FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Closer: A More Connected Marriage: David and Meg Robbins

with David and Meg Robbins | January 20, 2023
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You want a connected marriage. You have two very different people who want what they want. David and Meg Robbins chat about what helps them live unified.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

You want a connected marriage. You have two very different people who want what they want. David and Meg Robbins chat about what helps them live unified.

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Closer: A More Connected Marriage: David and Meg Robbins

With David and Meg Robbins
January 20, 2023
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David: I think we all know this, but it’s worth saying again. Praying together transforms a home. The next time you see your spouse grab her hand or grab his hand and just start praying, “Lord, would you help us because we need You.”

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 or on the FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: We are doing something today we’ve never done before.

Ann: I’m excited!

Dave: You are?

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Why?

Ann: I’m excited because David and Meg Robbins are in the house with us today, and that’s always fun. [Laughter]

David: —We’ve never done that before. [Laughter]

Dave: —We have done that before. [Laughter] Welcome back. This is the president of FamilyLife Today, and he’s in the studio with his wife, Meg. What we’ve never done . . . The last four days we’ve been talking about REAL Man and REAL Woman, R-E-A-L, the acronym for a man and a woman. We get to apply that to marriages today, so let us review quickly.

Ann: Okay.

Dave: A real man is a man who rejects passivity, the E is engages with God, the A is accepts responsibility, and the L—a real man leads courageously.

Ann: We also did what it looks like to be a real woman of God, and the R is a real woman of God releases control to God. The E is she embraces her role. The A is she accepts herself, and the L is she loves God and loves others.

We have been talking about those for the last four days. If you haven’t listened to those, go back, and listen, so you can really understand what we mean by those pillars.

Dave: Here is our plan. Who knows where we are going to end up. We are going to try and understand the pillars very quickly, man and woman, husband and wife. Then say, if a husband is living this out and a wife is living this out, how would that impact their marriage? We have real man and real woman. Now we have real oneness. What would that look like?

Ann: Right.

Dave: David and Meg, as you hear that, we could go anywhere. We could start with rejects passivity, but we don’t have to. What are some of your first thoughts?

Meg: The first thing I want to say is if you haven’t had a chance to listen, it is worth going back and listening to all the previous four days, because I do think it is really powerful and freeing to think about how God is calling us to live as real men and real women. When I think about how these connect, and, really, when I’m living out what God’s called me to and when David is living that out, we can experience much deeper oneness. Some of them line up directly and some of them overlap in different ways.

Even this first one, reject passivity, I just think about, Dave, you talked about how this is a tendency we’ve had since the beginning, since Adam. He was so tempted to be passive, and he was. That is where the first sin came from, when Eve was standing there with the apple and she turns to him and says, take this, eat it with me.

I think about in our marriage when David is able to reject passivity and step up as a leader and fill that role that God’s called him to, it is also motivating to me to lean in and trust the Lord. Even just the reality of release control. I feel like when he is being passive, I’m so tempted to step in and take over.

Ann: Yes!

Meg: When he rejects that passivity, then I’m able to let things be in the Lord’s hands more easily.

Ann: I think that is really true for women. I think we get in this situation where, if he’s not going to do it, I guess I have to do it.

Meg: Right.

Ann:  So we step into areas that we control. David, has Meg ever gotten into that control rut? [Laughter]

David: You know what is interesting. I was just thinking of the total opposite version of how those two connect and bring real oneness.

Dave: I want to hear this.

David: When I’m bringing strength and rejecting passivity, that gives you a security to trust the Lord and release control. Yes, we experience oneness when that happens.

There is the other side of rejecting passivity when I am in sin, and I reject the passivity to be silent and passive; therefore, absent in real connection, and I bring that sin and confession to you. One of the things that you do so well is not entering in with controlling, I’m going to fix you. I’m going to change you. That role that you play of releasing control and going, okay, you’re bringing some of the most intimate things to me of how you are seeking legitimate things in illegitimate ways to find security in your life. This could be an opportunity for oneness for us.

Instead of you just hammering down, I mean you care about accountability, you care about me pursuing righteousness and holiness, instead of you hammering down and control, you actually release control to the Lord and say, thank you so much for bringing this to our marriage. This is going to affect us. And how do we intersect together in that? It reminds me of the risk in time continuum if there is the x axis of time and the y axis of risk. A healthy marriage that is being a real man and a real woman is living in that zone one that not very much time gets by where we are tempted to say, it’s not that big of a deal, it won’t affect us much, so I don’t need to confess that to my wife, or I don’t need to confess that to my husband. That zone one is so crucial that real men and real women reject passivity, release control, and talk about zone one all the time, short accounts about your sin so you can keep growing with a little bit of work.

We are tempted to let that x and y axis keep growing. We don’t confess. We don’t talk about it. We sometimes take more and more risk, and you end up in a zone three, thinking this is such a big deal that I can’t tell him or I can’t tell her about it. And we all know the Holy Spirit is going to keep pushing us. It’s going to come out.

Ann: It’s going to come out.

David: The sooner the better a man rejects that passivity in zone one, a woman doesn’t come in and say, let me fix this for you and let me pile on to it, but let us enter in this together and run to the throne of grace of Jesus together.

Dave: Have you guys had to do that recently? You sounded like you are talking about something that is recent in your marriage.

David: All the time. Seriously, we could go through multiple times, but last night we were on a date,

Meg: Yes.

David: —and we were talking about are we disclosing our hearts. It wasn’t like a tangible sin that we were talking about that is an action we have taken. It was almost a sin of omission, of are we offering up our full selves to one another? We have done that well in the past. Are we doing that right now?

Ann: Are you letting each other in?

David and Meg: Yes.

Dave: If you think about it, the image that I just had—David, is oneness is of two hearts becoming one heart. When you have a barrier, or you have a film, or something covering your heart, you’re not going to become one.

You just hit on something huge in terms of the passivity in me would be saying, I can wait a week, I can wait a day. Really, I’m afraid.

David: Yes.

Dave: It comes back to the fourth pillar of a man. Am I going to step into something with courage and lead? No I’m going to be passive because I’m scared. We often get locked up. Fear stagnates. We don’t move. And I think a lot of men, and it is probably true for women as well, we are afraid to be that authentic, to really bring our sin or weakness to our spouse because we are afraid of what they might do. We might be afraid that they are going to take over, take control.

Meg: Even what David is talking about, just that feeling of, I probably do tend to hold back sometimes, what is really going on in my heart. I think that when I am able to release control, not to David, but like you said Ann, I’m releasing control to the Lord, then I can trust that God cares about me, and whatever I’m feeling and dealing with in my heart. He has given me David. If David is rejecting passivity and pursuing me, and leading in that way and accepting the responsibility of caring for my heart - then I can step into that and trust the Lord and let go of my desires to control my emotions and how he might see me. To say, I’m going to let the wall down and let you in in this way even though it might be scary sometimes - even though we’ve been married over 20 years. There are times I’m really careful and closed up about things, and he pursues me and keeps knocking on the door - I know there is more there, or the times that I’m able to responds to that—to his leadership in our marriage.

Ann: It brings the most oneness.

Meg: Yes.

Ann: Let me ask you guys, and speak for the men, what does it feel like when a woman micromanages you or,

Dave: I almost was going to go there. [Laughter]

Ann: or critiques you? That constant critique, or don’t do it like this, or why are you doing this? What does that do for your spirit?

David: I think a recent part of our journey, where I don’t feel micromanaged by Meg in this, but it’s amazing how quickly my inner dialogue goes to self-contempt and shame. We have a year and a half left with our oldest in the house before he goes to college. Am I doing enough as a father to a son?

Dave: I so remember that.

David: And we’ve got the 7th grader. Are we having the right conversations? Life is so crazy compared to that first—

Meg: -well and lets be honest. There are times when I do certainly become controlling and overstep. You’re being nice about it.  [Laughter] There are times when I say, we’re missing the moment. You have to do these things. I can be trying to control and make things happen.

Dave: You are trying to make something happen. David, let me ask you, when Meg does that, because I know when Ann does that - I’m thinking both of you are strong women [Laughter] and I know Ann is and I’m guessing Meg is too, but often it’s almost a signal to me—you are being passive.

The fact that she is jumping in that strong, many times I’m like, look at me, she is doing that because I’m not, not that she can’t. I want her to be strong, but there are times where I feel micromanaged. I’m not stepping up. She is doing this because somebody has to. I’m not.

David: I think for those men out there listening and that are going, oh yeah, that’s my wife. I can enter into that. I have to pay attention for what my response is and be responsible for my response. My response of self-contempt and how I spiral into shame, how dare she. There is that no-condemnation in Jesus -

Ann: Yes.

David: —freedom of security-

Dave: —Romans 8:1—

David: —where we don’t have to dive into our shame. But yet there is that conviction of God, give me a soft heart. She is right about some things here. Let me not get mad, bitter, angry. Maybe she is actually overcontrolling in this moment. Let me not ignore it, because maybe her sin is coming out on me. Let me actually dive in - Spirit, what is the conviction You want me to pay attention to? If I can, as a man, pay attention to that, it connects us to another part—lead courageously out of the flow of rejecting this passivity—then this is going to right some things in my home.

I think often we push it away and say, “No, it’s all bad now.” When it is, “Spirit, what is the part of truth I have to pay attention to?”

Dave: Yes.

Meg: If the L for real women is love God and love others, I think when I am in a right place of loving the Lord and releasing control—back to the R, and trusting what God has for our kids and for David to step in certain ways - but also loving him when I’m really in a place of being in a healthy place of loving David. Then I’m able to come to him and speak life and encourage him to come alongside our kids, and yes - the one who is about to go to college, in a way that is life-giving and not condemning.

David: You do that a lot, for the record, and I’m grateful—

Meg: —Thanks. There are definitely times when it doesn’t come out that way. I think part of embracing my role is, in this stage of life he is certainly busy and has a lot on his plate so how do I try to come up with creative ways to say, “Why don’t you take him to breakfast this week?—

Ann: —So you are helping—

Meg: —Yes. . . and I’ll get the rest of the kids. I’ll get them ready and get everybody else to school. How can I free you up to make this happen? Rather than, you said you were going to do this and you didn’t.

Dave: You just mentioned, Meg, when you take the E for men, engages with God, the L for women, loves God and loves others - let us talk about that. I think a lot of couples that are listening are like, how do I bring my spiritual life into my marriage?

I always say, when I teach this to the guys, if you don’t do the E, the three others of them, you will never live them.

Ann: How do you do that when maybe your spouse isn’t on the same page spiritually? I’m engaging with God, but they are not. What does that look like, because that can create some tension?

Dave: Yes. Talk about how that works in marriage, because one of the things I believe is if a man isn’t engaging with God, he can’t bring that to his family. It’s an overflow. He can’t lead where you haven’t been. You can’t take someone if you are not filled up.

For us men, it’s more than showing up at church and leading your family there. That is a good move, but I have to be connected. I thought of Psalm 5 where David says I get up in the morning, and I spend my morning hours in devotion with You. If a man is doing that it changes the whole home, if a woman is doing that. Any comments on that?

David: One, you can initiate environments where you are being intentional with your family, and certainly in your marriage.

What are your own rhythms? I have been so convicted recently around how much I am going to my phone before Scripture in the morning. I’m out of rhythm. What are the ways I’m going to initiate? “God I know those people, places, chairs even—those things that get me connecting to You. I’m going to pursue those things.”

Ann: Meg, what is like for you when you see David really pursuing God? What does that feel like?

Meg: It’s almost like an invitation to come along with him and pursue the Lord together. When I know that he is getting up - he usually beats me out of bed in the morning anyway – but when I know he is going down and sitting in that chair and spending time with the Lord, it sets a tone for our whole house for the day. The kids see that when they get up. I’m making my coffee and trying to get to the next chair as soon as possible. When I see that, I think, that is how I want to start my day for sure.

I think the other thing of how these two connect is that when I am not only loving God but knowing that I am loved by God, and living in a place of believing then I think, it changes how I receive love from David. It changes the way we can experience oneness. Because when I am not surrendered to the Holy Spirit and walking with the Lord, even in these rhythms that David is talking about but also in my heart all day long, or questioning God’s love for me, or struggling in unbelief about things, that makes me look to David for things I’m not supposed to get from him. That is unfair to put that on him. I need to find my security in God, who says to accept yourself. It is all of those things that need to come first from Jesus. That really frees us up to have greater oneness. We can give and receive to one another what we were created to give and receive to each another and not looking for the wrong things – looking for things that really have to come from the Lord. It is easy to quickly look sideways, look horizontal to each other for things that really have to come from the Lord first.

David: I’ll just say one more thing when it comes to pursuing one another. If you are going to be someone who engages with God and a woman who loves God and loves others - I think we all know this, but it is worth saying again, that praying together transforms a home. For whatever reason, the enemy wants to get you out of rhythms or make that awkward for some reason and never wants you to go before the throne of grace. We all need grace so much every day. He will do everything he can to make that too busy, too weird for just simple prayers together.

One of the things you can do is the next time you see your spouse grab her hand or grab his hand and just start praying, “Lord, together today we have this. Will You help us because we need You. Amen.” It can be that simple, and all of a sudden, any awkwardness or weirdness is erased, because you have gone to the throne room together. You don’t have to make it this huge ordeal. Just grab your spouse’s hand and pray. Break the barriers there that keep you from doing it.

Dave: That is such a great application. I was thinking if you are in a marriage where you are thinking I can’t even grab her hand right now, then just pray. You don’t have to grab her hand. Like you said David, ask God for help and He will come.

I can remember the first time I was in the back seat of a car going to a fraternity house when I was in college. I was a brand new Christian. Because I was quarter-back on the football team, they were, will you come and give your testimony at this fraternity house? As we are driving there, the driver, who is a staff member with Cru and on fire, starts praying out loud. I’d never heard anyone pray out loud before. I thought this is so weird. And I remember thinking, “I will never be comfortable enough to do that.” Here we are obviously 40-some years later.

Some of you are thinking, I can’t do that with my spouse. Just start.

Meg: Take a step.

Dave: Just start. David you are so right. That literally changes the environment, the aroma the a home. Just that simple move, to say, we are going to pray together, and it is going to change everything. That is oneness, spiritually.

Ann: You guys, encourage the spouse whose partner is not walking with God, that has no faith and doesn’t even want to participate in that lifestyle. How would you encourage them?

Meg: I was just thinking of that when Dave was talking because that can be a really lonely place—

Ann: Yes.

Meg: — to feel, wow, I keep hearing these encouragements that we need to pray together and seek the Lord together but begin by taking those feelings, those emotions to the Lord and pray for your spouse and invite some friends to pray with you for your spouse. Find some people who you know who will be in the battle with you, because it is a battle. Just continue to pray. Pray for your spouse to come to know the Lord, certainly, but even just praying that God would open up conversations to talk about spiritual things.

David: —It’s your parent’s journey. There were ten years apart from your mom coming to know Jesus. Ten years later your dad does. I know there were many days she thought, there is no way that will ever happen.

Meg: Right. That is a long time—ten years.

Dave, David, Ann: —Yes—

David: For some of you out there it’s been forty years, fifty years, and I would just say, the Lord is sufficient for you. He will give you the ability to keep loving your spouse with sacrificial love as your longings are real. He can meet you and carry you in that.

Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with David and Meg Robbins on FamilyLife Today. Coming up, they are going to honor one another by pointing out how they see their spouse living out what it means to be a REAL man or a REAL woman. It’s pretty great. You will want to stick around.

First, let us be real. By the end of the year, it feels like we are just inching to the finish line. Between the different holiday dinners and school programs and actually planning for your own family’s New Year, it doesn’t feel like there is much left to give. While the burnout feels inevitable, it is also potentially detrimental to your marriage.

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Your spouse isn’t a perfect real man or perfect real woman, but how encouraging would it be to point out to them where you see God’s work in their life? That can be good for any marriage. Here is Dave and Ann Wilson with David and Meg Robbins showing us what that can look like.

David: Meg I’d like to say that when it comes to accepting yourself, you have consistently, you are mysteriously one of the most secure people I have ever met when you were in college. I thought, what is this mystery? As you go through different seasons it can be challenging - where you think, wait, I was so secure in college and what about now, yet you consistently run to Jesus for your security even when there are questions. I love that about you.

Meg: Thanks. I have been so encouraged, even recently, by the ways, David, you have been engaging with God. And even your openness now sitting at this table to say, I’m choosing to go to my phone first, but I see how you are choosing Jesus before your phone and before other things-even before work. Sometimes you have things you want to finish and prepare for but you, I just need to sit and listen to the Lord. I think the ways that you choose to engage with God and see I need to depend deeply on Him before anything else, It’s inspiring. It invites me into that with you, and I’m so grateful for the ways that you lead us just by pursuing Jesus on your own.

Ann: This is fun. Isn’t this fun to hear? [Laughter]

Dave: Yes. I was just thinking it’s inspiring,

Ann: It is.

Dave: —when you . . . Our listeners are listening to it. We get to watch you two do this and now I get to look at Ann.

You’ve transformed our marriage by releasing control. I was active outside the home and passive in the home. We have talked about that, and you know that - and you are a strong woman and you would just take over. I would sit back - I’m not strong enough to get in here. You had to because I was being passive. All I can say is that over 42 years of marriage I’ve watched you trust God with me, with our marriage, and with our boys and now our grandkids. It’s literally almost as if I can see your hands, okay God you have got this, I can trust You. I don’t have to be in control. I don’t have to take over. You are worthy to be trusted. I feel like you trust me.

Ann: That is so nice. Thanks. Let me just say that has been so much easier for me to do because you have rejected passivity. You talk about transformation, yet you step into areas that were probably scary. I would critique you before, but you step into areas now. I don’t even have to think about it now. Dave will take care of that. Dave will take care of that. That makes me feel secure. I love that I don’t have the weight of carrying the responsibility of feeling, what will we do if you don’t. You do it. Thanks for doing that. It gives me incredible security. I watch you trust Jesus with all of that and it’s pretty remarkable.

Shelby: Next week on FamilyLife Today Dave and Ann Wilson talk with Dave Carter who will tell us how to affair-proof our marriage. You won’t want to miss that.

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

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife, a Cru® Ministry.

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