By Sandy Ralya
Envision your husband wrapping his arms around you from behind and whispering in your ear, “You’re amazing,” or stealing you away for dinner at your favorite restaurant (he made babysitting arrangements), or holding your hand while taking a walk, or ringing your doorbell only to present you with a bouquet of your favorite flowers. What fans the embers of romance deep within your heart?
Most women dream of romance. But many don’t consider how their words or actions might douse the passion in their marriages. Are your words or actions stumbling blocks or invitations to your husband to join you in a romantic relationship?
Let’s look at three steps to invite your husband into greater romance. Through these steps, you can provide your husband the safety and encouragement he needs to set foot upon the path of a more romantic marriage.
1. Trust instead of control. Do you struggle with a desire to control those around you? Most women, including myself, wrestle with control issues. The desire to control our husbands is a result of sin. God told Eve in the Garden of Eden, “You will bear children with intense pain and suffering. And though your desire will be for your husband, he will be your master” (Genesis 3:16, emphasis added). The Hebrew word, tesuqah, translated here as desire, means the “desire to overcome or defeat another.”
To get a sense of whether you have control issues in your marriage, ask yourself: Do I correct my husband? Do I instruct my husband? Do I try to improve my husband?”
I have been guilty of all three!
When you correct your husband, you’re saying, “You didn’t do it right.” When you instruct your husband, you’re saying, “You don’t know how to do it.” When you try to improve your husband, you’re saying, “You didn’t do it well enough.”
We justify our actions by telling ourselves that we’re just trying to help, but our motive may have more to do with control than help. Control is often rooted in fear. Some women try to control their husbands out of fear that they won’t get what they want. Others fear their husbands’ actions will reflect badly upon them if they don’t step in to help. At the root of this fear is selfishness, and selfishness does not serve as an invitation to romance. Philippians 2:3 says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others.”
What is there about the nature of control that blocks romance and intimacy? The best way to answer this question is with another question. Do you want to get close to a controlling person? No, of course not. It’s impossible to experience intimacy when controls are placed on you. Your husband feels the same way. It’s time to trust God and let go of control.
Controlling, instructing, and improving your husband carry him back to his boyhood, and little boys do not walk the path of romance. Trusting your husband will invite him to romance.
2. Respect instead of demean. In my twenties, whenever I blew out my birthday candles, I wished for the same thing: I wanted to respect my husband more. I had read it in the Bible, which instructs each husband to “love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy any consistency on this point. While the candle smoke wafted upward, I sat back, crossed my arms, and waited for Tom to do something that I could fully respect.
What was wrong? I thought I needed Tom to inspire me to take the action of respect. Instead, I needed to obey God and take the first step toward respect. It has been said that it is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than to think yourself into a new way of acting. We would be wise to adopt Nike’s motto and “Just do it!”
We live on a small farm, and the term “pecking order” has taken on new meaning for me since we added chickens to our stock. We observed that the dominant chickens chose a chicken to chase and peck. Every time she went near the feeder, they chased her all over the coop—keeping her from the food she needed for survival.
It didn’t take long to determine which chicken was at the bottom of the pecking order. It was the one with missing feathers and patches of puffy, bloody skin. When one of our chickens looked like this, it was only a matter of time before we found her dead on the floor of the coop.
Ever hear the term “hen-pecked husband”? A hen-pecked husband is usually at the bottom of the pecking order in the home. When you emasculate your husband to this condition, you reduce him to a state that is no longer respectable. You have become your own worst enemy because you truly want a respectable husband. Once again, you thought you were helping elevate your husband to higher and higher levels of manhood, but, in reality, you were diminishing him. His place is now at the bottom of the pecking order of your home, and he isn’t able to get what he needs for survival: respect.
What does respect have to do with romance? When a man is confident in your opinion of him, he can relax with you. He can drop his walls and let you in. He knows that with you, he is safe. He will be valued and respected. And where there is safety, romance can grow.
3. Appreciate instead of criticize. It is often easier to be dissatisfied instead of appreciative. When stressed, do you focus on appreciation or dissatisfaction? Your choice could make the difference between romance and remorse.
What does your husband do (or not do) that causes you disdain? Is it his paycheck? Is it how he performs tasks for you? Is it what he gives you or how he surprises you?
If a man feels unappreciated—if he feels your continual dissatisfaction—he may give up trying to please you and look for other opportunities that will satisfy his need for appreciation. Are you willing to risk this when the desire of most good men is to satisfy their wives?
As most women have experienced, the male ego is fragile. Your husband may come off with bravado, but inside he’s looking for your affirmation and appreciation. Most men can’t live without it and will seek validation wherever they can find it. Let your words of appreciation be something your husband can rely on.
Keep a running list of his positive traits and actions. It will help you in those moments when you are annoyed with, irritated by, or wanting to blame your husband; simply running through that list will remind you how much more there is to him than his aggravating tendency to come home late.
Focusing on the negatives will leave you dissatisfied. Appreciating your man will invite him to romance.
Adapted from Beautiful Womanhood by Sandy Ralya. Published by Creekside Publishing. Copyright ©2009 by Beautiful Womanhood. Used with permission.
You can hear Sandy Ralya interviewed on FamilyLife Today.
Sandy Ralya is the founder and director of Beautiful Womanhood, a Christian marriage mentoring ministry for wives. Sandy and her husband Tom have been married since 1980 and live near Grand Rapids, Michigan.