Husband wants praise: Does she owe him?
Will his self-esteem wither and die if she doesn’t affirm him? Will he go fishing for glory outside his marriage if he’s not getting it at home?
That’s what evangelical and other conservative faith communities that center maleness have told women.
They’ve said men need respect.1 And one of the ways respect is expressed in marriage is through bouquets of compliments, praises, and little to no correction.
In many conservative church circles, women and girls carry men’s emotional and sexual health.2 Rather than resource men to grow up, many churches have instead asked women to make life comfortable for them right where they are.
So it ends up being that not only do wives grow up their own husbands, they also submit to the man-boy as he’s growing. (And we’re using the term “growing” loosely because you can’t really grow when someone else is managing and soothing your growth areas.)
Husband Wants Praise: But Do Men Really Need Women to Grow Up?
Do men require a constant stream of validation from their wives? The quick answer is no, they don’t.
Men can, and do indeed, get by without being coddled, helped, or fixed by women. Men don’t need female interventions to thrive because they too are created in the image of God. Just like women, they have access to God when they struggle.
That means women don’t have to expend their capacities fixing or placating men because men have their own capacities and privilege (access to God.) Nobody needs to max out or die to “help” the other.
But then we have a case of men believing they need female interventions to be good. What then?
Support, appreciation, affirmation, and feeling seen and heard are normal human longings. It’s normal to offer each other validation in marriage. It is normal to celebrate your spouse’s achievements, deeds, or character.
The difference though is that healthy recognition and validation are not coerced or made up.
In conservative/evangelical circles, the “husband wants praise” train is filled with women. Women are asked to praise a man who hasn’t earned it: praise him because he’s male.
They are compelled to shower positive words because, ostensibly, he’ll self-destruct without it (or go looking outside the marriage.)
They are asked to praise because that’s how he’s “wired”: for her to find something to praise. Focus on his greatness and shrink your concerns.
The “praise your husband” train eventually stops at “never seek help for marriage problems because that’s dishonoring to the man.” Because how do you seek help when you’re also busy praising him?
(It’s one of the reasons people will say “we didn’t know they had problems. They looked so happy together!” The same crew that encouraged her not to discuss marital issues – praise and respect him instead – end up surprised when the private hell is exposed. We trained her to shrink her concerns and magnify his “potential,” and then are shocked when we see the fruit of our training.)
Husband Wants Praise: Interventions For Good Fellows
Harmful marriage teachings hurt both men and women. On the one hand, we’ll have women carrying an unfair share of marital responsibilities, and on the other hand, men conditioned to see that as normal.
But not every man sees such imbalances as normal. There are a lot of great guys—good men, men willing to change and unlearn entitlement.
So here’s the truth about a husband who wants praise from his wife: Good men will address unhealthy cravings for recognition from their wives.
Rather than feed it, they will back up, pause, and check themselves. They will be open to receiving and exploring how their mindset hurts them, their wife and the relationship.
The thing about honorable men is that they are pliable, and willing to correct course. Because good men are good at the character level, they sit with that information when their mindset and behavior are exposed as needing improvement.
If they are people of faith, they talk to God and ask for help. They lean on the wisdom of others, e.g., therapy, good books, podcasts.
Decent men don’t dismiss concerns that wound their wives or cripple their relationships. They don’t expect their wives to pave their way with ease and bliss.
And certainly they don’t criticize, throw a tantrum or insist “that’s how men are wired.” (by the way, men are not wired to want praise/respect more than women.1)
That’s the bottom line: men can overcome male entitlement. Men can explore growth areas. They can work hard. They can bear lasting fruit. All by themselves. Without female interventions. Good men do that and more.
A man who constantly needs praise and validation from his wife, who whines and believes suggestions for improvements is criticism, is most likely an unhealthy, unsafe man.
And there’s nothing his wife can do to make him safe or good because that’s his ride, not hers.
- Related Posts:
- How To Be a Good Wife To Bad Husband” (Clarity For Wives
- Why Being a Good Wife Won’t Fix a Bad Husband
Systems of Abuse: A Guide to Recognizing Toxic Behavior Patterns
Abuse can be difficult to identify, especially if you have been conditioned to see it as normal. Systems of Abuse: A Guide to Recognizing Toxic Behavior Patterns by abuse recovery coach Sarah McDugal outlines 13 categories of behavioral patterns, giving simple, tangible illustrations for each category. Guiding survivors to break through the fog and assisting victims to remember and articulate their experiences. (Aff link) Access Now.
2. She Deserves Better: Raising girls to resist toxic teachings on sex, self and speaking up, by Sheila Wray Gregoire Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach, Joanna Sawatsky.