Every person comes into marriage with different definitions of what “normal” looks like. We also come into marriage with different expectations. We all have expectations on how we think our spouse should behave, what role they should play, and how they should respond to situations. In our dating relationship, we don’t talk about these expectations; we just assume the other views the world through the same lens we do. Then we get married.
Many of us have experienced the big gap between a husband’s and wife’s expectations. We seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum at times. Take the word “intimacy” for example. Ask a man how to define it, and it will often be something about sexual fulfillment in marriage. Ask a wife the same question and you may hear about taking long walks on a summer night while holding hands. It is amazing how one simple word and how we define it can expose the different set of expectations we have.
Most issues come in marriage when our expectations are not met. Consider what James 4:1 says in the Contemporary Jewish Bible translation, “What is causing all the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it your desires battling inside you?” These desires that James is speaking of are our self-centered desires that breed expectation. In the Greek, the word desires’has an extremely aggressive spirit attached to it. When our selfish desires are not met, we may find a demonstrative response to our spouse that shows the true root, our selfish motivation. When expectations are not met, there are three dangerous ways we respond:
- We pack up and leave.
I believe this is where many get the term “irreconcilable differences.” This is not a Godly response to issues in marriage.
- We give in.
Usually there is one partner that is more powerful and influential. They are a better arguer or more convincing, and the other person just gives in to their dogma. This can work for a little while, but not in the long run. They become exhausted by the conflict and choose to tolerate their spouse.
- We choose a compromised marriage.
This is a marriage that says, “I will meet one of your expectations if you give me one of mine.” This type of response never works long-term because both people feel they are giving more than the other person. The motive behind a compromised marriage is selfishness and selfish marriages never go very far.
Addressing Our Differences
In our culture today, we are told that there are no differences between men and women. However, consider that almost every cell in a man’s body has a different chromosome than in a woman’s body. God designed us very differently on purpose. According to one study, men and women approach life differently. Men are more aggressive than women when they drive sports cars and light trucks. Women are more aggressive than men when they drive SUVs and luxury cars. Women are less likely to be caught and convicted of speeding than men. Women ask more questions, but more than three-fourths of interruptions in conversations are made by men.
In his classic book, His Needs and Her Needs, Willard Harley shares how different men and women really are, highlighted through their core needs. Men and women do not share in common any of their top five core needs, and most difficulties in marriage arise because of these differences.
Her Top Needs
- Family Commitment
She sees a great husband as a great dad. I have heard women say they when they really fell in love with their husband when they saw the way he treated his family and other people’s children. A wife has an intrinsic need for a husband that does not, “irritate his children and make them resentful; instead, raises them with the Lord’s kind of discipline and guidance” (Ephesians 6:4).
- Financial Stability
She needs stability, which is different than wealth. I have had wives mention that they would take a decrease in their wealth for an increase in their stability.
- Honesty and Openness
Honesty is essential to intimacy for a woman, while secrecy is the enemy of intimacy. Deception and white lies erode the honesty that a wife craves. This means that a man’s independence and desire to live life on his own must be surrendered to Jesus. Proverbs 24:26 says, “Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.”
She needs communication regularly, in the right tone, and with two ears. This means both quantity of conversation and uninterrupted quality conversation. Colossians 3:19 says, “Husbands, be loving your wives with a divine love which impels you to deny yourselves for their benefit, and stop being bitter and harsh to them.” Consider the Chinese Proverb, “The tongue is the sword of the woman, and she never lets it get rusty.”
This is the mega need for women. Women NEED affection like men NEED sex. Affection is living in such a way that you cherish your wife through hugs, holding her hand, calling just to say hello, a text telling her you love her, planning a date, or taking the kids and giving her time to herself. All of these communicate that you are thinking about and appreciate her. Philippians 2:3–4, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
His Top Needs
The one person’s voice that means more than all others is a man’s wife. He wants to matter to the one that matters most to him. Within each man is a young boy that wants to impress his wife and be admired by her. After Jack Dempsey’s death, a reporter asked his widowed wife what is was like to be married to a fighter. Her response captures the heart of admiration. She said, “I didn’t marry a fighter; I married a champion.”
- Domestic Support
Men were created for teamwork and love to partner with their wives in all areas.
- An Attractive Spouse
Men fall in love with their wives and think they are the most beautiful woman in the world. When a wife takes care of herself, it speaks volumes to a man. Song of Solomon 6:4–6 says, “You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love, lovely as Jerusalem, awesome as an army with banners. Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me— Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of ewes that have come up from the washing; all of them bear twins; not one among them has lost its young.”
- Recreational Companionship
Husbands love to share special memories with their spouse. Many women get to hear from their husband’s heart when they decide to engage in an activity he loves. A Kenyan Proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, take someone with you.”
- Sexual Fulfillment
It is clinically proven that this is what men think about most. In the bedroom, your husband desires affirmation, creativity, and frequency. Song of Solomon 5:10, “My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand.” Most husbands have a greater desire for sexual fulfillment than their wife. When a wife is aware of this, she will meet one of his most important needs.
When a husband gives himself to meeting his wife’s needs and a wife decides to meet her husband’s needs over her own, life starts to flow within the marriage team. When it comes to your marriage, God is more concerned with your direction than He is with your perfection. Give yourself to understanding and meeting your spouse’s needs and watch your needs be met.
Communication is Key
Here are a series of great questions from the Navigator’s Council to ask your spouse weekly.
- What brought you joy this week?
- What was something that was hard this week?
- What’s one specific thing I can do for you this week?
- How can I pray for you this week?
- Is there anything that’s gone unsaid, convictions, confessions, unresolved
- What’s a dream, desire or thought that’s been on the forefront of your mind this week?
- Thank your spouse for something they did this week.
End your time in prayer, and once a month ask two additional questions that may not be necessary to ask each week.
- How are we stewarding our finances?
- How is our sex life?