by Shaunti Feldhahn, best-selling author of For Women Only
Flattery is simply a seductive counterfeit for affirmation. As one marriage counselor told me, “Affirmation is everything. When a man is armed, he can conquer the world. When he’s not, he is sapped of his confidence and even his feeling of manhood. And believe me, he will, consciously or unconsciously, seek out places where he receives affirmation.”
Fortunately for us, home is by far the most important place for a man to be armed. If a man knows that the person who knows him best believes in him, he is empowered to do better in every area of his life. A man tends to think of life as a competition and a battle, and he can go duke it out if he can come home to someone who supports him unconditionally, who will wipe his brow and tell him he can do it. As one of our close friends told me, “It’s all about whether my wife thinks I can do it. A husband can slay dragons, climb mountains, and win great victories if he believes his wife believes that he can.”
…If, instead of arming, a wife reinforces her husband’s feelings of inadequacy, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if she focuses her attention on what he is doing wrong in the relationship, she can unwittingly undermine what she most wants— for him to do it right.
Obviously, if many of our men spend their workdays feeling like they are always being watched and judged, it is no wonder that they want to come home to a totally accepting environment, where they can safely let their guard down. Men need a place where they can make their mistakes in peace and not constantly worry that they are one misstep away from being exposed. If we don’t realize this, then it is so easy in the day-to-day hustle and bustle to notice only our men’s mistakes (“I can’t believe you forgot the dry cleaning again”). If that becomes a pattern, we risk creating a situation that is the opposite of what we want.
Most of us want our men to be able to relax and truly open up to us. But in many ways, it is up to us to create the intimate, safe environment that makes that possible. We may think that the adage “His home must be his haven” is antiquated and unnecessary these days, but that is far from the truth. In fact, as the workplace has gotten harsher and less loyal, more demanding and less tolerant of mistakes, I’d say it’s even more important that a man’s home be a haven. Most of the men I talked with crave a retreat from the daily pressure of always having to perform…I heard from many men, “Men put a lot of pressure on themselves.”
On the survey, one husband pleaded, “I want my wife to know and understand my weaknesses, failings, shortcomings, and still want me. I need her to be my number-one source of encouragement to become the man God created me to be.” We might think we wouldn’t have the ability to change our men’s feelings of workplace inadequacy, but we would be wrong. By staunchly supporting our men, showing that we believe in them, and providing an emotionally safe environment to come home to, we can help give them confidence to dive back into the workplace fray…A wife can give her husband that confidence. It’s not about being the supportive “little woman.” It’s about realizing that, despite their veneer of confidence, our men really do “carry their treasures in fragile containers,” and they crave our affirmation for whether they “done good.” It’s about sending the men we love into the world every day, alive with the belief that they can slay dragons.