Sorry Stomach, There’s a Better Way to a Man’s Heart

For our first evening home as a married couple, I busted out a large skillet and whipped up my most fanciful meal: fried smoke sausage and potatoes. Garnished with ketchup. Feeling accomplished, I thought I knew how to make my man happy. What else did I need but a skillet, meat and potatoes? (Later I upped the ante with caramelized onions.)

Turns out, there was a better way to loving my husband than a mediocre dinner. And somehow without instruction or knowledge, I miraculously understood just what to do, and now I want let you in on the secret. Let me explain.

A few years ago, some good friends of ours got married. Not only was their wedding worthy of its own Pinterest page, but the bride and groom made most of the decorations themselves. Rustic, painted shudders as card holders, whimsical table signs, romantically draped lighting, and tastefully color-coordinated flower centerpieces. A true masterpiece. My fish bowl candle centerpieces were a joke compared to this.

Tucked away in a quieter area, the couple had set up a small studio for guests to video record a short message for the bride and groom. Congratulations! We’re so happy for you two! We wish you the best on your marriage journey! And last but not least, we gave our best piece of marriage advice: be kind to one another.

So simple, it almost sounds ridiculous to say out loud. And I could even hear the couple’s response in my head: “Of course we’ll be kind to each other—duh!”

Over the years, I have told other people these same meager words of wisdom, only to be answered with confused or even empty looks. What a no-brainer, right?

But sadly, I don’t see a lot of married people simply being nice to each other. Okay, maybe at first when you’re still in the honeymoon stage. Then as time goes on, the tenderness slacks, the patience melts away, and little by little until you’re not speaking to your spouse as sweetly as you used to.

Recently, I was grocery shopping when a middle-aged couple walked past me in heated conversation. The wife was berating her husband something like this: “I didn’t ask you where the cheddar cheese was, I asked if you wanted to get something else instead!”

My face grimaced as they whooshed past me. It was hard to hear.

But as easy as it can be for me to judge others, I also recognize times when I have broken my own advice to be kind. Maybe my husband asked me something so obvious I couldn’t help but answer back with a smarmy retort (how could he NOT know that?!). Or I’ve been tired, maybe not feeling well, and my tone is short, grumpy or downright rude. Clearly, I’m not perfect.

When these little moments slowly become more frequent, we can evolve into that couple in the grocery store: a hostile wife in the specialty cheese aisle yelling at her husband like a naughty child.

So if the way to a man’s heart isn’t really his stomach, what is it?

Here’s the secret message: men feel loved when their wives show them respect. It’s true. Talk to your husband about it.

As women, we feel love when our husband talks with us or spends time with us. We need them to listen to us, to care about our needs and feelings. But men don’t—they need our respect (and physical intimacy, but we’ll get to that another time).

In the Bible, Paul spells it out in Ephesians 5:33 when he says, “…let each one of you love your wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Why didn’t Paul tell wives to love husbands? Because he did—through respect. Esteeming your spouse, affirming him, speaking nicely, and trusting his leadership are what your husband needs to fill his love tank.

When James and I made our video message to the happy couple, I didn’t know about Ephesians. Or Paul. Or even Jesus. That was before I understood the wisdom of the Bible, but even so, God had planted this “be nice” instinct inside of me. (Thanks, God. Really appreciate that one.)

So, have you respected your husband with your words today?

Let’s chat about it. Comment below to get the conversation started!