As a wife, learning to express my needs to my husband hasn’t always been easy. I would either stuff my feelings or explode. Unfortunately, neither response would bring me to the desired result I was seeking from my guy.
Over the years, I had to figure out a God-honoring way to express what was going on inside of my heart to my husband so he could learn to love me and dwell with me with understanding as he is commanded to by the Bible.
I know I’m not the only wife who has battled with this issue. One woman left me a voice message sharing her struggle and she was seeking my guidance on this topic.
So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. Eph. 5:28
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2
ERIC ENGLE: Today, we have a gal who has called in and she has some concerns, so let’s hear what she has to say.
CALLER: “Hi, my name is Sophia, I’m from New Zealand, I have an issue: I’ve never been able to drop things in the heat of an argument making my husband very bitter. The reason I can’t is because the time is never a perfect time to voice things; he’d rather constantly sweep issues under the rug and he can remain happy whilst doing this. He’s a believer. We’ve been married five years and have three kids. But I feel like God is telling me to do this and I can usually trust God, but to do this feels like clinging to a rock in the middle of an ocean, letting go, and choosing to voluntarily drown. I have to force him to sit down and listen. We’ve come a long way, my emotional stability is slowly getting healed – it’s my biggest trap. I still breakdown at the slightest sight that things are going downhill, which he hates. He asks a lot of the time, right at the beginning of an argument, to let things go – often I don’t even hear him because I’m boiling and not stopping. He keeps asking and we keep yelling – or in my case, crying. God is telling me to do the scary thing and I know it’s going to stop him from hearing me. How do I respect my husband and do this when often the issue is not minor?”
JOLENE ENGLE: Okay, there’s a lot of stuff going on there, huh?
ERIC: Yeah, and by the way don’t you love that New Zealand accent! Okay, so start! Let me know about this – what do you think?
JOLENE: Well, I think that there’s a lot of issues, I don’t think there’s just one of ‘how do you respect your husband in the midst of this’. I see a woman who is trying to grow in the Lord; she mentioned that she’s becoming more emotionally healed. I believe that every single woman goes through a journey of emotional healing and wholeness and being strengthened by the Lord. And that happens when we keep turning more towards the scriptures, seeking the scriptures, and surrendering our will to the scriptures – surrendering our emotional brokenness to what the Word is saying. We could lead with our emotions, but leading with our emotions does not always end well.
ERIC: When she said he asks questions, it sounds like he wants to know what’s going on. There are a lot of husbands who don’t want to know what’s going on, and they don’t care. So, I think she’s got a guy that she can build that relationship with.
JOLENE: Yes, but then in the same breath she shared how she feels like she can’t bring things up with him – he’ll sweep it under the rug and pretend to be all happy. When I get the emails, I try and get the women to leave one 90-second message, because just in this one message, we hear a lot. Now they’re restricted to those 90 seconds. When a woman writes in, they’re not restricted and sometimes I get two pages of all her issues. For me, as a woman, this is completely overwhelming. And I love to help women! So if I feel completely overwhelmed by their emotional laundry list, how on earth does their man feel? And he lives with it all the time! It’s like an emotional time bomb that’s ready to go off, so he has to duck and cover and get out of dodge. He has to pretend like he’s not hearing any of this, because he’s not as emotional as a woman. To him it’s overwhelming.
ERIC: So what’s she to do? What’s a gal to do when she’s got all of these emotions?
JOLENE: One at a time, baby! One at a time! You’ve got to take it to the Lord first; I have to go to the Lord first.
ERIC: That’s great advice right there, because how many times do we have these issues and God is a last resort? ‘Nothing else has worked; I’ve tried this, I’ve tried that. Okay, well I guess I’ll go to the Lord then…’ It’s like He’s the last ditch effort. If we have the relationship with the Lord that we should, then we should go to Him first, right? I mean, we’re supposed to be in prayer about everything, all the time with Him.
JOLENE: Let me talk about that prayer. I’m not a huge prayer warrior. I know women and that’s their gift; I feel like a two year old praying compared to how they are. What helps me, emotionally, is a prayer journal – I’ve had it for years and Eric was the one who encouraged something like that when we were dating.
ERIC: I was a pretty smart guy back then! What happened!
JOLENE: (Laughs) you’re still a smart guy. I remember you taking me to the bookstore and you bought me an Oswald Chambers Utmost For His Highest devotional. And that sure hurt my head! I had no idea what he was talking about, but I kept reading it! So every morning I would get to my office early and I would sit off, parked underneath a shade tree and I would read my Bible and Oswald Chambers – with no idea really what he was saying – and I would have my prayer journal. Basically, my prayer journal was just me writing to Jesus, sharing my heart with Jesus, sharing my fears with Jesus. I go through the acronym ‘ A.C.T.S.’ The ‘A’ means ‘Adoration’ so I would adore Christ through prayer. It has helped me as a new believer to have my prayer life in line with how Jesus taught us to pray. I didn’t know how to pray, so I followed that! I had it in my prayer journal as this: ‘A’ is for ‘Adoration’, ‘C’ is for ‘Confession’ – I would confess my sins to Christ. I sin every day; every single morning when I wake up, there are sins. It’s not like I became a Christian and received forgiveness and then just stopped asking for it, no, it’s a daily thing. I’m a wretched sinner. I didn’t want to act that way, so I asked Him to help me. ‘T’ is ‘Thanksgiving’; I thank Him for what He’s doing in my life. I thank Him for Eric, the boys and how they’re growing, the ministry, and everything that God is doing! If I don’t have gratitude, I look at self and become consumed with self. The last one is ‘S’ which stands for ‘Supplication’ – which is giving God your needs. I think a wife would be wise to write down her needs; most of them are emotional needs. If you write that down and go through that on a regular basis – remember that you’re coming to your Lord, your Savior. He knows you better than your husband does. If you go to Him first and throw all of this at His feet – then the Lord can handle it! Your husband cannot! I would recommend to a wife, whether she’s emotionally stable or fragile, to go through this process on a regular basis. For me, I have to look at that emotional need and ask myself, ‘Self, can my husband meet this need or not? Am I being ridiculous about this? Am I expecting him to act like Jesus to help me in this? Or is this a concern that I need to address with him?’ If that’s the case then I go to him with that one need. Not five, because he can’t handle five. I might think he can handle five… he should be able to handle five, because I’ve got five needs! So in my mind I’m thinking that my husband should be able to handle these five needs. But he can’t. Just go to him with one. And in a time when you feel it is best, say ‘hey, can you help me? Can you help me to unpack this problem that I have?’
ERIC: It’s all in the approach, isn’t it?
JOLENE: Oh, it is, it sure is. It definitely is. If you come at him accusing him of not meeting a need, he’s going to stick his head in the sand or yell back. If a woman came to me, yelling at me that I’m not meeting her needs, do you think I would want to hang out with her? Nope. It’d be too much, I’d tell her to go to Jesus first. You’re expecting me to handle something that I can’t handle, because you’re coming at me in a very angry way and it doesn’t matter what I say, you’re not going to hear it, because you’re angry. So, go to Jesus first, and go to your husband with one thing. Start building it there. But let me ask you another question, does he even feel safe enough to come to you with a thing that he needs?
ERIC: That’s a great point right there. She’s saying that she can dump all of her garbage on him, but she doesn’t want to hear any of his stuff, or vice-versa; men kind of keep to themselves, unless you prod them.
JOLENE: You’ve got to be that soft place to land for him. You have to develop that soft place for each other to land. I’ve had many women over the years, in real life, that I minister to, and it got to the point that when I would see them, I would think ‘Oh Gosh, I hope that they don’t see me.’ I didn’t want to deal with them vomiting their issues all over me, just because I said ‘Hello, how are you’ as we passed by at church. Then it got to the point where I wouldn’t even say hi at church and I thought how sad it was. Just a simple greeting gave them license to unload, and I’m a woman who’s not even attached to their issue. Their issue is either their husband or their kids and I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve gotta get out of dodge’.
So, be discerning about whom you go to first. She even said that she’s got some emotional healing, she’s come a long way and she’s trying to figure out how not to lose it. Go to Jesus first. One of the reasons I have that prayer journal is so I don’t fall asleep while I’m praying! Practical stuff. I am not some super saint; I’ve got the same issues that everyone else has. As I’m trying to sit down to go through the devotions, read my bible, and get to my prayer journal, my mind could go off in 50 different directions. So, what do I do? I have another notepad next to me to write down, defrost the chicken. I try and write all that stuff down before I even sit down and have my time with the Lord. Because I don’t want that time to be impeded with… chicken. You know what I’m saying? (Laughs) my to-do list! If my mind’s not right with the Lord and my heart’s not right with the Lord, then the rest of my day won’t be right. I need to make that into a shareable image and post it all over Facebook, huh? (Laughs) So, this is what I would say to my friend who is emotionally starving, because we go through those seasons where we’re emotionally ready to explode and we’re looking at our husbands like ‘can you give me some help and why are you avoiding me?’ Be a soft place for them to land first, which means ask them, ‘so, love, how was your day?’ And when you ask them that, you can’t criticize. Pretend that you, listener, and I are at a coffee shop and you asked me, ‘Jolene, how was your day?’ And I tell you, ‘I had a rough day’; you reply with, ‘stupid woman’. No! You’re not going to say that; you’re not going to criticize me! Why would you criticize me? We’re friends. So you and your husband, are you guys friends? Be his friend.
ERIC: That’s a good point. In a lot of these marriages, they aren’t friends. That may sound simple, but there’s got to be a trust there. A friendship trusts; you don’t do that to your friends. Otherwise, you don’t have friends anymore.
JOLENE: Right, I’d like to have friends; friends are a good thing, it’s a biblical thing. But I have to ask myself, Am I a woman who is interested in making them feel safe? Or is it all about me? You have to ask yourself, wife, if it’s all about you, because if it’s all about you, don’t expect your husband to be close to you. That emotional intimacy that you’re craving and that emotional connectedness that you’re desiring, if you make your marriage all about you, you’re not going to have that. You’re not going to have that emotional connectedness, because what’s in it for him? There’s nothing, you’re just vomiting all your issues all over him and he becomes now like some sort of therapist, psychologist, or counselor.
ERIC: That’s why the guy packs up his stuff and moves out to the garage with his T.V. and has the ‘man cave’.
JOLENE: Right. We’re going to prevent the man cave. Now, do not write to me and say ‘my husband has a man cave and we have a great sex life’. Okay, that’s great. I’m talking about the emotional connectedness and emotional intimacy that you desire as a wife. That is my heart, to connect you closer to Christ and closer to your husband. One of the ways that starts is by being a trustworthy friend, being a friend to him, taking all your emotional baggage first and foremost to Jesus. Then just choose one issue and go to him when he’s not busy with a big project, not in the midst of heading out the door and you need to emotionally unload. Ask him to go for a walk; come up with ways to make it a safe time for you guys to have those conversations. Some of the time, he’s sticking his head in the sand because he doesn’t want to deal with your stuff. Though, it sounded like at one point that he was trying to help her – go to Ephesians 5:28, ‘Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies, he who loves his wife love himself.’ Yes, I realize that this is a husband verse, and I have some husbands listening, but I’m not talking to the husbands, I’m talking to the wives in this situation. Your guy, if he’s a believer, should love you like his own body, in your relationship with your husband, make it easy for him to love you. Think about a gal that you know who is difficult to be around. And ask yourself, why? And then say, ‘Okay, learn from that.’ And don’t do those things. I’ve got another verse: Romans 12:2, ‘don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think, then you learn to know God’s Will for you which is good, pleasing and perfect.” Our world is saturated with selfies, narcissism, and ‘me me me me me’ – ‘it’s all about me’. But we are rare women, we are set apart; we live for Jesus and we’re not going to follow the customs of the world. Even if we’re not posting 50 million selfies, we have our ‘emotional selfies’.
ERIC: Yeah. It’s interesting because the verse says ‘Let God transform you into a new person’, which means a couple things. Number one – it means He wants to transform you and number two – you have to submit to let Him do that. God is a gentleman; He’s not going to force Himself. However, He can transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Wow, that’s really powerful right there.
JOLENE: And she struggled with letting go of that rock, that image she portrayed – she was holding onto this rock and if she let go, she was going to drown. I’m sorry girlfriend, but Jesus loves you too much to let you drown!
ERIC: All that emotional baggage from that past, whatever it is, really has to do with how we think and how we think about it. This verse says that God will transform you into a new person and change the way you think.
JOLENE: Let’s assume that you have a guy that does want to help you emotionally, because I think that there was a little bit of that going on in her message, but maybe he was just getting a little bit burnt out. It was five years into it woman – suck it up, pull up your bootstraps, and get a hold of yourself (chuckles). He’s worn out emotionally, but he’s done pretty well for five years (laughs). But as a wife what do you have to fear? What do you have to fear if you just let go? Because the reality is you do not like yourself or your marital relationship today, but you want to hold on to that? Well, I’m saying it’s not good enough – let God do a greater work in your marriage. You’ve got to start with letting go and trusting Him.
ERIC: Right, and as the verse says, ‘change the way you think and you will learn to know God’s Will for you.’ How great is that? How many people say, ‘I want to know God’s Will for me’? You allow Him to change how you think and all of a sudden things are going to open up in the direction that He wants you to go; that’s so powerful and cool – I’ve got to write this verse down. Romans 12:2!
JOLENE: So let me recap this again, because I think that a lot of women deal with this issue. I have this title called Expressing Your Needs in Marriage So You Don’t Explode, because I do not believe that being a God-fearing wife means to stuff all of your emotions – that’s not in line with the scriptures, Because if you go back to Ephesians 5:28, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies, he’s got to figure you out. But if you’re a ticking time bomb, he’s thinking ‘I don’t want to hold this; I wanna go in the other room’.
ERIC: Hot potato (laughs).
JOLENE: Right, right. So here’s where you go back – you go to Jesus first, get a prayer journal if you need, write down all of your concerns, that’s your letter to Jesus. If I don’t know what to do with this, many times in my prayer journal I don’t know how to handle something, but I bring it to the Lord. I don’t know how to handle this, I don’t know what to do with this, I’m fearful, I’m consumed with this, there’s anxiety, I know I shouldn’t have it, but it’s me talking to my Savior and I write it so I can stay focused on that intimate relationship. I’m sure it would be so much easier for me to be focused if Jesus physically walked into the room and He sat across from me and said, ‘so how’s it going?’ You and I would be so engaged with Jesus in that moment! There would be no problem with being distracted! But that’s not how He left us; He left us with The Helper, The Holy Spirit. I’m almost 20 years into walking with Christ and it’s an odd concept, this Holy Spirit thing, and it was just the other day that I wrote ‘thank You for giving me the Holy Spirit’, because the Holy Spirit is right there for me immediately! Jesus had to travel from town to town; you had to wait for Him to get there – that is not the case with the Holy Spirit! So for me, I have to be very engaged, focused, and I have to remove the distractions – get the prayer journal, it will help you emotionally, it will help you grow spiritually, it will help you to hear the voice of the Lord when He’s speaking – to fine tune, to tune out everything. And then the next thing would be to build the trust with your husband, be the friend. And then the third thing would be, go to him with your one issue at a time. One issue is the key. I’m Jolene Engle, here with my husband Eric and we will see you next time.
Live a poured out life for Christ,