The Husband

5.3 Understand Her

From the book Biblical Manhood
By Joel Hilliker

“I’ll just never understand women.” If you are committed to biblical manhood, you can never resort to this stale sentiment. This is the excuse of weak masculinity. God created men and women with specific differences, and He created those differences to be understood.

Women are different from men. God specifically designed those differences. Do not be frustrated by them; do not ignore them or try to remove them. Understand them!

God commands a man to dwell with his wife “according to knowledge” (1 Peter 3:7). The Greek word translated knowledge refers to a seeking to know, an inquiry or investigation. Men, we have some studying to do. No man naturally understands what the woman’s role is about. He must learn.

You need to talk to your wife, gain insight from her, notice her, learn from her. You must become knowledgeable about what her life is really like. Gain skill at recognizing her perspective. Know what she is going through, her itinerary, her obligations, her physical limitations, her health, her desires, her dreams.

Notice: This verse implies a link between that “knowledge” and his “giving honour” to her.

How good are you at seeing things from her perspective? How much knowledge do you have about what your wife’s life is really like? What is it like, for example, being around the children, alone, for hours on end? What is it like to see every mess as yet another job to do? What is it like to try finding, affording and wearing modest yet feminine clothing? What is it like to try to create nutritious meals every day, year after year? What is it like to have her particular social life?

How well do you understand what it would truly be like to have to be subject to you in everything, as unto Christ? (Ephesians 5:24). Do you make it easy and pleasant and gratifying for her to fulfill that commandment?

Understand your wife. Dwell with her “according to knowledge.”

Communicate With Her

It is common for a couple, when dating, to communicate a lot, sharing their histories, experiences, thoughts, emotions, perspectives, needs and goals. Sadly, once they marry and time passes, it is also common for communication to slow down considerably, even to practically stop. Lack of communication has a terrible, chilling effect on a marriage.

The husband devoted to biblical manhood communicates frequently with his wife, for his own benefit and for hers. Husbands need communication more than they think they do, but wives need it even more.

If you work on your communication, regardless of how long you have been married, oneness will grow stronger.

Communication is not merely the opposite of silence. Real communication is a genuine, sincere expression of thoughts and feelings. For a marriage to have beauty and harmony, husband and wife must be committed to speak the truth in all things. And God tells us in Ephesians 4:15 to speak the truth “in love.” The energy of communication “in love” has a profound effect. Share your mind with your wife to become more at one with her.

What is the level of your communication with your wife? At the most basic level is small talk—cliché conversation, general platitudes: “I’m doing fine. How was your day?” Then there is reporting facts about other people: “Did you hear the Smiths got a new minivan?”

Beyond that is where real communication begins. It starts with expressing ideas and judgments based on events and what is happening around us. This involves a certain amount of self-disclosure: You reveal what is on your mind and what you think about circumstances. The communication grows even deeper when you bring feelings and emotions into the discussion. A married couple has to make sure that this type of communication is happening, and not infrequently. You should be sharing openly and honestly with each other how you think and feel on vital issues.

Every deep relationship, especially a marriage, must be based on honest communication, or it will suffer. You should feel comfortable sharing your full mind and heart with your wife.

Listening is a crucial and often underdeveloped skill. God commands, “[L]et every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). Many men struggle to listen well. Why? Distraction, tiredness and mental fatigue can all hurt your ability to listen if you let them. Self-centeredness can cause you to interrupt or get impatient or intolerant rather than really listening.

It can take genuine effort to truly understand her point of view! Men and women express themselves differently. Sometimes you must consciously prevent her emotions from clogging your ears, and concentrate deeply—even prayerfully—on what is behind the words she is using. If you allow yourself to feel judged or indignant, or you’re planning your speech while she is talking, you simply won’t hear what she is trying to communicate. All these impediments must be removed so you truly hear her when she is talking.

Always keep in mind “speaking the truth in love.” This is miraculously powerful. It will create a world of communication that translates into beauty and harmony.

Speaking the truth in love does not mean giving in to your wife or avoiding confrontation. Sometimes confrontation is exactly what it means to speak the truth in love. Truth in love sometimes hurts; however, it should be the good kind of hurt, like applying an antiseptic ointment to a wound. When an argument develops, it is your job to bring love to the fore. This may involve tenderness or firmness, but it must never involve bitterness or selfishness. Our words should always carry a positive and helpful message. The spirit of the home must be the spirit of love, and this is primarily your responsibility.

If your marriage has confusion or pain, then kind, loving words that speak the truth can heal the problem. Led by God, such communication will produce unity, harmony and goodness in your marriage.

When you and your wife have good, regular communication, then your relationship is ready for the unexpected difficulties. At those times, the two of you can share truly deep communication experiences, filled with genuine empathy and unity, that strengthens you in true marital oneness.

Empathize With Her

How hard have you worked to dwell “according to knowledge” regarding your wife’s feelings and emotions? They are different from yours—because God created them to be different.

It is easy for a man to dismiss a woman’s emotions as being silly or unfounded. Some of them are, but here’s the problem: From our perspective, “That’s just silly—you shouldn’t think that!” may seem like profound wisdom. To her, it sounds like you are rejecting her. Never does that “wisdom” have its intended effect on a woman. It is simply not dwelling “according to knowledge.”

All effective communication aims at building understanding. Seek always to understand your mate. Misunderstandings can create serious problems. If you find yourself exasperated by something your wife is feeling, saying or doing, resist the urge to criticize and condemn it out of hand. Do you really understand the cause of those feelings or that behavior? If you have barely talked, have barely listened and have not understood, your dismissive “You’re wrong about that” rejects not only her concern, but her mind. This is not dwelling “according to knowledge.”

Learn to provide a willing ear without passing judgment. The challenge is to listen not only to the words but also to the feelings and meaning behind the words. If she feels understood, she will be less defensive and more cooperative. Ask God to give you an understanding heart and to help you see the world from her point of view.

Don’t be ignorant about the changes she experiences during her monthly cycle. Physical discomfort and hormonal fluctuations can make it harder for her to control her emotions, and should be considered and sympathized with. Most men will never have to deal with this kind of mind-body disruption. This doesn’t mean coddling her—she is still responsible for her own actions—but do consider the toll it takes on her. This becomes even more important as a woman goes through menopause. For some women it can be quite uncomfortable and include hot flashes, loss of energy, emotional swings and depression. A husband can do his wife a wonderful favor by giving her love, attention, appreciation and understanding.

Love Her

Recognize that your wife has a deep, God-given need to be loved. It is her greatest emotional need in life. This is why God commands you, above all else, to love her (Ephesians 5:25-33).

Perhaps one of the most important things you can communicate to your wife is that you notice her and appreciate her. Her life orbits yours; much of what she expends her time and effort on is for your benefit. If you were in that position, with a boss or a client for example, you would likely struggle if you felt unnoticed or unappreciated. Your wife’s need for your recognition and praise is far greater. Notice your wife and her work—and tell her that you notice. Frequently express specific appreciation for the efforts she expends to make your life beautiful and peaceful. Help her understand the importance of the work she does.

You can express your appreciation in larger gestures: a gift, a date night, a spa visit, an anniversary getaway. But these cannot replace the day-to-day expressions of gratitude and love. Notice how the house looks when you walk through the door. Notice the details of the meal she has prepared. Tell her why you appreciate tonight’s salad. Express praise for the ironed shirts, the scrubbed bathroom, the vacuumed floors.

Beyond that, dwelling with her “according to knowledge” means being aware of her workload and making sure it remains manageable. Before making an additional demand on her, make sure you understand just what it entails, and that it will not be an undue burden. Be attentive to her needs. Notice when she’s feeling burned out. If possible, offer to take her out so she doesn’t have to make dinner. There may be times when you have to advise her to let go of certain obligations or responsibilities.

“How often do you husbands see your wife down and depressed, and you know she needs your encouragement?” Gerald Flurry asks in The Last Hour. “A righteous husband will be there for his wife.” Consider: When you are discouraged, how does Jesus Christ treat you? Do you feel judged and condemned? The reality is that Christ is doubling His efforts to encourage you and set you back on your feet! When we sin, our Husband becomes our Advocate (1 John 2:1). That word also means Encourager.

A wife needs her husband’s encouragement, or she will become disheartened. On this point, Aubrey Andelin wrote, “[An attentive person] is a sharp contrast to that person who is so concerned with his own feelings and desires that he ignores, neglects or is indifferent towards others, taking them for granted. This is a particularly easy habit for married men to fall into. … It is indispensable for a woman to know that her husband is aware of her as a person. His thoughtful attention to her comfort is a visible demonstration of his love. It provides a unifying bond between them, for as he shows this thoughtful concern for her, she blossoms as a flower in the sun” (Man of Steel and Velvet).

Be sure to keep her in mind when you are apart from one another. When you go on a trip, call her. She wants to know you’re OK—she wants to know you’re safe—she wants to feel secure.

Your love is particularly tested—and needed—when your wife is unwell. Notice when she is tired or sick. Help lighten her load. Give her a reprieve from caretaking, and be the one to take care of her. Such gestures are pure gold not only because they give her opportunity to recover, but also because they demonstrate that you care about what she is doing, that you appreciate her labor, that you want to nurture her happiness, and that you love her.

Consult Her

Your wife is many things to you: your companion, your confidant, your lover and your friend. She is also your assistant, your adviser and your consultant. Biblical manhood means making final decisions for you and your wife. This is a responsibility you cannot abdicate. At the same time, you cannot do it alone. You must follow God, and God commissions your wife to provide you with the benefit of her perception and counsel.

Dwelling “according to knowledge” means carefully considering your wife’s advice and counsel so major decisions in particular reflect the combined wisdom of your union. If you are shopping for a car, for example, the criteria you look for will be different from hers. Sometimes you must be big enough to see that she knows something you don’t. “According to knowledge” means encouraging her to share her view, then listening, coming to know her needs and wants so you can factor them in and then selflessly do what is best for the whole family. Your decision must be based not simply on pleasing your wife or yourself, but on what God leads you to see is best.

Sometimes your wife’s counsel is crucial. Sometimes it is right, but other factors outweigh it. Sometimes it is wrong. But in all cases, the godly husband honors his wife and himself by listening to the other dimension of the wisdom God created for decision-making in marriage.

Your wife’s tastes, preferences and desires have as much validity as yours. Don’t simply force your tastes on her. A failure to allow her to make certain choices can crush her self-respect and drive, and even impede her spiritual development.

God made your wife capable of and responsible for making choices. She needs to be making decisions that develop her experience and character. God says she is to work out her own salvation, just as you are to work out yours (Philippians 2:12). If you deny your wife all authority and decision-making, you deprive her of the opportunity to learn from her decisions. You and your wife are a team; you must together grow in grace and knowledge, and both develop the character to be born into God’s Kingdom.

The model wife in Proverbs 31 is capable of considering a piece of property and buying it. Verse 28 says her husband rises up and praises her for her achievements. Delegate certain decisions and jobs to your wife. Make sure she has control over certain areas of the budget and money that she can spend as she sees fit. This doesn’t mean you relinquish your overall authority or your duty to step in when necessary.

‘Knowledge’ About Your Future!

What wonderful blessings open up when a husband dwells with his wife “according to knowledge”! The effort and persistence required to truly understand your wife is profoundly worth it. It builds a level of communion, beauty, harmony and oneness in your marriage that God desires for you to have.

And even more, true understanding of the wife’s role and life deepens your understanding of a spectacular spiritual reality.

Those who have been begotten by God the Father with the Holy Spirit today are actually preparing to become the Bride of Jesus Christ. Yes—even we men are preparing to be a wife—a helpmeet! Remember, our physical families are just a type of the spiritual reality. Right now we husbands are a type of Jesus Christ. But in the Kingdom, we won’t have that job because that job is already filled—by Jesus Christ! So even we men must be developing a helpmeet mindset today. Both men and women in God’s Church are in the same office, spiritually speaking, in this sense: We are the wife. This should surely motivate us to better understand that role today. There is much we can learn about our eternal calling from our wives.

Christ will truly dwell with His wife “according to knowledge”! Not only because He is perfect—but also because He Himself fulfills a type of helpmeet role for His Father. He knows all about what it takes to be a successful helpmeet. He knows the special challenges involved in this role. He knows that a good leader must treat his helpmeet with great honor. He knows the head of a family must prize his helpmeet as a precious gift from God.

And this is exactly what He will do. Strive to follow His lead!

Continue Reading: The Husband: The Proverbs 31 Husband