Seeing My Husband As My Hero
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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
Women want to see their husbands as their heroes, and men want their wives to see them that way, too. So why is it so hard? Juli Slattery helps couples understand the balance between seeing flaws and speaking life.
Seeing My Husband As My Hero
Ann: We’d been married about 15 years, and struggling, when you went to all of your guy friends. You asked them a question about their wives. [Laughter] Do you remember?
Dave: Yes; you’re going to bring that up.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife—
These are guys I’ve been doing life with—they’re all married and have kids—we’re raising our kids together; we’re in our mid-40s. Literally, on a trip to a funeral of one of our guys’ dads—and Ann and I struggling—and I’m thinking all of these things. I say to the guys in the car: “Hey, let me ask you a question. Do you guys feel like your wife loves you?” Every guy immediately said, “Yes,”—no question.
Now, I know their wives; I know their kids; I know their families. You know, they’re all like, “Why are you asking us that?” I go, “Well, I’ve got another question. Do you feel like your wife likes you?” I’m thinking there were nine guys; all nine said, “Nope.” [Laughter]
Ann: That’s scary.
Dave: I was like, “Wow.”
Ann: And I know all their wives! I would have said: “I like you,” “I love you, too; I just need you to tweak a few things.” [Laughter]
Dave: But I found it fascinating that it was, immediately, “Yes, they love me. We’re not getting a divorce,”—they’re—“…’til death do us part.” I mean, there are struggles; but “They don’t really like me.”
I was feeling that; so, you know, they were like, “Why’d you ask us that?!” I’m like, “Well, I don’t really feel like Ann likes me either, so let’s talk about that.” But I was shocked that it was that universal.
Ann: Well, I’m excited today; because we have Juli Slattery back with us today, talking about her book, Finding the Hero in Your Husband. Juli, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Juli: It’s good to be back with you again.
Dave: And I’m glad you’re here, too; because you’re going to help us answer this question; you know?
Dave: By the way, we’ve just got to say: “This isn’t your only book. You’ve written—ten books”?
Dave: Authentic Intimacy is your website/podcast,—
Juli: Yes, yes.
Dave: —which is unbelievable.
Ann: Oh, we didn’t mention your podcast, Java with Juli. Tell us: “What’s that about?”
Juli: Real casual kind of coffee conversation around difficult issues, a lot of them involving sexuality and intimacy. That’s kind of the place to talk about things that we don’t always know how to talk about.
Dave: And you know a little bit about men, because you’ve been married 21?
Dave: —26 years; 3 sons.
Dave: You talk about finding the hero: it’s in your husband; it’s in your sons. What we just described, is that common?—that many men feel, what I heard in my car that day, that their wife loves them, but maybe doesn’t quite like them?
Juli: Yes, I would say that’s very true. I think to even get more to the heart of the issue is asking the question: “Does your wife respect you?” I know that, for some people, respect is a trigger word—
Juli: —because of the way it’s been used. I think we have to understand that respect is really not just this—“Oh, I agree with everything you say,”—but it’s understanding the heart of a man, who needs to feel like his wife believes in him; that he’s a competent person worth trusting. I think guys want to be believed in even more than they want to be liked.
Juli: But that’s just a hunch.
Dave: I think that’s sort of what they were getting at.
Dave: You know, even my question was using the word “like” compared to “love,” but man, when you say that, Juli, as a man, I’m like, “Yes! That’s what we long for—
Dave: —“to be believed in,” and “If we’re believed in, we’re trusted;—
Dave: —affirmed; encouraged rather than discouraged.”
A man will run to wherever he’s finding that; right?
Ann: And the reason I didn’t do that—probably for our first 15 years—
Dave: I want to know: “Yes, why?”
Ann: —I seldom complimented you; I seldom thanked you; because I thought, “Who thanks me? I do everything around here, and no one thanks me!” I was stingy with my words of praise; because I thought, “Everybody’s giving him applause.
Ann: “Everybody’s telling him he’s so wonderful,”—and he is!—he’s good at everything he does.
“I don’t need to do that.
Ann: “If I compliment him, or tell him I’m satisfied, or find a hero in him, he’ll think, ‘Oh, Ann’s good,’ and that will enable him to stay the same.”
Juli: Yes, a lot of women feel that way.
Ann: Do they?!
Juli: Yes, they do. It’s like, actually, they feel like it’s their job to knock him down a few notches.
Ann: Yes! Because we think it will motivate them.
Juli: Yes! And it has the absolute opposite effect.
Dave: Yes; talk about that, because it doesn’t motivate us.
Juli: No, [it doesn’t motivate]. [Laughter]
Really, there’s this element—and you talked about this a little bit last time—there’s an element of a man, who wants to become the person his wife sees. If I see and reflect to my husband, “You’re never going to get it right. Even if everybody else in the world respects you, I don’t. You’re just never quite there,” then my husband, even emotionally, is going to stay in that place.
Whereas, if I see him and project to him, “This is who I see God created you to be. These are the good things I’m going to speak life into and believe,”—even though I’ve seen the negative too—he wants to become that.
It’s mysterious; but I think, when we really peel it back, like, “Why did God create men that way?” This is kind of a crazy concept, but Scripture talks about how marriage is this reflection of Christ and the church.
Juli: And essentially, you’re supposed to be a reflection of Christ, the ultimate Hero!—which, as a guy, that has to just feel like—
Ann: Oh, talk about weighty!
Dave: It’s overwhelming, yes.
Juli: But how are you going to get there? One of the main ways that you get there is the life-giving words and vision that your wife is speaking into you.
I think it begins with your father and the words he speaks, and then the power kind of transfers to your wife. We don’t understand this amazing power God has given women. Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands, the foolish woman tears hers down.” I never would want to tear my house down—or my husband or my marriage down—but there’ve been times when I haven’t been wise with my power, and I’ve found myself doing just that.
Ann: Yes; me too. I’ve had a lot of women come up to me, and they’ve said—as I’ve spoken about this—they’ve said: “You don’t understand; there is nothing great in him.”
Ann: Like, “I can’t see anything good.”
Dave: “There is no hero.”
Ann: “I don’t see the hero.” They will say, “So you want me to lie? You want me to fake it?”
How do you respond to that, Juli?
Juli: Yes; I think, first of all, every man has this potential of hero within him. To a certain extent, it’s his choice whether he’s going to step into that or not. Our wounds play a part in that. Men are coming into marriage with their own fears and wounds that may or may not have been addressed; so it’s not all on a woman to say, “I’m going to make you who you’re going to become.”
Juli: I don’t want women to hear that; but she can provide a nurturing place, where that hero can be encouraged and called forth. He still might say, “No”; he still may not grow. He still may not soften his heart towards her, but every man has that potential.
What I’m saying is that, without realizing it, a lot of us set our husbands up for not growing, and really staying withdrawn, or chasing other things that make them feel more like a hero. I think modern-day today, video games are a way guys can feel like heroes virtually.
Juli: They can conquer new levels and “I’m going after this status.” It’s fake; but it’s playing into that need of being competent, and being capable, and achieving, and accomplishing something that they’re called to do in real life. That real life requires risk.
Dave: When you say that, as a man—you know, I’m the only guy sitting in here today [Laughter]—I’m like, “It is so true,” in terms of not just my own life—obviously, I’m thinking of my own life—but as I’ve watched other husbands and men as well. It’s like, if somebody asked me, “Okay, what has changed you to become a better man in your life?” Obviously, I would say, “Jesus.” There’s no transformation without the power of God, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in my life; but I would also put, right up there, “My wife’s words; my wife’s belief in me.”
I mean, again, we already said earlier that, for a long time, I didn’t hear that. I felt criticized, and I sort of withdrew; I didn’t rise up. You [Ann] were thinking, “I’m motivating him by saying this”; and never getting the results you wanted. It was like, “That’s not working!”
Again, I can’t tell you what year, but there was a shift in her words—Proverbs 18:21: “The tongue has the power of life and death,”—her words felt more like death before. She started speaking life. I don’t think I was that much of a better man. She started speaking like I was a better man. All I can tell you, from experience—is what, Juli, you just said—I started becoming the man she said I was, that I wasn’t yet.
She wasn’t going, “Now, I see things; I’m going to speak it.”
Dave: She just started seeing things that maybe were already there, but she was critiquing. She started speaking life/finding the hero in me. All I know is I was motivated now, as a man, like: “Wow! She believes in me. She really thinks I’m a good husband! I don’t really think I’m much better than I was a year ago.” [Laughter]
Several things happened. One is: “I don’t want to be at work as long.” You know, it’s like, “I want to go there to that place where that woman believes in me.” I became a better husband; I became a better dad. I started doing all the things that she was critiquing me for, but now saying—again, you just sort of put a handle on that’s what happens—a man becomes what he hears. If it’s negative, he sort of stays there; if it’s positive, he rises—
Is that a common thing?—because it definitely was true of my life.
Juli: Yes, I think it’s a really common thing. It’s something that I had to learn as a young wife. Even the way I phrased something was either kind of a shut-down for my husband, or an invitation for him to rise up and be the hero. For example, being overwhelmed with the kids and not being able to manage things, I could say, “Mike, why don’t you help out more? I mean, I feel like I’m doing everything!”
Dave, that right there, says—
Juli: “You’re failing as a father and a husband.”
Juli: Or I can say, “You know, honey, I’m just feeling really overwhelmed. I don’t know if I can handle all of this; I need help.” That’s saying, “I’m inviting you to step in with your strength and save me,” in some ways, which is really what we want; and it’s what they want.
Dave: Yes, we love to be the savior.
Juli: Yes! So every time I do that, my husband’s like, “Of course, I want to help you. I want to be there for you.”
But if I just tweak it—where it’s critical; it’s demanding; it’s controlling—it just shuts him down. It just destroys intimacy.
Ann: Let’s do this: let’s talk about some of the things are listeners are probably thinking: “Okay; but what about…”
Ann: “What about my husband, who comes home every night, sits in front of the TV; I do everything after my job?—
Ann: —“making dinner, putting the kids to bed, doing homework; and he does nothing! How do I cheer and see the hero in that?”
Or you have some young wives, and their husbands are playing video games all night long until 2:00 in the morning. They’re trying to get his attention; they’re trying to talk; but there’s like, “Hey! I need to finish this level!”
Ann: How do we find those heroes?
Juli: You know, the first thing I would say to a woman in that perspective is—and I know it sounds cliché, but it’s so key—“Get on your knees before the Lord,—
Juli: —“and ask for His help; ask for His wisdom.” Because the type of change that we’re talking about—this is not just a psychological principle or a gimmicky thing you do in your marriage—it’s really saying, “God, I’m lonely, and I’m hurting, and I don’t know how to reach my husband. Would You help me? Would You help change my heart first?”
Ann: And this is an everyday prayer. It’s not a one-time, that you think, “Okay, it didn’t work!”
Ann: This is a continual prayer: “Lord, help me.”
Juli: That’s where it starts.
Juli: I mean, that’s what the Scriptures says: “Before I confront my brother,”—which I will do—I need to first say, “God, examine my heart.” Because what so often happens is, when we are disappointed in marriage, over and over again like that, we become resentful; we become hard-hearted. Without realizing it, we now are using our power to punish our husband—to withhold affection; withhold words of affirmation—it’s just what we naturally do. We go into self-protective mode.
Until I know that God’s going to protect my heart, I can’t reach out to my husband. A woman that tries to have these hard conversations—still with that attitude of: “I’ve got to protect myself,”— not: “God has given me strength,” “God is helping me through this; He’s bringing wise women, and mentors, and friends into my life to encourage me,” you’re not going to have the strength to make the changes that need to be made. It’s such a critical step.
Ann: Are you saying, “Let’s just get on our knees”?
Juli: Well, I think that’s where it starts.
Juli: But we also have to understand that marriage was never meant to be done alone. I think, in today’s culture, it’s like me and you go out on this island; and no one is knowing what’s happening between us. We don’t talk about the real things with friends.
Marriage was meant to be done in community. It doesn’t mean that there’s not a sacred place for marriage between a husband and wife, but there need to be eyes on your marriage. Women need other women in their lives, who are encouraging them, helping them focus on the Lord, and just even vet: “Is this normal?: :Does this happen in your marriage or not?” They need wiser, older women, the Scriptures say, to encourage them and teach them—like we’re doing—
Juli: —the things that we’ve learned over all these years/the mistakes we’ve made.
And the same is true of men. He needs other men in his life, challenging him, helping him, discipling him. That prayer of: “God, help us,”—is not, “I’m going to go in there and fix my husband,”—but I need to have some honest conversations with him about the kind of help we need to get out of this cycle we’ve been in for many years now.
Dave: You know, we’re talking about speaking words of life and believing in [him]. Ann did that—the power she has/you have—women have—is crazy! But there are moments when a wife needs to speak hard truth.
Juli: Yes, for sure.
Dave: You know, that needs to be said—that may not sound very affirming or respectful—but it’s also something a man needs from his wife.
Dave: I don’t want to be the guy, who’s so wimpy—that anytime she says something that is hurtful to hear, I’m just like, “Oh, you’re not respecting me!”—you know, I need to hear both.
Dave: So how do you balance that?
Juli: Yes; I love the visual of building a bridge. My words of encouragement to my husband lay down planks on that bridge. I can only walk as far as I’ve built.
Ann: Oh, that’s good!
Dave: That’s good; that’s really good.
Juli: When I’ve built this sense of him trusting me—he knows that my heart is for him—it gives me, now, permission for me to say hard things in a way that he can receive them. There does come a place where, in relationship, a woman has to say: “Honey, this is bothering me,” or “I see this, and it’s concerning me,” or “I think we need to get some help on this.” But even as I say those, they’re not critical statements.
Juli: It’s not like, “You need to stop doing this! If you don’t stop doing this, then I’m leaving”; but it’s: “I’m concerned about us, and I feel a lack of connection between us. I don’t know if you’re sensing that, too; but my heart is just hurting, because I know that we can be more.” Again, it’s this invitation to a larger vision than where we are today.
Some guys are going to respond to that really well; sometimes, they’re not. And then the next step is: “I get that; that’s your choice, but I’m going to go get some help.”
Juli: And “I want to grow as a wife, because I know what I’m doing with my words, and where I’m going with my heart, is not a healthy place.”
Dave: And I remember—and we’ve said a little bit about this—but even how Ann said words that could have been critique, but she phrased them in a way that was totally/landed differently.
I remember one time, I was walking out of the bedroom with our three little boys, after putting them to bed—praying with them; doing a little devo—I mean, they were 10 years or 12 years old and younger. She was in the hallway, and I walk out. She was just sitting there, and she says this: “Man, the power you have with our boys. They hang on every word. It’s amazing! Just what you’re doing in there/you’re literally changing their life.” That’s all she said. Next night, I’m running into that bedroom.
Dave: Five years earlier, here’s how Ann would have said it: “You know what?! If you would get in there and do that every night with them—
Ann: “You’re supposed to!”—
Ann: —like, “It’s biblical.” [Laughter]
Dave: Yes; I mean, she would have said it more negative, like, “That’s your job. You should do that more; I don’t know why you don’t.” I don’t know if I would have ever gone back up there.
But the way she phrased it—I didn’t know it in the moment; I don’t even know if you did!—but it was like, “Wow! She spoke something that could have been critical in a positive way.” It said many things: “I believe in you,” “I trust you,” and “Wow! Way to go!” It was like [applause] rather than, “Boo!” You know what I mean?
Dave: So I thought, “There’s what you’ve been saying.” You know, there’s this power that can motivate your man; but in the same way, it could have been spoken critically. And again, as a man, I should step up; I should be able to take it. Come on!—you know, I did that my whole life; coaches yell at you, and you get better—but man!—
Ann: And I like the bridge.
Ann: I like laying those planks.
Dave: —when the planks—here’s one last question, though: “How many planks before you can walk on that thing?” [Laughter] What’s the ratio; do you think?
Juli: Oh, I/maybe, 5:1, at least? But I think it depends on what the momentum has been in your marriage.
Juli: You know, if you’ve spent ten years just being critical, manipulative, and controlling with your husband, it’s going to take time to rebuild that trust.
Juli: And again, that has to begin with a change in your heart. Ann, it’s obvious that that happened in your life.
Ann: Yes, and it really only happened through me being on my knees. It was a surrender moment of, “Lord, I give up.” My intent was good. I could see the greatness, and I wanted him to be great of who God had made him to be; and I thought I would motivate him by my critique.
Ann: And it had no effect!
It was also a humble: “Lord, I’ve been failing, and I don’t know how to do this!” I also had friends come alongside me. We would listen to podcasts together, or we would read a book—Finding the Hero in Your Husband—and we would pray: “Lord, we are failing!”—like—“We are failing so desperately!” But we would also be real, saying, “I feel like my husband doesn’t even get it or get me.” Those conversations were so helpful. And then, at the end, we just didn’t completely dog our husbands the whole time. We would pray for each other and for each other’s husbands. It felt like, “Oh, I’ve got an army with me, of people who are doing it with me.”
Some of you older women listening, maybe you have failed at this, but you have learned so much. There are so many younger women, who are longing for a mentor; longing for an older woman—a mom-type of person—to come into their lives. Maybe it’s one person; maybe it’s two—but gather them; and encourage them; and say, “This is what I didn’t do,” and “This is what I did do well,”—and pray for them. That really helps. Because we women—man!—we are powerful together, more than alone.
When we bring Jesus in, and we submit and surrender our lives to Him, and we call out to Him—every time I see in the Bible, when it says, “And they called out to the Lord,”—it always says, “And He heard them.” He may not have acted immediately the way they wanted Him to;—
Ann: —but it always says, “And He heard them.” There is a God who hears every prayer; every cry; every time you’re alone, weeping in your bed. He’s there, and He wants to meet you right where you are and help you.
Dave: Yes; thank you, Juli. It’s good stuff.
Juli: Thanks so much for having me.
Bob: Being the wife that God has called you to be in marriage—or being the husband God’s called you to be, for that matter—both of these require that we are doing life in community with others, who can help point us in the right direction, who can remind us of what’s true, who can point us back to Jesus when our eyes drop.
Today, Dr. Juli Slattery has been talking with Dave and Ann Wilson about how a wife can find the hero in her husband. Dr. Slattery’s written a book called Finding the Hero in Your Husband. It’s been revised and updated, and we’ve got copies of her book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can request your copy when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call to order. Our number is 1-800-FL-TODAY; that’s 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
And don’t forget! Juli is going to be joining us, again, this February on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. This is a seven-night cruise in the Caribbean, back on the water. We’re excited to be setting sail again from Port Canaveral with a great line-up of speakers like Juli Slattery, and Alex and Stephen Kendrick, Ron Deal, Dave and Ann Wilson, others who are going to be speaking; artists; musicians—really going to be a great time together.
We are starting to see the ship fill up, so we wanted to come to FamilyLife Today listeners, and say, “If you would like to join us and get away for a week together,”—and who couldn’t use a week together after what has been going on for the last couple of years; right?—“If you want to join us, now is the time to sign up. You can save a little money if you register before Monday, October 4.”
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com right now for more information, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you’d like to register by phone or if you have any questions. Again, the number is1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Or again, go online at FamilyLifeToday.com; and join us on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise in February 2022.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear from John and Debra Fileta about steps couples can take to protect their marriage relationship. Marriages are fragile and need protection. We’re going to hear some of the things John and Debra have done to build a wall around their marriage to keep it safe. I hope you can tune in for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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