For a Better Marriage, Try This

by | Mar 27, 2024

What do you think makes a marriage great? Where should couples look when things get rocky or the going gets tough?

Over the last 11 years, I’ve had the opportunity to interview dozens of couples who have navigated marital hardships and challenges. While the obstacles they’ve faced have varied, the catalyst for change has always been a look upward.

Two couples I’ve spoken with about their experiences are Dave and Ann Wilson and Brad and Marilyn Rhoads. In both interviews, we talked about when they recognized things weren’t going well, what the turning point was, and how they found a way forward.


(The Wilsons’ Story) Tell us about your 10th wedding anniversary.

Ann Wilson: I said, “I’ve just got to tell you, I have no feelings left for you. I have nothing, nothing.”

When I said it Dave was quiet. And then he said, “Tell me more.” Dave was gone constantly. We had been fighting constantly about our schedule. I really had lost hope, and I knew that was a dangerous place to be. And so when I said it, suddenly what ended up happening was Dave got on his knees in the front seat and pushed the seat back and began to pray.

Dave Wilson: That moment in the car when Ann said, “I’ve lost my feelings for you,” a miracle happened. It’s the only way I can describe what happened. A miracle happened. My eyes were finally open. I think God was trying to get my attention.


What was God saying to you?

Dave: I heard from God. It was as clear as if He was sitting right there. It was the word “repent.”

I knew He was saying, “You’ve drifted from your first love with me. This marriage isn’t going to be saved by you and Ann working this thing out. It’s vertical. You have to fall back in love with me. And when you get that relationship as the priority in your life,  your marriage will follow.”

Ann: When he started praying, I was convicted instantly. I felt God saying to me,”Dave was never made or created to meet all of your needs. That’s my job. I am the one that will fulfill you. I am the one to be chasing after. I am the one that can bring life to you.” I realized at that moment that my marriage and Dave had become an idol.

It’s one thing to go vertical, but when you go vertically together, it changes something.


(The Rhoads’ Story) Describe the first year of marriage.

Marilyn Rhoads: Right out of the gate, it was intense and it was hard. I had unmet expectations, and Brad was hurting my feelings. I really thought Brad was awful, and I was telling him about it on a regular basis. About a year in, I just was so lonely and felt like, is this what I’m sentenced to? Is this what marriage is?

Brad Rhoads: I was a non-responsive, selfish, driven, entrepreneurial guy.


What changed?

Marilyn: The Lord really started showing me that I had my hope in the wrong place, that my hope is in Christ and not in a perfect husband. God really broke my heart, and I went to Brad and asked for his forgiveness. So it started with me shifting, taking my focus off Brad and saying, “Okay, God, this isn’t about my selfish desires being met. This is about a beautiful institution you created.”

Brad: Initially, I was just glad she quit getting on me all the time, and then the Lord kind of broke me: “Love your wife as Christ loved the Church.” So then I decided to go all in on marriage with Marilyn. Our only hope is the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. It’s our only hope for a relationship with God. It’s our only hope for a close relationship with each other.


What advice would you give to other married couples?

Give your spouse the same grace you’ve received from Jesus. You can’t effectively build a marriage on the consistency of the behavior of your spouse. It has to be built on something much more solid, and that’s the rock of Christ that never changes. Marriage is to be a picture of the gospel.

With grace you recognize, hey, while I was a sinner, Christ died for me. And I’m going to, rather than do the natural response, put the gospel on display. We’re still going to mess up daily in a lot of areas, and that doesn’t mean abuse or infidelity. It’s not grace to allow things like that to happen. But in the day-to-day little things, you can have a bad night and laugh about it the next day.

Praise God, it’s not a performance-based approach with our relationship with Christ. And that’s what our marriages should look like.


Listen to Dave and Ann’s episode here and Brad and Marilyn’s episode here.

Check out Java with Juli on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts