Anyone who’s married will remember those first few weeks, months, even the first year or two after their wedding. You couldn’t keep your eyes off one another, you left little love notes around the place, you’d call each other during the day whenever it was possible. You know what that was called? It’s called passion and in 100% of marriages at some point passion evaporates.
That’s what marriage counsellor of twenty-something years, Dr David Clarke writes in his fantastic book “Kiss Me Like You Mean It”. And one of the major reasons that he cites for this, based on all the clinical counselling experience that he has, is that somewhere along the line we each manage to put something or someone ahead of our spouse.
In those early days of passion nothing comes ahead of our new marriage partner, absolutely nothing! But little by little, well you know … One of the most confronting chapters of Clarke’s book is Chapter 3, it’s called “Even The Dog Is More Important Than I Am”, good title and there are six big issues that he sets out in that chapter, the main things that we end up putting ahead of our spouses. Let’s see if you recognise any of these in your life.
Number one is our children. Now parents know that bringing up children is a gruelling marathon that goes on for years. Naturally our kids soak up our time and our energy but you and I both know there’s a line we step over where, let me say especially mothers, (not always but mostly) displace the deep emotional connection they should have with their spouse by attaching themselves to their children. Now all of a sudden your former Number-1 is coming a poor second, third or even fourth and by the way he knows it and it hurts.
Number two is our job. This is one mostly for us guys. We rationalise that we’re trying to establish our careers, working to build a future, creating wealth for a happy retirement and yet we’re working so hard there’s nothing left there at the end of the day for our wives. That was my biggie and I’m still a reforming workaholic. See I duped myself into believing that my work was more important than my wife.
Number three is our home. For some people how their home looks and feels is way more important than their spouse.
Number four our hobbies. Hey, it’s great to have a hobby or two, something you can do just for yourself because it sparks your creativity, it burns some energy, it relaxes you, I’m all for it but at some point our hobbies can rob a marriage of the intimate time that it needs to survive and to thrive.
Number five is our pets. Yeah, for some people their pet has become more important than their former number one person. David Clarke in his book recounts the comments of one disgruntled husband during a counselling session and this man observed that his wife had more kind words, cuddles and attention for their dog. Buddy than she did for him.
Number six are our friends and our family. A husband that continues to hang out with old single friends at their houses. A wife who spends on average an hour and a half each night on the phone to family and friends.
Now I’d be really surprised if you don’t recognise just one or two of those as things that might be supplanting your spouse as the number one person for you on this planet and you know the hardest thing about dealing with that, it’s admitting that you’ve let it happen.
You see it’s hard for a man to admit he’s putting his career before his wife. It’s hard for a woman to admit that she’s putting the emotional attachments with her children ahead of this man of hers who promised so much to start out with but well, look at him now.
The single most important insight that hit me between the eyes in reading David Clarke’s book, “Kiss Me Like You Mean It”, is this. If anything or anyone is more important than your spouse your marriage cannot be deeply intimate and passionate. Let me say that again:
“If anyone or anything is more important than your spouse then your marriage cannot be deeply intimate and passionate.”
Husbands its not good killing yourself in your job, coming home and complaining that your love life with your wife isn’t what it used to be. Of course it’s not. Your work is more important than she is. And wives it’s no good pouring yourself out on the kids or perhaps your pet cat or dog, come on, and then complaining he never talks to me anymore. Well of course he doesn’t. You are demonstrating to him that he’s not important to you anymore, at least not as important as the children or the dog.
You want passion in your marriage then first get your priorities right. Right priorities come ahead of passion. Do you want to hear what your wife and husband has to say ahead of what anyone else has to say? Do you want to spend time with your spouse before your work, your children, your pets, your family, your friends, your football game? It’s about priority.
Let’s see what Solomon’s priorities are. “The Song of Songs” is a beautiful Book in the Old Testament that’s about the passionate love between a man and a woman, between Solomon and a woman and the Song of Songs talks about priorities. This is what she says:
“The voice of my beloved, look he comes leaping upon the mountains and bounding over the hills.”
She wants to hear his voice, she longs for his voice. That’s Song of Songs chapter 2, verse 8. And he says in verses 13 and 14:
“Arise my love, my fair one and come away. O my darling in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice.”
What’s the Lord our God saying to you and me about the passion that should exist between husband and wife? He’s saying that priority comes first. Priority precedes passion and Gods heart is to see you put your wife or your husband before all other things on planet earth.
Yes He should be the very first and foremost thing in your life but putting God first inevitably means loving your God given soul mate above all the other things on this planet because that sort of love comes directly out of the very nature of God. God is love.
Let me put it as bluntly and directly as this. Until your spouse goes back to being number one in your priorities there will be no passion but within days and weeks of changing and living out a new set of priorities, putting him or her first this is what’s going to happen. Your former number one, your soul mate will notice, absolutely, and not just notice they’ll respond.
How to Love Your Wife
Now it’s a pretty obvious mistake to make. We each have certain needs in love, there are certain boxes we have to have ticked for us to feel loved and so we assume that that’s what our spouse needs, we men are incredibly good at this. We figure that if our wives don’t agree with us, if they don’t see the world the same way that we do, well they’re obviously wrong and they need to be reformed. They need changing because obviously they just have it wrong; it’s a plain as the nose on our face, yeah right.
We all want to love our spouses in a way that makes for a passionate, fantastic marriage. Of course we do. Is there any married man or woman on the planet who doesn’t wish for and hope for and long for a passionate marriage? The problem is that, well most of the time we just don’t know how to get there. Most of the time we men don’t know what a woman needs in order for her to feel loved and most of the time, come on you women don’t know what we men need to feel loved and valued.
Just imagine for a moment a marriage where both wife and husband know what the other needs to feel loved. Imagine a marriage where both wife and husband not only know what the other needs but learn to give their loved one the love they need most of the time. Do you think that would make for a good marriage? Hey, that would make for a fantastic marriage. That would make precisely the sort of marriage that each one of us is looking for.
So right now, men let’s discover what it is your wives really need and after the break we’ll be doing the same thing to help wives discover what their husbands really need.
I’m going to go back at this point to David Clarke’s book about having a passionate marriage. It’s called “Kiss Me Like You Mean It” because he’s been in the marriage counselling game for over twenty years. This is what he writes:
“Nearly every wife would list unconditional love, protection and security and emotional connection in her list of top five needs.”
In other words husbands she needs to know that she is your number one no matter what she does. She needs to know you would crawl over broken glass to save her and protect her and she needs to communicate with you and be connected with you at a deeply emotional level.
If you’re a husband let me ask you, how do you score on those three criteria? When her hormones are playing havoc with her emotions what does she get from you? Reassurance, encouragement, a hug or anger followed by a prolonged silence?
Do you behave in a way that demonstrates to her that you are in the business of protecting her? I mean when someone a bit odd or menacing walks towards you both on the street do you make sure that you put yourself between her and that person?
And when you come home from work do you listen to how she feels? Do you tell her not the executive dot point summary of what happened in your day but also how you felt about it, what you enjoyed, what you didn’t enjoy, what you found hard, what made you angry, what made you laugh? Because those are the very things that are going to make her feel loved. If you start doing those things, develop the habits to do them, pretty quickly she’s going to notice the change and pretty quickly she’s going to start feeling very, very loved.
One of David Clarkes practical tips for making that happen is make sure that your wife is the person who gets your day’s news first. Remember the things that matter and make sure that you treat her as your very best friend, the person you want to connect with by telling her the news first. Isn’t that great?
If you can, give her a quick call during the day to tell her a bit of your news. Isn’t that great? I mean it’s so practical. She wants to hear your news. She wants to hear how you feel about this and that in your day and when you tell her first words cannot describe how loved that’s going to make her feel.
She needs you to tell her in detail over and over again why it is that you love her, what it is that you love about her, what makes you delight in her. Women need that reassurance; they need your unconditional love. She needs you to ask her what she needs today. ‘Sweetheart how can I help you today?’ ‘Well you know it would be really good, can you stop by the supermarket on the way home and grab some lettuce and some rice and some yoghurt.’
Men, that’s loving your wife, that’s how she needs to be loved and you know something it’s not that hard, it’s about developing the habits. The more you give her what she needs the more she will give you what you need.
I guess the one thing that is particularly tough as a husband is the fact that your wife’s emotions are so prone to the hormonal onslaught that goes on in her body. On a monthly basis with PMT and I remember in one of the classes I was taking a few years back in Bible College, one of the older men shared a pain that he’d gone through during his wife’s menopause where she would lash out at him for no reason.
And choked up and as teary as he was he said to us, ‘the one Scripture verse that let me love her unconditionally through all that is Ephesians chapter 5, verse 25.’ And it’s a verse, I have to tell you, that I have memorised since then. It says:
“Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her.”
Hmm, last time I checked Jesus was nailed to a cross, hands and feet and suffered there as He choked and died for me. Last time I checked He gave His all for me and that’s how He’s calling me to love my wife through those difficult times. That’s how He’s calling you men to love your wife through the tough times. That’s how He’s calling us to give ourselves for our wives in the tough times. God’s wisdom is so awesome.
Remember her top three needs are unconditional love, safety and security and a deep emotional connection. Husbands start with those things, do them, say them, live them, breathe them and that passion you were longing for, trust me, it will be back real soon.
How to Love Your Husband
Most wives are intrigued by their husband’s odd behaviours and responses. Well maybe intrigued is a bit of a understatement, how about perplexed, frustrated, driven crazy, hurt, disappointed. Whatever happened to that romantic knight in his shining armour who rode along on his white steed and swept you off your feet? Now he just sits there in front of the television and watches sport. I mean seriously he’s impossible. What happened? What went wrong? Why is he broken? Why is he like this?
After the first few years it’s like you’re married to a Martian and that’s exactly the point that Dr David Clarke makes in his book of rediscovering the passion in your marriage. His book’s called “Kiss Me Like You Mean It” and it’s fantastic. Have a listen to what he says, he writes:
“After two decades of intense marital research I have discovered a shocking truth about passion. Here are my findings. Something completely unexpected and terrible happens between two and fourteen years into your marriage. The person who you fell passionately in love with is replaced by an alien. I’m not kidding. The alien looks exactly like the wonderful person you married but its behaviour is bizarre, unbelievably annoying and obviously designed to drive you insane.”
There is many a wife who looks at the podgy slob sitting on the sofa, remote control in hand, surfing through the sporting channels, whose real life experience 100% confirms Dr Clarke’s research findings. What went wrong? What are you going to do with him?
Girls the first thing you need to know about your man is that his love needs are profoundly different to yours. Loving him the way that you like to be loved doesn’t work, it didn’t work yesterday, it doesn’t work today, it’s not going to work tomorrow and what’s more it’s never, ever, ever going to work. Have you got it?
Before the break we saw what women need in order to feel loved. So now, what do men need because their needs are entirely different to women’s, totally? Here they are from David Clarke’s book. Respect, honour and sexual intimacy are three of nearly every husband’s most important needs. Let’s do it again, respect, honour and sexual intimacy are three of nearly every husband’s most important needs.
As a husband let me tell you he has absolutely hit the nail on the head. Not only in the three things that he’s put on the list but also in their sequence. Respect and honour come first. Interestingly there’s nothing new in this. 2,000 years ago this is what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians chapter 5, verses 22 to 24:
“Wives be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord for the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the Church the body of which he is the saviour. Just as the Church is subject to Christ so also wives ought to be subject in everything to their husbands.”
That causes a lot of contention that one little Scripture in a lot of societies and cultures but wherever you are and whatever your cultural context or background might be what this is talking about is the fact that the husband is wired to be a leader and his deepest need is to be respected and honoured by his wife.
Now I could spend an hour or two sharing with you my understanding of how that Scripture, about obeying and all that sort of stuff, plays itself out in western culture and how it works in my marriage with my beautiful wife Jacqui but that’s not where we’re going today.
My point is simply this, when a wife sneers at her husband, when she pulls him down in front of the children or in front of other people, when she dishonours him, when she hen pecks him which by the way never, never works and it only has the effect of having him pull up the drawbridge and locking himself away inside his castle.
When she does those things she robs him of his two most important love needs. Of course he’s going to get things wrong, of course he’s going to make mistakes but in the same way that a wife needs to experience her husband’s unconditional love when she’s making a hash of things, he needs to experience her respect and honour when he’s not having one of his best days. You rob him of that and I’ve got to tell you the guy will close down.
Start respecting and honouring him in practical ways and he will open up. Add to that physical intimacy which I have to tell you is almost as much as a physical need for him as oxygen, water and food and you’ll have a new man.
Wives you are the only person on this planet that can legitimately meet this uniquely deep need of your husband. You rob him of that, make it difficult for him and he feels like the most unloved person on planet earth.
Before the break I implored men to develop the habits and behaviours that will make their wives feel loved. Right now I’m imploring you wives to do exactly the same for your husbands. He’s different to you, that much you already know; now you know how his love needs are different to yours.
Respect, honour and physical intimacy. Give him those things over and over and over again and the alien on your sofa will pretty quickly start behaving a whole bunch more like the man who swept you off your feet. Just imagine both of you giving the other what they need to make them feel loved, now there’s a recipe for a passionate marriage.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘the husband may well be the head of the house but the wife is the neck that turns the head’, there’s a lot of truth in that. Wives I don’t think that most of you even begin to realise the awesome influence that you have in your husband’s heart with your physical beauty and your ability to enjoy intimacy with him.
I know what many of you are thinking to yourselves, oh well you know I’m not that beautiful, I’ve put on a few pounds, gravity has taken over all my body parts. Let me tell you something, your man thinks that you are beautiful. Absolutely he does.
How often do you hear someone in my position talking about the importance of physical intimacy in marriage? Not that often right? But Jesus talked about it because it is vitally important especially for your husband. Wives when you get that husbands feel instantly loved. A wife’s realisation of the importance of this one thing in the way that he’s wired will literally transform her man before her very eyes. Trust me.
This is what Jesus said quoting the Book of Genesis:
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined, be cleaved to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. So there’s no longer two but one flesh.” (Matthew chapter 19, verses 5 and 6).
You know what I love about God; He’s so honest, so direct and so practical in His Word. He deals with everything including marriage and intimacy and in fact if you’re married let me just pray for you right now.
I pray for each man and woman who is listening today who is married and who’s struggling to love their spouse they way they need to be loved.
You’ve shared some things with us today, Lord it’s in your Word there, we’ve discovered it, teach us how to love our wives the way we should and teach wives how to love their husbands the way they should.
We know that you want to bless marriages; we know that you want to pour your love and your grace out; we know that your plan is for us to have a passionate marriage.
We invite you into our marriages today. Be the Lord of our lives, the Lord of our marriages and give us the wisdom and the insight through what we’ve heard today, to love our loved ones the way they need to be loved. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Bernie Dymet Christianityworks.com