Two years into our marriage, Karen and I simply could not get along. We were young and immature. I was an emotional bully. She constantly belittled me. Neither of us was happy, and the way we spoke to each other made that clear.
One evening I was watching a football game when something happened that I’ll never forget. Karen was preparing dinner, and she brought me a plate of food. When she gave it to me, she kissed me on the cheek and gently said, “I love you.”
Then she smiled and returned to the kitchen.
I was in shock. She didn’t usually talk to me so nicely…because I did nothing to deserve it. But that moment had a profound impact on me. I immediately felt terrible about all the hateful things I had said to her. Her gentle act of honor and humility was like heaping coals on my guilty conscience.
That day I experienced firsthand the power of a gentle and quiet spirit. It was a lesson I’ve never forgotten, because I realized it was something I needed desperately from her—as do all men.
This is not some unique discovery I’ve stumbled onto. In fact, it’s a truth documented by nearly every serious study conducted on the dynamics of marriage. Both Christian and secular marriage experts understand that married men want and need respect from their spouse.
Men are physically and emotionally incapable of binding their hearts to women who treat them with contempt and condescension. No woman will ever succeed in a relationship with a man until she learns to respect him.
Why? Because men gravitate to places where they get the most respect, and they run from places where they feel disrespected. Men are terrified of dishonor.
A nagging, belittling wife will never get her husband to open his heart and let her in. As Proverbs 21:19 says, “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.”
But a wife who looks up to her husband—who honors him with a gentle, quiet spirit—will always have his full heart. When men feel admired at home, they look forward to being there. They are more likely to succeed at what they do. Praise propels men on to greatness.
I once heard a great story to illustrate this. After a parade, the mayor of a large American city was walking with his wife when they passed a man sweeping the streets. The wife recognized the street sweeper as one of her old high school boyfriends. The three had a short conversation before the mayor and his wife continued on their way.
Halfway down the street the mayor leaned over to his wife and whispered, “Just think, if you had married him, today you’d be the wife of a street sweeper.”
His wife smiled and whispered back, “No, if I had married him, today he’d be the mayor.”
I’m not sure if this story is true—it’s probably not—but it could be. A woman has enormous influence over her husband’s future.
Make no mistake: men who are honored and respected at home tend to live up to their wives’ expectations.