My guest on the blog today is my favorite human, Zack Skarka! After I shared my struggle with body image, I invited Zack to tell his side of the story too. If you need to share this blog with your husband, please know that I’ll be praying for you! Ask God for wisdom, courage, and the right timing.
I thought I had all of the answers. Whenever my wife would come to me with her issues, I would give her a three-step plan to overcome that issue. I thought I was so helpful … until I found out I wasn’t.
Joy and I were on a walk in one of our favorite parks. She was pouring out her heart to me, and I was beginning to tell her how to fix her problem. Then she stopped me and gave me the most important lesson in our relationship. She said, “When I share things with you, I don’t want you to fix my problems. I just want you to listen.” In the moment, I thought this was crazy talk. “Why wouldn’t you want to solve your problems instead of just talking about them?” Instead of sharing this thought, I decided to trust Joy’s words and listen. I’m glad I did because it was the most loved Joy had ever felt while sharing her struggles.
Joy and I have a phrase we love (that is also on a shirt Joy loves) that says, “Fully known and fully loved.” This is what we all desire, and it is key for husbands helping their wives in their healing journeys.
Husbands can help their wives by listening.
The primary way that a wife can have confidence that she is fully known is having a husband who listens. I did not start off the best in this department with Joy. Our first date was at a Starbucks in Dallas and I did what I do best: talk about myself. Joy would tell me later that, while she was happy to get to know me on that date, she was considering having it be our last date. I have since learned that my ability to listen is not only critical for our relationship, but also for Joy’s healing journey.
When Joy is facing temptation, she knows she can talk about her struggles with me and be heard and loved. When she has negative thoughts about her body, she can share those thoughts and know she will be loved and affirmed. If I am not willing to listen, Joy might feel like she needs to keep those thoughts to herself, leading to shame and a continuing spiral of negativity. By listening, I can give my wife what she really needs, the opportunity to be fully known and fully loved.
About two months ago, I had a pretty serious health scare. I passed out for the first time in almost nine years and we were worried that my brain cancer had come back. Joy was incredible. She drove 100mph to the doctor with her passed out husband, called every specialist in town, held my hand in the emergency room, and took care of me during my time at home. Thankfully, we soon found out that I am still cancer-free. In the middle of that season, Joy shared with me how hard it was for her to be the strong one. She told me about how worried she was. I listened. After she finished pouring out her heart, I told her how incredible she was and thought about how blessed I am to have a wife that is willing to share her heart with me.
If you want to do a better job listening, schedule a time when your wife knows she will have your undivided attention. Joy and I have this time when I get home from work. During this time, we share the good things and the hard things from our day and enjoy the opportunity to be known and loved.
Husbands can help their wives by validating.
Admittedly, I do not always agree with all of the things I listen to, especially Joy’s negative thoughts about her body. I will often joke with her and say, “No one talks to my wife like that!” While I may disagree with Joy’s thoughts or feelings, it is still important for me to validate those thoughts and feelings. When she says she needs to shave her legs when I can’t see any leg hair, I could say, “You’re crazy!” Instead, I tell her to let me know when she is done so I can join her for the rest of the shower. When Joy shares her struggles and her feelings, she does not need to hear that her feelings are bad. Joy needs someone to say, “That must be really hard, I’m sorry you are going through that.”
In addition to not agreeing with everything I listen to, there are often things I do not and cannot understand. In less serious situations, I will jokingly tell Joy, “I fully know and fully love you, but I do not fully understand you.” Unfortunately, we have faced a lot of serious situations in our time together. The pain that Joy experiences from the scars on her stomach, both physically and emotionally, is something that I cannot understand. (My big scars are on my back where I can’t see them.) The only thing I can do is validate her feelings when she talks about that pain.
If you want to do a better job validating, try to pay closer attention to your responses. When your wife shares her thoughts and feelings with you, do you affirm her feelings or do you invalidate her feelings? Also pay attention to her response to your response; if she feels closer to you based on what you said, good job. It took me a long time of seeing Joy feel worse after my responses to learn that my responses need to affirm her thoughts and feelings.
Husbands can help their wives by loving their inner beauty.
I know. Talking about somebody’s inner beauty is usually a backhanded compliment, but it is a biblical compliment. Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” The Hebrew word that is translated ‘fleeting’ is hebel, the same word used in Ecclesiastes 1:2. “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’” This word, in its most basic sense, means vapor or breath, something that is there, and then it is gone. While I firmly believe that Joy is the most outwardly beautiful woman in the world, and I tell her that every day, I know that our bodies will change. I want Joy to know now that I will love her just as much then when those changes happen.
I try my best to remind Joy that the reason I fell in love with her in the first place was not her good looks but her great heart. Joy has been blogging since 2013, so when I met her in 2015, there was plenty of evidence of her fear of the Lord on that blog. I saw a woman who loved God and others and was serving those people through her words as she still does today. While I love and affirm Joy’s beautiful physical body, I also want to give her the assurance that I first fell in love with the heart I saw on that blog. For that reason, she can be confident that she is fully loved, no matter what.
If you want to do a better job loving your wife’s inner beauty, write down five things that you love about your wife besides her body. This could be the way she loves you, your kids, the fun you have with her, or how hardworking she is. Then, over time, share these things with your wife so she can experience being fully loved by you.
Husbands, I hope that my story and my insights are helpful for you as you walk through life with your spouse. By listening to your wife, validating your wife’s thoughts and feelings, and loving her inner beauty, you will be a great help in your wife’s healing journey.
Want to learn more? Here are a few more resources you might like:
- Juli’s newest book God, Sex, and Your Marriage
- Java with Juli #406: Every Couple Has a Sexual Dance. What Does Yours Say About You?
- Java with Juli #394: Debt-free In the Bedroom: How To Heal from Sexual Pain
- A Secret For the Guys (Juli’s blog)