It's interesting that none of the seven things older women are to teach younger women are really about meeting our own needs. They are about our responsibilities and how we are to care for others. Perhaps that's because God knows that we meet our own needs best by caring about others. We gain inner dignity (that reflects on the outside) and well-being by shouldering our responsibilities well. That is how we best meet our own needs and feel good about ourselves. So the more we think about others and seek to love and meet their needs, the better we will be meeting our own needs and ministering to our own sense of well-being.
In no relationship is this more true than with our spouses. The world's way of thinking and viewing things, and even the feelings from our own sinful nature, tell us just the opposite. Our culture inundates us with lying messages: you're #1, look out for yourself, get your own needs met, etc., etc. But this is all upside down, and God's Kingdom ways teach us to live right side up. God's way are counterintuitive to our natural, fallen ways of thinking.
Perhaps it helps to think about how we like and need to be loved—and then do that for others. As Jesus taught, "Do to others what you would like them to do to you." Simple. Profound. Most difficult. One of the things we most crave is affirmation. How is affirmation expressed? Through appreciation and gratitude. By noticing the things others do for you and their good qualities and expressing that to them.
It's quite easy to fall into the negative habit pattern of noticing others' faults (especially our spouse's) and meditating on all the ways they aren't meeting our needs. (Yes, we do meditate on those things, don't we?! Mulling them over and over in our minds, even preparing how we're going to express our disapproval or disappointment.) But what if we began to ask God to reverse that? What if every time you begin to meditate on your angst, you used it as a cue card, a springboard to meditate on something you appreciate about your spouse instead and think about how to express that?
Showing appreciation is reflected in a grateful heart. When we express gratitude, we are telling another person how and why we appreciate them. God is in the business of reshaping our self-centered, me-focused, disgruntled ways (i.e., why aren't they doing this, this, and this for me) into grateful living, thinking, feeling. Begin to notice and ruminate on what your spouse does for you, all the ways he meets your needs.
If you have the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom, your husband is doing a TON for you just by going to work everyday. Think of all the needs you have that are being met through his financial provision! We often take those things for granted as though they are our right and mean nothing to us. Have it taken away and you'll realize how huge that blessing is! That should be a daily point of gratitude and appreciation right there. Begin a new habit of cultivating and expressing daily appreciation for that. It will change your outlook from frustration over those seemingly constant piles of dirty dishes and picking up toys for the umpteenth time, to focusing on the great advantage you have been given. By expressing our gratitude for that, we are also reminding ourselves of this amazing privilege of staying home to mother our children.
Gratitude actively looks for all the ways others help us and meet our needs, rather than focusing on the ways we feel they aren't. When we focus on the ways others aren't meeting our needs, we miss all the ways they are. Gratitude and appreciation don't come naturally as we imagine that it does—or would if all our needs were met. No, gratitude is not a matter of having all our needs met, it's a matter of refocusing our thought patterns, shifting our thought focus away from ourselves and our negativities to noticing the big and small ways others bless us every day, all the time—and then expressing it. Expressing gratitude requires laying down the negatives; it is a certain dying to self in order to love another.
But gratitude looks not only for the things others do for us but also the character behind the actions, the good qualities of others. As wives, we need to learn to express appreciation for the character qualities our husbands display. Even negative qualities generally have a positive flip side, just as most positive qualities have a negative side. Look for the positive—even if you're feeling negative. Flip it around to see the other side. Then express that instead. Say no to your negative feelings by the power of the Holy Spirit within you and say yes to appreciation.
Appreciation goes a LONG way toward making another person feel loved. Appreciation will make your home a haven for your man. Appreciation draws others into relationship. It's a way of saying, "You are a blessing to me." It lets them know that we're thinking of them in positive ways.
And expressing appreciation regularly as a new way of life is completely transformational. It transforms, first of all, who we are: the way we think and respond and build relationships. And it transforms all our relationships. Appreciation contributes to the other person's well-being. It enables them to relax around you and to be happy and content. It even causes a desire for reciprocation, which, in turn, comes back around to meet your own needs. Try it. You'll like it—and so will your spouse!