Bob Lepine: Get Your Marriage Back
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How do you get your marriage back to where it used to be? Author and former FamilyLife Today host Bob Lepine offers real strategies for the rough patches.
Bob Lepine: Get Your Marriage Back
Bob: We’re learning these things about each other early in marriage. Well, when those differences start to emerge, you can start to think: “Did I pick the wrong person?” “Is there something wrong with me?” “Is there something wrong with her?” “She doesn't think like me,” “He doesn't think like me.” This is where we start to go in bad places rather than going, “Yes, we're different; and we’ve got to figure out how to honor those differences and appreciate those differences.” And in the process of making those adjustments, our marriages can get better.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife—
Today is a special day.
Ann: Sure is!
Dave: We have the legend,—
Ann: [Whispering] The legend.
Dave: —Bob Lepine, the voice of FamilyLife Today. He's actually in the studio in Orlando. Welcome to FamilyLife Today, Bob.
Bob: This feels so weird. [Laughter]
Dave: It does; doesn’t it?
Bob: I am not used to being the passenger. I'm used to being the driver; right?
Ann: I know. [Laughter]
Bob: And so you guys say, “Come sit, but we're driving”; and I go, “No! I want to drive. That's what I'm used to doing.”
Ann: And we want you to drive; that's what I feel like. [Laughter] This is so fun.
Dave: I mean—just saying, “Welcome to FamilyLife Today,”—it’s like: “That's your line. I just took your line.”
Bob: You did take my line.
Dave: I mean, what's it feel like, walking into Orlando?—a new studio.
Bob: Well, first of all, it's a privilege to be here. I, of course, have been following what you guys have been doing since I unplugged a little while ago. I love what you're all about/what the ministry is all about—how God is using it—so just to be back, and to be with you guys: this is a treat for me.
Ann: And for our listeners who don't know: Bob has been our coach; he's been our mentor. He's really the one that started FamilyLife Today.
Dave: I mean, in many ways, you're the reason we're sitting in these chairs right here. You know, we are eternally grateful. We would not be here [without you].
Ann: He's the reason any listener is listening right now. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes; and they're hearing your voice, and going, “Oh, I love that voice.”
Well, you know, having you here, I thought, “I’ve got to do something for Bob Lepine.” And so last night, I might have sat down with my guitar. [Laughter]
Bob: Is there a song coming?!
Ann: There is.
Dave: You knew this was going to happen.
Bob: There’s a song—I didn’t. [Laughter]
Dave: [Playing guitar and singing]
“FamilyLife: Bob is a man you gotta meet.
Deep in theology and a Diet Coke®.” [Laughter]
Ann: That's true.
Dave: “And he never gets beat at Name That Tune,”—and that's true.
Bob: Sweet Home.
Ann: That is true.
Bob: Sweet Home right there.
Dave: “The Spurs and Popovich consume his nights.
He's Doctor Love, Like You Mean It, at night. [Laughter]
He’s changed the world through FamilyLife, and millions are grateful.
Love Like Lepine It.
Love Like Lepine It.”
Come on, give me a harmony!
Ann: Oh, that’s good.
Dave: “Love Like Lepine It.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. [Laughter]
We need them/we need the team to come in and sing it live!
“Love Like Lepine It.”
Bob: We got the chorus.
“Love Like Lepine It.
Love Like Lepine It.”
Dave: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Ann: Love Like Lepine It!
Bob: You know, there is/there's a songwriting competition show on TV now. You know that, right? [Laughter] And I don't think you should apply; [Laughter] that’s all I’m saying. [Laughter]
Dave: That was/that was sort of fun to have the team come in.
Ann: I know; it was.
Dave: I mean, that's a team you've built over the years and—anyway, that was fun.
Ann: I like the title: Love Like Lepine It. [Laughter]
Dave: So you've written a new book—
Dave: —called Build a Stronger Marriage: The Path to Oneness.
Dave: I mean, we’ve got Love Like You Mean It [written by Bob]. You've written A Christian Husband decades ago.
Dave: I mean, it's been a while; what hit you to say: “Man, I want to write something that can help couples”?
Bob: You guys know this as well, because of your involvement in pastoral ministry, and in sitting down with couples. The experience I've had of meeting, one on one, with couples, who are trying to make their marriage work, there's some distress—I mean, not where they just can't hold it together—but it's just/it's not what they want it to be/what God wants it to be.
In talking to them, I started to see themes and patterns emerging in our conversations, where—you know, I've been talking about marriage and family with people/doing interviews with people for more than a quarter of a century—and I thought, “There are some things that I don't remember hearing explored the way that I think they need to be explored, that are some of the issues that are coming up in these marriages over and over again.”
I thought, if I could have a book that a mentor couple could take a couple:
- Maybe they're newly-married; they're just trying to work out the kinks. You know, they're just trying to get some of that/those early frustrations.
- Or maybe they've hit a spot in their marriage—they’re 20 years in—and they've just found themselves in isolation, and they don't know how to get back.
I wanted to have a book where a pastor, or a counselor, or a mentor couple could walk through this process with them and help them isolate and identify: “That's our issue,” “That's where the issue is coming from.” And then figure out how to deal with it so that they can get to where God wants their marriage to be.
Dave: Yes; and you start, early in the book, saying that many couples experience just what you said: this disappointment/isolation.
Listeners know our story, that happened within six months; we sort of thought we were unique—she says, “Marrying you was the biggest mistake of my life,”—I did not think most couples feel that way. You start the book, saying, “That's pretty common.”
Bob: I think most couples feel it, and think, “I can't say anything,”—because you see each other at church on Sunday, or you see each other in some social setting—everybody’s got their best face on; they're putting on their best performance. Nobody knows that anybody’s got any issues going on. So we all go home—from the small group meeting or the church meeting—and we think, “I don't know why mine’s not working; everybody else’s seems to be working.” What we don't know is that—the people, who we thought their marriage was working—they’re at home, having the same conversation, thinking our marriage is altogether.
This is where I think we do have to kind of step out, and say, “You know what? There's dysfunction in all of our marriages; there are issues. Some of it's significant in some marriages; some of it is minor in other marriages,”—but if we can just get it on the table.
I love Ray Ortland, who I know you guys know, and have had on the program. When he was a pastor at Immanuel Church in Nashville, they had what they called the Immanuel Mantra. The Immanuel Mantra at their church was:
- “I'm a complete idiot,”—that's the first thing. [Laughter]
- Number two is: “My future is incredibly bright.”
- And number three is: “Anybody can get in on this.”
Bob: I thought, “Let's apply that to marriage: ‘I'm a complete idiot in marriage; but the future is bright because of what God's done and our understanding,” and “Anyone can get in on it.’” I think most couples don't know that the future is bright and that there's a way to get in on it. And that's what I'm hoping this book will provide for folks.
Ann: Bob, our listeners, many/most know you: they've known your name; they know your story. But take us into your life with Mary Ann. You're super extroverted—like you could just—you and Dave remind me so much of each other. And Mary Ann’s introverted.
Ann: And so, when you guys got married, did you face that situation, where you thought, “Oh, this isn't what I thought it would be”?
Bob: We faced all kinds—I mean, that's just one example of the differences between the two of us—that when we started marriage, just little things—we dated for four years; I mean, I thought,—
Ann: —you thought you knew her.
Bob: I thought,—yes, “I know just about everything.”
But here's one of the things I've learned, over the years, is: “There's a lot that is under the surface—and you assume that your girlfriend, or your boyfriend, or your spouse—you assume that they're going to think one way or act another way until the actual moment, where it comes to light, and you go, “Oh, I always thought you would make this choice…I always thought that would be your preference,” just because we can't unpack it all. I'm/I've been married 43 years, and there's still stuff I'm figuring out/still stuff I'm learning after 43 years; it's an ongoing process.
This is where, early in marriage, those differences take us by surprise. So the introvert/the extrovert side of things—where I would just assume Mary Ann would be somebody, who would like to be in the spotlight or the limelight—if we're in a group, I would say: “Well, Mary Ann would have something she'd want to say about this,” or “Ask Mary Ann what she thinks,”—and she's dying, [Laughter] going, “Why are you pointing? Why are you singling me out?” And I'm going, “Because I like when people ask me my opinion.” And she goes, “I just want to be over here in the…” We’re learning these things about each other, early in marriage.
Well, when you don’t know that, going in—when those differences start to emerge—you can start to think: “Did I pick the wrong person?” “Is there something wrong with me?” “Is there something wrong with her?” “She doesn't think like me,” “He doesn't think like me.” And this is where we start to go in bad places rather than going, “Yes, we're different; and we’ve got to figure out how to honor those differences, and appreciate those differences, and learn from those differences.”
Dave: What should we do? I mean, when we experienced that—six months in and, then, a year in—we thought exactly what you said—that we knew better but we still felt like: “I think, if I was married to somebody else…” “If she was married…we'd be happier.”
I know almost every couple I’ve talked to, is like, “I've had that thought.” So if you're sitting there, and you're feeling that disappointment—the expectations you have are not, you know, living out in reality—“What's your counsel to them? What should they do?”
Bob: Well, I think the first thing you have to recognize is that every moment is not a defining moment in your marriage. There are seasons you'll go through, where things are going to rise to the surface; that doesn't mean it's the new normal. I had to learn that there were particular times in the month when Mary Ann would act differently than she acted during other times of the month. I didn't have to assume that, in those odd moments, that was her new normal; no, it was just she was having a moment.
I have moments; we all have our moments. Rather than thinking that somebody—in a stressful situation or somebody in a life’s hard; you're sad—you don't have to think that's now the new normal. You just have to leave some breathing room and pour a lot of grace on top of those moments.
Ann: I think that's a really good point; because what I've done in our marriage is—we get to this point, where we're really struggling—“This is our future,” and “It's always going to be like this.” And you're saying, “No, it's just a moment.”
Bob: I've never forgotten hearing about a study that was done in the state of Oklahoma. In fact, I shared this a number of times on FamilyLife Today; so some listeners, who've been listening for a while, may remember this. But a study done in the state of Oklahoma, where they went and found couples, who had filed for divorce but had never gone through with it. And it had to be, at least, five years old or older.
They went to these couples, who five years or more ago, had filed for divorce; and they asked them about their marital satisfaction today. Eighty-plus percent of those couples, on a scale of 1-5, said their marriage was a 4 or a 5; it was great today. And these were couples who, five or more years ago, had wanted a divorce.
So what happened?—well, time happened; and situations adjust. We grow and learn—and we learn about each other, and we learn how to complement one another instead of competing with one another—and we learn that fine art of blending and becoming one in marriage rather than thinking, “Yes, this is the new normal.”
I have this tendency to think, if Mary Ann says something on a particular day when she's stressed out and frustrated—if she says, “I never want to do that in my life,”—I think she means that; she's serious, and I should remember she never wants to do that again—only to find out, a few days later, that she was frustrated in the moment—and she said, “I never wanted…”—she didn't really mean that.
But we have to recognize that, in the ebb and flow of marriage and life, we make adjustments; we grow; we get better; we learn. We learn things we didn't know about each other; we learn things we didn't know about ourselves. And in the process of making those adjustments, our marriages can get better.
Ann: —and your kids get older—[Laughter]—I’m just going to say—because some of you are in that stage, right now, where you are dying; because you've got three kids who are under three, and you think, “I don't even know if we can make it.”
Bob: Yes; stress levels change. The three, under three, stress level is different than the 14-, 15-, 16-year-old stress level.
Ann: But it’s a stage.
Bob: Yes; the moment passes; you can get on/you can catch your breath. You just need to know, in the moment: “How do you breathe?” “How do you support one another?” “How do you look at each other?” As we have talked about, for years, at the Weekend to Remember®: “You're not the enemy; I'm not the enemy. We're going to get through this together. I'm here; I'm not going anywhere. Now, let's figure out how we tackle what's causing the frustration today.”
Dave: Someone’s listening right now, and they’re like, “Dude, you don't know how bad mine is.” Yes, I know how bad it is—I was in that home, and if you just hold on—but at the same time, the things you're saying, Bob: “You’ve got to make some adjustments—you’ve got to learn; you’ve got to grow—you can't just say, ‘I'm just going to hold on.’ You've got to change, or you're never going to get out of that pit.”
Bob: I'm thinking of a couple, I know right now, who would be in the hold-on phase. They're trying to get some help for their marriage; but honestly, the breakthrough is not happening.
I think a lot of what happens is couples—they get sideways with one another—they get into distress; they think: “We've got to get some help.” They may get some counseling; and then, they start to look around and go, “Nobody knows how to fix our problem.”
- At that point, they either say so—the couple I'm thinking of, they live under the same roof—but that's about all that's going on in terms of the marriage—that the pretense is there but the marriage is empty. It's not: “Hold on, and just grit it out; and maybe something magical will happen,”—right?—but perseverance is part of the issue.
- And then a commitment, to say: “Okay, if we went here, and didn't get help, we're going to go somewhere else,”—and then—“We're going to go somewhere else,” and “We're going to keep trying to tackle this thing,”—rather than just saying, “Well, we tried one thing, and that didn't work; so I guess nobody has the answers,” or “We've done everything we know to do, and none of it's worked.”
Well, go to a counselor; go to a Weekend to Remember; get a book; get a mentor couple to walk through [this with you].
Dave: Put energy into it.
Bob: That's right, yes; work on fixing.
The illustration—you've heard me use this illustration—if, when you got married, if I gave you a brand-new car—but here's the deal—"It's the only car you can have for the rest of your life,”—two things would happen:
- Number 1: you would take really good care of that car, because you know this is got to go the distance.
- Second thing that has happened is: you would say, “When it breaks down, I guess I have to go pay the money and get it fixed.”
If we would treat our marriage the same way, and say: “This is the only marriage I'm going to have for the rest of my life, so I'm going to take better care of it,” and “When it breaks down”—because it will; it might need a new transmission—"I'll go get that, because this is it for the rest of my life.” I think we've got to have that kind of a mindset when it comes to marriage.
Ann: Bob, what about the spouse that they're willing/they want to do all of that; but their spouse is like, “No.”
Shelby: Oh, that's a good question. You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Bob Lepine on FamilyLife Today. We're going to hear Bob's answer in just a second.
But first, what would it look like if marriages across the country started moving toward oneness/towards seeing each other as God’s good gift? Think of the changed lives, just within each family; and then, imagine those changed lives reaching out to neighbors and communities: it’d change the world. It starts with one couple, one family, one home at a time.
So let me ask you: “Would you help transform families by giving to FamilyLife?” All this week, when you partner financially with us, we want to send you a copy of Bob Lepine's latest book, Build a Stronger Marriage. It's going to be our “Thanks,” to you when you give and help families this week at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call with your donation at 800-358-6329; that's 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Alright; now, what happens when you want to work on your marriage; but your spouse is like, “No, I'm good”? Great question; here's Bob Lepine.
Bob: That's a really hard situation, and that's where I think you have to find the strength to persevere somewhere other than your spouse.
- The first place is you go to the Lord, and you say, “I need You to be my strength. I need You to be the One who helps me persevere in the heartache and the hardship”; because you're going to have both—you're going to have the heartache, because marriage is not what you want it to be or what you wish it would be; and you're going to have the hardship, because you don't know how to fix things—go to the Lord/cry out to Him; read the Psalms/see the psalmist: “In my distress, Lord, I come to You. I cry, ‘You're my refuge; You're my strength.’”
- And then the second thing you do is you've got to have some people, outside your marriage, who are your people, who you can go to, where you can get refreshed. You can get people praying with you and for you. They’ve got to be the right people; they can't be people who complain, or who gossip, and—
Ann: —or say, “I told you: ‘You should have never married him.’”
Bob: That's right.
Ann: But yes, somebody that, when your faith is weak, and you’re weary, they'll help carry you.
Bob: They'll cheer you on.
Ann: They’ll cheer you on.
Dave: And one of my thoughts was—going back to your car analogy—is, you know, we know the purpose of the car is to drive. I think, when we look at marriage, we think the car is supposed to make us happy; and when we're not happy, there's another car. Does that contribute to not finding fulfillment in my marriage?—not knowing why I'm married?
Bob: I think that's the starting place for couples, who are at that point in a marriage, where they go: “This is not what I thought it was going to be,” “This is not what I want it to be.”
Well, let's go back and say: “What did you think it was going to be?” and “What did you want it to be?” I know for me, when I got married, what I thought it was going to be was: “I've met a woman, who thinks I'm special; and if I marry her, then I've got a live-in, who thinks I'm a special person, who's just going to spend all the time, just reminding me of how special I am.”
Ann: —every day.
Bob: Yes! Because when we went on dates, she laughed at my jokes and she seemed to admire. She'd smile, look at me; and I’d say, “What are you thinking? She'd say, “I'm just looking at you.” I go, “Yes, yes! I want that all the time”; right?
Dave: How long did that last? [Laughter]
Bob: The whole point is—I started with this desire for marriage—it was all about: “What am I going to get out of this?” “How am I going to benefit from this?” And so, as soon as I'm not getting what I had thought I was going to be getting for life—even better now, that we're married—as soon as that's not happening every day, I start to go, “Well, wait; wait; wait. This is like those things you buy on late-night TV. They look good in the infomercial, but they just don't play out in real life”; right? [Laughter]
Ann: It would be so interesting for us all to think: “What did you think you were getting?”
Ann: Because we/all of us have a picture of what it should have looked like.
Bob: We get married; and sometimes, our motives are not great:
- Like we're getting married because the biological clock is ticking: “If I don't get married now, I'll never have kids; and I want to have kids,”
- Or I'm getting married to get my mother off my back; because she keeps saying, “Are you dating anybody?”
I mean, there's any number of reasons/superficial motivations for getting married. Then you combine that with this image that what marriage is supposed to be about is: “Certain of my wants and needs are going to be fulfilled on a regular basis.” If that's the transactional nature of your marriage—"I'm getting married so that certain of my wants and needs will be fulfilled on an ongoing basis,”—you've started with the wrong premise.
Because the Bible says that the reason for two people to come together—the reason for a man to leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and for the two to become one—is so that, together, you can advance the work of God's kingdom in the world in a way that would be better than if the two of you were single.
Now, I wasn't thinking anything like that!
Ann: Most of us/majority of us don't think that.
Bob: Yes; right. But when we come around and go, “Oh, wait,”—the verse that sticks out for me here is Psalm 34:3—and somebody had brought this verse up to me, and I'd never thought of it in a marriage context. I'd heard the verse for years, and somebody said, “This is the marriage verse.” It's a verse many listeners will know; it's a verse that says: “Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” What's the purpose of marriage?—a man leaves his father and mother, cleaves to his wife; the two become one so that, together, we can magnify the Lord and exalt His name.
And when we start to go: “That's God's purpose for us getting married; so that, together, we glorify him, magnify Him, and exalt Him.” Now, all of a sudden, how my needs are being met or how your needs are being met, that's really secondary to the bigger question; which is: “Is God being exalted?” “Is He being magnified?” “Is He being glorified through us?” And when you start to make that the priority, and both of you are focused on that, it's so interesting how the little trivial stuff just kind of drops off.
Ann: You’re on mission together.
Ann: And I think, Bob, that's so good. And that takes maturity and surrender—when you start seeing Jesus, and seeing that He has a bigger plan for me but, also, for our marriage—that changes things; it takes our eyes off of ourselves.
Shelby: You've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Bob Lepine on FamilyLife Today. His book is called Build a Stronger Marriage, and we’ll send you a copy when you give any amount today at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Is it possible your current marriage problems are a result of past habits or, maybe, old feelings? Well, Bob Lepine joins Dave and Ann, again, tomorrow to talk about how to build a stronger marriage; that's tomorrow.
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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