You may have noticed that we have limits. Though many of you may live as though this isn’t true, there are plenty of unlimited resources for us as humans – love, friendship, forgiveness, joy, trust, etc. I will write more about this later, because it isn’t the main purpose of this article, but it fits to mention it here: Too many people live as if those things too, are limited resources.
Many men, especially, treat love as though it is a limited resource – like, say, a bag of candy. Every piece of candy that I eat from the bag is candy that you cannot have.
This is a zero-sum perspective. There are only a certain number of pieces and as you make use from the total, you eventually end up with zero.
Here is a common way I see this lived out: a man lives in the assumption that his wife has, say, 100 points of love. If she loves her parents 30 points then she only has 70 points left. Divide her love out further between their kids, her friends, and he sees that she only has a very few points of love left for him. The truth is that we are not like a bag of candy with a zero-sum of love.
In regards to love, we are more like a tomato plant – the more we love, the more love we have! Love is a limitless resource in that the more we have, the more the total amount is! If I have 100 points of love and a I make a new friend who I love with 30 points, then my new total is just 130 points. There are many resources like this, and they are actually those things which are sweetest about life. I have known many who did not understand this and they live sad, competitive, predator-prey existences that are heart breaking.
Again, I hope to write more about this truth, but this article is meant to address those aspects of life that are more limited and how to love in them.
In some ways humans are also unlimited – we are eternal, and we are created in the image of God, and He has set eternity in our hearts.
However in some very real ways our existence here on Earth is greatly defined by limitations as well. My teachings on rest taught me this more than anything else I had learned. I became convinced that though we have a limitless calling, we are limited creatures. God’s provision for this inequity is rest… and rest is an application of the wisdom of accepting these truths. So, though our love for our wives may be well rooted and capable of endless growth, our ability to express that love is limited.
So, what are we to do?
Hire a consultant and follow their advice. I don’t mean me (admit it, you thought this was going to be an advertisement, didn’t you? Ok, it probably won’t hurt you to hire me too, as a counselor or even better to come teach a seminar to the men at your church, but that isn’t what I was going to say).
I mean your wife.
As I have mentioned before, we don’t think like them, gender to gender; within those genders, we are also individuals with radically different perspectives on things. Life rules (read about those under my therapy section), personality differences, personal preferences, etc. make us different enough to have difficulty seeing the world through each other’s eyes at the best of times. So, you will have to ask sometimes, and be happy to accept critical input the other times.
Ooooh, yeah, I know that last bit is tough, so let me create a picture for you that will make it easier. If you buy some pretty red roses for your wife and her response is anything other than shucking clothes, you may feel a little disappointed.
However, our gender can be insecure enough that if she offers even the most gentle and passive critical input, we can go into pouting “take my toys and go home” mode. Imagine she says “Wow, these are really amazing! Thanks so much!… so you know, I like pink roses best.” We might think “Oh, I see how it is, I can’t do anything right, can I? Nothing is good enough for you, is it? (we might even say these), see if I get her flowers again… etc.”
Why do we do that? Yes, insecurity. Let me help.
Remember that your purpose was to show her that you love her, right?; that you desire her, and think she is wonderful. She knows that, and she knows you can’t do everything, so she wants to help you do an even better job of showing her that you love her – that she believes this is evident in her critique! Why do we take that as destructive? Let me give you another picture for how to think of this.
Consider that you were making love to your wife (but stay focused on this article… foooccccuuuuusss).
Your goal is to pleasure her (assuming that you are not a lazy and selfish lover – if you just realized that your main goal in making love to your wife is to get pleasure, then call me and let’s talk. I’m not kidding, it can be a therapeutically significant realization).
Again, your goal is to pleasure her, so you start to touch and kiss her in the intimate ways that can create that pleasure for her. You have a desire to do a great job of pleasuring her, but only one person in the room knows what feels best to her, and it probably isn’t you. Sure, after a decade of loving the same woman and listening to her well, you have some great ideas, but her opinion still trumps your in almost all cases! So, fortunately, you have direct access to that person, since she is right there with you. When she says “more of that” or “slower” or “lower and softer” you probably don’t respond with “Oh, fine, I see how you are! I can’t do anything right…”
Some men do, I know. Again, that means that your insecurities are deep enough to get past your desire for your wife and intrude even in the bed. However, I think it is more common with more surface things, like with flowers… or dates, or the way you do the dishes, or driving, etc. (“she told me I loaded the dishwasher wrong, so see if I do that ever again”, “She is always criticizing my driving”).
See? She isn’t usually, really, just criticizing you, she is really just telling you when she feels more or less loved by you.
Most women feel less loved when her husband is driving aggressively or too fast, since he is willing to put her at unease or even risk just because he likes to drive that way! Think about what makes you feel unsupported or insecure about her love – the way she talks to other men? The way she spends money? Imagine if you asked her to change that and she ignored you or pouted about you criticizing her, and went back to doing what she wanted with even less consideration of you! So, stop complaining about being taught how to attain your hopes and desires of loving her best.
So, how does this play into limited resources?
I am glad you asked.
Unless you are a lot different from me, you have a limited amount of time to devote to expressing love your wife… a limited amount of energy, money, and hours in a day, days in a week and weeks in month, etc. to dedicate to strategizing, creating, thinking, purchasing, and spending on expressing your love to your wife. If you have young children or teenagers, you have almost none of these (especially emotional energy) left over for this (and have compassion on the fact that she is also pretty much tapped out at the end of most days, weeks, and months too)
Therefore, it is vital to make the best possible use of what little we have to spend. Thus, you have to know what matters most. Once you have learned that from her, then
Application: So, I prefer my bedroom clean, as does my wife.
We have different opinions on what makes it clean, though. For my wife, it means the bed is made. The bed being made represents 75% of a clean room. A laundry basket of clothes doesn’t bug her much at all… but it does me. I, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about the bed being made! Bed = 3% of a clean room for me, maybe. All piles of clothes gone? 80% easily.
So, I have a sudden 15 minutes that I can devote to cleaning our room, for some reason. What makes the meter run the fastest for her? I cannot do it all. I can dust, clean up a pile of clothes, make the bed, or maybe something else. If I am following my own advice here, well, you know what the right answer is. My consultant has already advised me on what makes my wife feel the most loved by me.
In fact, the final comment I will make on this is to remind you that, at some level, hers is the only opinion, outside of Divine revelation (again, I am serious about that too), about how to love her that is valid.
Other helpers can be great – her family, friends, counselors, books, etc… but her opinion how what makes her feel most loved is most valid (again, outside of God). I know there are some circumstances in which most people, including our wives, may want things that aren’t good for us, aren’t biblical, and only make us feel loved because we are broken and hurting people, not because we are living in an abundant version of God’s love.
I know this, and maybe I can write more about it later.
However, I think it is very important that we learn from our wives what makes them feel most loved, and, within God’s designs for leadership, consideration, and sacrifice… try to love them the best we can! Listen to your consultant and encourage feedback from her – not hate it, encourage it.
Follow through, men. We are in this together!
“Be considerate as you live with your wives…” -The Apostle Peter, a married man.
You’re not alone and we would love to join you as you take steps toward a stronger, healthier future.
I believe we all need a safe place to explore the issues that may be preventing us from experiencing a full and satisfying life. My greatest reward as a therapist is helping my clients examine ways to make the changes in their lives that will allow them to look forward to the future with hope. I am a bilingual (Spanish-English) LPC.
Our team will reach out to you soon!