The Soothing Fires of Romance
About the Guest
You can’t give what you don’t have. Neglect the marriage relationship and you’ll soon find you don’t have much of a family life either. Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey, author of Growing a Spiritually Strong Family, talks to couples about keeping the passionate fires of romance burning.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
Dennis Rainey talks to couples about keeping the passionate fires of romance burning.
The Soothing Fires of Romance
Dennis: Being an artist at romance does not require so much a sentimental or emotional nature as it requires a thoughtful nature. It's the thoughtfulness of the little gifts, the notes, the phone calls, the touch, the look in the eyes, that says to the other person, "You know what? You're agenda is worthy of my life and my time."
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 4th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Today we want to talk about the link between a passion for God and a passion for each other.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I was thumbing through "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family."
Dennis: That's good.
Bob: That's encouraging?
Dennis: Did you read any of …
Bob: I was thumbing through it, I …
Dennis: You weren't reading it?
Bob: I haven't polished it off yet, but I came across Chapter 6 in this book, and I thought to myself, "I bet this is the only book that has ever been written on spiritual growth that talks about romance in marriage." And I said to myself, "For real, there's a chapter in a book about growing a spiritually strong family talking about romancing your wife."
Dennis: Yeah, I believe it.
Bob: You believe that in order for your family to be spiritually strong, romance has got to be alive and well in a marriage relationship?
Dennis: Well, I want you to think about this for a moment – what is the nature of marriage but teamwork? All right.
Bob: Oneness, that's right.
Dennis: That's right, and what is the nature of marital teamwork but intimacy? Two people who are intimate with one another as they go through life and I believe a part of that intimacy, it's not just sex, part of that intimacy is communication, it's being open, it's being transparent, it's the mingling of two souls with one another, and, Bob, I actually believe that a part of what can help create growth in a marriage is a couple who regularly work on their romance.
Bob: Well, you know, when we talk about romance, we think about hearts and flowers and warm feelings, and we tend to be drawn to the cultural definition of romance rather than a biblical definition of romance. We tend to think romantic love is how we see it expressed in those movies that come out about a guy and a girl falling for each other. But when you talk about romance, you're talking about a level of intimacy. You're talking about oneness that goes beyond just an attractedness to one another, right?
Dennis: Right. I think the movie screen depicts a couple longingly looking into one another's eyes and just falling off of a cliff, helplessly and hopelessly under the control of a gravity called romance and passion.
Well, those moments occur in a marriage relationship, but that's not where you live. And I think romance is much broader than just a brief, passionate interlude in your marriage relationship. I believe romance begins in the morning, and it's cultivated by a hug and a kiss when you leave for work, and it occurs maybe by writing a note to your spouse and leaving it on their pillow when they get back in bed at night or by a phone call during the day, you know, by thinking about the other person.
Bob: I've got to interrupt you here, because I did that the other day. I called Mary Ann in the middle of the day, and she answered the phone, and she said, "Hi," and I said, "Hi," and I said, "You know, I was just sitting here thinking about you, and I wanted to call and see how you are." It was kind of silent on the other end of the phone.
Dennis: What do you want?
Bob: That's what she said. She said, "What are you calling about really? Really, what are you calling about?"
Dennis: Yeah, really, what's the agenda?
Bob: No, "I was thinking about you, and I just want you to do know I love you." It was kind of silent again, and she goes, "Okay, all right, so – anything else?" I said, "No, that was really it." And she said, "You're kind of creeping me out here." And I thought, "I guess I don't do this enough." But there is something about those little phone calls in the middle of the day, the little hug before you go to work that's just a way of expressing affection and romance.
Now, I did read something in your book that kind of startled me, where you said that one of the best ways to kill romance in a relationship is for a couple to get married.
Dennis: You know, I talked to a couple not too many years ago, and I will never forget this couple. In fact, in this case, and it wasn't just one-sided, but in this case primarily the husband had not built into his wife's life romance, vision for her life, vision for how she could use her gifts and talents and ability and, Bob, I have to say at the end of the counseling appointment, which lasted about two and a half hours, I sat there just sick at my stomach. Because this was a Christian marriage that should be moving into a phase called the empty nest and the glow years, where a couple begin to cash in on the deposits that they've made over the years. But instead I was looking at a couple who were bankrupt, and a woman who I will never forget the look in her eyes – a fierceness and anger, a fire in her eyes, of saying, "You have not built into my life in years, and you know what? I'm mad."
And the interesting thing and the nature of the conversation – that husband interrupted his wife no less than 15 to 20 times in a period of an hour, and I said, "You know, you must respect your wife. You must let her talk." And, Bob, this is all about romance, this is all about respecting another person, of building them up, of cultivating them, of investing in their lives. If you don't, you could end up 20, 25, 30, 35 years after the kids are gone with a marriage that's dead and romance that has to be – well, go under some kind of life-support system to be resurrected.
Bob: What you're talking about really goes back 15 years to a book that you and Barbara wrote together called "Building Your Mate's Self Esteem." It's about pouring into the life of another person, fulfilling the biblical "one another's" – to encourage one another and to affirm one another and to lift up one another, and to support one another – all of that's biblical. Doing that in your marriage relationship first before you do it anywhere else.
Dennis: Right, and I have to say, after that counseling appointment, and I need to tell you, I don't do a lot of marriage counseling today, I just can't do it with my schedule, but I went home that evening grieved for this couple. I mean, heartsick, because here is a Christian couple whose marriage is stalled out and may or may not make it, and I went home to Barbara, and I took her in my arms, and I looked into her eyes, and I said, "Tell me, tell me that I have built into your life. Tell me that I have talked with you about your dreams and your horizons and your visions and where you want to go and helping you become the woman God created you to be." I'm going to tell you, there's something about the stench of death in your nostrils that you never forget and, in this case, I will never forget this counseling appointment, because I don't want that to be true of my marriage relationship.
Bob: Hearing you describe it, I'm thinking now I need to go home to Mary Ann and say have I done the same thing with you?
Dennis: Seriously, you know, romance, again, is not this narrow, little niche of a marriage relationship. I believe it loosens the soil of the soul so that you can grow spiritually.
Bob: You know, again, it's interesting, because if you had sat me down before I picked up a copy of your book and said, "What are the key elements to growing a spiritually strong family," I could have listed what we've already talked about – things like prayer and time together in the Word, and the need to be discipling your family, other things we're going to talk about, but I don't know that romance would have come up on my list, and yet as I hear you talk about it, I think it really is a foundation for having a spiritually strong, godly, God-honoring marriage. It's part of that the Bible describes, isn't it?
Dennis: You know, romance, I believe, is an art, and if you're going to grow spiritually, you have to cultivate this art called romance, and I quoted a gentleman who wrote a book. The book is called "The Romance Factor," Alan Loy McGinnis, and he said this, he said, "Being an artist at romance does not require so much a sentimental or emotional nature as it a thoughtful nature. When we think of romantic things, we think of events that occur because someone made a choice to love. Love is a choice, isn't it?" He goes on, "A man brings his wife a single rose in the evening, a girl makes the love of her life a lemon pie with just the degree of tartness that he likes. These are not the goo of sweet emotion, they are the stuff that comes from resolution and determination." Now, you don't think of romance being kept alive by such tough-minded words as "resolution" and "determination."
Bob: Well, when you were dating, it didn't take a lot of resolution and determination, it just happened easily. And then you get married, and you go, "This is hard work, this romance."
Dennis: Yeah, it really is, and yet it's amazing what kind of message you can send to your spouse by doing a small thing for them.
Now, you know, there are some men in this arena, Bob – well, we just don't get it. We don't realize that it's not the size of the gift, it's not some huge diamond, although there is a way to a woman's heart with a bigger stone than she has when she got engaged, but it's the thoughtfulness of the little gifts, the notes, the phone calls, the touch, the look in the eyes – those all are deposits that encourage your spouse in the relationship.
Bob: I appreciate Gary Chapman's book about the five love languages, because it's really helped me keep in mind how I can minister romance to my wife. The other day I was in playing a game on the computer. Just a stupid little game while Mary Ann was in doing the dishes and, all of a sudden, it hit me that for me to be playing a game on the computer while Mary Ann is doing the dishes, I should probably set my game aside and see if I could help in the kitchen. So I minimized the game on the computer and went in and picked up a dishtowel, started drying the dishes, knowing that acts of service are how I can most express romance to Mary Ann, that's her love language.
And I started drying, and she looked over at me with this little grin on her face like, "It's a good thing you came in here instead of playing your game." But also a little smile that said, "I appreciate the thoughtfulness."
Dennis: I've seen that look as well, Bob. A while back we were getting ready to go on a trip and going to leave the next day, and Barbara just made a comment about our azaleas that we have in our yard, and she said they've got some kind of spider mites or white lace bugs or some kind of weird creature out there eating on them, and they're losing their green look and so they need to be sprayed with chemicals. And she doesn't like to do that, and she likes for me to do that. And it was getting dark, and so I thought, "You know, I could put this off until we get home, or I could get out there and spray those crazy lace bugs and try to kill them," but it's just a little statement like that that says to the other person, "You know what? Your agenda is worthy of my life, my time, my attention, my focus, and I want to meet your needs."
Bob: Maybe then a listener is making that same connection today and thinking, you know, I've never thought about romance being a part of a spiritually strong family, but you've convinced me that if I want our family to grow spiritually as a husband or as a wife I need to be pursuing, initiating, instigating romance in our marriage. And, frankly, there are probably a lot of couples who, if they were to rate the romantic relationship today in their marriage, they would find that their grade is lower than they'd like it to be.
So if somebody wants to go from a C- to a B+ in the romance area, and they see it as a spiritual priority for their marriage, give us some practical suggestions on what you would do to try to rekindle romance.
Dennis: Well, first of all, I'd begin with a date night. Our listeners have heard me talk about this for years, but I would have a regular date night and even have a babysitter who you – well, you contract with to, say, on Sunday nights or on Tuesday nights, Monday nights, whatever, we're going to come and get you or you're going to come over to the house, and we're out of here from 6:30 until 9. The babysitter puts the kids to bed, cleans the kitchen for you, your wife comes home to a nice clean kitchen, and you tip your babysitter a little extra for taking care of the kitchen, and you've had a night out to be able to just connect, to talk, to communicate with one another.
Bob: You know, I've heard you describe your date nights with Barbara on occasion and, frankly, sometimes it sounds more like a meeting between the COO and the CEO of the family corporation, more like a business meeting than a romantic date.
Dennis: And, Bob, I've had to say to Barbara on more than one occasion, in fact, just recently I said, "You know what? We need to have a date where we do not solve a problem. We just need to go out and have some fun together." Now, you can become problem-focused on a date night. We've done that. I mean, with six children …
Bob: … there are plenty of problems to pick, right?
Dennis: Yeah, if it's not your relationship, it's one of them or a number of them or all of them. So you have to watch and be careful that you don't end up focusing on problems and not on one another. Your marriage must be built to outlast your children.
Bob: There have also been times, though, I know, when Mary Ann and I have gone out and pulled out our schedules and had one of those family business meetings and you know what? That's been romantic for her, because just the opportunity to sit down with one another and say, "Are we on the same page? Are we thinking alike? Do we know what's coming up? Are we ready for it?" She can relax a little bit more after that. It's been helpful and beneficial. So, I agree with you, the date night is something that I probably need to initiate a little more often in our marriage than I do.
Dennis: I'll tell you one other thing, and this may sound a bit strange about creating romance, but I believe honesty in a marriage relationship around temptations or around maybe something that you'd be tempted to hide from your spouse can, in a curious way, cultivate romance in your marriage. Earlier this week I had two young men who work here at FamilyLife come up to me and both of them had been married for a short period of time, less than three years. And both of them had experienced women in the marketplace who were being overly friendly with them, and their question to me was, "Dennis, do you really think it's wise for us to communicate with our wives that another woman is hitting on us, that's making a pass?"
Bob: She's flirting with you, yeah.
Dennis: Yeah. And I said, "No question, absolutely." And both those guys said, "Really?" I said, "You know, one of the things that occurs in a marriage relationship when you share on this level is it exposes things that otherwise could become hidden, and it lets your spouse know that you trust her or you trust him to be able to process the information." And, interestingly enough, with both of these guys, they were concerned about their wives' response.
Well, it was interesting, the next day, after I told these guys this, they sent me an e-mail, and both guys said that the wives had responded positively and had affirmed them as men for opening their hearts and sharing what could become a temptation. Neither man was being tempted, but both men were uncertain about sharing that with their spouses.
Bob: You know, a number of months ago, our team put together a resource called Simply Romantic Nights, and I think some people wondered about that resource and said, "What is a ministry doing putting together a collection for husbands and wives designed to build romance in a relationship?" And yet as we've talked about it today, if we want spiritually strong marriages and families, the cultivating of romance is a discipline that needs to be a part of that relationship. And so, for a husband or wife who is saying, "I need to rekindle the flame," getting something like the Simply Romantic Nights collection, which we've got in our FamilyLife Resource Center, is a way that you can have some creative ideas on how to spark the romance, how to engage one another in dialog. If you've let things slip, this can help bring it back a little bit and help you communicate with one another in the other person's language.
Because when it comes to this issue of romance, we do tend to think a little differently as men and women.
Dennis: I do think Simply Romantic Nights has touched a felt need, Bob. It has made the top 50 bestsellers on Amazon.com. It has also made the Christian bestseller list, the top 25 of Christian books, and it's really not a book. It's a collection of 12 ideas for a husband and 12 for a wife that are in a sealed envelope. Each idea is in a sealed envelope, and they're wholesome, they will, I think, expand your idea of romance and creativity in your relationship and speak one another's love language in a more articulate way. But I'm with you. I think if we want to see spiritual growth in our marriage, then I think we need to pay attention to romance.
Bob: That's, I think, what is surprising about this, because I've not looked at the Simply Romantic Nights collection in the past and thought to myself, "here is a way you can grow spiritually in your relationship." But it really is at the core of spiritual growth. I can see a husband presenting this to his wife and saying, "I want us to grow spiritually, and I think this is a part of how we do that."
Dennis: Listen, there is a whole book in the Old Testament, the Song of Solomon, that is dedicated to this theme of romance and passion in marriage, and I think if God was down on this, and it didn't have something to do with our spiritual growth, I don't think that book would be in the Bible.
Bob: And, again, if you're looking for a way to spark the passion, Simply Romantic Nights is a great resource to help make that happen and, of course, romance isn't the only way that you grow a spiritually strong family. We've talked all this week about a number of other issues that are part of the spiritual fiber of a family, and we're going to talk about it next week as well. All of it comes from a book that you've written with your wife Barbara called "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family," and that book is in our FamilyLife Resource Center as well.
You can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and if you click the button that says "go" in the center of the screen, that will take you to the page where you can get more information about Simply Romantic Nights, about the book, "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family," about other resources that are available to help you strengthen your family spiritually. And if you are interested in both Dennis and Barbara's book and the Simply Romantic Nights collection, we'll be happy to send you at no additional cost the CDs that feature both this week and next week's conversation on the subject of the spiritual condition of your family.
Again, our website is FamilyLife.com. When you get there, click the button in the middle of the screen, the round button that says "go," that will take you right to the page where you'll get more information about these resources, or give us a call – 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. When you call, let us know that you're interested in these resources and someone on our team can give you the information on how to have them sent out to you.
You know, the reality for most families is that this issue of spiritual strength is something that – well, there are going to be some bumps along the way. There are going to be some seasons when you're in sync and some seasons when you're out of sync. I remember, in the conversation we had with Beth Moore, who many of our listeners know as the author of a number of Bible study guides that women's groups have used all around the country, she was talking about some of the challenging seasons she and her husband Keith have been through in their marriage and as they've raised their kids. She was very transparent about the realities of being a Christian family, and it was a refreshing interview with her.
This month we want to make the CD of that conversation available to any of our listeners who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount. We are listener-supported, and it's those donations that keep us on the air in this city and in cities all across the country. And so we come to our listeners from time to time and say, "Can you help?" And if you can this month, we want to say thank you by sending you a copy of the CD with Beth Moore.
If you're making a donation online, when you fill out the form on our website, you'll come to a keycode box. Just type the word "free" in there, and we'll know that you'd like to have the CD with Beth Moore sent to you, or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation, just mention that you're interested in a copy of the CD with Beth Moore and, again, we'll be happy to get it sent out to you. Let me say thanks in advance for your support of the ministry. We really appreciate your partnership with us.
Well, I hope you had a great week. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can be back with us on Monday when we're going to pick up where we left off and continue looking at the essential elements for growing a spiritually strong family.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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