What satisfies your wife’s need for love and affection won’t always be the same. As your relationship grows and matures, her needs will change as well. You can’t just rest on your laurels; it’s a continual and progressive pursuit. That said, how do we know if our wives feel pursued and loved by us? Your guess is as good as mine. I think that’s why Peter says, “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way” (1 Peter 3:7, emphasis added). He knows we may never understand, but God holds us accountable to try.

Gary Chapman, author of the classic relationship book The Five Love Languages, is one of the best marriage coaches out there. He says if you want to discover what nourishes your wife’s heart, listen to her irritations: “My spouse’s criticisms about my behavior provide me with the clearest clue to her primary love language. People tend to criticize their spouse most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need.” In other words, turn criticisms into clues. Chapman adds that “criticism often needs clarification.” After a tirade you might want to ask her, “It sounds like that is extremely important to you. Could you explain why it is so crucial?”  Next time you notice your wife’s evil eyes, start taking notes. After you get over your hurt feelings, you’ll see a grocery list of nourishing things you can do and say to feed your wife’s heart. Man, I wish someone would have dropped me this clue on my wedding day!

Not long ago, I asked some friends’ wives when they felt most loved by their husbands. Here are some of their responses:

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When he takes me to Starbucks, and then we drive out of the city, maybe just to a small neighboring community, for a quiet lunch. By doing this, he gives me his undivided attention. We truly talk about things. He’ll engage me with questions, such as, “What’s going on in our lives? How can we better handle situations? What are we doing right? Wrong? Where do we go from here? What are you feeling? What can I help you with?”
When he occasionally meets me for lunch and does a pretty good job of not looking at his BlackBerry. It makes me feel valued, because he’s taking time out of his busy day to just sit and listen or help me “fix” an issue.
He puts me first, many times, even down to who gets the last piece of pizza or dessert!
I feel special when he watches the kids when they wake up at five or six, so I can sleep a little bit longer. Also, I feel special when he plans something for us to do together. It’s a very simple gesture, but there is nothing like knowing he thinks to do that for me every morning.
Another treasure is a cup of tea on weekend mornings — whether it be a home chore day or a running-around Saturday or Sunday, I come to the kitchen and often find a steamy mug of tea with honey, without having asked for it. Sometimes some cinnamon toast, too. . . . I must confess I have seen this before — for as long as I can remember, my husband has always treated his mother to the same extras when we visit her. Thankfully, in my home it’s true what they say about watching how a man treats his mother, because it shows how he will value his wife.
Going to my mother’s house, because he does not consider that a vacation.
Doing simple chores without being asked.
He plans dates for us and even lines up the sitter.
He calls me his “bride” and always compliments my appearance, even if I look like warmed-over death.
After fourteen years of marriage and two kids, he makes me feel like a newlywed when he pulls me close, looks into my eyes and says, “I love you so much,” and leads me into a slow dance across the kitchen floor.
If he leaves the house at an unreasonable hour in the morning, he calls me later from work every day just to say, “I love you.”
He may not want me to say this, but . . . he cleans the bathrooms. I can’t believe that God let me find a man who would do this. I utterly despise this task — and my college roommates have plenty of stories they could tell! He tells me he loves me daily.
My hubby brings me coffee in bed almost every morning. It’s a very simple gesture, but there is nothing like knowing he thinks to do that for me every morning.
Even though I don’t believe it, he thinks I’m pretty.
He buys me pots and pans for Christmas — not just any pots and pans, but the All-Clad Master Chef Series 2.

Did you notice how different the answers are? (That last one is from Jen. I’m betting if you bought your wife a pot for Christmas, she’d use it as a weapon. But Jen’s passion is cooking. She felt loved because I fueled that passion.) Guys, the playbook is not hard to find on this one. You can either take notes from your wife’s rants, or you can just ask her what she likes. You will get the results either way, but one way is far less painful. If you have the guts, you can simply ask her a very risky question: “Honey, do you feel the depth of my love?” (Not, “Do you know I love you?” but, “Do you feel it?”) If she says no, ask her, “How can I help you feel my love for you?” Then be ready to take some notes!

Adapted from Playing Hurt, by Brian Goins.

Copyright © 2012 Brian Goins, Published by Kregal Publications. Used by permission.