This post is for husbands and for men who want to be husbands. I've been thinking about this topic for a long time.
Do you know what your wife really wants? Do you ask her? Do you ask her regularly?
One thing your wife wants is to know that you love her more than any other person or anything in this world. She longs for your assurance. If this need is not met, she will feel unsatisfied, agitated, irritable, and frequently angry. This is a legitimate need and you are the only one who can meet it. Are you doing your job?
Remember the story about the wife who complained to her husband that he never said that he loved her? The husband reasoned, "I told you the day we got married that I loved you. If anything changes, I'll let you know." Well, it wasn't good enough for his wife, and it's not good enough for yours or mine. She needs to hear the L word from you everyday, and she needs to feel like you really mean it. If you don't, how can you expect to hold her?
As husbands, we are commanded to love our wives:
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it...He that loveth his wife loveth himself." —Ephesians 5:25,28
Are you obeying this commandment?
Another thing she really wants is your attention. You can pay no higher compliment to your wife than showing her your full attention, the kind that she wants. Do you call her during the work day just to find out how she is doing? When you are home, do you give her both eyes and both ears? When something is bothering her, do you try to understand what it is before jumping in with a solution or dismissing it?
Here is a question I ask my wife, "What is one thing that I could do right now that would make you feel more loved?" Yes, it is a dangerous question. Sometimes the answer is painful. Sometimes, to respond to her answer with integrity, I have to set aside something that I want to give my wife something that she wants. It remains an important question. It's a question I know I should ask her every day.
Your wife might want you to ask a different question. Ask her what it is. She'll tell you. It will likely have something to do with (1) feeling like she doesn't have to do everything around the house or (2) even though she adores her children, she needs a break.
What if your wife is surly when you get home and you are afraid to say, "I love you"? (Chances are she wouldn't be as surly if you had remembered to tell her that you loved her the day before.) Well, what do the scriptures say?
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear...He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him [the Lord], because he first loved us." —1 John 4:18,19
Likewise, if you love her first, and really mean it, consistently, she will love you back. "That which ye do send out shall return unto you again..." (Alma 41:15). It's an eternal law. Put it to work.
Back when I was an elder's quorum president, one warm evening, I got a phone call from a quorum member. He was at a hotel. He asked me to come talk to him because he had been kicked out of the house by his wife. He wanted some advice about what to do. I didn't know what I was going to say, but as I drove down to see him, I prayed, "What do I do? What do I say?"
This is what came out of my mouth when I talked to him. I knew it came from Heavenly Father.
"You have to say this to her. (1) I love you more than anything in the world. (2) I am very sorry. (3) I would do anything to correct what's wrong with our relationship. If you say those things, and mean it, she will accept you back."
He did say those things, and his wife did accept him back. Years later when I told this story to a woman, she said, "I don't know how any wife could say no to that."
So, brethren, here is the price of entry. "Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else" (D&C 42:12). "None else" means not only another person but anything else—a job, a pickup truck, a set of golf clubs, video games, TV, a hunting trip, a horse (gulp), anything. Your wife may not be perfect, but neither are you. She deserves your love and undivided attention. She deserves your protection, not only from physical harm or want, but also from the emotional wilderness that haunts her. If you want to keep her for eternity, love her in a way that she knows that you love her.
In conclusion: "This I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully" (2 Corinthians 9:6). Love her and receive the same.
Next time, I'll address what he really wants. It's not what you think.