How to Support Your Husband Well

by | Nov 18, 2020 | Uncategorized | 34 comments

How to Support Your Husband: 3 Keys
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How do you communicate support to your husband–affirmation of who he is as a person?

We’ve been talking about emotional health this month, and it reminded me of something I wrote a while back about the Queen Mother’s relationship with her husband, King George VI. I’d like to revisit that again today, because I think it’s a beautiful picture. 

But before we get to the story, let’s envision what emotionally healthy support looks like in a marriage.

God made us to be relational. He said that it was not good for Adam to be alone, because we do need each other.

What is it, though, that we need from each other? Certainly companionship, and someone to be with and shoot the breeze with. Certainly practical help, because we can’t do all the work alone. Sharing burdens helps immensely.

But more than the practical, God made us for intimacy–to be truly known by one another. Obviously relationships this close, where you truly know someone, will be rare. We do not bare our souls to everyone. But we should bare our souls to someone, or to some people.

However, in baring our souls, there is a danger. What if we are rejected? What if we are laughed at, belittled, or reprimanded? Intimacy requires vulnerability; vulnerability requires risk.

One of our deepest needs is for intimacy that affirms: Intimacy that says, “I see all of you, and I still want to be with you.”

That’s what our children are looking for from us. That’s what leads to securely attached children and emotionally healthy children.

But it also leads to emotionally healthy adults. We all need that feeling of absolute acceptance. In a healthy marriage, you’ll see this.

This doesn’t mean that you accept everything about someone, or that you don’t require them to change destructive behaviours. And it doesn’t mean that if they do something that breaks the covenant that you have to continue to show unconditional affirmation. I’m not talking about accepting someone’s alcoholism or porn use or abuse. But in healthy relationships that are marked by love and goodwill, accepting someone despite foibles is one of the most healing things in the world.


If the issue in your marriage is more that you need something to change, please see these posts instead:


 

Do You Have a Difficult Time Standing up to your Husband?

God wants us aiming for His will. That sometimes will mean that we need to confront our husbands when they’re doing something wrong.

Struggle with how to do that? Are boundaries a difficult concept for you? 9 Thoughts can help!

Today I’d like to tell a story about such affirmation and support of a husband, on the part of the Queen Mother.

The fourth season of The Crown has dropped on Netflix (I’m planning on binging it this weekend!), but before there was The Crown, there was The King’s Speech, a masterpiece of a movie that depicted the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II’s mother and father.

King George VI, and his wife Elizabeth, better known to us as “The Queen Mother”, apparently had a lovely, though all too short, marriage. And The Queen Mother has always been one of my favourite royals. I guess the entertainment industry made a pact that they would not tell the story of her marriage until after she died, but then she lived forever! And they finally made this remarkable movie, which I highly recommend.

 

It  follows the true story of Bertie (King George VI’s real name was Albert) overcoming his stuttering as he is thrust into the role of king unexpectedly when his brother abdicates. The king must find his voice to inspire and rally Britain as World War II opens. And, with the help of an unusual speech therapist, he does.

But it is his wife who I was really drawn to. Helena Bonham Carter plays her wonderfully, but I noticed three main things:

  1. She never made an issue out of his stuttering when it was not affecting his role or the nation. When it was simply a personal struggle, she didn’t even notice it and wasn’t bothered by it
  2. When it became an issue because he was made king, she supported and encouraged him to find help
  3. But at the same time, her attitude was never one of babying him. She never showed him anything other than, “I believe you can do it, and that’s all there is to it.”

She was very matter of fact about the whole thing. Before he gave a huge speech, she wouldn’t hold his hand and say, “don’t worry, Bertie, no matter what happens, I’m still here for you!” She simply gave him a quick kiss and said, “you’ll do great.” It was that simple.

And she told him, throughout the movie, why she admired him. He was a great man. He was a kind man. He was an honourable man. When he was ready to give up on speech therapy, she managed to make him keep going. When he quit, she managed to get him to start again. We don’t see all these conversations on screen, but I can imagine the way she handled them. She would say, “I see something wonderful in you. And I want others to see it, too.” When a therapist was ridiculous, she put a stop to it immediately because she didn’t want her husband to go through that. But she always believed in him, at his core.

And on a personal level, she saw beyond the stuttering to the man underneath. She never allowed herself to be personally embarrassed by his stuttering. It was only ever an issue because of his own duties and his own embarrassment, not hers.

We can make two mistakes when it comes to supporting our husbands: the first is that we fail to do it at all.

We notice all his inadequacies, and focus on those, rather than noticing what is good about him. We allow ourselves to be embarrassed by his foibles–even foibles that we already knew about when we married him–and increase his own embarrassment and communicate rejection or contempt. I am not saying that we should not all strive to be better people and to grow, but we can’t expect someone to be something that they are not.

If your husband is not brilliant, you can’t get mad at him for not being a doctor or not having an intellectual job. If he’s just not a go-getter, but is more passive, you can’t get mad at him for not moving up the corporate ladder as fast as you might like. If he isn’t the type who would relish having his own business, you can’t berate him for wanting a secure job.

I think of one man, now retired, that I know well. The best word I can think of to describe him is jolly. Everyone loves him. He exudes friendliness and is the first to offer to help when someone needs him. He worked all his life for one company, and became a manager, and was wonderful with keeping clients.

But he never made a ton of money because he wasn’t the type to strike out on his own. Even though he was very amiable, he also had a very conservative streak in him that wanted the security of a paycheck. That’s what he had always been like. His wife, though, didn’t berate him for this. She knew who her husband was. And they made a great life for themselves, with tons and tons of friends, but without the worry of his own business.

(Now, I realize that many men also fail to support their wives, but just like stonewalling is predominantly, though not entirely, a male issue, so this can be one of the mistakes that many women can make. But it’s not exclusively women, so if it’s the other way around in your marriage, just switch it!)


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The second mistake is to confuse supporting your husband with babying your husband.

Supporting an adult should not be done in the same way that you would praise or encourage your four-year-old child. That doesn’t make someone feel supported; that makes him feel like you think he’s a child who can’t handle this without you. That doesn’t communicate support, but instead pity or condescension.

Sometimes we can think we’re affirming our spouse, when we’re really giving him the message, “I don’t think you can handle this.” The Queen Mum (well, she was just Queen Elizabeth back then) always just patted his arm or gave him a quick kiss and said, “you can do it.” He felt that she believed in him (because she did).

Maybe your husband doesn’t stutter, but he might be out of work and worried if he’ll find another job. Or he may have a horrible one where people put him down. Do you treat him like a 4-year-old, or do you communicate, “I hear you, I want to listen, but I totally believe that you can handle this because you’re awesome.”

Supporting your spouse well gives him the key to success. Encourage your husband. Admire and affirm him, but don’t treat him like he’s four-years-old. That’s what a queen did, and it worked on her king.

3 Keys to Supporting Your Husband

What do you think? Is this is something you struggle with? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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34 Comments

  1. Danny

    You have the most messed up views of males and females of any Christian I have ever read. It’s shocking to me how arrogant, patronizing, jaded and twisted your understanding of just not who and what people are but your biblical theology and application. I’d find it funny if it was not so scary that many women take you seriously.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi, Danny! Thanks for proving my point again about how in the church what is emotionally healthy is often derided and shamed.
      I notice that you didn’t mention anything in particular that was wrong in what I wrote, you just called names. That’s actually quite emotionally immature, and fits in well with our series this month on emotional maturity! It also shows how so often men can think that, because they’re men, they don’t need to make an argument. They can just insult and demean women, and that’s enough.
      Actually, on this blog, to be taken seriously you do need to make an argument. Name calling is a signal that you don’t really represent Jesus.

      Reply
  2. DL

    Well said, Sheila! Do you have any suggestions about husbands who fall into the overly needy category and seem to need constant reassurance? Beyond the style of the Queen Mum?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think I would still be firm but gentle. And then I would try to talk about the underlying issue. Help them process their feelings. What is it that they’re afraid of? Why does that scare them? Can they remember other times they were scared like that? Do they think they’re reacting to this out of proportion, based on what may have happened in other situations? What makes you feel reassured? How can we get more of that in your life?
      Like, just ask questions. Instead of trying to make them feel better, help them process what they’re feeling. We’ll be talking about that a little bit in tomorrow’s podcast!

      Reply
  3. Meghan

    Great point about how spouses need a different kind of encouragement than you give to your children. I know I can fall into that trap simply due to my exuberant personality. (I would make a fabulous cheerleader if I had more coordination, haha!)
    I’d love to hear from others how they support and encourage their spouses who have anxiety or depression, especially during a panic attack/depressive episode. We pray together and I cuddle him and let him cry, but I feel like I could be doing more.

    Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      Meghan, I can have bouts of anxiety and depression.
      What helps is to be very grounded; anxiety and depression happen when your brain becomes untethered from the real world.
      “What happens if” goes running through my mind, and it helps so much if someone acknowledges the fears (I worry too much about real stuff; it’s not like I’m panicking about an alien invasion) and walks me through the situation.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        What does that look like, Jane? Is it like, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Or is it, “What are you afraid of happening? What would that look like? What would you do then? What would happen in the end?” Like that sort of thing?

        Reply
  4. Chris

    I was in England a few times many years ago when the Queen Mother was still alive. I recall asking someone why the mother of the queen was so popular. The response that I received was “She was married to THE KING”. I learned later this was a statement about winning world war 2. As a couple they were extremely popular and “The King’s Speech” is one of my favorite movies too.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      The whole family was just really great during World War II. They never left London. Elizabeth (the current queen) used to drive ambulances after the bombs came down. And she was a mechanic (I think that’s why she still likes to drive her car today!). And both she and Margaret would address the nation on the radio every week, largely because of their father’s stutter. But they really did keep the morale of Britain high.
      I also think the Queen Mother was just a happy person who always had a twinkle in her eye.

      Reply
  5. Boone

    Danny,
    Now that you’ve let us all know how smart and tough you are I’m right curious as to what exactly Sheila has said that you consider messed up.
    Is it the concept that if a woman actually enjoys sex she might want to have it more often?
    Is it the concept that men need to grow up and assume their share and then some of the responsibilities?
    Is it the concept that both partners need to actually communicate with each other even on tough issues.?
    Is it the concept that both partners need to get their pride and egos on a short leash and actually address the issues at hand?
    Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling. Here’s your chance to shine. Make your argument.
    Boone

    Reply
  6. Anonymous in TN

    Oh wow – I need this article! There are times I just don’t know what my husband needs from me when he’s angry (not about me or us necessarily)or sad. My default has been to baby him – “Go lie down. It’ll all be okay. Don’t worry about anything. ” Sometimes that goes over like a lead balloon (he’ll literally just argue that it won’t ever be okay and that I should worry too), sometimes I feel like I’m encouraging his sadness and feelings of not being capable.
    I’ll give this a go! Thanks!

    Reply
  7. Jane Eyre

    Sheila, I thought this was a great post and was looking forward to implementing your ideas more in my own marriage, until I read Danny’s comment.
    Now, I will thoroughly berate my husband for being the man I dated and married. It was obviously his job to undergo a complete change of personality when we wed, and I’m irate that he’s not James Bond. Srsly, what’s up with that????

    Reply
  8. Wild Honey

    Yeah… don’t play the “it will all be ok” card if you can avoid it. Because it won’t always all be ok. Imagine a pregnant couple who can’t hear the baby’s heartbeat during a prenatal appointment. The wife already struggles with anxiety. They can’t get an ultrasound for a couple more days, and all along husband is saying, “Don’t worry, it will all be ok.” Then the ultrasound shows a silent heartbeat. While well intentioned, I think it erodes trust in being able to believe what your spouse is saying.
    Maybe try “even if ____ happens, I will be right here with you, loving you and supporting you. And even though it will be really hard, we will get through this together.”

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So very true! And a perfect example. Sometimes life isn’t all okay.
      Just a side note–I think we do this with kids, too. We don’t want kids to be upset, so we say, “it will all be okay.” But it won’t all the time. We need to learn to be honest, but age appropriate, with our kids as well.

      Reply
  9. L. Johnson Scott (too many Lisa’s)

    I wonder what would be the advice for Danny’s wife? Serious question.
    What is a mature response to be supportive to a spouse in a way that doesn’t require being a doormat to immaturity?
    Many women have husbands who aren’t easy to support in the typical empathic ways as in the King’s Speech. What if the King had not wanted or appreciated the support?
    P.S. thanks to Danny for inspiring this question! His attitude is not uncommon.

    Reply
  10. Angela Laverdi

    Go Mr. Boone!!! Hahahahaha.

    Reply
  11. Jane Eyre

    Sheila,
    My comment won’t nest properly. :/
    A few months ago, I was completely terrified of my crazy family literally showing up on the doorstep. (I am still worried about it, just in a manageable way.) What helped: being very, very specific about actions to take.
    “If that happens, we will call the police.”
    My brain: but the police will often try to “make things feel good,” and could tell me that I’m obligated to “talk to them about it,” even if the actual legal issue (they need to be removed from the doorstep) is very clear. That’s not irrational: I’ve seen police do that. Also, the crazy likes to escalate because they do not accept “no” for an answer.
    What helps: rehearsing a clear statement that does not leave room for that “solution.” Counterintuitively, if they escalate, it helps us: people who refuse to accept “no” for an answer and think that social norms and laws don’t apply to them are not very popular with the police.
    Larger issue: I have some measure of control and am not a sitting duck for a bunch of lunatics who think that verbal abuse is a cute little game.

    Reply
  12. Chris

    Anonymous in TN. When your husband gets angry try asking him to clarify. I am concerned because if I saw something that upset me and my wife told me to go lie down, i would probably interpret that as her dismissing my concern. In effect she is telling me “relax its not a big deal”. Sometimes we as men see something that is clearly wrong and upsetting and we are made even more upset that other people don’t see the problem at all or they see the problem as not as big as we do.

    Reply
  13. AspenP

    My husband struggles with anxiety and depression too. Most often his runaway thoughts are over doing a good enough job at work, maintaining employment, etc. In the first few years of our marriage, I wondered if he was in the wrong position/career and if he was in over his head. He has consistently been a top employee in his region year over year. Now I can let him share his fears and then remind him that he’s not perfect (no one is), he doesn’t have to be perfect, everyone makes mistakes, and if the very worst happens and he loses his job, then we’ll seek the Lord on what is next for us.
    I have found that I cannot encourage him out of anxiety, but I can walk him through his fears and reassure that we’ll figure it out together and that the Lord has not forgotten him. We’re in His Hands. Just keep moving forward and He’ll direct us.
    It is what has helped us most.

    Reply
  14. Natalie

    Where’s the high five / “like” / “rofl” feature on your blog’s comment section, Sheila?!?! 😉

    Reply
  15. Phil

    Good morning Sheila – I have been thinking about your thoughts on baring your soul to others. I agree with your analysis. This morning My devotions lead me to Romans 10:17 – Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. In the commentary the concept was put before me that God produces faith in your soul by his work and transformation in you. Then it says I am to share the Gospel with others. I guess I am maybe differentiating here when I interpret baring my soul as sharing my faith with others. Yes there is risk. Yes we may be rejected. Yes we might be intimidated. I cant imagine the garbage that you filter from the comments and your emails on a daily basis. Danny served us an example of that yesterday. I am reminded and I dont know where this is in the bible that as Christians we will be persecuted. My faith must be strong to share the Gospel and it must be strong to reject that persecution – just lime was done here yesterday…

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks for that, Phil! I do agree that baring our souls and sharing about faith are very correlated. They’re both vulnerable and intimate. And intimacy is what God designed us for!

      Reply
  16. Anonymous in TN

    Guys – thanks so much for the helpful comments. I’ve been trying to help and encourage him the way I’VE been helped and encouraged (Glass half full, God’s got this, it’ll all be okay really does help me). And it not only doesn’t work for him, it can at times make things worse! So, thank you, I’ll try to your suggestions 😁

    Reply
  17. Jo Mullins

    Meghan,
    In my case, the situation is flipped to where I am the one who suffers from depression and anxiety. I’ll admit my husband and I are young and only half a year into marriage, but I dare say he does a pretty good job of supporting me without babying. I know you mentioned praying and cuddling, that’s what my husband does for me as well, but then afterwards he’ll talk me through it—asking what happened/triggered it, if there’s been something stressing me that’s been going on for awhile, etc. Sometimes he does rush in to “How can I fix it?”, but often times after he talks with me and helps me process, he helps me figure out the next course of action and it does me a world of good. I get stuck in my head a lot and he has displayed so much patience in helping me get unstuck over and over. I think that’s been the biggest thing, honestly: showing me patience, that he’s not going anywhere.
    I don’t know if that helps at all, but I’d thought I’d share what he does to help me, as the anxious spouse in our marriage 💕

    Reply
  18. Angela Laverdi

    Me too! I literally have to catch myself and say “thats not gonna happen” Everything from envisioning the car rolling over on the freeway to finding my loved ones dead…. Constant barrage that I have to let slide through my brain. If you try to stop the thought completely it just gets stuck…

    Reply
  19. Lindsey

    I definitely need help in this area, I’m not very good at saying words of affirmation, or praise to my husband. I don’t have anything bad to say most of the time either, but my parents growing up were terrible at communicating- very passive aggressive- yikes.
    Thankfully my husband is a good communicator, I would love to grow in this area to build up my husband verbally. I can easily “serve” my family, but really struggle with finding the right words to say.

    Reply
  20. Erin

    Well, my husband DOES stutter actually so I understand very clearly everything you’re saying here. And I think my efforts to avoid common pitfalls like finishing his sentences (people who stutter HATE that—even when you’re “trying to help”) is one reason he felt he could let down his walls some and be vulnerable with me. I never treat him like there’s anything he can’t do. He CAN talk…it just takes him longer. I’ve had to educate a few family members and friends but they’re very supportive. Learning to wait patiently to let him talk has been very good for me. I don’t ever treat him like a child. I pretty much just overlook his stuttering. I’m so used to it now I barely notice it. I notice it the most when we’re in public like at a restaurant and the waitress starts finishing his sentences. Ugh!
    “The King’s Speech” is one of our favorite movies!!
    I came into our marriage pretty broken from past baggage (I’ve come a long way) and this post is very validating that I’m doing some things right so I appreciate that.

    Reply
  21. May

    This piece was wonderfully well written and instructive. Thank you!

    Reply
  22. Erin

    What if you don’t really like or love your husband. He’s an ok guy, but has had undiagnosed bipolar 2 disorder with suicidal ideation for 8 years of our 16 year marriage. When he was really down he was emotionally abusive. Now that we have a diagnosis he is better. But I struggle not so much with being supportive as I can be that to anyone and I can see his good traits. But I have zero positive feelings and do not want to feel emotional intimacy with him. I don’t want to know more of him. Is it just something I need to resign myself to doing since we are married? I’ve tried the tips for getting positive emotions, thining positive thoughts, setting up times to rekindle friendship. It feels like insanity at this point: doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
    p.s. we are both in therapy also, and previously did 2 years of marriage counseling

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Erin, that’s really hard. I don’t think you can force emotions or force yourself to like him. You can change actions, like thinking positively and building friendship, as you said, but you can’t force feelings. I think sometimes making sure that you have enough positive experiences outside the marriage to keep you going are key, so that you’re not relying on the marriage for everything, especially in your in a really low place. So make sure you have outside hobbies, and you have friends. And then keep doing what you’re doing. Sometimes over time feelings do return, or a new sense of camaraderie is built just based on the fact that you’ve been through so much.

      Reply

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