Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: When Nancy Anderson looks back at the early years of her marriage, she realizes that some of the expectations she placed on her husband weren't realistic.

Nancy Anderson: I was very needy, and I was looking for him to meet all of my needs. I was not looking to the Lord to meet any of my needs. Because I was so needy, he felt smothered by me and would back away. Then I would become critical and controlling and would complain.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Here’s Nancy to introduce today’s guests.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In the last several weeks, we've had three Revive Our Hearts conferences and several thousand women attended those conferences. On the opening Friday night, we ask the women to fill out a little card telling us how we can pray for them. We actually have intercessors that are at the conference to pray for those women and for their needs!

After the conference I read through a lot of those cards. I've just been through a number of them, and I'm just astounded at how many of those prayer requests (as women pour out their hearts) have to do with marriage-related issues—women who are struggling in their marriage.

I remember in this last conference two women said, "I have come to despise my husband." It's just so tragic and heart breaking. It is a privilege to pray for those women. At Revive Our Hearts, we want to do everything we can to shore up difficult marriages, troubled marriages; to provide a lifeline—a life preserver for marriages that may be in trouble.

This week on the broadcast we want to talk with a couple who have been there. They've done that. They know what it's like to have a marriage that's on the brink—and actually—over the brink of disaster. But they also know what it is to see God's restoring, redeeming power in their marriage.

So whether your marriage is in serious trouble; whether you're just starting out your marriage and needing some protection to keep it from getting into serious trouble; or maybe you've been married many years and you have married sons and daughters or grandchildren. Maybe you're single, and you're thinking about getting married someday.

Wherever you are in that whole spectrum, you will want to be sure and tune in with us this week and hear an incredible story of God's grace and His miracle-working power in a marriage.

Ron and Nancy Anderson are new friends of mine. Ron and Nancy, welcome to Revive Our Hearts. Thank you so much for being willing to come and share your story with us.

Nancy Anderson: Thank you. It's our privilege. 

Ron Anderson: Thank you, Nancy, for having us.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Nancy, you've written a book called Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome. Isn't it true that there's something in the human heart that always thinks, whether it's in marriage or other areas, "If only I could get into another situation, my life would be simpler and easier"? You say in that book, "There's not greener grass on the other side. If you water your own grass, that's how you can be blessed!”

I just want to take us back to the early days of your marriage. Nancy, you had been to Bible college. You came from a Christian family. People would not have assumed, probably, when you were in high school or college that you were going to end up in a really desperate and awful marriage. But that's what happened, isn't it?

Nancy Anderson: It is what happened. I knew better, but selfishness is such an insidious thing. It comes in slowly. We began our marriage with a premise that was not true, and that was: It was my husband's job to make me happy. But he thought the same thing! So we sat around waiting.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: He thought that it was your job to make him happy.

Nancy Anderson: Exactly. So we sat around waiting to be made happy—demanding to be made happy. As you might imagine, that doesn't work very well. The teamwork aspect of marriage was not there.

It was a combination of our selfishness, plus a relationship with God that was very shallow. We got in this cycle of, "I'm a bad husband because you're a bad wife, but I am a bad wife because you are a bad husband . . . etc." Neither one of us was willing to take personal responsibility for our own part in our marriage, and we just kept blaming the other. So we got stuck there.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: That cycle then continued into the early months, and then the first couple years of your marriage. What did it look like? What was life like in the Anderson household?

Ron: The first person who got home got to prepare the argument for the next person who walked through the front door. Then it started. When we got together, we were fighting about something. It could have been finances. It could have been, "You didn't do this for me," or "I didn't do that for you"—all of those things.

I think part of it was, as Nancy stated, the selfishness issue. We both wanted what we wanted, when we wanted it. When we weren't getting what we wanted when we wanted it, that created . . .

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Some tantrums?

Ron: Yes.

Nancy Anderson: We both liked to make the other person pay.

Ron: Right, and we did! We made the other person pay.

Nancy Anderson: There was an issue with friends. He was spending time with friends outside of our marriage. He'd been single a while and had been in the service. He had his own life. So he continued some of the “single” things that he had been doing: going out with his friends and things like that. I resented his time away from me. But looking back, I can see I wasn't much fun to be with.

Ron: Remember? My favorite phrase was, “Hey look, I didn't marry you to be your entertainment center.” That is what I felt like. I felt like I had to constantly be entertaining. Over and over I would say, “Look, I'm not your entertainment center. Find something you're interested in. Go do something. I don’t always have to be there to fulfill your entertainment needs.”

Nancy Anderson: I was very needy, and I was looking for him to meet all of my needs. I was not looking to the Lord to meet any of my needs or even girlfriends. I didn’t have many girlfriends. So I was very so needy, and he felt smothered and would back away. Then I would become critical and controlling and would complain.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Wait, wait, wait. Critical? Controlling? Complaining? Now that's a recipe for disaster!

Nancy Anderson: The three deadly “C's.”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Ron, how did that affect you?

Ron: First of all, I would try to talk her out of her behavior, which was one of my great gambits. Whenever she was feeling emotional, I would try to talk her out of those feelings—and that would frustrate her.

So she would stop coming to me with emotional needs. I remember once she came to me and she said, “I don't feel like I have any close girlfriends.” So I pull out a piece of paper and a pen, and I start writing.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You're going to fix it.

Ron: I'm going to fix it. “Nancy's friendship goals—okay, here's what you have to do first. You have to go through the phone book and see what friends you have. Then you have to make luncheon appointments.”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you're going to have friends, you have to be friendly.

Ron: All of that.

Nancy Anderson: He gave me a lecture.

Ron: Of course, all that did was push her away and aggravate her more. What I probably should have done was put my arms around her and say, “Honey, I'm sorry you're feeling that way. I love you.” But I didn't. Instead, I tried solving her problems.

Nancy Anderson: Yes, I just wanted to be heard and to have him understand where I was coming from. Instead, he kept trying to fix things. Actually, I felt like he was blaming me for not having friends.

Ron: I was. There was an underlying current of, “Well, whatever these problems are that you're dealing with, the root of the problem is really you. I'm going to help you figure that out and solve it. But it really goes back to you not doing something you really should be doing.”

That's not any way to win your wife over to your side of the fence!

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Yet your attitudes and behavior, Nancy, were not really, “Any way to win your husband over to your side of the fence!”

Nancy Anderson: No, and that's the problem. I kept trying to nag him into behaving in a loving fashion. You can't nag someone into any behavior, except leaving you emotionally. That's what he did. He pulled away. The more he pulled away, the more I criticized him for pulling away. So we were in a really bad place.

Ron: One of our problems which frustrated me . . . I'm no angel, believe me. But when I made mistakes in the relationship, I think I was much quicker—and I think Nancy would agree—to say, “I'm wrong, and I’m sorry.” If I was a dentist, I could not have pulled the words, “I'm wrong” out of her mouth!

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Is that true Nancy?

Nancy Anderson: That's absolutely true.

Ron: Just once. I would have paid her, just once, to say, “I'm wrong on this.” It wasn't going to happen. You could see in black and white that she was wrong. But the more I tried to say, “Honey, you've got to be able to see that this is not right, that you're wrong,” the more she fought me on it.

That would just frustrate me to no end. I would get angry. Before you knew it, it would escalate, and I would be cussing at her and saying inappropriate things. That just defeated my whole point.

Nancy Anderson: Right. It was a cycle, like I said, that we got in. It was a pride issue for me. I wanted to be right!

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Did you think you were right?

Nancy Anderson: No. Most of the time I knew if I could separate myself from myself, I knew that I was wrong—but I was not going to admit it.

Ron: Oh, and that killed me. I would get so angry. I remember once throwing a frozen pork chop at her! I would get so mad.

Nancy Anderson: It was just stubbornness on my part and my unwillingness to admit that I was wrong. I would rather be right than be loved. Being right almost cost me my marriage.

Ron: Sorry was another word that was difficult for her to say. I don't understand the dynamics of all of that, but it was very hard for her to say, “I'm sorry.” Spiritually speaking, we were dead in the water. I was a fairly new Christian when we got married—about nine months. After we got married, we would find reasons not to go to church. “Well, let's sleep in.” Or, “We're going to go to a movie instead.”

We allowed these other distractions in life to take us away from our foundation—which is really, we think, the big mistake when we look back on the problems we had—we weren't grounded in the Word. We weren't going to church. We weren't spending time with Christian friends. When we were having problems, we didn't go to our pastor and talk to him about it. We were winging it.

The further we drifted away from the Lord, the more our selfishness grew. Our anger and our frustration grew toward each other grew, and we would take it out on each other. We would have fights until 4:00 in the morning on issues like whether I was yelling or not. We would be fighting over if I was yelling or not until 4:00 in the morning! I'm not exaggerating! It would just escalate. It was awful.

I remember once we went to Hawaii and we fought in public screaming at each other because my wife lost the camera. All I asked her to do was go back into the ladies room and see if it’s in there, that maybe she’d left it in there. There was no way in the world that she was going to go back in that restroom to look for that camera.

Her statement was, “I didn’t leave it in there.” And she wouldn’t even go in there just to appease me. So we stood there in public and screamed at each other for twenty minutes over that stupid camera.

Nancy Anderson: And I would not go in because I knew it wasn’t in there. Now looking back, if that happened today, even if I knew it wasn’t in there, I would have gone in, made a cursory look around, and come back out and said it wasn’t in there. But I was not mature enough to do that. I just stood my ground.

He went one way, and I went another. For the rest of the day at this beautiful resort on Maui, we did not speak to each other.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Nancy, you’ve written a book which I’m hoping all of our listeners will order a copy of no matter where they are in the marriage process, because it’s got some great rich insights for any marriage.

You’ve titled it, Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome. And you know of where you speak. Help us understand how you got from the point of saying, “I do” at the altar to ending up being in love with a man who wasn’t your husband. How did it start?

Nancy Anderson: It was a process, and it was one tiny step at a time. Sin is so slippery. I didn't intend to have an affair. I just intended to sit next to this cute guy at lunch.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: A guy that you worked with?

Nancy Anderson: Correct. We were co-workers on a sales team. The company, of course, wants to build camaraderie and teamwork within the sales force. So we were encouraged to spend time together.

I can actually pinpoint when it crossed the line. One day when we were sitting next to each other at a meeting, his leg bumped up against mine, and he did not pull his leg away and I did not pull my leg away. That, I believe, was the turning point because I sent him a signal that I was unguarded; that I was open to the possibility.

From then on, it was gradual but progressive. We made sure that we sat next to each other at lunches. Then when we went out as a group, we made sure we rode in the same car together. Then it progressed from there to where we would have dinners together after work, and then eventually more than dinner.

So it was a process, but I knew what I was doing every step of the way. I thought, “It's just lunch. It's just this. It's just that.”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Okay. Now you're in the workplace, Nancy, and there's a guy who's treating you differently.

Nancy Anderson: That's right. Because my husband was not complimenting me and was not even kind to me . . . Of course, I was not complimenting him, and I was not kind to him. We were in this cycle—this destructive cycle.

Then along came Jake who thought I was wonderful, pretty, smart, funny, and everything I did was fabulous!

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Did you treat him a little nicer than you were treating your husband?

Nancy Anderson: I absolutely did! I complimented him. I thought he was wonderful, smart, funny, and I told him so. Of course, when I got married I thought my husband was wonderful, smart, funny, and fabulous. But I had stopped telling him.

Ron: And I am. I am smart and funny and fabulous. (laughing)

Nancy Anderson: And he is. But I didn't see it at the time.

And so I went—like the title of the book—looking for greener grass, thinking that it would be green, while also failing to water my own lawn. I was taking the energy that I should have been putting into my husband and our marriage and putting it outside our marriage and cultivating an illicit relationship.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As you put that energy into someone outside your marriage . . .

Nancy Anderson: It grew.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: What grew?

Nancy Anderson: The relationship grew, and the distance grew between my husband and myself. The selfishness grew and the lies. I cannot tell you how many lies I had to tell to myself, to God—who, of course knew I was lying—but I continued to lie to Him as well. I lied to my husband constantly. I lied to my parents, to my mother. I lied to friends. You have to lie to continue in adultery, and I got so tangled up in the lies that I didn't even know what was true anymore.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: There is an emotional attachment developing here. There is a physical attachment developing outside your marriage. Things could only be getting worse on the home front.

Nancy Anderson: They were. It came to a point where, I asked my husband for . . . not a legal separation, but I said, “I need some time. I need a little space. I'd like to move out for one month.”

Ron: Actually, it started out that she needed a couple of days. She wanted that weekend to herself. We had been fighting so much and I (being naïve) figured, “Okay, give her a little space.”

Those two days turned into a call saying, “You know, I'm not going to be back. I really need a week.” Then, all of a sudden—it's a month! Now she's telling me, “I want a divorce.”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: How did you respond to that, Ron?

Ron: By begging, pleading, crying on my knees for her not to leave me.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Do you remember that, Nancy?

Nancy Anderson: I do. I do! I could tell you exactly where I was. We were in our little condo in California, and he was sitting on the couch. I had had the discussion with him that I was leaving. I went into the bedroom to pack some more of my things, and I came back out and he was crying and begging me not to go.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Did that touch you?

Nancy Anderson: You know, it didn't. I felt bad because I didn't feel bad. I thought that if he would just go away, my problems would have been solved. I mean, that's how bad it had become. I just wished that he would go away. I didn't wish bad on him. I just wanted him out of my way because he was standing between me and happiness. That's how I perceived it.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You thought happiness now had a different face and a different name?

Nancy Anderson: I thought happiness was on the other side of the fence.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: With Jake?

Nancy Anderson: Yes, and that's where I wanted to go. Ron was my obstacle, and that's what I saw him as—not a teammate, not a husband. He was an obstacle to my getting what I wanted. So I left and I shut the door. I got in the car and I turned on happy love songs and rolled down the windows and drove over to meet Jake.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: It wasn't only your family that was being affected. Jake had a family, too.

Nancy Anderson: He did. He was married, and he had two small children. It was a ripple effect. I don't even know the ramifications of all the people's lives that were touched and possibly ruined by my selfishness!

I didn't see that at the time. I just had this myopic view of my life being the most important thing, and my needs being met was my only goal. Whoever got hurt, “Oh, well.”

Ron: Part of the hard part for me was . . . Here's a person I fell in love with. Before we got married, she was this adorable little . . . she was just wonderful! I knew the day I met her that I was going to marry her. I just instantly fell in love with her. But now I'm talking to her, and I'm talking to somebody I don't know. There is no emotional connection coming from her toward me.

I always describe it as, “I was talking to a wall,” because no amount of begging, no amount of pleading, no amount of asking for a second chance meant anything to her. She could care less.

When I talked to her, I should have just been talking to a wall because there was a wall between her and me. It was a very strange feeling to think that you could be so in love with someone, and that person, at one point, was so in love with you. But now you're talking to this person like you've never met them before.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: This had all happened within two years of getting married?

Ron: Yes. Within two years. The resentment had built and the destruction had taken place to where now I was pleading with a total stranger to try to make our marriage work.

Even though the marriage was miserable and lousy those first two years, it never dawned on me—maybe I didn’t understand life—that it could lead to a divorce or somebody wanting a divorce. Maybe I just thought this was the way marriage was. Obviously I was wrong.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Ron and Nancy, we're going to pick up your story in our next time together. I have two things that I want to just comment on here as we wrap this up for today.

First, it's obvious, as I hear your story, that when a marriage comes to the place where divorce is being threatened and the man or the woman is involved in an extramarital—I hate to call it an “affair” because that sounds so happy, and this obviously wasn't a happy thing—but, adultery that really threatens your marriage, that doesn't happen overnight.

It was a series of choices. It was a series, as you said, Nancy, of little decisions—the decision not to pull your leg back; the decision to give a green light instead of a red light; to communicate that you were available; a series of choices, in both of your lives, that got you into a place that seemed to be utterly hopeless.

That leads me to this second point, which we'll see beautifully illustrated as we continue your story. Even in the most hopeless situation, God is not absent. You weren’t acknowledging Him at that point of your lives, but God is the hound of heaven. Praise God! He was pursuing you when you were not pursuing Him. There was hope; there was help on the way; there was grace. I think it's important that we emphasize that.

Someone listening today is at that point of walking out the door; or carrying on the adulterous relationship; or on their knees begging, crying, pleading with their mate to come home—some place where you just feel, “This is hopeless. This is it; it's over!”

We get letters and emails and prayer cards from those women galore. But one of the reasons we wanted to share Ron and Nancy's story with you is so that you would know that as long as there is God, there is hope! God is a redeeming, restoring God. There is no mess so messy, no pit so deep, that God cannot restore and redeem.

You will not want to miss the continuation of Nancy's story. It's not over. There's pain yet to come, but God is going to intervene on their behalf. We'll talk about how that happened when we continue on the next Revive Our Hearts.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Ron and Nancy Anderson about small decisions that can have huge consequences. That story leads me to ask, “Do you have any hedges in your life?” By hedges I mean, principles that guide your small decisions.

For instance, a lot of wise, single women create a hedge by deciding never to ride alone in a car with a married man. It’s a small decision that shows they’re going to fight hard to protect their purity and the marriages around them.

To help you set up some personal hedges and guard your marriage, we want you to have a practical booklet by Nancy Leigh DeMoss called Personal "Hedges." This will help you think through your decisions and protect your purity.

We’ll also include the book by our guest. Nancy Anderson tells her story and offers solid advice in the book, Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome. How do you get a copy of this helpful book and booklet. Just donate to Revive Our Hearts. We’ll send these resources to you.

Donate at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.

When Nancy Anderson was in the middle of an adulterous relationship, she got in an arresting phone call from two very important people. Hear more about it tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.