Nourish: Treat Your Spouse in Valuable Ways

By Greg Smalley
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
When you treat your spouse with compassion, it creates a safe environment to share your deepest thoughts and feelings.

Understanding your spouse’s incredible value is the beginning of safety, but to create a marriage that feels like the safest place on earth, you must be able to express honor through action and behavior. “Let us not love with mere words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Honor in action means that you learn how to handle your spouse’s heart — her deepest feelings, thoughts and desires — with the utmost care. You need to visualize his heart tattooed with the words “Handle with care.”

Remember, “emotional safety” is feeling free to open up and reveal who you really are and trust that the other person will still love, value and accept you. As you can see, the last part of the definition communicates a powerful message: “You are incredibly valuable, so don’t be afraid of letting me see your heart. You can share your deepest feelings, thoughts, opinions, hopes, dreams, fears, hurts and memories, and I will still love and accept you.”

Let me make practical the idea of safety in action. Jackson and Krista, a married couple attending a marriage-training seminar, were just about to discuss a big fight they were having around the remodeling of their home.

In this moment, Jackson didn’t care what Krista knew or what was going on with her. His heart was closed; he didn’t feel safe. But instead of trying to get Jackson to care about her pain and frustration, Krista made it her goal to care about Jackson’s heart.

“I so greatly appreciate your sense of responsibility, and the fact that when you say you’re going to do something, it will always happen,” Krista started. “You are such a man of integrity. I think this is why I’ve been confused about the lack of follow-through around this remodel. Would you be willing to help me understand what is going on for you?”

When you choose to care for your spouse, it can instantly create a safe environment to share your deepest thoughts and feelings.

“You’re right,” Jackson cautiously responded. “I’m usually great at follow-through. But this project has made me realize just how inadequate I am around home repair. My dad is so great at it. As a builder, John (a family friend) is amazing. I think I realized that I couldn’t do anything without their help. That made me feel like a failure. Since this is our first house, I want to feel competent. I want you to trust that if something breaks, I can fix it without having to call my dad or some repairman.”

Krista instantly held Jackson’s hand tight in her own and, with tears in her eyes, smiled at her husband. “That makes so much sense,” she said gently. “I had no idea that you felt this way. I am so sorry that you have been feeling like a failure.”

This is the power of safety in action. Caring has the power to soften a closed heart. The key to put caring into action is compassion. This is exactly what Krista did for Jackson. King Solomon said it best: “Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious” (Ecclesiastes 10:12). Another word for “gracious” as it’s used here is “compassionate.” The verse could also read, “Words from a wise man’s mouth are compassionate.”

Certainly, compassion is an important first step to move from unhealthy conflict into intimacy. Just ask Jackson. Allow your spouse’s pain that was caused by your argument drive you to a place of compassion. Make your first goal to alleviate their hurt and emotional pain. When we come together to talk about conflict, we can use compassion to help your spouse feel cared for. This instantly creates safety. A heart will open when it feels safe.

Compassion communicates that your spouse’s heart matters to you. How do you express that you value your spouse’s heart? The best way to communicate compassion is to follow Krista’s lead — through a kind look, a gentle word, a soft touch or caring actions. Care and compassion break down the opposition and create two open hearts. And when you create the right atmosphere through emotional safety, you have unlocked the door of healthy conflict.

Adapted from Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage, published by Howard Books. Copyright © 2012 by Greg Smalley. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Greg Smalley

Dr. Greg Smalley serves as the Vice President of Marriage at Focus on the Family. In this role, he develops and oversees initiatives that prepare individuals for marriage, strengthen and nurture existing marriages and help couples in marital crises. Prior to joining Focus, Smalley worked for the Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University and as President of the …

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.

If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.