A Stronger Marriage: How to Have One: Bob Lepine
Fed up with your spouse? Author Bob Lepine helps you trade blame, dissatisfaction, and disappointment for a stronger, richer, and more rewarding marriage.
About the Guest
- Grab Bob's book, Build a Stronger Marriage: The Path to Oneness, from New Growth Press' Ask a Christian Counselor Series.
- And with any donation this week, receive recent FamilyLife Today guest Rachel Faulkner-Brown's 30-day devotional, His Name: Our Hope in Grief.
- Find resources from this podcast at shop.familylife.com.
- Find more content and resources on the FamilyLife's app!
- Help others find FamilyLife. Leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
- Check out all the FamilyLife podcasts on the FamilyLife Podcast Network
Fed up with your spouse? Author Bob Lepine helps you trade blame, dissatisfaction, and disappointment for a stronger, richer, and more rewarding marriage.
A Stronger Marriage: How to Have One: Bob Lepine
Dave: Biggest surprise of our marriage? Something you didn’t see coming after we got married. Something you were shocked [about]? I know I’m throwing this out of nowhere, but what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? How amazing I am?
Dave: Okay, it’s not going to happen as quickly as it did.
Bob: The hair loss.
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 FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife
Dave: Hey, by the way, if you recognize that voice—
Ann: They’re like,” I know that voice!”
Dave: Bob Lepine just jumped in—
Ann: I love it!
Dave: —and interrupted our conversation!
Bob: I had to!
Ann: He had to! That was funny. [Laughter]
Dave: Only he can do this, you know? With somebody else, it would be like, “What are you doing interrupting?” But Bob, you own FamilyLife Today!
Ann: You started FamilyLife Today!
Dave: You know, before Ann answers, let me just say, ‘Welcome back.”
Bob: It is great to be back. I always love being here with you guys, and it’s a privilege. And it’s always great to throw in a dig about your hair.
Dave: Yes, I know. [Laughter] Because you’ve got so much more of it. I know!
We’re going to talk about a book you’ve just written.
Dave: Build a Stronger Marriage. But Ann, do you have an answer?
Ann: There were some wonderful things! I was surprised that I could so quickly see the negative in you and in our relationship; and how I thought you should be meeting all my needs.
Dave: So, your surprise is more about you! I thought you’d be surprised at how messed up I was!
Bob: I can explain this for you!
Dave: Okay, please do.
Ann: Oh, good, good! Bob’s—
Dave: She’s sort of got a counselor in the room.
Bob: She was surprised that you were not as spiritually mature, and as much of a spiritual leader, as she thought you were going to be early on in marriage.
Dave: You’re saying that’s all in that one little statement there?
Bob: Crystal clear!
Ann: [Laughing] Bob knows our story!
Bob: It’s crystal clear to me. [Laughter]
Ann: Bob knows our story way too well.
Dave: Well, yes, he does.
Ann: He knows us too well!
Dave: He can tell us what was wrong with us. One of the things I thought you were going to say, Ann, is one of my surprises: was how much we fought.
Ann: Oh, I didn’t think that was much at all! In my family, we fought all the time!
Dave: Well, I guess maybe that’s why! We’ve previously talked about family of origin issues, and mine was we never fought in our home! That doesn’t mean there wasn’t conflict. There was all kinds of conflict. It was never talked about.
Dave: So, when we started having conflicts, that was a surprise! And you know, I walked out of the room like, “I don’t even know what to do with this.” But that’s why I’ve turned to Bob right now, because in your book, you have a whole section.
Ann: Well, wait! Let’s find out his surprise. What surprised you, Bob?
Dave: Oh, okay; good.
Bob: What was the biggest surprise? The first thing that comes to mind is, I was surprised on the first Saturday that we were married. We had gotten married on a Saturday, we went on our honeymoon, and we came back; so, this is our first Saturday in our new home together. And throughout our dating years, Saturday morning—when Mary Ann and I were dating, we’d be together usually on Friday night doing something, and then Saturday morning—was when I slept in, got caught up for the week. We would usually, if we were going to do anything on Saturday, it would be lunch time before we’d do anything. I could, and still can, sleep late on Saturday.
Ann: Because you’re a late-night person, too.
Bob: Yes, right.
Bob: So, the first Saturday morning after we were married, Mary Ann, who’s an early riser, had probably awakened that morning at six; maybe 6:30. She’d gotten up. She’d been out in the kitchen, and maybe read her Bible and did some stuff; but it’s two-and-a-half hours later. It’s nine in the morning, and she’s sitting out there on her own, doing nothing, bored, thinking, “When is the day going to get started? When’s my husband going to get out of bed?”
Dave: “My lazy husband!”
Bob: That’s right!
Ann: She’s thinking, “I married a lazy man!” [Laughter]
Bob: She comes into the bedroom at nine o’clock on Saturday morning and raises the shades! [Laughter] I’m sound asleep, and she raises the shades! And I looked up at her like, “What are you doing?” She smiled and said, “Good morning, sweetheart.” And I was like, “Are you out of your mind?” [Laughter] “I was sleeping! It’s Saturday morning. This is my morning to get caught up!”
So, it was one of those—and we talked about it later, because she said, “My dad, on Saturday, would get up early, and he would get started on his ‘to do’ list, and I just always thought that— .You know, we dated for four years, and you slept in on Saturdays. I thought, after we got married, you’d fall into my dad’s pattern—” [Laughter] “and you would start getting up.”
Ann: How did you respond to that?
Bob: Like, “Why would you think something like that!? That’s insane!” You know, all of us carry those expectations, those ideas, into marriage. And we had to learn how we were going to make that dance work in our marriage.
Dave: So, you write about these kinds of things in your book. How does the average person deal with it? Because you know, in ours, I’m walking out of the room. I don’t want to talk about it. You talked about it, but couples don’t know. I was shocked at the level of anger—
Dave: —that I would feel in my life. Ann told me I was an “angry man” at one point, and I yelled at her [Laughter], which was a really good—
Bob: “No, I am not an angry man!”
Dave: And she just said, “Exhibit A,” you know?
Ann: That’s right.
Dave: And I was like, “What are you talking about?”
Help couples understand. We have different patterns; we have conflict; we don’t know what to do. Where do we go?
Bob: I think the first thing that you’ve identified is that we’ve got to get to, “What’s behind the conflict? Where is the discontent or the anger coming from?” James talks about this, in James, Chapter 4 in the Bible. It says, “Why is there fighting and quarreling among you?” The short answer is “because you want things, and you don’t get them.”
Bob: So, we have these desires. We want life to go this way. We want things to work out this way. Mary Ann wanted her husband to get up on Saturday morning at this time. I wanted sleep. We had our desires. They weren’t going the way we wanted them. So, that leads to fighting and quarreling among us. “It should be my way!” “No, it should be my way!” “No, I want it this way!” “Well, it hurts when you do that.”
So, we have to pull back and go, “What’s the deal with our anger?” We’ve got the conflict; that’s why there’s quarreling; but the anger that emerges out of that is a really interesting passion. The Bible talks about anger as an attribute of God. God is a jealous God; He’s an angry God. There’s wrath that’s a part of God’s character; but God’s wrath is very different than our wrath.
A lot of people will say, “Well, you know, it’s okay to be angry, because God is angry.” I say, “When you can be angry in perfect holiness, then we can talk about your anger!” But most of us, we’re angry because things aren’t going our way. I think, behind that anger, there’s often fear and insecurity. We respond in anger because we’re trying to feel safer. That’s what makes us angry.
I hope that’s making sense to people. Here’s how I describe it: if you’ve got a dog that’s growling—over in a corner growling—at you, that dog is frightened that somebody is invading his territory. He doesn’t feel safe, and he’s growling to say, “I’m going to try to frighten you so that I feel safer; so, you’ll back off, and I’ll feel safer.”
Ann: So, it’s like when we first got married, and we first heard about the idea that anger is a second emotion, that was a huge light bulb that went on for us, because when Dave would get angry, I started to think, “What’s underneath that?”
Ann: “What’s the first emotion that he’s feeling?”
Bob: What’s the fear? What’s the insecurity? If you’re growling at each other in marriage—and I think we do that a lot; we growl.
Ann: A lot!
Bob: When you growl, you have to think, “Wait! What’s behind that? What’s the insecurity? What’s the fear? What’s the vulnerability that’s being addressed here? Somebody doesn’t feel safe in this moment and is there a way to address that?”
Ann: Do you remember being angry at Mary Ann?
Bob: So, I’m pretty even keeled.
Ann: Yes, you are.
Bob: She would tell you that that’s just—I have an optimistic temperament.
Bob: And my kids would say, “Dad doesn’t get flustered very easily.” But yes, I remember times when I would be passively, quietly storing up anger; not expressing it toward her, but fuming about it, sitting in my chair. She’s gone to bed, and I’m still up thinking about it, just thinking, “This isn’t right, and this is unjust.” Letting that kind of toxic bitterness grow up in my heart. If you let that happen, whether you’re a shouter or you’re a fumer like I was—”
Bob: You’re cultivating a toxic cesspool under the surface of your marriage that can come back and really poison relationship. This is why we have to identify, “What’s going on in my heart? What are the demands I’m making on my wife that are causing me to be angry? What are the needs that I feel I’m justified to that aren’t being met? What are the idols in my heart?”
Bob: Because that’s really what a lot of these are: “I deserve this! I want this! You should be doing this my way.” And I have to call that out and surrender a lot of that before the Lord and say, “Lord, I’m not promised these things. I’m not guaranteed these things. I need to surrender some of these things.” Or I either let go of it, or I’ve got to sit down and address it. This is the fork in the road that you come to.
So, when you’ve got an issue in your marriage, the first choice you face is, “Am I going to overlook this issue, or am I going to confront the issue?” Now, I would say my option was most often to overlook, except I wasn’t really overlooking. I was just storing, compartmentalizing.
Bob: There’s a difference. The fact that you don’t erupt doesn’t mean you’ve overlooked. So, the Bible says in Proverbs, “It’s a man’s glory to overlook an offense.” In the New Testament, it says, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” When there’s transgression against us, it’s a glorious thing to say, “I’m going to choose to overlook this offense. I’m going to cover this with grace. I’m not going to make this into a wedge in our marriage.”
But if you’re going to do that, you have to do that in such a way that you really are putting it away, not keeping it stored up in the inner recesses of your soul. The more you’re letting it just kind of build up in your soul, you’re not overlooking anything. You’re just postponing the conflict.
Ann: I remember trying to figure this out when we were probably married ten years. I was still trying to figure it out, because I have the tendency to say whatever I’m thinking.
Ann: So, if I’m angry, I’ll just say, “I’m angry!” or “This is frustrating.” So, when God was trying to get a hold of my tongue and my thoughts, I remember thinking, “Okay, I’m not going to say anything.” So, I would go a little bit, and it wouldn’t come back up. I’d give it to Jesus. Then, I started realizing and started praying, “Lord, if this is important; if this is something we need to talk about, then bring it back up, and allow me to have the wisdom to say it in the way that I should.”
That was kind of a good thermometer for me that, if it went away, I would give it to Jesus, like, “Lord, this isn’t that big of a deal, and I don’t want to keep bringing things up;” but if it would come back up and it would resurface, and I had these big feelings about it, then I would pray about it and say it to Dave. Because if I didn’t do that, boiling would come out terrible!
Ann: That probably happened to you. No, I bet it didn’t happen to you too often!
Bob: Well, here’s how it worked out in our marriage: what is the dirtiest part of your socks? The socks you are wearing? Is it the inside of the sock, or the outside of the sock?
Ann: It depends on the last time you took a shower.
Bob: Right, but on a day-in and day-out basis—
Ann: The outside.
Bob: You would say the outside is the dirtiest part?
Bob: Do you agree with that?
Dave: Yes, most of the time.
Bob: I mean, the inside is there against the sweat, and against the grime.
Bob: So, when you take off your socks and put them in the laundry for them to be laundered, should you put them in the laundry basket with the outside exposed or with the inside? Do you take them off—which way do you put them in the laundry basket?
Ann: With the outside exposed, so I don’t have to turn them back when I wash them.
Bob: That’s Mary Ann’s answer as well. [Laughter] Right? I always take my socks off and leave them inside out!
Ann: Why would you do that? It’s more work!
Bob: Because that’s how—when you take them off, that’s how they are! [Laughter] They’re inside-out. You put them in the laundry. Besides, my feet were sweaty and dirty, and that needs to be out closer to—
Dave: So, you’re thinking you’re doing the right thing for Mary Ann?
Bob: Exactly, right!
Dave: I always flip mine back. I guess my wife taught me that.
Bob: Well, yes! She will eventually. I don’t know how many years Mary Ann went with quiet frustration—
Ann: Oh, no!
Bob: —about these socks being the wrong way before she finally spoke up and said, “You know, it would really make things easier for me.” Here’s what I think she did: she started putting them back in my drawer afterwards inside-out. [Laughter]
Ann: Did she?!
Ann: That was smart! What did you say?
Bob: I was like, “You didn’t turn my socks inside—” She said, “Well, you didn’t turn them the right way up when you put them in the hamper.” [Laughter]
Ann: That’s kind of smart, Mary Ann.
Bob: So, that’s kind of passive-aggressive; a little conflict over something.
Now, here’s the point: we’re talking about something stupid like socks, right? I mean, at the end of the day, this is the kind of thing that we pour grace on; this is the kind of thing that “love covers a multitude of sins.”
Dave: You overlook.
Bob: You overlook it! But, if it does annoy you after a time, you can find a way to bring it up, maybe not passive-aggressively like putting the socks back inside-out, but to bring it up and to say, “You know, this makes it harder for me if I’m always having to undo your socks. I don’t know, but it’s annoying for me. Could you turn the socks the other way up?”
I heard that, and I thought, “Yes, I guess I could do that. I mean, one of us has to do it, and it might as well be me, right?”
Ann: Dave did the same thing! It was so nice!
Dave: And it saved your marriage. [Laughter] There you are!
Bob: It’s little things like that—you put about 15 or 20 of those “little” things into a jar—
Ann: Oh, yes.
Bob: —and you can have something that’s pretty ugly, right?
Dave: Yes! And you can also have big things, because one of the things I did not understand about my anger and it got to the point, Bob, where at times it was out of control.
Dave: I mean, one time, I’m throwing a wrench at a lawn mower that won’t start.
Ann: He’s outside. I can hear him yelling!
Dave: Kicking it.
Ann: He’s not cursing or anything; he’s yelling at the top of his voice! I run out in the garage, thinking, “What happened?” And he’s kicking the lawn mower. He’s throwing things at it.
Dave: And it didn’t just happen once or twice.
Ann: He’s screaming at it!
Dave: I remember, in those moments, I was like, “Why am I out of control?” Here’s one of my light bulb moments: it’s what you said earlier, “Okay, it’s connected to something.”
Dave: I was more passive. I overlooked. It was “no big deal,” and here’s what I discovered. Often, I felt hurt emotionally. So, I was trained, you know, “men don’t cry. You just grit it and get through it,” and yet, there was this hurt.
A lot of it was what Ann was saying earlier: she says out loud what she’s thinking. She would call me out on stuff and be disappointed in me, and I never once stopped and said, “You know, that sort of hurt. Can we talk about that?”
Dave: I just stuffed it.
Ann: You really never did say anything to me. I didn’t even know! I thought, “Oh, he likes me doing this!” [Laughter]
Dave: She thought it was making me better!
Ann: I did think it!
Dave: And I was like, “How is this working for you, girl? I’m not changing!” [Laughter]
Ann: So, you’re saying that I was causing that frustration, and you were kicking the lawn mower?
Dave: Well, I’m not connecting all the dots, but I did discover there was some hurt that I was feeling, not just from Ann, but from different parts of my life—
Bob: Your incompetence with the lawnmower was exposing a weakness in you.
Bob: “You’re not a man! Men should be able to fix the lawn mower.” [Laughter]
Dave: Right! And so, I had to learn, and this is where I want your wisdom—
It’s like, “Okay, I’m not going to overlook this anymore.”
Dave: I think I’ve identified, “This is bigger than just me being mad. I’m feeling hurt by your words. I’m feeling hurt that you don’t believe in me. You don’t love me as much as I thought, as your husband.” I want to confront that.
Dave: How do I confront that?
Bob: So, when there’s an issue like that that comes up, where we go, “This is sticking with me.” The kind of thing you were talking about, Ann.
Bob: Where it just keeps coming back, either because there’s hurt in our own soul, or because we look and we go, “You know, this is a pattern in our spouse’s life that’s not a healthy, good pattern, that we need to bring up for their sake, to help them get free of this unhealthy habit or pattern in their own life.”
Then, we have to make a decision that we’re going to address this; we’re going to have a moment of confrontation. Now, the wrong way to do that is in the heat of the moment, to say, “Well, let’s talk about this!” So, there’s a preparation process that we have to go through to be ready to have the kind of conversation God would want us to have.
I always go back here, to Galatians 6:1, because this is a formula for how you address an issue. It says, “Brothers, if you see someone caught in a sin—in a trespass— “; so, a wife or a husband, you see your spouse, and there’s a pattern in their life and they’re caught; there’s something they struggle with. They just don’t do it well; they don’t do it right; they’re insensitive; they’re unkind; they’re neglectful; or whatever it is. You see it, and it’s an ongoing pattern. It’s not a one-time thing, but it’s something that just keeps happening over and over again.
Here's what it says you do: “You who are spiritual.” Whoops! [Laughter] So, before you’re going to do anything, you have to be in the right spiritual frame of mind. That means you’ve got to go to the Lord, and you’ve got to say, “Lord, I’ve observed this in Dave. I’m watching him do this. I feel like I need to bring this up. Lord, first of all, are there any planks in my eye that I’m missing, that need to be exposed here, Lord? Show me where I’ve got issues in this area. Is there anything that I need to be addressing?”
Just have that conversation before the Lord, and then you say, “Lord, I want to make sure that I’m addressing this with the motive of seeing Dave restored, and not with the motive of trying to destroy him or shame him or tear him down or get my needs met.”
Ann: I was going to say, a lot of it is “or trying to change him,” which is really getting him to meet my needs.
Dave: And that’s a good perspective. I’ve often thought, “You who are more spiritual” means “you who are right.”
Dave: It’s not “you’re right; she’s wrong, he’s wrong.” It’s like, “Wait, wait! Is my heart right?”
Dave: “Am I at a place of mature spiritual humility, actually, where I can go and say, ‘I want to do this the right way’?”
Bob: “You who are spiritual,” and then it says, “restore the other person with a spirit of meekness.”
Okay, so, two things: the goal is restoration. The goal is not, again, to shame, or to beat up, or to correct behavior. It’s, “I want you restored. I want you living in the kind of life that God created us to live in. I want this life to be what God wants it to be, so I want to help you with this ongoing issue in our marriage.” “Restore them with a spirit of meekness.” Meekness means “power under control.” So, this means self-controlled.
You’re not ready to go approach somebody unless you’re ready to maintain self-control.
Ann: Okay, just this right there: that is hard to do!
Ann: But that is really wise to do; otherwise, you’re going to blow up; your words aren’t going to be kind. And when your words aren’t kind and thought through, you’re not humble.
Bob: And this is where—I love how practical the Bible is here!
Ann: Me, too.
Bob: Because then, it goes on to say, “and bear one another’s burdens.”
Ann: What do you think that means?
Bob: I think it means that, “What I’ve just addressed with you is a habit or a pattern or a sin issue in your life. It’s something that has reoccurred. You’re struggling with this. If I’m going to bear this burden with you, it means I’m your ally. I want to come along and help you get free from this. I want to do what I can do. I want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem in your life. So, what does that need to look like?”
It may be different depending on different situations. Maybe, what you need to do is just back off. May be what you need to be is an ally. Say a husband comes to his wife and says, “I’ve never shared this with you, but I’m struggling with pornography. I’ve been looking at pornography.” Okay, so, he’s caught in a transgression. Hopefully, coming in that moment, the wife, filled with the Spirit, [has the] goal to restore him to where that’s not an issue in their marriage anymore.
She’s going to do that with a spirit of meekness, which means—it also says, “taking care that you, too, aren’t tempted.” She’s going to make sure that she doesn’t fall into some sin pattern because of what he stumbled into. And then, “bear one another’s burdens,” to say, “I know there’s a vulnerability, a weakness, a sin issue here in your life, and I want to be your ally to help keep that from being an ongoing problem. What does that look like for me? How can I be the ally you need?”
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Bob Lepine on FamilyLife Today. If this is resonating with you, you’ll want to hear some super-practical steps you can take in your marriage. Bob’s got that in just a minute. But first, Bob has written a book called Building a Stronger Marriage: The Path to Oneness. You can get a copy at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling us at 800-358-6329. That’s 800-F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word, “TODAY.”
Alright, let me pause and thank all of our FamilyLife partners, because without your continued dedication to this donor-supported ministry, we wouldn’t exist. We wholeheartedly appreciate you. If you have yet to join us, we’d love it if you’d consider partnering with us today. When you do, we’re going to send you a copy of Rachel Faulkner-Brown’s book, His Name: Our Hope in Grief. Rachel was a guest with us earlier this week, and if you want to help more people benefit from conversations just like the one you heard today, you can partner with us at FamilyLIfeToday.com. When you do, we’ll send you a copy of His Name: Our Hope in Grief.
Alright, here’s Bob with a practical step you can take to help fight temptation in your marriage.
Bob: I remember talking to one couple where this was the issue for them, and the husband said to the wife, “I’ll just make a vow to you that if I ever look again, I’ll tell you. I won’t keep it a secret from you.” He said making that pledge to her—so many times in a moment of temptation, he would back away from the temptation because he would go, “If I do it, I’ve got to tell her.” He could imagine himself, the next day, having to tell his wife, “I fell last night,” and he didn’t want to do that.
Now, if he’d come to her, and said, “I gave in last night to temptation,” being an ally means that you don’t pile condemnation, guilt, and shame on top of that.
Ann: And I would add, if you’re the spouse that is receiving that news—for example, if you’re the wife, and your husband comes and tells you that, and you’re thinking, “Okay, I need to respond appropriately,” I would advise, if you feel like you can’t do it in that moment, just say, “I need a little time.”
Ann: Pull away a little bit. I wish I had done this! Pull away a little bit. Go pray and go ask a friend to start praying for you before you come back and respond to your husband; because if you feel like you’re just going to react and go off on him, then I would say, that’s not always great. I’ve done that a lot in the past, and it doesn’t work. I would say, pull away; gather your emotions, your thoughts; pray; and then, come back to become his ally.
Bob: If you’re not in a place where you’re controlled by the Spirit in that moment—
Bob: —you’re right: back off and get to that point. That doesn’t mean that you don’t come back and say, “You just need to know, when I hear that, it hurts.”
Bob: “It makes me feel less than. It makes me feel—”
Ann: Express your emotions!
Ann: Just don’t attack your spouse.
Bob: Right; exactly.
Shelby: Are you in a place where you feel like you’re falling out of love? Well, tomorrow, on FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson are joined again by Bob Lepine to give you hope, help, and guidance. That’s tomorrow. Please join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife®, a Cru® Ministry.
Helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you. However, there is a cost to produce them for our website. If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs?
Copyright © 2023 FamilyLife®. All rights reserved.