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Creating A More Romantic Marriage
Day 2 of 8
Guest: Barbara Rainey
From the Series: Woman's View of Romance
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today. Your host is the executive director of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey. I'm Bob Lepine, and today we'll learn from Barbara Rainey just how a woman does view romance on FamilyLife Today.
(Music: "How To Handle A Woman")
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the broadcast.
Dennis: You know, Bob, because of who we have in the studio today, I've decided I'm just going to kind of push back from the microphone and get my notepad out and take notes.
Bob: Is that right?
Dennis: That's right. I really feel, in due respect for my wife, she's an authority on the subject she's about to speak on and, in fact, you know what I'd like to do? You can ask the questions – because of the nature of what we're going to talk about, it's pretty delicate, and for me to ask my wife these questions, I mean, this could get a little interesting. So –
Bob: – well, I'm lookin' forward to this and, Barbara, by the way, welcome back to the broadcast. It's great to have you on the program.
Barbara: You're welcome, it's good to be here.
Bob: And, Dennis, I'm going to get right to it, because we're going to be talking over the next couple of days about how a wife views romance, and I think the thing that husbands want to know, the thing that kind of puzzles us in this whole deal is what is it that we can do that causes our wives to go, "Ahhhh." You know, just kind of look at us and melt. I mean, does that happen with a woman?
Barbara: Well, I think it does, but I don't think it's necessarily a particular situation, because the things that are romantic to me aren't necessarily a situation or an act or a thing or a gift – all of those things communicate romance – but the particular situation isn't necessarily going to produce what you're talkin' about, which is what we've talked about a lot.
You know what I think it is, I think it is the relationship that she has with her husband, and I have been reminded again, as I've been interacting with my family, and I have seen where I have come from and how desperately dysfunctional it was, and I'm thinking, "I am married to a man who has absolutely been a savior to me because of the love and acceptance and all that kind of stuff, and I have been attracted to him because I’m realizing what he's done for me relationally. So it's not like he thought, "I want to romance my wife, so I'm going to go buy her flowers, and so A+B=C, and this is the reaction and the response I'm going to get," although I think that's very romantic, and I love it when he does those kinds of things, because that communicates sacrifice, it communicates he cares about me, he's willing to go out of his way, he's willing to spend money that, you know, we may or may not have in the budget for that – those are all things that are very meaningful, but it may not necessarily produce the desired response. In other words, if he's doing it to produce the response, he is very often going to be disappointed.
That's why I go back to the relationship – to me, it's the relationship that is ultimately going to fuel the romance. And so when you ask what I thought of, my thought was – was the day that we spent together in September, and he took a whole day off work just to spend it with me to do what I wanted to do. We worked in the yard, and we got in the car in the afternoon, we drove for four or five hours and just kinda took off, and we stopped when we wanted to, and we did what we wanted to. I mean, it was like, in a sense, being on a honeymoon or being in those early days of marriage when we didn't have any responsibilities, and that was more fun, but it was romantic in the sense that it was just the two of us, and we could do what we wanted, and we focused on each other, and we didn't have the demands and the – I mean – we had to come back to it, but, you know – just for however many hours it was, it was really a treat to have him all to myself and to have him say, "I will do whatever you want to do," and we talked all day long. It was wonderful. It wasn't romantic in the typical sense of sweep her off her feet, carry her to the castle, and they lived happily ever after.
Bob: You know, as you said, the A+B+C, I thought – men want it to be algebra.
Barbara: That's right.
Dennis: They do, and therein lies the frustration as well as the intrigue.
Bob: And women don't want it to be algebra. It's gotta be –
Dennis: – no, they don't want a book.
Barbara: But they don't want to be figured out. See, I don't think women want to be figured out, because if they feel like they're figured out, then they feel like they're controlled and they're had, and they don't want to be figured out. I think they want him to love her and be willing to pursue her and to continue to know who she is, because she's not that simple. I think women don't want to feel like they're that easy to figure out and, "Oh, he's got me pegged," and A+B+=C, and it's going to always work that way. I think she wants to be more complex and more intriguing and more –
Dennis: – of a challenge.
Dennis: Because if the man goes A+B=C, and he knows that's the way it works, then she knows –
Barbara: – that he'll do A+B=C every time, and that gets boring, and I think she would also begin to fear that she'd be taken advantage of and, see, women don't want to be taken advantage of, and I don't mean taken advantage of sexually. I mean to be taken advantage of in any way – just assuming on the relationship and therefore there's no more motivation to continue to pursue, there's no more motivation – because if you've got it figure out, then why work at it?
Bob: So if a man says to himself, "I would like" – he's thinking, it's, you know, here it is Thursday, "I'd like a week from Friday to be a romantic evening together for me and my wife." What can I do to foster that? How can I create a romantic evening, something that will speak romance to her? You're saying "Good luck, buster."
Barbara: No, I don't think it's that hopeless. I think that a man can make some plans. I think he can make dinner reservations. I think he can bring her flowers. I think he can do some things that are creative that will communicate to her that she's special, she's unique – "I love you, I'm willing to sacrifice for you." But he needs to do it without the expectation of whatever it is his purpose is, because – see, the verse that I go back to all the time, as we've had these talks through the years – is I go back to the verse that says, "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church." And Christ gave himself up for the church. He denied Himself, and I think when a woman sees that her husband is denying himself for her, she responds to that, just as the church then responds to Christ, and I think she sees that sacrifice, and she understands that it's because of love.
But when a woman sees a husband doing that for what appears to her to be his own personal need, then she feels somewhat manipulated or somewhat controlled or less valued.
Barbara: Used – I mean, I think it complicates things, because I think that her ultimate need is to be loved as Christ loved the church and be loved unconditionally, and I think when she feels that, then she understands that commitment and that trust, then she can respond to her husband as he wants her to and as he needs her to, but it's just not as easy as bring home flowers and light the candles and have a dinner and A+B=C.
Bob: But I'm not even talking about her responding to his need necessarily. I'm saying – let's say a husband with the purest of motives says, "I want you to feel special next Friday night, so I'm going to get the sitter, I'm going to take you out to dinner," and he's out with her, and it's just not happening for her – for whatever reason, she doesn't feel special, she doesn't feel warm toward him. Maybe it's been a bad week. Well, the husband is sittin' there goin', "This was a waste of time and money, because she doesn't feel special. What do I do now? I tried the babysitter and the dinner thing, and that doesn't work."
Barbara: Well, it may not work because of the circumstances but, see, he needs to understand his role is to continue to pursue his wife, and he may need to say to her, "I'm sorry this didn't work out. I just want you to know I love you, anyway, and this may not have been good timing on my part" or whatever, but I think that part of the challenge for a husband is to understand his wife and understand what communicates love to her and figure that out and then do that.
Dennis: And if what communicates love to her is surprise, then that may be what you've got to heighten in that situation. I mean, just setting down and spending some time – having fun over nothing of any significance but just spending time together and maybe talking as we play a game.
Barbara: Well, the reason that is helpful for us is because we sort of exit the world of reality in a sense and so often it's the pressures of real life and all the responsibility that we feel, especially as parents, it's such an ongoing thing, and I think that suppresses a relationship. It suppresses romance, it suppresses interest in one another in doing something that is frivolous. And I think "frivolous" is a good word that needs to be involved in the discussion of romance, because it's often the frivolous things, which we think of, naturally, as flowers and candy and dinners, but it could be something like taking an hour in the evening, when you really need to be doing the laundry, or you really need to be doing something else, and the two of you sit down and play a game of spades or something. So I don't think it has to be expensive, it doesn't have to be planned out necessarily. It can be impulsive.
Dennis: It's those things that we did when we dated, and a lot of things we did when we dated were dumb things.
Barbara: Well, and they didn't cost much because most of us didn't have money when we dated – so a lot of times we did things like picnics. You and I did that a lot.
Dennis: And I think what happens when you get married is you fall into a rut, and you stop pursuing your spouse – men do – they think they've got her all figured out, and that insults the wife when she begins to feel like it is A+B=C, and then what he's gotta do is, he's got to pull back and go, "Now, wait a second, how can I court my wife?" And even I find it's interesting, when Bob asked you what's the most romantic thing I've done recently in our marriage that you would pick a day where there was no – what I would call "enchanted moment" – of carrying her off to the castle. It was a day of relationship and a time of friendship –
Barbara: – and it was focused on me and what I enjoy, and that might not be what you would enjoy, and that's what made it – that's what made it special, because that might not have been what you would have picked, but that communicated to me that you were willing to deny yourself and to do whatever I wanted, and that speaks volumes.
Dennis: What would you say to the husband who doesn't understand his wife? He's not a good student. He perhaps has heard 1 Peter 3:7 – "Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way," and yet, let's say, he's been married six to 10 years, and he still hasn't gotten it.
Barbara: Well, I think it's okay. I really think that it is a long, lifetime process, and I –
Dennis: – I'm glad you said that, because I haven't gotten it in (inaudible) –
Barbara: – well, I just think – you know, I just think that you and I, in our marriage, have continued to discover things about each other, and we've been married over 20 years now, and I feel that way, and I know you have felt that way, and I think it's just a lifetime process that God has us on of getting to know each other and, as we're changing, we're going to find out new things about each other. So I would just encourage husbands to not give up and not lose heart and instead be encouraged by the challenge, because you wouldn't want to marry somebody, really, if it came right down to it, if you could figure her out that quickly. I mean, I would think that a man would want – that that would be a challenge to him, to his manhood, to think, "You know, there's a lot about this woman that I don't know, and I've got years ahead to figure it out and, God, help me do this."
Bob: Well, and you've hit on a big thing, because it is a challenge to his manhood, and if he's going for long periods of time feeling like, "I'm not winning at this," he's feeling like less of a man if his wife is not responding to anything that he is doing to try to spark romance and, again, we're not just talking about how he views romance, but he's just trying to make her feel warm and appreciated and affectionate.
Bob: And he doesn't seem to be getting it, and he goes, "This is a challenge to my manhood. What's wrong with me?"
Barbara: I think part of it is understanding that a woman is not going to be easy to understand, and I think he needs to pursue her and say, "What can I do to let you know that I love you? What communicates love to you?" And that's a question that Dennis has asked me lots of times and sometimes I don't even want to talk about it, which isn't very nice, I suppose, but I think that's a good question for husbands to ask their wives -- what communicates love to you? What is it? And she may not have an answer right off the top of her head. She probably hasn't had time to think about it, but that communicates that he is interested in meeting her where she is with her needs, and I think that will begin to open up some dialog, it will begin to communicate to her that he really cares about her, and he's interested in her, and that's how you gain understanding – is by talking and asking and pursuing and spending time together, and it isn't going to come real easy. It's going to take some time, though.
Dennis: And there's another side to that question, too, that you've taught me – because sometimes what communicates love to you, you may not feel loved as a result of what I've done, and that's a tremendous puzzle to us, as men.
Bob: I'm not following – what are you talking about?
Dennis: Well, I think, as men, we find out what communicates love to our wives as we create this checklist again – A+B=C.
Barbara: Again – yeah, right.
Dennis: And we're doing the things where she should feel loved, and the reason she's not feeling loved is because she senses we're pushin' the buttons, and our heart's not in it. Am I saying that right, honey?
Barbara: Well, I think that's right. I think anytime she feels like she's been figured out, you've had it. That sounds awful, it really does.
Bob: But it's true, isn't it?
Barbara: Well, I really do think it's true, I really do, and it's not that she doesn't want those things done again. It's not that you bring her flowers two or three times, and she loves it, and then, all of a sudden, she feels like she's been pegged, and she doesn't ever want be gettin' it for the rest of her life, but I think that there needs to be variety, there needs to be creativity. She needs to feel like he's thinking about her in different ways at different times and not just the same old prescribed pattern.
Bob: It sounds like there is an inherent distrust of men by women that you're always suspicious of our motives.
Barbara: Well, it may be, I don't know.
Bob: Well, maybe –
Dennis: – I think there is.
Barbara: Well, I don't know that you can say that about all women. That's why I said there may be. I think that, for sure, there is an inherent distrust in very many women today. There have been too many abuses, whether it's happened to a particular woman or she's just heard about it. There have just been too many stories, too many actual things that have happened for women not to be just a little bit skeptical.
Now, I don't want to say that's true across the board, and I think there's varying degrees of mistrust, but I do think that is an element in many, many women's thinking. So I do think that is true in many cases.
Bob: Well, if you feel secure in terms of Dennis's commitment to you, right, that's unquestioned. You know he is committed to you.
Barbara: That's right.
Bob: Is trust still an issue?
Barbara: Well, see, I think that the commitment has to be tested. See, I think women – it's like – years ago I remember Dennis sayin', you know, that he loved me. I'd say, "Well, I know you do, but you're supposed to. You're my husband." You know, and it's almost like we begin to feel, after a while, that he has to say these things or he has to do these things because he's stuck with you. So, in a sense, I think a woman wants to say, "Okay, I know you're committed to me, but are you glad you're committed to me? Would you do this again?"
Dennis: Prove it.
Barbara: Yeah, I mean, do you really love me? I mean, you say you do, but do you really love me? I think it needs to be – I think, as she grows older and her life changes, there are so many issues that she continually faces as her life changes, that she needs to see, again and again, from her husband, "Yes, I'm committed to you; yes, I would marry you all over again; yes, I love you," and then he needs to demonstrate that in different ways.
So, yes, I know Dennis is committed to me, but I have needed for him to prove that to me in many different ways at many different times. And on the issue of trust, I think that is a parallel issue with commitment. Yes, I trust him, but I've needed to see that he is worthy of trusting – that I can trust him with my life. And I believed that at the beginning, when we first got married, but just as I've had to sort of test out the commitment through the years, I've sort of had to test out that trust factor, too, if that makes sense.
Bob: Yeah, you know, Dennis, it sounds like one of the things Barbara is saying here is that there will be seasons in a marriage, where, in spite of the awareness of the commitment, you know that you know that your husband is committed, but you feel like he's committed out of duty or obligation, not because he really wants to be committed to you, and those can be difficult seasons for romance.
Dennis: Yeah, but what you gotta do is move on through those, and what a husband especially needs to know is that he needs to be communicating that he is worthy of his wife's trust, and he needs to communicate to her that he loves her for who she is, not for what she can do for him, and what a wife is really expressing during those times, at least what Barbara has communicated to me, is that she just needs to feel like I love her, Barbara Rainey, for who she is as a woman and just set her apart from all other women in the world.
Bob: Well, on tomorrow's broadcast, more insight from your wife, Barbara, Dennis, on how men can understand a woman's view of romance, and I hope you can join us for that.
Our engineer is Mark Whitlock, our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
(Music: "How To Handle A Woman")
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