Hi, honey, I’m home.”

They’re the same words you use each day when you come home, but this time the tone of your voice lets your bride know that it’s been a rough one. Quitting your job is all you thought about the whole way home.

As you walk into the house, you’re confronted by the aroma of something wonderful. Your wife hears your voice, and she hurries to meet you.

Before you can put your computer case down, she wraps her arms around your neck and kisses you. She leans in and whispers something flirtatious about the surprise she has in store for you tonight. She pulls back and takes your computer case. Then she reaches up and loosens your tie.

“I’ve got just the thing for you,” she says, leading you to your favorite chair. Next to the chair sits a frosted glass of your favorite beverage, today’s newspaper, and the TV remote.

“You sit here and rest awhile,” she says. “I’ll get the rest of the dinner on the table.” When this scenario is described to a roomful of couples, it doesn’t take long for the men to begin groaning and laughing. “Yeah, right,” they say. “Like that would ever happen in my house!” For most husbands, this kind of evening isn’t something they’d ever expect. It’s nothing they’d even dare to dream about.

But hold on. There are men who experience this — not every night, of course, but every once in a while. It’s enough to make them shake their heads and wonder how they could have been so fortunate to have been given a wife like this. And “dumb luck” simply isn’t the right answer.

No, good things like this don’t happen by pure chance. They happen when a couple chooses to cherish each other, finding fulfillment in meeting each other’s needs in surprising and extravagant ways. Now — a question for you: “What would make a woman treat her husband this way?”

You know the answer, don’t you? A woman acts this way when her husband has gone first. Her lavishness is in direct response to his willingness to cherish her and to respond to her needs. In a healthy marriage, a husband finds great joy in bringing pleasure to his wife, and a wife delights in demonstrating her love in creative ways.

The Proverbs31 Man!

From time immemorial, people have challenged women with the description of the perfect wife — more like Wonder Woman — found in Proverbs 31. But when you take a good look at this ancient poem, there’s a man hiding in there.

In fact, to understand the Middle Eastern culture in which this poem was composed, it would have been impossible for a married woman to experience this kind of success without a pretty unconventional — and terrific — husband!

Her Husband Has Full Confidence in Her (31:11)

Don’t you love the sound of that? The Proverbs 31 man “has full confidence” in his wife. There’s plenty of maturity — and balance — in their relationship. He doesn’t treat his wife like a child, nor does he treat her like she’s his mother. He encourages her specific gifts, and, like a plant living in a greenhouse, she blossoms in that environment. This is a man who trusts his wife’s judgment. He’s not threatened by her success or by her busy life. This guy’s wife manages her home and runs several businesses. And he gives her freedom to invest, freedom to manage the household, freedom to sell what she produces, and freedom to care for the poor and needy.

Over the years, my wife and I have observed this idea of mutual respect among married couples. We’ve seen couples where the husband is so domineering that his wife lives with fear that she’ll make a mistake and her husband will discover it. She’s terrorized by the specter of a bounced check or a dented fender. And we’ve seen couples where the wife is so independent that her husband has no idea what she’s up to. Her friends, her daily activities, and her calendar are in a completely different sphere than his — and he’s fine with it.

A Proverbs 31 husband has full confidence in his wife, and it’s clear that he wouldn’t be comfortable in either of the above scenarios. Her Husband Is Respected at the City Gate, Where He Takes His Seat among the Elders of the Land (31:23)

A few questions to consider:

  • Is this man respected among his peers because he has a wife who respects him? or
  • Does her admiration raise him to higher levels of success and self-respect?
  • Is this man’s wife respectful of him because of his impeccable character? or
  • Is his integrity tied to her high expectations of him?

The right answer to each of these questions: Yes.

Her Husband Praises Her (31:28

The wife of the Proverbs 31 man immediately gains self-esteem from the sterling reputation of her husband. When she’s seen with him in public, she swells with pride. His integrity automatically accrues to her! “[Her husband] praises her” (31:28). Few things are more motivating to a woman than words of sincere admiration coming from her husband. The Proverbs 31 man is liberal with these expressions.

Once again the chicken-and-egg question begs to be asked: “Which comes first — the praise or the success?” And once again, the answer is the same: Yes.

Because this woman is married to a man who believes in her and verbally honors her and celebrates her success, she grows in confidence and becomes increasingly competent — which produces more praise from her husband, which in turn enhances her achievements. When you meet this woman, you can tell that she’s married to some kind of a great guy!

Getting to Yes

Meeting each other’s needs leads to an increasing comfort in conversation, which leads to more frequent opportunities for intimacy, which leads to more satisfaction, which leads to a greater motivation to meet each other’s needs — and on and on it goes. We call this the Yes Spiral, and it leads to outdoing each other in showing love. Here’s how it works: You: “Hi, sweetie, I’m home.” No response from your wife, only the rattling of pans in the kitchen. “How ’bout a little welcome parade for the king of the castle?” The tone of your voice lets her know that you’re just kidding.

Your Bride: “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you come in. I was just caught up in getting dinner ready.” She comes over and wraps her arms around your waist. Looking up at you, she gives you a big kiss. “Hey, I hate to ask you to do this ’cause I know you just got home, but I’m in the middle of cooking and just realized I’m missing a couple different spices. I really need them for this recipe. Could you run out and get them for me?”

You: “Sure. What do I need to get?”

Your Bride: “You’re the best. Here’s the list.”

You: “Oh, I almost forgot. While I’m out, would you call my parents and ask them when I can stop by their house and pick up that package?”

Your Bride: “Of course. I haven’t talked to your mom in a couple days anyway.”

You walk over to your wife and give her a hug. Your Bride: “I love you so much.”

You: “I’ll get spices for you anytime.”

Your Bride: “Hey, mister, if you hurry back, we can talk about some of my own secret spices.” As you leave, she’s shaking her head, smiling and saying quietly, “You amaze me.”

A silly conversation? Maybe. But did you catch how many times you and your wife said yes to each other in this quick exchange?

  1. She said yes to your nonverbal request for a warm greeting.
  2. You said yes to her request to make a quick trip to the grocery store.
  3. She said yes to your request to call your parents about the package.
  4. You said yes by giving her a hug.
  5. She said yes to any designs you may have had on being intimate tonight — and you didn’t even have to ask.

With each affirmation — in words, actions, or attitudes — the view from your Yes ascent widens, and the two of you feel freer together, more willing to serve each other, more willing to creatively meet each other’s needs. But what if you and your wife chose another route: You: “Hi, sweetie, I’m home.” No response from your wife, only the rattling of pans in the kitchen. “How ’bout a little welcome parade for the king of the castle?” The tone of your voice contains just a hint of sarcasm.

Your Bride: “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you come in. I was just caught up in getting dinner ready.” She stays in the kitchen and calls out to you from there. “Hey, I hate to ask you to do this ’cause I know you just got home, but I’m in the middle of cooking and just realized I’m missing a couple different spices. I really need them for this recipe. Could you run out and get them for me?”

You (thumbing through the mail): “Why didn’t you get them when you were out? You just got groceries yesterday.”

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Your Bride: “I didn’t realize this recipe called for them. I’ve had a few other things on my mind, you know.” Her tone of voice has an edge. “Here’s the list.”

You: “We’ll just have to do without your little spices tonight. I’m not going out again. Not after the day I had. Hey, did you call my parents about when I’m supposed to stop by to pick up the package?”

Your Bride: “You told me you were going to do it. I can’t do everything. I have a job, too, you know.”

You: “Fine. I guess we won’t pick it up. It doesn’t matter to me anyway.”

Your Bride: “Excuse me. I need to go to the grocery store. Dinner will be a little late tonight.” Her words are barely audible through her clenched teeth as she heads for the door — “You amaze me.”

You can feel the tension, can’t you? As you and your wife say no to each other’s needs, each of you becomes less willing to say yes. The descending No Spiral becomes tighter and tighter. You feel trapped, less willing to give, and not at all interested in meeting each other’s needs. Consider the expenditure of energy in these two conversations. The first is smooth and effortless, though it takes a willingness at times to respond in ways that may feel less convenient. Not only do you love your wife more after this quick exchange, but you actually feel better about yourself. The second conversation — well, it is completely draining, leaving you feeling exhausted.

Of Course I’d Die for Her, But…

You may be thinking, I understand about how conflict is more draining than peacefulness — but what if I don’t feel like doing what my wife needs me to do? So you take a deep breath and ask me the question you really don’t want to ask: “Are you suggesting that I suck it up and go to the grocery store anyway, even though my heart’s not in it?” Yes, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting.

The biblical mandate is perfectly clear: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”8 Love is always linked to action, even if we don’t feel like it. Because you say you love your wife, your choice must always be to do things that please her, regardless of what may seem to be pure inconvenience. In the Yes Spiral conversation, you demonstrated active love, and the feelings followed close behind. You felt great. But in the No Spiral conversation, you did exactly what you believed you had a right to do, exactly what you felt like doing. But by the time your wife stormed out of the house to get the spices, you were both tied up in knots. You were justified in claiming your right to unwind after a rough day, but you felt awful.

Ask a man if he’d be willing to die for his wife, and it’s very likely he’ll say that he would. With visions of evil executioners offering the choice between our lives or our brides’, we’d courageously give ourselves.

“Take me instead,” we’d say, with heroism oozing from every pore. This kind of dying is the easy kind — quick, valiant, offering a clear choice between selfishness and sacrifice. But let’s face it — it’s highly unlikely that this will ever happen to us. “Laying down our lives” gets demonstrated in smaller and less visible or applaudable ways. You are charged with considering your wife’s needs above your own. In this sense her request is more important than the fatigue you’re feeling from a big day and your need to put your feet up. A lot more important! “But what if meeting my wife’s needs like this doesn’t come naturally,” you may argue. “Responding well to my wife’s surprise requests is something I’m lousy at.” Or how about this one? “My wife knows I don’t do housework.” Or this? “I’m just naturally a competitor, so showing consideration to other drivers on the highway just isn’t who I am, even when my wife pleads with me to calm down.”

Okay, so these things don’t come naturally. Did learning to ride a bicycle come naturally, or did you have to work at it? How about swimming? Or learning to read? Or using a computer? Did these things come naturally, or did you learn them? And what did it take for these to become skills? That’s easy to answer. You wanted to master them — and so you did.

What Does She Need?

Late one evening a couple went for a walk around the neighborhood. They walked past two boys who were down on their knees under a streetlight. They were searching through the grass for something.

Carefully they swept their hands back and forth.

“What’s the matter?” the man said to the kids. “You boys lose something?”

“Yeah,” one of the kids responded without looking up. “My friend lost his pocketknife.”

“Did he lose it here?” the woman asked.

“No,” said the boy, looking up at the woman. “He lost it down the street, but the light’s a lot better here.”

A silly joke, but it contains a powerful message: we do sometimes try to meet our wives’ needs based on what might be convenient for us. But we’re far away from finding what our wives are looking for. This may keep us busy, but it’s not going to help us find the “lost pocketknife” that matters most to our wives.

So here’s an idea. In order of importance, jot down five or six things you think your wife most wants from you. Be as general or as specific as you like. Then tell your wife what you’re working on, and ask her to make her own list — without seeing yours. Then schedule an appointment with her to compare your lists. You may want to begin the conversation by telling her about the boys looking for the lost pocketknife in the wrong place. This will help her understand what you’re up to.

Once you have her list, start doing the first thing she asks for, and let the fun begin.

What Do I Need?

Jeremy walked into Mark’s office and plopped down on the overstuffed chair in the corner. Mark looked up from his work. Jeremy was clearly irritated. “

After a bad day,” Jeremy began, “I need my wife to be there for me. But I have the hardest time putting anything in words. I want to tell Cindy what I need, but it’s like my ?asker’ is broken — so I pick a fight instead.”

“Hey, thanks for being there for me,” Jeremy would say sarcastically to Cindy, frustrated because she couldn’t read his mind.

The evening was destined to be miserable for both Jeremy and Cindy.

“I’ve had enough of these tense evenings at home,” Jeremy admitted. “What can I do?”

Okay, let me ask you: What would you say to Jeremy? How would you help him solve this problem?

We know that Cindy really does love Jeremy. But, on the days he needs her most, he doesn’t give her much to work with, does he?

First of all, this couple needs a clean slate. And that can come only when Jeremy is courageous enough to admit that his sarcasm and fightpicking strategies are childish and not helpful. Next, Cindy needs a target — a clear picture of what her husband needs from her. Jeremy may simply want to reverse the exercise I suggested in the last section, only this time, the two of them list the things that Jeremy needs.

It may take some gut-level honesty to admit that you need your wife, and then a little more work to be honest about what your own needs are.

But if you want to actually find that pocketknife, you’ll need to move to places where the search may not be as easy.

Adapted from The Most Important Year in a Woman’s Life/The Most Important Year in a Man’s Life by Bobbie Wolgemuth and Susan DeVries; Robert Wolgemuth and Mark DeVries. Copyright © 2006 by Ellen Vaughn, published by Zondervan, used with permission.