Something Very Important Men Need to Understand About Women
Ruthie: A notable incident happened around the second year of our marriage. Bruce was a youth leader, helping to host a weekend youth retreat along with a few other leaders from our church. Our baby girl and I went along. Many of the teens were being touched by God. But there was one particular girl Bruce made sure he didn’t neglect. She was unchurched and new to the things of God—oh, and did I mention, she was beautiful. He went out of his way to make sure her spiritual needs were met. Then one evening she wanted prayer, so I stayed in the room with the baby while Bruce counseled and prayed with this hurting young lady. When the leaders got together to pray on the last day, Bruce gave a brief testimony about how enthused he was for what God was doing in this girl’s life.
I trusted Bruce fully. But this young lady, only seven or eight years younger than Bruce, was getting a full dose of emotional support from my husband. So, imagine the mental gymnastics I went through. The attention Bruce gave this girl sliced my heart, not because I didn’t get emotional attention, but because something didn’t feel EXCLUSIVE. I went back and forth between feeling selfish and jealous and feeling violated.
Bruce: So, on the way home from the retreat, Ruthie gently explained the emotional trespass she felt with my ministry to this attractive young lady. Hearing this sliced my heart, because there was nothing in my heart that wanted anything more than Ruthie. The talk continued after we got home. I remember that our discussion was generally peaceful, but there was indeed a wall between Ruthie’s heart and mine. The more we talked, the more I realized that helping and praying for this girl wasn’t the issue—the issue was my passion for it. I had crossed a boundary line for the first time in our marriage, which became my first lesson on a foundational need for a wife—exclusivity.
Before we finished our discussion, I resolved within my heart that, by God’s grace, Ruthie would never, ever, feel the way she did at the retreat again. Now, almost forty years later, I am sitting here beside Ruthie, being affirmed that a violation of exclusivity has never happened again. I have prayed for, and ministered to, thousands of women, we have had very close female friends, and I have given fatherly hugs to women and girls who needed it. In fact, Ruthie has been the one who often motivates me to give fatherly hugs, and to minister to women and girls. But in all my professional and personal involvement with women, I have been careful to respect the boundaries of honor of my exclusive covenant with Ruthie.
I don’t have a pattern of talking heart-to-heart to women in casual settings without Ruthie present, especially about their problems. You’ll not see me at a restaurant having lunch with someone I work with, without Ruthie. I give compliments to women, but I don’t give compliments to women that may fill an unfulfilled need in their soul. I give fatherly warmth to women, appropriate hugs, encouragements of all kinds, and, as a leader, pastor, or friend, I let women know I care about them.
Ruthie: There is something triumphant in me to be that “exclusive one” to Bruce. It empowers me to be me when I feel exclusive. Don’t get the wrong idea—exclusiveness is not possessiveness. Many women can be jealous, clingy, and overprotective—creating a self-centered cage for their husband. Healthy exclusivity is a celebration of oneness!
This is why pornography is so violating! Pornography is wrong both for men and women—it is not just a male problem, but allow me to speak for godly women—a husband who feeds on pornography assaults the value of his wife and profanes the covenant with his wife. She will not feel exclusive, she will not feel adequate, she will not feel totally loved, she will be tempted to “measure up” to an unreachable image, and she will be unable to give true intimacy and respect to her husband.
Bruce: I know Ruthie is neither a jealous person, nor possessive. She is not a needy “bucket with holes,” so whenever she communicates a situation I am in, that might feel non-exclusive—there is no discussion, case closed—I adjust to her comfort level. As a result, Ruthie lavishes me with freedom and trust, no matter where I am or what I am doing.
Ruthie: Here are some thoughts about what exclusivity means to a woman:
She is affirmed for her beauty, and appreciated for all she does.
She never has to strive for her husband’s attention.
She is enough for her man.
When any situation comes up, she is the first one her husband thinks of or takes care of.
A wife doesn’t have to be the center of attention. She only needs to know that it matters to her husband that she is there.
She is the only one who gets her husband’s primary affection.
A wife is at rest when she is one man’s total lover—that he doesn’t spread out his affections to anyone else.
Her affection fulfills his need.
Exclusivity Beyond Women
Ruthie: Exclusivity also is an issue when men are giving too much time and energy to work, video games, sports, and other involvements to the detriment of his wife and family. Notice I didn’t say “when men are giving time.” I said, “Too much time.” Many women over-inject their need for exclusivity and shut down a husband’s creative, “wild-at-heart” motivations. Men need to be careful if their hunting, for example, is hurting the family, but from the other side: You can take the man out of the forest, but you can’t take the forest out of the man! Women, why not get behind and encourage his hunting, or any other habit. Deal with what is out of alignment, but sacrifice a bit of your time with your husband so he can enjoy fulfilling those dreams in his heart.
Aren’t Men Exclusive, Too?
Bruce: Both men and women have a need to be exclusive to their lover, but in this article we are focusing on women’s need for exclusivity because, I believe, due to a woman’s emotional makeup and her intrinsic emotional needs, her need for exclusivity has a broader scope than a man’s. Also, though we see violations go both ways, we see women crying out for exclusivity more than men. This may be because women, out of their own need, are more likely to give exclusivity to a man. Also, women seem to understand exclusivity in a way men often don’t.
Ruthie: Bruce travels a lot, but I always know that I am on his mind because no matter where he is or how busy his schedule is, he manages to call me and let me know that I am always on his mind. If he is in meetings all day, he’ll text me during a bathroom break. But the culture of our marriage is nurturing our romance, respecting our covenant, and keeping the Lord as the bond between us.
Bruce: In closing this article, I’d like to address those of you who are counselors and people helpers. If you’re working with marriages, it won’t be a rare moment that you will run into serious relationship conflicts due to violations of exclusivity. I trust this article will have made you more aware of the issue, if perhaps only to give it a definable name to clarify the issue. My encouragement to you is to teach the virtues of exclusivity in marriage as you work with couples. Many spouses are unaware of the importance of exclusivity and often accuse their partners of being insecure, fearful, or dominating. When in reality, what they are sensing may be a healthy protecting of the marriage. May God give you wisdom as you labor to protect the integrity of marriage in your people-helping!
Sexual immorality is a major and common violation of exclusivity. If you are interested in learning more about how to destroy lust at the root, read a chapter out of my book, To Kill a Lion: Transforming Your Life Through Sexual Freedom. It’s a book that goes beyond surface bandages and goes into the control room of the heart to answer the question many men ask: I know it’s wrong, but why can’t I stop? Just CLICK HERE read it.