FamilyLife Today®

The Meaning of Romance to a Woman

with Barbara Rainey | February 12, 2007
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Today on the broadcast, author Barbara Rainey, wife of "FamilyLife Today" host Dennis Rainey, talks honestly to men and women about a woman's need for romance.

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  • Today on the broadcast, author Barbara Rainey, wife of "FamilyLife Today" host Dennis Rainey, talks honestly to men and women about a woman's need for romance.

Today on the broadcast, author Barbara Rainey, wife of “FamilyLife Today” host Dennis Rainey, talks honestly to men and women about a woman’s need for romance.

The Meaning of Romance to a Woman

With Barbara Rainey
February 12, 2007
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Bob: You'll have to forgive me, I'm a big Broadway musical fan, and it would seem that for years – no, make that for centuries – men have pondered the subject of how to effectively communicate and express our love and our devotion to our wives.  At least, that was the case for King Arthur in the musical, "Camelot."

[Music – "How to Handle a Woman"]

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  I'll tell you, this is going to be a fun conversation that we're going to have this week on the broadcast.

Dennis: You know, Bob, because of who we have in the studio today, I've decided I'm just going to kind of push back from the microphone and get my notepad out and take notes.

Bob: Is that right?

Dennis: That's right.  I really feel, in due respect for my wife, she's an authority on the subject she's about to speak on and, in fact, you know, what I'd like to do?  You can ask the questions.  Because of the nature of what we're going to talk about, it's pretty delicate, and for me to ask my wife these questions, I mean, this could get a little – it could get a little interesting.

Bob: Well, I'm looking forward to this and, Barbara, by the way, welcome back to the broadcast.  It's great to have you on the program.

Barbara: You're welcome, it's good to be here.

Bob: And, Dennis, I'm going to get right to it, because we're going to be talking, over the next couple of days, about how a wife views romance, and I think the thing that husbands want to know, the thing that kind of puzzles us in this whole deal is what is it that we can do that causes our wives to go, "Aaaah."  You know, just kind of look at us and melt.  I mean, does that happen with a woman?

Barbara: Well, I think it does, but I don't think it's necessarily a particular situation.  Because the things that are romantic to me aren't necessarily a situation or an act or a thing or a gift.  All of those things communicate romance.  But the particular situation isn't necessarily going to produce what you're talking about, which is what we've talked about a lot.

 You know, what I think it is, I think it is the relationship that she has with her husband, and I have been reminded again, as I've been interacting with my family, and I have seen where I have come from, and I'm thinking I am married to a man who has absolutely been a savior to me because of the love and the acceptance and all that kind of stuff, and I have been attracted to him because I'm realizing what he's done for me relationally.

 So it's not like he thought, "I want to romance my wife, so I'm going to go buy her flowers," and so A+B=C and this is the reaction and response I'm going to get, although I think that's very romantic, and I love it when he does those kinds of things because that communicates sacrifice, it communicates he cares about me, he's willing to go out of his way, he's willing to spend money that we may or may not have in the budget for that.  Those are all things that are very meaningful because it speaks to a woman that she is special, she's unique, she's different from the average.  I mean, it sends all kinds of messages that are very positive. 

 But it may not necessarily produce the desired response.  In other words, if he's doing it to produce a response, he is, very often, going to be disappointed, because the timing may not be right for her.  I mean, she may appreciate it, but the timing may not be right, or the circumstances that they are in that particular week may not be right.

 So that's why I go back to the relationship – to me, it's the relationship that is ultimately going to feel the romance.  And so when you ask what I thought of, my thought was the day that we spent together in September, and he took a whole day off work just to spend it with me to do what I wanted to do, and we worked in the yard, and we got in the car in the afternoon.  We drove for four or five hours and just kind of took off, and we stopped when we wanted to, and we did what we wanted to.  I mean, it was like, in a sense, being on a honeymoon or being in those early days of marriage when we didn't have any responsibilities, and that was more fun, but it was romantic in the sense that it was just the two of us, and we could do what we wanted, and we focused on each other, and we didn't have the demands and the – I mean, we had to come back to it, but, you know, but for however many hours it was, it was really a treat to have him all to myself and to have him say, "I will do whatever you want to do," and we talked all day long.  It was wonderful. 

 But it wasn't romantic in the typical sense of sweep her off her feet, carry her to the castle, and they live happily ever after.

Bob: As you said, the A+B+C – men want it to be algebra.

Dennis: They do.

Barbara: That's right.

Dennis: And therein lies the frustration as well as the intrigue.

Bob: Mm-hm.  And women don't want it to be algebra …

Dennis: … no …

Bob: … it's got to be …

Dennis: … they don't want a book.

Bob: It's got …

Barbara: Well, they don't want to be figured out.  See, I don't think women want to be figured out, because if they feel like they're figured out, then they feel like they're controlled and they're had, and they don't want to be figured out.

 I think they want him to love her and be willing to pursue her and to continue to know who she is, because she's not that simple.  I think women don't want to feel like they're that easy to figure out and, "Oh, he's got me pegged," and A+B=C, and it's going to always work that way.  I think she wants to be more complex and more intriguing and more …

Dennis: … of a challenge.

Barbara: Yes.

Dennis: Because if the man goes A+B=C, and he knows that's the way it works, then she knows …

Barbara: That he'll do A+B=C every time, and that gets boring.

Dennis: Without having to win her …

Barbara: … and …

Dennis: … without having to understand her, really know where she is, know the needs.

Barbara: And I think she would also begin to fear that she'd be taken advantage of and, see, women don't want to be taken advantage of because I just think that's an inherent fear in any woman, whether it's by your children or by your spouse or by anybody.  And I don't mean taken advantage of sexually.  I mean being taken advantage of in any way.  Just assuming on the relationship and that therefore there is no more motivation to continue to pursue, there's no more motivation to make the relationship unique.  Because if he's got it figured out, then why work at it?

Bob: So if a man says to himself, "I would like" – he's think it's – you know, here it is Thursday – "I'd like, a week from Friday, to be a romantic evening together for me and my wife.  What can I do to foster that?  How can I create a romantic evening, something that will speak romance to her?"  You're saying, "Good luck, buster."

Barbara: No, I don't think it's that hopeless.  I think that a man can make some plans.  I think he can make dinner reservations, I think he can bring her flowers, I think he can plan an evening to go to the movie, or he can plan to get a babysitter, whatever is going to make it easier for her.  If they've got little bitty kids, getting a babysitter, for me, was always a treat because I hated getting babysitters.

 But the point is that I think he can plan, I think he can do some things that are creative that will communicate to her that she is special, she's unique, I love you, I'm willing to sacrifice for you, you're the most important person to me in the world, and I'm willing to do this for you.  But he needs to do without the expectation of whatever it is his purpose is, because I think that if he wants to – because, see, the verse that I go back to all the time as we've had these talks through the years, is I go back to the verse that says, "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church."

 And Christ gave Himself up for the church.  He denied Himself, and I think when a woman sees that her husband is denying himself for her, she responds to that just as the church then responds to Christ.  And I think she sees that sacrifice, and she understands that it's because of love.

 But when a woman sees a husband doing that for what appears to her to be his own personal interests, or his own personal need, then she feels somewhat manipulated or somewhat controlled or less valued. 

Dennis: Used.

Barbara: Used – I mean, I think it complicates things because I think that her ultimate need is to be loved as Christ loved the church; to be loved unconditionally with no strings attached – it doesn't matter, I love you, it doesn't matter.  And I think when she feels that, and she understands that commitment and that trust, then she can respond to her husband as he wants her to and as he needs her to.

 But it's just not as easy as bring home flowers and light the candles and have a dinner and A+B=C.

Bob: But I'm not even talking about her responding to his need necessarily.  I'm saying, let's say a husband with the purest of motive says, "I want you to feel special next Friday night, so I'm going to get the sitter, I'm going to take you out to dinner," and he's out with her, and it's just not happening for her.  For whatever reason, she doesn't feel special, she doesn't feel warm toward him.  Maybe it's been a bad week. 

 Well, the husband is sitting there going, "This was a waste of time and money because she doesn't feel special."  What do I do now?  I tried the babysitter and the dinner thing, and that doesn't work.

Barbara: Well, it may not work because of the circumstances.  But, see, he needs to understand his role is to continue to pursue his wife, and he may need to say to her, "I'm sorry this didn't work out.  I just want you to know I love you, anyway, and this may not have been good timing on my part or whatever, but I want you to know that my motive is to communicate love, and I care about you," and maybe he needs to try something else.  I mean, maybe go for a walk or – I mean, I don't know, there are lots of different things, but I think that's part of the challenge for a husband is to understand his wife and understand what communicates love to her and figure that out and then do that.

Dennis: And if what communicates love to her is surprise and creativity and something out of the ordinary that she's never had happen to her before, then that may be what you've got to heighten in that situation.  I mean, for us, sometimes romance and relationship spark best around a dumb game of cards on the kitchen table.  I mean, just sitting down and spending some time having fun over nothing of any significance, but just spending time together and maybe talking as we play a game.

Barbara: Well, the reason that is helpful for us is because we sort of exit the world of reality, in a sense, and so often it's the pressures of real life and all the responsibility that we feel, especially as parents, is such an ongoing thing, and I think that suppresses relationship, it suppresses romance, it suppresses interest in one another, and doing something that is frivolous – and I think frivolous is a good word that needs to be involved in the discussion of romance, because it's often the frivolous things, which we think of, naturally, as flowers and candy and dinners, but it could be something like taking an hour in the evening when you really need to be doing the laundry, or you really need to be doing something else, and the two of you sit down and play games of Spades or something.

 You know, it's not on the agenda, it's not expected, but, you know, it was fun to do that.  It was fun to sit down and do something that we didn't have to do, for a change, and it gave us a chance to talk and have fun together and enjoy being in one another's presence.

 So I don't think it has to be expensive, it doesn't have to be planned out, necessarily; it can be impulsive.

Dennis: It's those things that we did when we dated, and a lot of things we did when we dated were dumb things.

Barbara: Well, and they didn't cost much because most of us didn't have money when we dated.  So, a lot of times, we did things like picnics – even I did that a lot.  It didn't take any money, but it was [inaudible].

Dennis: We were looking for ways to be together so we could just spend time with one another with no real objective.  And I think what happens when you get married is you fall into a rut, and you lose this intrigue, this pursuit, and you stop pursuing your spouse – men do – they think they've got her all figured out, and that insults the wife when she begins to feel like it is A+B=C, and then what he's got to do is he's got to pull back and go, "Now, wait a second, how can I court my wife?"

 And even I find it's interesting when Bob asked you what's the most romantic thing I've done recently in our marriage, that you would pick a day where there were no candles …

Barbara: Right – no flower, no evening out.

Dennis: There was no, what I would called "enchanted moment" of carrying her off to the castle.  It was a day of relationship and a time of friendship.

Barbara: And it was focused on me and what I enjoy.  And that might not be what you would enjoy, and that's what made it special, because that might not have been what you would have picked, but that communicated to me that you were willing to deny yourself and to do whatever I wanted, and that speaks volumes.

Dennis: What would you say to the husband who doesn't understand his wife?  He's not a good student.  He, perhaps, has heard 1 Peter 3:7, "Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way," and yet let's say he's been married six to 10 years, and he still hasn't gotten it?

Barbara: Well, I think it's okay.  I mean, I really think that it is a long, lifetime process, and I …

Dennis: … I'm glad you said that, because I hadn't gotten it at year 10.

Barbara: Well, I just think that you and I, in our marriage, have continued to discover things about each other, and we've been married over 20 years now.  I remember, this summer, a conversation we had – I don't remember what it was about, I don't remember the topic at all, but I remember thinking, "I can't believe I'm still learning things about you after 22 years," and I feel that way, and I know you have felt that way, and I think it's just a lifetime process that God has us on of getting to know each other and, as we're changing, we're going to find out new things about each other.

 So I would just encourage husbands to not give up and not lose heart and instead by encouraged by the challenge, because you wouldn't want to marry somebody, really, if it came right down to it, if you could figure her out that quickly.  I mean, I would think that a man would want – that that would be a challenge to him, to his manhood, to think, "You know, there's a lot about this woman that I don't know, and I've got years ahead to figure it out and, God, help me do this."

Bob: Well, and you've hit on a big thing, because it is a challenge to his manhood and if he's going for long periods of time feeling like "I'm not winning at this."  He's feeling like less of a man if his wife is not responding to anything that he is doing to try to spark romance and, again, we're not just talking about how he views romance, but he's just trying to make her feel warm and appreciated and affectionate, and he doesn't seem to be getting it, and he goes, "This is a challenge to my manhood.  What's wrong with me?"

Barbara: I think part of it is understanding that a woman is not going to be easy to understand, and I think he needs to pursue her and say, "What can I do to let you know that I love you?  What communicates love to you?"  And that's a question that Dennis has asked me lots of times, and sometimes I don't even want to talk about it, which isn't very nice, I suppose, but I think that's a good question for husbands to ask their wives – "What communicates love to you?  What is it?"  And she may not have an answer right off the top of her head.  She probably hasn't had time to think about it.

 But that communicates that he is interested in meeting her where she is with her needs, and I think that will begin to open up some dialog, it will begin to communicate to her that he really cares about her, and he's interested in her and who she is and why she feels the way she does, and that's how you gain understanding, is by talking and asking and pursuing and spending time together.  And it isn't going to come real easy, it's going to take some time, though.

Bob: It sounds like there is an inherent distrust of men by women – that you're always suspicious of our motives.

Barbara: Well, it may be, I don't know.

Bob: Well, may be …

Dennis: I think there is.

Barbara: Well, I don't know that you can say that about all women.  That's why I said there may be.  I think that, for sure, there is an inherent distrust in very many women today.  There have been too many abuses, whether it's happened to a particular woman or if she's just heard about it.  There have just been too many stories, too many actual things that have happened for women not to be just a little bit skeptical.

 Now, I don't want to say that that's true across the board, and I think there's varying degrees of mistrust, but I do think that is an element in many, many women's thinking.  So I do think that that is true in many cases.

Bob: Well, if you feel secure in terms of Dennis's commitment to you …

Barbara: … correct …

Bob: … right, that's unquestioned – you know he is committed to you.

Barbara: That's right.

Bob: Is trust still an issue?

Barbara: Well, see, I think the commitment has to be tested.  See, I think women – it's like years ago I remember Dennis saying that he loved me, and I'd say, "Well, I know you do, but you're supposed to.  You're my husband."  And it's almost like we begin to feel after a while that he has to say these things or he has to do these things because he's stuck with me. 

 So, in a sense, I think a woman wants to say, "Okay, I know you're committed to me, but are you glad you're committed to me?  Would you do this again?"

Dennis: Prove it.

Barbara: Yeah, I mean, do you really love me?  I mean, you say you do, but do you really love me?  I think it needs to be – I think, as she grows older and her life changes, there are so many issues that she continually faces as her life changes, that she needs to see, again and again, from her husband, "Yes, I'm committed to you," "Yes, I would marry you all over again," "Yes, I love you."  And then he needs to demonstrate that in different ways.

 So, yes, I know Dennis is committed to me, but I have needed for him to prove that to me in many different ways at many different times.  And on the issue of trust, I think that is a parallel issue with commitment.  Yes, I trust him, but I've needed to see that he is worthy of trusting; that I can trust him with my life.  And I believed that at the beginning when we first got married, but just as I've had to sort of test out the commitment through the years, I've sort of had to test out that trust factor, too – if that makes sense.

Bob: Yeah, you know, Dennis, it sounds like one of the things Barbara is saying here is that there will be seasons in a marriage where, in spite of the awareness of a commitment, you'd know that you know that your husband is committed, but you feel like he's committed out of duty or obligation not because he really wants to be committed to you, and those can be difficult seasons for romance.

Dennis: Yeah, but what you've got to do is move on through those, and what a husband especially needs to know is that he needs to be communicating that he is worthy of his wife's trust, and he needs to communicate to her that he loves her for who she is not for what she can do for him.

 And what a wife is really expressing during those times, at least what Barbara has communicated to me is that she just needs to feel like I love her, Barbara Rainey, for who she is as a woman and just set her apart from all other women in the world.

Bob: You know, in the book that you and Barbara wrote together called "Rekindling the Romance," in the section that you wrote for men, one of the chapters, I remember, you have what you call "Simple Gardening Tips" for keeping the romance garden refreshed in your marriage.  And it's just good practical wisdom for men about how we can effectively express what's on our hearts and cultivate and nourish our wives in an area that is so vital for them and for our marriage relationship.

 I don't know how many of our listeners have not read the book, "Rekindling the Romance," but it's a great book – half the book written for women, half the book written for men.  In fact, I saw an e-mail this week – I don't know if you saw this from somebody who wrote to us and said reading the wives' half of this book had been revolutionary for this wife's thinking about this subject of romance, and she couldn't wait for her husband to read his half of the book.

 But she was already, just from reading her half of the book, she was already beginning to see changes in their relationship.  We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if any of our listeners are interested in getting a copy of this book, we would love to send it to you.

 You can go to our website,, and there is a button that's in the middle of the home page that is in the shape of a heart here at Valentine's Day.  You click on that red button, it says "Go," and it will take you right to the page where there is more information about the book "Rekindling the Romance," and a 31-day devotional that the two of you have written called "Moments Together for Intimacy," designed for couples to share time together each day praying, looking at God's Word, reflecting on your relationship, building that relationship.

 And if any of our listeners are interested in getting both the book "Rekindling the Romance," and "Moments Together for Intimacy," we'll be happy to send along at no additional cost the CD audio of what Barbara is sharing with us this week on the subject of how a woman views romance.

 Again, our website is, click that red heart-shaped button that says "Go," and that will take you right to the page where there is more information about the resources that are available, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY if you have any questions – 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team can answer any questions you have or help you get those resources sent out to you.

 Additionally, this month we have a CD that we are sending to any of our listeners who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.  We're a listener-supported ministry, and those donations are what keep us on the air in this city and in cities all across the country, and this month we want to say thank you for your financial support by sending a CD that has two messages on it – one from C.J. Mahaney and the other from his wife, Carolyn.

 C.J. is talking to men about how, again, we can more effectively express our love and our appreciation for our wives, and then Carolyn speaks to wives on the same subject, from a woman's perspective, how a wife can affirm and support and show her love for her husband.

 We'd love to send you the CD as our thank you gift for your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  You can go to our website at, and make your donation online.  As you fill out your donation form, you will see a keycode box, and when you get to that box, just type in the word "Love," and that will let us know that you'd like to receive a copy of this CD.

 If you're calling to make your donation over the phone, it's 1-800-FLTODAY.  Just mention that you'd like the CD from C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney, or the CD about love, and they'll know what you're talking about, and we'll be happy to send it out to you.

 Again, thanks for your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We appreciate you.

 Well, tomorrow we're going to pick up where we left off today and continue to get insight from Barbara Rainey on how a woman views romance and what we can do, as husbands, to better express our care and our concern and our love for our wives.  I hope you can tune in for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Mark Whitlock, 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, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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Episodes in this Series

Romance And Sex Day 3
The Top 10 Ways to Romance Your Wife
with Barbara Rainey February 14, 2007
Today on the broadcast, popular author Barbara Rainey, wife of "FamilyLife Today" host Dennis Rainey, encourages couples not to let the demands of everyday life snuff out the romance that first brought them together.
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Romance And Sex Day 2
Keeping the Romance Fires Burning
with February 13, 2007
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