Original post has been updated with a note of clarification at the bottom.
This is the first post in a series on marriage. I call it the Strong Arm Effect. I didn’t make it up. I merely adapted the theory from a really great lecture I heard at a conference one time. The guest speaker was a man speaking to a room full of only women. He said, “Hang on his arm and tell him he is strong.” I have remembered this advice for years.
And here is how I adapt this advice.
Hang on his arm and tell him he is strong. Literally.
But that is not all.
I’ve heard the phrase “speak what you hope as though it already is”.
So my advice to you young married ladies, or you older married ladies, is a combination of these ideas.
Your man needs to be needed. Wanted. Admired. A hero.
But if you are a younger woman getting married to a younger man, there is a secret you need to know. He’s young. He (and you, frankly) have so much to learn and so much time ahead of you to learn it. He isn’t a failure because at 22 he doesn’t know how to plumb a sink. But if you are marrying him (have married him) I’m guessing you see something in him. A promise of greatness.
Your job is to help him fulfil it. And this is how, my dear friends, you go from nagging to helping your husband fulfil his greatness.
You hang on his arm and tell him he is so strong! And you mean it. You tell him that you admire him learning to change your oil so that you don’t have to take it somewhere. You thank him for taking out the dead mouse. You find the good things and you lavish great praise on them. And when you need to suggest something to him, you can. Because he knows you respect him.
Respect is so key to marriage.
When we, as wives, constantly complain, critique and micromanage, we emasculate. We show him that we don’t respect him. You want him to do better? What is his incentive if each time he does something you tell him it is wrong? What if you chose life? What if you chose to approach each thing he did for you with gratitude, acceptance and love rather than disdain? What if you looked at his strengths and spoke those daily into his life? What if you took the time to build up the man you are choosing to spend your life with?
I’ve watched women destroy men with their words. I’ve heard women speak to their husbands in such a way that would never be tolerated in reverse.
No. It is our pride. We think we know more and by golly we are out to prove it. We love him, but if he would just do this one thing he’d be perfect.
He will never be perfect. And neither will you. But if you want a beautiful marriage, you have to start breathing life into him, into your marriage.
So, hang on his arm and tell him he is strong. Thank him for putting away dishes (and for crying out loud, don’t criticize where he put them). If you know he’s afraid to fix things because he never learned how, don’t call your dad, ask him to help you. Tell him how much you appreciate when he unclogged your drain. Give him reasons to be your hero. Call him your hero!
Stop listening to the “you don’t need a man” mentality. You chose to marry him. You chose to have a man. So now, need him. Let him know you need him. And be grateful to and for him.
I challenge you to start using your words to build him up and start looking at him as your hero. Grow together to create a beautiful marriage.
Do you have examples of how this concept has worked in you marriage? We’d love to hear from you.
It came to my attention after a chat with Mr. Right, that the intent of this “exercise” was not made clear.
I know from experience that sometimes in life we develop a bad habit of how we treat people we love. It can be easily fallen into. Nagging. Criticising. Tearing down.
This exercise that I’ve shared with you is a habit trainer. To help you learn to speak with love and kindness and words of encouragement.
IT IS NOT intended as a way of never speaking what needs to be spoken. Nor of being walked on or having to hide your thoughts and concerns.
When you find you have trained yourself to speak unkindly and naggy, or if your spouse is used to hearing everything as criticism (even from someone else), it is hard to speak your mind and give feedback. When we have retrained ourselves to speak from a place of building up and encouraging, we earn leverage, we earn the right to speak into their lives when it isn’t always positive.
Using the dishwasher example. If he puts dishes away incorrectly, and you usually nag, even a “Thank you but I usually put bowls here” sounds naggy. If you cannot say anything without it being heard as critical (even if it wasn’t intended to be), then don’t. Quietly, and joyfully, fix the dishes later. Once you have earned the ability to be heard as a loving voice, you can say, “Thanks, Sweetie for helping. I usually keep the bowls here,” and it will be heard as you intended.
And in all things, be joyful of the spouse you have chosen.