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Creating A More Romantic Marriage
Day 5 of 8
Guest: Dennis Rainey
From the Series: A Man's View of Romance
(Music: "Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?")
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today. Our host is the executive director of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and if you've ever scratched your head and asked yourself the same question Henry Higgins asked himself, then stay with us for today's edition of FamilyLife Today.
(Music: "Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?")
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, and let me see if I can do a recap, Dennis, for our listeners here as we begin the broadcast. Last week you talked with us about why romance is so important for a marriage relationship.
Bob: You talked about the "romance robbers" that every relationship experiences. Barbara joined us, and we spent three days talking to men about how wives view this issue of romance, and we just had a couple of days with the guy you describe as the "Michael Jordan of romance," who talked with us about some creative things that his group – that he calls the "Men of the Titanic" have done to communicate romance to their wives, and before we talk to wives about how their husbands view romance, you want to spend one more session talking to the men, right?
Dennis: Right. You know, I think a lot of Christians are afraid to discuss the obvious. There is a great struggle that is taking place in the Christian bedrooms of our nation, and if that struggle is going to be diminished, and Christian marriages are to emerge, then that means we've got to get honest and look at this biblically, we've got to look at it and speak out it forthrightly and, in the best way we know how to talk about it, be able to speak honestly first of all to men about what they're feeling when it comes to sexuality.
Bob: Now, is it okay for the wives to listen in as we talk to their husbands?
Dennis: I think, for today's broadcast, you ladies can just eavesdrop as I just have a heart-to-heart talk with the men, because I think a lot of us, as men, are really confused, and this first point I want to make with the husbands is you need to reserve romance and your sexuality for your wife only. What I mean by that is God has blessed you and given you great sexual energy. That ought to move you to serve her, to love her, to sacrificially give to her without resentment.
Now, those last two words are very important – "without resentment" – because I think God gives us, as men, this urge to initiate toward our wives for a reason, because our wives are different. They have relational needs, and what we do with our own sex drive, as we look at our wife's needs, can either move us to using our wives as an object or we, as men, can realize that we need to get on our wife's wavelength and how she views romance; that is, her need for relational love, and that means spending time with her, taking walks, some of the things we've talked about earlier in this series.
Bob: Are you saying here that if a man is failing in these areas, if he's not communicating love to his wife on her terms, then he really needs to make that a priority before he has any expectations from his own wife?
Dennis: I'm saying when Paul commanded husbands to love their wives, He commanded them to nourish and cherish their wives. The picture is of bathing them in nutrition for their soul. What is that for a woman? It's a relationship. It's sharing your life, as a man, with your wife, and if you don't do that, most likely your wife is going to feel like a sex object, and I think one of the best questions a man could ask his wife at this point, to see how he's doing, is say, "Sweetheart, when I make love to you, do you feel loved?"
I'm convinced there are a lot of wives who would say, "No. I may feel pleasure, I may feel sexual release, but somehow, sweetheart, you're not communicating real love to me, because you haven't met those relational needs."
And it's not what the man is doing or not doing in the midst of the actual act of intercourse. It's what he hasn't done to prepare that relationship with his wife and enable her to feast on having fun, on being nourished and cherished by someone who tenderly cares for his wife.
Now, this next thing I need to talk to men about at this point – this gets kind of tough to speak to men, but I've gotta do it – men sometimes have a higher felt need for sex than their wives, and I've got a couple of questions for you men who continually find yourself in overdrive in this area.
The first question is – are you feeding your sexual appetite throughout the day? Your fantasies, what you look at, what you watch, what you allow your mind to feast on – are you feeding that regularly throughout the day in an unbridled fashion? It is a wise man who, first of all, looks to himself in saying, "Am I really setting up our marriage to win here or am I somehow, because of what I'm allowing myself to think about all day, am I being selfish in arriving at the marriage bed almost setting my wife up to fail because I have so feasted in my mind on my sexual creativity?"
Bob: There needs to be some self control and discipline that a man exercises over his own thought life?
Dennis: Discipline is a part of the Christian life, and I think for a lot of men this goes down hard, because what we would like to say is we would like to have complete freedom to think about what we would like to think about and arrive home all sexually energized and charged up, but the problem is – what's our wife been thinking about all day? She's had kids draped all over her legs and arms, tuggin' on her skirt, and here's the man arriving home. He's had all these thoughts, and his wife is nowhere in the ballpark, let alone ready to go to bed with him.
A third thing I'd like to encourage the men to do, and this is going to sound the riskiest of all, but it's absolutely important that you share your feelings about your own sexuality. This is what women really don't understand about men, because men aren't in touch with what they're feeling about their own sexuality. And a part of this, Bob, I believe, is a man must express to his wife the importance of his wife's response at the point where he initiates intercourse with his wife.
Bob: But you're saying before he does that, he needs to understand that importance himself?
Dennis: That's right. First of all, he's got to understand what it is he's feeling, and then begin to put it in words with his wife, and this is the interesting thing – most men have never talked about this with anyone in their lifetimes. It's interesting, America is a culture that is saturated with sex, and yet men, I believe, are more insecure, they've got more confusion, more anxieties, more temptations – I think they've got unreal expectations about themselves, about their spouse, and what may be the best vehicle for the man to discuss this is to simply write out a letter to his wife about how he feels about his own sexuality. Include in there any anxiety you may feel, certain feelings you may have about your own performance, how you feel at the point when you are initiating, and then include a paragraph about how you feel when your wife says no. Because I think sometimes the way men express their feelings is with anger. They've been hurt, they've been disappointed, and what comes out is anger. They kick wastecans. I know one man who kicked a hole in his garage door. That's a long way from the bedroom, so you've got to wonder how he got down there to do that, but the guy was ticked off.
The time to communicate this is never in your bedroom. It should always be in the midst and the context of a relationship – on a walk – it's not at 11:00 at night when you're both exhausted. It's in a prime time of the day when you can talk about this and connect with your spouse. I think there are a lot of women who really do want to understand their husbands, and what I would say to the women at this point – be patient with your man, because he, most likely, has never, ever talked with another man about this, let alone a woman. And now you're his wife, and now you share this bed together, and you can't help but maybe feel it personally as well, as a woman, feeling like he's rejecting you.
Bob: One of the things that makes those discussions difficult for couples is what happens after that? The next time you come together, there are all kinds of thoughts running through both of your heads, and it makes it awkward.
Dennis: Yes, and that's a part of a growing marriage relationship that I think young couples just need to relax and grow through – or a couple who has been married for 15 to 20 years, who may go through some discussions that they've never shared in the past.
Yes, you may feel self-conscious, but do you know what I'd do at that point? Learn to laugh and not be so serious about this thing called sex. We're certainly devoting a lot of days to it here on the broadcast, and that's because it is a very serious subject, but one of the things Barbara and I have attempted to do is, we have attempted to keep laughter as a part of our marriage bed. It takes some of the pressure off, it allows us the freedom to share some humor in the midst of what can be far too serious of a subject.
Dennis: Okay, men, this next point may not even sound like it relates to sexual intimacy, but it does, and that is you need to pray with your wife about this area of your relationship – pray for yourself that you'll be selfless, that you'll be a man who knows how to deny himself for your wife, and in many cases there can be no greater act of love on your wife's behalf than you denying your own desires for your wife. Ask God to give you the strength to be able to do that. Ask God to give you an understanding of how to love her and how to meet her needs.
I want to tell you something – the Holy Spirit of God, if you're a believer in Jesus Christ – indwells you. He can guide you and lead you into becoming a better lover. Now, you may say, "The Holy Spirit wants to help me be a better lover?" Absolutely. You can't tell me the God of the Universe that created sexual love is not interested in helping us when we don't know how we need help, and I've found God has given me ways of loving Barbara at times when, truthfully, I was at a dead end. I didn't know how to meet her needs.
Pray for your wife. Pray that she'll feel loved when you initiate sexual love with her. That's an important part. You know what? I'd even pray with her before the act of intercourse that God might enable you to communicate love to her.
Bob: Now, you've got to know, Dennis, there are some folks who hear you say that and think, "That just feels strange – to pray together and then go to bed together."
Dennis: Well, if that sounds strange, then the next point I've got is going to sound stranger – and that would be to pray during the act of making love with one another. Now, how strange does that sound?
Bob: Well, there are some folks who are probably thinking that sounds pretty strange, too.
Dennis: Well, let me ask you something – is God there in your bedroom in the midst of this?
Bob: Yeah, I guess He is.
Dennis: I think He is, and I believe sexual love is an act of worship. I think it is the deepest form of emotion and feeling two people share together. Who made that? It wasn't man. God made it. Why not share in prayer together in the middle of marital love?
Bob: You know, I was talking about this with a Sunday School class one time, and I said that the sex act is an act of worship, and a guy came up to me the next week, and he said, "We went home and had a revival at our house after Sunday School last week."
You know, I think there is a false sense of separation that most Christians feel between the spiritual side of life and the sexual side of life.
Dennis: Well, you know, there's one last point of prayer and, again, I'm just being realistic – after you've shared in love together – what finer moment than to say, "Lord Jesus, thank you for this woman You've given me." And I've prayed that many times with Barbara – "Thank You for what we have just enjoyed together. Thank You for her, thank You for her love, thank You for her trust of me as a man."
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