'Be a man!’
This common phrase is one that I’m sure most of us have heard before. Asking someone to ‘man up’ reflects the unspoken pressure that society places on our men and boys — they must be physically strong, emotionally tough and utter nuggets of wisdom at the right time in order to truly ‘be a man’. But inside every strong man lies a deep-seated desire to know that they are doing enough for their loved ones.
I’m 6 years older than my husband. This dynamic, while not unique, is not very common in our semi-conservative community. Being younger, my husband has — for a long time — felt that he had to work doubly hard to prove himself. After 12 years of marriage and 3 children, I have seen and felt the effect of validating my husband’s ability to provide for and protect his family; it has helped him grow in his role as a husband, father and more importantly, as an individual.
Validating my husband’s ability to provide for and protect his family has helped him grow in his role as a husband, father and an individual.
These tips have helped me in encouraging my husband. In the process, they have deepened our relationship and enriched our marriage.
1. Build trust in your marriage
My husband and I manage our relationship largely based on trust. I would be upset if he ever referred to me as his ‘HQ’ or worse, his ‘boss’. I’m not someone he has to report to, even if it was a joke. We have the mutual understanding that it is important for us to maintain friendships with friends of the same gender. As such, we give each other the freedom to make time for friends without having to ask permission.
Being honest and transparent with each other and making it a habit to share candidly about our catch ups with friends has strengthened mutual trust and given us the space to enjoy our individual time growing meaningful friendships.
We give each other the freedom to make time for our individual friends without having to ask permission.
2. Engage in ‘shop talk’
Over the years, I have come to recognise how my husband’s deep sense of responsibility to provide for the family represents his way of saying ‘I love you’. Taking interest in my husband’s work has given us many evenings (after the children have gone to bed) of sharing the challenges and the successes in our day jobs, be it in the office or in the home. Times like these offer up opportune moments of encouraging each other and affirming our individual giftings and talents.
Making important career decisions together has also drawn us closer as we work towards the same goals for our family.
3. Respect him for all he does
When we first got married, my husband and I made a pact: I would do the cooking and he would wash up. However, when we moved into our first home, I would always find our dinner dishes still in the sink the morning after, unwashed! I spent many mornings in our early days of marriage washing dirty dishes in frustration.
The turning point came when a friend shared words of wisdom with me — to respect my husband’s word, especially when it comes to housework. By this, she meant that I had to accept that his timing to complete the task may differ from mine, and I needed to make it a point to appreciate his effort, even if the standard did not meet my expectations.
This advice was very difficult for me to follow at first, but once I stopped focusing on what he did not do well, and looked instead at what he did for the household, I saw just how hands-on he was with looking after the children as well as shouldering a fair share of the housework.
Once I stopped focusing on what my husband did not do well, I saw just how hands-on he was with looking after the children as well as shouldering a fair share of the housework.
Learning to take him at his word and resisting the urge to micromanage has changed our marriage for the better. In his book Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs wrote, “His love motivates her respect; her respect motivates his love.”
Learning to affirm my husband for the man that he is will be a life-long journey, and one that I willingly accept. For us, this practice of encouragement goes both ways and has helped us build a home that is loving and supportive.
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