In a recent article in Harper’s Bazaar entitled, “Women Aren’t Nags – We’re just Fed up,” Gemma Hartley, talks about the disappointment of her husband not doing enough of the emotional labor in their marriage – all of the behind-the-scenes planning and thoughtfulness that goes into a life run smoothly. Hartley and many others feel women bear a uneven and unfair amount of this work. Men are often thought of as clueless husbands and fathers who can’t do anything right.
These images of men are often depicted in commercial advertising. There is a name of it: “Femvertising.” “The ‘man as a dope’ imagery has gathered momentum over the last decade, and critics say that it has spiraled out of control. It is nearly impossible, they say, to watch commercials or read ads without seeing helpless, hapless men.” This was written in 2007. The trend continues in our day.
Hartley admitted in the article that she did not “want to micromanage housework. I want a partner with equal initiative.” When I read this article, I could not help but think of the countless sessions I’ve spent with young couples getting married. I usually had a time when I asked if they knew the emotional needs of the other and how to meet those needs. Most of the time they had no clue as what this meant. In this blog I want to focus on the husband’s meeting the emotional needs of his wife. In nearly every session, when I helped a man to understand what the basic emotional needs of his soon to be wife were, the woman would always agree.
That need is stated simply: “to be number #1 in the husband’s life.” This means that the husband thinks of his bride as the most wonderful woman on the face of the earth. He tell her often in many creative ways, demonstrating this sentiment by the way he treated her. Her security is knowing that she comes before anything else in her future husband life except the Lord. I would remind the young man that he will have to demonstrate this in thought, word and deed. This meant that his ego needs would have to be surrendered before those of his wife. Ephesians 5:22-ff makes this abundantly clear.
Men, after 52 years of marriage, along with years in pastoring couples, I am absolutely convinced that the emotional needs of a man and woman in the marriage dance are different. Learning the emotional steps of the marriage dance is paramount. My task has been to put Judy first on my priority list, demonstrate that truth in word, deed, and emotional involvement, dying to my rights and desires, and willing to be a servant to Judy as my help mate. I can testify that it will take care of most of “the emotional load” issues. In other words, I am to take the initiative in meeting the emotional needs of my wife. Most often the wife will respond in kind.
This simple principle making my wife number #1 is easy to define, but very difficult to live out in the tugs and pulls of marriage. For me it has meant continues repentance of my improper behavior and attitude. I have to set the emotional tone for our marriage dance. The Message in Ephesians 5:25 gets right to the point. “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving and not getting.” If a husband is willing to follow this advise from the Apostle Paul, a lot of the struggles relating to carrying the emotional load would be resolved.