I know you might be trying really hard to show love to your wife. I also know that it may not be translating to her in the way you are hoping.
Maybe she’s still telling you that she needs you to focus on her more or spend more quality time with her and the family. Marriage requires a whole lot of self-sacrifice, and it is sometimes downright exhausting. The thing is, wives know when you are simply checking a box.
After you do your part, you want to say, “Leave me alone, I put in my time.” But that is a little bit selfish and a lot foolish for overall happiness. She can tell that even though you are present, you aren’t really with her. God gave women the incredible gift of emotional intelligence, and they have this gut instinct that is sometimes freakishly accurate. This can be a helpful way to gauge how things are going in a marriage.
I have heard countless stories of women dragging their husbands into counseling only for the husband to say, “What? We are fine!” And then he hears how deeply unhappy his wife is.
If you usually see things in a positive light, her anger might confuse you. But maybe, just maybe, your optimism is just thinly masked denial. Apathy. A good dose of reality can shake things up and spark positive change. Giving the bare minimum might feel easier, but you will reap some pretty small fruit.
I know this isn’t just a problem for husbands, but I can only speak about how a wife may feel so that you might be able to glean some inside perspective. The question is, why do we end up feeling such apathy about our marriages? It is a human condition to become accustomed to the good gifts God gives us, and we tend to take things for granted. Not only that, people are messy and they get annoying and difficult to live with.
But if your wife irritates you, can you imagine how you might make her feel? And yet she wakes up and does life with you another day. Mothers your children, cares for your needs, cleans your messes. You are not perfect, my friend, so keep that in mind when you are silently griping about her shortcomings. I say this because I am seeing a record number of women going off the deep end.
She may not beg for your attention forever. She might give up. Or move on. Or both. She might stay in the marriage but emotionally check out.
When you’re single, there is always hope that someday you will find love and companionship. Most people long for a relationship that is vibrant and fulfilling. But when you are married, and feel alone and abandoned, you are kind of stuck. This is a scary feeling for wives because women have a huge capacity to love and be loved, and if they are constantly being shut out, they wither.
Are you supposed to be her all in all? No. But you are supposed to look her in the eye when she talks and really listen. Put down the phone. You are called to show her care and kindness. You are supposed to hang onto that same wonder you had when she agreed to marry you. That wonder that made you woo her and love her and show affection and care.
Don’t complain about her. Marriage is a reflection of how God loves the church, and so what I am saying is this: you need to attend to her heart and give her yours. Jesus loves us when we are unlovable, and may we learn to do the same. There will be seasons that make this more difficult. Days when we just feel empty and mad. Days when we want to just give up. But in this kind of suffering and loving in the dry, cold places, we grow. Can we love perfectly? No, but we can rest knowing Jesus fills in all of the cracks and crevices of our broken attempts. He is good and faithful, so don’t lose heart.
I encourage you to look at your wife and understand that she is a unique image bearer, deserving of love. She might be so tired that she lays her head down on her pillow at night in silent tears because she never dreamed of having a cold and detached marriage.
We all want to be seen. So see her and protect what you have.
Once my dad told me he finally figured out what women need. After decades and decades of failing, he realized that is was pretty simple: women don’t even need very much, because they are pretty tough, tougher than most men. They just need to know they are loved and appreciated. They just need a little help and devotion. Do this, and they will love you back pretty fiercely. I love that. It really isn’t that hard.
If you’d like to talk with my dad, I am sure he would be happy to do that. He lost his wife and is keenly aware of the empty place she left in his life. He hasn’t recovered, and it has been years. He shakes his head when he sees husbands ignoring their wives and taking for granted what they still have. He calls them boneheads, to be exact. Don’t be a bonehead.
Always remember to love like Jesus,