FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Staying Close When Life is Crazy: David & Meg Robbins

with David and Meg Robbins | February 14, 2024
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Life is hectic--and finding time for intimacy feels impossible. How can we keep our connection strong amidst all the crazy? David and Meg Robbins find out how to manage overwhelming busyness, offering tangible approaches to build stronger intimacy. David and Meg are contributors to FamilyLife's all-new Art of Marriage group study! To learn more or order your copy, visit

  • 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.

Life is crazy. How do you stay close? President of FamilyLife, David Robbins and his wife Meg reveal practical ways to strengthen connection among busyness. Explore tangible approaches for building deeper intimacy.

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Staying Close When Life is Crazy: David & Meg Robbins

With David and Meg Robbins
February 14, 2024
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Meg: I’m that person who waits until it’s almost on fumes. I’m pulling through the car line at school, and I’m realizing that I’m on empty, and remembering that the light came on when I left home; I’m like, “Oh, please don’t run out of gas in the car line.”

But I realize that, in life, I probably tend to be the same, like kind of just keep going, going, going. I think that is probably our natural tendency: to go; and then, take time to refill later. But I realize that we need an ongoing refueling, and that’s what Jesus offers us.

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: It’s always an exciting day when we have the Robbins in the studio.

Ann: Yay! I love having Meg and David with us. Welcome to FamilyLife Today!

David: You guys, it’s good to be here.

Meg: We always love being in here with you all.

David: We love time around the table with you.

Dave: Honestly, though: is it a good day for you guys to be here? You just got the kids off to school. Seriously, you’re in a whirlwind of activity with your family. When you walk in here, are you refreshed; or are you like, “Ahhh!”?

David: We are having to be really intentional, because we are in a crazy full season. We have a senior all the way down to a second grader. [Laughter] They all get to play one sport; but six out of the last seven nights they had one of them—or a banquet for one of them—so we are actually celebrating right now the closing of four seasons.

Dave: Really?

David: New ones are opening, but the closing of four seasons of sports, which is great.

Dave: Seriously, what are we talking about? I know football—

David: Football for one.

Dave: —that’s all that matters. Anything else?

Meg: Cross country.

Dave: Cross country.

David: Volleyball.

Meg: Volleyball and baseball.

David: Baseball for the little man.

Meg: And flag football.

David: Yes, we slipped in a few extras.

Dave: You threw in another one.

Meg: Yes, we let our senior—he did two.

Dave: How long is the break before they start another?

David: It’s already going. [Laughter]

Ann: Then I’m glad we’re going to talk about what we’re going to talk about today.

Dave: I’m just thinking, “There are a lot of listeners thinking you’re living their life.”

Ann: Yes.

Dave: We’re in a different stage, now. We lived that life, and we know it’s crazy; but there are a lot of listeners thinking, “I can relate to these guys, because they are living our life.”

Ann: A lot of people will ask, “How do you keep your marriage vibrant, and your walk with God really vibrant, as well, when you’re so busy; and your life is just running out of control, it feels like sometimes?” So we’re going to answer that question, because you guys know the answer! [Laughter]

David: Well, we’re going to respond—and dig in and talk about how current we are in the process—and how much God is faithful to keep showing up, and teaching us, and guiding us. We are in that.

Meg: If only we had it all figured out, right?

Ann: If only.

Dave: But recently, you took a little bit of time to say, “We’re going to slow down a bit and intentionally focus on our marriage and family,” and your walk with God.

David: Yes.

Dave: So we thought, “Okay, let’s learn from what you experienced.”

Ann: Guys, we’re ready for you to teach us!

Dave: Some lessons from the Robbins.

David: There were several months, where we thought, “This can’t continue. We have to take some serious time—and shut down all social media accounts; do extra to pour into our time together that we would have—we’re going to do some pretty crazy, radical things to clear out space so that we have time together; because there’s a trajectory happening. It may feel like we’re bumping up against the curb, but we’re keeping it on the road.” But there’s a time, when you get off the road; you think, “How did we end up here?” We did not want that to be the case.

It was amazing how, in this intentional time, it took a while for that adrenaline propelling you to the next thing to be [still enough] to sit in it. I did silly things like—well, it wasn’t a silly thing—but it was an intentional thing of being at my kids’ games, and putting my phone on Focus [Mode], where, literally, no text or email would come in.

Dave: I don’t even know what Focus is.

David: Well, it’s a new tool.

Dave: It is?

Meg: Yes.

David: A fairly new tool on your phone, where you can—

Dave: Really.

Meg: —kind of like “Do not disturb.”

David: Yes. So for a period of time—the list could go on and on—but it felt, for the first two or three weeks, like, “I kind of feel like I’m cutting fingers off; and now, my arm’s getting cut off. Can I…” [Laughter] But I was actually just feeling how my adrenaline was propelling me to the next thing so often. As that settled in, I just came to realize, “I can mitigate and manage overwhelm really well.”

As a result, I can push Meg and our relationship—our marriage gets pushed further than it’s intended to go—and I can end up imposing that onto my family; but then, the worst case is—my soul—I don’t take diligent care of my soul. I end up getting depleted; and then, just carrying on, because I can for a little while. It always catches up with us, but I end up imposing that onto Meg and our family. The worst case is I end up not knowing how to bring myself to Meg—and to share conversation/emotional intimacy—because I’m not in tune with myself. I’m not paying attention to my own pain that I’m just blowing past in my life.

Meg: I think we long to be known, and we need that. We need deep, intimate connection, emotionally, in our marriages. But I think we both realized just how quickly the busyness, and the full schedule, and all the things—and even just loving our kids well—those things take up a lot of time and space. If I don’t know what’s going on inside of me, it’s really hard to let David into that space, too.

And the Lord: it’s really hard for me to connect with the Lord if I’m not carving out time to go there with Him and really see: “What is the Lord trying to do in my heart and in my life?” and “What are the places that need to connect horizontally and vertically?”—as you always say.

Ann: You guys have a lot on your plate.

Meg: Yes, it’s definitely busy; we all feel that.

Ann: I do, too.

David: I think that describes most families today, too.

Ann: Yes.

Meg: I don’t think we’re alone in that. We look around at our friends; and we’re all texting each other and talking about—“Oh, I missed this. Thanks for reminding me about that,” “Does anybody know what the homework is for this kid?”—because we’re all frazzled.

I think it’s something that we realized: “We need a season of fighting, and saying some ‘No’s,’”—cutting out some things.

Ann: —fighting for your marriage/fighting for your family.

Meg: Yes; and for our walk with the Lord and each other, just being able to be more present. Some of those rhythms we’ve been able to keep in place; but we did need a concentrated season of: “Okay, what are the things we can dial back and say ‘No’ to, just for our own health?”

David: Jesus didn’t buck against the constraints of normal everyday life; He was fully God while fully human. He did miracles—but when it comes to the pace He lived and the amount He withdrew—just reading the Gospels, I think: “I’m not withdrawing with the Lord,” “I’m not withdrawing with friends, and getting life there, like Jesus did. I’m letting some other things control the pace.” So that’s kind of the spirit and heart of what we did.

Dave: As you look back to when you started that—like if you were looking at your soul, your marriage, personal life on a dashboard of your car, with a full and empty gauge—where were you?

David: “How often do we get above half full?” would have been a fair question. I would say, “Not much at all.”

Dave: Really?

David: But yes, we’ll come down. Spiritually, maybe, there would be seasons where we’d be at full. Physically, I feel like I’m always tired. [Laughter] Okay, yes.

Ann: —since you had children.

David: Right; exactly!

Ann: Right.

David: Emotionally would be the thing, though—that tank and that gauge, for us personally, was, “We’re going to prioritize spiritual,”—we’re staying active, because we have young kids—but it’s that emotional gauge; I thought: “Do we even know what’s going on inside of ourselves?” “Are we willing to allow ourselves to go by the still waters to pay attention to what’s inside in that tank in order to be able to let each other into that space?”

I would say the tanks got really full through this season; and now, there are rhythms that we’re seeking to be true. People are saying, “Well, how’s it going?” I’ll say, “I feel like we’re living them out at 50 percent.” For the achiever/a performer, that’s really a grace-filled good thing; and it’s going pretty well. The main way it’s going well is—not because we’re not tired from six out of seven nights with sports the last time—is that we are having space, ourselves, to know what’s going on inside our hearts to share with one another. The best gauge is our marriage gauge.

Ann: I think that is big, yes.

Meg: I think that’s very true. It’s funny you asked that about filling up tanks; because in my car, I’m that person who waits until it’s almost on fumes. I’m pulling through the car line at school, and I’m realizing that I’m on empty, and remembering that the light came on when I left home; I’m like, “Oh, please don’t run out of gas in the car line,”—my greatest fear in life.

But I know there are people, who fill up when they get to a half or a fourth a tank; and I’ve always thought that was crazy as far as the car goes. But I realize that, in life, I probably tend to be the same, like kind of just keep going, going, going. I think that is probably our natural tendency: to go; and then, take time to refill later. But I realize that: “Okay; no, we need an ongoing refueling; and that’s what Jesus offers us. He offers for us to run on full all the time, but we have to make choices to engage with Him and gain what He’s wanting to fill us up with.”

Dave: I saw a Facebook® post the other day. I’m not saying everything on Facebook is great, but it was interesting. It was like the wife and the husband were saying: there are days when he walks in the door, or she walks in the door—and I look at him and I say, “I have 30. That means you have to bring 70, because I just don’t have 80 right now. I’m just being honest; I have 30.” And he says, “Okay, I have the other 70,” or vice versa.

The question is: “Okay, what if I say, ‘I have 30,’ and she says, ‘I have 20’! What are we going to do?” [Laughter]

David: There are some days like that.

Dave: That’s where, a lot of times, you’re at.

Ann: Yes.

Meg: When you walk in, just say, “I’m empty,” “I’m on an eighth of a tank.” [Laughter]

Dave: You can’t do that every day for a month; or your spouse is going to say, “Come on.”

David: That’s true.

Meg: That’s true.

David: That’s where you go be intentional and get some help; that would be that gauge.

I love one thing that you’ve started since these months—and it’s sending me a voice memo in the moment, because you know—well tell it for yourself.

Meg: Yes. Sometimes, if I know either something just happened—or I’m processing something, and I’m feeling it pretty deep and know: “This is probably something that would be good for us to talk about,”—for me to let him in, here, emotionally. But I know that, if I put it off, and don’t let him know until later, then things are going to be chaotic at home—as usual or whatever—and we may not ever talk about it until five days later; and I [remember], “Oh, yes, we never talked about this.”

So I’ll send him a voice text, and say, “Hey, I’m just letting you know—here’s the ten-second summary—but let’s talk about this more later. I just felt like I needed to go ahead and let you in some, so you can ask me more about it later.”

David: What’s been so helpful about that—because we all delay, like, “Oh, we’ll get to that,”—and then, you don’t end up making the space. It ends up tuning me into: “Alright; I want to make space for us to connect over something that really meant enough to her to message, in the middle of the moment, to say, ‘This is affecting me; I do want to process this.’” It doesn’t make me fish or guess: “Okay, let’s make space for that.”

Ann: That’s a good one, guys. That’s one of those things—a good tool—that you’ve brought out of this whole time and space.

Dave: I’m thinking of listeners, right now, who can say, “I can do that; that’s really—

Ann: —"practical.”

Dave: —“practical.”

Hey, by the way, David, Meg just gave us one. Do you have one? [Laughter]

David: My number-one thing that is allowing me to have space to let her in is me taking a few mornings a week, and my goal is to—I’m definitely doing one, where I’m calling them “Circle back mornings,” where I am circling back, giving a little extra space for me to journal and think: “What am I experiencing right now? All of life is coming at me—pressures there; pressures there—I’m going to circle back on the week” or “…on these past few days and process: ‘How it is affecting me?’”

Because sadly, I’ll just blow past it—and keep getting things accomplished—and not really pay attention to what’s going on in my soul and let her in on it. So if I have that extra little space, and it’s designated for circling back—not to read a book; not to listen to the next podcast, even though I love listening to FamilyLife Today—[Laughter]—but to circle back on: “How am I processing and handling what’s going on in life right now?”—from a kid applying to college, to a kid having their feelings hurt, something going on between us, something going on at work—all the things that start coming at us.

I’m able to put words to how it’s affecting me; and then, all of a sudden, I can bring her in on those words. For me, and the way I’m wired, all I know is something different happens, when I penned it, and I’m able to bring her in more specifically. Because otherwise, I’ll just kind of keep managing or verbally vomit it when I’m processing it. We have to spend more time to make it make sense—man, totally different when I’m processing it with pen.

Ann: Give us an example, David, of something that maybe happened.

David: This week there have been things with one of our kids, and it involves the whole family. Instead of me just, “Okay, another story/another thing; and I just need to get over it,” I’m like: “Here’s what I am feeling that’s being threatened with this family,” and “It concerns me; it worries me. I want to process with Meg,”—not just fixing the issue for one of my kids and what they’re dealing with—but “No, there’s a bigger story of how this could end up affecting our relationship with that family.” That was a this-week one.

Ann: So it’s kind of a Level Five that we talk about at a Weekend to Remember® conference.

David: Very true.

Ann: You’re saying—not “This is what’s going on…”—but “This is what I’m feeling about what’s going on...”

Dave: —sharing your heart.

David: Yes.

Ann: Yes, that’s good.

Meg: Yes, for sure.

Dave: Meg, what happens when he does that? Because I know what happens when I do that with Ann.

Meg: Yes, I think we all long to be known and loved. I feel like the more that I know his heart and his soul like that, it just makes me love him more. I don’t know—and it also makes me respond and want to share—it’s easier to share in response sometimes, like, “Oh, wow; you’re really letting me in; that’s so intimate.” And a lot of times, there are physical intimate moments that may follow those kinds of things—not in the exact moment—but when I feel like we’re connecting deeply emotionally, it just makes room for other kinds of connection.

David: But I will say this: those of you who may be wired like me, where you can attune in the moment really well, and pay attention to what your spouse is sharing—or someone close to you; a kid even, is sharing; and really, in the moment, go there—I can sometimes use that skill but not really care. So there’s just a caution there.

We have a story—this was a few years ago, but it still rings loud and true in my mind—where we were feeling a wedge in our relationship. That emotional tank was empty; we weren’t sharing with one another. I just remember saying, “You’re not bringing to me, anymore, the things—I’m asking how you’re doing; I’m trying to come up with creative questions—and I just feel like it’s a brick wall. What is going on?”

And you shared—

Meg: I said:

Well, I feel like, for a season, I was sharing; and I was letting you in. It’s kind of like I’m giving you this rose. In the moment, you take this rose—and you’re really careful with it, and you ask a lot of questions about it, and really take care of it—but then, as that moment or night passes, you just kind of toss that rose off to the side of the bed.

Then, the next time I bring you another rose; and the same thing happens. Eventually, there’s just this big pile of dead roses over there on the side of the bed; because you’re not coming back and asking and wanting to know, “Hey, how’s that rose?” or caring for these emotional pieces of my heart I’m giving you.

The contrast would be: “Can you take that rose, and put it in some water?” and “Let’s keep this conversation open.”

Ann: [You want him] checking in on the rose: “Have any petals fallen off?”

Meg: Right; exactly!

David: Yes. I would just say, in the mode I was in, this was one of those areas that made us get aggressive with: “Let’s have a season of time to be really intentional: to slow down and make space for those conversations.” The thing is: I do care, just like all of us care about our marriages and our families. I intend to follow back up; but yet, the pace of life was just propelling forward; and as a result, I was intending to circle back, but I really wouldn’t. The next worries of the day would come, and it got out of order of where I wanted to invest my time.

It was like, “Alright, let’s [make] some radical choices to slow down the noise around us.” It doesn’t have to be that radical, to be honest, in order to feel the pace difference in your life and be able to know what’s going on and share that with your spouse.

Ann: Let me ask you, Meg, as you talk about the rose. Talk to the woman who has maybe tried to give her heart/her rose to her husband over and over; and he doesn’t even take it at the beginning and care for it. He just kind of dumps it off; so she stops giving her heart, and she starts building up resentment. “Has that ever happened [to you]?” and “What would you say to those people [who] are struggling with that, like, ‘Why would I give him my heart when he doesn’t even appreciate it or want it, it seems?’”

Meg: Yes. I would say the first time we realized that, a few years ago, I was in that place, even. I had started building up walls; because I was thinking, “I’m not going to keep giving you these things if I don’t feel like you’re caring in return.” I knew that you did care—so maybe, that’s a little bit different—because we’d had many seasons, where I knew you would enter back in.

For one, it took really voicing that, and saying, “Hey, here’s how I’m really experiencing this right now,” and us having conversations. That was probably a season, where we even chose to go to some counseling, like, “Let’s get some help”; because we know we care—we know we want to do this better—but life is kind of chewing us up and spitting us out: “So what choices do we need to make?”

I would say, too, especially if it’s someone who has had long seasons of that—years upon years, or even months and months going on—I would say: “Invite other people into that.” Certainly, start with having an honest conversation; but I think, if it’s been going on for a long time, it could be that the spouse doesn’t honestly get that—

Ann: —or even how to do it.

Meg: Right; exactly. So I would say it’s okay to need other people to help you in that process.

Ann: —other women.

David: Yes.

Meg: —other women; maybe, counselors. There are definitely times when we just need outside people to speak into and help us.

Ann: I think what I usually remind women, too, is: “There’s a God who loves you so much; and Jesus is constantly caring for your heart, protecting it. We need other people—we long for that with our spouse—but keep giving your heart to Jesus; because He’s the One, ultimately, who makes it soft and tender.

Meg: —100 percent.

Ann: “And we need to bring Him along in the process.”

Meg: Yes. I think something that I have personally realized, over and over through the years, is that, if I’m going to David first with all of these things—even on his very best day, he is not going to be enough for me—that’s not the role that he has. Jesus is the One who wants to meet me in these longings that I have, or these hurts that I might be walking through, whatever it is: bringing that to Him first—and experiencing the rest, and the restoration, the love—all those things that I really can only get from Him.

Ann: That’s good.

Meg: I think that’s a really good reminder, Ann, going to Him as our true source first. It’s just that there can be more emotional intimacy in our marriage if we share those things.

Dave: Again, I would add, at the same time, to us men—because I think, when Ann was sharing that, I was over here, thinking, “She’s talking about me in some ways,”—because I’ve done that/the rose illustration; right? It was easy for me to have my eyes so focused on the job, and the mission, and accomplishing things, and forget: “This is more important than anything. My wife and kids are more important than all this other stuff. I have to turn it off, and say, ‘Okay, she just handed me a rose. I dismissed it. I have to engage and be there.’”

Sometimes, like we talked about this whole time, you have to slow down to be able to do that a little bit. You have to take the pace down—John Mark Comer—The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. We’re just hurrying to everything. In some ways, we have to go, “This matters; I have to figure out a way to be engaged with her,”—it could be the other way: “…with him,”—when they’re sharing something like a rose that’s precious, that needs to be watered.

That’s “love your wife as Christ loved the church”; that’s cherishing and nourishing. I think, sometimes, I’m saying to the guys: “Step up. Make that decision; it’s the most important one you’re going to make. It’s more important than that bonus check coming.” I know that’s important, too; [Laughter] but this is more important.

Meg: Right.

Ann: Guys, thanks for taking the time to share what God’s been teaching you; because I think it’s helping a lot of us. It’s inspired Dave and me; I like it!


Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with David and Meg Robbins on FamilyLife Today. I really loved this conversation. I loved how we talked about marriage and intimacy, and just the busyness of life.

Do you relate with how difficult it can be to navigate busyness and maintain intimacy inside the chaos of life with a family? Well, one way to have a vibrant marriage and spiritual life, amidst a hectic schedule, is really just by slowing down and having meaningful conversations, with both your spouse and other people in your community.

The new Art of Marriage is a study that will help you grow deeper together, closer to God, and more connected to your community. It gives space for authentic and vulnerable conversations around challenging marriage topics. Throughout six 25-minute sessions, the Art of Marriage unpacks six biblical words that describe God’s love for us and how each of those words can be displayed through our messy, imperfect marriages; yes, even your messy, imperfect marriage. You can go to the Show Notes or to learn more and grab your leader kit today. We’re really excited to share the all-new Art of Marriage with you and hear how God is working in your marriages and impacting your lives.

Tomorrow: “What does it look like to connect—vulnerability, emotional expression, and shared experiences—to the overall health of your marriage?” David and Meg Robbins are back, again, tomorrow with Dave and Ann Wilson to talk about just that. 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.

FamilyLife Today is a donor-supported production of FamilyLife®, a Cru® Ministry.

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