FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Where Self-Centeredness and Marriage Col

with Doyle Roth | December 7, 2011
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Have you taken your spouse for granted? Successful businessman Doyle Roth talks to Dennis Rainey about his early years of marriage when he often left his wife behind for work or church. Doyle recalls the day when he knew things had to change, and tells how it did.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Have you taken your spouse for granted? Successful businessman Doyle Roth talks to Dennis Rainey about his early years of marriage when he often left his wife behind for work or church. Doyle recalls the day when he knew things had to change, and tells how it did.

  • 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.

Have you taken your spouse for granted?

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Where Self-Centeredness and Marriage Col

With Doyle Roth
December 07, 2011
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Bob:  I read a Tweet the other day that said it’s not enough just to know what the Bible teaches.  You actually have to do what it says.  So when it comes to verses like the ones that say, “Love one another,” “Encourage one another,” “Support one another,” author, Doyle Roth, says we need to pay attention to those verses.

Doyle:    We know the verses, but we do not apply them.  We can apply them outside the home:  we become good churchmen, people love us, we’re happy and all of those different things; but in the home, we’re different people.  That’s why it’s important for the Spirit of God to do something in a man’s life.  It’s not just the wife that nags him to death.  Unless we confront what God says and submit ourselves to what God says, we’re on a tough road and our wives are sort of stuck.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, December 7th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I am Bob Lepine.  Doyle Roth joins us today to share what his marriage looked like before and after he started applying the Bible at home.  We’ll hear his story today.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.  You know, I really love when lines converge.  I was having lunch last week with a friend of mine who is in a tough spot in his marriage.  He and his wife have been apart for a period of time.  He’s estranged from his children.  We were talking about the issues, and what’s going on, and whether there’s hope for their marriage.  I got back and I picked up a copy of the book that we’re going to be talking about today; and I thought, “This guy needs this book.”  I mean, it’s almost like it’s telling his story.

Dennis:  You know, as I look at the title to this book, Bob, I reflected on a story that is supposedly a true story that happened in a foreign country of a guy and his wife who were on a journey across this particular country.  They stopped at a service station to get gas and to use the restroom.  He got back in the car and—they must have had a real tight relationship because he drove for eight hours before he realized—

Bob:  Eight hours?!

Dennis:  Before he realized his wife was not in the back seat of the car.  It doesn’t tell the rest of the story, like Paul Harvey would tell us.  Like, “I wonder what that ride back to pick her up was like?  And then what that ride was like with her?”  But we do have the author of a book; and you’ll understand this now folks—what the name of the book is— Oops!  I Forgot My Wife.  Doyle Roth joins us on FamilyLife Today.  You didn’t forget her and drive eight hours though, did you Doyle?

Doyle:  No, I did not; but I forgot her for the first few years of my marriage.  That is a summary of, really, our particular journey.

Dennis:  Doyle is a businessman with a heart and a passion for marriages and families.  He is a speaker and counselor.  He and his wife Nancy have been married for four decades.  They have four adult children, only 12 grandchildren, and they live on a ranch in Colorado.  I just want to know if you have any elk that need to be exterminated out there?

Doyle:  We do have elk.  We have elk, bear, and mountain lion.  You name it, we’ve got it; but we don’t exterminate them.  We like to see them.  (Laughter)

Bob:  So you don’t want Dennis to come visit?

Doyle:  I’m not going to have Dennis come visit!  No!

Dennis:  You know, I love it in your book that you compare marriage to elk hunting.

Doyle:  That’s very true.  Yes, that’s right.

Dennis:  Explain what you mean by that.

Doyle:  Well, because with elk hunting, you try to be as careful as you can, Bob, when you’re walking through the woods.  You don’t like to break any trees.  You don’t like breaking any leaves.  You try to sneak and be as careful as you can; but as soon as you pull the trigger, and as soon as that elk is on the ground, there is whooping and hollering.  That’s sort of like marriage.

You know, in courtship, you try to be as careful as you can.  You try to be on your best behavior.  You try to do the things that would please your fiancé.  After the marriage, you often forget, and you just whoop and holler, and go your own self-centered way.  That puts the marriage in trouble.

Bob:  Your book is actually—you say it’s a fictional story, but it’s true.

Doyle:  It’s very true.  In fact, many of the issues in the story are merely snapshots from other counseling that I’ve been involved with; but the story helps to put people into the mood of looking at their own marriages.  You know, it’s easier, for a man especially, to look at someone else’s marriage and not just hold his own marriage under the light.

Bob:  Which is why, as I had lunch with my friend and then saw your book, I thought it would be perfect because a guy, in particular, can read someone else’s story.  If you get in his face and say, “You need to do this and you need to do that,” he’ll often tune you out.  But he’ll read somebody else’s story and get the message; won’t he?

Doyle:  Now, that’s exactly right; and our study materials that come with this book, allow a group to look at these lives and how they have been affected rather than looking personally at their own, until the proper time.

Bob:  How much of this story is your story?

Doyle:  Well, really the title is my story.  Oops! I Forgot My Wife really summarizes the early part of our marriage.  We did not do well.  I was involved in my businesses.  I was involved, in even, Christian work; but I was not paying attention.  I made assumptions about my wife.  I took her for granted.  The end result was she eventually said to me, Bob, “I hate your God because He has taken you away from me.”  Well, that’s a pretty hard statement for somebody to hear; but that’s really what happened.  I was ignoring her, and that was devastating to our relationship.

Bob:  How many years in before you had the kind of confrontation where she said, “I hate your God.”

Doyle:  This had been about five years into our marriage.

Bob:  Was there conflict, or was it just this growing isolation?

Doyle:  It was a little bit of both, but there was conflict.  I was raised in a home where raising your voice was pretty typical, and so that conflict did ensue.  There were problems as a result of that.  There was a time in my life, then, where we decided that we needed to have some help.  There was a man in Colorado Springs by the name of Jim Wright, who was familiar with our church, and we went to him for help.

Bob:  So you were not a stubborn dug-in husband when your wife said, “We’ve got issues.”  You said, “Let’s get help”?

Doyle:  Well, I was stubborn and dug-in; but the problem was that my family life really affected the spiritual life.  We weren’t together.  I mean, it was hypocritical for me to be out talking about what God can do in your life and then come home to a crying wife or a wife that’s upset with me.  That was so hypocritical.  I just had to face reality.

Dennis:  I think there are a lot of marriages in the church that start out there.  They assume they’re singing off the same song sheet—that they’re coming out of the Scripture with a blueprint for their marriage.  They turn around to take one another’s hand, and it’s not there.  They’re simply not equipped to deal with the issues of communication, conflict resolution, what the role of a husband or wife is.  In the meantime, here comes life at you full boar—making a living.  Then children arrive.  It’s real easy to get—what we’ve called it at the Weekend to Remember®, Bob—we call it an affair with ministry.  You can have an affair with the opposite sex or you can have an affair, even in doing Christian work.

Doyle:  Boy, Dennis, there’s no question about that.  You certainly can.  I was an example of that.

Bob:  Did you realize that your marriage needed some help before your wife really waved the flag hard at you or did you think, “This is just bumps, and they’ll smooth out?”

Doyle:  No, I just think I was wrapped up in my own affairs.  I became, in a sense, Bob, an image manager—wanting to try to have everything look good on the outside when, inside, I knew things weren’t right; but there were other things more important.  It was all outside.  It was other things.

Bob:  If we had your wife here, and she was describing the first five years of your marriage, how would she describe it?

Doyle:  She’d describe it pretty much the same.  She’d say, “He was pretty tuned-out.”

Bob:  Was she trying to pull you back in or was she just letting you go?

Doyle:  No, she was trying to pull me back in.  She would get real upset; but, again, I didn’t pay attention.

Dennis:  Was there a point in your relationship when the pain finally got your attention?  I mean, was there a kind of collision of all these crises that you were experiencing that said to you, “You know what?  You’ve got a major problem; and if you don’t fix this, you’re going to have an even bigger problem?”

Doyle:  Right.  Well, yes.  The term pain doesn’t fit me as well, Dennis.  What fits me is what really happened in the way of a Bible verse.  I remember a distinct time when God drove into my heart and into my head the Ephesians passage—Ephesians Five, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.” 

Now that was a major turning point in my thinking about how marriage should be conducted because it couldn’t be based on how I feel.  It’s based upon what I should do.  It was a commitment that I had made to my wife when we got married that I was going to love her.  So many Christians are familiar with those Bible verses, but they don’t apply them to their Christian lives.  I was a perfect illustration of that sort of hypocrite.  I could quote that verse; but at my home, I was not one who was doing that—sacrificially, totally, caring for my wife.  I was not doing that.

Dennis:  Did anybody confront you about that?  I mean, other than Nancy, of course.

Doyle:  Yes, well Nancy confronted me on a lot of things!  (Laughter)  So did

Dr. Grounds, and so did Jim Wright; but there was a moment when that Bible verse really took root in my heart and I realized that, “There has got to be some changes here if I’m going to go on for God.”  I really did feel a heart for the Lord, but this was a real inconsistency in my walk.

Bob:  If your marriage had gotten out of sync, did it drift back into sync or was there a point where you sat down with Nancy and said, “You know, I’ve realized some things.  I’ve not been the husband I need to be.”  You confessed.  You asked for forgiveness.  Was there a moment like that?

Doyle: Well, yes, there were many moments like that; but there was only a few where I really meant it.  You know, I see so many couples go through this drill in my office.  They go through the “I’m sorry-thing”; and yet, they turn right around a week or two later, they’re right back in the same pit.  There was really never the repentance that I think comes with godly sorrow.  I just realized that my life needed to change.  There was a godly sorrow before the Lord.  I was not doing what God wanted me to do.  The end result was that I had to make some changes.  I had to repent, and then go on.

Dennis:  At that moment, when you felt that—or when that, you said, it wasn’t a matter of feeling, it was a matter of intellectually coming to grips with your responsibility—did you go to Nancy at that point and make an attempt to repent with true, godly sorrow?

Doyle:  Yes, but you’d have to understand how insensitive I was, Dennis, to this whole thing.  I made a statement to my wife, that I’m ashamed of, but I’ll tell it to you here because it expressed, really, my heart in the issue; but it was hurtful to her.  That was, “I’m going to love you, whether I feel like it or not.”

Dennis:  You know, as you’ve talked about this story, I kind of hear some of that—that it’s intellectual and that the heart—the heart had to ultimately—play catch up—

Doyle:  Yes, there’s a sense in which that’s true.

Dennis:  —before you actually begin to feel certain things for your wife.

Bob:  It’s not the most romantic thing in the world to go to your wife and say, “You know, Sweetheart, I’m going to love you, whether I feel like it or not.”

Doyle:  No, and it didn’t make her feel very good either; but the feelings were something that we experienced later on in our marital journey.  You feel more in love after you intellectually are confronted by, “This is what God tells you to do as a Christian man, and this is what you need to be doing.”

Bob:  There was a time, somewhere in the journey, when we were just getting started with our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways, and you and your wife attended one of those?

Doyle:  Yes, we did.  We attended those, and I remember some of that very specifically.  I even remember writing those letters, Dennis!

Dennis:  It was a love letter, and you know that’s not an intellectual exercise. 

Doyle:  That was a hard thing for me to do!

Dennis:  I can understand that, now that I’ve heard your story!

Doyle:  It was hard to do.

Bob:  Why was it so hard to express love to your wife?

Doyle:  Well, because I was such a self-centered man.  I mean, I just thought in terms of myself.  It’s very hard to think in terms of where I am in relation to her because I was so involved with myself.

Dennis:  Did you have no need of her?  Would she have described you as a self-sufficient man?

Doyle:  I think so.  I think she would have.

Dennis: That’s kind of what I’m hearing.

Doyle:  I think that’s true.  I was self-sufficient.  I’d be self-absorbed.  You could go right down the list, self-righteous, self-willed—I think all of those things.  That’s really the essence of why theOops! book came into being was because self-centeredness has historically been such a huge part of my spiritual journey.  I needed to wrestle with that.

Dennis:  Let’s just take a step back and let’s say there’s a Nancy listening to us right now—or maybe it’s a Doyle who’s married to a wife who’s totally preoccupied with self—totally self-centered, like you described yourself.  What coaching would you give them in terms of attempting to be God’s woman or God’s man in that marriage?

Doyle:  If they are biblical people, and many of the people who come are biblical people—I think they have to be confronted with—for example, Mark, Chapter 8, Luke, Chapter 9.  “If any man is going to be My disciple, he must deny self.”  There’s a real issue biblically, for the self-life.  That’s the message that I think men need to hear from my story, and they need to read from the book.  It is, “Unless we’re willing to part with that, we’ve got some spiritual issues.”

Dennis:  So, if Nancy’s listening right now, does she go to her Doyle and say, “You know what, Sweetheart?  Your problem is you don’t deny yourself”?

Doyle:  I think that’s true.  It would certainly be in my case.  My Nancy would agree with that. 

Bob:  If she had come to you and said, “You know, I’ve diagnosed what’s wrong with you.  You’re just not dying to self like the Bible says.”

Doyle:  Bob, you’ve got to understand you’re talking to a pretty hard-headed guy here.  I probably wouldn’t have listened to her back then.

Dennis:  I’ve got a feeling that some of the women who are listening to us right now are married to hard-headed men, and a few men are married to hard-headed women.

Doyle:  They are, and that’s why it’s important for the Spirit of God to do something in the man’s life.  It’s not just the wife that nags him to death.  It’s really that he exposes himself to, “This in what God teaches.” 

In my work with couples, one of the things I find consistent is that we know the verses; but we do not apply them.  We can apply them outside the home:  we become good churchmen, people love us, we’re happy and all of those different things; but in the home, we’re different people.  Some of the cartoons in the book point to this, that we are just wrapped up in ourselves.  Unless we confront what God says and submit ourselves to what God says, we’re on a tough road and our wives are sort of stuck.

Bob:  Some of our listeners hear the title of the book, Oops! I Forgot My Wife; and they go, “Here’s another one of those shows where we’re just beating up on the guys.  If there’s a marriage problem, it’s always the guy’s fault.  How come you never talk about what the women are doing wrong in the marriage?  It’s always about what the guys are doing wrong.”  What would you say to that?

Doyle:  I’d say that men are primarily, I feel, the responsibility because, again, I look at my own marriage and I realize the home is built around healthy servant leadership.  The Bible teaches that.  The husband is to be the head of his wife, but the problem is that I was not a good servant leader.  I wasn’t following what the Bible teaches about being a loving leader of my wife.  I carry a great deal of responsibility for what happens in the relationship.  I feel the responsibility does rest on my shoulders. 

Now, does that mean that my wife is perfect, Dennis?  It doesn’t mean that she’s perfect.  She had her own issues spiritually.  She had to grow in her spiritual walk.  I can encourage that, if I’m a loving leader.  If I’m the right servant, I can help with that.

Bob:  You’ve done enough marital counseling now with folks that you’ve met guys who are really doing their best—trying as hard as they can to love their wife in a God-honoring way, to die to self, and do all of that—and their wife is just stuck.  It seems like 95 percent of the issue is with her.  You’ve seen situations like that.

Doyle:  Yes, absolutely!  That’s a real important thing for us to realize.  Women do play a very strong part, but you can change them only so much!  It’s God that really does the work in their heart.  You have to pray.  That’s where prayer comes in.

Dennis:  That’s true of men, too.  It’s God who has to change their hearts, too.  I’m thinking, Bob, of another interview we did a number of years ago where it was a hard-headed man whose name was Ken Sandy—who was an elder in the church, married—but practicing one type of religion at church and another type at home.  He was not loving his wife, and you know what she did? 

She looked him in the eye one time and she said, “Look, we have a problem in our marriage.  You are an elder in the church.  You’re called to care for me as your wife; and if you’re not willing to address this, I’m going to call the elders and we’re going to have a meeting with the elders—you and me.” 

Now, there would be some who would flinch at that; but, I think, at points, the church needs to be more central in helping couples who come to a stalemate—who come to a point where one of the spouses is not listening; doesn’t get it.  It needs to be handled in a loving way.  It’s not like you pick up a spiritual two-by-four and whack the other person beside the head, hoping they’ll get it just because they’re hard-headed. 

No, it has to be done in love—has to have a process to it—needs to have respect to it.  But to that woman who is in a marriage where there is a husband who doesn’t get it, refuses to get it—she really needs, in my opinion, to use the church to address that issue before their marriage gets to a point of crisis, that’s a point of no return.

Doyle:  Absolutely, Dennis, I agree with you 100 percent.  We’ve done the very same thing.  I’ve done the very same thing as taking couples to their church, to their pastor—getting other church members involved—because many men, like me, in those early years, do not like to be exposed.  They don’t like to have somebody else involved. 

When your pastor gets involved, or your elders get involved, it changes the dynamic of the counseling session very, very quickly.  God can use them.  After all, these are spiritual men.  They can come to your house and pray for you. The Bible teaches that in James.  We encourage that.

Dennis:  I can hear a wife saying, though, “You know, Dennis, I couldn’t begin to think about doing that.  That’s a silver bullet”—

Bob:  It’s a, “Hard to play”, right there

Dennis:  “It could cost me my marriage.”  Well, you know, before we came in here to do radio, we were talking.  We were chatting about how so many couples ask for help when the disease is terminal, after it’s too late.

Doyle:  That’s right.

Dennis:  Here’s where isolation is the great killer of marriages.  When you get a couple isolated—that are not letting other people into their lives to sharpen them and shape them and speak truth to them—it’s at those moments when they’re vulnerable to be convinced of anything by the Enemy.  I think your point that you just made about how we, as men, don’t like to be exposed—I think that’s an accurate statement that, “Sometimes what we don’t like is the very thing we need.”

Doyle:  No question about that.

Bob:  Well, you saw that in your own situation and you’ve seen it as you’ve worked with other couples.  I really appreciate the way that you put your story in this fictional story.  It’s not exactly your story.  It’s a fiction story, but there are elements that are in there—in the book that you’ve written called Oops! I Forgot My Wife.  It is a little twist on a way of dealing with this issue—but it’s a way that maybe some husbands or wives will read—where they wouldn’t sit down and read a book that’s full of marital advice, but they’ll read a story of somebody else and what they went through. 

We’ve got Doyle Roth’s book, Oops! I Forgot My Wife, along with his book, Oops!  We Forgot the Kids, together in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  Go online at for more information about these books.  You can order them from us online if you’d like.  Again, the website is; or call us toll- free at 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1-800, “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.

Now, some of you have already heard about what is going on around here during the month of December.  We’re very excited.  We have had some friends of the ministry who have come to us and they have said, “We want to encourage FamilyLife Today listeners to make a year-end contribution to FamilyLife.”  To try to help make that happen, they have offered a matching gift of $2.5 million.  We were very grateful for their generosity, and we want to take full advantage of that matching-gift opportunity that has been presented to us.

In recent days, we’ve started to hear that there are some other friends who are saying, “Wait, we’d like to add to that and increase the matching-gift number.”  That hasn’t all been put together yet, but we’re hoping that can happen; and we’re hoping that you will consider making a year-end contribution. When you do, your donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar.  So, if you give a $50 donation, we’ll get $50 from the matching fund. That’s the way that works. 

This is a critical time of year for FamilyLife Today, as it is for many ministries like ours.  What happens over the next few weeks will really set the course for what we’re able to continue to do in 2012.  Can we ask you to consider going to and clicking the button that says, “I Care”, and make a year-end contribution to FamilyLife Today?  Again, when you do that, your donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of, right now, $2.5 million.

Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY, and make your donation over the phone.  That is: 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.  Let me just say, “Thanks,” in advance for whatever you’re able to do.  We hope to hear from you, and we do appreciate your partnership with us and your support of this ministry.

Now, tomorrow, Doyle Roth is going to be back with us.  We’re going to hear more about how God intervened in his own marriage and about how he is coaching couples today when their marriages have drifted toward isolation.  I hope you can be back with us 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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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