When He Doesn’t Meet Your Expectations
About the Guest
Every marriage has dark seasons. Author Rhonda Stoppe remembers a time when stress led her to verbally wound her husband. By pursuing Christ first, she began to show respect to her husband.
When He Doesn’t Meet Your Expectations
Rhonda: We start wondering, “Does he really love me as much as I love him?” You know, we have all of those—and we start looking to find our worth measured in how they treat us. The truth is that God created us to fill that ache and that longing by a relationship. The problem is—it’s not in a relationship with a person. God put us on this earth to have an intimate love walk with Him.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, September 14th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine. So how can we shift our thinking in marriage from: “What are you going to provide for me?” and start thinking, “How can I love and serve you?” We’ll spend time talking about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You would agree that every individual—every husband / every wife—is going to experience moments of disappointment / disillusion—kind of like: “This marriage isn’t what I had always dreamed it was going to be.”
Dennis: Yes; the only way a person doesn’t have that is a person who has no expectations.
Bob: There you go!
Dennis: And that’s not healthy—I mean, because the nature of relationships are—we do have expectations.
Bob: Well, we made promises to one another.
Dennis: That’s right!
Bob: So, those promises are going to lead to some level of expectation; but we’re also fallible, and we don’t keep our promises the way we intended to. I’m thinking about how, on Friday night, at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, we talk about the different expectations that couples bring into a marriage and how that can create conflict in a marriage relationship. It’s just one of the things we start to explore as we get into the subject of marriage on Friday night at our Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
We’ve got about four dozen of these events that are going to happen, starting here in a few weeks, and continuing through the fall. We’ll be in cities all across America, and we would love to have FamilyLife Today listeners coming out and joining us for one of these upcoming getaways. It really is a great two-and-a-half-day escape for a couple, where you can just relax, be together, have some time to communicate—some time to reconnect as a couple.
If you sign up this week, you will save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. I know marriage takes 100 percent, but getting to a getaway only takes 50 percent right now. So, go online at FamilyLifeToday.com—all of the dates and locations of getaways are available to you online; or you can call if you have any questions: 1-800-FL-TODAY. And you can register, either over the phone or online—use the promo code: “SAVE50”—SAVE5-0—
—when you register online, or mention that code when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY to register. Again, you’ll be signed up for an upcoming getaway; and you’ll save 50 percent, as long as we hear from you before the end of the week. We believe the getaway is one of the best investments any couple can make in a marriage relationship.
Dennis: That’s exactly right, Bob.
Rhonda Stoppe has written a book called If My Husband Would Change, I’d Be Happy (& Other Myths Wives Believe). Rhonda—welcome back to broadcast.
Rhonda: I’m happy to be back. Thank you.
Dennis: She’s been married to Steve, who’s a pastor in Northern California, since 1981—four grown children.
She mentioned earlier that she and her husband Steve started out with a great honeymoon, but then a simple breadcrumb reality on the counters—most of our listeners have more than breadcrumbs that they’re dealing with.
Bob: Yes; in fact, I was thinking, “I’ve met some couples where the wife has kind of had this attitude on the front of your book, “If my husband would change, I’d be happy.”
I’ve looked at the husband and I’ve thought, “Yes; that might be right.” [Laughter] You know? I mean, let’s just be honest. There are some guys, who it’s hard to try to love that guy with the way he acts!
Rhonda: A story—I tell a lot of love stories in If My Husband Would Change, I’d Be Happy—and there’s a story / we’re going to call the woman, Lydia. She married someone who was not what he had presented himself to be. Through the years, his harshness and his—just disappointment—but she just determined that she was going to love the Lord—she was going to press in to her relationship with Christ / she was going to ask God—you know, the Bible says, “You have not because you ask not,”—ask God to love her spouse through her with His selfless love and help her forgive those disappointments.
I think what I would love to help those, who are saying: “Yes! You don’t understand. My husband is pretty rough!” “My husband—this situation is pretty difficult,” is the story that this woman brought to my attention.
You know, she said: “Here is Joseph and the coat of many colors. He was in a pretty great home life! His mom had passed away, but his dad treasured him; and God allowed him to be sold into slavery. God allowed him to go through difficult trials to prepare him for the ministry that God had for him.”
And she said, “You know, I’ve watched kids grow up in perfect Christian homes, with great marriages; and those kids walk away, or those kids don’t, you know, follow Christ with their lives.” Her kids have all grown up and followed the Lord. She said, “If those trials are what God needed to bring my children through to make them passionate Christ-followers, I would like go through it again.”
You know, we’re from the mentality that is kind like: “I’m not happy; I’m out! You didn’t measure up to my expectations. I’m out of here!” You know, of course, I’m not talking about abuse / I’m not talking about a situation where someone’s being abused; but I’m talking about: “You didn’t measure up. I’m out!”
How many of those marriages that fall apart have we seen those kids go sideways?—have we seen those kids—especially, in Christian homes, mom and dad have said, “Jesus is the answer to all of life’s problems,” but now they’ve parted ways—[the kids say:] “So I don’t even believe in Jesus.”
Sometimes, a trial is not all about you. Sometimes, the honing and the situation that we see done in our children as a result of walking through a difficult circumstance, with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is the prize; and as we seek Him—watching our kids watch their parent choose forgiveness and choose to cover with love when those disappointments happen.
Bob: You have described your husband, Steve—you guys have been married for 35 years—you’ve described him as “the greatest guy ever.” Here’s what I’m hearing when I hear that—I hear the degree of difficulty for you, as a wife, in loving Steve on a 1-10 scale—it is a 2. On a bad day, a 3; but it never gets worse than a 3, because he’s the amazing Steve, and he—
Dennis: He’s a pastor! He’s paid to be good! [Laughter] There are listeners, right there, going, “I’m married to an 8.5!”
Bob: That’s right.
Rhonda: I get what you’re saying.
Bob: Have you had 8.5 moments?
Rhonda: I have!—and I have been the 8.5 / I have been the one that he’s had to choose to love.
Falling in love is all in your mind, and staying in love is all in your mind. As we focus on the things that are good, right, honorable, and praiseworthy about our spouse—if we speak highly of the things that we adore about them, and we don’t throw them under the bus, and we don’t dwell on those disappointments—our love will grow! Each one of us can come to a place where we celebrate those things about our spouse and, as you ask God to help you fall in love with those things that you dwelt on when you were dating, and not dwell on the things that he doesn’t do to measure up to your expectations.
Dennis: Okay! Let’s just cut to the chase. In your marriage—you’ve been married since ‘81; right?
Rhonda: Yes; yes.
Dennis: You’ve had to have a dark season. I’m not talking about a dark day / a dark moment, like Bob’s talking about, where it’s an 8.5 moment; but I’m talking about a season where things weren’t working out, just because of suffering / what you were going through in your marriage—
—maybe it was children—I don’t know; but every marriage has seasons that are gray—
Dennis: —and sometimes dark.
Rhonda: And we’ve had a few of those. I’ll share one. We lived in the San Francisco Bay area. Steve had always had a dream to be debt-free / to live in the country. We were living in these houses—fixing them up / moving. We finally got to a place—he said, “I’m ready to move out of this.” So, we bought this ranch—we went and looked at this ranch up above San Jose, in the mountains. The day that we went, it was covered—the little shack was covered with snow, and it looked like a charming little cottage.
I saw—I was holding Steve’s dream in the palm of my hand. I said, “You know, let’s do it!” I was born in Los Angeles / raised in the Bay area. I am going to move to an 80-acre ranch in the middle of nowhere. Closed escrow—we go. The snow has melted—we are looking at this shack that we bought. I lived on a sofa bed in the living room, and we had two kids at the time. They were on the bunk bed in the one bedroom. We had no power. It took two years to bring power to that house—we lived on a generator.
[Laughter] I saw that look on your face!!
Bob: Now we’re talking! [Laughter]
Dennis: Now, we’re moving beyond “3”! [Laughter]
Rhonda: Okay; there’s more. So, I / we into this house, and there’s no power—so were not watching TV well into the night. So, surprise pregnancy with my youngest daughter, Kayla. I did my entire pregnancy with Kayla, on the sofa bed. There were a lot of tears. My husband was working in construction, driving—5:00 in the morning, he was leaving—driving to Pleasanton, California.
Dennis: So, he wasn’t constructing power to your house?
Rhonda: He was working his little fingers to the bone at night to add on a master bedroom for us to have a place for me to have other than the sofa bed. He would leave at 5:00 in the morning; he would come home at 7:00 at night. I would tell him: “I’m living your dream! Let me go to work.” He is like, “No; you can’t make enough money.” His goal was to be debt-free—so he was working on this house as he had the money and the time on the weekends and the evenings.
Then, after I had Kayla, I was post-partum. I had never been post-partum before, and I was a mess!
After that, I had four years of really bad PMS. I share that story because I think if God had not humbled me with going through those hormonal imbalances, I would have been one of the women that—I speak with a lot of women and do a lot of ministry with women—I would have been like, you know: “Well, just take every thought captive. Jesus is the answer!”
I had something physically wrong with me. Those are the seasons that you can either let that divide you—you can either lay that blame, you know, “You’re not measuring up to my expectation.” I could see it in Steve’s face—the times I—in fact, I talk about the PMS in If My Husband Would Change, I’d Be Happy. What I share—I don’t know if you remember; Gary Smalley had a series, years ago—it was called “Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships.”
Rhonda: In the video, he talked about how people respond to word pictures. I gave Steve a word picture, trying to explain. He said: “I’ve known you since you were 14 years old. You’re not who you are anymore.” I said: “I know!
“Imagine if you were a werewolf. Every full moon, you were going to turn into a werewolf, whether you wanted to or not. You are going to eat whoever was near you, whether it was your young or someone you don’t know. The only hope you have is for someone to lock you in a cage until the full moon passed.” I said, “That’s PMS!”
I literally saw a light bulb go on in Steve’s head. He was like, “I get it!” You know, I always talk to women—who are not married, who maybe are dating a non-believer—“Girlfriend, you want someone who can love you with Christ’s selfless love; because there are going to be seasons in your marriage when you’re going to need that type of love.”
Bob: I have to wonder if you thought to yourself—in the middle of the PMS, and no electricity in the shack on the side of the hill, and a pregnancy: “We chased your dream; not my dream! I’m doing this for you. What have you done for me lately?”
Bob: What do you do in those moments?
Rhonda: Well, I said those words to him. Especially, I can see his face, when I was crying and the “You always…” and “You never…” tears.
I wounded him with my words as I was just dumping on him. I remember him just saying: “What do you want me to do? How do you want me to fix this?” I’m like: “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
But at that point, we knew our love for each other was more important than any of the craziness that was going on. You know, in Nehemiah 8:10, Nehemiah says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” He called these people, who were building a wall with one hand, and doing it in a very rapid time—you know, trying to get it done quickly—but there were people that were coming against them. They had to have a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.
Rhonda: But Nehemiah’s advice to them during that battle was not, “Here’s your war strategy.” He said: “You fight for joy! The joy of the Lord is your strength.” That was mine and Steve’s—and still is—our commitment: “We’re going to fight for joy! We’re going to fight for each other. We’re going to fight to enjoy one another.”
What’s interesting is that that whole story of us living up there—Steve built an amazing house—it took a long time, but we have this great home that we live in.
Our kids got to grow up there, and our grandkids come home to see us there now. But what we didn’t know about the whole thing was—when we bought the property 28 years ago and God had put in my husband’s heart to be debt-free and to live in the country—we didn’t realize there was a little town called Patterson, coming down the backside of the canyon. We didn’t realize that God was setting the stage and making it so that, when they hired my husband to be a full-time pastor—this tiny little church in the middle of Central Valley, California—that we could afford to take that salary; because we didn’t have a house payment.
Sometimes, I think—you know, that’s why you want to be friends with old ladies; because old ladies know stuff! [Laughter] I know now that God was humbling us / God was doing a work in us; but He was providing a way, and He was putting a dream in his heart that would provide a way for him to be in full-time ministry.
You see, the story backs up a little bit more when we lived in the Bay area.
Steve had gone to Bible college. When he and I met, we had been praying: “Lord, we want to be in full-time ministry. We want You to use us however You want to use us.”
Then, the church that he had been working at as a youth pastor—as a volunteer when the other youth pastor left and they hadn’t hired one yet—the church asked Steve to come on as the youth pastor. He came home and told me; and I said: “There it is! That’s what we’ve been praying for!” He said: “Baby, we can’t afford to take that job. We’ve got so much debt. We’re praying one thing, but we’re living something else.” So that’s when we decided to sell everything. That’s when I got onboard: “Yes; we need to get rid of all of this stuff.” That’s when we ended up where we were.
But 28 years later, you look back and go, “Oh, I can see the divine orchestration of it.” But I think that’s the value in having relationships with older couples, who say, “We went through hard times, too; but God showed us something about Himself that we never would have learned had we not gone through those hard times.”
Dennis: What I want you to speak to, in the midst of the drama and the chaos of what you were going through—no power / sacrificing for your husband—
—speak to how you communicated respect to him, because the bottom line is—Scripture gives husbands a responsibility to love their wives—to nourish, to cherish, to value them, to help them grow—that’s the husband’s assignment.
You’re speaking, for the most part right now, to wives about how they can fulfill their responsibility of respecting their husbands. First of all, define your understanding of the word, respect, and what your husband needs. Then, practically, how did you do that during dark days, emotionally, when you were going through a four-year period of fighting PMS?
Rhonda: I think rehearsing to him what I respected about him—you know: “You work so hard for us. I know you’re trying so hard.”
There’s a story that I tell in If My Husband Would Change, I’d Be Happy about David, when he was dancing through the streets of Jerusalem because he was finally king. You know, he got anointed king; and it was 17 years of a really rough life before he, finally, would dance in the streets of Jerusalem.
Where was his wife when he was finally celebrating that God had made him king? Michal—she wasn’t dancing in the streets with him / she was up in a tower, watching him. And then the Bible says that David went and he made a sacrifice. He had a sacrifice with all the people of Jerusalem, but where was Michal? She didn’t go—she stayed in the house.
As soon as he walked in the door, she blasted him. I mean, you can imagine David: “Baby, your king is home!—finally!” And she doesn’t—I mean, wives, we know what we do. We’ve got the argument in our head before they ever walk in the door. We know how—we’re going to tell them this, and we’re going to tell them that. They don’t even know what’s going to hit them! He walks in the door; and she says: “How glorious was the king today! You danced in your underwear in front of all the women,”—basically.
And, then, I love David’s response; because he says, “I danced for the Lord.” I think that’s kind of a picture of what a lot of us do—is just celebrating their accomplishments and understanding they’re out there, slaying giants for us, keeping their eyes only for us.
I think there’s some respect just by laughing when your husband is trying to make you laugh—you know, just enjoying him for the person that he is.
So what does respect mean? I think honor—honor him for who he is. You know what? They’re trying so hard, ladies. Our men are trying so hard! They may not measure up to our expectations / they’ve got their own expectations that they may not even be measuring up to.
I love—I know you have interviewed—Shaunti Feldhan. She wrote an endorsement for If My Husband Would Change, I’d Be Happy. One of the things it says—I’m butchering the quote at the end of her book—it talks about a man says: “I’ve known above-average men who have accomplished average lives; and I’ve known average men who have accomplished above-average lives because their wives are telling them they can.”
We bless them when we’re just like: “I believe in you! Whatever you want to do! Do you want to move me to a shack in the middle of nowhere? I just want to be with you. I’ll just be with you wherever. I’m going to cry some tears, but I’m just still here. You’re not getting rid of me that easily.” [Laughter]
Bob: When you would sense yourself going toward the negative—practically, what do you do? Because there are wives, who are listening right now, and, you know, they hear you say, “Your husband’s out there trying so hard,” and they are going: “No; he’s not! He’s in a recliner watching ESPN! I wish he’d get out and try that hard!” It’s easy to go to the negative.
Bob: How do you keep from going there—staying there / dwelling there?
Rhonda: The key has to come back to pursuing your relationship with Christ. It has to come back to: “Is my mind being transformed by truth?” There’s a war going on in our minds for our marriages. If we start thinking—if we’re in this place of—we’re longing to feel valued, and to feel treasured, and to be known, and to be cherished for who we are—when we marry someone—it’s because we believe that they’re going to cherish us like that. We believe they’re going to know us intimately, and they’re going to love us like that.
Then, after we get married, we start wondering, “Does he really love me as much as I love him?”
You know, we have all of those—and we start looking to find our worth measured in how they treat us. The truth is that God created us to find our worth in who loves us—He created us to fill that ache and that longing by a relationship. The problem is—it’s not in a relationship with a person. God put us on this earth to have an intimate love walk with Him, the lover of our soul. As soon as my intimacy with my creator is not what it is to be—which begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ; and then, for the rest of my life, fighting to fall in love with my Lord—when I’m doing that, then my love for my husband will spill out of me in a supernatural way, that is the Holy Spirit.
Now, it is not me filled with my self-love; because, in a situation when I’m focused on myself, it’s really my self-love; but when I’m looking to someone else, that’s idolatry: “You’re not measuring up.” They can’t! So when I look to God and say: “God, I know this man will never measure up to my expectations,”—and God knows I’m not measuring up to his!! We want Him to cover with mercy, but we’re not willing to cover with mercy.
So, for my own life—for the lives of the women that I’ve mentored / for the love stories in this book—you have to press in to your intimacy with the Lord. You have to say, “My heart has to fall more in love with God!”—not just to be a “good” Christian, who does good Christian things or goes to church—but: “God, You know I don’t love You like that,” and “God, I don’t even know how to love You selflessly, but I want to,” and “God, would You just give me the want to?” It’s God who works in you to will and to do His good pleasure. So, if we even care, it’s because it’s His Holy Spirit causing us to.
That’s the secret to a life well-lived—to a no-regrets marriage / to a no-regrets life—is truly, to look at Christ and what He’s done for us to show me my worth / to show me my value so that I can just be the companion, the lover, the encourager, the cheerleader of this man that I have covenanted with for the rest of my life.
Dennis: I look back on our marriage, and just listening to you talk about your circumstances, and thinking about some that Barbara and I have experienced. I ask myself the question: “How in the world did we make it through those periods of time?!”
I think, just on behalf of my wife, what I see in her is—I saw a woman who was anchored in the Scriptures. She would begin her day reading in the Scriptures. She would begin her day abiding in Christ, which means to draw your life from Him. You’ve got to be in the Book if you’re going to do that. From that, I just saw a woman who was centered, spiritually, who knew who she was. She had the ability to get outside of herself and to express belief in me, which communicated respect to me, as a man, in the midst of circumstances, some of which I could change / many of them I couldn’t.
That’s where I think a wife needs to understand her power—that she is incredibly powerful if she doesn’t quit in her relationship with God / doesn’t quit in her relationship with her husband and expresses, even in moments of dark doubt, the belief that says to him:
“You know what? You are my husband. I do respect you. God’s not done with you. Something’s going on here. I’ll stay the course with you. You are the man.”
Bob: There are instructions in Scripture about affirming one another, esteeming one another, giving honor or preference to one another. When husbands and wives carry out these instructions—in the power of the Holy Spirit / when grace is flowing through their relationship—that’s how relationships thrive; right? And we can do that when we are surrendered to Christ and walking in the power of the Spirit.
Rhonda, you talk about that in your book. The book is called If My Husband Would Change, I’d Be Happy (& Other Myths Wives Believe). We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Let me also mention that there’s information, online, about our upcoming season of Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. If you want to find some practical biblical help and hope for your marriage, you’ll find it when you take two-and-a-half days and get away with your spouse in a nice location for one of these upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. I’m going to the one in Parsippany, New Jersey, this fall—the first weekend in November—but we’ve got getaways happening in cities all around the country this fall. We’d love to see you out at one of our getaways.
And if you register before the end of the weekend, you can save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. All you have to do is type the words: “SAVE50”—SAVE5-0—in the promo code box on the registration form; or mention the special offer when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY to register. Again, more information about the Weekend to Remember is available, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call if you have any questions: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about something that can become an obstacle in a lot of marriages; and that’s the issue of sexual intimacy. When one partner / one spouse has more interest than the other, that can be a challenge. We’ll talk more about that with our guest, Rhonda Stoppe, on tomorrow’s program. I hope you can be with us for that.
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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