Affirming a Man
About the Guest
Affirming words to a man are like water to a garden. Without it he shrivels and dies. Today on the broadcast, Dennis and Barbara Rainey talk to wives about affirming and encouraging their husbands.
Affirming words to a man are like water to a garden.
Bob: Physical intimacy ought to be a priority in every marriage relationship, and some couples need to sit down and have a long heart-to-heart talk about the importance of physical intimacy. Here's Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: What this has helped me understand is that it's not just meeting a need, it's giving life to my husband.
[Music "My Girl"]
By encouraging him and by affirming him and the way he's made, my responsiveness to him sexually is a life giving response as opposed to just meeting a need, and it elevates it to a whole new level, and it makes it much more valuable.
[Music "My Girl"]
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, February 7th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Maybe it's time you and your spouse got together for a long talk about physical intimacy in your marriage.
[Music "My Girl"]
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. You know what a lot of our listeners are thinking about at this time this week – they're thinking "You guys have been talking about romance and how we're different and how we need to understand one another and meet one another's romantic needs and how it's a good thing for us that we're different," but I'm sure there are a lot of women who are listening, particularly, who are thinking to themselves, "I wouldn't have any problem responding to my husband or being romantic or meeting his romantic needs if I was married to a spiritual leader and a spiritual giant like Dennis Rainey." Don't you think? Don't you think there are a lot of women who are thinking that?
Dennis: I doubt it.
Bob: There are some who are going, you know, "My husband is just not that much of a spiritual giant. If he was on the radio talking about what the Bible has to say and leading me spiritually the way I'm sure Dennis leads his wife spiritually, it would be easy to respond to that kind of a person."
Barbara: The grass is always greener on the other side.
Dennis: Yeah, I think may be thinking, "If my husband would go to church with me and would participate with me in the love of my life, the Scriptures and Jesus Christ" …
Bob: … if we'd have devotions together or we'd pray together or some of those kinds of things."
Dennis: Just partake in the spiritual dimension of life together, we'd have a different marriage.
Bob: Well, and last week you talked about the need for husbands to engage in a spiritual relationship with a wife in order for the romantic relationship to have a foundation on which to rest, and we've got your wife, Barbara, back with us again this week. Barbara, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Barbara: Thank you.
Bob: And isn't it just easy to respond to a spiritual giant and a spiritual leader like Dennis?
Barbara: That's what I said – the grass is always greener on either side. People can't see the weeds in our relationship from afar. We have weeds in our relationship just like you have weeds in your relationship.
Bob: And the closer you get, the more you see the weeds, the more you see …
Barbara: And the flaws, that's right.
Bob: That's right.
Barbara: That's right, and we're no different.
Dennis: And as we've already talked about this week, men and women are different. Men spell romance differently than women spell romance. Men spell romance s-e-x. As we talked last week, women spell romance "relationship."
Barbara: Which is a longer word, too, did you notice that. We want more time.
Bob: More time just to express it, doesn't it?
Barbara: Just to spell it, that's right.
Dennis: It does, and that's how we miss each other because we're operating out of two different dictionaries, speaking two different languages. No wonder we miss one another when it comes to romance.
Bob: Barbara, you read a book after you'd been married for a dozen years, and you realized at that point you and Dennis were different and that your needs were different and that romance was a different thing for both of you. But the book you read kind of turned on some lights for you, didn't it?
Barbara: Yes, it did. I read a book by a man named George Gilder, and the title of the book is called "Men and Marriage," and in that book he just talks about how we are wired, how we're made, and the thesis, or the premise, the point that really made a difference for me, anyway, is his explanation that women are hardwired to have their femininity affirmed in multiple ways.
For instance, we are created and designed so that we can bear children, and that whole process of just – from conception to childbirth is a nine-month process. After that, if we choose, we can nurse our child. We're much more in tune and connected to the emotional level of raising our children.
So there are aspects to being a woman that satisfy our inherent femaleness over a longer period of time than is true for men. And his point was is that men don't have those same avenues for expressing maleness in the same way that a woman does her femaleness. And, for a man, his main expression of his maleness is in the sex act, in having intercourse with his wife, and a woman can enjoy that, and that's an expression of her femaleness, but she has these other avenues, as well, that help her feel fulfilled as a woman.
Bob: So a woman who is nursing her baby, she's just going, "This affirms me as a woman."
Bob: A man has one thing that affirms him as a man.
Barbara: That's correct.
Bob: When you read that …
Dennis: … physically speaking. Now, a man is affirmed in the marketplace for his ability to succeed and earn a living and build things and create things, but those don't necessarily equate to manhood. And so when it comes to a man being affirmed physically …
Bob: … right down to the core of "Am I a man?"
Barbara: Right – what makes him a man and what makes her a woman.
Bob: The one thing that makes a man feel, "Yes, I'm a man," is when he's engaged with his wife physically, right?
Barbara: That's correct.
Bob: That's what Gilder – and Gilder is a Harvard-trained sociologist, he wasn't writing from a biblical perspective. This wasn't a Christian book you were reading, right?
Barbara: Right, right.
Bob: But when you closed it up and went, "Huh."
Barbara: Well, what it did for me is it made sense, because I did feel very fulfilled as a person, as a woman, through having children and nursing the children. I mean, it was a wonderful experience, and there was nothing like it, and so it helped me understand that my husband doesn't have that corresponding avenue to get his maleness affirmed.
I feel fully alive as a woman having children and nursing them and raising them, but my husband doesn't have that corresponding ability to do that. So it helped me understand how important it was for me, as a wife, to validate his sexual need and to be motivated to meet it because it was getting that affirmation from me.
Bob: And there's only one place he can legitimately …
Barbara: That's correct.
Bob: … have that need met and have his maleness affirmed, right?
Barbara: Right, with his wife. If he gets it met somewhere else, then it's sin. The Bible calls it sin.
Bob: I know we've got single listeners, Dennis, maybe some single guys who are listening are going, "So – if I'm a single guy, I can never have my masculinity affirmed." And the Bible does address the gift of singleness and how God, in those situations, kind of comes around behind what is the normal process for men and women and can affirm a man, a single man in his masculinity, can affirm a single woman and her femininity, and yet the routine way in which these needs are met and fulfilled in our culture are for men and women to get married, to raise a family, and to come together physically sexually, right?
Dennis: Yes, and, again, for both single men or married men, this is all assuming you being with God in terms of who you are as a man and your identity as a man. Regardless of your marital state, you're never going to find out who you are and what you were made to be apart from God. He is at the core for both male and female, but it was God who said in Genesis, chapter 2, "It is not good that the man be alone."
Now, God doesn't go on to tell us all of what he meant by that statement, but I believe a part of what he was meaning by that statement was he needed a corresponding helpmate, a female companion, one who came from his side and then came alongside him; one that completed him; and one that was designed to receive him.
And I think it doesn't make God any less God for Him to make man with a unique need that can be met only by a woman.
Bob: Barbara, in reading George Gilder's book, you had a fresh understanding. Did it change the way that you related to Dennis?
Barbara: Yes and no. And the reason I answer both is because yes, it did, it did motivate me because I had a new level of understanding about my husband that I did not have before I read the book, and so because of that, because it was really very much a revelation to me.
I took the book to Dennis, and I said, "Is this true about you?" And he said, "Absolutely."
Dennis: It was an aha! for her.
Barbara: It really was, and I thought, "That makes so much sense." And because I was really motivated, in the few days that followed, I was very motivated to meet his needs and to be with him, and we had some really great times together.
But the "no" side of the answer is that even though I understood, it did not change me because I still am a woman, I'm still going to think like a woman, I'm still going to feel like a woman, I'm still going to approach our relationship from the female perspective.
So even though it was a dramatic lightbulb-going-on kind of an understanding in my head, it was not a miraculous transformation of the way I was made because God made me to be a woman, and I'm still going to think that way and act that way and feel that way. So that's the "no" side.
Bob: So I keep going back – should we just find more books like this and keep our wives reading regularly.
Barbara: I suppose that there are (inaudible) to do that.
Dennis: Yes, you know, one of the things she wrote about here, and I just want to quote from her chapter in the book because this is so good, and she's quoting Gilder here – "Unless men have an enduring relationship with a woman, a relationship that affords him, as a man, sexual confidence, men will accept almost any convenient sexual offer."
And he goes on to say, "The existence of a semi-illegal, multibillion dollar pornography market almost entirely male-oriented bespeaks of the difference in sexual character between men and women." Now, think about that for a moment. Where else can a man be affirmed the way he's supposed to be affirmed according to God's design for marriage – it's with his wife. Out of 6 billion people, there is no other person that has this assignment. It's a unique assignment, it's a treasured assignment, and yet I think what can happen as we look at romance in a marriage is some women, instead of embracing the romantic factor in their marriage, instead they resent it.
Barbara: And I think, in addition to that, what this has helped me understand is that it's not just meeting a need. It's giving life to my husband by encouraging him and by affirming him in the way he's made, my responsiveness to him sexually is a lifegiving response as opposed to just meeting a need, and it elevates it to a whole new level, and it makes it much more valuable.
Bob: So, practically, have you added this to your list – I hate to say this – but your list of marital chores, you know, "I need to do the laundry once a week, I need to make sure I get to the grocery store, and I need to make sure that I'm meeting my husband's needs, and I better take care of that."
Dennis: Well, Bob, you know, Paul spoke of our obligation to our spouse, both to men and women.
Bob: 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, he says we have a duty here, right?
Barbara: That's right.
Dennis: That's right, it's an obligation, a responsibility, and the word "duty," you know, does sound like a chore.
Dennis: But it's a responsibility that needs to be front and center that we dare not ignore.
Barbara: And so the answer to the question is "yes," it did go on my to-do list, which sounds real cold and unfeeling …
Bob: Oh, it's, I mean, women all across America …
Barbara: … and unromantic.
Bob: Yeah, they've just gone, "Okay, the chore, the duty."
Barbara: The chore – but it's not just on a list, because what happened is that because I understood him, even though it became more important as far as my priority list or it made the list of things that I need to get done on a regular basis, but the difference is that I still remembered that this is essential to whom my husband is, as a man.
And if I have a desire for him to become a godly man, then I need to affirm the way God made him, and I'm the only one that can do that. So it's not merely putting it on a to-do list. It's reminding myself of the value of him, as a person, of his masculinity, and understanding that God is using me to help him become who God intended him to be. It's that lifegiving idea, again, that when I respond to him, and I give to him, and we embrace one another in that intimate side of our relationship, I am giving him confidence and encouragement and affirmation and things that he can't get from anybody else in any other way.
Dennis: You know, there isn't a man listening to this broadcast or who will be forced to listen to this broadcast and read this book by his wife, who wouldn't agree with the following statement – if you peeked at your wife's to-do list, and you saw "romance" in some form or another written as a part of her chores …
Bob: Right between "grocery" and "ironing."
Dennis: There isn't a man there who would say, "Nah, scratch it out. That's demeaning" – any more than a wife who looked over her husband's shoulder and found "relationship" – build a relationship with my wife by taking a walk tonight, by …
Bob: … working in the garden.
Barbara: What it means is it means you've thought of the other person. So you can say it's a duty, you can say it's menial, but if I've got it on my to-do list, literally, or if it's just in my head, it means something that I have thought of him, and it means something to me that he's thought of me. It's the serving and putting one another's needs more important than our own idea again.
Dennis: And it's not a man coming home and saying, "Okay, let's have a relationship," anymore than it is a woman coming home, "Okay, let's get it over with."
Bob: Well, okay, and that's what I wanted to ask you about because – let's take ironing, for example. If you've had a bad week, and you're just emotionally depleted, and kids have been derailing you all week, and you're just – you're drained, you are emotionally drained.
Barbara: I identify, I've had a lot of those weeks.
Bob: Okay, you can do the ironing, right? In a week like that you can say …
Barbara: Or I can put it off.
Bob: "I'm going to do the ironing this week," and that's okay. But it's different when you've had a week like that, and you say, "Okay, we haven't done this, and I am just not up to it, and it's been that kind of week, and I don't see any – you know, I" …
Dennis: Well, the thing is, she can do the ironing with one hand …
Bob: Yeah, and no brain.
Bob: Yeah, I mean, it doesn't take anything from inside of you to do the ironing. When you come together with your husband, it takes something from inside of you.
Barbara: It takes a whole lot more than the ironing.
Bob: And you may not have it there, and you may not have had it all week.
Barbara: That's right.
Bob: And you may not see any end in sight.
Bob: So what do you do?
Barbara: You pray, and you pray a lot, and I think there is every reason to expect that God will hear those prayers. He created us the way He did for a reason, and it's another opportunity for us, as women, to depend on the Holy Spirit who lives within us to give us energy or to give us the right perspective or the right attitude or the compassion or the feelings of love or whatever it is that you're feeling depleted because of your busy week and the kids and all that kind of stuff.
God wants to be a part of the intimate side of our relationship, and I think too many of us feel like we can pray about a lot of other things, but we can't pray about sex, we can't pray about making love, but we need to invite God into our bedrooms, we need to invite him into the intimate side of our relationship.
He made us, He knows how we're supposed to work, He knows we need to come together, and I would say pray. I've done a lot of praying in our relationship, both of us have.
Dennis: Yes, and make it a priority. I would just add that, because after the prayer, ultimately there has to be some reordering of something.
One of the things that Barbara does is she takes naps in the afternoon, and she'd put the kids down, and she'd take a nap, too, and the reason was she wanted to be halfway fresh and alive when I got home in the evening.
I just want to go back, though, as you make this a priority, it can't be a half-hearted priority. If you're going to make romance a priority in your marriage, you have to do it the same way you did it when you dated.
You know, over in the Book of Revelation, it speaks of the church losing their first love. What John was writing about was these Christians had fallen out of a love relationship with the Savior. What did He tell them to do to regain their first love? Well, He told them to repent, which means turn from what you're doing, change your heart, and do the deeds you did at first.
What did you do when you courted one another? You focused on him, you looked attractive for him, you made romance a priority. Now, when you dated, you couldn't enter into the sexual, or you weren't supposed to, but after marriage you now have the opportunity to celebrate this; to make this a – not just a checkmark off of a list but to welcome him and create a romantic celebration that will affirm him uniquely as a man.
And I don't think a lot of women understand the power that they have at this point. They're not really using their power strategically in their marriage to build up and affirm their husbands like only they can.
Bob: Barbara, there are some women who have been listening today about what's the core need in a man, and they're shaking their heads going, "Then something's wrong, because I am much more interested in this area than my husband is. When I try to initiate, he's not interested."
We are seeing more and more – you know, the male that comes here, more and more women are stepping forward to say, "We know the traditional model, we know the stereotype is the husband will never say no, and the wife is always the one who has to be coerced into intimacy."
But, more and more, women are saying, "My husband is not responding, and we've gone months without physical intimacy." What's going on?
Barbara: Yes, there are more and more women who are finding themselves in that situation. There are a lot of things that could be going on. A couple of them that come to mind are sexual abuse in his childhood at some point along the way, or perhaps he is involved in pornography, and he is distracted by that and not interested in you. It could be workaholism, it could be any number of things.
We address that pretty thoroughly in the book. Dennis has a whole chapter to the men that the women can read and figure out what is the source of that?
Dennis: It's just a whole chapter speaking honestly and forthrightly to husbands who are disinterested in the sexual dimension of their marriage, and, frankly, it's a pretty hard-hitting chapter because of the number of issues that we had to deal with and talk about that may be impacting that man and taking away his sexual desire.
Bob: Ultimately, unless there is something physiological going on, this needs to be addressed.
Dennis: It does.
Bob: It's a symptom that there may be something bigger that's wrong in the marriage.
Dennis: And we wrote this chapter for – well, a husband and a wife to enter into a discussion to talk about this, because this is not what needs to be happening in a marriage relationship.
Bob: A number of years ago I just started saving an e-mail file from the number of listeners who have written to us over the years and said, "This is what's going on in our marriage," and that file has grown. I've been surprised at how often this question is addressed, and I know there are a lot of folks who have been thankful that you spoke to it in the book "Rekindling the Romance," which, again, we have in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if our listeners are interested, they can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and request a copy of the book.
We also have a brand-new resource. It's volume 2 of our Simply Romantic Nights collection. Our team has put together some great date ideas for husbands and for wives. It's a boxful of romantic ideas for married couples, and I need to stress it's for married couples. This is not for romance for couples who are dating. This is for married couples only and, again, there's more information about both Dennis and Barbara's book and the new Simply Romantic Nights collection, volume 2.
You can go to our website, FamilyLife.com. On the right side of the home page you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast," and if you click that box, it will take you to an area of the site where there is more information about these resources.
You can order online, if you'd like, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team will make the arrangements to send these resources out to you.
In addition, if you are able to help with a donation of any amount this month for the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we'd like to send you two CDs that feature a conversation that you and I had, Dennis, with the authors of a book called "Intimate Issues," a book for women that addresses the 21 most common questions women ask about the subject of intimacy and romance in marriage, and those CDs are our gift to you. It's our way of saying thank you when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this month.
We are listener-supported, and those donations are essential for our ongoing ministry. If you make a donation online, when you fill out the donation form, and you come to the keycode box on that form, type in the word "intimate" so we know to send you the CDs, or call 1-800-FLTODAY. You can make a donation over the phone and, again, just mention that you'd like the CDs that are the thank you gift this month, and we're happy to send them out to you. We appreciate your financial support and appreciate hearing from you.
Now, tomorrow we want to talk about the hidden power that a woman has in a romantic relationship with her husband, and we'll see what the Bible has to say about that tomorrow. Again, Dennis and Barbara Rainey will be back with us, and we hope you will be, as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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