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Professional Christian Counseling

                Emotionally Focused...Solution Driven Counseling

  Bulding Healthy Marriages and Strong Families


Her Heart

Her Love Addiction "United" Emotionally

Revised 10/29/2015

The heart graphic pictured here serves as a figurative symbol for how a woman feels about her relationship. For both men and women, emotions are thoughts formed in the brain induced by the production of neurotransmitters. Because emotions are regulated by the brain, it also important to note that, the brain activates other systems that correspond to our feelings. As emotions develop the brain activates the endocrine system which produces hormones that affect other body systems like the heart. One such hormone, called adrenaline, is produced when we have thoughts of danger accompanied by feelings of fear. When the hormone adrenaline is called into action, it speeds up the heart thus preparing the body for a response to whatever we think we are being threatened by. Because we can tell when our heart rate changes, we attribute that body change to our feelings. Furthermore, because it is universal that all human thought affects the body in some way, it is easy to see then, how the heart has become a symbol of strong feelings.

Feelings not only have an effect on our body but also influence our thinking and decision making. The larger or more intense our feelings are, the more difficult rational decision making can become. Furthermore, since our behaviors are based on decisions influenced by feelings, our behaviors are a reflection of how strongly we feel about something and often become commensurate with the degree of emotion that we experience.

How much “feeling” chemical a person makes is based on genetics and is distributed across both gender, and worldwide, by ethnic group. Women in general express more emotion than men[1]&[2] Japanese groups tend to suppress feelings.[3] Dr. Luann Brizendine writes in her book The Female Brain that as estrogen floods a woman’s brain, it causes her to focus intensely on her emotions and on communication.[4] For both genders the size of the feeling determines one of two things. First it determines how urgent a response seems and how quickly or slowly a person needs to respond. Secondly, the size of feelings determines how large or exaggerated the resulting behavior might be. The degree of emotionality that a person displays is regulated genetically by the amounts of the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen, and by cultural contexts.[5] Generally speaking, the most emotional people will be those influenced by larger amounts of the feminizing hormone estrogen as well as living in groups where expressing feelings is highly encouraged. As we discovered in the Love Gauge section, how well love gets communicated to a woman by her husband is what women monitor in order to determine the health of their relationship. The frequency and quality of those loving messages can either fill or deplete her love tank.

Love Tank Fuels

The idea of a “love tank” is not a new one. Dr. Gary Chapman credits psychiatrist Dr. Ross Campbell with giving him the idea of an emotional love tank who first used it in connection with treating adolescents.[6] Dr. Chapman adapted the idea to marriage in his excellent work The Five Love Languages. Here we expand the idea by examining the fuel that fills those tanks. Consistent with Dr. Chapman’s views, the fuel can vary and is emphasized differently by men and women.

A woman requires different fuel to fill her love tank than what a man does. Ephesians 5:33 gives us an important clue. It states “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” The implication from Ephesians 5:33 is that women long to feel loved, and men desire to be respected. Researchers at the Pittsburg Psychobiologic Studies Center have discovered that, from early on, girls want to be liked and socially connected while teen boys seek to be respected and to have authority.[7] Paul acknowledged these human traits long before science could measure those and thus encourages men to love their wives while women are encouraged to respect their husbands. The admonition to love and respect is a sweeping summation of the Apostle Paul’s famous discourse equating marriage to the Christian’s relationship with Christ. You may be wondering how this ties in with the Cycle of Intimacy. Assuredly it goes a long way in expanding our understanding. Looking first from the male perspective, we will examine the concept of his fuel which is respect.

A man is built to respond positively when respect is communicated. Respect creates a sense of admiration and honor that accompanies what a man has accomplished to earn it. There are two kinds of thoughts, both cognitive and emotional. As mentioned earlier women focus more on emotional thinking than men do which captivates a considerable number of their thoughts. Conversely because men are less focused on feelings, the cognitive or logical aspects of thinking are what consume their thoughts. So what does this have to do with respect you may be wondering? Because of the way the male brain works, male thinking is built upon a strong sense of justice which is based in a man’s logic and a function of his more cognitively oriented brain. The male mind weighs things for rightness and wrongness, psychologists refer to this as instrumental thinking. We know men do this because they are natural law and contract makers. Governments around the globe and the business world are full of men. They have a strong sense of fairness and when that is corrupted it results in the emotion of anger. Because men are highly familiar with anger they are more able to detect it in others and more prone to show it than women. From the vantage point of fairness, a man believes that he earns respect when he has behaved in ways that have demonstrated his positive character and integrity, especially so, when he knows that he has done the “right” kinds of things. As a natural outflow to his exhibition of integrity, respect brings with it a sense of trustworthiness that men believe should result in submission and obedience. They often think, “Because I have shown you that you can trust me, you should be able to follow me without question.” Indeed many are offended when they think their motives have been questioned. Why? Because questioning a man raises a doubt about his competence in regard to either his logic, or his integrity. This can make men feel dishonored and disrespected. This is also an aspect of God’s character and because he is completely trustworthy, we should reverence Him.

As an example of justice based thinking, when men act altruistically toward others they believe it is right to receive altruism in return. They have a very definite “eye for eye” mentality. Certainly when a wife feels that she has been loved by her husband it becomes much easier to return the favor and submit to her husband sexually. When a man believes that he has sufficiently acted altruistically toward his wife and she fails to reciprocate sexually, Ephesians 5:22-24 is all too often the card that some Christian men play to get what they think they deserve. It states “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” Even though the sexual connotation may be present, you would be hard pressed to find any Biblical commentator who might say so explicitly. On the contrary Dr. Wayne Barber writes in his commentary that the wife’s submissiveness represents more of an act of faith.[8]

Submission Does Not Necessarily Refer Directly to Sex

The submissive faith that vs. 22-24 is referring to has to do with the generation of a belief by the wife that her husband will eventually take care of her even though it may not be immediately apparent. Therefore what she must submit to is―his slowness. Since men tend to be much less emotional than women are, their lesser feelings make them less subject to exaggerated behaviors or to acting impulsively. By and large men live more emotionally even-keeled than women do which is a primary reason that psychological studies excluded them until the 1990s.[9] Men typically do not become overly upset, nor become overjoyed by life circumstances and tend to be rather stoic in their demeanor. Consequently they rarely panic or feel a large sense of urgency unless something is really pressing. This results in a generally slower response to imminent life events. Take Christmas shopping for example. The British retailer Debenhams has discovered that men generally start their shopping much later than women do. Dubbed “The Male Sale”, they have come to expect that sales of perfume and lingerie will sharply rise about a week before Christmas and peak at its maximum just four days before with sales persisting through Christmas Eve. They say that women however, start in earnest with the advent of the availability of festive decorations in early November. Female sales reach a crescendo the first week of December as they snatch up children’s toys.[10] A man’s slower start to: Christmas shopping; or to preparing children for school; or to planning for a family vacation is a function of his lower level of feelings that results in a lower sense of urgency. Because of a lower sense of male urgency women sometimes think that they have to take charge because her husband never will. This can make woman look like a control freak cause people to believe she “wears the pants” in the family. The real reason women do this is not because they are power mongers and want to control their husbands. They have simply discovered that to mediate their urgent feelings, they must take care of things themselves. By having to mediate for themselves they are not feeling loved by their husbands. How God wants men and women to respond to this is addressed in Ephesians 5:22-24.

The Ephesians passage is telling wives to submit to that slowness and to have faith that he will eventually act on her behalf. To do so requires that a woman must wait on her husband. Why? Because to do otherwise, and to not wait, would usurp the headship and responsibility God places on him in v.23, which is a mandate to care for his wife. But, if she has already acted, thereby taking care of her own need then the man’s need for action becomes moot. For the wife, Christian believer and bride of Christ the answer is the same, “Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.”, Isaiah 40:31, NASB. Evidently, there is a proper time for action that is based more on an orchestration and timing of events, rather than being driven by feelings. The Bible refers to this idea when it uses phrases such as; “at the appointed time;” “at the very time God had promised;” “at the proper time” and “when the fullness of time had come” God acted. Waiting has a valuable after effect especially for children. It teaches them how to regulate feelings and self-discipline. There are other payoffs for a wife. As she is able to abstain from giving in to feelings and from running out ahead of her husband, when he does act it can return to her with a measure of greater faith in her husband as well as a heightened joy of being cared for. It’s the reverse of systematic desensitization whereby we take for granted things we get constantly which can lead some of us to narcissism. When we have to wait for the things we want, we appreciate them more. Please be clear, this is no way implies that a woman can never do things independently of her husband or that he has to take care of everything. It only means to suggest that in order to reinforce the respect that a husband feels from his wife, she may wish to consult with him before acting carte blanche or taking the lead. Women are really good at working out details and planning ahead, and in this way a wife can become a wonderful asset to her husband. Likewise, Paul is not giving men license to act carte blanch without consulting with their wives either. To do so would likely cause her to feel unloved.

Furthermore, men should recognize how difficult it is to wait patiently when all of a person’s feelings inside are saying they should act. It would be cruel to make a woman endure excessive periods of time waiting for the things she needs for no other reason than the man is not ready to consider it. It is also important to note that some men take an unfortunately passive stance when it comes to their wife’s charging ahead. In so doing they become complacent to the things that put stress on her. Ephesians 5:21 addresses that as well.

In v.21 Paul writes “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” which now includes the husband in the whole submission equstion. Indeed most Bible commentators recognize the mutuality and necessity of submission in marriage but few, however, have helped us to know what true Biblical submission is supposed to look like. While many feminists have cringed at the notion of submitting to a man, it must be because they have failed to see it function properly. If they were to see mutual submission operate the way God designed for it to, would probably be something they would actually want. You may also have noticed that, on the surface of v. 21, Paul appears to endorse a husband’s passivity to his wife by telling him to “Submit” also. If we are going to say that the wife must submit to her husband’s slowness in caring for her, then the complementary statement about his submission to her is not intended for him to become her slave and to placate her, but rather, he must submit himself to providing for the needs of his wife. What woman would reject that if it became a reality? Assuredly, Paul is calling for husbands to submit to the consideration of what stresses his wife and to resolving those things for her. Because as he resolves issues for her―she feels loved. And, we know from the Genesis 2:24 Cycle of Intimacy that as she feels loved, she becomes more open to him sexually. It is here that we find the sexual admonition of submission. In spite of this better way of seeing Ephesians 5:22-24, men have chosen alternate interpretations regarding a wife’s submission.

Obviously, men of the past have seen what they have wanted to and have interpreted Ephesians 5:22 to mean that a wife should submit “sexually.” Some men have taken that belief even further and have held that the Ephesians 5:22-24 “submission” clause is an unconditional command for the wife to maintain sexual contact regardless of whether or not she feels loved by her husband. This single male attitude is probably why Feminism has come into existence. Women do not enjoy being subjugated sexually and in any other way for that matter. And, Feminism has been the banner under which many women have rejected male patriarchy as insensitive to the needs of women and oppressive.[11]

For a woman to make herself sexual, apart from her husband generating any feelings of love within her, means that a husband would be asking a woman to be more like a man and to override her female Love Gauge and Safety Valve. To do so would be in direct contradiction to its function and to the purposes of why God placed it in her in the first place. It is there to protect her, her offspring and to tell her when his loving care is missing from their relationship. The engagement of her Safety Valve is saying that there is a failure in his sensitive awareness of her and that he is failing to consider what creates stress for her and to provide what she needs. Paul condemns this by stating plainly in 1Timothy 5:8, “Anyone who does not provide for relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” [emphasis mine]. Since Ephesians 5:22-24 is about a wife submitting in faith to her husband’s slowness and a husband submitting to his wife’s feelings and needs, to use it for sexual purposes would constitute a gross misuse of Scripture. Even worse, saying that God demands sexuality of her, is putting words in the mouth of God that are in direct violation of the Genesis 2:24 Cycle and puts her relationship with Him at odds. How could a loving God be so insensitive to her feelings? Knowing about the existence of her Safety Valve and drawing an interpretation of vs. 22-24 that God demands sexuality from her apart from having loving feelings toward her husband would be commanding her to be something that she was NOT created to be. Besides, what kind of person wants to know that their spouse loves them because they were forced by God to do that? Certainly that would not be very satisfying as well as being something akin to rape or human trafficking. Love cannot be demanded.[12] Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Emerson Eggerichs agree that it must be freely given especially when loving feelings aren’t present.[13]&[14] We as humans want to know that we are loved because our spouse wants to, not because they have to be made to do that. Therefore, if Paul had any sexual submission in mind, as he wrote his letter to the Ephesians, it must have been strictly voluntary, not absolute and as a natural outflow of the Genesis 2:24 Cycle of Intimacy.[15],[16]&[17]

If it is important to view Paul’s Ephesians 5:22 “submission” clause as an absolute command then it makes more sense for it to be about a wife submitting to her husband, in the faith that he will care for her, and that she must not usurp God’s mandate to her husband that he care for her. By acting impulsively and taking his leadership role away from him, she is not allowing him to act in obedience to God. Evidently for a woman to run out ahead of her husband must hold some inherent danger especially as we consider that God calls for him to be her protector. He must have the marriage relationship in this way for some good reason. Just as abstaining from sex makes a couple’s next encounter even more powerful for the husband, thus solidifying his connection with her, so the wife should receive a greater thrill by abstaining from family leadership so that when he does react, his actions will be even more meaningful to her. Possibly one of the biggest hurdles a woman will face, who chooses to exercise submissiveness, will be to resist the temptation to either goad or shame her husband into leading in this way.

Both goading and shaming come across as disrespectful and will probably backfire on her. While Ephesians 5:22 is not a license for husbands to exert power over their wives, it is however, a reiteration of Genesis 2:24 stated in a way that expands our understanding of how the Cycle of Intimacy is supposed to be built. As a sub-cycle of the Cycle of Intimacy, the better that: wives wait on their husbands and husbands anticipate and care for the needs of their wives the more solid the two “become united”. As that sub-cycle flows it lubricates the Genesis 2:24 Cycle of Intimacy even better because men would then believe that they are respected while wives would feel loved.

In the Ephesians 5:22-24 text, Paul is trying to help husbands “get a clue” that the sex they desire hinges upon their own ability to provide frequent and quality loving actions. The whole Ephesians 5 passage on marriage hints at keeping the wife’s best interest in mind just like Christ does with the church. In the tradition of Genesis 2:24 Paul starts with the Godly commitment of Christ and love for his bride that he hopes will be emulated by the husband. While men desperately want this to be untrue, her sexuality is not intended to be unconditional but rather conditional based upon how well a man anticipates his wife’s needs and cares for her. He is to treat her as he would himself because no one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it (v.29). That means that he anticipates what will create stress for her and then goes about the business of resolving that ahead of time for her so that it never becomes an issue. This is true leadership, as a husband takes charge of what might cause his wife strong feelings; by anticipating that and then mediating it for her. In doing so he leads his wife’s feelings to good places building positive sentiment inside of her toward him. That can mean taking care of an issue at school for the kids before she has to deal with it or by arranging a date night for just the two of them or planning a family vacation that she does not have to. He must prevent negative feelings from overwhelming her while creating positive feelings for her. This was evidently the same attitude that Paul was attempting to instill within the hearts and minds of the men of Ephesus, And, his message is still apropos to every man today. Husbands would do well to keep in mind God’s word to his bride in Isaiah 65:24, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” While Paul does not state in Ephesians 5 the antithesis of what happens when a man fails to love his wife the way God loves his bride, rest assured there are serious consequences. First and foremost not submitting to the feelings and needs of his wife means that she will not submit to his either. This creates great pain for both partners.

Emotional Pain ― Friend or Foe?

In regard to emotional pain, God made humans to have it (post-Fall) as a protective feature of personhood in order to keep us from committing the same painful experiences over and over again. God has designed the human brain to give at least twice as much emphasis to hurtful experiences as it does to pleasurable ones and some researchers say that they can be five to twenty times more powerful.[18] This observation is what helped Freud develop his concept of the Pleasure Principle in which he observed that people move toward pleasure and away from pain.[19] The capacity to recall painful experiences much easier than pleasurable ones is an important part of learning and something that can either work for or against couples in relationship. You may be asking “How can pain be my friend?” Pain in whatever form it arrives, whether physical or emotional, is intended to signal to us that something is wrong and needs our attention. For the single-minded husband who has centered his focus on his own interests, the pain of receiving his wife’s coldness, lack of interest in sex or flat out rejection should tell him that he isn’t paying enough attention to her needs and that she is feeling neglected. In this way his pain becomes his friend thus allowing him to change his focus and direction. As foe, accumulated pain can work against a relationship.

A major problem of emotional pain facing couples today is that a wife, because of her mental predisposition to give greater emphasis to hurts over pleasurable experiences can become myopic. Because of the magnification of emotional pain, when enough hurts have piled up it may cause a wife to see only the negative things that her husband does while ignoring or dismissing his positives. Relationship expert Dr. John Gottman refers to this as Negative Sentiment Override which means that her attitude toward her husband has changed from being generally positive to becoming generally negative.[20] If you recall the Love Tank Fuel of respect that men run on, then you will also remember that it is his accomplishments that he wants to be honored and respected for. As we couple that definition with Ephesians 5:33 that says a wife should respect her husband, we then discover that one of the cures for Gottman’s Negative Sentiment Override is to give husbands credit for the loving things that they do thus making them believe they are respected. Paul is saying to women that it is too easy to overlook the good things a husband does and focus only on what he does wrong or that he inadvertently omits from giving her. Nor should women give in to Negative Sentiment Override and take for granted her husband’s loving actions and dismiss them as meaningless or as strange aberrations of his character. Just like women, men are also works in progress. Each spouse should remember the potential they saw in each other from their days of dating. A woman should continually search out the existence of her husband’s love for her. Does he have a job? Does he go to work? Does he provide a home? Does he come home to you at night? Does he talk to you once in awhile? Maybe those are the things of greater value that a woman should focus on rather than the fact that he fails to pickup his socks and put them in the laundry? Perhaps the Ephesians 5 reminder, to respect his efforts, is God’s way of saying that her husband is not all bad? Furthermore, because Ephesians 5 is an expansion of Genesis 2:24 (Paul even repeats it verbatim in v.31), a woman should respect her husband’s efforts to love her by not ignoring the important sexual part of their relationship. To be sure, if Ephesians 5:22-24 did have a sexual connotation it would be pointing here. That as he loves her and feels respected by her their relationship should become sexual. Paul may also be implying that a woman may be able to generate those prerequisite loving feelings for her husband by switching her negative focus to a more positive one by searching out his loving acts and cherishing them as indicative of his love for her. Before leaving the topic of Paul’s discourse on marriage in Ephesians 5, Paul makes a curious statement near the end that has confounded many a theologian.

In v.32 he talks about a “mystery.” D. A. Carson and Douglas Moo point out that the Hebrew word for mystery does not indicate that something cannot be understood but is rather something impossible to understand until a proper time in which God reveals it to us. Dr. Peter T. O’Brien, of Moore Theological College, has linked Paul’s Eph. 5:32 mystery to Genesis 2:24 by writing that, as late as 1993, the meaning of both passages was still hidden from theologians.[21] Furthermore, Carson and Moo urge Christian’s to not give up trying to understand these passages as Paul’s emphasis in writing his letter to the Ephesians is toward searching out that knowledge.”[22] While some may use Paul’s statement as an excuse for giving up by concluding that he is saying that marriage is an unexplainable mystery, nothing could be further from the truth. In contradiction, Paul understood marriage and beautifully expands our knowledge of what it and a relationship with Christ should be like. Even though some have asserted that Paul was an unmarried man, regardless of whether or not that was true, he certainly displayed a supernatural understanding of marriage to which he alluded in his teachings on it. Paul was not confused about it. Paul’s great mystery―the thing that likely puzzled him most―probably had to do with why a holy God would want to have anything to do with humans let alone submit Himself to their need of a Savior by dying a horrific death on a cross while at the same time betrothing Himself to them for eternity. That really is puzzling! Nevertheless, Paul’s advancement of marriage, by helping us to understand the fuels of love and respect, take us further. When a husband fails to love his wife, as Christ loves His church, a wife can get stuck in a negative perspective of her husband this causing her to “run on empty.”

Running On Empty

Women run on empty when they realize that the love, care and concern that they have been subconsciously monitoring from their husbands have reached critically low levels. This is their Love Gauge in action and is what regulates her Safety Valve. How well a woman perceives that she is being loved determines the degree of connection she has with their husband which in turn determines how secure she feels in her relationship with him. She gauges both the frequency and the quality of his loving messages which tell her just how much he cares about her. As mentioned earlier, God has designed the human brain to give at least twice as much emphasis to hurtful experiences as it does to pleasurable ones. In order to avoid Gottman’s Negative Sentiment Override, you may have been tempted to draw the conclusion that if a woman receives as many caring messages than she does not, then she will become satiated thus satisfying justice. Unfortunately that does not seem to be completely true. In actuality she requires a ratio of two positives overriding one negative just to get her back to zero since her brain needs at least two positives in order to rule out one negative experience. Theoretically helping her to have two positive feelings to one negative feeling only allows her to tolerate her relationship. It leaves her on a proverbial fence poised to fall to one side or the other with either the next positive or negative event. A man’s wife will require many more positive interactions with her husband than negative ones, by at least twice as much, just to keep her head above emotional waters. That doesn’t even include the idea of pleasing or even thrilling her which would require many more positives. Some indicate that she may require a factor of five to twenty in order to accomplish that! Bottom line, husbands have to do more than twice as many good things that make her happy than things that make her sad or angry. Doing so just establishes a basic foundation that enables her to stay in the relationship.

Keeping her at a minimum level does not protect her from looking outward for better opportunities however. In order to keep her safe a husband has to fill his wife’s Love Tank instead of constantly running her on fumes. Just so you know, women consider running on empty as a negative and you are doing yourself no favor by keeping her there. If you’ve ever taken that chance in your car you know how scary it is, and you probably found yourself constantly searching for the next filling station―if you get my metamessage drift. In order for a husband to fill his wife’s love tank, he must understand the nature of fuel required. Just as you would never put diesel fuel in a tank meant for gasoline, and vice versa, so we need to avoid putting the wrong fuel in a woman’s tank.

Understanding Her Love Tank

While women require a special blend of fuel to run on, her engine so to speak, is based on the mechanics of protoconversation. Her love tank is comprised of the accumulated experiences of love that she has had. Positive experiences fill her tank while negative ones deplete it. Because of the phenomenon called protoconversation, which we have discussed already in the Verbal Intercourse section, husbands and wives are constantly communicating something even while remaining silent. In other words a wife’s engine still runs even though it might look “shut-off.” In fact that is the main feature of protoconversation, being able to communicate without words. Some say, that in relationship, the conversation never ends, even if no one is talking. Why? Because even saying nothing says a lot. The silent messages called metamessages are what researchers have discovered what women pay the most attention to in relationship and do so much more than do men. Not only do they look for the metamessages that come from their husbands but they will often communicate by sending metamessages intentionally. Dr. Marrianne Legato writes in her book that when women can communicate without actually saying what they mean out loud, and when they are understood (especially emotionally), they find that thrilling. I sometimes refer to this with my counseling clients as the Verbal Orgasm. This is the favored indirect style of communication that many women prefer. Metamessages of caring that make a woman feel secure are what they are watching for. If present in sufficient quality and frequency then the relationship is in a good place. If they are absent then her alarms go off signaling a problem. While research indicates that men are aware of metamessages they prefer a much more direct style of communication that relies on the meaning of the words they use to convey the message they want the listener to get. Women will do that at times as well but not as regularly as men do. Women may speak in round-about ways, using symbolism and euphemisms to communicate what they want to while preserving the feelings of the listener so as not to come across as demanding, harsh or insensitive. It is indicative of the way they began life, which they carry through with.

Protoconversation starts in early life between a mother and her infant child. Because infants cannot formulate words and sentences yet, the child relies on crying, smiling, arm waving and kicking to communicate to its mother his/her state of being. As a mother responds positively to the child it develops feelings of security. The more a mother and infant are able to hone their nonverbal communication with each other the more they become attuned to one another. Nonverbal attunement eventually becomes associated with feeling cared for which results in an attachment or relational bond between mother and child. Since men were exposed to protoconversation as children also, they are capable of protoconversation and bonding as well. Women however, are especially adept at it and use it to form relationships with not only their children but with adults as well. They especially want their husband to pick up on their nonverbal communications and emotional state. The better her husband can anticipate her needs and desires without her having to ask for them, the stronger is the thrill, or orgasm if you will, that she receives from that. Because women are innately predisposed to have a keen awareness of the state of another person, whether they are happy or in distress, and because they have hopefully experienced a positive nurturing reaction from their own mother, they are uniquely equipped to both read others in distress and provide nurturing as well. Researchers say that women have a much better ability at reading nonverbal cues than a man is capable of. As an artifact of protoconversation your wife has gotten accustomed to her mother’s brand of nurture and she brings it into her marriage with you.

Good mothering reads her child and anticipates what it needs. As mom is able to come to the child’s rescue it feels loved by her. They are built to do this, and need to, for the sake of the children they will have. Because women rely on protoconversation to meet the needs of others they expect others will do it for them as well. The same applies to marriage. Women especially do this for their husbands and want it in return. This results in unspoken internal rules and standards that she develops for how others are supposed to love her. Because we all have developed standards for how to be loved, and because our mothers showed us how wonderful it is to be loved without having to ask, we expect others to be able to anticipate what our standards for being loved are and do them just the way we want―just like mom was able to. Consequently everyone who had a nurturing mother wants to have their needs met through protoconversation without having to ask for it. While men ask for formulas of how to love their wives, I often hear wives say, “If I have to tell him what to do then I might as well do it myself!” What women are saying is that they want the kind of intuitive love that they would give. This can set couples up for unreasonable expectations for their spouse due to unspoken desires. First, a new spouse can never know us quite as well as mom did, and second, sometimes a less nurturing mother does not teach her son how to nurture his wife the way a wife would want. Boys who grow up without a mother’s influence face the greatest struggles in relationships.

Dr. Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages: Men’s Edition, makes a very important point. He states that as humans how we prefer to love others is often indicative of the way we want to receive love.[23] Therefore studying your wife for how she expresses love may be a good indication of what she wants to receive in the marriage.[24] Developing better empathy skills and learning to use protoconversation in order to better anticipate what you wife and family needs while seeking to provide it for them will go a long way in making them feel loved. Women use protoconversation and metamessages to drop subtle hints of what they want in order to help husbands out. They seem to have an intuitive sense that men don’t get it and need some help figuring it out. On a long drive a wife might say, “Hey look, there is a Starbucks!” which really means, “I want a warm cup of coffee and be able to take a restroom break.” But, because they want their husband to anticipate that instead of boldly asking for it, they offer hints. The hints amount to subtle cues about how her husband should love her without actually telling him how to do it. Who wants to have to tell someone how to love them? Theoretically then, according to The Genesis Cycle of Marital Intimacy, the better a man is able to do this, the more open to sex his wife will become and in this way his “happy wife” will result in his “happy life.”

Empathizing and anticipating needs, nurturing in other words,[25] does not come natural to most men, which is why the Apostle Paul had to speak directly to them in Ephesians 5:33. Paul goads men by writing, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” For many men, nurturing probably feels extremely awkward and unnatural. It was Paul also who wrote in Philippians 2:4 “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” NASB. Peter wrote in 1Peter 3:7 “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” NASB. In order to empathize you have to study someone, see how they are struggling and feel what they feel in regard to all of that. For a person who is able to empathize, choosing the correct actions becomes easy. As Christians we know that as God’s bride he does that for us. To reiterate Isaiah 65:24, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” He answers even before we ask and answers our prayers before we pray. The Bible outlines ten things that make a difference for women that men should anticipate her needs for that will be discussed later. Nevertheless, couples who implement the strategy of submitting to each other are well on their way to becoming the Genesis 2:24 “one flesh”. For those who fail to they are headed for a crisis in midlife.

Works Cited:

[1] Gender differences in self-reported response to troubles talk, S. L. Michaud and R. M. Warner, Sex Roles, 37, 1997. (pp. 527-540)., In Elizabeth Allgeier & Albert Allgeier, (Eds.) Sexual Interactions, 5th Ed., Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000. (p. 138).

[2] You Just Don’t Understand: Women and men in conversation, Deborah Tannen, New York: William Morrow, 1990., In Elizabeth Allgeier & Albert Allgeier, (Eds.) Sexual Interactions, 5th Ed., Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000. (p. 138).

[3] That‘s Not What I Meant!: How Conversation Style Makes or Breaks Relationships, Deborah Tannen, New York: Harper, 2011. (p. 53).

[4] The Female Brain, Louann Brizendine, New York: Broadway Books, 2006. (p.7).

[5] Ibid. (p.7, 26-27).

[6] The Five Love Languages: Men’s Edition, Gary Chapman, Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2004., (p. 181).

[7] The Female Brain, Louann Brizendine, New York: Broadway Books, 2006., (p. 34-35).

[8] “Commentary on Ephesians 5:22”, Dr. Wayne Barber, Retrieved 10/6/2015 from:

[9] The Female Brain, Louann Brizendine, New York: Broadway Books, 2006., (p.2).

[10] The Male Sale-When Men Finally Begin their Christmas Shopping, Debenhams, December 23, 2011, Retrieved 10/6/2015 from:;_ylt=A0LEVra2KhVW0z4AYUIPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTBybGY3bmpvBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMyBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--.

[11] Therapy with Sexual Minorities, Chapter 12, Margaret Nichols, In Sandra Leiblum and Howard Rosen (Eds.) Principles and Practice of Sex Therapy, 3rd Edition, New York: The Guilford Press, 2000. (p. 341).

[12] The Five Love Languages: Men’s Edition, Gary Chapman, Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2004. (p.105).

[13] Ibid. (p.152).

[14] Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires The Respect He Desperately Needs, Emerson Eggerichs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004., (p.74).

[15] “Commentary on Ephesians 5:22”, “John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible”, John Wesley, 1765., Retrieved 10/5/2015 from:

[16] “Commentary on Ephesians 5:22”, “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible”, Peter Pett, 2013., Retrieved 10/5/2015 from:

[17] “Commentary on Ephesians 5:22”, “Ray Stedman’s Commentary on the Bible”, Ray Stedman, Retrieved 10/6/2015 from:

[18] Fighting For Your Marriage, 3rd Ed., Howard Markman, Scott Stanley and Susan Blumberg, San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2010. (pp. 11, 38-39).

[19] Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy, 6th Ed. Gerald Corey, United States: Brooks/Cole, 2001., (p. 69).

[20] The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert, John M. Gottman & Nan Silver, New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999. (p. 21).

[21] “P. T. O’brien’s Commentary on Genesis 5:32”, Peter T. O’brien, In Gerald F. Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin (Eds.), Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1993., (p. 623).

[22] An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd Ed., D. A. Carson and Douglas Moo, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005., (p. 495).

[23] The Five Love Languages: Men’s Edition, Gary Chapman, Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2004., (p. 140).

[24] “Commentary on Ephesians 5:22”. “Warren Wiersbe’s Commentary on the Bible”, Warren Wiersbe, Retrieved 10/6/2015 from:

[25] “Commentary on Ephesians 5:22”, “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible”, Peter Pett, 2013., Retrieved 10/5/2015 from:

Her Heart Page

The Birds and Bees Talk 

You've Never Heard...

Mikel Kelly, MA, LMHC

AACC World Conference

Nashville, TN

September 24, 2015


The Genesis 2:24

Cycle of Marital Intimacy

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Genesis 2:24 — NIV



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