Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Understanding His Needs

Leslie Basham: Does your husband really know that you’ll love him for richer or for poorer? Here’s Shaunti Feldhahn.

Shaunti Feldhahn: We always say it’s the family that’s the most important, but sometimes we don’t live like it is. To give our husbands that freedom by saying, "It’s okay if we have to downsize if we’re going through a difficult spot. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good provider. I’m just happy that you are my man and that we are together as a family."

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, July 3.

Before we dive in, I need to mention that today’s program isn't appropriate for young children. It’s an important topic so get them busy working on something and then come back. We'll continue listening this week to a classic Revive Our Hearts interview for our archives—one that's received some of the greatest response from our listeners.

Shaunti Feldhahn authored a book called, For Women Only. Tomorrow she'll tell us some of the things she's discovered about marriage and relationships since writing the book over ten years ago.

But today, we'll hear part of that original interview that had such a big impact on our listeners.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The things we’ve been talking about with our guests, Barbara Rainey and Shaunti Feldhahn, are helpful for married women, but not just for married women. For those of us who are single as well, we’re learning some important things about how to relate to men.

We have focused the last few days on respect for men, how men are fragile—contrary to the impression that may be given. They need the encouragement, the cheering on of their wives. Today I want to talk about another insight that you learned from your survey, and this is, the need for men to feel like they are providing for their family.

Shaunti: It’s interesting. The fact that men want to be the provider is not necessarily a surprise to many of us. What to me was a surprise was that it’s not just a matter of wanting to. It’s this burden and this compulsion that goes so deep into the heart of a man that even if their wife made more than enough money to support the family’s lifestyle, it would make no difference at all to this feeling of compulsion to provide. I think for us women, it’s absolutely critical for us to get it because it is such a part of their identity.

Nancy: I believe, Shaunti, that is a God-created wiring in the heart of a man because God created the man to be the priest of his home, the spiritual leader, and the provider for that family. God has wired that into the hearts of men.

Shaunti: I’ve often heard from men when I talk about this book. The subtitle is What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men. Often when they hear that, they kind of wince and think, What are you going to say?

When I share what the insights were that I gained and the surprises that I learned, they have responded so amazingly and especially on this subject. There is something about the average man that just feels their wife doesn’t get this. They just don’t get what a burden it is.

Once we understand that, oh boy, it makes an enormous amount of difference to, for example, us appreciating them and being sympathetic when they have to work long hours rather than complaining, “Why are you working so late again? Don’t you love me and the kids?” The guy thinks he’s saying, “I love you.”

Nancy: By working.

Shaunti: By working. And we’re criticizing them for it. This is so confusing for them.

Nancy: So what is a wife to do? I know, Barbara, your husband works a lot of long hours. He has to travel quite a bit. If you feel like maybe the family needs some more “Dennis time,” and you have six children. They’re gone from the home now, but there had to be times as they were growing up that you felt the stretch and the pull of his work.

Barbara: Well, I felt it a lot. I didn’t just feel it a little. I felt it a lot because there were a lot of times when Dennis did have to work a lot and traveled a lot. I think the way we handled it is that we communicated a lot about that topic, and we were always reevaluating our lifestyle and our schedules.

I felt free to say to him, “Dennis, I feel like maybe we’re overcommitted right now, or maybe we need to find some ways to relieve some stress in the schedule.” We interacted about that. But I think the key to doing that, if it really is an issue where he is working long hours day after day after day, week after week after week.

I think as a wife you have to say something. But you have to do it in a respectful way, which is what we’ve been talking about. You have to say when can we have a chance to interact about how this is affecting the children and how it’s affecting me? You have to think it through.

It reminds me of Esther—one of my favorite stories in the Old Testament—what she did with her husband, the King. She didn’t just barge in and say, “We’ve got to talk. I don’t like the way you’re handling this. You’ve got to know what’s going on.” She didn’t demand. She didn’t scream. She didn’t cry. She didn’t yell. She just wasn’t argumentative.

First of all she prayed. She prayed and had others pray and fast with her for three days. Then she went and she asked permission to present her issue to the King.

Nancy: So she was showing respect.

Barbara: She showed respect, and she didn’t even present the issue that first time she went in. She went in and said, "I have something I need to talk to you about." That would be the way we would say it. Then she said, “When can we talk about this?” Then they scheduled a time to talk about it.

So a wife just needs to understand the dynamics of relating to her husband in respect. It’s okay to talk about his schedule if it is very demanding and how it affects you. But you have to do it in a respectful, loving, compassionate, and a gracious way that understands his burden to provide and then work out a solution between you.

Shaunti: The other thing also that I heard from many men, because most men really do feel this tension.

Barbara: Well, they’re aware when they’re working late that they’re sacrificing time at home. It’s not like they’re oblivious.

Shaunti: Exactly, and we often think that they are. Or we can have the even worse assumption of, “Don’t you love me?” As we already said, that’s the reason they often feel like they need to work like this. In addition to how we approach them, as you so perfectly said, Barbara, that’s a great way—that Esther story is a great example—to go into it with an appreciation for them.

Nancy: And a grateful spirit.

Shaunti: A grateful spirit to say, “Thank you, honey, for doing this, for feeling like you need to work these long hours. You have to understand how much I appreciate you.” Then one of the things that the men have said is put the solution on them. Men want to be problem solvers.

"Here’s the issue. How do you think we should solve it?" Then stop talking, and let them work out how we solve it. For a guy that very much appeals to them. “Great, I am helping solve this problem.”

Barbara: We’ve done that, too. We’ve gotten out our calendars. And when there’s a particularly busy, stressful season, we’ll look and see when can we have time together? When can we sort of recapture, like you said, some of those lost hours? And you build them into the schedule, which appeals to them because then they can concretely know they’re going to win.

They may not be winning at the moment in all areas, but I can win over the long-term by scheduling this time here. That’s the way we’ve done it for years. We work out the calendar where we can find some balance.

Nancy: Now let’s talk about this whole area of when there is financial pressure for whatever reason. There may be some layoffs or the industry goes under. What does it do to a man when he feels like he can’t provide? How can a wife be the helper and encourager she needs to be at that time?

Shaunti: This I’ve heard so many men say is such an enormous issue. One man said he was going through a financially very difficult season. He told me, “I walk through my day all day every day feeling like my skin is being flayed off.” He’s basically saying he has raw wounds every day. His wife can either salve those wounds and comfort him and appreciate and affirm the fact that he wants to be a provider, or she can pour lemon juice into those wounds and just make it all the worse.

We have to recognize that this is so much a core of their identity that not providing, they just don’t feel like a man. They just feel very depressed and that they’re just doing a terrible job as a person.

Nancy: So if they feel that their wife is fearful or blaming him or putting pressure on him—do something about this—that only worsens the situation.

Shaunti: Most guys are doing something about it. They want to. We also have to realize that especially if it’s been a long-term thing and it may look like he’s lost his motivation, trust me, ladies, he hasn’t lost this. This is the way that he’s wired. What it means is that he needs a lot of extra affirmation and help and support from you in him feeling like he can go out and take that risk of rejection and to try over and over again. Again, it’s about creating a safe place for him.

Nancy: That’s where a wife really needs to take her burden, her fears, and her concerns to the Lord rather than dumping them on her husband. Ultimately, that woman’s trust is not in her husband. Ultimately, her trust is in the Lord.

That’s where she has to go, to the promises of God. Let the Lord give her a stable and an energized and an encouraging spirit even when she may feel very threatened or insecure, but trusting and ultimately know God is the provider. God is the One who’s going to meet our needs.

Barbara: I couldn’t agree more, Nancy, because I think when women do that, then they’re in a position to see God provide in a miraculous way. When we’re trying to fix it ourselves and we’re putting pressure on our husbands, then neither one of us have eyes to see what God will do. When a wife can trust God to work through her husband, she frees him up to see God work in his life.

Shaunti: We always say it’s the family that’s the most important, but sometimes we don’t live like it is. To give our husbands that freedom of, "It’s okay if we have to downsize if we’re going through a difficult spot. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good provider. I’m just happy that you are my man and that we are together as a family." That’s a huge relief for them.

Nancy: Shaunti, as you were doing this survey, one of the things that was very clear was that men want more sex. Now that probably wasn’t eye-opening for you and won’t be to any of our women listeners, but as you surveyed these thousand men, you found there’s more behind that reality than just the fact that men want more sex.

Shaunti: What really was a surprise to me anyway was that for men it wasn’t even really about getting more sex. It was about feeling wanted and desired by their wives. The feeling wanted and desired by their wives gives them the sense of confidence and the sense of well-being in the rest of their life.

To me as a woman, I have always placed physical intimacy in marriage in the category of “it’s just one of his physical needs.” It’s a physical need. I have two small preschool children. When you’ve been pulled on by little hands all day, sleep seems like a physical need.

Instead, what I realized, what I was hearing from these men was that instead it gave them this enormous emotional input, as you so aptly said of this man, this is the most clear way that a wife can say to her husband, “You are more important to me than anything else in the world.” That sense of being wanted and desired by their wife salves a deep sense of isolation that men go through their life feeling and gives them a wonderful sense of well-being in the rest of their life. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem like just a physical need.

Barbara: Well, it really isn’t a physical need. It’s interesting as you were explaining all of that. It reminded me of something that Dennis and I have talked about through the years, and that is that he has said, “When you’re taking care of me and when I feel wanted by you and when I feel like things are good in the physical side of our marriage, I feel like I can conquer the world. I feel like I’m so much more effective at work.”

So the line has become between us, “Are you going to be effective tomorrow?” (Laughter) It really is true because it transcends more than just the physical need. It so ministers to the soul of a man, and he does feel confident. He does feel competent. He does feel like he is who God made him to be when his wife supports him and receives him and welcomes him in that side of his life.

Shaunti: The thing that really struck me when you said, Nancy, you get so many emails from women. There’s so much pain and misunderstanding in this area. In all honesty, that is what I heard from so many men is that they feel this deep sense of when there isn’t that relationship with their wife, when they don’t feel wanted and desired by their wife, the immense amount of pain and isolation and depression and rejection that they feel.

It affects everything else in the rest of their life, which shouldn’t surprise us. If feeling wanted by their wife gives them a sense of well-being in everything else, it shouldn’t surprise us that feeling unwanted and rejected by their wife gives them this nagging, thorough sense of depression and a lack of well-being in everything else.

Nancy: Well, maybe a wife could imagine how she would feel if her husband stopped talking to her.

Shaunti: Yes. It’s exactly the same thing.

Nancy: It would create this great emotional vacuum and need in her life. I don’t think that many women realize that for men the need for physical intimacy to be desired by their wife meets that kind of need in their life.

Shaunti: Absolutely. I personally think that once we women get this, once our eyes are opened to this particular light bulb—the ah ha moment—suddenly you realize this is a wonderful gift that you can give your husband.

It’s a joy to experience this. Suddenly you realize how much better it makes everything else in your marital relationship and everything just works right. It’s the way God designed our marriages to work.

Nancy: Your survey revealed that even if men could have enough sex, if they could be sexually satisfied, if they didn’t feel that their wife desired them, that wasn’t enough.

Shaunti: It was amazing to me that when I asked the men, the vast majority said, “Even if I got enough sex, it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t feel desired by my wife.” If she is only responding because she has to, he’s being rejected.

The next time you think, My husband needs more sex, or well, I’ll do my wifely duty and put up with it. No. Substitute instead of he needs more sex, substitute he needs to feel wanted by me.

Barbara: Because if it’s just a duty, it’s empty, and it’s hollow. Therefore, it’s meaningless. It makes sense when you think of it that way.

Shaunti: It does. It’s interesting. One thing that one man said is, “Have you ever wondered why some men are drawn to pornography?” He said, “I’ll tell you the reason why. That picture of that woman in the magazine or on the Internet conveys one message to men. Just one. And that message is, ‘I want you.’” He said, “That is what every man wants to feel from his wife.”

Nancy: So, Barbara, we’re talking to a lot of women who don’t feel that desire for their husband. They say, “I don’t desire him in that way. This is not a priority for me. How can I make him feel that I do desire him? How can I communicate that when I really don’t feel that way?”

Barbara: It goes back to your heart attitude, and it goes back to prayer. I really believe prayer should be a very important part of sexual intimacy in a marriage. A woman needs to pray that God would give her that desire. That God would give her the eyes to see her husband the way God sees him. That she would be willing to see him the way he is and to understand his need and to have compassion on him as a man.

All of that will motivate a woman to want to give herself to her husband and to want to invite him into that kind of relationship. There are times in a marriage when your heart may not be in it, and you’ve had a horrible day with the kids, and you’re tired, and you’re worn out. So that’s the reality of the kind of relationship you’re going to have, but you can’t live in that. You have to move toward meeting his needs and understanding at the core of what he’s looking for from you and be willing to meet that need.

Shaunti: And recognize that for him this is such a priority that many of the things that fill our days, that get us exhausted are not necessarily his priorities. He would love it if we would . . . it’s okay if the floor didn’t get mopped this week. "If whatever it is that I can do," many men have told me, "to take this feeling of these checklists off of my wife’s plate so that she had the time and the energy to make a priority of this for me." Because really, honestly, a lot of this just does come down to what’s the priority in our marriage.

For every single man that I interviewed and all of the men on the survey, it was very clear. This is a priority. All those other things are good things. But they want us to start making them a priority in this way.

Nancy: I think it’s important that wives realize that their husband is not strange or weird for feeling this way. If we go back to the second chapter in the whole Bible, Genesis chapter 2, the Scripture says that God said, ”It is not good for man to be alone” (v. 18 paraphrased). There was this sense of aloneness. He was not complete.

So what did God do? He makes a woman. He gives her to the man. Then the Scripture says, “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24 paraphrased). It’s that physical relationship, that sexual intimacy that is God’s designed and intended way to meet that deep need in the heart of your man.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss talking with Barbara Rainey and Shaunti Feldhahn about ways a wife can be more sensitive to her husband’s needs. Shaunti’s book is designed to help you understand your husband a lot better in terms of physical intimacy and in the words that we use. Every wife should read For Woman Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men.

One of our listeners described the book on the Revive Our Hearts listener blog this way:  

I've read this book and know first hand the power it holds. To put my husband's needs ahead of my own has radically changed our marriage, even in regard to sex. The fighting has stopped and the loving has begun.

Shaunti has released an updated version of For Women Only. We’d like to send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. We’ll also include the booklet 30 Days of Encouraging Your Husband.

Nancy, why should women get a copy of this?

Nancy: As many of of listeners know, Leslie, over the years we’ve often issued a challenge to women called the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge. For those of you who are familiar with it, here's how that challenge goes: Every day for the next thirty days purpose not to say anything negative about your husband, to your husband or to anyone else about him. And not only that, but every day for the next thirty days, express to your husband something that you appreciate or admire about him. Say it not only to him, but say it to someone else about him. 

I have watched that challenge transform the thinking and the marriages of countless of women. So I want to ask every married woman who is listening to the sound of my voice today, would you commit to take this 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge? Whether your marriage right now is currently a one or a ten on a scale of one-to-ten, or somewhere inbetween, I believe that through this challenge, God will work in your heart, and there’s a very good chance that this challenge will have a significant effect on your husband as well. I’ve seen it happen over and over again.

Our team has put together a really helpful resource to help you walk through this process. It's called, 30 Days of Encouraging Your HusbandIt will give you some practical steps on how to become your husband's best encourager. It will help you keep up with that thirty-day commitment. And it will give you solid ideas for building up that man in your life.

When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you the booklet, 30 Days of Encouraging Your Husband, and we'll also send you Shaunti Feldhahn's book, For Women Only. Just call us at 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.  

Each marriage is unique, and when we talk about husbands needing physical intimacy in marriage, it leaves some women frustrated. It’s possible that your husband doesn’t quite fit the description we gave today and that you're the one desiring greater physical intimacy.

Whatever your situation, let me encourage you to take it to the Lord. He knows you and your husband better than anyone. He encourages us to come boldly to His throne of grace and to ask Him for mercy and grace to help in our time of need. I believe as you cry out to the Lord, He really will give you the wisdom and the grace that you need in your marriage. Let me also encourage you to find an older woman or someone in the leadership in your local church to talk with about the issues you are facing. Let them encourage you “life to life” in a way that we can’t possibly do through this broadcast.

Now we know that a woman's true beauty comes from within. But what role should outward beauty play in a marriage? That’s one of the questions we’ll address tomorrow, when Shaunti Feldhahn and Barbara Rainey return for Revive Our Hearts.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. To end today’s program, we’ll again hear from Shaunti Feldhahn. During the interview we heard today, Shaunti kept hearing Nancy talk about the 30-day challenge. She was so taken by this idea, she started offering this challenge to women as well. 

We recently caught up with Shaunti and asked her about some of the women she’s influenced through this challenge. 

Shaunti: I think I’ve told Nancy many times that I stole that from her. Everywhere I go, people always say, “Well, what happens if I feel unable to respect my husband in the way he needs? I know it's important to him, you've told me that. But what if I don't respect him?”

I say, "Let me tell you this thing that Nancy Leigh DeMoss once told me." It's interesting because it has been so powerful. The whole concept of just don't say anything negative about him—either to him or about him to somebody else—and find one thing you can affirm and appreciate every day—tell him and tell somebody else.

It is fascinating to see how your feelings change. You start really becoming . . . This is going to sound funny, but you become less dissatisfied. As you focus on the positive stuff, you're going to start to feel more positive, and you just won't be thinking as much about all the things that, legitimately, may be an issue. It doesn't change all those issues, but it changes how you feel about it. 

I have found that to be so important. I think I even put it the book.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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