By Dennis Rainey
The next time you stop at McDonald’s, try this: At the counter say, “I’d like to have a hamburger, fries, and a Coke, please.” Then listen carefully to the cashier. If she’s worth her salt, she’ll ask you, “Will that be large fries and a large Coke?” You see, a well-trained cashier would never ask, “Will that be small fries and a small Coke?”
What’s the difference?
Just millions of dollars. Changing one word—large instead of small—is called “suggestive selling.” That’s no accident. McDonald’s intentionally places a positive thought in your mind about buying the large size. The company’s research shows that customers will, more often than not, sink their teeth into the larger order if presented with the option. When multiplied by millions of orders a month, tens of millions of extra dollars a year flow into hungry cash registers—all because the company took the time to know the customers.
What does all this have to do with romance? Plenty.
One key to thriving in your romantic relationship is to understand your wife. This is not to suggest that you should try to manipulate her. Rather, as you invest time and effort to understand your wife, you’ll discover how to define romance using your wife’s dictionary.
I have to admit that I defined romance for years using my distinctly male dictionary. We men usually spell romance: S-E-X. However, I’ve learned that when I want to communicate romance with Barbara, I’d better understand how she defines the word: R-E-L-A-T-I-O-N-S-H-I-P! This involves three nonnegotiables for a romantically satisfying relationship: security, acceptance, and an emotional connection. Let’s unpack these one at a time.
Non-negotiable #1: Security
If a man heard somebody breaking into his house in the middle of the night, what guy wouldn’t grab a baseball bat and defend his wife and his children against the intruder? That’s a given. But did you know that your wife is, in many ways, under assault every day? Look carefully, and you’ll discover there are all kinds of forces that have already broken into her life; they’ve already compromised the security of your home life.
Who are these intruders?
Often they come in the form of unresolved issues from the past—wounds from abuse, from family abandonment, from poor choices in the past, from divorce or a broken relationship. These trespassers might not be obvious to you on the surface, but they can rob your wife’s sense of well-being years after the fact.
For example, when Barbara and I were first married, I had no idea that she had experienced some painful things growing up. Some of those wounds began to surface about 15 years into our marriage. I’m going to purposefully be vague because what she had experienced was not as important as how I responded. When the persistent invaders finally came out of the shadows, I did my best to comfort her and express the love of Christ to her.
Although I didn’t always know what to do and didn’t handle every hurt perfectly, I didn’t run from her wounds. I didn’t deny she’d been hurt. I tried to let her know that she was loved and that our relationship was a safe place for her to begin to heal. I asked God to give me wisdom to know how to encourage her. God does answer prayer. And I sought the wisdom of a couple of counselors.
Even as I shouldered the burden with her, I knew we could use some added help from a professional, so we made arrangements for counseling. Barbara would say today that those days were very challenging, but going through the experience together enabled her
ultimate freedom to heal and me to better understand what she needed from me.
Past issues are not the only unwelcome guests that threaten a wife’s security. She desires to know her husband is committed to providing financial security in the home. Do you take the lead in establishing a family budget and pay off bills in a timely manner that creates security, or do you create fear with reckless financial decisions?
She wants a relationship built upon the bedrock security of a husband who refuses to follow his temptations. Are you a man in control of your passions, or do you lack self-control?
And when she is subjected to a cruel or emotionally abusive co-worker, family member, or friend, she needs a husband who will be in her corner and defend her. Do you protect her emotionally from any person who is trying to take advantage of her by going to that person and verbally shielding her?
What vandals threaten her security? Does she struggle with the memory of an abortion, sexual abuse, or her parents’ divorce that robs her joy today? Are there unhealthy influences or relationships in her life? Does she fear the future: growing old, children leaving home, the loss of parents and friends?
If so, how do you plan to evict these home invaders?
First, allow me to suggest that you do not try to “fix” it or “fix” her. Most importantly, I encourage you to pray with and for your wife. Do not underestimate the power of prayer. Pray simply, but pray out loud. Take her by the hand and ask God for wisdom and help with the task. Proverbs 2:6 assures you that “the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (NKJV). Ask God to guide you and give you patience.
Second, I encourage you to repeatedly verbalize your love and commitment to her. Your wife may be about to take on an emotional giant in her life and she needs to know that you are standing with her and for her. Remind her that you promised, “for better or worse.”
Third, give her the time, grace and freedom to process what she is experiencing emotionally with you. This kind of conversation means that you become a safe haven in an emotional storm. Let her talk without offering a solution. Comfort her with words of understanding that create hope.
It’s a wise husband who can look back into his wife’s life and evaluate how she has been affected by past events rather than sit back and be critical of how she was raised, or make negative comments about the parents who raised her. Instead, the prudent husband will serve as a healing ointment, a salve of love, and a personal emissary of God who fosters an environment where healing takes place.
Over a lifetime together, romance can begin to thrive in a secure relationship.
Be sure to watch next week for my concluding post on three non-negotiables for a romantically satisfying relationship.
This is too good to keep to yourself! Share with a friend or family member using the links below!