FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Marriage’s Secret Sauce: Bryan & Stephanie Carter

with Bryan and Stephanie Carter | June 18, 2024
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Could you be lacking a critical aspect in your marriage? Bryan and Stephanie Carter talk about the importance of it in our interactions, arguments, and even the way we parent. Could this understanding be the key to salvaging a struggling marriage?

  • 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.

We know Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect,’ but in 2024, does it still matter? Bryan and Stephanie Carter argue yes, emphasizing its role in saving marriages.

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Marriage’s Secret Sauce: Bryan & Stephanie Carter

With Bryan and Stephanie Carter
June 18, 2024
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Bryan: Whether it’s our careers, or whether it’s our personal challenges, or financial challenges, or parenting challenges, or life’s challenges, whatever it is; one of the greatest gifts is to have someone in your life that respects your worth and says, “I believe in you. I know this is challenging. I know this is different, but I believe God is going to see you through this season, and I’m right here beside you every step of the way.”

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

Dave: This is FamilyLife


Ann: Today!

Dave: Right now, I’m picturing us laying on our lounge chairs on the upper deck of the Love Like You Mean It® Marriage Cruise a few months back.

Ann: That was my favorite part of the cruise.

Dave: The wind blowing through my hair. [Laughter] Well, I guess I don’t have hair. That was your favorite part?

Ann: Absolutely.

Dave: It was sort of a dream come true, to be on vacation in the sun in the Caribbean, but also focusing on our marriage.

Ann: If that sounds good to you, let us invite you to the next Love Like You Mean It marriage getaway.

Dave: Yes. You can sign up at, and you should sign up right now because there is a special deal going on, and you don’t want to miss that deal.

Ann: Who doesn’t want to be on a marriage cruise?

Dave: Yes, and I’m not even a cruise guy. I wouldn’t pick a boat as my favorite vacation, but this is different.

Ann: It is.

Dave: It’s pleasure with purpose. It’s really going to enhance your marriage.

Ann: We’re going to give you an example of some of the talks that you might hear.

Today, we’re going to listen to Bryan and Stephanie Carter who gave a talk on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise.

Dave: Yes, it was on our second night, on our cruise. If you don’t know Bryan Carter, you should. He’s on the FamilyLife Board of Directors. He’s also a pastor—for several decades down in Dallas—of Concord Church.

We sat way back in the back of this amphitheater as he and Stephanie gave a talk on the “Secret Sauce to Great Marriages.” I’m not a sauce guy—maybe barbeque sauce? maybe honey mustard?

Ann: [Laughter] They do a great job of talking about, “What is the secret sauce?”

Dave: Yes, and this is the secret sauce, so make sure you enjoy and take notes, because you are going to want to remember this one.

[Recorded Message]

Bryan: We want to talk today about “The Secret Sauce to Great Marriages.”

One of the things that we believe is incredibly important, one of the things that we are discovering about our own lives and our own marriage, is that there is an ingredient that is essential to your relationship.

Just like there may be some of you in this room that are great cooks, and you know how to put the right thing in at the right time to make that dish taste incredibly special, there is a secret sauce that, when you put it in your relationship, no matter what stage or what season you might be in, it is this secret ingredient, it is this secret sauce that is a game changer; and that secret sauce is respect.

[There] is something about respect that helps transform and helps connect a relationship. Respect is the secret sauce of relationships. It is this respect that gives the soil for your relationship to grow stronger and healthier, because respect is foundational to long- lasting relationships.

There are a couple of things I want to share with you. Here is the first one: it is in Genesis 1:27 that reads this way, “So God created mankind in His own image. In the image of God, He created them.” What this simply means is that respect begins with the recognition that every person is created in the image of God. It’s right here in Genesis 1. When God creates us, He stamps on us respect, because we are created in His image. He gave us unique capacities that no other creation has—an intellectual capacity, a knowledge capacity, an emotional capacity, a spiritual capacity—that allows us to connect with God, but also allows us to connect with others.

And because we are in God’s image, every single one of us deserves respect. As a matter of fact, respect is a deep-seated need that we have. We crave it! Every single one of us; because when God stamped us in His image it also means that we need respect to help value and celebrate the worth that God has put in each of us. When you married your spouse, you married a man or a woman in the image of God, that God had put His stamp on them in such a way.

Here’s the reality: we first of all have to recognize that we are worthy of respect; we have to recognize it begins with self-respect. Sometimes, it’s hard to respect others when we don't respect ourselves. Sometimes, we have to look in the mirror and tell ourselves, “You are worthy. You are worthy, because God has a plan for your life. You are worthy, because you are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ You are worthy, because God has a purpose on your life. You are worthy, because you are ‘His workmanship.’” [Psalm 139, Ephesians 2:10]

When we remind ourselves of our value to God, it then allows us to be able to love the person that God has connected us with in our lives. It starts there. Friends, it is this reality that all of us deserve respect. What I want to do for the rest of our time is to give you four ways to show respect in your relationship.

Stephanie: Alright, number one: I need you to respect my worth. Respect means you accept somebody for who they are, even when they are different from you. Bryan and I are completely different.

Bryan: Oof!

Crowd: [Laughter]

Stephanie: Completely opposite; completely. One of us is clean, one of us is dirty.


Crowd: [Laughter]

Stephanie: One of us is cheap, one of us likes to spend. Yes, we could go on.

Bryan: One of us is an introvert, one of us is an extrovert. One of us likes it cold, one of us likes it hot. One of us has a family that gets together every now and then; the other one of us, their family makes up holidays to get together.


Crowd: [Laughter]

Stephanie: Not too much, not too much.

Bryan: I’m sorry, I wasn’t talking about you. They didn’t know! They had no idea! You gave it away that it was your family. So, all of us are very, very different. She’s from a military family, they’ve lived in five states and a couple different countries. My mom lives in the same house I was born in.

All of these differences, all of these expectations, and yet, somehow, we have to learn to respect each other’s worth.

Stephanie: In Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus picks some of His disciples. The people are not the ones people think would be picked, but he picked them. He picked a fisherman, tax collectors, and others because He respected people, saw worth in them, and believed in them. They ultimately will be the very ones that will become the foundation for the Church.

I disciple a group of women at our church. I believe in discipleship. I would say this: some of us in here, whether you’ve been married five years, ten years, twenty-five years—we met a couple yesterday who’ve been married fifty-seven years—what you should be doing is discipling somebody, bringing somebody, walking—somebody who’s walking ahead of you, somebody walking beside you, and then, of course, you should be pulling someone from behind.

This particular young lady is in her thirties. She just found out that she was going to be having twins. She was going to have three kids under two.

Crowd: Oooh.

Stephanie: I know you all are thinking, “Ooooh!” Yes, yes.

Anyway, fast forward: she has a healthy delivery. The babies are doing great, she is doing great. I encouraged her: “Make sure you’re very honest with your husband about how you are feeling—some of your fears. Let him know some of your fears with having twins, your fears facing post-partum. Let him know, because men don’t know. He won’t know unless you tell him.”

So, she is really honest with him, tells him everything that she is processing, and her fear—her biggest fear was post-partum. Fast forward: they have a big family function. Family is there, and some of his family say some things to her, some disrespectful things. I had advised her by saying, “Do not make the mistake I made. The mistake I made when I had conflict with my inlaws was that I would address them myself. Don’t do that!”

Crowd: [Laughter]

Stephanie: “It does not end well.” I said, “Let your husband address it.” She said, “My husband is never going to address this situation.” I said, “He will. If you are honest with him and you pray about this, he will address it.”

Y’all, he addressed it! His relatives said something very derogatory to her and questioned her, and he immediately addressed it and then said, “You cannot stay here. I have to protect my wife. I have to protect her. I do not want her to face anything that is going to cause her to go to post-partum.”

She called me later and told me, “This is what happened!” Usually, she would have said something, or she would have acted out; but the fact that her husband saw her worth and heard her voice—she asked, “So, all I have to do is pray and hold my tongue and be patient and let God do it?”

I replied, “Yes. I wish I’d learned this the first year of my marriage. I’m trying to help you now.” [Laughter] The main thing is he saw her worth. He saw her worth, and he protected her and shielded her.

Bryan: When you respect my worth, there are four phrases that each of us need as couples to respect the worth of the one God has given us. Here’s the first one: “I’m proud of you.”

When you say, “I’m proud of you,” you are valuing the worth, you are valuing  the spouse, you are valuing how God has wired them; you are valuing who they are. “I’m proud of you” doesn’t have to just be because of what they did. It can be, “I’m proud of you for how you are facing in life,” or “. . .how you are overcoming things.” or “. . .how you are working through these seasons.”

Not only “I’m proud of you.” Here's another one: “Thank you.” When you invite “thank you” into your relationship, what you are doing is inviting that you respect that spouse. “Thank you for preparing dinner.” “Thank you for getting this trip together for us.” “Thank you for the way that you care for our kids and grandkids.”

Here’s another one: “I appreciate you.” “I appreciate you” says, “I see you. I celebrate who you are. I celebrate you as a gift to my life. I celebrate how you balance each other out, how we connect together.”

Here’s the last one: “I believe in you.” When you say “I believe in” your spouse, what you do is give him or her the confidence, the boldness, the encouragement they need to live God’s call and work on their lives.

Life sometimes can beat us up. Whether it’s our careers, or whether it’s our personal challenges, or financial challenges, or parenting challenges, or life’s challenges, whatever it is; one of the greatest gifts is to have someone in your life that respects your worth and says, “I believe in you. I know this is challenging. I know this is different, but I believe God is going to see you through this season, and I’m right here beside you every step of the way.”


Dave: This is FamilyLife Today, and we are listening to a portion of the talk that Bryan and Stephanie Carter gave on the Love Like You Mean It cruise this past February. It was a great talk.

Ann: It was. There are some good principles in this talk that we can all apply to our marriages.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: We’re pretty passionate about this topic, too, aren’t we?

Dave: Yes; the secret sauce of respect. And they’re only about halfway done; but I’ll just remind you: sign up for the cruise! Go to, and you can jump in on a great deal to sign up for next year, because there will be more talks like this.

Let’s go back to Bryan and Stephanie and hear more about their secret sauce.

[Recorded Message]

Bryan: Not only “Respect my worth,” but here’s Number Two: respect my voice.

It’s fascinating. Matthew 16:13-16 helps us to understand this value, that when you watch the ministry of Jesus, Jesus consistently respects and values people. One of the very things that attracts people to Jesus is that He values people. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tax collector, it doesn’t matter if it’s a widow, it doesn’t matter whether it’s children, it doesn't matter. He has this incredible gift. He respects and values people. “Respect my voice.”

We respect each other, we value each other, when we value the voice of our spouses. I have to be honest, there have been occasions where I have not always valued my wife’s voice. There have been occasions in my life where I have had to grow in my marriage.

Early in our marriage, for some reason or another, I mistakenly thought that, as a man, I was just supposed to give directions. I mistakenly thought that I was supposed to say it, and she was supposed to do it. Forgive me, I just thought—I don’t know, for whatever reason—I’m sorry.

Crowd: [Laughter]

Bryan: I had these thoughts. I had these misconceptions about what it meant to be a husband. I had these misconceptions about what it meant to be a man. I didn’t always value her voice. I would do stuff, and then just expect her to go along with it. I had to learn, I had to make some shifts; and she helped me. She was a great coach in my life.

Stephanie: Just a little bit. Just a little coaching.

Bryan: She helped coach me through some decisions and some things I would make, because I had to come to realize that in our relationship, I had to value her voice. She had to value my voice. Here’s the thing: don’t make that mistake. Don’t walk into the room and just change the channel like they don’t even matter in the room. Don’t—

Crowd: [Laughter]

Stephanie: Or if we watch the football game, we watch the pregame, we watch the football game. Why do we have to watch Sports Center to get the recap?

Crowd: [Laughter]

Stephanie: We watched the whole thing! I have watched with you—

Bryan: —respect her voice. Don’t make the mistake—don’t spend a large sum of money without talking to her or talking to each other.

Stephanie: Right.

Bryan: Don’t accept a job that has a move in it when you haven’t had a conversation with your spouse yet. Don’t pick the restaurant and tell her, “Listen, you just have to go with the flow today.” Don’t do that.

Don’t make a major decision about the kids, and then when the kids say, “Well, Daddy told me I could do it, or Mommy told me—,” they blame you for the situation. Don’t book the trip and then say, “You can deal with it later.” Don’t move your aunt or your mother or your brother or your dad or your cousin in the house and then tell them later.

Crowd: [Laughter]

Bryan: These are all things not to do, right? These are just a few ways for you to respect their voice. Here are some things you want to do.

Stephanie: Alright, these are some questions you need to ask before you are making a decision, or if you feel like you are about to disrespect your spouse.

“What do you think about it?” That’s simple. “Have you thought about it?”

Since I’m married to a pastor, I always say this: “Have you prayed about this?”

Crowd: [Laughter]

Stephanie: “I don’t think the Lord is calling you to quit your job and go to seminary full- time.” That was a fight in the first year of our marriage.

“Does that work for you?” “Where do you want to go to eat?”

Bryan: What if you say you don’t want anything, and then you change your mind when I get my food, and you want my food?

Crowd: [Laughter]

Stephanie: That’s when you share.

Crowd: [Laughter]

Bryan: Respect my words, respect me with my words. Respecting my voice means you don’t try to minimize me or control me or ignore me. There’s a temptation in all of us to be selfish, which means we want to hear our voice rather than the voice of our spouse. So, it’s incredibly important to make a habit of asking: “What do you think?” or “How are you thinking?” “How does that make you feel?” “How are you feeling?”

The more we value their voice, the more we value our spouse.

Stephanie: A couple of years ago, we were out with some college friends—I went to the University of Oklahoma, he went to Oklahoma State, so, we are huge rivals. We were talking about work and careers. [For] this particular couple, he was between jobs. He was talking about his current job situation, and his wife’s response was, “That’s not a real job.”

My heart just sank.

Listen, your words matter. I feel like, no matter what season of marriage you are in—whether you’ve been married less than five years, or whether you’ve been married fifty- plus years—our job as a spouse is to be their biggest cheerleader. There are seasons when he is cheering me on, and there are seasons when I am cheering him on. The main thing is, no matter what season you are in, you’ve got to be the biggest cheerleader.

He’ll be getting dressed in the morning, and I’ll say, “Oooh, you look great! That’s cute.” Or “Oh, babe, I know you’re going to kill it today,” or “Hey, babe, how can I pray for you today?” “I saw you in that meeting earlier. You did that.”

Listen, be their biggest cheerleader, because sometimes, when your spouse leaves the house, the only encouraging word they might hear is from you. You do not know what your spouse is walking into when they leave the home.


Ann: This is FamilyLife Today, and we’ve been listening to Bryan and Stephanie Carter giving a talk on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, and their talk has been about the “Secret Sauce to a Great Marriage.”

As I listen to Stephanie end that portion (we’ll hear more tomorrow), I’m just wondering: are you giving your spouse more words of encouragement than anyone else? I want to create an atmosphere in our home where the people who live there want to come back home. They want to be there because we see them, we believe in them, and we are speaking life to them.

We are also speaking truth. That’s what we do as parents, but I really would challenge you to even think today: what is the atmosphere of our home? Maybe, if you have teenagers, this is a hard one to ask them—

Dave: —I know what you are going to say.

Ann: —but ask them! “What does it feel like to be home? Do you like being in our home? Do you feel like we are a place where we are giving encouraging words?” I remember saying to our teenage son once—I think he was probably fourteen, and I said: “Do you know how proud I am of you?” He said, “No.”

I was so shocked, because I felt so proud of him; but I think what he hears as a teenager is me telling him what he shouldn’t be doing, what he still needs to still be doing, or what he hasn’t done. I realized: “Man, I need to speak those words to him,” as well as to you, Dave. As parents, it feels like we are always training or disciplining, and we need to speak those words to our kids more than anybody.

Dave: Yes; and I think there’s a part of every human being, including us, where we are quicker to see the negative or the critical rather than the positive.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Or we see the positive, and instead of speaking it out and celebrating it and saying, “I see this,” we say nothing. I remember, early in our marriage—remember this? You came into the room, and I thought to myself, “You look incredible.” That’s what I thought.

Ann: Oh, no.

Dave: You asked me later.

Ann: I remember this, because we had little kids and I hardly—I felt like I was in sweatpants every day and always looked bad; but I tried my best this one night, because we were on a date, so I got super dressed up, which was very unusual. I came down the stairs and, because this was so unusual, I thought you’d say, “Wow!” But you said nothing.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: I felt like, “I must just look awfu!.”

Dave: And then you asked me, at the end of the date, “Hey, did you think I looked nice?” And I said, “Oh, my goodness! I was sitting down here when you came downstairs, and I thought, ‘You are the most beautiful woman! I can’t believe you are my wife.’” And you said, “You didn’t think that.”

Ann: “Too late.”

Dave: I said, “Yes, I did.” And you asked, “Well, why didn’t you say it?”

“Because I’m an idiot.”

Guys, do you hear me? If you think something positive about your spouse, say it! Say it to your kids. If you think something negative, just keep it to yourself. Just zip your lips; don’t say it.

Respectful words, what the Carters were talking about, are something that doesn’t come naturally, but when you do think it, speak it.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: It builds up a person. It builds up a home. It creates a fragrance that is like a magnet. Everybody wants to be around someone who speaks life.

Ann: And let me add one more thing: if you haven’t signed up, now is the time. Go to and sign up for the 2025 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise.

Dave: We’ll be there. See you then.

Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Bryan and Stephanie Carter from the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise on FamilyLife Today.

Dave and Ann were talking about that there at the end there. I’ve been on the marriage cruise myself, and it is a phenomenal experience. The Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise is a getaway for married couples looking for several things: relaxation (does that sound like you?), renewal, romance, life-long memories, and reconnection with God in the midst of an environment you wouldn’t ordinarily be in.

Right now, you can book and save during our “Seas the Savings” sale; “Seas” as in S-E-A-S. You can use the promo code “SEAS25” to save big on a stateroom for the 2025 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. The sale actually ends on June 25th of this year. You can learn more at, or you can give us a call to learn more as well, at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Today, we got to hear from Bryan and Stephanie Carter, who spoke on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. We are going to get to hear from them again tomorrow.

Bryan has written a book called Made to Last: Eight Principles to Build Long Lasting Relationships. Does this sound like something every married couple needs? The answer is, “Yes!” In his book, you can gain practical insights and actionable steps for building stronger and more fulfilling relationships in your life. You can check out Bryan’s book, Made to Last, at, or you can find it in our show notes. Or just give us a call; again, the number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Now, tomorrow, as I said, the Carters will be back, and they will be talking about the importance of respect in marriages for both men and women. That’s tomorrow. I hope you’ll join us.

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

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