How To Understand Women (and Men)!


September 2005

Dear Ministry Partners,

There is a story told about a middle-aged man walking along a beach in California and sees a bottle washed ashore. He pops the cork open and out comes an angel. The angel says, "You can ask whatever you want, and I will do it for you." The guy says, "Wow, well — I have always wanted to go to Hawaii, but I am afraid of flying and going by boat. Could you build me a bridge all the way from here so I could drive?" The angel said, "Whoa, a bridge from here to Hawaii — do you realize how much concrete and how many pylons that would be?" The guy replies, "Well, I guess you are right, that is asking a lot. Tell you what, just explain to me how to understand women and we will call it even!" The angel thought silently for a full minute, and then said, "Did you want that bridge to be two lanes or four?"

Many volumes have been written on the topic of men and women understanding each other. But the clearest, most concise, and essential advice comes from the Word of God, as usual. In Ephesians 5:25, the scripture says, "Husbands, love your wives." Then the immediate command in Ephesians 5:33 to the wives is, "Let the wife see that she respects her husband." The difficulty in these two simple commands is understanding how to do them.

The number one key to women is they need love. But the husband has to learn his wife’s love language before she can really feel loved. People are wired by God differently. A husband usually instinctively knows how he would perceive he was loved, and typically gives love to his wife in this manner. However, he might as well be speaking German to her if her love language is different from his. A short discussion of these love languages is below.

[1] Sharing quality time. (This includes sitting and talking, taking her on dates, going places with her, spend the night in a hotel, — even shopping!)

[2] Physical touch or affection. (This is hugs, kisses, holding hands, rubbing her back or shoulders, etc., even putting your hand on her arm or knee if you are driving and she is sitting next to you.)

[3] Expressing words of affirmation. (These are positive, uplifting words of acceptance and encouragement — especially saying "I love you", and especially not criticism.)

[4] Giving and receiving gifts. (Examples include buying her flowers, chocolates, jewelry, a card, a meal out, gifts at birthday, anniversary, Christmas, and especially for no reason at all.)

[5] Performing practical acts of service. (Doing practical, helpful things for her, both what she wants done and what she did not ask for.) As an example of the difference in these love languages, a husband might wash his wife’s car thinking she would know he loves her this way through his practical act of service, but her main love language might be sharing quality time — so she does not feel loved at all because he was not there sitting next to her on the sofa just talking about his day.

How can you tell which love language is her main way of perceiving love? It is usually the way she is most quick to show love to others. Is she the first to take a meal to a new mom? Then her love language is probably practical acts of service. Does she always want to hold your hand? Then it is probably physical touch and affection. Of course, communication with your wife about this topic is encouraged and she might be able to clearly articulate her preferences. But if not, observation as well as "trial and error" can discover what she prefers and responds to.

Women were created by God with a major need to feel loved. Men do not have as great a need to feel loved. Sure, if men voted on it, they would vote to feel loved — but women are usually the more emotional creations and they need love like a fish needs water. But they need it in the way they perceive it as love — so it is important to discover how they sense they feel loved. If your wife is not perceiving that she is getting the love she needs, she is like a fish out of water, unconsciously gasping and groping for what is an essential element of her life. It is like a twist to an old saying — "Give me love and nobody gets hurt." If a wife feels unloved — "ain’t nobody happy" to paraphrase another old saying. In fact, being starved from her kind of love long enough can result in the wife being very unresponsive and emotionally dead. However, steady significant doses of what she needs — her love language — can "revive" her as much as putting a fish back into water. She will begin to act like the woman you dated before marriage — because that was when you were giving her the kind of love she recognized and valued. (In fact, you were probably giving her all five love languages, so you really could not miss speaking her love specific language.)

Men are wired by God completely different. The Bible does not command the wife to love her husband, it says to respect him. This is what men need, but not the military idea of respect where the wife might say "Yes sir" to the husband — but a broader application of respect which can also be expressed in different "languages".

These "languages" to appropriately "respect" your husband are discussed below.

[1] Respect his wishes. (This is what the Bible is addressing when it teaches wives to "obey" their husbands [as long as they are not asked to sin]. No organization can have two presidents. The wife is the vice-president, and needs to remember she is not the president. Note: if she was an employee, would her behavior get her fired?)

[2] Respect his reputation or honor. (Don’t put him down verbally, and especially not in front of others [even just "joking"], and especially not in front of his friends or associates. Many men have given their lives for their families. Is the wife acting in a way that would make her husband be willing to die for her? )

[3] Respect his providing. (Don’t overspend or sink him in debt — even if he does. He is the primary provider in the vast majority of couples. In a very real sense, it is his money. But even if you provide half or more of the income, he is still the head of the family as designated by God.)

[4] Respect his possessions. (Don’t take or "borrow" his personal items, even if it is just his finger nail clippers — get your own. Many wives have had the attitude, "What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine." And don’t ever throw or give away his stuff in the garage or closet without permission. He worked for that, and the wife does not have the right to just toss it out in some cavalier fashion.)

[5] Respect his masculinity. (Don’t tease him if he can’t get the jar lid open, or talk about how his body is aging, like his balding hair or his pot belly. Don’t feminize him and be critical of him. No leader is perfect, and even the handsome male movie stars sag with time. The more masculine he feels and therefore acts, the more the wife will be attracted; just as the more feminine the wife feels and therefore acts, the more attractive she will be to the husband.)

One point that needs to be addressed is that when men are angry, women do not feel loved. Husbands are commissioned in 1st Peter 3:7 to "Live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman." There are many initiators or reasons for anger in the lives of most men, but we need to be careful not to vent anger toward our wives. On the other hand, women need to understand that anger in men is an exact parallel to women crying. It is just that emotions in men usually don’t come out as tears, but rather anger. The emotion of anger is just as normal a response in men when hurt as tears are in women when hurt. Anger is an emotion that God not only created in humans, but the Bible says God Himself even feels angry (Hebrews 3:10, Ephesians 5:6), but the key is not to sin when feeling anger (Ephesians 4:26). This is not license for a man to be angry all the time, and some people need deliverance from a spirit of anger, but this short discussion can help a wife understand the emotion of anger in her husband so that she does not incorrectly conclude that he does not love her.

Concerning what the husband needs, is this "respect issue" what is known as "the male ego"? It is really not an ego issue (although some people need deliverance from a spirit of pride), it is more of a "wired issue" — how God wired the male species of humans. It is much more than having a Y chromosome, it is being male the way God made men to be. If you want to see your man "come alive" again, just step up the level of "respect" you are giving him. He probably has one "respect language" that is more important to him than the others, but he will appreciate all five languages of respect and respond better to you.

In the same way, as a husband, if you speak all five love languages to your wife regularly, you will see her respond to you as never before. Sure, a woman is more susceptible to emotional changes, and she does have hormone fluctuations each month that can significantly affect her behavior, but large doses of love in the way that she perceives love can negate the problems from the other aspects of being a woman.

Building up marriages,

Dale & Judi Leander


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