Judy Rossi, author of the bible study, "Enhancing Your Marriage," helps wives understand their husband's romantic needs.
Judy Rossi, author of the bible study, "Enhancing Your Marriage," helps wives understand their husband's romantic needs.
Bob: At FamilyLife®, we’ve said for years that physical intimacy in marriage is a thermometer, not a thermostat. It doesn’t adjust the temperature of a relationship. It simply measures what’s going on in the rest of your marriage. Here’s Judy Rossi.
Judy: As I began to follow God in my marriage, respecting my husband and responding to him in a good way—in a healthy way—it strengthened this whole sexual atmosphere. Waking up in the morning, as soon as your feet hit the ground, you’re setting the stage—or you can be—for a warm connect between the two of you, that can end up in sexual intimacy or not.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, July 20th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If you’re looking to reignite passion in your marriage relationship, maybe the first place to look is outside of the bedroom. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Remember back when you and Barbara wrote the book, Rekindling the Romance?
Dennis: I do.
Bob: Half of the book was you talking to—
Bob: —well, some of it was you talking to guys about what they needed to do to really express love and care for their wives—
Bob: —but you also talked to the ladies about what they needed to understand about a man; right?
Dennis: That book was one of the most painful things—it was not that I was twisting my wife’s arm all the way through it. It’s just—it’s really interesting—
Bob: How was the romance in your marriage when that book was over?
Dennis: It was—it had better times. You would think, if you were writing about it and thinking about it, you’d both be better at it. [Laughter] Anyway, let’s talk to our guest today.
Bob: Why did I even bring that up; right?
Dennis: Yes, why did you? Judy Rossi joins us again on FamilyLife Today. You’ve got a whole chapter—a series of chapters—in your Bible study for women, Judy, Enhancing Your Marriage, where you talk about sexual intimacy. I want you to know I’m not going to ask you—
Bob: We’re not twisting anybody’s arm here on anything.
Dennis: We’re not going to ask you those questions. Welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Judy: Thank you. Good to be here.
Dennis: Judy and John have been married for 37 years. John’s a retired Army officer. As a result, Judy has found herself teaching Bible studies to both military wives and civilians. You developed this Bible study for women and have been teaching it since 1986.
I want to hear what you have to say about this subject because you agree with one of the things Barbara and I wrote in our book—that you said a woman doesn’t understand her husband’s need for physical intimacy anymore than a man understands his wife’s need for affection.
Judy: That’s right.
Dennis: Unpack that.
Judy: Okay, I discovered that the more sexually satisfied my hubby was, the more he responded to my emotional need. It was a wonderful discovery. I also discovered that the more my emotional need was being met by my husband, the more desirous I was to be sexually-intimate. So, I see that as—you know those infinity signs—it just kind of flows. If I’m more sexually-intimate with my guy, he is going to be more emotionally- intimate with me; and it continues on in that same vein.
Bob: When you started to look at what the Scriptures have to say about this—to provide counsel to wives in this area of their relationship, what did you find?
Judy: I found it an eye-opener in two ways. One was that I was raised to think that sex was all a man’s world. The other thing that I found astounding was that God had something really important to say about it. He had a plan for married, sexual intimacy; and it’s not chapters and chapters. It is three verses. It’s in 1 Corinthians 7, verses 3 through 5. I learned that there’s a principle of need. I learned that there’s a principle of authority. I learned that there was a principle of habit. All three of these things were vital to a marriage.
I’ve heard many women say to me, “Oh, sex isn’t the biggest deal in a marriage;” but after I finished reading these three Scriptures, I disagreed. I have to tell you, I disagreed, somewhat sadly.
Dennis: Honestly, I don’t know if we’ve ever read this passage on FamilyLife Today. Maybe we have; but I just wanted to read this in case somebody is wondering, “What’s in the Bible?” First Corinthians 7, verses 3 through 5, “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise, also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except with consent for a time that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer and come together again, so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Bob: Can you unpack those three principles? You kind of went through that—the first one was a principle of need. What is that?
Judy: The principle of need is saying that, as a wife, I’m responsible for meeting my husband’s needs; and as a husband, he is responsible for meeting my needs, even though they are at different times and different places. When I know my husband has a need, God calls me to meet that need.
In so doing, there’s that fulfillment that takes place. I think a more important part of that is it stretches that part of me—that denying-self part of me that says, “I have to be this selfless person to bless my husband, whose need needs to be met right now.” It’s very gratifying, in a marriage, to meet each other’s needs.
Dennis: I think, as the Bible speaks to needs, it says, “It’s okay. It’s a good thing,” because it takes two people who can do their own thing individually and be very successful as individuals; but you didn’t get married to be two individuals who do their own things for the rest of their lives. It’s that need that causes them to come back together for moments of intimacy, and romance, and of fulfillment that are not intended to be captured anywhere else.
Bob: If the principle is that we both have needs and we’re given to one another to satisfy—to meet those needs in an appropriate, God-sanctioned way—then, what’s the principle of authority?
Judy: Well, the principle of authority means that my husband can tag me anytime he wants to and say—
Dennis: Yes, let’s hear how the tag game goes. [Laughter] How does that play out in your marriage?
Judy: Actually, it plays out rather well. [Laughter] My husband—
Dennis: I can see your husband, over your shoulder, who is listening to these—
Judy: Is he smiling widely?
Dennis: He’s nodding his head, both thumbs up. We’ve got an all-systems-go here.
Judy: Yes; the beauty of authority is that my body is not my own. It belongs to my husband. So, when my husband has this need, I lovingly offer my body to him. Again, this wonderful mutuality that God established in these three principles was that my husband’s body isn’t his own, either. That when I desire his body, I can ask for that. I can initiate. That’s giving me—this has freed a lot of women—
Judy: —in my class, who’d say to me, “You mean I can initiate sex?” “Absolutely, you can initiate sex. Your husband has probably been hoping you would initiate sex.” That’s our bodies so belong to each other that we can be that free to say, “Oh, man! I’ll meet you upstairs at 9:30, after we bathe the kids,” or sending him that email or receiving that email from him that says—that adds that little smiley face and that tells me—
Bob: —“You’re on notice. You’ve been tagged.”
Judy: —“I’m on notice.” That’s exactly right. “I’ve been tagged.” “You’re it!” Yes.
Bob: So, here is my question. The wife, who would hear this and she would say, “Well, I’ve read that verse that says, ‘Your body is not your own.’ I’ve thought, ‘Well, doesn’t that mean that if my husband says, “How about tonight?”—I think, ‘Well, I’d like your body to go cool down a little bit,’ —that I can put him on notice that now is not the time. Can I never have a headache?”
Judy: But you know—I know the difference between having a headache and having a headache.
Dennis: Well, okay, let’s move it out of the headache realm to exhaustion. I think when—
Judy: And that’s valid. I think our husbands, again, who are to see us from that love of a servant-leader perspective—he’s going to understand when we’re really exhausted; but the beauty of having that relationship that is that deep is to say, “But tomorrow morning—” You know, rescheduling—so he knows that he’s not just being put off or put down.
Bob: So, it’s okay for a wife to say, “Sweetheart, to be the woman that you want me to be right now, I just don’t have it in me; but I want to be that woman. Let’s rendezvous again after I’ve slept.”
Judy: Yes, it is absolutely okay to say that. I have also said, in my mind—again, our self-talk. A woman’s self-talk can take her down—pick a road. When I’ve seen that—that look on my guy’s face—and I might be thinking, “Oh, man! I’m really wiped out,” and that still, small voice says, “Yes, but I am your energy. Bless your husband.” I’m amazed at the energy that I do have.
I think I have to be very discerning about when I’m just going with my self-talk—about, “Oh, I’m too tired,” “This is just—”, “I’ve got this to do tonight. Besides, I haven’t written this; and I haven’t done that, and the kids—” I could come up with every excuse in the book to keep putting it off. I’ve also found that when I’ve spoken this kind of, “Okay, Lord, help me bless my guy tonight,” I’ve never been disappointed. I’ve had—we’ve both been blessed. So, absolutely, when there’s—there is always a legitimate out-time.
Dennis: You’ve talked about the principle of need and also the principle of authority. This next principle is also found in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 7. It talks about not forsaking coming together. It’s talking about making it a habit.
Dennis: How have you practiced that in your marriage?
Judy: Well, I didn’t early on. My habit was to deprive. My habit was to avoid. My habit was also to use sex as punishment if I just happened to be ticked with John, at any point in time. When I read that verse 5—about it being a habit in our marriage—I began to understand that that’s what solidified our oneness.
That third principle was being so responsive to each other. God calls us to participate in this deepest level of intimacy with each other, only to be interrupted when we participate together in our deepest level of intimacy with God. When I thought about that, I thought, “Well, that put sex, in general, on a real high standard with God.” I really had to think about where I was vis-à-vis this principle of habit because I had failed John over and over.
As a matter of fact, I used to take pride in saying to him, “Oh, I’ve never said, ‘No,’ to John.” Well, I didn’t have to say, “No.” It’d be on my face, or it’d be in my body language; and he’d know, “Oh, don’t approach!” I was convicted about that.
The Amplified Version—when it says, “Do not defraud, refuse, or deprive.” When we think about those words—and you can refuse your husband with or without words—I noted that habit was important to John. It was important to my husband. Now, it had to become important to me because it was important to God.
Bob: When you talk about this principle of habit. I’m just trying to get practical. Are you saying, whether you feel like it or not, you need to make a habit out of this?
Judy: I didn’t say that. [Laughter] God said that; and He gives no caveats, “Do not deprive,” except for when we, together, as a couple, join in mutual prayer for a season—that season of our prayer and fasting. Perhaps, that season is—who knows how long? Then, we’re not distracted by our sexual desires, our sexual needs, because we’re focusing on whatever that prayer requirement is that is called by God. Afterwards, we come back together again and make sure we seal the deal so that Satan doesn’t do his dirty work in our relationship.
Bob: There’s a lot of tension in this area in a lot of marriages because—there are a lot of reasons why—but in some cases, it’s because a wife is struggling with bitterness—
Bob: —anger, resentment.
Judy: Even if there are areas in our marriages that are tough or broken, I believe that sexual intimacy can keep the doors open to begin to heal those areas. Typically, sex is the first thing that goes when disagreements take place. So, I personally have got to forgive. Maybe, I need to go and ask my husband’s forgiveness because God will say, “It wasn’t just your guy”—and open up that door again.
Dennis: I want to continue to move this to the practical,—
Dennis: —but I don’t want to overstep bounds here; but I do want to ask you a good question. You are a Bible teacher. You’ve been teaching thousands of women the Scriptures. This is one of the major areas you have talked to women about in their marriages—about making romance a priority. Share with our listeners two or three of the most romantic things you’ve done for John. John’s head just came up, and he’s nodding.
Judy: Yes; one of my favorite things to do is to prepare a garden picnic or a carpet picnic, rather. We have a fireplace. If he’s working outside the home that day, I’ll build a fire. I’ll put the little settees out on the floor, and set that picnic up, and turn the lights down low, and set the stage. Then, the rest is history or future. [Laughter]
Dennis: What’s another one?
Judy: I like emails. One time, John came home. I don’t remember what started the conversation or what even caused the question; but he looked at me and he said, “Don’t you ever think about sex?” Honestly, I probably didn’t even have to answer the question because my look—my face, said it all—because it’s not a woman’s habit to think about—I think sex tends to occupy a man’s mind more.
That was, again, one of those still, small voices that God used in my soul to say, “Now, Judy, you’ve got to start thinking more about this in order to make it happen more.” So, I would set the stage with a cryptic email, or I would put a note in his lunch or something like that—that would give him the notice—if you will—that things were going to be looking really good when he got home.
Dennis: I have to tell you this story really quickly; and then, I want to ask John to come in here and finish and give us the third one. I’m going to give you about 90 seconds, John, to think through what you want to share—what Judy has done to add romance and spice to your marriage.
But back during the World Series®—there was a guy I was texting, back and forth, about the World Series. I thought he accidentally sent me one of those cryptic messages about—and he wrote me and said, “This wasn’t intended for you.” The first time I read it, it was like, “Oh my! [Laughter] Then, I reread it. It really wasn’t the cryptic message that I thought it was. It was a funny moment. I thought, “I’ve got this guy for the rest of his life, if I want to;” but it really wasn’t that.
Okay, John, I want you to set the record straight.
John: Well, number three is based on one of the fundamental aspects of my masculine nature—and all of our guy masculine natures—and that is that we are very visual creatures. It doesn’t take very much eye candy to make us realize that the saliva glands are working or whatever other glands we’re discussing.
A number of years ago, at an earlier time in our marriage, I made an occasion out of getting a particularly attractive negligee as a Christmas present. I almost had to sort of twist her arm and say, “When are you going to try on your Christmas present? When are you going to try on your Christmas present?” That really sort of was a transition point. I think I’ll let Judy tell the rest of that story about how appealing to my visual nature became a fun thing for her, as well.
Judy: Yes, it was—and they were lovely gowns. Not only did I feel lovely in them because he saw me as lovely in them—I never bought another gown. He buys my gowns. For me, that’s very romantic, now. I don’t know how many guys would have to be hog-tied before they ever went in to buy a woman’s gown.
Bob: Oh, no. Guys would be willing to.
Dennis: Oh, yes! [Laughter]
Judy: He’s wonderful about that. This, for me, freed me even to exercise that principle of authority a little more. You know, to put on that gown and say, “I want you.”
Dennis: “Hey, Buster.”
Bob: John, I wanted to ask you. As we’ve been talking about this subject, one of the things that I realized is, because of your involvement in the military, there are long periods of time where you, as a husband, are away and having to exercise self-control. That’s a challenge for a lot of men—a lot of military guys, guys on business trips. How did you prepare yourself for that? How did you deal with that when that was the reality you were living with?
John: Certainly, a timely question in today’s day and age with everything that’s pervasive in the media today—
Bob: —and with nine-month deployments in Afghanistan or somewhere else.
John: Sure. I mean, recalling those days in uniform, where you were leaving for extended periods of time—on extended training missions or operational deployments—the ability to access the temptations is very limited. That’s a challenge when you’re in the midst of the Mojave Desert, doing a six-week NTC rotation against the OPFOR. There’s just no internet; and you can’t go down to the candy store and pick up a Playboy magazine.
John: So, the ability to access what would be enticing and then, facilitate gratification is a little bit of a challenge. So, in my time in uniform, it wasn’t that difficult. The realities of the duty schedule are such that you’re working 20 out of 24 hours in a day. So, there’s not a lot of time. It is in my post-active duty lifetime, where I’ve been working in commercial business and you’re away on the standard business trip in the hotel room with the 200 TV channels—it becomes a much more challenging thing.
I go back to some of the fundamental principles—that you’ve got to stay focused on the Scripture. You’ve got to stay very connected—and that’s phone calls, and texts, and e-mails. Of course, in the 21st century, that’s easy to do. I can be a thousand miles away from her, but I can be five seconds away from her. So, we can stay connected and keep that emotion—the strength of the emotional connection there.
Dennis: And be honest about what you’re being tempted by and the challenges of being alone in those moments.
Bob: Judy, let me ask you this. A lot of us look back on those first months of marriage when the passion is high and it’s all new. We think, “Boy, those were the days.” If you could take where you are today and go back and infuse some of that; would you do it?
Judy: I don’t think so. I tell you what. My guy and I—we have gone deeper in our years emotionally, sexually, spiritually. I wouldn’t trade a day for those early days. I’m grateful that John and I have hung in there for the 37 years—hoping for 37 more because I know we’ll go deeper still.
Dennis: I would have to say Barbara and I have found the same thing to be true. Looking back on those years, I’d hate to go back there. There was so much of that—that was white hot—but it was six miles wide and one inch deep; you know? Today, there is a depth to our relationship that is going the distance. For us, now, 39 years of marriage, six children, five of whom are married, 18 grandchildren—I mean, our lives are really full in a lot of different dimensions.
I just reflect, back on you two—as you’ve shared here about your ministry to women, Judy, and you supporting her, John in that. You guys are leaving a great legacy. You are a great model of a couple. John, who has given your adult career life—most of it—to the military and serving our nation and protecting our families—I want to say, “Thank you for that;” but you, Judy—standing alongside him in that endeavor—and now, he’s standing alongside you as you are both impacting a lot of lives. I just want to express my admiration of you guys—my respect—and just grateful that you joined us here on FamilyLife Today. Hope you’ll come back and join us again some time.
Judy: Thank you for having us.
John: We would love to. Thank you so much.
Bob: Well, we really hope there’ll be a lot of women who will be getting together in kitchens and living rooms, all across the country, this fall, opening their copy of Enhancing Your Marriage—going through it together, either on an informal basis or, if you want to do it, as a part of the women’s ministry at your church. Get more information about Judy’s study. It’s called Enhancing Your Marriage: A Woman’s Bible Study. We have information at FamilyLifeToday.com. Go to the website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Look for the workbook, Enhancing Your Marriage; or if you have questions, call, toll-free. 1-800-FL-TODAY is the toll-free number—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
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We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about what a husband can do to anchor his family in Christ for a hundred years. Steve Farrar is going to join us to talk about dad as an anchor man. I hope you can tune in.
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 will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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