What Spells Romance?
About the Guest
Are you romantic? Author and home-schooling mom Heidi St. John talks frankly to wives about infusing their marriages with a little bit of old-fashioned romance. Heidi reveals what spells romance to her husband, such as praise, quality time, a submissive spirit, and sex; and she asks wives to consider what they can do to keep their marriages from bogging down in the mundane.
What can wives do to keep their marriages from bogging down in the mundane?
What Spells Romance?
Bob: Have you gone through a dry season in your marriage, a season where you just feel distant from one another? Here’s author and speaker, Heidi St. John:
Heidi: To me, seasons are normal, I know, especially after we’ve had a baby or we’ve gone through a difficult time in our lives or something has happened outside of our family that has impacted our family unit. Sometimes we’ll go for weeks without having very much time to spend together, especially when the little ones were babies, newborns.
I’ll sit down with Jay. We just reaffirm each other that this is a season, “This is a season. I love you. I just want you to know I’m going to be exhausted for the next three or four weeks.” Jay knows, “She recognizes that it’s a season.” We’re acknowledging it. We’re talking about it, and we’re moving. We’re looking forward to when this isn’t a season, but right now, it’s all hands on deck, and that’s what it looks like.
When we get over it, we’ll celebrate that, that season has come to an end, and we’ll move into a different season.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, November 1st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today with Heidi St. John about how we make sure that those seasons in our marriage when we’re distant from one another are just seasons—how they don’t extend for weeks or even months at a time.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I really want you to ask our guest today about the picture on the front of her book.
Dennis: You go ahead and ask her. [Laughter]
Bob: Here’s the reason for—
Dennis: I don’t know what you’re getting at, Bob. I mean you’ve got a woman standing there with a bunch of books on a platter—
Dennis: —and it looks like a couple of sirloins with an “I love you” in the other platter.
Bob: And she’s wearing a dress from the 50’s, and she’s got this look on her face—
Dennis: It may be earlier.
Bob: —she’s got this smirk on her face.
Heidi St. John joins us—author of the book, Romance: Nurturing Your Marriage Through the Homeschool Years. Heidi is a homeschooling mom of seven. She and her husband, Jay, live in the Pacific Northwest. Tell me where the inspiration for this picture came from, will you?
Heidi: Yes, I love to tell the story because people ask me about it all the time. My husband and I went to Barnes & Noble, and we laid out covers of books. We saw a woman on a cover of a book, and we thought, “The image that everyone thinks of homeschool mom is that she is June Cleaver. She’s got her books in one hand.” So, that is kind of where that came from.
I said—Jay was actually in the room, obviously, when we took the pictures; and he said, “How do you feel when I come home at the end of the day and you’re balancing all this stuff and I say, ‘Hey, Honey, I’ve made dinner reservations for us?’” He said, “Give me the look.” I said, “Really?” Snap it, and that’s what we got. (Laughter)
Dennis: Well, this book is not just for homeschool moms, it’s for busy moms who are tending to the physical well-being, the emotional well-being, the educational well-being of youngsters in their families. Anybody who is doing that knows that can zap a marriage.
Heidi: That’s right.
Dennis: I want you to go back to a defining moment in your marriage that occurred right from the get-go. I think—didn’t you say you were 19 when this fight occurred?
Heidi: Yes, I think we had been married for about a week, week and a half. We came back from our honeymoon, and my husband and I got in an argument, as newlyweds often do—I’m told. I remember going home, and I remember thinking, “This is just never going to work. I can’t even believe I married—what have I gotten myself into?”
I went home, and I knocked on my mom’s door; and she answered the door, and she said, “What’s going on?” I thought, “I think I signed a piece of paper that gave me a roommate who’s never going to move out.” She was like, “Yes. That’s what you did.”
I told her what happened. She said, “Heidi, you’re depending on your husband to meet your needs, every single one of your needs. He’s never going to be able to do that. You need to learn to depend on the Lord to meet your needs and, then, look at what He’s given you and Jay.” Then, she started listing the qualities that my husband had.
She said, “Well, thanks for visiting,” and she walked me to the door. I went home, and then by the time I got home—
Dennis: No, no, no. Now, wait a second.
Bob: She just booted you out of the house?
Heidi: She pretty much did. She gave me the boot, yes. “Bye bye. See you.”
Dennis: Now, I want to just stop there. No, seriously, this is really important because we’re talking to some moms—
Dennis: —of adult children—
Dennis: —who have the daughter come home to cry on the shoulder and if they’re not careful, they can be a part of the unraveling of a marriage relationship early on. They can feed it.
Dennis: They can put seeds, weed seeds, in that relationship. But your mom had the wisdom not to do that.
Heidi: Yes, she did, and she was in the middle of a divorce, a painful divorce from my father. She had taken a lot of things that she had done wrong, and she said to me—she said, “Heidi, we did a lot of things wrong, and I’m not going to help you by starting you off doing things wrong with you and your husband.” She said, “You need to go home. You need to work it out. You’ve married a wonderful, godly man. Let him love you. Let him love you, and you need to love him.”
I mean she literally walked me to the door because I was thinking, maybe, she would give me some tea and cookies. Oh, no. Oh, no. “Bye bye. See you.”
Dennis: Well, what you had promised—
Heidi: “Call me next week.”
Dennis: —at the wedding—you had promised—
Heidi: —leave and cleave.
Dennis: —leave and cleave.
Heidi: Yes. Yes.
Bob: But it’s hard for a mom who for 19 years has been caring for, solving, working with, all of those issues; and it’s hard for a daughter who for 19 years has been turning to mom for help, wisdom, and advice to now say, “I’m supposed to go to him.”
Heidi: Yes. Yes, that’s exactly right. Boy, I’ll tell you that set the tone. I never went back to her again when I had an issue with Jay.
Bob: Well, sure, you weren’t going to get—
Heidi: Not that I didn’t call her, but I certainly didn’t go to her house and ask her if I—
Bob: —you weren’t going to get any brownies.
Heidi: Right. She wasn’t going to get—I was like, “Where are the cookies, man. For 19 years, you gave me cookies. At least do an Oreo, something, you know?” Yes, nothing.
Dennis: Okay, Heidi, you’ve written a book about romance.
Dennis: What spells romance for a woman? What spells romance for a man?
Heidi: Well, I can tell you, for me—what spells romance for a woman I think is her husband, just knowing that “My wife is amazing.” I tell women all the time if you’ll just love your husband—tell him his muscles are big. Tell him that you think he’s amazing. Thank him. It’s an investment that you’re making.
Jay will talk to the men—and I love to listen to him talk to men about what spells romance to me because he said, “If you want to let your wife know how much you love her, then, get in there and help her. Be a part of her life.” Nothing says love to me like my husband doing dishes. I’ll tell you what because he’s saying, “Look, I see what you’re doing all day long. Let me come home and help you. Let me come alongside and partner with you.” It’s that partnership.
Dennis: One of Bob’s sexiest moments was running the vacuum cleaner.
Heidi: See. Amen. I’m right there with him. I think that’s amazing.
Bob: But I vacuum with big muscles.
Heidi: Man of the vacuum cleaner.
Bob: I want you to call Mary Ann and tell her the muscles thing. I’d like to hear that when I go home tonight, you know?
Heidi: Yes. Well, you know we hear a lot from homeschool dads especially who want to know, “My wife needs my help. I don’t know how to help her;” and I’ll tell the men, “She doesn’t need you to get in there and do everything for her, but she wants you to tell her she’s amazing. Tell her she’s doing a good job. Tell her how proud you are of her.”
Jay has been so good over the last 23 years of just pouring into my life that way. He’s like, “You know, Heidi, you’re doing a great job. Look at how well Savannah is doing as compared to a year ago. Look how much she’s grown.” He’ll say, “That’s you investing in her life every day.” It’s just knowing that he loves me, and he’s in partnership with me.
One time, we went over to my grandparents’ house. Again, we were newlyweds, and I wrote about my grandparents because they had such a profound impact on my life. We were talking about the issue of submission, you know? This issue had come up in Sunday school class. I thought “I’m going to talk to my grandparents.” They’d been married for—what?—I think sixty years at that point.
I said down with Jay, and we said, “Grandpa, tell us what biblical submission—what does that look like?” My grandpa had a wonderful marriage with my grandmother. He looked at me and he said, “You know, Heidi, in a healthy marriage the issue of submission is never going to come up because you are for each other. In a healthy marriage, the husband is for the wife, and the wife is for the husband, and you are working together toward a common vision, and you have a shared mission.”
It just ministered to me because here I was thinking he was going to pull out all of these verses. He was a pastor, and I thought, “We’re going to get into this big, theological discussion.” He just said, “I love your grandma, and I’m for your grandma.” I could hear Grandma, “And I love your grandpa, and I’m for your grandpa.” She’s putting dishes away while he was talking to us on the couch.
I thought, “Man, that’s right.” It’s good perspective. It’s just recognizing how valuable that is to our children, even, and to people who are watching us that we love each other. Jay’s the phone call that I take at the end of the day when I think I can’t take one more phone call. He’s the guy who I want to go out and spend time with when I think I don’t have any more time to spend. It’s priorities.
Bob: There are still days, seasons, moments, when there’s just not a whole lot of romance to draw on in a marriage, aren’t there?
Heidi: Yes, absolutely. Yes, but I think it’s seasonal. I think that’s what you’re saying. To me, seasons are normal, I know, especially after we’ve had a baby or we’ve gone through a difficult time in our lives or something has happened outside of our family that has impacted our family unit. Sometimes, we’ll go for weeks without having very much time to spend together.
I remember especially when the little ones were babies, newborns, and I’d sit down with Jay. We just reaffirmed to each other, “This is a season. This is a season. I love you. I just want you to know I’m going to be exhausted for the next three or four weeks. Can we just bear with each other? I’m going to need a little extra hand.”
Then Jay knows, “She recognizes that it’s a season.” We’re acknowledging it. We’re talking about it, and we’re moving. We’re looking forward to when this isn’t a season, but right now, it’s all hands on deck; and that’s what it looks like. When we get over it, we’ll celebrate that, that season has come to an end, and we’ll move into a different season.
Bob: That’s one of the reasons, I think, if you have a headache—and there are nights you have a headache—how you say, “I have a headache,” is huge, isn’t it?
Heidi: Yes, it is. I think it’s not the goal of it, at least for me with my husband, has been to not communicate rejection to him because I think so often we do that. I’m always telling women, “If you’re constantly telling your husband, ‘No, I have a headache,’ and ‘No, no, no,’ you’re communicating rejection to him. You’re saying, ‘I don’t care about you. This part of our relationship isn’t important.’”
But I want Jay to know, “I genuinely don’t feel good tonight. I’m so tired. I’ve had such a hard day;” and he will listen to me now. He’ll talk to me because he knows that I mean it when I say, “Can we take this up again tomorrow night?” He knows that I’m going to make good on my promise. I’m not just trying to brush him to the side.
What that’s done is that’s built trust between the two of us. So, when I tell him I really had a difficult day, rather than brushing me to the side and just going, “That’s an excuse because she doesn’t want to have sex,” or whatever it is, he wants to engage. He wants to listen, and that ministers to me.
So I think there is an ebb and a flow to marriage. It’s not always easy; but when there’s that commitment and that trust that he knows, “Hey, we’re going to get back to this. She loves me,” that’s what matters.
Bob: Here’s where it gets into trouble, though, because I’ve had this happen. I’ll say, “Come here. We’ll just cuddle.” (Laughter) In the middle of cuddling, I kind of get this sense that she’s starting to—
Heidi: She’s warming up.
Bob: But she’s not.
Heidi: Yes. [Laughter] Because she’s going, “He’s tricking me.”
Bob: She’s feeling—she’s just decompressing.
Heidi: It was a ruse.
Bob: She’s feeling content and “This is great. Now, I’m ready to go to sleep.” But I was thinking, “No, I thought maybe”—“No.” “Okay.” So, we just—you’ve got to communicate in the midst of all of this, right?
Heidi: That’s right.
Dennis: Well, there are those moments that happen like that. You spoke earlier about a no romance zone called a vortex—
Heidi: That’s right.
Dennis: —but you also talk about how we can live parallel lives, and it’s when the seasons turn into multiple seasons, that’s a danger.
Heidi: That’s absolutely—
Dennis: That’s a real danger where a couple needs to make sure they get out of the rut.
Heidi: That’s right, and I call it parallel living because if you look at parallel lines, that’s what they do. They run side by side. So, he does his thing. He goes to work. He’s providing for the family. He might have a hobby he takes up on the weekend. She’s cleaning house and taking care of the kids, and maybe she’s working from home or whatever it is she’s doing; but their lives are not intersecting in meaningful ways very often. They are not entwined like the cord that Ecclesiastes speaks of.
The Bible says that a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. If you think of these—of a cord and those lines, they run—the cord, the strands run side by side, and they are constantly coming back and touching on some level. Then, that third strand is, of course, a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and nurturing that relationship, especially when your kids are growing and your life is so busy and to be careful about not living parallel lives.
If you put even the teensiest bit of separation, one degree of separation, between those parallel lines, you give it a year or two years—eventually, you’ve got a chasm that is very hard to bridge.
Dennis: Let’s talk about how you keep that romance alive practically with Jay in your marriage. I mean we talked about earlier how you had kind of a showdown at O.K. Corral. He said, “I’ve missed you.”
Dennis: It was ultimately he was kind of waving a white flag saying, “Hey, we can’t keep living like this. The cord of three strands is not the three strands. We have parallel lines taking place.” What else can you share with a mom about how to keep romance alive with her husband specifically? How to speak romance in his language?
Heidi: For me, I just sat down with Jay and asked him tough questions. I tell moms, “Oftentimes we’re afraid to ask our husbands to assess us as a wife because we don’t want to hear the answer.” Because what if I say to Jay, “Are you happy with the intimacy in our marriage?” and he says “No,” what do I do with that? I think we’ve got to stop being afraid to ask the difficult questions.
So, what I did was I sat down with Jay, and I said, “Alright. Let’s hash this out. Tell me,” and I asked him—I think I picked three areas of our life. Intimacy was one of them. Communication was another one, and then, just flat out time because Jay likes to spend time with me, and I knew that was going to be a big issue for him. But I said, “How do you think we’re doing? When you got married, you had an idea of what intimacy in marriage would be like. How is that working out for you?”
Then, I had to sit and really listen. It was a loving critique, but it was a critique nonetheless. Then, I needed to make some changes based on what he said to me, and what that communicated to him was “Heidi loves me. She loves me.” Just asking him those questions brought our relationship to a completely different level.
Dennis: How many years had you been married when you asked those hard questions of Jay?
Heidi: About ten years. It had been about ten years. Spencer was born by then. So, we had been doing alright. I think we were just living parallel lives. I don’t—I never felt like our marriage was in any real jeopardy. I didn’t feel like we were necessarily suffering, but we were—there was a distance between us. Certainly, we had become kind of like roommates.
He knew that I loved him and we had a good relationship, but he longed for something deeper and so did I. That’s what we signed up for when we got married was an intimacy, and we were missing that intimacy.
So, I think we’ve got to ask questions. I had to ask him some tough questions, too, about himself and how he viewed me. Then, I allowed him to ask me questions. I think we opened up a dialogue in a space that we allowed ourselves to be unafraid and say, “This is a painful thing to ask, but I’m going to ask it anyway.”
For example, I asked my husband, “Do you ever struggle with pornography? I need to know.” That was a hard word for me to even say as a pastor’s wife. It was so difficult for me, and the conversation that ensued from that was so good for me to hear: an affirmation of my role as his wife and how I could encourage him.
Dennis: Let me stop you there.
Dennis: I’m not going to ask you what Jay answered to that question, but I am going to ask you what would you say to the wife whose husband said, “Yes. Yes, there’s a problem, and it goes back ten years. I brought it into our marriage.”
Heidi: That is such a painful thing. I think pornography is glossed over in the culture because it is basically on television now. It’s everywhere. It’s on the internet. There’s no—you don’t have to associate the shame. We used to have to go to the corner store at least and embarrass yourself to get a magazine.
I always tell women, “Sin thrives in the dark.” It thrives in the dark—just like mold grows in the dark, and we have to shine a light on it. You have to be willing to say, when you hear that answer, “We need to get help.” That means we’re going to expose this thing to the light. We’re going to start talking to people that we trust. We’re going to find resources to help, not be afraid to talk about it. That means you need to continue to bring it up.
So you don’t bring it up one time and then assume that it’s fine now that we’ve had the conversation. It’s continuing to shine that light on it and continuing to bring it in prayer together before the Lord.
Dennis: Have you ever spoken to a woman who has had that conversation and it’s come back affirmative and she’s felt a horrible sense of inadequacy?
Heidi: Or betrayal. Yes.
Heidi: Absolutely, yes.
Dennis: What do you say to her?
Heidi: I really think there’s hope. I think God is a God of redemption. So often, we look at that—women feel betrayed. I think men don’t often understand this. When a wife finds out that her husband has struggled with pornography, it’s a sense of adultery. It’s a betrayal that goes so, so deep.
I always tell the women, “This is so important to be real. This is why we keep talking about being real. We’ve got to start talking about it because it’s so prevalent in the Christian community. It’s everywhere.” We need to say, “How can we come together and seek the Lord together?” And that’s what we start doing. We start praying about it. We start talking about it, and there’s hope. God is a God of healing and of restoration.
For every story that I have heard—and I talk to hundreds of moms every year whose husbands have struggled with this. I’m hearing more and more stories now of healing and redemption and restoration; and there’s hope. I think that’s the main thing -- to communicate hope.
Dennis: There really is hope, and if there’s a place to find that hope, it’s the Christian community. The thing I would say to that young wife or maybe an older wife, “Don’t take it upon yourself to try to pull your marriage out of the ditch of pornography.” I compare it to a car being off in the ditch with all four wheels. It’s not a matter of getting behind the wheel and just hitting the accelerator and just applying the gas and saying, “We’re just going to get out of this.” You need a wrecker.
Heidi: Yes. You’ve got to get help.
Dennis: You need somebody who is on the road, on a stable spot, who can attach a relationship to that marriage and pull that marriage out one wheel at a time. It’s going to take a period of time, a process. It’s going to take honesty of the guy being willing to truly come clean. I’ve found in a lot of cases where a guy gets caught or finally admits, it’s really difficult for him to truly unearth all of what’s been taking place. It’s like one layer of deception on top of another. It’s like layers of an onion.
What most wives are completely caught off guard by is their husband exposes one layer, and they think that’s it.
Heidi: So painful.
Dennis: And they recoil from it, not realizing that there is probably more. It could be even more devastating than just betrayal with an image. It could—
Heidi: But it doesn’t go away if you don’t—that’s why I’m saying, “You’ve got to talk about it. Shine that light on it.”
Dennis: You’ve got to press into it.
Heidi: Yes, that’s right.
Dennis: It’s back to that passage of Scripture: “Confess your sins to one another, so that you may be healed.” That ought to be taking place within marriage, and it ought to be taking place within the Christian community.
Bob: I’ve talked to men about this at our Weekend to Remember®, the marriage getaway that we do.
I’ve said, “If you really want to be free from this issue, first of all you’ve got get some time with God and confess that it’s a sin. You’ve got to be honest and say, ‘What You say about this is true.’ Secondly, you’ve got to find some accountability, a guy who can help you out; but until you have the courage to go to your wife and say, ‘I’m struggling here,’ I don’t think you’ll ever get out where it needs to be.”
Then, I’ve had to turn to the wives and say, “That means some of you ladies are going to hear from your husband in the next week—thirty days. He’s going to come to you and he’s going to say, ‘I’m struggling with this,’ and how you respond to that”—
Heidi: —is pivotal.
Bob: —“is pivotal.”
Dennis: And it doesn’t mean that there’s not genuine hurt that gets experienced and has to be expressed. But here’s why, Bob, I say to each listener, “If you haven’t made an investment in your marriage in the past 12 to 24 months by getting away and sitting and soaking in a good, biblically-based marriage conference, you’re robbing your marriage, your family, and your own life of richness that you could be enjoying.”
It’s why I’d say to them, “Get to a Weekend to Remember where both husbands and wives can hear their job description talked about very authentically but also authoritatively from the Scripture, and find out how you do this thing called Christian marriage.”
Bob: Well, we’ve got eight Weekend to Remember events happening this weekend. We’re going to be in Memphis, in St. Louis; Yosemite, California; Park City, Utah; Estes Park, Colorado; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Richmond, Virginia; and Carlsbad, California down near San Diego—so, some great locations for the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
That’s just this weekend. The rest of the month, we’ve got Weekends to Remember happening in cities all across the country—got a couple dozen of these events still to go this month. So, you can find out if there’s going to be one near you when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link for the Weekend to Remember.
If there’s not a Weekend to Remember near where you are, there may be an Art of Marriage® video conference happening near you. Again, at FamilyLifeToday.com, you can click on the link and find out where an Art of Marriage is being hosted near where you live. The point is, get some time away together as a couple and invest in your marriage. That’s what we’re trying to say. You need to do that regularly. You need to have that built into the rhythm of your life.
I would say at least once a year you ought to have some extended time away—an overnight, a couple of nights, a weekend—where the two of you get away and say, “How are we doing?” And you pull back, and you refocus. You just spend some time together. That’s what the Weekend to Remember, the Art of Marriage is all about.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about these events and about where they are located and how you can be a part of one of these upcoming getaways for couples. There’s also information on our website about Heidi St. John’s book, The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance: Nurturing Your Marriage Through the Homeschool Years.
Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order a copy of Heidi’s book from us online, or you can call to order. 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number—1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. Ask about the book The Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance when you get in touch with us.
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So, if you’d like to understand your husband better, ask for these CDs with Shaunti Feldhahn when you make a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Go there and click the button that says, “I CARE,” and we’ll send you the CDs; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make a donation over the phone and ask for the CDs called For Women Only when you get in touch with us. We appreciate your support of this ministry.
We want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow when we are going to talk about where Heidi St. John got her picture of what committed, lasting love looks like and how important your legacy might be for generations to come. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. Hope you can tune in.
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 will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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