Faith and Family Friday–Jeff and Anne Watts Answer my Probing Marriage Questions

I met Jeff and Anne Watts a few years ago, when they led a marriage retreat for our church. I was struck by their wisdom and fun new ideas on ways to make marriages work. I knew they would be just the right interviewees for my top five burning marriage questions. 
I know you’re going to enjoy what they have to share today–I know I soaked it up just getting this post ready to go! 
Here’s a bio on this sweet couple:
Jeff and Anne have been married nearly 22 years.  They reside in Gastonia, NC, where Jeff is on staff at Parkwood Baptist Church.  He serves as the Discipleship Pastor and is also a Licensed Counselor.   He is currently a counselor part-time for Focus on the Family.  He and Anne are over marriage enrichment at Parkwood, and they also lead marriage conferences.  Anne works as a nurse part-time at a retirement center.  They have two children:  Kayla, 19, who is a freshman at The College at Southeastern in Wake Forest, and Colby, 17, who is a junior at Gaston Christian High School.   
And now for the pressing questions! Anne is AW and Jeff is JW, so we get both points of view!
      Question One: What’s the number one problem you see in marriages today?
AW – Well there are several, but the number one I would have to say is selfishness.  Unfortunately, many  Christian couples today are living no differently than non-Christians.  If married couples would choose to live out  Philippians 2:3-4 in regards to their spouse, I fully believe marriages would be changed.  The verse  says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
JW – Well, I agree with Anne, and another major issue is communication, or a lack of communication.  Couples are not talking.  It’s interesting how much  couples communicate prior to marriage, and then it seems to dissipate with time, especially on major issues that need to be discussed.  I suggest for couples to sit and talk for at least 30 minutes twice a week about issues in their lives and marriage. Have a plan for communication, like you plan for so many other things in your life.
      Question Two:  I recently heard that not only is there a seven year itch in marriage, there’s a one year itch too.  Is there a way to guard against the desire to give up on the marriage? 
JW – Our society makes marriage look like a negative thing.  We must remember that God made it for good; for our good.  That it’s a blessing.  It requires work , it requires patience, and a biggie, it requires loving someone morethan you love yourself!  The reason there was a seven year itch and now there is a one year itch is because we are more focused on ourselves and not on the other person.  
AW– Well, we encourage young couples to know what God’s Word says about marriage prior to entering the covenant of marriage.  When Jeff and I were married nearly 22 years ago, neither of us really knew all that the Bible had to say on marriage.  However, Jeff and I sat down and made out a list of ALL the things that could possibly happen in our lifetime and at the end of the list we signed it stating we would never walk away from this marriage.  Best agreement we ever signed! :O)
      Question Three: I’ve also heard that couples who fight more stay married longer since they communicate their problems.  Have you seen this to be the case, and is there a place for fighting (vigorous arguing) in a marriage?
AW–  Well, fighting is a habit.  A bad one I might add!  I can honestly say Jeff and I don’t fight.  We have disagreements and heated discussions at times but our rule from the beginning is no yelling and we have stuck to that rule!  Just yesterday I ran into Walmart to pick up something while Jeff remained in the car.  Upon my return he said to me and I quote, “I have sat in this car and heard more women yelling at their husbands!”  I’m sure, had we been sitting outside the Bass Pro Shop, the tables may have been turned.  How sad how couples treat  each other.  No wonder kids are growing up with anger issues.  I say no!  There is NO place in the marriage for vigorous arguing.
JW– We must remember when there is yelling happening, no one is listening.  You get your point across much better when you are able to sit down and talk through an issue.  Think of it this way: if you went into your boss’ office, would you yell at him or her? We are showing more respect toward our employer than our spouse and teaching our children unhealthy communication habits for their relationships.  Remember, the Bible says a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger!
Question Four: What would you recommend for the Christian couple who marries, only to feel they are incompatible with one another?
JW-  Well, that’s why we emphasize premarital counseling.  To deal with issues before you get married. Once you are married, God requires us to live in harmony with our spouse.   In Genesis 2, the Bible emphasizes that in marriage two shall become oneThat is spiritually, emotionally, and physically (in that order).  Anne and I have found that it’s a choice. Make the choice to stay together and work on your marriage.  
AW– Once you enter a marriage covenant, you are now married to the man or woman God has for you.  We have been asked this many times and always respond by telling them to begin to ask God for a love for your spouse as well as look for ways to love them and fill out your roles in the marriage.  God is in the business of restoring marriages, so I say pray and love your spouse, even when you don’t feel like it!
      Question Five: What is the number one thing couples can do to keep their marriages strong?
AW– Again, there are many things a couple can do, but you said number one thing, so I will definitely say keep God at the center of your lives and marriageChristian couples are being tricked and fooled into putting all sorts of other things first in their lives and their family’s lives.  Pray together, worship together, and study God’s Word together.  That one thing will draw you closer not only to God but to each other. 
JWKeep Christ at the center of your marriage.  As you grow closer to Christ, you will grow closer to each other.   I would also say when we love Christ, loving other people comes easier.  The most important would be your spouse and that begins with the man.  God commanded us in Ephesians 5:25 to love our wives as Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her.  Christian men today are faltering big time in the area of loving their wives as Christ loved the church.  Men, step up and love as Christ loves.  It’s a command from God and it will strengthen your marriage.  
Thank you so much, Jeff and Anne! There are so many types of marriages out there, and this is such helpful advice for all of us! I hope you get to stop by my blog again!
****How about you? Do you have additional insight on any of these questions? Have you incorporated any of this advice in your life and seen the benefits of it?****

7 thoughts on “Faith and Family Friday–Jeff and Anne Watts Answer my Probing Marriage Questions

  1. Awesome, awesome interview!Satan has been eroding the foundation of marriage and the institution of family for years! I feel far too many people don't view marriage as a contract you honor, but why should they when our society is based on pleasure? Love AW answer about deciding years ago they would never walk away. Marriage is a commitment- period. Marriage can be difficult. I think communication is the hardest part for me. My spouse and I have differing communication styles but thankfully after years of practice we are finally learning how to listen to what the other ISN'T saying. Sometimes it isn't what is said that is important, it's what is not said. Listening and being willing to forgo pride are essential.

  2. I know, TC! I feel strongly about marriage, too. I've never had any problems communicating, but OVER-communicating, yes! At some point I realized that I didn't have to SHARE every last thing that bothered me w/my husband (read: dump my burdens on HIM). Not that I don't share things with him, but I try not to over-share so he's overwhelmed with my problems on top of his own. Well, I'm TRYING to work on that…

  3. We are married 23 years and counting and echo their sentiments. God has to be the central focal point in the marriage; communication is essential and I had to work on not being a Yeller since that was something I grew up with. But we're blessed because we choose to live in the way God calls us to and not what the world says.

  4. Awesome post, Heather. My husband and I have been married for almost eleven years and it has been a wonderful eleven years. We've had our obstacles and challenges, but I can attest to a couple of things the Watts' touched on. I almost agreed out loud when I read that the most common problem in marriages is selfishness. It breaks my heart. I also agree with the no yelling rule, that was one we set up right away – it enables you to speak rationally and limits the hurtful things you say in the heat of a battle. And, it is vital for Christ to be at the center of a marriage – if He isn't than people don't seek to please Him first and foremost and it leads to more selfishness.Thanks for the post!

  5. Thanks for your comments, Nylse and Gabrielle! Always good to hear from others who've been happily married for years. Marriage is such a growth process…all those rough edges getting smoothed down, those touchy spots addressed…but in the end, it is SO worth it! It's so good to be like-minded in your basic worldview, as Christians. Doesn't mean you'll agree on everything (not by a long shot!), but at least you're starting from the same place when making decisions. With Christ, you have someone outside of yourself and even your spouse to serve and learn love from!

  6. One of the biggest things I have learned in communicating with my husband is to not assume that I know what he is meaning before he can really say what he is feeling. mI have often jumped the gun and heard what I assumed he meant rather than what he was actually trying to share. It can diffuse arguments to really listen and clarify the other's point of view rather than inserting and insisting my way must be right.

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