FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Husbands, Love Your Wives

with Dave Wilson | September 2, 2021
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It's true that "love" is an action word and not just a feeling. Dave Wilson directs men to apply the truth from Ephesians 5 to their marriages to experience a love that will grow.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • 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.

It’s true that “love” is an action word and not just a feeling. Dave Wilson directs men to apply the truth from Ephesians 5 to their marriages to experience a love that will grow.

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Husbands, Love Your Wives

With Dave Wilson
September 02, 2021
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Dave: So here is the deal—love is an action verb; it’s not a feeling—he’s not saying, “Feel this amount of love.” There’s—I’ve got to be honest—there are many days I don’t feel love for Ann. She’s never felt that for me; she’s always in love with me, but I’ve—no; we both don’t always feel it—it’s not about a feeling; you don’t fall in love.

You go back to verse 1, where you started this series. In Chapter 5, it says: “Walk in love.” It doesn’t say: “Fall in love.” It says: “Walk in love”; so love is not a feeling; it’s an action.

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.

This is going to be a great day! [Laughter] Do you know why? [Laughter]

Dave: I know why, but I don’t know if that’s—

Ann: Because Dave Wilson’s, in the house, preaching. [Laughter] This is going to be fun. Dave, you gave a message at Discovery Church—

Dave: Oh, did I?! I gave a message?

Ann: —in Orlando on marriage on Ephesians 5.

Dave: Yes; I’ve got to be honest: it was one of the first times, in years, I’ve given a message without you.

Ann: Was it sad? You were very sad; weren’t you?

Dave: I wish you had been with me, but I tried to do the best I could. Yes, it was a joy to just walk through the passage—one of the greatest passages in the New Testament about marriage—Ephesians 5.

By the way, these are the kinds of messages that are given at the Weekend to Remember®, the FamilyLife marriage conference all around the country. Actually—pretty exciting news—you can go to the Weekend to Remember half off.

Ann: What?!

Dave: Yes; I mean, that’s a great deal—

Ann: That’s a great deal.

Dave: —in any city that you want. You just go to; sign up. You will hear messages like this, and a lot more than this [at the Weekend to Remember], that will literally change your marriage.

Ann: Now, we’re going to get to your message. Should I score you since you weren’t with me? [Laughter]

Dave: Go ahead; give me a score. Let’s see how it goes.

Ann: You’re my favorite preacher, so it’s an A already.

[Previous Message]

Dave: I just want to make sure you don’t think that I’m up here, talking about marriage, because I’m some marriage expert or that I have the greatest, most perfect marriage in the room—which I probably do—but here is the truth: [Laughter] I don’t! If you’ve read our book, Vertical Marriage, you know—or if you’ve ever listened to us as a podcast already—you know that we are very raw and very real.

I’ll tell you something—marriage is the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life—am I right? Now, here is the thing: you can’t go, “Yes!” because she is sitting right there; or he’s sitting right there. They’ll be hitting you, like, “What are you saying right now?!”

But it is!—it’s really hard. And when Ann and I got married, I would have told you, on our wedding day, “This is going to be awesome. It’s going to be great.” In fact, we went to the Weekend to Remember marriage conference, which FamilyLife puts on, that now we speak for. We went to it, as an engaged couple, two weeks before our wedding. We literally sat there, and thought, “It can’t be that hard. Why are people taking notes?”; you know? [Laughter]

I’m not kidding; we just thought, “We love each other/more in love than anybody else that’s ever lived. We love Jesus; we are going into ministry. It won’t be hard.” Six months later, we’re driving to our first job; we are half way there, and we are fighting and screaming in the car. Anybody ever been there? Maybe you were there an hour ago—on the way to church; right?—no; I mean, we are yelling. And we’ve been yelling for months; it is not going well.

She says to me—I’ll never forget—I’m driving. By the way, I had hair back then; I had a bang; you know? [Laughter] I used to—you don’t believe me—but I did. I’m driving, and she’s over here. She gets to this point—she says this at the top of her lungs—she says, “Marrying you, Dave Wilson, was the worst mistake of my life!” That’s what she says! I’m over here, the spiritual leader of this incredible, godly family. I said, “You’re exactly right! What were we thinking?! Can we get an annulment?” It was like six months; that’s where we were.

We get to our job in Nebraska. One of the first things that the players—we were working with the football team—there were several married couples; and they said, “Hey, will you lead a marriage Bible study?” [Laughter] We were like, “You want somebody else that’s got a good marriage”; but we did. By the way—this isn’t the point of the day—but when you lead others, out of brokenness, your brokenness starts to get healed; it’s a whole other thing. We had the worst marriage in the room, and we were the only people that learned anything. Do you know what I’m saying?

But we were there—and I’ll never forget one night—and again, it was so bad. I got out of bed at two in the morning. We’re not sleeping anyway; we’re just in a fight. I go down. I literally open the Bible—because if you want help, here it is; right?—I’m in

Philippians 1, where Paul says, “…to live is Christ, to die is gain”; right? I prayed.

Ann walks in the room; she goes, “Hey, what are you doing?” She’s all excited I’m reading the Bible; because she’s like, “This man needs help! And he is looking at the Bible.” [Laughter] Here is what I say to her—I’m not kidding—word for word. I look it; and I said, “Well, I just read Paul’s words, and I just prayed. She goes, “What did you pray?” I said, “Well,”—literally, word for word, I say,—“God, I’d rather be dead than married to you.” [Laughter] That’s what I said! She’s was like—

I’ve got to tell you. We had a mentor before we got married that said, “Share every little detail you ever think. Just share it in your marriage.” [Laughter] That’s bad advice; okay? [Laughter] Don’t do that! That’s why I said it to her—I was like, “Well, I was supposed to share everything”—so I said, “I’d rather die than be married to you.” Here is the thing—you are laughing; right?—it’s funny. If we had gotten divorced, it wouldn’t be funny; but that’s where I was, and it wasn’t a joke at the moment. I was so—no peace, no hope—“We don’t know what we’re doing,” “We shouldn’t have done this.”

Here’s what I’m going to tell you—I am more in love with that woman, at year 41, than I was the day we got married—I would have said, “That is impossible,” I would have said, “That can’t be true.” [Applause] I’m telling you—here is why—the truth in this Book. We’re going to look at Ephesians 5, verses 25-33. The truth of this Word will literally change your life.

Now, here is what I’m saying: I’m not saying copy the biblical marriages in this book—if you’ve looked at the marriages in the book, they are pretty dysfunctional—don’t do what they did. You go to the New Testament; you look at what Paul wrote, [for] today, about marriage. I’m telling you it is powerful truth that, if you apply it—because it’s not one thing to hear the Word—it’s to do the Word. You go home and apply it, I’m telling you—you will have a different marriage in a week; an incredible marriage in a year or two—again, it’s on us—not hearing the Word—but doing the Word.

I’m not going to read the whole passage; but I am going to jump down to verse 25. If you’ve been around the church world very long, many husbands have heard this; and many wives love this verse, because it’s spoken right to the husband. It says this: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” How many of you have heard this before? Yes, probably a lot of you. Here is the thing: “What does it mean?”—that’s what we’re going to talk about. It’s like, “Okay, how do I go home and actually live this out?”

I’ve got to be honest—part of this message today—a big part of it is going to be to the men. Do you know why? Because when you read Ephesians 5—which, by the way, is the longest discourse on marriage in the New Testament; we’re looking at it—Ephesians 5. It’s the longest passage where God, through Paul, says, “Here’s what godly Christian marriage should look like.” Most of it is written, not to the wife, but to the men.

Most men stop at verse 22. Notice I didn’t put verse 22 in there, where it says, “Wives, be submissive to your husbands.” Most men I know, it’s the only Bible verse they know: “Yes, I know what the Bible says; it says, ‘Women, submit.’ That’s what it says.” He doesn’t even know what the rest says. I know we’ve talked about that a little bit last week, so I’m not going to get into that. Thank God I don’t have to get into that! [Laughter]

But anyway, I’m going to get into verse 25 and beyond, where he says, “Husbands, love your wives.” So here is the deal—love is an action verb; it’s not a feeling—he’s not saying, “Feel this amount of love.” There’s—I’ve got to be honest—there are many days I don’t feel love for Ann. She’s never felt that for me; she’s always in love with me, but I’ve—no; we both don’t always feel it—it’s not about a feeling; you don’t fall in love. You go back to verse 1, where you started this series in Chapter 5; it says: “Walk in love.” It doesn’t say: “Fall in love”; it says: “Walk in love.”

So if love is not a feeling, it’s an action verb. Here is what we are going to do. I know you have notes and fill out little blanks in there, so I’m going to give you what these are. I would say, “Husbands equals men.” Now, specifically, Paul is writing to husbands; okay?—this isn’t to all men; I am taking a little liberty with the text. I’m saying, “Okay, if husbands love their wives”—as we’re going to look at what that means in a second—“’like Christ loved the church,’ let me tell you: every wife in here would be lit up because her man is loving her like Christ loved the church.”

Now, let me say this: “If men in the church appreciated, and supported, and loved the women in the church, every woman in every church would be brought to life.” Do you understand what I am saying? I mean, if the men of Discovery treated the women of Discovery like they were special—if they affirmed them, and empowered them, and protected them, and came alongside them, and celebrated them as incredible women—what do you think would happen to this church? Women from all over would be running to this church, like, “I want to go to that church because, in that church, women are valued.” That’s the way it should be at this church and any church; am I right?

Paul is saying, “Husbands, love your wives”—and that is absolutely what we are talking about—but he’s also saying, “Men, love the women in your church.” I don’t mean in an inappropriate way; I mean protect them/cherish them. In fact, I wrote in your notes/the next blank is: “Love equals cherish.” And down in verse 29 and 30, he actually says, “The husbands cherish and nourish her”; they are very descriptive terms.

Here is the thing: I think we, as men, know what cherish means; we don’t always understand what love means, because love is just this general term we use for all kinds of things. I heard you’re a church that loves the Minnesota Vikings; I don’t know why. Why would you love the Minnesota Vikings? But we say: “I love the Minnesota Vikings,” “I love ice cream,” “I love Jesus.” Seriously, what does that mean?—“We don’t know.”

But cherish?—in fact, if you look up the definition of cherish—it says, “To cherish something is to care for it deeply; to treasure it; to hold dear.” It even says this: “The verb, cherish, is related to the words that mean costly and beloved.” Here is the thing: we cherish things that are costly—things that cost a lot of money—we sort of protect. We become experts of: golf clubs, cars, motorcycles.

I’ve got four or five guitars back home—I’m a guitar guy—and I’ve got a humidifier in that room; they are all humidified. I mean, I take care of them. If you want to play one of my guitars: “Uh-uh, not going to touch it. That’s my baby”; right? Some of you know you’ve got a plasma TV or whatever—it’s like, “That’s my baby,”—we cherish it.

What if your wife felt like she was your baby?—like she was protected; and you studied her; and you humidified her—do you know what I’m saying? Whatever her needs are, you were like, “She is the most important—you talk about costly—she is the most costly thing in the world.” I don’t mean she costs a lot of money; I mean she’s precious. A lot of wives do not feel that from their husbands. A lot of women in the church do not feel that from the men in the church. I think—when Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives,”—he is saying, “Cherish them.”

Then he says, “…as Christ loved the church.” How did Christ love the church? I love what Paul does here. He doesn’t give us—he doesn’t say, “Hey, love your wives,” and just leaves it—he goes, “Let me give you a specific example.” You know this: “What did Christ do for the church?”—He died for her; He gave His life. I put/you can write down in your notes: “Her needs over your needs.” Why did Christ die for the church?—because our need was repentance; our need was forgiveness of sin—we are sinners. The only way that we could be forgiven is for a sinless person to die, and Jesus died.

Let me [ask] you something: “Do you think He felt love at that moment?” I don’t know—but when He is hanging there in agony, I don’t think it’s about feeling—I think it’s about: “Their needs are more important than My needs, so I will put My needs aside to meet the needs of the world.” He died for our sins. When Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives like that,” he is saying, “Her needs over your needs.”

Now, here is what is really interesting. If you think about marriage, think about needs; okay, guys? I told you this is about the women today. We’re going to talk about women’s needs, not your needs. Your needs—forget them—so it’s your woman’s needs; right? Do you know what the top needs of your wife are? Do you know what they are? Have you ever asked her?

Here is the thing—there was a book that came out—I don’t know; 20/30 years ago—I got it. It was called His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Willard F. Harley. He was a counselor in Minnesota. Here’s what he said; he said, “I’ve counseled 3,000 couples. I’ve decided these are the five top needs of a man, five top needs of a woman.” There are ten chapters in the book—one on each one.

I pick up this book—I hadn’t even read it yet—and I’m looking at the Table of Contents. I’m looking; at first, I’m like, “Okay, what’s the number one need of a man?” Do you know what Harley said? Does anybody want to take a guess on the number one need of a man?

Audience: Sex.

Dave: Anything else?

Audience: Respect.

Dave: Respect. I heard respect and sex—same thing—[Laughter]—so anyway; here we go. [Laughter] Here is what Harley said—I’m kidding, but not really—so Harley said, “The number one need of a man is sex.” I don’t know this guy—I don’t know this book—but I’m like, “I agree with this guy; I like this author.”

But then I’m like, “Okay; I want to see what the top five needs of a woman are.” I look at the top five, and sex isn’t mentioned. I’ll never forget—I went over to Ann with the book—I go, “Hey, this is interesting. Number one need of a man is sex. Sex isn’t in your top five. Do you agree with that?” She looks down; and she goes, “Oh, sex is the top three.” I’m like, “What do you mean?” She goes, “The top three there/that is sex for a woman.” Here is the thing—I memorized those top three—[Laughter]—not just because I wanted to get lucky. I memorized those top three.

Guys, I’m going to give it to you right now; alright? You need to write these down or put these away in your brain; and then on your drive home today, you need to turn to your wife and say, “Honey, are these your top three?”—because they may be totally different. The thing about women—you know this, guys; right?—they change every hour or five minutes; you never really know—“It was this, but…”—I’m just kidding.

But here is the deal: when I looked at that, these were Ann’s top three. Here is what Harley said: number one for a woman is affection. Now, I remember saying to Ann, “What is affection?” She goes, “Oh, it’s non-sexual touch.” I’m like, “There is touch that is non-sexual?! What is non-sexual touch?” She’s like, “A hug, or holding my hand, or kissing me.” She once said to me, “I love it when we are at church,”—and I’m usually going up to speak; but before, she is sitting beside me—she goes, “I love when your hand just sits there on my thigh, and it doesn’t move; it just sits right there.” I’m like, “That’s affection.”

Here is the thing I’ve found about a lot of marriages. They don’t kiss anymore; there is a little peck here, peck there. The only time they kiss is in the bedroom. That is not what a woman longs for; am I right, ladies? Don’t say anything—okay?—[Laughter]—but it is like they long for affection; that’s number one.

Number two was conversation; they want their man to talk with them. As we say in our Vertical Marriage book, women don’t want to talk; they want to taaalk about their relationship—it’s like there are three a’s in there—right? They love to communicate; so it’s like conversation means, “Talk with me.”

Number three is, when we talk, they want honesty and openness. I should have put these on the slide because I see some of you write them: honesty and openness. In other words, they want us to open up our heart to them—share with them our fears and our weaknesses—the things we’re struggling with. Man, when we go there, we call it Level 5 communication—not Level 1, which is superficial—but Level 5. When we really share our heart with our woman—am I right, ladies?—you feel loved. It’s an amazing, amazing truth.

By the way, I’ll—just a little footnote—guys, you never share your heart with another woman. I can’t tell you the number of times women at Kensington have said this to somebody besides me, “Dave Wilson is a little aloof when he comes off the stage with me.” I’m like, “Yes, I don’t want any woman to get my heart; only Ann Wilson gets my heart.” And only your wife gets your heart, but that makes her feel loved.

I’m hoping this story will stick in your brain; and then when you are driving home, you can say, “Okay, let’s talk about the parking spot.” Here is the parking spot; the story happened in our life 20-some years ago. I was teaching on a Sunday morning at one of our campuses—and I came out after the second service—we had three services that morning. I’m saying, “Hi,” to people as they are pulling in. It’s like a minute before, or two minutes before the service, and I see my wife whip in late/whip in our car. There is a parking spot right by the front door. She zips into that thing, jumps out of the car with two of our three sons. Austin, our middle son, was like 16; and Cody, our youngest, was 13. They come walking up. She’s all smiling because she said, “God gave me that parking spot right by the front door.”

As she said that, I said to her/I go, “Move the car,”—I say it under my breath—because I’m saying, “Hi,” to people. I’m like, “Hey, move the car.” She goes, “I’m not moving the car!” Now, here’s the thing—you don’t know why we are fighting—here’s/I’ll tell you why we are fighting; alright?

You know, when you are one of the founders of a church, you get to create the values of that church. What are our values? One of our values of our church—I’m not saying it should be any other church—it was just true for our church. We’re trying to reach people far from God; so we always said, “The best parking spots by the front door are given to our guests, not our members/not our staff.” Our staff parks across the street. It’s like, “We don’t take those parking spots. We leave those for people, who are going to hell, if you take them”; right? Do you understand what I’m saying here?

When I see my wife come in, and violate a core Kensington principle from God, it’s like, “What are you doing?!” I was like, “You can’t do this!”; right? She knows better—“Jesus gave me that spot,”—“No, He didn’t! Jesus was saving that spot for somebody going to hell.” Anyway, she took it. [Laughter] That’s why I’m so mad; right? So we’re having this fight—again, I’m not saying I’m right—I’m just saying that’s the way it was.

She goes upstairs, and I’m sitting there alone with Cody. She comes down like ten minutes later. Cody and I are looking over, like, “Okay?” She goes, “I do everything around here!” Cody literally looked at me—no words were spoken—13-year-old son/he just looks at me, like, “Dad, you are toast,”—you know? It was so obvious; right? She does this little thing for like three or four minutes—and I’m not kidding—she was intense.

I look at her—and I said this—I go, “Let me ask you a question. Do you feel like Kensington”—that’s the name of our church—“Do you feel like Kensington is more important to me than you are?” She didn’t say anything. She just went—and right then and there—I was like, “Oh my goodness! This fight was never about a parking spot.”

You probably knew that before I did; it was never about a parking spot. What was it about? Every woman knows: she wasn’t feeling loved; she wasn’t feeling cherished. You know what she said with this? She was saying, “The church is cherished; your job is costly to you. I’m just your partner that does everything so that you can do what you cherish, but I’m not cherished.” In that moment, I remember thinking, “Oh my goodness!”

Here is the thing—I’m the guy that stands on the stage and says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church,”—and my wife just looked at me, and very sort of strongly said, “You’re not doing it, dude.” If there is anything we hate is preachers, who preach one thing, and you find out they are living it differently. My wife was saying: “Yes, we speak at marriage conferences,” and “I’m not feeling loved.”

Guess what? It doesn’t matter what I say on this stage. If it’s not happening in my home, it carries no weight—am I right? If it’s not happening in your home—I’m just saying to the men and the husbands—“Go home; cherish your wife.” She should be the highest priority in your life, second to Christ. Your kids aren’t—they are important—they are not number one; she is. You hear me, guys? I know it’s a strong word to hear.

We just released our second book just last month, No Perfect Parents, because we are not. One of the things we said in the book—is like—“Kids are important; they are not more important than your marriage.” In the last chapter, I wrote my top five parenting mistakes; and one of them was: “I didn’t prioritize my marriage.”

I’m here, standing with you men, and saying, “I’m a fellow sufferer,” because I missed this. I knew, from that moment on, I needed to do whatever it took to make sure my wife felt loved—and still feels loved in year 41—actually, more in love in 41 than before, because I can make her priority—I’m not saying more important than everything—she’s not more important than Jesus. Jesus is number one, but she’s right underneath that. Whatever that looks like—if it’s affection, conversation, honesty and openness, or whatever it is—I need to figure out a way to lay down my agenda, lay down my needs, lay down my life to serve her so that she feels loved.



Bob: We’ve been listening to a message from the host of FamilyLife Today, Dave Wilson, talking from Ephesians, Chapter 5, today about the priority that the marriage relationship should be in our lives. If we’re married, our relationship with one another is a significant priority; and many of us just move it off to the side and hope it will thrive on its own. It takes work; it takes commitment; it takes prioritization, as Dave has been telling us today.

If you’d like to hear the complete message from Dave Wilson on Ephesians, Chapter 5, go to our website,; it’s available for download there. Dave and Ann, of course, have written a book on marriage called Vertical Marriage, where they address a number of these subjects. As Dave just mentioned, they’ve recently come out with a book called No Perfect Parents that’s all about parenting principles. Again, both of these books are available from us on our website at You can also call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order the books by phone. The website, again:; or call 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and the word, “TODAY,” to get copies of the books by Dave and Ann Wilson.

You know, what the Bible has to say about the marriage relationship is right at the heart of what we talk about at our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. We’re hosting about 30 of these getaways in cities all across the country this fall. The getaway is a great two-and-a-half day escape for couples, where you can relax, and refresh, and learn more about God’s design for marriage. This week, we are making available to FamilyLife Today listeners a special offer on the fall getaways. You can register this week for an upcoming getaway, and you’ll save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. Now, this is for a limited time. It is available to FamilyLife Today listeners. You need to register today to take advantage of this; the offer expires on September 13.

Go to the website,; find out when and where a getaway is happening near where you live; and then register so you can save 50 percent off the registration fee. You can do that online, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to register; and plan to spend a weekend with us at an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. It’s a great getaway for couples.

Now, tomorrow, we’ll hear Part Two of Dave Wilson’s message from Ephesians, Chapter 5. I hope you can join us for that.

On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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