Love Language Minute: Helping Your Husband Grow

Wives can’t change their husbands, but wives can and do have a tremendous influence on their husbands.  How can you make that influence positive?

1.    Men respond positively to praise. One of the most common complaints men make in my office is: “Dr. Chapman, in my work I am respected.  People come to me for advice.  But at home, all I get is criticism.”  What she considers suggestions, he reads as criticism.  Her efforts to stimulate growth have backfired.

Give him praise.  The fastest way to influence a husband is to give him praise.  Praise him for effort, not perfection.  You may be asking, But if I praise him for mediocrity, will it not stifle growth?  The answer is a resounding “No”.  Your praise urges him on to greater accomplishments.

My challenge is to look for things your husband is doing right and praise him.  Praise him in private, praise him in front of the children, praise him in front of your parents and his parents, praise him in front of his peers.  Then stand back and watch him go for the gold.

2.   Requests are more productive than demands. None of us like to be controlled, and demands are efforts at controlling.  “If you don’t mow the grass this afternoon, then I’m going to mow it.”  I wouldn’t make that demand unless you want to be the permanent lawn mower.  It is far more effective to say, “Do you know what would really make me happy?”  Wait until he asks, “What?” Then say, “If you could find time this afternoon to mow the grass.  You always do such a great job.”

Let me illustrate by applying the principle to you.  How do you feel when your husband says “I haven’t had an apple pie since the baby was born.  I don’t guess I’m going to get any more apple pies for eighteen years”?  Now, doesn’t that motivate you?    But what if he says, “You know what I’d really like to have?  One of your apple pies.  You make the best apple pies in the world.  Sometime when you get a chance, I’d really love one of your apple pies.  Chances are he’ll have an apple pie before the week is over.  Requests are more productive than demands.

3. Love is a two way street. If a wife wants to enhance her husband’s ability to give her emotional love, perhaps her greatest influence will be in loving him.  In my book, The Five Love Languages, I talk about the importance of discovering your husband’s primary love language – the thing that really makes him feel loved: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, physical touch, or acts of service.  Once you discover it, pour it on.  Husbands are drawn to wives who are meeting their emotional need for love.

Can you do it, even if he is not loving you.  God did.  He loved us when we were unlovely.  But that’s God.  I’m me.  I know, but you are God’s child and He can empower you to love an unlovely spouse.  I’ve seen it many times.  A wife chooses to speak her husband’s love language, even though she doesn’t feel loved by him.  He warms up and in time begins expressing her love language.  Can emotional love be re-born in a marriage? You bet.  But someone must begin the process.  Why not you?

4. Defensiveness reveals the inner self. A wife says, “Why does my husband get so defensive?  All I have to do is mention that the grass needs mowing and he goes ballistic.”

This husband is revealing his self-esteem hot spot.  Some experience in his past has tied his sense of self worth to mowing the grass.  Your mention of the grass translates “She thinks I’m not doing my job.  I work like crazy, and now she is on my case about the grass.”  He sees it as a negative statement about his worth.

I know you didn’t mean it that way.  That’s why I suggesting you observe his defensiveness, so that you can learn what is going on inside of him.  We don’t know these emotional hot spots until we touch one.  It would be a good idea to make a list of all your husband’s defensive reactions.  Note what you said and did and how he responded.  This insight will help you discover another way to discuss the topic that will be less threatening to his self-esteem.

Both husbands and wives hold a tremendous influence on their spouse. However, it is up to you whether your influence is positive.

Excerpt taken from Dr. Gary Chapman


  1. Guys need respect, ESPECIALLY from their wives. Show him respect, and watch what can happen. I make the effort to let my hubby know I’m proud of him and appreciate all he does in his Navy job to take care of us. He doesn’t say much in response (just “Thanks”), but I can see how it means the world to him :).

  2. DH and I went to a marriage conference a few years back and received the best piece of advice – men want respect women want love from their spouses. Unfortunately we tend to give what we want instead of what the other needs. When we realized that it changed everything.

  3. Does the “using” the five love languages seem fake and manipulative to anyone else? Ever since my husband and I first did this book as a Bible study it has really bothered me. Maybe telling it like it is and being honest is too important to me. Every time I stop to rephrase something, I think, I am just using this tool to get what I need or want. It really makes me stop and rethink what my husband says and does for me too. I just don’t like “spin” and it seems to me with the verbal praise (my husband’s primary love language) that is all it is. Especially when that is not really my natural personality. I feel like I am pretending and changing so that he will love me. It just doesn’t feel right.

  4. Was it the Love & Respect conference? I attended one during engagement. Lot of great stuff :). I do my best to apply it even now.

  5. Hey Andrea,

    Congratulations! You’re in good company if you’re making sacrifices for those you love. I’ll bet it didn’t “feel right” when Christ gave his life for us on the cross, either. But he did it to demonstrate his great love for us and to glorify his Father in heaven.

    Do you love your husband? If so, why not ask God to begin to change your heart and mind so that you can better meet your husband’s needs. As He changes your thought patterns and your emotional responses, it will begin to feel natural. Isn’t it amazing how God pairs us up with just the right person to make us grow and change throughout our lives?

    I don’t claim to be a know-it-all, Andrea, but I have learned this nugget of wisdom the hard way. You can “tell it like it is”, and your husband may even respond the way you want him to, but if words of affirmation is his primary love language, then your words will be driving a wedge between you two. Your “being honest” will tear down his self-esteem. The best way to change your husband is to meet his needs and be patient and wait on God to change your husband.

    I’ll be praying for you!

  6. Sometimes changing my behavior seems forced and unnatural at first, but in the end I am glad I went through the akward, forced period for the long term changes. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think feeling manipulative is kinda in the same catagory.

  7. for me, finding out my husband’s love language was about learning how to show him that i love him in the way that he would best feel and understand it. it had nothing to do with getting anything out of him. i think it’s all in the motive of your heart – are you doing it to manipulate or are you doing it because you really want to bless your husband? for me it’s not about how he treats me, it’s about how can i best treat him. i think that is a very important point of what marriage should be. i didn’t marry my husband because of what i wanted him to do for me – i married him because i wanted to love and serve him with all my heart. i married him not because i thought he could make my life great – but because i thought he was an amazing person and i wanted to make his life great!

  8. hisbabe that was really beautifully written and well said.

    Andrea maybe my story can help illustrate it a little more. I have been married for 20 years. Our marriage had been good/OK. I always yearned for him to be more demonstrative and loving but the only thing we ever fought about was how poorly I kept the house. We were sometimes just friends with benefits but I always loved him and we were good partners but were rarely passionate.

    I stubbornly held on to the belief that my husband married me and not a maid. The mantra “Clean enough to be healthy Dirty enough to be happy” ran through my head until this spring when he came home to a messy house and an empty sock drawer and his wife on the couch on facebook, and said “I love you but I can’t live like this anymore.” I understood the depth of his discontent at that point and finally got it.

    I didn’t know about the five love languages then but I knew that to my man a tidy home and a wife who paid attention to his needs more than to those of her online “friends” was what we needed to save our marriage. We talked and shared and cried and I resolved to never have him come home to a home in that state again. Not because I wanted anything in return for myself but because I understood finally how much the man I loved needed things to change. I wanted our marriage to be forever and was determined that I would do what was needed to make him happier.

    When I learned about the 5LL here on CN I bought the book and asked him to take the quiz. No shock his LL was hands down acts of service. “Wow this may get me some goodies too.” NEVER entered my conscious mind . But I used the advice in the book to continue to show my man that I loved him. The other thing is that I grew to enjoy doing things for him. Knowing how pleased he would be when he saw what I had done made me really happy.

    The side effect is that the man who I spent 20 years wishing would simply grab my hand in public, and be more demonstative in general can’t contain his love for me and it spills out in kisses and caresses and mild PDA all the time. I didn’t plan for that but am thrilled.

    I fill his tank because I love him. The happy bi-product is that I get back 10 fold what I give. If you use the LL to give and not to get it isn’t manipulative, it an expression of true love.

  9. I think it’s only manipulative if you are doing it to get something from him. If you’re doing it to show love to him and to meet his needs, then it may seem awkward at first but it’s not in any way manipulative. Using language or actions that the other person can best understand and receive is a tremendous way of loving that person. If my husband knows that I needs words of love and praise, but all he does is buy me gifts because that’s what makes him feel comfortable, then I won’t truly feel loved by him. You said that you feel as if you would be pretending and changing so that he will love you, but I would look at it as you are showing love in a different way than what is natural for you, so that he will feel loved.

  10. Same goes with the principles in the book Love & Respect. It’s against our nature to give hubby UNCONDITIONAL respect, because in society we’re taught to give him respect “when I feel he deserves it”. But knowing God loves us unconditionally, it should help pave the way :). Respect is a man’s lifeblood. If he feels he isn’t getting it where he needs it most, he’ll look for it somewhere else.

  11. I read this a few days ago and love this. My (single) father told me that when a guys woman backs him up, he feels invincible….My fiance says, when a guys woman supports him, he feels like he can break the world.
    Last night I was chatting with my fiance on the phone. I was frustrated with various things we are working through currently. I was about to blow up…and then I just heard the quiet, loving tone of his voice. I respond more to emotions than words, and I just knew. So I told him that I loved him. that I appreciated how hard he has been working for us to get where we are now, and where we will be in the future. I said it is unfair for me to yell and freak out about something random and make it sound like im basing his whole value as a person on this one thing.

    he was taken aback at first, and then replied “that is one of the nicest things you have ever said to me. thank you. really.”

    best.ever. 😀

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