To start this lesson off, I want to be clear that I am not setting myself up as an expert on the A of Affection (sex) in any way. What this section is attempting to do is discuss how your husband feels and what your husband wants. This material is from the books I have read, as well as the truths I have learned from the women I have counseled and mentored over the past twenty-five years. What I’ve mainly learned is that the A of Affection makes husbands ridiculously happy! There is much more you can learn with seminars, Christian sex counselors, DVDs, and books, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to explore that material further.
Week Eight, Day One
More Thoughts about the A of Affection
If I could give only three pieces of advice to a woman about making her husband happy, the three pieces would be (1) stop the emotional turmoil in your relationship (quit criticizing, giving so much advice, and being argumentative), (2) find a way to praise and encourage your husband in a genuine and meaningful way that delights him every day, and (3) drum roll…figure out how to make your husband happy in your sex life. Those pillars seem to make more of a difference than any other three pieces of advice. (Of course, walking in the Spirit with a gentle and quiet spirit supersedes all this advice, but I am assuming you know that.)
In the past few years since Wife School has been out, the chapter on sex has initiated more feedback than any other. Women are simply not aware of how men feel about sex. And when we understand that husbands care in a colossal way about our sex life, we can adapt our behavior, and then husbands get happy.
I’m not sure what you need to do in your marriage to up your sex life. Maybe it’s just have sex more often. Maybe it’s to be a more engaged partner. Maybe you need to be creative and do something, such as buy some outfits (men are stimulated by sight; see the next section). You want to tweak this area of your marriage until your husband is happy. No man can adore a woman who doesn’t meet this important need of his (well, 80 percent of men are like this).
Many men have godly wives who are rock stars at homemaking, rearing children, and serving others. But mark it down: if you are not an interested, engaged partner in the bedroom, then you are not a queen in his mind. Therefore, decide that you will be amazing in this area.
The section on willingness being the first step in sex is probably the most helpful piece of advice in chapter 8 in Wife School. If you knew how many women secretly told me that they are not very interested in sex (or are not easily aroused), you would be shocked (or then, maybe you would just be relieved). So many women feel like this. When women realize they are normal, and there is nothing wrong with their husbands or them, women feel a great sense of relief.
You intellectually know that spouses have different appetites for different needs. But we still beat ourselves up and tell ourselves that we are not compatible. Hogwash. Your husband is a man and has a huge hunger for sex, just like 80 percent of all men. You are a woman and have a huge need for emotional intimacy that he doesn’t have. I know you’d like him to go first and meet your need for emotional intimacy, and then you’d be more willing to engage in sex, but wise women don’t live their lives waiting on husbands to meet their needs. They meet the husbands’ needs first and then ask for what they want. A wise woman builds her house by constantly thinking about how she loves and gives, not about her own self-pity because others don’t love and give enough to her. The day you say you will become a woman who takes responsibility for your own needs and let your husband off the hook of your high, unrealistic expectations will be the day your marriage begins to turn around and soar.
If you feel your sexual problems in the marriage are very substantial, go to a Christian sex counselor. There is a lot of help available, but you have to seek it out.
See sex as an opportunity to grow your marriage, to pull your husband’s heart to you, and to love your husband in a language he can hear. And that brings us to…
Week Eight, Day Two
Bump. It. Up.
(I almost didn’t include the following section, for the obvious reason that it is rather explicit. But I feel obligated to include it. So, here goes.)
We can learn from negative examples in Scripture. For example, remember how we learned to drip some honey from the prostitutes? Now we’re going to learn something new from another negative example.
In John 14, the daughter of Herodias danced for Herod and pleased him so much that he promised to give her whatever she asked, up to half his kingdom. I feel relatively certain that alcohol was involved in this scene, but the truth remains that men are stimulated by sight and like to watch women dance. I mean, look at strip clubs. Please don’t misquote me or get me wrong. Please! I am only pointing out the obvious: men enjoy women dancing while they are scantily clad. Have you ever noticed how men are mesmerized when they watch the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders? Please hear me, I am not giving you specifics and not telling you what to do, but I am telling you that husbands—Christian husbands—enjoy watching their wives move, and they doubly enjoy it when their wives are barely dressed. Again, you know how against strip clubs I am, if you know me at all. And I detest the sin of porn and its horrible effect on men. (I am certainly not giving men a pass on any inappropriate sexual sin!) But I am telling you that men love to be stimulated by sight, and this is legitimate in marriage. Because we women (80 percent of us) don’t have this sexual craving, we tend to ignore it in our husbands. (It’s the same as men not having a need for emotional intimacy, so they tend to ignore it in wives.)
So here’s my advice to you: bump it up a notch, women. Bump. It. Up. You may think you’re chubby and not a supermodel, but according to everything I’ve heard and read, most men don’t care. They like the effort you are making to stimulate them. So…Bump. It. Up. Many of you are embarrassed at this advice, and believe me, I’m embarrassed writing it. But we all need to be reminded. The enemy wants feisty sex on TV and boring sex in the Christian marriage.
Remember, you are all the sex your husband legitimately gets. Again, I am not excusing him for any inappropriate behavior, but I am telling you that 80 percent of husbands care about this area in a huge, gigantic way—and most wives are not knowledgeable in this area.
If the kids are at your mom’s, and you have a date night, tell your husband you have a surprise for him before you go out to eat. Meet him at the door in an outfit. And then, have some music or candles lit. Bump. It. Up. Men love this attention, and many have difficulty asking for it. You are creative, right? Use some of it in this area. An adorable newlywed I know bought some cute Santa outfits for her first Christmas with her husband. I promise he will remember that, and he will never remember the gray sweater she bought him.
I can hear your thoughts: “Ugh. I don’t care about that. That doesn’t excite me at all. In fact, that sounds like another thing to put on my to-do list.” Remember, we are to love husbands in a language they can hear. And most husbands hear the language of sex as if in all caps and in italic.
If you feel uncomfortable with your body, then get a sarong to feel a little more covered. Don’t just ignore this. Men love nakedness. Again, I am not suggesting that you dance (but then again, I’m certainly not suggesting that you don’t). I am only telling you the obvious, which is that men love it when women dance or move around and are scantily clad.
And be sure to bump it up on vacation. (Husbands think vacations should have extra sex, just FYI.)
And in general, bump it up every week. You will have to experiment to see what delights your husband. Even the most stone-faced husbands will usually communicate their approval when wives bump it up. If you try something and it doesn’t hit his button, then try something else, and don’t get offended. (If you are in the 20 percent who wants sex more than your husband, read chapter 32 in Wife School.)
Women are usually real idiots about men and their desire for good sex. Don’t harm your marriage by ignoring this important area. You want him to be happy, and this area is at the tip-top of men’s lists. And they hate to beg for it, so here is your opportunity to surprise and delight him.
No, this isn’t about you. And yes, it’s a lot of work. But it is the right way to love a husband. And on top of that, as you now know, it opens his heart toward you.
Week Eight, Day Three
When You and Your Husband Disagree about How to Handle Something
One of our six adult children made a choice in which my husband and I both didn’t approve (imagine that, a child making a choice with which we didn’t agree). One morning before church, we were discussing how to handle it. I was going on and on about what needs to be said, what I thought, yada yada, etc. My husband felt differently. He thought x, and I thought y. I could feel the tension between us as we disagreed on something that was very emotionally charged.
You and your husband could disagree about how to handle finances, in-laws, church-related situations, or any of a thousand subjects. There will be many topics in which you vehemently disagree. You must have a strategy for these times.
How couples handle conflict is a major component of their relationship. We will discuss two subjects in this section: (1) your behavior when you and your husband disagree and (2) your reaction if your husband is rude, inappropriate, blaming, or critical. First, we will address your behavior.
As I say over and over again in Wife School Online,emotional turmoil is something husbands hate. To illustrate this principle again, let me tell you about an unsaved young woman I met with this week who is actually pretty smart about men. She certainly gets the sex thing and that men care so much about it. She shows up at the airport to meet her partner in boots, a long trench coat, and nothing underneath. (I know, I know, I don’t have the nerve for this either, but I am impressed by it.) Anyhow, she thought that she should be able to be honest and genuine and therefore let her emotional despair spill out. She felt she was entitled to this in a close relationship. I asked her if she treated her business clients like that.
“Of course not,” she said.
“Why do you treat the most important person in your life like that?” I asked. “Why do you not tiptoe and say hard things in a sweet way to him as you do to your clients?”
This savvy woman said her mother treated her father disrespectfully (they are now divorced), and that’s all she has ever known. It was an aha moment—that is, we should treat our husbands the nicest of anyone.
“That is so much work though!” she said.
“Isn’t your business a lot of work?” I asked. “Isn’t your fitness and eating a lot of work?” (She is superfit and in incredible shape.) “Then, why do you think that your number-one relationship in the whole world wouldn’t be a lot of work?”
We women think we have a right to let our ugliness roll out of our mouths with our spouses. Women, it’s idiotic. Even if your husband is immature with his tongue (we will discuss that in a minute), you must have self-control. I love that self-control is in the Titus 2 short list for young women.
When you and your husband begin a disagreement, flip the switch, and hear the warning sirens go off. Say to yourself, “I am entering dangerous and deep waters. I need to watch my tongue.”
And then, use mature dialog. Ask questions such as “What is your opinion?” and “How do you see it?” If he says ridiculous things, instead of jumping down his throat, say, “I’ll need to process that. That’s different from what I was thinking before, so I need to think about it.” How much better it is to buy some time with sentences like this instead of barking, “That’s why you have trouble at your office, because that’s how stupidly you think!”
John Gottman, one of the premiere marriage experts in the country, says you can tell a lot about a marriage by how conflict is handled. And it’s true. Do you stoop to disrespectfulness? To sarcasm? To giving the silent treatment? How immature! Just stop it. Stop it. We all have to grow up and slap ourselves and say, “Wow, I need to treat my husband respectfully, even when he’s driving me crazy.”
So back to the conversation between my husband and me. I was a little unhappy about how the conversation was going, to be honest. But I made a choice to tell my husband what I liked about what he said, that I would think about it some more, and that he had a good idea about z (although I didn’t tell him I didn’t like x and y). I tried to compliment him on any aspect of what he said. One thing I said was, “You have great logical thinking, so let me think about all of this for a while.”
And then later, I was able to think of something else he said that was true and good, and I said to him, “I liked your point about xx, and I feel that helped me.” We actually did resolve the issue finally, but I never decomposed into emotional hysteria, although I felt like it. (See chapter 9 in Wife School on the A of Authority if you can’t resolve the issue together.) Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and you will never have the marriage of your dreams until you can get control of that contentious, argumentative, critical tongue. If you learn nothing else in Wife School Online, learn that you must muzzle that viper. It can destroy your marriage or take it to new heights.
We are sinful, self-absorbed human beings, and you will never be a completely pure and holy woman while you are on Earth (although you can certainly grow in this area). But you can learn to speak respectfully, no matter how upset you are. If you refuse to be respectful, you suck the affection right out of your husband’s tank.
Now let’s discuss if your husband is rude to you during a conflict. If he begins name-calling or rude comments, give him a couple of nice warnings (again, no commands but sweet requests). I like the sentence (said in a very soft voice) “Please talk to me as if you love me.” If he continues to bombard you with disrespectful comments, say (without any negative emotion), “I’m sorry, but I am going to have to go for a walk (or go to the grocery store) because I don’t feel respected when you call me names. So I’ll be back in an hour, and maybe we can resume this conversation when we both calm down.” And leave. He can’t mistreat you. Men don’t respect women they can mistreat. But don’t bash him. Model humility coupled with self-respect. You don’t dish it out, but you also don’t take it.
Later, you might study chapter 13 in Wife School and give him a word picture about how you feel when he talks disrespectfully to you. I often counsel women to use examples from the husbands’ work. For example, you could possibly use an example of when his boss talked disrespectfully to him. Word pictures are powerful but must be used sparingly.
I can hear your thoughts from across the ocean: “This is so not fair.” Who said life was fair? We’re not going after fairness; we’re going after a great marriage, and this is how the wise woman builds her house. She throws pillows around her husband all the time, worrying about his ego, building him up when no one is building her up, and appreciating him when no one is appreciating her. This is how wise women earn the love and respect of their husbands, by doing what is uncommon.
Don’t go for average; go for amazing. I can honestly say to women that nothing on this side of heaven is as fulfilling as a fabulous marriage. It is worth your all-out effort. And yes, it takes months and years.
In the past two weeks, a woman told me that after having practiced Wife School for several months, her husband said to her, “On my drive home tonight, I was thinking about what was really important to me in life, and guess what it is?”
“What?” she asked, thinking he was going to say something about helping people in his business.
“You,” he said. She broke down and cried, as this man is not the gushing type. She hugged him, and he also had big tears coming down his cheek. This woman has now earned that type of love from her husband after years of doing it wrong. You can earn it, too. Stay the course. Do and say the right thing, even when you don’t feel like it. In return, you will eventually win your husband’s heart, because love never fails.
Week Eight, Day Four
The Financial Pressure That Most Men Carry
Years ago in a nail salon, the cover of a secular magazine announced an article entitled “What Men Think About.” This article said men think about work 30 percent, money 30 percent, sex 30 percent, and everything else 10 percent. I remember how surprised I was at those numbers. Why, that’s not what women think about at all. Women usually think about their children, their homes, their looks (weight), their relationships, etc. Men and women indeed think about different topics. Even if you work and you think about your work a lot, my hunch is that you don’t think about money and sex as your husband does.
Men feel an extraordinary pressure to provide for their families. When my husband taught young men in Sunday School and polled them about their struggles, money was very near the top of every young man’s list. This isn’t surprising. Men feel a burden to provide that we women don’t usually carry.
But in contrast, women like to build their nests, so we are continually thinking about making the nest nicer, and this usually costs money. Women have to be wise about understanding the pressure men feel about paying for all our nest-building ideas.
Early in our marriage, I would list to David ways I wanted to improve my nest. I understood that we couldn’t afford many of my nest-building ideas right away, but I wanted him to know what was in my heart (women long to be known deeply). What my constant nest-building dreams did to him, though, was put pressure on him. He felt that I wanted so many things. Many of the things I wanted were good, but I had no idea what a pressure he carried about money. This whole area of how much stress men feel about money is foreign to most women—just as men’s sex drives are foreign to most women. But you are a wise woman, and you are learning the deep things about men so you can understand your husband in a way that he feels supported and loved.
Later in our marriage, David and I learned to make a list of things we wanted to purchase and prioritized them. I quit fussing about all that we didn’t have (well, I got better). It frees husbands if you are asking only for a couple of things on the top of your list and not always barking about other things you want. A woman’s want list can be very long; if we are not careful, we can put unneeded pressure on our husbands.
Living on a budget, I have found, is nonnegotiable for young couples. Having a budget (and sticking to it) takes truckloads of stress out of the financial conflict in the marriage. One of my favorite financial marriage-conflict stories was when we were newlyweds and made our first budget. I looked at the clothes budget, and it was one hundred dollars.
I was shocked. “A hundred dollars a month? I could never live on that!”
“A month?” David asked. “That’s a year!”
We still hoot and laugh over that conversation thirty years ago. Learning to figure out finances is enormous to young couples. Having a budget and agreeing not to spend money outside the preplanned budget prevents much angst in the financial aspect of the marriage. There are many good Christian organizations that help couples with money: Dave Ramsey, Crown Ministries, etc. Don’t let finances zap the affection out of your marriage. Get on a budget! Get a plan. If you want to have a “Maybe Someday Dream List,” call it that, and then you get to tell him your dreams without putting pressure on him. Wise women learn how to communicate their hearts to their husbands without upsetting them.
Realize that finances are like sex to men in that men usually care much more about these areas than you do. We bless our husbands when we can understand their hearts and minds and live in consideration of their concerns. If your husband talks and whines about money over and over again, be sweet and attentive, and let him do this. He is a normal man, and you can soothe him if you will listen and be supportive. Men adore women who understand them and encourage them.
And that’s you, right?
Week Eight, Day Five
A Very Important Sentence to Say Frequently to Your Husband
In 1970, a movie came out that everyone talked about. It was Love Story with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal. (I was in the ninth grade, and most of you weren’t born.) There’s a line from this movie that became famous and was engraved on posters, coffee cups, etc. This line, said by Ali MacGraw as she is sobbing on the steps, is, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
Excuse me, ladies, but that is cow manure. Love is saying you are sorry all the time! Not only should you say you are sorry, you should say, “I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?”
I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand it when someone says to me, “I’m sorry about that…but…” and go on to tell me why he or she was really not wrong. No one likes to be wrong. And saying “I’m sorry” is very difficult. But a really good sentence to add is “Will you please forgive me?” It’s ridiculously hard to say, I agree. But it forces the other person to decide if he or she is truly going to forgive you or not. I can barely squeak it out, but I am always glad I did. Relationships are dirty and stinky, and they need the cleansing waters of asking each other for forgiveness.
Do you need to ask your husband for forgiveness for something? Get caught up. Don’t let there be anything between you for which you have never sought his forgiveness.
Last night, I said a mean thing to one of my sons. Yes, mean. And I didn’t even think about it until I had my quiet time this morning and the Holy Spirit pricked (kicked) me. And what’s worse about this situation is that the thing I criticized him over upset me so much because it is something I struggle with! (You spot it, you got it.) When I asked forgiveness this morning from this son, do you think he said, “Sure, Mom, it’s fine”? Heavens no. He went on to tell me how bad it was, blah, blah, blah. I had to keep eating mud, saying, “Yes, you’re right. That was wrong of me.”
Friends, humble yourself, and go to everyone you have offended (start with your husband and children). Ask forgiveness for your mean, critical, judgmental, insensitive, arrogant, and rude remarks. It’s not fun. But doing relationships well means a lot of nonfun things. As you know, life includes a lot of nonfun things.
Maybe you need to ask your husband for forgiveness for not considering his opinion in the past, for making decisions without consulting him, or for not being sensitive to his leadership. Wherever you have sinned against him, ask for forgiveness. When you mess up again (which you will), ask again. Keep a clean slate with all your close relationships.
This is huge stuff, ladies. Asking for forgiveness may be the just the thing you need to do to unblock some clog from the past.
Week Eight, Day Five, Continued…
Give Your Husband Time to Change the Way He Perceives the New You
I am reading a book on how the brain is plastic—that is, it can change. But it changes slowly. So when you begin to treat your husband differently, he is slowly replacing neural patterns that this is the new you. It might take months, if not a couple of years, to replace the deep grooves in his brain. The longer you’ve been married, the longer it will take. You can’t expect his brain to realize quickly that you are a new wife and have new patterns of relating. Persevere. Husbands who have been very discouraged in the marriage can be completely brought back to life with wives who will persevere in giving them the 8 A’s.
But mark it down, your husband’s brain is being changed as far as how he perceives you, if you are living the 8 A’s. But give the guy some time for his brain to make new neural patterns. Honestly, he is afraid it is not going to last.
Just FYI: scientists and psychologists disagree about how many positive interactions are needed to make up for a negative interaction. I have read that the number is three; I have also read that the number is seven. The brain seems to have a negative bias and gives more weight to negative interactions. A hysterical outbreak of yours will take many deposits to get back to zero. You don’t want to undo all the benefits of your 8 A deposits with some accidental emotional escalation or with your sarcastic retorts. You are truly losing ground with those mistakes.
Here we are again. To be honest, I was hoping that I’d be farther along than I am. I was hoping that by this time in my life, I would be over some weaknesses and hurts, but honestly, I’m not. I’m still wallowing around in many of the same ditches.
But maybe this time will be the time I learn to rest. Maybe I’ll give up my ridiculous expectations for others to love and give to me. Maybe I’ll give up my insecurity. Maybe I’ll grow in getting rid of wanting to impress others…and instead serve them.
Maybe this time will be the time I grow my faith, walk with you, talk with you, obey you, and relax in you. Trying to carry the weight of the world all the time sure hasn’t worked in the past.
Maybe this time will be the time where prayer overcomes my anxieties and the year where I turn from my self-pity and exchange it for gratefulness. God, maybe this will be the year where my marriage takes a quantum growth step and I become a woman with a gentle and quiet spirit, which you said was of great worth in your sight.
And just so you know, Lord, I realize that you will have to show up to do all that. I’ve tried before to do it myself—and that hasn’t worked.
So thank you for continuing to put up with me. Thank you for giving me another chance to live for you and do the work that you’ve assigned. May the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you.
I love you, Lord. I really do. Thank you for choosing me.
In Jesus’s name,
- Overall, how would you describe how you are doing with the A of Affection? What are some thoughts that you have on this subject?___________________________________________________________________
- In which ways could you Bump. It. Up.in your sex life with your husband? ___________________________________________________________________
- What is it like in your marriage when the two of you disagree? How could you take steps to improve that?
- What kind of financial pressure is your husband under? What could you do to help him with this?
Next week is the hardest lesson of all, the A of Authority. Gulp.