Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What are the Most Important Attributes in a Marriage?

CBS NEWS cites a study on spouses called “Bad Relationship bad for heart” and why couples can develop hardening of the arteries. This coincides with God’s Word to husbands to love their wife and wives to honor their husband. We will see how this fits with a man’s need to protect his wife and a woman’s need to admire her husband.

CBS referred to the study of March, 2006 that showed the effects of hostility and controlling behavior on spouses’ hearts. It was found that if a wife’s husband was hostile toward her she would develop hardening of the arteries. If the husband’s wife was dominant he would be more likely than other men to have hardening of the arteries. Let’s look at this finding viewing it through the Word of God.

The apostle Peter acknowledged wives’ need for protection when he wrote, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” 1 Peter 3:7. This is showing women do need protection as the weaker partner physically and sometimes emotionally.

In Ephesians 5:33, the apostle Paul admonishes the church regarding marriage, “...Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect (another translation – honor) her husband.” It is vital that women value their husband by admiring him.

If a man is protecting his wife from many of life’s frustrations he is definitely loving her as himself and being considerate of her being the weaker partner (this will be described below). You can’t be angry with someone and protect them at the same time. Most often anger from a husband gives the wife fear and anxiety. Fear is quite the opposite of safety.

Hostile husbands not being able to protect due to anger = wife with hardening of the arteries.

In the same way, if a woman is admiring and honoring her husband she cannot be controlling at the same time. Control from a woman causes resentment and anger in a man. Honor is showing great deference and awe, quite the opposite of control.

Controlling wives not being able to admire and honor due to their control = husband with hardening of the arteries.

The same basic root of discord intertwines most all the couples I counsel: she does not feel protected and he does not feel admired. Although we often hear about these two basic elements, I believe we do not address them because we do not understand how they are manifested in real life. Here is an example of a couple facing a lack of protection and admiration.

The silence was tense as I sat with *Bob and Kathy, watching their faces crumple alternately with frustration and despair. This was my second session with them, and I was finally starting to see the root of their problem. The couple had come with the complaint that they “just weren’t getting along anymore” and divorce had been mentioned. Kathy sat on the edge of her seat, chewing on her lower lip as she tried to formulate her next sentence. “I feel like a pressure cooker,” she said finally. Her rigid posture and tight voice supported this idea. “I just feel all this*not the actual couple weight closing in on me from all sides, and I know that one day soon I’m going to explode!”

I turned my attention to Bob, whose face reflected genuine confusion and concern mixed with intense frustration. “I don’t get it,” he began gruffly. “I work long hours every day to provide for her and our kids. I try to give her nice things whenever she wants them. I have never hit her, called her names, or been unfaithful to her. What else could she possibly want?” Kathy looked confused, too, like she felt that Bob’s list should be enough to make her happy, and she was upset with herself that she wasn’t. She stared at the floor for a few moments, then looked up into his eyes before quietly saying, “I just thought when I got married, someone would have my back, you know? That I would be covered. Instead, I feel like I am living life alone.” As tiny, silent tears began to leak from Kathy’s tired eyes, I let her words sink in. When the couple first came into my office, I had suspected their deeper issue, but with Kathy’s statement about living life alone, I knew Kathy did not feel protected.

When we hear the word “protection” we automatically think of physical protection. However, with most couples this is not the case. There is no abuse involved, and both partners know that the other would die for them if necessary. But there are other areas where a woman needs to feel protected and the happiness of any marriage can be greatly increased if these areas are identified and addressed.

The Need of Protection for a woman:

1. A woman needs protection from the stress she experiences from her internal world. Let’s look at where “weakness” needs protection.

Daily hassles can build up into monstrous stress for women. These can be things as simple as fighting traffic on her daily commute or as difficult as getting the kids ready for bed. Merely by asking his wife about such hassles and doing his best to relieve some of them, a husband can make her feel protected.

Women also live under the stress of too much to do. In today’s society, she is often responsible for a job, raising the kids, keeping the house, and looking good while doing it! A husband can protect his wife from this type of stress by pitching in and helping around the house without being asked. A wife does not feel protected when her husband lives by the idea that “a woman’s work is never done.”

A woman’s home is an extension of herself, and when projects go unfinished or things are broken, the woman tends to feel undone, too. Her husband can help by seeing these needs around the house and fixing them without waiting for a reward. It also helps for him to be aware of his wife’s physical limitations and her inability to do some of the chores around the house. Men can also protect their wives from stress by taking care of the “little things” such as being the one to get the waiter’s attention at a restaurant or pumping her gas for her.

2. A woman needs protection from people.

It is not uncommon for women to need protection by their husband from relatives. If a family member (on her side or his side) insults the wife, it is her husband’s duty to stand up for her. He protects her from her relatives by putting her first and letting her know that she is more valuable to him than his extended family. With people in general, a man can protect his wife by spending focused time with her at a social gathering, by defending her against people who may insult her, and by showing public affection for her so everyone sees that he is proud to be with her.

3. A woman needs protection from the pressure of outside forces.

Pushy salesmen, bill collectors, problems with credit cards...these can put unnecessary pressures on a woman. Her husband needs to understand that to a woman some of these issues are more easily fixed by a man and he needs to take the initiative. Money pressures are also common for many women. Making financial decisions together helps relieve such pressure from a woman. One way men sometimes cause their wives to feel unprotected in this area is when they spend too much money or change jobs and put their family under financial pressure.

4. A woman needs her husband to be mature and responsible.

Husbands need to protect their wives from their own selfishness by keeping their promises or by not spending so much time watching TV or on the computer and instead spend time with the family. Husbands need to be affectionate with their wife at times that doesn’t lead to sex. A wife also needs protection from her husband’s immaturity. He can make progress in this area by being open to talk with her about things that he doesn’t understand, by being willing to admit when he is wrong, and by refraining from doing things that embarrass her.

The husband must make an effort to make decisions with his wife instead of leaving them all up to her. He can also help her by having a plan for the future, which will bring security. Spiritually, a husband needs to be the leader of the home. He can protect his wife in this area by modeling a prayer life, including praying with her, and by expressing interest in his wife’s personal and spiritual growth. Finally, a woman needs protection from her husband’s needs and desires overwhelming hers. He can show that he values her needs and desires by showing enthusiasm about her job and other activities, by cherishing her womanly characteristics and sensitivity, and by refraining from comparing her to other women. It might help to treat her as though the words “Handle with Care” were stamped on her forehead! This is the first half – stay tuned in 2 weeks and see what the woman needs to do to truly honor her husband.

The two most needed attributes in a marriage – the man to protect – the woman to honor. God was protecting our physical hearts as well as our emotional heart with His Word.

1 comment:

  1. So powerful! So real. SO good. I love when this stuff connects with Bible and proven in science! I can't wait to test it out with my husband :)