FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Different by Design

with Barbara Rainey, Dennis Rainey | February 6, 2008
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When it comes to romance, men and women can be as different as night and day. Did God purposely design the genders to be at odds with one another? Hear more about this from Dennis and Barbara Rainey on today's broadcast.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • When it comes to romance, men and women can be as different as night and day. Did God purposely design the genders to be at odds with one another? Hear more about this from Dennis and Barbara Rainey on today's broadcast.

  • 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.

When it comes to romance, men and women can be as different as night and day.

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Different by Design

With Barbara Rainey, Dennis Raine...more
February 06, 2008
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[musical transition]

Barbara: If we were both like me, we would never probably get together, because I need Dennis, I need his greater drive for intimacy and relationship on the intimate level, because I don't have that same level.  And he needs my greater drive for relationship on an emotional level, on a sharing, heart-to-heart level.

[musical transition]

Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, who joins us along with his wife, Barbara, today.  That was the Rev. Al Green singing "Let's Stay Together."  I thought that would be an appropriate way to start today's program, and I think I have got it now. 

 You know, this week we've heard the story of Angela and Brian and their fictitious encounter with a marriage counselor and about how different they are romantically and how the counselor helped them see that through use of an experimental drug – it was all made up.  There's no drug.  We've had some people call the FamilyLife Resource Center wondering if they could order a couple of vials of that drug.  We don't have that drug available, do we?

Dennis: And all it did was give a man an understanding of how a woman feels, and it gave a wife an understanding of how her husband views romance.

Bob: It did it in 60 seconds.  You just drank the elixir and, all of a sudden, poof!

Dennis: Bingo.

Bob: You were transformed into being able to view it and, again, we don't have that available in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  We have also already heard this week in addition to the fictitious story of Brian and Angela, we've heard the real story of Dennis and Barbara and how you began to realize some of the differences in your remarriage, right?

Dennis: That's exactly right.

Bob: And all of this is found in a book that you've written called "Rekindling the Romance."  You wrote it together with your wife, Barbara, who is back with us.  Barbara, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Barbara: Thank you.

Bob: And I have to tell you, I was talking to Mary Ann – back in the spring we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.

Dennis: Congratulations.

Bob: Thank you.  We were out to dinner that night, and I said what anniversaries do you remember?  You know, you think back, you try and do something special on your anniversary.  We've had 25 of these, what do you remember?  And we could both remember our 10th anniversary where we – I surprised her, and we got out of town, and we went back to Tulsa where she grew up, and we had a nice dinner at our favorite restaurant, and, you know, it was kind of a fun surprise.  We could remember that.

Dennis: Right.

Bob: We could remember another one that wasn't so much fun, you know, one that kind of ended like your story about Mexico where we just didn't connect well that night.

Dennis: You missed one another.

Bob: We missed one another.  And it was interesting to us that out of 25 anniversaries we could remember a good one and a bad one, and the other 23 kind of faded off into the distance without a whole lot of memory about them.

Dennis: Right.

Bob: It just reinforced the reality, again, that we are very different, which is something that your book, "Rekindling the Romance," acknowledges even in the very way it's written.

Dennis: You know, Barbara and I tried to write this book to both husbands and wives so that both would understand the other.  And instead of writing a single book, we actually wrote two books.  There's a section of the book that Barbara writes too women to help them understand their husband's need for romance, and how a husband spells romance, and there's a section for the husbands where I speak directly to them, coaching them about how they can spell "romance" to their wives.  I really coach them, as I mentioned last week on FamilyLife Today how they can spell "relationship," and how they can build their wives up and encourage them, minister to them, speak to the needs of their wife's soul, and her needs for intimacy and relationship. 

 And Barbara, in a very different way, speaks to the needs of men.

Bob: Barbara, this had to be – well, it had to be challenging and unique.  I mean, you guys have been pretty transparent and pretty honest about what you've learned; about what the Scriptures teach, but about your own experiences, and when it comes to the area of romance and passion and intimacy, I'm sure there were some times you thought, "Do I really want to tell everybody all of this," right?

Barbara: Exactly.  There were plenty of times when I said, "Do I really want to say this?"  And yet I've realized that not only do we need to share, but we still have a long way to go, too.  It's not something that you ever achieve, but the more you can understand one another, the easier it is to meet each other and to have the kind of intimacy we all got married for.  Because we got married for intimacy and relationship and to be in love for the rest of our lives, and it takes work to do that.

Dennis: There's a lot about marriage that turns what is a white-hot burning romance when it starts into just two roommates living with one another.  And I don't believe, as I read the Scripture, and especially as I read the Song of Solomon, that God intended a husband and a wife just to be a man and a woman in a marriage relationship just roommates, passionless roommates.  I believe that gets boring, and what we've tried to do in the book is to bring some very practical tools alongside busy people, husbands, wives, moms, and dads, to help them sustain romance through every phase of the marriage relationship because your marriage has to be built to outlast the children.  There has to be romance to go into those empty nest years where we are right now.

 But you don't develop romance when the children are gone.  You have to develop romance at every phase and every stage along the way in the marriage relationship.

Bob: I was doing some premarital preparation with a couple.  I'll never forget this – talking to them about physical intimacy in a marriage relationship.  And I spoke to the bride-to-be, and I said to her, "Your husband is going to have a desire to see you naked."  And she looked at me, and she said, "Why?"  That just was the most absurd, foreign idea she'd ever even conceived – she could not think – she was hearing me, she was hearing.  There's a difference between the two of you in this area, but it didn't make any sense to her.

 And I wished, years later, when I heard Dan Allender speaking about this area of physical intimacy in a marriage, he talked about the fact that we're different, and we all were kind of going, "Okay, we've got the idea that we're different."  But then he helped us understand that there's a reason for us being different.  You've heard this message, right?

Dennis: Right.

Barbara: Mm-hm.

Bob: But let me just, for our listeners, play a portion of what Dan talked about at one of our Rekindling the Romance conferences.

Dan Allender: [from audiotape.]  There's one way to put it very quickly and clearly – we are different as men and women, and those differences create tensions – "I want sex more often, my wife wants it less, but when she wants it less, she wants higher quality.  I simply want quantity."


 What you have to say is "Who crafted this?"


 Who designed it?  Who created it?  And the answer is, "A brilliant, wise, gorgeous God who says if you were the same, you would violate one another without ever stepping back and saying, 'You are different.'"

Bob: That is Dr. Dan Allender, and I think the insight there, Barbara, is, yeah, we know we're different, but we're different by design, and it's actually a good thing.

Barbara: Which is sometimes hard to swallow, I think, for women.  It may be for men, too.

Bob: It is.

Barbara: I know, from the woman's perspective, that has been hard to figure.  I know a lot of women who have said, "It just feels like a cruel joke.  We're so different" …

Dennis: Specifically, what do you mean, what are you saying, "It's a cruel joke?"

Barbara: I think a lot of women feel like it's a trick, you know, that God's just enjoying, which He's not, and it feels almost blasphemous to say that He's enjoying designing us in a way that causes us difficulty, but I think women who don't understand the character of God and don't see God as being good, I think they feel like they have been tricked somehow.

 Because when we're dating, and when we're engaged and oftentimes even in newlywed days, it's all so easy, and "my husband, or my fiancé, is paying attention to me.  We spend a lot of time together," and the woman wants to respond to that, and she wants to respond sexually, and it's easy in those days.  But that's usually before children and pressures and suffering and the difficulties of life. 

 And so I think when all of that begins to happen, and the easiness of those early days begins to fade, she wonders what happened.

Bob: How has it been a benefit to you to have to stretch in who you are and in understanding who Dennis is, how are you better as a result of that?

Barbara: Well, one of the ways that it's good for me is that if we were both like me we would never probably get together because I want to talk things through probably more than I really should, more than I really need to.  I have a desire sometimes to resolve things and to talk about everything, when it really can wait.  And I need Dennis.  I need his greater drive for intimacy and relationship on the intimate level because I don't have that same level, and he needs my greater drive for relationship on an emotional level, on a sharing, heart-to-heart level, because that's not his first instinct.

 So it's been very good for me to have someone who forces me – not in a bad sense of the word "force" – but his personality and the way he's wired forces me into a kind of relationship with him that I wouldn't have had otherwise.  I would have been too content to be who I was and to have it my way if I were married to somebody who was just like me.  Does that make sense?

Bob: Yeah.  Do you think it makes you more whole, more complete?

Barbara: Oh, yes, definitely, I do.

Bob: And, Dennis, that's what the Scriptures said marriage was supposed to be about – completing one another.  This is a part of that, isn't it?

Dennis: It is, and I was thinking about your question, Bob.  What did God have in mind when He made us so different?  I think, first of all, He wanted to teach us self-denial.  If we're going to be the man that God's called us to be, the husband that truly loves his wife as Paul spoke of in the New Testament, as Christ loved the church, then the only way we're going to be able to do that is by denying ourselves, slowing down, and stopping to consider what her needs are rather than my needs.

Bob: So you're saying a guy should not be in a position where he's saying to his wife, "These are my needs, you need to meet them, let's go," right?

Dennis: Right, and just demanding.  That denies the very nature of the relationship – mutual respect.  What are her needs?  I think God called me to deny myself.  Now, I think He also called my wife to deny herself.  And so what you have at that point is you have a husband and a wife who are both learning self-denial. 

 Now, what makes it tough on a marriage is when you have only one party who is practicing self-denial, and the other person is just purely selfish.

Bob: And what do you do in that situation?  I mean, if you feel like, "Okay, I'm trying to die to self, and my mate, my husband, doesn't have the same unselfishness. He is just demanding."  How do you respond?

Dennis: I think I'd ask my spouse to read this book with me and to dialog about it together, and if they refuse to do that, then I might say, "let's go talk to someone," and if they refused that, I think I would get some personal counsel and some personal coaching about what my game plan is in this marriage for how I am to still be hopeful and how I am to continue on with the long haul in mind.

Bob: It might be that some of those issues could be brought to the surface at one of our Weekend to Remember conferences – a couple getting away for a couple of days in the context of hearing about how to get your marriage aligned with God's design for marriage and in that environment you may be able to have some of the conversations and bring some of these issues to the surface.

Barbara: Well, a weekend away is always a good idea for couples, and going to the Weekend to Remember would be so healthy because you're sitting under some really great teaching so that you're hearing truth about marriage; you're hearing biblical perspectives about relationship, and so you can begin to talk about those, because somebody is bringing up the discussion for you, in a sense, and then during the projects you can go back as a couple and talk through where you are in relation to what you've heard and what you need to work on.

Bob: Mm-hm.

Dennis: I don't want to characterize this as just a male problem, but there are a lot of men who I believe are still selfish because they have never really heard what Jesus Christ has called them to as a man.  They have rejected Christianity based upon something they saw when they were growing up, a caricature of Christianity that wasn't accurate.  It was a bunch of do's and don't's. 

 Well, get him to the Weekend to Remember.  Get him there.  Promise him a romantic weekend, but get him there under that teaching.  There have been literally tens of thousands of men's lives changed by hearing what his job description is, what his assignment is, in a separate meeting from the wife.  So he gets the chance to hear what he's supposed to do without his wife looking over his shoulder, and a lot of men, finally, the light goes on, they embrace it, and they wake up.

Bob: And, Barbara, as Dennis said, it's not exclusively a man's problem with a woman oftentimes this whole area of unselfishness in intimacy – this manifests itself in a different way where a wife is maybe punishing, she's withholding sexual interest from her husband, and she's expressing her own level of selfishness.

Barbara: That's correct.  And selfishness is universal.  We all have it, and we can all exercise selfishness.  So it's not strictly the men who have that issue because women really can be selfish, and they can withhold and have certain demands that they place on their men.

Dennis: We talked about it last week when Barbara and I spoke to husbands from their half of this book, "Rekindling the Romance," where we talked about their assignment and their responsibility.  Well, in doing the research for that half of the book, let me tell you, we asked some men about their wives' responsiveness to them, and did we get an earful.  I mean, there are some men who are really angry because they feel like their wives are ignoring them, putting them off, putting them out, and not caring for them.

 But what God's calling a man to do is not be selfish and just get his own needs met, He's calling a man to deny himself and to reach out to his wife, and the Apostle Paul said it best in the Book of Philippians, chapter 2.  He said, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself."

 What would happen in a marriage if the wife looked at the husband's need and blessed his need and said, "That need is more important than mine."  And what would happen in a marriage if the husband looked at the wife's need and said, "Your need for a relationship is more important than my need for physical intimacy."  I think you'd see the benefit of what happens when a person doesn't merely look out for their own personal interest.

Bob: You know, Barbara, that presumes that both of them would be looking with that same perspective, but a wife who is listening today and says, "Yeah, I've been trying to do that.  I've been trying to look at my husband's needs as more important than my own, and he's perfectly content with me continuing to operate in that direction, and I'm not getting any of my own needs met.  I'm starting to feel like all I'm good for is to be" …

Barbara: Mm-hm, to take care of him.

Bob: Yeah, to take care of his physical needs.

Barbara: Mm-hm.

Bob: How would you coach a wife in that setting?

Barbara: You know, that's really a tough, tough place to be, because she's not the leader in the relationship, and yet there's some leadership that needs to take place in that marriage, and it needs to come from her husband.  So the best thing for her to do, as we said before, is to get him away for a weekend, because so often many of our husbands don't really know what they're supposed to do.  They're really operating out of ignorance, and when a husband is operating out of ignorance, he may be doing the best he can, or maybe he thinks that's the way it's supposed to be, and he needs to be re-educated, but he doesn't need you to be the one teaching him.  He doesn't need you to leave books on his pillow and tell him what he needs to do and what he's doing wrong.  He needs to hear it from another man.

 And so – I know we said this once, but I will say it again – I think the best thing she can do is get him away to a Weekend to Remember where they can enjoy time together, and he can hear from another man.  Because it may just be a lack of understanding of what he's supposed to do.

Bob: And it may be, Dennis, that a guy comes away to a Weekend to Remember and comes back, and he's still kind of in a perpetual state of selfishness, and he doesn't get dislodged from that, he doesn't get shaken out of his complacency.  There's nothing wrong with a wife continuing to raise the flag and say, "Honey, this is who I am, this is what I need.  I need you to understand this," and she may feel like "I've had that speech with him 50 times in the last year."  But some of us are pretty dense, and we may need to hear it the 51st or the 52nd time.

Dennis: Right.  And I would ask that wife – is she really speaking romance in the language of her husband?  Has she really put forth the effort?  And she may have, and I'm not trying to play a trick on her at this point, but there are some men that feel like their need for sex and physical intimacy with their wives is wrong.                Their wives have made them feel that way.

 It is no more wrong than a woman's need for relationship is.  A woman needs a relationship to experience romance.  A man needs physical intimacy, generally, to experience romance.  And so what you have here, as two people deny themselves, if I've only got the wife who is denying herself and willing to selflessly love her husband, it may be that her love will be ultimately what God uses to turn his heart to God.

 Now, are you willing to be that woman?  Are you willing to persevere and not grow weary in well doing, and I know, because Barbara and I have talked to these dear wives over the years – there are a number of them who are in marriages where the husband is not interested in spiritual matters.  He doesn't show any inclination, hasn't for years, and may not for another decade.  The question is – can you fulfill God's design?

 And if you look at the promise of Philippians, chapter 2, it goes on to say, "Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus," and it goes on to talk about how He emptied Himself, and how He suffered.  But what was the ultimate outcome?  At the name of Jesus, every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. 

 Your obedience, as a wife, may involved a lot of suffering, but can you look to the end result when perhaps Jesus Christ may say to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant?"  Enter into the joy of your Master?  I'm not trying to offer a cheap spiritual solution to a very hard, harsh reality, but what other solution is there?  I don't think divorce is the solution.  It's certainly the easiest worldly answer to the problem, but God calls us to march to a different drumbeat.  The question is – will you have this attitude in yourselves, which Jesus Christ also had?

Bob: And one of the things that makes that difficult is that there is a cultural drumbeat that presses us in a different direction.  And so if couples are going to march to a different drumbeat, they've got to be listening for the sound of that drumbeat, and I think in your book, "Rekindling the Romance," you have captured the cadence of the Master's drumbeat on this subject, and I want to encourage our listeners to get a copy of the book.

 And along with it, let me encourage you to consider getting a copy of the new "Simply Romantic Nights" collection.  This is volume 2, something our team has put together that has a dozen romantic date ideas for husbands, and a dozen romantic date ideas for wives, and it gives you – well, some fresh ways to bring romance into your marriage relationship and to do what your book says to do – rekindle the romance.

 So if our listeners are interested, they can go to our website,, and get more information about your book and about the Simply Romantic Nights collection.  Again, our website is  You can also call us for more information or to order these resources – 1-800-FLTODAY is the number; 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and when you contact us, someone on our team can get the information necessary so that we can send these resources out to you.

 Let me also ask you if you would consider making a donation to FamilyLife Today this month.  We are listener-supported, which means that the reason we're on in this city today is because folks in this area have helped support the ministry of FamilyLife Today by making a donation in the past, and we want to be able to continue to bring you practical, biblical help for your marriage and your family each day. 

 In order to do that, we want to ask listeners if they will help make that possible through a donation to the ministry, and this month when you make a donation of any amount, we would love to send you a couple of CDs that feature a conversation that we had with the authors of a book called "Intimate Issues."  A book that features 21 questions women ask about intimacy and romance in their marriage.

 In fact, we got a note back from a listener who said, "My husband is really glad I listened to these CDs."  We would love to send them to you as a way of saying thank you for your financial support of this ministry.  If you are making a donation online, and you would like to receive the CDs, just type the word "intimate" in the keycode box that you find on the donation form.

 If you call to make your donation, simply mention you'd like the CDs on intimacy, and, again, we're happy to pass them along to you.  It's our way of saying thank you for you financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

 Now, tomorrow we want to talk about why this issue is so important and why it really is such a big deal for husbands and wives in a marriage relationship.  Dennis and Barbara are going to be back with us tomorrow to talk about that.  I hope you'll be back as well.

 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'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 


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