I’ll Always Love and Cherish You
The Truth about Making Her Feel Special
"Here, these are for you,” and as Dennis handed Carol the bouquet of roses, he began to win her heart. Soon, he overwhelmed her with the small touches that made her feel special. He opened the car door for her and even waited until she buckled up before driving off. He listened.They went for long walks, and he listened. He asked questions that helped her express her life’s journey.
Without reservation, she gave her heart to him.
At a quiet candlelight dinner, Dennis passed her a small jewelry box and asked her to become his wife. Carol’s feelings of being cherished continued to grow through their engagement.
As they stood together in church and he repeated the words of his promise,“To love,honor, and cherish until parted by death,” she felt secure that this man would fulfill those vows to make her feel special.
As the years went by, Dennis progressed well at work. His company offered a promotion that provided a higher salary but required more time on the job. Faced with the increased expenses that came with their first child, he reluctantly took it. But he thrived on the new responsibilities and loved the sense of accomplishment that his new job gave. Several nights each week he brought work home,ate a rushed dinner with Carol and their baby, and then disappeared into his study to finish the paperwork.
One night each week he met with his old buddies for racquetball. He wanted to maintain the relationships he’d long had, and he knew he needed to do something to stay in decent shape. He dedicated Saturdays to a combination of home and yard projects and watching sports. On Sundays, they went to church, visited their families who lived nearby, and caught up on the sleep they’d missed with an afternoon nap.
Overall, Dennis loved his life. He provided well for his wife and daughter, his job recognized him for his efforts, and the house and yard were well kept. He never dreamed that Carol felt cheated and lied to.
Why did Carol feel this way? In the early days, Dennis went to extra efforts to let Carol see how much he valued her. He vowed to love, honor, and cherish her. He still did, as much as he ever had. But he expressed it differently. He provided a home. He took care of her and their child. He kept up the house and yard. Of course he cherished her, but not in the way her heart yearned for.
On the Receiving End
Two years after their wedding, Carol met her best friend and maid of honor, Sharyn, for lunch.
“Sharyn, remember how we all stood up together and Dennis vowed to ‘love, honor, and cherish’? That man lied. He made me feel so special back when we were dating. I was at the center of his world.We’d talk for hours, take long walks, give each other little gifts.…
“Now I feel like an afterthought, like he just wants a companion, someone to keep house, fix dinner, and raise Samantha. I’m useful to him, but only for what I do. I don’t count as a person. He doesn’t have time for me anymore. He uses his work and friends as excuses instead of facing the truth: He doesn’t like being around me.
“Just last week I fixed a nice dinner—just for the two of us. I got Mom to keep Samantha,and I had the candles out and the CDs on. But after dinner he had to go play racquetball; he’d made ‘a commitment’to his friends,he said.What about his commitment to me? I just don’t feel like I’m special to him anymore.”
Carol expresses a common feeling of many wives: Their husbands do little to make them feel special and cherished.The women see it as a failure to fulfill the marriage vows and as a lack of integrity. That perspective comes from one of their basic needs.
A NEED TO BE CHERISHED
Women generally focus more on relationships than men do. In his first video series, Dr. James Dobson observed that women tend to get their self-esteem from their marriages, while men gain theirs from work and accomplishments. That difference sets up husbands for difficulties in this area. They just don’t recognize a woman’s innate need to be cherished.
That’s sad, because this need permeates the Bible. For women,their need for intimacy may flow from how God created men and women. In Genesis 2, God recognized the basic inadequacy of a man alone, and he took care of that lack.
So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said,“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Gen. 2:21–25)
To paraphrase Bible commentator Matthew Henry, God didn’t take a bone from man’s head that he should rule over her, nor a bone from his foot that he would trample over her. Rather, God took a rib, close to his arms that he might enfold her and close to his heart that he might cherish her.Women continue to feel a need to be held and cherished, to be reunited.
That concept continues in the Song of Songs.This remarkable love poem expresses the attitudes and actions of the wife, whom the NIV headings identify as the “beloved,” and the husband, identified as the “lover.” While the book serves as a metaphor for God’s love of his people, it also provides a guide to marital intimacy. Husbands,we encourage you to read the entire book and see the cry of your wife’s heart. But until then, read these selections and see both the wife’s need to feel cherished and the husband meeting that need.
“Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men.I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love. His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me. … Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm;for love is as strong as death.” (2:3–6; 8:6)
His strength brings protection to her; she feels safe. He provides her with sweets, even before the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and not just on Valentine’s Day! He takes her to a nice restaurant. He floods her with love until she’s ready to pass out in bliss. He provides the cuddling her heart yearns for. And she feels like he holds her close to his heart. He puts her at the center of his life, not at the fringes.To say it a different way, he cherishes her, it shows, and she knows it. So when a husband vows to cherish his wife and doesn’t in the manner she needs, the wife feels lied to.
A NEED TO FEEL VALUED
Men can easily allow their own needs and desires to take priority in marriage. Someone suggested that men are selfabsorbed savages only partially civilized by their wives. We wouldn’t go that far, but women do have an innate need to be valued by their husbands. And when husbands don’t do “those special things,” wives can easily perceive their husbands as selfish.That stands in direct contradiction to how God designed marriage and established the role of the husband.
One passage we’ll come back to frequently is Ephesians 5:21–33. Paul the apostle laid out God’s blueprint for marriage, built on the foundation of mutual submission, each partner yielding to the deepest needs of the one they love. Husbands, read this passage carefully and note what we’ve italicized on how husbands should value and sacrifice for their wives.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body.“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.However,each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Husbands pattern how they treat their wives based on how Jesus treats the church, and that gives a frightening standard for men! Just as Jesus sacrificed for the church, husbands sacrifice for their wives. Doesn’t our degree of sacrifice exhibit the value we hold? When husbands don’t sacrifice, wives feel unvalued.
CONSEQUENCES OF UNMET NEEDS
Some things we desire. Fulfilled desires are nice, but not crucial.Tim desires chocolate-fudge raspberry ice cream, but he can live without it. Barely, but he can. Needs,however, are needs. Needs must be met or the organism doesn’t function fully. Sheila needs to feel cherished and valued. If she doesn’t feel that from Tim, both Sheila and the relationship will experience negative consequences.
A lack of marriage intimacy heads the “negative consequences” list. By that, we don’t predominantly mean sexual intimacy. Mara expressed their dilemma well:“You know, our sex life is awesome. It really is. Greg cares about me; he takes his time. I love this part of our marriage, and I need it. But I can’t understand why he doesn’t show that consideration the rest of the time. I only feel close to him when we make love, and I need more.”
Wives experience pain when husbands don’t cherish them.They perceive that their husbands don’t value either them or their marriage.This perception results in withdrawal.The two people begin to lead separate lives, living in the same house, but not in the same world.
Temptation increases as well. Remember that needs are needs. After counseling women for years, Sheila has learned,“A woman’s home and family are her priority, and she doesn’t want to look outside for her needs to be met, but she may well be driven to do so.”
Please don’t misunderstand: nothing excuses unfaithfulness. We can, however, push our mate into a higher level of temptation when we don’t meet the needs we vowed to meet. That’s the reason we’ve written these two books on lies we tell in our marriages: to increase the level of truth so that we can strengthen our most important relationship. And if husbands don’t cherish their wives, the wives become much more vulnerable to someone else who will.That risk is unacceptable, isn’t it?
Behind the Lie
If wives truly need to feel cherished, and if husbands risk serious consequences when they don’t meet that need, then why in the world would men ignore this need?
Men tend to have a hunter mentality. They choose their target, determine the best strategy, and then pursue it until they catch it. At that point, the hunt is over. Mission accomplished. They can go on to other pursuits.
Single men read the books, listen to what women say, and discover by their mistakes what works and what doesn’t with women. Then they do the things they must to make their “target” feel special and cherished, just as Dennis did with Carol in their early days. Once the vows have been said, though, in the eyes of men, the relationship changes.The pursuit has ended in success.
With this success, men develop a different strategy for a different type of relationship. This is marriage, not courtship! So they act as a provider: They feel responsible to meet the physical needs of the family. They become a protector: They earnestly want to defend their family against any difficulties. And they cherish the presence: They enjoy just being with their loved ones. Tim remembers reading the true story of a couple celebrating a milestone anniversary at a beautiful inn.They had a quiet dinner with little conversation. As they climbed the stairs to their cozy Victorian room, the husband thought, This is a great relationship.We don’t even have to talk; just being with each other is enough. At the same time the wife thought, We just don’t have much of a relationship. An entire meal went by with no more than twenty words exchanged between us.
Most men who successfully provide, protect, and enjoy their wife’s presence feel they’re doing a pretty good job of being a husband. They’re faithful to their wives; they’ve done what they should. They don’t need to be cherished, so why should their wives? They’re proud and pleased. They never dream their wives feel lied to.
Living the Truth
When dating, men like Dennis demonstrate tremendous insight when they realize what it takes to win a woman’s heart. They make her feel cherished and special. But once they’re married, men like Dennis demonstrate tremendous stupidity when they think women change in what they need from a relationship.
Men would do well to follow this simple principle of marriage: “We keep ’em as we won ’em.” In other words, husbands need to continue to meet the needs of their wives in the same way they caused them to give their hearts.
Let’s explore five steps that couples can take to live in the truth of meeting the wife’s need to feel cherished.
REALIZE THE NEED
Husbands, very simply, accept this need as a need! Don’t argue about it. Don’t tell your wife that because you don’t have this need, she doesn’t have this need. Men and women are different! Men don’t “cater to women’s weaknesses” when they make the wife feel special. Each person has the right and the ability to determine his or her needs. And the need to feel cherished is an almost universal need among women. (If you don’t know for sure that your wife has this need, ask her!)
Just as important, remember that you vowed to cherish her! Cherishing becomes an integrity issue. Will you keep your word?
Even so, more often than not, most men remain fairly clueless about just how to make their wives feel cherished and special. Men don’t read minds, even though some women assume they can. Wives, your husband doesn’t automatically know your deepest needs.That leads us to the next step.
Several years ago, I (Tim) preached a message on loving our mates and trying to make them feel special. Driving away I felt particularly convicted to act on my sermon. I’ve discovered God has a way of graciously nudging me to practice what I preach! So I asked Sheila what specific acts I could do to make her feel more special. That was my mistake, to ask for specific acts!
An hour later, I summarized them. First, I like to be as efficient as possible. That means that when we get in the car, I buckle my seat belt, insert the key, start the car, and put it in drive almost simultaneously. I have that process down to a science! But Sheila has her purse to work with and is generally more relaxed about such things than I am. Now, I always waited until she was in the seat before I put the car in gear, but just barely. Her first request for a specific act by which I could demonstrate my love for her? The simple act of waiting until she was settled and buckled in.
My mental response? What a small issue! But from her perspective, when I didn’t give her adequate time to get situated, I communicated that I cared more about getting going than about her. So that was a small change for me to make my wife feel special. And I usually do pretty well at it now. Usually.
Her second request demanded more of me. I have a high sense of justice, and I believe that when people do wrong they should be made aware of their actions. So when cars cut in front of me in traffic, I would brake; but I’d still allow myself to get much closer to their tailgate than I had to. I wanted them to know they’d done something unsafe! My actions made Sheila feel unsafe. Her second request for how I could demonstrate cherishing was not to tailgate cars that cut me off.
Inside, I reasoned that she came just as close as I did. But then I realized that when I was driving, I was in control and felt secure, but she wasn’t in control and didn’t feel the same sense of security.With great difficulty, I gave up playing Tim the Traffic Cop so the real cops could do their job.Unfortunately, in the ten years since then, not a single car has been ticketed for cutting me off. Hundreds have deserved it, but cherishing Sheila is more important to me than teaching a lesson to those drivers.
Sheila’s third request was fun! And actually, it was one I already did fairly often. She wanted me to hold hands more with her and to put my arm around her shoulder when we sat next to each other in restaurants. No problem! But this story has a special twist that I’ll mention in a later section.
So, husbands, if you truly do want to make your wife feel cherished and special, ask her how you can do that.And ask her to give some specific acts. Wives, don’t feel like “it won’t mean anything if I have to tell him,” because he really is clueless here. He needs your help—he asks for your help—in meeting your needs. This is your big chance! From now on, he won’t have nearly as many excuses for not doing it.
And wives, don’t overwhelm him with a list of 632 tasks. Pick out three. Then, when several years have passed and you have him well-trained, you can add a few more. But be grateful for each step!
DO SPECIAL ACTS
Husbands, once you’ve asked what specific acts you can do, do them.Try to do at least two or three each week and build a habit. If you feel really courageous, ask her how well and how often you’re succeeding at making her feel cherished. Remember, she’s a unique individual, so her list of acts will be unique as well. Don’t stop with her list, though. Most women will appreciate a number of acts, so try these just to surprise her!
Show her that you hear what she says, even if you don’t agree with her words.You might try to put her thoughts into your own words to ensure you heard her correctly. Doing so can give her the sense that you truly care about her opinions and concerns. Don’t automatically come back with a negative response, which can easily make her think you’re not even considering what she says.
Spend Time with Her
Many husbands come home exhausted from a hard day at work and crash. They collapse in the recliner and turn on the news until dinner. Instead, ask how her day went, how she’s doing.Maybe even help with dinner! (What would she do if you offered to set the table!) And, as best you can, try to have some special time each week for just the two of you. Guys, we don’t mean sex here, although that may be a nice result. But get away from the home and kids. This doesn’t have to be an expensive date. Stroll the mall, take in a movie, get appetizers at a restaurant, or just take a walk together.
You did that in the early days, didn’t you? Like the two of us,you probably stayed up later than you should have just talking and being together. Relive those times.
Watch Your Watching of Other Women
We’ll explore this more in a later section, but few things devalue a wife more than her husband looking at other women in a manner he should reserve for his wife. That look communicates the polar opposite of cherishing.
Do What You Say You’ll Do
This also will be covered later, but when you put off doing what you tell your wife you’ll do, you breach trust, and you discount her. Carrying out your commitments builds a safe haven for her.
We each need space and our own interests, but husbands can easily allow interests outside the marriage to crowd out the relationship.We know a couple where the husband played sports four nights a week in addition to having a demanding job.The wife worked part-time and raised their four kids. Understandably, she didn’t feel cherished and supported.
Build some common interests and activities.The communication theory of “Social Penetration” suggests that the number of topics that a couple talks about determines the breadth of their relationship, and how deeply they penetrate each other’s personality establishes the depth. That requires time together and shared interests.
Melissa married her high school sweetheart, Tony, right after graduation and both began working. The early years of their careers demanded a lot of time, and they spent their evenings finishing off projects and taking college courses.With the great changes we all experience during our late teens and early twenties, they enjoyed exploring the new directions they took as individuals.
But within five years, they each discovered that the other had become a stranger. They’d grown in different directions,and they didn’t share enough time together to even know who the other had become. Their marriage dissolved, not in anger, not in betrayal. They had just drifted too far apart.
Husbands, make sure that your wife knows you care about her development. Do the special acts.
This may sound contradictory, but husbands usually won’t make their wives feel honored just by doing special things for them.
Remember Sheila’s request that I (Tim) hold her hand or put my arm around her shoulder to let her know that I cherish her? Just the week before,we’d gone out to lunch with a group after church, and I had slipped my arm around her shoulder for at least twenty minutes. Long enough that my arm went to sleep and I had to rub it to get the circulation back into it.
Here I’d been doing it all along, and she hadn’t even noticed! Rather than get self-righteous, I suggested that when I did something that made her feel loved, I would preface it by saying,“Because you’re so special to me.” I would help with the dishes and say,“Because you’re so special.” Or I would rub her aching back, again with those words.
Now, I didn’t say them in jest, I didn’t rub her nose in them, and I didn’t say them forever. But using that phrase helped change the landscape of our relationship and gave her a vehicle to interpret my actions.
So, if you encounter the same problem we did, talk about an effective way that you can let your wife know that you do what you do because she’s special to you.
REALIZE MEN ARE MEN
Wives, this one’s for you. In all likelihood, your husband will never fully and completely meet your need to be cherished as you want. He’s a man. So allow us to make two suggestions.
First, give him credit for the things he does from his perspective to cherish you. When he provides for you and the family, he does so because he cherishes you.When he protects you and the family, he does so because he cherishes you. When he’s content just to bask in your presence without saying a word, he does so because he cherishes you. He will greatly appreciate it when you interpret those acts accurately—as an expression in his terms that you occupy a unique place in his life.
Second, show your appreciation for the acts he does that you’ve told him about.Without nagging when he seems to slip a little, remind him of how great you feel when he does those acts, and that you’ve missed them lately. Men respond to recognition. God hard-wired them that way, so investing yourself in some praise will give you an even better return.
Husbands, stick to your word. Cherish your wife in the ways that she desires. She’ll appreciate that! And that’s the truth.