FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Expectations and Adjustments, Part 4

with | May 29, 2009
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Have you really studied your wife? Today, Dennis Rainey uncovers some of the best-kept secrets for loving and romancing your wife.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Have you really studied your wife? Today, Dennis Rainey uncovers some of the best-kept secrets for loving and romancing your wife.

  • 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.

Have you really studied your wife?

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Expectations and Adjustments, Part 4

May 29, 2009
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Dennis:  This is Dennis Rainey.  Before we start today’s program I’ve got some good news and some great news.  As many of you know we’ve had a matching gift challenge during the month of May of $356,000.  That challenge has been met.  To those of you who gave I want to say thank you.  Thank you for your generous financial support.  As you’ve heard me say more than once this has been a tough year for us here at FamilyLife.   And your donations this month have given us a huge boost. 

Now for the great news.  In our excitement last week we shared with a number of our friends how well the match had been going and how it was about to be met.  You know what they encouraged us to do?  Keep it going. 

In fact they committed another $170,000 in matching funds.  They wanted to extend this matching challenge through Sunday night.  That’s an additional $170,000 good for all gifts we receive by this Sunday night.  That means we only have three days left now.  Here’s what I’m asking.  Would you do whatever you can do this week?  Keeping in mind that your gift will be doubled up to $170,000.  Help us take full advantage of these new matching funds that will enable us to stay on this radio station and our full network of stations all across the country. 

Now I want you to hear me on this.  To try to raise this amount of money in this period of time is a huge challenge.  So would you pray.  And would you consider giving so that we can take full advantage of this $170,000 of matching money.  You can donate online at or you can donate by phone 1-800-FLTODAY.  Again I want to say thank you for your ongoing support of FamilyLife especially during these financially challenging times. 

Bob: Remember when you were single and you used to feel this way?

[Music excerpt: “Mr. Lonely.”]

Bob: And welcome to “FamilyLife Today.”  Thanks for joining us on the Friday


Dennis: It’s too bad that some of our younger listeners don’t really appreciate …


Bob: [Chuckles] … our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey …

Dennis: … vintage music.

Bob: … who was in high school when that song was popular.

Dennis: Yeah, I used to go to sleep with it, you know.

Bob: Listened to it on the radio.

Dennis: Yep, I was lonely, too; single guy.

Bob: Well, and a lot of folks who are single and they think, if I could just find the right person and settle in, get married.

Dennis: That’s why this subject is kind of a surprise, that you’d drop it in the middle of a

newly married series that we’re doing here all this week, and expectations that we have of our spouse.  But loneliness is one that kind of creeps in and seeps in at the edges and the corners of a relationship, and we don’t think we’re going to have to deal with loneliness in marriage, let alone early in our marriage.  But this is an adjustment that is unexpected, Bob, in many, many marriages.

Bob: You and your wife, Barbara, have written a book called Starting Your

 Marriage Right where you deal with a number of these difficult adjustments and

expectations that are brought into a marriage relationship.  And I think it does surprise a lot of couples to find that there’s a chapter in the book on the subject of loneliness in the same way that it surprises them to begin to experience loneliness early in their marriage.

I was talking to a friend of mine just recently.  His daughter had gotten married a number of years ago and she and her husband had gone on their honeymoon and then headed off to pilot training school in Del Rio, Texas.  Have you ever been to Del Rio? 

Dennis: No, I’ve heard of it.  You can see the end of the … the earth from there, can’t you?

Bob: [Chuckles.]  It’s right on the border with Mexico and it’s right in the middleof

nowhere, basically.

Dennis: Right. 

Bob: And in the first few months of their marriage he would leave every morning to go

to training at 7:00 in the morning, get back about 7:00 at night and they’d have dinner together, and then he had to study for the next day.  She had been moved out of her hometown to her new life with her new husband in Del Rio, Texas and he was gone or he was studying, and she was lonely.

Dennis: And I’ll tell you, you just ticked off several important things: new town; new

friends; new church; all the support system of mom and dad, it’s gone; brothers and sisters most likely don’t live around you.  And I’m going to tell you something.  Loneliness early in marriage is a reality to be reckoned with.  And at some point in every marriage, Bob … it may not always occur early in the marriage, but loneliness is a visitor to all marriages. 

And the reason is is we get married for intimacy, yet in the process of pursuing our spouse there will be moments when you miss each other, and when you miss each other that’s going to be called loneliness.  Your spouse simply is not going to understand how you feel, where you are.  In the midst of that you feel lonely.

Bob: And because the expectation is that marriage is going to lead you to a new level of intimacy, when you start to feel lonely it’s a new level of loneliness; a more profound

loneliness than maybe you’ve ever experienced in your life.

Dennis: That’s right.  And the solution to this area is, number one, realize it’s visitor to all marriages; secondly, realize that you have the rest of your lives together to get to know one another.  Don’t feel like this state of loneliness that you may have fallen into temporarily is going to be a regular, familiar guest or visitor in your marriage.

Bob: You and I know that we’ve heard from some listeners who write and say, I’ve been married for 15 or 20 years and I’ve been profoundly lonely during that whole time because I’ve never experienced the intimacy that I had hoped to experience.  But you’re right, in the early days it takes us by surprise.

Dennis: And that’s when we as a couple need to sit down and begin the process of learning how to meet on another’s needs.  And one of the realizations you may come to early in your marriage is that your spouse is not capable of meeting all of the relational needs you hoped he would meet, or she would meet, in your marriage.  And at that point I believe you’ve got to take the yardstick that we talked about earlier in the week, and I believe you have to lower your expectations and realize that there are expectations that we have that God never intended for us to have met in our spouse.  I believe He leaves some of those unmet so that we will seek and pursue Him.

Bob: Your spouse ought to be your best friend, but not your only friend.  And you’re right, our relationship with the Lord is one place where some of these needs are going to be met, but there are also relationships with other people, in our community, in our churches, in this case on the Air Force base, other wives who are sitting home while their husbands are off at flight training school.  We can connect relationally with others and help have some of those needs met.

Dennis: One of the mistakes I made early in our marriage is I did not realize how much Barbara needed outside relationships with other newly married women and with older married women to identify with as a woman.  Maybe it was a Bible study, maybe it was Titus 2 woman in her life to mentor her, encourage her. 

But, Bob, this area of loneliness is one that most likely either 50 percent of the marriage or 100 percent, both parties are going to need to have addressed early on in a marriage relationship.

Bob: This issue of loneliness could have blown up into a whole new issue for this couple because a week and a half into the marriage the daughter called her daddy, and she began to talk about her loneliness and how things felt.  And he said, “The impulse was so strong to do what daddy’s do,” and that was to try to rescue his daughter from this loneliness.  But he said, “I had to point her back to her husband and to her marriage and give her some coaching and pray with her.”  And he said, “It was hard to hang up the phone and not want to go fix it,” but that’s what a dad’s got to do because parents need to help their children early in their marriage leave and cleave, and they don’t want to become meddling in-laws in this situation either.

Dennis: In-laws.  Now, the very mention of that to some of our audience, they go into withdrawal even as I speak, Bob, because this does represent a huge area of adjustment for couples as they begin their marriage together.  And the reason is is we all come from families that are different.  These families value different things, they relate to one another differently, they have these styles of how they get together and …

I mean, for instance … and I’ll never forget this, but Barbara had an aunt in her family who, at one of our first family reunions or get-togethers with her extended family, this one aunt came towards me wanting to kiss me.  She had bright red lipstick.  You know, we don’t do that in my family.  And I’ll never forget, she … it was a glancing blow off of the cheek.  I think I …

Bob:   You turned it just in time.

Dennis: … I turned it just in time.  But I remember … I remember going, this is really

different, different expectations.  And, Bob, these issues of differing expectations couples must begin to talk about.  And you need to work it through and begin to hammer out your game plan of how you’re going to manage these differing expectations.

Bob: I was speaking at a FamilyLife Marriage Conference in Colorado and a

couple came up to me, not yet married but planning to get married against the wishes of this young woman’s parents.  And we talked through what the issues were and why they were opposed and how these folks had tried to resolve it, and I had to end, Dennis, by saying to them, when a couple marries with one or both sets of parents not approving of the marriage, it doesn’t matter how much you love each other, it doesn’t matter how committed you are to one another, you are walking into a set of difficulties, a set of challenges that are going to … well, they’re going to be an assault on your oneness in your marriage relationship.

Dennis: That’s right.  And in those situations, if I’m speaking right now to an engaged couple, better that you delay your marriage and resolve the issues with your parents or with your future spouse’s parents than begin your relationship in the midst of a deficit that Bob’s talking about. 

Why?  Because when you get married it’s not just two people who marry.  It’s two families that come together.  And I think if there’s anything that demands a lot of conversation with your spouse, it is talking about how you’re going to go about spending your holidays, how you’re going to go about calling home, how often you’re going to call home, whether or not you’re going to receive money from your parents, how much money would you receive from them, would you receive it if they attempt to control you or manipulate you by giving you money? 

All of these issues of how you’re going to relate to parents and deal with their expectations are very, very important.  You have to make the adjustments.  If you don’t I think the potential for a division in your marriage is great.  Let me just give you an illustration of what I’m talking about here, for instance holidays.  Did you have a struggle with that early in your marriage, Bob, about where you went at Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter?

Bob: Here’s what happened.  We lived in the same town with Mary Ann’s parents, and so Christmas morning was spent at Mary Ann’s house with all her brothers and sisters and … it’s kind of where we had Christmas.  And then usually we’d get in the car and we’d drive up and see my parents in another city.  And I remember after about the fourth or maybe the fifth year of that I remember my mom just expressing that it was disappointing to them that we were never there on Christmas morning.  Now, we were usually there on Christmas afternoon and I never stopped to think about, Christmas morning.  Christmas afternoon we were usually always there.  But as a parent and having navigated my way through Christmases with kids in the house I can understand where parents fall into patterns and habits and expectations and life experiences, and all of a sudden all the kids are gone and it’s Christmas morning and it’s just the two of you and there are no kids around.

Dennis: I don’t have a lot of absolutes, Bob, around issues that are really ancillary to scripture, all right, but this is an absolute that I would encourage every newly married couple to do in their marriage.  You can go to your parent’s house or to your spouse’s parents’ house for the first two or three Christmases on Christmas morning, and you can still be a part of what’s been your tradition and your experience as a young person growing up.  But after year three, stay in your own home on Christmas morning and begin to establish your own traditions, your own experience and your own memories. 

And this becomes especially true, Bob, if, during the first three years of your relationship there’s been something toddled into your relationship called children.  And, yes, they need to go to grandparents … and you need to know, at this point I am a grandparent and I know what I’m saying here.  But there comes a time when grandparents need to realize that if they’re going to see the grandchildren on Christmas Day, it may mean that they are the ones who have to get in a car, like Barbara’s parents do.  And Barbara’s parents literally travel to our house for Christmas afternoon, and we have another little Christmas time on Christmas afternoon. 

Bob, it’s just a matter of time until those things begin to happen.  And so, I want to encourage young married couples to begin to break with some of the age-old traditions.  And it’s going to feel funny, it’s going to feel weird … but this Christmas Ashley and Michael were not there first thing on Christmas morning, but it was right that they were establishing their own traditions.

Bob: Typically the issues that young couples experience with in-laws are the control or the interfering issue where her parents or his parents are trying to get involved in the decisions that young couples are making.  They’re looking over their shoulders; they’re second-guessing them.  How do you deal with that?

Dennis: Well, there are four areas where expectations with in-laws can bite you.  You just mentioned one, control and manipulation—That can occur around money, that can occur around the schedule, around your values …

Bob: Holidays, like we’ve just talked about.

Dennis: That’s right.  That’s another area that it can get you, around holidays. Number three is relationships, and I want to talk about that in a second, and fourth … the fourth area that can bite you is how you raise your children.  And sometimes it’s as harmless as your parents giving your child sugar when you don’t want them to have it.  Other times it’s them interfering with scheduling issues of an infant, the disciplining, the character development, the correction.  I'm telling you, these get bigger and bigger as we move on.

But let me go back to this subject of relationships and expectations we have with our parents and with our in-laws.  When you get married I think a lot of folks think they’re going to move into this family and they’re going to begin to become a heart-and-soul child of your spouse’s family.  And I know a young lady who got married, moved into that relationship and wanted to have a deep, profound, abiding friendship with her mother-in-law, and she’s finding her to be like she’s stonewalling her, or keeping her at a distance.  And the reality is that mother-in-law may not be able to reach out and may not be able to develop a relationship. 

Bob: Meanwhile the bride is wondering, is there something wrong with me; who doesn’t my mother-in-law like me?  And now all of a sudden she feels like a failure.

Dennis: And this comes back, ultimately, to how you handle unmet expectations. 

Husbands need to step in and talk about these unmet expectations with your bride.  And in this situation, that’s what happened.  The son stepped in and began to talk honestly and frankly about his mother and who she is as a person.  And, you know, you can try to change your parents, you can try to change your mother-in-law, your father-in-law.  Basically some of the greatest peace and harmony you’re going to have in that family is when you let go and stop trying to change them, but instead enjoy them for who they are and for who they aren’t, and accept the relationship. 

And, yes, you can pray about it and, yes, you can go the second mile with them in an attempt to have a great relationship, but one of the best things that you can do is to reduce your expectations and not expect them to be all that your parents were in your life, not expect them to be perfect, because they haven’t been … there is only one perfect person … and not expect them to receive you into their family and graft you in as though you’re the long-lost son or daughter that’s finally come back home.

Bob: A lot of young husbands or young wives will find themselves in the middle

of a tug-of-war with mom and dad pulling in one direction and a new spouse pulling in another direction, and they’re trying to please both ends and winding up pleasing neither very well.  How do you coach a young bride or a young husband who feels like they’re right in the middle of that tug-of-war?

Dennis: I would coach the young man to step forward and provide the leadership for their wives and for their marriage and their family as this issue rears its ugly head.  And, Bob, it’s not a matter of if; it really is a matter of when.  Families are going to have differing values.  And a newly married couple has got to have their own set of values and commitments of what they are going to do.  At points, that is going to rub your parents or your spouse’s parents the wrong way.  It’s not going to be how they’ve done it. 

And I’ll tell you, Bob, it takes a wise parent, a wise set of in-laws to keep their mouth shut and stay out of your children’s affairs after they get married.  My advice is silence is your friend.  Keep your opinions to yourself because they are now on their … their own, and if they ask for your opinion, then you can give it.  But unless they ask for it, my advice is keep it to yourself. 

Bob: I mentioned earlier the young couple that I had spoken to at a FamilyLife Marriage

Conference, considering marriage with the potential in-law problems looming on the horizon.  The parents did not approve of the young husband and told the daughter she would not have their blessing if she went ahead and married him.  As I spoke with them I said, are you ready to face the possibility that you won’t be going home again?  Are you ready to walk away from your mom, your dad, to maybe have a baby and no one calls, to have a complete break with your parents, because that could be what you’re walking into.

It’s hard to raise that issue with couples who are dating because they never really understand what that’s going to feel like.  But for a lot of couples there comes a point where the in-law issues can’t be resolved, and at that point you have to say, my marriage relationship is the relationship that God’s calling me to honor.

Dennis: The command … the scripture is to leave, cleave and become one flesh, and your process of leaving your parents means that you are shifting loyalty from your family of origin to your new family and to your spouse, and that’s the cleaving, that’s the commitment.  And if there’s ever a question of whose values you’re going to honor, it’s your spouse’s values, it’s who you married; that’s who you’re committed to.  And for those who are people pleasers, who find this so tough to choke down … it’s so difficult to disappoint your parents … you have to realize that Jesus Christ has called you to be a pleaser first and foremost of your husband, of your wife.  And that means that you need to risk displeasing your parents in order to properly meet the needs of your spouse.

Now, Bob, everything we’ve talked about here as we relate to our parents or our in-laws needs to be done out of Exodus 20:12 … “Honor your father and mother that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”  We need to always, in our relationships with our parents, even as we declare our loyalty to our spouse, we need to make sure we are relating to our parents in honor.  But that’s easy to say here in the studio when you’re not talking about volatile issues and the enormous power of parents that … a daughter has felt for years she’s been controlled by that mother; that son who’s been controlled by his mother or his father.  I’m telling you, these things can be brought into a marriage, and these are not small matters. 

And we’ve talked quite frequently here all this week as we’ve talked about starting your marriage right.  There will be times in your new relationship where you need a mentor, you need a third person, a third party, a mentor to build into your lives and to provide a little wheel alignment, to give you some godly advice and maybe keep you out of the ditch.

Bob: The book, Starting your Marriage Right can be a mentor guide for that older couple to help you unpack some of the issues that may pop up in the early years of a marriage relationship.  Again, because of the way it’s laid out there are 52 chapters so once a week there is a topic for you to address either when you get together with your mentor couple  or when you have your weekly date night as a couple we got couples of the book, Starting your Marriage Right in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  If you are a newly married couple or you know a newlywed couple or you want to be mentor to a newlywed couple go to a web site and you can order copies of this book. 

If you’re looking for something to add to the toaster that you’re planning to give as a wedding gift you can the book Starting your Marriage Right and just put it down in one of the toaster slots.  It’ll pop right up.

Again, our web site is  You can also order from us by calling

1-800-FL-TODAY.  1-800-358-6329. That’s 800-F, as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today. 

Let me just say if the wedding is still a few months away consider getting a copy of the Preparing for Marriage study guide that we’ve put together to supplement the premarital counseling that we hope couples are getting in their local church before they get married.  Find out more on our web site or call us at 1-800-“F as in Family” “L as in Life,” and then the word Today. 

We hope you have a great weekend.  We hope you and your family can worship together this weekend.  And I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to introduce you to a man who was the second youngest in his family of 17 children.  He’s a great guy. R.V. Brown joins us Monday and I hope you can be here to meet him.

I want to thank our engineer on today’s program, Phil Krause, and our entire broadcast team.  On behalf our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine.  We’ll see you Monday for another edition of “FamilyLife Today.”

FamilyLife is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.  Help for today.  Hope for tomorrow.

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