A Beginner’s Guide To Understanding Your Spouse’s Needs

A wife complains to her husband saying, "I feel fat and ugly, and I have nothing to wear!” The next day at the Christian bookstore, his eyes catch the book, Dieting for the Christian Woman. The subtitle is, “Post-holiday Menus.” Viewing the diet book more as a cookbook, he buys it. When he gives her the book at home, she goes ballistic. He thinks he’s just witnessed a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral.

She is convinced he is sending a message through his blue megaphone into her pink hearing aids which says, "I do not accept you. I do not approve of you. And I will not love you until you look like a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader."

In feeling this way, she verbally blasts away. "You are brainless. You don't love me! You only want me to fulfill some fantasy you have."

Why does a wife hear this message that her husband does not love her?

God wired her to be extra sensitive to issues of love. The diet book is not interpreted as helpful, but as conditional love. This is why God commands a husband to love his wife (Ephesians 5:33a). God's Word develops in him a greater sensitivity to his wife's need and vulnerability. 

On the other hand, can a husband feel his wife is speaking a message through her pink megaphone into his blue hearing aids? What message does he hear?

Several weeks later this wife is at the same Christian bookstore. She sees a book about marriage that looks interesting. She buys it. This is the third marriage book she has purchased in the last 12 months for the two of them to read. Knowing he does not have time to read the whole thing, she underlines in yellow key sections that she feels he ought to apply, and puts the book on the stand next to his recliner.

 When he sees it, he deflates. He hears this message, "I do not accept you. I do not approve of you. And I will not respect you until you change, right now!"

At that instance, he shuts down and refuses to engage her.  He stonewalls in anger for 3 days.

Why does a husband hear this message? God wired him to be extra sensitive to issues of respect. The third marriage book is not interpreted as helpful but as disrespectful. This is why God commands a wife to respect her husband (Ephesians 5:33b).  God's Word develops in her a greater sensitivity to her husband's need and vulnerability.

What can a husband do if he feels disrespected?

As a husband, are you aware of these inner feelings that you need to feel respected? Why should you get in tune with this?

Listen to this husband,

"I didn’t realize what was going on inside me, nor how I was coming across to my wife. In reading your book I realized that my need for respect was not being met, but I had not been able to put my finger on this. All I knew was that I was frustrated and angry. I did what you say the typical guy does. I shut her out. I wasn’t going to let her treat me this way. In doing this I crushed her. She wanted to be close to me, but I pushed her away."

After his self-discovery, this husband started responding to his wife in a more loving way because he discovered why he was coming across in an unloving manner. 

He felt disrespected.

Interestingly, too many men have lost touch with this inner feeling of being disrespected. This feeling isn't politically correct.   

But a husband cannot solve a marital problem (his unloving reaction) if he has not identified a root reason for the problem (he feels disrespected).

In this man's case, instead of attacking his wife as disrespectful and justifying his unloving reaction, he influenced the marriage by softening his response. It dawned on him that an unloving reaction would not motivate his wife to be more respectful!

Further, every husband needs to realize that his wife is not trying to be disrespectful, but often is crying out for love.

What can a wife do when she feels unloved?

As a wife, are you aware of feeling unloved? Most wives are; however, too few are aware of why a husband doesn't hear her need for love.

Many times her reaction is so disrespectful and loud that it drowns out her cry for love, acceptance and reassurance.

One wife wrote, 

"I disrespected and dishonored my husband out of my own pain, never even realizing that it was equivalent to his not showing me the love I needed in the way that I needed it. I am ashamed and remorseful, especially after reading how much I’ve hurt him by my lack of respect. I just didn’t know."

I love this woman's humility. Instead of justifying her disrespectful reaction, she confessed her ignorance and faced the truth. Further, she realized as many wives do that a disrespectful reaction does not motivate a husband to feel fond feelings of love and affection in his heart.

Further, every wife needs to realize that her husband is not trying to be unloving but often is crying out for respect.

In summary, God's revelation in Ephesians 5:33 helps a wife understand why she feels unloved when receiving a diet book, but also instructs her against reacting disrespectfully.

And, this Scripture helps a husband grasp why he feels disrespected when receiving the third marriage book, but teaches him to guard against an unloving reaction.

Remember, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right" (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT).

-Dr. E