FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Love–A Woman’s Greatest Need

with Emerson Eggerichs | July 31, 2008
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Today on the broadcast, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs challenges men to love their wives like Christ loved the church - continuously, sacrificially, and wholeheartedly.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today on the broadcast, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs challenges men to love their wives like Christ loved the church - continuously, sacrificially, and wholeheartedly.

  • 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.

Today on the broadcast, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs challenges men to love their wives like Christ loved the church – continuously, sacrificially, and wholeheartedly.

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Love–A Woman’s Greatest Need

With Emerson Eggerichs
July 31, 2008
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Bob: If your marriage is in a difficult spot, if you feel like the love is gone, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs says there's something you can do, and it's just the opposite of what you feel like doing.

Emerson: I'm just cautioning the woman, "Look, it's not as bad as you feel it is.  I know it's painful, I know it hurts, I know you want to connect, I know you want to be soulmates and one.  The way in which that happens, though, is to do something that's counter-intuitive; that when you feel unloved, you do something respectful, and that's counter-intuitive.  Just as when a man feels disrespected, it's counter-intuitive for him to do something loving.  But God says if you're willing to do what's counter-intuitive, it will work.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 31st.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  If you need a little help being counter-intuitive, you have come to the right place today.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  I need to let our listeners know, Dennis, that today and tomorrow are the last opportunities they have to register for one of our fall Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences and to save up to $100 per couple off the complete package.  We need to hear from you either today or tomorrow if you want to attend one of these conferences and take advantage of this special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners.

This conference is a great getaway for couples to refresh and recharge and renew – I can't think of any other "re" words I can use there, but it's a great opportunity to connect as a couple and to enjoy a weekend away together and to learn what the Bible has to say about building a strong marriage relationship.

We've already heard from hundreds of couples last week and this week who have called to make arrangements to attend one of these upcoming conferences.  Today and tomorrow are the last opportunity for you to register and take advantage of the special opportunity to save up to $100 per couple.

If you want to do that, you need to call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, someone on our team can answer any questions you have, can talk about dates and locations, they can get you registered over the phone, but you need to be sure to identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener or just mention Bob, that's my name, and they'll know you're a listener.

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So we hope to hear from you today or tomorrow, the last two days for you to take advantage of this special opportunity, and we hope you'll plan to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference and get a tuneup for your marriage.

And, you know, as I'm thinking about that, Dennis, it occurs to me that I think maybe we've been a little rough on wives this week.  We've been challenging them pretty hard about needing to respect their husbands.

Dennis: Right.

Bob: Well, and I know there have been some guys who have been out there going, "You go, guys.  Yeah, give it to 'em."  Do we have anything to say to the men?

Dennis: Well, our guest is going to get equal time for the men.  Emerson Eggerichs joins us.  Thanks for coming back here and talking to the men, straight up, about their responsibility.

Emerson has conferences he holds all across the country, Love and Respect conferences, and if you've been listening this week, you've heard a message, a very clear message – men need respect, and that's why Bob kind of had the disclaimer here for the ladies.

Bob: And then going, "Yeah."

Dennis: The ladies may be getting a little weary of hearing about their assignment.  They're kind of going, "Is there equal time for the men?"  Now, men need respect but the wives need to be loved.  What's behind their need for love, Emerson?

Emerson: Well, Ephesians 5:33 commands husbands to love their wives, so I assume from that there must be something within the nature of a woman that needs to feel love for who she is, and because women are commanded to respect, there must be something within the heart of the man that needs that.  And, as we've said, that when a woman feels unloved, unfortunately, she reacts in ways that feel disrespectful.  When a husband feels disrespected, he reacts in ways that are unloving. 

And we've been making reference to the idea that a man needs respect, but it isn't because he's arrogant, he wants to be this prima donna, of sorts, on the male side.  He has a need to feel respected for who he is, apart from his performance, in the same way that she needs to feel love for who she is, apart from her performance.  And this is foreign to women, this is completely foreign, because it's been removed from the marital radar screen.

But that is the essence of what we're saying, and we're helping couples get off the crazy cycle, because she doesn't intend to be disrespectful when she reacts in ways that are negative.  Unfortunately, she hasn't been coached on this.  He is hearing a deeper message.  She's trying to say "I don't feel loved by you right now."  What he hears through his blue hearing aids, not what she is saying through her pink megaphone – she is saying through her pink megaphone, "I need to be loved for who I am, don't you love me?"  He hears, instead, through those blue hearing aids, "I don't respect you any further than I can throw you, Bozo."

Bob: So tell us what would happen in the heart of a woman, just hypothetically, of course, if her husband was just to ignore her birthday – just completely forget that it was her birthday and not get her anything or even mention it.  Just hypothetically, of course, right?

Emerson: Well, you've read my book, "Love and Respect," and when Sarah and I were first married, the first several years, Sarah wanted me to know – she was no mean-spirited about this, I think some gals are mean-spirited, but Sarah was not mean-spirited, so she hid all the birthday cards that were coming to her so I had no clues, I had no reminders.

Dennis: You're talking about from other people, from family members …

Emerson: Exactly.  Things were coming in the mail, and so she hid it all.

Dennis: But there wasn't one from you coming in the mail?

Emerson: No, because I had forgotten.  See, if you forgot my birthday, no big deal.  So one of the things I point out is that birth and anniversaries – the wedding date – little girls are dreaming of the wedding date.  Little boys are not out there playing wedding – "Hey, Harry, let's get together and play tux.  Let's play tux today."  They're not doing that.  That is not going on, it's not part of his psyche, it's not part of his little nature.

And, furthermore, the idea of birthday – little boys don't dream about having a baby.  So there is something deep within the soul of a woman, and the wedding is the day that she is the princess, she is the special one, and birthdays are the day that you say to somebody, "We think you're special" apart from your performance.  The mere fact that you were born you are special.  This is huge within the female cycle.

But what's happened today, that's become the great symbol of love and so forth.  And she's not wrong in that, but what we are doing is finding people divorcing because the guy forgets the anniversary or the birthday.  And if you forgot his anniversary and forgot his birthday, he's not offended in the least.  He's not, because he doesn't have the same emotional needs, and we have to come to a point, as mature people, that we say, "God made us male and female, is that okay?"

But, back to the birthday then – Sarah hid all the cards.  I'm going to see if he has me on his heart like I have him on my heart.  And I can remember Sarah saying when we were first married, "Did you think of me today?"  "No, I didn't."  That was the wrong answer to it, see, because I'm compartmentalized.  She's integrated.  She can feel me all day long, so to speak, whereas I kind of get focused.  Does that mean I'm unloving, because I don't process the world the same way? 

But talk about a guy that felt guilt-tripped, and Sarah felt badly, I mean, it was confusing to try to sort out why, you know?  So she hid all those cards, and I came home, having dinner that night.  She said, "Well" – and I'd had lunch with a good friend that day, Ray, and she said, "Did you and Ray, today at lunch, celebrate my birthday?"

Bob: Uh-oh.

Emerson: Oh, I don't know how the blood goes down to the feet real quick, but it went down there and then shot full-force up into my face, and I just felt rotten.  I felt horrible.  I didn't feel defensive, I just felt badly for her.  "What an idiot," I'm thinking to myself, "Why did I not remember this?"  Oh, talk about tension. 

Now, she has never used the label me and profile – "See, you don't care, you don't care."  You know, she knew that my behavior was unacceptable, but she didn't send the message, "You know what?  You're just an uncaring human being."  Because you know what?  I knew I'd die for her.  So she gave me grace that day, huge grace, by making a decision to trust my spirit though my flesh was weak. 

Bob: "You'd die for me, but you can't remember my birthday" – that's kind of the message that a woman is feeling, and she decided not to hold that against you.

Emerson: Well, and if you die for me, and you can't remember my birthday, what's more difficult?  So maybe you wouldn't die for me if you can't remember my birthday.  That's how the logic goes back in reverse.  But I come back to the deeper things.  We don't say to a woman, "Go out there and fix the engine under the car."  There are certain things that men can do naturally out there, that are listening, the wives know it.  He can go out there, and he can remember everything about that car.  You go out there and get underneath it.  Can you do that?

There are certain things within his nature that have been designed by God to just automatically do.  There are certain things within your nature, a woman, that you could not imagine forgetting an anniversary or birthday.  The only reason I bring this up is because this is a major flashpoint.  Women are divorcing two to three times more than men are now.  The walk-away wife is an epidemic, and I'm just cautioning the woman, "Look, it's not as bad as you feel it is.  I know it's painful, I know it hurts, I know you want to connect, I know you want to engage, I know you want to be soulmates and one.  The way in which that happens, though, isn't by sending the message of disrespect and also coming to a point of, like Sarah did, she just lets some things go, and she made a decision, in my immaturity – and a lot of it is my immaturity.  It wasn't my ill will, it was immaturity.  Women are five years more advanced in the early years of the marriage.  I mean, talk about who is more mature – a 19-year-old woman or a 19-year-old male?

Dennis: Oh, no question.

Emerson: So is he evil-willed?  No, he's just immature.  And so one of the things we have to think through is do many of these things happen simply because the guy isn't aware.  His mother has been taking care of him, and she loved to take care of him, and I'm going to say to you women, you're going to do the same thing toward your son, and your son is going to get married, and he's going to be five years more immature.  You've been doing his laundry, doing this, when he talks, it's wonderful, and your daughter-in-law is going to be through the roof unless we begin to kind of say, "You know what?  This can be differently, and it's not a matter of letting go of expectations and becoming miserable.  God has revealed something that's very powerful.  That's why we wrote the book, "Love and Respect."  The key is to do something that's counter-intuitive; that when you feel unloved, you do something respectful, and that's counter-intuitive.  Just as when a man feels disrespected, it's counter-intuitive for him to do something loving.  But God says if you're willing to do what's counter-intuitive, it will work.

Dennis: And what you're saying to the men as they attempt to express love to their wives, they can't do the kinds of things that communicate love to them.  They've got to speak love to their wives and what communicates to their hearts.  What you say in your book is they have a need to be close or to be intimate with us, as men. 

Now, intimacy scares a lot of men today, because they don't know how to be intimate.  They've never seen it modeled, they've never had the opportunity to have another man, an older man, put their arm around them and say, "Let me show you, son, how you can have an intimate relationship with a woman."  Coach a man on how he does that.

Emerson: The first thing I say to a man is, "Look, I'm not asking you to become pink."  God did not design you to be a female.  When we say get in tune with your feminine side; we never say to a woman get in tune with your masculine side.  God made us male and female, and we've got to come to the realization that it's okay for you to be a man.  Now, here is how I say this.  I challenge men, as men of honor, to do the loving thing, even though it will never be natural.  It's never natural, never.  And I say to men, that's why it's counter-intuitive.  When Sarah is upset with me, and she's coming at me with that scolding finger, like, not too long ago, she was walking around the house, "What would you say to somebody who was treating me this way, if they were in for counsel?  What would you say to them?  How would you counsel them and treat them?  What would you say to you right now?" 

So I’m supposed to be the poster child for love and respect, but it doesn't always work in our home, you know.

Dennis: Yeah, it's kind of bad when you write a book.

Emerson: Oh, it's horrible – "You said here on page 6" – you know …

Dennis: You've got to go read your own stuff, and you get convicted all over again.

Emerson: That's right.  So it's counter-intuitive for me to actually turn toward Sarah and look at her, face-to-face, and say, "I'm sorry, will you forgive me?"  But when I do that, she melts, because in her world that is humongous, that is colossal, that's how you connect.  But the thing I'm challenging men is, you've got to do it as a man of honor, and it will never be easy.  Men would rather die for a buddy, if you're in Vietnam, and "My buddy's been wounded.  Who's going with me?  I've got to go."  And they go up over the hill and get their head blown off to save their buddy.  They are compelled, out of honor, to die.

But it is not natural for a man to turn toward a contemptuous, belligerent woman when she is very upset, look at her face-to-face and say, "I'm sorry, will you forgive me?"  It's not within our nature to do that.  That's why then men do what's natural, and that is shut down and walk away to calm themselves down, and that's the honorable thing in our world.  Because to get face-to-face with another man who is provoking you and got his fist clenched or his finger in your face, is so provocative that we could get into a fistfight.  So we have an honor code.  You just do the honorable thing by walking away from this.

At that moment, you're feeling disrespected, and that's okay to feel that way.  God made you to feel that way.  But the question is, is she trying to be disrespectful, and we said on the crazy cycle without love she reacts without respect.  She is not trying to be disrespectful, she is trying to get you to connect with her at that intimacy, and she's trying to say, "Do you love me?"

So you've got to get in tune, you've got to decode yourself – "Why am I negatively reacting this way?"  Because she's coming across as disrespectful.  And, gentlemen, don't turn to her and say, "I know why I'm so unloving, because you're so disrespectful."  No, no, no, no, that's stupid.  I'm not going into battle with you.  So you can't be dumb about this.  It's truthful, and you could be as sincere and humble in making that statement, but she's not going to hear that, so we've got to be more prudent.

So I've got to get in tune with the fact that I'm reacting this way because I'm feeling disrespected.  But is she trying to be disrespectful?  No, she is a good-willed woman.  And I’m going to tell you this, if then, when I feel disrespected, I stonewall and go off by myself, that's not going to be effective.  So, as a leader, as a man's man, a man of honor, how do I stop this craziness?

Well, the one who sees himself or herself as the most mature moves first.  So, sir …

Bob:  No, wait, wait, say that again.

Emerson: The one who sees himself or herself as the most mature moves first.  I prayed about that a lot, and an audible voice spoke to me.  That's the message.  So I am going to assume, sir, you are the mature one, and if you're not, then you're the immature one, and you're causing the problems, and now read another chapter of my book about that.

But let's just assume you're the mature one.  Then God is calling you then to do something that's counterintuitive.  If you want to stop the craziness, here is what you do – and that's what I do toward Sarah, and I hate it every time I do it.  I don't like doing this.  I don't like doing this, but I move toward her when I want to move away from her, I soften my voice, and it takes guts, it's easier to die than to do this.  And God made it easier to die than to do this.  So I move toward her, and I say, "I'm sorry, will you forgive me?" and I don't talk about her 90-percent guilt.  I look at my 10-percent guilt, and I say, "I'm sorry, will you forgive me for that," and I shut up. 

And it's almost an axiom within the human heart of a woman – women move into self-deprecation.  You know, she'll calm right down usually – within minutes, usually, if she's a good-willed woman, and someday you can take the breath away from her if she's never seen you do this before.  But if I start defending myself, I can tell you, she will hear that clearly.  I can actually think I'm defining myself not defending myself.  But she'll hear it as defense, and then she'll hear it as blame-placing.

Sarah used to walk around, "It's always me, it's always me, I'm always to blame."  So in order to stop that, I just owned up to my issue.  Do you think I want to own up to my issue and not blame her?  Do you know what the first sin is after the first sin of Adam?  The first sin of the first sin that they committed was Adam blaming, you know, in fact, not only that, he only knew two beings, and he blamed both of them with sins – "The woman You gave me."

Bob: The wife and blamed God, right.

Emerson: And I blame – but it's not because I really want Sarah to feel badly, I want her to believe in me, I want her to understand me, I want her to know that I'm not the bad guy that I'm feeling she thinks I am in this disrespectful, belligerent, contemptuous reaction.  So we get confused.  So we have to then take this by faith.  It's like pilots, and they get trained.  They turn the plane upside down in a pressurized cabin, and then they take a blindfold off the guy, and he can't tell if it's the city lights or the stars.  It's vertigo.  You're totally disoriented, so you've got to read the instrument panel.

Contrary to your feelings – our feelings say you don't say you're sorry to a woman who is contemptuous and belligerent and disrespectful.  But, I'm going to tell you, God's instrument panel says "Trust me on this."  And do you have the guts to do this?  Are you a man of honor?  Turn to her and say, "I'm sorry, will you forgive me," and I'm going to tell you that your wife is going to feel loved – loved – at that moment, and she is probably going to make your favorite dessert that night, she's going to respond to you, and she's – and you've got healing. 

Now, you don't do this to manipulate her emotions.  You do this because you're a man of honor, and you do the right and righteous thing because God is commanding you, and you do it as a man, and you'll never feel natural about it.  You must not put on a pink apron to do this.  This is not who God made you to be.  But you do the loving thing as a soldier of Christ.

Dennis: And you want her, at the end of the day, to feel loved.  That's not always an easy assignment – for her to feel loved. 

Emerson: Well, yeah, and one of the things that happens, though, because women are feeling-oriented, that if I just say to Sarah, "I'm sorry for being unloving," and she senses an authenticity and a genuine humility there, even though I want to blame her for the things that she did – most women own up to their own issues quite quickly, so I don't have to go there.  But if I do that humbly, Sarah feels – it's like women say, "I fall in love with him all over again."  I've heard this again and again.  I don't relate with that, as a man, but the husband will say, "I'm sorry, will you forgive me," and women always grin, and they say, "And I fell in love with him all over again.  I fell in love with him all over again."  I've heard that again and again, Dennis.

So what happens when a man just gets humble and admits his imperfection – he doesn't even have to be a positive lover.  He can be one who confesses that he's been a negative, unloving person but is genuine in that, she falls in love with him all over again.

Bob: I think it's key what you said – a guy has got to not make this a part of his tool bag and "I can pull this out and fix it whether I mean it or not."

Emerson: So I can go watch the ball game, let's get this over with.

Bob: That's right.  There has got to be genuine humility and authenticity.  When you say, "I'm sorry," it can't just be something you toss out there, because your wife is going to come back at some point and say, "You're not really sorry.  You said you were sorry yesterday, but the behavior is here again today and tomorrow," it doesn't really seem like you're repentant, like you care.  So a guy's got to be serious about owning up to his part of the issue, right?

Emerson: Yes, and the encouraging thing there is to say to him, "It's never going to be easy."  I think a lot of guys have self-doubt because it's so difficult to do, and we've been saying, "Why is it so hard for men to do?"  It's natural for women to do this.  It's within their nature to do this.  God has made it.  That's why God doesn't command women to agape love.  He made them to love, and a lot of times women are taking credit for things that God did, that they didn't do, and we're condemning men for things that God didn't put within their nature and commanded them to do by divine imperative.

So we've got to give one another grace here.  But the point I want to say to the man is, "Look, this will never be easy, and you're a man's man.  So just do it and do it authentically and do it unto Jesus Christ.  Ultimately, your wife is irrelevant.  If Christ has commanded you to do the loving thing because you're a male, then this means you're doing it in obedience to the king, and you're not being somehow a wimp.  That isn't the way in which Jesus would view it. 

So even if she continues to be contemptuous and belligerent just say, "Well, I'm sorry, will you forgive me," and go off by yourself.  You've got to be married to one bad dudess for her not to respond.

Dennis: I'm listening to you and undoubtedly there are listeners, right now, both male and female, who are probably thinking, is God a cosmic killjoy?  I mean, is this a big divine trick He has played on us to make us so different, and the answer is no. 

The divine trick, if we can use that word "trick" is the divine mandate to live by faith.  And throughout this week you have called women and men to live by faith – to not operate according to what they see, but to go back to the instrument panel, the Scriptures, and to obey God and do what he's called them to do, regardless of what they see, regardless of what they feel, and to be counter-cultural.  And, husbands, the way you are to live is to live by faith and to love your wives.  That is a tough assignment, but Jesus Christ will enable you to do it.

Bob: I think of the times that we get together with husbands on Sunday morning at the Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference while our wives are speaking to the women who are attending the conference, and that is one of the highlights of the whole weekend for the couples who come, because we get a chance to talk man-to-man and woman-to-woman about what it means to be a husband, what it means to be a wife, what God's called us to, what's the assignment we're supposed to live out, how do we do and be what God wants us to do and to be.

And, as our listeners know, this week they have an opportunity to register for an upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference.  In fact, today and tomorrow are the last two days you can register for one of our fall conferences and take advantage of the special offer we've been making to FamilyLife Today listeners this week. 

You and your spouse can attend a Weekend to Remember conference this fall, and if you register today or tomorrow up until midnight Pacific time, you can save up to $100 per couple off the complete Weekend to Remember experience.  And we've heard from thousands of folks who have contacted us already to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity.  But, again, if you want to take advantage of it, we need to hear from you now.  That means call 1-800-FLTODAY, identify yourself as a radio listener or just say I'm a friend of Bob.  That's kind of the code word that qualifies you for the special offer. 

Or you can go online at, get the information about when the conference is coming to a city near where you live, dates and locations, and then register online, and as you fill out the registration form, you'll come to a keycode box.  You'll need to just type my name in there.  Type in "Bob" and, again, we'll know that you're a listener, and you will be eligible for this savings of up to $100 per couple off the complete Weekend to Remember experience.  All the information, again, is available on our website at, or if you do have any questions, call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, and someone on the team can answer any questions you have or take care of getting you registered right over the phone.

And when you get in touch with us, ask about getting a copy of Dr. Eggerichs's very helpful book called "Love and Respect."  We have it in the FamilyLife Resource Center, and we'd love to pass along a copy to you.  Again, the book is called "Love and Respect."  Call 1-800-FLTODAY to request a copy or go online at

Now, what do we do in marriage when we are called on to suffer?  What should that look like?  We're going to talk more about that tomorrow with our guest, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.  I hope you can be back with us for that.

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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow. 


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