Creating a More Romantic Marriage

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Creating A More Romantic Marriage 
Day 8 of 8
Guest:                            Dennis Rainey
From the Series:         A Man's View of Romance

Bob:                This is FamilyLife Today.  Our host is the Executive Director of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey.  I'm Bob Lepine.  Happy Valentine's Day.  We're talking about romance on the broadcast today, I hope you can stay with us.
(Music:  "My Funny Valentine")
                        And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the broadcast as we continue looking at the subject of romance and, once again today, because of the nature of what we're going to be talking about, it may be inappropriate for younger listeners to be joining us.  Parents may want to use some discretion because we're talking about how men look at romance and, as you've said over the last couple of days, Dennis, men look at it – not exclusively – but primarily from the aspect of the sexual relationship.  In fact, on yesterday's broadcast, you mentioned that it is a wise woman who will assume some responsibility for affirming her husband in his sexuality.  You also talked about the fact that a lot of men don't understand themselves their need for the sexual relationship, and then you talked about how a man needs to be needed and needs to know that his wife desires him.
Dennis:          Yeah, and even as you're going through that list we talked about yesterday – just revisiting that – you know, it feels risky to me, as a man, to talk to women about their husband's need sexually and certainly we're making some generalizations here that don't apply to every man, because God has made men differently, but I don't think we're too much off the mark when it comes to what men really desire from their wives.
                        You know, I have counseled and interacted with men over the past 18 years at hundreds of FamilyLife Marriage Conferences, and their word to me, as you approach this subject, speaking to women, is "Just tell them how we feel.  Help us communicate to our wives what's going on inside of us," because I don't have a vested interest here.  I'm just after healthy marriages that are following Jesus Christ because I think our God made the sexual dimension of the marriage relationship.
Bob:                And so a healthy marriage will necessarily involve a healthy sexual relationship.
Dennis:          Yeah, and you would think Americans would be able to talk about this subject of sex, especially speaking to wives about their husband's sexuality, but I don't think it's that easy for wives to hear or for men to talk about.  Now, we're more comfortable talking about it in public, but really getting down past the superficial, down to the deep core issues, especially as it relates to a man's sexuality, I think that is very threatening for couples to discuss.
Bob:                What do you think are some of those core issues for a husband or a wife?
Dennis:          Well, I think a wife needs to know that her husband is not as strong and confident as he appears to be.  Now, he may look assertive, but in reality, most men, I think, when it comes to the sexual side of their relationship with their spouse, are unsure.  I think it's because we're marrying today without any clear passage into manhood.  For most men the passage from boyhood to manhood occurs when we get married, but in many cultures that passage has already occurred, and a young man has already had the opportunity to grapple with the issue of manhood and his sexuality.  But when men get married today, that's when they're confronted with the issue of performing sexually in marriage, and I think a lot of married men are really afraid of failing when it comes to the physical side of marital love.
Bob:                What is it about these mystical passages that you refer to for a man?  Why are they so significant?  And what if a man has missed one?
Dennis:          Well, I'll never forget a young man that became a close friend of mine over a period of time, and he'd grown up in a home where his father had deserted him as a young lad.  And as he began to have children and emerge as a husband in this new relationship with his wife, I could tell, from time to time, there was nothing on the screen that he could pull up by way of a memory of what a man ought to do or be or act like with his wife or with his kids as a man.  I mean, he didn't have that model, that mentor.
                        And so I took that young man fishing one time, and in the darkness of that car as we drove to the fishing spot, which was an overnight trip, I began to talk to him about the passage from being a young man, moving on into manhood, and I told him – and I'll call him Chuck – I said, "Chuck, I want to bless you as a man, and I want you to know that, having observed you over the past four or five years, you own all the rights and privileges as a man, and I want you to know anytime you wonder what you're to do, how you're to behave, how you're to perform as a man, I want you to feel free to come back to me, because I want you to know, from this day forward, as an older man to a younger man, I want you to know that I am declaring and recognizing you and the full rights and privileges of manhood."
                        You know, it was a number of months later that I got a phone call back from that young man, and he said, "You know, Dennis, it was interesting.  I did not realize what was occurring in the car that night until a few months later.  But now as I approach my roles and responsibilities of a man, I feel different about myself than I have in the past."  
                        And I think, to those women who may be looking at their husbands and looking at a young man who may feel very insecure or maybe an older man who is still driven out of his own insecurity, you know, you may be able to be an affirming part of his transition to manhood on a daily basis.  I think how a woman responds to a man sexually is a crowning celebration of a man's manhood.  I think a woman who is looking at a man, and she's feeling powerless to help him, perhaps needs to pray that God will bring older mentors into his life and perhaps encourage her husband to pursue some of them and maybe even ask for this blessing – perhaps ask them what he needs to become, what he needs to do, how he needs to act to be recognized as a man.
Bob:                A woman may not be able to do what a father could have done for a son, but she can play a significant part in helping to supplement what may be missing.
Dennis:          Yeah.  I'll say this about Barbara – when we were first married, there was a sense in which she affirmed me as a young man emerging into a mature man, and we've said on many occasions, I wasn't fully a man when I got married.  She finished the job of the transition from boyhood to manhood.  And it's the wise woman who realizes that when she gets married she may be marrying a boy in certain areas of his life.  He may have immaturities where he has not grown up and simply needs the belief, the affirmation, the support, the respect that only someone who knows him well and who loves him most can provide.
Bob:                And romance and sexuality are tools, they're assets, for her, aren't they?
Dennis:          They are, and it's the woman who understands that her response to her husband at that point is a crowning affirmation.  I don't know how to say it with any more dignity.  It is a very, very important part for a young man to feel affirmed by his wife.  George Gilder, in his book, "Men and Marriage," makes a great statement.  He says, "Women are puzzled by men's continual attempts to prove their manhood or ritualistically affirm it."
Bob:                What is it, Dennis, about sexual performance that is affirming to a man's masculinity?
Dennis:          Well, let me let George Gilder make a stab at this from his book, because he really states it clearly, as a sociologist, to help us better understand what's going on inside a man.  He writes, "Men must perform.  There is no shortcut to human fulfillment for men – just the short circuit of impotence.  Men can be creatively human only when they are confidently male and overcome their sexual insecurity by action."  Now listen to this next statement – "Nothing comes to them by waiting or being."  A man's got to initiate, and do you feel the risk that's there for a man as he initiates?  What's the woman's response?  He can't control it.
Let me read on what Gilder says, "In general, therefore, the man is less secure sexually than the woman, because his sexuality is dependent on action, and he can act sexually only through a precarious process difficult to control.  Fear of impotence and inadequacy is a paramount fact of male sexuality.  For men, the desire for sex is not simply a quest for pleasure.  It is an indispensable test of identity."
                        Now, did you hear that?  It is a test for a man to feel like a man, and when a wife can latch onto that idea, and she understands what is at risk for a man at that point, you know what?  The lights go on inside of here where, all of a sudden, she can now exercise the mystical powers God has given her in the marriage relationship for the health and the well being of the man.  Now, am I overstating the sex act for the man?  From the men I've talked to, I don't think so.  I think this is a core issue for men today.
                        One last statement that Gilder writes about that I've got to read – he writes, "Unless men have an enduring relationship with a woman, a relationship that affords him sexual confidence, men will accept almost any convenient sexual offer."  Now, think about it.  Isn't that what the New Testament is trying to move men away from?  Isn't that what Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 7?  Because of immoralities let each man have a wife and please his wife?  I think so.  I think God recognizes that the way he has wired men today that they are susceptible in the marketplace to what Solomon warned his son about – that woman in the red light district who woos a man away from his home and offers him instant satisfaction – what's he trying to find there?  What's he trying to prove?  I think that man is trying to prove his masculinity.
Bob:                Yeah, so it's less about sex and more about who a man is.  That's really what's behind it all, isn't it?
Dennis:          That's exactly right, and let me just say here – it is not just the act of intercourse that makes a man a man.  If you read Song of Solomon, where the woman affirmed him, she started with his character.  What caused her to be attracted to him as a man was that he was a man above reproach.  He had integrity.  She had seen his character develop.  She talked about it being like olive oil being refined, which had to be crushed and go through a series of rocks so it could be purified.  That's the picture of a man becoming like Jesus Christ.  But you know what?  There are a lot of men today who are running around trying to prove their manhood outside of marriage through the sex act, and that doesn't make 'em a man at all. That's wrong.  God intended marriage to be the place where two people become one.
Bob:                Well, you know, as you said, some of this may be difficult for both a man and a woman to hear, but you wouldn't be saying it if you didn't feel it was a critical part of the marriage relationship.
Dennis:          Yeah, and, again, we're just talking straight about how to make a marriage last for a lifetime, and your husband wants you to approve of his physical and sexual approach to marital love – it's more than okay, it's good.  It's been given by God, designed by the Creator of the universe.  He made us different, and a woman is more relational, a man is more sexual.  One is not better than the other.  They were meant to complement one another.
                        And I think what happens is the man is intended to deny his sexual needs, to love his wife relationally, and in the process of that he learns self-denial, and he learns sacrificial love.  I think also the same sacrificial act occurs by the wife on behalf of her husband.  Sometimes she has to be willing to give up some of her own emotional needs being met but I believe, again, it's the wise woman who can say to her husband, "Thank God you, as a man, are made the way you're made.  I welcome you as my man."
Bob:                Dennis, don't you think the way the culture portrays the sex act has left a lot of Christians unable to separate the inappropriate way it's presented from the very appropriateness that God built into it?
Dennis:          I think what God designed and has sought to protect by grace, the world has taken and integrated it and has twisted it and perverted it, and what results from that is shame.  But what God intends for us to experience in the marriage bed, he said it was good.  
                        I mean, think back to the Song of Solomon – in fact, let me just read a portion from that book, and this is King Solomon describing the Shulamite woman, his bride's body – "How beautiful your sandaled feet, O princess daughter.  Your graceful legs are like jewels, the work of a craftsman's hands.  Your navel is like a round goblet, which never lacks blended wine.  Your waist is a mound of wheat encircled by lilies.  Your breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.  How beautiful you are and how pleasing, O love, with your delights.  Your stature is like that of a palm and your breasts like the clusters of the fruit.  I said I will climb the palm tree, I will take hold of its fruit.  May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples."  That is just as inspired as John 3:16 – the God who inspired the scripture inspired that – that's from Song of Solomon, chapter 7.
                        You know, throughout the book, the Shulamite woman is responding to Solomon.  She is affirming him for who he is.  Listen to her words back to him.  "My lover is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among 10,000.  His head is purest gold, his hair is wavy and black as a raven.  His eyes are like doves beside the water's streams, washed in milk, mounded like jewels.  His cheeks are like beds of spice yielding perfume.  His lips are like lilies dripping with myrrh.  His hands are rods of gold set with crystallite, his body is like polished ivory decorated with sapphires.  His legs are pillars of marble set on bases of pure gold.  His appearance is like Lebanon – choice as the cedars.  This is my lover, this is my friend.  O daughters of Jerusalem, eat your heart out."
Bob:                That's a loose translation there at the end.
Dennis:          That last part was a loose translation, but I sense our listeners needed to laugh.  We may have some people turning around and going home on their way to work this morning.
                        You know, the point is, God's not blushing.  He's not ashamed.  He made us different, but he made us to affirm one another in our differentness and, again, let us celebrate the way God has designed us sexually.
                        Let me just make some applications for a woman who has been listening.  First of all, if she finds it difficult to accept herself, and she feels insecure about how God has made her sexually, she may find it very difficult to affirm her husband, and so that particular wife may need to spend some time in prayer, may need to get some counsel, find a wise counselor of the same sex who can advise her and help her work through some things.  Barbara and I have talked earlier in this series about those women who have been abused – read Dan Allender's book.  Talk about the real issues of female sexuality and accept who God has made you to be.
                        Secondly, I think a wife needs to move out and take some risks.  Find a beginning step, however small that may be, to bless and affirm your husband in this sexual area of marriage love and, thirdly, for those who find that too risky, and you're just not ready to take any risks at this point, I would begin where the Shulamite woman was.  She verbally affirmed Solomon.  Perhaps write your own praise of your husband in a letter, perhaps state it verbally in a poem – find a way to affirm him and how God made him as a man.
                        One last point – men are lonely today, and there's a reason for that.  Most men, throughout the history of their lives have not been able to sustain close relationships with another human being, and it's no wonder they are insecure as they begin to love their wives and, you know, that's why a woman who accepts her husband where he is and can encourage him when he does it right and just affirm him as a man for his efforts at loving you, because every man, I believe, is in the process of learning from God how to love and how to give his life for his wife.
Bob:                Well, let me wish our listeners a Happy Valentine's Day.  Hopefully, the series that we've been doing here will help make this Valentine's Day a more romantic one for couples, and join us tomorrow as we conclude the series with members of our FamilyLife team talking about how they have been ministered to romantically by their mates.  I hope you can join us for that.
                        Our engineer is Mark Whitlock.  Our host is Dennis Rainey.  I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
(Music:  "My Funny Valentine")
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