We don’t have to take a poll of women to find out what wives need from their husbands. The Bible is clear about what wives need.
Wives need to be loved.
But, you may ask, what should two married people do if they don’t feel in love anymore?
The answer is they should ignore their feelings.
Not long after my husband and I married we discovered how unprepared we were for all the trials, inconveniences and hot button issues marriage brought our way. Along with the emotional baggage we’d drug into our marriage, a move overseas pushed us over the edge into marital turmoil. Both of us questioned whether we loved each other anymore. In fact, we were both hard-pressed to remember why we’d even liked each other in the first place.
I was ready to throw in the towel.
But my husband refused to break the vow he’d made to me in front of God and a church filled with family and friends. With white-knuckled determination, he dug his heels in and said: “I’m not leaving.”
All we had left was the thread of a marriage vow my husband insisted we hang onto.
And as we hung onto that vow for dear life, God moved in our hearts and worked a miracle in our marriage.
Nearly five decades later our marriage is filled with more love, faithfulness, friendship, appreciation and respect than my young married self had known how to dream of.
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What wives need from their husbands is more than feeling
Love based on feelings is easy when the warm fuzzies are there.
But what do you do when the feelings weaken or disappear?
That’s when you need a higher form of love. A real love that’s not always easy. In fact, sometimes real love is hard.
In the ancient Greek language (the language of the New Testament) there was more than one definition for love. There was:
- Eros – This is love motivated by desire. It’s where we get the word erotic. It’s all about romance and intimacy.
- Phileo is the kind of love experienced in a friendship. It’s referred to as brotherly love (which is where the city of Philadelphia got its name). It’s all about fondness and affection.
- Storge is love between family members, like a parent and a child.
- Agape is love in action, based on a decision to love someone rather than on feelings.
Eros, phileo, and storge are motivated by feelings that are natural, impulsive and good.
But not one of those feelings (romance, friendship or family affection) is completely reliable.
Everyone wants a spouse who’s also a best friend. But friendship isn’t the most reliable kind of love in a marriage. Not only can it ebb and flow like any friendship is liable to do, but it’s not what wives need most from their husbands.
Family affection is important in a marriage as well. But the love of family is seldom enough glue to hold a marriage together. And it’s not what wives need from their husbands most of all.
Although friendship, intimacy and family ties are important, the Bible doesn’t even mention them in reference to marriage (in fact the only one of the three included in the New Testament is phileo).
What wives need from their husbands is AGAPE love
Not just any kind of love – but, agape love!
What wives need from their husbands is agape (unconditional) love. In other words, husbands are called to rise to a love that’s even higher than eros, phileo or storge.
Agape love isn’t driven by feelings. Instead, it’s motivated by a decision. So agape love exists even when feelings aren’t there.
That’s why when the Bible refers to what wives need from their husbands, there’s a command involved:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy… (Ephesians 5:25 CSB)
Agape love is the kind of love Christ has for His Church.
Jesus loved the Church and gave Himself for her:
- Even though she was undeserving
- Without any guarantee of being loved back
- In spite of being rejected
Jesus loved the Church “not because there was loveliness in the church, but in order to make her lovely” (Charles Spurgeon).
God’s agape love for us is astonishing. It’s incredible and anything but normal.
In the same way, a man’s love for his wife should be special – extravagant, even – and should be a deeper love than the love he has for anyone or anything else.
Agape love is selfless. It’s focused not on what we want, but on what benefits the other person. And it expects nothing in return. It’s a deliberate decision to love someone even when they’re unlovable. Or even when you risk rejection.
Agape love is the kind of love we have for ourselves
The Bible says when a man and woman are married, they become one flesh. So a man who unconditionally (agape) loves his wife is, in a sense, loving himself.
In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:28-32 CSB)
He doesn’t have to feel close to her to be one with her. He just has to know that the Bible says it’s true. And because she’s part of him, when he loves her he loves and benefits himself too. He thinks of her first always.
Agape love originates in Christ
Agape love is the immeasurable, incomparable love Christ has for His Church. Praise the Lord His love is not based on feelings!
When the Bible commands a husband to love his wife, it’s not talking about something that’s impossible to do. Difficult, perhaps. But for every believer in Christ, agape love is possible because it’s a love God gives us. The Bible says God IS love (1 John 4:8 CSB).
This is the love that “has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” when we become His children (Romans 5:5 CSB)
What wives need from their husbands is love in action
To see agape love in action, we can look at 1 Corinthians 13 which tells us love is:
- Never jealous or envious
- Never boastful or proud
- Never haughty
- Never selfish
- Never rude
- Doesn’t demand its own way
- Isn’t irritable or touchy
- Doesn’t hold grudges or keep a record of wrongs
- Is never glad about injustice
- Rejoices when truth wins
- Is loyal no matter what the cost
- Believes in the other person
- Expects the best from the other person
- Endures everything
In a practical sense, when a husband loves his wife with agape love, he:
- Doesn’t ask what his wife can do for him. Instead, he asks what he can do for her.
- Values his wife’s opinion. In fact, he asks her for it.
- Is polite. He uses good manners at home. Always.
- Puts his phone or TV remote down and listens to her. He looks at her and asks her about herself. What’s her greatest challenge this week? What is she dreaming about?
- Prioritizes her. He chooses her over his job and other relationships.
When my husband and I began to want to see our marriage restored, those are the kinds of steps he took to put his love for me into action. Long before he felt like doing any of those things, he chose to do them. He made a decision to love me unconditionally and he followed through.
When love is a decision, feelings follow
Agape love is a decision to love someone whether warm fuzzies are there or not. But a funny thing happens once a husband chooses to love his wife unconditionally.
Friendship (phileo) deepens, intimacy (eros) is valued, and family affections (storge) are strengthened.
When a woman is loved extravagantly, it’s easy for her to give her husband the honor and respect he desperately wants.
That’s why the Bible commands a husband to love his wife. If he’ll do the hard work of loving her, she’ll respond by honoring and respecting him.
To be clear, in Christ agape love is the kind of love we can have for every person in our lives. But what better place is there to begin practicing that kind of love than in the home?