For Men: Affirmation
“I don’t understand why Josh is so withdrawn,” Lila told Gary during a counseling session. During the entire session, she had nothing good to say about her husband. Josh slumped in his chair, staring down at his hands in his lap. In his wife’s view he was unable to do anything right. Lila complained, “I honestly don’t get what his problem is.”
“How’s your sex life?” Gary asked her.
“What sex life? He just doesn’t turn me on. He’s not that good in the sex department. I thought all men were supposed to know what they’re doing.” She laughed bitterly. “Joshua sure doesn’t,” she said, crossing her arms and glaring at him.
“I’m beginning to see the picture,” Gary said.
A smirk crossed Lila’s face, as if she expected Gary to agree with her assessment of her husband’s incompetence.
“Lila, when was the last time you said something nice to Josh?” Gary asked.
“What?” She looked a bit shocked.
“When was the last time you affirmed him?”
“What difference does that make?”
“It makes a lot of difference, Lila,” Gary told her. “As a wife you wield a tremendous amount of power over Josh and your marriage. How you choose to handle that power will determine the strength and enjoyment of your relationship.”
Every time Lila makes a derogatory comment about Josh’s sexuality, it is as if she takes an ice pick to the soul. Once a proud, efficient, loving, fun man, Josh has been worn down by his wife’s continual harping. Her behavior has caused him to doubt his self-worth, to withdraw, to become bitter toward her, and to stop meeting her needs altogether. His doubts about his worth and his sexual ability could begin to affect his work, his other relationships, his spiritual life, his faith.
Granted, Lila and Josh’s situation seems a bit extreme, but we have had countless conversations in which husbands and wives had nothing good to say about each other. We can only assume that if they were not verbally affirming in public, they were also not affirming inside the bedroom.
Most wives may not realize how much power their words and attitudes carry: words can tear down their husbands or build them up. If a wife wants her husband to be all God created him to be, she needs to affirm him in every way possible.
Affirmation is so important to a husband that 55% of the men who responded to our survey rated it as a top sex need. What Lila and many wives responding like her do not understand is that a man’s self-esteem is often fragile – especially in the area of sex. He needs his wife – more than anyone else – to affirm his masculinity. If his wife doesn’t do it, who will? Anyone can affirm his job skills or intellect or sports ability. But only a wife can get to the most sensitive, deep, vulnerable, intimate part of a man. Only his wife can affirm him sexually.
If a man finds that no one at his workplace appreciates his skill, he may look for another job in which people value what he has to offer. If no one at church appreciates his spiritual gifts, he may look for another place where they will value his contribution. Similarly, if his wife doesn’t encourage, appreciate, and affirm her husband – especially his sexuality – he may look for someone else who will. A wife alone has the ability to make or break her husband in the vulnerable area of sexual ability. A wife is the one person who gets close enough to her husband to build or destroy him.
The woman in the Old Testament book of Song of Songs understood the importance of affirmation. Throughout the dialogue, she boasts of her beloved’s ability as a lover. Look at this passage as an example: “How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming!… 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.” Maybe you don’t feel comfortable using those words, but no husband will resist a woman who tells him, “You are an incredible lover. You turn me on. You satisfy me. I bet no other woman has a husband who satisfies her the way you satisfy me.”
Without hearing those kinds of affirming words, a husband can become insecure. Or worse, hearing negative words can cripple him.
When women asked us, “But what if my husband is not that good in bed?” If a wife has difficulty experiencing orgasm, if she does not feel the tingling sensations that come with foreplay, if she’s bored by sex, then she needs to communicate with her husband – but in an affirming, encouraging way. Blurting out “Just forget it. This isn’t working,” in the middle of sex is not the way to do it. Instead, say something like, “I love you, and I’m so attracted to you. I want to experience the best sex I can with you. I’m just not there yet. Will you help me?”
That does several things. First, it says, I want you. Second, it respects a husband’s self-esteem. Third, it gives him a problem to fix. Remember, men love to fix things. And if a wife calls on her husband to help her “fix” her sexual response, he very likely will take on the role with seriousness.
How to Meet your Husband’s Need for Affirmation
Wives, here are some ideas to get you started on meeting your husband’s need for affirmation.
- Affirm him for who he is. Affirmation starts outside the bedroom. It’s a lifestyle, not a technique. Let your husband know that you value him. When you admire him, say it out loud. When he makes a decision that took courage, recognize it and commend him. Notice when he shows perseverance in his work, and say something about it. Help your husband know all the good things you see in him.
- Affirm him for being a good lover. Tell your husband what you like about the way he loves you. Tell him what you like about his body. If you aren’t sure how to do this, ask your husband for advice: “I want to affirm you as a lover, but I want to do it right. How can I best tell or show you what a great lover I think you are?” We can guarantee that not one man will rebuff such a question!
- Practice the golden rule. This is one place where the golden rule works well. Treat your husband the way you would want him to treat you. Talk to (and about) him the way you would want him to talk to you (and about) you. It’s that simple. Become lavish with your praise and admiration.
- Understand that for men, body image does matter. A man’s body image is important to him. As men age, their bodies change. Their muscle tone diminishes, they begin to lose their hair, and they have a harder time staying in shape. A husband loves to hear that his wife is impressed and turned on by looking at his body. Since a wife is typically not stimulated visually, she probably is not that aroused by viewing her husband’s body. But a husband needs to know that his wife likes what she sees, that he’s “got what it takes” to be her one and only. This may be a stretch for some women, but when a wife makes an affirming comment about her husband’s body, his confidence soars.