What “Love” Means…to Your Wife
Fighting the drift in marriage is real. But hosts Dave and Ann Wilson offer simple questions about what love means to your wife — and why her answers matter.
What “Love” Means…to Your Wife
Dave: I bet you I can tell you something that is in the Bible that you didn’t even know was there.
Ann: Oh! It’s stump Ann day.
Dave: I mean, you are Miss Go Through the Bible 16 times in 16 years?
Dave: So you know the Word; you’ve read this many times.
Dave: I didn’t know this—I mean, I knew it was in there—but I didn’t know how it said this. But God actually says, “I’m not interested in your prayers. Don’t waste your time praying to me about this,”—
Dave: —in a certain situation. Do you know what I’m thinking of?
Ann: “It’s all the husband’s fault.” [Laughter]
Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: But it is—it is interesting; it’s in 1 Peter 3—and I know some husbands have heard this. I had heard this; but I had never read the last part, where Peter is writing; he says: “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way,”—
Dave: —by the way, that’s where we are going today—“showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel since they are heirs with you of the grace of life,”—here it is—“so that your prayers may not be hindered,”—1 Peter 3:7.
Ann: That’s what happened all those years that our prayers weren’t answered. [Laughter]
Dave: I thought you were going to say, “…when I was praying for the Lions.” [Laughter] Maybe, that’s why the Lions never won; no.
What’s really interesting—I mean, he doesn’t say, “Don’t bring your prayers to Me; I’m not interested,”—but it does say to husbands to live with our wives/to love our wives in an understanding way. If we don’t, it affects our prayer life. Isn’t that fascinating?
Ann: I was really only just teasing about our prayers not being answered; but when I’ve read this before, I’ve thought, “Man, that is a lot of pressure for husbands.”
Dave: Oh, yes; and what hit me just the other day—we’re going to talk about today—is: “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way.” In the NLT, the New Living Translation, it says, “Treat your wife with understanding; treat her as you should, so your prayers will not be hindered.”
I thought, “Okay, here is my question: ‘Do you feel like I have loved you and treated you with understanding?’ The answer is ‘Yes’; you’ve got to say, ‘Yes’!” [Laughter]
Ann: Sometimes. [Laughter] No; I would say—
Dave: That was not what I was going for.
Ann: —but I think in our early years—yes, you have loved me well—but I think every single person that gets married is, at some point, disappointed; and their expectations aren’t met.
Dave: Yes, and I think we, as husbands, don’t know how to love our wives.
Ann: Ooh, this is going to be a good session today.
Dave: So today is about—you know, this is for the husbands—Ann is going to help husbands learn how to love their wives; right? Again, If you are a wife listening today, and your husband is not listening, you’ve got to figure out some creative way to get him to listen to this broadcast.
Ann: —without nagging or manipulating.
Dave: Yes, just put it by the toilet; he’ll be there a long time.
Ann: So today is for us women—woo! Women, did you hear this? This is fun.
Dave: Yes; so here is where I thought we would start because a lot of us, who have grown up around the church or become a follower of Christ, as a husband, know that the Bible says we should love our wives. A lot of men don’t even know where this is; but it is in Ephesians 5. It is the longest, sort of, passage on marriage in the New Testament; and it is beautiful.
It is, actually, revolutionary at the time because women were not considered—what Peter said, right there in Chapter 3, coheirs; they were equal; they were valued—but in that culture, they were not valued. So when Paul says, “Love your wives as Christ loved the church,” he was elevating something that wasn’t done in that culture. He was saying: “If you are a follower of Christ, in the church, it looks different. Women are special, and precious, and valued. So men, you are supposed to love them as Christ loved the church.”
But before we get there, I’ve got to get into the context; because I never want to take a passage out of the context of what he is saying. Really, to understand it, you’ve got to go all the way back to the first verse in Chapter 5, which is 24 verses earlier. Paul starts Ephesians, Chapter 5, this way; he says, “Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children.” We could do the whole broadcast on that one verse: “Be imitators of God.” It is a command to Christ-followers. Imitate in the Greek means to mimic: “Mimic God/copy God, as beloved children.”
Again, he sort of reminds us of our identity. We are beloved and loved by God as His child—as His son/as His daughter—and because of that, he says, “Mimic Him; copy Him.” In other words, the world should be able to look at a Christ-follower and know what God is like.
Ann: It’s so interesting, as you say that, because to know what Jesus looks like—what He did, what He said, how He lived—you have to know your Bible.
Ann: You have to read it to understand, “Oh, this is what it looks like to copy Christ.”
Dave: Yes; so how could you copy somebody you don’t know?
Ann: Right; right.
Dave: So, obviously, you start there; but the command is sort of scary because, if we are honest, I think we would say, “I can’t do that: copy?—imitate?—mimic?—my life, my words, my actions—every minute of every single day are going to reveal to people the attributes and the character of God? That’s like impossible.”
That’s exactly what He wants us to think: “You can’t do that.” So you go down 16 verses later—again, context—later in the chapter, we read this verse in verse 18 of
Ephesians 5—he says, “Do not get drunk with wine for that’s debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” In a sense, he is saying, “I told you. Your command is to mimic, or copy, or imitate God. Here is how you do it,”—he says—“Don’t get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery.” People get lost in that verse; they think it is about drinking, and it isn’t.
I mean, it is just so beautiful how the Word of God is; he’s like, “When a person is drunk with wine, they are controlled by the alcohol.” It will cause you to do things and say things that you would never do as a sober person; but you do as a drunk person. Paul says, “That is a waste of time; that is debauchery.”
But using that analogy, he says, “Instead of doing that, be filled with the Spirit.” It is really interesting—that phrase, “be filled,” is a present tense verb: “continually be being filled”—it is literally/the literal translation: “Keep be being filled,” which means it isn’t a one-time thing. It’s like I continue to allow God to be in control of my life, and keep being filled with His Holy Spirit, so that I can accomplish what He has called me to do, which is to imitate Him. Then, out of that context, comes this passage that we’ve heard many times as husbands; and I don’t think we understand what it means.
In fact, today is the day where Ann gets to tell us men: “What does this look like to a wife?” I know every wife is different, so it might be different for your wife; but generally, it’s pretty much the same thing. In verse 25, Paul goes on to say: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself for no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it just as Christ does the church.”
Ann: Does that make you feel pressure, as a man/as a husband? That’s a big command.
Dave: Yes, I think it makes us feel pressure; but it also makes us go, “I don’t know how to do that! [Laughter] I don’t know what that looks like,” which is why we are talking today. It’s like, “Okay; somebody help me understand what that looks like.”
So often, when I would just have a conference with men or do a message for men, I would talk about: “Okay, we want to be a vertical man, which means I want to find my life, vertically, in Christ. I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit every second as a husband, as a dad, as a man. What would that look like?” I talk about three characteristics of vertical men.
All we are going to do today is talk about one of those; but I say this: “A vertical man is sensitive,”—there are three S-words. The first one is a vertical man is sensitive—what?—sensitive to the needs of his wife/to the needs of his kids. I think, when we find life in Christ, we are able to say, “Okay, I’m not married to get from my wife. I now am a giver, because I’m filled with Christ. The Holy Spirit has filled me to overflow to a point, where I can now give—
Dave: —“rather than take”; you know?
Ann: Yes. [Laughter]
Dave: Marriage is all about [in our culture]: “What are you doing for me lately?” It’s like, “No, no. Once you are in Christ”—and this obviously happened for the wife as well—“but it’s no longer about my wants, and my needs, and my happiness; I’ve found that in Christ.” I know, often, we say that; we don’t really experience that, but it’s real.
A real dynamic walk with God fills you to the point, where now I take my eyes off myself; and I look at my wife and say, “Okay; how do I love her? What does loving her ‘as Christ loved the church’ [mean?]” Now, “as Christ loved the church,” is a great picture: He laid down His life for the church; so, obviously, it wasn’t about Him; it was about us. He gave His life to love the church. The same thing for a husband—it’s like, “It’s not about me; it’s not about my needs anymore—‘How do I lay down my life to love my wife?’”
It’s interesting—we’ve always said—and we said this in Vertical Marriage and even in the Vertical Marriage® small group; hopefully, you’ve been through that. If you haven’t, get it and go through it with some other couples—but we tried to say: “Love has sort of lost its meaning; because we say: ‘I love my wife,’ ‘I love the Detroit Lions,’ or ‘I love ice cream’; right?” It’s like, “What does that even mean?”
Ann: “What is love?”
Dave: So we said: “A better word”—and he actually uses the word in verse 28—“is cherish your wife”; because I think we know what cherish means, especially when it comes to things. Here is the definition of cherish in Wikipedia; it said: “To cherish something is to care for it deeply, to treasure it, to hold dear. Related words mean costly and beloved.”
Ann: Those are good.
Dave: So here’s the thing—I know how—and I think a lot of guys might be wired like me—I know how to cherish stuff/things.
Ann: Do you think most guys are like that?
Dave: I think most people are like that, actually.
Ann: Yes, that’s true.
Dave: Women do the same thing.
Dave: It’s like we protect; we cherish. I don’t know what you would say; but it could be a car. For me, it’s guitars; a motorcycle. It’s like if somebody comes into my house and wants to grab one of my guitars off the wall, I’d be like, “Stop!” because it is costly, and I love it. I want to make sure they take care of this Gretsch guitar or this Rickenbacker bass. Those are precious things, and I talk about them. They are in a humidified room so the wood doesn’t warp. It’s just crazy the things we do; that’s just me with guitars. There are people who love TVs, or sound systems, or cars, or golf clubs. Okay, we’re not going to get into it. [Laughter]
But it’s like, “What would my wife feel like/what would your wife feel like if she was humidified?” [Laughter] In other words, if she was so costly to you/she was so valuable—above a thing or above your job—that she felt cherished: again, cared for, treasured, held dear.
Ann: You have done that, and you are very particular. It’s great, because you do take care of your things; I love that.
But I do remember when I was pregnant with our first child. Our car broke down,—
Dave: [Sounding glum] Okay.
Ann: —and I was driving it. Because you asked at the beginning if [I] always felt loved by [you,] so I was thinking about that; that’s what came to my mind. Because I’m pregnant—the car breaks down—you have to come and pick me up. There were no cell phones in the day. No; I walked home, but it wasn’t very far.
I remember saying, “Hey, we really need to get this fixed; because I’m pregnant.” I was only—I don’t know—three months pregnant, maybe. So then, I come out in the garage, and you are super excited. You go, “I don’t have to take it to the mechanic, because I fixed it!” [Laughter] You were super proud of yourself. [I was] like, “What happened? How did you do this?!”
Dave: I was pretty proud. It was standard shift car; so it had a stick shift with a clutch. I cherished money; we didn’t have a lot of money. I’m like, “This is going to cost several hundred dollars to get a new clutch,” or whatever. I realized what happened, as I crawled under there; the cable that connected to the clutch pedal had a knob that went through this little loop, and the knob broke off.
I was like, “All I need to do is put a knob on the back of this pedal through that loop, and it will pull.” I mean, I am embarrassed to say this now, based on what ended up happening; but I put vice grips on there, and I clamped it down super tight. It grabbed that cable and went through the loop. So when you pushed that pedal—the bad thing is it was sort of clunky; because you pushed the pedal, and the vice grips would sort of—
Ann: Yes, they would—clunk, clunk, clunk.
Dave: Yes, but the pedal went in, and it held on, and you could drive it.
Ann: That was my car. I’m thinking, now, “Why didn’t you drive that car?”
Dave: Alright; tell them what happened; just tell them what happened. Get to the/get to it.
Ann: Okay; so three months later, when now, I’m—
Dave: See, it worked for three months; that’s pretty good. [Laughter]
Ann: But Dave’s—we’ve shared this before—but Dave is off to this event, a big fundraiser. I am supposed to meet him there. What ends up happening is I’m driving. It’s late at night; it’s dark, and it’s winter; and that vice grip falls off. So the car breaks down on the side of the road. I’m all dressed up—
Dave: I’m already at the event.
Ann: —high heels on, hose.
Dave: Actually, I’m there, wondering, “Where is my wife?”
Ann: It is snowing; there is snow on the ground. So again, there is no cell phone. So I stop at somebody’s house. I kind of show my belly; like, “Hey, my car broke down. And as you can see, I’m pregnant. I’m wondering if I can use your phone.”
Dave: —show your belly?
Ann: Yes; I’m like, “Feel sorry for me!”
Dave: I mean, it sounds like you’re opening your shirt; no.
Ann: No, I’m just showing them that I have a little baby bump. They said, “We’re sorry, but we don’t allow people into our home.” Then I went to the next door; they are gone. I end up walking miles home; and because it is so far, I started cutting through—
Dave: A little exaggeration.
Ann: —no, it was.
Dave: It wasn’t miles.
Ann: —cutting through the yards, over fences in my high heels. The whole time, I am so mad at Dave; because I am thinking, “Who wouldn’t fix this car for his pregnant wife?!” I finally get home. I change my clothes; a neighbor takes me to the event. I walk in the door, fuming; I am so mad. I am feeling so unloved, so unprotected.
The first thing that happens is this woman comes up; and she goes, “OH!”—
Dave: The event is over.
Ann: Yes! But she—
Dave: I mean, I am standing there, talking to people, like, “You missed the whole event.” So when I see you walk in, I’m mad; I’m like, “Where in the world have you been?”
Ann: And you know, steam is coming out of my ears. This lady rushes up to me; she goes [all bubbly], “Are you Dave Wilson’s wife?!” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Oh, he just finished speaking. He is really amazing. It must be something to be married to him.”
I sat there—you guys, I am so angry—and I said, “You know that is a good way to put it. It is something being married to him.”
Dave: Okay; that was a really bad night in our marriage.
You know, now, 30-some years removed from that—I couldn’t see it in the moment—because it wasn’t just that night; that was a pattern in my life that I now see I cherished other things over you.
Ann: Well, Dave—yes, I think what happens in marriage—this is what it feels like for many of us, as women. We are—in our engagement time—you guys are amazing, like you won me; you wooed me; you were so attentive; you were pursuing me at all costs.
And then we get married; and I’m feeling like, “What in the world?! Your guitars feel more important than me.” Your job felt more important. I think wives feel that, like: “Man, his job is way more important,” “His golfing schedule and his hunting schedule is way more important. I’m at the bottom of that priority list.” It’s really hard.
Dave: It’s crazy to think that, in my life, I was even standing on a stage, as a pastor or a marriage speaker, saying, “Husbands, love your wives”—not realizing, “I’m not doing this very well.” Some of it was just reprioritizing my values/what matters.
I would say you were the most important thing in my life—and it was absolutely true—but I wasn’t living like that. I was loving/cherishing other things: my job, my schedule—the Detroit Lions chaplain; travelling with the team—I was doing all that stuff.
Ann: And I think, with your attitude, it made me feel like you just thought I was needy: “Why do you have to be so needy?” I just wanted to be loved.
Dave: Yes, and I think, whenever you brought it up,—remember this?—
Dave: —I got defensive.
Dave: I would say, “I’m spending the time at the job because I love you. I’m providing for you, and I’m providing for the boys and our family. I mean, this is my way of showing you I love you.” Why didn’t that say, “I love you”?
Ann: Because it made me feel like, “No, you love your job; and you are finding incredible pleasure through that.” I knew that you were providing, and I was thankful; but I think, for women, we really long to have that relationship.
Dave: I think every woman is different, obviously. In fact, every woman might be totally different than you—
Dave: —but it’s like every man is different—but I think, at the core, every woman longs to be loved—I think every guy does, too, actually—longs to be cherished. I think, as husbands, we need to know specifically what love looks like to our wife: “What does my wife say love is?”
And you know, we said in Vertical Marriage, and even in the small group, we said: “One of the things I think that every wife would agree—says, ‘I love you,’—is spending time. Time for this relationship/our marriage is not on the calendar,” like it wasn’t for us. We said it was, but I let other things push it out. Even if we had a date night, and I got a speaking engagement that was going to pay me an honorarium, I was thinking, “That provides for the family. We can move the date night to the next night.”
Guess what happened? I would take the speaking engagements, so I would be gone. You would be home with the kids, and then we wouldn’t go out the next night. The next thing you know; it is a month before we are spending time together, to say: “This relationship really matters.” And things that matter get time on your calendar; right?
Ann: Yes, yes.
Dave: I’m just saying that that—to every wife—says, “I love you”; right?
Ann: Yes; I think what happens, as we gradually drift—and that is what we say at the Weekend to Remember® getaways—that if you aren’t pursuing and persistently going after your relationship in a positive way of pouring into it, you will naturally drift toward isolation.
Dave: So here is the homework—because here is what we are going to do in the next broadcast—we are going to talk about three ways to really cherish and love your wife; but before we get there, here is your homework for tonight, guys:
Ask her, “What says I love you?” I’m not kidding—tonight—you don’t even have to go on a date. If you can, go on a date with her; but if you can’t, get the kids down or get whatever responsibilities you have put away; and sometime, before you go to bed tonight—and I’m putting this on the guy/the husband—turn to your wife and say, “What makes you feel loved?” and take notes. When she tells you, ask her follow-up questions, like, “What does that look like? How do I do that?”
This could change your entire marriage. By the way, this takes us all the way back to the beginning, when Peter said, “Live with your wives in an understanding way.” I don’t think we understand our wives. It doesn’t mean she is a weaker—weaker vessel doesn’t mean she’s weaker emotionally—it’s talking about, physically, she might be weaker. She is probably stronger—I’ve noticed that with Ann—she is stronger than I am emotionally; but I don’t know what it means to live with her in an understanding way. How can I learn? I need to ask.
Ann: That’s great homework.
Dave: Then I need to apply.
Bob: Now, let me just say here, lest you think that homework assignment is just for people who have been married for five years or less. The process of living with your wife in an understanding way is a lifetime assignment, and things change over the years. Mary Ann and I have talked about the fact that what speaks love to her today is different than it was ten years ago. So for every husband to ask that question: “What is it that makes you feel loved?” Then, as Dave Wilson said, take notes; probe a little deeper: “Tell me more.” That’s a good homework assignment for any of us.
You know, Dave and Ann have written about how we can love and serve one another better in their book, Vertical Marriage, which is a classic book. In fact, we are making the book available this week to those of you who are regular FamilyLife Today listeners, who can help us with a donation. FamilyLife Today would not be here if it weren’t for listeners, like you, calling or going online and saying, “We believe in this ministry. It is helping us; we know it is helping others. We want to see it grow and expand. We want to help provide the fuel that helps FamilyLife Today go farther.”
So if you can help with a little gas money, make a donation today online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Be sure to ask for your copy of the book, Vertical Marriage. We’d love to send it to you as a way of saying, “Thank you for your support.” If you already have a copy of Vertical Marriage, make a donation today and pass a copy on to someone you know in your church, someone in your community, someone at work. It’s a great way to, maybe, open a spiritual conversation with somebody who you have been praying for. Again, you can make your donation at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, I know that this is a time of year when a lot of church small groups are getting started up again. Maybe, you are in a small group, where you guys are going through a book study or something. At FamilyLife, we’ve got a number of small group resources that couples have found very helpful. Recently, I did a series on my book, Love Like You Mean It, a ten-part video series for couples to do in a small group setting. There are many of these small group studies available. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to find out more about them.
Right now, between now and February 18, at FamilyLifeToday.com, if you use the promo code, “NEWYEAR2022,” you’ll save 25 percent off any small group order. Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, if you are looking for something related to marriage or parenting for your small group. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and check out what we’ve got available. Again, use that promo code, “NEWYEAR2022,” to save 25 percent off.
Now, husbands, does your wife know where she is on your priority list? For that matter, do you know where your wife is on your priority list? I don’t mean: “Do you know the right answer to that?” “What is the real answer to that? How is that being lived out in your marriage?” Dave and Ann Wilson talk more about that tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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