FamilyLife This Week®

Don’t Take Them for Granted

with Doyle Roth, Judy Starr | January 29, 2022
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If you take your spouse for granted, much hurt and relational brokenness will ensue. If you take God for granted, you open a door for sin to consume your life. Doyle Roth and Judy Starr tell their stories and their hard-learned lessons.
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  • If you take your spouse for granted, much hurt and relational brokenness will ensue. If you take God for granted, you open a door for sin to consume your life. Doyle Roth and Judy Starr tell their stories and their hard-learned lessons.

If you take your spouse for granted, much hurt and relational brokenness will ensue. If you take God for granted, you open a door for sin to consume your life. Doyle Roth and Judy Starr tell their stories and their hard-learned lessons.

Don’t Take Them for Granted

With Doyle Roth, Judy Starr
|
January 29, 2022
| Download Transcript PDF

Michelle: It was a beautiful sunny day, and young Judy Starr found herself in the Caribbean onboard a boat. It was there she met someone. It was a perfect setup for romance.

Judy: We were in a beautiful port in Guadalupe—a charming little port—and we were on the deck of the boat. The boat was rocking gently in the waves, and the sun was absolutely gorgeous. I just revealed to him that I was really interested in possibly pursuing something with him and wanted to know how he felt.

Michelle: Oh, the excitement of romance! But there was a problem—Judy Starr was married, and the man she was talking to wasn't her husband. We're going to talk about the real dangers of not appreciating your spouse on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.

Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. Okay; I want you, today, to put on your imagination caps. Maybe, for you, this won't be so hard—you like imagining scenarios, kind of like me. I always live in dreamland; or maybe not.

Okay, so there's this husband and wife, George and Amelia. They've been married for five years and, this year, George was going to get Valentine's Day right!—so he plans this wonderful evening. There are soft lights; there are roses; there's this romantic restaurant—the whole nine yards. He thinks he's done—he's planned this beautiful evening—but he's forgotten the most important thing. In the conversation with her that evening, he forgot to remind her that he loves her and how much he appreciates her.

You know, when you said your vows—if you're married—you promised to love, honor, cherish, and all those words that give you that warm feeling inside. But then there's “…till death do us part,”—still good—you meant those words, too; you meant those words with all of your heart, and you expected your spouse to do the same. You promised to always be there; you expect the same in return. I mean, come on; you said vows, and they said vows. The person you married will always be available; in fact, they've become so available that you've started to take them for granted.

One of the most fundamental things that we humans want—we want to be seen; we want to be noticed; we want to know that we matter—and appreciation is an important part of that. Okay; so today, we're going to talk about taking your spouse for granted; you know, not appreciating them. And if you happen to be single, or don't have a spouse, maybe you have felt taken for granted by a friend, or a parent, or even a child. Case in point: Doyle Roth thought that he was appreciating his wife. He was this hard-driven businessman; and well, he was providing for his wife; so that proves that he appreciates her and he loves her; right? Well, he wrote a book called Oops, I Forgot My Wife. And here he is, explaining to Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine where that title came from.

[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]

Doyle: Well, really, the title is my story: Oops, I Forgot My Wife. That really summarizes the early part of our marriage. We did not do well. I was involved in my businesses; I was involved in, even, Christian work; but I was not paying attention. I made assumptions about my wife; I took her for granted.

The end result was that she eventually said to me, Bob, “I hate your God, because He has taken you away from me.” Well, that's a pretty hard statement for someone to hear, but that's really what happened. I was ignoring her, and that was devastating to our relationship.

 

Bob: How many years in before you have the kind of confrontation, where she said, “I hate your God”?

Doyle: This had been about five years into our marriage.

Bob: And was there conflict, or was it just this growing isolation?

Doyle: It was a little bit of both, but there was conflict. I was raised in a home where raising your voice was pretty typical, so that conflict did ensue; there were problems as a result of that.

There was a time in my life, then, where we decided that we needed to have some help. And there was a man in Colorado Springs by the name of Jim Wright, who was familiar with our church; and we went to him for help.

 

Bob: So you weren't a stubborn, dug-in husband—when your wife said, “We've got issues,” you said, “Well, let's get help”?

Doyle: Well, no; I was stubborn and dug-in. The problem was—my family life really affected the spiritual life—we weren't together. I mean, it was hypocritical for me to be out talking about what God can do in your life and then come home to a crying wife or a wife that's upset with me. That was so hypocritical. I just had to face reality.

 

Bob: Did you realize that your marriage needed some help before your wife really waved the flag hard at you? Or did you think, “This is just some bumps, and they'll smooth out”?

Doyle: No; I just think I was wrapped up in my own affairs. I became, in a sense, Bob, an image manager, wanting to try to have everything look good on the outside, when inside, I knew things weren't right. There were other things more important; it was all outside. I didn't pay attention.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: Was there a point in your relationship when the pain finally got your attention? I mean, was there kind of a collision of all these crises that you were experiencing that said to you: “You know what? You’ve got a major problem; and if you don't fix this, you're going to have an even bigger problem”?

Doyle: Right; well, yes. The term, “pain,” doesn't fit me as well, Dennis. What fits me is what really happened in the way of a Bible verse. I remember a distinct time when God drove into my heart and into my head the Ephesian passage—Ephesians 5: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.” Now, that was a major turning point in my thinking about how marriage should be conducted, because it couldn't be based on how I feel. It's based upon what I should do, and it was a commitment that I had made to my wife when we got married that I was going to love her.

So many Christians are familiar with those Bible verses, but they don't apply them to their Christian lives.

Bob: Yes.

Doyle: I was a perfect illustration of that sort of hypocrite. I could quote that verse; but at my home, I was not one who was doing that—sacrificially/totally caring for my wife—I was not doing that.

Bob: If your marriage had gotten out of sync, did it drift back into sync, or was there a point where you sat down with Nancy and said: “You know, I've realized some things. I’ve not been the husband I need to be,”—you confessed; you asked for forgiveness—was there a moment like that?

Doyle: Well, yes; there were many moments like that, but there were only a few where I really meant it. You know, I see so many couples go through this drill in my office.

They go through the “I'm sorry” thing; and yet, they turn right around, a week or two later—they’re right back into the same pit—there was really never the repentance that I think comes with godly sorrow.

I just realized that my life needed to change, and there was a godly sorrow before the Lord. I was not doing what God wanted me to do, and the end result was that I had to make some changes. I had to repent and then go on.

 

Dennis: Yes; you know, as you've talked about this story, I kind of hear some of that—that it's intellectual; and that the heart—the heart had to, ultimately, play catch up—

Doyle: Yes; there's a sense in which that's true.

Dennis: —before you actually begin to feel certain things for your wife.

Bob: And it's not the most romantic thing in the world to go to your wife and say, “You know, sweetheart, I'm going to love you, whether I feel like it or not.”

 

Doyle: No; and I didn't make her feel very good either.

Bob: Yes.

Doyle: But the feelings were something that we experienced later on in our marital journey. You feel more in love after you, intellectually, are confronted by, “This is what God tells you to do is a Christian man, and this is what you need to be doing.”

Dennis: Did you have no need of her? Would she have described you as a self-sufficient man?

Doyle: I think so; I think she would have.

Dennis: That's kind of what I'm hearing.

Doyle: Oh, I think that's true. I was self-sufficient; I'd be self-absorbed. You could go right down the list—self-righteous, self-willed—I think all of those things. That's really the essence of why the Oops book came into being—was because self-centeredness has, historically, been such a huge part of my spiritually journey—I've had to wrestle with it.

 

Dennis: Well, let's see. Let's just take a step back—and let's say there's a Nancy listening to us right now; or maybe, it's a Doyle, who's married to a wife who's totally preoccupied with self/totally self-centered, like you described yourself—

Doyle: Right.

Dennis: —what coaching would you give them in terms of attempting to be God's woman or God's man in that marriage?

Doyle: Alright; if they're biblical people—and many of the people that come [to him for counseling] are biblical people—I think they have to be confronted with, for example, Mark, Chapter 8; Luke, Chapter 9: “If any man is going to be My disciple, he must deny self.” There's a real issue, biblically, for the self-life. That's the message that I think men need to hear from my story and they need to read from the book; it's: “Unless we're willing to part with that, we've got some spiritual issues.”

Dennis: So if Nancy's listening right now, does she go to her Doyle and say: “You know what, sweetheart? Your problem is you don't deny yourself.”

Doyle: I think that's true. It would certainly be in my case; my Nancy would agree with that.

Bob: What if she had come to you—

Dennis: Yes!

Bob: —and said: “You know, I've diagnosed what's wrong with you. You're just not dying to self like the Bible says.”

Doyle: Now, Bob, you’ve got to understand you're talking to a pretty hard-headed guy here. [Laughter]

Dennis: Yes!

Bob: Well—

Doyle: I probably wouldn't have listened to her back then!

Dennis: I’ve got a feeling that some of the women, who are listening to us right now, are married to hard-headed men. And a few men are married to hard-headed women!

 

Doyle: They are, and that's why it's important for the Spirit of God to do something in a man's life. It's not just a wife that nags him to death; it's really that he exposes himself to: “This is what God teaches.”

In my work with couples, one of the things I find consistent is that we know the verses, but we do not apply them. We can apply them outside the home—we become good churchmen; people love us; we're happy; and all of those different things—but in the home, we're different people. Unless we confront what God says, and submit ourselves to what God says, we're on a tough road; and our wives are sort of stuck.

[Studio]

 

Michelle: It's about submitting to God; it's about leaning into Him. That's Doyle Roth talking with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine in an interview on FamilyLife Today. You know, Doyle doesn't take his wife for granted anymore; and that's good news for Nancy. They've been married for over 40 years; and while he's still a businessman, he also does some marriage counseling on the side. You can hear more of that conversation on our website. Go to FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that's FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.

For some of you, taking someone for granted might seem like a light thing; for others, it might be really heavy, because that's where you're walking right now. You know, if you're not receiving appreciation, it can almost be like this thorny weed that grows up between the two of you. You want to reach over there; but it's just too thorny and painful and, quite frankly, too complicated. At FamilyLife®, we call that marital isolation.

Well, we're going to hear a story when we come back from Judy Starr about isolation and the dangerous journey that it can easily take someone on. I want you to stay tuned. We'll be back in two minutes.

[Radio Station Spot Break]

Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. We're talking today about taking your spouse for granted; or if you're not married, taking someone for granted in your life. You know, one popular piece of advice that marriage counselors give is to not take your spouse for granted. Just because they have been this great stability in your life, and you start assuming that they'll always be there, soon, you could easily go down this road of: “Ahh! We've arrived! This relationship is really going well. I don't need to put all that work into it anymore”; right?

Well, that false feeling—that could easily take us down a dangerous journey. I like to think of it as a well-manicured lawn. You know, you look at those lawns out there and you think, “Oh, they don't need any work.” But yet, the person who's tending that lawn knows that they're constantly having to clip all the weeds—the root system is pretty deep and pretty rampant. The basic principle here is: “The nicer the lawn, the more work that was put into it.” And that's quite the same with relationships too.

Sometimes, in relationships, it's not just our spouse that's being taken for granted. Sometimes, it's us taking God for granted. That's exactly what happened to Judy Starr. Judy Starr and her husband Stottler are on staff with Cru®; they've been missionaries for decades. Many years back, they found themselves over-committed and over-worked. They had just finished a big project, and now they were rushing into a new one in the Caribbean; and that is where things kind of went down a dangerous path for Judy. Here's Judy Starr, discussing that dangerous path with Dennis and Bob.

 

[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]

Judy: I was working very long hours, working late at night. I would get up in the morning and, to maximize my time, I started skipping time with the Lord; because we were on this deadline to get this thing done. So when I arrived at the project in the Caribbean, I arrived with somewhat of a hardened heart, spiritually; because I just had not kept my relationship with the Lord current. And when I arrived there, it didn't take long to realize that there was a real draw and an enticement between the captain of this boat and myself. It was very obvious that we had quite a connection: He was athletic/I'm athletic; he was a former professional musician/so am I; and so forth. We just began spending a lot of time talking, personally.

And there were things that I should have done that I know now, in hindsight, are great protectors for our marriage, but I chose not to do that.

Dennis: What did you do? Did you go out of your way to try to find times to spend with him?

Judy: I did. We needed to work, one on one, a lot on the project anyway—just on the sailing itinerary and so forth—but I would spend all my extra time just sitting and talking with him about our background in music. We went scuba diving together; we would swim together; do just a lot of individual things together. I would sometimes send Stottler off with the film team at night, saying: “I'm too tired. I've been working so hard. Why don't you take them?” And then I would just spend the time on the boat with the captain.

Dennis: You were plotting all that time?

Judy: Plotting?—I guess.

Dennis: What—now, seriously, Judy, it sounded like you said, “I would send Stottler off with the film team to show the Jesus film to lead people to Christ,” so you could kind of set up your relationship at that point.

Judy: You know, to be honest, that's true. And when you're doing those kinds of things, you make excuses, right and left, in your spirit. One of the things I talk about in the book is being honest with ourselves, because I chose not to be honest with myself. I was coming up with all the excuses of: “Oh, I'm tired. I don't want to go, and so I'll just rest on the boat,” and “Oh! The captain happens to be on the boat too! My, my!” But, internally, I knew what I was doing; I knew I was trying to further this relationship.

Bob: Was the captain a believer?

 

Judy: He was.

Bob: So he must have sensed, early on, the same kind of a connection that you sensed.

Judy: He did. When I made my feelings known, he told me that he felt like I was untouchable because of my husband. He had a great respect for Stottler, and rightly so. But when I let him know that the doors were potentially open, then he responded more favorably.

Dennis: How did you let him know your doors were open?

Judy: Well, somewhere towards the end of the project, I was in the Caribbean by myself. We had actually traveled back and forth quite a bit from California. Sometimes I would return by myself; sometimes Stottler and I would both come. This particular trip, I came on my own. I waited until a time when no one was on the boat and thought through all the ways that I could tell him how I felt and revealed that to him.

He was really surprised; because here I was—a missionary in full-time Christian work—I shouldn't be pursuing something like this. Then, as we continued to talk, he said he couldn't pursue something like this unless I was single, essentially. That got my mind going into, you know, what the possibilities of that were—whether Stottler would die, or whether I would divorce, or whatever.

Dennis: Well, now, wait a second. I want to back you up to the conversation. You plotted about how you were going to be able to talk with him on the boat when no one was there.

Judy: Correct.

Dennis: So where were you, and what did you say?

Judy: We were in a beautiful port in Guadalupe—a charming little port.

Dennis: So it was romantic.

Judy: Oh, it was absolutely romantic. The whole project was romantic—you're in the middle of sun and sand and sin—and it's a perfect place for a setup like this. We were on the deck of the boat. The boat was rocking gently in the waves, and the sun was absolutely gorgeous. I just revealed to him how I had been feeling and wanted to know if he felt anything the same.

Dennis: How had you been feeling?

Judy: I told him I was incredibly attracted to him, and that I was really interested in possibly pursuing something with him, and wanted to know how he felt.

Dennis: And what did you mean, “pursue something with him”?

Judy: I just was leaving the door open for his response; but in my own heart, at that point, I was really potentially considering not returning home to my husband.

Dennis: So bagging your marriage—

Judy: That's right.

Dennis: —bagging the ministry, and running off with a sailor in the Caribbean. What led you to that point? I mean,—

Judy: Yes; it's amazing that someone could get to that point, who's in full-time [Christian] work and has devoted their whole life to seeing the gospel furthered and so forth. It really comes down to just a hardened heart, spiritually. Once/I believe once a woman or a man—but I know, for a woman—once we begin pursuing that kind of relationship, spiritually, we just become harder and harder. The emotions are so incredibly strong and the desire to be with this person—it's like you're in love all over again—like what you experienced when you first met your husband.

Those emotions are so incredibly powerful; you will do almost anything to be with that person, and reason is gone. You become like an addict in one sense. You will do anything that it takes to be with that individual. The sanity of what you're doing—it doesn't make any sense to anyone else—but you're willing to do whatever it takes.

Dennis: You know, your description of that really is a good one; because I'm reflecting back on a number of conversations I've had with people who found themselves in the same situation.

Judy: Yes.

Dennis: And you're really describing puppy love.

Judy: It’s true.

Dennis: The puppies are just running to and fro. It's a rush; it's addictive; you want to feed it. You're alive again, emotionally, in ways you haven't/you haven't experienced in a long time.

Judy: That’s right.

Dennis: And I've looked into the eyes of both men and women who never ever, in all their lifetimes, ever expected to find themselves in that situation.

Judy: Oh, absolutely! And that's the last thing I expected. I have an incredible husband—one of the most godly men I've ever met in my life—I was the person that would stand up first and say, “I would never be involved with anyone else.”

Dennis: At that point—and it's clear in your book that the relationship had been purely emotional in connection—

Judy: That’s right.

Dennis: —you enjoyed a lot of great communication, but there hadn't been anything sexual.

Judy: Nothing physical whatsoever.

Dennis: At that point, when you threw open the door, was there anything physical that took place on his behalf toward you?

Judy: No; nothing.

Dennis: Did you want there to be?

Judy: Absolutely! I believe an emotional affair certainly incites the ideas of what you desire physically; but by God's grace, nothing happened physically.

 

Bob: When you called him and said, “I'm either staying or going; what's it going to be?” and he said, “It's up to you,”—

Judy: I think I was really trying to convince him to be more open to this. He kept talking about what an incredible husband I had, and he's right! Again, I believe I was just so protected by the Lord; because this could have gone so easily the other way.

Dennis: So he was trying to talk you out of it!

Judy: Yes; you know, I think both of us really knew what we should do; but it was just a real internal battle for both of us.

 

Bob: Well, he didn't want to be a marriage wrecker.

Judy: And he said, too/he said, “The rest of this project would just be a disaster if we pursued this,” and “What would that do with [your] ministry?”—and all those things as well. He's a very honorable man in that respect, that he withheld his feelings as well.

Dennis: So you hung up and what?

Judy: I hung up and, again, by God's grace, called an accountability partner that I had had for years—set up, many years back, in my young Christian life—and told her what was going on.

Dennis: Why in the world did you do that?!

Judy: I have no idea! I believe, again, it was just God's grace.

Dennis: I mean, at that point, you're deceived!

Judy: That's true!

Dennis: I mean, you're sending your husband off on spiritual missions.

Bob: And you know what your accountability partner is going to tell you when you called her; didn't you? I mean, she's not going to call and say, “Oh, well, Judy, it sounds perfect!”

Judy: Yes; she says she has no idea why I called and asked her to beat me up, but I did. [Laughter]

Bob: Tell me about that conversation. You get your friend, Holly, on the phone; and you say, “Holly, I need to talk to you.”

 

Judy: That's right. I had told her, actually, a little bit before; so she already knew that I had an interest in this man, but had no idea how far I had allowed my heart to go. She really gave me a dose of reality in big form and talked to me about my vows before the Lord, about my ministry, about my husband—just everything I needed to hear.

Bob: But she wasn't telling you anything you didn't already know.

Judy: No; it's true, Bob; but when you get to that point, you really need somebody to awaken in you, again, the reality; because you are deceiving yourself. You're closing your heart to what God wants to tell you.

[Studio]

 

Michelle: Wow! What an incredible story and dangerous waters that Judy Starr walked through. I'm so thankful she had a friend in Holly. It really reminds me it's important to have community around us. It's important to have those friends who take us back to the truth, take us back to God's Word, and what God's journey for us is, and not the dangerous journey that we're walking on.

Judy confessed everything to her husband, Stottler; and they began the hard work of processing through this and repairing their marriage. Today, I'm happy to say, they are still married; and they are still serving God faithfully.

If this is somewhat like your story—or maybe your story happens to be worse and you're going, “I just need some help right now,”—we have some helpful resources at our website. Go to FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that's FamilyLifeThisWeek.com. We'll also have a link to the entire interview, so you can hear Judy's conversation with Dennis and Bob; that's at FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.

You know, it’s a roundabout way; but I'm just trying to help you have a better Valentine's Day in a way. So here are Michelle's tips for you: “Take time to listen to your spouse,” “Take time to appreciate them,” and “Take some time to remember your vows and all that they entail.” Oh—and roses, and soft lighting, and really nice romantic restaurants—they help!

As we're getting closer to Valentine's Day, and while love is in the air for maybe you, there are others that, well, this season can accentuate the loneliness. Next week, Ron Deal is going to help me understand loneliness and how we can better cope with it. I hope you can join us for that important conversation.

Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our co-founder, Dennis Rainey, and our station partners around the country.

A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.

Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.

I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.

 

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