FamilyLife Today® Podcast

“You Complete Me”

with Bob Lepine | June 19, 2019
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According to pastor Bob Lepine, marriages often begin with the misguided idea that "She's here to complete me." This popular and misguided first step trips up many couples in the early years of marriage. Bob Lepine describes what he calls the "Three Phases of Marriage."

  • 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.

According to Bob Lepine, marriages often begin with the misguided idea that “She’s here to complete me.” Bob Lepine describes what he calls the “Three Phases of Marriage.”

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“You Complete Me”

With Bob Lepine
June 19, 2019
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Bob: Do you see the purpose for your marriage today differently than how you saw it when you first got married? If you don’t, maybe it’s time to pause and rethink what marriage is supposed to be all about.

This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, June 19th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. Every marriage goes through phases, and our understanding of marriage ought to grow as those phases progress. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. I brought a tape of me today. [Laughter]

Dave: I was going to say, “Today’s an exciting day for Bob Lepine!”

Ann: I’m actually really excited, because listeners don’t always get to hear you deliver a message. You’re wonderful; you’re a great communicator—they’re in for a treat.

Dave: Yes; I was thinking the same thing. You’re the host—you’re always setting up somebody else. We’re going to set you up: “Bob Lepine can bring it—and this is in his wheelhouse, talking about marriage and family and, especially, marriage.” And it’s personal; right?

Bob: It is. This is from the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise, back in February. I had the opportunity/the honor to be the closing speaker on the last night of the cruise.

Dave: That’s a big honor!

Ann: It is a big honor.

Bob: I was humbled that I got that opportunity. It had been a great week—you guys know.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: Yes.

Bob: This is a pretty special event.

I’ve actually been surprised at how much ministry happens on board this cruise; because when we started it, honestly, I thought, “It’ll be great—it’ll be a cruise, and there’ll be some great messages;—

Ann: Yes; “It’ll be fun.”

Bob: Yes—“and we’ll get to think about marriage a little bit, and that’s good.”

Dave: Yes.

Bob: But honestly, there are some profound things that are happening in the lives of couples in their marriages. There are some couples, who have come on the cruise every year—and I’m always surprised that they come—and they [different couples each year] go, “Yes; this is kind of our last hurrah.”

Ann: Yes.

Bob: I go, “Why are you coming on a cruise if that’s where you are in your marriage?”

Ann: —because it’s life-changing; it can be life-changing for so many couples.

Dave: And, you know, the cruises we are on—we talk to couples, whose marriage was saved on that boat—it was a miraculous deal.

Bob: Speaking of the cruises you’ve been on, you’re going to be on the 2020 cruise.

Dave: We sure are!

Bob: Looking forward to having you guys. Dennis and Barbara Rainey are going to be with us; we have Charlie and Kirstie Dates joining us; we have Dr. Gary Chapman—a great lineup of artists who are going to be with us and comedians—it’s just a fun event.

Here I am, talking about how exciting it is, and it’s almost sold out. I mean, we expect, by the end of this month, we will not have any cabins left. We’re about 90 percent sold out right now, so we just thought we ought to let our listeners know: “If you want to join us, Valentine’s week, 2020, on the tenth anniversary Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise, you’d better sign up now.”

In fact, our team agreed that, for FamilyLife Today listeners, if you’ll sign up this week, there’s a special offer. You can save $300 per couple off your stateroom, and they’re throwing in some additional perks as well. If you’d like to join us, now’s the time to make that decision. You can find out more about the cruise at, or you can call to book your stateroom—the number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. We can answer any questions you have, as well, when you call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Now, the message I shared—

Ann: Yes; what are you speaking on? What’s this first thing we’re going to listen to?

Bob: Well, we were talking, all week, about the different issues that couples have in marriage. I just felt—here’s how it kind of came about—I was reading Romans 12. Romans 12, you know, starts off with this idea—based on everything that Paul has said in the first 11 chapters—he says: “I’ve just explained the gospel to you, I’ve explained what God’s done for us/what Jesus has done to unite us again with the Father,” and then he says, “Based on all of that, I urge you, in response to that, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”

That’s an interesting concept, because it’s a contradiction in terms. A sacrifice is something that is dead.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: Right; this is living.

Bob: “I want you to be dead but alive,”—so—“Be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. This is your reasonable service of worship,” he says.

I was just chewing on that; and I thought, “So what does that look like in marriage?” If you say, “I’m going to be dead to me and alive to God in my marriage,” what does that look like? I started thinking about the whole trajectory of our marriage; and I thought: “I’ve gone through phases in my thinking about that,” and “I think those phases have gotten better,”—you know—“I don’t think I was better ten years ago; I think we’re better today than we were ten years ago.”

Ann: You’re learning a lot.

Bob: We’re just going to take folks on that journey this week and let them hear about what I refer to as the three phases of the marriage journey that we’ve been on.

[Recorded Message]

I want to tell you tonight the story of my marriage/our marriage together, which is coming up—we’re at about the 40-year mark—this spring we’ll celebrate 40 years of marriage. [Applause] Thank you. We’ve had some archeologists, who have been able to unearth some rare pictures. [Laughter] This is what it looked like, back 40 years ago, when Mary Ann and I were coming out of the church together. This was about 10:30 in the morning, walking out, having become man and wife.

Then, a few hours later, my groomsmen decided that they would go ahead and dress down, at least, halfway down. [Laughter] You can’t tell—we were going to zoom in, but Mary Ann is holding a cup from Braum’s ice cream. You Midwesterners know what Braum’s ice cream is; so yes. I mean, we went all out with Braum’s ice cream for our wedding; right?

We got married. The week we got married was the week that Peaches & Herb were number one on the charts with [singing], “Reunited, and it feels so good." Yes; thank you very much. [Laughter] It was appropriate, because we’d broken up before we got married; so, you know, we were kind of reunited. Then, two weeks later, Peaches & Herb got set aside by Donna Summer singing Hot Stuff. I thought, “This is just going to track our marriage all the way through,”—right?—[Laughter]—“The pop charts are just going to keep tracking our marriage relationship.”

We began marriage with, what I think of now as, Phase One of a marriage relationship. I’m guessing that about 99.7 percent of all marriages start in this Phase One of a marriage. It’s what I call the I-love-being-in-love-with-you phase, where you just want to be together all the time; because you just love being together, and you just can’t wait to see—you remember this phase? Remember when you felt this way?—it was so magical; you think, “This is what our relationship is going to be like, now, for the rest of our lives.”

I remember the day I heard the song on the radio that said, “Every day with you, girl, is sweeter than the day before.” I thought, “Yes; that’s not always true,”—you remember? [Laughter] Because you start off, thinking, “It’s just going to get better and better,” and then, you hit a few bumps; and you go, “Okay; it’s not just the magic I thought it would always be.”

Phase One is kind of that high romance—it’s the romantic phase of a relationship. It’s a great phase; it’s a wonderful phase—it’s the phase where you just love being in love with one another.

The problem with Phase One is, not that you have romantic feelings toward one another—that’s a good thing; that’s by God’s design—He made it that way. The problem with Phase One is when you think that’s the foundation for a strong, healthy marriage—when you think, “Our romantic feelings, and our passion, and our delight in being together—we can build on top of that.” That’s sandy soil; you can’t build on that—it’ll go down when you do that—that’s a bad foundation. Passion and delight are not solid; they won’t bear the weight of marriage over the years.

I’ll make a couple of observations about this romantic Phase One. First of all, as I said, romantic feelings are a good thing in marriage. It’s better to have them than not to have them; right? I mean, if the two of you are married, and you don’t have any feelings—any spark/any delight in being together—that’s going to be hard. So, it’s a good thing.

In fact, it’s part of God’s design. If you’ve read the Song of Solomon in the Bible, you know how it starts? This is the beginning: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine.” It goes racier from there; okay? I mean, there’s a naked picnic in Song of Solomon. [Laughter] Some of you are going: “Let’s go read the Bible together, right now, honey. [Laughter] We should have some time in God’s Word—I’m feeling.” [Laughter] I mean, when I read that—we used to say, “Hubba, hubba, hubba!”—you remember hubba? So that’s what I was thinking: “That’s where a good marriage starts. That’s okay; it’s a good thing. The problem is that it can’t bear the weight.”

Here’s the second observation, though: “If you don’t tend to the romantic side of your relationship, it will die. Without attention, your feelings are going to die.” The romantic side of a relationship—again, when we got married, we thought, “This doesn’t need any attention, because it just happens spontaneously and naturally.” During the dating years, that’s how it felt; then, you get married [for a while] and you go, “It’s not as easy or natural as it used to be.”

Well, it’s like a garden. If you have a garden and you want it to flourish, you have to pull the weeds and you have to tend to it. You don’t get the flower buds unless you take care of the garden with water, and fertilizer, and pulling the weeds; there has to be some cultivation going on.

The key is that, again, romance and passion can’t be the main course. They can be the dessert, and dessert is a good thing; right?—but you can’t build a diet around key lime pie, as I’ve tried. Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve done my best. You remember meeting James Drake; right?—the Beastmaster guy; right? I’m the Feastmaster guy; right? [Laughter]

I’m on a—there’s a longitudinal study that is being done with me. The longitudinal study is to see, if you just eat lots of key lime pie and—we have a sign here that says, “We love Bob and key lime pie,”—thank you; God bless you all; thank you. [Cheers] So this longitudinal study: “If you just eat sugar and simple carbs, can you actually have a bodybuilder’s physique?” Now, the results are not completely in yet. [Laughter] We’re going to keep this going for awhile and see, but it’s not looking good—I’ll just tell you that much; okay?

If you want to have a Beastmaster body, you have to have the proteins; and you have to watch your diet. If you want to have a well-cultivated marriage garden, you have to pull the weeds. You can’t build it on the dessert of marriage.

You know who this person is—anybody know who this person is right here? Put the picture up; can we? Raise your hand if you know who that person is. Okay; I just want to see if there are any guys who have raised their hand. If there are guys, who’ve raised their hand, just turn in your man card right now; okay, bro? [Laughter]

Okay; so who knows who this is?—who is this?

Audience: Marie Kondo.

Bob: Marie Kondo. Okay; so some of you know Marie Kondo. She is the star of the new Netflix series, which is called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. She has written the bestselling book, which is called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up; right? That’s the book I want to read to put me to sleep at night: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. [Laughter]

If you’ve watched any of the show, or if you’ve read any of the book, you know that key to the way Marie thinks about your house and your closet is: “Does it”—what?—

Audience: “Spark joy.”

Bob: —“spark joy?” Those of you who have watched it—here’s how this works for Marie. I watched an episode; okay?

She gets this couple, and they put all of their clothes on the bed—they clean out their closet, and all of their clothes are on the bed. Have you seen this?—right? So the pile of clothes—big pile. She says: “Now, what you do is—you come and you take a piece of clothing. You look at it; and you ask the question, ‘Does it spark joy?’ If that shirt sparks joy, you keep it; if it doesn’t spark joy, you get rid of it. But you can’t just get rid of it; you have to thank it for how it has served you and, then, you have to gently set it in the pile that’s going to the thrift shop.” [Laughter]

I thought this was a comedy—I was laughing; right? [Laughter] “Does your undershirt spark joy?” I’m going, “Who writes this stuff?!”—it was amazing!—okay? So this is Marie.

Well, this is the problem—a lot of people today are taking the Marie Kondo approach to marriage. Think about this—they’re holding up their marriage and saying, “Does my marriage still spark joy for me?” If it doesn’t, you thank it for its service and you put it in the pile that goes to the thrift shop! That’s not the way that this is supposed to work! You can’t declutter your marriage because it doesn’t spark joy. Genesis 2 did not say, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they’ll spark joy with each other,”—that’s not what it says.

Now, look—I hope you’ve had some sparks of joy over the last week. I hope time together—I hope just being with other people, and getting to see sights and the sunshine, and all of that—I hope that sparked joy. I hope—and I’m not just talking about romance and sex—although, I hope there have been some Wednesday nights for you here, too; alright? [Laughter] Because this is a part of God’s good design and His good gift, but it can’t be that that’s what you say is the foundation here.

The big problem is—when you take a sparks-of-joy approach to marriage, it puts your happiness as the centerpiece of what’s supposed to be making your marriage work. When you’re asking this question/when you’re saying to yourself, “Does my marriage spark joy in me?” what you’re really saying is: “Am I happy?” “Am I satisfied?” and who’s at the center of that equation?—you are!

When you ask yourself: “How’s my marriage doing? Does this marriage please me? Does this marriage make me happy?” that’s an okay question to be asking, because God did design marriage for there to be some level of mutual joy and happiness; but at the center of that question is you, and that’s where the problem is. If success in marriage or anything is defined by whether it pleases you or makes you happy, there’s a problem—we call that being self-centered; right?

I came to realize, in the early stages of my marriage to Mary Ann—I began to realize: “Here’s the problem with this. I was looking at Mary Ann, and she would spark joy in me. I would say, you know, ‘I love you’; and what I really meant was: ‘I love feeling sparks of joy. As long as you keep providing sparks of joy, I love you—not because of you—but because of the joy sparks’; right? It wasn’t really about me loving her; it was about me loving me.”

That’s really the observation I came away with. When I’m saying, “Does my marriage please me?” then that says, “I love you as long as you please me.” I realized, “I love you,” really means, “I love me.”

Now, listen to me here—some of you have never moved out of this phase in your marriage. Some of you, the most dominant question you’re asking in your marriage, day in and day out, is: “Am I pleased with this marriage? Does this marriage make me happy?” If that’s the fundamental question that you’re asking, you’re trying to build your marriage on the wrong foundation.

Three questions you can ask yourself, as we think about this Phase One of marriage:

Number one: “When you say, ‘I love my spouse,’ do you really mean, ‘I love the sparks when he or she provides them’? Is it really me I love, or is it this other person I love? Do I love what I get or do I love the person?”—that’s question number one.

Question number two: “When I think about the health of our marriage, do I gravitate toward the question, ‘How does this make me feel?’ Do I think that a strong marriage is built on a foundation of dessert?—right? Do I have the wrong foundation?”

Then the third question is—keep in mind, sparks of joy are an important part of a marriage; they can’t be the foundation—but if your marriage hasn’t sparked joy in awhile, ask yourself the question: “What could we do that would bring some sparks of joy? What are some things that could bring that back into a marriage?”—because it needs to be a part of your marriage.

Here’s the point: it needs to be a part; it can’t be the foundation. You can’t build on it; it has to be the dessert.

Okay; so that brought me to Phase Two. I can’t tell you the time or the place—there wasn’t a circumstance—I don’t have a story of when I woke up and realized, “Oh, I shouldn’t be building my marriage on self-centered, self-feeling kinds of stuff.” But I did start reading my Bible, and I started reading verses like this—Philippians 2 says: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” I read that and thought: “Okay; if I apply that to marriage, then I should be considering Mary Ann as more important than me. I shouldn’t just be looking out for my own interests; I should be looking out for her interests as well.”

Then I read in Romans 12, where it says, “Love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” “Okay; my job is to outdo her in showing honor to her.”

Then I got to Ephesians 5—and you know, guys, where it says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her,”—and I thought: “Okay; so I get the picture here. I’m to die to self. I’m not to be asking the question, ‘Does this please me?’ I should be asking the question: ‘Does this please her?’ ‘Am I doing what God wants me to do for her?’ ‘Am I dying to self and living for her?’”

This is Phase Two. I think of this as the Spouse-First Phase of a marriage relationship, where you start putting your spouse first. Hear me—the Bible does speak to this—it says you are supposed to honor one another; you are supposed to die to self; you are supposed to do nothing from selfishness—so this is a part of what the Bible teaches; but it’s not the whole truth. There’s a problem in Phase Two, when you go from saying, “Am I happy?” to saying, “Is my spouse happy?”

Now, follow me here—if you’re in Phase One, and you keep asking, “Am I happy?” it’s a good next step to get to a place, where you’re saying, “No; I should be thinking about my spouse instead.” That’s growth; that progress—you’re moving in the right direction; you just haven’t arrived when you get to Phase Two.



Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to a message from the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. It feels like we need cliffhanger music here; you know?

Ann: I know.

Bob: “Will Bob make it to Phase Three? [Laughter] Does he find where he’s supposed to get to in marriage?”

I think all of us can look back and say, “Yes; we started marriage with that kind of a self-focus.”

Ann: What percentage of people do you think start like that?

Bob: Oh, it has to be in the 90s.

Ann: That’s what I’m thinking—90 percent somewhere.

Dave: Yes; it has to be. I remember—it’s sort of funny; long story short—I ended up playing in a golf outing or a charity. I ended up with these three people that I didn’t know; and two of them were married—not to each other—but their spouses were working the tournament.

Long story short, this lady comes up to me on the tenth hole and she says, “John over here said that you’re a marriage expert.” I go, “What are you talking about?” “I guess you speak about marriage, and you write and…” I go, “I’m not a marriage expert.” She goes, “Anyway, I have a question for you.” She goes, “I’m in my second marriage.” She goes, “What’s the problem with marriage?”

Again, I’m standing on this—

Bob: —the tenth hole.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —green; right? I don’t know this lady. I have a minute to answer this question, maybe. I look at her and I go, “Well, I can answer that with one word: ‘selfishness.’” She looks at me and she goes: “You are so right! My first husband was so selfish!” [Laughter]

You can’t make this stuff up! I just looked at her and I go, “I’m not talking about your first husband.” I took my finger and I said, “I’m talking about you,” and then I turned the finger toward me and I said, “I’m talking about me.” At that point, she was like, “You’re selfish, too?” I’m like, “We’re all selfish, and we bring that into our marriage.” That’s what you were getting at!

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I mean, that first phase is like—you want to be selfless; but man, it’s in there; and we’re just selfish.

Ann: Well, what I’m intrigued about is—you say, “Take the focus off of yourself and please your spouse.” Most people would think: “Goodness, just to do that, alone, is this feat,” and “Now, you’re saying there’s more.”

Bob: Yes; getting to Phase Two is a significant next step, like we said.

Ann: Right.

Bob: But it’s not the end of the journey. If you get stuck in Phase Two, there can be problems when you say, “It’s all about my spouse,” just like there are problems if you say, “It’s all about me.” We’re going to hear more about that tomorrow.

We should mention, here, that the 2020 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, as we said earlier, is almost sold out. If you’d like to join us, Valentine’s week, February 11th through the 17th, find out more about the cruise when you go to; call to register at 1-800-FL-TODAY. If you register this week, as a FamilyLife Today listener, you’ll save $300 per couple off the cost of your cabin/your stateroom; and there are some additional perks thrown in.

We expect the cruise will be completely sold out by the end of June, so this is our “Countdown to Sellout.” We’d love to have you join us. Again, find out more when you go to; or call if you have any questions about the cruise or if you’re ready to register: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-FL-TODAY. Get in touch with us and book your cabin for the 2020 Love Like You Mean It tenth anniversary cruise.

David Robbins, who’s the President of FamilyLife®, is here with me. I know one of the things that excites you about this cruise is that couples, not only have a great time, but they leave the cruise with kind of a fresh wind in their sails to carry help and hope back to their friends and their neighbors.

David: Yes; you get together for this long—and God’s working in your own marriage, and you’re getting poured into, and when transformation happens—you can’t help but begin to let others know about the things that [you’re] learning.

I love it when we get back stories and comments from people, who have gone on the cruise and they said, “Hey, I got off the boat; and I started sharing with my neighbors” or “…my small group the things that they were learning.” All of a sudden, it’s birthed all sorts of conversations and impact that those couples have been having. We love seeing people go from isolation to impact.

Bob: Yes; they leave the cruise and start Art of Marriage® groups, or Art of Parenting® groups, or they start recommending FamilyLife Today podcasts to friends—whatever it is. And all of that because they just had an amazing week, where God poured into them.

Again, if you join us on the cruise this year, we’d love to have you. Information’s available at You can call to book your cabin at 1-800-FL-TODAY.

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear about the ultimate destination we should be headed to in our marriage. If it’s not all about pleasing me or all about pleasing you, what is it all about? We’ll hear about that tomorrow. I hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, 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; a Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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