FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Recommitment to Their Future

with Ann Wilson, Dave Wilson | September 12, 2017
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Pastor Dave Wilson and his wife, Ann, recall an anniversary dinner when all the celebratory bells and whistles couldn't make up for the negligence Ann had felt over the years. Later that evening, when Ann confessed that she no longer had feelings for him, Dave realized he needed to make big changes in his life or the marriage would be over. Learn how the Wilsons brought the love back into their lives, and how you can too.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson's story from The Art of Marriage®

  • 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.

Pastor Dave Wilson and his wife, Ann, recall an anniversary dinner that couldn’t make up for the negligence Ann had felt over the years. Learn how the Wilsons brought the love back into their lives.

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Recommitment to Their Future

With Ann Wilson, Dave Wilson
September 12, 2017
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Bob: When Dave and Ann Wilson had been married for ten years, if you had asked Dave, “How’s your marriage, on a scale of 1 to 10f?” he would have said, “It’s a 10 or pretty close”; but Ann had a different opinion, and Dave didn’t have a clue.

Dave: How could I miss this? Really, it’s the most important thing in my life—my marriage / my children—second to my walk with God—and I missed it. I was so focused on God’s call in my life to start a church, which we were starting this church. I was the Detroit Lions chaplain; so I was focused on writing messages and being on the road with the team. I was your guy who said his marriage was top priority, and it wasn’t. My job and what I did was more important to me than my marriage, and I didn’t even see it.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, September 12th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine.


Is it possible in a marriage relationship to know what your priorities ought to be and yet to be living differently? Of course, it is. We’ll hear more from Dave and Ann Wilson about that today. Stay with us.

Welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. You and Barbara have been married now—it is 45 years—you just had your 45th wedding anniversary; right?


Dennis: That’s correct.

Bob: Have those anniversary celebrations been pretty magical for you guys?

Dennis: Oh, absolutely magical—every one of them magical. [Laughter] I mean, you can’t be the host of a daily radio program, FamilyLife Today, and not have absolutely perfect magical anniversaries every time.

Bob: Well, you can be the cohost and not have perfectly magical. [Laughter] I will just tell you that. [Laughter]

Dennis: I’m teasing. [Laughter] I’m totally teasing.

Bob: There have been anniversaries where the anniversary night has been chilly rather than warm.


Dennis: We’re going to visit a blizzard—

Bob: The king of chilly. [Laughter]

Dennis: —a tenth anniversary blizzard that occurred to our friends, Dave and Ann Wilson. Welcome to the Polar Ice Cap you guys—FamilyLife Today.

Dave: Wow!

Ann: We’re glad we can be that example for you. [Laughter]

Dave: Never heard our marriage called a blizzard. [Laughter]

Dennis: Let me just explain to our listeners who you guys are. Dave and Ann are from Detroit, Michigan. They pastor a little country church up there called Kensington Community. The folks who are members of that church are kind of chuckling right now, because it’s eight different locations, including Orlando. Now, how do you have a church in Detroit and Orlando?

Dave: I don’t know, but I’m feeling called to Orlando. [Laughter] Why am I in Detroit? [Laughter]

Bob: A lot of our listeners know you guys because you’ve been with us on the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise for the last couple of years. You’ve been on FamilyLife Today. You’ve spoken at Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways all across the country.


By the way, our listeners need to be aware that this week they have an opportunity to sign up for a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway and to save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. If you’ve never been to one of these getaways, or if it has been more than five years, you need to cordon off a weekend and the two of you get some time together—two-and-a-half days—where you can relax, refocus, spend some time learning more about God’s plan for your marriage and just reconnecting as a couple. If you sign up this week, you’ll save 50 percent off the regular registration fee if you use the promo code: “SAVE50”—SAVE5-0. Find out more, online, at; or call if you have any questions. If you want to know dates and locations, they’re online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We can get your registered over the phone or answer any questions you have. The code is: “SAVE50”—Save5-0.


We hope you’ll join us at one of the upcoming marriage getaways. I’m going to be at the one at Parsippany, New Jersey; but again, there are dozens of these happening all across the country this fall. We hope to see you at one of these getaways.

Some of our listeners know the story of your tenth wedding anniversary. It was a story that you guys told in The Art of Marriage® video series. It did not get off to a great start.

Dennis: Tell us how cold it was, Dave, on your anniversary.

Dave: Well, I’ll say this—I was the last to know. I thought it was great. I thought our marriage was great. I thought the date was great. We went out on a tenth anniversary date that I—I pulled out all the stops.

Dennis: I’ve got to stop you, because I know the rest of the story here. You say you thought it was all great. She’s about to say something to you that no man ever imagines he’ll hear—

Dave: Right.

Dennis: —after—after the dinner that you treated her to.

Dave: Right.


Dennis: So, you created this magical evening that had ten roses.

Dave: Ten roses. We had—you know, I was Mr. Romance that night—had a rose delivered to the table, one rose at a time. You know, the waiter—I’d give him a look, and he’d bring a rose. We talked about year one. Bring another rose; we’d talk about year two. We did that for ten roses.

So, think about it—from a guy’s perspective—it’s: “Homerun, Baby.” We’re talking. You know, women don’t want to talk—they want to taaaaalk. [Laughter] So we talked about our relationship all night. We ate at a really nice restaurant. We spent money. She didn’t know until later that it was a two-for-one coupon, but we spent money. [Laughter]

Dennis: Cash money.

Dave: Yes.

Dennis: Give us some idea of what you would say on one of the roses.

Dave: I sort of planned out what I’d say. I had thought through each year. I would put the rose down and say: “Let’s talk about year five. We were in seminary. We were getting our Master of Divinity, knowing that God had called us to a lifetime of ministry. What are your memories?” We’d talk about memories.


This was pre-children—it was just us. It was wonderful times.

Ann: This was big. When these roses—I could see him give the waiter a little look like, “Okay; we’re ready for the next,”—he’d bring it / lay the rose down. I mean, Dave was smooth that night. He couldn’t have gotten any better. I was seriously impressed by the thought that he put into this, but I was also feeling like: “Okay—

Dennis: You were seriously in the deep freeze too.

Ann: Oh, I was so mad at him. I thought: “Oh yeah. You’ve been so negligent. You’ve been so about everything else except me, our marriage, [and] our kids.” I was a little bit cynical; because I thought, “Oh, you’re making up for it big time tonight.”

Bob: “You’re trying to make up, in one night,—

Ann: Exactly!

Bob: —“for months of neglect and abandonment,” and “You think—you think one fancy meal, with a bunch of roses, is going to fix it.”

Ann: Like: “Dude! That is not going to fix this!”


Dave: By the way, I’m getting jumped on here. [Laughter] I didn’t think any of that. That’s the crazy thing about the evening—is I was absolutely clueless to her blizzard. I honestly thought, in our marriage—and I said this on The Art of Marriage: “Scale, 1 to 10, we’re a 9.8, at least, and maybe/probably a 10.” I had no idea.

Bob: And where did you think you were?

Ann: I would have said: “Tops, a 1—probably a .5. That made me so mad; because for him to even say, “I thought we were great,”—to me, says: “How can you think that?! You are being totally clueless,” because I had said it a lot, which made me even more mad that he hadn’t heard me.

Dave: How could I miss this? Really, it’s the most important thing in my life—my marriage / my children—second to my walk with God—and I missed it. I was so focused—and I can see it now / couldn’t see it then—I was so focused on God’s call in my life to start a church, which we were starting this church.


I was the Detroit Lions chaplain—so I was focused on writing messages and being on the road with the team. I was your guy who said his marriage was top priority, and it wasn’t. My job and what I did was more important to me than my marriage, and I didn’t even see it.

Bob: How long had you been feeling like Dave was neglecting you and the family?

Ann: I would say, at least, six months / probably six months to a year it had started simmering. Then by this time, after this full six months, I was dead, emotionally, toward Dave.

Bob: Had you in that six-month period ever said to him, “Can we sit down and talk?” I mean, I’m—

Ann: See, I wish I would have said, just like that, “Dave, could we sit down and talk so I can tell you how I feel?”

Dave: Tell them how you said it! [Laughter]

Bob: I told you the questions were coming your way.

Ann: Here’s what I would do.


Dave would leave—he would say: “Hey, I’ve got another speaking engagement tonight,” or “…a meeting about our church that we’re going to start tonight.” He would be leaving, going out the door; and I would say things like this: “You’re leaving again tonight? I’m going to put the boys to bed again tonight?! They probably don’t even know who you are! Bye! I don’t even need you anymore.” Isn’t that good? [Laughter] Who would want to come home to me?! That’s terrible.

Dave: We didn’t share this in The Art of Marriage; but I can remember getting in the car after many of those—she’s yelling at me in the garage as I’m backing out. I would get in the car, as I’d start to drive to a church meeting that I’m probably going to lead or speak at, screaming at the top of my lungs—angry at her, just almost a primal scream. Yet, here I am, at my ten-year anniversary, forgetting any of that, like: “Hey, we’re good. We’re fine.”

Bob: Did you think that the dinner date was going well on your tenth? Did you think, “This is going to be the best anniversary of our life”?


Dave: Do you want me to be really honest?

Bob: Yes.

Dave: I thought it was going so well: “We’re going to make hot passionate love all night long.” [Laughter] I mean, I am scoring point, after point, after point—from what I wore to scheduling the dinner at a nice restaurant / the money I spent, the taaalking we did, the romance, the roses. Seriously, there was not a thought in my mind—

Bob: You’re in the red zone—it’s first down.

Dave: —“We’re scoring, Baby!” [Laughter]

Dennis: You actually took her parking at that point.

Dave: Yes; on the way home—and again, it was like another little secret I had—the roses were a secret. So, driving home, I’m like: “Hey, we’re going to pull in this school where we are about to start our church, Kensington.” We hadn’t had a service there yet. She hadn’t seen the school that our core team had said: “We’re going to rent this school. We’re going to use the cafeteria there.” It is 11 pm / almost 11:30 at night. I’m like: “Nobody’s here. We’ll pull in the parking lot in the back and I’ll try to kiss her.” 


She didn’t respond; and I thought / I honestly thought—this is how clueless I am—like: “She didn’t know I was trying to kiss her. She just didn’t know. So, of course, duh; I’ll try again.” I try to kiss her again, and then it was obvious she didn’t want to kiss me. I just asked a simple question: “Is anything wrong?”

Ann: I decided, “I didn’t want to go there tonight,” because he had done such a great job of putting on this spectacular date night; and so I said, “No.”

Dave: [Laughter] There was this awkward silence in the car. I said: “Well, I tried to kiss you twice; and unless I’m reading signals wrong, you don’t want to kiss me. Am I right?” She says, “Yes.” I go, “So there’s nothing wrong; really?” And that’s when she dropped the bomb.

Ann: There was a silence in the car. I thought: “Okay—okay; I’m going to go there. This will wreck the whole night, but I’m going to go there.” I just said: “Dave, I have nothing for you. I have no feelings.”



Dave: I can tell you exactly what she said. It was a sentence I’ll never forget the rest of my life—she said, “I have lost my feelings for you,”—word for word. It was: “Okay; this isn’t just a date night gone bad. This is a marriage in crisis.” I knew it. She said that—I could sense I needed to hear; so I turned and said, “Tell me what that means.”

Bob: Some guys would hear a wife say that—after that kind of a night—after that much planning, after the roses, after the dinner—after the whole thing on their anniversary, when they’re on the verge / the huddle is broken and “We’re about to run the play that is going to score”; right? [Laughter] They would—instead of saying, “Tell me what I need to hear,”—they would go, “Are you stinking kidding me?!” Did that thought come into your head?

Dave: Well, I think what I’d done is—said that every other time. So that night—of all those times I’d said, “You’re wrong,”—that night, I knew: “Oh my gosh! Something bad is going on, and I think I need to learn something.”


Ann: I just said: “Dave, you’re gone so much. I feel like everything else is more important than we are—the boys and me.” We had two sons at the time that were four and two. I knew: “Here it goes”; because this was our pattern when we would get in fights. He would need to have proof of what I was saying: “When have I been gone? What nights have I…”—he needs proof. I don’t have proof, necessarily; I just know what I feel.

Dave: Yes; I mean, it was always our pattern. I get defensive: “It’s her problem; not mine. It’s her fault; not mine.” That’s where we would go. I would want evidence, and then I’d prove where she’s wrong. She would just be quiet and bring it up next time; but it never ended well. That started to happen that night in the car, as soon as she started saying that.

Dennis: You almost reached for your calendar, which was in the back seat.

Dave: I did reach—I actually reached for it.

Dennis: And God did something.

Dave: I was going to pull that baby out and show her my planner / my weekly schedule: “You’re wrong.


“I have been home. I’ll show you the nights.” I was like reaching into the back seat, because there it was, laying there. I sensed the voice of God speaking to me; and again, it wasn’t audible—it was a nudging of the Spirit of God, clear as day. God, sometimes, will be so direct. I mean, the best way I could say it—it was this from God: “You listen, and you listen to every word this woman says. Your bride is going to tell you something you need to hear.”

Ann: Suddenly, his words to me were “Tell me more.” That was shocking to me. It was interesting too. Proverbs says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” When Dave responded in a gentle way and just said, very quietly, “Tell me more of what you are feeling,” the anger and the defensiveness in me—my arms came down of trying to defend myself—I just poured out my heart of what I was feeling.


I just said: “Dave, I started out so angry. I’m so mad you were gone. I felt like you’ve left us behind / that we aren’t a priority. Then my anger turned to bitterness. My bitterness turned to resentment. My resentment turned to nothing—to the point where I’ll never leave you or divorce you—but I have felt like we will probably live in isolation. I’m okay with that, because I don’t see any hope out of it.” When I said that, you were shocked.

Dave: Yes; I mean—it’s almost the most miraculous experience of my life. She’s speaking those words, probably over a three- or four-minute period. I’m listening; and at the same time, as I have one ear on earth, God speaks—again, just a gentle but firm nudging with one word—and it was: “Repent.”

It’s really interesting; because I can hear her talking about our marriage, sort of on this horizontal human level.


I can sense the Spirit of God saying: “This isn’t even a human horizontal problem. This is a problem between you and Me. You have lost your first love. This marriage thing, horizontal, is never going to be fixed until this is right, vertically, between you and Me.”

Again, how to explain all of that in a minute or two? That all happened as Ann was sharing her heart with me. God was like, “This needs to be talked about; but it starts right here, vertically, with your walk with Me; and that’s one word, ‘Repent.’”

Dennis: What happened then?

Ann: All of a sudden, Dave didn’t say anything. I thought he was going to get out. Suddenly, he puts the steering wheel all the way up / the seat all the way back. He gets on his knees in this Honda Accord, with the steering wheel in his back, and he starts to pray a prayer of repentance: “God I need You. I’ve been neglecting my walk with You; and because of that, I’ve neglected my marriage to Ann; and I love her.”


You guys, as soon as he started doing that, I was so broken. Here, I had been thinking: “This is all Dave’s fault! I’m in the right. I’ve been a good wife. I’ve been taking care of the family.” It was amazing to me—as soon as he started praying, I was so convicted; because I had made Dave my god. I think it’s easy for us to do, as women—is we start seeing “the lack of” in our husbands—their flaws / how they aren’t meeting our needs. And suddenly, I become more focused on Dave not meeting my needs than God meeting my needs.

So, I pulled my seat back. I got on my knees, and I joined Dave in repentance, saying: “Father God, I have made my marriage and my husband my idol. I want You to be the King and Lord of my life, not my husband. I want it to be You.”

Dennis: That was a major moment in your marriage; wasn’t it?


Ann: It was a life-changing moment for us.

Dave: It was the pivot at year ten. Again, like I say, we’re not living this perfectly. We still have to, almost daily, surrender. It wasn’t just our marriage being put on the altar—it was my life. The thing about this—we’ve written a book on this concept of vertical marriage—where most couples, and we did it, go to your marriage—and you may even know better, and you’re never going to do this; but you do it—you go to your marriage and try to find life from your spouse.

Vertical marriage means this: “If I find life, vertical, from Christ—and He fills me like He says He will—He is the source of life, hope, happiness, joy. Now, I come to my marriage, not as a taker, as a giver. I’m overflowing with the love of Christ. It’s real—it isn’t just a concept / I’m not just going to church. I really have a dynamic walk with God, where He meets me and fills me. So now, I come to my marriage, not demanding that she or he fill me up. It’s like I come as a giver.” 


That concept applies to every single part of our marriage. So, we wrote the book, saying: “Okay; how does that apply to conflict? How does that apply to roles? How does that apply to the bedroom? You name it—it applies everywhere.”

Dennis: And it applies to single people too.

Dave: Yes.

Dennis: Whether single or married, you better get the vertical right if you want the horizontal to make sense. What you guys just demonstrated here is a key word that is missing from a lot of our vocabularies. We talk about our relationship with God. It’s a word, repent. It means to turn from and do a 180—turn away from that which is your idol, that which is your sin, that which has captured your attention—and repent and turn to God. In the process, He will bring peace; He will bring understanding; He will bring the desires of the heart, which can be a great marriage at that point.


Bob: There’s a question about your tenth anniversary that I’ve always wanted to ask you since I first heard this story. I’m going to ask you in a minute, but I want to just turn to our listeners here. If you’ve never been to one of our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways, or if it has been a while, plan this fall to come out and spend two-and-a-half days with us and learn about God’s design for marriage. Focus on one another for a couple of days. Have some conversations that you don’t normally have and build strength into your marriage relationship.

We’re going to be in dozens of cities all across the country this fall. If you register today, you can save 50 percent off the regular registration fee for any of the upcoming getaways. That 50 percent offer is good through the end of this week. You need to go online or call us and get registered for a getaway. Use the code: “SAVE50”—SAVE 5-0—to take advantage of the special offer.


If you have any questions, call us or check us out, online, at The number to call is 1-800-FL-TODAY. We do hope to see you at an upcoming getaway. If you live in the New York City area, or if you want to spend a weekend in that area, come join us in Parsippany the first weekend in November. I’m going to be speaking at the Parsippany conference and would love to have listeners come join us for a great getaway weekend up in the New York City area.

Now, here’s the question that I’ve always had about your tenth anniversary. I know why you went to the parking lot, there at the church, with your wife. I know what you were thinking about. The rest of the anniversary—did it go okay? [Laughter]

Dennis: Bob.

Ann: Well, that’s—that’s—

Dave: If you want to know if we consummated our ten-year anniversary, the answer would be: “No; no.”

Bob: Okay.

Ann: I can’t even remember.

Dave: It didn’t really matter at that point.

Bob: I knew you wouldn’t remember, and I knew he would. [Laughter]



Ann: And here’s what people think. My feelings just didn’t come back in that second that I prayed.

Dave: Right; right.

Ann: It took a while for us to make changes in our marriage and in our schedules. It took a while for those feelings to come back; but with time and with us working on it together—we ended up having a date night once a week, which we had always done—but this time, here’s what Dave would say, and he took the initiative to ask this, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you think we’re doing?”—

Dave: I did.

Ann: —because he said, “I have no idea, obviously.”

Dave: I knew my answer would be higher / hers would be lower, and she would be right; and she’d know how to get us to my number. It was like: “I got to go on our dates and say: ‘Let’s talk / really talk and find out how we’re doing.’” That number didn’t start real high. It started growing. A lot of it, you would think: “It’s all technique of horizontal marriage.” It was: “No; no. You walk with God. Watch out—it impacts every area of your life—including, especially, your marriage.


Ann: I thought that was so humbling of him to ask that every week. I could watch him cringing as I was about to say the number—like: “Oh no! What’s the number?”

Dave: Yes; I didn’t want to hear that number. [Laughter] It was not very good, but its better! In fact, let me ask you right now: “Year 36, on a scale of 1 to 10—

Ann: Ooh, that’s really risky of you to ask that.

Dave: —“what’s the number?” Only the world is listening; go ahead.

Dennis: So how would you say, Dave—first of all, before she gives her number—

Dave: Nine point eight!

Dennis: Nine point eight.

Dave: It’s always been a nine point eight. [Laughter] I’m just being humble—it’s really a ten.

Ann: I was going to say a nine point five.

Dennis: Oh! There we go.

Dave: I’ll take it; I’ll take it.

Dennis: You’re up a full nine points from where you were on the tenth anniversary.

Again, if couples are interested in how to move their marriage up the scale, come to the Weekend to Remember and get your relationship with God right and that marriage relationship will fall in place as well. It won’t be perfect; but it will be peaceful, meaningful, and enjoyable.

Bob: Yes; thanks for being with us. Always great to see you guys.

I want to encourage our listeners join us back tomorrow. We’ve got a guest coming who has written a book called If my Husband Would Change, I’d be Happy. I think a lot of wives feel that way. That’s kind of how you were feeling, back on your tenth wedding anniversary, Ann. We’ll talk to Rhonda Stoppe and find out what her thoughts are on that subject 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 host, Dennis Rainey, 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.

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