MaryAlice's last post is both full of wisdom and a very practical blueprint for aiding our marriages. I wanted to expand a bit on #1 When you want or need something from him, ask for specific things using nice language, because I think many women don't ask for things they want or need out of fear that in doing so, they will not be "submitting" to their husband, or out of fear that they will appear pushy and demanding. Instead of communicating nicely and clearly with their husband, women are often passive, and later aggressive when things don't go as planned.
MaryAlice used a birthday example to illustrate this point. If each year, your birthday or other special day (Mother's Day, Anniversary Date, Christmas, etc.) ends with you feeling disappointed that your husband didn't acknowledge the day in a different way, there is a good solution! Make your wishes clear to your husband in advance. Let him know your expectations, and if he can't meet those expectations, have a discussion about it right then and there. Don't wait for yet another disappointment and express your problems then--this leaves him feeling hurt and defensive. Talk about these things ahead of time, and give the poor guy a break.
For example, last year I turned 30. I was feeling a bit old and over the hill, but I also wanted to celebrate the day in a special way. I talked to my husband about what I wanted for my birthday--a nice day out with just him and a trip to a fancy brunch in the city--and he was more than happy to oblige. In fact, like many men, he was elated to be told what I wanted, and then he made the day happen. For some women, they may want a surprise, and that's great. Let your husband know this is what you want, men are not mind readers! Most husbands really do want to make their wife happy, so if you have something you want or expect, it is important to acknowledge that you are a human being with preferences, and then make those preferences known in a clear and loving manner.
In my experience, there are few men who are really good gift givers. If you happen to be married to one, good for you! But overall, I find that most men are thrilled to be told nicely what their wife wants and expects. This type of communication avoids so many feelings of hurt and anger.
Unfortunately, instead of communicating their wishes nicely to their husbands, many women fear making their preferences so clearly known. They think it romantic to have their husband read their mind, or they want their husband to think about their wishes so often that he just knows what they want and need. I often hear, "if he really thought about me or cared he would know what I want." Unfortunately, such an approach often results in one of two scenarios. Either the wife will 1) not say anything and allow the disappointment to build and slowly affect the relationship, or 2) explode and let their husband know how disappointed she is, resulting in a huge fight. It is rare that we as women will just swallow the disappointment, pray for the grace to forget about it, and actually forgive and forget. Often times we think we are doing this, only to have things fall apart YEARS later. I have known so many empty nest couples where the wife has all kinds of anger towards the husband about these things. Her anger has literally been building for years, and all along she just thought she was doing the right thing by not saying anything. In such cases, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the husband was acting thoughtlessly or selfishly, but in reality he was just clueless that his wife had any problems.
Now for my disclaimer--Are there things that we should not communicate to our husbands and just let slide? Absolutely! I would say this is a good strategy if it is something small that is not likely to reoccur. In such a case it is often easier to forgive and forget. Obviously no man wants to be married to a woman who has preferences about every little thing, and then communicates theses wishes constantly--who can keep up with that! But if the problem area is one that comes up often, or is of greater importance, good, clear, kind communication is a very important part of a good marriage. Let us not fail to be good communicators under the guise of submission. The result will be a passive-aggressive wife, and a disappointing marriage.