Recently I came across a thread on Facebook discussing practical ways busy moms can bless their husbands. I scrolled through the comments, expecting to find the typical list of easy ways to keep a man happy. But I was in for a pleasant surprise. Instead I read comment after comment about genuine love. Selfless love. Love that was willing to go the extra mile.
Without even realizing it these women were drawing a line in the sand between two words that can make or break a good relationship with our husbands: The difference between pacifying and preferring our husbands.
It is so easy to think we’re serving our husbands when we are actually pacifying them. The difference comes down to our hearts. Pacifying means we just want to check them off a list. Maybe you hope by doing something for him he’ll leave you alone for awhile. Or maybe you serve him so he’ll stick around and feel guilted into your “honey-do” list or watching the kids. Sometimes pacifying looks like deal-making: “You can go to the movies, but you have to promise to stay home all weekend.” Sometimes it’s reflected in our attitudes: when I grumble at his untidiness while I straighten the house for him, my impatient sigh when he wants a nice long hug in the middle of my dinner prep. Pacifying requires action, but it doesn't necessarily require love. Pacifying comes down to self-centered motives. God’s Word tells us that true love is selfless. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) Biblical love can’t grow from self-centered motives.
While pacifying is ultimately about self, preferring is about others. "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor." (Romans 12:10) Preferring says, “I’m going to do something for you even at the cost of my own comfort or convenience. It’s not just to keep you happy and it’s not so you will do something for me later. It’s just for you because I love you.” It seeks to put another’s needs and desires above your own simply out of love.
My husband likes his shirts to all hang the same direction in the closet. I personally don’t care how my shirts hang. Yesterday I hung up one of his shirts and noticed it was backwards on the hanger. I sighed, yanked it off, and turned it around, wanting to keep the peace and get on with my day. Later I thought about it. I thought, “It might not make a difference to me, but it really seems to help him have a good start to his day.” The next time I went upstairs I did a quick glance though his closet and switched a couple more shirts I noticed were backwards. This time I wasn’t annoyed with him. I was thankful for a simple way to add joy to his day. It was a simple way to turn pacifying into preferring.
Do you pacify your husband or prefer him in love? No matter how subtle you are about it, your husband knows. He can feel the difference between being pacified and preferred. How can we seek to truly prefer our husbands? Three practical suggestions from that Facebook thread stood out to me.
Did you know that you married someone with hobbies? They might be hobbies that don’t directly involve or interest you. Here’s your chance to show preference in love. My husband enjoys video games. I have never been able to enjoy video games myself, but I appreciate that they bring him so much joy and relaxation. That time helps him process what went on at work during the day and it refreshes his mind for the family. I make sure he has plenty of time for it and that he never feels like I resent him for it. Maybe your husband is a sports guy and can’t wait to catch the next game. Maybe he’s a hiker or a jogger. My brother-in-law builds remote control helicopters. It’s not about what you think he should like. It’s what he does like. Do you make time for his hobbies or do you try to fill his schedule so he only does things you think he should be doing? Do you support his hobbies or mock them? If someone asked your husband, “What does your wife think of your hobby?” - what do you think he would say? Unfortunately many husbands feel like they have to hide their hobbies because their wives are jealous or resentful. A wall goes up. There’s an area of their hearts they can’t share with their wives. A wife who simply pacifies her husband “let’s” him participate in his hobbies only when it doesn’t inconvenience her. A wife who prefers her husband in love hands him a new video game (or tickets to a sporting event, new hiking gear, a new science magazine, etc.) and says, “I love you for being you. I love watching you enjoy life. Go have some fun!” Husbands might not want to admit that they want their wives’ “blessing” - but they do! A wife’s support is the wind in her husband’s sails.
Preferring our husbands in love means helping them invest in relationships. This is a sacrifice for wives. When your husband comes home from work you'd probably rather hand him a screaming baby than send him back out the door to hang with the guys. But our husbands need to be sharpened by other men. The Proverbs 31 woman recognized this need. Verse 23 says, “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.” Her husband is known. He's hanging out, shooting the breeze, developing friendships - and his wife isn't sulking at home. My husband is extremely social. We joke about this verse and when he goes out he says, “I’m going to go sit in the gates.” I appreciate that he balances it with family life and is always thoughtful to ask me before he goes. I love what that time does for him. Often he gains a new perspective on a family or work issue by talking it through with another man. Sometimes he gets the chance to share the gospel. I could pacify him by only letting him go out once in awhile or when I already have plans of my own. But I want my husband to feel like his home is a refuge and not a prison. I want it to be a place he loves coming home to, not a place he feels like he can’t leave. What relationships could you help your husband invest in? Do you make it easy for him to make friends and be a good friend to others?
If you asked a wife to write down ten ways a husband could show her love, sex might not even make the list. If you asked a man the same thing, sex would be number 1 and then he might have trouble coming up with nine more. To a woman sex is simply one part of a thousand parts that make up what we think of as marriage. We compartmentalize it. We see it as important and special, but it has it’s own category. Men don’t compartmentalize sex. It’s intertwined with every part of marriage. To men sex is one and the same as the love, intimacy, and friendship they share with their wives. Unfortunately many wives roll their eyes and write sex off as a purely physical indulgence, the way we might think of a chocolate craving. What a distortion of something so much deeper and more meaningful. A few months ago I read an article by Melissa Edgington challenging women to stop compartmentalizing sex:
“We tell ourselves that it’s SEX he wants, and not US. He doesn’t just want to have sex with you because you’re a female and you’re there. He wants to have sex with you because you are his and he is yours. If your husband never leaves you alone and is always trying to get you in bed, thank the Lord above.”
Wives, sex is about us. We are the ultimate gift to our husbands. If we don’t wrap our heads around the beauty of this truth we will fall into the rut of simply pacifying our husbands. Sex becomes an obligation, a chore, one more thing to check off the list. Instead, intimacy can become the ultimate way to show preference in love. This is exciting! You hold the key to your husband’s heart - and it’s not writing cutesy love notes on the bathroom mirror. It’s YOU. Give yourself to him. There are three practical ways to prefer your husband in intimacy:
• Frequency. Remember that sex means love. How would you feel if your husband committed to loving you only on Saturday nights? That would be a sad relationship. You wouldn't feel like a priority in his life. If sex means love to our husbands we can't just pencil him in. This needs to be a major priority.
• Initiation. If your husband is the only one who initiates intimacy, the relationship is essentially one-sided. Imagine if your husband only hugged you, kissed you, or took you on a date when you asked. Nobody likes to feel accommodated when it comes to love. Wouldn't it mean more to you if you knew it was his idea? Wouldn't it be fun to be surprised? Your husband will feel like the most loved man in the world if you never even give him the chance to ask.
• Attitude: Picture going on a date with your husband. You've been waiting for this all day. You get all dressed up and look forward to some one-on-one conversation. But to your great disappointment your husband rolls his eyes through the entire meal, gives one word answers, and keeps checking his phone. He went on the date because you wanted to, but it's obvious his heart isn't in it. Remember that to your husband, giving him your body means giving him your heart - so do it wholeheartedly. Like Melissa said, he doesn't just want sex. He wants you. Be all there. Be enthusiastic. Don't be distracted. Let him enjoy your heart.
Wives, the difference between pacifying and preferring is a game-changer. It has nothing to do with one-time strategies for adding spice to our marriages. This is about adopting an entirely new mindset about love. It requires committing to new habits and new attitudes - not just for the weekend, but for life. It's about a marriage with roots. It's about reflecting the glorious, sacrificial, genuine love that God has for His children.
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." 1 John 3:16
"The Gospel-Centered Mom" Bible study is a must-have for busy moms who want to be in the Word. Get your copy on Etsy or Amazon.