I have a theory that men desire romance just as much as women. I think they just define it differently. At least that’s what I’m beginning to think as Valentine’s Day rapidly approaches and I find myself quietly studying my husband. What would he find romantic? I already know the answer is not endless conversation or a sparkling toilet. Those things speak to his heart about as much as a power drill on my birthday would speak to mine. But that doesn’t mean he has no need for romance.
After all, you don’t have to be female to long for someone to know you, or to be delighted that someone has discovered you. To romance someone is to capture their affection by speaking in a language that touches them. It is to “see” inside of them and openly demonstrate that what you’ve seen is lovely. I don’t think there’s a manly man in the world who doesn’t desire that to some degree. So…how do you romance a man? Obviously, all men are different, but at the risk of being written off, I am going to make three sweeping generalizations that I think will hold true for most men.
Listen to him. Even when it’s boring. This is critical. Women always complain that men don’t talk, but I think what we really mean is they don’t talk about what we want them to talk about. Ask him about something that’s interesting to him and I guarantee he’ll say something…you’ll just probably have tuned out about two minutes in.
A professor’s wife first opened my eyes to the importance of listening to a man by making a terrifying statement. She said, “When we don’t actively listen to our husbands we teach them not to talk to us.” Yikes! I cannot tell you how many times my husband has started to jabber about something as interesting as snail slime, and suddenly, just as I’m starting to tune out, I hear my professor’s words in my mind. I snap to attention and engage. “So why does the carburetor do that? What’s so great about that commentary? Who’s the best player on the team?” Sometimes it gets interesting, and sometimes it stays as boring as snail slime. But you know what? I’ll learn everything there is to know about football if it means he’ll talk to me when he’s hurting.
Listening is a segue to the heart. In those moments when I’m silencing Downton Abbey to listen to all the features of the new Honda Odyssey, he and I are forging a trust. We’re building intimacy that says, “I care about you. I care to know what you’re thinking about. I care to have a relationship with you.” Listening is also the first step toward romancing him because it causes you to think the way he thinks. Maybe he talks a lot about a particular band, so this Valentine’s Day (because you’re listening), instead of surprising him with a special meal, you surprise him with tickets to a concert. Or maybe he mentions that he’s always ready to crash around 2pm at the office, so you show up at 2pm with Starbucks and a note. Now you’re speaking his language—and that’s romance. (P.S. In order for him to talk, occasionally you will need to stop talking. This was a revolutionary insight for me.)
Meet his needs generously. There’s really not a whole lot a guy needs. Honestly. This is one of those surprising things I’m learning from my husband. Female relationships are so complex because the majority of our needs are internal. We don’t just want flowers, we want him to connect with us emotionally. However, I think most men see outward action as inward connection. Listen to the way they brag—it’s almost always action-based. Take my brother-in-law, for instance. He’s a woefully sleep-deprived pediatric neurosurgery resident. You know what he brags about? The way the whole house could be a wreck, but his wife will always have a clean bed with fresh sheets just for him after he’s worked 36 hours straight. I once heard a famous pastor brag about the way his wife fixes him his favorite breakfast every Sunday morning before he preaches. Basic needs, lavishly met. I think it ministers to men more than we realize. At least, I’d wager it’s more romantic than keeping him up all night so we can talk about our feelings.
We’ve talked about two basic needs—sleep and food. Perhaps you’re thinking of one other need I’ve failed to mention. Let me just say, yes, I believe it matters too. Honestly, it probably matters more than any of the others! Don’t just meet his needs, meet them generously. Freely. Joyfully. Do I need another adverb? Eagerly. Whole-heartedly. Meet his needs, knowing that you are actually pursuing his heart.
Respect him. Because of Ephesians 5 and numerous Christian books, I knew one thing loud and clear before marrying Clint: he craves my respect. What’s more, respecting my husband is a biblical mandate. Okay, but what on earth am I suppose to do? That’s what I always wanted to ask. As a young bride, I didn’t really get how to “accomplish” this mandate. Do I just say nice things to him? Tell him I think he’s manly? I often wished there was a secret manual of “ten easy steps to make your husband feel respected,” so I could check them off.
I look back at that young bride and sort of laugh at her naivety. Because now I get it. The funny thing about respect is it’s more easily identified in its absence than its presence. In other words, disrespecting my husband is what finally taught me the nature of respect. It’s not an action; it’s a heart attitude. That young bride, lying awake at night, wondering how she could demonstrate respect for Clint, already respected him in her heart. But the longer we were married, the more I saw his flaws, and the more my heart waned in respect. Which brings me to the greatest lesson I have ever learned regarding respect: Like faith, respect is proven truest through fire.
I once asked Clint what I could get for his birthday that would really show him I loved him. He told me, “Honestly, what would really make me feel loved, is if you showed me grace when I fail.” I think I bought him a paintball gun. But his words have haunted me ever since. They will often come rushing to mind in the midst of a fight, when I’m so angry I’m ready to go for the jugular—to say something devastingly disrespectful. In that moment I think: this is when it counts, Jeanne! All the birthday presents in the world can’t speak as powerfully as that moment when I’m most angry and I choose to respect him anyway. Remember—that moment, when you least want to give it, is your greatest opportunity to demonstrate respect.
I like to blog about things I’m weak in—eating well, shepherding my children, waiting on God, romancing my husband… These are all things I find vastly important, and part of the reason I write about them is because I want to grow in these areas. But the danger in blogging is that I may give off the appearance that these are the things I’m strong in. I don’t want to do that, mainly because I don’t want to go to bed at night feeling like a phony. And I don’t ever want a reader to have that discouraging thought—she has it all together, and I don’t. What a load of hogwash! Let me say it again—these are the things I’m weak in. If I wanted to write about the things I’m good at, I’d write about ping pong. So, as you think about romancing your husband, please remember—God is infinitely good and gracious. From one wretch, saved by grace, to another—I can promise He will never give up on you. No marriage is beyond His ability to save, restore, and bless. That, I know from experience.
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21 thoughts on “Romancing a Guy”
As always, so challenging and practical! Thanks Jeanne. And PS…I didn’t know you were good at ping pong 🙂
Ha ha! I never told you that? Actually, our Bible College didn’t have many organized sports, so Clint got really into ping pong, and since I was really into Clint, I pretty much lived at the ping pong table through college! Miss you 🙂
Jeanne, Your practical perspective is always appreciated. I concur with your understanding of men and your sharing some important principles women need to remember. This is a timely reminder for wives to keep in mind as they express their love for their spouses. When the time comes that your spouse is no longer living, memories will not be filled with regret. I had some fun with your parents this week in TX. Love to you and the family.
Your perspective is always appreciated too–it’s poignant and powerful because it is a perspective rich with greater experience than mine. Glad the conference was fun & thanks for the loyal support!
Thank you for this great post! We missionaries in the Philippines…and even after 19 years of marriage (maybe because of 19 years of marriage?), this is still such a great reminder and encouragement. Blessings!
My Mother in Love has, at my urging, gifted me with Biblically based devotionals and marriage books. With all the nominally Christian, humanistic fluff out there, I respect her choices in books and authors. One book that has been a huge spiritual blessing to me is Egglesion’s Love and Respect. Discovering how to respect my husband Biblically has made such a difference in our relationship. We’re more intimately connected because we don’t fear being judged by the other–not that we don’t strive for us both to be more Godly. Just that a spouse should be the one person in your life that is willing to look past your shortcomings and still love you.
One example has been seared onto my heart. Early into our marriage, I decided that since the wife sets a lot of the tone for how we react to inconveniences and incidents in daily life, that I’d give my dh the grace that I’d want him to give me. One incident was how to react when one of us was in a small car accident. You feel so guilty anyway for having had the accident and then all the unexpected money that has to be paid. Do any of us really want to deal with an irate spouse? Of course not. Plus, an accident could happen to both of us. So my husband was so surprised when my biggest concern was that he was ok and that he not beat himself up over what happened. Life happens.
Then one day, about years later, I get a call from dh in the middle of the day. He tells me that he accidentally hit our car on a post sticking up in a parking lot. He totally admitted it was a bone headed move, but the post was the same color as the building, and he didn’t see it. I made sure he was ok and told him not to worry about it. In the background, I hear, “No way” “She’s really not going to get upset, is she?” “Man, you are so lucky to have such a fabulous wife!”
Yeah, I had been on speakerphone, because dh was with coworkers who insisted I was going to be irate. –We did later have a little chat about putting me in such a precarious position. What if I hadn’t reacted Biblically that day? Still it meant so much to me that dh felt so respected by me that he wanted everyone else to know it. That meant more to me than all the fancy bouquets and jewelry in the whole world.
I’m no where near perfect. I struggle everyday to have the right attitude. Even though I’m not a mother, I’m a Christian wife. My attitude makes the difference between dh wanting to rush home to a home filled with grace and God’s presence, or wanting to do anything but come home to resentment and disrespect. Sometimes I feel like I’m not as important because I’m not a mother. But then I realize how important I am to my husband. I can still be the Proverbs 31 wife. Thank you so much for your blog, and your admonishments to be honest with ourselves about how much we need Jesus everyday. It’s Jesus that made the difference between being respectful or being a harpy. It’s always Jesus.
I LOVE this. Wow, what a powerful testimony. I love that your husband trusted your respect so deeply he wasn’t afraid of your response. You can tell your respect has become a delight for him! What a testimony to the other men in the vehicle. Thank you so much for sharing, and for giving Jesus all the credit! Many blessings to you & your beautiful family. (And you definitely don’t need to be a mom to be important and valuable!)
Inspiring. Thank you for this. I have a great example of this very thing in MY parents. They are best friends and are as in love with eachother today as they were the day they met 38 years ago. I know that they practice these respectful romance guidelines daily. This is a reminder to me, a recently divorced mother of two little ones, of what I am looking for in a future spouse as well as what I want to be to my future husband. I think our little ones benefit from this. It’s important that they learn respect at a young age as well as expect to recieve it from thier spouse when they get older. I never planned on being a single, divorced mother at 32, but knew from a great example that I deserved more from my spouse. You have lifted a spirit today! Thank you.
“basic needs lavishly met”
“give me grace when I fail”
So simply yet Life-changing!
We are celebrating 20yrs this September and I still have to remind myself to be respectful. Thanks for sharing your heart with us 🙂
That is good to know! I think sometimes I expect to suddenly “arrive” but older & wiser moms like you remind me that we are always, always on a journey.
Thank you so much for this post. I found it JUST when I needed it most. Thank God.
Awesome–praise God! Thanks for taking the time to drop a note.
“Listen, even when it’s boring.” This is such a great tip, and I use it often. I learned this tip by my experience with two guy friends who were both very quiet, until I decided I wanted to listen to what they had to say and try to draw them out. I found hockey very boring at first, but that’s what they wanted to talk about. I had never been the least bit interested in sports, but they eventually taught me enough about hockey that I realized it really was fascinating, like they said. I didn’t marry either of them, but I married a guy who was known in his family as “the quiet one.” My husband has taught me a lot about his favorite topics – chess and maps and skiing – which I still find fairly boring, but because I love him and he loves me, I continue to listen well. Actually, my husband and my two friends are all great listeners themselves! You can tell by people’s remarks whether they have truly been paying attention to what you said.
I am also an MK and have just found your blog. Thanks for sharing your heart. My husband and I just had our first anniversary and this past year has been full of challenges to say the least. Full of blessing too! I was 34 when we got married and had always lived alone in my adult life. He is divorced with two sons. Needless to say, my life is very different and I can very much appreciate the struggle to show respect. My respect for him is always there, as is my love for my Lord and Saviour but there are times when you wouldn’t know it if you were a fly on the wall. I am working to show respect as I have learned to show my testimony-in every aspect of my life! An hour by hour (sometimes minute by minute) goal 🙂
What an encouraging and uplifting blog!!
Julie–I am so glad you stumbled upon my blog! I can only imagine all the changes in your life over the past year! How awesome that you are trusting God for grace and strength daily and also rejoicing in the blessings He’s given you. You sound like a joyful, authentic woman with a very special family. I hope to hear from you again in this little on-line world 🙂
Thank you. All I can say is thank you. God sent me a word a few months back. It was “haughty” and I thought at the time, really, how am I haughty. But I am all the time. All the time. I never give my husband grace. About anything. This really spoke to my heart and I hope to humbly start applying respect and grace in a more loving way. Thank you so much for these timely words. Ah, so much to repent for. 🙂
Oh Gina, I can relate more than you know! Praise God for his grace & conviction! You clearly have a soft heart to be so sensitive to the Spirit. Thanks for dropping me this note.
Beautiful. I am nearly three years into marriage two and trying with all my might to keep God in forefront this time. Sometimes, I think I let my past and its clutter dictate the here and now, complicating the whole deal, not to mention how unfair and dismissive it is to hubby. I love the way you write, the humble honesty of it all. Very inspiring.