Sep 052013 25 Responses

If I Could Tell Husbands One Thing

If I could tell husbands one thing, it would be: clean the kitchen.

Okay, it’s not really about cleaning the kitchen. The one piece of advice I would say is: spend the rest of your marriage growing in your understanding of what makes your wife’s heart come alive.

What that means for me is that I need to clean the kitchen.

A year into our marriage, Jenny and I were talking one day when I said, “I think women have it easy.” “Oh, really,” she said “how so?”

“Generally speaking, for a man to be happy, his wife really only needs to focus on one thing. If that is right, most everything else will be right. I just wish there was one thing I could consistently do to make you happy.”

She said, “There is. Clean the kitchen.”

For my wife, cleaning the kitchen is an act of service. When I serve her (and the family) she feels valued, supported, and a part of a team. This makes her heart come alive.

When I fail to serve her, she feels used, isolated, and overlooked. This makes her heart die.

Nearly every couple who comes to me after the wife has had an affair has one thing in common—her heart slowly died.

Men can have affairs for a variety of reasons—poor boundaries, a lack of accountability, or a failing marriage. Many men have affairs in spite of having a good marriage.

But I’m yet to see a woman have an affair for those reasons. In nearly every case, it is because her heart has slowly died and the affair happens at the end of the process, not the beginning.

While the woman is still completely responsible for her actions, men have a responsibility to engage the hearts of their wives.

  • What are her hopes?
  • What are her lifelong dreams?
  • What makes her feel valued?
  • What words mean the most to her (HINT: it’s probably not calling her “hot” on social media)?
  • What are the small actions which she values the most?
  • What are the day-to-day chores which are wearing her out?

Husbands do not naturally understand the hearts of their wives. There is no way for us to. In the same way that women cannot naturally know their husbands (See: If I Could Tell Wives One Thing), husbands cannot naturally understand their wives. It takes communication, a willingness to share our true feelings, and trial and error.

This is the great pursuit of marriage: learning what our spouse’s deepest needs and desires are and trying to do our part to fulfill them. Ultimately a wife is in charge of her own heart, but she deserves a partner in helping her keep it fully alive.

There are few things like a woman with a heart which is fully alive. Our world needs more of them. Far too many are beaten down, trampled on, abused, or ignored.

When a woman’s heart is fully alive, there is nothing in this world which is more beautiful.

Learn more about how to create a marriage that laughs, loves and lasts in my book, Happily. Click here to check out the first chapter.

25 Responses to If I Could Tell Husbands One Thing
  1. […] ← 4 Cornerstone Habits for Healthy Families If I Could Tell Husbands One Thing → […]...
  2. Julie Reply

    Good post, Kevin. I will say that for some women, acts of service don’t necessarily make her heart come alive. The Five Love Languages is a great book to read for both husbands and wives, because some women value acts of service and some value quality time more or words of affirmation more than a clean kitchen. 🙂 As always, great insight!

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Totally agree. Figure out what makes his/her heart come alive and do that.

  3. Jarah Reply

    This is my favorite of all your posts so far. I would rather have my husband do small things to help out then a bunch of flowers. When he does the dishes, or puts laundry away it means the world to me. When a husband is a true partner in every way he will have a very happy wife.

  4. Nicole Reply

    I have jokingly said to friends, ‘husbands do not realize that taking out the trash is foreplay.’ Thanks for the great post!

  5. Matthew Reply

    This is outstanding. I’ve been enjoying your work and just wanted to say thanks.

  6. Dabney Hedegard (@Dabneyland) Reply

    Love this! Thanks for sharing.

  7. John Harris Reply

    Kevin, I just had a friend show me to your blog. Such a spiritual and insightful place!!!! My wife and I minister in nursing homes and it is so nice and fulfilling to find a link that allows me to sit and eat at the table of God’s wisdom and understanding portrayed in the words you write here. This article and the wife’s article are great. I can’t wait to read more. 🙂 Thank you for sharing…..I will share this site with my friends. Thanks, John Harris

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      John, thank you for the kind words. I hope you enjoy the blog. If I can ever be of any assistance to you, please let me know.

  8. becky Reply

    I disagree. Cleaning the kitchen is nice, but what would really be great is if he could just simply be NICE to me consistently. That’s all I would ask for.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      No doubt Becky. I call the “nice” thing the “Lowest bar of marital expectation.” You deserve for him to be nice.

  9. Dying heart Reply

    I found your blog today as trying to find some comfort and advice for my troubled marriage. This post made me almost cry. You said it right, my heart is nearly dying. I wish my husband would understand what it takes to fix our marriage. Thank you for your wisdom. I sent some of your posts to my husband, we will see if he will read them.

  10. Sally4th Reply

    No, no – not again. Doing the dishes is not foreplay! Cleaning the kitchen says to your wife that you share the tedium, carry your share of the chores, and yes possibly might save enough of her energy for sex with you.

    However, if you clean the kitchen for sex, well that just stinks. If your wife is your housekeeper, you want sex? Excuse me, treat her like she is your wife – your partner, your friend and clean up after yourself.

    With all the verbiage regarding how men ‘feel’ when they don’t get sex, compounded by verbiage that women “choose” how they feel — well right there is the problem.
    How about a few words form a woman, trading chores for sex – sorry, that puts women back to being chattel.
    Do the dishes, take out the trash and treat her like she matters.
    Talk to your wife. Do not assume that your dishpan hands will immediately gain you access.
    Women want to be wanted, but not merely as a toy. Women have minds, souls, hearts, and even sex drives. Do you really expect your wife to swoon when you clean up after yourself? Do you really think this is respectful, I do not.

    What I see here are that men are entitled and women’s hearts are dying. Well, you got that right.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Sally, I think it is very important to note–I basically asked my wife what would make her feel valued by me and she is the one that said clean the kitchen. I never said a man should clean the kitchen for sex. I said I should clean the kitchen to make my wife feel valued and not alone. In my opinion, you have read something into this article which is not there. I am not saying what you claim I am saying.

    • Matthew Reply

      I can understand where you are coming from, but I think what he means is that if you help your wife/husband, you are creating loving feelings in them which will make sex that much better. People in general are very sensitive creatures, and by helping your spouse unconditionally where you can, you will be breaking down the walls that divide us.

  11. […] Men, this isn’t for you. Trust me. Let me say something to the women and if they listen you wi...
  12. desperate Reply

    It’s not that he doesn’t realize the life evaporating out of this shell of a body, but his clumsy attempts at “fixing” me are making it worse. It’s not endearing, sweet, or thoughtful of him. It’s excruciating, drawn out, and daft of him.

  13. Anonymous Reply

    Sadly, my heart has died because my husband, while a great guy, is tied to a failing business. Has been for 10 plus years. There is no time for the marriage. We do not argue but things are broken. I lean on God heavily. He is my rock. I want no part of sex because we are not at all close . I participated because I should and the Bible says I should. He soon got tired of that. But we do not have a relationship. We do have two children, one teen, one grown. It is sad, but I do not have any answers. We try to carry on in life. I work to keep money flowing so we can live. It is just sad, really.

  14. Anonymous Reply

    What makes me come alive and feel loving is a man whose goal is to be completely devoted to God by making it his number one goal to try to live a holy life. My husband is too caught up in survival. I do wish it could be different. But we are different in many ways than when we married. Been married 30 years.

  15. Pix Reply

    All I want from my hubby, is to feel wanted. In all ways. We have 3 year old twin girls, as wonderful as they are, it’s stressful. Hubby hardly has time for me, let alone be able to have time to think about his own life. But on the other hand, we don’t have sex anymore. Mostly it’s because of me. Because psych drugs took my libido and anything sexual away from me. And he’s too stressed to be interested in anything sexual regarding himself, even when I have offered. Him offering to do a chore, like the litter box, would be a nice gesture. But, what I want is affection that comes from his own volition not from me begging and pleading for it. And if I do that, the begging and pleading, it only lasts for a short time and then no more effort is made. I would definitely love marriage counceling and have suggested it, but haven’t seen him really wanting it. Not everyone wants a chore done to have to their heart not die. I need his love. But my heart has been dying for years. I want to make our marriage work. But it takes two people to do that. Currently the kids are the priority and I’m at the bottom, as far as his priority. It’s sad. But I don’t want to start over with someone else. It will fail. I need to get this one right. But he has to work at it too.


    Yeah, ok. Clean kitchen. Been there done that. Plus SOOOOOOOO much more over the last 32 years with “my loving, blushing bride” who refuses everything. (Counseling, shrinks, medical, hormones etc.) Everything is great as far as she is concerned because she doesn’t have to do those “icky” sexual things. Only barely enough to NOT ALLOW ME TO ESCAPE this hell on Earth.

    Read Care for your husband’s heart entry and comments on Chris Taylor’s The forgiven Wife site if you want to see where this leads. Can identify with some of practically every post. Really like the oasis haiku. Simple, brutal honesty there!

    Highly recommend the asexual marriage series over at the “curmudgeonly librarian’s” site too for any guys here who can no longer tie a knot in the rope they have been dangling from for decades.

    No coddling there either. Been way too much of that in my experience. Check out the “about yous” in the “hard to hear” posts too.

    I’d post links, but cannot get to work here.

  17. Drowning Reply

    As a person in a dying marriage, hoping for God to help bring life back into it, I think that there is something in between the lines in both of these blogs that many miss in life and are missing here. The important ingredient to a marriage is love. Not romance novel or movie love, although it can look like that, but love as described in the bible that is patient kind and places others above itself. The selfless part of love that desires to fulfill the needs and desires of others above one’s own needs. If two people are doing that then you’ll have something amazing. The point of these blogs that’s missed is the desire from your spouse to find out what you desire or need and try to fulfill it out of love 4 you. If your husband is clumsily trying to fix your marriage, then thank God! If he’s doing the dishes to please you, then thank God! You’re halfway there! His desire to please you just needs direction from you on what to do and how to do it. That’s the point here. As long as there is that desire n willingness to do that out of love then you’re heading in the right direction. What really kills is selfishness. Your needs and feelings ahead of your spouse’s. My feelings reigning over love for my spouse. Remember most of us said forsaking all others, including ourselves, in our vows. We signed on to be our spouses sole provider in certain areas. Our spouses bear a responsibility to know what they need and communicate it and we are responsible to fulfill it. Of course the same goes both ways regarding our needs. It won’t always feel good for us as sometimes they require labor but if our heart is to please the spouse and the One we say we love then we can derive joy in that. Remember God sent his son Jesus to die for us out of love John 3:16 not because He needed it, but because we did. Not because it felt good for Him but because we needed it and He decided to place our needs above His. As we do that for our spouses then hopefully our spouses will return in kind and the circle of love that we wear on our fingers will remain unbroken and flowing. As long as both parties display selfless love towards each other neither will have the need to be selfish because they will have confidence that their needs will also be fulfilled.

    The problem rests when one or both parties become more concerned with recieving than giving. Or when other things choke out, steal, or prevent love from being given and received. My issue…

  18. Alma Reply

    HI again Kevin,

    I’m not going to read the other people’s reactions, yet. I have read two of your blogs and this is my third. Firstly, I appreciate your willingness to put yourself out there to try and help other marriages. I say this with a humble heart, in reaction to your closing statement where you say, “Ultimately a wife is in charge of her own heart, but she deserves a partner in helping her keep it fully alive.” This is tricky, isn’t it? Can you say more?

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