FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Setting Sail for Marital Success: Bryan & Stephanie Carter

with Bryan and Stephanie Carter | June 19, 2024
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Picture this: lounging on a boat with endless food and drinks, just you and your spouse. Sounds dreamy, right? Bryan and Stephanie give you a sneak peak on what to expect from the 2025 Love Like You Mean It cruise. They also chat about marriage tips, like why respect and open communication is key for a strong relationship.

  • 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.

Imagine: boat, endless food, drinks, just you two. Bryan and Stephanie preview the 2025 Love Like You Mean It cruise, marriage tips included.

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Setting Sail for Marital Success: Bryan & Stephanie Carter

With Bryan and Stephanie Carter
June 19, 2024
| Download Transcript PDF

Bryan: We all have a story. My story [is], growing up with my parents, my parents were unique because they lived in the day where they did everything together. My father would take my mother to the grocery store. He would let her off; he’d go park in the parking lot and wait for her to finish, and then he’d come up and get the groceries. I just remember all this togetherness.

So, even when me got married, I would say, “Hey, Babe, do you want to go to the store together?” She’d say, “No, you can go to your store by yourself.” I said, “No! That’s not how it works.”

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

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: I was sitting here thinking about the Love Like You Mean It®cruise that we went on—

Ann: —sure, every year.

Dave: —in February. We’re going to hear a message today from it. I’m excited about 2025.

Ann: The Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise that we put on every year at FamilyLife. It’s time to sign up. We have some special deals and promotions going on, and today, we get to hear one of those messages.

Dave: Wait—we have to say, you have to go to to sign up.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: So, that’s where you go, but what happens every evening is a keynote marriage talk, and there are breakouts during the day. There are ports of call. You get to get off the boat if you want. But we’re going to hear a message that we heard from Bryan and Stephanie Carter. Yesterday, you heard half of that message.

Ann: These are our friends. We love them. He’s a pastor. Bryan’s actually on the Board for FamilyLife.

Dave: Yes, and they talked yesterday and today about the “Secret Sauce of Marriage.” If you missed yesterday, I’ll just give you a—

Ann: —"of Great Marriages”—

Dave: —"of Great Marriages.” Yes, the Secret Sauce of Great Marriages. I’ll give you what it is: it’s respect. So, what is respect? If you don’t know, listen to yesterday. And if you want to find out what it looks like, listen to today.

Ann: You may be thinking, because we’ve heard so often in the past, that a man needs respect, but a woman needs respect as well.

Dave: We all need respect.

Ann: We all need respect, so they get into—

Dave: —what does it look like?

Ann: Yes, and how to do it and how not to do it.

Dave: So here you are—Bryan and Stephanie Carter.

[Recorded Message]

Bryan: The words that we share to one another matter. The words that we share to each other are either going to build up the relationship, or they’re going to tear down the relationship. How we say it, and the way in which we say it, and what we say—all of those things matter; and they help us build, they help us construct, the relationship that we all long to have.

So, it’s incredibly important that we learn how to speak the truth in love, that we learn how to talk openly and honestly, that we learn how to share our hearts with one another, because all of these are ways in which we respect one another. “I respect you enough to share with you how I feel about you, how I value you, or how that situation made me feel.”

One of the things I’ve had to grow in as a man is, particularly, sharing my feelings. I’ve always struggled to try to get to the heart of it. I just want to stay surface, you know? But if I’m going to respect her, my wife has the gift of asking questions, and when she asks the question, I’m learning how to be more transparent and how to be open and how to share my heart, because she wants to know really how I’m feeling.

She doesn’t want to know just what was in the meeting or how things went. She wants to know how I am feeling, how I am managing those things, and how I am processing what’s happening in our lives. At the same time, we talk about words; it’s not just about sharing our feelings, it’s not just about sharing where we are, but it’s also about avoiding those things that can tear down a relationship.

It’s about avoiding put downs and name-calling and angry outbursts, or not listening to each other, or abusive attitudes, or the attitude that “I’m better than you,” and that “You’re lucky really to have me,” right? It is this position of pride that can sometimes begin to devalue our relationship.

But the more that we value one another with our words, the more that we affirm each other, the more that we have honest conversations with each other, the more that we communicate how much we care, the more that we work through conflict together, the more productive and the more fruitful our relationships can be and become.

Stephanie: You kind of look at it like this: your words are either building your relationship or breaking your relationship.

Bryan: So, perhaps, that’s why the Lord allowed us each to be in our little rooms together at this cruise, right? Because now you’re getting a chance to kind of reset your relationship. You’re getting the chance to reconnect and rediscover the incredible gift that God gave in your life, that you now get to share your life with.

Here’s the final piece: respect my story. Do you recognize, friend, that every single one of us has a story? You find this in John 4 when Jesus meets this woman by the well. This woman goes in the heat of the day, because she really doesn’t want to deal with anybody else. She has a back-story to her life. She’s been through a number of relationships. But when Jesus talks to her, He doesn’t put her down. He doesn’t look at her in a derogatory way. No, He shares with her. He has a conversation with her, and by the time He gets done with the conversation with her, that woman runs back to the village and begins to tell everybody about Jesus Christ.

Friends, there is something about someone, when they respect your story and respect your journey, that helps you to find a level of comfort, a level of safety, that can be transformative to your life. Every single one of us in this room has a story; every single one of us has a journey; every single one of us has been through our own share of highs and lows. And what you need from your partner is the ability to “respect my story.” My wife has a story, her own story, of how she grew up.

Stephanie: I grew up as a military child. My dad is a retired Colonel in the Air Force, so we moved every two to four years. We lived everywhere from Nairobi, Kenya—he worked for the U.S. Embassy; I was five, and we left when I was seven—to Austin, Texas, to Oscoda, Michigan. You name it. My parents were very career-driven. I remember my parents both getting their graduate degrees at the same time. It just was very hectic. They kind of lived two separate lives.

I remember, in our pre-marital counseling, I told him, “Both of us cannot have two demanding jobs,” because growing up in a household where both of my parents were each competing, and each trying to pursue their own things, a lot of things were dropped off and left off, and I did not want that for our family. So, fast forward to him becoming a Senior Pastor. Now, I’m on my career path. I’m living my best teacher life, and as a teacher, you’re kind of like a teacher, then you’re an instructional specialist, then you’re a vice principal, and then you’re a principal.

I was on my phase of being the instructional specialist when he was called to be the Senior Pastor. I remember I kept feeling like, “I can still do this. I can so do my little educational journey, and still be there for you and be there for our young children.” And God showed me quickly and reminded me, “Remember what you said in premarital, that you both cannot have two demanding jobs?”

So, my story—the story that I thought I was going to have, God had something better. God showed me a new story, and I had to adjust to that. I think the one thing, as I was going through that was, “Does he see me? And does he recognize that my story is about to change?” And when he did see it—he didn’t see it initially—yes. [Laughter] He said, “What are you complaining about? You get to stay home with the girls.”

I said, “Yeah, but you’re living your best preacher life, and I’m here with the girls. And you’re in seminary, and you leave when it’s dark, and you come home when it’s dark, and I have neighbors giving me mean looks because our grass is really tall.” [Laughter] But I wouldn’t change that story for the world.

Initially, when I was going through it, I kept feeling like, “Does he see me, Lord? Does he see my sacrifices? Does he see the sacrifices that we’re making for our family?” But then the Lord convicted me and said, “Stephanie, I see you, and I need you to stop reminding Bryan to see you. And I need you just to have faith in what I’m doing in y’all’s lives.”

Bryan: We all have a story. My story, growing up with my parents, watching my mom and dad. My dad was in the military. and so, when he retired, they bought a home in Oklahoma City and began their lives there. I was a baby boy. My brothers are 9 and 11 years older than I am; the baby boy back here. They say I was spoiled. I told them I was blessed. [Laughter] But I mean just growing up, watching my mom and dad go through some challenges. I remember the time when they almost got divorced, but instead they chose to stay together. I just remember watching them.

My parents were unique, because they lived in the day where they did everything together. My father would take my mother to the grocery store. He would let her off, and he’d go park in the parking lot and wait on her to finish, and then he’d come up and get the groceries. I just remember all this togetherness. So, even when we got married, I would say, “Hey, Babe. Do you want to go to the store together?” She said, “No, you can go to your store by yourself.” I said, “No! That’s not how it works.” [Laughter]

That’s not what I saw. I saw this relationship, I saw this connection; and so, we had a story. We had a story. I watched my dad just faithfully love my mom. I watched my dad—he had rosebushes in the back yard, and he’d cut one off and say, “Go in there and take this to your mother.” He was a very masculine man, but he loved my mom. He came from a home where he had seen alcoholism and had seen his father, who would chase women. He had seen a lot of different things, but something changed in his heart and in his mind, and he said he wanted to do life differently.

And it was watching him that transformed us. Everybody has a story. I grew up in the inner city, and she grew up in the suburbs. All of us have these stories, these parts that make up who we are.

I was a very sickly child, asthmatic through much of my early elementary years, so all of these parts of the journey helped shape us into who we are. Some of us have been exposed to infidelity in prior relationships; some of us have other issues. And so, we have all these dynamics that shape our story, but when we come together, we must learn how to respect each other’s story.

Respect the family values that have shaped one, or respect the family values that shaped another; that none of our stories are better than each other’s. No, they’re just different, and by God’s grace, God often puts two incredibly different people together. He puts them together in relationship, because He wants us to know that our relationships only work because He’s in the relationship. It is His story that intersects with our stories that allows our story to come into the story He has for us.

We have to respect our story, our journey, and all that God has been doing in our lives. Friends, at some point in the journey of life, sometimes, disrespect is going to happen, and when it happens, we just want to offer a couple of ways how to manage through a moment of disrespect.

Stephanie: I think the first thing is, you have to use your voice. And when I say, “Use your voice,” use your godly voice. Not your angry voice, but use your godly voice. I think the most essential thing you can do before anything, any type of conflict, is to pray about it. You have to pray about: “God, give me the words. God, give me the patience, give me—just basically give me the words.”

Now listen, the person who’s feeling disrespected has to share, and some key words that you need to say when you’re sharing are, “I feel that.” You have to use your voice. Sometimes, we are disrespected, and they never speak up for themselves. Sometimes, your husband might feel like, or your spouse might feel like, “Oh, it’s okay. I’m really good.” “No, I do need to know how you feel. I need to understand before we can move forward.”

Bryan: And then, once you use your voice and share, you have to give them a chance to respond. You have to give them a chance to let them say, “Okay, how do I show up? How do I respond in this?” Matthew 18:15-17 gives a great framework for how we manage through these moments of conflict so that we can get to the best place. Ultimately, we have to decide on: what are our next steps?

How do we serve each other? How do we make the adjustments so that we in turn can get to a healthy place and honor God well in the context when disrespect happens? Here’s what I want you to do, if you would: turn to your spouse, please. Just turn to your spouse. I want you to share a couple things I’m going to share with you to your spouse. Are you ready? Alright.

Here it is: I respect your worth. I respect your voice. I respect you with my words. And I respect your story.

Father, I come right now praying for the couples in this room. Even right now, Lord, I pray for the value of respect. I pray for husbands and wives even right now, Lord, that You would reignite their respect in their home. I pray that You would reignite their respect in their relationship. I pray, Lord, that if there has been a matter of disrespect that has occurred, I pray, Lord, that they would share it, that You would allow them to forgive one another and to heal from today.


Lord, oh, how we need each other. We can’t make it without each other. We desperately need each other. So, Father, I pray right now, Lord, that You would restore, that You would strengthen, that You would heal. And Lord, I thank You that today, we declare it before each other that ‘I respect your worth, that you are valuable, that you are special, that you are a gift to my life, that I respect your voice. Thank you for what you share, how you share it, and the way in which your voice brings a difference in our lives.’


And Lord, I respect her words and his words. Thank You for their words that they share, and thank You for how much they mean to me. And then, Lord, I respect the story of my spouse. I respect her story, I respect his story. Lord, You have been at work in their lives long before we ever met, and You will work in even greater ways in the days that lie ahead. Lord, we thank You. I thank You for the spouse whose hand I’m holding.


Lord God, I also pray in this room for someone in this room, Lord, that does not know You as their Lord and Savior. I pray, Lord, even in this room for a brother or sister, or a couple, that came today that may have come just to invest in their marriage, but I pray for the one that came today, Lord, that also needs a relationship with You.


I pray, God, that they would recognize even today that it is only through a relationship with You that they can find the joy that they need, they can find the hope that they need, they can find the transformation that they need. It’s only found in You! So, Father, right now, in the Name of Jesus, I pray for the person today that desires to know You as Lord and Savior, that they would recognize the sin in their lives, they would recognize the need for a Savior, and today, I pray, that they would say, “Yes” to You.


So, Father, we put everything in Your hands, and we wait patiently and expectantly for what You want to do in their lives. We love You, Lord. We honor You, Lord, and we trust You.


And now, I want to ask you friends today, if you would just pray this prayer after me today. Would you pray this prayer?

“Dear Lord, I recognize I’m a sinner. Thank You, Lord, for sending Your Son to die for my sin and to be raised from the dead. I trust You as my Lord, my Savior, and my Forgiver. In Jesus’s name, Amen.”


Ann: Amen.

This is FamilyLife Today, and we’ve been listening to Bryan and Stephanie Carter talk on the cruise, the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, about the “Secret Sauce to Great Marriages.” What did you think of that?

Dave: Well, I remember sitting there with you, hearing that talk.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: It’s one of those moments where you walk out of the theater, and you’re almost quiet. You’re feeling moved because in some ways—

Ann: —convicted?

Dave: —"I didn’t do that well,” and other ways you’re feeling like, “I want to do this better.” I’ll remind you what they said in the last two days.

Ann: Well, I know, because you took notes while you were there.

Dave: Yes, I have them on my phone right now, and you tell me what you think.

Ann: Okay.

Dave: One of the first things they said was “respect my worth.” Stephanie even talked about the three phrases men love to hear. I think this goes both ways for husbands and wives, but I guarantee this is true for men. I know it was true for me. “I appreciate you,” “Thank you,” and “I believe in you.” Is it just as true for women?

Ann: Oh, totally. I think so. Do you want to know the part that hit me?

Dave: What?

Ann: “Respect my story.”

Dave: Why?

Ann: Because a lot of us come from stories that we don’t even bring up. I think one of the great applications in our marriage from this is: tell each other the stories, the pain points, the joy points to your story. I don’t know if you’ve done that, so go back and kind of relay: “These are the things that were highlights growing up, and these are the things that brought great pain.”

The reason I say that is because, with my sexual abuse, I felt like you didn’t really get it, and you didn’t really appreciate it, how hard it was for me. So, that was hard. I felt like you didn’t respect the gravity of my story. Do you know?

Dave: Yes, I didn’t understand.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I needed to learn.

Ann: I think it’s important to do that with one another, that maybe no one has said to you: “Hey, I’m really sorry you went through that. That must have been incredibly hard.”

Dave: Yes, and I think it’s also very important to ask questions of your spouse, but you might need a therapist or a counselor to help you—

Ann: —yes—

Dave: —because one of the ways I was able to understand it was we read a book years ago by Dan Allender, called The Wounded Heart, where he said, “This is what happens to a person’s soul when they’ve gone through sexual abuse, and here’s how a spouse can respond to that.” It was like the lights came on.

Ann: When you read Dan Allender’s book, that made me feel like, “Wow, he gets it. He respects where I’ve been, and where I am now, too.”

Dave: Yes. So, maybe, if you’re feeling a little bit disrespected and, maybe, your spouse doesn’t really understand your story, I think maybe this talk is from God to say, “Sit down and have a conversation,” and maybe say, “Hey, can I share some things I think I need you to understand?” Or maybe ask your spouse: “Is there anything that you feel like I have not understood, or you feel disrespected by?” because that “respect your story” is a big deal.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: And it builds intimacy and oneness in a marriage if you go there. How about two other areas: respect my voice—ask “What do you think?” If we don’t respect their voice, we then minimize them.

Ann: Oooh.

Dave: I think I did that to you.

Ann: I think we were just so busy. When you have young kids, you’re so busy, it’s hard to even ask that question. But I’m not sure I respected your voice that much.

Dave: I guess we’re just having confession time here on FamilyLife Today. [Laughter]

By the way, that’s sort of what happens when you hear a great marriage talk. Whether you’re on a cruise or anywhere, it forces you to say, “Okay, what about us?” And that’s the most important thing is that you take that. I hope that happens every day when you listen to FamilyLife Today. I hope God speaks through this program in a way that makes your marriage better, and makes you face things that, maybe, you need to face.

Ann: I’m just going to add, because this is a hard one, and I’m really glad they went there. Before you offer some truth to your spouse, pray about it. I always say this— you’ve heard me say this often: ask God when you should say it—

Dave:if you should say it—

Ann: —how you should say it, and if you should say it. And then, ask Him to help you to wrap your words, to say it, in a way that your spouse can receive it. And then, don’t even say anything. Let them just receive it, and then keep praying about it.

Dave: Yes, that’s good advice. You don’t want to hear the cruise talks next year on the radio or on your podcast. You want to be there, live and in person, sitting in the sun during the day, and then, in the evenings letting God change your marriage through talks like you just heard. So, we’ll see you in 2025 on the Love Like You Mean It cruise.


Shelby: You know,sometimes we can slip into bad habits in marriage that can become the norm. I love the frank reminder today to avoid behaviors like put-downs and angry outbursts, and instead, replace those things with encouragement and respect.

You know what? If that feels impossible in your marriage, you’re actually in a good spot, because you’re ready to communicate your need to God, and that’s always a good place to be in, when you’re open-handed with God: “I have nothing. You have to show up here.” That’s a good spot to be in. So, go to God and ask Him for the strength to change you; start with you.

I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Bryan and Stephanie Carter from the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise on FamilyLife Today. Bryan Carter has written a book called Made to Last: Eight Principles to Build Long-Lasting Relationships. You can get your copy right now by going online to Hear more from Bryan; or you can find it in our show notes. Or you could give us a call at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

So, all this week we’ve been listening to messages from the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, and we are booking right now for the 2025 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. It’s an amazing getaway. I’ve been on it myself. It’s for married couples looking for renewal, romance, lifelong memories, relaxation, and most importantly, reconnection with God.

Right now, you can book and save during our “Seas—S-E-A-S—the Savings” sale. I did pretty good mentioning that without stumbling over my words. You can use the promo code right now, “SEAS—S-E-A-S—25” to save big on a stateroom for the 2025 cruise. The sale is going to end on June 25th, so you can learn more at, or again, you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. Or you can just check out the link in the show notes. Again, you can head over to and click on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise banner to learn more.

Now, coming up tomorrow, we get to listen to one of FamilyLife Today’s favorites, Brant Hansen. We’re going to hear a message from him that he gave on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise this year when he talks about exploring the transformative power of forgiveness by being unoffendable. That’s coming up 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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