FamilyLife Today® Radio Transcript
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Creating A More Romantic Marriage
Day 1 of 8
Guest: Dennis Rainey
From the series: Why Romance is Important
(Nat King Cole singing "L-O-V-E")
Bob: Believe it or not, this is FamilyLife Today. Our host is best-selling author and conference speaker, Dennis Rainey. I'm Bob Lepine. Stay with us as we talk about L-O-V-E today on FamilyLife Today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the broadcast.
Dennis: Do you think our listeners know who Nat King Cole is, Bob?
Bob: Oh, yeah, everybody knows who Nat King Cole is. I bought a two-record collection when I was in college, just because I thought, "He's got the smoothest voice, it's the most romantic music I've ever heard."
Dennis: Well, you know, we also have a lot of romantic adventures at our FamilyLife Marriage Conference, and I've got a letter here from a conferee couple who attended the Phoenix FamilyLife Marriage Conference – I think this was back in 1991. This is a classic, keeper letter from the archives of the thousands of attendees who have been to our conference.
Bob: Now, this is on hotel stationery, right?
Dennis: That's right – the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale. "Dear Dennis, when you suggested last night for us to be more creative in our romance, you never gave us the warning that it could be dangerous." Then in all capital letters, it reads, "RULE NUMBER 1 – ALWAYS BE PREPARED! AT LEAST WITH A SPARE KEY" – and now the rest of the story.
"After dinner and the sunset, we decided to take your advice and to add a little romance and be a little daring. Staying here at the hotel, we crept out onto our fourth-floor balcony for an incredibly romantic view, not to mention some privacy. Unbeknown to us, while we were 'communicating' and 'learning more about each other,' the maid was inside our bedroom, turning down our bedsheets for us. She did not know we were on the balcony. We did not know she was in the room. Maybe you can guess the rest. She locked the sliding glass door." It is signed, "Two lovers, romantic sky, and lots of privacy. Embarrassed from California."
Bob: So you have no idea how they ever got back in, huh?
Dennis: Your mind is only left to wonder – how did they get back in, there on the fourth floor of the hotel?
Bob: Well, that is a part of what we hope will be a romantic evening for couples at the FamilyLife Marriage Conference, but we hope that's not the end of romantic evenings for couples.
Dennis: Well, we really talk about FamilyLife Marriage Conference, taking Saturday and making it an adventure. That's not the kind of adventure we're talking about. We are talking about adding romance to your relationship, and I think at our conferences across the United States, that's what a lot of couples really seen infused back into their marriage relationship through all the teachings of scripture that build intimacy in their marriage relationship, they better understand how to relate to each other as husband and wife, and what I wanted to do, Bob, was I wanted to take the next few days, prior to Valentine's Day, and I wanted us to talk about the all-important subject of romance.
Bob: Now, you call it an all-important subject. You kind of get the feel that romance is something that's a part of the courtship process. After marriage, romance just doesn't seem like it has the same, you know –
Dennis: – sizzle.
Bob: Yeah, yeah.
Dennis: Yeah, that's right. Well, let me just read something from Song of Solomon, okay? Song of Solomon, chapter 1, verse 2 – "May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine; your oils have a pleasing fragrance; your name is like purified oil; therefore, the maidens love you. Draw me after you."
Now, here's the Shulamite woman who is attracted to Solomon. She is wanting her husband as the bride, and, you know, it's interesting that our God devoted an entire book of the 66 books that are in the inspired Word of God to this subject of romantic love, and one of the reasons why I wanted to talk about this is I think Christians are afraid of the subject, Bob. I think we're afraid to address this whole area of romantic love in marriage even though our God thought it all up in the first place.
Bob: Some people have suggested that Song of Solomon is a parable showing us God's love for Israel or Jesus' love for His church. You're saying that God put it in the Bible to talk about the romantic relationship between a husband and wife?
Dennis: I wonder about the people who say that – if they really read the verses, because they've got to do away with a lot of physical imagery that doesn't leave that much to the imagination. I mean, it's clear they're talking about the whole area of romantic and sexual love in a marriage relationship.
Bob: Is romance really important for a marriage? I mean, can't a marriage survive just fine for 30 or 40 years and not have a whole lot of sizzle and spark to it?
Dennis: Well, I think marriages can survive, I think that's a key word, but will they be what God intended? I say not. One of the things that happens in a marriage relationship is if we don't have romance, something that adds excitement and adventure, intrigue, thrill, I think we get caught up in the negative about our spouse, and when you begin to focus on the negative and the faults of the other person, that relationship begins to spiral downward. And one of the reasons why I think Valentine's is such an important time of the year, especially for the Christian marriages, is to remind us that we ought to be making this subject of romance a part of our everyday diet in our marriage relationship.
The Bible speaks about, over in Proverbs, chapter 5, verse 15 and then 18 through 19, that a man was to be captured by his wife's sexual powers. He was to be captivated by his wife. That's a powerful image to be literally captured by your spouse. The Bible is talking about this as far as thrill, excitement, adventure, an emotional excitement that I think sets a marriage apart from just a pure friendship. I mean, Barbara is my friend, but there is a side of our friendship that goes way beyond just two friends who are pals to two people who, yes, share a marriage bed together and who dream thoughts and share intimacies that are shared with nobody else on this planet, and that's what God intended, I believe, in the marriage relationship.
Bob: Well, now, you've got 50 percent of your audience listening to you, goin', "Preach it, Brother Rainey. Yes, amen."
Dennis: And what sex might they be?
Bob: Well, some of 'em are women who are saying, "Yes, talk to my husband and teach him how to be more romantic with me," and others are men saying, "Yes, talk to my wife." It's interesting that opposites attract in this area.
Dennis: Well, you know, therein lies a real problem in discussing this, because I'll just let our listeners in on some research we did out of our FamilyLife Marriage Conference. We researched over 800 of our conferees at three different FamilyLife Marriage Conferences last spring about how they viewed romance, and, I've got to tell you, men and women view it through a different set of eyes. A woman looks at romance through the eyes of intimacy, relationship, warmth. It's that connectedness of the soul and emotions, heart-to-heart. And the men looked at romance – well, how shall we say it? It was one word – sex. And you see what God is up to here, because he made us different. We are to depend upon each other, and in the process of being different, I think what God wants to do is cause both of us to love each other where we are.
You see what God is up to here, is I think God is wanting to knock the edges off of me, as a man, and our male listeners, learning how to love their wives in a way that communicates love so that she feels love – not how we feel about love or what communicates love to us as men but instead learning to put on the side of love that meets a wife at that relational point of need, and there are a lot of men today who I think are frustrated sexually in their marriage relationships, primarily – listen carefully – primarily because they still have not learned how to meet their wives' emotional needs so she can be released to meet her husband's needs.
Bob: Mm-hm. I've had Mary Ann from time to time say to me, "I just don't feel like we've had an opportunity to talk with one another over the last two or three days," and for a wife that is a sign of drift in the marriage relationship, isn't it?
Dennis: Yeah, and I've had that same conversation with Barbara as well. I think the reason God gave us romance is He gave us a mysterious emotional love that we were to experience together as a couple. Even Webster's definition of romance, which talks about excitement, love, adventure – all those words, I think, are a part of what marriage ought to be – Christian marriage. Our God designed these emotions. I think romance – romantic love – is a part of the character of God. May I quote a Christian statesman? One of the most godly men who has ever lived who wrote a book, "My Utmost For His Highest." It's been on the best-seller list for years – Oswald Chambers. Listen to what he said about passion in Christian marriage. "Human nature, if it is healthy, demands excitement, and if it does not obtain its thrilling excitement in the right way, it will seek it in the wrong. God never made bloodless stoics. He makes passionate saints."
I love that quote, because I think that's the picture of a God who loves his people and who wired us to have excitement and thrill and adventure. It's not just for the single people who are involved in courtship, or just for the newly married couple who are just starting out with the high-intensity, high-octane of fresh married love. No, that romantic love, I believe, was meant to still pull us along and sweep us along in a steady current all the way through our married life.
Bob: And yet it's become almost a cliché, Dennis, to talk about the honeymoon being over. It does seem that relationships go through some kind of stages.
Dennis: Well, at our FamilyLife Marriage Conference, we talk about there being five phases of marriage deterioration. In other words, every marriage goes through some predictable phases where it begins to lose steam, and reality begins to set in. The first phase is what we call the "romance phase," and that's usually dating, honeymoon – it's when we're spending hours to get ready for a date, hours to plan the date. Each person sees each other at their very best, but it's not a real picture of a real relationship.
This phase gives way to Phase 2, which we call the "transition phase," and this is honeymoon or early marriage, and I like to say at this phase – this is where reality begins to edit the illusion. The illusion of what we thought was a relationship is now being snipped away at by the cold, hard realities of life, and couples begin to make adjustments to each other in their values, their habits, their expectations, and can give way to criticism and snipping at each other, and the feelings begin to lower during this period of time.
Well, Phase 2 gives way to Phase 3, which is the full-blown reality phase and, frankly, this is where marriages are either won or lost. Some of the things that press in against us during this reality phase – moving – a lot of couples move after they get married; differing friends; job changes and stress; conflicting material values – they start seeing how they handle the checkbook; children come along, there's parenting pressures; in-law interference; difficulties; health issues; problems in life – all of these things press in against the relationship and now the illusion has been fully edited.
Bob: And they begin to put a little chill on the romantic side of marriage, don't they?
Dennis: Well, romance is replaced by disappointment and discouragement, and when that begins to fuel the relationship, two people who had turned toward each other in the dating years now can turn against each other, and that really leads us to the fourth phase, the "retaliation phase," and that's where emotional and even physical retaliation becomes an alternative, and it's unthinkable that a couple who had held hands would now cut away at the person they said they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with. Resentment and bitterness begin to take up residence where romance had once been. A man begins to sell his life out to his job, because that's where he gets rewards; women to likewise, or she sells her life out to her children, and what begins to happen here is marriage is viewed with despair – no longer expectancy, excitement or thrill. You don't look forward to getting home in the evening and spending the evening together or the weekends together. You find a way to allow that relationship to be crowded out.
And that really gives way to the last phase, Phase 5 – that's the "rejection phase," and that's the death of a relationship in which there are really two alternatives – one which is legal divorce, where two people separate and go their own ways or, really, where most relationships end up dying, and that is emotional divorce, where two people just simply withdraw from each other, and there's a truce.
Bob: It seems like in the early phases that you describe, Dennis, romance is easy. In the last two phases, it's almost impossible, because of the anger or the bitterness or the other things that have begun to take root. It's really in that middle phase, the reality phase, where, as you said, the battle for romance is won or lost.
Dennis: You know, that's where we've got to win the battle, is before you ever get to this time of resentment and retaliation and rejection, where you're at the tail-end of the relationship, and you've got to breathe so much life back into the marriage it almost seems hopeless. But you know what? I want to go back to that reality phase, because that's where all of us live. We've all got to learn, in the midst of the time pressures with kids and finances and jobs and health issues – how do we hammer out a Christian life?
You know, I've given the better part of two decades here at FamilyLife dedicating myself and this ministry to writing books like, "Staying Close," to helping couples deal with the reality phase, or "Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem," another book where we talked about how you can build up the other person so you don't ever get to the point where you're rejecting your spouse; or the FamilyLife Marriage Conference, which is a weekend to help couples go back to that reality phase, and give them a biblical game plan for how they can move through reality and move on to blessing, where their relationship and love for one another matures and grows, and I think that's exactly what God wants to do, as He instructs us to the scripture. He is moving us to mature love, commitment, and it's nothing that's not spoken enough about today, and we're going to be talking about it a lot here in the coming days.
Bob: Well, Dennis, some of our listeners are thinkin', "The last thing on my mind is romance at this point. We've moved into Phases 4 or 5 – retaliation or rejection, and the anger and the bitterness that is a part of this – I can't even think about romance. Is this series going to apply to me?"
Dennis: I think it will, and we're going to be sensitive to those couples who are finding themselves in unequally yoked marriages where a person is married to someone who is not a believer or someone who is not growing spiritually. Perhaps Psalm 27, verse 13 would bring some hope – "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord." And I think there's a time to wait in prayer, but there may be some things that a person can do in that situation, where you're married to a spouse who is totally apathetic about that relationship, and if you're in that situation, could I encourage you to, yes, do pray, and do ask God to deliver you from despair and begin to give you the courage that only He can give you to build into that marriage and perhaps by adding romance back into that relationship, perhaps that will be the missing ingredient to help your spouse come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Let me just conclude our broadcast today with some action points that can help you be a better romantic lover of your spouse. First of all, take a romantic inventory of your relationship. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being excellent, how would you rate romance as a part of your marriage relationship? Tonight ask your spouse to do that and then compare notes and see how you're doing.
Secondly, and this comes from the questions book. You shared about how listeners could get a copy of that – from the questions book, I like to ask Barbara this question all the time, because it really does spark romance in our relationship, and it sounds odd, but I ask her this question – What are the three most romantic times that we've shared together? What brought those sparks originally? What's caused romance? Why would you select that? And there's something about reliving those romantic moments that I think gives us insight into why our spouse chose that and can also add that excitement back to our relationship today.
A third application point would be to pray and ask God to help you begin courting your spouse. You know, there are some listeners who are in a hurting marriage, where that's where they need to start right there – is in prayer asking God to give them some hope, to begin to court their spouse once again.
Bob: Well, let me add a fourth, and that's to join us back here tomorrow at this same time, when we're going to talk about the "romance robbers" in a relationship – the foxes in the vineyard, right?
Dennis: That's right.
Bob: That's on tomorrow's edition of FamilyLife Today. I hope you can join us for that. Our engineer is Mark Whitlock, our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
(Nat King Cole singing "L-O-V-E")
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