How to Live in Love With Your Wife
When life threatens to beat you down, don't lose sight of each other. That's the advice of authors Matt and Lisa Jacobson. The Jacobsons reflect on a particularly difficult time in their marriage-the birth of their fifth child, who was born with brain damage after suffering a stroke in utero. The long days in the hospital's ICU, along with starting a new company and caring for four other children at home, put a strain on their marriage. Matt explains what it means to "act like a man," and love and protect your wife and children in difficult times.
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FaithfulMan.com, an online social media community focusing on the topics of marriage, parenting, and biblical teaching. He is the author of 100 Words of Affirmation Your Wife Needs to Hear and 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. He lives with his wife,...more
When life threatens to beat you down, don’t lose sight of each other. That’s the advice of authors Matt and Lisa Jacobson. Matt explains what it means to “act like a man,” and love and protect your wife and children in difficult times.
How to Live in Love With Your Wife
Bob: You may have a better-than-average marriage, but Matt Jacobson says that should not be the criteria by which you measure how well your marriage is doing.
Matt: We have to look at the Word of God as the standard for what’s normal, but what we tend to do is we look at what we see as what’s normal. What’s common, even in the church, is not what is normal biblical Christianity. A normal Christian marriage is a beautiful, loving, open, giving, close, fun, enjoyable relationship! It’s rich, and it’s good.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, April 27th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. No matter where your marriage is today, it can be better tomorrow. We’re going to talk today about things we can do to move our marriage in the right direction. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re doing a little love coaching this week.
Dave: I need some love coaching.
Bob: We all need a little love coaching; don’t you think?
Ann: We all do; I agree, yes.
Bob: I remember—and Mary Ann and I have talked about this—when we got married, I loved her because she loved me. What I really loved was her loving me. [Laughter]
Bob: Do you know?
Matt: I understand exactly.
Bob: I just liked being with her, because when she was loving me, I was like, “Yes, this is what I got married for! Just keep doing this, and our marriage will be happy.” It was all about what I’m getting out of love. That’s why I think we need a little love coaching, because that’s not the biblical understanding of love.
We have some coaches, who are with us this week: Matt and Lisa Jacobson. Guys, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Lisa: Thank you!
Matt: Thank you. Good to be with you again.
Bob: Matt and Lisa have written two books: one for wives called 100 Ways to Love Your Husband; another for husbands called 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. You wrote separate books. We’ve talked about this already a little bit; but are we that different as men and women, that when it comes to how we love one another, we have to approach it differently? Does a wife need to think more masculine about what love is? Does a husband need to think more like a woman to understand how to love his wife?
Matt: Actually, there is a lot of writing about that out there, but what we find is that people in a marriage are individuals. You really have to seek out the individual that you’re married with to understand what is desirable to them, what is fulfilling to them, what speaks to love to them as a person.
We don’t really think of it in terms of a gender issue: “Oh, I’m a man; therefore, I need to be loved this way.” No; “I’m Matt Jacobson.
Matt: “This is how I need to be loved,” and “This is Lisa Jacobson over here; and I need to seek out and understand her—her heart—as a person, as an individual, as a woman.”
Bob: Might there be things, Lisa, that a wife would read in 100 Ways to Love Your Husband and she would go, “I don’t think that would work”; and she’d be right?
Lisa: Absolutely, yes. They’re just ideas. It also gets you thinking about: “Wait a minute. What does my husband like?” or “What does make him feel loved?” Most of the time that involves communication and conversation, ideally; but it also can happen through observation.
You know, sometimes we look at it, and we do the—“This is my love language,”—which is also a good way to think; but across the board, your husband or wife isn’t going to be someone that: “Touch!—that’s the only thing that says ‘love’ to me.” I doubt it; I bet all of those things will contribute to you feeling loved.
So then, you have to get down to that personal way of: “What does this person need from me, even in this season?” Because I don’t know about you guys, but we’ve changed in seasons. At the beginning of our marriage, Matt was trying to love me. It was the first year of marriage; we lived in this little pink apartment. Do you remember this?
Matt: This is really funny, actually.
Lisa: I was pregnant—so I was maybe a little irritable, not feeling that great—kind of getting used to the whole sensation of pregnancy. Matt is intuitive, so he sensed that I wasn’t super happy. He just started scrubbing floors and vacuuming. He even cleaned the toilet. He was just working, working, working. I’m just sitting on the couch, getting madder.
Bob: You were getting angry that he was scrubbing the floors?!
Lisa: I know; I know. Bear with me.
Matt: Super-husband! I’m knocking my brains out for weeks on end.
Matt: And I’m going, “I am gonna lay down my life for this woman!”
Bob: Could I see the hands of all of the listeners—if you would get angry if your husband came home and said, “I’m going to scrub the floors tonight,”—would you raise your hand?
Lisa: I feel sheepish, but—
Ann: Well, it just depends on what my needs are at the time.
Matt: Well, listen—so I’m exhausted; I am totally exhausted—because truth is: running a house is exhausting.
Matt: It’s good to know that, as a man.
Anyway, so I’m sitting on the couch, and I’m looking at her. She’s in the kitchen; she’s working on the dishes, and she’s just rubbing them really hard. [Laughter] She’s getting madder and madder. I’m going, “What is her problem?” because she’s married to super-husband! [Laughter] And I said, “Okay, so what’s wrong?”
Bob: Did you say it gently and lovingly like that?
Lisa: I don’t remember that part. [Laughter]
Matt: Maybe not super lovingly, maybe. The love was in my heart. [Laughter]
Matt: But anyway, the flames—the ones coming out of her eyes—turned on me. She smashes down the plate on the counter—it didn’t shatter—but she smashed it down; and she goes, “I just want you to love me!” [Laughter] I’m going, “Okay, you have got to be kidding me. I do!” “I don’t care about all that stuff!” I said, “What do you mean? You don’t care?” “No, that’s…” “It doesn’t even matter?” “No! It doesn’t.”
I’m going, “Well, then, what am I supposed to be doing?!” [Laughter] She goes, “I just want you to want to be with me. I just—how about you just take me out for a cup of coffee more than once in a blue moon? How about you just desire to be with me?” And I’m going, “Oh, wow. That’s all it takes?”
Lisa: I said, “I can clean the floors; I can clean toilets. But nobody but you can take me out to coffee and hear what I’m thinking.” Especially, I was a new wife. I was in an apartment. We only had one car; so I wasn’t really getting out, and I was just desperate.
Ann: You’re lonely.
Lisa: I was lonely. I didn’t want to watch him clean my toilets. [Laughter] Now, later, that changed—[Laughter]—just to be clear—because the seasons of life changed.
Dave: That’s the thing with women: you never know how to love them; they change—
Matt: You’ve got to change—
Dave: —every couple of hours!
Lisa: Keeps it interesting; keeps it interesting.
Dave: It is exciting.
Ann: What I hear you saying is we need to become experts [of] our spouse—
Ann: —not thinking that, “Once I know it, it’s going to be the same forever,”—it may change in time and seasons.
Matt: We also have to be careful about loving our spouse in the ways that say “love” to us; alright? If you’re thinking that way, then what you’re doing is you’re kind of loving yourself; but you’re not loving her in a way that says love to her. That’s why it’s important to become a real student of your spouse and understand what matters to them.
Bob: Most of us have heard about Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages.
Bob: You were doing acts of service; she was looking for quality time.
Bob: When you had eight kids, under the age of eighteen, running around the house, acts of service was a priority; right?
Lisa: Yes, it definitely got bumped up.
Bob: Now, you’re in a different season; because some of those kids are out of the house.
Matt: They are.
Bob: You still have some at home; but now, all of a sudden, the priorities are different. How you love one another shifts and changes; doesn’t it?
Matt: It does. The main thing about loving your spouse is just being purposeful every day to love your spouse. It’s not something that happens by itself. It’s not something that happens just because your day is unfolding. It happens because you’re purposeful about it. It’s not rocket science. A normal biblical marriage—I mean, how did the Book start?—with two naked people running around in a garden.
Matt: Okay? I mean, God wrote the Book; alright? A normal Christian marriage is a beautiful, loving, open, giving, close, fun, enjoyable relationship! It’s rich, and it’s good; and it’s something that just gives you a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose. That’s normal biblical marriage.
For every single couple—I don’t care where you are in this journey; it doesn’t matter if you’ve been married five or fifty years; it doesn’t matter if you have a terrible marriage today; if doesn’t even if you have an okay, functional marriage, or even a good marriage—God has an excellent marriage for absolutely every single couple, who will look at the Word of God and say, “I’m going to yield my heart to what it says, and I’m going to move forward according to the instructions that I find in it.” A beautiful normal Christian marriage is waiting for every one of you.
Ann: As I listen to you, I’m inspired; but I’m imagining that wasn’t always easy with eight kids that were close together. Did you ever struggle with this?
Matt: Everything about life conspires against God’s best—absolutely everything—even the good things, alright? Satan doesn’t go out to the barnyard, pick something up off the ground, and say, “Hey, let me tempt you with this”; right? He wants to take you down with the good things; alright?
Kids—that’s part of the goodness of God’s blessing on your life—but in order to avoid the pitfalls of the struggle, even if you’re a family with young kids, you have to understand something; and you have to yield your heart to it. God did not give you—I’m talking to the men right now—he didn’t give you a wife and children for you to look at them as equally competitive relative to the scale of priority. Your wife is your number-one priority, and you’re loving your kids by loving your wife well.
Matt: If you can keep that understanding/that priority in mind—and you don’t get it confused with all of the other things; and then, after the family, all the other noise in life—recognize it doesn’t matter what is in your life. If you keep the priority that God established: “Love your wife like Christ loved the church,”—that central relationship and responsibility; you keep that in the forefront—and you know, you work through the hard days; but everything falls into place. Remember, we always have time for our real priorities.
Lisa: I was just thinking back. Our fifth child had a massive stroke in utero and was born with severe, severe brain damage. It was devastating and unexpected. Nobody, to this day, knows why or what. She’s still with us today, actually. She’s a beautiful 19-year-old. When she was born, there was just a big scramble at the hospital, and all the experts—everybody trying to figure out what happened—and “Is this little baby going to make it?” and “What about this poor little family?”—we had five kids, six and under—“What are they going to do?” It was devastating.
The stress of that time was significant. I was at the hospital for most of the next two years, with her in the hospital off and on. The first six weeks, solidly, in the NICU. Matt was at home. He had just started a new company. That was when he started Loyal Publishing. The head of the hospital met with us one day. He met with us significantly over the next few weeks, just to kind of help us get our heads wrapped around what we were going to be dealing with. He told us, “Just so you know, most marriages end up in divorce that have a little baby like this. The strain is too great.”
It was sobering to us. It helped us, even, to recommit to: “Okay; whatever we’re going to walk through, let’s just do it together.” What I was thinking about—I was just remembering that drive/one of those drives to the hospital; because I’d come home on the weekends to visit my other little kids—and we were driving back to the hospital. I stayed at the Ronald McDonald house there near the hospital. I was, of course, overtired and grieving, and all of that; and post-partum. I think I said to you something like, “You’re not involved,” because I felt like I was carrying the weight of this little baby. He just about drove off the road.
Matt: I totally lost it. I started hitting the dashboard so hard and yelling. I was so mad because of the strain, and the stress, and the pain. I had lived at the hospital, too; you weren’t there by yourself. You were a lot of the time; but I was living there as well, and back and forth with the kids at home. Thankfully, my mom quit her job and was looking after the kids and helping.
But the anger of that moment of her—and it wasn’t her perspective—it was just in the moment of the stress, saying that I wasn’t involved and that I wasn’t engaged. I was furious! It was not a godly moment; I will say that.
Lisa: You know, now, I look back and I think, “Oh, the strain he must have been under to try to keep this new business we had going, and take care of the kids at home, and take care of me”; but I was so wrapped up in my own world and pain, you know, that I wasn’t aware of that. We worked through it. We had a hard conversation. We were able to sob together, which we hadn’t taken enough time, probably, to have done that.
Matt: Yes, yes.
Lisa: And to help see each other’s pain, each in the unique way we were carrying it.
It doesn’t mean that you have a perfect marriage and never have hard moments or hard things. Even as life throws you these difficult moments, you can still walk together. You can still do it in love, and work through those hard things.
Dave: When you’re walking through something like that, how do you love in a hundred ways?
Matt: First off, I want to speak to the men. There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “Act like men”; alright? Here’s the thing: you’re walking through this darkness/this challenge together. Just in the case of our situation, I can tend to minimize hard things. It makes my wife so mad; but I go, “Hey, yes, it was tough; but we’ll keep going. We’ll get through.”
One of the things that we had to deal with was our daughter’s heart stopped, or she stopped breathing multiple times every night.
Matt: I’m going, “Yes, it’s a tough season.” Our energy is just going down. Every night, we have to wake up and get her going again—shake her, and breathe in her face, move her head a little bit to get her started again—and then go back to sleep. The monitor would go off again. Now, do that for 18 months; okay? Again, I kind of, early on, looked at it as, “Hey, it’s not that bad. We’re just going to keep going; we’re going to keep going.”
One day, because I had this way of being, Lisa goes, “Yes, well, how many times do you think the monitor went off last night?” I said, “I don’t know; 15 maybe.” She goes, “Yes, well, here’s the printout.” And it was 40 times.
Ann: —in one night.
Matt: It was so brutal.
But what I want to say about this is: “Guys, you are the one that gets to be the soldier in this circumstance,”—alright?—“You have to look at this as the person who is principally responsible for carrying as much of the weight as you can in those days of challenge and those days of darkness.” Stop patting yourself on the back to say, “Hey, I’ve worked really hard.” It doesn’t matter; you’re the man. The Bible says, “Act like a man; conduct yourself like a man.” We are called to nurture, love, cherish, and to lay down our lives.
It’s in those moments of darkness—those moments of life’s worst challenges—where you get to walk that out. Don’t you want God to say, “You know what? You did well, son?” Don’t think of it as: “Oh, you’re having such a hard time.” Your job is to protect, look after, and nurture your wife. You’re walking through it together, but you get to carry the heaviest load.
Bob: Let me go to the phrases that are around that phrase that you mentioned—“Act like men,” in 1 Corinthians 16—because if a husband wants to love his wife, here’s how you do it. First, “Be on the alert,” which means you’re paying attention; your eyes are open.
Bob: You’re looking around and you’re saying: “What’s going on here?” and “What do I need to be alert to?” “Is there danger?” “Is there need?” “How can I…” You’re alert; be on the alert.
“…stand firm in the faith” is the next thing it says, which means you’re anchored in: “We’re going to live biblically. We’re going to live according to God’s Word,” and “I’m going to start with that in my life, and then we’re going to do it as a family.”
“Be on the alert; stand firm in the faith.” Then it says: “…act like men.” Some translations will say, “…be courageous,” which I think that andrízomai word that they use there, in the Greek, is a word that means men should be courageous; that’s at the heart of masculinity.
Then it says, “…be strong.” That’s the next thing that you’re saying:—
Bob: —“Yes, you’re the soldier; so when everybody else is weak, you be strong.”
Then, what’s the last thing it says?
Dave: The last one is: “Do everything in love.”
Bob: Yes; “Let everything you do be done in love.” I think for a husband to say, “Okay, I need to be alert; and I need to be anchored in God’s Word; and I need to be courageous; and I need to be strong; but I need to make sure that, as I’m doing that, everything is done in the context of love/sacrifice for another person.” That’s a call to men for what loving your wife/that’s another passage that informs us what that’s supposed to look like.
Ann: I’m super grateful that, as Dave and I have walked through some valleys and some dark places in our lives, Dave hasn’t shouldered it alone. He’s had other men that have partnered with him, that have prayed for him, that have really held him up at times and held his hands up.
Ann: I think that’s a big part of it as well.
Matt: We were never intended to just be our strong little islands out there. We’re to walk together. There’s great strength. And we were upheld, certainly, in our dark days by the prayers of the saints. That’s a super critical part of it.
Ann: Lisa, what does it look like for you to love Matt?—to really—he’s kind of given us this picture [of a man]—what’s a real woman do?
Lisa: That’s a good question as well. So for Matt, I think some of the categories for him are things like loyalty, respect, honor, and just that I’m behind him. That speaks powerfully to him.
For me to communicate: “I’m behind you,” when he’s going into something, means a lot to him. Also, that “I’m beside you; we’re doing this together.” He’s actually very together-oriented. He’s a leader and a pastor, but he doesn’t want to do it alone. He’s not actually made to be that way, so I want to do all I can to let him know: “Yes, I’m in this with you,”—even if I’m not in that particular meeting/even, he knows I’m home, praying for him—or maybe I’ll send him a text just letting him know, “My heart is with you.”
Ann: Do all of you feel that? Is that important?—that your wives are beside you.
Bob: I think to know that she’s beside you; but that she believes in you/that she looks at you and says, “I believe in the man God’s called you to be, and I believe in what you’re trying to do.” That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t step in at times and say, “This doesn’t seem wise to me.”
Matt: Yes, absolutely.
Bob: It’s not blind belief, but for—you’ve described it as cheering on your husband—is huge for us, as men, to know that we have somebody, who’s cheering us on.
Dave: Especially somebody that knows us well, because you can fake other people out.
Matt: That is so true.
Dave: The congregation can come up to me and say, “Man, I trust you. I’ll follow you anywhere.” I just sort of smile—[Laughter]
Matt: Right, right.
Dave: —“That’s nice. You don’t really know.” But when my wife says that, it means everything.
Bob: And at the end of a Sunday, when everybody says, “That sermon was great,” whose opinion do you really care about?”
Dave: The woman sitting in the front row.
Bob: Yes, that’s right. [Laughter]
Lisa: Absolutely; so true.
I think there’s so much power that a woman has that she probably doesn’t realize in communicating to her husband what she believes he could be and should be. When I first say that, sometimes women say, “Well, I’m not going to tell him a lie; because that’s not what he is right now,”—I know; I get that. But think about your children, if you’re a mom; do you have any troubles communicating to your young son, “Hey, you’re going to be a great man someday,” or “You’re a truth-teller, and I love that about you”? A woman will say, “Oh, yes; oh, yes! I think that’s so important and so impactful.”
Why would it be any different in communicating that way to your husband? You actually are speaking truth and power into his life, even if he’s not quite there yet; but you can see it in him, and it actually brings out that in him over time.
Bob: Yes, absolutely. I just am grateful for the way that you guys, again, practically press these truths home in the books you’ve written. I would hope our listeners would give each other copies of these books. For a wife to say to her husband, “Here, here’s a book that tells you how you can…” And maybe she goes through it before she gives it to him, and she just folds back a few of the pages; right? [Laughter]
Lisa: I’ve heard of that! Or write little notes, like, “This is a good one!”
Ann: That’s a good idea.
Bob: Yes, and the husband can do the same thing with his wife; and then just—
Dave: Yes, I’ve already done it, Bob. [Laughter] “Honey, read that tonight.”
Ann: Good; I did it, too. [Laughter]
Bob: We have copies of Matt and Lisa’s books, 100 Ways to Love Your Husband; 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. They’re in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
Guys, thank you for being here and for sharing all of this with us.
Matt: It’s been awesome to be with you guys.
Lisa: Thanks so much.
Bob: You know, I have to think couples, who have been listening to our conversation this week, are thinking, “You know, we could use a little practice in terms of how we apply some of what’s been talked about”; because it’s been a stressful season for our country and, I think, for a lot of marriages.
With everything that’s been going on, we’re going to make your books available to any of our listeners, who would like to get a copy, and can help support the ministry of FamilyLife® with a donation. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com; make whatever donation you are able to make; and request your copies of Matt and Lisa Jacobson’s books, 100 Ways to Love Your Husband; 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. We’ll send them to you as a thank-you gift for your support of this ministry.
Keep in mind your investment is really an investment in the lives, and the marriages, and the families of, not only fellow listeners in your community, but people all around the world, who are coming to FamilyLife Today—listening to this program as a podcast, streaming it on the app, listening to it on the local radio station—they’re benefitting from our website, our resources, our events. People who are looking for help and hope are coming to us, and you are making the help and hope possible as you support this ministry.
Thank you, in advance, for whatever donation you are able to make. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to donate, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation. Again, we’ll be happy to send you, upon your request, copies of Matt and Lisa Jacobson’s books, 100 Ways to Love Your Husband; 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. Again, request it when you make a donation, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to donate: 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
By the way, if you are looking for additional resources to help you strengthen your marriage relationship/build a stronger bond of love with one another, check out the resources we have atFamilyLifeToday.com. There’s a video series from Dave and Ann Wilson called Vertical Marriage that you can go through with other couples. There’s the Love Like You Mean It video series that takes you through 1 Corinthians 13, applying that to marriage. There’s the Art of Marriage®video series. We’ve got a lot of resources, all designed to help you connect with other couples and build a stronger marriage. Again, find out more when you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the difference between how the culture views intimacy and sexuality and what the Bible has to say about that subject. Christopher Yuan is going to join us to talk about Holy Sexuality tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch. He got some extra help this week from Bruce Goff and, of course, our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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