Men and Women’s Real Love Needs
by Harold and Bette Gillogly
This month we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary (June 11)! Yes, we’re getting older. But who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks? We’re still learning. And as long as we are open to what God wants to do in our lives, He will keep on teaching us new ways to love each other — ’til the day we die. What a great way to live!
The “new trick” God is teaching us is actually just a deeper understanding of an old verse — Ephesians 5:33 …each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Such simple instructions, yet they are bursting with life-changing, marriage-changing, emotion-changing realities! They are revolutionary!
Through many years of extensive observation and study, psychologists and therapists are just now discovering the truth of this verse by finally pinpointing the primary love needs of men and women. Women and men it seems need different kinds of love. A woman’s primary love needs are for caring, understanding, devotion, validation and reassurance. While a man’s primary love needs are for trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration and approval.
Let’s take a look at these different love needs in light of Ephesians 5:33. Have you ever noticed that the Apostle Paul uses two different concepts to describe how husbands and wives are to treat each other? To husbands he says …love your wife as you love yourself. And to wives he says …respect your husband. Do you suppose the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to give husbands and wives these two separate commands because He knew all along that men and women do indeed have different love needs? Imagine that!
Let’s look first at God’s command to husbands to …love his wife as he loves himself. The Greek word for love used here is Agapeo — agape love. This is the kind of love God has for you and me. In fact, He loved us so much He sent His Son to die for us. Agape love is unselfish and gives generously requiring nothing in return. Agape love demonstrates itself through sacrificial action, not passive emotion. Loving your wife the agape way means you choose to actively express your love to her in words and deeds even when you don’t feel like it.
To drive this point home even harder, Paul adds …as he loves himself. He describes this amazing behavior earlier in verses 28 and 29 …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…. Sounds impossible to love anybody with this kind of selfless love, doesn’t it? And yet, this is the love God commands and expects from husbands. However, He does not expect you to love like this on your own. As God conforms you into the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29), He gives you the power to love like His Son — to love your wife just like Christ loves the church.
God’s command to wives is …the wife must respect her husband. Some translations use the word “reverence” here. In fact, the Greek word means reverential fear — not the kind of fear that makes us afraid, but rather the kind of fear that makes us stand in awe. Remember when you first fell in love with your husband? Perhaps you would sigh and look at him with eyes that said, “You’re the most wonderful man in the world!” “You could conquer anything or anyone for me.” That’s what reverence means. Reverence and respect are full of trust that your man is doing his best for you. Reverence demonstrates itself through active admiration. When you reverence your husband, you express to him in word and deed that you think he is very valuable and worthy of your esteem.
A lot of stuff may have happened since those first looks of awesome love. You have probably found chinks in his armor. Yet God still commands and expects you to reverence your husband. But just like with husbands, He does not expect you to respect and revere your man on your own. God is at work within you, conforming you into Christ’s likeness, giving you the power to reverence your husband.
How does all this fit into the primary love needs of men and women? Let’s look at them again, one by one.
- Women need caring — men need trust. When a husband shows concern for his wife’s well-being, he demonstrates to her that he cares about her. And when a woman feels cared for, she feels special and valuable. In turn, she becomes more receptive and responsive to her husband. This tends to make a man feel trusted. And when a man feels his wife trusts his intentions and abilities, he usually becomes more caring as a result.
Husbands, when you show your wife you care about her feelings, you are loving her with agape love, for agape is a love that values and serves the one loved. When she makes a mistake and you choose to show her tenderness instead of lecturing her, you are loving her with agape love. Wives, when you show your husband you trust his intentions and abilities, you are actively displaying reverence for him, for reverence is full of trust. When he feels like he has failed and you tell him, as well as show him, you believe in him, you are revering your husband. Remember this is the kind of love God commands and expects of you both.
Cathy was rushing to get to work on time and didn’t see the blue car headed straight toward her as she turned across traffic. The police made their accident report, the car was undrivable, and Cathy was an emotional wreck. She called Ken, tearfully describing her accident. His first words were, “Are you all right? The car can be fixed. You are what is important.” His words made Cathy feel much better. If the situation had been reversed, she may have been tempted to lecture him about safe driving.
A little later, Ken showed up at Cathy’s office to let her know he had the car towed to the garage. He then gave her a big hug and told her he loved her. With tears of relief, Cathy hugged Ken hard, “I knew you’d make everything OK again.”
Ken gets an A+ for showing Cathy how much he cared for her. He demonstrated his concern for her by his loving behavior. Cathy responded to his love by trusting him even more than she had before. This made Ken want to show even more care for her. What a wonderful cycle!
- Women need understanding — men need acceptance. When a husband really listens to his wife express her feelings, without judging or trying to “fix” her, he demonstrates that he is trying to understand her. And when a woman feels she is being heard, she is usually more receptive and accepting of her husband. When a woman lovingly receives her husband without trying to improve him, he feels accepted. Usually, as a direct result, he then finds it easier to listen to and understand his wife.
Husbands, when you put the newspaper down, mute the TV, look your wife in the eyes, and really listen to her, you are loving her with agape love, for agape love is unselfish. When you show her an understanding attitude as she tries to explain why she feels or behaves in certain ways, you are loving her with agape love. Wives, when you accept your husband for what he is and what he is doing, you are showing him reverence, for reverence fully accepts the one revered. When you do not reject his efforts by giving him suggestions for improvement, like when he folds the laundry or sets the table his way, you are giving him reverence. Keep in mind, this is the kind of love God commands and expects of you both.
- Women need devotion — men need admiration. When a husband makes his wife’s feelings and needs more important than other interests in his life, she feels adored and valuable. And when a woman feels adored and important to her husband, she usually responds to him with admiration. She admires his unique characteristics which make him who he is. When a man experiences his wife’s approval and admiration, he feels more secure and is able to more fully devote himself to her and freely show her how much he adores her.
Husbands, when you show your wife her feelings and needs are important to you, you are loving her with agape love, for agape does what is best for the beloved. When you give up a ball game or hurry home from work to be with her, you are loving her with agape love. Wives, when you delight in something your husband does like helping with the housework, you are showing him reverence, for reverence reveals itself in admiration. When you point out the virtues you admire in him, you are revering and respecting him. We remind you, this is the kind of love God commands and expects of you both.
- Women need validation — men need approval. When a husband listens to his wife’s feelings with an attitude of acceptance, he validates her feelings, and she feels loved. By validating her feelings, her husband confirms her right to her point of view, even when it differs from his own. And when a woman feels validated, she tends to respond to her husband with approval, expressing her satisfaction with him. When a man feels his wife’s approval, he is far more likely to offer validation for her feelings.
Husbands, when you let your wife know that you respect her point of view, you are loving her with agape love, for agape love does not have to win. When you validate her feelings by not arguing with or objecting to them, you are loving her with agape love. Wives, when you affirm your husband for the way he handled a situation, you are giving him reverence, for reverence builds up the one revered. When you express your satisfaction and approval of him, you are revering him. Again we remind you, this is exactly the kind of love God commands and expects of you both.
- Women need reassurance — men need appreciation. When a husband shows his wife she is continually loved, she is reassured of his affection and feels secure. And when a woman feels secure in her husband’s love, she finds it easier to express her appreciation for what he does. When a man feels valued and appreciated by his wife, he realizes his efforts aren’t wasted and feels encouraged to do more for her. This, in turn, makes her feel more reassured of his love.
Husbands, when you continually reassure your wife of your love by what you say and how you behave toward her, you are loving her with agape love, for agape is a choice to behave lovingly. When you repeatedly do the little things you know she likes, such as squeezing the toothpaste tube her way, making the bed or cleaning the toilet, you are loving her with agape love. Wives, when you let your husband know you appreciate how hard he works for you and the children, you are giving him reverence, for reverence holds the revered one in esteem. When you tell him how much you value the way he plays and prays with the children even when he’s tired, you are revering him. As you well know, this is the kind of love God commands and expects of you both.
Yes, men and women have different love needs, but they seem to fall into just two categories: agape love and reverential respect. All the details we’ve given you simply expand our under-standing of these basic needs. Isn’t it amazing how, almost two thousand years ago, the Spirit of God boiled it all down to two simple commands? A husband …must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. He was sure saying a mouthful!
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