FamilyLife Today®

My Marriage Needs Help: JD & Veronica Greear

with JD Greear | January 24, 2024
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Feel like work is disconnecting you from your spouse? JD and Veronica Greear share 10 tips to feed healthy relationships and genuine community in your marriage.

Along with co-creator Brian Goins, J.D. and Veronica Greear are two of FamilyLife's guest contributors to the all-new Art of Marriage group study! To learn more or order your copy, visit artofmarriage.com.

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  • About the Guest

JD and Veronica Greear offer 10 tips to feed healthy relationships and genuine community in your marriage.

My Marriage Needs Help: JD & Veronica Greear

With JD Greear
|
January 24, 2024
| Download Transcript PDF

J.D.: Just in the New Testament, whether you’re a single, or whether you’re married with kids, or whether you’re a retired couple, the Christian life is to be done in community. In   all the “one another” passages, it’s not like an optional benefit that comes along with the Christian life. It is an essential part of what it means to be healthy.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com.

Ann: This is FamilyLife—

 

Dave and Ann: —Today!

Dave: So, we have a full studio today.

Ann: I like it when we have a full studio.

Dave: You do? You like that? Yes, we have—how many of us? Five. We have the Greears back. J.D. and Veronica are back for day three; and we have Brian Goins in the house. He does so many things, including the Art of Marriage ®.

Brian: Yes.

Ann: The new Art of Marriage.

Dave: Reimagined?

Brian: Reimagined. That’s a better way—

Ann: —there it is.

Brian: We said, “You’re not going to replace a classic,” you know?

Dave: The Greears are in the new Art of Marriage, and we’re in it.

Brian: Yes. It’s been super fun. My job for the last two years has been to invade people’s homes and ask them super-invasive questions about their marriage.

Dave: And you’re really good at that. You have a gift; it’s a spiritual gift. [Laughter]

Brian: I don’t know that they would say that, but it was great being able to have couples like you guys; like the Wilsons, the Greears. You guys were some of the first people that we got to interview in this, and that’s when we developed this whole thing about these six words that describe the characteristics of how God loves us. If we love one another like God loves us, then not only is He revealed, but our marriages actually move toward oneness. We actually get what we wanted when we got married, and that is to experience oneness and to experience unity with God.

Even in the last couple episodes, just hearing you guys talk about that transformation, when we recognize that we’re sinners first, rather than being sinned against. That’s powerful. In fact, we should have gotten that line in the Art of Marriage, which we didn’t. [Laughter]

Dave: Too late?

Brian: Yes, it’s too late. It was really good.

Dave: As you said, Brian, the last couple of days, we’ve been talking, really, about J.D.’s book, Essential Christianity, which is applying the gospel. You’ve been listening. What do you want to talk about or ask about?

Brian: Oh, man. All kinds of stuff.

Dave: I bet.

Brian: One thing I really want you guys to break down, because we do talk about this in the Art of Marriage—you have to tell the Wilsons the honeymoon story, [Laughter] this whole thing about realizing that, “I’m going to be living with somebody.” You said it yesterday, Veronica. It’s usually a change project that I’m signing up for when it comes to marriage, and you wanted to change J.D. right away.

Veronica: Yes, right off the bat.

Brian: Do you know the honeymoon story?

Ann and Dave: No.

Brian: Oh, it’s great.

Veronica: I’m not telling it. You’re telling it [J.D.].

Dave: Do we want to know about their honeymoon?

J.D.: There are two infamous stories from our honeymoon, and I’m going to tell the book one. It’s basically that I took 14 books on our honeymoon.

Veronica: He also had to do his dissertation—what, oral exam?

J.D.: Yes.

Veronica: Three-hour oral exam three days after we got back.

J.D.: Yes.

Veronica: One of us thought this was bad timing. [Laughter] One of us thought it was—

J.D.: —she’s pointing at herself right now.

Veronica: why wait? Why warm up for a game that you’re never going to play? Someone said that. I don’t remember which of us.

J.D.: Yes. Well, I feel like that was true at the time.

Veronica: He took 14 and read 9. We were gone for six days.

Ann: Oh, are you serious?

Dave: Yes, are you serious?

Veronica: I had a lot of guacamole in the hot tub by myself. It was fine.

Dave: You’re sitting on the beach, probably, or something, reading a book?

J.D.: Yes, and she’d go to sleep, and I’d pull out the book and read it. Yes.

Ann: Do you tell this story? Is this a story in Art of Marriage?

J.D.: Yes, it’s in the Art of Marriage.

Veronica: I was a bit flabbergasted; a bit.

Ann: [Laughter] I guess.

Veronica: This is not what I had known I was signing up for. I should have known I was signing up for it, but I didn’t, so I was a little—

J.D.: —it also points to change, because now you talk about how you like “overseas J.D.”

Veronica: I do. My favorite. It’s my favorite J.D.

Brian: Who’s “overseas J.D.”?

Veronica: I get it once a year maybe.

J.D.: Yes.

Veronica: It’s a totally different vibe.

Dave: There you go.


J.D.: “I don’t know what we’re doing today. Where do you want to go?”

Veronica: “What do you guys want to do today? I’m good! Whatever you want to do.” That’s how he wakes up every day overseas.

Ann: And you get that once a year. [Laughter]

Veronica: Once a year.

Brian: That’s so funny. You guys were talking about how you realized, J.D., you love things scheduled out, and you even thought vacations—

Veronica: In 15-minute increments, preferably. [Laughter]

J.D.: Yes, of course.

Brian: Play that out, because you’re recognizing, “Now I’m married to this person.”

Veronica: Yes, forever and ever, amen.

Brian: Forever and ever, and now I’m going to cling to this person. So, how do I now then adjust or demand change, because you either go one or the other way. You kind of give in—I think that’s where most couples are, like “I’m seeing this and now do I just give in? Or do I try to change them?”

J.D.: Yes.

Brian: How do we go from there?

Veronica: It was a two- to three-year journey of both of us stuck. You were pretty mad that I was this way—

J.D.: Right. I’m going to do it this way, and you’re going to—

Veronica: and I was pretty mad that you were that way.

J.D.: Right.

Ann: So, you both saw the other person as wrong?

Veronica: Yes, for sure.

J.D.: Yes, right. And then so after that, probably the heathier version of it is, there was some mutual influence, because there is a value of schedule. We understand that. You have one today, right? But there’s also a freedom that allows you to enjoy the moment, allows you to respond to things, and that creates space for relationships.

Veronica: Yes.

J.D.: Jesus said He came not to be served but to serve, and that should affect the follower of Jesus, even when they’re going on vacation with their spouse, that there’s a “I’m really here to serve her, and how can I do that?”

 

Brian: I like Romans 12:10, that we should outdo—

J.D.: —outdo one another—

Brian: —in showing honor. I just think, “Man, how many more of our marriages would bring life if it were, instead of, ‘In order for me to be happy in this marriage, you actually need to show honor to me,’ versus just waking up in the day and thinking, ‘How do I outdo my wife today in showing honor,’” which isn’t easy, right?

Veronica: Yes. And it’s easier to do it some days than others.

Brian: Yes.

Veronica: And when you are in a really sort of a spot where you’re really mad or really angry, I think that’s when you go back—this is true, not just in marriage; this is true in other relationships as well. Quite often, I’ll have to remember that it’s going to make me really sad to stand before God one day and recognize how unforgiving I was towards that person, whether it’s my husband or another relationship.

So, if you just think about standing there before God and standing there proud of how you’re feeling towards that person, I just know I’m never going to be proud of any of that. So then, I pray, “Lord, help me here. I don’t really want to be forgiving, but I know that it’s an embarrassment to what I know and understand that You’ve done for me that I feel that way. Can You help me?”

J.D.: One of the challenges that I’ve given our church—I do periodically—is, I will say, “For an entire week, here, if you have a spouse, I want you just to ask them the question at least once a day, and in every dimension of your relationship, ‘How can I serve you?’ Just ‘how can I serve you?’”

By the way, some of those dimensions are more fun than others, if both spouses are actually—But just if you get in this mindset of “How could I serve her tonight when I come home?” as opposed to coming home, being like, “I’ve been working all day. It’s time for you to serve me.” But just “how can I serve you?” It’s a discipline. Do it for a week and just watch the differences it makes in your relationship.

Brian: It occurs to me as I’m sitting here—I’m sitting at a table with two pastor couples that have been over significant churches. You guys up in Michigan; you guys now at Summit. I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you guys both a question: what are some of the most difficult things of being married in positions of high visibility?

Because even though most people can’t relate to that, we can’t relate to that, but there have been plenty of people who would say that it’s like, “Yes, but maybe I’m married to someone who has a high, significant business; significant influence to others.” What have been the challenges for you guys that you have been dealing with in being a highly visible couple?

J.D.: The first thing that comes to mind—I’d be curious what you’d say—is how there are two temptations, or one is just something that you suffer through, and that is there’s nothing that’s really private that everybody doesn’t have opinions on. It’s kind of cliché, but our kids are always dealing with what it means to be in the shadow, and the expectations there. You really say, “I am trying to present to you that I’m a normal person, but you keep treating me like I’m not a normal person.”

Veronica: Yes.

J.D.: Trying to say that we’re the same, and “I’m the shepherd, yes, but I’m still a sheep.” But there are people that just whether it’s the words you say—

Veronica:  —the nature of being up on the stage or something—

J.D.: How you interact—just everything is amplified, and we’ve had to really create relationships that are like, “I can’t be pastor first to you. I just have to be friend,” because the pastor—

Veronica: —and you have to articulate that in those circles, in those couple of relationships, like, “I need you to understand that in this situation that’s not the first hat I’m wearing here.”

J.D.: Right. Yes, that would be the one that we feel like we suffer through. I say “suffer” in air quotes, because I know that on the scale of suffering, that’s not a bad one. But the other one is one that I see a lot of pastors, and I feel myself even pulled to make this mistake, is that you get so focused in your ambition, because, you know, if you’re going to pastor or plant a large church, there’s a little bit of drive there.

You get so focused on building the congregation and the high, the adrenaline rush that comes from success, whether it’s the success of a great sermon or an attendance high or something like that, that you think that happiness is found by the size of the stage or the scope of the influence. One of the things that Veronica has been a gift to me through our marriage is she loves and thrives on the small.

She has often said to me, “Fame is making yourself accessible to a bunch of people you don’t really care about, at the expense of those that you do.” The quality of our life is not going to be determined by the size of the stage you’re on. It’s going to be determined by the depth and the quality of the relationships that we have, so why would we ever sacrifice those in order to get to this bigger stage? God didn’t create anybody, even extroverts like me and Dave and you, that enjoy standing up in front of lots of people —

God created us for the community, the small. Many pastors will ignore that community for the sake of the large, and they’ll justify it like, “Oh, I have to focus on this,” and it ends up leading to their destruction. It’s like David Powell, the Christian counselor, used to say: “Things that grow in a secret garden always grow mutant.” And when pastors begin to live secret lives, just because nobody really knows them anymore, that’s when things grow mutant in their marriages and in their hearts.

Brian: I think that’s true whether you’re a pastor of a large church, or whether you’re just a couple working every day, doing what you’re doing, being mom—if we don’t allow somebody to know what’s really happening inside, we’ll always move towards distortion.

J.D.: That’s right.

Brian: Isolation always moves us toward distortion. I actually think Crawford Loritts said that on Art of Marriage. What about you guys, Wilsons? What have you learned about high visibility and making sure that you can still move towards each other and feel like you have that oneness?

Dave: I don’t know what you thought first [Ann]. My first thought is captured in a story that I won’t go into because we’ve shared here many times, but it’s when Ann said to me, late at night on Sunday night, when I’m exhausted after five sermons or whatever, but she literally just made a comment as we’re crawling into bed, “I wish the man that led our church lived here.”

Ann: I just said, “Man, I watch you on stage. You pray, you lead, you cast vision. Everybody in the room wants to follow where Jesus is taking us. And then you come home and you’re like, 'Yeah, you just pray,’ because you’re tired. So, it feels like we get the leftovers.”

Dave: Exhausted!

Ann: I think people in ministry (or not in ministry) can feel like that, of just getting the leftovers, and you can become really resentful of that.

Dave: So, again, I’m not saying everybody has experienced that. I experienced that. I felt like I’d be driving home, and I was exhausted, and I knew inside, “I have to bring my best,” and I’d be like, “Ahhhh, come on.” [Laughter] And she’s a great leader, so she most of the time would go, “I’ve got it.”

J.D.: Yes.

Dave: I heard a guy say not too long ago, “You want to be loved by the people that know you the best, not those that don’t know you.”

Ann: Yes.

J.D.: That’s good.

Dave: I thought, “It’s easy for the congregation to love you, and your own family or close friends are like, “Ehhh.” We want the opposite, but in the public arena, it’s great. J.D. said it. You’re looking at numbers, like “We just hit 10,000. Wow!”

I have a buddy who’s in ministry now. He’s younger, and almost every time he talks to me, he throws a number at me, like “Hey, man. We had this many this week,” and I say, “Dude, it’s not about that.”

“Oh, yeah it is. You did it.” I say, “I know, and I’m telling you, those are great, and they’re adrenaline rushes. It’s deeper than that. This is what matters.” So, I don’t know if that’s an answer, but it is for me.

Brian: I think just even hearing that, and we talk about this a little bit with the Art of Marriage, just the idea of not giving your spouse the leftovers. How have you guys looked to do that, whether you’re the minister of a great church, whether you have a great business, or whether you’re just working every day and you’re spending 10, 12 hours a day working?

Couples here want to move towards oneness, but yet, you feel tired. So, in our culture, where busyness is the currency, how have you guys worked, or maybe mistakes that you’ve made, to not give your spouse the leftovers? What rhythms have you created?

J.D.: Everybody kind of makes fun of the cliche of date night, but

Veronica: —they shouldn’t. They shouldn’t.

J.D.: but there is a purpose in setting aside, like a calendar, and say, “We’re going to put attention toward this.” There are two things that come to my mind: this is about to get really serious really quick. My mother passed away last year, and I had the privilege of being with my dad, sitting beside her as she went into eternity, and watching the tenderness and the genuine affection between the two of them.

The realization I had there is that’s not something that you just manufacture on the last day. That’s a lifetime of patience and tenderness, and, “You’re the person that I want to be with me in pain, you’re the one that understands, you’re the one who believes in me most. This is who I want to be with in that last hour.” I thought, “Am I living right now in a way that makes that moment natural, if God gives us that, where it’s like I’m not here because I have to be.” That was one; the other one is the realization that I have good buddy friends, and we go out and we hang out and we talk, but there’s one person, I realized, that I will process most things with for the rest of my life. Friends, as close as they are, seasons of life change, but most likely there’ll be one person that I’m processing this with, and that’s a relationship that I have to foster and build.

So, we’re intentional about reading a lot of the same books together. Why? We need to be able to discuss this. If appropriate, I will blind copy her on a lot of emails, just because I want her to know what’s happening in these relationships, because when I get home, she says, “Wow, that was a tough situation you were in. Here’s where you handled it well; here’s where you didn’t.”

I’m constantly trying to populate our conversations with things we have in common. What you hear is that people, after their kids leave, end up getting divorced because they have nothing in common.

Dave: Yes.

J.D.: So, I think, “What do we have, outside of our kids, that I am fostering, so that we have this lifelong best friendship that ultimately ends, if God sees fit, with one of us sitting by the bedside of the other one, and just saying, ‘I’ve been your best friend for 50 years, and I’ll be your best friend in this last hour’?”

Dave: Wow.

Ann: Oof, that’s good.

Brian: That will preach.

Ann: Yes. I’d say we’ve done a lot of those same things. I think Dave and I are best friends, for sure.

Dave: Oh, yes.

Ann: We’re always interacting, and when our kids were little, we would just, even if it was ten minutes, “Give me everything.” I’m interested in what he’s doing, what he’s thinking; and it’s vice versa, so that was big. I think a couple things also helped. One, we prayed. We still pray together. Whew, you talk about intimacy. We’re locking arms, we’re partners. We’re doing this journey following Jesus together.

And then, here’s just a little tidbit that I think is helpful: have a good vacation on your calendar, something to look forward to with each other.

J.D. and Veronica: Yes.

Ann: Not—you’re going to have your kids’ trip, but this is just the two of you, where, “Oh, I can’t wait, because it’s us.” You have your kids, but there’s something—we want to be together because we enjoy each other’s company.

Dave: Yes. Sometimes, it’s not very long. Could be three days.

Veronica: Right, right.

Ann: Could be a couple days, yes.

Dave: Yes.

Veronica: Absolutely.

Brian: Those are all great. Those are all really good suggestions. The prayer one for me —I know that 23 out of our 27 years, Jen would say the number one thing on her prayer list would have been that her husband would pray with her. I hate that it took me so many years to get over my own insecurity before that became more of a rhythm in our life. Still probably don’t do it perfectly. I don’t think any of these things do.

Veronica: You’re attempting.

Brian: You’re always taking a few steps forward and some back, but I think for many of us, our problem isn’t that we’re stupid or we don’t know what to do. We’re just stubborn.

Ann: Yes.

Brian: We let everything else get in the way. As you guys, both of you being on Art of Marriage, why is it so crucial—whether it’s Art of Marriage or any kind of a resource—why do you believe so wholeheartedly in community being something to help your marriages grow?

J.D.: The Christian life, just in the New Testament, whether you’re a single or married with kids, or whether you’re a retired couple, the Christian life is to be done in community. In all of the “one another” passages, it’s not like an optional benefit that comes along with the Christian life, it is an essential part of what it means to be healthy.

In our very atomized world, where technology and even the way we build our houses and the way we live our lives, it’s designed with this polar kind of life. If you have anything, it’s just the nuclear family, and really not even that. Within the nuclear family, everybody is going their opposite ways. It takes a counter-cultural decision that “We are going to foster and build community.”

That’s one of the reasons that, even for all the things the evangelical church does wrong, there are a lot of beautiful things about it. The emphasis on small groups and fellowship; multi-generational stuff. Those things take investment and time. One of the things our kids kind of understand; maybe they do, maybe they don’t—

Veronica: —ish—

J.D.: —is kind of this commitment we have. We are going to everything the church does, not because I’m the pastor, but we’re going because this is our community, and I want you to be family here and a visitor in all these other places, as opposed to being family on your soccer team, or family even at your school, and a visitor at church.

Ann: That’s good!4

Veronica: And you show up and you put time into it so that it is. Yes, that’s why we’re doing this. That’s why we’re going to this. We’d do it if he worked at a law firm or something.

Ann: But you’re saying it doesn’t just happen. You put time, and energy, and priority into that.

Veronica: Yes.

Ann: That’s good.

Dave: We all know this, but that has to be on the calendar. You have to be intentional.

Veronica: Yes.

Dave: We have two of our best friends; they lived a block from us in Michigan. They keep talking, now that their kids are grown, “You know, we’re going to move south. I can do my job anywhere. I think we’re going to go to Atlanta or something.” That’s where two of his daughters are.

“No, you’re not. You’re not leaving Michigan.” We’ve told them this before. We love them, but it was hard to lose such great friends, because we’ve done life together. All I’m saying is, every couple—if you're listening, and you don’t have that couple—you have to find them.

Veronica: You have to find them.

Dave: They’re there. God has them around. You probably know their names. Take it to the next level and say, “Let’s make this something that sharpens both of us,” because you’re not going to make it to 43 years of marriage without people in your life.

Veronica: You have to invite them in, too.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: I was going to say, too: we just started by having dinner together as a family once a week.

J.D.: That’s right.

Veronica: That’s exactly, actually, how our same situation kind of started that way. It was actually started at once a month, and then went from there. I also think, and you have to make it clear, like “I’m inviting you to speak into this,” and you might have to remind them sometimes.

Ann: Yes.

J.D.: And yourself.

Veronica: And yourself.

Dave: Yes.

Veronica: You have a narrative you believe about yourself that’s very light and bright—

J.D.: —rosy—

Veronica: —and positive, rosy; and you can dismiss what God has actually given your spouse to do in your life, because “Well, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Whatever. They’re always like that, or he’s always that, or his expectation, or this, or that.”

But other people, you’re sometimes, hopefully often, a little more likely to hear. Maybe not initially, but I think your mind is a little quicker to hear it from those people you’ve invited in and told them, as opposed to your spouse sometimes.

J.D.: Yes.

 

Dave: Right. I mean, some of the best moments of my life were when these guys spoke hard things.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: You’ve heard the adage, “If someone says you’re a”—I'll say “donkey” “disregard it. If your wife says you’re a donkey, consider it. If three or four guys say you’re a donkey, get a saddle.” [Laughter]

Veronica: That’s funny.

Dave: That’s true. When they’re speaking that, it’s like “Guess what?”

Veronica: That’s right.

Dave: I can deny it all I want. These are my brothers. They love me. She’s already told me. This is going to make me better if I accept it and say, “Okay, let’s go.” That’s the gospel. God still loves me, but we have to change.

Ann: Yes, go get the saddle.

Brian: Well, if the essence of Christianity is truly the grace of the gospel, it should not surprise us that we’re going to irritate each other, we’re going to cause each other pain, and we’re going to see our sin. And if everything has been smooth sailing with every relationship you’ve had, you probably aren’t being real with them.

Ann: Yes.

Brian: So, if you’re not uncomfortable in community, then you’re probably not experiencing community.

Ann: And I’ll add this, Brian. I would really encourage you, if you don’t have that couple in your lives right now, pray. Start asking God, and start looking and asking God, “Who is my couple?” Because they’re there.

Dave: Here’s an idea: get the Art of Marriage.

 

Brian: There you go. There’s the placement.

 

Dave: Invite a few couples over. I’m not kidding.

Ann: Yes!

Dave: This could be like a promotion —

Brian: —because it gives you something. You have that third thing. It gives you something. You don’t have to think about the discussion, because that’s part of the problem: “I don’t even know what to talk about. I don’t know what questions to ask. I don’t even know—” So, give yourself—take all of that pressure off.

Dave: Yes, these could end up being life-long friends.

Brian: Yes.

 

Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with J.D. and Veronica Greear along with Brian Goins on FamilyLife Today.

As Dave and Brian were talking about, head over to ArtofMarriage.com or find the link in the show notes to pick up a leader kit. It’s all reimagined, and we’re excited to see how God is going to use the brand-new Art of Marriage.

We’ve been really excited to have J.D. and Veronica Greear with us for the last three days. J.D. has written a book called Essential Christianity: The Heart of the Gospel in Ten Words. It’s basically, “What is Christianity?” and it kind of gives an introduction to the Christian beliefs and Christian meaning, to help bridge the gap between biblical context and the challenges faced by modern individuals today.

You can go online to pick up a copy at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329 to pick up a copy; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Now, when you’re on FamilyLifeToday.com, we’d love it if you’d go to the top of the page and click on that “Donate Now” button. When that happens, you can give a gift to help the ministry of FamilyLife.

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Coming up tomorrow, the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, is going to be joining Dave and Ann along with Meg Robbins to talk about the profound purpose of marriage on mission. That’s tomorrow. We 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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Episodes in this Series

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