Meet Don. Don is a basketball "nut." He's the kind of sports buff who can talk nonstop about his favorite basketball teams with anybody who'll listen. One evening, Don's wife took a seat next to him on the couch. She placed her arms around his neck and asked him point-blank: "Do you love me more than basketball?"
Puzzled, Don considered her question for a long minute before answering. He finally said, "College or NBA?" While most of us men would never make a blunder of that magnitude, we often miss the opportunity to affirm our wives. Marriage is not a spectator sport. Nor is it a place for verbal jabs or cynical put-downs. Those male digs might work in the locker room with the boys, but they're out of bounds with our wives.
What do Don's wife, your wife, and my wife need? Affirmation. Lots of it. Soft, tender, thoughtful, unexpected, meaningful, heartfelt affirmation delivered with no sexual demands attached. That's difficult for a man, I know. A man usually sets goals and generally acts only when he is after something. When it comes to romance, he's tempted to give affirmation only because he hopes to "get sex" in return.
You and I will score big when we make our goal unconditional affirmation—no strings attached. My aim is to make my wife feel loved, valued, cherished, and affirmed as the love of my life.
We all would do well to watch Solomon in action. Solomon, by contrast, referred to his wife as "my beloved" forty times in the Song of Solomon. That choice phrase is packed with affirmation. It's a romantic expression, a call to rich friendship. Each time Solomon said, "My beloved," his words clothed her with dignity and value.
What woman wouldn't flourish under such a constant stream of loving affirmation?
Here are thirty nonsexual ways to cherish your bride through words and acts of affirmation. And by the way, these are nonsexual so that you speak her romantic love language. It's important to remember that you are not doing these things to get something in return. Perhaps she will reciprocate in your language back to you, but that's not your goal. Are you ready?
- Hug and kiss her every morning before leaving the house. Research indicates that marriages that practice this simple discipline are much healthier than those that don't. If she's sleeping, leave her a note, or gently kiss her forehead and whisper, "Have a wonderful day, sweetheart."
- Reach across the front seat of the car when you drive and hold her hand, even for a few moments. Allow your fingers to become entwined.
- Write, "I'm crazy about you, Honey. You're the best!" or another personal message on a yellow sticky note. Attach it to her bathroom mirror.
- Call her from work and say, "I've been thinking of how good I have it with you in my life. Thanks for all that you are as a woman and all that you do for me and our family."
- The next time you get a pair of tickets to a ball game, theater, or concert that she'd like to go to, make a sacrifice. Instead of going with a buddy, tuck them in her purse with a note saying, "You deserve a night off. Have fun with a girlfriend."
- Go an entire day without criticizing anything about her. Instead, try to notice her doing something that you really appreciate, and tell her how much you value her.
- Go to bed at the same time with her for a week; just talk or read a book and share the quietness together. Or play a card game that you used to play when you dated or were just married.
- Brush her hair and compliment her hair and eyes.
- While she studies her face in the mirror, come up behind her and gently kiss the back of her neck. Say, "God broke the mold after He made you. You are so beautiful."
- Evict Leno and Letterman from your bedroom. Cart off the TV and when she asks what you're doing, tell her you'd like to start making a habit of listening to her rather then a couple of middle-aged men in pancake makeup.
- Call her or send her an e-mail midafternoon and ask her how her day is going.
- Try your hand at making breakfast on Saturday morning. Tell her she deserves a break and should feel free to sleep in.
- Take her car to the gas station, fill the tank, vacuum the floor mats, and clean the windows. When you park it at the house, leave a note on the dash with just a heart and the words, "Thinking of you."
- Write her a short love letter in which you list several ways that she has blessed you this year.
- Resurrect common courtesies. Start opening the car door for her as you did when you dated, pull out her chair for her at the dinner table, offer your arm while walking down stairs, and help her put her coat on.
- If she's doing the laundry, pull yourself away from whatever you're doing and offer to bring the hamper.
- Put the toilet seat down when you're finished, and wash your hands. I'd estimate that 40 percent of men don't. Our wives do know. Stroking her face after you've been to the bathroom suddenly loses its romantic appeal!
- Put down the newspaper or turn off the computer, and say, "Why don't we go for a walk and talk? I'd love to hear about your day."
- If you overhear her engaged in a difficult situation on the phone or with a child, compliment the way she handled the conversation.
- Initiate daily prayer with her. This one spiritual discipline has transformed millions of marriages. Make a commitment, and then begin to pray together every day. Begin by giving thanks for her and your family, then pray with her about her worries and challenges. Ask her to pray for you about a challenge you are facing.
- Say, "Thank you," after every meal she serves. Then help her clear the table or offer to do the dishes with her.
- If she has wrestled with a specific spiritual issue (such as gossip, envy, a lack of compassion), tell her how much you appreciate her desire to handle it in a godly manner.
- Express appreciation for her doing the laundry and folding your clothing.
- Each day try to say, "I love the way you _______ ," and fill in the blank with something you've observed.
- When your wife irons your shirts or picks up the dry cleaning, say, "Thanks, Honey, for taking such good care of me."
- When the alarm goes off in the morning, wrap your arm around her, press your body next to hers, and cuddle for several minutes. When you leave, say, "I wish I didn't have to go."
- The next time you go to dinner, say, "You've had a tough day, Sweetie. Why don't you pick the spot tonight?"
- When you are together in a crowd, find a way to brag on her. Say, "My wife is such an amazing cook," or "I've got the best wife—her ______ never ceases to amaze me."
- The morning after making love, touch her tenderly, and tell her how wonderful it was to be with her.
- With your wife in the room, tell your kids, "You've got the best mommy in the world. Isn't she great? I just love her so much."
- Bonus for those with young families: Help her put the kids to bed each night.
For some men, the thought of affirming their wives sounds like a lot of work. Others are anxious about being so vulnerable with displays of affirmation. Whatever the reason, they hesitate to step out and pursue the call to love found in Ephesians 5:25 (NKJV): "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her."
If you've hesitated affirming your bride, or if you've been slow to praise her qualities, trust me on this: just do it. Affirming your wife through even just three or four of these ideas will do wonders for your romance. Is that too difficult to believe?
You'll never know unless you try, right?
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson Inc., Nashville, TN., from the book entitled Rekindling the Romance, copyright date 2004 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. All rights reserved.
Dennis and Barbara Rainey helped found FamilyLife, where Dennis serves as president. The Raineys have written numerous books, including Moments Together for Couples, Moments with You, Staying Close, and Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem.