Men, are you married to an "invisible" woman? You might not think so, but does your wife think so?
When your wife walks into the living room and says, "Hey, can someone please turn down the television?" and no one responds or even acknowledges her comment, that's exactly what she feels like — invisible. How about when you, as her husband, join in the complicity by not saying anything? When you fail to even challenge the kids for not responding? Invisible.
Perhaps she listens to you talking to new acquaintances or business associates at a party, asking questions about their family or their life, and realizes she can't remember the last time you asked her how she was doing. Invisible.
A lot of mothers, even Christian mothers, feel invisible — forgotten inside the very home in which they have invested so much.
Mothers deserve active affirmation
Much of this neglect comes not from a conscious choice to disrespect our wives, but from a passive "default mode" in which we fail to intentionally honor them. It's common for us men to define our worth as husbands and fathers by what we don't do: We don't cheat on our wives, we don't hit our kids, we don't swear at them, etc.
But women are different. If you want to make sure that your wife doesn't feel invisible, you need to think about active affirmation. Wives and mothers desire expressed and demonstrated respect rather than the mere avoidance of disrespect.
In the Bible, God goes to great lengths to show how women are never invisible to Him. Consider Leviticus 19:3: "Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father. I am the LORD your God" (ESV).
This verse might not sound out of the ordinary to us in the 21st century, but to an Old Testament audience, such a statement was virtually without parallel. Mothers were never put before fathers in a sentence, and this was written in a culture where gender placement really mattered.
Here's a contemporary example: There are many wars fought in Hollywood over what the industry calls "top billing." When an actor agrees to do a movie, he wants to know how high up his name will appear in the ads. There's a clear pecking order. The more prominent one's name is on the poster, or the first name to appear on the screen, signifies that you're the most important actor in the movie. Stars fight over that piece of real estate more than they fight over mansions in the Hollywood hills.
In biblical times, men always got top billing. When Deuteronomy 5:16 says, "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you," it was unusual for mothers to be mentioned at all, but not too shocking since fathers are mentioned first. Leviticus takes this a step further by giving mothers top billing: "Every one of you shall revere his mother and father." That just didn't happen back then — except in the Bible.
Fathers need to model respect
Since the Bible goes out of its way to honor mothers, it's incumbent on us as fathers to help our kids "get it." When we're with our kids and our wife says something, we need to create a climate of respect.
"Kids, when your mom has something to say, you need to give her your attention."
If the kids don't immediately look up from their television program or video game when their mom speaks, they should lose the right to finish whatever they are unbiblically valuing above their mom's words. It won't take long for them to learn the lesson of active respect.
Here's the most challenging part for men: Our kids will look to us first. If we ignore our wife when she speaks, our kids will ignore their mom. She's the same person, after all, and we can't cultivate respect for a person by modeling disrespect. We must create an attitude of reverence for the most important woman in our home.
Another way we honor our kids' mom is to affirm her role as a parent. While modern society is far more respectful toward women in general, it still demeans the role of motherhood. If a woman chooses to devote most of her hours to raising her family, she's likely to be disrespected by those outside the home — many times even by her own sons and daughters. That's why it's often up to us as men to explicitly and intentionally create opportunities to praise her, affirm her and to demonstrate respect for the choices she has made.
Consider again how the Bible emphasizes the role of women, and ask yourself the question: Whom do your kids hear you affirm, admire and praise? Make a conscious decision to treat your wife the way Jesus treated women, to talk about your wife the way God talks about women, and to respect your wife the way the Lord respects her.
The last thing a Christian mother should feel is invisible. The biblical model is clear: "Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her." (Proverbs 31:28, NASB)
Take Mother's Day, for example. It's not about giving her a day off once a year; it's a reminder for all men about how your kids' mom deserves to be treated every day of the year. The best Mother's Day gift is a decision to spend all 52 weeks teaching your children how to give her the respect and affirmation she deserves.