I have to be reminded of this author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . If you're going through an intense time in your marriage, don't miss our conversation with Brad and Marilyn Rhodes. They want to encourage us to stop basing relationships on performance and move toward grace.
How do you do that? Find out straight ahead. Our featured resource today is titled The Grace Marriage, How the Gospel and Intentionality Transform Your Relationship. You can find out more at buildingrelationships.us. Gary, I think you're going to resonate with our topic today because as you've said through the years, every marriage can improve. Every married person listening right now can have a better marriage.
Is that true? I really believe that, Chris. You know, marriages are either getting better or they're getting worse.
They never stand still. And I believe no matter where you are, things can get better. So yeah, I think our discussion today is going to be helpful to all of those who are listening, including you and me, Chris.
So let's make the most of it. I'm going to do that as we meet Brad and Marilyn Rhodes, R-H-O-A-D-S. They founded Grace Marriage in 2015 to help churches and couples prioritize marriage. Before pursuing marriage ministry full time, Brad practiced law for 22 years. He then served as a marriage pastor at their local church. Marilyn holds a master's in social work and worked at counseling associates before choosing to stay home with their five children. They live in Owensboro, Kentucky, and our featured resource is their book again, The Grace Marriage.
You can find out more at buildingrelationships.us. Well, Marilyn and Brad, welcome to Building Relationships. Thank you for having us. So let's hear the love story of Brad and Marilyn.
So Brad, why don't you go first? How did you meet? How did you know she was, quote, the one?
Give us a little background. Well, before I met Marilyn, I'd made a pledge and I wasn't going to date anybody for a year because when I dated people, it seemed to go bad for me and worse for the unfortunate participant in my dating relationship. Surely thereafter, I was working at a law firm in Nashville. I locked my keys in my car after a witness interview, didn't get back till 10 p.m., was walking down the hall, looked in an office and I saw Marilyn and she was like, beautiful. And I just walked in the office. She was in there with her sister, who was a paralegal at the firm. And I talked to her 45 minutes. And to make a long story short, eight months later, I was married. Whoa!
I don't recommend that. I couldn't believe she existed. I mean, Marilyn hates public compliments, so I'm going to go ahead and get in trouble.
But Marilyn, I mean, loved Jesus, a ton of fun, spontaneous, unbelievably beautiful. I mean, I couldn't believe that she was interested in me. So like any of that, your commitment, it went out the door and got married four years, four months before that commitment even ended. So decided not to date for a whole year, but it lasted a year you were married. Okay.
All right. So, Marilyn, your turn. How did you view all of that? Well, I was sitting in my sister's office working on a resume and he walked by and came in and we talked for about an hour and I thought he was very handsome and he was a lot of fun. He was easy to talk to. And when he left the office, my sister looked at me and she said, I've been working here for three years and he's never talked to me for more than five minutes. So then we went on our first date and it was, he wasn't real chivalrous.
He's really, I went back, he didn't, he let the door fall on me. We took, we went hiking with his dog and his dog laid on my lap and was slobbering everywhere. And we went back to his house to pick up his roommate and girlfriend to go to dinner.
And it was not the cleanest place you've ever seen. And it was really, but I had the best first date. I went back and told my roommate, like this guy, he is all guy. Like I don't think he would ever buy me flowers or compliment me, but I had the best first date I've ever had. That doesn't speak a lot for my first dates, but he was so much fun and down to earth and we just really hit it off. And we went out one at one stretch in a month, like 22 nights in a row, his roommate was charting it. And so we were engaged within three and a half months and married four months later. So it was pretty quick. Tell us about the engagement time. What was that like, those four months? Well, it was exciting just planning the wedding.
I'm not super detail oriented, but my mom is. So she took care of most of the details and we just continued to date. We're crazy about each other. One thing that's really funny is I bought us tickets to a marriage conference in Nashville. Chuck Swindoll was doing a marriage weekend and we were so crazy in love.
We went the first night and we heard them talking about marriage and he was talking about problems you'll have. And I looked at Brad and he looked at me and we said, I think it's great they have stuff like this for people, but we're not going to have any of these problems. And we cut out of the conference. Oh, we didn't go back to any of it. We just thought we were different. We're just crazy about each other. We're never going to have a problem. So we stayed 30 minutes and just ate the entire tuition and just thought, we don't need this stuff. I think there are a lot of couples, young couples who don't think they need any premarital counseling.
They don't need to go to conference. Everything is going to be wonderful. So I think a lot of people can identify with that one. Yes. So now let's move forward. How about a year into the marriage? What are things looking like by that time? You were a lot more miserable than I was, so I'll let you share the joy of your first year with me.
Yes. Well, it kind of started on the honeymoon. I mean, I told Brad the honeymoon was over before the honeymoon was over. We really had our first we had our first fight actually at the wedding reception before we left the wedding.
Not a big one, but but with the it was a funny little story. But then on our honeymoon, it's just reality hit. Our dating relationship was so fast and I'm an idealistic thinker and I thought it was going to be perfect.
And the heart happened right away. And so our first year, there were a lot of tears. I was in graduate school getting my degree and I thought, if I don't tell him everything he's doing, we're going to develop these bad habits. And so I was crying and sharing with him all the ways that you hurt my feelings. And we had moved to a new town and didn't know anyone. And it was about a year in of I'm pretty stable in my personality by nature.
Just pretty even killed. But I was a roller coaster. And about a year in, I had the thought, am I sentenced to a life of this? Like we went from thinking it was going to be perfect to just being upset and fighting over everything, because I really went into marriage with just a faulty view of what marriage is. And I thought she was just like hypersensitive and demanding. And I thought our marriage was just fine. If she would just settle in and accept it, we would be fine. I mean, I thought I was totally wrong, but why do you just have to freak out and make a big deal about everything? One time I even asked her, like, am I part of your class project that you're supposed to treat me this way?
Then take notes and then report back to the class on how the subject responds. Well, again, I think a lot of our listeners can identify with that. I can certainly identify with it. You know, I remember after we got married, everything that my mother told me about her before we got married was true.
So we struggled greatly too. You know, maybe God allows us to go through those kind of things in the early stages of our marriage, because he knows what he wants us to do later in our lives, and that is help other people with marriages. So you get a lot of empathy for people when you go through that, right? Absolutely. This makes you want to take people from where we were to where we are. And it's like, when you do it the wrong way and experience the consequences of it, then the Lord shows you the right way. And then he gives you the ability to, by his kindness, to help move people over. It is so satisfying. Yeah, you're exactly right. Absolutely. Our prayer is too, you can keep people from having those trainwreck beginnings, if you can reach them first.
That's a good word for our listeners. You don't have to go through what both of us went through in the early stages of our marriage, if you spend more time getting ready for the marriage. That's why I wrote a book called Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married.
Twelve things that I know now, I wish I'd known then, I think would have made it easier. And I think our topic today is going to make it easier if couples are engaged, thinking about marriage, or are already married, of course. That's going to help, so I'm excited about our conversation. This is Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . If you'd like to hear a past program, take a free online assessment to determine your love language, or see our featured resource today, go to our website, buildingrelationships.us. There you'll see more about Brad and Marilyn Rhodes and their book written with Brittany Craig, The Grace Marriage, How the Gospel and Intentionality Transform Your Relationship.
Find out more at buildingrelationships.us. So, Brad and Marilyn, you're going to show us what a grace marriage is all about, but most marriages are performance-based. You say that in the book. Describe what you mean by that. Well, in most marriages, love is given and taken away based on the perception of how the spouse is being treated. You're kind to me, I'll be kind to you.
You're having a cold day, a bad day, and you're distant, I'll withdraw from you. So, it's kind of the marriage is based on the performance. It's kind of on a roller coaster ride, depending on how each particular spouse is doing that day or that week. And the reality is, life's pretty hard. Some days I do well, some days I do poorly, some weeks I do well, some weeks I do poorly. And if it's a performance-based marriage and it's hooked to that, wow.
I mean, it is a roller coaster ride. So, performance-based marriages are when the marriage is built on the performance of man, not upon the grace of Jesus. So, then tell us, what is a grace marriage? A grace marriage is where love is given to your spouse as just a free gift of grace, service, kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness. It's just a free gift of grace because I love you. And I said in Covenanted to love you till death do us part. It's a while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us mentality. So, while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me. He didn't look down at Brad and say, man, I'm so impressed with Brad's behavior and performance.
What potential I see in that young man? No, he saw an enemy of God, somebody in rebellion of him, and he died for me. And then he tells me, how do I love Marilyn? As I've been loved. And Romans 6.14 says, sin will have no dominion, no mastery, no control over you.
Why? You're under grace, not law. So, when we put our marriage under grace and say the foundation of our marriage is the rock solid foundation of the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. And I will offer my love to my spouse as a free gift, just like God has offered his love to me as a free gift. So, Marilyn, I'm assuming that if you hadn't known this, experienced this, had this attitude in those early years, you would have loved him in spite of the fact that his behavior was not coming across to you as positive.
That's right. And that's kind of where the Lord got a hold of my heart. Because about a year in, when I just was so upset and I was thinking, am I sentenced to a life of this? Like, I believe in you and I know that you created marriage and I'm in this for the long haul. God really convicted my heart that I'm your hope, not Brad. You've put him in the place of me.
I'm where your identity lies. I'm where everything lies in me and you're looking at marriage wrong. I'm called to love Brad, just like Brad said, in a grace-based way to put him under grace. So, I went to Brad and I asked for his forgiveness because I really am idealistic by nature. So, I just really thought that he was going to be all these things that this world tells us about marriage. And I was looking for marriage, what I wanted from it, rather than this is God's design and it works. Okay, so what am I called to in this? So, I went to Brad and I said, Well, you forgive me. I've put you in the place of God. You're not my hope. Christ is.
I don't need you to have joy and I'm sorry that I've let you determine how happy I am. And please forgive me. I'm just going to love you the way God's calling me to love you. And that really was the beginning. And like you said, I feel like the Lord used all that to teach me a right view on where Brad's place is in my life and my identity with Christ is in Christ alone, not in how Brad does or doesn't treat me. And that was really the beginning of God working in both of our hearts. I can see that.
I hope our listeners hear that. And this is not natural. I mean, this is God working in your heart to give you the perspective that he wants us to have toward our spouse. So now, you say in the book that in a grace marriage, the couple recognizes their identity in Christ or their worth in Christ. Talk a little more about that, Brad, and what it looks like day to day. Well, Marilyn told me, she said, Christ is sufficient for me, Brad.
He's all I need. She said, I will be your godly wife, but I am off your roller coaster. So she put 100 percent of her ultimate hope in Jesus and Jesus alone. And then Marilyn started just walking in confidence. Now, I was still an entrepreneurially selfish, driven husband who paid her very little attention.
So our marriage went from bad to stable. But Marilyn was a secure, joy-filled woman, even though she wasn't married to a good husband because her identity and her hope was in him. She had confidence. She trusts God loves her. God delights in her. She's an adopted daughter of Jesus Christ.
She can walk with her head up. Her hope isn't Brad somehow getting the memo and realizing this is not what good husbands do. Her hope is in Jesus Christ, who's perfect today, yesterday and tomorrow. So I think oftentimes marriages struggle because we ask for what they can't give, but only God can give. And we kind of set it up for failure because some days I love Marilyn well, sometimes I don't.
I wish I left her perfectly, but this side of heaven I want. So I'm hearing you say, Marilyn, that really this was the big, big thing that turned you from being unhappy because of his behavior to choosing to recognize your worth, your value, your happiness, your joy in your relationship with Christ rather than your marriage. And it really gave me a new purpose in it. I think my purpose prior to marriage was what I could get out of it, to be fulfilled.
And that's where we get tripped up. And when I had purpose, OK, I'm God's daughter. I'm on a mission and Christ came to bring life to the full, life to the full in everything.
So he can bring meaning to my interactions with Brad. And in a grace-based marriage, that's what you do. And you'll even say verses to yourself, because like you said, it's so counter to our nature. So I have to be reminded of this on a daily basis when I start to feel my flesh rising. OK, well, I was a sinner.
Christ died for me. And how am I to love Brad like that? So if my feelings get hurt or rather than withdrawal, I want to pursue and move towards not away from him.
Yeah. So it's grace and intentionality. If you put those two together, what does that yield in a relationship? You build your marriage on the foundation, rockslide foundation of grace, and then you intentionally invest in it. So you spend time together.
You're creative in it. You put resources in it. You schedule your life around your marriage, not your marriage around your life. And then when you're not holding sin against one another, then you're intentionally enjoying one another and connecting and talking and having fun. What does it yield? It yields a magnetic marriage that brings glory to God. So how does a civil litigator end up in marriage ministry? People started coming up to Marilyn and saying, hey, will you do our premarital? And I'm like, why? They said, we want what you have. That looks fun.
Will you tell us how to do it? And when we apply grace and intentionality, it can start a major marriage movement to completely change how marriage is lived out and how marriage is viewed. But it's got to have both the foundation of grace and then the intentionality of, like in a lot of your books, Dr. Chapman, teaching people how to intentionally love one another in an effective way. Yeah. It has to be kept on the front burner, right?
That's right. And we're in a child-centered culture and our schedules and our phones and the marriage gets squeezed out. And somehow we know we have to work at everything else in life, but we think our marriages should just be okay. But it takes work and we have to make it a priority and schedule time. Brad and I, outside of our relationship with Christ, the number one best thing we do for our marriage is go on a date every single week. Once we got through that bad stretch, we had people pouring into us and telling us the importance of that.
And we've done that for 26 years. And it's hard to do sometimes. I laughingly say to people, sometimes it's like climbing a mountain, getting out the door, getting everything ready or with all the kids and what they have going on. But it's worth it.
And it's so important. So let's talk about that, the schedules, the busy schedules, because all of us are busy, you know, and the pressures of life. Sometimes children, sometimes other pressures and the personal preferences that we each have can create major discord in a relationship. So what are some practical ways to handle these normal stresses of life? It's just prioritizing the relationship and making everything else fit around it.
So what we've done is we've X'd off three to five hours a week, once a week for the last 26 years. And that's just non-negotiable. I just don't schedule over Maryland. I mean, I was convicted that, you know, when I was in the law, I wouldn't tell a judge, hey, I know I've got court at 9 a.m., but, you know, it's just not going to work out well. You know, my kids aren't getting along.
House is a little crazy right now, Judge. I won't be in court. I wouldn't tell one of my clients, hey, you know, we got a two o'clock. But man, I am so sorry. It's just I'm a little tired today. So I realized I'm going to prioritize Maryland over work and other things, and I'm going to give her priority. So it's basically saying my marriage is important.
I'm going to give time to it and I won't schedule over it. Making sure you talk daily, making sure you date weekly. Now, dating doesn't mean you have to go to dinner and a movie every week. It just means you find time.
It could be a Saturday morning, Sunday afternoon. It's basically you can't have a great relationship without spending time with someone. So it just takes strategy and it takes commitment and it takes discipline. But the good news, you do it a while, you're going to enjoy being around each other so much, you're going to want to keep doing it. I don't date Maryland because I have to because you're supposed to have a good marriage.
I like spending time with Maryland and I want to. She's a lot easier than our kids. When our kids were young and we didn't have the finances to date, we traded out babysitting with another couple and took turns that way. But also one thing that was helpful to us, a mentor told us that parenting is the modern day black hole.
You can never do enough or be enough. So it's okay to miss a kid's sporting event. You're actually showing them that marriage is a priority.
And that just freed us when we heard that. So we had to miss kids things sometimes. But with five kids, I think it's important for them to know that they're not the center of everything. And we want to model to them the kind of marriage we want them to have someday. So we're not being good parents if we aren't making our marriage a priority.
And I would tell them the best thing I can do for you is love your mom well. And now I've got a daughter that's married. And after six months, I asked her how's marriage going? She said, Dad, it's been the best six months of my life. But the only way she knows how to do marriage is how we've done marriage.
And as a result, man, it brought me such joy just to see her enjoying Zach. And them having a marriage that draws people to the gospel doesn't repel them from the gospel. Yeah, that's great.
That's absolutely. Let me ask this. What if your spouse is not a Christian? How does the grace marriage work in that kind of marriage? I would say one, what Marilyn said is a sufficiency of Christ to realize I'm OK. God's in control.
God loves me. And my hope isn't the change in my spouse. Now, it's really difficult. It's a very difficult situation when you're married to a non-believer.
It creates a whole lot of complexities, a whole lot of difficulties. Now, 1 Peter 3 talks about winning your spouse over with words, you know, by the beauty of your life. So it's just just live a life obedient to Christ, grow in Him, grow closer to Him, pray, pray and pray.
Listen to Him and just carry out love for your spouse as the Lord calls you to. And recognize you've got to give yourself a lot of grace, too, because it is really hard and it can be really discouraging. Yes, we do try and encourage. We talk to couples that are in this place that this is. It's just it's hard, but it keeps them running back to Christ, and Christ is the greatest lover of our soul. And it's hard, but He'll fuel you to sustain and press on in that. And I know couples who are in this place that have been praying for 20, 30 years that God would save their spouse.
Just keep knocking on His door and keep praying that prayer and that the Lord will move in their hearts and save them. Thanks for joining us today for Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. You can find us online at buildingrelationships.us where you'll find more simple ways to strengthen relationships. Our featured resource today is The Grace Marriage, How the Gospel and Intentionality Transform Your Relationship.
It's by our guests, Brad and Marilyn Rhodes. Again, go to buildingrelationships.us. Well, let's talk about a really huge issue in marriage, communication. Can you share with us some keys to grace-filled communication?
Well, there are a lot. One, grace-filled communication, it's not conditioning offering your heart or your ear on the performance of your spouse. So it's not like I'll connect with you and talk to you if you are a really good communicator. It's basically saying, I'm going to listen to you and I'm going to share my heart and I'm going to give it to you as a free gift of grace. Practically, not being defensive, being a good listener, being quick to listen, slow to speak. It says a fool loves sharing his own opinion. It said even a fool is thought wise if he remains silent. So really growing and being a safe place so your spouse can just share and feel safe in that.
Marilyn, what would you add? Well, I was going to say we're going to be making a video about this kind of talk and I told Brad I'm bringing duct tape to the session. I think the key to graceful communication is duct tape. The problem is we often don't feel heard. That's the whole key to communicating well is just closing your mouth and trying to understand where they're coming from because we come at things so differently.
We don't always land on the same spot. But if I feel heard, even if Brad has a different perspective, it makes me so much more open to then what he wants to share. So I think a huge key is, OK, I want to fully understand where they're coming from. And if both parties are trying to do that, it's going to fuel grace in your communication. It's when we're just fighting back and forth to get our point across and neither of us feel heard that it gets ugly fast. Yeah, I read some research that said in a conflict situation, the average person listens about 17 seconds before they interrupt and say, no, no, no, that's not right. And we get into arguments and arguments go downhill. And so, yeah, I think this whole thing of communication, you've heard this statement, I'm sure that communication is to marriage what oxygen is to the body.
You know, it's just a necessity. And we have to learn to be listeners. We aren't trained to be listeners. We have to learn when they're talking. I want to be listening.
I like the duct tape idea. I'm not talking. I sometimes say to couples, maybe just take five minutes each, you know, and you listen and let them talk five minutes and you can ask questions to clarify what they're saying.
And then you get five minutes and it'll help you maybe to learn to listen to the other person. You've got to put ourselves in their shoes and look at the world through their eyes. Man, I mean, that's grace. You know, it's grace because we're all self-centered, right? I mean, we know our idea is right. That's right. All of a man's ways seem right to him. Yeah, exactly.
Yeah. What can learning to give in a relationship, and then also not just giving, but receiving criticism? I know there's some people who think, well, criticism is always negative. But I think the reality is we all need criticism. It just needs to be learned. We need to know how to do it in a positive way.
What ideas do you have on that? My mentor told me, he said, Brad, you can typically measure the spiritual maturity of a believer based on how they react when criticized. And I found that to be true. You know, wise man loves rebuke. You know, rebuke a fool and he'll hate you. And so the ability to receive criticism is really the ability to grow. And on the giving of criticism, you know, one is giving it, but not constantly.
You know, there are places. There are places to give criticism, constructive feedback, but to overlook an offense promotes love. So if something sticks with you and is a barrier to your relationship, you got to address it.
You got to give input. And you got to always talk about the Oreo cookie approach, you know, affirmation, criticism, affirmation. So the person takes it as a perception, not a judgment on the person. So it's, I mean, you want to give it, but sparingly. And you want to be able to receive it such that you see it as an opportunity and not an attack. And that's why grace is so important. If your hope is not in performance, you don't freak out when your performance is tacked. If your hope is in performance and somebody attacks your performance at all, you freak out and you go into condemnation mode or you go into either I'm a terrible person mode or you go into I'm a great person, you don't know it mode. So I just think it's so important to give it but infrequently and then to receive it well and be the safest place for it ever.
Right. And not in the heat of the moment. I know if there's something that I feel like I need to share with Brad, I don't always do this.
I pray I would, but I try to keep my mouth shut and I pray about it. And if it sticks with me, you want to wait till emotions aren't high because when I do that, it's not done well. But if you wait till outside the moment and if it sticks with you, then it's probably something that needs to be addressed. And another grid I like is if it's an extenuating circumstance, this isn't the norm. Those are the things to overlook and not address. But if it's a pattern, then it probably does need to be discussed. But there are times that life's just hard and you're in a really hard stretch and that's where you need a lot of grace to cover what hurting looks like when you're hurting and things are challenging. And then also, I don't know where I read this, but also if your spouse gives you constructive criticism, all of us, our immediate response is defensiveness. So once again, duct tape. Just don't say anything for 15 minutes.
Like, wait. Even just 15 minutes, you'll find yourself diffusing. Then you're able to ponder what they shared with you and start to ingest a little of it. So if your spouse gives you constructive criticism, just thank them, even though it's hard to say. And don't even share with them all of the possible things that are running through your head. Well, you don't understand and I do this or all that stuff is so natural to come.
But just wait. And when you calm down, you might realize, hey, there's something in that I really could learn from. And if you don't like it, Scripture says no discipline feels good at the time. So just because it doesn't feel good and you don't necessarily like it in the moment, you receive it, like Marilyn said, process it. And then you're just in a process of sanctification and improvement and you can't grow unless you realize what you need to grow in.
You can't know what you need to grow in unless somebody tells you. Absolutely. Yeah, I like your idea. Thank them. Honey, thank you for sharing that. I didn't see it that way. I didn't realize that was come across that way to you. But I understand now and I'm going to try to work on that. That makes them feel good, that they've been heard and that you're going to try to think about it and try to change that. I think we would profit more if we would learn how to both give and receive criticism. Give it, as you say, in a positive way, along with some affirmation on both sides of it. So that they know, tell me three things you like about me, then tell me something you think ought to change. Otherwise, if all I hear is I need to change this, in my mind, I'm thinking about all the good things I'm doing. Don't you see those? That's right. If you tell me some of the good things and then give me, it's easier for me to receive it.
I like that. Well, let's talk about some of the very difficult areas. I'm talking about such things as abuse, whether it's physical abuse or verbal abuse. Addictions, another huge thing in our culture today. Sometimes infidelity, which is like an error.
I mean, it's just like a, man, I've just shot you when that happens. Or controlling spouses. I mean, these are things that people deal with in marriages in our country. What does grace look like in a tough situation like some of those? Well, grace is never tolerating abuse. It's never tolerating infidelity. It's not tolerating emotional or physical abuse. In fact, it's the opposite of grace when you accept and enable that because God loves you, delights in you, and does not desire that for you. So, it's protecting oneself, its boundaries.
There have been books and books written on how to navigate through those things, but it's important to know that navigating through those things aren't saying, Well, I overlooked that. Pretend it doesn't occur. I just love you.
Just love you and give myself to you despite that. That's not what grace is. Sometimes grace is actually loving your spouse enough to do the hard thing, to address the issue rather than just pretend it's not there. Because I love you, we have to address this.
We can't go on in this place. Lots of times couples feel like if they just retreat, just stay in their relationship, try and protect themselves, that walls go up, bitterness sets in. It's horrible for the marriage. It's proactive and it is showing grace to try and help them get to a better place, get the help they need. You get the help you need or if you're in an unsafe environment, to remove yourself from that place. So, if you say to your spouse in a situation like that, I love you too much to sit here and do nothing and watch you destroy me, the kids, yourself. So, I'm going to... What are some possible finishes to that sentence? So, I'm going to separate myself from you and live in a different location for the safety of my kids and for myself.
That's one. There's a whole scale of situations. Whether there's evidence of repentance, no evidence of repentance, the severity of the situation, each one needs individual attention and needs a professional counselor helping the person navigating it.
But the first step is prioritizing safety. Then also, I think too, if it's not abuse, but say they have a substance abuse issue where they're in a very harmful place for themselves physically. If you've gone to them first, just follow what scripture tells us. First, go to the person and if they don't, then you go to the elders of your church. I think that's the next step too. If your spouse is living in that kind of place, you need to go to them and then together you come as a people, body of people that love them and go try and help them get help.
Those kind of situations typically don't just go away at the passing of time. We have to take action. What you're saying to help people understand this is an act of love. God disciplines his children and it's an act of love when he disciplines us. When we take action to seek to hold them responsible for what they're doing and show them a way out, like give them the name of a counselor and say, here's a treatment center or whatever, and help them take that step.
Those who are struggling with that know it's a hard, hard situation, but I think this is certainly the route of grace to be sure. As we come to our last session, Brad and Marilyn, let's talk a little bit about sexual intimacy. We know it's an important part of marriage, but this is an area where many couples struggle to find mutual satisfaction here. Speak to that issue. It is a tough area to address, especially where we are in society right now with the level of pornography and infidelity and a lot of things and histories of abuse.
It's very individualized, so it's very sometimes difficult to just give blanket advice across the board. But in an atmosphere of grace where there's levity, there's forgiveness, there's kindness, it definitely promotes an atmosphere for a better sex life. In a marriage that a typical, if you're not had these huge issues that Brad just addressed, but sexual intimacy, we're so different to even if you take out all the ways that the enemy has brought pain into our sexual intimacy. If those things need to be addressed and often with counseling, if there's a pornographic addiction or if there's been sexual abuse in someone's past, it's so very frequent and it's so important to get help. But in the day to day, just regular, typical relationships with regard to sexual intimacy, extending grace and moving towards each other is huge.
I think God created this beautiful gift for us to enjoy and the enemy wants to do nothing more than to keep us apart. So when we're frustrated with each other, that's the last thing you want to do. Sometimes it's the best thing you can do because we become one flesh, how God created it and talks about in scripture. And there's a bonding that comes from that that affects every other part of our marriage. Don't go long periods of time without coming together because it'll start impacting every other part of your marriage.
And Marilyn's told me before, we weren't clicking too much and she's like, Brett, I love you and I love our marriage too much to allow us to drift apart. And communication, of course, here, talking with each other and sharing in a positive, healthy way, your thoughts, your desires and so forth. And if you struggle to talk about it, because like you said, that's huge. Read a book together. That kind of gets conversation going if you struggle to talk about this. And it's a neutral way because it brings you into the topics that you may want to address with your spouse.
That's an easy way to talk. Read the chapter. What can we learn from this chapter?
Right. Let's talk about another hard issue, money. How does a grace marriage deal with finances?
Well, we've had to practice that one a lot, Dr. Chapman, because it seems like most marriages, the spender marries the saver and kind of the free spirited financial guy where the person marries more the budget man. And it was rough for us because I spent everything on Marilyn's date all the time that the second we get married, I became the budget man. So Marilyn's like, what happened?
It's like it went from nice restaurants to no restaurants. But I think it's really listening. And if you're like, Marilyn would spend more than I would. And I see Marilyn will try really hard to spend less to honor me. And I try really, really hard to be generous with Marilyn. That scripture, consider the interest of others above yourself. So I really try to spend more than I want to spend. And Marilyn really tries to spend less than she wants to spend.
And as a result, we more than cross one another and we can walk in unity. But this is the key where that communication piece, Dr. Chapman, you mentioned, because you've got to listen. And it is really difficult to listen when somebody says something you disagree with on the financial piece. And this is where I've really struggled because Marilyn will say, I think this would be a really good idea to do this.
And before I hear out at all as to why, I jump in and tell her that we're just not this money tree. We can just do whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want. And so we did really poorly at this early in our marriage.
In this scenario, we still have room to grow, but do a lot better at. Let's talk, as we near the end of our session here, let's talk about churches. How do you think churches are doing in helping marriages and people have a grace picture of marriage? And what more can be done?
I'm so glad you asked that question. Marriage is the big blind spot in the church. A study, a Communio Barna study showed 72% of churches have no marriage ministry at all.
80% of churches not spend any money on marriage ministry. Every church needs an ongoing Christ-centered strategy to disciple marriages. And they need to be as intentional or more intentional in the marriage space than they are in the children and youth space.
Because you can't overcome family dysfunction with weekly children youth programming. So churches need to be extremely proactive and intentional. One of my board members said couples will never be more intentional with their marriages than churches are with their marriage ministries. We've been telling churches you're a family ministry with children and youth and no dedicated marriage ministry.
It's a two-legged stool that will not stand. So one of the big messages at Grace Marriage we're trying to encourage folks to do is the marriage relationship affects every single thing. Because one of our churches said if our marriages don't work, nothing we do works. And the good news is more and more churches are stepping forward to fix this problem and to be salt and lime.
Well, that's a powerful word. And I hope if there are church leaders who are listening to us today, you hear that. That's 72% of our churches have no marriage ministry. Well, as we come to the conclusion of this segment, what do you say to the couple listening today who realize that they aren't in a grace marriage?
What's a good first step for them? What would you say to them? Rest in the grace of Jesus. I remember when the Lord showed me, it's almost like I heard God say, Brad, you're not okay. And it's okay. I love you. You're my son. I delight in you.
And I could just rest and relax. And I was like, man, I want to give that to Marilyn. So one, just I'm not going to hold sin against my spouse. And two, just intentionally enjoy one another, schedule time together, have fun together and realize if you're not in shape and you go to the gym twice, you're not going to be in shape. It's a long term commitment to marital investment. And over time, you look at each other and say, wow, we're into each other again. We like each other.
This is amazing. But so many people go on a date or two and just fall back in the same old busy, distracted norm where they just found this norm they can tolerate. And it's just a functional, co-existent relationship that doesn't draw people with Jesus. So a good first step, focus on grace, spend significant time together. One of the key indicators in marriage satisfaction is how much undistracted time you spend together. Typically speaking, couples that spend a lot of time together, undistracted, have good marriages and those that don't, don't.
Now, there are exceptions, but that is an accurate generalization. And when you try and do this, don't be hard on yourself. Say you're trying to start being intentional and have this time together.
If one time you spend that three to five hours or go on a date and it's a bad date, we say a bad date is better than no date at all. It's about the long haul. Like our relationship with Christ, every one of my quiet times, I don't always feel super close to the Lord.
My pursuit of Him over the years, I've grown so close to Him. And it's the same in marriage. Even if our date, we trip up a little bit and have a bad date, we're showing each other, look, you're worth it. This is important.
We're going to make this a priority. And you continue on even if it's a little challenging at first. It gets easier. And like Brad said, the more you invest in your marriage, the more you're going to want to invest in your marriage.
And don't be frustrated that it takes work. Marriages work and somehow we think it shouldn't be. So be encouraged that if you choose to work on your marriage and it's hard, you're taking those steps and there's going to be fruit that comes from it. Yeah.
Well, let me just add to that. I think our listeners would profit greatly if they would decide to read this book, Grace Marriage, How the Gospel and Intentionality Transform Your Relationship. Just work through it a chapter a week and just ask at the end of each chapter, what can we learn from this chapter?
What can we learn? Now, if your spouse is not willing to read it with you, read it yourself and apply grace toward them, even though they don't deserve it. That's what grace is, you know.
So, wow. Well, thank you, Brad and Marilyn, for being with us today. And for all you are doing to help people in this book and the other ministry you're doing.
It's a gift to be with you. It's a ton of fun and marriages are coming alive all over and I just pray tons of couples join the movement. There's a lot of hope here and you've heard it today. If you want to find out more, go to buildingrelationships.us. We have that book by Marilyn and Brad Rhodes linked right there. The Grace Marriage, How the Gospel and Intentionality Transform Your Relationship. Just go to buildingrelationships.us. And next week, what are the common marriage myths that many people fall for?
Find out in one week. Now, a big thank you to our production team, Steve Wick and Janice Bakke and Jeremy Bennett. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman is a production of Moody Radio in association with Moody Publishers, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute. Thanks for listening.
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