This is part 4 in the series Pursuing Your Wife.
Let me start out by saying that I have never been much for “how to” or “10 tips” manuals when it comes to issues surrounding marriage. On this lifelong journey, while it can be helpful to read about what others have learned along the way with their husband or wife, by and large the best you should expect to glean is just that—”what they have learned… with their husband or wife.” So I’ll be the first to admit that what you are about to read is purely contextual and probably most applicable to my wife—a woman who is extraordinarily godly, smart, funny, and gorgeous, but to whom you are not married (and are not invited to be anytime soon :).
That being said, however, Proverbs assures us there is victory in an “abundance of counselors” (Pr. 24:6), so I hope to provide some wise words of counsel for my brothers on a topic I believe to be of great (and increasing) importance. And this should begin with a warning.
In Proverbs 7, Solomon relays a cautionary tale about a young man he observes through his window going into the house of the adulterous woman (Pr. 7:1-27). But before he actually goes through the door, it’s interesting to observe how the woman presents herself:
“She is loud and wayward, her feet do not stay at home. Now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait” (7:11-12).
Brothers, I cannot imagine a more apt way to describe the dangers that currently face our marriages. The harlots have all been positioned strategically by their traffickers (and the invisible traffickers behind them) for your indulgence and ultimate demise. Today, Solomon’s warning might read something like this, “She is brightly colored and in high definition, her images are plastered all around. Now on the computer screen, now on the Super Bowl ad, and on every billboard she beckons.” The assault is massive. How will we make it out of this alive?
In an earlier chapter, Solomon gives us at least one key to survival:
“Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth” (5:15-18).
In short, Solomon is saying that if you want to avoid the bitterness and death associated with destroying your marriage, direct your romantic and sexual energies where they belong—toward your wife. A good friend of mine summarizes this concept, as he often does, with an analogy from sports—the best defense is a good offense.
One of the best ways to avoid falling into the snares of sexual sin is be proactive in the pursuit of the woman God has given to be your sexual protector and the only godly outlet for your sexual desires.
This warning is serious. The pursuit of your wife is literally a life and death matter.
Now that I hope I have your attention, let’s talk about some ways this might practically be fleshed out. Again, keep in mind these are things that I have found as a pastor, student, and father of 6, to be helpful in the pursuit of my wife. You married a different woman than I did; one who is most likely not wired the same way. But perhaps these principles can nonetheless serve as a kind of baseline for you strategize how best to romantically pursue the wife of your youth.
The first principle I want to emphasize is consistency. The old anecdote about the foolish husband who tells his wife, “I said ‘I love you’ on our wedding day and I’ll let you know if I ever change my mind” resonates for a reason. We inherently know that romance cannot be a “once in a while” enterprise. It involves continual effort. This doesn’t mean you need to become a Christian “Casanova,” trying to recreate scenes from The Bachelor or the latest RomCom. Pursuing your wife isn’t about weekly nights on the town and/or dinners at the fanciest restaurants (though these might be good occasional ideas). But what it is about is giving consistent and clear signals to your wife that she is special to you and that you really desire to spend time with her.
Text, email, or call your wife throughout the day just to see how she is doing and let her know you’re thinking about her.
Be intentional to show her and your children that she is the first person you want to see when you walk through the door at the end of the day.
Plan and execute regular time alone. This can be as simple as telling her to relax while you put the kids to bed (and make sure they stay there) and then prepare a snack and movie.
Plan a regular (perhaps quarterly) getaway for the two of you. Sometimes just getting outside the zip code is a needed opportunity for the two of you to engage in real rest and conversation.
Also, keep in mind that romancing your wife doesn’t necessarily always mean time alone together. Sometimes, the best way to show how much you love her is to give her a night or even a couple days to herself, without kids OR you.
Whatever you do, be consistent. If the pursuit is not a constant effort, taking her out to dinner every now and then will be nothing more than a generic formality, and she will know it.
The second principle I want to emphasize is consideration. Think about the great pains you take to study your boss’s desires so that you can work in a way that pleases him. Or think about the passion with which you study your favorite car, TV show, or hobby. Now compare that to how much time you spend studying your wife and knowing what really causes her to flourish. Pursuing your wife is about more than simply taking her on a date or buying her flowers from time-to-time, it is about spiritually dying to yourself in order to serve her. That means considering who she is and what things will truly bless her.
You can spend hours and endless amounts of money on your wife, but if you are not doing so in a considerate way, she will not feel pursued.
Find a way to take regular notes about who your wife is, things she is going through, what encourages her, how she likes to relax. Chances are, your idea of a relaxing evening is going to be quite a bit different than hers.
Know her. Serve her.
One group of pastors has designed an app for smart-phones called “the Book on Her.” This app is ideal for jotting down small details like dates, anniversaries, sizes, favorites, notes, and ideas about ways to show affection to your wife. When you do get time alone, make sure to treat her like the lady she is. Verbally compliment her (mostly on characteristics of godliness and character, but also on her beauty—see Song of Solomon).
Be intentional to do all the things you did in her presence when you first pursued her, and none of the things you wouldn’t have dreamed of doing at that time. Just because you are more comfortable with one another now doesn’t mean the pursuit is over and the prize is “won.” Live with your wife in an understanding way (1 Pet 3:7).
You are not married to a generic woman. you are married to her. Study and pursue her!
The final principle I want to emphasize is that of taking “command.” It is your responsibility to lead and love your wife well. You may not always have the “warm fuzzies” about it, or even feel all too jazzed about putting in the effort. And, to be totally honest, she may not always be acting in a way that you feel deserves it. But the fact is, you are the one God has chosen to lay down your life for this woman, His daughter (Eph. 5:25).
Headship of your home is not just a privilege, it is chiefly a responsibility.
The onus falls on you. That means, when it comes to this pursuit, you need to be the one who steps up to the plate and takes charge to get things done.
But first, you need a strategy.
How are you going to fit romance into your budget? If, like me, you are in a stage of life where things are already tight, you may have to get creative. On birthdays, Christmas, and other occasions, ask would-be gift givers for gift cards to restaurants. Keep an eye on your credit card reward points and/or Groupon deals and make these regular resources to fund outings. Take people up on generous offers. If they have a cabin in the mountains or a house on the beach and they want to bless you with some time there, don’t steal their joy (or your wife’s) by turning it down.
You’ll also need a strategy for childcare. On this issue, however, you will need to lean heavily on your wife’s input. Consider strongly if this is a person with whom she will be comfortable leaving the kids, as well as whether or not she will have to work double-time beforehand and afterward to accommodate this person. She will appreciate your initiative in arranging the sitter, but if it’s not the right person, she will probably not be able to enjoy much about the time away.
The most important strategy you’ll need, though, is a strategy to engage her in conversation.
If the greatest part of her day is spent at home and her chief conversation partners are children, she will need you to engage her in meaningful dialogue. This will mostly mean listening (really listening) to whatever she wants to talk about (see above on Consideration). But it will also mean intentionally steering the conversations to be spiritually edifying and emotionally enriching.
Remember, leadership was not given to you for your own personal benefit, but so that you “might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26). I’m not talking about sermons, bible studies, or even “family worship.” I’m talking about engaging your wife’s innermost thoughts and being careful to help her take every one of them captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).
As husbands, there is something about the way we are made that loves the moniker “protector.” The thought of manfully fighting off an intruder, or poverty, or an impending disaster, tends to get our testosterone pumping—and rightfully so. But let us never forget the very real and significant ways that the Lord has given our wives to protect us.
Without her love and affection, you will find yourself at the brink of utter ruin (Prov. 5:11-14). But in order to have that protective affection, you will need to pursue it.
And this, brothers, is a pursuit that is anything but trivial.
ABOUT NICK: Nick is the husband of Kyndra and the dad of 6 children. A PhD student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he serves as the Lead Pastor at Redemption Hill Baptist Church in Fisherville, Ky.
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