Twelve ways to cherish your wife

Does your wife know that you cherish her? Here are a dozen suggestions for making it plain that you do.

Kay Kuzma, Ph.D., author of more than a dozen books, is president of Family Matters, an organization devoted to the promotion and maintenance of family and social relationships.

How would you like to make your wife feel like the most special person in the worldand do it without spending a fortune? Sounds interesting, doesn't it? No one can do it quite like a husband. All you have to do is put the following 12 suggestions into practice, and I guarantee that your wife will feel like a million and your marriage satisfaction will make your life brighter than gold!

1. Sacrifice for her. Be willing to give up something you would like, or something that you would like to do, in order to please her. Give her the biggest piece of pie, the last chocolate in the box, your comfy chair, or the keys to your new car.

Many a man boasts that he would sacrifice his life for his wife, yet he wouldn't think of giving up baseball with his buddies to take a walk on the beach with his bride! Would you sacrifice a committee meeting? What about a church social? Would you sacrifice a phone call that comes in the middle of dinner if you knew your wife didn't appreciate unnecessary interruptions?

Just how much have you sacrificed for your wife lately?

2. Listen to her. Accept what she says. Be interested. Don't nag. Give her plenty of eyeball-to-eyeball communicationthe same kind you give to other people who sit across your desk.

Your wife needs your ear, not just your heart. Be willing to listen to her throughout your day, not just at 11:55 p.m. when your brain has already gone to bed and your body is struggling to get there!

Remember, when your wife has an emotional need she doesn't need a sermon: "Well, no wonder you're feeling down. You should eat a good breakfast and this wouldn't happen!" I know you love to preachbut God has called you to reform the church, not your wife. Please resist the temptation to preach at her! Just listenreally listen!

3. Touch her. Most women enjoy a gentle touch from their husbands, both at home and in public. Hold her hand. Put your arm around her waist. You don't have to make a spectacle of yourself; just let your touch show others that your primary interest is centered on your wife.

If you are unsure about how much public affection she would feel comfortable with, ask her!

If you are not a "touchy" person, you may have to teach yourself to reach out to your wife. Start by making it a practice always to hold her hand when you pray. When you are sitting next to her, put your arm over the back of her chair and give her a squeeze. Before you start to drive, reach over and put your hand on her knee and ask for God's protection. Being a pastor's wife is often a cold, thankless job; she needs a warm, affectionate husband. Practice being that kind of husband.

4. Be with her in public. Don't leave her alone in a crowd and go off to talk with people you are interested in. Be seen together. I know some pastors who are so busy with their parishioners on Sabbath that they almost never see their wives. That's not right!

Of course you are busy, but that doesn't mean you can't excuse yourself for a few minutes to go find her, give her a little affectionate pat, and tell her you'll be another hour. Or, if she is not busy with the kids, include her in the discussions you are having. Or find a baby sitter so she can join you. Make it a policy to counsel together whenever possible. You may be surprised how much more effective you can be when she's by your side! A good wife makes a better husband!

I once knew a most thoughtful pastor who would stop beside his wife's pew and wait for her to join him as he walked down the aisle after the sermon. The couple stood together at the door each week and greeted everyone as they walked out. I have a feeling your wife might like to walk down the aisle once again with you. Have you asked her?

5. Say kind things about her in public. Never criticize. Never demean. Uplift. If you say enough kind things about your wife, she is bound to overhear occasion ally or it's bound to get back to her. Public support of each other is as important as private support to the husband and wife in ministry.

6. Share her responsibilities. Ask her what she would like you to do for her. Surprise her with your thoughtfulness. It's easy for a pastor to become so accustomed to delegating responsibilities that he forgets he needs to do some volunteer work himself around the house.

One marriage counselor said there would never be a divorce if couples would just Learn to say at the beginning of the day, "What do you need from me today?" Or "What can I do to make you happy today?" Meeting each other's needs means making the bed and cleaning the toilet occasionally.

7. Let her know you admire her. Tell her how attractive she is, how talented, how kind. Admire her body and her personality. When is the last time you winked at your wife, or whistled? You're too old? I don't believe that!

Look at the bride of your youth. See her beauty and tell her at least one thing each day that you really admire about her. Then watch her become even more beautiful!

8. Show respect. It's not old fashioned to open doors for your wife and to carry things for her. And even if it were, women love "old-fashioned" men.

And if you really respect her, you'll call when you're going to be late, you won't work every night of the week, you'll take your wife out on a special date at least once a month, and you'll ask her before bringing home a houseful of company.

9. Be an understanding father. Many a pastor's wife complains, "Why does he say all the right things when he's behind the pulpit and have a sudden lapse of memory when he walks in the front door? If he'd only listen to his own sermons, he'd be a wonderful father."

If you find yourself not being able to put into practice what you preach, you need help. Saving your children is your primary mission. Even the chairman of the church board and the conference president will agree with that statement.

Don't let a conflict with your child keep tension in your marriage. It's not worth it. Get counseling. And don't tell me you can't because there are no Christian counselors where you live. A counselor doesn't have to be a Christian to help you. There are many wonderful moral counselors who don't happen to be Christian. God may want you to witness to the counselor. He may want the counselor in His work, and you may be God's ambassador to lead him or her to salvation.

And don't try to tell me you couldn't go to counseling because you are afraid of what the church members might say if they heard you were going to a shrink! Your church family will understand. They will think more of you for getting the help you need. Just say "I wasn't born a parent and it's very important that I learn effective parenting skills so I can train up my children in the way God wants them to go. I'm to put what I'm learning into practice."

And if a few members criticize your decision, don't let it bother you. They are probably criticizing everything else you do, too!

10. Open doors of possibility for your wife. Don't just think of your own career and advancement. What about hers? Is there anything you could do to help her fulfill her God-given potential? Why not make an appointment with your wife and discuss this question? You have been called to the ministry.

You have gone to school to prepare for your work. You are the pastor. But just because you have been called to the ministry doesn't mean your wife has. Yes, she is committed to standing by your side in whatever you choose to do and being your helpmate, but God may have a special mission for her to fulfill, and she may need you for a helpmate, too.

If your wife wants to go back to school, help her formulate a plan to make this possible. Even if the kids are tiny and she does not want to leave them, she can get books at the library and begin studying in her chosen field. And I know of a great correspondence school called Home Study International.

Don't make the excuse that there is no money. Look at your budget once again. What could you give up for your wife? If you could save just $10 per week, that's $520 she would have for tuition next year.

Your marriage satisfaction is bound to increase when your wife is feeling fulfilled in her personal life. Why not open the door of possibility for her?

11. Take time to be alone with her. Take her on a romantic weekend trip. No kids! You arrange the baby-sitting for a change, and you do the packing. Make this an annual affair.

I know one church that delights in surprising the pastor a couple times each year by dangling in front of him a check for gas and food and the key to a hotel room in some nearbyor not so nearbyresort area. Their message is "Go. We know you will be a better pastor if you take an occasional break with your wife." (You might want to share this idea with the head elder. If not, your wife would probably be happy to.)

Believe it or not, you can get away occasionally on a weekend. In fact, you might be surprised at how well the church members can get along without you. And, like growing kids, they might even enjoy their "freedom."

12. Be the spiritual leader of your family. Did you know that one study revealed that women felt that the biggest fault of men was that they were religious shirkers? Don't let this be true of you! How could it be? You are the pastor.

Getting paid for pastoring a church isn't an insurance policy for spirituality. I've heard of great pastors who get temporary amnesia at home. They never pray. They never lead out in family worship. They even forget about the Ten Commandments and break them in ways such as: "worshiping" Monday night football and Sunday afternoon sports and everything in between (commandment 1), swearing (commandment 3), not visiting their parents for months at a time when they live as close as the next town (commandment 5), screaming angry words at a child for not obeying (commandment 6, according to Jesus' interpretation in Matthew 5:21, 22), taking quarters out of a child's piggy bank (commandment 8), lying about a child's age when trying to enter an amusement park (commandment 9), or even coveting the neighbor's Porsche (commandment 10).

You can't live a double agent's life and expect to keep the love of your wife alive. Who is the real you? Be the true spiritual leader of your family. Your wife will love you for it!

Well, there you have it. My prescription for cherishing your wife and increasing your own marital happiness. And if you are tempted to say "There's no hope for us; nothing would ever change my wife," just remember, you only get out of a marriage what you are willing to put in.

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Kay Kuzma, Ph.D., author of more than a dozen books, is president of Family Matters, an organization devoted to the promotion and maintenance of family and social relationships.

August 1989

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