by Doug Flanders
The key to a successful marriage is putting your spouse’s needs ahead of your own. Here are 25 practical suggestions gleaned from 25 years of happy marriage.
To be truly heard is the longing of every human heart, and your wife is no exception. It sounds simple, but listening can be harder than it seems with so many distractions around us and within us. Set aside some time every day to look into your wife’s eyes and really listen to what she has to say. You may be surprised at what you hear. (James 1:19, Matthew 11:15)
Don’t make her guess what you are thinking or feeling.
- Sing Her Praises
Shamelessly brag about her good qualities and quietly pray about her bad ones. Her reputation is your reputation. (Proverbs 31:28-29)
- Pray For Her and With Her
Praying on your wife’s behalf not only enlists the help of the Almighty, but also puts her and her needs at the forefront of your heart and mind, right where they belong. Praying alongside your wife will strengthen your relationship like nothing else. Studies show that couples who regularly pray together stay together, enjoying a 1% divorce rate compared to the usual rate of 50% or more. (Philippians 4:6; Matthew 18:19)
- Value Her Individuality
Your wife is wonderfully unique. Don’t compare her to your mom, or your ex-wife, or your old girlfriend. Your mom may make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, but unfavorable comparisons won’t win you brownie points.
- Put the Seat Down
Perpetually raised toilet seats are a pet peeve of wives everywhere. And while you’re at it, tidy up a bit. A little consideration goes a long way. (Philippians 2:4)
- Throw Your Dirty Clothes in the Hamper
It’s likely just a few steps from wherever you are dropping them anyway. Make this a habit, and it will let your wife know your don’t consider her your personal maid.
- Turn Off the T.V.
Lay aside the video games, pocket the iPhone, and shut off the computer, as well. It is staggering how many hours we waste gazing at some sort of screen instead of interacting with the real people in our lives. Consciously set limits on your tube-time, whatever form it takes. Use the time saved to invest in your marriage: take a walk with your wife or play a board game together instead. (Psalm 90:12)
- Loosen the Purse Strings
We all have to keep an eye on our budget, but an occasional splurge can be well worth it. Seemingly frivolous things like flowers, jewelry, and overpriced restaurants let her know that she is more valuable to you than a number in your bank account.
- Practice Servant-Leadership
All organizations have a hierarchy. It’s impossible to function without one, but being a leader isn’t the same as being a dictator. The best role model is Jesus Christ, not Joseph Stalin. Jesus washed his disciples feet and then died on their behalf. It’s a challenge to exercise authority while maintaining a spirit of humility, but that is what being a godly leader entails. (Matthew 20:28,Philippians 2:1-8; Mark 9:35)
- Remember that Intimacy’s a Two-Way Street
Unfortunately, men are notoriously selfish in the bedroom, yet are dumbfounded when their wives are less than enthusiastic in this arena. Make this area of your relationship as pleasurable for her as it is for you and it will pay huge dividends. It may mean washing the dishes or helping with the kids, so that she has energy left at the end of the day. It may mean cuddling and candlelight, so that she can relax and let the worries on her mind drift away. If you aren’t sure where to begin, just ask her, and then listen. (1 Corinthians 7:3)
- Give Her Time to Herself
Everyone needs an occasional break to rest and recharge, and this is especially important for a wife who is at home all day with young children. Yet it’s very easy to neglect this legitimate need unless you regularly and intentionally schedule time for it. (Luke 5:16)
- Set Aside Couple Time
Soak in the tub together each evening or go on a date night once a week — whatever gets the two of you alone on a regular basis. (Genesis 2:24-25)
- Be Careful with Female Friendships
We all have friends and colleagues of the opposite sex, but tread cautiously. Not all affairs are physical ones. Honoring your marriage vows means remaining faithful in thought and word as well as in deed. (Matthew 5:27-28)
- Use Good Hygiene
It is amazing how meticulous guys can be prior to marriage in their attempts to impress a girl, but once they walk down the aisle, all bets are off. Clean up a little; I promise it won’t kill you.
- Limit the Gross Stuff
Few women find burping and farting nearly as hilarious as the typical guy does. Good manners are always a win. (Ephesians 5:4)
- Be Patient
In whatever way this applies to you and your situation, apply it. (1 Corinthians 13:4, Proverbs 14:29)
- Cherish Her Children
A mother’s bond to her children runs immeasurably deep. When you invest time or energy in them, you are investing in her as well. Kindness to them counts as kindness to her. (Malachi 4:6)
- Choose Her Over Hobbies and Buddies
Invariably there will come times in your relationship when you will be forced to choose between your wife and something else that you enjoy. Always choose her.
- Provide for Her Needs
This is so much more than just putting food on the table. It is all-encompassing. Whether it is physical needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs, you name it — do your best to provide. Sometimes life’s circumstances hinder us in one area, but we can compensate in another area. Often the effort is as important as the outcome. (Galatians 6:2)
- Dial Down the Anger
Your caveman instincts are handy on the battlefield, but horrible for a happy home life. Every outburst or flare-up is a relationship setback. To go forward, the first step is to stop going backwards. Learn to control your temper or it will control you, your marriage, and every other aspect of your life. Just because your wife puts up with it and your co-workers tolerate it, doesn’t make your short fuse an asset. Do whatever it takes to gain victory in this all-important struggle that has haunted man since Cain slew Abel. (Ecclesiastes 7:9,Ephesians 4:31)
- Cut Out the Condescension
If you have been blessed with a quick wit, you can either be the life of the party or a pain in the neck depending on the circumstances. Condescension is anger’s younger brother. It isn’t as loud or as dramatic, but it can be equally hurtful and all the more so for its subtlety. Lay off the snide remarks, the sarcasm, and the belittling. Speak to your wife in the same way that you would speak to a respected colleague. She is, after all, your partner in the most valuable investment of your life — your family.(, (Ephesians 4:29, Colossians 3:19)
- Actively Seek Your Wife’s Insights
Value her input and give it a preferential place in your decision-making process. (Proverbs 19:20; 12:15)
- Learn to Forgive
Freely forgive your wife’s past, present, and future offenses. Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel and at the heart of every meaningful relationship. (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13)
- Verbally Express Your Love
There are lots of ways to show your love, but women still like to hear it spoken.
Obviously no list is comprehensive, and one size certainly doesn’t fit all, but hopefully this one will prompt you to compile a list of your own, tailor-made for your own wife. For any women reading this blog, you may be interested to know that my wife has published a similar list entitled 25 Ways to Show Respect to Your Husband. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Also, for those who have requested printable versions of these articles, you’ll find the list for wives here and the one for husbands here, with an option to print either article in its entirety or as a one-page summary.