Grab Your Pom-Poms
Sindbad is my favorite stand-up comedian. If you aren’t familiar with him, stop reading right now and look him up on YouTube. You’ll thank me later.
I’ve been to a few Sinbad shows and always leave with abs aching from laughing so hard. And, like most good comedians, inevitably, he inserts a bit of truth into his routines. In one routine he remarked how women today do not know the secret to getting their husbands to work hard for them. He then told a hilarious story of his father laying roof for a glass of lemonade all because his mother stood on the ground sing-songing, “Who’s my big strong man?!” Sinbad was not conducting a “How to Manipulate Your Man 101” class for the women in the audience. He was simply pointing out how good men respond to their wife’s admiration.
I am determined no one is going clap louder for Jonathan than I am. Without apology or embarrassment, I am the loudest person in my husband’s corner.
When a client gives him kudos, I make his favorite meal. When he reaches a personal goal, I buy him a card or balloons. I express my gratitude for all the little things he does to take care of me and the kids, as well as the big gestures. I pick up his ego when he falls, counsel him when he missteps, and encourage him to try again. Not to manipulate him, placate him, nor to pander to a fragile male ego. Thankfully, his is pretty sturdy. I celebrate him because he gets beat up in the world, trying to do his best. There is no need for him to get beat up in his marriage too. In the reflection of my eyes my husband gets to shed the mask and revel in his superhero status.
You are probably not going to like what I am going to say, but I will say it anyways. I do not know a woman who can tell her husband what it means to be a man. He discovers his manhood as it is modeled for him, through trial and error, and instinct. It is fortified by the response he gets from those around him and the dignity and self-respect he feels. It is as much a visceral part of his person as being a woman is for you and me. We cannot define manhood for our husbands, any more than our husbands can define for us what it means to be a woman. But, we can, and should, celebrate and appreciate who they are as men.
I’m ashamed to say, I was not always the best cheerleader. My first husband and I spent most of our marriage misunderstanding the difference between teamwork and competition. Consequently, we failed miserably at encouraging each other in consistent ways, which, of course, was poison to our dying marriage. As I matured, and found joy in my own skin, living open-hearted became easier. I began intentionally giving away what others needed, without feeling like I was losing me. My husband is the primary beneficiary of this lived-experience.
There are principles I intentionally apply which protect his ego, elevate his hero-status, while supporting my need to be heard and remembered within our marriage. Just like every good woman’s alter ego is a heroine, every good man’s alter ego is a hero. Here are some ways you can celebrate yours:
Study Your Hubby
Clark Kent (Superman) is vastly different from Tony Starks (Iron Man). Clark Kent was a mild-mannered reporter, prone to clumsiness and socially awkward interactions, hiding his true identity. Tony Starks was a self-assured, billionaire genius, who let the world know he was the man in the iron suit. From time to time Clark needed Lois to remind him, no matter how inadequate he seemed to others, he was the man who could leap over tall buildings in a single bound. Tony needed Pepper Pots to reflect his generous heart back to him when the voices calling him arrogant grew too loud. Not every hero needs a parade, but they do need one person in their life who gets them and can speak to the man no one else sees. Be that person for your husband. Study him and know what works for him.
Let Him Off the Hook
Listen, your hubby knows when he has messed up. He knew when he messed up in the past. Bringing up past failures while dealing with current issues is brutal on your husband’s heart and ego. It’s enough that he’s dealing with today’s disappointments, let alone being reminded of unrelated missteps from last year. Free your relationship and yourselves from bondage to yesterday. Let him off the hook. Extend the same grace to him that you want from him and let the past die.
Notice Him...in Public
Alright Sisters, real talk. For every woman who rolls her eyes as her husband trots out that same tired story of how he made a killing in the stock market, there is a woman who will hang on his every word. For every woman who is resentful of her husband’s restored ’62 Mustang, there is a woman who thinks it’s sexy. Presumably, you are the most important woman in his life. He wants your respect and admiration more than anyone else’s.
Take an interest in what interests him. Support his career, hobbies, and interests. Ask that he does the same for you. Look for authentic reasons to notice him. Especially in public. You will find the more genuine admiration and respect you give him, the more he will do to earn your genuine admiration and respect.
Blast Him... in Private
Some years ago, Jonathan and I were hanging out with a group of friends and he jokingly said something which left me feeling disrespected. My love language is words of affirmation. Words carry a lot of weight with me. Harsh words, even if said in a joking manner, are particularly crushing. I had an immediate choice to make, whether to react or respond. I quietly pulled him aside, let him know what he said was hurtful, told him I wanted to enjoy the rest of our evening but would like to talk to him about it later. He immediately apologized. And apologized again when we later spoke.
A publicly demeaning wife makes a man feel small. She will engender more respect from him, and those watching her, if she chooses to handle him with dignity, even if he deserves a good dressing down. That’s what she would want from him.
Teach Him How to Make You Tingle
Your husband wants to please you sexually. If you are not enjoying physical intimacy with him it makes him feel as if he’s taking advantage of you versus expressing love and unity with you. Furthermore, it makes him feel heroic to know he can bring the woman he loves, desires, and cherishes to sexual climax. And if he can’t, then teach him how. Tell him what excites you. Show him how to touch you. But, be sensual and fun with your “instructions”. Make your “lesson” a part of foreplay, at the kitchen table, before you both head out for work. You want to know what pleases him, right? He wants the same from you.
Make Sure He’s the Hero in Your Life
Questions, doubts, frustrations, comparisons plague all of us but it is different for men. Men are born into a sub-culture of humanity which conditions them to jockey for position in every area of life. A tedious story of positioning and rivalry begins on the playground and is played out in boardrooms. The one place he should be able to rest from the comparison trap is in his home. His wife is the one person with whom his position is secure. Right?
Want to quickly discourage your husband’s heroic tendencies? Negatively compare him to the other men in your circle. Point out to him that you love how Daniel opens doors for Sheila. Lay your hand on James’ shoulder as you laugh and tell James, in your husband’s presence, nobody makes you laugh like he does. Mention to your husband how good Stanley smells. Your husband will feel like he cannot win. It’s demoralizing to a man to come up short in the eyes of his wife. If change is needed in your relationship, comparison is not the way to help it happen. If I admire something about another man, I don’t tell my husband. That’s what girlfriends are for. When I want something different with him, I swallow my conflict avoidance, sit down, and speak with him about it. Some times things change. Some things haven’t changed yet. Some may never change. But open communication creates space for understanding, and patience with each other without making him feel like an "also-ran" in his home.
Have you noticed a theme here yet? It’s really not that complicated. Celebrating your husband boils down to treating him the way you want to be treated. And there are tremendous payoffs. Celebrating Jonathan brings a sense of joy, fun, and festivity to our marriage which, in turn, deepens our friendship, connection, and love. I hope sharing some of the ways we celebrate the hero and heroine in each other helps you create an environment in which you can celebrate and be celebrated.
To your stepmothering success!