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I saw a meme the other day that got me thinking. So as not to incriminate anyone, I’ll just post the text:
“Your husband will always be your biggest and oldest child that requires the most supervision.”
It’s kind of funny. I think wives certainly feel this way at times. But the more I looked at it, the more it bothered me.
I texted it to my husband, Marc. I asked how he would feel if I ever posted a meme like that on my Facebook wall.
He considered it thoughtfully, but the longer he pondered it he finally answered with “angry” and “disrespected.” And he added, “Although comforting and supporting a husband is similar to a child, one is about raising a person and the other is about bolstering a person. I need your help, but I definitely do not want you to parent me.”
It was an interesting dialogue, and I share it because it’s consistent with a question I’ve been asking myself lately:
Am I my husband’s biggest fan?
We attended a marriage class a couple of weeks ago taught by a couple that had been married for over 30 years and had seen quite a few trials. They offered many tips for loving your spouse and strengthening the marriage. One that stood out to me was something the husband said his wife did very well: being his #1 fan.
When I was preparing this post I pulled out an old workbook we used in a marriage class several years ago called Dynamic Marriage (the workbook is called Five Steps to Romantic Love, a companion to the books Love Busters and His Needs Her Needs, all of which I highly recommend). In the workbook each spouse filled out questionnaires to identify each of their most valued needs in the relationship. To my surprise, I had forgotten that Marc’s #1 emotional need from me is admiration.
Admiration: respecting, valuing, and appreciating you; rarely critical and expressing admiration to you clearly and often (Five Steps to Romantic Love, p. 103).
If my memory serves me correctly, for the vast majority of the married couples who took Dynamic Marriage, admiration ranked very high as a need among the men—often even higher than sexual fulfillment.
I don’t often think of my role as an admiring fan. Especially as a mom, my role is, well, mom. I throw my husband’s clothes in the laundry with the kids’, I cook his food, I even take care of some of his stuff. Several months ago I bought a new hamper and threw his pile of loose laundry into it. I didn’t think twice about it and was surprised when he got upset because he felt like I was passive aggressively parenting him.
My husband doesn’t want me to be his mom. He left his parents’ house many years ago seeking a different kind of relationship.
…a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife…—Genesis 2:24
In the creation account, Eve is called a “helper suitable for” Adam (Genesis 2:18, ezer kenegdo in Hebrew). There is some debate over what the phrase in ancient Hebrew really means (interestingly, the phrase does seem to connote strength as opposed to subservience and weakness—consistent with the concept of a woman of strength!) What it looks like to be a helper/partner/stronghold to your husband probably varies with each marriage. However, I feel pretty confident about what it doesn’t mean:
- eye roller
Maybe you’re naturally a very supportive, encouraging person and you make your husband feel like he is the best thing since sliced bread all the time.
Or maybe, like me, eye rolling is second nature to you.
This concept of being a #1 fan is challenging to me for several reasons. I haven’t always been the best supporter over nearly ten years of marriage. As a newlywed I thought that anything my husband did publicly was a reflection on me. If he said something profoundly wise or funny, then I couldn’t be prouder. If he did or said something slightly more questionable, I would immediately be embarrassed and insecure and wonder what people were thinking of me, this woman who apparently didn’t think she had a separate identity. Fortunately, I had a wise friend at the time who identified the issue and told me to get over it.
In more recent times, the challenge has been simply to be there for him, with undivided focus and devotion. This is hard when I have three other little people demanding my attention constantly. I am easily distracted not only with their needs, but with the busyness of life—and I miss opportunities to cheer Marc on, to offer my admiration.
As we turn the page towards our next decade of marriage, I want to be my husband’s biggest fan. If you’re in the same boat as me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer some practicals that I will be implementing myself. So here you go.
How To Be Your Husband’s Biggest Fan
1. Start with some honest conversation.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. —Ephesians 4:25
Wait, what? What if your honesty isn’t something he’s going to enjoy hearing? You need to be truthful because he needs to know what you admire most about him, as well as what strips away your admiration. If he has any behaviors that make him difficult to respect, he deserves to be aware of them. Likewise, if he knows what you really admire, he will probably try to bring out those qualities more. You also need to hear from him what helps him feel admired—verbal praise? Sweet texts? Public displays of affection? This might be a difficult conversation, but think of it as something you can build on. If you need help communicating about this, meet with a mature couple you trust and ask them how to approach it.
2. Choose your words carefully.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. —Ephesians 4:29
A lot of guys try to act like they’re tough, but they’re human and you have the power to hurt their feelings. Always have honest conversation, but avoid words that are accusative, angry or insulting. We also need to be extremely careful with sarcasm—passive aggressiveness can bite just as hard. Need help in this area? A great resource for a healthy “feelings vocabulary” is Nonviolent Communication.
3. Build him up behind his back.
How do you talk about your man when he’s not around? It can be very natural to gossip about our husbands when we get together with the girls. While I think it’s wise to seek advice if you have questions about how to handle issues in your marriage, we have to be so careful about our tendency to “vent.” I make it a rule not to say anything to my friends what I wouldn’t tell Marc to his face. What is more, I want people to know that I adore my husband! It’ll get back around to him.
4. Build him up publicly.
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. —Hebrews 3:13
I don’t know too many people who don’t like it when their spouse shows them off. If your husband is more on the reserved side, you can encourage him without embarrassing him…even just a little kiss here and there or holding his hand might go a long way. Figure out what he likes!
5. Be enthusiastic about his ideas.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…—James 1:19
Whether it’s a business he wants to start or what color he wants to paint the wall, be supportive when your husband comes up with an idea he wants to pursue. I know, I know—what if it’s a really, truly terrible idea? At least hear him out first. You might change your mind, after all. And he might change his—but he’s more likely to reconsider if you’re not attacking him immediately after a word leaves his mouth. I’m speaking from experience!
6. Be there for him when he’s down.
My husband is definitely the more emotionally stable one in the relationship, but from time to time I need to step up and be there for him when he’s down. After all, he needs to know I admire him in sickness and in health, strength and weakness. Recently I discovered that I have missed some of these opportunities to express my love and admiration because I’ve been distracted with all of my other “to dos.” His needs should trump others.
7. Trust him.
[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.—1 Corinthians 13:7
Your husband is going to make mistakes. A lot of them (and so are you, lady!). Hopefully he is humble enough to admit them and move on, but you’re not helping if you are constantly questioning his judgment. Unless he’s doing something that is obviously destructive and harmful, give him the benefit of the doubt and trust him.
8. Don’t be his mom.
Hopefully this point is obvious by now. While men do have those childish moments (and so do women), you are not your husband’s mother. Taking on that role is all kinds of weird and unhealthy. Let him have his fun, have a laugh, express your concern as his partner if necessary, and move on.
What about you? Does being your husband’s fan come naturally to you, or is something you need to work on? How do you communicate your admiration to him? Please reply below or on social media.
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