Now I turn to the men and what they really want. This one is written for the wives and for those who will be wives.
Your greatest power, I believe, to influence your husband for good lies in your tenderness towards him. Sure you can get results from other methods, but nothing will influence him to honor you more than your tenderness. In fact, after a lifetime of observation, I believe that your tenderness is one of the greatest influences for good in the world.
Let me explain.
No one has shown me more tenderness than my wife. She does and says the kindest, most thoughtful things for me, without even realizing what she's doing. It just comes natural to her.
She compliments me without even trying to. She brings me things that I need without my asking. She believes in me when I don't believe in myself. She inspires me to do and be my best, not by putting me down or finding fault (which she could easily do if she wanted) but by helping me keep my eyes pointed upward, always looking toward heaven and toward all that is true and holy.
Here are several personal examples. I can iron my own shirts as well as anyone else in our house (yes, even with today's fabrics, a shirt needs ironing from time to time). Sometimes, with a shirt in my hand while I head downstairs towards the ironing board, she will intercept me and insist that she iron it for me. Now, she isn't trying to baby me or "mother" me. She does it because she cares and she just likes to do things for me.
Here's another one. One evening, back when I was teaching early morning seminary, I had laid on the bed to rest and had fallen asleep, even though it was way before bedtime. When I woke up, Cristi was sitting next to me, holding my hand and clipping my fingernails! It was not a pleasant task for her, but she knew how busy I was those days—overwhelmed is probably a better word—and she just selflessly was taking care of a small need, without my asking. It was one of those moments that I felt enveloped by her love, her kindness, her tenderness. It was a simple act that I have never forgotten, even though she has.
For me, the tenderness of my wife is an irresistible force. It draws me to her. It is one of the ways that I know she loves and cares for me like no other. And it motivates me like nothing else to be true to her, to honor her, and to love her in every particular, no matter what.
She doesn't baby me, and I don't want her to. I'm a grown man, and I can see to my own needs for the most part. But the fact that she wants to care for me when there is no reason to other than that she really loves me—why would I ever resist that? I can't resist it, and I won't. Ever.
In my darkest moments, my wife has always been there for me. She brings me to my senses with her gestures, her touch, and her comforting and wise words, her seeing beyond the limits of the moment. When I think of this, I am reminded of the Lord's counsel to Emma Smith: "And the office of thy calling shall be for a comfort unto...thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness" (D&C 25:5).
To me at least, tenderness is one of the greatest influences for good over men and boys on the planet. More men and boys have been influenced to succeed in this world by this power than by any other. Ask any man who has fought in a war, "What did you think about when you were alone with your thoughts out there?" Will he say he was thinking about his motorcycle, his favorite old dog, his schoolmates? Sure. But what he probably thought about most was the tenderness of his mother, his girl, or his wife.
Yes, your being upset with your husband will motivate him, too, but the long-term results will not be near as good. You have to decide if you are going to push him with your anger and disappointment or draw him with your tenderness. Chances are, you will have to use a little of both! But the tenderness will win over his soul forever, not just his mind for the moment.
Another thing that your husband will really like is when you respect and honor him, when you don't put him down to your friends or your sisters or mothers (either in his presence or out of it), and when you trust him, in spite of his weaknesses. As a woman, you have a gift of insight. Use that gift to see his strengths, and emphasize them to your husband and to others. You will find, over the long haul, it will yield much better fruit than your resentment or cleverness. (This doesn't mean you shouldn't talk about your frustrations with him! But if you focus on his strengths, those strengths will shine through brighter than if you dwell on his faults and follies.)
One last thing: Respect his need to hide out. Women often resolve inner conflict by talking about it; men usually do it by thinking about it, while doing something else. He may look like he is doing nothing, but, really, while his hands are full of one thing, his mind is full of another. Let him have his time to putter, to recharge. He'll be better off. (This doesn't mean you should look the other way when his leisure time is dominated with selfish pursuits. He knows better than that. If he is tempted to do that all the time, ask yourself what he is trying to get away from.)
I hope this has helped you. All my life I've heard, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." I also think it's true that wives who lead their husbands with genuine love, tenderness and respect will one day rule the universe with the only legitimate power that will last beyond the edge of time.
Next time I talk about the topic of love between husbands and wives, I'll talk about how to call a truce.