Tuesday, August 09, 2011

On being an encouraging wife

Frankly, I don't feel very good at being an encouraging wife. It's not for lack of trying. It's just that sometimes I see that my words don't actually achieve what I set them out to do. Instead, they come across as something else, which is discouraging for both my husband and I.

I think I make the mistake of trying to encourage my husband in the way I want to be encouraged, which for me, means verbal affirmation, appreciation, or little loving notes (all things involving words). But I know that Kevin is often not as moved by words as he is by, for instance, actions on my part. In a way, encouraging someone begins to involve an understanding of that person's love languages. And being loving doesn't always mean loving a person in the same way in which you want to be loved.

Since I didn't have much confidence in my encouragement expertise, I asked Kevin to share with me what makes him feel encouraged. And wow! He took my question very seriously and gave a very thoughtful answer. I think I'll butcher it if I paraphrase, so I'm going to excerpt it instead (he wrote it all down). Because these thoughts are pretty awesome. He wrote:

I think of encouragement in terms of validation. Validation encourages me. I need validation for 1) who I am, and 2) who God made me to be (which I may not be yet.) The latter type isn't always encouraging at first. Sometimes it's irritating, thought-provoking, enlightening, or simply a seed planted for later. The point is that encouragement can be instant or long-standing. One example of "who I am" instant encouragement is when you recognize and validate my need for alone time, and suggest I take time to myself. That is encouraging because it says, "I get you," and "I want to give you what you need." An example of long-standing encouragement is when you've said things like, "Thank you for working so hard so I can stay home with the kids." That encourages me to continue working hard, and it validates me in the way my hard work brings fruit to our family.

But the biggest thing you can do to encourage me - or anyone - is not what you say, but who you are. When you live your life for Christ, I am encouraged. Your faithful way of living might be irritating, thought-provoking, enlightening, or simply a seed planted for later. But I am encouraged in some way - period. 

Ideally, you can validate me for who I am in Christ, while encouraging me with your own walk in Christ. And ideally, we would be doing that for each other, in a Christ-centered marriage. Because that is where true encouragement comes from. It doesn't come from us and what we have to say to each other. It comes from Him and what the Spirit wants to use us for in each other's lives.

And that, my friends, is a far better explanation of true encouragement than I would have come up with!

I think the bottom line - my own take home message - is to tune in to the Holy Spirit's leading and help in being an encouragement. God knows what my husband needs in any given moment, even more than my husband himself does. In fact, when he is most needy, he is least able to express his needs to me. That is all the more reason for me to listen to the Lord. Sometimes I will need to encourage Kevin with words, sometimes with silence. Sometimes with a hug, or a night off, or an apology. And I won't have much at all to give unless I'm sticking close to Jesus. Isn't that the way it always is?

If the time is right, drum up the courage to ask your spouse what makes him or her feel encouraged. It may take some humility, but you may be surprised by the answer.


{Thanks, Jami, for this great new linky!!}

{Tomorrow, I'll be talking about how marriage and social media are not so much a match made in heaven.}


  1. oh, this was good as I'm approaching my 10th anniversary!! thank you.

  2. Very interesting take on encouragement. I never really thought of it like that. Thank you Mr. Leslie! I'm feeling very encouraged to ask my husband what works for him now.

  3. Wow! I loved this post. The part about validating who god made him to be even if he's not there yet really hit home.

  4. well, this is a brilliant encouragment to ME. thank you!
    and certainly coming back tomorrow:)

  5. Loved getting to hear your hub's perspective..these "raw" & "honest" convo's help to strengthen our marriage's. thank you...:)

  6. wow. i think his little excerpt must have been incredibly encouraging to YOU! definitely going to try this with my hubby. i think you're right- i'll be surprised (and probably encouraged myself)... loved this post friend :)

  7. I just asked my hubby and his answer was a little more R~rated! lol! I will take your hubby’s answer and roll with that one. I think I need to work on getting him and giving him what he needs too! Great post... Thanks.

  8. Beautiful words!!! Kisses and God bless you all.

  9. Great idea Les! We should all ask our hubby's this question! So I will! Thank you for encouraging us to lift up our husbands, the fact that you are asking the question and thinking about this is a gift to him I'm sure!
    Love you!

  10. It was nice to run into you at the park today! Thank you again for your willingness to share what you are learning with us! I am encouraged to encourage....its amazing how a little goes a long way.

  11. I'm so encouraged by reading this. I love how the first step to doing anything better is always to draw close to the Lord! This is so beautifully written! And I'm SUPER impressed by your hubby writing all that out for you. Very cool of him!