Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of H. Norman Wright's new book, Bringing Out the Best in Your Husband: Encourage Your Spouse and Experience the Relationship You've Always Wanted, (InterVarsity Press, 2010).
If you're frustrated by your husband's attitudes or actions, you won't see him change if you use discouraging approaches such as criticizing or nagging. The way to bring out the best in your husband is to encourage him. If your husband sees that you believe in him no matter what, he'll gain the confidence to believe in himself and change for the better.
Here's how you can bring out the best in your husband by encouraging him:
Freely give him encouragement. Keep in mind that God wants you to give your husband the gift of unconditional love - just as God gives that to you - and an important part of loving your husband is encouraging him even when his behavior upsets or offends you. Don't withhold your encouragement because you don't think your husband has earned it. Accept your husband as he is, recognizing that he has worth and dignity in God's eyes, even though he is imperfect. Freely give your husband encouragement, and when you do, you'll inspire him to make better choices.
Listen well to him. Give your husband your full attention when he's sharing his thoughts and feelings with you. Refrain from judging what he says; simply try to understand him. Let him know that you're genuinely interested by asking questions and paraphrasing what he says to clarify whether or not you've successfully received his messages. Avoid giving unsolicited advice about what he tells you. Instead, identify his strengths and encourage him to draw on those strengths to solve his own problems. Validate the fact that his thoughts and feelings are meaningful and relevant, even if you don't agree with them yourself.
Deal carefully with his sensitive areas. When you discover areas of your husband's life that he's particularly sensitive about - his weight, his job challenges, or anything else - don't be harsh or forceful with him when discussing those areas. Instead, try to be gentle so he feels safe around you. Treat your husband the way you'd like him to treat you when discussing sensitive areas in your own life. Try to build hope in his life.
Love him the 1 Corinthians 13 way. Encourage your husband by reflecting the character qualities mentioned in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. Be patient by tolerating his frailties, imperfections, and shortcomings. Be kind by being tender and thoughtful toward him. Don't be jealous of his genuine friendships with others or of his special gifts and talents. Don't be boastful about your personal appearance or achievements in an attempt to compete with him. Don't be arrogant by disdaining his looks or achievements or by belittling him. Don't be rude by being inconsiderate of his needs or feelings. Don't insist on your own way; instead, be willing to compromise and consider his needs and interests. Don't be irritable by snapping at your him; instead, be approachable. Don't be resentful by holding grudges; instead, be forgiving. Don't rejoice in wrong by delighting in his misfortunes, keeping score, or tallying perceived wrongs. Rejoice in right by being truthful and not concealing anything from him. Bear all things by supporting him in his times of struggle. Believe all things by having confidence in him. Hope all things by refusing to wallow in pessimism about your relationship and keeping a positive attitude. Endure all things by not giving into life's pressures by standing by him when he's struggling.
Voice your complaints in encouraging ways. Just like everyone, you'll sometimes have valid concerns you'll need to express through complaints. But when you do, avoid criticizing your husband, because that will only accentuate his negative attitudes and behaviors. Instead of focusing on what bothers you, phrase your complaint in the form of a request and talk about what you would appreciate him doing. Your husband will be more likely to listen and respond positively if you speak positively to him and let him know that you believe he's capable of doing what you've requested. When your husband changes for the better, give him plenty of praise and gratitude. Let him know that you've recognized and valued the changes he's made.
Don't do for your husband what he can do for himself. Stop doing tasks for your husband that he's capable of doing, or learning to do, on his own. Don't rescue him from the consequences of his own poor decisions. Respect him enough to make his own choices and learn from the results. Encourage him to grow by expressing trust and confidence in his abilities.
Seek to understand him. Get to know how best you can communicate encouraging words and actions to your husband, given his unique personality and the differences between male and female communication styles. Encourage him in ways that he's most likely to receive well.
Ask him for feedback. Ask your husband to make a list for you of the various pressures he faces, and how you can help by encouraging him in specific ways as he faces those pressures. Also ask your husband to share his preferences for various encouraging gifts you can give him, from a certain way of making love to a particular meal he would enjoy.
Pray for him. Every day, ask God to encourage your husband and help you encourage him by giving you the right perspective on your husband and guiding you toward specific ways of building up your marriage.
Keep up the good work. Consistently encourage your husband whenever and wherever you can. See yourself as a prospector who's always looking for hidden treasure in your husband. As you discover pockets of underdeveloped resources within him, work to expand them through your encouraging words and actions.
Adapted from Bringing Out the Best in Your Husband: Encourage Your Spouse and Experience the Relationship You've Always Wanted, copyright 2010 by H. Norman Wright. Published by Regal Books, a division of Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca., http://www.regalbooks.com/.
H. Norman Wright is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist and he has taught in the Grad. Department of Biola University. He was former director of the Graduate Department of Marriage, Family and Child Counseling at Biola University, as well as an Associate Professor of Psychology. He was also Associate Professor of Christian Education and Director of the Graduate Department of Christian Education at the Talbot School of Theology. At the present time he is Research Professor of Christian Education at this same institution. He was in private practice for more than 30 years. Dr. Wright is a graduate of Westmont College, Fuller Theological Seminary (M.R.E.), Pepperdine University (M.A.). He has received two honorary doctorates, D.D. and D.LIT, from the Western Conservative Baptist Seminary and Biola University respectively. He is the author of more than 70 books, including Experiencing Grief, The New Guide to Crisis and Trauma Counseling, Recovering From the Losses of Life, Quiet Times for Couples, and Before You Say I Do, and has twice received the Gold Medallion Award. Dr. Wright has pioneered premarital counseling programs throughout the country. He conducts seminars on Parenting, Recovering from the Losses of Life, Trauma and Crisis Counseling, and Marriage Enrichment. His current focus is in grief and trauma counseling and critical incident debriefings. He and his wife Joyce were married for 48 years, and he lives in Bakersfield, California.
Find this article at: http://www.crosswalk.com/marriage/11634788/