How To Marry With Confidence, Pt. 2

In light of today's divorce rate, one of the biggest questions couples will ask before saying, "I do" is how can they be sure they're marrying the right person and if their love is the kind that will last a lifetime? In this second episode of "How To Marry with Confidence", Drs. Paul and Virginia Friesen continue to discuss their book, Before You Save the Date: 21 Questions to Help You Marry with Confidence.


Transcript

Music:

(Upbeat intro music)

Chris:

Hey, welcome to "The Art of Relationships" with Dr. Tim Muehlhoff. I'm Chris Grace and we have an opportunity to talk about all things relationships, and we have some special guests with us today. It's doctors ... Paul and Virginia Friesen, who've come all the way out from the east coast. You guys are here visiting with us. Thank you for doing that. We ended last time by talking about a book that you guys have written. It's an amazing book called, "Before You Save the Date: 21 Questions to Help You Marry With Confidence." We started getting into some of the questions, and we even covered a few things we thought it'd be great to hear some more information, and hear some insights that you guys had. Last time, we talked a little bit about the four C's. Why don't you remind the listeners, again, about those are, and then let's kind of continue that conversation.

Paul:

The four C's are convictions, character, compatibility, and chemistry, and we were talking last time that we often enter relationships through chemistry, and then we want to make sure we're compatible. We both enjoy rock climbing or tennis, or something together, but very few people really look at the character of this person, and hardly anybody gets to convictions. And we wanted to turn it upside down. Say, "We enter relationship on convictions." If you're a strong believer in Christ, scripture is very clear that's the person you need to be involved with, and certainly the only one that you marry. No matter how happy you are, how wealthy he is, or how beautiful she is, God's word needs to be our final authority in this. It's very clear, you enter through convictions, what's the authority of God's word? Second ... character. How does that ... how do those convictions get lived out?

 

Is she kind? Is she generous? How do they interact with their parents? All these sorts of things. And then thirdly, is the whole area of compatibility, and are you compatible? Do you have the same passions? Not just do you both enjoy playing chess, but do you have a passion for missions? Do you have a passion for being outdoors? What are those things you can't live with or can't live without in a spouse, and be honest about those before you walk down the aisle, and the last one is chemistry. Do you have chemistry for each other? If you don't have chemistry, you got a problem, but the other side of it is how have you dealt with that? Have you controlled chemistry?

 

We tell couples, if you're sleeping together, and you're both Christians before you're married, there's no reason to believe your spouse won't have an affair after you're married. And you get really upset because your hormones have superseded scripture. I almost guarantee it, sometime in marriage, there will be somebody who your hormones will urge you to dishonor God, and you got to say, "God's word is my final authority in that." [crosstalk 00:02:50]

Tim:

I would add to that. We talked about this in a previous podcast, Chris, that ... also they're clouded. Their judgment is clouded if they're sexually active, if they've move too quickly with intimacy. At a time when you need to be making one of the best decisions you've ever made, and getting input from all perspectives, and somewhat being objective. That's what I love about your book, it gives criteria about which they can judge each other in a good way. They're not objective because they've already gotten to that one flash type mentality and sexual intimacy can just cloud things. God's wise to say, "Hey, I want to reserve that for marriage", so yeah, that's a great point that when you flip the list, you can get problems.

Paul:

Well, it's interesting because if you talk ... scripture talks about sex being intoxicating, and if you get intoxicated to, I've never been drunk my self, but I understand when you're intoxicated, you don't think very clearly. If you're talking a test that's going to determine whether you get into university, you don't go drinking the night before because you want to be fully there. This is the second-most important decision you'll ever make in your life, so why do we go into it intoxicated in ways that feel good ... God designed us, so that sexual intercourse feels good, but it can be a trick. It can make us think, "Well, this is going to be great because this feels good." Well, it feels good pretty much with anybody ... that's not a great criteria.

Tim:

Yeah.

Chris:

For the listeners that weren't here last week, when we talked this notion that ... As you guys travel around, you have seen a lot. You guys are the lead resource couple at Home Improvement Ministries. I know you run a camp on Catalina. You guys work as the pastor or the chaplains for the New England Patriots, and all of these things, you guys have felt and seen a lot out there, so we're really excited to have you guys talk about some of these things.

 

There's just a lot of questions in this book that you feel like are very important for couples to get a hold up, to think through, and to talk about before they save that date. What are some of those questions that stand out to you? I know there's one on character that I am fascinated with. How do you get at something like that, and what's the way in which you'd want to talk about a relationship, spending this kind of time with somebody, and why is that so important?

Virginia:

Well, character is really only seen over the distance to be quite honest. All of us can look good in short term, and all of us can look good when we're on the stage, but I love the definition that character's who you are when no one is looking. To be honest, there's no way to fair it out, someone's true character, without spending a good amount of time in many, many, many different circumstances. I will tell you it was one of the great hallmarks that attracted me so much to Paul. When we met, I was a student at university. Paul was working for university Christian fellowship, with a very strong commitment to not dating any of his students. I, fortunately, was not at his campus when we started dating, but I was so struck by the character of this man because it was something that I had never seen ... in any guy that I had ever dated previously.

 

One of those anecdotal stories that really is true about Paul that just gave me tremendous confidence that he was a man of character, he was going to be true his word, was as a student himself at Cal State Fullerton, he would commute to school, park his car in the outdoor parking lot. The lot was controlled by an electronic arm and you deposited a quarter. Now, we're going back a little bit; parking was one of the cheaper advantages back then. Every once in a while, a van would break off the arm so that the students could get in and out without paying. The story was told to me that Paul was leaving the parking lot one day. Somebody had broken the arm, and when he got up to the arm, he put his quarter in, and his little stub went up and went back down. The cars behind him were honking, people were yelling, "Stupid! Can't you see? The arm's not there. You don't have to pay." He said, "Well, I parked here, so I owe the quarter," and I remembered thinking, "That is a man who lives by conviction."

 

I just want to tell you that forty years into marriage, it has born to be so, so, true. It's just one of the things I was so glad to see, pre-maritally. I think we have to be looking for those things that go deeper than the immediate experience you're having.

Tim:

Yeah, I love the principle is, you better know a person's convictions before you get married to that person. We have some really dear friends of ours. He's a medical missionary ... one of the top surgeons in Indianapolis, and he had a conviction that lunch was just like a waste of time. Think of all the things you could do during lunch, so they got married, and she didn't know ... She was like, "What? I love lunch." He was like, "No, no, no, man, we could just get rid of that, have a big breakfast, and we could be out doing this, this, and this." She's like, "I'm not going to go my whole life without lunch! I love lunch!"

 

That's a great principle. You want to marry a person of conviction, but know the convictions that you're about to walk into, because some of them, you'd be like, "That's crazy! I don't think God says that," so I love that. But know ahead of time what a person feels really passion about ... you're about to inherit it.

Virginia:

Yeah.

Chris:

You guys talk a little bit about this what's called the motivation question, right? If you don't share the same passions, what's the big deal, right? That's kind of like how we started. Isn't it healthy to have your own individual passions? What do you guys think? That's one of your motivation question. Love that one.

Paul:

Well, it is. Passion is such a great thing to have, but you need to make sure that you're passionate in the same areas. Again, if you don't both play chess, that's fine, but one has a passion for missions and one has a passion for staying at their cubicle. This isn't going to work.

Virginia:

There's a really big difference between passion and interest, and what I really want to make clear is that we're not saying there has to be a one-to-one compatibility here. It's going to be impossible because that means you found a clone of yourself, and that really isn't how God works. You have to have enough shared passions, especially the ones that are at the very core of life. If you don't share that, I'm just telling you, you're inviting a long battle where both of you will probably be unfulfilled.

Paul:

We've seen it in marriage that ... a couple we've counseled that she had a passion for running. He did not. So she joined the running club, and pretty soon she met a man that had a passion for running, and he said, "Well, doesn't your husband run with you?" “No, he doesn't run.” "Oh, that must be hard." “Yeah, it is,” and pretty soon, they both ran to the bedroom. Certainly, it isn't going to happen every time, but if you start associating with people who have like passion, and if you don't share that with your spouse, it can be a real detriment.

 

Satan's goal is to separate us from each other, and if our interests are separate, he'll take that and run with it.

Chris:

Yeah, no, that's great.

Tim:

Let me clarify a little bit. I absolutely agree, but there can be an appreciation for something. Let's go back to the running thing. I don't think both spouses have to run, but one person has an appreciation for running. We both ... we have PhDs, right? And our spouses didn't necessarily ... do what you guys did. Our spouses didn't do the PhD, but man, they had an appreciation for it because it cost both of our spouses a lot for us to get our PhDs. There needs to be that appreciate at least of ... I don't exactly do what you do, but I greatly appreciate and value what you do. I think it's really important.

Virginia:

That was a great clarification, Tim, because if you don't appreciate, you're going to resent, and the resentment is going to divide.

Tim:

Yeah, that's very true.

Chris:

Yeah, for us, a little bit of this came in to play when were dating and ... I just had this passion and love for sports and it was just this ... I loved playing them. I loved watching, and it was something that ... and Alisa realized right away that this was something that was going to be a part of me. She learned so much. She became a Denver Broncos fan ... if you can imagine that being from Texas, and what that meant for her. She said, "Chris, I'm all in man!" I just thought, "That's awesome." She knows all the players, she knows everything about the Dodgers now.

 

That's what's cool about this ... is that there's shared heart and passion. We share a lot together now because of that very thing, and I'm sure for you guys you run into that with working with the Patriots, and some of the spouses there, and learning a passion about Football that some may not have had. Yet, they know this is important. This is our livelihood, and this is what we're going to do together.

Paul:

Well, I think that's the key ... is that passion driving you apart? If running is hurting your marriage, you may need to give up running. If the other can support, great, you said the NFL ... I'll never forget asking, "If God has anything to say about playing in the NFL?" People said, "No, I don't think so" and this one guy said, "Since I've been three, that's all I've wanted and nothing will stop me, including marriage." He just went through the list and, you think, "No, that's a passion that's out of balance."

Virginia:

On the other hand, I really appreciate you bringing up that you can learn to appreciate that. One of our Patriot couples are very strong, very committed to Christ. He's got a great career, pro-Bowler etc. ... married a medical doctor, who had never watched football before she started dating him and they were set up on a blind date. She said, "I didn't even think we'd have a second date because all I could think of was, 'What do I have in common with this guy?'" She fell in love with his heart, with his passion for Christ, for his conviction that football is just a temporary arena, for ministry, for him. We were just with him recently and I just love ... she has sort of taken over his foundation, and is working very hard right now. They're raising money to provide relief for the Hurricane Matthew victims, for instance.

 

I'm seeing her grow in her appreciation for what he does because she loves him. I want to tell you, if that hadn't happened, she would be miserable in the marriage. She'd be miserable to live with, and he wouldn't be able to enjoy what he really feels God has made him to do.

Tim:

You know, I read a quote ... I'll never forget this ... Lance Armstrong. He went through a bout with cancer. His wife got him through that. He won the Tour de France, what, six times? Something like that. He said, in an interview, "I train everyday of the year, including Christmas." Every single day, and when the marriage eventually dissolved, she was quoted as saying, "Listen, you can't compete with the Tour de France." Eventually, that marriage died because he's off doing his Tour de France, and getting glory, and accolades, and the best American cyclist. So how do you ... what's your counsel to people who have a great passion that they feel like God's even given them, but how do you balance that with home life to make sure...

 

Because the NFL stands for "not for long," so I have this small window, and I'm giving everything to it, and yet, we can't ... and this is true if doing a PhD. You can't ask your wife to hold a breath for seven years. I mean, you can't. Nobody can do that, so what's the balance of saying, "Man, I'm giving this all I have, and don't hold me back from what God's given me the opportunity to do." What's the balance there?

Paul:

I think the balance is going to be different for every couple, but I think what is essential for every couple is that their hearts are for each other. If you're doing your PhD, your wife knew that when you had any opportunity, you were going to be with her. You're going to be focusing on her, and you hadn't written her off for seven years, and you were going to be intentional, and you might not get a grade on a paper because it was more important to go on a weekend with her.

 

I think our hearts are so important there, that our spouse knows that they are more important. There is only two oneness relationships we're called to ... oneness with the Lord and oneness with our spouse. We're not called to be one with our church, with our kids, with our work, but we are with our spouse. I think our hearts need to reveal that.

Chris:

You guys, these are just some insights that I'm sure our listeners most likely are having a lot of questions as they process relationships like everybody else does and there's just some out there ... I think what you guys have done is that you've captured a lot of these in this book, and asking people ... one that I really enjoy is that bonus question. Tell us about this bonus question because when it's ... basically when all is said and done, the question is what does your gut tell you? How do people go off of that? How should a couple say, "You know what does your gut tell you about this person? Does it feel like it's right?"

 

I was talking at a student yesterday who's at another university up north and he was talking about he just felt incensed that this person, this relationship was right. There was something about it. Should he trust it? What practical questions might we be asking about that? And how do you explore this or how do you have couples think about that?

Paul:

Well, I think we've talked about being objective and have objectivity. And one question that affects our gut is how are your friends talking about this? How is your family ... if you have a family who you really respect. They've always been giving good advice. If you're the only one who thinks this person is right for you, probably you're not right in that.

 

I think that's so important, or are you changing all of a sudden. People say, "Wow, you're not at all like you used to be!" I mean, you never used to run, or you never used to drink, or you never used to ... and you go ... or your not as much fun now. Somewhere in you say, "Is this a good relationship?" Listen to your good friends, not the ones "Oh, I'm so excited for you," but the ones who will say, "I am concerned for what I see."

Tim:

What short circuits that sometimes is ... we see this all the time at Biola. So two people meet, they just go crazy, it's exciting, it's fine, blah, blah, blah ... Suddenly, the friends are pushed away. At a time when they need to be listening to their friends, that has taken a bit of a hit ... that relationship. Their friends are like, "We don't even ask them anymore to join us because the answer is going to be no because he's with her, or she's with him." At the precise moment you need the input of your friends, you've isolated yourself and that's a really dangerous moment is because you need that input from people to say, "Hey, I don't know if you're necessarily compatible with each other. I don't think this is necessarily a good thing."

Virginia:

You're addressing the power of community. We're designed for community. We're never designed to do this alone, and so I think that's just a very, very good observation ... that if you find yourselves isolating, that's a red flag. It's at least a cautionary flag, because you desperately need to have the input. You need the support, you need the advice, you need insights. Because again, going back to this biochemical change that's happening, you realize there's a double whammy with the oxytocin being overproduced. Because infatuation overproduces it, and if you're physically involved, that overproduces oxytocin, so all of a sudden, you've got double, double going on, which renders you incapable of making a really wise decision.

 

It's so, so important you stay connected with the community. The gut feeling ... it's interesting. I just got an e-mail from a young woman who is ending a less than three-year-old marriage. Very, very, very difficult circumstances, but this is what really caught my attention in her e-mail, she said, "Both of us had big checks in our spirit before we got married, but …" It's what's on the other side of the “but” where you find it was ... it was too embarrassing to cancel it, everything...

Paul:

Invitations have gone out.

Virginia:

It was all paid, it was going to cost so much. We always say, "Oh my goodness. It's going to cost so much less to cancel the wedding the night before than it will to be in a marriage or to go through divorce eventually." I feel like if there were people who had really spoken into her life and said to her ... We said to our daughters ... Two of our three daughters are married, the third is an absolute gold standard waiting, and for God's best in her life. She's not waiting, she's living life fully. She's absolutely committed to not settling, but we said to our daughters, "If the day of the wedding arrives and you feel like ... you all of a sudden don't really feel this is the best thing, you have our complete support to pull the plug."

 

Now they both married extremely well and we're so grateful for their husbands, but every parent needs to communicate that to their children.

Chris:

I think it's great advice. I was talking to a student just about four days ago and ... the conversation went something like this. She said, "Is it weird or different that ... I've been dating for the same boy for about a year, and I think about somebody that I had dated before, and he keeps coming to my mind randomly?” As we explored that, in reality, this was that check in her spirit and she realized, just in talking about this, that there was a lot more at stake. It had a lot to do with her current relationship was ... Something was being spoken to her in some respects by this, whether it was God kind of talking to her, whether it was just a check in her spirit, but she realized, wait a minute, I'm really not into this relationship like I should be. There are other problems.

 

We sat and talked about it, and it started to come out. Yup. This was just a moment that she was thinking about somebody else, but in reality, a lot more to say that there was something just not quite right in this. The families were ... they loved each other. They thought that, "Oh, this is going to be an awesome marriage because your mom and dad love my mom and dad, and they love me, and they love you, and this is going to be great. We're in the same church, we do all these same things together, this is going to be great." Yet, she just knew in her heart something's not here.

 

Those are hard questions to have, right? I mean, you have a lot committed in there and this becomes difficult for people.

Paul:

Such a great observation that you don't marry somebody saying, “Well, I didn't get the person I really wanted. They married somebody else, so this is second best.” Feel so strongly ... no this is God's best, and you don't settle, so critical if that happens.

Tim:

When we do pre-marital counseling, the one question we ask towards the last part is "Okay, if the person you're engaged to right now never improved, but never got worse, and this is the person you're going to be with for the rest of your life. Never got worse, never improved. This is it." The reactions we have gotten from couples have been like, "Oh ... wait."

 

It's like, oh you cannot bank on him or her changing. You just can't bank on that. That's an interesting moment to say ... By the way, there's going to be seasons where they are worse, and there's going to be seasons when they're good, but can you live with what you have right at this moment? Virginia, can you unpack one thing for me? I love what you said about your one daughter. We have listeners who were like, "Hey, I'd love to get married. I would love to be in a relationship, and yet I'm not."

 

I love the fact that you said about your daughter that she's living life, even though she would love to probably get married. What does that look like? To live your life, even if as you have this, "Hey, my two sisters got married. I'd love that, but ..." What does it mean to live that life that she's doing?

Virginia:

Yeah, we're just grateful ... it emanates from her deep and genuine love for Jesus. I will say that, and it's what has protected her from making settling decisions because she has such a deep, deep love for Christ. I would say, first of all, if you're single, and you have a relationship with Christ, keep investing in that relationship. Keep growing in Christ's likeness. It is the best preparation for marriage.

 

Secondly, I would say don't miss the opportunities that are in front of you. I have seen so many women who have missed their twenties because they were waiting to get married before they started to live life. Oh my goodness. Lisa has gotten a Master's degree, she has worked as an athletic trainer at UCLA, she's now a professor at another Christian school in the area ...

Chris:

We know Lisa very well and we want her here, unfortunately, somebody else got her.

Virginia:

She led a mission's trip this year for her Christian university. She has served at our camp. She looks at life as a veritable smorgasbord of options, many of which that won't there when she gets married, right? I just grieve for, especially women, who feel that they cannot really live out their purpose in life, unless they're married.

Paul:

Well, scripture says, "Whom God has brought together," and our youngest daughter, went to Uganda for six months, and people said, "You're crazy. You'll never find a man in Uganda. You're taking yourself out of circulation at your prime time."

Tim:

Oh, we've heard this so many times.

Paul:

She said, “I just feel that God is calling me to Uganda.” She met her husband down in Uganda. It was just ... God is able to do this, and I think we just need to say, "God is the one who brings us together." Trust him. Live life fully and let him bring somebody into the intersection.

Tim:

That is the catch 22. So Virginia, I would say with your daughter ... I think there's two realities. I think, one, she has made herself such that she's intimidating to certain men and I think certain men will not ask her out because they're intimidated, but that's precisely the kind of men she doesn't want to go out with.

Virginia:

Exactly.

Tim:

She would have to lower and not be herself because I'm kind of intimidating and freaking out this guy. It's that story, the Uganda story, Paul, that is so important because God can bring that person. I know it's hard ... and I know it's harder for women I think then men. Because at least men can initiate. They can kind of say, "Hey, I'm going to ask ..."

 

I think we've had this conversation. I think women can do a lot more in that. I think some of these social things are ... putting women in an unfair position. I do think a woman can initiate with a friend and invite two guys out to go do something. I think that's fine, but I love the fact of a confident woman saying, "I'm not going to marry a guy that I have to play with one hand tied behind my back.” That's going to be deeply frustrating.

Virginia:

Yeah, our girls have all seen the power of a Godly leader in the home, and Paul is that. He's very, very Christ-like in his leadership, and thankfully, that gave ... that set the standard for our daughters.

Tim:

That's great.

Virginia:

The other thing that I think has been so helpful to Lisa is that she is deeply connected in community, and I find that this is another really big issue for these singles who are just spending their time in online dating and looking for that person that they're going to be completed by, and they're not investing in community. When they don't invest in community, then you are lonely and you do feel desperate, like "I have to find somebody in order for my life to count."

Paul:

One of the things that I loved when Julie was in Uganda ... She wrote us and she said, "When I'm with Derek, I grow closer to Christ," and that's all I needed as a dad. I don't care what he did, but when I'm with Derek, I grow closer to Christ, and that's ... for a Christian dad, there's nothing that you want more for your daughters.

Chris:

No doubt. What a great way to end. Just this talk and this time with you guys. Thank you for being such a blessing out there to a number of people. We run into couples all the time that have listened to you guys, have read your book, have been in your conferences, and we're just so grateful that you guys stopped by. Thanks for doing that today.

Tim:

What great testimony about your children following in your footsteps. I can't wait to meet Lisa when she joins our faculty. I think it's just going to be awesome. I think it would be great if she hears God's voice and obeys it.

Paul:

That would be great.

Virginia:

Well, thank you.

Chris:

You guys ... listen, thank you for spending some time with us today, and Paul and Virginia, just for giving us some of your time, and blessings to you guys as you go about ... Again, if you're interested in this book, they have a number of things out there, but this one, in particular we've been talking about is, "Before You Save the Date: 21 Questions to Help You Marry with Confidence."

 

If you'd guys would like to own a copy of the book, we'd love to send you one. We made this available last time, just go 'head and send a donation of $10 or more, and you can send it and request a copy at our website at cmr.biola.edu and, in fact, there all kinds of resources. We have podcasts like this, but we have blogs, we have events, we have a lot of different resources to help you build your own healthy Christ-centered relationship.

 

Go to cmr.biola.edu...

Tim:

We're taking advanced orders for Detroit Lions Super Bowl wins. Send that money in now, and you can have advanced orders. Right? We can do it! Advanced orders!

Chris:

Yeah, we can. We can do advanced orders.

Paul:

Well, you got a lot of years, dude.

Tim:

[crosstalk 00:29:05] ship those out!

Virginia:

[inaudible 00:29:06]

Chris:

Prayers of a righteous Biola faculty member going to [inaudible 00:29:11]. Okay, let's cut off the mic of Tim Muehlhoff right now ... You guys, thanks for being here! We'll see you guys next time on "The Art of Relationships."

Music:

(Upbeat outro music)


The Art of Relationships Podcast

The Art of Relationships podcast, hosted by Dr. Chris Grace and Dr. Tim Muehlhoff, is centered on helping you build healthy relationships and marriages. In this podcast, Chris (director of Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships and professor of psychology at Biola University) and Tim (professor of communication at Biola University and author of I Beg to Differ), weigh in on how to navigate the complexities of relationships in our culture with biblical wisdom and scholarly research. Listen to get practical insights on relationships, dating and marriage that can be applied to all relationships  — family, friends, co-workers and others.

 

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