A Woman's Needs (A Message for Men)

Dr. Brian Allison

A week ago Saturday, I was in downtown Toronto around 11:00 p.m. A young lady, with a very conspicuous black eye, boarded the streetcar on which I was traveling. I wondered if she had been a victim of battery or abuse by her partner. That may or may not have been the case, but, in any event, wife battery or abuse is a very serious social problem. It has been a problem for a long time. When I was a young boy, we used to go up to Bobgaygeon where our trailer was set up. On one sunny day, I was sitting outside the trailer and I heard loud voices coming from within it. My mother and stepfather were arguing. Suddenly the trailer door flew open and my mother came running out, screaming frantically. About two seconds later, my stepfather bolted out of the trailer after her. He ran her down, manhandled her, took her by the scruff of the neck, and dragged her back into the trailer. As a young boy, I was both stunned and scared.

1 in 10 Canadian women suffer from wife battery or abuse from their partner in their own homes. 40% of wife assaults occur during the first pregnancy of the woman. A study on wife battery was done in the city of London, Ontario. The results of that study indicate that there are 35 incidents of assault before a woman will come forward and report. 2 out of 5 homicides in Canada occur between spouses, with the majority of the victims being women, most of whom had been previously assaulted physically. A recent study reveals that 1 in 8 women may have been raped by their husbands. These statistics are alarming. We indeed have a social problem.

Many wives are treated in very degrading, cruel, and humiliating ways, and the result is that we have many broken and dysfunctional families. This sad situation must change. The way in which husbands treat their wives must change. The counsel of the apostle Peter is helpful at this point, "You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered" (1 Pe. 3:7). The theme of this text is simply this: How husbands are to treat their wives and why. We are given two specific instructions, coupled with the rationale for these instructions. First, husbands are instructed to approach or relate to their wives in a certain way. Second, husbands are instructed to show a particular attitude or view towards his wives.

How husbands should approach their wives

First, husbands are to approach or relate to their wives in a sensitive and mindful way – "live with your wives in an understanding way." Husbands should seek to intimately know and appreciate their wives. They should cohabit with their wives in such a way that they realize what is best required for them as women. They should live with them in such a way that they know how to relate well to them and thus enhance their lives. Husbands, you are not simply to cohabit with your wives; you are not simply to coexist with them where your lives never intersect with each other; where each of you is doing his or her 'own thing' in your separate, respective worlds. Husbands, you are to be personally aware of your wives; you are to be 'in tune' with your wives. You are to enter into her world and try to understand that world. You are to know their interests, their dreams, their hopes, their aspirations, their struggles, their pain, and their needs. You are not simply to live with them, you are to live with them in a sensitive and mindful way.

The other night I began to watch a movie called, "You Were Meant For Me." The story concerns a band leader who is so busy and preoccupied with his own world of music that he lives it day and night. After getting married, he remains unchanged, and subsequently neglects his wife. How often is this story repeated in real life? Many husbands neglect their wives.

Husbands, you are to know your wives intimately, and appreciate them, especially when it comes to their needs – "as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman." Weakness, as identified here, is associated with womanhood or, better, femininity. Now females are not weak per se. The weakness of the female should be understood relatively and generally. In relationship to the male, generally and relatively speaking, the female is weaker. Now not all wives are weaker than their husbands. There are many weak husbands.

Men and women are different

'Feminine weakness' does not mean that the woman is inferior to the man, but rather that she (to change the language) is different from the man. Gary Smalley in his book, If Only He Knew, claims that there are two reasons why marriage fails: first, men and women enter into marriage with 'story book' expectations and limited training; second, men and women enter into marriage without an understanding of the general differences between them. An XY chromosome is found in each of the cells of a male. An XX chromosome is found in each of the cells of a female. Men and women are constitutionally different.

Men and women have mental and emotional differences. For instance, women, generally and relatively speaking, are more feeling-oriented; they are more emotionally sensitive. They feel more deeply, and thus they are more easily emotionally effected. Research has proven that women become more easily depressed than men. Men and women have physical and biological differences. This fact, of course, is self-evident. For instance, on the average, men possess 50% more brute strength than do women. 40% of a man's body weight is muscle, compared to only 23% of a woman's body weight being muscle. Men and women have relational differences. Women seem to be in greater need of, or more dependent upon, social connections, social networking, and social intimacy. They are more personal than men.

Women have special needs

Accordingly, in order for them to live with their wives 'in an understanding way,' husbands are to realize the feminine differences, and, more particularly, they are to be sensitive to the specific needs associated with those feminine differences. Husbands, you are to respond to the particular needs of your wives. Dr. James Dobson conducted a study a while ago concerning depression among women. He distributed to a large group of women a questionnaire which identified some of the problems or troubling issues that affect women negatively. As a result, the number one troubling issue recorded by these women was the problem of low self-esteem. Over 50% of respondents indicated that low self-esteem was their number one problem. 80% indicated that it ranked within the top five major troubling issues

Therefore, husbands, you need to address the need for self-esteem in your wives. You are to affirm them. You are to encourage them. You are to lift them up so that they feel wanted and important. You ought not to criticize your wives in a destructive, unhealthy manner. You should not berate and condemn them.

Another troubling issue that women recorded as a problem in their lives was that of loneliness. Last summer I went to Philadelphia for about two weeks in order to further my education. My wife remained home. She had the company of the children all day long; she was busy and active during my time away. After I flew into the airport, and greeted and embraced her, I asked her, "How has it been?" She responded in one word, "Lonely." Now, a husband's mere presence may not remove the sense of loneliness in the wife. Many women who enjoy their husband's presence often still feel lonely. They do not simply want their husband's presence, they want their husband's attention and care. Generally and relatively speaking, women have a need for companionship and significant communication. Husbands, your wives have a need for significant interaction, particularly on the emotional level.

Another troubling issue that women recorded as a problem was the absence of romantic love. Many husbands are unaffectionate. Romantic love keeps vitality and wholesome passion in a relationship. Wouldn't it be wonderful if wives continually had the following experience because of the romance in their life: I climbed up the door,

and I shut the stairs.
I said my shoes,
and took off my prayers.
I shut off my bed,
and I climbed into the light,
and all because he kissed me goodnight!
Faith A. Mills

Husbands, you need to convey warmth and affection to your wives. They need to know that you really care.

So husbands are to live with their wives in a sensitive and mindful way because they have certain needs in keeping with their femininity. The stronger ones must minister to the weaker ones. So we read, "Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves" (Rm. 15:1). Husbands are simply expressing specific, concrete love when they are sensitive and mindful of the 'weakness' of their wives.

How husbands should view their wives

Second, husbands should show due respect for their wives – "and grant her honor." Most husbands stumble at this point. To show respect is to express esteem or consideration for another. It is to view someone with value or worth. As I sat in my study yesterday, reflecting on this matter of respect, it occurred to me afresh that if we could really show genuine respect for one another, we would then live in true harmony, peace, and unity. The problem in society, in the Church, in the home, and in marriage relationships is that there isn't personal respect shown. We really do not view the next person as having significant value or worth. With our mouth we can say that we respect, but with our actions, we communicate the contrary. Again showing respect is just another specific, concrete expression of love.

John Calvin (1509-1564) writes, "For nothing destroys the fellowship of life more than contempt, and we can not really love any but those whom we esteem, so that love must be connected with respect." If you do not respect someone, then you cannot love him or her, regardless of how warm your feelings may be. Husbands, when you show disrespect for your wives, you communicate hatred, and not love. The greatest emotional and personal support that a husband can give to his wife is that of respect. It will 'go for miles' in developing and maintaining a healthy self-image in her, helping her to feel good about herself.

Joyce Landorf in her book, The Fragrance of Beauty, writes, "If I could write a prescription for the women of the world, I would provide each one of them with a healthy dose of self-esteem and personal worth (taken three times a day until the symptoms disappear). I have no doubt that this is their greatest need...If women felt genuinely respected in their role as wives and mothers, they would not need to abandon it for something better. If they felt equal to men in personal worth, they would not need to be equivalent to men in responsibility. If they could only bask in the dignity and status granted them by the Creator, then their femininity would be valued as their greatest asset, rather than scorned as an old garment to be discarded. Without question the future of a nation depends on how it sees its women, and I hope that we will teach our little girls to be glad that they were chosen by God for the special pleasures of womanhood." I think Landorf is right on.

The wife should realize by the attitude of her husband that she is equal in value, equal in worth; that she is not a second class citizen; that she is not some lackey or slave that responds to the husband's every whim, and responds to his every bidding, simply because he thinks that he is 'the king of the castle.' If you are in that position, my brother, God may quickly dethrone you. The husband is not the king of the castle, but rather should be the servant of the court. Your wife's ideas do count; her suggestions and opinions do count, and you need to give them due consideration.

Now there is a good reason why husbands should respect their wives – "as [she is] a fellow heir of the grace of life." According to the Scriptures, the wife has equal spiritual standing with the husband before God. She has all the rights and privileges of salvation that the husband does, and if such is the case, then that fact should be reflected in the husband's attitude towards his wife.

Disrespect for the wife is costly

Now a husband's lack of respect for his wife carries serious consequences – "so that your prayers may not be hindered." Husbands have you ever thought that God may not be answering your prayers (perhaps prayers that you have been praying for the last year or so) because you have not had the right attitude toward your wives? Maybe you have gone to prayer with a sincere heart, a burdened heart; maybe you have gone to prayer weeping, crying, and wrestling with God, asking Him to deliver you, asking Him for peace, joy, or provision; and God has not answered you. Maybe it is because you do not respect your wives. God highly values and demands that husbands respect their wives. Husbands, lack of respect for your wives may cost you spiritually. There is a direct correlation between answered prayer and one's attitude towards his wife. So grant your wives honour so that your prayers may not be hindered. God's glorious spiritual blessings are determined by healthy social relationships. God, in effect, says, "Husbands, if you cannot respect your wives over whom you are the family head, do not expect Me to respect you over whom I am the supreme head." Husbands, maybe the lack of your prayers being answered should be a wake up call.

So husbands, what are you going to do? How will you respond to these words of exhortation? I do not believe that there is a husband that is exempt from these exhortations. We all can improve our relationship with our wives. For some of us, it may be a time for confession and repentance so that we may treat our wives as God intended, and as He commands. Let us love our wives even as Jesus Christ loves his Church.