September 1, 2015

The Only Man in the World

Gary Thomas — 

The Only Man in the World

Women, the door to true happiness in marriage—the key to becoming the most pleased and happiest of wives—is to begin viewing your husband as Adam, the only man in the world.

When you get married, you agree (consciously or not) to a “commitment of contentment.” You forever reset the boundaries for what makes you content. You don’t get to compare your husband to other husbands (that’s what girlfriends should do with boyfriends, but not what wives should do with husbands) because to you, he is the only man in the world.

Think of yourself as Eve in the Garden of Eden, standing before the first man Adam. Eve didn’t have anyone to compare Adam to. She couldn’t think, “His arms look below average, but at least he doesn’t have a unibrow.” All she could possibly think was, “This is what men are like.”

The “new boundaries” of your new commitment to contentment once you get married means that anything your husband isn’t becomes irrelevant—your guy isn’t that, so don’t expect that. If you marry a guy who isn’t a handyman, you don’t judge him for not being a handyman. If you marry a guy who is a bit silent, you don’t brood over the fact that your best friend’s husband will sit and talk to her for hours. If you marry a guy who thinks exercise is picking up the game controller, you don’t think about what it would be like to marry a guy who does triathlons.

Instead, you think of your man as Adam—the only man in the world. You love him for who he is, you don’t expect him to be anything else, and you never compare him to anyone else.

This might sound extreme to some of you but tell me, what have you ever gained by comparing your husband’s weaknesses to another husband’s strengths? Has it ever made you happier, more content in your marriage, or a more loving wife? Has it ever made you feel closer to your husband or given you more joy?

Of course not.

If you want to be married to a man who reads books then marry a man who reads books. Marrying a man who doesn’t read books and then faulting him for not reading is your problem not his. You made a choice and now you are second-guessing it. The problem isn’t with your husband—the problem is that you made a poor choice establishing your boundaries of contentment.

When you can finally see and agree that the problem you have with contentment is thus yours, not his, everything about your marriage will change. Everything.

I promise you, you will be so much happier in your marriage. You will become a much better wife if you simply pray through the creation account in Genesis and begin thinking of your husband as Adam—the man who defines all other men for you—and then start treating him that way. It’ll take biblical understanding to do this then prayerful supplication to God, then an intellectual consent, and finally a determined act of the will to fully go through this process resetting your brain to think of your husband as Adam.

It’s not a one-time deal. You’ll catch yourself slipping back into comparison at times, and you will have to go back to square one and set the process in motion once again. Over time it will become the way you look at your husband. Thinking of him as Adam will be your default mode of thinking and relating.Small Sacred Marriage Image - Cropped

When that happens, you’ll find that you cherish your husband instead of having contempt for him. You’ll discover that you are grateful for his strengths instead of bitter about his weaknesses. You will experience the joy of your heavenly Father who delights in seeing His sons cherished, encouraged, and respected. You’ll be a strong witness to Christians and non-Christians alike. You’ll provide one of the best parenting role models a mother could ever provide for her children, boys, and girls.

But just as importantly, you’ll find more contentment, enjoyment, happiness, and intimacy in your marriage. Your heart will swell with pride and you will be the envy of all your friends—the one woman who is utterly and contentedly in love with her husband and can’t even imagine being married to any other.

That’s a very pleasant place to live.

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30 responses to The Only Man in the World

  1. Hi, Gary. Thanks for writing this post, even more, thanks for the first one you wrote to men. I always felt weird for being a one-guy girl, not just for a season, but forever. A lot has happened to me, but I still agree with you and with God, that men should treat their wives as though there were no other women on earth, and vice versa. I have a pastor who teaches so also, and I truly believe that if we learnt to be God-dependent and Word-dependent, a lot more marriages and relationships would work out and bless nations. Thanks again sir!

  2. My guess is you get little pushback from men is because they are going to agree with you in the principle, but never apply it to their own lov3s, while women, in general, have been jumping through hoops and get nowhere. Just this week, Christian writers have told me I need to be wearing sexier lingerie, being a sade place for him to confess his struggles with porn, step up and do the chores he ignores, send him loving texts, etc. I’m exhausted. Truthfully, I don’t compare him to other men cause I doubt many are different than he.

    • This.

      Also because likely, the only men who read these blogs are the few that actually give a $#!+. Whereas the women who read these blogs are the hurting ones trying to find answers…..and their ranks are far more swollen than the former.

  3. Rebecca Reynolds September 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    I mostly agree with this. However, I have seen situations where women were trapped in abusive marriage situations (emotionally or physically) after being raised by bad fathers. These women didn’t have a healthy frame of reference, and they needed to look outside their own marriages to see that some of what they were dealing with was damaging to themselves and their children. Some women need to be told that if their Adam hits them or their children, or if he is crushing, cruel, or domineering, it’s OK to look at healthy relationships and get counseling. And if that doesn’t work, they need to get out of the marriage. It’s tricky to know when comparison is toxic and when it is necessary, but sometimes we have to make that call. I think you would agree with that, so I’m not challenging you. Just clarifying in case an abused woman is reading this and thinks she is doing a bad thing by noticing that she is being mistreated.

    • Thanks Rebecca. I completely agree, and would urge anyone who might be in that situation to look at the index and read the several blog posts on domestic violence and marital abuse.

  4. I have to make a confession.
    I wanted to post a question along the same lines. This is the 5th article in 10 days as advice to men and women. One was posted by a Mr. Israel Burale, another by a local radio station in Kenya, a 3rd by a Mr. Dyanga on Facebook then yours. In all of them there was just this persistent push back by women, while the posts to men seemed to elicit so much approval by men.
    I have to say after 5 decades of feminism telling us women are victims of some perceived and partly real chauvinism, it is very politically incorrect to call out women on anything. Even if dome with candor and respect. It is just so politically incorrect.
    Meanwhile it is always okay to call out men(not saying it is unwarranted or unnecessary). In 2014 69% of relationship articles about men were -ve, 21% were favorable, and 14% were neutral. I would to hear you weigh in on that and the media induced bastardization of masculinity.

  5. I found this post very helpful-this side if the ring- if I chose to accept my boyfriend’s proposal then I have an obligation to stop looking at other men. I am the one making the choice to join my life with his. Therefore to strengthen our bond I have to protect it from all that seeks to destroy it.

  6. I am going to admit that I read the Eve one and was all YES! Then I read this one and I am all, “hmmmm….ummm…yeah…ummmm.”

    I do believe it is unfruitful and unfair to compare your spouse’s looks, talents, abilities, and personality to others. They are who God made them to be and it isn’t like we live in an era of blind arranged marriages.

    Where my road block is is comparing him to other men in the context of character and ambition….or rather not so much other men per se, but rather what I thought (expected?) him to be, AND what the Bible commands men to be.

    It’s ok that he falls short, but my problem is when there is a lack of trying.

    I guess what I am asking is are you saying this is separate from dealing with issues such as sexual selfishness, refusal, absentee fathering, laziness over provision for family, etc? It is challenging to be content in such circumstances. It is ridiculous to be discontent when you have a striving, good willed, godly man who’s a portly blond instead of a muscular brunette.

  7. Oh and Gary I have sent this to my Pastor/Counselor. So many times he has told me to stop comparing my husband. This is just what I needed, my pastor is a wise and Godly man I am truly blessed.

  8. Gary, thank you for these words of truth and wisdom. I have always felt the creation story of Adam and Eve is the greatest love story of all time. I will read, re-read the story and pray My way through it.

  9. This post is, I believe, the sequel to the what some of you are talking about. I recently read one where Gary challenged the MEN 1st to see their wives as Eve – THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE WORLD. See this link:

    Marriage is not a 50/50 platform. What if that’s what God wants you as wives to do in order to be joyful and satisfied in your marriage? Trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus. The biblical commands given to husbands and wives are independent of each other not dependent on each other. As wives you made vows to God and men to do certain things regardless… you are already violating the article’s warning…DON’T COMPARE.

  10. Gary, I see the blessing in transforming our minds to “cherish your husband instead of having contempt for him. You’ll discover that you are grateful for his strengths instead of bitter about his weaknesses. You will experience the joy of your heavenly Father who delights in seeing His sons cherished, encouraged, and respected. You’ll be a strong witness to Christians and non-Christians alike. You’ll provide one of the best parenting role models a mother could ever provide for her children, boys, and girls” this is a lot of weight on wives when God’s word commands the man to love the wife like Christ love the church, husbands do not be bitter toward your wives, husband to cherish their wives despite of it all. This assignment seem a little one sided. However, I do see all the benefits that come with new mind set. I agree with Lynette’s statement a lot of the work of ironing out issues in marriages I believe is place on the wife when it should be vice versa in my opinion.

    • Thanks Grace. As I said to Lynette, I posted a very similar blog last week challenging men to look at their wives as Eve. It’s interesting that not a single man felt angry at being challenged, but this is apparently a sore issue for wives when I put the focus back on them. I suppose it reveals that women are hurting, perhaps feeling that their husbands aren’t as engaged in their marriages as they are. I’d be interested in other readers’ perspectives, though–why are women pushing back on this post in a way that men didn’t push back on a nearly identical post last weekchallenging them? I realize this question alone may raise a lot of anger, but I do think it’s worth exploring, and part of the purpose of this blog is to create a dialogue.

      • Grace . . . I see where you are coming from. It has taken me a long time to understand that posts like this one are to help relatively healthy marriages become stronger. When I was in an abusive marriage (and I am not saying that you or anyone else is, this is just my experience), I would have reacted the way you did. I was very angry and hurt over the way my ex husband was treating my children and myself. I tried so hard to be a good wife. Now that he is no longer hurting us, I have a very different attitude. But, it took several years of healing and of soul-searching. I love Gary’s answer to you (above). There are reasons that you feel so strongly about this post. It could be any number of things. I am praying for you, this morning, that God brings peace and healing into your life.

      • I wrote below so you get a glimpse as to what is going on in me, a wife. I am not pushing back so much as feeling the challenge. I think the hard feelings come from this:

        There is no biblical basis for how a woman should look, and your Eve post is largely based on looks and there are Bible verses that clearly tell me to not lust after other women.

        On the flip side, there are Bible verses about how a man should act as a husband towards his wife and father towards his kids. Unfortunately, man men fall short of this. Just look at the porn statistics in Christian marriages among men. Women are largely hurting. I can honestly say in my church I can count the number of wives who are content and happy with their husbands on one hand. The rest either deal with apathetic husbands, selfish husbands, or abusive husbands.

        After years of reading, searching, researching, I am finding more and more wives who are married to men who do not love them as Christ loves the church and they are hurting. Even my pastor was sent to counseling because he was convicted of being a selfish jerk to his wife and leaving her in a state of loss and yearning.

        I hear so many women who read the Bible, pray and cry out until they lose their voices, read the blogs, the books, go to counseling, etc, and yet their husbands are steadfastly unchanging and not in a good way.

        Should a wife be content with being treated poorly, emotionally abused, facing apathy, sexual selfishness or refusal, porn addictions, neglect?

        I think THAT is the source of our hurt and push back.

        If men could physically see how hurt so many women are by the hands of men…..they would vomit it wretched disgust at our disfiguration.

        • Libl, thanks for such a thoughtful, heartfelt reply. I see the distinction you are making quite clearly. Your post is one of the reasons I wrote The Sacred Search–imploring singles to make character and faith the center of their marital choice. Women (and men) can pay dearly for making a hasty, romantic choice to a person who isn’t seeking first God’s Kingdom and righteousness. I know many women will say, “But I thought he was–he lied to me.” In some cases, that is true (but perhaps we should have sought better counsel, waited longer, asked better questions, observed more closely, etc). In other cases, we often allow ourselves to be deceived because our feelings are so strong. And I think it’s clear we have to be true to the choices we have made and the commitments we have made, even if we rue our choice (this isn’t to deny that certain actions on the part of a spouse CAN free the other spouse from their commitment).

          Once the choice has been made (as to who we marry, and as to whether we are called, biblically and by God, to remain in the marriage), I think happiness is most likely when we choose to accept our spouse and learn to appreciate what they are rather than faulting them for what they are not. I’m certainly NOT asking wives to appreciate persistent, unrepentant porn use or physical/emotional abuse–those must be confronted. But then do so, actively, biblically, and with intention and a heart of mercy and grace. Either confront or accept, but don’t get caught in the middle ground of simmering resentment.

          And let us also remember that the life and message of Jesus calls us to be people of forgiveness, grace and mercy. I don’t think any husband is improved with judgment, ridicule, or even passive (but obvious) disdain. It is immensely difficult to appreciate the good in someone with so many faults, but isn’t that what God does for us? And don’t wives have an opportunity to grow spiritually by learning to face such a challenge?

          Your post is why it took me TWO chapters in “Sacred Influence” to discuss how women can spiritually learn to love imperfect husbands (Chapter 4: “The Widow at Zarephath” and chapter 5 “The Zarephath Legacy: How You Can Learn to Appreciate an Imperfect Man.”) I obviously can’t repeat all that here, but let me say one more thing that I fear will make some readers angry: has harboring and displaying disappointment ever improved your marriage? Has a lack of respect ever made things better? If what you have done hasn’t ever worked, might it not be time to consider a different approach? I’ll concede that many, many women are deeply frustrated with their husbands’ character. But here’s the question I want to throw out–why hang on to a failed strategy? Why not at least try something different that seems to go counter to what we feel, but is modeled by God toward us and taught by Jesus who spoke of forgiveness and grace and mercy and talked of Christians as, essentially, “forgiveness people”? Why not try, as least for a month, to look at your man as Adam, and see if your heart and your husband’s character aren’t both transformed?

          We love grace when we receive it; we can resent it when asked to give it. But grace is no respecter of persons. It goes both ways.

          One more aspect I would mention is the chapter in A Lifelong Love on “A Monk’s Marriage.” When we learn to draw fulfillment from God–as monks and nuns were encouraged to do–that sets us up to focus on giving love instead of being bitter that we’re not receiving it. We can’t love this way until we first receive this way (1 John 4:19)

  11. Really? With all the affairs and porn and broken marriages, the focus is woman see your man as Adam? I don’t look at my husband and wish he was anything but having eyes for only me. An knowing that I could do it all right, look perfect, say the right things and just DO more means somehow its all up to me, the woman to make it all work. This angers me frankly. Cause it should be addressed not only to women but also men. Both should keep their eyes focused on God and then their spouse.

    • Hi Lynette, I know you were directing your comment to Gary personally, I hope you won’t find it offensive for me to pop in and reply. I would like to share a link from this same site.
      This was Gary’s previous blog post. I hope you find this piece to be helpful. From the books and blogs I’ve read of his, I have always found Gary to address husbands more harshly than he does wives….but like you point out, the challenge for us can be applied both ways as we each “work out our own salvation”
      Blessings – Skye

      • Thanks for stepping in yesterday and responding, Skye. We (heartbreakingly) had to put or dog to sleep yesterday, so my entire day was spent with my wife and daughter and our dog’s final moments. I wasn’t able to get on here and respond to anyone. I so appreciate your involvement in this blog and on Facebook.

        • You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers, Gary. We’ve been there….and we mourn the loss of your beloved pet with you.

        • Skye no offense taken, and thank you for sharing your heart.
          Gary, sorry for the loss of your pet. I have not publically posted before, but obviously was taken aback and responded pretty strongly.
          I don’t feel like I’m “pushing back” out of a place of unwillingness to change or needing to be reminded of loving and respecting my husband. It is more that I felt that there is an underlying suggestion in Christendom that if we do xyz, or change xyz that if I “work” harder and be better that then I will have wedded bliss. That somehow if I get it all right, it will all work out. And that is simply not true. I cannot fix the brokenness in my husband. I can be kind, and offer grace and forgive, but I simply can’t be good enough to make him honor, love and care as he should and is called to do for me. See, I bought into that lie. I tried and loved and catered and as my loving mentor and pastors wife told me became like a stepford wife… And the brokenness continued and continues. That doesn’t mean I have stopped honoring him, or forgiving him, and I still love him. I simply won’t accept that if I am more Christlike or even pretend I’m eve with my Adam that I can work out all the brokenness in my husband and its up to me to do it all right. This blog post actually surprised me that it upset me so much, and I apologize for any disrespect that you may have felt. I agree the response does come from hurt.
          I will say that God has been so gracious and faithful and kind in the struggle and this trial, That in the darkest moments and greatest pain of finding out the unfaithfulness of my husband, the Holy Spirit was and is truly present. God has helped me knock down the idol that was my marriage. And even in this brokenness is amazingly good!!

          • Lynette, I completely agree that too much teaching is out there that if we do “x” in marriage our spouse will respond with “y.” I carefully avoided that in this post and try to do that in my books. And believe me, I have heard enough heartfelt, legitimate tales of real relational suffering in marriage that I’m not at all questioning how frustrating this must be for you.

            This may sound even more radical than what I wrote in the post, but I believe biblical marriage is partly about learning to cherish someone that is at times particularly difficult to cherish. I realize it’s easy for me to say this because there is so much about my wife for me to cherish, but as a way of spiritual discipline: think about how God cherishes us in spite of how much we must repeatedly disappoint him. He kept loving us, even when we failed to change. He still loves us, even when we go back to bad habits.

            The frustration, I believe, comes in expecting “results” from a particular spiritual habit rather than personal transformation. The frustration is furthered when we value results over simple obedience. Many Christians throughout history have faithfully witnessed to God–and been martyred. Many wonderful Christian parents have faithfully modeled Christ to their kids and prayed/fasted for them, training them to love God, and yet had their hearts broken when their children rebelled. But that doesn’t mean the Christians weren’t supposed to witness or raise their kids to love/follow God. They were still faithful, still pleasing to God. The call to be faithful was still a true call even though it didn’t “work.”

            I’m not suggesting that what I write will change your husband (thought it might at least influence him). But it can change you. And that seems to me to be Scripture’s truest focus: be obedient, even in the face of barren results, just because God calls us to. You may not see the transformation that is taking place in your heart, but one day you WILL see the heavenly rewards that God is storing up for you for faithfully loving His son.

    • “The only woman in the world post was very helpful to me. Plus, Gary is on, “Haven Today” this week.
      Very beneficial.

    • Lynette, I purposefully wrote “The Only Woman in the World” and posted it a week before I challenged wives. Please see the previous post.

  12. Excellent post! When a wife does this, the husband is happier, more content.and his heart swells with love for his wife. It’s a
    win – win for both husband and wife!

  13. Beautiful truth! Thank you!

  14. Thank you for this challenge Gary! I pray that I will have eyes to see my husband as the only man in the world. Praising him for all he is instead of judging him for what he isn’t. I will remember all of the characteristics he had when we dated that made my heart melt and were the reasons I said “yes” when he asked to marry me. Thanking God for blessing me with the perfect companion…perfect in ways I didn’t even ask. May our marriage glorify the work of His mighty name.