Watson: "But his wife -- you said that she had ceased to love him."
Holmes: "This hat has not been brushed for weeks. When I see you, my dear Watson,
with a week's accumulation of dust upon your hat, and when your wife allows you to
go out in such a state, I shall fear that you also have been unfortunate enough to lose
your wife's affection."
Remember that Holmes is a fictional character, of course, so no such hat ever existed. What is important for our purpose is that the wife's role in her husband's life was so well understood that the author (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) knew that this was a valid line of reasoning. He knew, as well, that his audience would agree with this reasoning. No loving wife would allow her husband to go out with a week's accumulation of dust on his hat.
How far we have fallen from those days of understanding love. It was self-evident, to the people of the time, that a wife who loved her husband wanted him to do well, to look well, to be cared for. She cared about him in a very real, practical fashion that manifested itself in many small acts of charity and goodness. She brushed his hat. She would never let him go out looking unloved because he was, in fact, loved by her.
How things have changed. Men no longer receive such care from their wives at all. We no longer wear hats, but we see men going out with wrinkled shirts and such. The attitude of wives today is that "he can take care of himself" and she tends not to really care about him in that way at all. Holmes could not draw his conclusion in our world, where almost no wife loves her husband in that practical way.
We have, for some reason, decided that love is about "how we feel" and not about "what we do." This is false, of course, as Christ makes clear in the Good Samaritan story. The good Samaritan does not "feel" anything in the story, he just does things for the good of the injured man. This, Christ tells us, is love.
To love your husband does not mean to feel a certain way, but to act a certain way. The Excellent Wife cares for her husband (just as the Excellent Husband cares for her). She cares for him practically, in a manner that makes his life better. She brushes his hat.
When your husband leaves your house, is there anything to tell the world (or him) that he is loved? When he comes home, does the home make clear that you love him? If you are a stay at home wife, your home does (in fact) tell him how you love him. A messy home means that you may feel "love" but that you do not live it. Piles of laundry tell him that you may profess love, but you will never understand it or make it a part of his life. When he walks in and you ask him about supper, then you do not really love him in the sense that God means at all, or in the sense that we all understood in the 1800's.
Women will say: "but he can take care of his own stuff." This is true, but then why did he marry you? And why should he stay with you, if he is to do all his own "stuff"? What is your love worth if it just leaves him to himself?
Would Holmes, today, looking at your husband, be able to tell that you loved him? Can your husband tell?