Wake-up Call for Wives
Last month we wrote the article Wake-up Call for Husbands, and were surprised to see the large number of comments and emails we received. Many were from wives expressing gratitude for the ideas presented, some saying they were looking forward to the article for wives since they really do want to be good wives and are eager to find out things they may not be aware of to show greater love to their husbands.
Some were thank-you’s from men who expressed their love for their wives and found some helpful ideas in the article to enhance their marriage relationship. Some of the comments were from men defending their positions and stating they “can’t wait to read the wake-up call for wives article because wives certainly have faults, too.”
We appreciated the helpful ideas that came in from men who are struggling from mistreatment from their wives. Just to show the intensity some felt, one man wrote, “Thousands of men suffer in silence at the abuse and neglect leveled at them by their wives. Yet what seems to get published all the time is what the men need to do, how bad the men are.”
It’s now time for the wives wake-up call. Many of our readers’ remarks will be included in this article.
Writing an article like this is risky and takes a bit of courage, since some may be offended. We discovered last time that some can be very unkind in communicating their feelings to us. Our intent is to help, not offend. Knowing that most wives are doing a superb job, we hope you will read this with minds open to learn what might improve your own marriage. We can’t possibly say everything that could be, or even needs to be, said on the subject. But we’ll do the best we can for now. We’re the first to admit we don’t have all the answers, but still we try to be of help. We are not pointing fingers at anyone in particular, simply hoping to give helpful suggestions. If it applies to you, we hope you will be willing to make positive changes to enhance your marriage.
A reader by the name of Bruce summed up our intent perfectly in this comment: “Marriage, like almost everything of importance takes maintenance. It is far easier to maintain and enrich your present relationship (if you haven’t messed it up already) than to establish a new one. Besides, if you don’t change, the new relationship will not last either. The fun things that brought you together can keep you together.”
Joseph F. Smith’s counsel to wives, after giving counsel to husbands, is as true today as it was then. “The wife, also should treat the husband with the greatest respect and courtesy. Her words to him should not be keen and cutting and sarcastic. She should not pass slurs or insinuations at him. She should not nag him. She should not try to arouse his anger or make things unpleasant about the home. The wife should be a joy to her husband, and she should live and conduct herself at home so the home will be the most joyous, the most blessed place on earth to her husband. This should be the condition of the husband, wife, the father and the mother, within the sacred precinct of that holy place, the home.” (Gospel Doctrine, 283–84)
Tips for Wives
• Give him time to unwind.
Clinical studies have shown that when men are overly stressed after a hard day at work, what they need is a quiet time to just sit and basically think of nothing. Just rest from all cares. Women, on the other hand, often unwind by talking about their day, pouring it all out. If couples understand this difference they’ll know a little better how to give their spouses what they need.
Jill, from Oregon, said she could tell when her husband was really stressed after work. As was the custom, she would greet him with a kiss, and then suggest he sit quietly, undisturbed in his study for 15 minutes or so, and would bring him his favorite apple juice drink, then leave him alone without asking any questions. After a few minutes he would come out refreshed, play with the kids and help out with household chores. Did she do this every day? No, but enough times, when he was particularly stressed or agitated, to let him know she understood his needs. She said that many times he returned the favor to her.
When wives pay attention to their husbands needs, he will be more inclined to pay attention to hers. Find out what your husband needs and wants by simply asking him.
• If something continually bothers you, let him know
Don’t let it build up and then explode, or end it with divorce papers. If something is wrong, let him know. This is most effective when done out of the heat of the moment. Let’s say he said something, maybe sarcastic, in public that he thought was funny, but was very hurtful to you. When you get home and are alone, in a calm manner tell him how you felt. You might say, “I felt sad tonight when you told that joke about me. I felt ridiculed and hurt. I’m asking you to please never do that again.” His intent was probably to just be funny but had no thought about how it may hurt her. Now he knows and will likely not do it again. Then drop it. If it happens again, repeat the process. Always being kind and respectful, not hateful in your response.
This works well with whatever he may be doing that has been hurtful to you. When you do this don’t bring up how many times it’s happened, just start where you are and let him know your feelings. It’s our belief that husbands don’t want to hurt their wives, it’s just that they sometimes are not aware. So let him know, in a kind, but firm way.
• Listen to him
Many women complain that their husbands just don’t talk much. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that, generally speaking, men aren’t as inclined to talk as women are. They’re just made that way. However, they would talk more if their wives would really listen. To see what we mean read this comment from another letter we received and see if you can discover why he doesn’t talk much.
“[My wife’s] complaint is that I never talk to her…. I converse but she almost always tears me down or has a better way to do something… and makes me feel like a total moron… she has a master’s degree and I only have an associates… but I make over 90K so she can stay at home… I help with the dishes, house cleaning, toilets, you name it And would do the laundry but she won’t let me (I DO know how!).”
Who wants to share ideas with someone who tears those ideas apart or pooh poohs them? No one! (That goes both ways, men) Too many times women immediately begin criticizing when a man shares his thoughts. Please just listen and validate his feelings.
You don’t have to agree, but you do need to listen as he shares his ideas.
That’s called courtesy and respect. At a later time you can say you’ve been thinking about what he said and offer your thoughts on the subject in a respectful way.
• Let your husband know how much you love and appreciate him.
In response to our Wake-up Call for Husbands article we received this letter. It sounds extreme and uncommon, but is it? Here is a portion of this very discouraged husband’s letter. Look at it, wives, and see if you find yourself anywhere in it.
“But what about us men whose wives treat them like slaves? I’ve been married 30+ years and have never had a breakfast or lunch made. She won’t even wake up to see me off in the morning, and when I come home in the evening I’m expected to do my share of the housework, and somehow my share is the biggest share. Oh, my wife is a full-time homemaker.
“I am allowed two pair of pants; anything else is a waste according to my wife who can fill two closets. I don’t even own a pair of jeans to do yard work.
“My wife has only said “thank you” twice in our marriage for me holding the door open for her.
“According to the Gospel, I must continue to treat my wife with tenderness and love; there is no way for a priesthood holder to retaliate when a wife treats him like this. Can’t abuse her; can’t even talk back. According to current church leadership, I must continue being meek and mild. According to my bishop and stake president I must not criticize her or “hurt her feelings.” In other words, she is my abuser and I must take it or I am not a worthy priesthood holder.
“My wife is not the only one. I see many women like her in the Church. . . . No wonder the young men are refusing to marry! This is indelicate of me, but if church leadership would have the courage to preach at the women about how to act in marriage like they do the men, there would be women worth marrying.”
That was a lot of hurt to unload. No man should be treated that way. He needs to kindly and respectfully set some boundaries. We hope that pouring it all out like that has helped him feel better, and even more importantly we hope that any woman in that situation will see how wrong her behavior is. We must remember “what is good for the goose is good for the gander.” Both husband and wife deserve kindness and respect.
Now on a much more positive note, a Relief Society president from California, wrote the following: “I think most of what you said in the husband article applies to wives. Many times we don’t tell our husbands how much we appreciate them. Often they feel they can’t do enough to please us and that we are never satisfied. I think it is critical to keep your relationship alive and growing. It is important to keep your romance and courtship going. You need to flirt with your husband, make him feel desirable and let him know how much you appreciate him. I love surprising my husband with something romantic. One day when the kids weren’t home I made a sign on our bedroom door, “Ritz Hotel”. I had decorated our bedroom with candles, chocolate, cold sparkling cider, a massage table, etc. We had our own little hotel getaway right at home. He was very surprised and loved it. We still remember and refer to that night together. I think it is important to let your husband feel that you are crazy about him, as much or more than when you married him. I think too many times lack of attention at home turns their heads to attention outside the home.”
Men generally work hard to provide for their families. They deserve some special attention and sincere expressions of appreciation from their wife, just as wives do from their husbands. It’s amazing how far a genuine “thank you” and a little romance from a spouse will go.
• Be sexually willing and responsive
Speaking of romance, one male reader made a valuable contribution regarding physical intimacy. He reminded wives with the “Good Girl Syndrome” that they “must make an effort to embrace [sexual intimacy] and not consider it sinful. Your husband wants you to enjoy this special part of your marriage as much as he does, so help him know what you need to enjoy it.”
He went on to say, “In priesthood we hear it over and over again to ‘cherish and respect your wives as they are daughters of God’ which is true and I see countless examples. I have read most of the Relief Society broadcasts and it seems the men are pounded on this and pornography (as these are two critical issues), but it seems that the sisters are not told that their husbands are son’s of God and need to be respected, including the area of intimacy.”
Another letter was very revealing. He wrote: “I once saw a man wearing a T-shirt that said, ‘I will WORK for SEX’. I wanted one of those to wear around the house. though it would have done me no good. “Just as women need to have hugs and kisses and words of endearment whispered in their ear, men need to have sex. If I had been stingy with my hugs and kisses for my wife, our marriage would not have made it. I wonder sometimes how I have endured her being stingy with sex and many times acting as if it were like a chore.
“Sex is a basic need. Sometimes I think somehow our chastity teaching needs to include teaching young women that sexual purity is needed before marriage, but after marriage emphasize that it is okay to turn it off and enjoy sex with their husbands. Sex should be the a spice to our marriages and the glue that helps hold couples together.”
A woman identified only as LDS woman, gave some interesting advice. She said, “I would encourage the sisters to give themselves to their husband sexually as often as they are able. Men are so relaxed and rejuvenated by this that I believe it should be scheduled in! In our marriage we have a rule, I’m available every other day…which usually translates to Tuesdays and Thursdays and weekends. It has served us well, this planning, because I know that the other days are “mine” and it’s not expected. Women have told me that it takes away spontaneity, but I say, with our busy lives, it’s better than it being weeks since we last made love!”
President Spencer W. Kimball said, “There are many aspects to love in marriage, and sex is an important one. Just as married partners are not for others they are for each other.” (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 73)
• Put the needs of your home and family first
Some of the men who wrote us expressed frustration at the way their wives were neglecting their responsibilities at home. Some reported that their wives spent hours on the computer social networking with friends, ignoring the house completely.
Others complained that it appeared that nothing had been done at all to clean their home or fix meals, even though they were not employed outside the home.
Some were aware that their wives were off shopping or scrapbooking, and having fun with girl friends, rather than keeping up the home. It’s important to note that they didn’t resent their wives having a good time, but when it became so constant and the neglect so obvious, they were sad.
One disheartened husband wrote, “Like many good husbands, I work long hours at my job, hold responsibilities in the church, and also do my share of cooking meals, washing dishes, taking out trash, bathing young kids, and the rest of the household chores. My wife works a part time job that allows her to be home with the children most of the time.
“Here is what I have observed with my wife and many sisters in the church under 40. They don’t feel that running a house and taking care of children is rewarding or their primary responsibility. They have many activities taking them away from the children and out of the home. They have their TV shows that they watch religiously, no matter what impact that has on children’s schedules, family scripture reading, and family prayer time. Many seem proud that they can’t cook, can’t iron, and rarely do any housecleaning. My wife and I have talked through these issues, and we are trying better to meet each others needs. . . .
“Several recent studies show that American men work about 10 hours more per week than their dads did, many have hour long commutes, and that American men spend more hours caring for children and doing housework than other men, or their fathers did.
“The reality is that American LDS men are working longer, spending more time with children and housework than ever before, while American LDS women are doing less. They have fewer children than before, they spend less time caring for the children and home. My wife points out that she spends more time driving the kids to activities. After a while, we both chose to limit the children’s participation in sports and activities to make more time for the family.”
This letter gives you a flavor of the frustration some husbands are feeling. Another man wrote us telling of the neglect he received from his wife. Without going into all the details he shared, we’ll quote his final statement: “I see so many of the young women of the Church growing up believing that some prince charming will see to all their needs and they won’t be expected to do anything that requires effort or that may make them feel the slightest bit ‘uncomfortable.’ Yes, they are daughters of a king and they are princesses, destined to become queens. And, we were all sent here to work and to sacrifice and to take up our crosses and follow our Savior. That requires at least occasional discomfort, even for the royal princesses.”
We hope these letters from men will nudge women who fall into this category to wake up and more clearly see their vitally important role as a wife and mother. Please know that we understand that most of you wives reading this are already diligently fulfilling this responsibility.
Sister Julie B. Beck, Relief Society General President, in General Conference Oct. 2008, clarified the role of women of the Church when she said, “Latter-day Saint women must be strong and immovable in family. They can and should do families better than anyone else. We, as disciples of Christ, can and should be the very best in the world at upholding, nourishing, and protecting families. We do this as we:
1. Understand and defend the divine roles of women.
2. Embrace the blessings of the priesthood.
3. Form eternal families.
4. Maintain strong marriages.
5. Bear and rear children.
6. Express love for and nurture family members.
7. Accept responsibility to prepare a righteous rising generation.
8. Know, live, and defend the doctrine of the family.
• Believe him when he says he loves you, and be forgiving
An anonymous reader made this comment: “Last week my wife of 22 years decided to divorce. Four kids, and it is the worst nightmare of my life. I have provided well and have been told for years that I have never loved her. I have tried to show and express love only to have her believe its not genuine. She can recite vividly the day 20 years ago that I did something that proved I could not love her, and 12 years ago when…[and on it goes]. How about an article encouraging wives to forgive and forget those offenses, real or imagined, that happen on occasion in marriage. Another temple marriage bites the dust. It’s awful!”
Every spouse will at some point make mistakes, some more serious than others. We have observed that when repentance and forgiveness are genuine marriages can flourish. Years ago a local church leader, in a private conversation, said, “My wife doesn’t get hysterical, she gets historical.” Leave past mistakes alone and move on.
President Gordon B. Hinckley counseled: “If there is forbearance, if there is forgiveness, if there is an anxious looking after the happiness of one’s companion then love will flourish and blossom. The prescription is simple and wonderfully effective. It’s love. It’s plain simple every day love and respect.”
• Accept his compliments and say thank you.
For some reason many wives have difficulty accepting their husbands compliments. Maybe they don’t feel good about themselves, and if that’s the case, please don’t put that onto your husband. Thank him when he praises or complements you. Believe him. Don’t give him reasons why you’re not what he says you are. A husband at one of our marriage retreats, in the breakout session where men and women are separated, said, “I told my wive she had cute ankles, and she does. But she came back with, “just look a little higher and you’ll see how fat I am.” He was crushed by her remark. He said, “Please tell wives to accept our compliments.”
So here it comes: Wives, accept your husband’s compliments! Why in the world would anyone point out her faults and bring them to her spouse’s attention. That’s just crazy.
• He needs compliments, too.
In a MensHealth.com survey 38% of men said they are rarely or never complimented by their partners, and less than 25% are regularly complimented. When your husband does something for you or the family make sure he knows you appreciate it by saying thank you. Be specific in your compliments and expressions of gratitude, such as, “Thanks so much for working so hard to support our family.” or “Thank you for being so patient with Johnny tonight.” You may think, “These are his responsibilities, why do I have to thank him for it?” You do it because it’s kind and respectful, and it shows him you are noticing the good things he does. It will inspire him to want to be an even better husband and father.
One gentleman wrote, “For more than twenty years I have enjoyed opening doors for my wife, but I could count on one hand the times she’s thanked me for it.
” It just feels good to be acknowledged for a good deed.
Another man wrote that it had been many years since his wife had complimented his looks. He said he tries to be clean and nicely dressed, but “she never seems to notice. I want to be attractive to her.” Men need to know that you still think he’s handsome. Even though bodies change through the years, there’s still something about him you can compliment, like his arm muscles, his smile, his eyes, how good he looks in his suit. Anything you notice about his physical appearance that you like, let him know. And be sincere.
• Be a lady.
Is there a difference between a woman and lady? When a female client was recently asked this question she said, “Woman is a gender, lady is an attitude.” An excellent definition of the difference. One man said, “My wife is my yardstick for womanhood. She acts like a lady, she dresses like a lady, she talks like a lady, and expects to be treated like a lady. And she’s fun to be around.”
Men love being with a lady. They’re surrounded by men all day, or some women who are trying to be like men, so give him the gift of having a wife who is a true lady. He’ll love it. And yes, ladies can do all kinds of tough tasks and still be a lady. Does that mean she has to wear a skirt all the time. Of course not. That’s not even practical. It means she acts in gentleness, but can work like a trooper. She is strong, and yet is respectful and gentle in her strength. She doesn’t curse or act vulgar. She speaks in loving ways. She embraces her femininity. That’s being a lady. Remember, it’s an attitude.
President Faust said, “Femininity is part of your inner beauty.” (Ensign, May 2000, 96) So let it show by how you act.
• Be 100% loyal and faithful to your husband.
That’s what you want from him, so be sure to give the same to him. If ideas pop into your head that someone else is more attractive than your husband, or more successful, or more patient, and that you wish you could be with someone like that, recognize that that is Satan speaking to your mind. He rejoices when you let those thoughts stay because he knows it will cause you to be unhappy in your marriage and want to seek someone else.
Don’t flirt with other men. Never. It’s not cute, it’s cheap and disrespectful to your husband. You wouldn’t want him to do it, so don’t you do it. Keep your romantic feelings and thoughts for your husband only. Never let them stray.
Speak kindly of your husband to others. To share his faults, and they all have some (as do wives) , with friends or family members is a type of betrayal. It causes you to concentrate on his short comings. Instead, tell about his good points, and focus there. When you do that you’ll become more and more aware of what a great guy he is.
• What if your husband abuses you?
No woman should ever have to endure a physically abusive husband. If that’s your situation, talk to your bishop or a professional counselor. Bishops who are reading this, please listen to a sister who comes to you with this problem. Believe her! Even if her husband appears to be a righteous priesthood holder. If it’s serious abuse, wives, call the police when it happens. Get yourself into a safe place. You must take care of yourself and your children.
A woman who had been in an abusive relationship, which included being whipped by her husband with a curling iron, and is now separated from her him, wrote this: “So what’s my advice to [women considering marriage]? Get an education. Get a skill. Be prepared in life to support yourself. Learn about finances. Live on your own before you ever get married. Know that you can take care of yourself. Date someone for a long time. Know their family. Here’s a question to ask him: ‘Did your Dad ever hit your mom?’ (You know, your dad who has been a bishop, in a stake presidency and is a temple worker) Did your Dad ever hit you or your brothers and sisters? How were problems resolved in your home? How are finances run in your family? How are decisions made? Observe for a long time the interactions of future in-laws. Bring your mom and dad along to get to know these future in-laws and listen to their observations. Think, pray, read up on marriage and relationships. Counseling before marriage might be helpful. Learning about boundaries might be really helpful.”
The following heartfelt letter came from a woman whose husband abused her and their young son to the point of the boy’s life being in jeopardy. For their safely she had to leave. She went through a long period of healing her broken heart while providing as happy a home as she could for her son. Her message gives hope to everyone in such a situation.
She wrote: “Those long years on my own slowly helped to heal my broken heart. I have [decided] that IF I could ever meet, trust, and fall in love with a wonderful, goodly man, I would demonstrate each day just how happy I was to be married to him.
“Four years ago, a dear friend from my ward introduced me to her brother. He is a real man and a real gentle-man. He, too, had been on his own for 11 years before we met, raising his three sons. He is a truly great guy.
“We dated for one year, sharing our hearts and minds, before kneeling across the altar in the Lord’s Holy Temple in 2008 to be sealed for time and all eternity. Our life together is truly blissful.
“He calls me his queen and treats me as such. Every morning he awakes and he must think, ‘What can I do to make my wife’s day better and brighter and make her glad she is married to me?’ because he does thoughtful little things he knows would make me happy. He always has a smile for me and a warm hug, and takes the time to talk with me at the end of his busy day.
“I, in turn, awake thinking, ‘What can I do to make my husband’s day better and brighter, and make him glad he is married to me?’ I ENJOY creating a happy home for him, caring for him, cooking his favorite foods, dressing nicely for him, and waiting for his arrival at the end of his long work day with a smile and hug and kind word!
“My dear husband and I are older than most young couples starting out and hopefully a little wiser, too. We try to put the Lord first in our lives. We are also busy thinking about each other and what our spouse would appreciate — rather than ourselves. We try never to take each other for granted.
“We enjoy reaching out and serving others in our Church and community life, and look forward to serving a mission together.
My husband is truly my earthly and heavenly companion.
We look for the best in each other and don’t get bogged down in trivial little annoyances. We are so blessed to have been brought together by the Lord. This knowledge makes life a joy! We look to each day and each night together and are grateful to know that we are joined together forever through sacred priesthood ordinance.
“I cannot begin to share the deep joy and peace in my heart, and always begin and end each day kneeling in reverent, sweet prayer of thanksgiving to my Heavenly Father for sending this honorable, devout, sincere, brilliant, spiritual, handsome, and witty man into my life! I intend to keep on showing him in thought, word, and deed just how much he means to me.”
This letter touched us deeply. It summarizes and culminates our thoughts about how marriage can be when both the wife and the husband wake up to what needs to be done to create a happy marriage.
This article is not an indictment against wives. To the contrary, we believe that most wives work very hard to bring happiness to their husbands and families, and that they love them dearly. As mentioned at the beginning, this article is meant to help those who want to improve their marriage. Many more things could be said, but this is a start. We hope it helps.