Introduction

Once upon a time there was a little blond girl named Donna, who grew up in a family of all girls in the beautiful state of Colorado. She had a warm, loving family and she decided she would marry her daddy when she grew up — a dream of many a young daughter before reality sets in.

   Finally, the day came when Donna realized that she really couldn't marry her dad, so she said to her parents, "Well, then, when I get married, we'll get a trailer and live in our backyard!"

   Meanwhile, a little German boy named Hans was growing up in another world. He was the first-generation son of immigrants from the old country, who had landed in Huntsville, Alabama. His dad was busy building rockets to put the United States on the moon.

   Hans never met Donna while growing up in Alabama. And he never heard about the business of the trailer in the backyard . . . until later.

   As God would have it — in His amazing grand scheme of things — Donna and Hans both ended up as college students in Columbia, South Carolina, in the early 1970s. Hans was actually a senior the year Donna entered as a freshman at Columbia International University. They fell in love, and soon Hans felt it was time to ask Donna's father for her hand in marriage.

   On a hot August Saturday in Chicago, Hans finally got up the courage to ask Mark Bubeck for his daughter's hand in marriage. The two decided to meet at the church Mark pastored in Oak Park, Illinois.

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Of all places, the fateful moment came while actually sitting and talking on the steps in front of the sanctuary — right by the altar. Hans, experiencing more than just a little sense of unworthiness, felt as if he was asking Moses, the holy man, if he could marry one of his daughters.

   "I would like to ask your permission to marry Donna," Hans finally blurted out. With a straight face, Pastor Bubeck replied, "I ask just two things of you, Hans. First, I want you to be sure in your heart that this is truly God's will for the two of you. And second, I want you to buy a trailer and live in our backyard." Sensing the panic on Hans' face, he burst into a big smile and filled him in on the family joke about Donna's trailer.

   That was twenty years ago. We never did buy the trailer. But we learned quickly that you do get more than a spouse in the marriage deal — you marry into families that have unique cultures and ways of doing things. And you bring your families' values and views into your marriage as you blend both backgrounds into a new hybrid.

   We often go back to the fundamental conviction that God brought the two of us together back then in Columbia, South Carolina. And we are committed to our marriage vow that we recited the following summer in that same sanctuary in Oak Park. We are determined to stay together no matter what. We will learn; we will grow; we will forgive; and we will deal with one another out of a foundation of grace.

TOP TEN WAYS!

   No matter how much we wish it were otherwise, we all learn best by trial and error. I, Hans, have learned how to operate a somewhat successful relationship with my lovely wife after many years of practicing this principle: If you don't understand how you do it wrong, you'll never know how to do it right. We have made a commitment to vulnerability, to feedback, and to making our marriage work amid a world that is rampant

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with giving up on the old-fashioned institution we call marriage. Our prayer is "Lord, may we never become just another sad statistic."

   Let's repeat the principle again:

If you don't understand how you do it wrong, you'll never know how to do it right.

   How to see where we get off track as husbands and what to do about it sums up the book you hold in your hands. We're not looking for perfection here, folks. So you can relax. We are looking for positive, growing, nurturing marriages that are actually fun to be a part of.

   For some of you, you are already a part of the statistics, and you're trying it again with a better approach. We applaud your courage. Others of you question whether it really was God's will for the two of you to be together. Please read on, and if necessary, seek professional help before you give up.

ANYTHING BUT A PUT-DOWN

   So who would want to read this book anyway? Wives buying it for their husbands and leaving it on his nightstand might not be a bad approach. Maybe he just might get the idea that he could learn to be more understanding. And how about you husbands out there who need to rack up more self-guilt? Well, if it's guilt you're after, you've come to the wrong place.

   This is not a put-down on men, but a fresh glimpse into our own experience on learning how most women are wired and how their men can run with not against those currents. We've made these pages an "upper" and positive way for men and women to understand how opposites can live together in a warm, growing, building relationship for a lifetime. Our theory is that all marriages are made up of opposites: one man and one woman, and there you have the difference.

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Mistake number one that a new husband makes is that he usually treats her like one of his male buddies. Stay tuned for a big turnoff from her!

   I, as the man in our marriage, have always felt that the key to making Donna happy and our marriage last — and prosper — is to really understand this female person I live with. In fact, I have told my three sons on numerous occasions when they cannot figure out some action or feeling of their mom: "Listen, guys, the study of women will be a lifelong pursuit for you. You'll never get to the bottom of her differences, but try as best you can to learn all you can."

   One of my pursuits in life as Donna's husband is to figure her out so that I can live in peace with her as my soul mate and companion — not just live in peace, but to prosper and have a lifelong growing relationship. And marriage is supposed to be fun too!

IS IT TIME TO "DO SOMETHING"?

   Peter Jennings reported on the evening news one night that in the past twenty-four years the divorce rate has multiplied fourfold in the United States. Between 1970 and 1994 the number of divorces shot up from 4 million to 17 million. Too many couples are looking toward breaking up as the solution to a marriage that is not working. That's the modern cure-all — if it doesn't work anymore, throw it away and get a fresh new one that will. We believe that God designed a better way for you and for me.

   If you are a husband who feels your marriage is just fine, but your wife wants you to "Do Something!" she may be expressing a cry for "help" that is deeper than you would have ever imagined. Have you really heard her and taken the time to study her? Listen to this quote from Gary Smalley: "Who would think of allowing an untrained man to climb into the cockpit of an airplane and tinker with the gauges? Or who would allow a novice to service the engines of a modern jet? Yet we expect men to build strong, loving relationships without any education at all.

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A man must be 'educated': He first must discover the essentials of genuine love, then practice them until his skills are sharp and natural" (If Only He Knew, Gary Smalley, pp. 29-30).

   If there is one thing I have figured out so far, it is how different Donna is from me and my maleness. Just when I think I'm getting the hang of it . . .

ON A DARK AND FOGGY NIGHT

   Who would think that something as insignificant as a lost hubcap could create such heat and friction between two civilized, married people? Probably anyone who has been married more than just a few short, blissful months! Anyone can be happily married for a few months or even a couple of years.

   It all started on a dark and foggy night on the backroads of Highway 20 in northern Illinois . . . .

   Hans' words "insignificant as a lost hubcap" are enough to illustrate the immense chasm in perspectives between men and women on the same event!

   I, Donna, was returning from speaking in Iowa at a retreat. I was utterly exhausted and spent, yet content and praising the Lord after a wonderful time of ministry and teaching on the New Age Movement. It was a Saturday evening, driving through serious fog and rain on a very winding, dangerous road. I had to concentrate hard just to see the road. It felt as if I was in "the twilight zone" . . . this long winding road would never end! As a matter of fact, I was returning home at this time only because Hans had flown out a few hours earlier for ministry in Pennsylvania. Our four children were at home with a baby-sitter until I could get back to them. Hans had given me his cellular phone, which he had only recently received for his work. (Just in case! Of course, men don't really believe anything truly serious will ever happen, right?)

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   After driving nearly three hours under those conditions, I was finally on a smooth and straight portion of road when suddenly it felt as if I was losing my steering. Struggling to keep control, I came to a stop on the shoulder. There I was in the pitch dark along a lonely road in the rain and fog in the middle of nowhere! Still in my dress clothes with no flashlight, I got out to check the tires (pounding them on the top). They seemed O.K. to me. I then called "911," but I couldn't even tell them where I was. I prayed and phoned home, where the baby-sitter was barely able to get a few phone numbers for me. Hans had not left a number where he could be reached! I struggled with the normal fears of a woman alone at night on a deserted road, also wondering if a truck would miss seeing me in the fog and barrel into me. As I was praying for protection and wisdom, a woman pulled up alongside to ask if I needed help. She was able to tell me my general location so the police could begin their search to find me. I waited, prayed, and continued calling friends asking for their prayers. It took well over an hour for the police to arrive. With his lights on the van, we discovered that the front right tire on my front-wheel drive van had "blown" and was badly damaged. He called a tow truck.

   As the tow-truck driver hooked up the van, he told me how "lucky" I was to have had such a severe blowout on the only smooth stretch of road along that highway. I knew it wasn't luck; it was God's protection! We drove into the small town to his auto shop. The driver was friendly and allowed me to use the phone to try to somehow locate Hans. The van was equipped only with a small temporary tire, and it was impossible to get a new tire on Saturday night. We were still twenty-five miles from "civilization" in Rockford, Illinois, and another long drive from there to home in such weather. After finally reaching Hans, it was agreed that the only reasonable decision would be to have "Dave," the driver, tow me all the way home.

   Exhausted as I was, on the journey home in that fog God had

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arranged a "divine appointment" with this young man, Dave. He was a young husband and father, and he asked me questions about my teaching on the New Age. He had never heard the Gospel but was very open and interested as I shared the plan of salvation. His wife's aunt, it turned out, is a high-level promoter and teacher for the New Age and lives in Oregon. We finally arrived safely at my home at midnight.

   Now for "the clincher" . . . when Hans got home and saw that I was O.K., his first thought turned to the car . . . what is this thing with men and cars? He looked at the van sitting in the garage and asked, "Did you get the hubcap?" I was absolutely floored! The hubcap? I could have been killed! I had sat in the dark alone for one and half hours and had struggled under exhaustion just to get home to the kids, and all he cares about is the stupid hubcap! Men!

   A few months later, as we laughed about this major flare-up — O.K., I, Hans, was trying to laugh but the wounds were still raw in Donna — my dear, sweet wife asked me, "Hey, Mr. big shot author who everybody thinks is so great, why not write a book on the top ten mistakes that husbands make?!" That challenge became the book in your hands, affectionately retitled, The Top Ten Ways to Drive Your Wife Crazy and How to Avoid Them.

   So I approach our life together with this strategy: to know her is to try to meet her needs. Even after twenty years at it, I often wonder if I have learned anything at all.

   Much of our material is drawn from our own twenty-year pilgrimage of seeking to build a strong marriage. Hans has certainly learned how not to meet my needs, and to his credit he has learned some charming ways to fulfill my womanly soul. We also asked married couples along the way — they are everywhere — a couple of simple questions to broaden our perspective. Our desire in these pages is to bring you some keys that will unlock some doors in your relationship leading to a stronger marriage (and a happier wife!).

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HERO HUSBANDS WE KNOW

   This is not a book about husband bashing. Sure, guys make mistakes, but so do we wives. No one is perfect, and every marriage is a lifelong work in progress.

   Throughout these pages we try to be lighthearted about the insensitive things guys do to upset their wives, but at the same time, and in the same breath, we tell about positive examples and good ideas of how to do it right. And each of our ten chapters highlights a "Hero Husband" whom we know or have heard of. From former president of Columbia International University, Robertson McQuilken, to Christian recording artist, Steve Green, and including our own dads, we'll give you inside views of men who do it right. These guys, none of them perfect husbands and fathers, do certain things that make their wives happy to be married. They have listened — learned — and do it right, and we honor them for their gallant attempts to remain forever their wife's knight in shining armor.

JUST A LITTLE LOVE

   Of all the things I can do for Donna, I know that first on the list (a literal list I will share with you later), which I keep in my daytimer though I confess I don't refer to it enough, is affection. She needs and wants and drinks up my affection and needs it on a regular basis. Like food, she seems to need it every day and can't store it up with an overdose. It reminds us both of the great words of Wynonna and Naomi Judd:

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GIVE A LITTLE LOVE

by Paul Kennerley, performed by the Judds

(Used with permission of Warner Brothers Music)

Well, you can buy a diamond ring and slip it on my hand,

Or put me on a big ole plane and fly me to a foreign land,

Show me rows of fancy clothes and say,

"Honey, you can take your pick,"

That would be mighty kind, but it ain't gonna do the trick,

Give a little love, mmmmm a squeeze and a little kiss,

Give a little hug, mmmmm I want some more of this,

Take a little time, yea, and make a little fuss,

That's what a woman wants . . .

So give a little love.

*    *    *     *

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   One more word of clarification before we begin. Throughout these pages we will tell you stories about people we know and the interesting things that have happened in their marriages. We want very much to protect their privacy. Every name has been changed for both husband and wife to protect the privacy of those marriages that are trying quietly to make it work. We thank them for their great input.

   You'll also find "Top Ten Tips" sprinkled throughout these pages — small practical ways that can strengthen our marriages. Many of these tips have come from reading good books that have helped our marriage and from friends who have shared their strengths with us.

Chapter One  ||  Table of Contents