressure your husband to keep up a façade of strength. A women’s fear or insecurities trigger a man’s shame. He doesn’t want to fail you and when he senses you are fearful or full of anxiety, he feels inadequate.
Once a husband begins to open up a little, a wife must be encouraging and supportive. This isn’t always easy. Suppose she asks him about his work, and suddenly, for the first time, he blurts out that he hates it and wants to quit. Understandably, she may panic and say, “Oh, you can’t do that! Think of the kids.” But it would be far better to say something like, “From what you tell me about it, I don’t blame you; I’d hate it too.” Few men will simply quit their jobs and leave their families in the lurch. If the wife is calmly supportive and willing to listen, she can work with her husband to help him find a happier career.
Change won’t happen unless it comes from within a man. A caring wife can help facilitate change, but a man must want to become expressive of his feelings before it will happen. The husband who is resistant to change may be in a codependent relationship: his wife may be an unknowing co-conspirator who does his “emotional work” for him. I was that wife; I no longer am. My husband has recovered his heart, he is passionate about Jesus, and our relationship is stronger than it ever has been. I learned how to use a season of hardship to gain strength, to become an emotionally healthier me, and to authentically love my man.
Lovin’ Your Man was originally posted on Mar 18, 2011. Click Here to see the original article and comments.We welcome new comments on this post as well.