FamilyLife Today® Podcast

When Words Wound: How to Build or Break Your Husband: Ann Wilson

with Ann Wilson | March 12, 2024
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Maybe your husband's buried in his phone. Lost in work. Clueless about household chores. It's tempting to want to fix him, right? But what if all that nagging is doing more harm than good? Ann Wilson has been there, done that. She's got wisdom to share about the freedom that comes when we let go of the constant nagging.

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Frustration with your husband is real. Tempting to fix him? Could you be causing more harm than good? Ann Wilson shares about the freedom in letting go of nagging.

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When Words Wound: How to Build or Break Your Husband: Ann Wilson

With Ann Wilson
March 12, 2024
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Ann: I’m folding clothes, and I start thinking and complaining about Dave. “He’s never home! He’s not going to be home tonight! He’s not going to put the kids to bed. He’s not here!” I’m going through all of that, and I felt like—when I was on this journey, when God was getting my attention, I felt like—He said, “What would happen if you prayed as much as you complain?”

I thought, “I’ve never tried that!” Because I was so in the habit of going down this rut of complaining about Dave in my head.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Dave: This is FamilyLife Today!

Ann: So, this week has been fun! We’ve been listening to some of the amazing content experienced on our Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise, and it feels like we just got off the boat. It was pretty spectacular!

Dave: It was spectacular. And today, you get to hear a message from one of my—not one of my, my favorite speakers in all the world—

Ann: —oh, Dave! You don’t have to say that!

Dave: —and it’s my wife, who is sitting right beside me, [Laughter] Ann Wilson, when you got up to speak to the women on the boat.

Ann: Well, there’s something about when women get away—when they all get together; we just have a chance to pause, just to take a breath and to listen to God’s Word. There’s something about that; the Holy Spirit has a chance to move. And we can hear from God! I’m not saying that what I said was so incredible—

Dave: —I’ll say it! It was.

Ann: No, but there is something that happens when women are together. We can connect to God together.

Dave: Yes; and I’ll just say this: if you’re listening to this, and you’re like, “I want to be on that boat next year,” we had a men’s talk as well, where just the men were together; all the rest were couples. You can sign up right now for Love Like You Mean It 2025 at I’m telling you, you’d better sign up, because it will fill up quickly.

These are the kinds of messages you will get to hear. So, here’s Ann Wilson from this past cruise.

[Recorded Message]

Ann: I’m going to take you back to a story [that] maybe some of you have heard. For me—have you ever had those moments in life of, “This moment in life changed everything?” It changed everything in my present and in my future, and it will continue to do that.

So, go back with me in time. I’d probably been married 15 or 20 years; Dave and I were speaking at our church. Some of the women came to me and said, “Could you come and speak to our moms and our women in this group?” I said, “I would love to! Do you want me to bring Dave?” He’s the Pastor of the church; he founded the church. They all love him. They were saying, “Yes! Bring Dave!”

I asked Dave: “What should we speak about? What do you want to talk about?” He said, “I don’t know? Let’s just get up there and wing it!” [Laughter] I said [trembling voice], “We’re going to wing it? What does that even mean?” So, we were sitting on these two stools as this church, and Dave gets going. He’s animated! I’m listening, and he says to the women—he was sitting there, but then he stands up, and he gets right in front of the women. He says, “I don’t even know if you women get what it’s like for us as men!”

“Growing up, someone basically looked at us and cheered for us, like, ‘Oh, look at my son!’ [Applause] ‘Look at my boy! Look at him!’ So, they’re cheering for us!” And then he said, “And then, we get older, we get in school, and we find our niche of what we’re good at, so we have a teacher or a coach or a musician—someone to say, ‘Hey! You are good at this!’ They start cheering for us.”

And I’m sitting back here thinking, “He has never said anything like this, ever, in our lives. [Laughter] And then, he said, “Then I got older, and I played college football. On Saturdays, I had a stadium full of people cheering for me: ‘Dave Wilson! You’re the man! You’re the man!’ I [thought], “Yes, I never have thought of that. That’s good!”

Then, he said, “And then, I married Ann.” [Laughter] No! “She looked at me and said, before we got married, ‘Dave Wilson, I choose you! You are the man!’ She’s just like, ‘Yeah!’” [Applause] I’m sitting back here [thinking], “Yes, I did! I did do that!” [Laughter] “Because you are the man!”

And then, he gets quiet. The women are like, “Okay, what’s next?” He says, “And then, we get married. I walk through the door—I walk into the house—at the end of the day, and all I hear is, “Boo! Boo! Boo!” [Laughter] I don’t even know what just happened! I was [thinking], “What are you talking about!?” I don’t even know how we ended that entire talk, because, first, I was so humiliated. Second, I said, “I don’t ‘boo’ you!” That was all going on in my head! So, then, we get in the car. [Laughter]

I turn to him—I was embarrassed! I was saying, “That’s not right!” I turned to him and said, “You think I ‘boo’ you!? I am helping you!” [Laughter] And he turned to me and said, “Ann, it just feels like I can’t do anything right. You have to tweak it. You have to fix it. You have to maneuver it. You have to do all the things because I’m not doing it right. So, you have to fix me!” And I said, “I know.” [Laughter]

I’m not kidding! That’s exactly what I said: “I see everything! Everybody at church is saying, ‘Oh, Dave! Oh, you’re so amazing!’ I see it all! And I can help you to be better. I can help you!” And he said, “Ann, is it working?” I said, “No! It is not working. So, I have to yell louder! I have to say things more meanly. I have to get your attention.” He said, “But it’s not working.” I said, “I know.”

So, okay, this whole thing [is], I really thought, “I am the Holy Spirit’s helper.” [Laughter] “The Holy Spirit’s a Helper, but I’m also the helper.” So, here’s what was going through my mind—maybe, you have felt this, too—it felt like I could help him. I didn’t want to verbally affirm him. This is so messed up in my logic; this kind of says who I am. I didn’t want to cheer him or affirm him, because I thought, “If I do that, he’ll think I’m satisfied, and then, he’ll get worse.” [Laughter] Does that make sense? It’s like enabling him to be bad.

Plus, “everybody else is cheering for him, so his head will get even bigger if I say anything positive.” So, I’m trying to go through this whole thing. We end up getting home, and I said to God—I’m all by myself, and I go into this little corner of my room, and I sit on the floor, and I said: “Lord, can You believe he said that!?” [Laughter] But the, I asked a question: “Jesus, do I ‘boo’ Dave?”


Dave: We are listening to a message that my wife, Ann, gave on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise just a few weeks ago. Let me tell you, I sort of snuck in there a couple of times, and that room was silent. They were engaged with what you were saying. And I could just feel how God was working in that room. And I’ve lived the result of God speaking to you. It’s transformed our marriage, both with how I speak to you with words of life, and how you speak to me. You’ve made me the man I am today.

The fact that the women got to hear that and, hopefully, go home and live that was pretty exciting to me. Let’s jump back in and hear Ann’s message on the cruise:

[Recorded Message]

Ann: “Jesus, do I ‘boo’ Dave?” And in my spirit, I felt like He said, “Yes.” So, I’ve been on a journey, and I’m telling you, I’m still in recovery. Any day, I can slip back; but I’ve learned a lot since that time, and I want to share with you some of the things that I’ve learned.

Let’s go back to the book of Genesis. In Genesis 2:18, this is the woman being created. It’s our purpose. It’s who we are. So, when you look at Eve being created, it says this; it says, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’.”

And I think I’ve shared this here before, but when Dave and I started speaking for the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways, we teach this. I remember getting to this part of the Scripture, and I thought, “I’m out! I don’t want to be that ‘helper.’” And here’s what I really thought: “Why do I have to be the helper?” [Laughter] “Where’s my helper!?” [Laughter] Do you know what I mean? It doesn’t say that Adam is a helper; it says the woman is a helper.

I was so mad at that! I know that Genesis was written in Hebrew; the Old Testament is Hebrew. So, I decided, before I get into Hebrew, I’m just going to see what Webster’s Dictionary says. And it says: “a gopher, a person who does the dirty work; someone important tells them what to do.” [Laughter] I was like, “See! That’s exactly why I don’t want to be the helper!”

I was telling Dave, “How frustrating is that? Why can’t you be my helper?” We were going through this whole thing, and he said, “You need to look it up in Hebrew, so, I did that.” A few years ago, I did a study by Kristi McLelland, Jesus and Women. It’s one of the best studies I’ve done. She is a professor; she is a Hebrew culturalist. And she went over and studied in Israel for a while. So, she talks, in her Bible study—and you’ve probably heard some of this from other teachers—[about] those words, “helper suitable.” Eve was to be a “helper suitable.” We, as wives, are to be a “helper suitable” for our husbands.

It's not the gopher, or the person who does the dirty work. Many times in Scripture, God is referred to as “the helper.” In fact, if you look at the Scripture, I’m going to take you down to Deuteronomy 33:7. Do you know that these are the last words, when Moses was praying over each tribe of Israel? He prayed this over Judah; this was his prayer: “And this he said about Judah: Hear, Lord, the cry of Judah. Bring him to his people. With his own hands, he defends his cause.” (And this is the part.) “Oh, be his help against his foes!” “Be his ezer.” That word, “helper,” is ezer. “Be his ezer against his foes.”

Imagine you, being your husband’s ezer, or a helper against his foes. That makes it really different. Psalm 71 says, “Make haste, O Lord, to deliver me. O Lord, make haste to ezer me” (or “help” me). This is God! This is the warrior God, coming to help His people. Then, also, in Psalm 40:17, it says, “But as for me, I am poor and needy. Come quickly to me, O God! You are my ezer and my deliverer. Lord, do not delay.”

So, when we look at that word, “helper,” or ezer, I like those terms, because I am helping Dave in battle. One of the things Kristi McLelland said—when she was over in Israel, she said—that she got to know a rabbi who was in his late 70’s. He had a long, white beard. She said, “Rabbi, when you look at these words, ‘helper suitable,’ or ezer kenedgo, what do you think it means for the wife, for Eve, and for us as women today?”

Here's what he said—he said, “Oh, Kristi! God knew there was an enemy in the Garden, and [that] it would take two of them together to defeat the enemy.” Isn’t that good? I don’t know if you’ve thought about this in a while, but you’re experiencing this. There’s a battle going on for our marriages. There’s a battle going on in our culture for marriage between a man and a woman. And I’m telling you that there’s a battle raging over you and your marriage. It takes us together to battle!

And then, that word kenedgo—I had never heard of that word, kenedgo. Do you know what it means? It’s never used any other time in Scripture, but it describes the woman, and it means “toe-to-toe.” She will stand toe-to-toe. Some of you are smiling, because you’re like, “Oh, yes! I can do that! I will stand toe-to-toe.” But I think of us, as women, and how we’re protective of our people, of our children. We will stand toe-to-toe. But isn’t that interesting, when you think of the battle going on in the Garden, it would take them standing together, fighting the enemy together.

And the enemy—what’s his goal? “To steal, kill, and destroy” [John 10:10] you and your marriage. So, what does it feel like, and what does it look like, to be that ezer kenedgo?


Dave: We’re listening to Ann Wilson’s message on the Love Like You Mean It cruise. [Laughter]

Ann: That sounds so weird!

Dave: It sounds weird to talk about you, sitting right here; but you were fired up!

Ann: I think I’m so fired up because this was new to me. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, and what I thought Christian women were supposed to be was doormats.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: Some man will just walk all over her or tell her what to do; or fetch things for your husband. But this is a vital component for women to understand. We’re to stand beside and with and around our husbands in battle; to fight the enemy; to protect our families. Our husband is protecting them, but we, as women, are there beside him, helping to protect.

Dave: So, let’s go back, and let’s hear the end of this message.

[Recorded Message]

Ann: To get the marriage you want—getting the marriage you hoped for—starts first in your mind and in your thoughts. So, that day that I came home, and I got down on my—sitting before God; when I said, “God, do I ‘boo’ Dave?” and I felt like, “yes,” I had this impression and I felt like God was saying, “Keep track of your thoughts. Take track of how you think about Dave.”

I would challenge all of you to start thinking: what are your thoughts about your husband? And I’m going to say this, because I had to do this with my kids, too: what are your thoughts about your kids? I would just spin out of control with my thoughts. I think I shared this one time. I was doing the laundry one time, and I had just gotten into this habit or pattern—you know how they’re talking about brain science now? How when you keep thinking a certain way, you create a neurological pathway?

I’m folding clothes, and I start thinking and complaining about Dave. “He’s never home! He’s not going to be home tonight! He’s not going to put the kids to bed. He’s not here!” I’m going through all of that, and I felt like—when I was on this journey, when God was getting my attention, I felt like—He said, “What would happen if you prayed as much as you complain?”

I thought, “I’ve never tried that!” Because I was so in the habit of going down this rut of complaining about Dave in my head. Recently, we had on [FamilyLife Today] an author, Ted Lowe. He wrote the book Us in Mind. In his book, he has a lot of the brain science information. According to the National Science Foundation, people on average have about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Eighty percent of those thoughts are negative, and 95% of those thoughts are repetitive.

Here are some examples of negative thoughts that are common:

“Why should I try? My spouse never tries.”

“I’m not the one who needs to change. He needs to change.”

“I’m just not attracted to him.”

“Divorce is not uncommon. It’s the right option for us.”

“Marriage is an outdated institution. Who needs it?”

And I put down—here are my thoughts; here are the things that I kept [thinking] over and over and over:

“I do everything around here.” (I said that the other day [Whining voice] “I do everything around here!”) [Laughter]

“I am his last priority.”

“I’m not seen or appreciated.”

“He’s so selfish.”

“He doesn’t appreciate me.”

So, here’s my challenge: what are your thoughts? Do you get down in this rut where you’re thinking negatively? And then it [Ted Lowe’s book] says this; I thought this was really interesting: “Happily married couples focus on what they love about their spouse.” This is from Dr. Helen Fisher. “She reported that a commonality in these marriages was positive illusion. Positive illusion is the ability to focus on what you love about your spouse, and not focus on what you don’t. This ability results in higher marital satisfaction, less conflict, a higher sense of security, and lasting intimacy. They look at their spouse and see awesomeness.”

Okay, I’ve said this over the years, and I’ve had people—women—come up to me and say, “There’s nothing to cheer about my husband.” There was a time that you saw the greatness in him, didn’t you? You weren’t in the rut! You were seeing the good in him, and then, you would probably say it. If you’re not seeing the good, and you’re in the rut of seeing all the bad, start saying the good things that you used to believe in him. They’re still there! You’re just not seeing them.

She also says this (Helen fisher): “Unhappily married couples focus on what they don’t love about their spouse. They are frustrated because their differences cause them to not get where they want. This mental frustration can become a dangerous mental game called confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of the beliefs we already hold. Simply put, you find what you are looking for.”

As I was dealing with all of this and figuring it out, we were having lunch one day. When we have people in for radio and podcasts, we have lunch with them. So, this one particular day a few months ago, we’re in this room, and I’m looking around the room, and there are four people who have theology degrees, and one has his doctorate. I wrote down his name. It was so interesting, because I was telling them, and talking to them, about this ezer kenedgo. So, I’m thinking, with all of these guys and women with their theology degrees, we’re going to hear some really good stuff. (I’m not finding it right now, his name.) But [to] this doctor, super-smart guy, genius kind of person, I said, “What do you think ezer kenedgo means?”

He sat for a while, and he knows Hebrew really well. He said, “Ann, I really think it means when a husband stands toe-to-toe with his wife, and he looks into her eyes, he sees the man he could become.” Think about that! When your husband looks into your eyes, he sees the man he could become.

If Dave would have looked into my eyes back in those days that I was a “superior boo-er,” what he would have seen in my eyes is a failure; a person who doesn’t measure up; a bad dad; a bad leader; someone who doesn’t lead spiritually. What’s he going to rise up to if that’s what I’m seeing in him?


Dave: We’ve been listening to my favorite all-time speaker, of all history! Her name is Ann Wilson, and she’s sitting right here beside me, because she’s my wife. Man, you were not only excited to give that talk, but very emotional.

Ann: I’m just imagining what our marriage would look like had I not changed. I thought the problem was you.

Dave: And I thought the problem was you. [Laughter]

Ann: Had I not started seeing how God made you and the great things God put into you—and I’d never told you how great you were! It’s not that I didn’t say negative things, too, but if I would have just closed my mouth and didn’t see you the way God saw you, I think we’d be in a very different place right now.

I think, Dave, one of my favorite parts of that session was that you came up at the end and surprised me. That was incredibly sweet!

Before we end, I’d just really love to pray:

Father God, I thank you for every single woman listening to this. I know just as a wife and a mom, sometimes, I feel so weary. We can become hopeless. We can feel like things will never change. But Lord, more than anything, I pray that we will seek You; that we will fall on our face before you, ask for wisdom, ask for help. Lord, we can’t do this in and of ourselves. So, I pray for these women, that You would give them hope, that You would help them to see their husbands and their kids the way You see them. Then, Lord, give them the courage to speak life, not death. Give them the courage to, maybe even, repent and apologize for the things that have been said. I know, Lord, I just had arrogance, thinking I was doing it all right. So, Father, thank You that You love us no matter what; that You can give us the courage, and the passion, and the compassion; and even the words we need to say to our husbands. We love You, Lord, and we need You desperately! In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson on FamilyLife Today, talking about the Love Like You Mean It cruise. What if you had next year’s Valentine’s Day already booked? You’re not trying to scramble the last week before Valentine’s Day in 2025. Do you think that your spouse would appreciate an eight-day cruise over that period of time?

I don’t know your spouse, but I’m guessing that would be a total win for Valentine’s Day in 2025. Unless they’re afraid of the ocean, and seagulls, and all-you-can-eat soft serve ice cream; then it’s probably not for you. But for everyone else, wouldn’t it be amazing to have next year’s Valentine’s Day covered? Well, there’s going to be a boat sailing from February 8th thought the 15th, 2025, out of Miami, Florida.

Just like Dave was talking about, you can book right now, because this is the lowest price that will be available for this sailing. Eight days, seven nights, to reconnect with your spouse. We expect it to sell out again. Don’t delay! You can go to the link that’s available in the show notes, or you can go to and click on the “Love Like You Mean It” banner. Or you can give us a call to make your reservation at 800-358-6329; that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear another talk from the Love Like You Mean It cruise, where we’re going to explore reigniting passion in your marriage, intentional conversations, respectful boundaries, and seeking individualized counsel. Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be talking to us with Ron and Nan Deal, Juli Slattery, and Michael Sytsma. That’s all tomorrow, and it’s going to be incredible. We hope you’ll join us!

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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