The Power A Wife Has For Building Intimacy In Marriage
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Juli SlatteryDr. Juli Slattery is a widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker and broadcast media professional. She's the president and co-founder of 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
Dr. Juli Slattery says that a husband has three needs: respect, companionship, and sex. She also says that by God’s design, a wife has power to meet these three needs in her husband.
The Power A Wife Has For Building Intimacy In Marriage
Bob: Do you spend more time during the day thinking about your husband’s weaknesses or his strengths? Here is Dr. Juli Slattery.
Juli: When we focus on something, we tend to find it; and when my heart is focused on what I’m unhappy about and what I’m discouraged about, I will find it. Then, when I ask the Lord to help me focus on, “Where’s the hero? Where is the man that You created my husband to be?”—I focus on that—here is the thing: when we treat our husbands like he is that hero, he starts becoming it. He starts stepping into it, because there is power there. The Lord really convicted me—and the power of my words—and whether I’m going to call out that hero or I’m going to discourage him from becoming that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, October 23rd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. There is a hero inside almost every husband. The question is: “What can a wife do to help that hero step forward?” We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I think most wives want to help their husbands be all that God wants them to be; don’t you think?
Ann: I think so. I think we think we are great helpers; [Laughter] and we have all the solutions, and we can help our husbands be the best men ever.
Bob: “If he’d just listen to me more—
Bob: —“and do what I say.”
Dave: I’ve never heard that—ever. [Laughter]
Bob: We’re going to hear a message today—this is a message we heard from our friend, Dr. Juli Slattery, not long ago. Juli is an author and a speaker, and she has been with us at a number of FamilyLife® events. She was speaking on the power a wife has for building intimacy and oneness in her marriage. She said a wife has got to recognize that her husband is longing for his wife’s respect; he’s longing for a helper/a companion; and he’s longing for physical intimacy in the relationship. Those are priorities for him.
Dave: I agree. [Laughter]
Ann: I think sometimes, as women, we can hear these and go, “Blah, blah; we’ve heard this all before”; but I think we underestimate the power we have; as women; because we really do have a lot of power.
Bob: Juli is going to explain how a wife can use her power well in these areas and how she can avoid some of the pitfalls. Let’s dive in and listen. Here’s Dr. Juli Slattery on the power a wife has for building intimacy in her marriage.
Juli: Rehearse with me: “What are the three needs we talked about?” They are right up here; say them with me: “Respect, companionship, and sex.” What do all those things have to do with building intimacy? The thing these three things have to do with building intimacy is these three needs represent your power zones as a wife. You see here is the thing—when you have a need that I can meet, it gives me power with you. If you have a need that only I can meet, it gives me a lot of power with you; it gives me a lot of influence. Now, by God’s design, He has given our husbands three very significant needs that, by His design, you are the one who is supposed to meet those needs. These three things give you power.
Let’s talk about these three power zones. First of all, respect. Now, how does respect/your husband’s need for respect give you power? Well, it gives you power because, as we said, your husband desperately wants to be your hero. Think about the fact that he wakes up every day—without knowing this or without saying it out loud—but think about him waking up every day with a question, “Am I your hero?” You’ve got to make a decision, thumbs up or thumbs down/pass or fail. Again, you know all the reasons why: “Not so sure.” But you have the power in your tongue of death or life.
Do you realize that you get to paint a picture for your children of who your husband is? When I struggled in my marriage—I mean, a lot of times, when the Lord has brought me back to this idea of respect; and “How do I feel about my husband?” and “What am I saying about him?” and “What am I saying to him?” I can remember this particular time—maybe, about ten years ago in my marriage, where I was really struggling—I was really struggling to feel respect for my husband, to feel intimacy, to feel like I still wanted to work on this thing.
Somebody gave me a really convicting book called What’s It Like to Be Married to Me? Any of you read that book by Linda Dillow? It’s a very courageous book to read. One of the challenges in that book was to sit down and write a list of the things that were good about your husband/the things you are grateful for. The challenge really came out of the Scripture in Philippians, Chapter 4. You know that verse: Philippians, Chapter 4, verse 8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think on these things.”
The Lord really convicted me with that verse—that God calls me to focus on, not only when things are good, but whatever is good about my husband. I sat down with the Lord to make my list; and to be perfectly honest, I started with a list of the things that frustrated me. [Laughter] The book didn’t say to do that, but I just felt like I had to get it off my chest; you know? I sat down; wrote down all these things I was frustrated about; and then I’m like, “Okay, Lord, I’m going to put that list aside.”
Then I started writing down what I love about my husband—everything from: “I love his blue eyes,” “I love the fact that he is tall and has broad shoulders,” “I love the fact that he is funny,” “I love the fact that he is dependable.” I just wrote down as many things that I could think of that I love about my husband. By the time I got done writing down that list, I was/I really was in tears because I saw all of the things that I was overlooking that I wasn’t focused on.
You know, when we focus on something, we tend to find it. When my heart is focused on what I’m unhappy about and what I’m discouraged about, I will find it. When I ask the Lord to help me focus on: “Where is the hero? Where’s the man that You created my husband to be?”—I focus on that—here’s the thing: when we treat our husbands like he is that hero, he starts becoming it. He starts stepping into it, because there is power there. The Lord really convicted me—and the power of my words—and whether I’m going to call out that hero or I’m going to discourage him from becoming that.
Then, when we look at the fact that he needs my help, and this gives me power, it’s the idea that you have all these things to offer your husband. The Lord was beginning to ask me, “Will you compete with your husband, or will you complete him?” One of the ways this played out in my marriage is that my profession and my area of study is that I’m a clinical psychologist. I study marriage and family, so I know a lot about marriage and parenting. I worked for about four years at Focus on the Family®, where my job was to interview marriage and parenting experts. I would come home with all this advice to give to my husband to tell him how he could be a better husband and a better father, and how we could be better parents, and how we could work on our marriage.
It became exasperating. It came to the point, where I was correcting my husband about everything with my helpful voice, which really wasn’t helpful at all. My husband began to see that as: “Again, Juli is trying to compete with me. She thinks that she knows everything. She doesn’t ever give me a voice in any of these things.” The Lord really had to humble my heart and help me to realize that, even though I’m the marriage and family expert, my husband, actually, has pieces of this that I need and that my kids need.
Let me give you an example of this. When we were making a big family move about, maybe, 12 years ago, we were moving from Ohio to Colorado. Our kids were really little, and some of/a few of them were struggling with this. Our oldest son, Michael, was about nine or ten; and he was having a really hard time with this move. He was in his bedroom; and he was crying about moving. Me, the psychologist/I’m like, “I’ll go in and help him.” I went in to help Michael. I’m processing his feelings with him; I’m validating: “Tell me how you feel, Michael,”…“Yes, that’s understandable.”
I was in there for about 15 minutes, and then I started crying. My husband hears like Michael crying/me crying; and it’s like it’s just getting worse. It’s a train wreck of processing. [Laughter] My husband comes in, and he’s the lighthearted one. He kicks me out; and he’s like, “Get out of here! You’re not helping.” Then, within five minutes, he had Michael laughing and excited about the journey ahead.
What I realized is that my kids don’t need two moms; they need a mom and a dad. So many times, as moms and as women, we feel like we have the answers, and we feel like we have this help to give. We do have help to give, but we have to be really careful in how we do that/how often we do that. The Lord has been teaching me that there are times, where I just need to be quiet. The reason my husband may not step into leadership is because I’m not giving him room to with all of my help.
Now, yes; there is a time to step up, and there is a time to speak. There are even times to confront, but are we doing that wisely and prayerfully? The time to confront is not when your husband has loaded the dishwasher wrong. There are times where we need to just keep our mouths shut and be prayerful about: “God, when and how do You want me to use this power that You’ve given me with my husband to address the issues that really matter?”
Then we’ve got this issue about sex. Do you know that sex has a lot of power in a man’s life? We know that in culture; everybody is after using sex in a way that’s powerful. But it’s not just in culture. If you look at the Scripture, the most godly man that ever lived, David; the strongest man that ever lived, Samson; the wisest man that ever lived, Solomon—they all fell because of the power of sex. We think about sex in a way, where the power is bad, because it causes people temptation; it causes them to fall.
But you know, God has made sex to be a powerful thing in a man’s life for a positive reason; because it gives you power in your relationship with him—good power. When we talk about the power of sex, here is what I want you to hear: “It’s not just meeting your husband’s sexual needs; it’s an invitation on the journey to share this most important part of his life.”
I’ve learned, over 25 years, to move past just focusing on: “What is the immediate need of my husband?” to focusing on: “What does it look like to truly share this part of his life with him?”—to talk about it, to pray about it, to journey together, to learn together. There’s far more power in that than just the message that your husband has a physical need, because a physical need is only a piece of it.
Women, I believe that these three needs give us great power by God’s design. I want to be the number-one person that says, “You’re my hero; I believe in you.” I want to be the number-one person that says, “I’m on your team. All that I have is yours; I want to help you.” I want to be the only person in his life that’s on that journey with him in terms of what sexuality looks like.
The problem is I don’t always use that power well. Sometimes, in marriage, we ignore our power. Because of fear or because of insecurity, we don’t step into it. I think even sometimes misunderstanding biblical teaching—we don’t think that a godly woman should be powerful—but actually, I think the Scripture says God created us as powerful. It’s not the fact that we are or we’re not; it’s: “What are we doing with it? Are we using our power to build or to tear down?” Some women—at times, we ignore our power—but I think, more often, we tend to abuse our power; we use it in a way that tears down intimacy. There are a couple of different ways we do this.
The first way we do this is what I call the bulldozer. The bulldozer just—you know, you’re powerful. You know you’re a powerful woman; and you’re like, “I’ve got an opinion. My opinion is better; get out of my way”; and your husband feels that. Your husband feels that you always know what’s right; you don’t trust him, and so you’re just going to make decisions. Ladies, we do this out of fear. You know, when the Scripture talks about submitting to our husbands, it’s says, “Don’t give way to fear.”
When I’m fearful, I want to be a bulldozer. If you’re a bulldozer, you tend to treat your husband almost like he’s one of your children; maybe, you joke about it. If we think of them as children, why would they step into becoming heroes? If you have a tendency to be a bulldozer, because that’s all you know, or because you’ve just been captured by fear, here is the thing—your husband cannot grow in that environment. If he’s weak, he’ll stay weak. If he’s strong, he’ll go somewhere where his strength is going to be appreciated.
But that’s not the only way we can abuse our power. Instead of a bulldozer, I’m a stealth bomber. The stealth bomber is the manipulator. The stealth bomber zooms in under the radar. No one knows they are there, drops the payload, zooms out; and the husband is like, “What just happened?! Why am I doing dishes? How did that happen?” [Laughter] I’m a real good manipulator, because I’m a clinical psychologist; you know? I’ll be like, “You want to do dishes,” “I want to do dishes.” [Laughter]
There are all kinds of ways that I’ve learned to manipulate my husband; you know? Sometimes, it’s using skills of psychology. Sometimes, it’s turning on the tears, just at the right time. But often, what it is: “Yes, you can make that decision; I’m not going to tell you not to.” But under the/between the lines: “Just wait and see what happens. Mm-hmm, just wait and see how I react.” We withhold—and this is the worst of it—“I told you so,” “That’s because you didn’t listen to me,”—that’s manipulating. The manipulator does the same thing that the bulldozer does, but just does it more subtly. Because when I manipulate, you’re really saying, “I don’t trust you.” When I manipulate, I’m really saying, “I’m going to punish you if you don’t lead the way I think you should.” It’s not trusting.
Now, there is a third way we abuse our power, and I call this kryptonite. You know, Superman, as strong as he is, if kryptonite is in the room, he shrinks; right? Kryptonite is when we humiliate our husbands. It’s that one thing you say in front of friends, or even when you are alone, that you know is his soft spot—the one thing that embarrasses him. You know your man well enough to know what that is. It might be about how much he earns; it might be about his sexuality; it might be bringing up a failure from his past.
We can be building our husbands, building our husbands—but sometimes, just that one thing we do that humiliates—he just shrinks/like all of his strength is just gone. Have you done that? I’ve done that, and I’m fortunate enough to be married to a husband, who will tell me right away when I do it; so I don’t do it again.
You see, God has given us power—not to ignore it/not to abuse it—but to use it wisely. One of my life verses is Proverbs 14:1—it says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Ladies, I have been guilty of tearing down my husband more times than I wish to count—not because I wanted to—but because I wasn’t submitting my power to the Lord and using it wisely. I’ve been on a journey with the Lord, now for 25 years, of: “What does it look like to wisely use my power in a way that will build intimacy/that will build my husband?”
Now, I wrote the book on this 20 years ago; and for the last 20 years, I can’t say I’ve followed that advice all the time. There are times that I needed to go back and read my own book. I read it—and I’m like, “I wrote this! I don’t do this,”—like I get convicted. The Lord—every time I struggle in my marriage or I’m faced with a difficult situation—He brings me back to these principles and this question of: “What are you doing with your power?” I can’t change my husband; I can’t change his heart, but I have great influence with him: “What am I doing with that influence?”
There are so many ways that I’ve seen God be faithful in helping our marriage and building intimacy because of these principles, but that’s not the only reason I do it. God does not promise us, that if we use our power wisely, that we will have a great marriage. But here is what I can promise you—and the promise that I cling to—this is not about a perfect marriage; it’s about being faithful to the Lord.
You see, our marriages are all going to end someday; they are not eternal. One day, you and I are going to stand before the Lord, and we’re not going to give account for our husband, and we’re not even going to give account for our marriage; but we will give account for what we’ve done with what God has given me. I will give account for whether or not I’ve been faithful to the Lord. That’s what I want to focus on, because what the Lord promises is that “His eyes search to and fro throughout the earth to look for a heart that is fully committed to Him that He might support it.” The promise, my friends, is that, if you will fully commit your heart to being faithful with the power that God has given you, He will support you.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to Dr. Juli Slattery talking about the power a wife has for building intimacy in her marriage. I have to imagine some wives were thinking, “Okay; I can recognize some areas where I can do a little better.”
Ann: Oh, yes; so convicting—like, “Juli, why did you have to go there?!” But I love how Juli always takes us back to the Lord Jesus and the power that we have through Him. Maybe, our circumstances aren’t changing overnight—and they may not change—but we still can walk with Him, keep our eyes on Jesus; and He gives us hope in every day.
Dave: And I—you know I would say—I’m sure Bob and I are thinking, “I hope every wife listens to this message.”
Bob: “How can I send this to a wife I know?”—right?
Dave: I do know I am sitting beside my wife, and she respects me. It’s the most powerful, inspiring thing in my life. She’s my best friend; she is my companion. I won’t even talk about the third area, but the intimacy as well. Those three are core in a man’s heart; and when his wife is beside him, and speaking and living those into his life, it brings—it brings a man alive.
Dave: It really does.
Bob: It makes a man a better man.
Bob: I would hope our listeners would go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Juli’s message is about an hour long. We just played a portion of it today, but you can download the entire message and pass it on to others. In fact, I should just mention here: FamilyLife Today and many of the messages you hear on FamilyLife Today are available on our website for free download. You can also listen to this program regularly on the FamilyLife® mobile app, which is brand new. You can download that for free from your app store on your mobile device.
All of the content we have available—articles, podcasts, links to audio and video—that’s all available to you at no cost because FamilyLife is committed to providing practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family; and because there are listeners, like you, who have said, “We want to help make this available for moms and dads and husbands and wives to benefit from.” Thanks to those of you who support the program. All of these resources are available for free at FamilyLifeToday.com, including the complete version of Dr. Juli Slattery’s message that we heard a portion of today. Download it online, again, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, I’ve mentioned this earlier this week, but we have a small group starting next Thursday night. It’s going to go three weeks. This is for married couples; we’re going to be talking about what 1 Corinthians 13 has to say about what real love looks like in a marriage relationship. We want to invite you to join the live FamilyLife Love Like You Mean It small group. It’s going to start at 7:00 Central Time. You can get all the information and sign up to be part of the small group when you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com.
Again, go to the website, look for more information, and plan to join us for about an hour next Thursday night—and for two Thursdays after that—three weeks in a row. The Love Like You Mean It marriage small group on Facebook Live. Again, all the details are available at FamilyLifeToday.com.
We hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about how challenging and disorienting it can be when someone loses a job unexpectedly. A lot of people have had to go through this this year. Dale Kreienkamp and his wife Deb are going to join us to talk about how we walk through that challenging season. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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