FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Threats to Oneness, Part 2

with Dennis Rainey | July 19, 2011
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Even if a couple stays together for decades, if they are merely living under the same roof, they're missing out on the blessing God has intended marriage to be. Dennis Rainey talks about the five reasons marriages fail.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Even if a couple stays together for decades, if they are merely living under the same roof, they're missing out on the blessing God has intended marriage to be. Dennis Rainey talks about the five reasons marriages fail.

  • 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.

Even if a couple stays together for decades, if they are merely living under the same roof, they’re missing out on the blessing God has intended marriage to be.

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Threats to Oneness, Part 2

With Dennis Rainey
July 19, 2011
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Bob:  If you’ve been married for any length of time, I’m going to tell you something you’re probably already aware of.  Your spouse is selfish.

And what makes it worse is that the person your spouse is married to, well, that person is selfish too.  Here’s Dennis Rainey.

Dennis:  I had no idea how selfish I was until I got married.

And then God gave me children, and he stripped away layer after layer, showing me how selfish I was.  I used to think that God gave me six children so I could raise them.  I think God gave us six children so he could finish the process of raising me.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 19th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  If you’re going to try to build a strong, healthy marriage, you’re going to have to do something about the issue of selfishness.  We’ll talk about that today.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.  You know, I think most couples who find themselves at a tough spot in their marriage, if you ask them, “What’s caused the two of you to become isolated?” they point immediately at the other person.

Dennis:  Yeah!

Bob:  Instead of stopping to think, “There may be some other factors that have played into this.”  And one of the things that we try to talk to couples about at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway is the fact that in this culture, there’s a lot working against your marriage.  If you can begin to see where some of the challenges are coming from, that can help you with the turnaround.

Dennis:  It can.  In fact, if you understand what’s driving you apart, then you know what?  You as a couple can begin to put together an offensive game plan instead of being on the defense.  Most couples get married today and immediately move to playing defense for most of their married lives.

I’m convinced, Bob.  One of the best things we do at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, is we give couples a common language, a common vocabulary, and a common plan to understand what’s happening to marriages today, and why we naturally begin to move toward isolation rather than move toward oneness.

Bob:  This week and next week we’re giving listeners an opportunity to hear a few of the things we talk about at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, and at the same time we’re encouraging FamilyLife Today listeners to register for an upcoming fall getaway.  We’re doing it by making a special rate available to FamilyLife Today listeners. 

Actually, we’ve kind of put a group together; we have a group rate.  If you’re a FamilyLife Today listener, we consider you part of the group, so all you have to do is you go online at, or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, find out when a getawayis going to be held in a city near where you live or a city you’d like to go to. 

When you’re ready to register, there’s a group name box.  You just type my name; type “BOB” in that box, and you will save at least $100 per couple off the regular registration fee by becoming a part of the FamilyLife Today listener group.

You don’t have to sit together when you get to the getaway, but you’ll be able to take advantage of the special group rate for FamilyLife Today listeners.  And if we hear from you before the end of the month and you register by then, we’ll send out to you a copy of a game for couples called Spouse-ology.  It’s kind of like a newlywed game for folks who aren’t necessarily newlyweds. 

The game is our free gift for your early registration.  We need to hear from you by the end of the month in order for you to take advantage of that, so call 1-800-FLTODAY, go online at, either way, register for one of our upcoming fall getaways, and when you do type my name.  Just type “BOB” in the group box.  You’ll save at least $100 per couple off the regular registration fee. 

Again, if we hear from you before the end of the month, we’ll send you as a kind of an early-bird thank you this game called Spouse-ology.  The website:  Our toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY.  Plan to join us at one of our upcoming fall FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaways.

Dennis:  And my encouragement to you is, some of you have been listening to our broadcasts for a number of years, and you’ve never been to a Weekend to Remember® as a couple.  Trust me.  This will be – I didn’t say it’d be an easy weekend, necessarily, but it will be one of the finest investments you ever make in your marriage. 

We’ve been doing these conferences since 1976.  This is not one person’s opinion about marriage; it’s many students of the Bible, both men and women, who have studied the Scriptures and said, “Here are the blueprints for how two selfish, sinful, broken people can build a marriage of oneness over a lifetime.” 

It’s not easy work; in fact it’s hard work.  But you know what?  With the right blueprints and the right architect and builder, you can make it happen.  And the Weekend to Remember® will equip you, will train you.  It will give you the blueprints to be successful in life’s most important commitments:  your commitment to Christ, your spouse and your children.

Bob:  And I’ll tell you, if you really want to get a two-fer out of this weekend, you know what I mean?  Get a double bonus – you go as a couple and experience the weekend, but find another couple you know –

Dennis:  -- And invite them.  Right.

Bob:  And invite them to come along with you and help build into their marriage.  You’ll be encouraging them.  You’ll get a chance to see them grow closer together.  It’s just a great way for you to spend time with one another as a couple but also invest in the lives of another couple.

Dennis:  Yes, and here’s the thing, Bob.  All of us in this culture look at what’s happening to marriages and families and how divorce is rampant.  You go, “What can I do?  What can I do?”  Well you know what?  Here’s something you can do.  Ask God to guide you as a couple to the right other couple to invite to go with you, and then pray for them as they go, encourage them to get there because it will likely be a little bit of a spiritual battle for them to get to the conference, and then just sit back and see what God does, not only in your lives when you get away, but also the couple you took. 

You don’t have any idea what’s taking place in the marriage next door to you, in the house next door to you, the apartment next door to you, or at church, some couple that you sit by week after week.  You don’t’ know what’s taking place in that marriage.  They may be in need of a weekend like this, and you can help make it possible.

Bob:  I think couples are often mystified about why their marriages are drifting, and we’re going to hear right now part two of a message from you on the things that threaten oneness in marriage, the things that cause us to drift apart.  Here, from a recent Weekend to Remember ® event, is Dennis Rainey.

Dennis:  Marriages fail because of difficult adjustments.  Secondly, they’re equipped only with the world’s plan.  They don’t have God’s plan.  And the third reason, we don’t anticipate the valley, and we have no plan to go through the valley together.  It’s back to Jesus’ words again:  It isn’t a matter of if the storms, if the winds, if the floods are going to come.  It’s just a matter of time.

I’ll not get into all of it because you don’t need to hear it; you have your own dramas, but the last six years in our marriage, in our family, it has just been one thing right after another. This past summer, big time tests.  The test reveals what you’re building on.  The rain, the winds, and the floods.

Well, the fourth reason why marriages fail:  extramarital affairs.  Now you’re instantly thinking that it’s an affair with the opposite sex, but an extramarital affair is this:  It is an escape from reality and a search for fulfillment outside the marriage.  Extramarital affairs can include addictions, pornography, alcohol, drugs, all kinds of addictions in this culture. 

We can escape from reality and search for fulfillment elsewhere with a fantasy.  It can be activities.  I’m going to shock some of you – it can even be church work.  There are those who can have an affair with the ministry, doing “God’s work.”  Escape the reality at home to search for fulfillment elsewhere.

It can be materialism.  It can be a career affair.  This gets a lot of men.  A lot of men aren’t wooed to give their hearts to a woman who is outside the marriage; they give their hearts to the pursuit of their careers.  For a woman, it can be children – it could be her affair, or her family.  Escaping from the reality of a marriage and searching for fulfillment and just giving your life away to your children.

Or it could be a real affair with the opposite sex.  The romance at home fades; attraction and feelings are stirred by someone else, by the twinkle of an eye.  You know what, I’ve talked to too many people who have had these.  I really understand why this happens.  Some people get set up because the thing that they’re handling at home is so painful, anything to escape it.  So they escape to others. 

The problem is in this culture, we are programmed to expect that we deserve a fantasy.  We’re programmed to think that you can have it your way, that everyone wants to do it all for you.  So how it happens is, I go to work as a businessman.  I leave home having had some words with my wife, where we’re not clicking.  We’ve got a few kids.  The drag on our relationship is occurring, and a secretary or someone I work with there begins to click with me. 

We start talking.  Soon we have a meeting by ourselves, and then we have a meal or just get together, and a relationship starts, and all of a sudden, what’s happening at home dims in comparison to the puppy love and the stirring of an adrenaline rush because of a relationship that’s set up around a fantasy. 

So you know what I do?  I go divorce her, and go over here and establish a real relationship with the person I’ve been having a fantasy with, and guess what’s going to happen?  Difficult adjustments, 50-50, a valley.  Except this time, the valley is going to be deeper, because we’re dragging kids and an ex through the valley with us.  And that’s why the success rate of second marriages is even less than first marriages. 

Success in life is never found in escaping reality.  It’s in the tough commitment of two people who are imperfect who learn how to love each other in the midst of that imperfection.  It’s what the Bible teaches, I think, Christian marriage really is.

Well, finally, the last thing that happens and that causes marriages to fail – and this is pretty simple – it’s one word: selfishness -- the natural tendency of our flesh.  Isaiah 53:6 – some of you could quote it.  You memorized it as a child.  “All of us like sheep have” what?  “Gone astray.  Each of us has turned to his own way.” 

I have to read this to you.  I don’t know where I got this, but this is so true of children and of us.  It’s called The Toddler’s Creed.  Are you ready for this?  This will explain why some of you came here tired. 

The Toddler’s Creed:  If I want it, it’s mine.  If I give it to you and change my mind later, it’s mine.  If I can take it away from you, it’s what?  It’s mine.  If I had it a little while ago, it’s still mine.  If we’re building something together, all the pieces are mine.  If it looks like mine, what?  It’s mine. 

Now the problem is, is when you bring two toddlers and you make them husband and wife.  Leave, cleave, receive?  Leave, cleave, become one?  How’s that going to happen with two people who are intensely selfish?  But you know what?  This is where the Bible makes so much sense.  Remember what Jesus said?  “No one can be my disciple who does not first deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” 

At the core of being a Christ-follower, according to this book, and fulfilling the words of Jesus in Matthew chapter seven, is self-denial.  It is the basis of a great marriage.  It really is, and that’s why the Gospel makes so much sense.  It redeems us from ourselves.  Jesus came to redeem me from my selfish self. 

I had no idea how selfish I was until I got married.  And then God gave me children, and he stripped away layer after layer showing me how selfish I was.  I used to think that God gave me six children so I could raise them.  I think God gave us six children so he could finish the process of raising me.  You see, all of life around marriage and family is redemptive.  It redeems us from our toxic self, and calls us to a noble calling of self-denial to love another person, an imperfect person.

I’m going to close with something that’s very personal.  I suppose at the ministry we’ve received literally thousands of letters, maybe hundreds of thousands of letters.  This one is one of my favorites.  I think you’ll understand why as I read it.

“Dear Dennis:  I don’t know what you did with my real mom and dad, but I love the new ones you’ve sent to me.  My parents were among the hundreds of couples at the Weekend to Remember® conference this past weekend in Washington, D.C., and boy are they different.  I’m convinced you switched my real parents with people who look like them, because” – and then she lists seven things.

“Number one – every day since the conference my mom and dad have been talking over what they learned and comparing notes from their workbooks over dinner.”

“Number two – they’ve been talking instead of arguing.”

“Number three -- my dad calls my mom ‘my wife’ instead of ‘your mother.’”

“Number four – they talk about legacies.  They talk about communication, about understanding one another.”

“Number five – my mom actually asked my dad to do things instead of expecting him to offer and then getting mad at him for not.”

“Number six – They’re even holding hands.”  And then she has in parentheses: “Creepy.”

“And number seven – They’re clinging to each other instead of us kids.  HALLELUJAH,” in all caps.  “What did you do to them?  God has truly worked a marital miracle through your ministry.”

Now listen to this:  This is from a 27-year-old woman, single, who’s writing us about what had happened in her parents’ life.  And this is why there is so much at stake in your relationship.  You’ve got little radar units that are watching you. 

She goes on.  She says, “Both of my parents were taught to believe that once a couple was married they stayed married, even if that meant living bitter and dying together.”  Now listen to this confession:  “I remember praying as a little girl that their fighting would stop, that their constant tension between them would dissipate, and that they could just show love to each other.  Both of them were always leery about seeking outside help, and they resigned themselves to the idea of being good parents but of having an unfulfilled marriage relationship.”

“Though I am now out of the house and living my own life, the Lord never forgot the prayers of my childhood.  I was blessed to have been listening to WAVA,” which is a huge FM station in Washington, D.C.  We’re on at 7:30 in the morning in D.C.  We’ve got hundreds of bureaucrats, thousands of them, trapped on the Beltway, forced to listen to us. 

She says, “I was stuck in traffic and I was listening on Thursday before the conference started on Friday.  They offered a free registration to the sixth caller.  Stuck in traffic on the Beltway I fumbled around for my mobile phone, frantically dialed the toll-free number, and when they answered the phone I held my breath and said, ‘What caller am I?’  The guy started laughing and said, ‘Oh, about the 112th.’”

“He asked me how long I’d been married.  I told him I wasn’t married; I’d hoped to win the registration for my parents, married 27 years.  Out of compassion he told me that the giveaway was mine.  The miracle was just beginning.  I wondered how I would ever actually get them to go to the conference.  I told the Lord that only he could have arranged for me to get the reservations, so I could trust him to see that my parents made it there.”

“I called them both from work that morning, told them that we had won a free registration, and informed them they had about 28 hours to prepare themselves for three days together.  Surprisingly, they agreed.  They asked me if the cost of the hotel was included in the registration.  I hesitated.  I didn’t want to give either of them a reason to decline the offer, so I said, ‘Yeah, it’s all paid.’  They agreed to go.  Hallelujah again.”

“Immediately I asked forgiveness for the small lie I had just told them, and phoned the hotel to make arrangements for their stay.  ‘Charge everything to me,’ I told the manager.  To my heart’s delight, they went off to the conference on Friday night.  I was grateful they didn’t have longer to think about it or else they’d change their minds.” 

Now listen to this.  “I sent to you a man and a woman who had been married 27 years, who’d given up all hope of happiness.  You’ve returned to me two people, committed to the goal of having a fulfilling and godly relationship with each other, and to living out the rest of their days in love and hope.  Hallelujah three times.  I am so happy for them, and so grateful to God and to you for helping this miracle happen.”

Listen to this statement:  “Looking at them now has made me rethink my own dreaded fears concerning marriage.  I cannot express to you or repay what your ministry has wrought, but do know I will tell every married and pre-married couple I know about your conferences.  God bless you, and keep in touch.  Eternally grateful,” and then it’s signed.

Now, the reason I read you that letter is because there are a lot of spectators looking at your marriage.  You have no idea who is watching, and that’s why you can’t settle in and be satisfied with mediocrity.  You have to get the blueprints.  That doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to apply everything you hear here, but you have to just start building.  You have to learn some fundamental principles around the basics.

Bob:  Well, we’ve been listening to part two of a message from Dennis Rainey from a recent Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.  It’s interesting how many couples have been married for a lot of years and they’ve never gotten the basics. 

I remember an interview you and I did years ago with a couple.  They’d been married for ten years.  They’d been youth leaders in their local church for five of those ten years.  Their marriage was almost over.  They came to a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, and what they said to us was, “When we walked out, we looked at each other and said, ‘How come nobody’s ever told us this before?’”

Dennis:  Right.

Bob:  “We’ve been in the church for ten years.  How come nobody ever told us this basic information about marriage?”  I think there are a lot of couples who have just never heard that the Bible has a plan for making a marriage work.

Dennis:  And the reality is, every marriage takes place in the midst of the storms, the floods, the winds that beat on their houses, and there’s a lot of casualties because they do not build their house on the rock according to God’s blueprints.  Jesus not only summarized the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter seven with that illustration, Bob, but really all of Scripture is designed by him to give us those blueprints to know how to build our house. 

But the problem is, most couples, as you just said, don’t know what the blueprints are, don’t know how to resolve conflict, what their role is as a husband, as a wife, how the sexual dimension of the marriage works biblically, how communication works.  I mean, on and on it goes, and we cover these topics thoroughly, completely and practically in an authentic way at the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaway.


Bob:  Yes, and this week and next week we are giving listeners an opportunity to hear some of what it is we talk about at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.  And we’re also encouraging FamilyLife Today listeners to sign up for an upcoming fall Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, and to save at least $100 per couple off the regular registration fee by signing up as a part of the FamilyLife Today listener group.

You listen to FamilyLife Today, you’re a part of the group.  That’s all it takes, so when you go online at, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and get the information about when a getaway is happening in a city near where you live or a city you’d like to travel to to attend a weekend Getaway, once you’re ready to lock that in as you fill out the registration form, just type my name in the group box.  Just type in “BOB.”  You’ll be a part of the FamilyLife Today listener group, and you’ll save at least $100 per couple off the regular registration fee.

In addition, if you go ahead and sign up now, between now and the end of the month, we’ll send you a game for couples called Spouse-ology, a fun game for couples to play where you can learn more about one another and have some fun in the process.  That’s an early-bird gift we’ll send you if you go ahead and register now for one of these upcoming fall Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways.

Again our website:, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, and we can answer any questions you have.  And if you register now, be sure to put my name, “BOB,” in the group box and you’ll qualify for the group rate, you’ll save at least $100 per couple off the regular registration fee, and again, if we hear from you between now and the end of the month we’ll send you the Spouse-ology game as well.

So plan to join us this fall at one of our upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways.  Let us hear from you so you can take advantage of the special savings we’re offering to FamilyLife Today listeners.

Now, tomorrow we’re going to talk about one of the areas where husbands and wives begin to realize just how different we are, and that’s the area of marital intimacy.  We’ll hear about that tomorrow; hope you can be back 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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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

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