Revive Our Hearts Radio

Friendship in Marriage

Leslie Basham: When you said, “I do,” did you and your husband stop having fun? That was Nancy Anderson’s experience.

Nancy Anderson: Ron was a great date before we were married, and then we got married, and he quit dating me, and I quit flirting with him and making it fun. We lost the spark. We lost the imagination and the creativity, and we just got busy with chores and lists of things to do. We forgot to have fun.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, February 18. All this week we’ve heard the story of Ron and Nancy Anderson. Their marriage was marked by conflict early on.

Nancy turned to another man in the middle of all of this conflict and then God restored her marriage with Ron. If you missed any of the story, you can hear it at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss to explain why this is such an important topic.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Hardly a day passes but that we receive an email or a letter here at Revive Our Hearts from one or more women who are struggling in their marriage, men struggling in their marriage, wives leaving husbands, husbands leaving wives, adulterous situations taking place. You name it; we’ve heard it, and it’s always heart breaking.

But one of things that we want to do on Revive Our Hearts is give hope that God is a redeeming God. He can make all things new. We also want to offer some practical wisdom and counsel from God’s Word about how your marriage can become what God intended it to be.

The testimony we’ve been hearing over the last several days is a testimony of a marriage that was, humanly speaking, beyond repair—and yet never beyond God’s reach and His grace.

So Nancy and Ron, together, thank you for being together. It’s a miracle what God’s done in your lives, and thanks for being with us on Revive Our Hearts to talk about how God can protect marriages.

You’re still working on your marriage. It’s been 27 or so years now, and the first two years were . . .

Ron Anderson: Chaos, anger, fighting all the time. It was dead. The marriage was dead, and the Lord brought it back from the ashes 25 years ago and has blessed us beyond my wildest imagination.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And dead to the point of, Nancy, you becoming involved in an adulterous relationship, something you’ve since repented of. God has forgiven you, but it almost killed what little life and potential there was in your marriage.

Nancy Anderson: Yes. It was a relationship with a co-worker. It started gradually and grew with each choice that I made. It finally came to a point where I had left my husband and moved out of our home, rented an apartment, and was going to marry this other man. That was my plan, but God had different plans for me. I surrendered my will to His will, and our marriage began again with a new foundation of grace and mercy instead of anger. That was 25 years ago.

In the last 25 years, we’ve been talking to other couples. We teach at marriage seminars and retreats, and we found that our story is not uncommon. That’s part of the reason I wrote the book, Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome. So that someone hopefully could learn from our mistakes and see that watering your own lawn is the solution—not climbing over the fence to someone else’s lawn, but taking that energy and that commitment and watering your own marriage, loving your own husband, your own wife, and beginning like a garden.

Sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes you have to plow and plant and replant and storms come and ruin the crop, and you start over again, and that’s a marriage. It can be a wonderful oasis if you’re willing to plant these hedges around it, and they’re all spiritual, scriptural hedges. They are a sense of guarding our hearts.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Now the concept of hedges, if you think about it in terms of a garden, you’re keeping certain things out, and keeping certain things in. Those hedges require constant maintenance. You can’t just put them up and let them go.

Nancy Anderson: No, and they change, of course, when you have children or difficulties or financial troubles or you need to move or whatever the thing is that comes up next. You need to be willing to transplant and move and rearrange and learn from past mistakes.

Ron: Yes, it is interesting. Things that might have bothered you 23 years ago aren’t bothering you today, but there are other issues you’re dealing with. So the relationship is constantly evolving, and you have to constantly be on guard. Our theory is you want to always be fine-tuning your relationship.

  • Never let your guard down for a moment.
  • Never take the relationship for granted.
  • Never get caught up in your emotions because our emotions frequently can deceive us.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Speaking of emotions, one of the things that really got you in trouble, Nancy, in your marriage, was that you followed your emotions. You followed your heart rather than putting your heart in the right place.

And one of the things that restored your marriage was the willingness to take tough steps, to make tough decisions to obey God regardless of what your emotions were telling you.

Nancy Anderson: Yes, and probably the most difficult part is that when I broke off the relationship that I was having with this co-worker, I still felt like I was “in love” with him. In other words, my emotions, my connection was toward him and not my husband. Yet I chose to stay with my husband, and the feelings eventually followed as my behavior changed.

As I began to act in loving ways, the loving feelings followed. During my affair, I was following my feelings toward this other man because I was attracted to him.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You were nurturing and cultivating those feelings.

Nancy Anderson: I was. We were going back and forth. We were complimenting and flirting and doing all sorts of things to feed those emotions—the things I was not doing with Ron. I wasn’t complimenting him. I wasn’t flirting with him. I was critical and controlling.

So I was pushing my husband away at the same time that I was drawing this other man to me. And, of course, it got me in a horrible mess that I had to get myself out of with the Lord’s help, and that was by not following my emotions.

Ron: We had to learn that the Word of God was our value system. That’s the premise we start from, and although our emotions may change as it relates to God’s Word, God’s Word doesn’t change.

Now one day we may feel like not following God’s Word, but that doesn’t mean His Word has changed. The truth is the truth. We had to discover that just because our emotions waffle back and forth doesn’t mean we get to change God’s Word.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So as you restored this marriage relationship that was so hopelessly messed up, overnight you got out of the affair. You broke it off. You quit your job. You went back to your husband. You sought forgiveness. This all happened pretty quickly, but then you had a pathway ahead of rebuilding that relationship.

What are some of the things that both of you started doing in your marriage—choosing to do, actions that you took—that began to restore your heart for each other?

Ron: Well, the first thing that we did was we went to a Christian marriage counselor, and then we started seeking out resources, through the Word of God and also materials like the Home Builders series. We studied that.

And we had to find out, what does a husband do? What is my role? What does that look like? She had to find out, what is the wife’s role or the woman’s role? So we had to learn some practical things. Probably the one thing that helped me the most is the verse in 1 Peter 3:7 where the Lord tells us to dwell with your wife in understanding.

For years and years, every comedian on television says, “Oh, I can’t understand my wife.” And that’s the proverbial joke in our culture. But the Lord tells us to dwell with our wives in understanding. So that means it’s possible.

That became my personal mission—to understand my wife. I learned that my wife is more sensitive than my buddy. I learned that I can tease and make wise cracks at my friend’s expense, my buddy’s, and he’s just going to come back and do the same thing. But when I do it to my wife, it breaks her down emotionally and spiritually. It destroys her. I learned that if my wife says, “Stop tailgating,” that it frightens her, that I should stop tailgating if I love her. Why would I want to frighten her? So I stopped tailgating.

So there’s practical things. What we learned, what I learned as a man, the more I understood about my wife and adapted and respected those differences that God put in her as a woman, the less of those brush fire arguments we had that turned into World War III in 90 seconds that begin to push us away. The more of those things we eliminated, the more the intimacy grew, the more the love grew in our relationship. Wouldn’t you agree?

Nancy Anderson: Yes, I think that was probably one of the most important things—learning about each other. In the book, I call it educating and studying each other as if we were a textbook.

You will tell me what you need, but I need to ask you. I need to ask follow-up questions: “Is this what you meant?” And then, of course, rewarding each other when you get it right and saying, “I sure did appreciate that.”

When we got back together, “please” and “thank you” were not our normal vocabulary. Just being polite actually was kind of our starting point, and it was a good day if we said “please” and “thank you” and “you look nice in that color,” or “thanks for putting gas in the car.” That was a good day.

Ron: I think we offered each other mercy when we were trying to change and we slipped up. We didn’t beat each other up over that because we both knew we were trying. I kind of describe it as we were two pendulums swinging back and forth missing each other.

But through working and studying God’s Word, and putting God’s principles into our marriage, eventually we were like two pendulums swinging together. But it took a period of time and hard work and commitment.

Nancy Anderson: It took actually years because a lot of the habits that we had established were very difficult to break. But as we saw each other changing, then it gave us courage also to take that step out. Before we were just waiting for the other person to make a mistake so we could point it out.

But now we began this new cycle. I was trying to please him; he was trying to please me. And we got into a, “I’m a good wife because you’re a good husband because I’m a good wife” cycle. For me anyway, I realized how much his commitment to me meant to him.

He was willing to take me back after I had betrayed him, betrayed myself, betrayed my relationship with the Lord and had chosen to go outside of our marriage. So I came back with a new respect for him that I had not had before.

And he came back with a new appreciation of me. Ron was a great date before we were married, and then we got married and he quit dating me, and I quit flirting with him and making it fun. We lost the spark. We lost the imagination and the creativity, and we just got busy with chores and lists of things to do. We forgot to have fun.

That’s one of the things that led me to go in search of greener grass. There was fun to be had out there, and I wasn’t having it in my marriage. And now the difference is that by watering my own marriage, by making it fresh and fun and planning surprises and making a date night; and putting his needs above my own needs actually ends up meeting my needs, because then we have a healthy, happy, strong marriage.

Ron: And by dating, it could be just simply a walk around the block or going out to a nice restaurant or going down to the park—just spending some time alone where you’re talking and being emotionally intimate with each other.

Nancy Anderson: Right. We’ve taken classes together. We’ve gone bowling together, all sorts of things. They don’t have to be expensive. There is a surprise date where you call and just say, “Meet me on the corner of Main and 5th Street, and I’ve got a surprise.” And then you pick him up; you have a dinner; you have different things planned.

Keeping that spark of spontaneity and that little bit of the unknown. The little mystery that’s so exciting when you’re dating. Sometimes you lose that, especially when you’re in a long-term marriage, you think you know everything about the other person. It’s good to have a few surprises in the positive sense of new things that you can build your relationship on.

Ron: I think we as husbands, we have to take the initiative in that. We were the pursuers when we were trying to win our wives’ hands, so to speak, and I think we still need to pursue them. They need to feel cherished. They need to feel that you still want to be with them. They still want that spark of romance in the relationship, and dating is one way to keep that to the forefront of your marriage.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As you’ve been building your marriage, you shared with me in a conversation we had last night that you’ve also made a love list. Is that what you call it?

Ron: We decided after learning this through one of the resources that we were going to make a list of five specific, very specific things that she could do to make me feel loved. And she was going to make a list of very specific things that made her feel loved. We switched lists, and I would carry that in my wallet.

The number one thing on my wife’s list that made her feel loved as a wife and a woman, was before we go to bed at night, to pray for her. I can do that now that I know that. I mean it, it took me a while to get into the pattern, but it’s something I can do.

Number two on her list was typically when we went to an event, I was in the party or the event telling my first joke while she was still in the car unbuckling her seatbelt. So she said, “What makes me feel loved is if you wait for me to get my makeup squared away, get my purse squared away, unbuckle my seatbelt, and we walk into the event together.”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: It seems like a little thing.

Ron: A little thing, but it spoke volumes of love to her. I can do that.

Nancy Anderson: Well, his list, as many of you can probably guess, the number one thing on the list that made Ron feel loved was physical intimacy. And I did not understand that. I still don’t fully understand it. I do believe that it’s important to him. One of the things we’ve learned is if it’s important to your mate, then it must be important to you, and you must give it priority.

Even though, like I said, I don’t understand it, I do make every effort to meet his need. And because I am willing to do that, and because I’m not only willing but look forward to meeting that need of his, the transformation has been amazing because I end up getting ultimately what I want, which is the needs on my list met.

Ron: And we would hold each other accountable. There might be a time where I’m kind of slacking off on her list, but yet I want my list met. She would gently remind me, “Well, it’s been about four days since you prayed for me.” And I would have to say, “Okay, let me regroup,” because there is a pattern that we take when we’re trying to change our behavior. It does not happen overnight.

It takes you a long time to develop bad patterns, and it takes a long time to develop good patterns. You have to give each other mercy during this period where you’re trying to change your behavior. Wouldn’t you agree, Nancy?

Nancy Anderson: Yes, and a really important point is that the Bible gives us a roadmap of how a wife is to behave. It isn’t predicated upon the husband’s behavior. We are called to do certain things as godly women. His response does not determine what our behavior should be. So I would just encourage anyone who’s in that situation to continue doing what the Lord has called you to do, regardless of the response or non-response from your husband.

As he sees you change, as he sees you giving, maybe he won’t believe it at first, but if you’re consistent and if you’re praying for him and if your heart is tender toward him and if you know his needs—ask him what his needs are and meet those needs for him—then he will begin even slowly to meet your needs.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You know it takes faith. Nancy, as I think about your story when you first came back home, you broke off your affair; you quit your job; you repented; you confessed your sin; you came back to Ron. He wasn’t a loving, gracious, godly husband at that point, and you didn’t know if he would ever change.

But you said, “I’m willing to obey God and do the right thing.” Then both of you said, “We’re willing to start following God’s roadmap regardless of (as you say, Nancy) the response or non-response of my mate. I’m going to do what God wants me to do.”

Nancy Anderson: I knew what I was told to do, and I knew what I had to do to have a clear conscience before God, and I knew that if I was continuing in sin on purpose by disrespecting my husband, that it would stand in the way of my relationship with the Lord.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And certainly kill whatever chances you might have of that marriage being restored.

Nancy Anderson: Yes. The only hope we had was to behave in a way that pleased God.

Ron: And we had to really come to learn and believe in our hearts that we had to make the Lord the center of the relationship. That was hard in the beginning, but the more that we studied the Word, the more we realized that that really was the foundation we had to build from.

Nancy Anderson: One of the verses that was really important to me was Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.”

And that’s where I got in the most trouble was by not guarding my heart. The world tells us, “Oh, follow your heart, it will lead you to wonderful places.” Well, it’s not true. Because the Bible tells us that our hearts are exceedingly wicked, who can know them? (See Jeremiah 17:9.)

So if we follow our emotions, if we follow our flesh, our flesh will lead us down a path of destruction.

So once I began to guard my heart from outside invaders and from internal discontent, the little rumblings that I had, the complaining spirit, the critical spirit. I asked the Lord to literally install a filter between my mouth and my brain because my first instinct was to correct my husband, especially about insignificant things.

I wanted to be his mother. I wanted to make him wrong and me right. I wanted to correct him and make him wrong, and that was what got me in trouble in the first place.

So I had to stop myself, and it is an act of will to just not say it. I found that the more I stopped myself, the more he began to open up to me, and then our lines of communication were true and real.

Ron: Well, the days of her giving me a 10,000 word essay on the fact that I forgot to fill up the gas tank were over. That was an obvious change.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: That was a filter on the lips.

Ron: That was the filter.

Nancy Anderson: Because the more I criticized and complained, he would want me to stop, and he would say, “Okay, okay, I got it.” But I wouldn’t stop, so then I would keep, keep, keep pushing him, and then that’s when he got really angry. That’s when he would use profanity because he wanted me to just stop. So once I stopped myself, then it didn’t escalate and then we learned that, yes, we can communicate our disappointments but it doesn’t have to be a war.

Ron: Right, and we eliminated those wars. We still have days where we might get on each other’s nerves, but we learned how to resolve it in a positive way.

Nancy Anderson: We have bad hours now; whereas, we used to have bad weeks.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And that is the grace of God, and I see so much evidence of His grace, His restoring, redeeming power in your lives and your marriage. Thank you so much for being open and honest about your story. I praise the Lord for what He has done in your lives, and I’ve now had the chance to get to know you, and this is the real thing. This is the power of God. This is something only God could do.

Nancy, thank you for writing this book—it’s so practical—Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome. I know it’s going to be helpful to many of our listeners even if their marriage isn’t in disaster. Don’t wait until your marriage is in a disaster before you start putting these hedges around it.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Ron and Nancy Anderson, giving hope to every married couple. They’ll be right back, but I’ll step in and tell you how to get the book Nancy was just telling you about. Nancy Anderson wrote Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome based on her painful experiences. She’ll show you how to guard your heart against adultery and move toward your husband.

We want to put this book in your hands, so we’ll send it to you when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. You’ll also get a very helpful booklet from Nancy Leigh DeMoss called Hedges. The booklet will help you think through small decisions that may lead to big consequences. Protect your marriage and watch it grow. Get the book and booklet by donating at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.

This week we’ve been hearing how small things matter. Small choices to be unfaithful and small choices to love. Holly Elliff has seen this.

Holly Elliff: I don’t think it’s necessarily the big, huge crisis moments in most marriages as much as it is lots of days of inattention to the things that matter.

Leslie: Holly will talk very practically tomorrow. I hope you can be here. Now let’s get back to Nancy Leigh DeMoss talking with Ron and Nancy Anderson.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Ron, I wonder if you’d be so kind, we don’t very often get to have men on the broadcast, and it’s been a blessing to have you here with Nancy. But if you would just pray for our listeners, especially for women, wives who are listening. Nancy loves it when you pray for her, and we’d be blessed if you would pray for us and for the marriages represented, in particular that God would make them marriages really glorify Him.

Ron: It would be my pleasure, and first of all, I’d like to tell my lovely wife, Nancy, I really love you.

Nancy Anderson: Thank you, honey. I love you, too.

Ron: Thank you, babe.

Lord, we just come to You. We just bow our hearts to You. And Lord, I just praise You for where our marriage is today, the gift that you’ve given me of this wonderful wife and this wonderful life with her. I just give all the glory to You. I thank You for my in-laws and for the role they played in healing our marriage.

I thank You, Lord, for teaching us that we need to make You the center of our relationship and build from there. And I just thank You for this ministry, and I just pray for all the couples out there that might be listening today that maybe we’ve given them just a little bit of hope to take that step in looking toward You. We just thank You for being there when we need Your help. I just praise Your name. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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