Understanding and Honoring Your Wife, Part 1
About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, FamilyLife President Dennis Rainey talks pointedly to men about understanding and honoring their wives.
Dennis Rainey talks pointedly to men about understanding and honoring their wives.
Understanding and Honoring Your Wife, Part 1
Bob: When was the last time you expressed love and appreciation for your wife? Here is Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: When we take a step back from our wives, one of the things you can almost always put on the top three list are words and terms of endearment, and I sat down and wrote Barbara just a note telling her how much I needed her and how much I appreciated her, and I left it on her computer. And, you know, she didn't say that much about the note when she got back, but it's now been scotch-taped right next to her computer for a month.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, June 15th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. One of our assignments as husbands is to nourish and cherish our wives so how are you doing? Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You know, we are about to welcome a new – what you like to call a "grafted-in" son to our family.
Dennis: Oh, yeah, that's right. You do have a wedding coming up here this summer.
Bob: We have a wedding that's going to take place, and we'll have a new edition to the extended family when Amy and Jack get married. And I was thinking about your family – you've got everybody married except for one daughter who is still unmarried, right?
Dennis: Laura is two-thirds ready. She's ready, and so is the preacher. She's just looking for a man.
Bob: Actually, I understand that there has been one who has been coming around lately, right? We're not trying to say anything for certain, but …
Dennis: Well, but we're talking here intimately with several hundred thousand of our closest friends, Bob. You know, what you're talking about here is a generation of men, though, who need help in knowing how to love their wives well. And here is where the Scripture is just so profoundly simple yet powerful. 1 Peter 3:7 is only one verse in the Bible that is so crystal clear. It says, "You husbands likewise live with your wives in an understanding way as with a weaker vessel. Since she is a woman and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life so that your prayers may not be hindered."
Bob, that passage, I believe, contains some gems, some real value for husbands who want to love their wives well. And I was reminded of this in a Bible study that I led back last fall. It was a telephonic Bible study. I've never led one of these before, but you and I did this together. I think I did three sessions, and you did five, and we talked to a group of executives who were from the four corners of the United States and maybe some from Canada, and we talked to them about how to be the spiritual lovers and leaders of their wives and family.
I'll never forget this one project that I gave them. It was almost a second thought, but I said to them at the end of the Bible study, "Guys, I'd like you to go home tonight and ask your wife what her top three needs are." And the feedback I got the following week was revolutionary. It was like here were executives who were all presidents of companies and leaders in business, and we gave them a very simple concept of simply asking each of their wives to write down three of her most important needs right now. Well, for these men that completely unlocked how to properly love their wives.
Bob: We're going to take some time this week and unpack what that passage in the Bible gives us insight into. The first thing Peter says that a husband is supposed to do – well, for a lot of guys, it sounds like he's asking you to do the impossible.
Dennis: He says to live with our wives in an understanding way. He didn't say you should understand her as in finished.
Bob: Figured out.
Dennis: Done, done deal. No, he's talking about living with her according to knowledge and beginning to understand what makes her tick. And I think for most men we get hung up here because we don't know how to truly unlock that understanding. And so I just have three very simple ways for you to better understand your wife, and this is to find some general intelligence to know how to better lead her.
First of all, you can live with her in an understanding way by knowing her needs, the very project I talked about. Just simply ask her, "What are your needs, sweetheart, right now?" Give her some time to process and think about it.
Now, as a man, you just need to know the reason this is so important to ask this question with some degree of regularity, several times, perhaps a year, because your wife's needs change from day to day, month to month, season to season. I was thinking of some of Barbara's need when we were in the process of raising our six children, and one of her greatest needs was for sleep. I mean, she rarely got a full night's sleep, even though I offered to get up and help in the middle of the night as we were raising those six children, especially during the early years.
Another thing she needed, though, was she needed time to study the Bible. As a young mom, she didn't have any quiet time. The only quiet time she had throughout her entire day was when the little ones took a nap. Well, that works when all you have is little ones.
Bob: When everybody is napping, right.
Dennis: Exactly, but when you get some big ones …
Bob: Who don't nap any more.
Dennis: Right, and she was homeschooling them, she really needed some time to be quiet, get in the Bible, to pray, to think, and to reflect.
Bob: Well, how did you help meet that need for her?
Dennis: You know, Bob, this is one of the more interesting things, looking back on it – I think I failed pretty miserably on this. I don't think I understood how important and how necessary this was for her to function as a person, and although I took it seriously, and I gave her ideas and thoughts about this, truthfully, I should have given her some time in the evening or gotten up early and taken care of the kids before I went to work to give her some time, perhaps, in the morning.
But I would have to say that I didn't do a real good job in this area, and I'll tell you why – I was a young husband, a young father, and I had my own pressures and, quite honestly, I didn't have a coach. I didn't have someone like we're being today, putting your arm around a young man and saying, "Now, young man, I want you to stop for a second. I want you to think about what it's like for your wife to have two children under three. She needs some moments that are islands, some times where there is clarity; where she can think in complete sentences and have some time to pray about her own life, about her needs, your needs, and the children."
Bob: When you're talking about being aware of your wife's needs and helping to meet those needs, you're talking about the very practical, physical needs for sleep and for Bible study but also being aware of emotional needs, being aware of relational needs. We really have to think beyond kind of the concrete category of, "Well, I'm meeting your needs. I brought home a paycheck this week. We can pay the bills." We have to think broader than that as husbands, don't we?
Dennis: That's right, and one of the ways I did do that, as our children got a little older, where I feel like I did a better job was we would go out on a Sunday night date night, and that was a chance for me to kind of unpack her week and talk about her life and also talk about the coming week and the coming months. And it felt more like a strategic planning time between two executives than many times an opportunity for a relationship and romance.
Bob: Yeah, been there and done that, I know.
Dennis: But her needs were to talk about how are we going to handle the children and how do I handle this discipline situation? Well, you know what? You really have to step into your wife's life at this point and interact with her, even if you don't have a solution. Sometimes it will just meet her need just to be able to talk about even without you having a solution.
There was another season, though, that Barbara's needs became acute where I had to step in, and that was when we had teenagers. Teenage boys can be especially difficult on a mom. She bears the emotional weight of a boy who is emerging from being her little boy to now becoming a man. And if that young man begins to feel like his mom is in the way of his manhood and who he is about to become, he can punish her for that. And so I had to step into my sons' lives and let them know I wasn't going to allow them to take advantage of their mother, and that I was going to protect her, and there were going to be boundaries around how they related to her. That was a good act of caring for her needs and of letting her know that I would protect her and there would be boundaries around those young men.
And then one other illustration of this, Bob, just about understanding your wife's needs and caring for her – as she moves through the season of the empty nest, men have to prepare their wives for this season and then when she gets her pink slip, and she gets fired as a mom, I'm going to promise you something – to the degree that she has been a great mother in the lives of your children and has really worked hard at building and shaping the next generation, I'm going to tell you, that will be the size of the wound when she gets fired as a mom, and the children leave the nest.
Bob: That's how Barbara described moving into the empty nest season. She felt like she'd been fired from her job that she'd held for 30 years, right?
Dennis: Right, and we're now almost three years into this, and you would think that the empty nest would be real comfortable by three years into the process, but I'm going to tell you something – it's been fascinating for me to consider what my wife's needs are for her next horizon.
Bob: You don't have this fixed yet? You haven't – I mean – what kind of guy are you?
Dennis: Well, we're talking about this all the time, and I've actually helped her take some tests similar to those you'd use in shaping your career, because Barbara has a lot of abilities and talents that have really been used in another arena around raising the next generation. A husband can help meet the needs of his wife by paying attention to the different seasons she's going through and then helping her get a game plan to move through them.
Bob: And that's one way we can live with our wives in an understanding way by helping to be aware of their needs and helping meet those needs. What's another way?
Dennis: Well and, again, this is going to sound very simple, but a second way we can live with our wives in an understanding way is by meeting her needs. It's one thing to know her needs. It's another thing to take a look at those needs and say, "How do I help her address these needs?" We went through a season in our marriage where we were encountering a challenge with one of our children, an adult child who was struggling and needing to find their own place in life and their own relationship with Christ, and that short season became a longer season of three years.
At the end of that three-year period, Bob, it hit me that Barbara needed me to step in and protect her and her heart from continuing to bear the burden that uniquely a mother bears because of her investment in her children. And it's not that a father doesn't, but someone has said a child is a mother's heart walking around outside her body. And so I did a couple of things. One is I intensified our involvement in community in our local church. We needed friends. We needed some folks to come alongside her; some other women who could release the tension – be someone you could just talk to when you had those moments that were disappointing and when the burden felt too heavy and to request prayer and, you know, here is the point where being a Christian leader and on the radio talking to our friends here on FamilyLife Today to several hundred thousand of them every day where, all of a sudden, now you find yourself as a human being in need.
I know people wouldn't necessarily think of Dennis Rainey or Barbara Rainey having needs like that, but we're humans, too, and it's in those moments where you need to realize you need friendships. And if you are going to practically meet your wife's needs, one of the best ways you can do that is by setting up opportunities for friendship, opportunities for someone else besides you to bear her burdens.
There is a second thing, though, that we did. We sat down with a friend who is a counselor and just sat down over a period of three days for a couple of hours a day and just interacted with him about what we'd gone through and where we were and what we were doing. It was fascinating, as this friend who is very professional, he just began to interact with us and say, "You know, it's real clear what Barbara needs," and he began to spell out several action points that I could help Barbara in the midst of a valley of the shadow of death-type experience, and where I could protect her heart, and I could breathe some life into her where she could recover.
And, Bob, within three months I got my wife back. And it wasn't that she was gone, but it was just that because of some needs she had that I didn't fully understand and couldn't begin to appreciate, it took another friend kind of putting his arm around both of us and lifting our heads up and say, "You know what? There are some practical things here you can do that will protect her and will preserve your marriage."
Bob: So you tapped into community and counsel in one of those times that was emotionally stressful to help meet your wife's emotional needs in that moment and, again, sometimes our wives aren't even aware of the emotional need they have. One of the things we need to do as husbands is to help them see what the needs are and then to provide solutions as we are able to.
Dennis: You know, you're exactly right. Ultimately, Barbara's need is to know God and to express faith in Him. But God uses people to help move our hearts to those points of faith and trust. And I think a husband, one of his primary assignments in life with his wife is to nurture his wife's faith and to help her move to where she can begin to place her faith in God in the midst of challenging circumstances.
Bob: Once again, what you're talking about is a husband having his antennae up. He's just being alert to what's going on emotionally, physically, in his wife's life and saying "Part of my assignment here is to meet those needs."
Dennis: Yes, and physically, Bob, Barbara had allergies, and I wish some man would have told me, again, take those a little more seriously. Help her address those needs. Now, I have been, in later years, but she was tired all the time, and she needed me to help her go to a doctor to address a chronic issue.
A third way that you can live with your wife in an understanding way is by helping her put her needs in perspective. Now, this is different than meeting her needs. This is creating a picture around her needs so that she understands the big picture when, perhaps, her needs may not be able to be met. For instance, right now, and this is a current story in our home right now – Barbara wants to put carpeting in our bedroom – new carpeting, all right? It's 23 years old.
Bob: Right, about time for new carpeting.
Dennis: Oh, I figure you could get 40, 50 years out of that carpet. That's kind of my perspective. No, that's not the perspective I should have, but we're in a situation financially where, right now, because of some circumstances, we can't do that. And so I have to remind Barbara when she brings up the need for the carpeting – and the problem is we live in that bedroom, you know what I mean?
Bob: You spend a lot of time in there.
Dennis: We're there, and she's reminded of the carpeting, which is worn and kind of rolls up at points, and it's not that bad. I don't want anyone to think about that, but she needs a little help with perspective from time to time, and I think, as a husband, it's my responsibility to help her see that big picture so that she doesn't get fixed just on the problem and needs a little help re-focusing, pulling back to the big picture, and being reminded of the truth. And the truth is, I promised, and I will deliver, but it's going to take a little time before we can do that. It may be six months, it maybe 12 months, but we will have some new carpeting, and I'll report back to our listeners when we do.
Bob: What you're saying is that it can be that a wife or a mom can see a problem magnified beyond its real importance, and one of the things we need to do as a husband is remind our wives of where those problems fit in the eternal scheme of the plan of God.
I know we've had things crop up, and we look at them, and we go "Man, this is huge." And then we hear about something going on in somebody else's family …
Dennis: Yeah, there you go, that's a good illustration.
Bob: And, all of a sudden, we go, "That wasn't as huge as we thought." It feels huge at the moment, but a wise husband who lives with his wife in an understanding way helps her see the bigger picture.
Dennis: That's right. Barbara was gone for about three days. She had some duties with the grandkids in another state, and I stayed back at the house. This was interesting, because for most of our married life, she's been the one who would stay home, and I would be the one who would be going out in times of ministry. But she was gone for three days, and, you know, when you're at the house, home, and alone for three days, you can kind of do some reflecting, and I sat down and wrote Barbara just a note telling her how much I needed her and how much I appreciated her, and how much a gift from God she was to me, and I left it on her computer. And, you know, she didn't say that much about the note when she got back, but it's now been scotch-taped right next to her computer for a month.
And I think when we take a step back from our wives, one of the things you can almost always put on the top three list are words and terms of endearment – words of appreciation, words that express "I'd marry you all over again." Those are the words that can breathe life into her soul.
Bob: You know, as we've been talking about this today, I've been thinking about the new book from Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn, the book, "For Men Only," that helps a husband understand what's going on in his wife's life, gives him a window inside, and I was thinking, "There ought to be another book that could go alongside that."
Dennis: There ought to be.
Bob: You know, something that you could send …
Dennis: Some book about the Christian husband.
Bob: Christian husband …
Dennis: Christian husband – didn't you write a book on the Christian husband?
Bob: Oh, well, I wouldn't want to – you know – I did …
Dennis: Were you baiting me on that? It sounds like a complete, flagrant, foul …
Bob: Well, it's very kind of you to think of my book in this context.
Dennis: You know, Bob, I was just thinking that a great application to what we've talked about today for men to live with their wives in an understanding way is your book.
Bob: My book?
Dennis: For Christian husbands?
Bob: Well, how kind of you. We actually have my book in the FamilyLife Resource Center along with the book by …
Dennis: Bob, will you forgive me?
Bob: Of course, I'll forgive you – for what?
Dennis: For not thinking of it first.
Bob: [laughs] If you're interested in getting a copy of the book, "The Christian Husband," go to our website, FamilyLife.com. In the middle of the home page, there is a red button that says "Go." You can click on that button, it will take you right to the page where there is more information about the book and about the book by Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn called "For Men Only," and if you want to get both books, we can send along, at no additional cost, the CD audio of Dennis's wonderful teaching for husbands that we are listening to this week. We'll send that CD at no additional cost when you order the book "For Men Only," and the book, "The Christian Husband." Again, all the details are available on our website at FamilyLife.com, click the red button that says, "Go," and that will take you right to the page where you can get more information about these resources. Or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Someone on our team can let you know how you can have these resources sent out to you.
And it's possible when you get in touch with us that somebody will ask you if you'd like to help with a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and I want to encourage you ahead of time to consider doing just that. We depend on donations from listeners like you in order to keep this program on the air in this city and in cities all across the country and during the summer months we often experience a dip in donations. So if you are able to help this month with a donation of any amount, we would love to send you, as a thank you gift, the CD audio of an interview we did not long ago with Elyse Fitzpatrick on the subject of food and eating and how we can think of those things more biblically. This is not a diet book or a book of recipes or some kind of a fad approach to eating. It really is a good biblical look at our relationship with food and how we can think biblically about eating and how we can avoid sinful patterns and practices in our lives.
If you'd like to get the CD of our conversation with Elyse Fitzpatrick on the subject of her book, "Love to Eat, Hate to Eat," make a donation of any amount this month to FamilyLife Today, and you can request that CD. If you're filling out your donation form online, just type in the word "Eat" in the keycode box, and we'll know to send that CD out to you, or if you're donating by calling 1-800-FLTODAY mention you'd like the CD about eating, and we'll get it out to you as well. And let me say thanks in advance for your financial support of this ministry. We really appreciate it.
Well, tomorrow we're going to pick up where we left off today. Dennis will be back to talk more to us as husbands about how we can love and nourish and cherish and honor and value and care for our wives as we live with them in an understanding way. I hope you can be 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, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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