If a wife has any need that is in the normal nature of a woman to have, then the husband is obligated to supply that need. For example, if she needs new and colorful clothing for YOM TOV, that is considered a legitimate need for a Jewish wife, and he is obligated to enable her to obtain new clothes for YOM TOV. He may say to himself, "She's got a million clothes; the closet is so full, there's no room for anymore clothes; it doesn't make sense." One gender's lack of comprehension of the other NEVER MAKES THE OTHER'S REALITY GO AWAY! The wife's position is, "I wore this one twice already, that one isn't the latest style, I haven't donated clothes to charity in a while, I need clothes that are equal in value to the clothes of the women whom I socialize with in my neighborhood." To a husband it's lunacy. To a woman, it's an emotional need. It's not up for a logical debate. He is obligated to accommodate her wish for clothing for the forthcoming YOM TOV and for different seasons and according to the norm of the society in which the couple lives.
A husband should not demand that a wife watch spending too strictly. She needs, in her nature, to be able to spend for the things that she deems to be normal and appropriate for the house and family. Included in this obligation is: do not show anger over a wife's normal expenditures of money. A warning, however. When a woman is at fault for marital trouble or breakup (when not caused by psychological trouble) is because of money. She is a spendthrift, she is demanding or insatiable, she drives her husband viciously to earn and spend, she is content to take her husband's kishkas out over money. If a woman wants to spend to keep her home functional, fine. If she wants to break her husband into little pieces over money, not fine. His financial and husbandly responsibilities do not include heart failure. Being a mentsh is a two-way street.
The home is for the perpetual practice of kindness and honor. Often, it's the little things, or responsiveness to your spouse's individual (or gender-based) feelings, personality or activities, that can matter the most. A little remark can have massive impact on a wife's vulnerable feelings - for good or bad - and a man may have no idea of how much he is saying...in her perceptions. A husband has to be very careful. A slight comment can cause pain or happiness. The fact that he has no understanding of how or why makes no difference.
In a seminar I ran, one fellow asked how to practice this respect and honor that I kept fussing about. So, I asked around the room for the women to tell the men what they feel. The women, fairly consistently, basically said that they:
* wanted the man to show that he is thinking of her,
* wanted the man to show that she is important to him,
* valued presents - not because of the spending of money (it could be hand made [no money] or very inexpensive) - it would show that she was on his mind, that he took time and that she is on his mind and important to him,
* wanted the man to discuss things so as to show she is a factor,
* wanted courtesy.
This impromptu survey verified the letter of the Chazone Ish and the teachings of other sages who we are hearing from throughout this book.
It is good policy for a husband to frequently bring home presents, things that she would like, things that regularly make her see thoughtfulness, things that make her know that you value and love her. If she likes ice cream, come home from work with a milk shake or cone. If she would like a plaque that says she's the best wife, bring it home from the stationary or gift shop. If you go on a business trip, bring home souvenirs that show that she was on your mind, even in China and Sheboygen. Regularly call or send letters, if your journey will be somewhat lengthy. How often is defined by what will please her. Don't be afraid to ever ask what would please her, so that you can do whatever will. If she would just like you to come home from work on time so that you can be with her, give punctuality to her as a "present," if that's what matters to her. Consider it an investment with dividends payable in the currency of shalom bayis.
Respect and admiration are evoked by respectable and admirable internal human ("laiv") qualities. They cannot be demanded. They can only be evoked by behaviors that evoke them. Love can only be built by ongoing, mutual and "targeted" giving. Give up any demand mind-set.
The man must remember that the relationship for the woman is emotional union, and not physical. Without affection, and a caring and sensitive union of the emotions, as she needs, the woman is insulted and pained. Some women need to feel fussed over, some want a husband to be protective. Deliver what works with your wife.
A normal woman's nature is to respond willingly and unselfishly to her husband, to help him in his life.