I love my wife. Do you know how she knows? Because I told her so at the wedding ceremony. We all know that is silly, and that everyone needs to hear that they are loved on a regular basis.
Husbands, however, are given a specific command to love their wives because we have a tendency to think, "she ought to know." The command is given with a qualifier, "as ourselves." We take care of our needs daily and so should be our expression of love toward our wives. So what does it look like? Every woman is different and their need for love will be expressed indifferent ways. That is why as husbands we need to understand our wives. I know, a daunting task, but it is possible. As an example I will share how Rebecca feels loved, and how I need to express it.
1. Rebecca feels love when I protect her. This includes physical and emotional protection. Simple acts go a long way. She has commented that when we walk on the street and I take the position between her and oncoming traffic she feels protected. She is very capable of moving out of the way of an approaching car, but it says something to here when I am willing to chose her over myself.
Emotional protection is expressed when I don't allow others or myself to speak disparaging about her. We live in an overly comedic society and too often allow ourselves to cross the line in the name of humor. If my wife is not laughing it is not funny. Emotional protection also includes how I speak too, in kindness or disrespect.
2. Rebecca feels loved when I speak words of encouragement to her. We all like to be encouraged and appreciated. This is often difficult for men who wonder why they have to say thank you for work you normally do. Rebecca will thank me for taking out the garbage, which I always think is strange. But she appreciates even the little things. What that tells me is that she wants to be appreciated as well. She doesn't expect it but I know it means a lot.
Encouraging words are extinguished by discouraging words. We can say a thousand nice ones and destroy them by one careless one. And the phrase, "just kidding" doesn't erase the pain.
3. Rebecca feels loved when I listen. I don't do this well because every conversation seems more interesting then the one I am in. That's why I have a hard time carrying on meaningful conversations in large groups, when the TV is on, or if I am doing something else. I need to listen to her so that I can hear her joy and her pain, and it isn't an issue of fixing things. This gets guys into trouble when wives share something and they go into fix it mode when all she wanted was a sounding board. I have asked Rebecca, "is this something you want me to fix?" It takes a lot of pressure off the conversation when I know the difference.
4. Rebecca feels loved when I help. We have different gifts and roles, but sometimes those gifts and roles overlap. I get so caught up in my own agenda that I overlook all the things she does at work and around the house. We have different ideas about what it means to be clean and orderly and my endurance of grime is much longer. I can't for the life me figure out why she has to spend so much time cleaning, but you know, I like it, and she likes it when I help without being asked, or if she does ask, that I don't complain.
5. Rebecca feels loved when I honor her. This is different then encouraging words or acts of kindness. It is a frame of mine. Honoring her means to hold her up as valuable. She is important to me and what she says has meaning. She doesn't look for public adulation, she doesn't like it, but she does wan't to know that I hold her in high regard. She wants me to consider her opinion as valid and worth listening to.
6. Rebecca feels loved when I fulfill my role as a godly husband and father. As the spiritual head of the home I am responsible for seeing that my wife and children are being fed, prayed for, and led with godly advice. Too often we abrogate this responsibility to our wives and then feel resentful when they "nag" us to do what God has tasked us with.
There are many other ways the Rebecca feels loved, but you get the idea. Sharing this personal example is dangerous because I have to admit how much I have failed. To know and not do is the most unloving action possible. Yet, as inadequate as I am I am able because I have been redeemed, made new, and I am being perfected each day in Christ. it is still my obligation and desire to love my wife with my whole heart, and I do. I'm just saying.
Ephesians 5:33 "However, let each one of you love his wife as himself,"