FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Old Rules, New Rules

with Ann Wilson, Dave Wilson | April 25, 2019
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The culture has old rules on how to do love, sex, and dating and they really don't work. Dave Wilson explains some new rules that do work.

  • 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.

The culture has old rules on how to do love, sex, and dating and they really don’t work. Dave Wilson explains some new rules that do work.

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Old Rules, New Rules

With Ann Wilson, Dave Wilson
April 25, 2019
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Bob: What were you thinking about your spouse the day you got married? Dave Wilson has a guess.

Dave: You know, I do weddings, as a pastor, quite often. There are two types of weddings. You look at this groom and this bride there, and you know they’re thinking these things—it’s never said out loud—but there are two types. I wrote it down this way—I said: “The first type of wedding is this—they’re thinking, ‘You are the most important person in my life.’ They’re looking at each other: ‘You are the most important person in my life. You complete me! You are the answer to all my hopes and dreams.’” That’s one type of wedding that you see—it’s like they’re putting all their hopes and dreams in each other.

Then, there’s another type of wedding; and this is what they’re thinking: “You are not the most important person in my life, Jesus is; and because Christ is the most important person in my life, I’m going to treat you better than I could ever treat you if you were the most important. Christ will help me love you more than I ever could in my own strength.”

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, April 25th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. So, do you think you have been expecting things from your spouse that God never equipped your spouse to do or to be in your marriage? We’re going to hear more about that today from Dave Wilson. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, how many weddings do you think you’ve done?—any idea?

Dave: Several hundred, I’m guessing—

Bob: Really?

Ann: Oh, yes; I think so.

Dave: —30-some, almost 40 years; yes.

Bob: So, you do 30 a year?

Dave: There were times. We do less now; but there were times, yes, we were doing 20, 25, 30.

Bob: And weddings have an interesting dynamic to them; don’t they?

Dave: Oh, they sure do. [Laughter]


Bob: Are there times when you’re standing in front of the bride and groom, and going, “I don’t know if these kids are going to make it”?

Dave: There are times—many times. There was one wedding—I won’t mention the names—

Bob: That’s good! [Laughter]

Dave: —but as I sat in the back room, I thought to myself, “They won’t make it six months.” This was a couple I didn’t know very well. I was sort of brought in, you know—not even church people at our church—and they were divorced in six months.

Bob: Wow.

Dave: You sort of know sometimes.

Bob: Yes; and part of it is: “What rules are they following?” In fact, that’s the message that we heard an excerpt from here; it’s a message that you gave at Kensington Church that juxtaposed the old rules of relationships, and weddings, and marriage with the new rules, which are the biblical rules—the rules that we need to be paying attention to when we’re trying to make a marriage work.

This is really stuff that we’ve talked about, for years, at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. We’ve been sharing with our listeners this week that, in honor of your new role as hosts of FamilyLife Today, our team decided we should take a week and celebrate and let our listeners know you’ve spoken for three decades now at Weekend to Remember getaways. So, this week, if you want to sign up for an upcoming getaway, you get the Dave and Ann Wilson special deal.

Ann: Ooh!

Bob: Like this?

Dave: I want that deal!

Ann: Yes!

Bob: The Dave and Ann Wilson special deal—you sign up this week and you’ll get

40 percent off the regular registration fee for any of our upcoming getaways. We’re just doing this for one week as a way to say, “Welcome,” to you guys and to focus on what’s important in a marriage relationship. Go to for information about this one-week special that we’re offering to FamilyLife Today listeners. We hope to see you out at an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.

So, what are the old rules—the rules that aren’t working for relationships?

Dave: You know, it’s a study of humanity. When you watch how couples fall in love, it usually takes this sort of course—like four steps. Step Number One: “Find the right person”; right? “How do you know?”—that’s the question. It’s like: “You just know. There’s this chemistry, and you just know.”

Ann: And it’s all about feelings.

Dave: Oh, yes. You find the right person—we even have a name for it: “The One”; right?

Then, Step Two is: “You fall in love.” And fall in love—I mean, you fall head over heels: “I can’t live without this person.”

Step Number Three is: “You fix all your hopes and dreams on that one person.” There it is—it’s like, “They are the center of my life and universe.”

Then Step Four, which is really interesting: “If failure occurs, repeat steps one, two, and three.” Then, we get disappointed; so the old rules—it’s really interesting—it’s like: “Well, this didn’t work. I obviously found the wrong person. So I go back to step one,”—and guess what? It’s not going to work, because the plan is flawed from step one. If you go back and start over again, you’re going to end up at step four. You need a new plan, a new rule, a new way to do it.

Bob: Well, we’re going to hear the new way to do it, which is really the old way to do it—

Dave: Right.

Ann: Yes.

Bob: —if you think about what the Bible has to say. This is from a message that you gave at Kensington Church about the difference between the old rules and the new rules for marriage.

[Recorded Message]

Dave: So, the new rules—it’s really interesting where it starts, even in the formula of the old rules. You go to the Bible and you go to the New Testament; and by the way, when I was going to church, growing up, I never knew there was anything practical in the Bible at all! I’m going to take you to just two verses—two verses that I think will change your life, especially in the area of relationships. They don’t even talk about relationships until later.

The Apostle Paul wrote the book called Ephesians to a church in a city called Ephesus, and he applies this principle at the beginning of Chapter 5 to parenting, to marriage, to dating. He starts it with this principle we have to understand in verse 1—he says this—he says, “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.”

Ann: And some of us—I didn’t grow up in the church—so for me, I had no idea what God was like—only what I had heard about God: that’s He’s judging, that He condemns us, that He’s not for us. I think that’s one of the things in this point of: “Get to know Him; because as you get to know Him, you’ll see that He loves us, that He’s full of grace, that He forgives us; He’s a God of second chances—and third, and fourth, and fifth—that He never leaves us, that He’s always encouraging us. He’s cheering us, like, “You can do this!” That’s who God is, so it’s saying we are to mimic that in relationships.

Dave: So you apply that to the new rules. The old rules had four steps; the new rules have four steps—they’re the same but different. The first step is this: “Become the right person.” It isn’t about finding the right person; it’s about becoming the right person. It’s totally life-changing to start there.

It isn’t like, “I have to go find her,” or “…find him”; it’s like, “No, no, no, no; I have to look in a mirror and work on me!” What am I supposed to do? I’m supposed to copy/mimic God. I’m supposed to resemble God, the One who loves me. I’m supposed to have that character in me. It’s about me understanding my identity, as a beloved child of God, living that out to then work on me becoming the right person, and then move into love, sex, and dating; then move into a relationship that could end up in marriage. It changes the whole starting point—it’s the new rule: “Become the right person.”

Step Two is: “Walk in love.” How do you walk in love?—he says, “…as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.” So, what’s it mean to walk in love? It’s so different than falling in love. Falling in love will follow this [walking in love]. Walk in love is like, “I want to love Ann,”—or the person you’re dating—how?—“…as Christ has loved me.”

Paul tells us: “How did He do that? He gave himself up! He laid down His life for us!” So, he says, “I’m going to love her in a way that she doesn’t deserve, because she doesn’t deserve this kind of love.” Why would I do that?—because I have a love from God I don’t deserve! I don’t deserve this. It’s called the gospel; it’s called grace. I’ve gotten that from Jesus—it’s a fragrant offering; it’s like [sniffing sound], “Oh, that smells so good; it’s beautiful.” Okay; take that and walk in love—mimic God to love her that way; and if she’s doing the same thing, is that a differing way to do life? Oh my, that’s a different way to do love, sex, and dating.

Ann: And it’s so hard!  Like it’s so hard when somebody’s offended you or hurt you. Your first inclination is either to draw back or to lash out, but what would it look like—and that’s where, to me, it’s impossible for us to do that, but that’s what God’s saying: “Can you love them as an act of your will, not based on your feelings?”

Dave: And the only way you can do it is Step Three. The only way you can do it is Step Three: “Fix all your hopes and dreams on what?—on who?—God! It’s no longer—the focus isn’t here—it isn’t on your potential spouse or on your current spouse—it is on a God, who absolutely loves you and gave Himself up for you. When you take your eyes off each other and, maybe together—but even if you don’t do it together—but at least, you do; you say, “I’m going to fix my hope/my dreams are going to be on a God, who loves me and wants the best for me.”

Actually, think of this—a God who loves you so much, He wants to fill your need to be loved; and He knows this: “You’re never going to find it here—never. It’s always going to leave you empty. You will only find it here through the One who gave Himself up for us.” So, we fix our eyes, no longer on the potential spouse or our spouse—we fix our eyes on God; and literally, that changes everything!

You know, I do weddings, as a pastor, quite often. There are two types of weddings. You look at this groom and this bride there, and you know they’re thinking these things—it’s never said out loud—but there are two types. I wrote it down this way—I said: “The first type of wedding is this—they’re thinking this/they’re saying—not saying, but they’re thinking, ‘You are the most important person in my life.’ They’re looking at each other: ‘You are the most important person in my life. You complete me!’—Jerry Maguire. ‘You are the answer to all my hopes and dreams.’” That’s one type of wedding that you see—it’s like they’re putting all their hopes and dreams in each other.

Then, there’s another type of wedding; and this is what they’re thinking: “You are not the most important person in my life, Jesus is; and because Christ is the most important person in my life, I’m going to treat you better than I could ever treat you if you were the most important. Christ will help me love you more than I ever could in my own strength.” That changes everything! It’s like: “I’m becoming the right person. I’m walking in love—not just falling in love—that follows that—and I’m fixing my hopes and dreams on Him.”

I’ll tell you what—I’ll never forget—Ann and I are dating, five/six months, somewhere in there. I’m leaving her house at like two in the morning. She lived with her parents; so you know, I said goodbye to her. I got in my car; I’m driving home to my mom’s house. In the car, I scream out loud, at the top of my lungs—I don’t even realize I do it/just impromptu—I go, “I love Jesus!” It was just like that—it bounced around in my car. I’m like: “What did I just say?—I love Jesus?”

It hit me so strongly—it was like, “I have never, one time, had that thought after a night with a girl.” I was with this girl for four years—and I would have said [with other girls], if I had said anything: “I love sex. I love her,”—never—“This relationship is growing me closer to Jesus.” I realized in that car, “This dating relationship with Ann Barron is growing me closer to Jesus. Oh my.” I had never experienced that in my life. I remember having this thought, “I think this is probably pretty important in marriage.”

Now, think about this—you’re looking at a guy who came from two alcoholic parents, who got divorced; and I never saw this. I don’t even know what a great marriage looks like; but I knew this: “I think this is the foundation for a great marriage,” and I was right. Jesus is the foundation.

I would say this, with no apology: “If you’re a follower of Jesus, and you’re dating somebody, and that’s not happening, run.” I know you were just offended by me saying that—I’m saying, “Run,”—because here’s what you’re thinking: “I’ll change them after. Jesus is the most important thing in my life; but it isn’t to them, but I’ll change them after.” No you won’t!

The most important thing in the world for any relationship—love, sex, dating, marriage—is a foundation, I believe, in the Creator who gave us love, sex, and dating. He has a way to do it right. I’m telling you—you and I both know the old way doesn’t work. The numbers play it out. The new way—it works. The divorce rate in the church is

27 percent—that’s high, but nothing—it’s half of what it is outside the church. It’s, actually, a better plan; and it starts with fixing your hopes and dreams on Jesus.

Become the right person; walk in love; fix all your hopes and dreams on God; and then the last one is the same as the other one: “If failure occurs, repeat steps one, two, and three!” But now, it’s a total different plan. When you repeat steps one, two, and three, you’re not going, “I need a new spouse,” or “I need a new person”; you’re going: “I need to become the right person. I need to become the person [that] the person I’m looking for is looking for. I need to become an imitator of God, I need to walk in love, I need to fix my hopes and dreams on Jesus, and then keep doing that.”

Ann: I think the thing—those of you who are single—like I want—I would sit there and I’d hold your face, if you’re a woman, and say: “I want you to know that marriage can be amazing.” I feel like being married to Dave has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. Honestly, it really is one of the greatest gifts, and we almost didn’t make it.

The reason marriage can be so great, I feel like, for us, is because we have done that. There are times when we butt heads, and we’ve gone through hills and valleys; but when I take my eyes off of my Father, who loves me, and I stop relying on Him to fill me, I start becoming needy of Dave to do [for] me. So to go back to Step One is always so critical; because we’re always going to pull away, at times, and then come back. Going back to Step One is huge; because when I fix my hope on Him, He fills all the holes in my life and my needs.

Dave: It’s interesting too—if you think about making a list of the kind of person you’re looking for, I would say, “Don’t make a list of who you’re looking for; make a list for you

Ann: Right.

Dave: —like, “Let me give you a new list—

Ann: —“of who you can be.”

Dave: —“to go out today to become this person.”

You know, it’s really interesting—you’ve heard this description of love/I bet you’ve heard this: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. Love does not dishonor others.” Look at this list: “It is not self-seeking, it is easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

That’s a picture of love that’s unbelievable. That’s a picture of who I want to become—a patient, kind, considerate person that never quits, that isn’t selfish/but selfless, that’s always protecting, always believing the best, not keeping a record of wrong. That’s a list that should describe who we are, not just what we’re looking for.

Some of you know this—I’m guessing most of you know this—where’d that come from?—where’d that list come from?—the Bible/the Word of God! It’s 1 Corinthians 13; it’s called the love chapter; right? People read that at their marriages—like that’s the kind of love we want.

Can you imagine going on a date with a guy who is kind and considerate?—who, when he buys you a meal, you don’t think there’s any ulterior motive there? There’s no thought of jealousy or envy—that’s not there. I mean, think about this—kids like me, that are the result of a divorced family, what would have been different in your family if your mom and dad would have lived out that list?

Here’s the last thing we’ll say is: “To become that person is impossible. Okay; good luck!  See you!  Go try and do that. You can’t do it. You can’t be patient/kind—it doesn’t work.” You get married or you get in a relationship, and friction starts, and you’re like, “Oh my, I am easily angered.” You cannot do this; so here’s the last thought: “The only chance you and I have of living out to become the person that mimics or imitates God—the only chance we have is what? We need that love to come inside us. What’s that called?—Jesus!—it’s called the gospel.” Jesus gave His life—why? So that you and I can have the power of God living, literally, inside of us to give us the power to be patient, kind, not easily angered, forgiving people. That’s impossible without Jesus.

So we’re going to end this thing, right here: “The only chance you and I have is Jesus—only Jesus. That’s the only chance you have. What happens when you have Jesus?—darkness trembles. What happens when you have Jesus?—fear leaves; we become fearless people. Can we do that?—no! Can we become that person?—no! Can Jesus do that in us?—yes! How do we do that?—surrender.”

In fact, I’m going to give you one last list. I would encourage you to put this on your wall and say, “God, make me this person.” Where does this list come from?—

Galatians 5:22—again, Paul says, “If you want to know what it looks like to have the Spirit of God empowering you, here’s what it looks like.” He says, “Here are the characteristics,”—he calls them fruit—he says: “You will have this in your life when you surrender to Jesus and He lives through you. You’ll have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [gentleness,] and self-control.”

And I didn’t even look—did I get them? I don’t know if I got them in the right order. I just know that list so well; because that’s the result/the fruit—the product of Jesus, and only Jesus, being the focus of my life. He gives us a power we don’t have!

So, single people, I’d say: “Put that list right beside your bed or right beside your mirror, and get up every morning and fall on your knees and say, “God, would You make me a loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled person?”

Ann: And married people, that’s exactly what we need too; isn’t it?—like what would it look like if we demonstrated those? For us, sometimes, I can look at that—I have the exact opposite—when I see that list, I think, “Oh my; I’m so far away.” I need to get back on my knees, surrender to Jesus, and say, “Fill me, because that’s what I want.” What would that look like for us, in our relationships, if we live those things out/if that was our list?

Dave: And do not pray this for your spouse!

Ann: Yes. [Laughter]

Dave: That’s what we do!

Ann: Yes.

Dave: We want them to be all these things: “They’re not this…”—get your eyes off of them, whether you’re dating or you’re married, and say, “No; I need to get my eyes here, on Him,” and say, “God, I need You to make me that person.” It’s not about them; it’s: “Become the right person; walk in sacrificial love; fix my hopes on Him”; and when that doesn’t work, to keep doing that plan—leads to success.



Bob: Well, we’ve been listening, again, to Dave and Ann Wilson talking about the new rules for getting marriage right, from a message done at Kensington Church, awhile back. You were pretty passionate there.

Ann: I was going to say, “He was preaching, man!”

Bob: “He was shouting loud!”—yes!

Dave: You know, those people out there—they don’t listen, so you have to get their attention somehow! [Laughter] No; I was thinking the same thing—it was like, “Man!” You know, sitting here, in the studio, you feel a little different; but when you’re—I know when Ann and I are sitting up there, in front of an attentive group of people that really are leaning in, you really are passionate about hoping they get it—not that we don’t need it as well—but it’s like, “If you live this, it’s going to change everything.”

Bob: As a pastor, you know what’s going on in a lot of these couples’ lives. You know that the new rules—become the right person; walk in love; fix your hopes and dreams on God; and just keep doing that over and over again—that’ll change their marriage.

Ann: It’ll change your life; exactly. That’s why we’re so passionate about this subject; because we want people to find life, and the source of life is Jesus.

Dave: And in some ways, I feel like we’ve been lied to and we’ve bought the lie. You just keep going down that road, and it’s a road that leads to destruction. Yet, instead of getting on a new road—we called them “the new rules,” which are, like you said, really the old rules; they’re God’s rules that have been around for centuries—you keep going to destruction. It’s like: “Wait a minute! Get on a new road, please. Here it is…” We’ve tried to say, “Here’s what that road looks like…”; and it’ll change everything.

Bob: You guys know how we’ve been saying this, for years, at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway—it’s threat Number One in a marriage.

Dave: Right.

Bob: Threat Number One is the idea that the culture can define what makes a marriage work. Anyone, who’s looking at the cultural plan for marriage, is going to find themselves in a mess; right?

Dave: Yes; and I would add—so many people in this generation, I think, look at marriage that has gone down and they’ve decided, “I’m not getting married.” Nobody’s told them, “There’s a way to do it that is—it doesn’t mean it’s not hard; it’s very difficult—but it’s, actually, God’s way; and it’s something you want when you see it done the way God wants it done.”

Ann: Well, the thing I was going to say, too, was church attendance is going down. That makes me sad, because God has a game plan in His Word—He’s saying: “Follow this, because it will bring life to you. It will bring life to your marriage, to your children, to your legacy.” Yet, as we walk away from that, we’re finding destruction.

Bob: We think: “I can do this on my own. I don’t need community. I don’t need to be sitting under the teaching of God’s Word.”

Ann: Exactly; right.

Bob: You know, we still have about 20 or 25 Weekend to Remember marriage getaways happening this spring. You’ve encouraged, over the years, thousands of couples—

Dave: Oh, yes.

Bob: —to go to a Weekend to Remember. This week, we’re making a special offer—we call it the Dave and Ann Wilson special. [Laughter]

Ann: Ooh!

Bob: Listeners get an opportunity to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, and they save 40 percent off the regular registration fee; but the hitch is—you have to do this before—I think Monday is when it all closes down. We need to hear from you today—this weekend/Monday, at the latest—if you want to take advantage of the special offer—the Dave and Ann Wilson special—for an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. Go to, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you have questions about the getaway.

You know, I spoke at a getaway in Parsippany, New Jersey—this was a year-and-a-half ago—and one of the couples in the audience was the President of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, and his wife Meg. This was actually right before you became the president—David’s joining us in the studio here.

David: Yes.

Bob: This was right before you signed as the new president; right?

David: We were two weeks away from, actually, the installation. We had been announced; and we decided, “Let’s go to the closest Weekend to Remember, because it will be our last time to ever get to go incognito.”

Bob: You had been to one, years ago, back when you were starting your relationship—

David: That’s right; that’s right.

Bob: —but it had been a while.

David: It had been a while since we had gone to one. We had the best time; it was such a time of connecting. And then, just to be able to have the lens of a couple, who joined us; and their relationship was at a totally different place.

You know, we were processing some transition realities. It was such a good time for us to connect; because we really needed to, amongst all of the busyness of life that was happening. They came in at a place, where they were at really different places spiritually, and came in looking for some help, not knowing where they were headed. It was great to see how God was working in their marriage and our marriage and see progress made for both of us at the exact places—God met us in the exact places that we needed to be met.

Bob: You know, here’s what I think you model there—and we don’t talk about this enough—but you shouldn’t just be thinking, “Should we go to a Weekend to Remember?”; but ask yourself the question, “Who could we take to a Weekend to Remember and both of us go?” Use this as a way to help move friends, relatives, neighbors—move them in the right direction, spiritually. So when you sign up for a getaway, don’t just sign up for yourself; sign up for you and another couple, and plan to go together.

Again, the information about the Dave and Ann Wilson special for the getaway is available, online, at You’ll save 40 percent off the regular registration fee if you sign up before Monday. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY if you have any questions or if you’d like to sign up by phone.

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear about the baggage all of us bring into a marriage relationship and, then, what we do with that baggage once we realize it’s there. We’ll hear more from Dave and Ann Wilson tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with 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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