Keeping the Romance Fires Burning
About the Guest
Need a little more flicker from your flame? On the broadcast today, Barbara Rainey, wife of FamilyLife President Dennis Rainey, tells husbands and wives how to make new sparks in your marriage using a little romance as kindling.
Need a little more flicker from your flame?
Keeping the Romance Fires Burning
Bob: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, and we need to start right off, first thing, by asking our friends here at this radio station to forgive us, because we're going to open today's program with wise advice for me, modeling for men, on how to express your love and your devotion for your spouse. Here is a classic pop song from the '60s by Percy Sledge.
[Percy Sledge singing "When a Man Loves a Woman"]
All right, that's all we're going to play of the song, and let me again apologize to our friends here at the station, but we're trying to evidence the fact this week that this subject of romance is one that has been written about, thought about, meditated on, philosophized about for a lot of years from a lot of different people, and we're trying to point out that men and women think differently about the subject of romance, don't they?
Dennis: They do, and, well, we've got someone in the studio who is definitely a woman, she is a great woman, she is my wife, and it's really fun to have Barbara back with us on the broadcast again today.
Bob: Yeah, Barbara, welcome back to the broadcast.
Barbara: Thanks, glad to be here.
Bob: You know, yesterday, and I've been thinking about this all night. I went home and just kind of mulled on this. It's a little frustrating to know that once I have an idea of how my wife views romance, she's going to change the rules on me. That was one of the lessons out of yesterday's broadcast. And to be aware that romance is going to get progressively harder as we continue in marriage. It was easy in courtship, but it gets progressively harder as we're married. Is that right?
Bob: Well, that's lousy.
Dennis: Well, you think about what's God up to here? He is trying to rid us of selfishness, and if we could, we would kick it in neutral and just coast all the way in to year 50 of the marriage. We wouldn't have to work at it. It would just be like jumping off the edge of a cliff. We would romantically fall into each other's arms and hopelessly under the control of romance like gravity and not have to really work at knowing and loving and caring for and meeting the needs of the other person.
And I think that's why God created marriage. He created it to be redemptive. He wants me to give up my life for my wife.
Dennis: And that's why romance becomes really elusive in a marriage where a man is threatening to leave, or a man is sending all kinds of signals that he's not committed, and he's putting fear in the marriage not casting it out. 1 John, chapter 4 talks about perfect love casting out all fear, and that's a man's assignment. And a lot of men want their wives to fall in a puddle at their feet in romantic love, in a swoon, but they're not willing to give up their hobbies, their interests, their selfish desires for their wives.
Now, how do I know that? Because I am a man, and because I've done that, and back to the subject we were talking about a little earlier – are women justified in not trusting men? I think absolutely. Any woman who knows the heart of a man would have good reason not to trust them, because we are selfish.
Barbara: And, see, I was thinking when you talked about it being redemptive, I was thinking that as you were saying that, and that ultimately is what is going to draw a wife to her husband, because when she sees him loving her unconditionally, seeking to understand her and know her and be involved in her life and help her and all of those things, then she is going to respond to him, and as she sees him giving up himself and denying himself and getting rid of his bad habits or putting away his hobbies or whatever for her, those kinds of things are redemptive.
And, see, that's what I was saying a minute ago, that just recently I have felt a different attraction to Dennis, or a new attraction to him, I guess, or an increased one, because I'm realizing what he has done for me personally and how I have changed, as a woman, because of being married to you, to my husband.
And so I think that in the long haul of things, as we see marriage as being a redemptive relationship, that is the hope of responding to one another. That is the hope of having romance – is growing together in Christ, denying yourselves for each other, and especially for a husband as the head of the home and the head of his wife, as he will deny himself for her, as he will love her, as he will sacrifice for her, as he will seek to understand her, why she is the way she is and accept her for that – not condemn her for it and not to seek to understand her so he can get her to change so he can be happy with her. But all in pursuit of loving her, then she will respond to that ultimately.
Again, it has to be for the purpose, though, that God intended, and that is to love her as Christ loved the church.
Dennis: With no response in return.
Barbara: That's right, with no strings attached. In other words, he can't say I'm going to do this, and then she is going to respond, and then I'll get what I want, because that defeats the purpose of sacrificial love, because then it's not self-sacrificing.
Dennis: And that's the difficulty for a man, because a man usually sets goals, and he is after something, and with romance it may be the sexual dimension of the marriage relationship that he is in pursuit of his wife on, and that's why, as you approach this subject of romance and learning how to speak it as a man to your wife, you've got to understand, I've got to understand, that you deny your agenda, you give up your goal and let the goal me solely just that she would feel love; that she would know she is valued, cared for, and cherished, and that she is seeing you nourish her, just as Ephesians 5 talks about.
Bob: But here is the rub in that – because a man is thinking to him, the way I'll know that, the way I'll know that she's been loved is she'll respond.
Bob: So if she's not responding, then the message is …
Dennis: … I haven't done a good job loving her.
Bob: I haven't done a good job.
Dennis: And we've had that conversation.
Barbara: And you've said that to me …
Dennis: … I have …
Barbara: … many times – "I must not be loving you right." And it's not just because I'm not responding sexually or in a particular way, but you're sensing from me a lack of response toward you, and it's because of areas in my life that you didn't understand or that you didn't know about me or that I was unable to trust at a particular phase, and so we've talked those things through, and I think good, solid marriage relationships need to take the risk of talking those things through, and I needed to hear you say that, and you needed to hear back from me why I was not feeling loved, why I was not feeling like I could respond. And those kinds of conversations are not easy to have. I mean, they have been difficult conversations that we've had through the years.
But because of our commitment to making this thing work and to making it be all that God intended it to be, we have had some of those really tough conversations, and they've not been fun but, in the long run, as we've had them and had them again and had them again, they have ultimately been productive in bringing understanding to each of us but particularly to Dennis in understanding me and then better how to love me.
Dennis: You know, as you were talking, there were really two things that I was thinking about – number one, the process that we have been through to be able to come to this point of pygmy understanding – I'm talking about infantile understanding, because that's what it feels like to me, as a man.
Barbara: Yeah, we've come a long way, haven't we?
Dennis: Yeah, it's not where you are today, it's how much distance you've covered. I keep telling myself that.
Barbara: That's right, that's right.
Dennis: But it's, first of all, that – that what you're hearing today is the process of 22 years of dialog, and I mean, at points, fierce dialog; I mean heated dialog. No, not hitting, not swinging but verbally spilling one's guts before one another and being real and being honest and anguish over selfishness – my own, Barbara's, over sin, and going through the process of a lot of that.
And then the second thing is what we're talking about here has come out of something that is most fundamental, and that is a commitment, a bedrock, granite-solid, that is immovable. No escape clauses, no escape hatches, no way out.
Barbara: And no threats.
Dennis: And no threats – never a threat. Was there the thought of a threat? Absolutely. I mean, do human beings have thoughts of threatening the other person? I think it's the Christian who is denying their own feelings at that point.
But this freedom of discussion has come about as a result of two people who are committed – committed, first of all, to Jesus Christ because without the fear of the Lord and a commitment to Him and setting ourselves apart unto Him first, deciding He will be our Lord and Savior of our lives, our Master, our Redeemer. He sets the agenda, it is Him that must be obeyed above all else. That settles it, that settles the fight, that settles the argument, that settles the differences and disagreements.
But there have been some evenings that lasted long into the night and some mornings that came early as a result of the dialog. But when we got up in the morning, and we looked at each other, there was no thought of going anywhere. It was two people deeply committed to Christ, and that commitment was mirrored in our commitment to one another.
Bob: Yeah, those are the late nights or the early mornings I'll look at Mary Ann, and I'll say, "You are not my enemy," and she'll say, "You are not my enemy," and we'll press through, we'll keep going, we'll keep after.
Barbara: That's right.
Dennis: And I think a lot of young couples who are listening to our broadcast today and who go through life, they think they're entering into real war at these points, and, yeah, it's rugged, it's – you're climbing some craggy cliffs at this point but you know what? That's part of our relationship. I mean, if it was easy, and there were no rocky points, I guess I would have to say, "Hm, I think I may fear for you a little bit."
Have you not had anything hard to work through? I mean, I really fear for the couple who say that haven't ever argued, who haven't really differed, who haven't really had to hammer some of these misunderstandings out, because it's in those discussions that you realize how different you are from one another and what a gift God has given you in your spouse.
Bob: I can imagine that there are women who listen to this discussion, and they're going "Yes!" You know, somebody understands what it's like to be a woman; somebody understands what women want romantically in marriage.
And men listen to it, and they go, "This is much harder work than I ever thought it would be."
Dennis: That's right.
Bob: And I've got a secretary at work or a gal around the office who doesn't make it as hard as my wife makes it. She – I'm not even trying, and she's responding to me. My wife – I'm putting in 10 hours a week doing everything I can think, turning cartwheels, to get her to respond. The gal at the office, all I do is walk by, and she's flirting with me.
And you can see where a man in that situation says, "Man, I want to go where it's easier."
Dennis: Well, the light's on in that house – "Welcome home, buddy."
Barbara: But she's a woman, and 10 years later he'll be in the same boat all over again.
Dennis: Or sooner.
Barbara: Or sooner.
Dennis: We're talking about emotional affairs, and that's where it starts, and it's a lie, it's an absolute lie from the pit of hell.
Bob: But it does give you some understanding as to why a guy …
Dennis: … oh, absolutely …
Barbara: … that's right …
Bob: … would switch wives every 10 years, because, all of a sudden, five years in, three years in, whatever it is, he goes, "I thought this was heaven because you used to respond. Now it's hard. I'll go find somebody who it's not hard for," and he just keeps rotating.
Dennis: Yeah, but you think about that person at the end of his life or, for that matter, that woman who attracts him, at the end of her life, and they've been through two or three mates.
Barbara: And they are going to be very lonely people, because there won't be anybody at the end who is committed, who really knows them, who have been there through the hard things, difficult things, and still is committed, and they will not have experienced what God intended in marriage.
Bob: They're going to be bitter and angry, too.
Barbara: That's right.
Dennis: You go back, and you look at the first year of marriage, and the first year of marriage is like falling off that cliff. You just kind of fall into each other's arms, and you can't stay away from each other. And you get married then, all of a sudden, you realize it's not as easy to create that over and over and over again. And then you have children, and you find out it's very difficult, and then you have health problems, and there's job issues, and then there are emotional issues, and there are extended family issues, and life becomes clutter and crowded …
Barbara: … and complicated.
Dennis: That's right, where the Lord Himself is at work in your life, whittling away, taking you to deeper levels of denial, self-denial, and trying to get you out of denial, and, at that point, it's where the commitment has to kick in and two people must say to one another – "I love you, I'm committed, we're going for it," because in the end they are going to have a real relationship with a real person who knows them.
And I've said this to Barbara even in the middle of some of our heated discussions – I would rather have the discussion than to go through life denying that I'm disappointed or denying that we have a disagreement or denying that I've got feelings and have her think she's winning. And you've got to get some of those things out, but that is risky feeling because that means the other person has to hear this, and must hear it without feeling threatened or like they are being attacked or like the commitment is falling into question.
And that's a real challenge – to let somebody know that you're upset in the middle of the moment but still let me know, you know what? I'm not going anywhere, I love you, I'm committed to you, but we've got to talk this thing out, we've got to work it through.
Barbara: I need you to know how I feel.
Dennis: That's right. "This is important enough to me that we've got to connect here. I need you to know how we feel." And this is where I'd give the man's side of things a bit – toward a woman, as a man has tried to love his wife, and he's missed it. And a woman needs to understand at those points he may be feeling like a failure as a man. He may have done the best he knows how to do, and he's got to be coached. And the time to coach him is not right after he fails, because at that point he's probably feeling like a failure already, anyway, but write him a letter, somehow communicate to him, but let him know how can he win you? And then realize you're going to probably have to rewrite that letter again in two or three years after he moves it to an A+B=C.
Barbara: Well, and let him know that you appreciate him trying. I mean, even that is worth a lot, because I think a woman who understands that her husband is trying to love her and is trying to understand her, she needs to let him know that she appreciates that and that she values that.
Bob: Do you love Dennis more today than you did 22 years ago?
Barbara: Oh, gosh, yes.
Dennis: Okay, I wouldn't go back to that first year of marriage.
Barbara: Oh, man.
Bob: Well, now, wait, with that said, how come it doesn't feel like it? I mean, back 22 years ago when all of the feelings were there, it was gravity falling off a cliff – how come, if you loved him so much more 22 years later, it doesn't feel like it did then?
Barbara: Well, I think because I know him more, and I know what his love means. I mean, I know what it's cost him. I mean, it's cost him a lot to love me, and he has denied himself a lot. He has given a lot, he's done a lot, he's prayed a lot, he's tried a lot, he's failed a lot. And I know that it's not cheap.
Bob: Do you think as the years go on, some of that early romantic feeling with re-emerge?
Dennis: I think that we have probably gone through one of the toughest periods or seasons. We had six kids in 10 years. Those years are among the most challenging.
Now, we've just gone through another season where we had four teenagers at one time – incredibly challenging. But I think, little by little, as the kids leave and as Barbara's attention can come back again – not solely to me, because her life has never revolved totally around me – my thought would be I think there will be more room for those feelings, more room for that to happen, because there will be more time for just the two of us and our relationship.
Bob: And it's the couples who, during the time when the kids are growing, who kind of move everything to the back shelf or let the flame die out, who reach that later time, and there's nothing there.
Dennis: And that's why this series on romance is so important, because I don't think the Christian community is talking enough about romance. I mean, it is important to a marriage.
Now, we've talked about how difficult it is to achieve, and it's elusive, and it's hard, and it's difficult, and you can't be guaranteed of it. Now, make it important. Now it almost sounds like a crazy maker, but I think God wants us to have fire in our friendship with our spouse, and I think romance is that fire that flows out of that commitment and that friendship. And you can't always be guaranteed of it. As a man, you want to push the buttons, 1, 2, 3= the result of romance. It won't always happen, we've made that clear.
Barbara: Well, and there are times when that's there.
Dennis: That's right.
Barbara: But that isn't the defining characteristic. The relationship and the commitment and the knowing one another and growing closer and closer together – that's what defines the romance, and that's what it blossoms out of is that relationship.
Bob: And we've got to acknowledge that this is something that takes effort. It takes a little work for this to happen. In fact, one of the chapters in the book, "Rekindling the Romance," in the men's half of the book, Dennis, one of the chapters that you wrote is called "Sailing out of the Doldrums," and you talk about those times in a marriage relationship when the romance gets stale, and if a husband wants to help navigate their way out of the doldrums, there are some things he can do. You outline them in that chapter of the book.
In fact, I don't know how many of our listeners have read your book, "Rekindling the Romance," but it's a wonderful book – half of it written for men, half for women. Barbara, you wrote the half where you talk to women about how a wife can make romance a more vital part of the marriage relationship and, Dennis, you wrote the half for men.
We've got copies of it in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and any of our listeners who would like to get a copy of the book, you can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the red button in the middle of the screen. It's a heart-shaped button that says "Go." You can click on that button, it will take you right to a page where there's more information about how to get a copy of the book, "Rekindling the Romance." Also information about a 31-day devotional that the two of you have written called "Moments Together for Intimacy," that gives couples an opportunity to connect each day around God's Word.
And any of our listeners who are interested in getting both of these books, we'll be happy to send along at no additional cost the CD audio of your thoughts this week, Barbara, on how a wife views romance, and I think it's great for both husbands and wives to listen to.
We have all of these resources in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Go to our website, FamilyLife.com, for more information on how you can receive these resources or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY. That's 1-800-358-6329, and someone on our team can let you know what's available and how you can get it sent to you.
Because this month is so focused on romance and love because of Valentine's Day, this month we wanted to also make available to any of our listeners who could help us with a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we wanted to send you a CD that has two messages on it – one message for husbands and one message for wives. These are messages given by our friends, C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney.
C.J. talks to husbands about the romance basics, and Carolyn talks to wives about the same thing but from a woman's perspective. And we would love to send this CD to you as a thank you gift when you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today during the month of February.
We are listener-supported, so those donations go a long way to keeping us on the air on this station and on other stations all across the country. When you make a donation this month online, as you're filling out your donation form, if you'd like to receive the CD, just type the word "love" in the keycode box that you will see there on the online form or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY. You can make a donation over the phone and just mention that you'd like the "love" CD from C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney. I don't know that that's what we call it but they'll know what you're talking about if you ask for the CD on romance that's being offered this month. We'll be happy to send it to you, again, with a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and we appreciate your financial support.
Well, tomorrow it's Valentine's Day, and we've got a special Valentine's Day top 10 list – the Top 10 ways a husband can show his affection and his care for his wife with commentary from Barbara Rainey. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Mark Whitlock, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you tomorrow, on Valentine's Day, for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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