A Wife's Powerful Influence, with Dr. Juli Slattery & Linda DillowThe Courage to Support Your Husband
Leslie Basham: Dr. Juli Slattery says many wives are tempted by fear. In marriage, fear sounds like this . . .
Dr. Juli Slattery: If I really supported my husband, where would he take us? I know his weaknesses, I know where he makes bad decisions. I’m afraid to really trust him to the Lord. I’ve got to fix it.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, for Wednesday, January 23.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Today, I’m outside my normal habitat. We typically record this program in the Revive Our Hearts studios, in southwest Michigan, but today I’m in Colorado Springs at the studios of Focus on the Family. We’ve been here for the last couple of days.
I have the opportunity today to sit down with two really great friends and talk about a subject that I know is going to be of great interest to our listeners. Let me first introduce my friends and then I’ll introduce the subject. Juli Slattery and Linda Dillow are with us today.
Linda, you’ve been on Revive Our Hearts before. We’ve talked about your book Intimate Issues, and that is one of the really popular programs we’ve aired in the past. You and your husband go back with my family a long, long way. We were reminiscing about that yesterday. Thank you so much for joining us here at the Focus studios for Revive Our Hearts today.
Linda Dillow: It’s a joy to be with you, Nancy.
Nancy: Linda is an author; she’s a speaker. You may have read one of her numerous books. I think the title I like best of one of your book, Linda, is Calm My Anxious Heart. I just love that title; it’s something that’s a prayer on my heart many times, “Lord, calm my anxious heart.” So thank you for writing that, as well as numerous books on marriage, intimacy with the Lord, intimacy with your mate . . . it all kind of goes together, doesn’t it?
Linda: It all goes together beautifully.
Nancy: That’s what we’re going to be talking about in this series, and we’re joined by our mutual friend, Dr. Juli Slattery. Juli is a psychologist, an author, a speaker; you may have heard her in the past as a co-host on Focus on the Family. Juli, it’s been a number of years since we’ve connected, but you’ve been such an encouragement and a challenge to my own walk with the Lord. I’m so glad that we get to have you with us on Revive Our Hearts today.
Juli: This is so fun, Nancy. I remember about five or six years ago when we first met. You came out to Focus on the Family and I interviewed you on Lies Young Women Believe, and then we did an interview on humility and brokenness, so God has just brought it all around full circle, and it’s a joy to be here.
Nancy: Thank you, Juli, and thank you for your continued investment in my life. I’m so grateful for your friendship and Linda’s. And the two of you have a close friendship. In fact, people listening to our program can’t tell there’s an age gap between the two of you . . .
Linda: . . . just a year or two, Nancy . . .
Nancy: . . . well, even more than that, there’s even a bit of a mentoring relationship God has given Linda and Juli. Juli, you’re the younger woman, Linda the older woman.
Linda: Juli’s the age of my daughters, and it’s just such a privilege to minister with her, and now to be connected through Authentic Intimacy.
Nancy: That’s the name of the you’re partnering on, and we want to talk about authentic intimacy—what it means, what it is, what it looks like. You’re both wives, you have children. Linda, you’ve been married forty-eight years. Juli, you’ve been married . . .
Juli: . . . eighteen years. I’m starting to feel a little old.
Nancy: Eighteen years, with three teenage and almost teenage kids. As I’ve listened to both of you, I just realize how important it is for marriages to keep growing, for couples to keep working at it. I know we have some listeners who have been married for forty-eight years, as Linda has, but Linda, you’re always learning fresh things about yourself and your mate and how to have the kind of marriage God wants you to have. Am I right?
Linda: Absolutely right.
Nancy: We want to talk about something that I know is of great interest to both of you, and that is, the power of a wife and how to understand the power that a wife has. We have a lot of listeners write to us, a lot of wives, who feel overwhelmed and weak in their marriage. They feel that there are issues in their husband that really keeps them as a wife from experiencing fullness and joy.
You talk about how a wife really has in her hands a huge influence on her husband and, through their marriage, on others. So let’s talk for a moment about the fact that God has given to a woman power of influence in a marriage. What does that mean to you?
Linda: I see, biblically, Nancy, three areas where God has given the wife that power. A huge one is respect. Ephesians 5:33 says, “Let the wife respect her husband.” And then companionship—God says, “It’s not good for man to be alone,” so He made him a companion. And then sexual intimacy. So, respect, companionship, sexual intimacy—these are three areas of power.
They really correspond, Nancy, to three needs that are in a man, that God wants a wife to fulfill.
Juli: Yes, I think we need to understand that power comes from need. When somebody needs something from you, that gives you power. For example, if I’m really tired—I love coffee, as you both know—and you have a cup of coffee for me. I need that coffee, so all of a sudden I am more attentive to what you want from me. I more attentive to who you are.
That’s just a very simple example, but in marriage, God has made it so that we’re dependent on one another. These are the three areas where your husband needs you. That means that God has given you power in those areas. Nancy, I think a lot of people listening will almost shake their heads and say, “My understanding of a Christian wife is that she’s almost subservient, that God wants her to be weak.”
That’s really a misunderstanding of Scripture. Yes, does God call a woman to a submissive role, but that doesn’t mean weakness. Submission means understanding your power and using it in a way that builds your husband’s leadership.
Nancy: That’s a great statement there.
That makes me think of Proverbs 14:1 that says a woman can use her power either to build up or to tear down. “A wise woman builds up her house, but a foolish woman tears it down.” So, one way or the other, a wife is exercising power in her marriage.
Juli: Yes. Every wife is. Every wife is building or tearing down, whether you realize it or not.
Linda: That’s almost a scary thing, and that’s why we need to understand that we have power, and we can use it or we can abuse it. And, Nancy, I hear from a lot of women. They are misusing their power by tearing their husband down with their words, criticizing, griping about him, never being happy with who he is or what he’s doing.
A woman wrote me recently and said, “What is wrong with me? I griped to him about the way he loaded the dishwasher last night. Is that important in life?”
Nancy: One might think that it would be a happy thing that he is loading the dishwasher.
Linda: That was my first thought! But we can get into this pattern that we see in Proverbs, of being a contentious woman and a nag, and that is misusing our power. But we can use it positively. Tell ‘em, Juli.
Juli: One little secret from the Word of God that’s really helped me with this is, in 1 Peter chapter 3 there is a place where Peter is teaching wives to be submissive to their husbands, and again, some of you are going to recoil from that and say, “Oh, I’m so tired of hearing this.”
But you need to understand that this is about using your power in such a way that you build intimacy. Peter says, “Be like Sarah, who really respected her husband. You will be her daughters if you do not give way to fear” (v. 6 paraphrased). And when I focus on that word fear, I tear my husband down when I give into fear.
I think a lot of wives can relate to that. You don’t mean to be contentious, you don’t mean to be complaining, and it’s not about the dishwasher. It’s about this underlying fear that, “If I really supported my husband, where would he take us? I know his weaknesses, I know where he makes bad decisions, I’m afraid to really trust him to the Lord. I’ve got to fix it.”
When that fear starts to take over in a woman’s life, even if she wants to honor the Lord, she ends up doing things with her power that are destructive.
Nancy: Does an illustration come to mind out of your own marriage, Juli?
Juli: Oh, absolutely. “I’ve never given in to fear.” No. Nancy, I had a chance to share this a little with you before, and the Lord has just shown me so much over the years. When Mike and I got married, we were so different! I was the very compulsive, driven, have to get an A+ in everything. That’s why I got my doctorate degree—I just love goals and going after them. I'm very performance oriented.
My husband was very laid back. He was a surfer guy from Florida, very relational, lots of fun . . . and we fell in love.
Nancy: The differences were probably what attracted you to each other . . .
Juli: They were, but I kept saying, “I can’t marry him, he’s not driven enough.” I broke up with him a few times because I said, “I need someone more driven than me.” But the Lord brought us together and made it clear that we were supposed to get married. Nancy, those first few years of marriage were so frustrating for me, and I was so driven by fear.
I knew the Word of God, that as a woman who wanted to follow the Lord, I wanted my husband to be the leader. But as I looked at his leadership style, to me it seemed weak compared to my goals and drive. I didn’t understand how to use my power, how to understand that God wanted me to draw the leadership out of Mike.
So there are lots of examples about me struggling. I wanted to control how we spent every penny and how Mike spent his time, and what was going on with his job. The Lord really had to get hold of my heart and show me—first of all, my fear—but also my pride in believing that my way was the right way.
Nancy: And when you reacted out of fear or put him under that pressure, what kind of consequences did you experience in the relationship?
Juli: (laughs) It wasn’t very good. I remember this one time—being task-oriented . . . We had this little townhouse, and I had said, “Okay, Mike, how about we clean the apartment on Saturday. We’ll clean the townhouse together. How about if I do the upstairs and you clean the downstairs?” And he was like, “Sure, no problem.”
So Saturday comes around. We have breakfast, and I’m cleaning the upstairs. I get everything ready, and I get mine done by 9:00 a.m., and I’m feeling good. I’m watching my husband, and he’s watching TV, and then he goes for a run, and then is taking a nap, and the clock is ticking. It’s 1:00 p.m., then 3:00 p.m., and I’m getting so angry inside. “Why won’t he clean his part?”
I didn’t want to nag him about it, but I was so frustrated. It wasn’t just about cleaning the townhouse, it was representative of him not being who I wanted him to be, him not being like me. So he knew that I was watching him, and he could see this resentment rise. It got to be about 9:00 p.m., and finally, I didn’t say a word, but I just took the cleaning supplies and I cleaned the downstairs, pounding things and with a terrible attitude.
We never spoke about it that night. He went to bed, and I thought, “I’m not going to sleep in the same bed with him!” So I slept on the couch because I was so mad. I remember him waking up the next morning and seeing me on the couch and just laughing, which made me madder.
That was the kind of result I got when I let that resentment build, when I didn’t communicate, when I let my fear and my control issues really take over. I remember that night the Lord just showing me, “If you approach your marriage this way, if you approach your husband this way, this is the result you’ll get. You’ll get this loneliness. You won’t see him grow—you won’t grow.”
That was when the Lord started to teach me how to change that dynamic.
Nancy: We want to unpack that journey that you went on and how God did make those changes in your life and in your marriage, but let me turn to Linda first—forty-eight years of marriage—you’ve made it that far, so there must have been some building up, but there has probably been some tearing down along the way. Am I right?
Linda: There definitely was some tearing down, Nancy, and yet I didn’t see that’s what I was doing because I did it through asking questions. “Honey, did you remember to bring a map?” “When are we going to do this, when are we going to do that?” And I was trying to control him by asking questions.
He looked at me one day and said, “You’re really good, honey. I’m calling it ‘sophisticated nagging.’” What God showed me was, “Okay, Linda, I’m naming that ‘pride’ in your life, because you really think your structured way of living is better than Mr. Flow-with-it’s. It’s not right or wrong, you two are just different.”
God named pride in me, but He also named selfishness, because the reason I wanted Jody to be like me was, then my life would be easier. I knew how to function as a structured person because I had always been structured. He just could not function that way.
It was selfishness. I wasn’t thinking of him; I was thinking of me. So I had to get on my knees before the Lord and say, “Okay, God, You’ve named pride and selfishness. I want to be a wife who builds my husband up, so would You change me?”
Nancy: As I’m listening to you both describe similar marriages where the wife is very structured and task-oriented, goal-oriented, and the husband was more laid back—first of all, it sounds like you really need each other in your marriages—but also, I can see how in that kind of marriage, a wife could drive her husband crazy, and the husband can drive the wife crazy, and you can end up in this crazy home.
If God doesn’t intervene and deal with the selfishness and the pride, and if both mates aren’t willing to acknowledge the selfishness, acknowledge the pride, and move on beyond that, you can just end up at loggerheads and with a broken marriage. But both of you were willing to let God speak into your life, to let God speak into your marriage, to let God change you . . . not just you trying to change your mate.
Juli, we were in your home last night for dinner, and I got to meet your husband and hear him talk about how much you mean to him. I got to watch you interact with each other, and it was just so sweet. Clearly God has done something in both of you, but you were willing to let God change you first.
Juli: Yes, I think part of it, Nancy, is God can use pain to get our attention. There are women listening who are in great pain in their marriage. I started out my marriage in pain and loneliness and asking, “Lord, did I marry the right person?” and “We’re so different!” and “This isn’t what I imagined.” God began to use that pain, that feeling of distance from my husband and a longing for the intimacy I didn’t have, to say, “Okay, something’s not working here.”
I think there are a lot of women who will say, “It takes two to change a marriage,” and God does need to change two hearts, but He starts with one. All He needs is one, whether it’s the husband or the wife, to say, “Lord, I’m Yours. I’m going give this to You.”
The Lord got hold of my heart early in marriage, for me to begin looking at that pride, to begin looking at some of the longings that were unmet, and instead of always trying to manipulate my husband to get what I wanted, to begin to just surrender to the Lord. It’s been a journey. I’m not done with it.
I rejoice in what God’s done in my heart and the way my husband has responded to it and what God’s done in Mike’s heart, but I think there has probably been more change in the last year of our marriage than all the seventeen leading up to this year. So God is still doing amazing things, still tearing down strongholds in our hearts and bringing us an intimacy we didn’t even know was possible—with Him and with each other. This is a message of hope.
The enemy would so want you to dig your heels in and say, “Oh, I tried that ,and it didn’t work,” or “I’m not changing until he does this.” But I would just encourage you to give God the opportunity to begin to show you the secret of using your influence and your power in a way that honors the Lord, and just watch how He begins to melt the heart of your husband.
Your husband wants that intimacy and that closeness as much as you do. You just don’t quite know how to get there, but the Lord knows how to take both of you there.
Linda: I think most wives’ favorite prayer is, “Lord, change him,” and God wants to change that to, “Lord, change me.” As Juli said, it has to start somewhere. That’s what the Lord had me say. “Okay, God, search me and know my heart. Would You change me? Instead of me asking questions that make him know I’m not happy with what he’s doing, would You turn that around in my heart so every day I’m saying to You, 'Lord, what does love look like today toward this man? How can I respect him?'”
I think of the bride in the Song of Solomon. She said to her husband, “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so are you among young men.” It was like she looked at this whole forest of pine trees, and she said, “You’re like an apple tree with red apples. You just stand out among all the men.” A question that I need to ask myself every day is, “Lord, how do I respect my husband and build him up with my words?”
Nancy: And what does it do to your husband when you take that path?
Linda: He is open to listening to God, and he can become who God wants him to be and not who I think he should be. It makes him a happy man. He has a smile on his face, and he is affectionate. He wants to be around me. Who wants to be around someone who is griping and complaining about them? We want to run the other direction! I think it makes a happy husband.
Juli: I agree. Your husband wants to be with you, which is the coolest thing. On his birthday, “What do you want to do?”
“I want to be with you. I want to spend time with you. I’d rather be with you than be with my friends or pursue some hobby.”
That’s what we as wives long for, that connection.
Linda, I love the story you tell about the man who wrote to you about following a woman around Wal-mart. Can you tell that one?
Linda: This really caused me to think, because I had been speaking on the radio about respecting your husband and being thankful for him and letting your thanks come out toward him. This man wrote me and said,
My wife is so negative that last week I was in Wal-mart and I found myself following this laughing woman who was looking up with happiness toward her husband.
After I went partway through Wal-mart, I thought, "What are you doing? You’re following this strange woman through Wal-mart!" But it just felt so good to be around a woman who was positive and who was delighting in her husband.
Nancy, I don’t think most of our husbands want a whole lot. They just want to be loved and respected, and they want that respect to be shown, and they will want to be with their wife.
Nancy: Juli and Linda, thank you so much for sharing honestly out of your own lives, your own marriages. I know there are a lot of women listening to your stories and your words today because they’re saying, “That’s where I live. I’m critical, and I don’t how to get out of this cycle. I see my husband through negative glasses, negative eyes.”
Maybe God has been speaking to your heart today and you’re saying, “I want God to change me.” You’ve been wanting to change your mate, and you’ve been working on that for years, and it hasn’t been working. God can change you, and we’re seeing that illustrated here with Juli and Linda, and you’ve heard it with other guests on Revive Our Hearts.
God can change you; God can change your heart; God can change your marriage. I love the hope that I hear in you women and that I see in your marriages. So I want to encourage you not to be afraid to pray that prayer today from your own heart to the Lord.
“Lord, you see the crazy mess we’re in here. You know how disappointing and frustrating my relationship with my mate is. I want to let You speak into my life. Show me the pride; show me the selfishness, and I’m willing to let You change me by Your grace. I want to be a woman who builds up her husband, who builds up her marriage.”
If you’ll just pray that prayer, I believe God will start a process in your marriage that will take you places maybe you’ve never dreamt of going before. This has been a great conversation with Juli Slattery and Linda Dillow, and we’re going to continue it next time when we come back with Revive Our Hearts, so be sure and join us.
Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss talking with Linda Dillow and Juli Slattery about the powerful influence of a wife’s respect. Now, I bet a lot of listeners are thinking about the story of cleaning the townhouse. Shouldn’t Juli’s husband have done his share? How can I wife appropriately confront in a situation like that?
Over the next couple of days, our guests will address that question. They’ll keep coming back to the townhouse story tomorrow and Friday.
Can you identify with Linda’s and Juli’s stories? If you know your marriage needs some changes, let me tell you how to take a first step. At Revive Our Hearts, we have heard from wife after wife who has taken a thirty-day challenge from Nancy. The challenge is to go thirty days without saying anthing negative about your husband, and to say one positive thing about him each day.
Our team walks you through this challenge day by day in a booklet called Thirty Days of Encouraging Your Husband. We’ll send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. Call us with your donation and ask for Thirty Days of Encouraging Your Husband. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or you can visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Also, at our site you can find out more about how to order resources from our guests today.
Practically, what does it look like when a husband serves by leading? We’ll talk about that tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
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