When my youngest son, Matt was just a little boy, he’d wake up every morning asking, “Where is everybody?” With three older siblings, he couldn’t get his head around a day of not knowing exactly what each person in his family was up to and why they weren’t all right there, one big bunch of playmates.
By the time he was four and speaking in that adorable way of precocious toddlers, he’d assigned himself the role of Keeper of the Peace in our family of less-than-peace-loving teenagers. Matt spent his mornings riding along in the carpool van, negotiating treaties of niceness between sleep deprived, hormonal sisters and a dominating, driven older brother. He just couldn’t understand what all those frowning faces were about.
As little Matt-man refereed in the backseat, he’d use this one phrase to punctuate his point:
Which, translated into real talk means, Don’t be mean!
Matt’s injunction worked like magic. Everyone would stop arguing and start laughing uproariously. How can anyone quibble in the face of such fierce cuteness? And Matt was just confident enough to believe that it was his command that had wrought instant peace. He’d grin and laugh and delight in his power to unite his squabbling siblings.
And so, my dear girls, as you go about your day encountering difficult husbands/boyfriends/brothers/friends I’d like to admonish you,
Instead, cultivate a spirit of friendliness. Be nice. Refuse to get caught up in being right. Manage conflict with grace and kindness. Stop poking. Do good to the man in your life, whether you’re 15 or 55.
In Titus, chapter two, older women (that’s me!) are admonished to, “urge the younger women to love their husbands…” Seems kind of benign, doesn’t it? Of course women are to love their husbands. But dig just a tad deeper. The nuanced meaning of the word translated love here is “friendly” (phileo in Greek). God is moving Paul’s pen to write to the young pastor, Titus, to tell the women to…
Be friendly to your husbands.
And girls, after more than 35 years of doing ministry alongside my pastor-husband, of watching marriages fail and families fall apart, I’d like to give everyone of you the same word of advice:
Be friendly to your husbands!
How hard can that be?
Well, harder than it sounds because the number one complaint I hear from husbands and sons and older brothers and trying-but-not-happy boyfriends is this: women are mean.
And here’s the funny thing, (I warned you this would be a rambling sort of conversation) the number one reason according to Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs, a leading authority on marriage, that men give as to why they chose their particular wife is this:
Because she likes me.
Yep, profound isn’t it?
A man marries a woman, first and foremost, because she likes him.
Not because he likes her (though obviously that’s in there too), not because she’s sexy and alluring (though obviously that’s high on the list), not because she’s all the things he thinks she is… but because something inside of him recognizes this thing he longs for: to be liked. Really, genuinely, consistently, always liked.
So, what does that look like outside of statistics and psychological studies? How does a woman be friendly in real life? I’ll give you my take on what that looks like, then I’m hoping you’ll give us yours…
How To “Like” A Man:
- Be affectionate- Rub his shoulders, scratch his back, touch him when you’re talking. Greet him with a hug when he comes in the door. Say good-bye with a kiss. Or, if he’s wired so tight that touch translates as annoying, use words. Those fond words of affection every man craves. Whatever you do, make sure the affection is about him, not about you.
- Be sexually inviting- Once you are married, sexual invitation means “I like you” to a man. Of course it does! They know instinctively that we don’t want them when we’re mad or irritated or annoyed. Our very wanting is a relief to a man’s inward worry that we don’t like them.
- Be fun- Be his best companion. Laugh at his attempts to add a twist of humor to your conversation. Watch ESPN next to him. Be enthusiastic. Vacation the way he likes- save your shopping and museum wandering for another day (I’m talking to myself here!). Agree. Be agreeable. Say yes. Recognize his need to play. Join him. Or go along and watch with all the enthusiasm of a fan.
- Flirt a little- Flirt a lot. Flirt until you’re old and wrinkled and grey. Flirt with only him.
- Be nice- Say nice things, do nice things. Rearrange that perpetual mama-scowl into a welcoming softness. Don’t roll your eyes or make those “humpfing” sounds of disapproval. Assume innocence.
- Talk nice- Tell him how much you like him and why. Tell him you admire him and then leave the room. When he follows you out like a puppy dog, leave him a list that sounds heroic. Mean it.
Girls, I’m just getting started. This is how we “phileo” our husbands. (No, that’s not “fillet”!)
There is no better way to love your man than to like him. Our men are hurting for lack of liking.
And for those of you not yet married, every man in your life needs, wants, craves this kind of liking. A woman who is good at liking will never lack great men friends and boyfriends and offers… just sayin’.
I love you, girls…
From my heart,
PS: Okay, let’s add to my list. Can you give us ways to communicate “like” to the men in our lives?
And if a man or two or more is reading this, would you contribute? Go ahead and use Mr. Anonymous as your name if you want. We women need to understand this better.