What does any wife really want? Whether she can voice it fully, or even admit it, her desire is:
To be loved by her husband like Jesus loves his Bride
Wives know fake love when they see it
When my husband is in a good mood, he’ll often tell me, “Honey, I just want YOU to be happy.” I usually roll my eyes, laugh, and say, “Okay, prove it!” Then his eyes will get big, he’ll rush over to kiss me . . . and I’ll hand him the broom and dustpan. I think we grew up watching too many sit-com marriages.
The reality is that everyone knows true love when they receive it—and they know the counterfeit. Wives don’t always trust their husbands when the gestures of love are measured, performed out of resentful “duty”, put off for a more convenient time, or have conditions placed on them. Their lack of trust is well-founded; those kinds of acts are not love.
Husbands DO just want their wives to be happy!
Ladies, the men we married do love us, and most are happy when it comes written down and a shortlist.
“Just tell me what you WANT, honey, and I’ll do it!”
“I can’t read your mind, woman . . . what is it you want?”
A happy marriage sets the tone for the whole household. And it begins with how Dad loves Mom. But past the tire changes or taking out the trash, wives want real love.
Jesus gives us the list
So what does real love look like? In St. John Paul II’s powerful work, Love and Responsibility, and his “Theology of the Body”, we are given the shortlist. Both are studies in the specifics of how God loves his people, how Christ loves his Bride. Both draw from Scripture’s “spousal analogy.”
- In the Old Testament – God’s “Bride” is Israel
- In the New Testament – Jesus’ “Bride” is the Church (us)
- In Revelation — Heaven is the eternal Wedding Feast
Earthly marriage stems from, points to, and should be caught up into the beauty of the eternal heavenly marriage. Knowing how to love rightly is the way we begin to taste a little of that heaven right here on earth. Following the Lord, this is how husbands are to love their wives:
Jesus’ love for his Bride is FREE
“No one takes it from me, but I lay [my life] down on my own.” [John 10:18]
When a husband is operating out of fear of not getting his way, or bound up with resentment that he has to suffer, or is trapped in selfish habits of laziness, lust, or more, he is NOT FREE. If he chooses marriage or stays married because he is afraid of being alone, hard work, financial loss, or not having sex, then he is not truly FREE. He can use his wife and marriage as a social cover or security blanket. He cannot love his spouse or anyone when he is thus bound. And wives know it.
Jesus’ love for his Bride is FULL
This is my body, which will be given for you. [Luke 22:19]
Measured “love” isn’t love. I’ve come to resist the word “compromise” because it is still calculated. It has its place in some areas but, in relationships, it can be a stubborn grasp on what one thinks they need or deserve. Unnecessary protection of oneself from difficulties, deprivation, or suffering is like a condom on the heart. It gives and receives only partially, holding back the fullness that underlies real love. The barrier of selfishness prevents divine life from being transmitted and growing in the marriage. Emotional and spiritual sterility in a marriage starts in the heart.
Jesus’ love for his Bride is FAITHFUL
I am with you always… [Matt 28:20]
Being faithful is not just about sex. It means never exposing her to any undue hardships or sinful temptations and it means guarding her heart. It’s respecting the spouse and putting her first. Many marriages are in disorder in that the kids, work, or even an overly attached friend or mother-in-law take priority while the spouse is expected to understand. Barring an emergency, or the genuine health and welfare of another, your wife’s time, desires, and needs, should be your priority. The irony is that when she knows you will always put her first over others, she will freely (and quickly!) defer and offer up her place. But don’t take it from her and expect her to feel loved.
Jesus’ love for his Bride is FRUITFUL
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. [John 10:10]
Love is open to, embraces, and nurtures life. It takes risks, does the work, and pays the price so that delicious fruit can come from the relationship. Love fills the other with all good things and rejoices in it— in every relationship but uniquely and most intimately in marriage. Fruitfulness reveals a complete openness to the other. Make time for her. Listen to her. Learn to overcome the tension you feel when she is weak and needy or rough and demanding. Get help understanding what is at the root of any of your resistance. No matter how many years you’ve known her, get to know her more deeply. Ripe, juicy fruit will be your reward!
Women are wired to love in return
Wives, if your husband would sincerely try to “lay his life down” for you (as Christ did) in these four ways, wouldn’t you happily “submit “ to that kind of love? Of course you would! And you would find the completion of that love and happiness by naturally opening up your mind and heart freely, fully, faithfully, and fruitfully to him. He needs that same fullness of love from you—whether he first gives it or not.
St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that earthly marriage is a mysterious sign, an imperfect but real picture of the “spousal” relationship between God and every soul. We don’t drag God down to our limited understanding and level; we lift our understanding of marriage to something divine.
Will any husband get it right all the time? No! Will any wife? No, and we must be tender and patient with one another. Only God’s love can satisfy the deepest desire of the heart, but he wired us all to desire and share in that kind of love.