Embracing the Differences
Radio personality and best-selling author Barbara Rainey knows firsthand the challenges newly married couples face. Dismayed by Hollywood depictions of marriage and the seemingly easy solution of divorce, she sees a desperate need for a voice of experience, a mentor who has been there and understands - and can encourage, coach, and care.
FamilyLife Today® Radio Transcript
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Embracing the Differences
Guest: Barbara Rainey
From the series: Letters to My Daughters (Day 1 of 3)
Bob: Engaged couples often look at one another and think, “We’re so much alike!” Then, after they have been married for a little while, they look at each other and think, “Who are you?!” Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: What happens when we’re engaged—we tend to think: “Oh, we’re so much alike. We love each other so much—we’ll never have clashes.” I think one of the first difficulties for most young couples is they’re caught off guard by these differences. They don’t know what to do with them—they go from being cute and attractive to being downright ugly or frustrating. All of a sudden, what was cute isn’t so cute anymore; and you think, “Now what do I do?”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, February 15th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. So what advice would you give to young wives and their husbands about the adjustments we make in marriage? We’re going to hear what Barbara Rainey has to say about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I am really enjoying learning lots of new things about you, Barbara.
Dennis: You’re eavesdropping.
Bob: Well, it’s legitimate eavesdropping because of what your wife’s been writing about. This has been so much fun to read. [Laughter]
Dennis: I think I want to welcome her to FamilyLife Today—Sweetheart.
Barbara: Maybe we don’t; huh? [Laughter]
Dennis: This is my bride, and she has plenty of stories to tell.
Bob: And she has just recently—by the way, welcome, Barbara—nice to have you here.
Barbara: Thank you, Bob.
Bob: You’ve been collecting these stories, not to share with the world your stories, but really to mentor—you’ve become an e-mentor; haven’t you?
Barbara: Yes. I’m really writing this for six women / six young women, who happen to be my four daughters and two daughters-in-law—to share with them the lessons that I’ve learned over all these years of marriage in hopes that it will encourage them, and give them hope, and help them—help them persevere for the long haul.
Dennis: But it actually started—back to Bob’s point about—from an e-mentoring standpoint—really started on the internet—
Barbara: It did. That’s right; I had forgotten.
Dennis: —as you were writing emails to your daughters and daughters-in-law so that you’d be able to coach them / encourage them in the process.
Bob: Did you start doing this right after Ashley got married?
Barbara: No; actually, it was after our two boys got married. They got married the same summer—the summer of 2001. One of those two girls asked me if I would give her some advice on being a wife. I thought: “Wow! She really wants my advice?” I thought, “If she cracked the door open a little bit, I’m going to just walk right on through while the door’s open!” I said, “Sure, I’d love to!”
I began writing a series of letters in the fall of 2001 to my two brand-new daughters-in-law and to my daughter, Ashley, who, by then, had been married four years.
Bob: A lot of—a wife will hear you say that and they’ll think, ““Boy, if somebody asked me, I wouldn’t know where to start or what to say.”
But it sounds like you were ready to dive right in with wisdom.
Barbara: Well, I don’t know that I would say it that way, but I was ready to dive in—in the sense that I felt like, “Now was the time,” because all new brides are extremely teachable—they’re eager, they want to learn, they want to do it right, they don’t want to make mistakes—they really love this guy they just married. They’re most teachable and most coachable in those early years. I wanted to begin by sort of exploiting that—in a sense, in a good way—by saying: “Here are some things that I learned / here are some lessons I learned along the way. Here are some stories of what we went through / what I’ve learned from it. Perhaps, it will be helpful.”
Dennis: Over the years, we’ve—who knows how many hundreds of Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways have been held by FamilyLife—we’ve looked into the eyes of those in attendance.
It does seem that the engaged couples and the newly-marrieds are, not only on a steep learning curve, but they’re much more teachable and kind of spongy in terms of soaking in the truth.
What we wanted to do—and what I encouraged Barbara to do with this book—is take advantage of a window into the soul to speak a lot of relevant truth that she’s learned, as a woman from the Scriptures and from other older women who have coached her, and really help these young wives get started on the right trajectory.
Bob: They didn’t ask you about a specific subject. They just said, “Help me be a wife.” How did you know, “Okay; I’ll start here”?
Barbara: Well, what I did is—I just thought back to those early days in our marriage and tried to remember: “What were the lessons that I learned? What did I do right? What did I do wrong?”
Bob: Like that early romantic date that Dennis took you on?
Barbara: Yes, like that one.
Bob: Tell our listeners about—[Laughter]
Barbara: You like this; don’t you? [Laughter]
Bob: —how ““Prince Charming” swept you off your feet. [Laughter]
Barbara: Yes. While we were dating in the summer of 1972, which was of course in the dark ages—one Saturday / it was probably on a Friday afternoon Dennis asked if I wanted to hang out on Saturday afternoon. I said, “Sure.” He picked me up in his—
Bob: Now, let me interrupt you just so we get a context.
Bob: You guys had been friends for years—
Bob: —since college.
Bob: [To Barbara] After college, you went to the east coast and worked with Campus Crusade.
Dennis: University of South Carolina.
Bob: [To Dennis] Where did you go?
Dennis: I was in Dallas/Ft. Worth area, working with high school kids.
Bob: You kept up your friendship—
Bob: —but there was nothing romantic between the two of you.
Barbara: No, nothing romantic. We had been really good friends for three years. I really thought of Dennis as a brother—he was just a great, great friend.
Dennis: She showed up in Dallas and needed to be shown around—kind of where everything was / kind of how you get around—so I’d pick her up, take her to work.
Bob: Now, were you thinking of her like your sister at this point?
Dennis: Yes, I really was. It was not romantic—it really wasn’t—which is really a cheap shot on your part—[Laughter]—to call out this thing that I took her on as a romantic date because we were just hanging out!
Barbara: That’s right—we were.
Bob: Was this before—this date we’re about to talk about—was this before or after you had tried to hold hands with her in the parking lot?
Dennis: Way before.
Barbara: I have no idea.
Dennis: Way before.
Barbara: I would think so—yes.
Dennis: Oh, yes; oh, yes.
Barbara: I would guess.
Bob: It’s just friends: “Hey, do you want to hang out tomorrow?”
Dennis: Yes. I’d take her back to her apartment, and we’d kind of sit on the stairs and talk—
Bob: Just visit.
Dennis: —until about 2:00 in the morning—[Laughter]—just like a couple of friends.
Barbara: Yes. [Dennis laughing]
Bob: Okay. So he says, “Do you want to hang out tomorrow?” and he comes and picks you up.
Barbara: He did.
Bob: Did you know where you were going?
Barbara: You know, I don’t remember—it was too long ago. I don’t remember if I knew or not, but I knew it was casual. I knew we were going to go on a picnic. He took me to some remote place outside of Dallas/Ft. Worth—
Bob: Now wait. I’ve got to stop you here. You’re taking her on a picnic. You’re not taking your buddy—“Let’s go hang out,”— on a picnic. There’s more going on here in your mind [Barbara laughing] than just, “Let’s hang out together.”
Dennis: She needed to understand where the riverbanks were—
Barbara: Like I really care!
Bob: We understand one another here; okay. So he picks you up? [Laughter]
Barbara: Yes. We take off to parts unknown because I’d never really been in Texas in my life. I didn’t know where we were going, but I trusted him. We show up at this stream, or river, or pool of water, or something—I don’t know where it was!
Dennis: I don’t know where it was—it was below a dam somewhere.
Barbara: Gosh; I couldn’t begin to tell you.
Dennis: It was murky / it was fishy-smelling. It was a great date!
Barbara: All I know is he pulls out a fishing pole—fishing rod / fishing thing—I didn’t know what a fishing thing was! [Laughter] Oh, how funny!
Bob: One of the things you observed or learned, when you shared this story with your daughters—it was really to talk about the fact that, in relationships, you’ve got to make some adjustments and be ready for the fact that you’re two very different people.
Barbara: Exactly; because after we married, about three months later, we moved to Colorado.
In Colorado, there was abundant fishing.
Bob: You married three months later—after the fishing date?
Dennis: You caught up on that small detail. [Laughter]
Bob: I just thought our listeners ought to be aware. [Laughter] It went from zero to sixty.
Dennis: I’m a man of action, Bob.
Bob: This was a sports car relationship. [Laughter] So, from the day you said, “Will you…” to the day you said, “I do,”—
Barbara: —was six weeks.
Bob: Six weeks?
Barbara: Six weeks.
Bob: You said, “I’ll be the Fish Queen for as long as we both shall live.” [Laughter]
Dennis: Then, on our honeymoon, I took her camping and trout fishing. [Laughter] We need to get to the point of the book though—she’s talking about how we, as men and women, are different.
Barbara: That’s right.
Dennis: I mean, we did start out our marriage—really, not polar opposites—because we enjoyed one another.
Barbara: Yes, we had a great time; but, had you asked me what I would have pictured for the early years of our marriage, I would not have pictured traipsing around in the mountains—
—fishing, and camping, and all of those things—because none of that was a part of my background, growing up. They were totally brand-new experiences. I learned, by those experiences, that marrying someone is merging together two vastly different—not just personalities—but life experiences. As Dennis used to say, all the time, “It’s like merging two countries.”
Barbara: Because we are very different, as men and women—we’re very different in our life experiences / our outlook—everything is different. So those early years are years of discovery. What you do with what you discover sets the tone and the foundation for your marriage.
Bob: Obviously, we’re talking to Barbara Rainey, who is joining us today on FamilyLife Today. We’re talking about the wisdom that you want to pass on to younger women—specifically to your daughters—about being a wife. You’ve just written a book called Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife.
What are the big ideas that you want to pass on to your daughters in this area of marital differences?
Barbara: First of all—the first big idea is that there are going to be differences. It‘s normal to be diametrically opposite on all kinds of fronts. Because what happens—when we’re engaged / and dating but then engaged—we tend to think: “Oh, we’re so much alike, and we love each other so much—we’ll never have clashes. Yes; if we do, we can handle them. We love each other so much that it’s not going to be difficult.”
I think one of the first difficulties for most young couples is they’re caught off guard by these differences. They don’t know what to do with them—they go from being cute and attractive to being downright ugly or frustrating.
Barbara: All of a sudden, what was cute isn’t so cute anymore; and you think, “Now, what do I do?”
Bob: We have this tendency to think different means wrong.
Barbara: Wrong; yes.
Bob: “This is the way I think; and it’s the way I think naturally. So I must be right; and if you think differently, we need to fix you so you think like me.”
Bob: That’s part of the awakening and adjusting that both wives and husbands have to do in the early stages of a relationship; right?
Barbara: Exactly; because that’s one of the beautiful things about marriage—is how it broadens our perspective. I write about that in telling these stories about fishing. I knew nothing about fishing; but because of who I married, the horizons of my life have been greatly expanded and broadened. I could have either fought that, and resisted that, and said: “I don’t want any part of that! That’s foreign to me. I don’t like it”; but by embracing who he was, and his differences as a person, my life is much richer because of that.
I think, if we can encourage these young wives—and husbands too / but this is for the wives right now—to welcome those differences as an opportunity to grow as an individual, it will make it easier.
Dennis: I like what you wrote in your book here—
—you said: “These new realities created some minor earthquakes in my life—rumblings that shook my familiar, comfortable foundation. I was discovering that we were not as much alike as I’d originally thought. We were opposites who were attracted to one another but found ourselves, like magnets, that repel each other.”
And then she goes on to write about how I would make a decision compared to how she would make one.
Dennis: I’d see something that needed to be done or something I felt like we ought to go do—I’d process at the speed of light and off we’d go.
Dennis: Barbara, on the other hand, processes a little slower. In fact—
Barbara: —a lot slower.
Dennis: —a lot slower.
Barbara: Is that what you were going to say?
Bob: A little more thoughtfully—with a little broader perspective.
Dennis: I’ve been enriched by that, but I promise you—if, early in our marriage, we had set up war with one another in two separate bunkers.
You could easily have built a case between two very different people, who had started out their marriage together, but now really can’t get along and don’t see one another—as we teach at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway—as “God’s perfect gift for you.”
Bob: You describe how you began to approach these differences in your marriage. You call it the “Bookend Principle.”
Bob: Explain what that is.
Barbara: The Bookend Principle is something that Dennis and I practiced with one another; and then, after the fact, sort of came up with the name for that. What we have done through the years is—when we’ve had disagreements over our differences or conversations trying to understand one another—we would say to each other: “I love you, and I would marry you all over again. This may be hard, this may be confusing, this may be difficult—it may not be fixed in a single conversation, like we would always like; but that’s okay. I love you and I’m committed to you, and I would do it all over again.”
That statement of reaffirmation of our vows and commitment to one another provides a level of security to continue to have these discussions about our differences. I think it’s a good habit. It was a good habit for us because you can get so caught up in how different we are—and how his differences grate on me or make life difficult for me and my differences make life difficult for him—that you can subtly switch to becoming enemies rather than allies.
Bob: Were there times, or events, or evenings when you weren’t sure you loved him and you weren’t sure you’d marry him all over again?
Barbara: No. There were times when I didn’t feel loving—without question—but I never got to the place where I thought, “This was a big mistake,” because I knew that God had called us to marry each other. I knew that we were doing what we were supposed to do. So, therefore, if this was God’s will, and it was, then He would enable us to figure it out with time.
Bob: That issue was settled.
Barbara: Yes; “Done.”
Bob: That wasn’t open for reevaluation—
At some point—when you stood and said, “I do,”—the ships were burned. You weren’t going to reconsider whether—
Barbara: I think that’s the mistake too many young couples are making today—is they get into it, and it becomes difficult—instead of saying, “We can work this out,” they say, “Gosh; we must have made a mistake.” They move to, “This is a mistake, and maybe there’s a way out,” rather than, “We can find a way through this / we can make it work,” and stick with it for the long haul.
Dennis: I look back on our marriage. I don’t remember ever entertaining the thought. And I mean by entertaining—I’m talking about cultivating the thought that I’d made a mistake.
I do wonder, looking back on it—this Bookend Principle of kind of starting out with a commitment that says, “I love you,” and then maybe, in the midst of an argument or after the argument has been exhausted, you say again: “I’m committed to you. I’d marry you all over again.”
It creates a safe place for two imperfect, very different people to hammer out their relationship together.
I think we’re an instant culture that is not used to having to take a lifetime to achieve this thing called “oneness.” What we were doing, back then—we were going through some very hard ground. I mean, it had not been plowed before—two very independent people—who had joined together in marriage, and who did rub one another the wrong way, and who, in their differences, missed each other over, and over, and over again—and, as a result, mis-communicated, disappointed, hurt one another. How do you maintain a relationship in the midst of that if you’re not committed?
Bob: I think it’s important because we can laugh about fishing dates, and whether you like fishing or not; but a lot of folks, who are listening, are going, “Look, our differences are not around whether you like fishing or not—
Barbara: Yes; exactly.
Bob: “Our differences are around core, fundamental, deeply-held issues in life. The fact that we’re miles apart on this—I just don’t know how to live with a husband / or a wife who does not embrace what’s dear to me at the center of my being.”
Barbara: Yes. That is a very difficult place to be. Even though Dennis and I never really had a crisis quite to that depth, we missed each other plenty of times. There are seasons in a marriage when it’s very dry and when there doesn’t feel like there’s much life. I would have to say that: “There is hope. There’s always hope, as long as we have breath, that if you are committed and you are teachable—both of you are teachable—and you hang in there, there will be a solution, given time.”
I think that we expect too much too quickly. We would like to have it happen quickly—I would like to have it happen more quickly too, but that’s just not the way of a marriage.
A marriage is slow, steady growth over a long length of time.
Dennis: If you go back to Genesis, Chapters 2 and 3, the way God commands a marriage to start is He commanded a man and a woman to leave father and mother. He commanded them to cleave to one another / to be committed to one another. And third, He commanded them to receive one another—to receive the other person as God’s gift for you.
If you practice those three concepts—leave, cleave, and receive—over, and over, and over again—if you practice that in your marriage / especially, in the early years—it doesn’t mean it’s ever going to be easy.
Dennis: I asked Barbara how she would summarize our marriage. I was kind of hoping for “romantic,” [Laughter] “chill bumps”—
Dennis: You know? But instead, you said?
Barbara: “It’s been hard.”
Dennis: “Hard work.”
Barbara: “Hard work”; yes.
Dennis: Lots of hard work. I think a lot of young couples—and for that matter, older couples—are starting out marriages today not really expecting it to be as challenging and to demand perseverance like it does
Bob: I just have to come back around here because you’re right in this section of your book that—not only did your marriage start off with fishing—but through the years you’ve learned to enjoy hunting with your husband? [Laughter] Is that true?
Barbara: Well, not by his definition; no. Not by—
Dennis: I was waiting for the answer to that question.
Bob: I’m going to read to you what you wrote.
Barbara: Okay; okay. Read what I wrote.
Bob: “And I have learned to appreciate hunting.”
Barbara: Yes, “appreciate it.”
Bob: Maybe “appreciate” is a better word than—
Barbara: “Appreciate” is a better word. Yes
Bob: “I actually went with him on an elk hunt a few years ago—
Barbara: Yes. I did.
Bob: — “with the camo, the face paint, and the human scent killers sprayed on my body.”
Barbara: [Laughing] I did!
Barbara and Bob: “Aren’t you impressed?” [Laughter]
Bob: That’s what you say right here: “Aren’t you impressed?” [Laughter]
“We hiked and hiked and snuck up on a herd of elk hiding behind trees like clandestine spies following a double agent down a dark alley in Eastern Europe. It was really fun!”
Barbara: It was fun! [Laughter]
Bob: But the point is that we’re going to face these differences in the first years of our marriage.
Bob: Some of them crop up ten years in—fifteen. It’s a life-long process of understanding “We’re different,” and making those adjustments.
Barbara: Exactly. That really is the point that I’m trying to make with these girls—is that the differences are there—they’re not to be changed and they’re going to be there for life. I think we somehow assume, early on, that a lot of this stuff is going to subside, or change, or moderate; but who we are is who we are.
I’m just amazed at how little really changes over time. You either fight it, and resent it, and resist it, or you join and learn to actually enjoy it and appreciate it.
Now, do I love to go hunting? No. I enjoyed that because it was active. We were hiking in the mountains, and it was beautiful.
Dennis: And it was warm.
Barbara: And it was reasonably warm; yes. But the kind of hunting that he is often inviting me to go on—which I have refused—is the kind where you get up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, in the winter, and you go sit. You can’t talk / you can hardly breathe, and it’s freezing. [Laughter]
Hiking in the mountains—we could talk as we went—until we actually saw the elk / then we had to be quiet. It was a much different kind of experience so I could appreciate that one. But sitting in a deer stand—I’ve done it once and I’m not real interested in going there again.
Bob: The point is—you don’t have to be interested in going there again to make your marriage work. This is a part of the dance. One of your chapters in your book, “Marriage Is Like Beautiful Dancing”—
—“Part of the dance is understanding what we do together and where it’s better to leave each other some space and some time to do things apart.”
Bob: I just think you have given some real great practical wisdom to a lot of wives in what you’ve written in your book, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife. It’s brand new, and you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to request your copy. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and ask for the book, Letters to My Daughters, when you get in touch with us.
Now, as both of you guys know, this is our 40th anniversary as a ministry—2016. All year long, we are celebrating anniversaries. Today, we want to congratulate Abigail and Angelo Pinheiro. They live in Princeton, New Jersey. They listen to FamilyLife Today on WFIL. They’re celebrating 21 years of marriage today. “Congratulations!” to the Pinheiros—“Happy Anniversary!”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the spiritual foundation in a marriage and how important that is. Barbara Rainey will be back with us. Hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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