I remember when my wife (Becca) and I were about to get married. We were picking out colors for dresses and tuxes; we had to figure out what to serve for dinner; we even had to make our napkin rings! In the midst of the craziness, people would give marriage advice. Some said to make sure we prayed together. Others said to never go to bed angry. A few said to continually pursue one another. The vast majority of the advice we received was encouraging and incredibly helpful!
But the one I heard more than any others, especially from men who had been married for quite some time, was “I have one bit of advice for you, and it’s two words: Yes, Dear.” What they meant was that I need to learn to make those two words naturally flow from my mouth whenever asked to do anything, ever asked an opinion, or ever questioned about anything. The husband, in the minds of these well-meaning husbands, should agree with the wife in all circumstances and not “kick the beehive.”
First off, my wife isn’t a beehive. If you married a beehive, you have other problems.
Secondly, my wife isn’t always right. And she deserves to know that. She deserves to know that because she is a real human being and not a beehive to avoid. Merely pacifying your wife to avoid conflict is lazy and cowardly.
This isn’t a chauvinistic idea. Becca has helped me understand this. She has told me that when I say only yes to her or agree with her at all times, I’m not truly valuing her opinion; I’m just making her feel like I do. I’m essentially lying to her by not treating her as worthy enough for me to expend energy in discussion.
My (and your) wife deserves an ear and brain that is engaged with her thoughts and opinions. She deserves to be taken seriously and to be disagreed with at times. She has a beautiful mind and wonderful ideas that merit engagement at a deep, intimate level. An emotionally intimate marriage is not cultivated through merely pacifying your wife. Emotional intimacy thrives under conditions of mutual respect, openness, and love.
This does not mean that you get to argue about every little thing. What it does mean is that you must humble yourself to express what you feel about a situation and to do for her what you would want her to do for you.
Almost every morning, Becca asks me if I like her outfit. I used to say “yes” every time just to pacify her. But then I realized that it’s not about fashion. She truly respects my opinion and that’s why she desires to know what I think about the way she dresses.
Another time, Becca was venting to me about a person she was having difficulty with, and I kept nodding my head in agreement. She asked me if I thought she was overreacting, and my first answer was “No.” She asked again if that was genuinely what I thought, and I answered, “I think you’re overreacting.” Instead of turning into a swarm of bees, she actually said she appreciated that response because it was true.
When I realized that, I began to see those questions not as her begging for superficial approval, but as a moment that we could cultivate emotional intimacy.
Emotional intimacy sounds like something most men could not care less about having. The modern man tends to run from words like “emotions” and “intimacy.” But if you want to be her hero, if you want to take your marriage to a 10 out of 10, you will have to win her heart. She desires emotional intimacy so this is a battle worth fighting. This may seem like a daunting task (and it is), but I want to give you a starting place. I want to give you some practical ways that you can lead your marriage into a “10” in emotional intimacy:
Let her know that you respect her opinion.
This has to be the first step. She needs to hear, explicitly, that you respect her opinion. She should never question your curiosity to know what she feels or believes.
Ask her if your opinion is important to her.
The axiom rings true, “Marriage is a two way street.” You need to hear her say that she respects your opinion. Husbands desire respect from their wives, so this can strongly boost your love for her. This obviously must be backed up with your continual display of listening to her and engaging her in discussion about opinions and situations.
Figure out how you can lovingly handle disagreements with each other.
So many couples do not know how to “fight” well. When you can fight well, it ends up being not much of a fight. Disagreements don’t have to turn into shouting matches. You don’t have to sleep on the couch every time you get mad at one another. Know what her triggers are and intentionally stay away from them. Make sure you stay on the topic of the opinions themselves and not turn on one another. Attacking the person instead discussing the opinion only leads to pain and division.
Don’t be a passive passenger in your marriage by simply saying yes to everything just to appease your wife. She deserves to be engaged in conversation and debates that truly value her opinion and shows that you’ve put thought into your response.
Now go love your wife by disagreeing with her. She deserves it.