FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Selfishness and Other Marital Problems

with Doyle Roth | December 8, 2011
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Would your spouse say you're selfish? Doyle Roth, a church elder and businessman who has counseled hundreds of couples over the years, talks about the selfishness and abuse displayed in many marriages, and coaches wives on how to respect their husbands when they feel they're being neglected.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Would your spouse say you're selfish? Doyle Roth, a church elder and businessman who has counseled hundreds of couples over the years, talks about the selfishness and abuse displayed in many marriages, and coaches wives on how to respect their husbands when they feel they're being neglected.

  • 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.

Would your spouse say you’re selfish?

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Selfishness and Other Marital Problems

With Doyle Roth
December 08, 2011
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Bob:  Doyle Roth went through a number of challenges early in his marriage.  Today, he and his wife meet with other couples and do marriage counseling.  He says, “A lot of couples want him to try to help them work out their problems, but they don’t want to be worked on themselves.”

Doyle:  There’re a lot of people who want to hear what God says.  The problem is they don’t want to really change.  They want me, as a counselor, to “rearrange the furniture”, so to speak, so they can exist with each other; but they don’t want to confront, and submit, and obey, and repent.  Well, that inconsistency just cannot be tolerated.  I think it has to be confronted.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, December 8th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  If you’re going to try to help couples who are struggling in their marriage, one of the things they are going to have to realize is that they don’t have problems; they are the problem.  Stay tuned. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  We are going to talk about how we can help those around us, who are challenged in their marriage.  We’re going to hear from our guest who has had some experience in that area. 

Before we dive into that, Dennis, we’ve had some exciting news around FamilyLife that I know you wanted to make sure our listeners heard about.

Dennis:  That’s right, Bob.  We’ve had a number of friends who have said to us, “You know what?  You guys are on to something.  You not only nearly doubled your event attendance last year through outreaches like the Art of Marriage®, Weekend to Remember®, but you’ve got strategies and tools that we want to see multiplied to help families all across the country.  We want to keep this broadcast on the air in this city.”

So, what they have done, Bob, they have put up a matching gift that will be matched dollar for dollar.  Right now, there is $2.5 million in place for folks to be able to match all the way through the month of December.  So that, when they give a dollar, they are turning it into two dollars. 

I just want to share this story of a listener who wrote in.  This is a great story.  It says:

My wife and I really have not wanted to be donors to FamilyLife because we’ve not wanted to be “known” and be on a mailing list.  They said: However, we have gained so much from your radio broadcast.  It has become the single most influential thing in our lives regarding the growth of our marriage and family. 


We’re now in our early thirties; and several people have begun to wonder where the life wisdom regarding child training, dealing with marital issues, exhibiting spiritual fruit, and just general life experience comes from.  They went on to say: It’s from you guys.  You guys have mentored us and taught us on FamilyLife Today. 

Get this, Bob.  This is really fun.  They write, “We feel so strongly about supporting your ministry that I gave up my money I was going to use to fulfill a lifelong dream of seeing the Packers at Lambeau Field this month.  The Packers will be there next year, but the privilege of investing in the Kingdom is imminent.”  Now, that’s a commitment!

Here’s what I’d like to ask you, as a listener, to do.  If this broadcast has encouraged you, if it’s built into your life—maybe your expectation as a single person of being married, maybe it’s built into your marriage and your family, or as a grandparent you’ve benefitted from FamilyLife Today—would you give us a call or go online, and would you make as generous a donation as you can? 

Your giving ought to begin with your local church.  We’re not talking about taking anything away from that, but would you give a generous gift?  I will tell you why.  It is going to take all of our listeners, chipping in just a little, for us to take full advantage of this matching challenge. 

Bob:  You could make a donation by going online at  You click on the button that says, “I Care”, and make your online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone.  Again, we appreciate your support of the ministry.  I will give you the information again at the end of today’s program about how you can make a donation.

Now, I have a question for you, as we get rolling here today.  If you were over at our house, and I had to leave the room for some reason, and the computer was there, and it was pulled up and my e-mail was sitting there, would you be a little curious?  Would you go over and just read—

Dennis:  Read your—

Bob:  —some of my e-mail?

Dennis:  —read your e-mail?! 

Bob:  Would you be tempted?  Would there be any temptation at all to kind of just see, “I wonder what that’s about?” 

Dennis:  Well, I mean, you’re asking me if I’m human.  Of course.  (Laughter)  Of course, I’d be human.  I’m sitting there in your living room.

Bob:  If you knew I was going to be gone for awhile and you weren’t going to get caught.

Dennis:  Just go over there.  You know?  Well, yes, okay, temptation is temptation.

Bob:  The reason I ask—

Dennis:  Yes.  Why are you asking?  I’m curious.

Bob:  The reason I ask is because I really enjoyed—

Dennis:  I’ve not looked at your phone recently; have I? 

Bob:  No.  (Laughter)  Not that I’m aware of.  The reason is because—

Dennis:  Have you been looking at mine?  Is this a confession?  (Laughter)

Bob:  We’ll talk about it later; okay?  We’re talking about marriage, and conflict, and what goes on.  Our guest on today’s program has written a book for husbands and wives in a, I think, rather compelling and engaging way to put the whole book together; and it involves reading other people’s mail.

Dennis:  Yes.  You’re going to hear a story today about Mitch and Stacy.  This is a couple—who not totally fictional—because our guest has already told us that there’s a little of his life in here—maybe his wife, at points. 

Let’s introduce our guest and his book, and get into it here.  Doyle Roth joins us again on FamilyLife Today.  A Front Range guy—a ranch owner on the Front Range, up near Denver.  Glad to have you back on the broadcast, Doyle.

Doyle:  Dennis, thanks for being here.  Bob, enjoy you.  Enjoy being with you, brothers.

Dennis:  He’s written a book called Oops! I Forgot My Wife.  It’s got a picture of his ranch here.  The sign above the gate—the name of the ranch—at least this one, is Lazy You.  (Laughter)  It has a guy—looks like he’s leaving the ranch.  If he was dressed like this, he should leave the ranch, by the way.   He’s wife is in the rearview mirror, and—

Bob:  She does not look happy.

Dennis:  —she does not look happy. 

In fact, I have to tell you a story, Doyle, as you are kind of laughing here about this.  I will never forget one time, early in our marriage—I think we had three or four children—and it was Saturday.  I mean, when I was a boy growing up, Saturday was the day for going hunting and fishing.  I was just exercising my male right to go fishing on this day. 

Doyle:  Isn’t it a male right?

Dennis:  At least it was until that day!  (Laughter)  I remember Barbara was not real excited about my leaving her with three rug rats there in the house—or four, I forget exactly, but— 

Bob:  She looked like this in your rearview mirror? 

Dennis:  She—well, I wouldn’t say it was quite the scowl—

Bob:  Yes.

Dennis:  —but when I saw the picture here on the front of the cover of your book, with the rearview mirror, I just remember looking out of my rearview mirror as I was pulling away with my boat in tow and my son next to me.  We were going to go off and go fishing.  I remember looking in the rearview mirror and going, “It’s going to be chilly when I get home tonight.”  (Laughter)

Bob:  “A cold front has just moved through.”

Dennis:  We were out in the boat, drowning worms.  We might as well have been fishing in the Dead Sea because there was nothing biting.  The boat was rocking, and God was rocking my boat at the same time.  He kind of got my attention; and I said, “Son, your dad has made a big mistake.” 

Doyle:  Going to pay for it later.

Dennis:   “This was not a good day to go fishing.” 

You are really trying to help men assume their right responsibility in loving their wives and that means caring for their needs.

Bob:  You have taken elements of your own story, plus the stories you’ve heard from dozens of couples you’ve talked to over the years, as you’ve done marital counseling with couples.  You’ve created a fictional story about Mitch and Stacy; and basically, the way we get the story is by reading e-mails back and forth from Mitch to his friends and Stacy to her friends, and so on and so forth; right?

Doyle:  That’s exactly right.  Mitch and Stacy are really the central couple.  They are a representative couple of marriages that are in trouble.  Seemed to look good on the surface; but then, all of a sudden, the break-downs start happening.  They’re sort of the illustration of what marriage looks like to a lot of families.

Dennis:  You know what they look like because you’ve given the last 30 years of your life to marriage counseling and helping couples in crisis.

Doyle:  That’s exactly right.  Now, Mitch and Stacy have extreme problems; but I think every couple that reads the book can find themselves in Mitch and Stacy’s shoes. 

Mitch is involved in business.  He is pretty self-absorbed in his car.  He likes doing his hunting and fishing—no offense, Dennis.  (Laughter)  Stacy is at home, taking care of little ones; and Jerry and Sue, who are other participants in this story, come alongside to help.  Then, there is Carter and Minnie.  Carter is an old cowboy guy and his wife.  They confront the situation through e-mails.

Bob:  In the story—Mitch—you describe him as a Jekyll and Hyde kind of guy.  He’s one way in public and a different way at home. 

Doyle:  That’s right.  Mitch is an example—again, of that image manager that oftentimes is representative in men—and certainly, in my life.

Bob:  He’s a workaholic.  He’s not interested in the needs of the family.  He’s disconnected from the kids.  He wants to be the center of attention when he’s at home.  He wants everything to revolve around him.  He drifts toward abuse. 

Doyle:  That’s right.

Bob:  Now, you’ve talked to couples, where some or all of these kinds of dynamics are at play.  When you sit down with a couple, and this is what they describe, do you think to yourself, as somebody doing counseling, “It’s going to take a long, hard path to get you from where you are to where you need to be”? 

Doyle:  Yes.  No, there’s no question about it.  There’s a long, hard path; but there’s a path of confrontation that needs to happen here.  I’m more of a confrontational-type counselor. 

Bob:  I’m shocked to hear that.  (Laughter)

Doyle:  I don’t spend a lot of time with the question, “Why?” I spend a lot of time with the question, “What?”—not, “Why are you here?” but, “What do we do now that you are here?” because I think that’s the way that God wants us to operate.  He has a plan for us.  He has discipleship principles, and the sins and behaviors that we are involved in need to be confronted.

Dennis:  Stacy was a contributor to Mitch’s behaviors.  A lot of wives can be enablers in that situation. 

Doyle:  Yes, very much so. 

Dennis:  You said that was true in your marriage.

Doyle:  Yes.  No, that is very true.  Wives can sit back and allow their husbands to do things and to treat them in ways that are very unhealthy.  A wife needs to be able to stand up and say, “This behavior is not acceptable.”  I think that fits with her role as being the helper of her husband.  Really, it’s the old saying that, “Behind every successful man, there’s generally a strong woman.” 

Well, many women just cave in.  That’s very unhealthy because the man just goes on, and on, and on with his self-expressions. 

Bob:  So, the woman who is saying, “Well, now, wait.  I read where I’m supposed to have a gentle and quiet spirit, and I’m supposed to submit to my husband; and you’re saying, ‘Get in his face’?” 

Doyle:  I’m saying, “You need to be his helper;” and I’m saying, “You should respect and reverence him”; but the problem is, “You’ll lose your respect and reverence if you don’t do something about his sinful patterns.”

Bob:  So, how would you counsel a wife to respect and reverence her husband—and with a gentle and quiet spirit, and in submission—confront him? 

Doyle:  In the same way that we already talked about.  A wife should maybe take the situation to her church, or to a pastor, or to a neighbor, or to a friend.  The process of exposing is helpful.  She moves out of the enabler realm when she finally says, “I’ve had enough of this.” 

Bob:  She shouldn’t be a nag?

Doyle:  No; absolutely not.  Nagging doesn’t help; that just escalates things.

Bob:  Doesn’t need to shout, or raise her voice, or be a shrew about the whole thing? 

Doyle:  No, that’s exactly right.

Bob:  When you’re wife confronted you on some of your selfish behaviors early on, was it—did she do it in a way that you look back and you say, “That was appropriate what she did”? 

Doyle:  Are you trying to get me in trouble, Bob?  (Laughter)  If she listens to this, I’ve got to be careful.

Bob:  That’s a good point. 

Doyle:  I’ve got to be very political about how I answer this.

Bob:  Just trying to see how far along the marriage has come.

Dennis:  That’s exactly right.

Bob:  If she was here, would she say, “I did a good job of confronting my husband”?

Doyle:  No, she would say, “She did a good job of confronting her husband—not always in the way that would be pleasing to the Lord.” 

Bob:  Okay, so—

Dennis:  Not always in a way where it would end up being heard by the husband.

Doyle:  That’s correct.

Bob:  So, help a wife who says, “I need to confront”—or even a husband who’s saying, “I need to confront my wife.  How do I do that in a way that’s pleasing to the Lord?”

Doyle:  Well, I’ve recommended that they use, even, letters.  I’ve asked them to use tapes if they feel a little safer.  Sometimes, a wife confronts her husband; but then, she’s overrun with his words and his explanation, his self-justifying—all of those things. 

There’s a lot of other ways she can do this.  She can do it by just sitting down and saying, “We’re going to have a quiet conversation.  I want to have five minutes to just let you know what I’m thinking,” and she can open up the door. 

Bob:  I think you raise a good point about sometimes it’s effective to put your thoughts in writing, to kind of edit your thinking, rather than just letting it come out freeform. 

I’ve found with Mary Ann—that if there is something that we need to talk about—just say, “Let’s talk about this,” but then, “I’m going to give you some time to process it.”   We don’t have to drive it to a conclusion immediately because she needs some time to just think about what’s being said, and not just have to react and get to where I’m thinking, or respond to me right away.

Doyle:  That’s exactly right, Bob.  When you look at Mitch, Mitch was a perfect salesman.  The minute Stacy opens up her mouth to try to confront anything, he can sell her out of that real quickly by just over-talking her.  So, there is a quieter, better way to do it; and sometimes, it is in writing.

Dennis:  Let’s talk about another problem that Mitch had, that you cover in the book, as they passed these e-mails back and forth.  It’s the subject that is not uncommon to a lot of men today.  That’s the subject of pornography. 

Doyle:  Yes; right.

Dennis:  Explain what the problem was.

Doyle:  Well, Mitch in the process of their marital recovery, it was discovered by Stacy that Mitch had been visiting strip clubs and been involved with pornographic material.  When he finally moved out of the house—he did what we call a controlled separation.  He moved out for two months to his friend, Stu’s, house; and pornography was a very significant part of that. 

Of course, Stacy, on the other hand, also had an affair afterwards, too.  I’m seeing more and more male pornography going on in our Christian families as well as unsaved families.  That changes the whole dynamic of the relationship between a husband and a wife.

Bob:  You’re talking about men who are feeding themselves on pornography. 

Doyle:  That’s exactly right.

Bob:  Yes.

Dennis:  How does it change the relationship?

Doyle:  Well, it gives them very little, if any, interest in the wife physically—doesn’t compliment them on their attractiveness, doesn’t want to spend time with them.  They get their fixes in literally minutes over the internet, and it unplugs them from the family.

Bob:  I’m just getting the sense that if I came to you for counseling, you’d get pretty straight with me, pretty quick.

Doyle:  Well, I think that’s my M.O.  I just feel like, as a businessman, on top of it all, I don’t want to waste my time; and that has a downside because I can be too abrupt.  When people come to my office, I’m there to help them understand what they ought to be doing about their situation. 

It can mean, Bob, stopping what they are doing, setting up filters in their computer, doing whatever we need to do to get control of that, sending e-mails of websites on to friends.  There’s a lot of different ways you can manage this situation with pornography.

Bob:  You’ve got to get to the heart of the issue—

Doyle:  You’ve got to get to the heart of the issue.

Bob:  —because there are ways to get around the technological stuff. 

Doyle:  No, that’s right.

Bob:  If you want to do that, you’ve got to get to the lust issue that’s in a guy’s heart, or the fantasies that are in a woman’s heart, if you’re going to deal with it.

Doyle:  That’s right.  It has to be—again, it is godly sorrow—right—that brings repentance.

Bob:  Right.

Doyle:  The Bible teaches us that.  There’s got to be a mindset of the man that, “I really want to please the Lord in what I’m doing in my marriage.”  That’s a huge difference. 

Bob:  I’m just curious.  We’ve said that you’ve talked with dozens of couples who come to your office and are looking for help in their marriage; and we’ve also said that most of the time when people finally come to a marriage counselor, the marriage is in a difficult spot.  Do you find yourself discouraged that, by the time a lot of these folks come that, they are either not listening, or they’re so far gone, or the hurt is so deep that they just can’t get turned around? 

Or do you see enough hope that when people are confronted with the Scriptures, God does the work and begins to change them?

Doyle:  No, Bob, I really feel that God has given me a unique place in the ministry.  Because of my confrontational style, I see a lot of unsaved people who—number one—don’t know what God teaches.  So, we can give them a lot of hope because we hold the Bible in our hands. 

As far as Christian families are concerned, they need the exhortation that, “You have to apply what’s in the Book.  There is no sense living this hypocritical marital lifestyle.  This is unacceptable to God.”  So, from that standpoint, I can give them a great deal of hope, that if they’ll just follow and obey the Scriptures, that makes a huge difference. 

It’s not just listening to the Word; James says, “Be doers of the Word, not just hearers only.”  Our churches today have a multitude of people that go to church, listen to the sermons, get in the car, and yell at their wives.  Well, that inconsistency just cannot be tolerated.  I think it has to be confronted.  So, yes, I think there is great hope for the person who really wants to please the Lord by submitting to His Word.

Bob:  How many—I don’t know if you’ve got a percentage in your head—but if 100 people come to your office, how many of them want to listen to what the Word has to say?

Doyle:  Maybe 60 percent, Bob—might be a guess.  I mean, there are a lot of people that want to hear what God says.  The problem is they don’t want to really change their behavior.  They want me, as a counselor, to “rearrange the furniture”, so to speak, so they can exist with each other; but they don’t want to confront, and submit, and repent.  That has to be the Spirit of God working in their heart, not just me.

Dennis:  Really, that is the hope for any marriage—that the Spirit of God will break through—

Doyle:  Absolutely.

Dennis:  —our crusty hearts.  I was thinking about this same passage in James.  I want to read the whole paragraph. 

James writes, he says, “But be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror; for once he looks at himself and goes away, at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres—being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts”—I really like that phrase: “[Not a] hearer who forgets but a doer who acts”— 

Listen to this bonus, the payoff here.  It says, “He will be blessed in his doing.”  Early in my marriage, I realized that Barbara and I were both in love with the same man—me—and that God was in the process of weaning me away, teaching me, really, how to become a disciple and a follower of Jesus Christ and to deny myself. 

Frankly, my wife and my children have taught me more about being a true follower of Christ and what it looks like to deny myself and follow Him than any other human relationships on the planet.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, “I think that’s the way it ought to be.” 

Doyle:  Absolutely.

Dennis:  I think our wives are our neighbor.  Jesus said, “How do you summarize the Old Testament and the prophets?”—“Love God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Doyle:  That’s right.

Dennis:  If you want to have a great marriage, you have to learn the art of practicing self-denial, and self-sacrifice, and giving up your life for another.  Doyle, I’m glad you did that early on in your marriage.  I’m glad you have written this book, Oops! I Forgot My Wife; and I want to see a picture of your wife because I don’t think that’s really a good picture—

Bob:  The one on the cover.  (Laughter)

Dennis:  —on the—

Doyle:  That is not. 

Dennis:  In the mirror, leaving the ranch.

Bob:  Well, that doesn’t look like Doyle riding in the pick-up truck, either. 

Doyle:  On a bad day, it does, Bob.  (Laughter) 

Bob:  Well, folks who want to see what we’re talking about—they can go online at and see a copy of the cover of your book.  Of course, we’ve got the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  Go online  We’ve also got your book, Oops! We Forgot the Kids, and the cover of that book is available online as well. 

Once again, the website is  You can also request a copy of the book when you get in touch with us by phone at 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. 

Well, I know at your house, this is probably a busy season of the year.  It is busy at our house; and it is busy here at FamilyLife, as well.  We’ve got a lot going on, including some friends of the ministry who came to us, not long ago, and made a very generous offer.  They said, “We know that the end of the year is critical for ministries like FamilyLife Today.  We know that you are going to be encouraging your listeners to make a year-end contribution, and we would like to add our encouragement as well.” 

So, together, they offered to match every donation that we receive during the month of December on a dollar for dollar basis, up to a total $2.5 million.  That was exciting news for us, obviously.  We told them we would spread the word. 

Since then, we’ve had other folks who have come along and said, “Now, wait.  We may want to add some money to that matching-gift challenge as well.”  They are still considering that.  So, that number could even grow; but, honestly, for us to take full advantage of these matching funds, we need as many of our listeners as possible to make a year-end contribution—and as generous a contribution as you can possibly make. 

We’re asking you to go to, click the button that says, “I Care”, and make a contribution to FamilyLife Today here during the month of December.  When you do, whatever that amount is, it is going to be matched dollar for dollar, up to a total of what is now, $2.5 million; and it could be even more than that in the days ahead.  Let me just say, “Thanks,” in advance for whatever you’re able to do. 

If it is easier for you to contact us by phone, you can do that by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Make a donation over the phone.  That is:  1-800-358-6329; or again, donate at  We just want to say, “Thanks,” again for whatever you’re able to do.  We appreciate hearing from you, and we appreciate your financial support. 

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to have Doyle Roth join us again to talk about what happens when a dad forgets his kids.  You know, just kind of tunes out from their world altogether.  We’ll talk about that tomorrow.  I hope you can tune in for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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