FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Setting the Pace

with Brian Goins | September 23, 2011
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Your leadership as a husband is vital. Brian Goins recalls his years on his school's rowing team and his responsibilities as the stroke to set the pace for the rest of the crew. Like the stroke on the team, a husband sets the pace of the marriage, Brian explains, so he needs to become a student of his wife and learn to nourish, cherish and communicate with her in a way she understands.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Your leadership as a husband is vital. Brian Goins recalls his years on his school's rowing team and his responsibilities as the stroke to set the pace for the rest of the crew. Like the stroke on the team, a husband sets the pace of the marriage, Brian explains, so he needs to become a student of his wife and learn to nourish, cherish and communicate with her in a way she understands.

  • 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.

Your leadership as a husband is vital.

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Setting the Pace

With Brian Goins
September 23, 2011
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Bob:  You’re familiar with the verse that says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her?”  Does that mean you should love your wife even if you’re in conflict?  Here’s author and speaker Brian Goins.

Brian:  Every woman in conflict needs to know one thing.  Am I secure still with him?  Does he still love me? And even though she’s angry, even though she’s irritated, even though she’s maybe hurling great insults at you, lobbing grenades, what she’s really wanting to know is, is he going to love me through this conflict?  Is he going to push through that and pursue me? 

Because that’s exactly what God does with us.  He loved us when we were enemies, not when we were cozy with Him, but when we were stiff-arming Him; He pushes through with consistent love.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today® for Friday, September 23rd.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  Brian Goins joins us today to talk about how a husband can love his wife even when he doesn’t particularly like her at the moment.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  You know, there are days you get up and you think, “I am ready to be the kind of husband God wants me to be today.  I feel fresh, I feel ready, I’m engaged.”  Other days you get up and you go –



Dennis:  Mary Ann may be listening.

Bob:  She knows it.  I mean, I’m not hiding anything from her.  There are days when it’s just – it’s harder to be a husband than other days.

Dennis:  Really?  Would you like to talk about that today?

Bob:  Well, actually I did talk about that with a friend of ours who happened to stop by FamilyLife on a day you weren’t here, and we had a conversation that we recorded, and we thought, “You know, even though Dennis wasn’t here,” we thought our listeners ought to hear this conversation.

Dennis:  I think sometimes we all take ourselves a little too seriously, and you and I kind of debated back and forth and you said, “No, I don’t think I ought to do it,” and I go, “Look, Bob, you’re here, the guest is here, I can’t make it, interview him.”  And so, obviously Bob can handle it.  That’s not a question.

Bob:  Yeah, but Brian went home kind of feeling like he was in with the B team, you know.

Dennis:  Well, he – (laughing) – Oh, yeah.

Bob:  When he went home he goes –

Dennis:  Oh, I’m sure he felt that. I’m sure.

Bob:  “I’m on FamilyLife Today without Dennis Rainey.

Dennis:  Oh, yeah.  Let’s call him now and see if he wants to cancel the broadcast.  No, you’re going to hear Brian Goins who is a pastor in North Carolina.  He and his wife, Jen, speak at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways, and he’s really a good guy.  He’s written a great book called Playing Hurt, and I think you’re going to see why we decided to boot me off the air, actually go ahead and tape the broadcast, even though I couldn’t make it.  It’s just a great broadcast, and we wanted you as a listener to hear it.

Bob:  Tell our listeners about the time you tried to make up with your wife, Jen, by bringing her flowers.  And I’m sure there’s been more than one time.

Brian:  There’s been more than one, yes.  There’s been more than one time, but I remember when –

Bob:  Do flowers mostly work with her?

Brian:  No, that’s the thing, is that it didn’t work for a long time, but it took me a few years before I realized, “You know what?  Buying these prepackaged, $5.00 flowers from the grocery store really doesn’t touch her heart.” Jen and I early on, we didn’t realize that we had a very different interpretation of what “around 6:00” meant.  For me that meant, because I grew up with – you know, my dad would come home around 6:00 and it was 6:00 to 7:00.

Bob:  Yes, plus or minus 30, maybe 60 minutes.

Brian:  Right. Exactly.  I have a pretty good window there.

Bob:  Yes.

Brian:  For Jen, her dad would come home at about 5:32 every night, and so “around six” meant 5:59 to 6:01.  And I remember I’d come home around 6:00, and I could notice she was a little irritated, and so I began picking up on that.  And me, being the smart guy, decided, “Well, I’ll stop by the grocery store and I’ll pick up some flowers."

Bob:  Yeah, which will just delay your coming home by another 15 or 20 minutes.

Brian:  Exactly.  And so I remember one time I got the flowers and she grabbed them, threw them on the kitchen table, and said, “You just don’t get it, do you?”  And I didn’t.  I didn’t get the fact that she spoke a very different love language than I did.

Bob:  When did that begin to dawn on you?  And talk a little bit about – you use the analogy of being on a rowing team.  Were you at one point on a real rowing team?

Brian:  Yes, I was, my freshman year.  I had never rowed before.  I remember my coach got us together and looked at us gangly ninth graders.  I think I weighed a buck thirty soaking wet, and he looked at us and he looked at me and said, “Goins, your stroke.”  I said, “Yes. What’s stroke?” 

My job was to set the pace, and the coxswain would keep a little timer and he would go, “Alright, you’re rowing at about 28 strokes per minute.  I need to get you up to 32.”  And I quickly realized that I was no better than anybody in the boat, because I didn’t pull any more water than anybody, and in fact if I did it would upset the balance of the boat.  I learned that I had to pay attention to what the coxswain was telling me, I had to listen to his orders, and I had to sit close enough to him to where I could understand what he was saying.  Somebody had to set the pace of the boat. 

I think in marriage, when you become a husband you may have no prior experience about what that looks like, and may have even had a bad example in your own dad.  But for all intents and purposes, in your two-man boat he says “You’re stroke.  You’re setting the pace.”  What I find is that when I get hurt I don’t want to set the pace.  I don’t want to engage my wife. 

Generally for me what I found early on, when Jen said “You don’t get it,” she said that in three main areas of my life.  She said it in the area of learning what her love language was.  It was pursuing her romantically.  It was in the area of conflict resolution; I didn’t want to set the pace there. 

In fact, I would generally try to throw the silent card down until she pitied me enough, or I would try to persuade her with great argumentation, or I would try to punish her, you know, whether it was through an argument or whether it was through just being quiet and retreating from her.  And then the other area where I just didn’t get it was in spiritually setting the pace.  Even though I was studying to be a pastor, the hardest thing for me to do with my wife was pray.  I felt the most intimidation and still struggle with it at times, in praying with my wife.

Bob:  Okay, let’s help a guy in those three areas, then today. 

Brian:  Yes.

Bob:  Let’s say he and his wife are just missing each other romantically.  It seems like all of the sparks that used to fly, somebody doused them, and he tries to stir it up and there’s no response, there’s nothing happening, and he’s going, “Look, I’m trying to set the pace romantically, but she is just for whatever reason not responding to me.”  How do you set the pace in terms of expressing love and romance with your spouse?

Brian:  Sure.  Well, I think Paul gives a great indication in the playbook.  I call Ephesians 5 the playbook for guys, because number one, it’s short.  It’s like 9 verses, and so guys can stomach that.  And when you read through it, I think Paul lays out some great plays. 

He says, “Husbands, cherish your wives as Christ cherished the church.”  That word “cherish” means to bring warmth to.  So what I tend to be is a thermometer, and I can be one from a distance.  I can walk into a room and I can go, “Jen is cold. I need to find a warmer room, preferably one with a TV.”

Bob:  Right.

Brian:  Or “Jen is hot, but not the good kind of hot.”

Bob:  Right.


Brian:  “And so I’ve got to go to the fridge.”

Bob:  “I need to find another room.”


Brian:  “I need to find a cold beverage.”  But what Paul is saying is, no you need to be a thermostat.  You need to adjust the temperature of your bride.  And so what I ask husbands a lot is, here’s a courageous question for you to ask. 

If you feel like it’s cold, that romantically it’s cold, well something’s not being communicated.  You’re not bringing warmth to her in some way, and so the honest question you need to ask is “Honey, do you feel the depth of my love?”  Not “do you know it?” “Do you feel it?  And if not, how can I help you feel it better?” 

And I’ve found that we don’t really need to think up new ideas.  Our wives have the playbook.  She will then respond.  I remember at one of the conferences, one of the things I do in the intimacy talk, and Jen will be with me, I will ask the women in the audience during the talk to text us, fill in the blank: “It really turns me on when my husband X.” 

And hardly any of them have to do with buffer bodies or good techniques in bed.  One lady said, “When he mows the grass and smells of grass clippings.”  I’m going to go start up the weed whacker.

Bob:  Our listeners have heard me tell about a night when we were at a Homebuilders study.  Mary Ann and I were there together, and the question was, “What’s the most romantic thing your husband has done recently?”

Brian:  Right.

Bob:  I’m thinking, “Oh my goodness, what’s she going to come up with? When have I been romantic recently?”  I waited until they got to her, and she said, “Well, the other night I was doing the dishes and Bob was watching TV, and without me saying anything he turned off the TV and came in and dried the dishes.”  And I said, “No, honey, they wanted romantic.”  She said, “That was romantic to me.” 

Well now every time I pick up a dish towel she goes, “I know what you’re –“But acts of service that’s her love language. 

Did you finally sit down with Jen and say “I want to love you well.  How do I do it?”

Brian:  Yes.  Right.  Yes, I just realized, okay, these flowers aren’t hitting it –

Bob:  Right.

Brian:  -- you know.  So it’s not gifts, although she won’t turn them down.  She won’t turn down gifts, but her statement to me is “Why would I care about flowers that will die in 15 hours, when what I really want is 15 more minutes with you?”  And that was it – quality time for Jen.  I mean, for Jen it’s a day off.  In fact, the phone is off – it’s really just being with her.  I think the idea of do I value what my wife values?  Do I know what that is? 

For me, I could buy Jen a pot for Christmas, and most women would use that as a weapon.  But for Jen, if it’s an all-clad, master chef series two stainless steel, it’s foreplay, because she loves to cook.  And to know what she values. 

So when Paul says, “Do you cherish?” or Peter, when he says, “Live with your wives in an understanding way,” it doesn’t mean that we’ll understand them, but just try to.  I think asking questions is huge, and most men – I know for me, I would rather try to guess it or do my instincts romantically rather than take notes.

Bob:  Okay.  Let’s talk about setting the pace when it comes to conflict resolution.  You said your preferred pattern is the silent treatment or some kind of passive aggressive punishment.

Brian:  Right.

Bob:  How does the husband set the pace when the thermostat is chilly in the house?

Brian:  For me, what helps me is I need to ask “What’s my role in this?”  I remember hearing from somebody, a good friend of mine, who said that great marriages are more aware of the damage done to their spouse than the damage that’s been done to them. 

And so, what’s the log that’s in my eye?  Help me see that. What we don’t tend to do in a conflict is actually pray, to just stop, a 911 prayer, “God, --

Bob:  Help.

Brian:  -- help. Help me out.”  And to do that.  So just stop and ask.  I think secondly we talk about just blinking, and what I mean by blinking is this idea that in a conflict it’s kind of like you’re playing chicken.  Who’s going to be the first to relent and say “It’s not about my right for vindication.” 

In any conflict, the goal is not vindication; the goal is victory in my marriage.  So how do I move from being right to just resolving the relationship?  So somebody has to blink, and somebody has to go, “Okay, hold on.  Let’s remember that my battle is not against flesh and blood, so my spouse is not my enemy.  How do I get to resolution?”

Bob:  The guy who says, “That just sounds like you’re always giving in, and she may be the one who’s the most wrong.”

Brian:  Absolutely.

Bob:  “And I’m supposed to blink?”

Brian:  Yes, absolutely.  I think every woman needs to know one thing.  Am I secure still with him?  Does he still love me?  And even though she’s angry, even though she’s irritated, even though she’s maybe hurling great insults at you, lobbing grenades, causing pain, what she’s really wanting to know is, is he going to love me through this conflict?  Is he going to push through that and pursue me? 

Because that’s exactly what God does with us, is that He loved us when we were enemies, not when we were cozy with Him, but when we were stiff-arming Him, He pushes through with consistent love and says, “No, I have loved you with an everlasting love.” 

So just to blink and say, “Honey, right now we’re at an impasse, and I don’t care about who’s right and who’s wrong right now.  I just want you to know that I’m committed to you.  Sometimes just blinking with that and saying, “Let’s take a time out,” pause and say, “Now what was it that I did that really hurt you?”  And even though she may be 99 percent wrong, own up to your one percent and let God convict her of her 99 percent.

Bob:  Let’s say that you’ve said something and you can tell the temperature is cold.

Brian:  Right.

Bob:  You’re not exactly sure why yet.  You’ve stopped and you’ve asked God, “What did I do?”  You don’t know.  You’ve gone to her and say, “Are you upset?” and she says, “I’m fine.”  You’ve had that happen, right?

Brian:  Oh, yeah, yeah.  And we know “fine” doesn’t – I mean that’s code word.

Bob:  That’s right.  What’s it mean?

Brian:  It means –

Bob:  “I’m not fine at all.”  And as a husband you get that and you go, “Okay, I cannot win at this game.”  I’ve told wives over and over again, a guy will not continue to play the game that he’s lousy at.

Brian:  Right. 

Bob:  If he loses at the game every time, he’ll find a different game to play.  But now you’re frustrated, you’re not winning at this game, and you’re thinking, “I don’t even know what to blink about.”  What does he do in that situation?

Brian:  Guys are natural at resolving conflict.  Guys can resolve conflict on the court; they can resolve conflict in a boardroom.

Bob:  Yes, but when you do it on the court there may be a personal foul involved. You don’t want to do that –

Brian:  Right, right.  Exactly.  But the reason why we do it really well in those areas is because we know the rules.  I think one way you can set the pace when it comes to conflict resolution is don’t decide on the rules in the middle of a conflict.  And so we tend to bring in history, and if we just set a rule and say, “You know, honey, let’s set down some ground rules.” 

I think Tim and Joy Downs have a great book in fighting fair where it talks about some basic rules that you can agree to, so that you can both agree, “Hey, I need to throw the flag on that one, because that was just out of bounds.”

Bob:  I don’t often do this, but in the times when Mary Ann and I are experiencing conflict and I’m getting the “I’m fine,” or “Nothing’s wrong” treatment, but you know something’s wrong and you’re trying to figure out “what did I do?” or “what didn’t I do?” and she’s trying for you to find it on your own because that will somehow evidence that she’s not nagging you, but it’s come to you and that’s really what she wants to have happen. 

The wise thing I think for me to do in that situation is to say to her like you said at the beginning, “I do love you.  I want us to get through whatever this is.  I need your help on this, and I understand right now may not be the time where you’re ready to give me the help.  When you are, I want to press through it with you and I want to own up to whatever issues I need to own up to.”

Brian:  Yes.

Bob:  And I think to say something like that – it’s not to throw the monkey back on her back, but it’s to say, “When you’re ready let’s get this out and let’s deal with it.”

Brian:  Sure.  I think one of the best things that I’ve done is, I’ll take a mentor, a couple that seems to exhibit a pretty great marriage, and the best $25 you can spend is a lunch out and go, “Okay, what are your best practices?  How have you handled conflict?”  And just take notes.

Bob:  What’s been your biggest – if there’s a blind spot or a trap you keep stepping into when it comes to conflict, is it one thing that you kind of fall back on that you’re having to work your way out of?

Brian:  I think if Jen were here she would say that I will retreat.

Bob:  Is that shut down?

Brian:  I’ll shut down.  Proverbs 18:1 – it says that when a man isolates himself, he seeks out his own destruction; he breaks out against all sound judgment.  And it never fails, every time I isolate myself I’m seeking my own destruction, and it doesn’t help the cause.  And so for me it’s simply in those moments thinking about God going, “Goins, I need you in the game here.  There’s more on the line than just your right for vindication.”

Bob:  We’ve been talking about this metaphor of you being the rower, the stroke, isn’t that what you called it?

Brian:  Right, yes.

Bob:  The guy who sets the pace in the boat, and that’s what a husband is supposed to do in the marital boat, set the pace, and you’ve coached us on setting the pace when it comes to romance, and setting the pace when it comes to conflict.  You said that the third area that’s a struggle for you has been setting the pace spiritually.

Brian:  Right.

Bob:  As a pastor and as a seminary-trained man, this has been a challenge.

Brian:  Oh, yeah.  Yeah, it’s been a big challenge.  I remember Jen one time early on in our relationship said, “Why is it you pray with all these other guys, but you don’t pray with me?”  And I had no answer.  I just had this intimidation about prayer with Jen. 

I felt like I needed to perform, like I had to pray like Billy Graham or in King James only, and it was just a real struggle.  But I just never saw it – and you never see it on TV or in the movies.  I don’t know if you grew up watching John Wayne, but I never heard John Wayne say, “Alright, little lady, before these little cowpokes come and take your ranch, let’s take a knee.” 


You never heard Mel Gibson say, “They may take our wives, they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom.  Now let’s take a knee before we slaughter the English.” 


You don’t ever hear that.  So we don’t have these models that sit down and go, “This is how you pray with your wife.” 

One of my favorite verses on prayer is in Ecclesiastes.  I think every man should know this verse on prayer. It’s “God is in heaven, you are on earth, so let your words be few.” 

Most of the prayers in the Bible – I mean the Lord’s Prayer – you can say it in 30 seconds.  You’re just talking to Abba Father, to your daddy, and this idea that when things are – whether it’s a conflict, whether it’s a struggle where we put our kids into education – all Jen is wanting me to do is to let her know that I’m man enough to ask for directions to God. 

Bob:  So now you’ve got a book out called Playing Hurt, and you’re talking about this issue.  If I went back to year two of your marriage, scale of one to ten, where were you in terms of setting the spiritual pace for your marriage?

Brian:  Probably a two.

Bob:  Where are you today?

Brian:  I would say probably an eight.

Bob:  You’ve made some progress.

Brian:  Yeah.  I wouldn’t say that I’m a ten at all, and I don’t know what Jen would say.

Bob:  We ought to call her.

Brian:  I think the phone’s down.  I really hope that I initiate more.

Bob:  And has this prayer been the biggest part of getting from a two to an eight?

Brian:  Yes, it really has.

Bob:  So what will that look like today in your relationship with her?

Brian:  You know, some guys are real disciplined and diligent about it, and they’re like “Pray with your wife every day.”  That standard is just way too high for me, but I also don’t want it to be before there’s a meal on the table either. 

Bob:  Right.

Brian:  And so it’s when things are coming up in our relationship that we know we’re struggling with.  At night especially, after we’ve put all the kids to bed, sometimes I’ll just take her hand and say, “Honey, we just need to pray.” 

Is it two, three times a week?  I’m not really sure.  I don’t have a set time, but I think I’m just being far more consistent in grabbing her hand, letting her know that “I’m struggling just like you are, Jen, on this, and so let’s pray about it.”  The more you do it the easier it becomes, and just fighting through that intimidation.  And the enemy does not want men leading their wives spiritually.

Bob:  And wives respond to the initiation of prayer on the part of the husband like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Brian:  Oh, man.  And going back to those texting turn ones, I would say that 50 percent had to do with prayer and reading the Bible.  And if guys could just go, “Really?  That’s foreplay?”  Not that that’s the reason why you do it.  It’s like, “Alright, honey, let’s have a quiet time.”

Bob:  Right.

Brian:  But to realize that they feel that love, they want to be led there.

Bob:  I think you’ve done a good job here of helping all of us figure out how we can do a better job of setting the pace in these areas.  I’m guessing you’re not alone in terms of romance, conflict, and spiritual initiation as being areas in your marriage where you need some help setting the pace.  I’m guessing that there are a lot of guys who can nod their heads and say, “Yes, I can relate to that.  I understand exactly what you’re talking about.”

Brian:  Yes.

Bob:  And it was those guys you had in mind when you wrote your book, Playing Hurt, which we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  It’s a great book for husbands as you call us to stay in the game even in the hard times.  And we’re going to have them as men.  If you’d like a copy of Brian’s book, go to our website, for more information about how to get a copy. 

Again, it’s, or call toll-free at 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “Today.”  We can make arrangements to have a copy of the book, Playing Hurt, sent to you.

And of course next Friday night is the national release of the movie Courageous, a great movie for guys, and this month we’ve got copies of Dennis Rainey’s new book called Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood.

The eBook is available for download at a special price now through October 15th.  If you’d like to find out how you can download a copy of Dennis’ book, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood for your Kindle or for your iBook or for your Nook, go to for more information.  Again, it’s, and of course it’s an instant download.  So get more information when you go online at

And if you’d like to get a copy of Dennis’ book as a hardback book, this week we’re making that available to those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation.  Go online at, or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  We’re listener-supported, and your donation is what helps keep us on this station and on our network of stations all across the country. 

When you make your donation, if you’d like to get a copy of Dennis’ book, type the word STEP in the key code box on the online donation form, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone, and ask to have a copy of Dennis’ book, Stepping Up, sent to you, and we’ll get it in the mail, and hopefully we’ll get it to you in time so that if you do go see Courageous next weekend when the movie comes out, you’ll have Dennis’ book there to start reading as soon as you’re done seeing the film.

Again, we appreciate your support of the ministry.  It is always great to hear from you.

And we hope you have a great weekend.  Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend.  We want to invite you back on Monday when we’re going to meet a remarkable Mom and hear the story of how her family grew and grew and grew.  It’s a great story, and I hope you can tune in and be with us.

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 on Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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