Father’s Day is almost upon us, and you’re probably thinking about what you can do to celebrate the man who is helping you raise your children. You might be thinking about a special dinner, or a new golf shirt, or a gift card to the home improvement store.
Those are all nice ideas, but the best gift you can give your husband doesn’t cost a cent, and it will last well beyond Father’s Day.
That gift is respect. I’m completely serious. Much of my work as a therapist involves troubled marriages, and one of the biggest factors I see in some many of those marriages is a husband who doesn’t believe his wife and children respect him.
A lot has changed in our society, and this might sound surprisingly old-fashioned to some, but the fact remains. Men need respect. As as much as we independent women might struggle with the idea, the image of a father as the leader in the home is one that endures … especially in the minds of men. We’re not talking about the abusive, authoritarian type leadership. We’re talking about honorably leading a home with integrity, steadfastness, and purpose.
Sure, your husband may not be bothered if you bring home a bigger paycheck, and he might be willing to handle household chores that would have been unthinkable decades ago, but the images of men leading his home still inform his own expectations of what a father (and a man) should be, and how he should be treated.
Please know, I’m not suggesting a return to the lives couples led two and three generations ago. But what I am saying is that treating husbands and fathers with genuine respect is essential for their happiness and feelings of self-worth. In fact, respect is an essential component in a happy and loving home. Your children will develop their expectations of their future romantic partners based in large part upon what they see in your marriage. If they witness healthy respect, they’ll expect the same when they’re adults.
So how do you offer that respect? So much of it comes down to the way you interact with one another. You may be irritated with him, but measuring your words and tone can keep irritation from causing a rift or blossoming into an all-out battle. And as much as we hate to hear it, sarcastic comments and insults never strengthen a marriage. Genuine listening goes a long way, too. (True, men aren’t always born listeners, but wives can teach them by example.) Being direct in expressing your needs and feelings is also an important element of respect. Even the most perceptive husbands manage to miss most of the hints their wives direct at them. Being unafraid to show affection also means a lot. That means more than intimacy, although a couple’s sex life is often an important barometer for the health of their marriage.
Most of all, give your husband priority over your children. We all love our kids and devote a significant amount of attention to their needs, but we also need to devote energy to our marriages. Focusing attention on spouses isn’t selfish … it’s healthy. Just as important, it gives children a model for the importance of marriage. So be sure to have date nights, romantic weekends away from home, and quiet moments together. The more time you spend together, the more you’ll have conversations that don’t center on the kids’ soccer team or math grades.
A special thing happens when you give the gifts of respect, priority, and time to your husband. You’ll get a wonderful gift in return. It won’t be a pretty necklace, your favorite perfume, or a gift card to a spa. It will be a marriage that grows stronger with each passing day and just as important, a man who wants to spend time with you.
Do you feel like you can’t give your husband these things? Does it seem that you’re stuck in an unhappy marriage, or are you struggling with your husband’s sense of priorities? Is addiction or abuse involved? Have you become so accustomed to destructive styles of communicating (or not communicating at all)? We can help you assess your marriage and suggest steps for getting to where you need to be. Just reach out to us, and we’ll sit down with you to listen.
More about April Bordeau, Care to Change’s Director and Therapist
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