Guest Post by Shaunti Feldhahn
It was ironic that when Lysa asked me to post a guest blog about some of my research, I was on my way back from a conference where that research had just come to life before my eyes.
You see, my husband, Jeff, and I have surveyed thousands of men, women and teens for our books, and one of the most consistent findings is that nearly all women and girls share these subconscious questions:
Am I loveable? Am I special? Am I beautiful?
Lysa and I co-wrote Made to Crave for Young Women to help girls look for those answers in God rather than from popularity, guys, or the latest cute outfit. But those questions don’t necessarily stop just because a girl grows up.
The day Lysa called me, Jeff and I had just finished doing a marriage retreat with a group of police officers and their wives. Part of that was helping the men understand that their ongoing reassurances of love are vital precisely because of this uniquely female insecurity.
Although a man rarely questions “does she love me?” after the wedding, a wife doesn’t feel permanently loved just because of that “I do.”
Among 80% of women, their subconscious question becomes not just “does he really love me?” but also, “would he choose me all over again?” So it makes a big difference when a husband purposefully answers that question well. Every. Single. Day.
We tell the men that, and its true, but I’ve also seen that even when our men do a great job of showing their love…we need to be willing to receive it!
At this retreat, a teary-eyed wife pulled me aside to ask how she could handle the fact that her husband of three years kept going to do fix-it work on his widowed mother’s house, rather than spending his evenings at home with her and their new baby. “I just don’t know how to handle the fact that he keeps choosing his mother over me,” her lips quivered. “It’s like he’s wishing he never got married.”
I was surprised, since on the surface her husband seemed like a man who loved his wife. Sad for her, I commiserated, “How often is he away like that?”
“Probably one or two nights a week.” She saw my startled look, and said, “It doesn’t sound like much, but what’s hardest isn’t handling the baby alone, it’s the fact that he’s choosing his mother over me. When I ask him why he has to go, he just says his mom needs his help now that his father has died. I love that he’s a loyal guy who loves his mom, but it feels like he doesn’t love me.”
As we talked more, I tried to gently help her see the truth that was becoming clear to me: her husband did love her, but she wasn’t accepting it.
He was regularly saying “I love you,” helping out with the baby even when exhausted from work, and taking her on date nights every few weeks. But she was still finding it hard to believe in his love because she was so focused on this one area of hurt. She was interpreting his once or twice a week visits with his mom as evidence of a lack of care, rather than an evidence of a man who cared deeply about family.
And honestly…she’s not that unusual, is she? Because of that “am I loveable?” fear, many of us aren’t great at countering that insecurity with truth.
Instead, we create distress that never needed to exist. Even worse, when we hold on tightly to that insecurity, rather than talking ourselves out of it, we often end up questioning the love of a good man. And unfortunately, this can sometimes bring about the very struggles we fear.
Girls, a man may not always know how to express love in the way his wife or girlfriend most needs, but our research showed that in the vast majority of cases, he really is trying.
Our man demonstrates by his actions and words that he loves us–but when we “feel like” he doesn’t, and act on that untrue feeling, we set him up in a situation that is confusing and de-motivating, because it is impossible for him to overcome.
(I recently posted this little video clip on Facebook to try to explain this dynamic to our very confused men.)
Yes, some men need to better-understand what “speaks love” to their wife or girlfriend. And certainly there are many marital situations that don’t have a simple answer.
But let’s look at what our man is trying to do, rather than what he isn’t.
When we make an intentional effort to focus on the Philippians 4 truths of what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy about our man and his actions it will help us see the care toward us that was there all along.
End note from Lysa:
Thank you Shaunti for this message. I needed to read this.
Marriage is so complex. If you are in a hurting marriage, please know I am praying for you today. I’ve been there.
I also want to wish everyone happy day-after Independence Day.
I am so thankful for our freedom and the men and women who fight so bravely to preserve it! I hope you had a wonderful day with your family and friends.
To be entered in the drawing, leave a comment and let us know a little way those around you show their love to you. It can be about anyone in your life — your husband, children, mom, dad, or friend.