I was speaking at a church in Spokane, Washington, when I first heard Julia sing. After the service, I commended her for the excellent way she sang. “I’ll have to give my husband credit for that,” she said.
“How’s that?” I asked.
“Six years ago, I expressed the desire to take voice lessons. It’s something I have always wanted to do. We had been married four years and had two preschool children. When I shared the idea with my husband, he said, ‘Go for it. I’ll be glad to keep the children. You have such a beautiful voice; you need to develop the talent God has given you.’ ”
“That’s quite a husband you have,” I said.
“He’s the absolute greatest,” Julia responded.
Encourage your spouse
One of the most effective ways to help your spouse is to offer encouraging words. The word encourage means “to inspire courage.” All of us have areas in which we feel insecure and lack courage, and that lack of courage often hinders us from accomplishing the positive things that we would like to do. The latent potential within your spouse may await your encouraging words.
When we receive positive words, we are encouraged to continue pursuing our dreams. When a man fails to get a promotion at work, he may feel that he is a failure. But when his wife says, “You’re still No. 1 in my book,” he has the courage to work through his disappointment and continue.
Perhaps your spouse has untapped potential in one or more areas of life. That potential may be awaiting your encouraging words. Perhaps your wife needs to enroll in a course to develop her potential. Maybe your husband needs to meet some people who have succeeded in his area of interest who can give him insight on the next step to take. Your words may supply the necessary courage to take that first step. Most of us have more potential than we will ever develop. The thing that holds us back is often lack of courage. A loving spouse can supply that all-important catalyst.
Support your spouse
Julia’s husband not only gave her encouraging words, he also took supportive action, which is another way of helping your spouse to succeed. He was not only willing to keep the children once a week while Julia took voice lessons, he was also willing to use the family finances to help her accomplish her dream. One of the most common complaints I have encountered in my counseling office has been the husbands and wives who say, “My spouse is not supportive.” They sometimes add, “I feel like he [she] works against me rather than for me.”
I must admit that sometimes this “lack of support” is another way of saying, “My spouse will not go along with all my crazy ideas.” There are people who are dreamers but never attach their dreams to reality. They jump into a business venture and lose thousands of dollars, then can’t understand why their spouse is not ready to jump into the next venture with them.
There are, however, ways of being supportive even if your mate is an unrealistic dreamer. I’m not suggesting that you blindly support your spouse in an endeavor that you think is destined for failure. However, you might say something like this: “More than anything, I want to see you succeed in life. I’m encouraged that you have dreams. At the same time, I don’t want to see you fail again. Therefore, I’m going to be very supportive of you in this idea, but I’m going to request that you talk with a banker or someone who could give you good information about this venture before you jump into it. I know that if you continue to try business ventures that fail, you will eventually get discouraged. I don’t want that to happen. I want you to succeed, so let’s get all the wisdom we can up front. Then let’s jump together or let’s decide not to jump at all.” In such a statement, you are expressing your desire to be supportive in the most responsible manner.
Supportive actions often spell the difference between success and failure. When your wife expresses a desire to join a weight-loss program, don’t say what one husband said: “We can’t afford that. Why don’t you just stop eating?” Such a nonsupportive attitude not only sabotaged her dream but also hurt the marriage. Helping your spouse succeed requires time, energy, effort and perhaps sacrifice on your part.
I am forever indebted to my wife for supporting me when I went back to graduate school. She took care of our young daughter while I worked part time and went to school. We lived on a shoestring. For three years, she never bought a pair of shoes or a new dress for herself. Her sacrificial actions made it possible for me to complete graduate school. I would like to think that whatever success I have experienced brings her a great deal of satisfaction, knowing that she is largely responsible for my successes.
What desires has your spouse expressed? What supportive actions would it require on your part to see those dreams become realities? Why not express your willingness to support your spouse, both with encouragement and with supportive action? Few things may give you greater joy than seeing your spouse reach his or her potential for God and for good.
Dr. Gary Chapman is a pastor, speaker and best-selling author of The Five Love Languages.