Series: Improving Companionship In Your Marriage #1
Let’s look at Genesis 2. After God had created Adam, he saw a problem:
18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. (Genesis 2:18)
A lot of Christians think of “help meet” as one word—as a title or a job description. But that’s not what it means—it’s two words. “Meet” is an old word that means “suitable” or “fit.” The Hebrew phrase literally means, “a helper like his opposite.”
In other words, Eve was to be a companion to Adam that filled in the gaps in his abilities and character. She was his opposite. They were to fit together like puzzle pieces—and not just in the physical sense, but also in a emotional sense, and in terms of roles and responsibilities.
From this verse, we can see a fundamental purpose of marriage: to provide companionship. There are other purposes of marriage, raising children, for instance. But companionship is a fundamental purpose of marriage that should be true in every marriage.
It’s improving that purpose in our marriage that will be our goal in this series of lessons. It is a very limited series in that sense. We won’t be talking much about children and parenting, for example—only focusing on improving the aspect of companionship in our marriages.
Let me say a word to those of you who are not currently married—why should this interest you? Two reasons: First, you might be married or married again one day.
Second, the principles that we uncover will be useful in any relationship that you have, not just the marriage relationship. Please don’t shut down because you are unmarried—there will be something for you.
In this lesson, we want to talk about meeting our spouse’s needs. I’ve titled it “Dying to Meet Your Spouse’s Needs.” What do I mean by “dying”? Well, I’m not going to tell you yet! I want you to think about what that might mean and entail.
NEEDS AND EXPECTATIONS
Every couple who gets married finds that their new spouse has different ways of doing things than what they expected. It could be as simple as which way the toilet paper roll goes on, or where the dirty socks go (on the floor or in the hamper), or more serious things like when and how to discipline children.
These unexpected violations of expectations are perfectly natural because no two people are ever raised exactly the same.
Perhaps the wife grew up in a family where there was long conversations after supper at the table. The husband grew up in a family where conversation at the table was minimal and, when you finished eating, you left.
Perhaps the husband is used to staying up until midnight, and the wife always went to bed at 9:30 PM.
During the courtship phase, these differences are minimized. The guy doesn’t mind the long conversations after supper because he’s interested in learning as much as he can about her.
Likewise, she doesn’t mind late nights talking on the phone because it’s time she gets to spend with him. (I speak in generalities, these could easily be reversed, but you see my point.)
Now, what happens after they get married? They both expect the other to change to the way that they were used to doing things before. Countless women (and men) have literally said, “Oh, I’ll change him after we’re married.”
The conversations after supper are ended—it’s time to go play in the backyard or work on the project in the garage for a few hours before bed. She goes to bed at 9 PM, expecting him to follow, but he expects her to stay up until midnight.
Why do we have differing expectations in the first place? One reason, that we already mentioned, is different upbringing. Our family cultures are different. You grow up doing things a certain way. Your spouse grows up doing them differently.
But another reason our expectations are different is that our needs as men and women are different. We expect that our needs will be met by our spouse.
Willard Harley, a Christian marriage counselor, wrote a book years ago where he identified the five basic needs of men and women as related to marriage.
Before I list what he observed as basic needs of women and men in years of counseling, what would you say are the basic needs of women and men?
Men, can you list a few needs of women? Women, can you list a few needs of men? Harley lists the needs of men and women in the titles of his chapters:
- The First Thing She Can’t Do Without—Affection
A woman needs to feel emotionally cared for by her husband. Physical intimacy for her is an expression of that emotional bond. The typical husband must conveniently forget this soon after getting married, because Harley sees the need for non-sexual affection as the thing most wives desire.
- The First Thing He Can’t Do Without—Sexual Fulfillment
Harley points out that, just as a typical husband doesn’t “get” his wife’s need for affection, so the typical wife doesn’t understand her husband’s deep need for physical intimacy.
- The Second Thing She Can’t Do Without—Intimate Conversation
Before marrying her, a man might have lots of conversations with his future wife. And then, after marriage, it typically drops way off. For a typical husband, there is no longer any need to talk—but for the wife…she needs this conversation to feel close to him.
- The Second Thing He Can’t Do Without—Recreational Companionship
Just as a man might converse a lot with a woman before marriage, so a woman might go along with a man to a myriad of sporting, hunting, and other types of recreational activities.
Then, after the marriage, she decides that she’s not that big of a Bronco’s fan after all. But it’s important that a couple find recreational activities they both can enjoy so that the husband can feel connected to his wife. He wants to do things with her.
- She Needs to Trust Him Totally—Honesty and Openness
You might say that this should be true both ways, and you’d be right. But a woman especially needs to trust her husband totally in order to build her sense of security. She needs to know about his past, present, and future.
Harley points out that emotional security is a thread that runs through all of a woman’s five basic needs.
- He Needs a Good-Looking Wife—Physical Attractiveness
Harley doesn’t mean that wives should look like supermodels, but neither should she think that her physical appearance shouldn’t matter to her husband.
- She Needs Enough Money to Live Comfortably—Financial Support
- He Needs Peace and Quiet—Domestic Support
These two go hand-in-hand. The husband needs to be the primary financial supporter so that the wife can be the primary home organizer. The wife should feel secure with the finances. The husband should feel secure in knowing the home is cared for.
- She Needs Him to Be a Good Father—Family Commitment
Husbands, when we engage with our kids, it makes our wives appreciate us more. A woman’s children are the most important humans beings in the world to her. Ignore them to your peril!
- He Needs Her to Be Proud of Him—Admiration
Men are often task and goal-driven. If his wife doesn’t care about the projects he has accomplished, well, it’s as frustrating to him as it is to the wife when he doesn’t pay much attention to the children. (Willard F. Harley Jr., His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage [Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2011])
Harley developed this list of needs based on years of counseling couples. They’re observations that are generally true. But to find out for sure what are the needs of your spouse, you’ll need to talk with them. You’ll need to observe what she likes and what causes her to respond and light up. You’ll need to remember what things make him talkative and excited to share what’s on his mind.
There are needs that your spouse has that you’ll find a little bit hard to fulfill. And that’s when, as Christians, we to turn to the Bible for help in how to fulfill our spouse’s needs.
YOU MUST DIE TO SELF AND LIVE FOR CHRIST
Turn to Ephesians 5—
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Ephesians 5:25)
Submission refers to following another’s leadership. It’s not a statement about value. Jesus, for instance, submits to the Father, but he is not any less valuable.
Husbands, on the other hand, are supposed to love their wives with a sacrificial and servant love. Christ is supposed to be the model for our love.
Notice how the needs of men and women are built into those two commands. The husband needs to be a leader and provider—it’s built into him by God—so God commands the wife to let him do that.
The wife needs to feel love and security from her husband—it’s built into her by God—so God commands the husband to sacrificially give her that love and security (emotionally and physically and materially).
So…if both the husband and wife are striving to follow these biblical commands for each other, the argument shouldn’t be about who gets their way—it should be about who gets to give the other their way!
But why don’t we do that? Because, as it it turns out, we are both sinners. We, by nature, want our own way.
And in our American culture, it’s even worse because we’re so focused on individual rights and freedoms. No one is willing to give up what they see are their rights. That makes it even harder for the wife to submit and the husband to serve.
The first step in overcoming the sinful nature in our lives is to trust in Christ as our Savior. To do that, we must come to the realization that we are sinners who want our own way. We must admit that we are rebels against God!
The penalty for our rebellion is death. The Bible tells us, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Our sinful nature wants us to say, “Well, yes, I’m a sinner, I suppose. But I do a lot of good things and I’ve been baptized and I go to church…I’ve earned eternal life!”
Or we think that God has to let us into Heaven. He is a loving God and besides, we have a right to be in Heaven—unless we’re like Hitler or someone like that.
Our sinful nature wants us to be independent in our salvation. But the rest of Romans 6:23 says, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Salvation isn’t something you earn or you can demand as a right. Imagine a child at Christmas saying to his parents, “I have a right to that gift!”
A gift is given. Salvation has to given to us because there is no way that we can earn it. We have to be dependent on God for salvation.
I became a Christian on July 3, 1990. That is the day that I admitted my dependence on God for salvation. I call it my Dependence Day.
Have you declared your dependence on Christ by trusting in him for your salvation?
I’ll be up front and say that becoming a Christian does not remove our sinful nature. It does remove sin’s penalty, however, and gives us the ability to die to ourselves and live in Christ. The apostle Paul declared,
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Paul didn’t mean that he had actually been physically crucified. Dead people don’t write letters! One thing that he meant is that he died to the right to self-control of his life. He turned that control over to Christ who now lives in him.
It’s a process that needs to happen every day. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily.”
Romans 6:11, he encourages believers to—
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:11)
The word, “reckon,” means to count or consider—it’s a mental process that we need to work at everyday.
What does dying to self look like? An anonymous poet gives us a glimpse:
When…you sting and hurt with the insult of oversight but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ—that is dying to self.
…when your wishes are crossed, your advise disregarded, your opinions ridiculed and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient loving silence—that is dying to self…
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown—that is dying to self… (Curtis C. Thomas, Life in the Body of Christ: Privileges and Responsibilities in the Local Church [Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006], 253.)
Do you see where we’re going with this in regards to marriage? How should the Christian wife, the Christian husband, live toward one another in Christ?
A wife can submit to her husband and understand his needs if she daily dies to herself and allows Christ’s life to live in and through her.
A husband can show sacrificial love to his wife and understand her needs if he daily dies to himself and allows Christ’s life to live in and through him.
Is there is a genuine need for your spouse that you are failing to meet? Do you even know what their needs really are?
Then you need to go to God and pray, “Father, forgive me for failing to meet my spouse’s needs…Help me today to die to myself, especially in regards to this need they have. Christ, you live in me, help me to let you live through me in my thoughts, words, and actions towards my spouse.”
It’s not that this will magically and instantly change you. Remember, just as Paul did, you will need to die daily to meet your spouse’s needs.
Levi Durfey—LDM-Marriage-1-Dying To Meet Your Spouse’s Needs-Improving Companionship In Your Marriage #1-20191013FBCAM-SERMON