Recognizing these patterns can help wives figure out what steps to take to reignite the passion in their relationship.
Secret #1: Your husband cannot meet all of your emotional needs.
Many times, the authors say, a husband will pull away from his wife because she puts too many demands on him to meet all of her needs. When he can’t possibly meet her expectations, he feels like a failure and distances himself from her.
Shannon and Greg, who have been married for 16 years, experienced this in their own marriage. After seven years of marriage, Shannon was extremely unhappy.
“It makes me shudder to think back to that season,” Shannon says, “because I was honestly thinking of leaving him and my two very young children.”
The couple had reached their breaking point when Shannon one day proclaimed to Greg, “You just don’t meet my emotional needs!”
His reply? “Shannon, you have a Grand Canyon of emotional needs and even if every man in Dallas lined up outside your doorstep, it wouldn’t be enough. Until you look to God to satisfy your emotional needs there’s nothing that I or any other man on the planet can do to satisfy you.”
His response may seem harsh, but it was exactly what Shannon needed to hear. As is often the case in marriages, she was placing a huge burden on her husband. Too many times, she says, women expect their husbands to first figure out what all of their needs are, and then meet them on their own.
“Every man on the planet will cave under that pressure,” Shannon says. “No human being can do that for another human being. That’s something only God can do for us.”
Through the help of a counselor, Shannon was able to find healing for past hurts and learn how to let God meet her emotional needs. She encourages other women to do the same.
Secret #2: Your husband has emotional needs that are just as important as your own needs.
It is also important, the couple says, to realize that women are not the only ones with emotional needs. Men have many important needs as well.
Often, when women feel that their husbands are not meeting their needs, they can become hurtful and unkind toward him. This approach makes most husbands pull away because they do not feel respected, a significant emotional need for men.
“For me it didn’t take too many negative, spiteful words thrown into a conversation that would start to freeze me up” Greg says. “It would start to send me to my little quiet place where I stopped communicating.”
Women need to realize, Shannon says, that if they were to speak to their best friends they way they often speak to their husbands, they wouldn’t have those friends for very long. This was one source of the contention in her own marriage, she says.
“At work and even with my kids I tried to speak so nice and so kind,” Shannon says. “Yet, with my husband, somehow I expected him to be exempt from that need and just be the target of my wrath. That wasn’t fair.”
Another need that men have, she says, may surprise many women. Greater than their need for respect, or even for sex, is their need to see their wives be happy.
“It’s important for women to realize that for a man to be in a marriage where his wife isn’t happy, that has to be the most crushing thing in the world,” Shannon says. “He feels like he is the source of her happiness. When she’s not happy, then he must be failing. I think that we owe it to our men to figure out what makes us happy.”
Secret #3: Your husband was designed by God to be the leader of your family.
Another problem in many marriages, Shannon says, is that women have usurped their husband’s role as the family’s leader. Scripture teaches that the husband is the spiritual head of the home, but our culture often takes a different view.
The Ethridges cite a popular television program as an illustration of this way of thinking.
“Our favorite sitcom to watch together is Everybody Loves Raymond because it’s so funny,” Shannon says. “But there’s a prime example where Patricia Heaton knows everything and Ray Romano knows nothing. It is very disrespectful to men most of the time. It characterizes men in such a way that women feel they’re superior.”
It’s an idea that many women, even Christians, have bought into. The Ethridges say many women have contacted them asking similar questions.
“Why do I feel so superior to him?”
“Why do I feel as if I can hear from God better than he can?”
“Why do I feel as if I know what’s right when it comes to the kids, the house, or the finances?”
“Over and over they realize, ‘I try to wear the pants in the family,’” Shannon says.
She says after she and Greg recognized this pattern in their own relationship, they discovered that many couples share the same dynamic in their marriages. Taking a step back and letting their men lead the family takes humility, Shannon says, but it is one step that greatly improved her marriage.
Secret #4: Most men truly want to make their marriages work.
One thing that the Ethridges say they learned in writing the book is that men are often more committed to their marriages that women believe. The culture would lead women to believe that men do not care about their marriages.
In many cases, this idea just isn’t true. In fact, the authors heard from many men who expressed a desire to do whatever it took to save their marriage.
“I think most men, by nature, are very committed to marriage,” Shannon says. “They want to make their wives happy. They want to keep their family together. They want to do the right thing. I think that it’s up to women to set a healthier emotional climate in the home to inspire him to remain that committed.”
For too long, she says, our society has painted men as the bad guys in marriage.
“It’s as if the past few decades the idea has been that women aren’t happy in marriage and it’s the man’s fault,” Shannon says. “I think that we have sent them into that corner by our actions and our attitudes, and we have to recognize what we’re doing wrong.”
However, their book isn’t meant to be taken as a condemnation of women, but rather as a guide to help women better understand their husbands and their needs.
Shannon and Greg say they have put these principles to work in their own marriage and have seen drastic results over the years. By sharing their insights, they hope to help other couples experience positive change as well.
The bottom line:
When both spouses are working together to help the other feel loved, there is no limit to how close the two can be.
You can have the marriage that you have always dreamed of!
Whether your marriage is currently the best it has ever been, or it is in need of repair, the Ethridges suggest that these principles will improve your relationship. Even for troubled marriages, it will take work, but it is possible to breathe new life into a relationship that has grown listless.
Often, when the flames of love are growing dim at home women tend to blame their husbands for becoming cold and distant. Perhaps, says author and counselor Shannon Ethridge, women share part of the blame when their husbands pull away from them emotionally.
Sometimes, she says, it is the women’s attitudes or behaviors that have caused the men to become frigid. It is not that love has died between them; it is just that the husband has shut down emotionally because of how his wife treats him.