Marriage Questions Answered
Ed & Lisa Young
September 5, 1999
ED: This weekend we are wrapping up a series that we have really enjoyed called “4 Keeps.” It has been all about marriage. Over the last several weeks we have discussed issues like the marital work ethic, creative communication, creative conflict resolution. Last weekend we talked about a very popular subject, which dealt with sex busters and sex builders. Throughout this series we have been soliciting your questions because we want to know what you are thinking, what you are asking. Today I have asked my wife, Lisa, to come up on stage and help me field some of your FAQs, the most frequently asked questions that you here at Fellowship Church have about marriage.
Now, to my right is a man who needs no introduction if you are a regular attendee at Fellowship. We call him the goateed one, our spiritual development pastor, Preston Mitchell. Before Preston facilitates our discussion, let me say something up front that you need to understand. Lisa and I are not experts on marriage. However, we do have a great marriage and the reason we do is because we have built our lives individually, and now collectively, on the principles and precepts from God’s word, the Bible. I know in a crowd this size that we have people here who are single adults. About 45 to 50% of those folks who show up here are single. And if you are single, most of you are thinking about marriage. We want to address some of the questions that you have about marriage.
We have others here who are married and might be experiencing various degrees of difficulty in your marriage. We, hopefully, will address some of your questions. It is a pipe dream to think that we can understand and feel exactly what you are feeling. But we can hit some areas, talk about some issues and direct you to studies and counseling that can make your marriage a 4 Keeps marriage.
PRESTON: Thank you, Ed. How many of you have enjoyed this tremendous series. Hasn’t it been great? Ed, you know, the first week of your series you talked about the value of the marriage vows. If you have said these vows or will in the future, how do you know for sure the other person is the right one?
ED: Well, hopefully, you know that they are the right one prior to standing before a pastor and God and some friends for the event. What I share with singles comes from both the Bible and life experiences. I have a series of messages entitled “Rating Your Dating While Waiting For Mating.” It breaks down a lot of what I teach. You can pick it up in the bookstore. But let me give you the Cliff Notes on it.
If you are single and are considering a specific someone as a possible life partner, I think there are several tests that you need to take him or her through. The first test would be the spiritual test. You need to make sure that they know Christ personally. I am not talking about just lip service, but an actual story about their life before Christ, what happened when they met the Lord and what else God has done since that time. When you both are operating from the same spiritual dynamic, it helps you in conflict resolution.
Marriage is about conflict in a real way. You have two self-centered sinners trying to do life God’s way, and you need to be on the same page spiritually and have knowledge of the ministry of reconciliation. We need to understand the concept that God sent Christ to die on the cross for our sins—something that we don’t deserve—and that He rose again. If we have accepted that, we have it inside ourselves to want to make issues right.
Speaking of the spiritual test, it also helps in raising children. Lisa and I have four. Child rearing is challenging. I don’t know where we would be without that common bond of Christ.
I would also use the character test. It is important to measure the other person’s character. Lisa and I dated for a long, long time and I was able to see her in various situations. Honesty, responsibility, endurance, and other things like that are huge. Another test would be the one of good old time, just kicking back, hanging out, living life on the rugged plains of reality. If you are dating and contemplating marriage, I would advise dating at least 12 months. What that does is it allows infatuation to fade like a good pair of jeans from Old Navy. It also allows you to expose the relationship to family and friends.
PRESTON: Well, I have a question for Lisa. When did you know that Ed was the right one for you?
LISA: As he mentioned, we dated for six years. We meet when we had just finished our freshman year of high school. We had dated just one year when Ed told me that we were going to get married. I told him, that was great but I wanted to grow up and be a flight attendant and fly all over the world. I told him he would have to wait until after that for us to get married. By the time we were sophomores in college, I reminded him that he had once said we were going to get married. I told him I no longer had the desire to be a flight attendant and that we should get the show on the road.
But actually we had answered those questions and passed those tests. I just knew in my heart that there would be a part of me that would be empty without him. And I believe that he felt the same way.
PRESTON: The second week of your series, you talked about the importance of communication between a husband and a wife. I observe you guys almost on a daily basis. Ed you are the pastor of a very large church and are very, very busy. Lisa you are running around talking care of four children. How in the world do you guys build into your marriage the time to communicate?
LISA: We are very busy, and I think most people here are very busy. I think that one of the killers of communication is busyness. I think that we have forgotten how to say “no” to some good things in order to say “yes” to the best things. Ed and I are very intentional about building in time together on a daily and weekly basis in order to communicate. It doesn’t just happen. There will always be a child that needs us. There will always be people who need us. So we are very intentional about it.
We try, on a daily basis after the children are in bed, to have time together. I am a very structured person. We are big on bedtime, 8 o’clock during school. We say “no” to a lot of extracurricular sports activities that might get in the way of that. I function really well on a structured schedule. That allows time, though, for us to be together in the evening. We have a junior high aged child who is not in bed at 8 o’clock, but she does have a set bedtime.
Also, we do not have a television in our bedroom. That is a great thing. It just happened because the TV went on the blink and then we decided not to replace it. What it has done is created an atmosphere for communication. If you have a TV in your bedroom, be very friendly with the OFF button. That time together in silence will allow you to communicate. Then communication can lead you to other things too.
And then there is our date night, which we will talk about a little later. We schedule one at least every other week, but we try for every week. Then Ed and I go out. And if the daily communication has become difficult by Thursday night we know we will be together. Oftentimes I have the Daytimer in hand so that we can go over some things. Humorous maybe, but that may be the time we have to actually schedule things we want to do. If we don’t schedule well, time will be eaten away by other things.
ED: The date night for us is like an oasis in the middle of the week. We have to fight for it. I would say that over the last nine years, since we have been here, it has been the date night which has taken our marriage to the next level. You know, it is great to go out with other couples, but double-dating went out with the prom.
LISA: On occasion we go out with others. But we keep it balanced. There have been times when I have had meetings at the school when I have had to give an excuse for not attending. I used to want to think of some big excuse other than the fact that Ed and I had a date that night. But I finally got the courage to say that and the other wives were exclaiming how great that was. I became so popular.
PRESTON: What do you think is the most important thing that a spouse can communicate to his or her partner?
ED: I would say that self-esteem is right up there. I would say that both the husband and the wife get much of their self-esteem and their value from each other. Oftentimes I have forgotten the importance of words. Maybe I have said a word of criticism to Lisa or maybe she has done something really incredible and I have not really complemented her. I am getting more sensitive now.
I think of this church. I have the opportunity to speak before a lot of people three times per weekend. I certainly enjoy it when people come up to tell me they like the message or the church. That means a lot. But there is nothing like having Lisa turn to me on the way home and say, “Honey, I really appreciated that message. It really blessed my heart.” There is nothing like hearing that from my spouse. The self-esteem thing is big. Honoring her even with the little things like body language or hugs.
LISA: I feel it is important for Ed to show that I am valuable, and for me to show that he is valuable. We do that by being intentional about our communication. Having that time alone together. We also have to be careful about the things that we do which could possibly devalue our spouse. Mentioning them in negative light in public conversation. Setting up a date night and not showing up. Spending time on the cell phone instead of being alone with one’s spouse. You have to be careful in how you convey messages to your spouse through tone of voice and kind words.
PRESTON: In week three we left communication and moved right into conflict resolution. It is not surprising that many of you asked questions on how to deal with conflict in marriage. I have several questions that I want to bounce off you guys. How do you two handle finances in your marriage?
ED: Many couples have financial stress and pressure. Maybe one of the spouses is a drive-by spender and the other one is more conservative. Or maybe both are drowning in the seas of debt. There is no pressure like financial pressure. I challenge the husbands and wives here to have a biblical view of money. What Lisa and I have tried to do over the years of our marriage is say that everything that we have comes from God. That is a no-brainer for us. Usually we sit down at the beginning of the year and go over our budget for the coming twelve months. We live pretty much by the 10-10-80 principle. We give at least 10% to the church. We have given much more than that, but that is the baseline of what we do. Then we try to save at least 10%. We live on the remaining 80%. That is the 10-10-80 principle. When we are talking and praying about the budget, we know some basic guidelines.
I think that some couples make serious mistakes when one spouse has a little account that the other doesn’t know about. That is a little 007-type action. I think that there should be full disclosure. I think that you need to talk about major purchases.
LISA: Usually we talk about the goals we have for the year. I like to talk about furniture and maybe Ed likes to discuss taking a fishing trip. We talk about our family vacation. We put in money for emergencies. We don’t go into that conversation selfishly. We go in there thinking about one another and the whole family picture. It is how can we use wisely what God has blessed us with to pay our bills, to eat and to enjoy ourselves.
PRESTON: You talked about full disclosure. That brings up an interesting question that people ask. What is your view on pre-nuptial agreements that people use to negotiate a marriage?
ED: If someone is thinking about a pre-nuptial agreement, I would challenge him or her not to make one. I don’t think that you should go into marriage with a question mark. I think you should go into marriage with an exclamation point.
LISA: Now understand that we had less than $1,800 to our name when we got married.
ED: Right. But that is what I would advise. You don’t want to go into marriage being unsure.
PRESTON: How do you deal with the controversial concept of submission in your family?
ED: That whole issue in the Bible has been misconstrued and taken out of context. Here is what the Bible says. It says that the husband has the spiritual responsibility of the relationship. He is the leader. It doesn’t mean that he is on a pedestal and the wife is below him. We play on a level playing field before God. However, I am, the Bible says, to love Lisa like Jesus loved the church. How much did He love the church? He laid down His life for the church. Christ took the initiative.
Even though we don’t deserve to be loved, He loved us. If I love Lisa with a self-sacrificing love, she is free and she will experience great freedom to be submissive, to love me yet to do her life like she wants it to be done. There are many times when we have big decisions. I think that maybe we should go a certain way, but she will point out other factors that she thinks should be included in the decision. Then I might change. But I know at the end of the day, as far as God’s chain of command, the final decision rests on the shoulders of the husband.
LISA: I have never had a problem with the term “submission.” I have had a problem submitting. I rush to think of something that happened early in our marriage. We wanted to go visit my family in South Carolina for Thanksgiving but we only had a short amount of time. Both of us were in school and he was also working. Ed wanted to fly and I told him that we could not afford it, that we would have to drive. We went back and forth on this issue. We had just gotten our first credit card, which came with a $350 limit. The tickets were going to be $175 each. I told Ed that if we bought them we would be making a mistake. We didn’t need to have debt and I thought that we should drive. Now I did not mention that there was a piece of furniture I wanted to bring back with us; I focused on the financial part of the decision.
One night, in the middle of the night, Ed sat up in bed and announced, “We are flying.” He got out of bed and proceeded to make the flight arrangements in the middle of the night. The next day I was just fuming. Even though I was submitting on the outside, I was still very upset about it on the inside. When we got to the airport the flight was overbooked. The gentleman at the counter said that we could have free seats on a later flight if we would give up our tickets. He also gave us money for a cab, movies, and dinner. When we eventually flew to North Carolina, we made the entire trip without spending a dime. I learned that to submit is really good.
ED: You see, there is a correlation there. You submit, you fly free. Kidding. Kidding. It is interesting that the word “husband” in Latin is made up of two words – house and band. We are to be the band that keeps the marriage and the household together. Let’s say that she is 99.9% wrong and you are 0.1% wrong, husbands are to be the ones to initiate the reconciliation. That is the spiritual responsibility of the husband. Even on the days when she may be hard to love, we are to love her like Christ loved the church. And believe me, if we are doing that, the other part will take care of itself.
LISA: It is also something that brings order to a household. Ed mentioned the chain of command. There are times when I will share with him my opinion, sometimes he takes them, other times he goes on his leading. And he is not always right. But it is nothing that we can’t recover from. And it is a learning lesson. But it is the order of our household.
ED: There are many other areas that you, Lisa, lead out in for our family. For example, we were talking about finances. You are the one who pays the bills. You are the one who has a better gift for that area than I do.
PRESTON: We were asked how you deal with the issue of in-laws in the marriage.
LISA: I do not have the typical mother-in-law bad rap situation. Ed and I dated for six years. There are three boys in his family. I was the only girl on the scene for a very long time. And to be honest with you, Ed’s mother spoiled me rotten. She and I have a great relationship. We still have a great relationship. She was just here last week. It made my day a lot of fun to have her here.
However, in the early days of our marriage, my family lived in North Carolina and we lived in Houston real close to Ed’s family. I had done that leave and cleave part. I left my family and I was holding very tightly to the relationship I had with my new husband. But Ed, on the other hand, was close by his family. He continued to do things just about the same way he had always done things. If I expected him home for dinner, he might be over there shooting baskets with his brothers. When I would find him, I would ask what he was doing and he would say he was home. So it was kind of tough in those early days.
ED: I think I had a tougher time cutting the cord than she did. Also, living in Houston and working at the same church that my father pastored was great but tough. It was hard to see and understand where the father and the boss began and ended. I think that one of the greatest things for our marriage was when we actually moved here to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.
LISA: Now the in-laws for Ed and for me are very important. Our parents are huge. We relocated about three years ago here in the Metroplex and when we went to buy our house, we strongly valued the opinion of our parents. We listened to some of their advice, while some of the decisions we had to tough out on our own.
ED: Funny, neither set of parents liked our choice. They thought it was too old, that we would have to pay too much for repairs.
LISA: We valued their opinion. However our decision was based on our prayer time together and to our communication with each other. The most unhealthy thing could be a running to mama, to papa type action rather than a looking to the spouse.
ED: I want to ask you, Lisa, how you would advise people to deal with the in-laws when they pressure their adult children to spend the holidays with them.
LISA: For us holidays are kind of tough. For Easter we are here. For Christmas we have all the Christmas Eve services. But we made a decision early on to spend the holidays in a way that is best for our family. Our children enjoy having traditions at our house. So we do everything at our house and we invite the parents to come see us. That works out great. There have been times when we have spent Christmas at their homes, but for the most part, it is our deal. We very much want the grandparents to be a part of things. We do go to Houston for Thanksgiving. Our son goes to M.D. Anderson for a check-up every couple of years so we kind of focus our attention in Houston at that time.
ED: During holidays we try to spend the big ones, Christmas being the biggest, at home. And then after Christmas, if we want to go see the extended family, cool.
LISA: Last year the day after Christmas we all flew to South Carolina and visited my mom.
PRESTON: Statistics show that more than 50% of marriages end in divorce. What would you quickly say about divorce to the folks here in the audience?
ED: Well, divorce is neither the unpardonable nor the unforgivable sin. Let me say that. We serve a God of the second chance. I know we have many people who have gone through the devastation of divorce, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. However, God’s ideal is for one man and one woman to get married and stay married until they die. The Bible does mention three grounds for divorce. The first would be adultery, the second, desertion, and the third, divorce when you are not a believer. There are various nuances to each. And if you want to delve into that our bookstore has great information and help regarding this issue.
But my heart goes out to divorced people. We want to minister to them and help them. For the most part, no matter how high the price, it is important to try to make the marriage work since the price of divorce is higher. I can think of maybe nine to ten cases where that wouldn’t be true, but there are thousands of others where the marriage could be salvaged.
LISA: And those several he is mentioning are cases where one spouse was very abusive or was in prison for long-standing drug abuse.
ED: But I would say to those who are divorced, you can use your experiences, what you learned from the first marriage, and apply that in your second marriage. You can do the next marriage God’s way. That is why we did this series called “4 Keeps,” and that is why we have resources available. We have numerous classes coming up soon about marriage. So, hey, get involved and do it God’s way.
LISA: But the important thing to consider if you are in a situation where things are very rocky and divorce looks appealing, is the price that God paid when we were separated from Him and our relationship was apart. He paid such a price through time, energy, and effort. He sent His only Son to die on the cross so that we could be restored. When you consider what God did in that realm for the relationship we have with him, would we not consider working harder and giving our marriage a greater chance.
Whether you were married on a hillside in Maui or a church in the Metroplex, when you said “I Do,” it was a covenant before God and He does not take lightly the breaking of the covenant. We live in a very disposable society, a quick-fix society. Oftentimes that tends to be the pull. But I pray that you will consider what God has done for you and decide to work really harder to give the relationship every opportunity. Today is a new day. It can be a new day in your relationship.
ED: I read that most divorces occur in the first two years of marriage. What that told me is that during the early years of adjustment, conflict was not handled properly. When you don’t crash through those quitting points that we all face, you end up deciding to bail out. What happens then is that the same junk surfaces in the next marriage and the next marriage and the next marriage.
PRESTON: Looking back over your marriage, tell us about one of the toughest times you lived through.
ED: I would say the first 24 months. I would also say that going from two children to four children when the twins were born was big. At that time we were building this complex. We were holding four services a weekend in rented facilities. That was a taxing time.
LISA: Referring to that time when the twins were born, what we found in our marriage is that when times are tense on the outside, be it the job or the children, that opens the door for tension within your relationship. We try to do things to safeguard our relationship.
Then, referring to the early years of our marriage, I think one of the biggest problems that we had at that time was not fighting fair. When arguments came up and conflict arose, we did not use those biblical boundaries that keep the conflict in a positive light. That sounds a little strange, but conflict can be a very positive thing for your relationship. But back then we tended to name call, compare.
Ed is a great imitator and he would throw that in. I have a strong capacity to get in there and go, so we didn’t fight fairly. Those conflicts were negative. They didn’t do anything to elevate our relationship. If anything they tore his self-esteem down and my self-esteem down. But conflict can be beneficial if you fight fairly and come to resolution. Then the relationship is taken to a higher dimension.
Also, Ed and I believe that some arguing needs to be done before the children. Now that might sound strange, but if done properly you are modeling conflict resolution for your children. Our children do see us disagree. We do not get into heated battles in front of our children. But they do know that we hold varying opinions on certain things. They see Ed’s leadership role. They also see forgiveness. If you argue in front of your children but do not resolve in front of them that would be unhealthy. But if you show forgiveness and resolution, you are modeling for them how to handle the issues on the playground, how to handle things with their friends. But more importantly, how to handle their future relationship with their spouse.
PRESTON: Last week you talked about a very popular subject, sex busters and sex builders. How often should a couple have sex?
ED: Well, Preston…do you want to answer one of these questions? I think about 1 Corinthians 7 when it says “stop depriving one another except that you mutually agree for a time of prayer.” We try to live that out. I think couples that try to hit some national average or whatever are missing the point. The Bible says that we are to satisfy each other creatively, intentionally, strategically, lovingly, etc. So when one is in the mood and one is not, and that is often the norm, the one with the lesser desire should fulfill his or her duty to the spouse in an enthusiastic way. Not, just “OK. You mean again tonight?” That is part of our discipleship. Some day we will be held accountable before God on how we served our spouse sexually. When one wants to say “no,” it should be “no” with an appointment.
Lisa, would you want to add anything to that? No? OK. Now that is a tough question. A lot of the questions that we received about sex were very, very detailed. Let me say again that we have a great bookstore. There are some great books on human sexuality written by Christian authors. “The Gift Of Sex” and “Intended For Pleasure” are two of them. There are many others. I believe they will answer many of the questions that were asked.
PRESTON: How do you and Lisa keep the fires of intimacy burning in your house? How do you keep the fire going in your house?
LISA: Well, we really work hard at understanding, knowing, and satisfying the other’s needs. When you are talking about intimacy in marriage, there are certain physical needs that you need to discuss. But we have found that romance is a huge part of it. What happens in the bedroom does not start there. It is a whole package deal, which includes the valuing of one another, what we say to one another, our date night.
We have common interests and we enjoy our relationship. Ed and I have a lot of fun a lot of times. We laugh. We enjoy going places together. Sometimes, though, it means me doing some things for Ed that I wouldn’t naturally do. Other times it means Ed doing some things for me that he wouldn’t naturally do. We enjoy animals, Vietnamese food, movies. We are athletic. We like sports. I don’t just love fly-fishing, but he loves fly-fishing. I can communicate my value of him by watching fly-fishing shows with him or bringing a new video home regarding fly-fishing techniques.
Ed is not into the theater as much as I am. But sometimes we will go over to Bass Performance Hall. Going to antique stores is not his favorite thing to do, but I like it. So we do things like that for each other.
ED: We try to appreciate each other’s interests and that helps. When we have those common bonds and experiences together outside the bedroom, communicate very openly about likes and dislikes in the bedroom, it keeps the house hot.
PRESTON: Love is in the air up here. I have got one final question. Ed, you talk often about the importance of the church in our lives. How important has the church been in your marriage?
ED: Well, let’s say that I were not in the ministry, I still don’t think that we would have the marriage that we have today without the church. The Christians in the New Testament were always connected to a local church. What I mean by connected is, they came together corporately but also met in small groups. Lisa and I have some friends that we are very, very close to in the church, like Preston and Dedo and others, that we love and share openly with. We share challenges and victories. We are after the same goal, to glorify Christ in our marriage. It is important to expose your relationship to others who have common values.
That is why we talk on and on about our small groups, home teams. Let me stop right here. If you are a couple or a single adult and you are not involved in one of our small groups, you need to get involved. Don’t worry, we won’t put you on the spot regarding Bible knowledge and you don’t even have to pray out loud. It is a time where a leader discusses the Bibles and some issues concerning your stage in life. You get to know people and deepen your walk.
I would definitely say that without the church our marriage would only be a four out of ten rather than the nine or ten it is today.
LISA: The church has taught us, through the study of scripture, how to have a daily walk with the Lord individually. We do not have a set time in our home when we open the Bible and have devotions. Ed studies all week and he has his personal quiet time. I have my personal time of study early in the morning. Then with our children, we pray openly. Sometimes we read scripture before dinner. It is not a rule. We teach them with teachable moments. For instance, during the past week while carpooling, I noticed that there was a lot of critical conversation regarding some students in their classes and various teachers. I shared with them what I had been reading in the Bible regarding what we say and what impact the negative words have on us. So it is more of a flow.
Of course, we pray with our children on a regular basis before they go to bed. We talk to them at that time about issues they are dealing with. The great thing about the church is that we can find others connected to Christ who have the same goals we do, and that is enormously helpful.
PRESTON: Well, Ed and Lisa, that concludes our session. We just want to say how much we appreciate you guys being open and honest with us and answering some difficult questions. And Lisa I know that it is hard for you to get up here and open up but we really appreciate it.
ED: That means a lot to me because this is not Lisa’s favorite thing to do.
PRESTON: Thank you both very much.