FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Being a Man in Your Marriage

with Dave Wilson | August 6, 2021
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What does it mean to be a man in your marriage? Dave Wilson shares not only what it means to be a godly husband, but also what wives need in a husband.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • What does it mean to be a man in your marriage? Dave Wilson shares not only what it means to be a godly husband, but also what wives need in a husband.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

What does it mean to be a man in your marriage? Dave Wilson shares not only what it means to be a godly husband, but also what wives need in a husband.

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Being a Man in Your Marriage

With Dave Wilson
August 06, 2021
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Ann: Sometimes, you get a little amped up when you preach. [Laughter]

Dave: Yes; I’ve been known to represent a Gallagher concert, where people put bags over the front row, because spit gets all over them. [Laughter] Yes, sometimes, I get a little amped up. I’ve been known to actually jump off the stage, especially when I’m talking about being a man.

Ann: Have you ever listened to yourself preach—

Dave: No.

Ann: —and you convict yourself?

Dave: Yes. [Laughter]

Ann: Really?

Dave: I do not like listening to myself preach; I just don’t want to do it. But I know there are times, I get so amped up, I am convicted.

Ann: Well then, “Buckle up”; because I think that might happen today.

Ann: 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 or on our FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.

Dave: Alright; I’ve preached about a lot of things in 30 years, but the topic I could preach on every day is boys becoming men/men becoming godly men.

Ann: It is your passion for sure.

Dave: Yes, and we get to listen today to a message I gave in 2015. I am a little scared, because I remember getting pretty fired up.

Ann: Yes; you were in it as we listened previously to the first part of this message.

Dave: Yes, in which we listened that a vertical man—in other words, I defined that as a man who finds his life, vertically, in Christ—a vertical husband, who finds his life [in Christ]: “What does he look like?” “What does he do?”

My first point was he is sexy. It was a play on words; because it’s like: “What do you mean he is sexy?” Well, you have told me, for decades, that the sexiest thing I ever do is walk with God.

Ann: Right.

Dave: It makes you want to follow me. It’s romantic; right?

Ann: It’s so attractive when a man walks with God: we can trust you; we want to follow you; we can depend on you; we know that you’ll serve our family.

Dave: Yes; so that was the first part of the message.

Then it was fun for me; because the second part we are going to hear today is: “A vertical man is sensitive to his wife’s needs.” The question for most of us men is: “What are her needs?” I’m like, “Why would I tell men what a woman’s need is?” You are there: “Come on stage!”

Ann: You had me come up; right.

Dave: I am excited for our listeners today. They get to hear Ann Wilson come up and say: “This is what a woman really wants.”

Ann: I would add this, too: “Men, every woman is different; so you need to become an expert of what meets your wife’s needs.”

[Recorded Message from Kensington Church in Michigan]

Dave: When I think about a man being a vertical man and being a sexy—in fact, if you wrote down “sexy” guys, write this down—cross that out or put beside it/slash this one: “submitted/submitted to the authority of God and His Word.” That’s what a vertical [man] really means. That’s what your woman longs for; she longs that you would submit to the authority of God and the authority of His Word.

See, guys, we are really good at this submit word for women. You hear somebody tell your wife to submit to God and to you; and you’re like [demanding voice], “Yes, man. Yes, you hear that!” Do you know how many guys, even in this church, probably know one verse in the Bible and know nothing else? “Yes, there is that verse in the Bible”—that you don’t know where it is or who wrote it—“but it says wives are supposed to submit to”—you; that’s the one you know.

Well, guess what? The rest of the Bible says: “Men submit, vertically, to Me [God] first and live under the authority of My Word.” “Yes, but I don’t know if I agree with everything in His Word.” It doesn’t matter! Do you agree with the One who wrote it?—then, you submit to it, whether it is comfortable or not/whether it makes you feel good or not! There is a lot in His Word that makes us feel good; and there is a lot in the Word that’s like: “Really? I can’t do that!”—“NO!”—“Why not?”—because He is protecting you and everybody else in society for something greater.

We started last week; we said vertical marriage—and vertical husband; and even vertical wife; and vertical mission, as we finish this thing [series]—is all about this amazing passage in the Old Testament that has nothing to do with marriage, or men, or women; it has to do with idols. Jeremiah, the prophet, spoke the words of God to the people of God, the nation of Israel. He said this—I’ll review it—this is what it means to go vertical.

“’Has a nation ever changed its gods? Yet, they are not gods at all’—that’s what they’re doing; they are worshipping false gods; but he says—‘but My people’—God is saying this to the nation of Israel—‘My people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,’—He can’t believe this—“declares the LORD. ‘My people have committed two sins; they have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’”

See, guys, we’ve done that! I’m telling you today/I’m calling you today: “Become a submitted, vertical man/husband.” Do you hear me, guys? A vertical man is sexy; a vertical man is submitted to God.

Here is the second one: “A vertical husband or man is sensitive to the needs of his wife, his daughters, his sons. He is sensitive to the needs that God has called him to lead and care for.” You know, in Ephesians 5—I’ve read this many times to men here—Paul speaks to men about being husbands. He says, “You want to be a vertical man? Here is what a vertical man does—what a vertical husband does, just in the area of marriage—he says this: “Husbands”—I love this in The Message, because it’s very descriptive—“Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives.”

Now, let me stop right there. Guys, we know about going all out: we talk about it in sports; we talk about it in business. What would it look like to take that energy and put it toward your family and toward your wife?

“Go all out in your love for your wife exactly as Christ did for the church. A love marked by giving not getting”—remember I said, “Boys take; men give,”—he’s saying it right here; and by the way, he is going to use Christ and the church as an image that is saying: “What Christ did for the church, and how it affects the church, is what a husband should do for his wife; and it will affect the wife in the same way.” He says, “Now giving, not getting, Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything He does and says is designed to bring the best out of her.”

Let me ask you guys something: “Is your wife better because she married you?” She should be! She should be blooming, as a woman, because of the man that you are and the way you are sensitive to her needs. It says: “And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They are really doing themselves a favor since they are already one in marriage. No one abuses his own body; does he? No; he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of His body. This is why a man leaves his father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become one flesh.”

So let’s talk now. Let’s talk about: “What does a woman really need?” “How can a man be sensitive to a woman’s needs?” I thought, “What do I know?! I’m a guy.” So here is what I say: Ann is going to talk. She is going to take a couple of minutes to talk to the men, really, about what a woman needs. This isn’t every woman, but this is generally true.

Ann: Guys, let me first of all say, “I feel a little bit sorry for you, because we are very complicated, as women. Every woman is so different, and all of our needs are different; so you need to be an expert at what makes your wife feel loved.”

Dave: Right.

Ann: I’m going to tell you this, too; it changes all the time because—

Dave: —like every five minutes. [Laughter]

Ann: —when we first got married, I was like/I would tell Dave, “Why can’t you be more romantic?” But then, when we had kids, it’s like, “Who cares about romance? Just help me around the house and help me with the kids”; you know? So I think you really need to be an expert at your woman; but one of the things we need as women, honestly, is affection.

Do you know the way you were when you dated us? You noticed us; you paid attention to us; you asked us questions and talked to us; you held our hands; you looked us in the eye. We still long for that very same thing; and we, as women, want you still to notice us. We want you to regard us. That’s why I say affection: for me, it is when Dave holds my hand; when I feel like he says, “How are you doing? What’s going on?”; when he is affectionate with me; when he notices/when he says, “Hey, you want to hang out with me?” We want you to want to be with us. Like, honestly—and you might not feel like it—but I would say, as an act of your will, just do it; because that is a godly man that is vertical, and that communicates so much to us.


Dave: I would even add this—I’ve heard Ann say this to me many times—“Pursue.”

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Guys, write it down. I’m not kidding; put it in your notes/whatever: “Pursue.” It’s like, “You pursued me with a passion when we were dating; and now, you get married, it’s like you’re pursuing your job and other things,”—that’s good; there is nothing wrong with that—but it’s like, “What happened to this?”—and just pursuing, and being romantic, and like you said, touching.

Ann: Because you guys do pursue things—like I’m watching Dave—he knows what’s happening in the football world. He’s doing Fantasy Football this year, where he is spending/I’m like, “What are you doing?” He’s like, “Oh, my team!”

Dave: Alright; alright. Enough of that; enough of that—just a little bit.

Ann: “I broke my leg today. Did you notice?” [Laughter] You know?

Dave: :Can you play?” [Laughter] But yes; she is right. Do we do that? Women, don’t hit them: don’t do it; don’t do it! We do that. It’s really interesting—we’ll do this really quick—we read a book early in our marriage called His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley, a counselor in Minnesota. He said, “I’ve counseled thousands of couples, and here is what I have learned: here are the top five needs of a man; here are the top five needs of a woman.”

He had a chapter on each one; and he basically said, “If you don’t know”—guys, listen—“If you don’t know what her needs are, and you’re not meeting them,” guess what? This subtitle to the book is: How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage. If you’re not meeting those needs, and some dude comes along and does, she’s pulled. It doesn’t mean an affair is going to happen; but she’s drawn. I mean, if you are driving in your car, and the tank is full—and you go by a gas station—do you even look? “Who cares? I’m full; I don’t need any gas station”; but when you’re empty, you’re looking at every gas station. That’s what happens!

It was like—man, when I read this book, I went to Ann—literally, I went to her and said, “Okay, he says the top five are this; are they?” She goes, “Yes.” That may not be true for every woman; but I’m going to tell you guys, here are the top three. Are you ready? You better write this down. And then here is what you do after the service. Get in the car today; go, “Honey, are these your needs?” If she says, “No, they are a little different,” say, “What are they?” It will promote a great discussion; because Ann said, “Those are pretty much me.”

Ann: Guys, if I were you, I would say, “What do you need from me?” Women, don’t do more than two things; because if you keep going and going, they are done. Honestly, just give two things: “This would be really helpful.”

Dave: So here they are.

“Affection” was number one—non-sexual touch; whatever that is—[Laughter] non-sexual touch. Again, it is holding hands.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I mean, Ann has said, “Man, it just feels great when you put your hand on my knee, when we are sitting at church, and just keep it right there. That is just: “You notice me,” “You’re with me,” “We’re together.” That was number one—affection.

Number two is: “Conversation”: taaalk—not talk—taaalk.

Number three is: “Honesty and openness”: being vulnerable/being authentic; share your heart with your woman.

All three of those can happen, really, in the same conversation.

Ann: That was what I was going to say. We, as women, long to know you: we want to know your hearts; we want to know your passions; we want to know what makes you tick. Sometimes, you guys shut down on us; and we’re like, “Please, let me in. I want to be a part of your life.”

And the other is true: we want you to know us. The best way women bond—this is the way we bond, gentlemen, sorry—but it is through conversation. We bond through conversation.

Dave: Face to face—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —is one way to describe it; women connect this way. Men connect shoulder to shoulder.

Ann: Right.

Dave: We like to do things together: you go play golf; you don’t want to talk; come on! [Laughter]: “New driver?” “Great,”—that’s it—“Nice shot,”—boom; four hours.

“What’s going on in his marriage?” “Who cares? I mean, we play golf. I shot a 70. I mean, it’s awesome.” But women can’t even imagine doing that.

Ann: No.

Dave: Most—again, it could be flipped in your home—in fact, in our home, I tend to be more wordy and share more details than Ann does.

Ann: Dave tells me all about his day; it’s one of the greatest things that he does.

Dave: She absolutely loves it.

Ann: I know what’s going on in his world at work in the meetings. He tells me everything. I’m not like that as much; but when it comes to our relationship, I’m all about that, like: “Okay, that’s good, what’s happening at work. How do you think we’re doing?” Suddenly, it’s like this haze comes over his face, of dread and fear. [Laughter]

Dave: It is; I’m like, “Oh no, we’ve got to go there”; I’m not kidding. It’s like I change; because here is what I think—maybe guys can relate to this; maybe, it’s not true in your home; but in my home—it’s like: “Okay, I know she thinks we are doing worse than I think we’re doing; so now, she wants to talk about that.” I’m like, “I don’t want to go there. I just like to live in fairy tale land; we’re all good.”

Do you remember last week here?—I said in that video—“I think our marriage is a 9.8.” She thought it was a .5. [Laughter]Well, that often—we go on a date, and we’ll talk. She’ll say, “So let’s talk about our relationship,”—I just sort of shut down.

Ann: —because he feels like he is in trouble. He feels like he has already failed, and he will continue to fail; and I’ll never be happy.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: This area is super important for us/of us being able to talk about that.

Dave: Here is what I have learned—35 years, I’ve learned, at least, this—okay?—whatever she thinks is going on in our relationship; in other words, how she thinks we are doing—if she says it’s a 4, and I think it’s an 8; guess what? Guys, you ready?—she’s right. Now, I don’t mean that—

Ann: Say it again.

Dave: —don’t you be jumping around. [Laughter] She’s right. I don’t mean that your woman is always right—I’m not saying that—“I just give in and condescend,” “It doesn’t matter what you think,”—no.

Here is what I mean—and I’ve learned this—I really believe this is true; I can’t prove it biblically, but I think it’s true. God designed women—and it could be a little flipped in your relationship—but generally, God designed women to really know how to do relationships well. It’s like He made them a personal marriage manual.

When she says we are a 4, and I think we’re a 7, here is what I now know: she’s right! We’re not a 7; we’re a 4. Here is what else I know—are you ready for this?—she knows how to get us from a 4 to a 7, and I don’t! I’m like, “Um, what do you want me to do? Have more sex?” It’s like, “No!” [Laughter] She knows exactly what needs to happen in our relationship, so I need to lean in.

Men, are you listening?—I need to lean in and to be sensitive. You hear me?—a vertical man/husband is sensitive. I need to lean in and say: “Okay, what is going on? What are you feeling? Why are you feeling that? What am I contributing to that? What can I do?”

Do you understand? It changes everything because now/because I’m filled up with Jesus, vertical, first, I don’t need her to think—I am now able to give out of my overflow of Jesus. If I don’t have that, then I am hurt desperately by her number; it crushes me as a man—

Ann: Not only would you be hurt—

Dave: —but because I know my identity, I can give back.

Ann: You would be hurt. He also—in one of our biggest fights, he is like, “No! I am doing great!”—that was what you’d say.

Dave: I would tell her she is wrong—

Ann: Yes; “That’s not true!”

Dave: —“We’re not a 4; we’re a 12! That’s what we are. You’re wrong, and I’m right.” That’s a real good conversation—now, we’re fighting—it’s just stupid.

I’ve learned to be sensitive to God, submitted to God—and then sensitive to your wife, or your woman, or your kids, or anybody—is to lean in and learn; and out of the overflow, give.


Ann: You’re listening to FamilyLife Today. Man, Dave Wilson, as you gave that message back in 2015, I’m inspired; I’m excited. I think every woman is clapping right now, like, “Yes, yes! This is what we want!”

Dave: That’s because you came on stage and told the men what women really, really long for; but I tell you what. At the end of that message, we got into something, I think, is so critical to understand. We call it vertical marriage—call it whatever you want—but most marriages—and ours was this way—we’re trying to get from each other what we think the other is in our life for: like I want you to respect me, and you want me to cherish you. When that doesn’t happen, we get disappointed. We actually tend to think, “I married the wrong person, because I’m not getting what I thought I’d get from my marriage.”

Ann: I know that I’ve done this for years. I put my eyes on you, hoping that you will meet all of my needs. When you don’t, I’m so disappointed. When I have those thoughts now/that inkling—when I start looking at you, and I’m disappointed in your actions or you haven’t met my expectations—one of the things, as I’ve gotten older, that I’ve done is I go to God first. I’m saying, “Lord, are You number one in my life, or has my marriage or my husband become my idol?”

I think that’s really big because, when I’m surrendered—when I’m submitted to God/when I’m in communion with Him, and He is my everything—my expectations of you aren’t as high. That’s one of the first steps I think we need to take, as both men and women, of surrendering our lives, our passions, our desires; and we submit them to God first.

Dave: I don’t think—I know I never understood this; I think a lot of us just miss this—is when we go vertical/when we find our life from and in Christ—again, it’s so easy to say

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —those words; but I mean really find life, power, happiness, joy from my living relationship with the Creator of the universe—Jesus said in John, Chapter 7, “Out of your innermost being will flow water. Living water will overflow.” That’s a reality of a dynamic relationship with Christ.

Think about what that means for your marriage. Now, I come back to my marriage; and instead of demanding or longing for my spouse to fill me, I’m filled! I mean, not that I don’t want to have a great marriage; but I am filled. I don’t need or demand you to fill me up; I am filled by Christ. I go from being a taker, which most marriages are—I want to take from you what I’m longing for, and you’re in my life because I chose you to be the one to fill me—no; I’m filled; so now, I’m a giver.

For us, as men—and we’ve been talking to men about being a vertical husband—I’m going to be able to love my wife as Christ loved the church, Ephesians 5. Why?—He has given me the power to do it. I have power/actually, living water—Jesus—overflowing. It goes from a selfish marriage to a selfless and “I want to serve you.”

Ann: Well, the verse that came to my mind was John 10:10b, where Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it to the full.” He didn’t say, “Dave came that you might have life, Ann.” Jesus said, “I came; I’m the fulfiller of life.”

I just think that all of us—it could be today; it could be right now—that we just take a moment, and we say, “Lord, Jesus, are You Lord of my life? Have I given You everything?”—because if you want to have a great marriage, it begins with a surrendered heart.

Dave: I’m going to say this—because I know what some listeners are thinking right now—they are thinking, “If my spouse did that—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —“then we’d be okay.” This isn’t about your spouse. I mean, I’m not saying disregard your spouse. This is about you; are you surrendered? If not, I’d say right now: “Men, get on your knees/women, get on your knees. If your spouse doesn’t, it’s not about them; it’s about you. Go vertical; surrender completely. He will meet you in that moment; He will fill you in that moment. Then you’ll be able to come back to your marriage, and you’ll be able to serve an overflow of what He has given you.”

Let me just add this: you are going to have to do it about every five minutes—[Laughter]

Ann: Yes; it’s true.

Dave: —or every ten minutes, because you are going to go back to putting yourself in control. You’re going to be disappointed, because she or he is going to let you down; and you’ve got to go back and say, “Jesus, I need You desperately to be the man/to be the woman You called me to be; because I can’t, but You can in me.” That happens through surrender.

I hope today is your moment to change your life, your marriage, your legacy, your future by going vertical.

Bob: I remember hearing someone say once, “You can have a state-of-the-art appliance”—the newest, best air fryer there is—“and if it’s not plugged in, it doesn’t work.” Well, in the same way, we can be good people; but if our lives are not plugged into God—if we’re not living for Him/if He is not giving us the power for living—then our lives are not going to count for much.

Dave and Ann Wilson talking here today about how important it is for both husband and wife to live surrendered, vertical-looking lives. In fact, they’ve written a book called Vertical Marriage that’s really a classic on this subject. It shows us how our walk with Jesus affects every aspect of our marriage relationship. We’ve got copies of Dave and Ann’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. We’d love to send you a copy.

You can order it from us online at; or call to get your copy: the number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the book is titled Vertical Marriage by Dave and Ann Wilson. Order online at, or call 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,” to get your copy of the book, Vertical Marriage.

What Dave and Ann have talked about today is what’s at the heart of this ministry. It’s our conviction that, for marriage and family to be all that we want it to be, it needs to begin by living surrendered lives/for us to live with God’s agenda ahead of our own agenda. We need to be men and women, who live surrendered lives to God.

FamilyLife Today exists to effectively develop godly marriages and families. We believe godly marriages and families can change the world one home at a time. We’re joined in this mission by some of you, who have listened for a long time and have said, “This program has made a difference in our marriage/in my life.” You have supported this ministry financially, either from time to time or some of you are monthly Legacy Partners. Thank you for your ongoing participation with us in this ministry.

And those of you, who are regular listeners and have never made a donation, we’d like to invite you to join the team. Help us reach more people, more often, with practical biblical help and hope for their marriage and their family. When you donate today, we want to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a book we’ve talked about this week from Trevin Wax. It’s a book called Rethink Your Self, all about understanding the source of our identity: where we find that/how we cultivate that.

It’s a great book for parents to go through with their teenagers or for a young adult to read. Any of us will benefit from reading Trevin’s book. It’s our gift to you when you make a donation to support FamilyLife Today. You can do that online at, or you can call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY. We’d love to have you join the team, and we look forward to hearing from you.

And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. Then join us on Monday when Matt and Lisa Jacobson are going to be here again to talk about how we, as parents, can do a better job of effectively communicating to our children our love for them. That all happens Monday. I hope you can tune in for that.

On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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