The primary attitude that will help your spouse feel emotionally safe is when he believes that you understand how incredibly valuable he is. That is the essence of honor. Honor is a decision to view our spouse as a priceless treasure – a person of high worth and value. This is what King Solomon encouraged as well: "A man's greatest treasure is his wife" (Proverbs 18:22).
Honor isn't based on behavior or subject to emotion. You grant your spouse value whether they want it or deserve it. Honor is a decision you make and a gift you give. This is exactly what the apostle Paul encouraged the early Christians to do when he wrote, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor" (Romans 12:10).
God has made it resplendently clear that my wife is valuable. Look at some of the verses that show how much our heavenly Father values and cherishes us:
It's amazing to think that the God of this universe considers my wife His treasured possession. That's powerful! However, when Erin and I are in the midst of an argument and my heart closes, the first thing to go is my awareness of her incredible value.
And in those moments, when I fail to see her as my heavenly Father sees His daughter, I'm not safe. When I lose sight of her value, when I'm not cherishing her, I'm more apt to react and treat her in dishonoring ways. Then Erin has every right to put up a wall and protect herself.
I watched the power of recognizing my wife's value this past Thanksgiving while at my parents' home in Branson, Mo. One of the things that I appreciate most about my parents is the honesty of their marriage. They've never claimed to have a "perfect" marriage and aren't afraid to disagree.
At one point, my parents got into a huge argument. They were so frustrated that they each ran off to a different part of the house. I let the situation calm down for a few minutes before I knocked on my father's office door.
"Come in," he reluctantly replied.
As I walked into his office, I found my dad sitting behind his computer reading a document titled "Why Norma Is So Valuable." (My mom's name is Norma, just in case you were wondering.)
"What are you reading?" I asked.
"Well," my dad began, "a number of years ago I started a list of why your mom is so valuable. So when I'm upset with her, or when we've had a fight, I've learned that instead of sitting here thinking about how hurt or frustrated I am at your mother, I need to make myself read through this list."
The document contained literally hundreds of words and phrases describing my mom's value. It was amazing.
"When I first start to read through the list, I'm still upset," explained my dad. "I usually get to the first three or four items and think, 'What was I thinking?' or 'This one is no longer valid!' or 'I'm definitely going to erase that one.' But then the farther down I read, the faster I realize that you have an amazing mom."
This is the best idea I've ever heard for recognizing someone's value. Talk about creating safety. It's also what my father does to get his heart back open. Luke 12:34 explains why it is so powerful: "For where your treasure is, so there will your heart be also." In other words, your heart will be open to what you value. One way to keep your heart open and your spouse feeling safe with you is to focus on her value.
We can create this honor list for our spouse as well. Take several minutes to list all the reasons why your spouse is so valuable. For example: a character trait, faith pattern, values, morals, parenting skills, spirituality, the roles he or she plays that you appreciate (worker, friend, parent, sibling, son), personality characteristic, how he or she treats you, etc.
And don't keep the amazing list to yourself – share it with your spouse. Let her know that you recognize her value. When this happens, not only does your spouse benefit, but you are positively impacted as well.
Pre-marital training helps couples stay together. In fact, couples who participate in premarital programs experience a 30% increase in marital success over those who do not participate.