My Husband’s Holy Spirit
Wives, do your "helpful" suggestions sometimes come across as criticism to your husband? Psychologist and author, Juli Slattery, shares what a helper looks like in light of who God is.
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Authentic Intimacy. She hosts a podcast called Java With Juli, where she answers tough questions about relationships, marriage, spiritual, emotional and sexual intimacy. She has authored eight books, including 25 Questions You're Afraid to As...more
Wives, do your “helpful” suggestions sometimes come across as criticism to your husband? Psychologist and author, Juli Slattery, shares what a helper looks like in light of who God is.
My Husband’s Holy Spirit
Ann: How would you describe our first year of marriage?
Dave: Tragic. [Laughter]
Ann: Oh my goodness! That’s terrible!—tragic?!
Dave: I mean, as you know, it was the hardest year—well, year ten was pretty hard too—[Laughter]—but year one was pretty tough.
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 FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
I was so disappointed because, when you come into marriage, you have these expectations. I thought: “He’s going to be my prince, who comes and saves me and fills me”;—
Dave: —and I was.
Ann: —but you weren’t! [Laughter] I was disillusioned, because I had unrealistic expectations.
Ann: We really want to talk today about what we should do when we find ourselves disappointed, or let down in our marriages—or specifically—with our husbands.
Dave: I’m really excited; this is going to be a good day for men.
Ann: Do you think so?!
Dave: Oh, I mean, I look at the topic, and I’m like, “’Finding the Hero in Your Husband’; yes, lets talk about that.”
Ann: We have Dr. Juli Slattery with us today. Juli, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Juli: Thanks for having me. It’s so good to be with you.
Ann: You are a favorite among our listeners and we/I love you. I feel like our hearts are on the same page. When you speak, or you write, I’m like, “Yes! Yes!” But I also like that you’re really authentic, and you haven’t done it perfectly either.
Juli: No, not at all. I just feel like I just keep passing on what I’ve learned from my mistakes. [Laughter]
Ann: I think that’s what is encouraging is: “It’s never too late,” and “We can still do it.”
Juli is a clinical psychologist. She’s an author,—
Dave: Are you going to analyze us today?
Ann: —she’s a speaker.
Juli: Oh, that’s already done. [Laughter]
Dave: You’ve already done it?
Juli: Yes, yes.
Dave: Please keep your comments to yourself.
Juli: I will. [Laughter]
Ann: So later, maybe, we can pay her for the counseling she’ll be doing with us today.
Juli: No. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes; we’ll see.
Ann: But you’re also the president and co-founder of Authentic Intimacy. Describe/what is that?
Juli: Our mission is reclaiming God’s design for sexuality. Over the last ten years, I’ve pretty much spent my life digging into the Scriptures and learning about what intimacy/sexuality is meant to be from a biblical perspective and applying it, particularly to women’s lives. It’s been a deep dive: I’ve learned a ton; I’ve grown a lot. As you both know, sexuality represents such a pain point for most people in our world today. I’m never bored; I can tell you that. [Laughter]
Ann: I remember when we were doing the Love Like You Mean It® cruise—because you’ve spoken on that several times—and we were just talking—
Dave: And by the way, we could probably put a plug in right now. You’re speaking again.
Juli: I am! Yes; that’s something I could never say, “No,” to.
Ann: Oh, yes.
Dave: Yes; in February, we’re back on the boat. You can sign up right now— FamilyLifeToday.com—you need to join us, because it is a fabulous cruise. It really, really is.
Juli: Yes; can I just say I don’t like cruising in general, but this cruise is amazing.
Ann: You sell it, Juli; go!
Juli: I’m serious—like the first time Mike and I went on it—it was like: “We are with Christian married couples, who love Jesus, and want to learn to love each other more,”—just the worship and all the sessions. We tell people about it all the time.
Dave: Lets get to it!—“Finding the Hero in Your Husband”—lets go there.
Ann: Well, let’s talk about that Juli; because you wrote this book how many years ago?
Juli: I wrote the first version of it 20 years ago/well, more than 20 years ago. When I started writing it, I’d only been married for about three or four years,—
Juli: —which is crazy to think of now. [Laughter]
Ann: Yes; but then you decided to revise it?
Juli: Yes; it kept sowing, and women were saying that it was a blessing to them. But as I read through it, I’m like: “Man, there’s just so much that I’ve learned,” and “Culture’s changed so much,” and “There are things that I would just write differently, even on the same concepts.”
I went to rewrite parts of it and thought, “Well, I’ll just do a pretty deep revision,” It’s almost like—I’ve never done this—but if you’re remodeling a house, you get to the point, where you’re like: “Let’s just start over. Like I can’t keep the living room one way and the dining room the same way it’s been.” I just ended up starting from scratch and just saying, “Alright; let’s rewrite this whole concept again for today’s Christian wife, given the culture we live in.” And I think more, speaking [as] that older woman now, whose lived some life, rather than, ‘Hey, man, I’m trying to figure this out too.’”
Juli: It was really a fun challenge to redo it.
Ann: And it’s still a great title, Finding the Hero—
Juli: I didn’t want to change the title.
Ann: Yes; I wouldn’t either, because it’s good.
You talk to women all the time; I talk to women all the time. They’re disappointed in their marriage; they’re disappointed in their husbands. Tell me what you think about that, and have you found that same thing?
Juli: Yes; I would say—and you guys will have to tell me if this is true in your marriage—but most of the times, if you ask a husband and wife to rate their marriage from 1 to 10, the woman is going to give it a much lower rating than the husband is. Part of it is we feel the pain/we feel the lack of connection, in general, way before our husbands do.
Ann: Why is that?! Because that was Dave and I. I said our marriage was a .5 and he thought—what did you think it was?
Dave: I literally said: “It was a 9.9, and my wife will probably agree.” I literally thought that.
Ann: That made me mad; because I thought, “How can he be so clueless how bad we’re doing?”
Why is that?—I mean, I think women could get angry about that.
Juli: It’s hard to have these conversations without people feeling like we’re over-generalizing; because of course, there are some situations, where the opposite is true. But I would say, in general, women are much more sensitive to emotional connection in intimacy in marriage and so they’re going to feel those misses a lot quicker than their husband is.
He’s more, in general, like: “Okay, kissed my wife today; check,” [Laughter] “I still love her; check,” “Things are good; we’re okay.” It’s almost like guys, relationally, will see things more black and white; and women see all the different colors.
Ann: What’s a woman’s check list?—
Juli: A woman’s check list: “Oh, my goodness.” [Laughter]
Ann: —like: “He didn’t do this…” Like the man’s thinking, “I did this…”; but I feel like women/we go to the negative: “Oh, he didn’t do this…” “He didn’t do that…”
Juli: That is so true.
Dave: And it changes every day. [Laughter]
Juli: You know what? It’s because guys like a pursuit; and so God’s like,—
Dave: Is that why?—okay. [Laughter]
Juli: —yes; “You think you got her once, but you have to pursue her for the rest of your life.”
Dave: That is true.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard our story—and we won’t get into it; our listeners have heard it a lot; we put it in our book, Vertical Marriage—but there was a speaking engagement that Ann did to mothers of preschoolers. She just brought me along. Long story short, she doesn’t know what I’m going to say; I don’t know what I’m going to say. She’s like: “Give a guy’s perspective.”
I literally end up saying: “I feel like, everywhere in my life, I get cheered. I come home; I get booed.”
Dave: Of course, Ann looked at me at that moment—because I’d never said that to her—she’s like, “What in the world was that?!” As we were driving home, that was—and again, it wasn’t literally, “Boo!”—but it was like: “Yes, I do feel like I do things in my job and different places, and people are affirming it and saying, ‘You’re good at this.’” I said, “I feel like I come home; and you’re saying, ‘You’re not good at this’; and I feel like it’s a “Boo.” She was like, “I’m helping you; I’m not booing you. I’m helping you.”
I think a lot of guys resonate with that feeling [of feeling booed]—whatever way you want to say it—and that’s where you’re talking about: “Finding the Hero.” Because they [wife] are helping us—because she literally was seeing things that she could speak life into—well, it felt like death.
Ann: No, I wasn’t speaking life; I was speaking criticism into your life.
Juli: Yes; well, first of all, I think what you’re saying is so common—that men don’t feel, in general, like marriage is a safe place or home is a safe place, emotionally—they may never use those words; but it’s like: “I can never do anything right,” or “I just always seem to be missing the mark.”
It’s interesting that you used that word—“She’s helping me,”—because men have these two competing needs that God has designed women to meet, and they are competing in some ways. He’s got this one need to feel like his wife believes in him. It’s so core—and you can validate this or not—but a man’s core struggle is: “Am I competent?” “Am I a good enough guy?” It’s not: “Does she love me?” but “Does she believe in me?” So her words of affirmation and encouragement are that constant: “I believe in you. Even though I don’t feel like I believe in you today, I’m choosing to say, ‘I trust you.’” That’s the one need.
And then you’ve got the other need, where the Scripture talks about companionship—that we’re, in some ways, here to help balance out your deficiencies; and you’re here to balance ours out—but you need that teammate who is helping.
But every woman is going to have a tendency to overplay one of those needs to the detriment of the other. Most of us will want to be the helper more than we want to be the encourager.
Ann: Did you struggle with that, Juli?
Juli: Oh, my goodness; yes, yes. That’s why I wrote this book so early on in my marriage. I was trying to figure it out; because I met my husband—was attracted to him; he was so much fun—and I was like the serious go-getter driven person.
Ann: You guys are us/totally us. [Laughter]
Juli: Yes; really?
Dave: Yes, when you said that, I’m like, “Yes.”
Ann: Dave is super laid back; he’s super fun.
Juli: Yes! I felt like: “He has no performance demands for me.” I kind of grew up feeling that pressure to always be the best and achieve. I could relax around him, and I loved that. But when we got married, it was from my perspective, as a young wife, I was bringing all this strength into the marriage: I’d been a Christian since I could remember; he was a relatively new believer. It was like I had all of this knowledge and vision for where we should go; but then there was this sense to which I’m like: “I can overrun this guy, because he’s not stepping up the way I think he should step up.”
It created this huge quandary in me of: “What does it look like to be a godly wife when I feel like I know more, I’m stronger, I’m more goal-oriented than my husband is?” That’s really the wrestling in my own life, as well as I was counseling a lot of other women, that were having these similar questions. The first version of this book really came out of that question.
Dave: In some ways, when I hear you say that Juli, I’m like, “That was our first year.”
Ann: Oh, yes.
Dave: That’s why I didn’t know what word I was going to say until you asked, “What do I remember?” “Tragic,” was I felt like I wasn’t very good as a husband. I honestly felt, going into the marriage, “I’m amazing! [Laughter] I’m going to be a great husband. I’m going to lead my wife. She’s going to love how I lead her.” And then, three, four, five months in, I mean, she’s saying, “The biggest mistake of my life was marrying you.”
Dave: She literally said that, and it was because I disappointed her. I don’t think I was the hero she thought I was going to be. And in some ways you can tell us what you would say: “Men, when they feel that, often retreat.”
Dave: I sort of just pulled back; it was like: I’m not very good at this.” Instead of like: “I’m going to rise up and become…”—I should have done that—but instead, I just sort of stepped away, almost like, “Okay; I’m not very good at this. You don’t like how I’m leading”; so I led/I did less. Of course, that made her chase me around the house and say, “What are you doing?!”—right?
Ann: Yes; I had expectations of what a leader—and we always hear: “Oh, the man should be the spiritual leader,”—and every woman has a different idea of what that should be.
Ann: So mine was Dennis Rainey. [Laughter] I’m thinking “Why aren’t you leading like Dennis Rainey says he leads?” I don’t even know if Dennis led like that in the home—probably [he did]—but I had these expectations. Is that common for women?
Juli: Yes; I think, particularly within the church, when you hear the guy’s role is spiritual leader, we have a picture of what that looks like. I had a picture of what that looked like; I expected my husband to initiate us praying together, and doing devotions together; and he just—
Dave: You guys really are the same [as us]. [Laughter]
Juli: And I was so disappointed. I didn’t want to take over and be like: “Okay; well, you sit down. I’m going to do devotions for us.” I kept trying to figure out: “How do I get him to lead?” I became very manipulative and would find sly ways of trying to force him into becoming who I wanted him to become. It’s been a long journey of learning how much of that was rooted in my own pride.
Ann: Yes; me too.
Juli: Ouch; right?
Ann: Having this idea of like: “I’m doing it so well. Now, why can’t you get on board?” Like that’s total pride and arrogance.
Ann: I had this idea that Dave should meet my needs. I think, when you grow up in a culture of this Disney culture,—
Juli: —Christian Disney culture
Ann: Yes!—thinking that our husbands—
Dave: Wait; wait. What’s the Christian Disney culture?
Ann: Go ahead.
Juli: Well, Prince Charming looks more like Dennis Rainey—or today, we’ve got to find a younger version—
Ann: Yes, yes.
Juli: —but it’s this idyllic view of somebody you only see the outside; you only see the good stuff; you see: “Take charge, sensitive, compassionate leadership.”
Dave: And you know what I would say to her? I’d say, “Honey, there are a lot of people in our church that think Dave Wilson is that;”—
Dave: —“but you don’t!” Of course, a lot of it is because—
Juli: That’s because she lives with you.
Dave: Yes; I was going to say, “They’re not that close.”
Dave: When you get close to anybody—from a distance, we all look great—you get closer/you’re like, “Wow.”
But here’s the question: so I’m the husband over here/sitting here, going, “Okay; what did you do? How did you find the hero?”
Ann: Well, let me read this quote that I had underlined and marked it. You say this, Juli: “A woman never marries the man of her dreams.” Did you hear that? “A woman never marries the man of her dreams. She helps the man she marries to become the man of his dreams.” That’s so good! Like: “That’s something.” Let’s sit on that for a minute: “What does that mean?”
Juli: That’s one of those sentences from the first book that made it back into this one.
Ann: Did it?
Dave: It should have; that’s really, really good.
Juli: I feel like we need a true north like that. I, over the last 26 years, needed a true north of: “Alright, Lord, what do I do with all the strength that You’ve given me?”
Juli: What we typically do is—our disappointment turns against us—in that we’re angry; we’re trying to fix him; we’re trying to be his personal Holy Spirit. We let him know, often, through our verbal and non-verbal communication, that we’re disappointed; instead of saying, “God, You gave me all this influence and power with my husband so that I could help him take the steps that You’re putting in front of him, not the steps I’m putting in front of him.”
I think it’s so critical to understand that, as women, we put our husbands in this sort of diabolic bind. We say: “I want you to lead,”—but—“I want you to lead the way I tell you to lead,”—
Juli: —which is not leadership at all. Even in our efforts of being frustrated in our disappointment, we’re trying to make him into the man we think he should be.
Ann: —like a puppet.
Juli: Yes!—which is not the strong leader we wanted in the first place.
Ann: Right, and maybe who God didn’t design him to be.
Juli: Right; so like/for example, I shared about how I expected my husband to lead spiritually. He just has never been that: “We’re going to do this on this day, and that on that day”; but I had to start recognizing: “How is my husband already leading me spiritually in ways that I don’t even see or appreciate?”
For example, as I mentioned, I’m this driven type-A person. He would always encourage me to rest. On Sundays, he’d be like: “What are you doing? Why are you studying? Why are you doing homework?” I was getting my doctorate degree. “It’s Sunday; let’s go play,” “Let’s worship,” “Put your work away; let’s take a nap.”
I’m like, “That’s not leadership.” [Laughter]
Ann: —a nap!
Juli: But God helped me see that Mike is God’s provision for my needs: and that that was spiritual leadership.
Ann: That’s good.
Julie: And there’s so many other ways like that that I didn’t recognize that, in his personality and his strengths, he was leading. But because I didn’t see it the way I thought it should be, I was trying to make him into the person I thought he should be, not who God had crafted him and was leading him to become.
Ann: I’ve done that same thing of asking: “God, show me the greatness in Dave.” I’ve encouraged women—and I like that idea, Juli, of even writing down and praying, “Lord, what are the great things? How is my husband already leading?”—in maybe a way I hadn’t seen before—but now that I really look closely, he’s been leading.
Dave lives out his faith. I mean, I think our sons would say: “Everything Dad preaches, he lives it.” That’s incredible; talk about leadership by example. And then he’s fasting and praying every Friday—he’s in the Word; he’s fasting and praying—talk about leading.
Dave: Man, you’re making me sound pretty good.
Juli: What a hero!
Ann: He is a hero! [Laughter] But I never was looking at that, because I was looking at the flaws in what I expected him to be in my own mind.
Juli: Yes; we should also mention I’ve been married for 26 years. You’ve been married for how long?
Juli: Okay; congratulations!
Juli: But I’m guessing he wasn’t doing those things when you first got married. Maybe some of them he was doing—the praying and fasting—I don’t know.
Dave: No, no.
Juli: But when you first get married, you just see a little nugget of what God has put in your husband—and the growth, and the passion that God’s given him—but it’s taken you over 40 years, as a couple, to cultivate this together. It’s taken me and my husband years to cultivate.
I think one of the challenges is that young wives look at these older, more mature men or marriages, including maybe even their father, and say, “Why isn’t he more like that?” But men start out, just like we do, with not knowing how to do this right—lots of insecurities/lots of fears—and if we don’t nurture that ground well, then they’re really driven more by fear than the vision of what God’s calling them to.
Dave: I would just say—I know for me, and I know it’s true for a lot of husbands—when Ann started seeing the hero in me—again, we didn’t have that term; she never said that—the power of that perspective changing, I felt it; I saw it. She spoke differently; she started speaking life rather than criticism—again, there wasn’t that there weren’t hard truths that need to be said at times—it changed me as a man. I started becoming the man she was saying I was, that I didn’t even believe I was; but she started sort of speaking, “I see you as a hero. I see the hero in you.”
It wasn’t year one; it was more like year twenty or fifteen—it was quite a ways in—but for the last thirty-some years, I mean, I run home. I can’t wait to get home, because this woman thinks I’m a hero.
I would say to the wives listening: “You have a power.” Juli said it—it’s in your book very powerfully—I don’t think women understand the power. I’m just a guy, looking back, going, “I understand your power; because I’ve felt it on the negative side, and I felt it on the positive side. It literally can change a man to become the man you want him to be, but you’ve got to use that power very carefully; because you can destroy him, or you can help build him into the man God’s created him to be.”
Part of me is like: “The assignment for the wives today is”—do what you just said, Juli—“write down the things that you see good.” I know you’d have a long, long list of the negative—don’t write those down—you’ve already said that enough. “Start writing/say, ‘God, what is great in my husband? Where is the hero?’ Write it down.”
Ann: And then text him; tell him.
Dave: Yes; speak it out.
Ann: Somehow, communicate that to him in a positive way that says, “I believe in you.”
You said something Juli, too, when you said, “Home is not a safe place for our husbands.” That hit me, like, “Whoa! I want our homes to be a safe place for our men.” I think we, as women, have an opportunity to really create a haven in our home and to speak life.
Bob: I remember my friend, Robyn McKelvey, saying that she realized, early in her marriage, that when she took off her wedding dress, she needed to put on her cheerleader uniform, that every wife needs to cheer on her husband to call out the hero in her husband.
That’s what Juli Slattery has been talking about today with Dave and Ann Wilson. In fact, Juli’s written a book on this subject; it’s called Finding the Hero in Your Husband. It’s been revised and updated, and we’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more about how to get a copy of the book; or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Let me remind you: Juli is going to be one of the speakers on board the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise in 2022. We still have some staterooms available for the cruise; it is starting to fill up as people are excited about being able to get back together and to cruise together again. Information about the cruise is available on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can sign up by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
We’ve got a special offer going right now for FamilyLife Today listeners that is good through next Monday. If you want to take advantage of a special opportunity to save some money on the 2022 cruise, get in touch with us this week. Hear from speakers like Juli Slattery, and Alex and Stephen Kendrick, Dave and Ann Wilson, Ron Deal, others who are going to be joining us, along with a great lineup of artists and musicians.
The cruise is a great getaway opportunity for couples. You can sign up today—go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information, or call us to register at 1-800-FL-TODAY—and then join us in February on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise.
Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson will continue their conversation with Dr. Juli Slattery and talk about how critical it is for a wife to understand rightly what it means for her to respect her husband, and how important that is for him to feel respect and know that she respects him. That comes up tomorrow. I hope you can be with 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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