How to Make Wives Happy

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:7, 1 Corinthians 11:3, Genesis 3:16
The American dream of a happy home has turned into a nightmare for many couples. Growing numbers of husbands and wives want to shake loose from their marriage vows.
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The American dream of true happiness has usually revolved around the ideal of a home and family. That dream today is rapidly turning into a nightmare for millions of couples who are desperately trying to shake loose from their marriage vows. The problem of home instability is so serious that many sociologists believe that the family unit will soon disappear as a basis of American life. Whether they are correct or not, we have to face the fact that almost half of today's blissful brides and grooms will soon be battling to get back everything they promised each other at the wedding altar. A few years have brought incredible changes to the majority attitude toward marriage. Once it was considered an eternal, life-linking contract for both parties as long as either one lived. Today it is often looked upon as an experimental, revokable arrangement with few strings attached.

Without doubt, broken homes and divorce after-effects are responsible for the great bulk of human misery in the world today. And it is more than coincidental that the freest nation in the world has the highest divorce rate of any country on the face of the earth. It doesn't seem to make sense that the people with the widest possible range of free choice should choose in such a way that they create the deepest misery for themselves. But is it really the way they choose, or does it have something to do with maturity and personal responsibility? Surely all the broken marriages can't be blamed on people choosing the wrong companions. Even in India where parents have traditionally made the choice for their children, only a fraction of our marriage misery seems to exist.

No, the problem lies deeper than poor taste in picking the right companion to marry; although, it must be conceded that 75 percent of teenagers are ready to throw in the towel on their marriages within five years. But again, we need to ask whether it's a mistake of the emotions or a defect in basic maturity.

In this message on the home I want us to probe for the real secret of marital bliss. Multitudes of young couples are searching for those secrets. The honeymoon is over for them, and they are beginning to see the realities of human imperfection in the one they romantically considered to be without a flaw. Other couples who have been married for years have slipped into a monotonous toleration of each other, full of loneliness and frustration.

Let's face the fact that much that is wrong with marriage today is based on false mental attitudes. Many entered the union with the distorted idea that if it didn't work for them, they could easily secure a divorce and shake loose from the marriage vows. It is likely that millions of newlyweds see no alternative to incompatibility than divorce. It's the magic escape that's always available if they don't like the new arrangement. Instead of seeking for more responsible, selfless solutions, they take the simplest solution of retreat and divorce.

Unfortunately, what they consider a simple escape often becomes an emotional trap of pain and trauma. Why should any couple consider the radical surgery of divorce for a marriage that might only be afflicted with a headache or touch of indigestion? One doesn't get a lobotomy for a simple headache. Less drastic and more courageous alternatives need to be considered for ailing marriages, and those alternatives are what we want to spotlight in this series.

The Bible is the greatest book on family problems available anywhere. It lays down principles by which husband and wife can play their true part in married happiness. Today I'd like to focus on the husband and what he can do and be in the ideal relationship of holy wedlock. One tremendous verse in 1 Peter 3:7 contains several principles of responsibility for a Christian husband. Listen: "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered."

The first thing I want you to notice in this text is man's role of intelligent leadership. Peter says, "dwell with your wives according to knowledge." This means that every husband is responsible before God for what his home becomes. This corresponds to the rest of the Bible on the same subject. For example, Paul wrote that "the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." 1 Corinthians 11:3. Please notice that among all the levels of authority in the universe, God has set man in the place of leadership over his own home and family.

Here we approach one of the most proverbial and devastating problems of the modern home. God never assigned women to be the heads of the homes. They were not made for the role, neither do the majority of them desire it. There are too many milquetoast men and bossy wives on the scene today, no doubt about it. But much of the problem is that husbands refuse to assume their responsibility in the family. Wives do not necessarily seek for the position, but it is forced on them through default of the husband to be the head. Now this is not always the case, of course, but I'm talking essentially to the men in this message. As sad as it is, we must face the fact that men are not taught to be men in much of American society. Many men grow up and get married, but they are nothing more than little boys still, looking for mothers rather than wives. Unless the man is willing to exert his leadership, his wife will be forced into an artificial and often unwilling role for which she is not fitted.

A mistake made by many men is to assume only a partial or lopsided leadership in the family. They can take very seriously their responsibility to make a living and be the breadwinner, but they casually cast all the rest of the home operations upon the wife. She is left with the final word about spiritual training of the children, for example, and establishing guidelines of discipline and family order. This is a cop-out for any husband, and an absolute rejection of his primary position of authority within the family. Some wives may seem to battle for top place, but in the recesses of their minds they want their husbands to win out. It is a disappointment when their husbands refuse to assert that final authority for which they were created by God Himself.

Now I'm sure that statement will be challenged by those who subscribe to the modern feminist movement. Their dedication to equating the roles and responsibilities of men and women completely reverses the order set up by the One who created male and female in the beginning.

Let's answer another question. Does this male authority assume that the husband can lord it over his wife and treat her as an object of possession or as an inferior? Far from it! In fact, Peter's statement referred to it as "giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel." In fact, the entire biblical record is clear and harmonious on this issue. The man must love his wife as his own body. The Creator of the female mind knew that she needed to feel loved and wanted more than anything else. In fact, God made the woman with a nature that required love. In the Garden of Eden the Creator indicated to the woman that her need for love could be satisfied most fully from her own husband. He said to her, "Your desire shall be unto your husband." Genesis 3:16. That statement of God has been confirmed by every marriage researcher since time began. Psychologists unanimously agree that a woman must feel secure in her husband's affections. Because of the sensitive romantic nature with which she was endowed by the Creator, her needs for love and security are much stronger than the mans. Her self-esteem is vital to her happiness, and this largely depends upon the way her husband treats her.

The man gets his self-esteem by being respected, but the woman gets hers from being loved. His contentment and security can be based on success in his profession or achieving financial goals. But the wife has only one source of self-esteem and security. She can cook a fabulous dinner, but it's gone in an hour, and the family may not even thank her for it. Her best performance of household duties are not recognized or respected by the community. She depends entirely upon her man to provide the sense of fulfillment, confidence and well-being.

This is the sense in which Peter speaks of the wife as the "weaker vessel." His love is a necessity for her to function as a complete person, and that husband must accept it as his divine assignment to make her feel loved and honored under all circumstances. The Bible requires the quality of that love to be the same as Christ's love for the church and equal to loving his own body. And his love for her must not be conditional. The command is, "Husbands, love your wives", not necessarily because they are lovable or when they are lovable.

Right here let's take note of one of the most devastating things that can occur in a marriage. When the husband is critical, sarcastic, or scornful toward his wife, he is attacking and destroying the very emotional foundation of her life. Nothing will disintegrate a marriage relationship more quickly.

Furthermore, wives are driven to wild frustration by the husband's lack of tender, romantic attentions. Most men are utterly satisfied to sit peacefully watching the football game after an amiable meal. To them the romantic niceties are unnecessary; but, not so to the little women. They yearn to be the special sweethearts of their men, to be loved and appreciated tenderly. Poll after poll has shown that one of their greatest sources of marital depression is "lack of romantic love." They can have all the material things in the world, including the most modern electronic appliances, but their real need is to be loved.

Since man's natural disposition is to avoid the soft and sentimental attentions, he must determine to develop those things for his wife's sake. Unless he decides upon it as a deliberate strategy, the tendency will be to show less and less loving concern for those things that mean the most to her. Undoubtedly this is why so many, and I mean so very many, middle-age marriages are frustrated by lack of communication. Both partners seem to know what's happening, but neither has any power to correct the course of things. The rift widens and soon the marriage counselor is on the scene trying to break through a seven-year-old, man-made wall of indifference. I use the number seven not because it's the number of perfection in the Bible, but because the average marriage in America lasts only seven years. Apparently it takes about that time for the early attentions to dry up, and the relationship turn into an intolerable burden.

Several years ago a humorous magazine article traced the declining order of marriage from the height of bliss to the humdrum of routine. The article was entitled The Seven Ages of a Married Cold, and graphically depicted the husband's reaction to his wife's bad cold during their first seven years of marriage. Husbands, wherever you are, listen to this carefully. Maybe you'll see the history of your own changing attitudes in this little parody.

This is the First Year: "Sugar Dumpling, I'm worried about my baby girl. You've got a bad sniffle. I'm putting you in the hospital for a general checkup and a good rest. I know the food's lousy, but I'll bring your meals in from Rossinni's. I've already got it arranged."

Second Year: "Listen darling, I don't like the sound of that cough, and I've called Doc Miller to rush over here. Now you go to bed like a good girl, please? Just for papa."

Third Year: "Maybe you'd better lie down, honey. Nothing like a little rest when you feel punk. I'll bring you something to eat. Have we any soup?"

Fourth Year: "Look dear, be sensible. After you feed the kids and get the dishes washed, you'd better hit the sack."

Fifth Year: "Why don't you get yourself a couple of aspirin?"

Sixth Year: "If you'd just gargle or something instead of sitting around barking like a seal."

Seventh Year: "For Pete's sake, stop sneezing! Whatcha trying to do, gimme pneumonia?"

Say, does that sound familiar, men? Has something quite similar to this taken place in your marriage? When love deteriorates through lack of mutual love and respect, it strikes at the very deepest emotional level of a woman's life. She can no longer feel secure in her husband's affection. Almost instinctively she will throw up a screen of self-protection. Unless the insecurity is remedied quickly, a wife may try to build a life for herself away from her husband, such as going home to mother, finding a new career, or creating a lavish showplace home. And all this because she has not been secure in her husband's affections.

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