Keeping Your Spouse Happy

The last lesson in this series provides practical biblical advice to both husbands and wives on how to make each other happy.
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I think Peter the Apostle was a happy husband and he must have had a happy wife because he writes so knowingly about the formula for a happy marriage. I believe he was inspired by the Holy Spirit in his writing, but I suspect much of what he wrote about concerning relationships was true in his own marriage.

In I Peter 3, he writes about the things that couples need to do in order to keep each other happy.

Happy Husbands

He begins by speaking to wives about keeping their husbands happy and mentions 3 basic things:

1. Assume a role that is pleasing to him

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,
- I Peter 3:1

Submissive wives make for happy husbands. Submission is a military term meaning 'to place oneself under.' This is not popular in today's culture.

Everyone in life has to submit to a higher authority, that is a fact of life without which there is no peace. Within the context of marriage, God has given the leadership role to the man (whether Christian or not) and one of the wife's goals in marriage is to help the man assume and exercise this role properly.

A problem occurs when a "strong" woman takes over from a "weak" man rather than helping him lead. This role does not mean that one is superior to the other, only that each has different functions. One of the most frequent complaints of non-believing husbands is a Christian wife who uses her faith to hijack his authority where there is no moral or spiritual conflict. A wife who is truly submissive is a joy to her husband and an incentive for him to assume his own role as a man.

2. Develop attitudes that make him happy

as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
- I Peter 3:2

A chaste attitude makes him happy.

This means sexually pure in word, dress and action. Chastity is an attitude that you have in everything you say and do.

We are free to express our sexuality with our spouses in any way we choose, but as free as we are with our partners, we are exclusive and private with others. Provocative dressing, careless affection, intimate gestures and exchanges with others do not build a husband's trust.

Let's face it, men are easily provoked to jealousy (it is not a quality) but a wise woman (a chaste one) will recognize this and build an attitude of trust in her husband. A man is happy with a wife who is recognized as chaste by other men.

A respectful wife makes him happy.

Peter describes a woman who is restrained in words and actions. One who is dignified. It is an attitude in a wife that is marked by discretion, prudence, and wisdom in her opinions, decisions and the way she acts.

A man is happy to have a wife that doesn't make a fool of herself or of him with her words, emotions or actions. A lot of women try to change their husbands when they should really be working on developing chaste and respectful behavior themselves.

You never change a man by gossiping about his weaknesses to your friends or putting him down in front of his friends - that is undignified.

3. Cultivate an appearance that makes him happy

Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
- I Peter 3:3-6

In the beginning men are attracted by what they see on the outside, but to build a happy marriage he must continue to be drawn to what he sees on the inside. This passage doesn't mean that it is wrong to look good on the outside, Peter is simply saying that it isn't the outside that makes you beautiful, it is the inside.

This internal beauty God sees inside of women consists of:

1. A gentle and quiet spirit. This means not to be proud or stubborn. God works on this proud and stubborn spirit by asking women to submit to their husbands. Nothing creates a humble spirit more effectively than having to submit to an imperfect man. God doesn't want women to submit to their husbands because their husbands are somehow better than they are; He asks this as a demonstration of love to him and to maintain order in the family. A gentle and quiet spirit is beautiful, right before God and makes a husband happy.

2. Doing what is right. Being a righteous person in family relations, in business, in church - to seek and do the right thing, this is also beautiful to behold. For example, I can always count on my wife to want to do the right thing - this is her most beautiful quality.

3. No Fear. Not afraid because, like Sarah, a woman's faith is in God not herself or her husband, or her abilities. Not afraid because she is ready to meet evil, failure, disappointment, even death with the assurance that Christ will be with her at all times.

The appearance that makes him happy begins with a pleasing exterior but will only last if the interior is cultivated as well.

Summary I

Peter gives wives three very specific ways to make their husbands happy:

  1. Be submissive to him. Care about it. Learn what submission means, discuss it with him. I challenge wives to ask their husbands how they could be more submissive to them.
  2. Cultivate attitude of chastity and respect. Ask him if he thinks you are or how you can change to be more so.
  3. Concentrate on the inner woman rather than the outer one. Invest more time in spiritual exercises, study, doing good works - these will beautify you in God's eyes and his eyes too.

Happy Wives

Peter was a happy husband because he knew how to make his wife happy. He goes on in I Peter 3:7 to give some basic ideas on how to make your wife happy: only one verse for the guys because they have a short attention span!

1. Live with your wife

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives
- I Peter 3:7a

Some husbands think that living with their wives means sharing the same bed and house with them legally. The word "with" here means closely aligned to, settled with. The mistake that many men make is that they become passive in their marriage:

  • My job is the office, the church, the shop
  • Your job is the home, the kids

We were raised to think this way, but this is not God's way to "live with" our wives. I Timothy 3:4-5 says that elders (who are husbands) must manage their households well. It doesn't say they have to manage their businesses well to qualify. What does it mean - to manage the home well for a man?

  • It means that they know what is happening in the home and insure that needs (emotional, spiritual, physical) are being met. Isaac and Jacob in the Old Testament both had problems because they did not manage the situations in their homes well.
  • They cultivate relationships with the persons in their homes.
  • They plan for the growth of all the individuals in the family (wife, kids, etc.).
  • They are involved in what happens at home - they don't just come home to be served, then go out to tend to their hobbies or interests.

Home is not just a pit stop, it's the destination.

The management and development of the home is the husband's top priority because this is what he is judged on - not on how well he manages the business. A wife is happiest and feels wonderful when her husband lives with her in the home - managing their growth to God's glory.

The second idea Peter develops in connection with happy wives is:

2. Know your wife

…in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman
- I Peter 3:7b

Peter says that the husband should treat her in an understanding way. The original version says, "live with her according to knowledge." Women are usually more complex and sensitive than men - we like this about them, it contributes to their tenderness and mystery - however, it requires effort to understand.

Very Important: The success you have in making your wife happy is in direct proportion to your knowledge of her.

The best compliment your wife can give you is not how big and strong you are… it is that you know her so well. It is important for your wife to know that you are truly interested in knowing her, and not just interested in getting something from her. You can usually tell when a woman is unhappy - she is the one sharing her cares and concerns with everyone else except her husband. The things you do to make her happy are really the things you have to do in order to know her:

  • A willingness to share and listen to her dreams, problems, etc.
  • An ability to be transparent and open with her.
  • A readiness to forgive.
  • Sensitivity and the ability to anticipate her needs.

These are the activities that help you to really know her and consequently they are the same activities that truly make her happy. Working on these types of things will increase your appreciation of her and her desire for you.

3. Honor your wife

…and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
- I Peter 3:7c

The Greek word translated "honor" was "precious." You grant or assign her a precious role in your life, and you demonstrate this with your actions. Peter also provides the reasons to do this:

She is as precious as you are in Christ. She has a different nature, a different role but is equal in innate value. Not to do so would make you a hypocrite before God and thus your prayers would be hindered.

We should wonder how many of our prayers are not heard because of the way we treat our wives. This passage speaks to believers and assumes that they do pray to God and so dishonoring their wives would spoil their prayer life.

We dishonor our wives when we have too low or too high an opinion of them. Some treat their wives without respect or consideration. Others put her on a pedestal or are improperly submitted to their wife's leadership. We need to understand how to properly honor our wives:

  • Recognize and respect her weaker physical frame by not using your strength to intimidate her but rather to serve and protect her.
  • Tell her how much you appreciate what she does. Compliment and encourage her in her work, appearance as well as her ideas. Just paying the rent doesn't communicate your respect.
  • Treat her with respect in front of others. Don't reveal her faults, don't ridicule, don't bring her down and don't make her feel uncomfortable in public as a way of teasing her.
  • Only say and do those things that build her up in front of others. Nothing is more unpleasant than a man who lifts himself up in public at the expense of his wife.
  • Show her that you consider her precious by doing some of the "dirty work" without being asked (you watch the kids while she visits with friends after worship services).
  • Here's a humorous look at what some husband's idea of cooking is:

Men's Idea of Cooking

Here's a definition of Outdoor Barbecuing. It's the only type of cooking a "real" man will do. When a man volunteers to do such cooking, the following chain of events is put into motion.

  1. The woman goes to the store.
  2. The woman "fixes" the salad, vegetables, and dessert.
  3. The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils, as he calls through a closed door… "are the steaks ready yet??" she takes it to the man, who is lounging beside the grill.
  4. The man places the meat on the grill.
  5. The woman goes inside to set the table and check the vegetables.
  6. The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is burning.
  7. The man takes the meat off the grill and hands it to the woman.
  8. The woman prepares the plates and brings them to the table.
  9. After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.
  10. The man asks the woman how she enjoyed "her night off." And upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes that there is just no pleasing some women. Demonstrate to her that she is precious by offering her small gifts, surprise outings, notes, cards and lovers' week-ends that you have arranged for the two of you. A woman who is confident that her husband honors her above others and is continually reminded of this by his loving attitude will more easily and happily submit to him in Christ. Marriages may be made in heaven, but man is responsible for the maintenance work.
    - W. Painter

Summary II

The secret to maintaining a happy marriage is found in the notion that when you make your wife feel wonderful to be your wife, you empower her to make your life a happy experience as a husband. God has put into your hands the responsibility of making her feel wonderful if you will:

  1. Be involved with your home - don't just visit.
  2. Make the effort to know your wife better than anyone else does. If anyone knows her better than you do, there is a problem and you risk losing her. You're the expert.
  3. In everything you say and do, let her see that you consider her the most precious person in your life - truly a gift from God.

If you begin doing these things, you will make her feel wonderful and she will make you a happy husband, and your marriage will be greater and greater as time goes on.

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