By: Woody Godbey

Even though this post is primarily for husbands, you wives can glean some truths from this too. Ephesians 5:33 tells a husband to love his wife as he loves himself. When I married my wife over 43 years ago, I had full intention to love her unconditionally and to always respect and admire her. I had every intention of being the perfect husband, offering kind words, building her up, being romantic and meeting her every need.

But then careers took off, bills increased, child born, responsibilities grew, and life became chaotic. Along the way, somehow I created a measuring stick of expectations for whether my wife actually deserved my best. It was kind of like, I'll give back to you what you give me.

When marriage didn't meet the unrealistic expectations I had before the wedding, and real life kicked in, it became easy to fall into the habit of tearing down my wife and marriage.

It seemed the longer we were together, the easier it was to see each other's flaws, and mercilessly criticize them. This eventually led to short tempers, less tolerance, and a lack of marital bliss. Not what I dreamed my marriage would be when I said "I do."

I'm sure many you can relate? Have you noticed too that as a result of these frustrations, the gifts of unconditional love, respect and admiration that we fully intended to offer become gifts we withhold?

There came a day when I sincerely hoped to rekindle some passion in my marriage. Little did I know how God would use hurts and truths from his Word to get my attention and help me make some inward changes.

As I read His word about relationships, God convicted my heart about things I had said to my wife in the past and the critical comments that rolled off my tongue so easily. I was now regretting those things very deeply. Although I had fully intended to be my wife's biggest encourager, I had become one of her worst critics.

God helped me see the powerful influence I have on my wife and marriage when choosing words that build up. Words that encourage instead of discourage. Words that heal, not wound.

As men, we can build up or tear down our wives every day, merely by the respect we give, the words we choose, and the amount of faith in her we convey.

Respect and admiration are two of the most powerful tools a husband or wife has to influence one another. Realizing I had fallen short in giving those two precious gifts to my wife, I asked God to help me control my tongue. I asked Him to fill my heart and mouth with words that would make my wife feel admired, respected and loved, regardless of what she did or how I felt inside.

I knew I'd need God's help to follow through on my renewed intentions, so I asked for a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit when critical thoughts crept into my mind. God helped me avoid the temptation to say them out loud.