FamilyLife Today® Podcast

When Marriage is Different from the Picture in Your Head: Jared & Becky Wilson

with Jared And Becky Wilson | April 10, 2024
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Disappointed in how your love story is turning out now that you're married? You know—the silent treatment...stress of work... even toxic patterns imposed by your in-laws. Is it even possible to get that "Cinderella Story" feeling back? Jared C. and Becky Wilson go into the lessons they have learned along the way by digging into parts of their book, "Love Me Anyway."

  • 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.

Disappointed in your love story? From fights to silent treatments, stress of work, or even toxic in-law patterns, Jared C. and Becky Wilson discuss whether that “Cinderella Story” feeling is still possible.

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When Marriage is Different from the Picture in Your Head: Jared & Becky Wilson

With Jared And Becky Wilson
April 10, 2024
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Jared: The way we enter into loving relationships, even marriage, is, a lot of times, built around the idea of you completing me; you satisfying me. “This is the love story that I’ve imagined in my head since I was little, or at least since this relationship began, and therefore, I need you to meet these certain obligations for me to know what love really is.”

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 This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: So, today is Wilson Day on FamilyLife Today.

Ann: Truly, it is Wilson Day!

Dave: We have Dave and Ann Wilson, of course, but we have the Wilsons, Jared and Becky Wilson. I’m not even afraid to get your name wrong. [Laughter] Finally, I have an easy name. Welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Jared: Thanks so much.

Becky: Thank you.

Dave: Maybe your first time, maybe your second time. You don’t even remember.

Ann: Maybe we’re related.

Jared: Maybe. It could be.

Becky: Maybe!

Jared: There are a lot of “maybes” going on right now! [Laughter]

Dave: Tell us a little bit about what you do. I know you’re—here’s what I’ll say—

Jared: —okay.

Dave: —a professor, a pastor, a speaker, a writer. What am I missing? A dad, a husband.

Jared: That’s pretty much all the important stuff, I think. [Laughter] I don’t know what else? The taker-out-of-the-garbage, maybe.

Dave: I’m guessing a Kansas City Chiefs fan?

Jared: I’m not a Kansas City Chiefs fan, believe it or not.

Dave: No, even though you live there?

Becky: A Patriots fan.

Dave: Patriots.

Jared: Yes, I’m a New England fan.

Ann: Oooooohhhhh.

Dave: Bad year for you.

Becky: I love the Chiefs, but I get in trouble for having more than one team, so, whatever.

Dave: Yes, you can’t do that.

Ann: You can do that. It’s okay, Becky. [Laughter]

Dave: You’re not only just at FamilyLife Today, but you’re going to Disney World, aren’t you?

Jared: That’s right.

Dave: Have a little fun.

Jared: Yes, we can’t come to Orlando and somehow not work that in.

Becky: That’s poor stewardship. [Laughter]

Dave: Well, we’re going to talk about a couple things today. We’re going to talk about Love Me Anyway: How God’s Perfect Love Fills Our Deepest Longing. One of the things I love about this book is that you have all these love songs.

Ann: Oh, Jared. Dave has been annoying and wonderful—

Jared: —oh, good!

Ann: —because he is a song and music guy. He’s looking, and every one of your chapter titles is a song, and he’s been playing all of them.

Dave: Yes.

Jared: The trick wasn’t just love songs. It’s songs with the word “love” in them.

Ann: Oh!

Jared: If you just go “love songs,” there are millions.

Dave: [Playing guitar] Let’s see if you know love songs. We’ll play “Name that Love Song,” just by a couple chords.

Jared: Okay.

Ann: Are you guys music people?

Jared: Yes.

Dave: [Vocalizing]

Jared: [Singing] Loving you. That’s Minnie Riperton.

Dave: There you go! Very good. [Laughter]

Becky: Ohhhh!

Jared: Which is Maya Rudolph’s mother. Did you know that? Maya Rudolph is on Saturday Night Live, an actress.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: Okay, see? You have another—

[Everyone talking and laughing]

Dave: How about this one? [Playing guitar tune]

Jared: [Singing] I’ve got sunshine—

Dave: [Harmonizing] I’ve got sunshine—[Laughter]

Jared: We could just do this for the next hour.

[Everyone talking and laughing]

Ann: [Singing] —on a cloudy day.

And then, we’ll bring in the gospel in the midst of this.

Becky: Oh, yes, yes!

Dave: See if you can get this one without lyrics.

Jared: Alright.

Dave: Sort of a more recent— [Playing guitar]

Jared: Oh, that’s Bradley Cooper and the Lady Gaga movie: A Star is Born, right?

Ann: You are right on!

Jared and Dave: [Singing] Tell me something good.

Jared: Yes, yes.

Dave: Look at you, man! Way to go.

Ann: It’s because he’s a Wilson.

Jared: It’s a weird brain. Song lyrics and things like that are very sticky in my brain. I do the same thing with movie quotes.

Dave: Do you?

Jared: Yes; somehow, movie lines just stick in there in ways that her telling me to do something around the house doesn’t. I don’t know. [Laughter] It’s a unique brain. It takes in lots of useless stuff.

Ann: I just want to hear one of those conversations, Becky. Do you remember a time?

Becky: He’s laughing, because every now and then, I have to say, “Babe, look me in my eyes and listen to every word that I say, just for the next couple minutes, because this is important. You can’t only listen every tenth word. I need you to focus for a second.” [Laughter] It’s not—I mean, I don’t even get mad anymore, because he’s not—

Ann: —it’s who he is.

Becky: It’s who he is. He’s really not trying to ignore me. He’s not being disrespectful. It’s just the way his brain works, because he’s thinking of 27 things at the same time.

Dave: Well, here’s one of the questions. It’s called Love Me Anyway.

Jared: Love Me Anyway, yes.

Dave: Is that from a song title?

Jared: It’s not from a song title.

Dave: I know what it is.

Jared: I had the idea for the title before. It is connected to a song. I’m not even a big country music fan, but somehow, my radio was on country music one day, and I left it there. There are so many inane songs. [Laughter] Especially modern country is so inane, but that song I thought, “Oh, this guy’s actually saying something.” When I heard those lines, I just thought, “Wow, he’s really tapping into something that’s not just the average country song, but deeper than often we even think about love.”

Dave: Yes.

Jared: We don’t just want to be loved. Everyone wants to be loved, but what we really want is to be loved anyway.

Dave: Yes.

Jared: That somebody would see the mess that we can be, right? Because he says, “If you could see the mess when there’s no one else to see,” something like that; “If you could see who I really am, would you still love me?” is basically what he’s asking.

Dave: Yes.

Jared: And that’s, I think, what we’re all really asking.

Ann: I mean, it would be interesting for our wedding vows as we stand before one another—we only see the best. We’ve only seen and heard and experienced the best from each other, and I wonder if we said those words to each other: “Are you going to love me when you see this and that and all my brokenness?” It is the gospel. It’s what Keller said. What was his quote about that?

Dave: You have it in the book.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves that we ever dare believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dare hope.” What a beautiful statement of the gospel.

Jared: Yes.

Dave: But walk us through. I know you wrote this years ago, but as you’re thinking through love and God’s love, give us the foundation.

Jared: Yes. Well, the idea was to bring the Bible’s portrait of gracious love, God’s love for sinners, into the conversation with love songs, love stories, the modern popular conception of love, which is usually sort of self-centered and really built around image and a kind of earning. So, obviously, the average non-Christian, but even a lot of Christians wouldn’t think of it this way: it’s very law-driven. “I have to make myself loveable to be loved.”

And then, even the way we enter into loving relationships, even marriage, is a lot of times built around the idea of you completing me; you satisfying me. “This is the love story that I’ve imagined in my head since I was little, or at least since this relationship began, and therefore, I need you to meet these certain obligations for me to know what love really is.”

And then, when you begin to look at what the Bible says about what love is, you see that turned completely upside down, which is why every chapter is patterned after a phrase from I Corinthians 13, or just a certain section from I Corinthians 13, because that’s where we see: “This is what love is. It’s not what you thought. It’s patience and kindness. It’s not keeping a record of wrongs. That’s what love actually is.”

Ann: Becky, what does that look like for you guys? How old were you when you guys got married?

Becky: We were very young. He was 20, and I was 23. I’m about two and a half years older than him.

Ann: Okay.

Becky: Really stupid, really immature. [Laughter] I mean, thought we knew everything. Of course, we didn’t and made a complete wreck of the first eight years of our marriage.

Ann: You did.

Becky: Yes; it was horrible.

Dave: What do you mean, “horrible?”

Ann: And was Jesus in [it]?

Becky: Well, we were both Christians. We were certainly immature Christians, and we certainly had not entered into what we would call our gospel-centered phase, or anything like that. So, yes, the first eight years were so full of sin, and so full of selfishness, and so self-focused that it didn’t look anything like any of the things he just described.

But, you know, the gospel is powerful, and so, since then, it’s been incredible, wonderful, amazing. The Lord has restored and redeemed so thoroughly, so fully, so completely. And I am very certain that I would not know the Lord like I do if our marriage had been a fairy tale.

Ann: Because what happened to make you go deeper into your walk with God?

Becky: You hear the phrase, and it’s kind of become almost cliché, but that doesn’t make it not true that “Christ will never be your only hope until He is your only hope.” Boy, did I get there. So, I learned how to cling to Christ very desperately.

It’s just like what Jared was saying this morning; the whole Christ-centrality thing is not a trend for us. It’s the thing that saved our lives. It restored our marriage; it brought us back to the foot of the cross where we belonged all along. It’s what we’ve based our entire lives on, certainly our marriage.

Dave: Jared, I know in Chapter Seven, because it was quite the chapter, you get very honest and vulnerable about your own journey. Was that in the first eight years that you’re talking? Give our listeners a little bit of that.

Jared: Yes.

Ann: Take us back.

Dave: Yes.

Jared: Well, you kind of have to go back even further before that, just the secret sin in my own life that kind of took root. When I was a kid, really, seeing pornography for the first time when I was in the fifth grade on the school bus, and that really just opening this Pandora’s box of lust and things.

The thing with any kind of secret sin, but certainly sin like that is, it just doesn’t stay inside. It changes you, and it begins to affect you, and it begins to seep outside. So, when I bring that into our marriage, then, it’s affecting all sorts of things: the way that I react—I’m more short-tempered and all these sorts of things.

Ann: But was it still a secret? Did Becky know at that point?

Jared: She did eventually, yes, because it was things that I was even trying to bring out, as if it was normal in our relationship. So, it just toxifies everything. It culminated in the day where, basically, she came to me and just said, “I don’t know who you are. This isn’t what I signed up for,” in so many words. You know, basically. “I don’t love you. I don’t want to be married to you anymore.”

Becky: And it was one of those cyclical things where I would ask him to stop, he would throw it all out, and then two weeks later bring some more home. You know, that kind of thing.

Jared: Yes, you basically beg for forgiveness in that moment, say you’ll do better, and then once things seem like they’re back to normal or back to peace, you just go right back into it. It wasn’t until, in a way, she was leaning to pulling the plug, not just on that but on us, that it was sort of like, “Oh.” Everything came crashing down.

Ann: When she said to you, Jared, “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore,” what happened?

Jared: What happened in the immediate was a sense of panic and a sense of—I guess it was the first kind of smelling salts under my nose, but at the same time, it really plunged us into kind of a functional divorce. We weren’t divorced on paper, but we lived like roommates for the next year or so in the house. I never knew what day might be the last day we’re actually married. It could be any day that she says, “I met with a lawyer.” I just thought that was the next step, obviously.

I’m living in the guest bedroom of our home. We had daughters as well, and our guest bedroom was in the same hallway as their bedrooms, so, I could hear their lullaby music at night and between being afraid of what was going to happen the next day, it was killing me, the idea that I would go to bed in a different home from them. So, there was a lot going on that was kind of plunging me into a kind of despair. But thankfully, the Lord spoke into that.

Ann: Yes, take us back. What did that look like?

Jared: Yes. You pray differently in times like that. You just do! My prayers were a lot of desperate prayers, sometimes very inarticulate prayers. I know what it means when the Bible says, “The Spirit prays for us in groanings too deep for words,” because there were a number of nights for about a year where I’m just face-down on the floor and crying into the carpet, saying things like, “Please, please,” just over and over again the word, “please.”

I remember that very vividly, because I didn’t know what to ask for. I needed God to fix it, to do something. I was at the end of my rope and realized, “There’s nothing I can do.” I had come to the end of myself, and I just thought, “There’s no solution to this other than, if God cares, God doing something.”

Ann: Becky, where were you? What were your prayers like?

Becky: I think I was, if I’m being just completely honest, in that span—it was about a nine-month span from the time I told him, “I’m not doing this anymore,” to when he experienced what he would call his gospel wakefulness moment. I was just kind of over it.

Ann: Even spiritually?

Becky: You know, I think I felt like, “Lord, I saved myself for this man.” I didn’t even date in high school. I literally just, all through high school, prayed that the Lord would bring me His man for me, and I was going to wait for him, and I did that. I was like, “This is what You gave me. I’m not impressed. No, thanks.”

Ann: So, you were mad at God?

Becky: I was mad at God. I was working at Lifeway, which is, obviously, a very Christian organization, so I couldn’t remove myself from all things biblical, but I wasn’t pursuing the gospel in those months. I was just kind of like, “I don’t even know if I fully believe in all this, because this guy that You gave me, who said that the only thing that he loved more than me was You, this is what he did. This does not match up with what I know to believe is true about Christians and how they should treat each other, let alone their wives.”

So, I was just really struggling with my own faith in a lot of ways, and believing, “If the Lord really loved me, why would He do this to me? Why would He allow this to happen to me through the man who was supposed to be the spiritual head of my household?” Because that was kind of my whole prayer.

I grew up in a family where my dad is one of the best people I’ve ever known in all of my life, but I never really knew if he knew the Lord or not. My mom took us to church every chance she got. She sent us to every youth camp, every Christian whatever, and my dad funded all of it happily. He was very supportive, but he wasn’t the one to take us to church. He wasn’t the one to open the Bible with us, all those types of things.

I remember, from a very young age, not being able to articulate it, but knowing, “This is a missing piece.” I wanted my dad to be that spiritual leader. So, I just told the Lord when I was 10 years old, “I will wait for this man for my kids. I’m not going to pursue any relationship; I’m just going to wait for You to send me the man who will be that spiritual leader for my family.” So, fast forward to our marriage, and I’m just thinking, “Okay, this is—”

Ann: —“I waited, Lord, and this is—”

Becky: Yes! “Why did I save myself for this? Why did I wait for this?”

Ann: And Jared, just hearing that probably heaps more shame on you. So, you’re crying into the carpet, “Please, please, please.”

Jared: Yes. I had done that a number of nights, but one night in particular—there was nothing different about this night, at least as far as I could tell it was just prayers of desperation, but—it was like the Lord reached down into that guest bedroom through the ceiling and grabbed hold of me and spoke to my heart. I didn’t have an audible voice or a vision or anything like that, except just in my heart.

The words, unmistakably, that I heard were, “I love you, and I approve of you.” The “I approve of you” was really huge, because I had an idea theologically about, “Yes, God loves everyone, and God is love,” and that sort of thing; but the “I approve of you” was news to me. That was from the Holy Spirit. It was speaking the words of the gospel to me. I knew He didn’t approve of what I’d done; I knew He didn’t approve of me in my sin, that sort of thing.

But those words in particular were like the lights came on. If you remember in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, where he’s in the pigsty and it says, “He came to himself” or “He came to his senses—”

Dave: Yes, yes.

Jared: —it was like that. It was like someone had raised the shades up, and sunlight had come into the room. It changed everything for me—not the circumstance; it didn’t fix our relationship right then, but in the moment—it vanquished feelings of despair from me. It vanquished my desire to off myself.

It gave me an energy and a kind of spiritual fuel that I did not have up to that moment. I was vacillating between feeling very sad and feeling very numb, which is something that depression will do to you. It just sort of saps you of feeling entirely, just like walking through life like a zombie. This just gave me joy and an energy that I did not know. And for the first time, I realized that the gospel wasn’t just for when I was a lost person who needed to be converted, but it was for me as a Christian.

I didn’t grow up hearing that message. If it was there, I didn’t hear it, and I certainly didn’t know it until that night, that the Good News was for me, even as a believer; that God approved of me because of Jesus, not because of me, but because of Jesus. It just turned things upside down. So, from then on, now, I’m trying to work at our relationship in a way that is fueled by this joy that I have.

That’s a story unto itself, because it wasn’t like I could just go downstairs and wake her up and say, “Hey! Good news!” [Laughter]

Becky: “Everything’s fine!”

Jared: “God approves of me.” [Laughter]

Dave: “Well, I don’t!”

Jared: Yes, exactly. That’s exactly right. She would have said, “That’s very nice for you, but—” But that was, I think, the turning point in loving her now in a way completely without expectation. The expectation I had was that, any day still, she was going to say, “This is it. Here are the papers,” or something. But I’m loving her with no expectation or strings attached.

I think that’s how you know you actually love somebody is when you love them and there’s no response. Anyone can love if you know you’re going to get something back.

Dave: Yes, reciprocal.

Jared: But when you have no hope of that, or no expectation of that, and you still are just loving someone—I think the Lord began to use that to kind of soften both of us.

Ann: Oh, Becky. You’re probably thinking, “What is happening?”

Becky: Yes, because like you said, had he come to me immediately and just been like, “Hey, everything’s cool now. Guess what just happened?” I would probably have kicked him in the throat. But from that day—and I didn’t even know that that experience had happened, so, I didn’t have a benchmark to say, “Okay, now I’m going to start measuring”—but over time I certainly saw a transformed man.

Dave: Really.

Becky: He was behaving differently, even just the way he interacted with our kids. I want to be very clear about saying, he was always wonderful to our girls. There was never any hint of any wrongdoing with them. But his energy with them, his softness, his patience; he was being transformed by the Holy Spirit right before my eyes.

Even that made me almost a little bit mad, at first, if I’m being honest, because I thought, “Well, now I’m a complete wreck and a jerk and a whatever, and he’s doing great, so I don’t know.” [Laughter] I continued to kind of walk in this questioning, “What is this going to look like moving forward?” I’m still leaving, going to work every day. I wanted to be home with my girls. That was another thing that was kind of a whole separate issue that we were kind of upside down in the way that we wanted life to look anyway.

My goal had always been to be a stay-at-home mom, and I was the breadwinner. So, I’m leaving my house at 6:00 a.m. every morning, not getting home until 5:00 p.m., just crying the whole way there and back for years, just missing my kids even aside from all the other stuff. So, I’m still doing that and still just kind of thinking, “Okay, well he’s different. I can tell something’s different, but I still don’t like this. So, what do I do with all of this?”

But I slowly started to get back to prayer and trying to get back into Scripture and just figure out, “I think I believe, really truly believe all this stuff. What does it mean? What does it mean for the way I pursue this relationship now?” all that kind of thing.

Fast forward another six or nine months—it all kind of runs together now, but—I kind of had my gospel wakefulness moment, where I’m driving to work one day, and I have to pull over because I’m sobbing so much, I can’t even see the road in front of me. And just sitting there and thinking—I had this clear, clear, clear image of the Lord saying to me, “You know what? His sin is different from yours, but it’s not bigger.”

That was the moment for me that I realized, “Okay, that’s so true, and I can do this. We can do this. Through the Lord, we can do this, with the Lord’s power, through the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s a true statement about me. I’m not better.”

Shelby: Those are pearls of wisdom right there. They really are. Other people’s sin is probably different from yours, but it’s not bigger. What if we had that perspective with our spouse? What if I had that perspective with my spouse, and she with me? I think Jesus would get down into the roots of our lives and really begin to change marriages and relationships from the base level all the way up. That was beautiful.

I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Jared and Becky Wilson on FamilyLife Today. It’s been a Wilson day in every sense of the word. Jared has written a book called Love Me Anyway: How God’s Perfect Love Fills our Deepest Longing. It really explores the universal longing for unconditional love through the lens of I Corinthians 13.

It's not just the platitudes that you often hear, maybe at a marriage ceremony. There is a lot of controversial stuff in there, often humorous stuff as well. You can go online to, where you can find Jared’s book in the show notes section at the bottom of the page. Or if you want to, you can give us a call at 800-358-6329 to get a copy of Jared’s book. Again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.” Just request Love Me Anyway by Jared Wilson.

You know, we still have 20 Weekend to Remember®getaways coming up between right now and mid-June. Whether you want to stay close to home or jet off to somewhere new, we have Weekend to Remember marriage getaways that are happening everywhere. And the great news is, they are, right now, on sale for more than 40 percent off.

So, if that sounds appealing to you—to find a location to get a weekend away with your spouse, you can go to the show notes or to find out a location and a date that works for you. I really encourage you to do that. My wife and I have been to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. It was amazing, transformative; so, I highly encourage you to do so.

Tomorrow, I think we could all use some encouragement for anyone who might be holding on to some bitterness, and maybe doubting their partner’s ability to change. I know of several couples who struggle with bitterness toward their spouse, and they just wonder, “Are they ever going to change?” Well, Jared and Becky Wilson are back tomorrow with our Wilsons to talk about that and give us some encouragement. We hope you will 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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