Inspiring a Great Love
About the Guest
On today's broadcast, author Shannon Ethridge tells wives that they should "inspire, not require, intimacy" if they want their husbands to be their best friends.
On today’s broadcast, author Shannon Ethridge tells wives that they should “inspire, not require, intimacy” if they want their husbands to be their best friends.
Inspiring a Great Love
Bob: Do you find yourself manipulating or even nagging your husband? As Dr. Phil would say, "How is that working for you?" Here's Shannon Ethridge.
Shannon: You know, when we twist our husband's arm to make him do the things we want to do for him, that takes all the fun out of it. He only does them – or we feel like – he only does them because I'm making him do them.
I've heard many women tell me that "When I started relaxing and not trying to drag all this out of him and make him do the things that I expected him to do for me, that he started appreciating me more and talking with me more and connecting with me more."
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, February 21st. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. One way to guard your heart from temptation with other men is to build a stronger relationship with your husband.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. I don't know if you've thought about this before, but you know that passage in Ephesians 6 that talks about putting on the armor of God? I guess anytime I go to that passage, and I think about it, I think about it as a man, you know, putting on armor, that sounds like a manly kind of a thing to do.
Bob: But that's not just for guys, is it?
Dennis: It isn't?
Bob: A woman has to put on the full armor of God, and she's got to be ready to stand against the schemes of the devil because he's just as interested as taking her down as he is in taking the guys down.
Dennis: We are talking about battle all this week on FamilyLife Today, and Shannon Ethridge joins us again. Shannon, welcome back.
Shannon: Thank you so much.
Dennis: Shannon has written a book called "Every Woman's Battle, Discovering God's Plan," for sexual and emotional fulfillment. Shannon is a mom, a wife, lives with her husband in East Texas, and has written another book called "Every Young Woman's Battle," and, Shannon, I wanted to ask you – in fact, I was a part of a couple of Bible studies recently where I asked every man in attendance what their battle was, their number-one temptation. We went around the circle and in both Bible studies; it was unanimous – every man said the same thing. It was lust. In some form or another, every one of us said over their lifetimes, as men, their number-one battle was battling sexual temptation, all right?
I then posed a second question. I said, "What do you think a woman's battle is?"
Shannon: And you asked the men this question?
Dennis: I did. And that stimulated some serious discussion. I'm curious how you would answer that question. What is a woman's number-one temptation?
Shannon: Not to guard our hearts, and the list is long of the things that we need to guard our hearts from. I think the biggest one is comparing ourselves to other women and our husbands to other men.
Bob: You know, we had a guy – I was a part of one of these Bible studies, and as soon as Dennis asked the question, this husband said, "I can answer that in a second," and he told a story. He said, "My wife, the other morning, was getting ready for church, and she put on one set of clothes and a pair of shoes, and she turned to her husband, and she said, 'Do you think this jack goes with this?' And he looked at her and said, 'Yeah, that looks great.'
He said she stood there for an additional 15 minutes looking in the mirror, and he said, "You're worried you're going to go to church and every woman at the church is going to be looking at what you're wearing and thinking, "She doesn't know how to dress," aren't you? And she said, "Yeah, that's what I'm thinking."
He said the issue of comparison. He said I could see it on her face. She was thinking, "I'm about to go out and be evaluated and be sized up and be judged …
Shannon: And critiqued and criticized …
Bob: "And that scares me to death."
Dennis: And what you're saying is the reason she's afraid of that is because that's what she does.
Shannon: Absolutely. And I love the saying that we have at Teen Mania that you wouldn't worry near as much about what other people think of you if you realized how little they really did.
It's true, we're all thinking about ourselves. We're not thinking about each other, and that's unfortunate, but I think that needs to be a lesson to us that we can take some of the pressure off of ourselves; that people aren't sizing us up and down and critiquing everything that we wear and every pound that we gain and every gray hair that we sprout and every wrinkle that we grow. People just don't – they're not that critical of other people. They're that critical of themselves but not of other people.
Bob: The other issue that popped up on the radar screen as we talked about a woman's big temptation was the issue of control – a woman wants to be in control of life and environment, and she wants to make sure that nothing outside of her control happens, and she lives in an out-of-control world, and it's a dangerous place every day.
Shannon: I had a woman ask me recently – she said, "I overheard you talking about how much you love the fact that Greg is in your driver's seat in your marriage; that you have submitted to his authority." And she said, "How do you get your husband into the driver's seat if he is sitting in the back seat?" And I said, "Well, he can't get in the driver's seat as long as you're sitting there. You've got to get out of that seat first, and then he will take is role."
Dennis: You know, as we talk about temptation and your book, "Every Woman's Battle," the temptation is to approach this kind of from a negative angle – how a woman can avoid the traps. But you feel strongly that women today must connect, they must find ways that they can meet their needs of their hearts.
In fact, one quote you said, you said you believe that "wives should inspire not require intimacy." What do you mean by that?
Shannon: The analogy that I used is that of a squirrel. If you want to give the squirrel a nut, one of the worst things that you can do is to chase him around your yard and grab him by his scrawny neck and try to shove that nut down his chubby cheeks. It's not going to happen. You're never going to be successful in that endeavor.
What you need to do is lay down underneath a tree and go to sleep and let that squirrel get inspired to take that nut out of your hand. And if women would just relax and not pressure their husbands into giving them that conversation or that emotional fix that they feel as if they're craving, they would be amazed at how their husbands will step up to the plate and do that.
I put this theory to the test when I first read about it, about this squirrel theory, and every night when I went to bed with my husband, I would just be, "Tell me about your day," and "I want to talk about this," and "What about this" with the kids, and "Have you thought about what we're going to do next week?" And I would just expect him to talk with me, because that was what I craved most – I wanted to talk.
Well, at the end of the day, Greg was spent. He didn't have any words left, and he was exhausted and so, finally, when I read this, I thought, "You know, I am going to stop being disappointed that he falls asleep instead of talking to me, and I'm just going to let him go to sleep," and I would just try to talk to him earlier in the evening.
But when we would go to bed at night, I didn't have that expectation. I just kissed him goodnight and went to bed and one night, out of nowhere, he just said, "Are you mad at me?" I said, "No, why do you ask?" And he said, "Well, because I've noticed for several weeks now you've stopped talking to me when we go to bed at night." And I said, "Well, honey, it's only because I love you, and I know that you're tired, and you had to get up early, and I appreciate what a great provider you are, and I want to respect the fact that you need your rest."
Dennis: And you go to sleep when I'm talking.
Shannon: Exactly, I didn't want to hear you snoring while I'm trying to talk. But it meant so much to him that I understood that that he sat up in bed, and he was just – "Well, tell me, how was your day?" And now he's the one that won't shut up, and I'm sitting there trying to go to sleep.
But it told me that I can inspire him by just being respectful of him; that he wants to connect with me. I don't have to twist his arm and, you know, when we twist our husband's arm to make him do the things we want to do for him – that takes all the fun out of it. He only does them – or we feel like – he only does them because I'm making him do them. What fun is that?
Bob: You know, as you say that, and you know this – there are some women who are saying, "Listen, I could quit doing this or stop doing that – my husband would never get there. I mean, he is content – here is the guy I'm married to – he is content to get up, go to work in the morning, come home, eat dinner, sit in front of the TV, fall asleep at night. And it's whether I'm initiating or backing off, it's all going in the same direction."
Shannon: I've heard many testimonies to the contrary. I've heard many women tell me that "When I started relaxing and not trying to drag all this out of him and make him do the things that I expected him to do for me that he started appreciating me more and talking with me more and connecting with me more."
Dennis: I think a lot of wives are afraid to go to sleep underneath the tree, because they're afraid the squirrel is going to crawl up and go to sleep right beside her. They're not going to go get the nut, they are just going to snore and snooze their way off into oblivion.
Shannon: I think that as women continue to focus on what we need, meeting our own emotional needs, to a certain extent, through friendships, through Bible studies, through church fellowship and that sort of thing. I think that men see that in their wives lives, and they begin to crave that, and that they will reach out for that more, but I think that because we nag, and we just pester him to death, that "you need to do this, and I want you to do that for me," he's going to shut down. He's going to run from that every single time.
Dennis: Speak to the woman who is more task-driven than her husband, because we're speaking right now to some women who, frankly, they're busier each evening with their task and their to-do list than their husband, and it may be the husband who wants to have a conversation with her, but …
Shannon: She needs to schedule – I mean, we make time for anything that's important to us. So just like we schedule business meetings, just like we schedule workouts, we need to schedule that time to connect with our husbands, especially if he's the one initiating that. Don't ever reject your husband if he wants to spend time with you. So scheduling date nights or just scheduling opportunities for the two of you to just sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and just talk. That's very important that we slow down long enough.
And that was something that my husband challenged me on one time. He said, "Well, the reason that I'm so tired at night is because you stay up so late doing stuff because you're such a night owl, and you're so work-oriented, and you're just doing this and that and this and that, and he said, "By the time you slow down long enough, I'm already tired."
And so we made it a point that after dinner we would take time with each other, go for a walk, sit down on the porch swing, do something together where that can be our talk time; that I don't wait until I run out of fuel before I'm ready to talk because he runs out of fuel a little bit earlier because he gets up earlier than I do.
Bob: The principle you're talking about is – it's the way you say it in your book, "A wife ought to inspire rather than require intimacy." If a wife stopped and thought today, "How can I inspire my husband to want to talk to me, to want to spend time with me?" If she thought back to when she was dating, she could remember – she used to know how to do it, didn't she?
Shannon: Sure. The book that we're working on right now is called "Every Woman's Marriage," and the subtitle is "Setting Your Husband's Heart Ablaze," and it's all about how to inspire that intimacy that you crave from your husband. And it is – every husband wants to feel as if he is his wife's knight in shining armor; as if he is admired and cherished and respected, and when we start displaying those things toward our husbands, they will want to intimately connect with us because that's a man's need. He needs to feel special, he needs to feel respected and affirmed, and he is going to respond to a woman that makes him feel that way?
Dennis: And from talking to men, one of the ways that they feel respected by their wives is in the area of physical intimacy.
Shannon: Absolutely. It's so important to men, just as important as talk is to women. The physical intimacy is so important to men, and not just the physical intimacy but also the visual intimacy. One of the things that I coach women on is that you need to get over the fact that you don't look like the cover model. Even the cover models don't look like the cover miles because they're airbrushed, but you need to be comfortable in your own skin, and you need to be comfortable with your husband drinking you in visually without your clothes on, because that is what a man craves to see a nude woman's body, and the only woman that he can do that with and not feel guilty about it and not committing sin is with his own wife.
But if his wife wants to be frumpy and wear the furry housecoat and the fuzzy slippers all the time and wants to turn off the light before they are sexually intimate because she's embarrassed about her body, where does he get that need met? It is very important that we learn to understand that we're the sole providers of this need for our husband.
Bob: Now, you understand as soon as you say that, you are going against what a woman instinctively feels. Most women do not have a strong sense of confidence or appreciation for their own bodies.
Shannon: But if you understood that what your husband wants isn't perfection, what your husband wants is a lack of inhibition. Every husband wants his wife to be uninhibited in bed and to freely engage, even initiate, sexual activity. It's not about whether you're 10 pounds or 50 pounds overweight or whatever, it's about how comfortable are you with your weight and with your looks and with sharing your body with your husband. That's what marriage is all about, is sharing our bodies with one another.
Dennis: Yeah, and I'll tell you, Shannon, the men I talked to, they're not just interested in their wives not being inhibited, they are also interested in their wives being passionate. When a wife is only being intimate with her husband out of obligation, that's a real turn-off for her husband.
Shannon: I can understand why. Any man will tell you that probably one of his number-one fantasies is that his wife would initiate sex with him; would pursue him. In "Every Women's Battle" I made a list of 20 intimacy busters and intimacy boosters, and that is one of them on there; that instead of just giving into sex out of obligation; that we need to initiate sex out of a passion for our husband.
There are lots of women who tell me, "I provide for my husband's sexual needs, because every time he initiates, I give in, even when I don't want to, I give in." And I asked her, "Well, how many times do you pursue him?" And she'll say, "Oh, well, I don't have to because he pursues me enough." And I'll tell her, "You know what? He doesn't want you just to be his sexual doormat, he wants you to be his sexual silver platter. He wants you to invite him to come and feast, and that you need to initiate that for him; that that would make him feel far more special than just you giving in."
Dennis: Yeah, and, I think, Bob, you refer to the sexual dimension of our lives as a mystery and a mystique – well, it is. It's the way God made us, but He made a man and a woman in marriage to uniquely be able to contribute in one another's lives in this area and to affirm that sexual identity in very specific ways, and I think the act of intercourse is one of the most powerful ways a woman can affirm her husband.
Shannon: I believe that when a wife affirms her husband in this way, he will bend over backwards to meet her emotional needs and to give her that intimacy that she is craving because there is just a mutual respect and appreciation for one another.
Dennis: You mentioned that you had 20 of these "intimacy busters" or "intimacy boosters." With your permission, we're going to put these on our website at FamilyLife.com and, Bob, I think these would be interesting for not just wives to take a look at but husbands, as well, because I think if a man reads down through here, he reads number 12, "An intimacy buster is giving into sex out of obligation." The booster is, "Initiating sex out of passion and love." It will give them something to talk about and, ultimately, he may end up meeting his wife's emotional needs.
Now, you've been married a number of years when Greg, your husband, gave you a very special gift that was found inside a Hallmark card.
Shannon: Mm-hm, the gift that has kept on giving. You know, I used to send him a Hallmark card every week from my office, and after about a year of this, I felt very frustrated that he had never sent me a card, and he just did not understand that my love language was gifts, because his love language was acts of service.
And so several years later, he gave me a card, and I thought, "Oh, well, finally he sends me my card."
Dennis: How many years?
Shannon: It was probably about three years later. It took him – although he had been giving me other gifts but, you know, finally, I felt like, "I've got my card," and I opened it up, and there were all these little pink squares of paper, and I thought, "What? Is this his meager attempt at confetti or something," you know, inside this card?
And, as I read it, it said, "Shannon, I know that I do not speak the love language of gifts very often, and I know this is very high on your list, and so I'm giving you this card to tell you how much I really do love you, and all of these little pink slips of paper are so that you can plant a reminder somewhere where I will see it if I ever start falling so far behind that you feel as if you were unloved, that you can just plant one of these pink slips of paper somewhere where I'll see it, and that will be my reminder that I need to tell her, that I need to speak my love to her, and I need to use her love language in order to do that.
And I've only had to use those pieces of paper once or twice, because, to me, I just think about how he gave me that card that time with all those pink slips of paper that says, "I never want you to forget that I love you, and you don't have to wait until you get angry and blow up at me because I'm not meeting your emotional needs – that you just give me that little-bitty reminder, and I will jump through hoops to make you feel special because you are my wife, and I love you.
Bob: Now, Shannon, let me turn that around. What if a wife gave her husband a card.
Bob: Full of pink slips of paper …
… and she said, "You know, if you ever feel like I'm just not really meeting your needs, just leave one of these pink slips of paper where I find it, and that will be my signal." Do you think that could have an impact on some marriages?
Shannon: I think it could have a huge impact on a lot of marriages.
Bob: So a wife who just heard me suggest that and who goes, "There's no way I'm going to do that." Why wouldn't she?
Shannon: If she loves him and wants that marriage to last forever, I think that she will jump through that kind of a hoop or some similar hoop to communicate to her husband that "My meeting your needs is priority number one for me – just underneath God – but our marriage is a priority, and whatever you need from me, feel free to communicate that to me because I know that I am your sole source of fulfillment in these areas."
Dennis: And, Bob, for a woman to be able to do what Shannon just described, is going to take tremendous courage and also a sense of security, and I think, many times, the reason why a woman doesn't feel the freedom or is unwilling to give such a card is they don't feel safe, they don't feel secure in their spouse's love. Now, that doesn't mean they still can't give that gift, but I believe that the Apostle John spoke to this need in 1 John, chapter 4, when he said, "Perfect love casts out all fear."
And the assignment for men as they attempt to meet their wife's emotional needs, as you've talked about here, Shannon, is that our assignment is to so love our wives that that fear does get cast out of their lives where they are real, and they aren't afraid of taking a risk, and they're not afraid of giving a gift that may require something of them.
Shannon: It may require that they keep on giving that gift over and over. And, Dennis, I think another reason why women may be hesitant to give that gift is that there is a deep-seated resentment and a feeling that, "Well, he doesn't meet my emotional needs so why should I do that for him?" And we have a sense of entitlement that he should do this for me first.
Well, if both the husband and the wife feel as if, "Well, I'm not going to do that for them because they don't meet my needs," we're just going to go in a vicious downward spiral. Someone has got to step up to the plate and be first in meeting the other's emotional needs, and I think that that takes great maturity and great commitment to the relationship.
Bob: Now, you know what you're talking about is something that we talk about on Friday night at the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference, Dennis, where we talk about what we call the "50-50 relationship," because so many couples have heard, you know, marriage needs to be a 50-50 relationship.
And the problem with the 50-50 relationship is just what you're describing. We look at the other person and say, "Well, have you done your 50 percent? I'm not doing my 50 percent until you've done your 50 percent, and somebody has said the person who wants to meet in the middle is often a poor judge of distance.
And let me just encourage our listeners, if they are not already signed up to attend a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference this spring, we're going to be hosting these conferences in cities all across the country throughout the spring. In fact, I'm speaking at one this weekend in Baltimore, and we've got other conferences in other cities all across the country.
Go to our website, FamilyLife.com, there's more information about the Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference there, or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, someone on the team can get you more information about when the conference is coming to a city near where you live, and you can get registered and plan to attend a great getaway for couples for the weekend at the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference.
This is one of the ways you can proactively guard and protect your marriage relationship, which is really the theme of all that we've been talking about today, and it's what's at the heart of the book that you've written, Shannon, "Every Woman's Battle," and the book you wrote for moms to go through with their daughters, "Every Young Woman's Battle."
We've got both of those books in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and you can go to our website at FamilyLife.com for more anything about those resources as well. Look for the box that says, "Today's Broadcast" on the right side of the screen, click on that box, and it will take you to an area of the site where there is more information about what's available from us here at FamilyLife. You can order the books online, if you'd like, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, someone on our team will let you know how you can get either or both of these books sent out to you.
One of the things that we try to encourage husbands and wives to spend some time doing each day is praying together, looking at God's Word together, growing together spiritually, and just recently, Dennis, you and your wife, Barbara, have written a book for couples called "Moments With You." It's a daily devotional guide for couples. In fact, it's a follow-up to the bestselling book, "Moments Together for Couples," and we are excited about this resource. We hope that God will use it to encourage thousands of couples to spend that daily time together in prayer and looking at God's Word.
This week we are sending out a copy of this book to anyone who contacts the ministry of FamilyLife Today and makes a donation of any amount. It's a thank you gift for your financial support of this ministry, and you can make a donation by going to our website at FamilyLife.com or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY.
If you donate on the Web, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form just type in the word "moments" and that way well know to send you a copy of Dennis and Barbara's new devotional book, "Moments With You," or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329. You can make a donation over the phone and ask for a copy of "Moments With You" by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. We're happy to send it out to you, and we do appreciate your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Well, tomorrow we are going to look at a very difficult, a very traumatic event in your life, Shannon, that opened the door in your own heart in this area of sexual promiscuity. We'll talk about that tomorrow. I hope our listeners can be back 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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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