FamilyLife Today® Podcast

When Your Husband Doesn’t Believe

with Nancy Meyer | July 14, 2009
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Are you and your husband on the same spiritual playing field? Author Nancy Meyer tells Dennis Rainey how she continues to love, honor, and serve her unbelieving husband, Rich.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Are you and your husband on the same spiritual playing field? Author Nancy Meyer tells Dennis Rainey how she continues to love, honor, and serve her unbelieving husband, Rich.

  • 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.

Are you and your husband on the same spiritual playing field?

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When Your Husband Doesn’t Believe

With Nancy Meyer
July 14, 2009
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Nancy Meyer:  A spiritually single mom is one where the husband and the wife are intact.  It’s an intact family, but they are a spiritually divided home.  And so, with that definition in place it’s also true that there are some spiritually single women who are sitting in church congregations right now who are sitting beside a man that has checked out.  He’s just not in tune with God anymore, or they are not in tune in quite the same way and she feels abandoned.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 14th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine.  Among the challenges women face when they are spiritually single, is the challenge of raising children to love Christ.  We are going to talk more about that today.  Stay tuned.

Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us.  There were times when you and Barbara were raising your kids that the two of you were not on the same page with regard to your parenting, right?

Dennis:  Do you think? You and MaryAnn have had those moments.


Bob:  It just stands to reason, that you are two different people with two different viewpoints and


Dennis:  yes,

Bob:  There are going to be parenting issues where you’re going to look at each other and go, I think you are wrong here.

Dennis:  If you agree all the time, one of you is unnecessary.  So Barbara and I proved the necessity of our marriage, because we had some spirited conversations.

 Bob:  But when you were out of joint, both of you had a common reference point you could come back to, at least spiritually to say what is it we believe, and what do we want to see happen in the lives of our kids?

Dennis:   No doubt about it, and I’m grateful for that spiritual foundation.  We started out our marriage with it. And I think often of how families raise their children where there isn’t that same spiritual agreement, in fact, where there is spiritual disagreement.  In fact, you may be in a marriage where you are spiritually mismatched.  If you are, you’re going to benefit from a brand new book called, Spiritually Single Moms, by Nancy Sebastian Meyer.  Nancy, welcome back to the broadcast

Nancy:  Thanks Dennis, it’s great to be here.

Dennis:  Nancy lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, beautiful area of the country.  She has one daughter, been married for over 20 years and she has her husband’s permission to tell a very forthright story of how he left the faith after being a youth pastor for a period of time.  And you were so impacted by his, well; I hate to call it, spiritual defection.

Nancy:   That’s basically it, though.

Dennis:  But him leaving the faith, that you felt like you were a spiritually single mom and you’ve written about it, you’ve spoken about it, your book is about how you can raise godly kids when dad doesn’t believe.

Nancy:  Right.

Dennis:  Now, if dad doesn’t want you to go to church, how do you respond at that point?  What’s your advice to the woman who’s in a marriage where he says to her, no, I don’t want you taking the kids, I don’t want you going, I want you here.  That’s our day together, that’s our family time.  Be there.

Nancy:  It’s a really, really tough question to answer, and its different for a lot of different people. But the basic guidelines that I recommend and that I live by are number one:  I take that kind of thing to God in prayer immediately, and I try not to feel personally attacked.  But to realize that you were supposed to be on the same side of the table here, so I’m going to go around the table and sit beside my husband and try and see where he is coming from and see what his real need is.

Ok, why is he saying that, what does he want and can there be some sort of middle ground and then I might suggest a middle ground.  Something like how about if I take the children to church with me on two Sundays a month and we spend the other two Sundays doing something family related.  The Bible doesn’t say that we need to go to church every single week, it does say that we should not forsake the gathering together.  And our children need that, they need to go to church with us to see other people who believe the way we do so that it’s not just mom’s religion.  But other people that they respect also know and love God, people who invest their selves in your children’s lives.

Bob:  Did Rich ever resent you getting up every Sunday morning and you and Becky heading off to church and he wanted to go do something with you guys?

Nancy:  Absolutely.  He has a Jeep Wrangler and he loves to go jeep trail riding and that happens generally on Saturdays and Sundays.  And Sunday is a big day for that and in order to do that you have to get up early and go upstate Pennsylvania to find the right place.  So it’s a daylong event. 

And so when I realized that this is really important to Rich, it’s something that he really likes to do, I sat down and talked it out with God.  And realized that I could say to Rich, you know, Becky and I want to do things with you.  You’re only home, basically not working on Saturdays and Sundays so if we can’t do something Saturday and it’s a Sunday event, then let me know and we will work that into the schedule.  I would like to be able to go regularly, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t do something with you because you matter, you matter a lot.

Bob:  There are some folks who will hear you saying that, you know, you’re saying to your husband that church is less than important than him when you do that.

Nancy:  Right, but neither one is, it’s not like an either/or situation it’s you’ve got to work it out and if we’re gone away from church, you know, too many Sundays, out of a year, I sit down and really look at that hard and talk to Rich about it.

Dennis:  As Becky has observed this, I mean your daughter has undoubtedly watched hundreds of these choices get worked out in your marriage.  While at the same time you’re trying to train her to ultimately have a faith of her own.  In fact, you believe that there are two spiritually foundational principles.  Well they’re good for every parent, not just those who are in spiritually mismatched marriages or for single parent moms or dads.  These are good for all of us, share those with our listeners if you would please.

Nancy:  Well number one, you can only believe in God for yourself.  You can’t believe for your children or for your husband.  God doesn’t have grandchildren, so it’s not like I can make Becky’s spiritual decisions for her, or Rich’s spiritual decisions.  I have to trust God, have faith that He is working in her life, do my part to put whatever it is within her grasp and then trust that God’s going to deal with her on that.  And then second, as badly as I want Becky to believe in God, I’ve got to release her to make her own decisions and allow God to work

Dennis:  It really does take God to put those spiritual truths into the hearts of our children.  In fact, I’d have to say that was one of the more difficult things Barbara and I faced as we’ve raised our six.  Is backing off and realizing that the responsibility of spiritually helping them grow up to become the men and women they need to be we have a piece of that responsibility, but ultimately they’re God’s and they’re His to do with as He chooses.

Nancy:  Yes, and I’m just sitting here thinking, I think God wants me to share something that is still a little tender.  About three months ago, Becky came to Rich and I and actually, she left Rich and I, she left the house and she went to a place where she felt a little more safe.  That just disturbed me that she didn’t feel safe at home because I thought I was doing a good job.  I wrote this book, you know, wrote the book on spiritually single mothering and …

Dennis:  She’s still in high school?

Nancy:  Yes, she is in her senior year this year and I’ve been…

Dennis:  And how long did she leave for?

Nancy:  She left for the weekend and went to a friend’s house.  And when I called her to make sure where she was and if she was safe, because this is the first time she’s done anything like this.  I knew that she at that time was struggling with college decisions and that had to be made within a few weeks and a senior project that wasn’t completed and some grades that weren’t up to par.  So I knew that she was really under the gun here, and she wasn’t making good choices as far as her attitude and things.

Dennis:  um, hmmm

Nancy:  So she left the home and she left her laptop, I could tell that things weren’t where they should have been at that point.  So I called her cell phone after about an hour and her friend answered and said, “Well, she doesn’t want to talk to you right now.  She needs to just, she doesn’t feel safe,” and the feeling safe just got to me and I said, “well, could she call George?” and he’s our pastor of counseling, who’s my second cousin and often works with both of us about, you know, he screws our heads back on right every once in a while.  And he works with me primarily so I can take some things before him and work them out in a safe place. 

So, thankfully, she called George and said can I meet with you? He gave her a Sunday morning appointment during Sunday school time and then he called us and he said, “I just talked to Becky and I don’t know what’s going on.”  Well he came over Sunday afternoon after he had spoken with her, before we were supposed to meet the four of us that evening.  He said she’s really going through some tough stuff and it involves both of you. 

And I was sitting there righteously indignant at the fact that why do I have to work on anything, I thought I’d worked through everything.  I thought I was right where God wanted me to be and God really, His spirit just spoke to my heart and laid a blanket of peace over me and said I’m walking with you through this.  Nobody arrives until you see me face to face.  It was a really good reminder and I’m being really honest with you here on some tough stuff. 

But he said to Rich and I, you need to come to counseling with her, you need to commit to it.  And he said to Rich, I won’t change my normal counseling, which is counseling from a Christian world view, Rich said, no don’t worry about it you know whatever is for Becky would be great.  Well we met with them that evening, and with Becky and George, and then she stayed with her spiritual mentor and her husband for about a week and a half and then came back home and we’re dealing with things. 

But I tell you this specifically to be honest and say I goofed up.  Becky shared with me that even after all these years she’s been having some problems with me because I would give her choices you know, the last chapter of this book is trusting God and letting go and I thought I was doing a good job with that, but I was giving her choices and letting her know which choice I thought she should be making pretty obviously. 

If she didn’t make that choice then I would negotiate for that choice.  And I was being too heavy handed with her and she got so tired of fighting me on that, internally, trying to, you know, talk me out of what I was interested in.  She said, “Mom, for the last like eight months I’ve just given up and I just do whatever I think you want because I don’t want to go through that.” 

It was just awful to come face to face with that and yet at the very same time and this is what I want everybody to hear.  I knew and had a confidence that if God was bringing this to light then He could use this in my life and in her life. 

I bring it up also, because none of us has arrived.  We never get to the point where we can’t learn something and I tell you in the last three to four months I have learned how to listen to Becky like I’ve never listened before.  I also am understanding that I’m still not doing a good job at it.  Got to keep working on these things.

Dennis:  Parenting is one long process of letting go of your children, if you don’t let go they’re going to feel controlled and they’re going to chafe, they’re going to resist, they’re going to rebel.

Bob:  But as you say that finding that place between the necessary guidance you need to be giving as a mother or a father and the letting go you need to be doing, that’s not an exact science is it?

Dennis:  Wait till you give your daughter away at the wedding then you ultimately do, once and for all let go.  That really is kind of the ultimate challenge. A question I have for you, that I’ve wondered in your family would Becky describe her life as being lived in the midst of spiritual crosscurrents?  I mean, here she’s with a mom who’s helping her grow up to become a woman of God, a woman who obeys the scripture.

Bob:  And she has gone on missions trips and she has embraced the gospel and goes to church and so…

Nancy:  Very strong believer

Bob:  In terms of this growing up in the family if there are spiritual cross currents she’s been on mom’s side of the stream, right?

Dennis:  But, she’s had a father and, you know, little girls are the apple of daddy’s eye.

Nancy:   Right

Dennis:  She’s undoubtedly felt the cross current of her dad.  How has she handled that?

Nancy:  Spiritual cross currents, that’s a very, very interesting phrase and I think it’s very applicable in a spiritually divided home.  There would definitely be spiritual cross currents and sometimes there’s just a meeting of the two opposite viewpoints that’s coming together and it can be very hurtful, very discouraging.

Bob:  Has Rich ever said anything to you like, well if you want to take her to church and let her get her head all filled up with fairy tales.  Has he ever said anything like you know why is she spending time memorizing Bible verses, I mean he has basically turned away from these things and said I don’t believe this anymore.

Nancy:  He hasn’t been nearly so kind, his sarcasm is one of his communication methods and he’s been very terse and very sarcastic about some of the things that we’ve done.  It’s very obvious to Becky and as she’s gotten older he’s been less careful about what he’s said and been more real, if you want to put it that way.

Bob:  And has that caused her to rethink her faith.

Nancy:  No, I think in the long run it’s made it stronger and she’s had to go to God with some of these things.  That’s one of the keys as far as my mothering.  When Becky and I have talked about something that’s bothering her with Rich, when we talk about that, I make sure that after we’ve spoken and hashed some things out and we’ve actually been talking about Rich behind his back, I say to her let’s pray about your dad now.

You know, let’s bring this to God, let’s leave it there and then tell me a couple of things you like about dad.  You know, just to get back on that, ok we’ve dealt with this issue, now let’s get back to our sweet spot where we love and respect and, you know, we are on dad’s side. 

Dennis:  Spiritually speaking, there are going to be those who heard you mention the phrase, talking about her dad behind his back, and they’re going, people are going to blanch at that, they’re going to…

Nancy:  Right

Dennis:  Let’s talk about unnecessarily dumping..

Nancy:  Right

Dennis:  On your children, and  at the same time spiritually helping them understand what’s going on here, in mommy and daddy’s marriage and in our family.  How do you navigate the meeting of those two streams?

Nancy:   It’s very, very important to talk to your children about the things that occupy their minds.  George, the counselor, has been such a great help to me.  He’s the one that told me that it is very important I don’t tell Becky more than she already knows about a situation.  In other words, if she knows about a situation, we might need to work through that, but if she doesn’t know about something that happened, it’s not my purpose to bring that to her attention and to talk through it with her.

That’s not who I should be talking through it with.  Let me give you a solid example.  Let’s say at the dinner table Rich says something inappropriate, just mean, cutting, unkind, sarcastic to Becky.  Well, that’s something that’s actually happened to her and so while I’m not going to call him down on the table on that particular issue at that point, unless it’s appropriate, but most times it’s not, just let it go.  But then I’ll deal with her on that later.  If that is an issue, if I feel that’s something that’s been an issue for her, then we talk about it, we work through it, we pray about it and then we set it aside. 

The other situation is if, we’ve been at the kitchen table, the three of us, we’ve been eating together and or we’ve been talking and he says something mean to me or something that is cutting, and she knows that I got hurt, or that it was a hurtful thing that could have hurt me.  Sometimes that hurts us more when someone, you know, is needling someone we love and so I think she gets hurt more in situations like that.  So if she sees me being affected by something like that that’s also something I need to process through with her. 

Bob:  But if she’s gone for the weekend and something bad happens

Nancy:  Exactly.

Bob:   You don’t wait for her to get home on Sunday night and say let me tell you what your dad did this weekend.

Nancy:  Exactly, that’s not fair to Rich, it’s not fair to Becky.  It would only be in my best interests and boy if there’s one thing I’m learning about communication, and I say learning because I learned it awhile ago as a principle, but I will work it out for the rest of my life. 

And that is that communication, if it’s toward a person needs to be for that persons benefit and if it’s not benefitting that person then why am I saying it.  There are some times when I need to talk to process, but that better not be with a person that I’m in a difficult relationship with.

Dennis:  Well, and it doesn’t need to be with a young person who may not have the emotional and spiritual maturity to process, especially your feelings toward her daddy.

Nancy:  Right

Dennis:  I mean you need to protect her and her own emotional and spiritual well-being as well as her own respect of her father, by not dumping on her.  And I can see how if I was in a home where I was spiritually mismatched I think it’d be a real temptation to dump on the spouse and say you know, kind of a pity party, your mother just wasn’t, she’s just not in tune with what God’s doing and it’s just tough.  You know, this is just a hard thing that your dad has to deal with here.  I mean, it would be real easy to play the sympathy card with your children at that point. 

Nancy:  Well, you’ve got righteousness on your side, you know.  (laughter)  It feels like that.

Bob:  I’m imaging the mom or the dad in a home where they’re married to someone who is spiritually mismatched and the child is with the spiritually mismatched parent.

Nancy:  Right.

Bob:  In other words, Mom’s got a son here and dad isn’t a believer and the son is kind of going, I like the way dad’s doing it.  I like watching the movies dad’s watching.

Nancy:  Exactly.

Dennis:  He’s identifying with him.

Bob:  Yes,

Nancy:  Exactly.

Bob:  And so he’s growing up and saying mom if you want to believe that stuff that’s fine but dad and I don’t.

Nancy:  That’s exactly why you take them to church and you get them involved with other adults, other Christian believers who can enter into their lives as a special person and can model and encourage and teach and nurture the same kind of qualities as you are looking

Bob:  But you may do that and the kid may still say, I’m following dad’s way of doing things I think you know I’d rather go out in the jeep on Sunday morning than go to the stupid church on Sunday morning.

Nancy:  You get on your knees and you pray harder and you have others who are praying with you.  I know that it sounds like you’re not doing enough when you’re just praying and sometimes I’ve run across women who are so desperate because they see their child slipping away.  But trust really plays a factor, a faith that God is there and He is going to what you’ve instilled in that child at an early age, He’s going to bring to fruition at some point.

Bob:  If a husband says to his wife, I don’t want you reading the Bible to our kids, I don’t want you taking them to church, I don’t want you having them memorize scripture. I don’t want you doing that stuff.  What do you say?

Nancy:  Well there’s actually a paragraph in the book that says if he says no, if dad says no to the rest of the family attending church or other spiritual activities, your situation is similar to that of the Christians who live in foreign  countries, where practicing Christianity is illegal. 

In those places, Christians meet secretly in small groups and read God’s word or rehearse it from memory, if they have no Bibles.  And of all the Christians on earth, they’re probably the most zealous because of their persecution.  Even though Rich is not hostile toward the gospel, Becky and I will play praise music and talk about God a little bit more freely when he’s not there.  It’s a tough, tough thing.

Dennis:  You know, in all this it really goes back to those two spiritually foundational principles that you mentioned in chapter four in your book that first of all you can’t believe for your children.


Nancy:  That’s right.

Dennis:  And secondly, it really takes God to put it in their hearts, he has to chase them down.  He has to grab their hearts and they have to turn toward him because of that love and give their lives to him. 

Nancy, I just appreciate your work here, your willingness to be vulnerable, you’re not the first person to write a book, put your name on the cover, like you’ve done here.  And then have to learn a few things.  (laughter)

I wrote a book about parenting today’s adolescent before…

Bob:  before you were done…

Dennis:  before I was done.  That was a big mistake, Nancy, but you are a good sport and I just appreciate Rich first of all in allowing you to share the story because you really are keeping some marriages together that otherwise might dissolve.  I think you’re calling women to faith and to a tough trust in God and I just appreciate you and your ministry and am glad you joined us here on FamilyLife Today.

Nancy:  Thank you so much.

Bob:  Yes, this has been very helpful, I know for a lot of our listeners.  Let me encourage you, go to our website, we have information available there about Nancy’s book which is called, Spiritually Single Mom’s:  Raising Godly Kids When Dad Doesn’t Believe, I want you to think for a minute, maybe you’re not in this situation, yourself, but it could be that you know a woman, you see her every Sunday at church or someone you know in your neighborhood or in your workplace.  And this is her exact situation, go to get a copy of Nancy’s book, get a copy of the CD of the conversation we’ve had with her this week. 

We have other resources that are available there as well, and give a gift to her that can help encourage her and can say to her, I’m here for you and I want to help.  Again all the information you need is available at or you can call toll free, 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329.  And when you call, someone on our team can let you know how you can get the specific resources you need sent to you. 

Now, I want to take just a minute and say a word of thanks to those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  In a very real sense, we could not do what we’re doing, we could not be here each day producing and syndicating this radio program, if it weren’t for folks like you in the cities where FamilyLife Today is heard.  Who contact us either online or by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY and helping to support this ministry. 

We are listener supported and your contributions are what make it possible for us to be on this particular station.  And this month, we have a special way of saying thank you.  If you are able to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today we’d like to send you a CD where Dennis and I have a conversation with, author and speaker, Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  She speaks on the daily radio program Revive Our Hearts.  She wrote a book several months ago, called Choosing Forgiveness.  We sat down and talked with her about how important forgiveness is in every aspect of our lives, but particularly in our marriage relationship and as we raise our children. 

The CD of our conversation with Nancy is our way of saying thank you to you this month when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.  So if you are making a donation online at and you’d like to receive a copy of this CD, just type the word “forgive” in the key code box that you find on the online donation form or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY, make a donation over the phone and simply ask for a copy of the CD on forgiveness. 

Again, we are happy to send it out to you and I want to say thanks again for your support of this ministry.  We so much appreciate your partnership with us.

Tomorrow, we are going to talk to a mom and a dad who are on the same page spiritually and we’re going to talk with them about a strategy that they have employed as they’ve raised their children to be godly children.  We’ll let them tell you about that strategy tomorrow. I hope you can tune in to 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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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

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