Tip 15: Appreciate His Desire to Provide
At a recent women’s event, I got a question from a woman who had just gotten a big promotion and raise at her job. But her husband still seemed stressed about work and frequently mentioned his worries about layoffs. He hadn’t stopped his habit – which had always frustrated her – of taking on extra customer projects to earn extra money, even though those often kept him out late at night and exhausted him. She didn’t understand why he was still so worried and driven, and she was actually a bit offended.
Did he think she was going to fail at her new job, so he needed to keep driving just as hard, just in case?
Many women might have the same question.
We think: If I earn enough to support the family, why can’t he just relax a bit? Or, even Doesn’t he appreciate how much I am contributing to the family income?
As with many relational conflicts, however, it’s just not that simple. If you see a similar dynamic in your family, it is probably a result of a very, very deep need that your man has to provide for you. For most men, the need to provide is an emotional compulsion and even a burden that presses heavily on him and never lets up. And because it is deep and emotional, it doesn’t change just because you make a great salary. And it may sound odd to us, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
In a fundamental way, your husband wants to know you depend on him, even though he also is very aware that you’re more than capable of providing yourself. In my research for For Women Only, 78 percent of men said they would feel this compulsion and need to provide for their family even if their wife earned more than enough to support the whole family! And they are never free of this “provider burden.” The vast majority of the men I interviewed and surveyed said the thought, Am I going to be able to provide for my wife and kids? was always there in the background. In fact for most men – and thus probably for your husband — to be a man means being a provider.
And here’s something else we often miss: if he is like most guys, providing is also one of the main ways your man tries to say “I love you.”
And the idea of failing you in this way is excruciating.
His worry has nothing to do with doubting you; it is entirely about doubting himself and the market. At that recent women’s event, I told the questioner, “In your husband’s mind, he probably hates that those extra customer projects take him away from you… but it is a sacrifice he is willing to make to show you his love. Because he cannot bear the thought of failing you and you having to endure financial hardship.”
So what do you do with this?
Well, first off, be kind and sympathetic when he talks about his fears or worries instead of getting defensive because you feel like he’s discounting your contribution – because he almost certainly isn’t! But most importantly: express your appreciation.
Regularly. I’ve now interviewed and surveyed more than 6,000 men and men overwhelmingly tell me how much it means to them when their wife says things like “Thank you so much for working so hard to support the family.” A big hug and “I’m so grateful for you” after work will put a weary man on top of the world.
Sure, we might want to talk with them about how much we want them around, rather than just the money they provide (more on that in other articles). But by recognizing that this is a key way of expressing his love for you – and affirming him as a provider – you will actually find your marriage growing stronger and your appreciation for him growing. This does not lower your own worth as a partner; it shows you want to selflessly support and encourage your husband so he knows you respect and affirm him as a husband and as a man.
Drawn from Chapter 5 of For Women Only, by Shaunti Feldhahn.
Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage (now through June 30, buy a copy of Good News from your favorite retailer, and receive an additional copy FREE from Multnomah Books – up to 100 copies!). A Harvard-trained social researcher and speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Shaunti speaks regularly at churches, conferences, and corporate events. (Inquire about Shaunti speaking, or visit www.shaunti.com for more.)