I remember when I was 12 years old, playing in a peewee hockey game where we were getting destroyed. My father (and coach) stormed into the dressing room between periods and yelled at my teammates, “Listen up, you guys! Just give the puck to Paul and get out of his way!”

I was mortified at the time, but later on it hit me. My dad thinks I’m pretty good! I’m not sure how the other players felt, but in his own way, my dad was telling me that he believed in me. Times like that gave me the confidence that I needed to fulfill my dream of playing in the NHL.

All of us need cheerleaders in our corner. As a husband, one of my greatest responsibilities — and greatest privileges — is to support and encourage my wife to become the woman that God created her to be. Your wife needs for you to intentionally show her respect and invest in her dreams. A big part of that is helping her to feel good about herself, to give her the confidence and courage to step out, take risks, and grow.

There is a biblical principle that says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). How exactly do we do that when it comes to marriage?

Here are six ways to respect your wife:

1. Go back to school

You need to become a student of your mate. Watch her life and get a sense of her potential, goals and dreams. Determine how to encourage and empower her.

I always believed that my wife Eleanor would make a fabulous public speaker. But for many years, she just couldn’t see it and was even terrified of trying. She didn’t have self-confidence. But that was OK — I had enough confidence for the both of us! I spent our early years encouraging her and helping her sharpen her speaking skills, and now we speak together at FamilyLife marriage conferences across Canada. What once was a huge area of fear for her has become one of our greatest joys as a couple.

2. Affirm her strengths

As I said, we all need a cheerleader in our corner, and no one should be a bigger fan of your spouse than you. When you see an area of competence and excellence in her life, tell her! Be specific in giving examples of where you have seen her being wise and discerning. Praise her for whatever she does well, whether it’s cooking, decorating your home, caring for the children, helping people, excelling at work, or being a person of character. Your enthusiasm will put a smile on her face and give her a confidence to pursue her goals.

3. Critique carefully

If we are serious about helping our spouse become a better person, there will be times when some constructive criticism is necessary. This is dangerous territory — tread carefully!

There is a fine line between exhorting and destroying. Our job is to build one another up, not tear one another down. Communicate your intentions to help in the best possible light so your spouse does not become defensive or feel put down. Paint the picture of a diamond in the rough; it just has to be mined — polished, cleaned up, refined. Focus on the diamond, not the rough — remember that it takes seven positive comments to outweigh one negative.

4. Praise her publicly

One of the most damaging things we can do to our spouse is to criticize them in front of others. On the other hand, there is nothing as empowering and uplifting as public affirmation. A lot of people today seem to enjoy cutting down their spouse in the presence of others, whether friends, acquaintances or children. Instead, always speak well of your mate, whether or not your spouse is present.

I tell everyone I meet that my wife is the most wonderful woman I have ever laid eyes on (and she is, too — you should see her!). You will never catch me complaining or even making negative jokes about her. She is God’s precious gift, and I want everybody to know it!

5. Work as a team

Although I may tell my wife how wonderful she is, if I never listen to her or value and acknowledge her suggestions, my words will ring hollow. Ignoring what the other person brings to the table creates a feeling of worthlessness in them. Seek your mate’s input in your decision-making. God brought you together because you complement one another. Work as a team, and you will not only make better decisions, you will communicate, “I value you.” You will also discover how often God will speak to you through your spouse.

6. Provide security

Dave Currie, a frequent speaker at marriage conferences, makes the excellent point that you should be a safe place for your mate to land. Create an environment where your mate knows she can share anything openly and freely without the slightest hesitation.

Be sure to tell your spouse often how much you love and cherish her. I tell my wife Eleanor all the time how much I admire her and want her. Assure your mate that you will always be there for her and you will never leave her. The security of knowing that there is someone who is always behind you, no matter what, creates an environment that encourages a person to take the necessary risks to chase their dreams.

Above all, point them to the other Person who is totally enamored with them. As people created in the image of God, each of us is exceptionally valuable in his eyes. God has plans for each of us that are far beyond our comprehension. Our great honor as a husband or a wife is to help our spouse fulfill God’s vision for their life. Nothing is more rewarding!

Please add your perspective in the discussion section. What else would make you feel respected by your husband?

Photo Credit: Emilie Rhaupp