According to Ethridge, marriage is not really so much for us to be happy as for us to be made holy,1 since Christ gave himself to the Church to not to make the Church happy, but to make her holy. Likewise in marriage. Marriage brings out our selfishness and when we see it we either give up on marriage (if we think that the problem is the other person instead of ourself) or are spurred on to be unselfish and to love the other person unconditionally as we learn about their flaws. As we love our spouse unconditionally, we grow in intimacy with each other, and we move from intensity and passion to devotion. We tend to see passion as what is desirable, so we think that there is some problem when the passion dies down into devotion; in reality the opposite is true.
Ethridge asserts that much of the problems that women cause in marriages are caused by women being insecure with themselves. According to Ethridge, women play lots of emotional games, all of which are really because they are trying to have their emotional needs met. One way this comes out is when wives try to control everything—the way their husbands dress, the way the house is cleaned, etc. Of course, things do not generally go according to plan, which often results in the wife getting upset at the husband, ultimately because she is not feeling satisfied. Another way women try to satisfy their emotional desires is to emotionally manipulate their husband into giving them what they want. Still another is trying to guilt husbands into being a better leader/living a stronger Christian life/having better character/having fewer annoying quirks. A less subtle form of this is to openly coerce him into being who the wife wants him to be, usually with a judgemental tone. Ultimately, though, he is who God created him to be, and if the wife wants her husband to meet her needs, she needs to inspire him, not require him, to meet them.
Being insecure with herself causes a wife to have unnecessary emotional swings because she is trying to figure out if her husband thinks she is beautiful and desirable. So everything her husband does gets filtered through this analyis: “does he think I’m beautiful?”, “does he desire me?” Sometimes the things he does may suggest to that he does not. “Honey, what are you thinking of?” “Nothing.” “Nothing?! He must not be interested anymore if he’s not thinking of me.” No, men just think differently, so no need to get depressed over it.
Similarly, the desire to compare against other men or other families comes from the same insecurity.
All this stems from the flawed assumption that somebody should satisfy us. The fact is that only God can fully satisfy a woman’s emotional needs, although her husband should certainly be doing as much as he can. Demanding a man do what only God can do will not work. Instead, Ethridge suggests, wives should primarily seek to fulfill their husbands needs, rather than seek their husbands to fulfill their needs. (Likewise, the husband should be primarily seeking to fulfill his wife’s needs.)
Ethridge constantly gives examples of how a wife can inspire, rather than demand, that her husband meet her emotional needs. Instead of telling him how he failed, tell him why what you wanted is important to you. Instead of making him feel like a failure, it gives him the opportunity to feel like a hero by meeting your need. Men want to feel like a hero to their wives! Show him how much you appreciate him and that you value the things that he does. Choose words so that your husband feels like you respect him. If he does not think that you respect him, he will feel unloved. But if he feels loved, he will naturally want to love you back. When you fight, remember that the goal is not to win, but to have harmony and oneness in the relationship.
The last section of the book is about sex. Physical intimacy is as important for men as emotional intimacy is for women. Imagine how you would feel if your husband was never in the mood to take you out or talk to you or to bring you flowers; that is how he feels when his wife is never in the mood for sex. Ethridge asserts that there are four aspects to sexuality: physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental, and that mental preparation is most important for women. Ethridge gives a number of suggestions for being more in the mood, many of them as simple as keeping the room neat and clean. She notes that doing spiritual things together (like praying) increases intimacy. She also says that physical intimacy is the way that men give love, so when she has overcome her initial lack of enthusiasm and received the love that he wanted to give, she has experienced, in her words, “euphoria.”
I found Every Woman’s Marriage to be less compelling than Every Man’s Marriage. Perhaps that is simply because I am not a woman, so while the latter convicted and disturbed me regularly, naturally the former did not do so. My main problem is that Ethridge very thoroughly describes how women sin in their marriages and gives a fair amount of ideas of how to do things better, she does not discuss why the sin is this way. It is not that she does not mention why; she does so twice, once at the beginning of the book and once at the end. The why can be distilled down to Ethridge wanting/demanding that her husband satisfy her emotionally, including what seems to have been a certain amount of self-absorption, too. But everything she mentioned seems to stem from the demand that she be satisfied, rather than the desire to satisfy her husband.2 The solution, as she says, is to be satisfied in God; then she can give without expectation (and, ironically, receive from her husband). Unfortunately, as it stands readers must make the connection themselves, so the book seems a little bit like a guide of what to do, instead of a guide of who to be.
It is interesting to compare Every Woman’s Marriage to Captivating. Captivating, which explores what it means to be created beautiful and nurturing, approaches the problem from the other side. Although Captivating does not identify the sin of demanding to be satisfied (or of disbelieving God when He said that what He created was “very good”), it aims to change the attitude that leads to the sin. Every Woman’s Marriage goes from the effects of the sin, namely what happens when we demand that others satisfy us, and identifies the sin. The two books complement each other nicely. I cannot speak for women readers, but as a man I have developed a much deeper appreciation and care for my women friends. (However, I expect that women readers will, if anything, be more affected.)
A good friend of mine told me that you are ready for marriage when you go into the relationship wanting to give to the other person, rather than wanting them to satisfy you. From Every Man’s Battle, it seems like men fail to give because we tend to be unwilling to sacrifice our desires for our wives'. Ethridge suggests that women fail to give because they demand emotional fulfillment instead of inspiring it from their husbands. Despite my reservations, husbands will understand their wives better with this book and single guys will get an idea of what emotional maturity looks like in a woman. And given the patterns in the things men say about their girlfriends and wives, I suspect women will see themselves on many of the pages, and be just as convicted by Every Woman’s Marriage as men will be by Every Man’s Marriage.
Review: 8 (for men)
For some reason I have feel the need to assign an arbitrary number that places the book on both an absolute and relative ranking. As a man, I give this book an 8 because it really does not explain the why. Our motivation determines our actions, and without driving home why we sin, telling us how to do better has limited effectiveness. One of the things I liked about Every Man’s Battle was that it repeatedly said that the man is a slave to oneness with his wife’s essence. This book does not do that. But honestly, Every Man’s Battle has a lot of how-to in it, and maybe a woman would interpret this book differently, so I have left it unranked for women.
Because of the lack of why and the emphasis on what things one can do (“application” in Christianese), this is definitely not a 100-year book. However, I suspect that a book that combined Captivating with Every Woman’s Marriage would be.
Because of the lack of why and the emphasis on what things one can do (“application” in Christianese), this is definitely not a 100-year book. However, I suspect that a book that combined Captivating with Every Woman’s Marriage would be.
- Chapter 1: When Hearts Grow Cold
- “In hindsight, I realize that my unhappiness wasn’t about what
my husband was or wasn’t doing [to romance me]; rather, it was
about how I felt about myself. I needed Greg to affirm me, to
make me feel beautiful, and to convince me that I was desirable,
because I didn’t know how to feel any of these things on my own. But at the time, I felt sure that he was to blame.” (p. 9)
- “Shannon, ..., you are killing him with your own misery. This is not his problem; it’s yours. If you ever want him to meet your emotional needs, you have to learn to inspire his affections rather than to require them.” (p. 15)
- “Men need to feel like heroes to their wives.” (p. 16)
- Society has gone from abusing women’s rights to abusing men’s. Secular culture and psychology says that men are the ones who need to think like women.
- “... the wife is usually the first to suggest marriage counseling. ... Her goal is usually for him to change so that she can be happy.” (p. 23)
- Example of when Shannon gave Greg freedom to work late on the year-end financial reports the day they were supposed to leave on a writing retreat (even though it hurt when she did it). He felt like she really loved him and it was really easy to love her back and they had a great weekend.
- Chapter 3: Burning Out or Just Warming Up?
- Every (successful) marriage moves from intensity to intimacy. Love becomes less passionate and more devoted.
- “Ironically, when intensity (or excitement) is at its highest, intimacy is usually at its lowest. The reverse is also true—when intimacy is at its highest, intensity can feel as if it’s at its lowest.” (p. 35)
- “Many marriages start off passionately with lofty goals, honorable intentions, and high expectations, but if a couple isn’t committed to the routine care and maintenance of their relationship, love fades and eventually dies a slow death.” (p. 37)
- The success of a marriage depends on whether it makes the transition from passion to committment. But we tend to think that the passion is what is desirable and then we get upset as the fire of passion dies down to the hot coals of intensity. Unfortunately, that tends to destroy things.
- Chapter 4: A Greater Gift than Expected
- Marriage is for building holiness, not for giving us happiness. (Christ didn’t give himself up for the church to make His bride happy, but to make her holy)
- “I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouses. ... Until we deal with those weaknesses and character flaws, we’ll never be happy in a relationship, primarily because we’ll never be happy with ourselves.” (40-41)
- Abuse, adultery, and addiction are exceptions to remaining married. But don’t be too much in a hurry to use those excuses—the author (Shannon) was guilty of all three (in a minor form), yet her husband continued to love her and their marriage is a testament to unconditional love now.
- Holiness is developed by loving unconditionally
- Ex. Woman caught her husband masturbating to pornography when she thought he was taking a nap. Instead of condemning him, she expressed her hurt and forgiveness, and he saw more clearly how his sin affected her and took steps to deal with it.
- Chapter 5: The Ministry of Marriage
- We are called to sharpen each other with encouragement, but too often we stab each other with judgment.
- “That’s just like you, always doing stuff for others and putting our family last.” as opposed to “I think it’s wonderful that you want to help this person. Before you make a commitment, however, can we talk about what effect this might have on our time together as a family?” (p. 51)
- Put your husband’s needs before your own
- Give him your best time, which may require scheduling time.
- Chapter 6: Games Women Play
- Mommy-child game: trying to mother your husband. Instead of telling him what to do, what to wear, what time to be home, etc., tell him what you want (once) and trust that he will do it. Otherwise he will feel like you don’t respect him.
- “You can’t require your husband’s cooperation. You can, however, inspire it.” (p. 63) by saying how much you appreciate him doing it. That will make him feel like a hero and he will be more likely to want to do it in the future.
- Spoiled-child game: emotionally manipulate your husband into giving you want you want. “Am I not worth ____?”
- Healthy finances and unity with your husband are far more valuable than things.
- Recommends 1) giving the desire to God, 2) if it doesn’t go away, ask Him to make your motives pure, and 3) if it still doesn’t go away, ask God to change your heart and/or you husband’s heart.
- Holy-spirit game: “I love God so much more than my husband.” You can’t guilt people into living a godly life, and you aren’t the Holy Spirit, so you can’t force them. Let God do God’s job and you just model it.
- Patient-therapist game: Expecting your husband to solve your deep emotional problems. You husband isn’t trained as a therapist, so don’t expect him to try to solve your problems. Go to a therapist for that and go to him for emotional problems that he can solve.
- “Are you ready to give up these games so you can begin inspiring rather than requiring intimacy in your relationship? ... The only way that you will ever truly experience relational fulfillment is by simply loving your husband for who God made him to be (rather than trying to make him play the role you want him to play). By recognizing and verbalizing your own needs and desires, you’ll be setting the stage for both of you to feel like winners [in the game].” (p. 68-69)
- Chapter 7: Riding Emotional Escalators
- It’s easy to let frustrations and disappointments of life (like not having the time to pack properly for a trip and having stuff all over) get you angry, frustrated, resentful (at him for not having planned better), or depression. It’s much better to accept the situation and just do what needs to be done. (p. 71)
- Learn to laugh about your husband’s quirks that drive you crazy. “Now, instead of yelling at Greg [for absent-mindedly turning the wrong way], I put my hand on his thigh to get his attention, give him a cute little grin and an eyebrow raise, and ask, ‘Where are you going?’ This approach enables him to laugh at himself with me.” (p. 73)
- If you accept your husband’s no (as in, it’s too expensive), he will want to give you a yes and may end up agreeing with you anyway. If you try to manipulate him into doing it, he’ll fight back.
- Take what your husband says literally. If he says he’s not thinking about anything, he’s not. It’s not because he doesn’t love you, he’s just not thinking.
- If you are asking this because you want to be reassured that he loves you, just ask to him to tell you how much he loves you.
- Don’t over analyze things that happen while having sex. If he sighs (the apassionate type) in the middle, it doesn’t mean that he finds you boring.
- Chapter 8: Leaving His Sidelines
- It is important that you be your husband’s cheerleader.
- Example that Shannon’s husband plays sports better when she’s there to cheer him on
- Encourage him in his career (it’s just as hard providing for a family as taking care of kids) and in his hobbies
- If you resent the time that he takes for his hobbies and force him to stop, it will probably make him less fun to be around, because his hobbies are the things that fill him up.
- If you resent the time he spends on his hobbies, consider if you might be really feeling bad about yourself: one of the reasons Shannon stopped going to Greg’s softball games was that she felt fat compared to all the other women.
- Chapter 9: Comparing Apples to Oranges
- Don’t compare your husband to other men (particularly other people you dated or were intimate with—you would be hurt if he did that to you).
- Don’t compare yourself to other women or other families.
- Comparisons can lead to wanting nicer and nicer homes, which causes financial strain and then your husband has to work a lot more to pay for what you want, but may no longer have the time to meet your emotional needs.
- Take time to appreciate yourself
- Contentment is finding joy in the gifts God has given to us. If we live in America, we are wealthier than pretty much the rest of the world.
- Chapter 10: Married to Mrs. (Always) Right
- Wanting to control all the little details and getting upset when your husband forgets a chore or uses the wrong dust cloth or cleaner (for example) results from insecurity. Basically it is you wanting to feel good about yourself (we are the perfect family, I am a good cook, the house is gorgeous, etc.) and trying to arrange events to make you feel good.
- If you feel like your husband is too passive, it is probably because you are too controlling.
- “In most cases, as long as a wife is trying to manipulate and control, her husband will usually ride along in the backseat for the sake of unity and in an effort to keep her happy. But if a wife will trust her husband and follow him, even when she doesn’t necessarily agree with how he’s driving or where he’s taking her, he might just develop the courage or the desire to become the leader that she wants him to be.” (p. 99)
- Paul (Eph 5:21-25) says that both husband and wife should mutually submit to one another, the wife to the husband and the husband to the wife.
- The wife is essentially a sort of COO. The CEO (the husband) has the God-assigned responsibility for the family and delegates a lot of the responsibility to the COO. The COO (the wife) serves under the CEO’s authority, but needs to respect the fact that she is under his authority.
- If you feel like your husband is not leading the family spiritually, there is nothing wrong with inviting (not guilting or accusing) him to take the role.
- “Remember, just because a wife thinks of the idea or initiates more often doesn’t mean that she’s the spiritual leader. It simply means that she is a great helpmate.” (p. 101)
- Develop self-control:
- Don’t assume that your way of doing something is always right; consider that he may have a valid way of doing it, too.
- Remember that the goal is oneness, not getting the job done right.
- Be willing to accept no. “If you want him to lead, you have to follow. If he’s not leading the way you want him to, don’t nag. ... By taking no for an answer, you’ll be showing him respect—and you may be surprised how much more often you’ll get a yes.” (p. 103)
- Disagree without trying to attack or manipulate.
- Choose your battles: “Before making a big deal out of something and insisting on having your way, ask yourself, “Is this the hill I am willing to die on?” (p. 103)
- Ask God to help you see the other side
- “Don’t play the God card. ... For many women this is simply a spiritualized form of control over our husbands.” (p. 103, 97)
- “Compliment rather than criticize”
- Chapter 11: What Men (Really) Want Most
- Not sex, not respect, but your smile. Men want to make their wives happy, and if you aren’t happy, then it affects his happiness, too.
- Happiness is a choice. We can either be happy with our circumstances and happy with the good things that God has given us or we can be unhappy. You can choose to be happy with your husband and give him a tremendous gift.
- “Some studies indicate that our facial expressions are not so much a reflection of our feelings, but that our feelings are largely a reflection of the facial expression we wear.” (p. 109)
- Chapter 12: R-E-S-P-E-C-T
- “If a man feels disrespected, he is going to feel unloved.” (p. 113, from Shaunti Feldhahn)
- You can tell when you’ve crossed the line into disrespect when he feels angry at something you said and you don’t understand why.
- People open up when you make them feel good about themselves. They close up when you hurt them.
- The personality traits that attracted you to your husband are probably what will annoy you, because they are different than you.
- You might want to learn about different personality types so that you can appreciate how God made your husband.
- Choose your words so that your husband feels loved. Not “why can’t you just do what I need you to do?” but “I really need a hero to take care of this for me. When you have the opportunity, could you be that hero?”
- Chapter 13: A Fair Fight
- Fighting by insulting each other destroys relationships. Some of these are:
- Using a third party, silent treatment, yelling/crying,
criticism, sarcasm, ultimatums, getting defensive (consider his point),
expecting him to read your mind, using words like “always,” “never,”
“hate,” “divorce,” and _____ (ask your husband to fill this in).
- Some ground rules:
- Limit to one issue at a time, establish a place for discussions (for example, during a walk instead of in the bedroom), agree to disagree when necessary
- Be gentle when disagreeing: look at your husband, look at his eyes, stay calm, even touch him in some way.
- Express your emotions by saying how you feel rather than what he does. (Saying what he does sounds accusatory, but saying how you feel invites compassion.)
- Make sure that you make your husband feel like his feelings are
valued (especially if you complain he doesn’t share his
- “Validating someone’s feelings is simply a matter of somehow communicating, ‘I’m not sure I would feel the same way in this situation, but you have a valid right to feel the way you do, and I can respect and appreciate that.’” (p. 130)
- Look for a compromise. Strive for win-win, rather than you winning. The goal is not to win, the goal is harmony in the relationship.
- Make (not find) time to talk to each other. Quotes Tom Haygood as saying that he and his wife made the decision to talk about everything: their day, their hopes, fears, conflict, etc.
- “In junior high I remember asking my mom if she and Dad ever fought with raised voices or fists. ‘No,’ she told me. ‘I always have a choice when differences arise with your dad. I can become harder, or I can become softer. Marriage is a long haul,’ she continued, ‘and I decided during our first years together that I didn’t want to harden, so I chose to soften and flow.’” (p. 134, from Randy Fujishin, Gifts from the Heart)
- Chapter 14: A Safe Haven
- Men want a home that reflects some of their personality and interests and that doesn’t have to be kept spotless all the time.
- Men also want emotional calm: example of how after several days of getting upset with Greg in the evening he would come home to a really happy wife with a meal of his favorite things. He liked that, but he would have preferred having her always more peaceful.
- Do things to welcome your husband, make dinner feel special, thank him for doing housework (it’s his job, but he still appreciates being appreciated).
- “... because I love my husband and my kids, I always desire to succeed at [creating a safe haven at home]. It takes time and energy and focus, but it’s a ministry that is very worthy of all these things. It often helps me to remember that the real me isn’t the person whom others see teaching from a stage or speaking in front of a camera. That’s the public side of me. The real me is the private side of me, the person with whom my husband and children have to live. If I minister to the world yet neglect my family’s needs or harden their hearts towards me because of how busy I am or how difficult I am to live with, what have I gained?” According to Paul (1 Cor 13), if you do everything but do not love, it is worthless.
- Chapter 15: Setting His Heart Ablaze
- Physical intimacy is of the same importance to men as emotional intimacy is to women.
- “When a wife loses interest, her husband feels shortchanged. It’s really no different than how a woman can feel shortchanged by her husband when he seems disinterested in meeting her emotional needs. Meeting each other’s needs, but sexual and emotional is definitely a two-way street. Our husbands want us to be as excited and passionate about fulfilling their sexual needs as we want them to be in fulfilling our emotional needs.” (p. 148)
- Sexuality is physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental. It is not just physical.
- Chapter 16: The Mental-Physical Connection
- God created men to be visually stimulated and desire frequent physical intimacy, so that must reflect God’s nature just as much as an emotional relationship is.
- “I also discovered that even if I felt no desire whatsoever at the moment Greg initiated, desire would quickly blossom if I engaged in certain sexual activities out of love for him and out of my desire to receive the love he wanted to give me. In other words, I can choose to scale the wall [of lack of desire] instead of allowing it to keep me from the oneness that Greg and I can experience. And what do I usually find on the other side of that wall? Euphoria. Some of our most intensely pleasurable moments have been experienced during times when my brain had initially told me I wasn’t interested.” (p. 153)
- Being mentally ready makes a big difference in a woman’s enjoyment of sex. So plan ahead, get rid of distractions (“you’ve got mail”), and make the room something that you like.
- Make time for sex without interruptions from kids, don’t feel bad about pampering yourself if it will get you in the mood, and touch often.
- Give your husband the gift of enjoying how beautiful you are often.
- Don’t worry about those 5 or 10 extra pounds; he thinks you are beautiful the way you are.
- Chapter 17: The Spiritual-Emotional Connection
- Doing spiritual things together creates intimacy. Example of an almost-affair she had with a fellow youth counselor which started off just praying and worshiping together.
- Sex is not a means of creating closeness and intimacy; it is a response.
- Shannon found that as she prayed with Greg she was closer to him.
- “But I noticed that there were other times that the idea of giving my body to him became much more appealing as we talked, especially if we prayed together. Greg didn’t have to pray either.” (p. 163)
- Offer sex as worship to God, and thank God for who He made your husband to be.
- “Genuine intimacy can only be inspired, not required.” (p. 164)
- Be willing to be emotionally vulnerable with your husband and share how you are feeling, even if it seems inconsequential or irrational. This will inspire him to be emotionally vulnerable with you, too.
- “Not long after taking these emotional risks with each other, we went away together on a retreat, with no other agenda but to spend time with the Lord and each other. That’s when we first noticed the newfound, deeply passionate connection during our lovemaking that Shannon mentioned earlier. We intentionally invited God into our bedroom, and as a result, we discovered one of the best feelings I can imagine this side of heaven. We knew everything about each other—the good, the bad, and the ugly—yet we loved each other with every ounce of our beings. No couple should miss out on experiencing this kind of genuine intimacy. It’s absolutely euphoric and incredibly healing to the human soul.” (p. 166)
- Forgive each other. Ask for forgiveness. It risks being hurt, but is allows you to know that your husband knows your sin and loves you anyway. (Which will make it easier to give your body to him as an expression of your love for him.)
- “When you experience overwhelming temptations that pose threats to your marital oneness, who better to ask accountability from than the person who has a vested interest in your ability to overcome that issue?” (p. 167)
- Sex is sacred. It is not something you do after you’ve done all the spiritual stuff in the day. Becoming one in the flesh is reflecting the oneness that the Trinity has.
- Chapter 18: His and Her Burning Questions
- Six questions to ask to resolve questions about things you can and can’t do sexually:
- Is it prohibited in Scripture? If not prohibited, it is
ok unless it fails one of the other tests.
- Is it beneficial to the relationship?
- Does it involve anyone else?
- Is it known by your spouse?
- Is it approved of by your spouse?
- Does it involve your spouse?
- Chapter 19: From Coasting to Cruising
- Ultimately, no man can emotionally satisfy you. Only God can.
1 Personally, I think the purpose is actually oneness, as Ethridge, in fact, states later on.
2 At time of writing, this reviewer has not had a serious relationship, but every thing I have heard about “high maintenance” suggests that perhaps “high maintenance” is the symptom of demanding emotional satisfaction.