FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Learning to Love Each Other

with Chip Ingram | May 29, 2019
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Author and pastor Chip Ingram has a great marriage now, but it wasn't always this way. Ingram, who has been married to Theresa since 1978, reflects on the hardships they faced as newlyweds. He never imagined that marriage would be so difficult, but by the grace of God they sought help through counseling and learned how to resolve their issues. Ingram shares what he's learned about building a strong, healthy relationship that will last a lifetime.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Author and pastor Chip Ingram has a great marriage now, but it wasn't always this way. Ingram, who has been married to Theresa since 1978, reflects on the hardships they faced as newlyweds. He never imagined that marriage would be so difficult, but by the grace of God they sought help through counseling and learned how to resolve their issues. Ingram shares what he's learned about building a strong, healthy relationship that will last a lifetime.

  • 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.

Chip Ingram has a great marriage now, but it wasn’t always this way. Ingram, who has been married to Theresa since 1978, reflects on the hardships they faced as newlyweds.

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Learning to Love Each Other

With Chip Ingram
May 29, 2019
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Bob: Chip Ingram says he wants to do all he can to help husbands and wives have thriving, healthy, intact marriages. But he admits that the reason for that is not simply because he wants couples to be happy.

Chip: As much as I want to helpcouples get fulfilled—and I really want them to be able to resolve issues and be happier and all the rest—the stakes are so much bigger. This is about the core of our culture. Only one out of every four children go home to a mom and dad. Sixty-five percent of people live together before they get married; but the secular longitudinal study is—only one out of ten are together ten years later.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for  Wednesday, May 29th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. It's vitally important that we understand how to make marriages work—not just for our sake—but for the sake of the culture in which we live. We'll talk more today with pastor Chip Ingram about that. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I want to read something to you and see if you would say, “This is true for us, too,”—“The kind of marriage I have with my wife is far better than I ever dreamed, but the price has been higher than I ever imagined.” Would you say that's true?

Dave: Yes; and I remember reading that line, and I totally agree. Our marriage is better than I ever thought it would be; but I'm going to look over at my wife—and she will be the one to tell you that we paid a high price and, actually, thought we'd never get here.

Ann: And it's really worth it. But you really don't know, going in, what the price will be.

Bob: If you knew the price, going in, you might say, “I'm out!”

Ann: It's kind of like having a baby, actually. [Laughter] If you knew what you were going to go through to get that baby, you'd think twice.

Bob: The guy who wrote that line is with us, and we're glad to have him here. Chip Ingram joins us on FamilyLife Today. Chip, welcome back.

Chip: Hey, great to be with you, Bob; thanks.

Bob: Always good to have you here. Chip is a pastor, a Bible teacher—just recently stepped away from leadership at Venture Christian Church in Northern California. You and your wife Theresa have been married, coming up on 40 years?

Chip: Forty years in December.

Bob: Yes; congratulations on that.

Chip: Thank you.

Bob: So, you thought—

Chip: It's, probably, a bigger congratulations that you can ever believe. [Laughter]

Bob: Well, it's what you said here: “It's been better than you imagined, but it has cost more than you imagined.” In fact, we ought to start and just orient our listeners to a little of your backstory with your wife. You've shared it with us before, but she had been previously married.

Chip: Yes; I think it is really important, especially, I think, when pastors talk about marriage—at least, when I grew up: “Well, your father was a pastor and his grandfather was a pastor, and [you] tell me all this highfaluting stuff that you don’t really get my life.”

I met Theresa—I was a basketball coach and a teacher—and running a little ministry, in West Virginia, on a college campus. This beautiful girl came to one—we called them a rally—you know, just a hundred kids, sitting on the floor with guitars, back in the ‘70s. She had these two little kids in pajamas—you know, with the feet, and they zipped up—ou know, they are really cute. I thought she didn't really quite get the message you shouldn't babysit; and then, I found out they were her kids.

The long and the short of all of that was she had a really abusive home—married young to get out of it—went through college/put him through college. And then, he started selling drugs—brought them more and more into the house. She wasn't really into that scene. When he found out that she was pregnant—he didn't know twins/she didn't know twins—he had another woman, on the side, that she was unaware of. He left to another state, never to be heard of.

She has twin kids/no money—nothing. And her life—she told me, “I would have killed myself, but how could I?—because I had these two little babies.” She was completely unaware; and she so needed to be needed. At that stage of her life, when he left, her world fell apart. Her boss, everyday, said: “Jesus loves you; Jesus loves you. There's hope.” And she came to Christ. I met her about two-and-a-half years later. I don't know that I'd met someone, who'd been so transformed. But, when I saw the kids, it was like, “Oops!”

Bob: Yes.


Chip: So, I've said—every attraction fiber—I just turned off. [Laughter] She got involved in the ministry and [with] the women. I prayed, for a year, that someday God would give her a husband.

I was playing basketball in Caracas, Venezuela—playing against teams and sharing Christ—and I was sitting out on a beach and thinking: “You know, I'm 24 years old. I make cereal well and hamburgers. [Laughter] I'm running this ministry, and I'm coaching.” You know, because of co-eds, I didn't want to date the co-eds in the ministry; and it was like, “Lord, I'm ready for a wife.” He whispered, “What about Theresa?” I said, “Lord, she's got kids.” And I heard the Holy Spirit go, “I know!” [Laughter]

And then I remember Him saying, “Don't you think I could give you the grace to be a good dad, too?”  I, literally, got up off that rock, looking at the ocean, went into the hotel room. I jotted a note on that hotel stationary and said, “Theresa, when I get back in town, I really would like to talk about a difference in our relationship.” Little did I know, three weeks in, she'd been praying for me; and she thought I was the right guy. [She] and God were talking, and I was just slow on the uptake. [Laughter]

Bob: And so you came together. Did you have any idea, given her background/given all that she had been through—the difference that the two of you had had in your experience—did you have any idea what it was going to require to try to merge and become one out of that?

Chip: You know, we were idealistic; and she was the most committed woman I had ever known. I was really, really sold out; and after those times, God called me into ministry. I had been to grad school; so I’m going to seminary. So six months after we get married, we put all that we owned; we put those two little kids—I’m trying to be a really good dad—and we didn't have a clue. My dad was an alcoholic; her dad's an alcoholic. We had no idea. We didn't do any premarital counseling, because that might have prepared us for some of this. [Laughter]

I'm in seminary—working full-time/going to school full time—and six months in, we can't resolve conflict; we can't communicate. It was like, “How could someone I love so much…she makes me nuts!” and vice-versa. So, that was the beginning.

Bob: Guess what? These guys have got—[Laughter]

Ann: It's so similar to our story.

Chip: Really?

Ann: Six months in, I had told Dave I made the biggest mistake of my life by marrying him.

Dave: She could have kept that to herself; but no, she told me.

Ann: Yes; I did—I thought that. And we were going into ministry; we were going on staff with Cru®.

Bob: Wow.

Ann: Here, we are—we feel like Jesus has called us. How hard can marriage be?—we love Jesus—exactly; so we understand. I think many couples go into marriage like that—not being aware that this transition of bringing two very different lives, with a lot of baggage in, can be very difficult.

Chip: Yes; it was really, really hard.

Paul Maier—he taught a class. I sat in on it, thinking, “This guy is reading my mail.” I went up afterwards and said, “I need help.”

Ann: “Help me.”

Chip: We went and got help, making $1200 a month. We paid the low, low student rate of $95 a session; and it was the best money we spent—12 sessions.

Bob: You've written a new book called Marriage That Works. It's coming out of your life; but it's also coming out of the fact that you're observing that, in our day, the whole concept of what marriage is supposed to be has shifted and drifted. A lot of people just don't understand what marriage is all about in the first place.

Chip: For the last, probably 15 years, we've had, just about every week, 20-somethings in our home. My daughter’s got a real ministry heart—and from college all the way through nearly 30—so whether it was in the Bay area or it was in the Atlanta area—and pretty soon, we've got people from all over the world in our home that are 22 to 32—they don't know how to do relationships; they come from broken homes; they've lived with a couple of people. The idea that there's roles/that there's a design—literally, they'd say, “I don't want to get married, because I don't think if works.”

I did some research—40 percent of Americans do not believe in marriage; 80 percent of Europeans don't believe in marriage; so, let alone having a “Who designed it?” and “How does it work?”—that's what this book is about.

Bob: Eightypercent of Europeans don't believe in marriage.

Chip: Yes; it's passé there.

Bob: What happens to a civilization when the majority of people no longer believe in the fundamental institution of a civilization?

Chip: If you would read Carl Zimmerman's—the Harvard sociologist—[book], he would tell you that is one of the last stages behind the imploding of a culture.

Bob: Yes.

Chip: I mean, I think this is serious. As much as I want to help couples get fulfilled—and I really want them to be able to resolve issues, and be happier, and all the rest—the stakes are so much bigger. This about the core of our culture: only one out of every four children go home to a mom and dad; sixty-five percent of people live together before they get married, but the secular longitudinal study is only one out of ten are together, ten years later.

The problem is relationships aren't working, and it's created this vacuum of absent-father homes. What I really long to do is say, “How do we help families?”—where you begin is marriage; and if that doesn't work, nothing else does.


Bob: It's one of the reasons that we believe that a strong healthy marriage is going to be one of the great apologetics for the gospel; because your neighbors are going to look and go: “How do you guys do that? How have you made this work all those years?” It's part of the reason FamilyLife® exists—so we can help build strong healthy marriages, so that the gospel can advance in communities and in neighborhoods.

How do we reverse the trend? Where do we start to help rebuild marriages so that people, first of all, believe in them; and then, second of all, know how to execute, once they say, “I do”?


Chip: Well, we certainly don't start with the wisdom of Chip Ingram; that would get us in trouble. [Laughter] This book is based on an exposition of Ephesians, Chapter 5. I want to be very clear—verses 21-33. And before that, it talks about being supernaturally empowered by the Holy Spirit; because the design that God gives us is impossible, apart from what He gives.

So, in that, God's the creator and He designs: “This is how marriage works…” “This is why…” “This is the role of the man/the role of a woman…” “This is how you, complementarily, fit together,” and “This is what creates an environment, where love can really grow.” That's where I talk about—I think there's a spiritual connection: you become soul mates; there's a friendship: you become best friends; and yes, you become passionate lovers—it's all a part of what God wants for us.

Dave: It's interesting—you said—you started in verse 21—and I mean, we're going to get into this—but you made that a point. Most men I know—know one Bible verse, and it’s verse 22 of Ephesians 5. They don't know verse 21; so why did you start there?

Chip: Verse 21 says we're to mutually submit to one another, out of reverence, in the fear of Christ. And the context is—that's the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit—or one of three [evidences]. In other words, before I even talk about my relationship and my case with Theresa, she's my sister in Christ. I'm commanded to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, consider her needs or her interests more important than myself.

Bob: That's Philippians 2:3 that you just quoted; yes.

Chip: Exactly. I think it really begins with a mutual submission—first to the Lord; then to each other.

Bob: Let's talk about mutual submission; because some people will use that phrase, and what they mean is: “no submission.” They will say mutual submission means it's a free for all—it means: “I do what I want; you do what you want; and nobody has to submit to anybody.” They use mutual submission to deny that there's any need for any submission in marriage. Other people will use that phrase—and they will use it as a way to say, “Go with natural gifting to determine what roles in marriage should look like,”—so I submit to your gifting; you submit to my gifting.

I think that it is important for folks to understand—that mutual submission is not: “You get to call the shots here; I get to call the shots there.” It’s having an attitude toward one another that says, “I’m going to respect and honor you; and you are going to honor and respect me; and all of this is going to come together—both of us doing it out of reverence for Christ.” That kind of a foundation is now how the roles of marriage can function appropriately; right?

Chip: Yes; in fact, I don't think they can function well apart from that.

Dave: Yes; I have heard—I don’t know where I heard it said—maybe you can tell me—mutual submission is a race to finish last. It's like a race to lay down my life for my spouse. It really is for your neighbor as well.

What would that look like?—Philippians 2/Ephesians 5:18—I’m filled with the Holy Spirit, which gives me the power to do that. If I lay down my life for you, I'm going to serve you—that's submission.

Ann: Chip, that sounds so good; we all love the sound of it. Why is it so difficult to live

out, practically?

Chip: If you've been a Christian for a while, you can actually do what you think the other person wants, with a motive to manipulate them—

Ann: That's a good point.

Chip: —to, ultimately, get what you want. I'm powerless to really give my wife what she needs, from pure motives. I think the reason we're together is our commitment to the Lord—and came to the point, where, “I just can't do this.” If I could've gotten out of my marriage, I would've—I mean, I would’ve. It would've been the biggest mistake of my life. But I think the way you live that out is—“We can't do that,”—so you really have to ask God for the grace. There's some ways to get grace, that we can talk about, as we develop this.


Bob: I want to go back to that. Are you serious that you would have gotten out?


Chip: Oh, yes.


Bob: What was so bad?


Chip: Everything! [Laughter] No, no; I mean, when you feel like, “I just made the biggest mistake of my life,” you have warped expectations. A lot of people, listening to us—whatever their expectations were—they're living on the other side of: “This is so not what I thought it would be.”  It's a crisis; it's really a crisis.


Bob: Do you remember being at the low point?


Chip: I do. I can tell you I remember really understanding and believing that I made a commitment, before God and these witnesses, and it was a covenant. Theresa

grew up in the—I mean, the real backwoods of West Virginia. You walk out of her house—I mean, it’s way up in the hills; and it's just rock—and underneath of it was this spring house.

I had this picture of walking into that little spring house—it's about 15’ by 15’—there's water; there's enough food for a lifetime. The guy that discipled me was a brick layer. I had this mental picture of walking into it; and with hay die, block, and brick, he just bricked us in. It was like, “I can't get out!” By the way, that picture in my mind was okay: “Then, we have got to figure out how to make this work.” There's part of that bottom-line mentality that you say: “You know something? I refuse to give up! I made a commitment,”—I think that's core.


Bob: I think it's core, too; and here's why. If I told you, today, the car you were given, when you were 24 years old: “That's the only car you're going to get for the rest of your life,”—then two things are going to happen. First of all, you're going to maintain that car better because you know: “This is all I got. I've got to take care of this thing.” And then, secondly, when it breaks down, you're going to get it repaired; you're not going to say, “Well, I wonder if it's time to trade this thing in,”—because that option is off the table.

When that option is off the table, then you don't stop and ponder: “Is it time to trade it in?” You just go, “Well, it's broken, and we've got to get it fixed.” If more people would start marriage with: “Okay; this is the only marriage for life, and so I'd better take really good care of it,” and “When it breaks, I'd better get it fixed, because this is all I got,”—that, actually, is a motivation now to do something when you're in the dark places rather than to just wallow and hope that it gets better.


Ann: I think a lot of people, when they're at that point—they’ll just shut down and resign themselves to think, “We're just going to live in emotional isolation,” which is this horrible death, inwardly and outwardly.

And yet, I love that anything good in our lives—we have paid a price; it has been hard and difficult. I'm so glad Dave and I stayed in there, too; because it's the best thing in our lives now. And before, we would've said it's the worst thing.


Dave: I do think people are shocked, like you were/we were—all of us were—how hard it is. When we sit with premarital couples, and we tell them, “It's going to be hard,”—they don't even understand; and then, a year later…

So say this—as we wrap this time right now, what would you say to the couple that's at the point—you/we all were—that’s about to quit? You're now 40 years removed. What would you say to give them hope to fight for this?—because it's worth it.


Chip: I'd say, number one, the God of the universe—that spoke the world into existence/that raised Christ from the dead—is so for your marriage; and it's bigger than you—it's your testimony; it's the future.

Second is—all the options that look good now will be destructive and more painful than you can imagine, whether it's a third of all the people that get divorced live below the poverty level.

Third, I would say the same thing that I said to a guy, who said, “You know, this is just too much work.” He's really having a big problem in his marriage. He was a star athlete; and I said, “Are you telling me that you're willing to be all in for a football and a game, and you're not willing to give this same level of intensity and commitment to the most important relationship in the world? I said, “Dude, I’ll tell you what—the rewards will be great, but it's hard; so buckle up!”


Bob: I'm looking at you, smiling there. That's the same advice you'd give a guy; isn’t it?


Dave: Oh, exactly! As an athlete, you know the thrill of that moment of throwing that ball, catching that ball, making that shot—it's something that's hard to explain—and it's not even close to the fulfillment of fighting for your marriage.

Looking back now: at grandkids, changing the legacy of alcohol in my family/your family. It’s like: “Man, I wanted to quit/I was about to quit; I didn't. I would've never seen this if I had given up.”


Bob: I've never forgotten the statistic—this was a study done in the state of Oklahoma—where they went to couples, who had been on the verge of divorce; and it was, now, five years later. They asked them, “On a scale of 1 to 5, what would you rate your marriage?” Eighty-three percent of those couples gave it either a 4 or a 5—this is 5 years after they were ready to divorce. There is something about saying: “Okay; we're stuck; we're in. It's a covenant we've made to one another, before God. We've got to figure out how to fix this.”


Trust me, when you figure it out—and there are ways to figure it out, whether it's going to a  Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, or reading a book like Marriage That Works, or starting to get personal counseling—whatever it is—when you get it fixed, there's glory on the other side of that. You'll look back and say, “I am so glad we didn't quit.”


We have copies of Chip's book, Marriage That Works, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. We have information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. We have a small group series that you can host, called the Art of Marriage®. We have books, and articles, and resources—here's the point: there's help available that can bring fresh hope to your marriage.

Get a copy of Chip's book, Marriage That Works. Find out how you can order when you go to, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. Again, Chip Ingram's book, Marriage That Works: God's Way of Becoming Spiritual Soul Mates, Best Friends, and Passionate Lovers. Order when you go online at, or call to order at 1-800-358-6329—that's 1-800-”F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”


You know, a few weeks ago, we had an opportunity to connect with many of our Legacy Partners—these are folks who donate to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today on a monthly basis. We did a conference call—had several hundred people joining us to meet Dave and Ann and find out more about their story. We asked some of those Legacy Partners to share with us why they support the ministry of FamilyLife.


David Robbins, who is the President of FamilyLife is here with me. It was encouraging to hear their responses.


David: It was so encouraging. One said this: We believe that what FamilyLife is doing is of utmost importance to both our marriage and our family. We believe that it's beneficial to everyone who listens, both believers and unbelievers. It's imperative that we contribute to help this ministry reach as many people as possible.


Bob: Isn't that cool?


David: It is. And our mission is: “Every home a godly home.” We want every home to engage with who Jesus is; and what God has to say and His Scriptures about marriage and family; and to give them the practical help that we, day in and day out, are so committed to giving. It is so cool to have Legacy Partners join in with us and partner and link arms with us to carry that message forward.


Bob: And the next three days are critical in all of this; because we just have three days left to take advantage of the matching-gift fund that has been made available to us, here, at FamilyLife. Any donation that we receive during the month of May is being matched, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $645,000. We have not reached that total yet; so we're hoping, over the next three days, we'll be able to get to that goal.

We're asking listeners: “Would you help us with a donation? Would you make sure that we're able to begin the summer months in a solid financial position?” Any donation you make in the next three days will be matched, dollar for dollar; so let me challenge you to go online and donate. Go to, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation. Or think about becoming one of our monthly Legacy Partners. We were just talking about Legacy Partners—a monthly Legacy Partner provides the financial foundation for this ministry.


When you become a Legacy Partner, in the next three days, every donation you make, in the next 12 months, is going to be matched, dollar for dollar. And we're going to send you a gift card so that, as a couple, you can attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. Or you can share this gift card with another couple you know—maybe it’s a relative/somebody getting married this summer—give this to them as a gift. This gift card covers the registration cost for the getaway, and it's our gift to you when you become one of our new Legacy Partners.


Find out more, or become a Legacy Partner, online, at; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, thanks for helping us to take advantage of this matching gift. And pray for us; will you?—that we will be able to end the month of May in a great position with all of these matching funds met.


We hope you can join us back again tomorrow when we're going to talk about how fundamental/how foundational it is that we learn to wean ourselves from our inherent selfishness and start to put each other first in our marriage in order for our marriage to work well. Chip Ingram will be here tomorrow; I hope you can be with us as well.

Thanks to our engineer, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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