I’ve had a request for some ideas for husbands in terms of marriage and spiritual leadership. I decided to create a list of ten things (in no particular order) that regularly come up in counseling sessions, daily life and in spiritual conversations. This list is by no means exhaustive. I personally have a lot of work to do. We all do. The point is to know what needs work and then work on it. Keep in mind that doing these things can be fun. Just because it takes some effort doesn’t mean it has to be drudgery. It all depends on your attitude. The rewards are well worth it. So, here you go husbands. I hope you find something useful here.
1) Mutual submission:
A lot is said about wives submitting to husbands. Yet, husbands are also called to submission. Jesus Christ is the model. He is the Bridegroom. How does the Bridegroom behave towards his Bride, the Church? He does not consider his position as God (the ultimate leader) as something to be grasped at, but humbles himself as a slave.* Are you that way towards your bride, or are you constantly trying to dominate and overrule her choices and opinions? Jesus submitted to the point of death for his Bride. “Husbands, love your wives, as Jesus Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it.”* Would you die for your bride? Are you willing to let even a small part of you “die” so that she can have her way? Do you sacrifice with joy or do you allow resentment to build in your heart?
2) Non-sexual touch and affection:
If your wife thinks you want sex every time you touch her, that’s a problem. She needs hugs, kisses, hand-holding and physical closeness that has no “sexual strings” attached. Many men regard women as sexual objects to be used for their own pleasure. Not good. Your wife is a person, a human being, a child of God, not a blow-up doll. Treat her accordingly. Jesus treated women with respect. Follow his lead. Find out what she likes. It won’t do much good to hold her hand if she doesn’t like hand-holding. When you know what she likes, you know her. Then you can deliver the affection, with no expectations of having sex.
3) Kind, respectful speech and humor:
No name-calling, even when you are angry and frustrated. No name-calling. No curse words. Do not swear at your wife or your children. Speak to them as Jesus would speak to the Church, with love. Don’t say hurtful things to your wife and then try to cover it up with, “I was only kidding around.” Don’t say things you will wish you could retract. Oh, and did I say, “No name-calling?” Bridle your tongue.*
4) Eye contact and undivided attention:
When your wife speaks, listen, even if you think it is not relevant to you. If you are unable to listen for some valid reason, tell her so. Tell her you want to hear about it, and that you will listen as soon as you get a chance. Then, keep that promise. Also, give her eye contact. Mute the TV, pause the game, whatever you have to do to look her in the eye and really listen. If you forget what she said a few minutes ago, you probably weren’t really listening. Develop your listening skills if you want to be a good husband.
Being a good listener is part of being a good conversationalist. Yeah, I know, men are all about “report” (just give me the facts) and women are all about “rapport” (let’s be in synch with each other mentally and emotionally). So, conversation means different things to men and women. That’s why men generally have shorter phone calls than women (get the gist of things and hang up). Nevertheless, men, try to develop your rapport with your wife. Listen and respond with more than a grunt. Be happy with her when she’s happy. Be sad with her when she’s sad. Show some empathy. Tune in.
6) Follow through on promises, big and small:
Be faithful to your wedding vows. That’s a big one. Take out the trash when you say, “Ok, I’ll take it out.” That’s a small one. A promise is a promise. We can’t trust someone in big things if we can’t trust him in small things.* By the way, fidelity also means getting rid of and avoiding pornography in your life, your home, your computer, your phone, etc. We are all called to purity and chastity within our vocations whether we are married or single. You chose one, special woman out of millions. Love her and her alone. Forsake all others, even the paper or cyber ones. As the Scripture says, “Rejoice with the wife of your youth. Let her breasts satisfy you at all times.”* And, yes, guys, that means the Victoria’s Secret catalog needs to go, too.
7) Acts of service:
Find out what means “love” to her. Do it. Say it. Mean it. If it’s washing her car, wash it. If it’s flowers, get them. If it’s taking the kids away so she can rest, take them. Get the picture?
8) Spiritual initiative:
“Man up” and be a holy, spiritual Christian man. Jesus chose twelve, ordinary, “unlearned”* men to be his apostles. Quit making the ladies and the clergy do all the “spiritual work.” The clergy is only there to prepare us, the laity, to do the real work. That means go to church, pray with your family, read and study your Bible and your Catechism, know your faith, share your faith and be prepared to defend it against secularism, relativism, hedonism and any other “ism” that distorts truth. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”* That ought to make a guy feel like wielding the sword of the Spirit to defend his family from the powers of darkness. Look at it this way: if you heard someone breaking into your home, would you send your wife to deal with it while you stayed in bed?
9) If you have children, be active and engaged with them:
You are a role model, whether you want to be or not. You are either a good one or a bad one. Be a good one. Love your children with your time, your attention, and your presence. It isn’t enough to be a financial provider. They need their dad, not just dad’s money. It also shows that the sex you have with your wife means more to you than lust or physical pleasure. It means that you and your wife share in God’s creative power together and God blessed that union by creating new human beings. If you want to know why sex is sacred and not to be used, abused or taken for granted, spend time with your children and look deeply into their eyes. Yep, that’s why God made sex.
10) Ask your wife what she needs/wants/likes:
There is no better expert on how to treat your wife than…your wife. No two people are the same. No two wives are the same. Talk to your wife. Ask her how you are doing as a husband. Ask her where you can improve, and then, actually work on it. You and your wife decided to create something that never existed before; your marriage. Your marriage is not there to serve you. You are there to serve your marriage and your spouse. Find out what you need to do better and what you are already doing well, for the sake of your marriage. With a humble heart, ask God to help you.
*I’ll let you look up these Scriptures on your own. Good way to show some initiative, men!