Marriage and Family Mentors
About the Guest
- Dennis and Barbara Rainey can be found at theraineys.org.
- Check out all that's available on the FamilyLife Podcast Network. https://www.familylife.com/familylife-podcast-network/
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Hear what Dennis and Barbara Rainey have learned over 40 years in ministry. They share valuable lessons learned sometimes through success but more often through failure.
Marriage and Family Mentors
Michelle: When kids come along, couples have to work through many issues and there’s even some sacrifice; but there is something else that’s a lot more fundamental. Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: I know, when I had children, I needed a whole lot more of my husband’s time. He cut way back on the amount of weekend television; I cut way back on a lot of the things that I did. Really, it boils down to a communication issue: talking through your expectations, and your needs, and your desires for your marriage relationship, and figure out a solution that works. That requires a lot of communication.
Michelle: We’ll talk about communication and expectations—and actually, a whole lot more—as we get marriage and family mentoring from Dennis and Barbara Rainey on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. You know, there is a couple that many of us are indebted to in so many ways. If you know anything about the history of FamilyLife®, you probably can guess who I’m talking about—the co-founders of FamilyLife, Dennis and Barbara Rainey. For 40 years, they’ve been mentoring multiple generations on a variety of issues.
Recently, I stumbled across an audio clip of Barbara. We have thousands of hours of audio clips from FamilyLife Today® and from speaker engagements and events—stuff like that. I love Barbara’s honesty and how she’s not afraid to answer almost any question. Here she is at an event; Barbara was up on stage with, I think, three other women. Bob Lepine was asking her about that mistake that new wives make; you know, that mistake of controlling their husband. Here’s Bob.
Bob: Have any of the four of you set out to try, in a specific area, to change your husband and get him to be more like you wanted him to be, only to find that’s not a good approach to take? And I’m going to ask for specifics on this. Being married to Dennis Rainey, you probably never tried to change anything because of how perfect he is; right? [Laughter]
Barbara: Yes! Well, it started off, I think, in week two, maybe; [Laughter] because I’ve just always—I’m a first-born; and I’m a perfectionist, which is a real curse—I like to be organized. I married somebody who’s spontaneous, and organization really isn’t that important to him. I remember early—and I mean, really early—in our marriage, I saw all of these things in him that I thought his mother just didn’t teach him. [Laughter] I mean, seriously!! [Laughter]
Bob: And that’s why God gave you!
Barbara: I really did! I thought, “His mother must not have shown him how to organize his clothes, or his closet, or his car.” [Laughter] I really, truly thought that it was because I was supposed to teach him, so that didn’t work real well! [Laughter] I tried for years to help him be organized, and he still loses his keys. He still asks me: “Have you seen my pen?” “Have you seen my ball cap?” “Have you seen my…”—whatever. I used to think, “My gosh! I’m not your mother!” Well, now, I just say, “No; I haven’t seen it.” [Laughter]
Michelle: And if you’re married, you’ve probably had those thoughts a time or two; right? I just love how Barbara is so honest about her relationship with Dennis.
Actually, here’s another interview with Barbara, where she’s encouraging young wives about the differences between them and their husbands—and that some of those differences are okay.
Barbara: I would encourage a wife a couple of different ways. One is to recognize that we’re going to have different interests in a marriage relationship. I didn’t expect Dennis to be interested in the sewing that I did in the early years of our marriage, and he wasn’t particularly upset with me that I didn’t want to sit and watch hours upon hours of basketball. We realized that those were things that we each enjoyed separately; we didn’t have to do everything together. That’s one approach—is to realize that this is something that he likes to do and allow him to do what he needs to do to refuel, and you have your areas of interest as well.
However, if it’s an every Saturday/all Saturday, and there’s never any break, then that’s another matter. That would be a situation where you would talk together about your relationship, and the time you’re spending together, and how much time you’re spending together, and what you both need and what you both desire.
Kids complicate that; because if you’ve got children—I know when I had children, I needed a whole lot more of my husband’s time. You know, when I’m speaking about Dennis watching basketball, those were in the first couple of years, before we had kids; so it was a completely different situation. After we had children, he cut way back on the amount of weekend television; I cut way back on a lot of the things that I did. It’s one of the reasons we did very little fishing in those years that we were raising our kids; because we, frankly, just didn’t have enough time. We were keeping up with the kids and what they needed and trying to, you know, teach them how to do chores on the weekends. We were full-time parenting rather than recreating.
It depends on kind of where you are in life; but really, it boils down to a communication issue—talking through your expectations, and your needs, and your desires for your marriage relationship—to figure out a solution that works. That requires a lot of communication.
Michelle: I don’t know about you; but I feel like, every time I hear Barbara talk, she’s just so warm, and gentle, and caring. She wants to encourage us and help us through. You know, we live in this time of mommy-blog wars, and Pinterest®, and everybody trying to out-parent the next person; so I’m thankful for Barbara Rainey’s mentoring—gentle and practical living out life.
I like to learn from my leaders; so I’ve been asking Bob about the early days of FamilyLife Today®, of sitting down in the recording studio with Dennis. Dennis was sharing a story that wasn’t too flattering, because it was about some of the mistakes that he had made. Bob stopped him: “Are you sure you want to share that?” Of course, you know the rest of the story; Dennis has been amazingly transparent in sharing his successes and also his failures. That kind of goes along with parenting; doesn’t it?
You’ve probably noticed that your children learn best from you when you’re not afraid to share those lessons that you’ve learned from your failures. Here’s Dennis, doing what he does so well; that is, encouraging dads.
Dennis: Adlai Stevenson was a statesman/a politician who made the following statement in describing fatherhood—he said: “It has been said that fathering is a career imposed on you one fine morning without any inquiry as to your fitness for it. That’s why there are so many fathers who have children, and why there are so few children who have fathers.”
Let me ask you a question: “What do you remember most about your dad? What one word would best describe your dad, looking back at him?” If your son comes to one of these conferences, and he’s asked that same question, what would he say about you? What one word would describe your impact on his life as a result of you loving and leading him?
I believe, as never before, the great need in our families and our homes today, guys, is for you—you guys; me as well—for us, in the midst of all the pain, all the distractions, everything that is going on, for us to take our belts and to cinch it up, and to be what our kids/our children, what our wives and our families need us to be. The battle for the family, gentlemen, begins with us, men. Whether it succeeds or not may not be under your control or my control, but you know what? Whether or not you and I can be faithful is under our control, and we can step forward in the battle.
I don’t care if your kids are already grown! Some of you come here with grandkids; it’s not too late! Some of you are going to listen to this with one set of ears; you’re going to say, “But, Dennis, I’m ‘x’ years of age; and my kids are this old. I’ve made so many mistakes!” The God we serve is a God of grace. He’s a God who has delighted in bringing fruit out of ashes; He’s the God of the resurrection, guys—that’s my hope.
How do you manage your kids? How do you minister to them? You do it by having a relationship with them. If they’re nine years old, half of their time with you at home is gone! If they’re twelve years old, you’ve got six years left. If they’re sixteen, you’ve got two summers with that sixteen-year-old before you sling them out there. You know, the Bible compares children to “like arrows in the hands of a warrior.” The arrow was never intended to stay in the quiver; it was intended for battle/it was intended to be launched toward a target.
Michelle: That’s Dennis Rainey, exhorting dads in raising their sons and daughters. As you know, God determines the outcome, but it’s the parents’ role to help point that arrow toward the right target.
You know, it’s break time. I need to probably stand up and stretch my legs a little bit. Maybe I need to give a phone call to Dennis and Barbara and just let them know how much I miss seeing them on a day-to-day basis.
Hey! We need to take a break! In two minutes, I’ll be back with more FamilyLife This Week.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. We’ve been talking today about marriage and family mentoring with Dennis and Barbara Rainey. One thing I’ve seen Barbara do a lot is to coach young moms. In fact, there are many events that she and Dennis attend, where there’s a question-and-answer session. These young moms/they line up for what seems like miles behind the microphone, just to ask their question.
Well, I want to share Barbara’s answer to a question that a young mom posed her—she asked: “How do you go from being a mommy,”—like at 4:30—“to being a wife?”—like around six o’clock when the husband comes home. Here’s Barbara’s answer.
Barbara: Well, I really want to encourage you, as you’re young moms—and babies and little kids take an enormous amount of time and energy—I don’t know if you’re like me, but I was tired all of the time; I mean, I just was! Part of it was from being pregnant so often, and having babies, and chasing them all day, and getting up in the middle of the night. I mean, I was just—I lived on “E”—you know?—“Empty.” My gas gauge was out most of the time, and I was tired a lot; but there were some things that I tried to do.
The first thing that I think is essential that you do is—and many of you may have already done this—but I did this early in our marriage; it was make a decision: “Who’s going to be number one in your life?” You have to decide: “Is your husband going to be number one, or are your kids going to be number one?” because that’s the starting point. If your husband is really going to be the priority—and he really should be the priority over your children—you’ve got to first make that decision and then go from there.
Then secondly: “What am I going to do about it? Okay; he’s number one; how am I going to live that out in my family? How is he going to know that he’s more important than the children?” Because if you figure it out—even if you’re working part-time or full-time—your child still is going to get probably more actual time if you measured/counted minutes and hours, just because of the demands that it takes to bathe them, and feed them, and take them to the doctor, and all of the things. They’re still going to—the hours are going to add up that your child is going to win. “But what can you do to communicate to your husband that he is still number one in your life?”—that’s what you've got to figure out.
One of the things that I did is I tried—even when my kids were older—is I tried to save energy somehow. A lot of times it meant taking naps in the afternoons instead of getting my things done. I'm a task person; I always had projects going, of some kind or another. But I had to learn that, if I was really going to practice this, and I was going to have my husband be number one, then that meant/it might mean for me—and it did, many times—that I let my projects go. During the afternoon, when I might get something done that I wanted to get done, I took a nap or just rested—maybe not sleep—but rested and did something so that I could save energy for my husband.
And that was a hard decision, because it was denying myself those precious hours that I had that I could spend some time doing what I wanted to do. As moms, we have so little of that time that’s for me. But that was one of the ways that I tried to save time for my husband—was by denying myself my own time. I didn’t do it every day. Again, I didn’t do it perfectly; because I didn’t have good balance all the time. But it was a focus of my life; it was a focus of the way I spent my time.
Another thing is we made getting away together a priority: going out in the evenings or getting away for weekends. I would highly recommend that you get away for a couple of weekends a year if you can, even if you swap kids—if you’re on a tight budget, you swap kids with another couple—so that you can get time away for a weekend.
It was always easier for me to focus on my husband when my kids weren’t around, because they just want mom. I’ve just got this heart for them. In one of my favorite books that I read, the author said that: “Children are a piece of their mother’s heart walking around outside her body.” I had six pieces of my heart walking around out there. When one of them hurt, or needed something, my heart was there; because we are connected. There’s always going to be that connection with your child, so it was easier for me to focus on my husband when I was away from my children; because then I wasn’t so aware of their needs and so drawn to them. It was easier for me to give my husband my attention, and the affection, and stuff. That was another practical thing that we did to try to keep that relationship healthy, and alive, and growing.
As I look back on it now, too, the thing that’s been interesting is I realize I wish that I had done a better job. We were talking about it the other night—we were just laughing about it; and I said, “Well, Dennis, you got 1/7th of my attention,”—he laughed; and he said, “I don’t even think I got that sometimes!” I said, “Oh, was it that bad?!” He said, “Yes, sometimes it was.” And I went, “Oh; ouch!”
It’s a hard balance. If you don’t make that a priority, and if you’re not working toward keeping that relationship healthy, that’s when you begin to have the drift. You may not feel it as much when you’ve got two-, three-, four-, and five-year-olds; but by the time you’ve got fourteen-, fifteen-, and sixteen-year-olds, you’ve really got distance; it’s harder to recoup the relationship. We’ve already discovered now, with our last one gone, how much we still don’t know each other. I don’t know about you, but that’s been a surprise for me. You might not expect that—that after 30 years, you’re still not going to know your spouse—but you won’t.
Michelle: That is such an honest and refreshing answer, and that’s what I appreciate about the Raineys.
You know, Dennis has the ability to identify trends in our culture, sometimes well in advance of when it becomes obvious to others. I’m thinking about when he wrote his book, The Tribute, and challenged sons and daughters to honor their parents. Here’s Dennis remembering the importance of why he wrote that book.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Dennis: Over 20 years ago, I wrote a book called The Forgotten Commandment. It was first of all called The Tribute. It was about honoring your parents and writing a tribute to your parents. I would get notes back from radio listeners, saying: “I got your book, and it made me so angry that I threw your book across the room! It landed like a teepee. That book was crying out to me for days as I would go back and forth through the room. I would look over at it and, disgustedly, say something to the book,” until that person picked it up and decided to go ahead and move toward honoring her father. In the process, forgave him and wrote a tribute. She wrote to say, “Thank you.”
Why don’t we honor our parents?—because our hearts are far from God’s heart; because we’re angry; we’re disappointed; we’re punishing them. Children begin by loving their parents. After a time, they judge them. Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.
What is this command, called “Honor your father and mother”? Plato made the statement, “What is honored in a land will be cultivated there.” Do we honor our parents today? What do we honor today?—Oscars, Emmys, records, touchdown passes, Super Bowls, Pulitzer prizes, literature, Nobel Peace Prize. Maybe some of you can create some awards here to elevate honor for fathers and mothers.
How do you honor your parents? Well, one is you spend time with them on their agenda. Secondly, a letter/a hand-written letter; imagine that in this day and age of emails. A third thing that I would suggest you do here, by giving the gift of honor, is to write a tribute—not just any tribute—but one that you craft the words. Then, to formalize the words, you put it in a frame—not just any frame—but a magnificent matte/magnificent frame; and then take it to them and read it to them.
You say, “I could never do that!” You know what? It’s okay. Maybe you couldn’t today; you don’t have to have a perfect family to honor your parents.
So what’s your action point out of this? Does God want you to write a tribute for Christmas instead of giving a Dust Buster®, or a silly tie, or house shoes/house slippers, or a shirt that he’s probably going to take back to the store and exchange? Are you going to write one?
Michelle: Many parents have been honored, thanks to Dennis Rainey.
Let’s go back to the cultural trends that Dennis has the ability to pick up on; or when he wrote his book, Stepping Up, and challenged men to a higher calling; or when he’s talked to daddies about how to cherish and love their daughters or take them on a daddy-daughter date. Of course, that’s all the rage now; but back when Dennis started talking about daddy-daughter dates, no one had heard of it.
I want you to hear Dennis reading a letter from a man, who took his advice, and took his daughter on a daddy-daughter date, and was surprised with the outcome.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Dennis: He said:
I happened to catch a FamilyLife Today that was talking about daddy-daughter dates, where it recommended that dads start to date their daughters when they’re about four or five years old. Well, that got my attention, because I have a four-year-old, who wants to be five very soon, daughter. The idea of taking her on a date had never crossed my mind.
He writes/he goes on to say:
She’s got three brothers, including a twin. They’re all very close in age; it’s a rough-and-tumble crowd. She is my natural-born leader, always right in the thick of things. She is smarter, quicker, and can hit just as hard as her brothers, at least, right now.
I grew up as one of those three rowdy boys; so honestly, it never occurred to me that I needed to treat my fiery girl any differently than the wild boys; but—
This is cool; listen to this:
—but because of FamilyLife Today, I went ahead and invited her out on a very special daddy-daughter date. For nearly three-and-a-half hours, she talked non-stop over cheeseburgers, fries, and ice cream cones. All I had to do was sit there, and look directly into those big, blue eyes; smile, nod, and, occasionally, brush back the stray curl that always seemed to escape from that unruly mop of hers. Our date was the first time I had deliberately treated my daughter like a little lady and perhaps the longest time that she’d ever had my undivided attention.
When we got back home, she launched from the cab of my truck, wrapped her little arms tightly around my neck. As she clung to me, unwilling to let go, she whispered in my ear, “Thank you, Daddy. Thank you for making me feel so special, and for being just with me, without the boys.” I held her for a long time, with tears streaming down my face, telling her over and over again just how special she was to me and how much I love her. It was one of the best moments of my life so far; at least, until our next date.
Michelle: Oh, today has been so good to sit back and to reminisce and continue being mentored by a powerful couple, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, who co-founded FamilyLife in 1976. They taught moms how to mother, dads how to father, and husbands and wives how to love each other. We are indebted to the Raineys, and we are so thankful that they continue to be effective in God’s kingdom work. You can go to our website, where we have some information on what’s happening with Dennis and Barbara right now. Go to FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Hey, next week, I’m going to ask you to brew a cup of coffee and listen to how coffee is changing the lives of people, who have been chained too long by their past sins. We’re going to talk to Pete Leonard from I Have a Bean, and talk to him about how coffee is giving a sense of purpose to men and women after they leave the prison system. That’s next week on FamilyLife This Week.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producer, Marques Holt. 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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