I’ve been a married person for a few decades now. And it wasn’t until several years ago that someone answered a question I had for years.

It seems most of us know a woman’s greatest emotional need is ‘to be loved.’ Little things mean a lot to women. Women tend to think it’s rather nice to be thought of with flowers – or to just be thought of. And a hug can really make a woman’s day go well or end well.  

Most of my girlfriends agree that when you feel loved – you are loved.

So that being said – what about men? Who knows what their greatest emotional need is?  Do men even have emotional needs?

Several years ago – I heard a minister speak on this subject – and it was from his sermon I learned it is all about respect. Men really need to feel they are respected. He went on to use the word ‘crushed’ to explain what men feel when they are disrespected.

And there I had it – an answer to something I never knew. No book and no conversation with anyone had ever given me this answer.  

For women it is to be loved. And for men it is to be respected.

Soon after hearing his sermon, it seemed this information started jumping off the pages and out of the woodwork. I heard it talked about in conversation. I saw it in print. And of course this minister had also explained how well this subject is addressed in the Bible.

It’s really a no-brainer that all of us – no matter our age or gender – feel poorly after someone has been disrespectful to us. Men can sometimes feel their efforts are not appreciated. They can feel overwhelmed at times or left feeling they can’t do anything right. Or everything is their fault.

So how do we show respect to one another? Being respectful means we value the opinions and points of view of others. It means we know we can be wrong. It means if we get caught saying something behind someone’s back – it is something we would want them to know we said about them. Read that one again if you need to.

The choices we make in how we treat others show our character, our integrity, and our values as a person. When I choose to treat someone poorly – what does that say about me? What gives me the right to use words to make someone feel small and wounded? Is mistreating them letting them know I am better than they are? Have I just given that person a reason to work on forgiving me?

There are those who have listened to negative words – or even a rare insult – that will echo in their mind to their dying day.  You have made them feel sad, discarded, and not good enough to be loved because of your inability to see their worth – even if it doesn’t happen very often.

Do we – the spouse – want to be the person who has to apologize for the damage we have done with our words or behavior?

Having been employed as a hospice nurse, I can say I’ve spent more than a few hours of my own life with people who knew they were at the end of their life. I’ve seen a lot of hospital beds set up in living rooms and furniture moved or rearranged to make room for medical equipment.

The person who is lying in the hospital bed can no longer make the decision on how to spend their time. They can’t gather with those who are in the kitchen and help with the dishes. There are no more opportunities to help around the house or lighten the workload for others.

I think there are two ways to look at chores that need to be done and kitchens that need to be put back in order.

One – leave the clean-up for later because something of greater importance needs to take place while it is still daylight outside. Maybe there is a child running around in my back yard. There are tree toads to discover. Or maybe there are frisbees needing to be thrown. If you are lucky, there is a pair of stilts to be walked on. There are tomatoes in a garden – and the kid needs to know what a garden tomato smells like.

Some day that child is going to grow up and know how to do things because an adult spent time with them.  They are going to smell a garden tomato, and it will remind them of a garden from long ago.  

The second way to look at the pile of dishes is to get yourself into the kitchen and start to help – especially if you are not the mom.  If a child is present, a chair can be pulled up to the sink, and the child realizes they are being valued, and paid attention to, and nurtured.  

The dishes are not important. The child is.

The television is not important. The spouse is.

When the love between a man and a woman has fizzled, I wonder what started first. Perhaps  the woman has not felt loved – and she loses respect for her husband. Or possibly the husband has felt he has not been respected – and he stopped showing his wife that he cares for her.

When a man says it is not in his nature to show affection or to love his wife the way she should be loved – he needs to know this is not a profound, unique-to-him statement.

He knows it is not in his nature. She knows it is not in his nature. We all know it is not in his nature.

But God’s word tells that man to repent.

Any man who is not loving and caring for his wife or who is not always kind to her, needs to ask himself if he knew how to love her and how to be kind to her before marriage. He should ask himself why he doesn’t know how to love her after he married her. And then thank God for that degree in rocket science. It will come in handy as he attempts to figure out what changes need to be made.   

Your wife is a daughter of the most high God. And you have been commanded to love her.

And if you are a woman – you too can figure it out. You know what respect is. You are as smart and capable as your spouse is. The words you choose to say to your husband may have caused a few problems in the past. There is a polite way to say or ask for just about anything – and you are well aware of that. 

You are capable of speaking life over your husband and over your children. Every single word. Every single day. And tone counts. It doesn’t even take practice. Just start.

Most married people invited their family and friends to be witnesses as they stood before God and stated their marriage vows. The wedding day can be a well-planned, important, and expensive day, and we somehow think life is just going to fall into place in the days and months ahead. Of course the months quickly turn into years, and years turn into decades of married life.

When you think about it – marriage vows become words that were stated long ago. Do we remember the actual vows? Are we occasionally reminded of them? When sickness comes to one of the spouses – we tend to remember one particular sentence from the traditional wedding vows.

Think about the word vow. What is the definition of vow? We made a vow. Words came out of our mouth. We said we were going to do whatever it was we vowed to do. And then we don’t even remember it. We don’t do it.

My hospice patients wanted to get out of bed and participate once again in life, but the remote control was often the only thing they had control of.

Those who watch television just two hours per day are logging 14 hours of tv time by the end of the week. That calculates to 728 hours per year in front of the tube. Divide 728 into 24 hour days, and you have 30 twenty-four hour days per year in front of the television.

One full month of a life spent in front of a television each year. Another way of looking at it would be 90 eight hour days each year – or 3 months of our life in front of the television – and again – only two hours per day.

Many people report the freedom they feel when they realize they no longer have an interest in television – and all they had to do was turn it off.  

God has called us for greater things than electronics.

Life is given to us to be lived.  A child is here to be nurtured in their interests and skills. A book is to be read. Music is to be heard. Friends are to be cherished. Prayers are to be said. True health is to be recovered.  Air is to breathe. Rest is commanded.

And marriage is a calling.  

Our reputation is what others think of us, but our character is who we really are. And our character is known by those who spend the most time with us. When we are at the end of our life – suddenly we know how we should have lived it. It doesn’t matter what kind of car is in the garage, how big or grand the house is, or what kind of certificates hang in picture frames on our walls.

What matters are the words we do and do not say, the hugs we give, the prayers we say, the kindness we extend, and possibly the most important – our brokenness – because our brokenness is what makes us let go of the life we had planned, so we can accept the one that is waiting on us.

The Wedding Day Disclaimer:  

Most disclaimers include words to inform the reader that this is in no way to be taken as advice. But how do we talk about marriage without offering advice or asking for advice?

Every person who is now married or used to be married has a unique story to tell.

Some left the marriage because they needed to do so for their own well-being – and those are the people who can often offer a lot of wisdom gained from experiences they never imagined they would have.

My husband has teased his Aunt Donna and calls her Aunt Bea – referring to the aunt from Mayberry who likes to cook. He has even offered her room and board at our house – thinking certainly she would find her way around our kitchen.

When Aunt Donna talks about her love for her husband – she always ends the conversation with “Oh just love each other. Just love each other.” More than a few times, I have heard her state her advice with a smile on her face and her arms against herself as if she is giving a hug.

Aunt Donna is now 97 years old – and as soon as we can visit her again – we are going to do so.  So take that as some advice – go visit your aunts and uncles and loved ones – and let them tell you about their life – and know their greatest words of wisdom might be to “just love each other.”  

A card received by my parents on their wedding day in October of 1947.