Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Saving Marriages Before They Start

Saving Marriages Before They Start

Focus on the Family staff members Roger Ingolia and his wife, Diane, share their experiences with mentoring younger couples and encourage listeners to consider how they can help engaged or newlywed couples lay a firm foundation for a long, happy marriage.



Jim Daly: Roger dated Diane for five years, but Diane only (Chuckling) dated Roger for two. We’re (Laughter) gonna have to figure this out in the story today.

End of Teaser

John: Well, it’s “Focus on the Family” and Jim Daly, our president and host, it sounds like you’re offering us some sort of a math equation, one of those brain teasers, you know, like what was the total number of years they dated really or somethin’ like that?

Jim: (Laughing) I think that’s about it, but we’re gonna get the answer today as we talk with Roger and Diane about marriage and about mentoring in marriage, which is something they’ve done for about 34 years of their 37 years. And I think it’ll be great information for all of us to think about.

John: Yeah and Roger and Diane are on staff here at Focus on the Family. They’ve been working here for I guess at least 20 years for each of you. Roger works with the maintenance team, the facilities team and does a great job. I’m sure he does that kind of work at home, too a lot, Diane.


Jim: (Laughing) Do you give him a to-do list after he goes home–

Diane: Oh, my gosh.

Jim: –after workin’ here at Focus all day fixing holes that John puts in the walls–

Diane: Yes, absolutely.

Jim: –’cause he’s mad at me. (Laughter) And Roger, thanks for fixing those holes.

Roger: My pleasure.

Jim: And then you get home and Diane has a to-do list for you?

Roger: Yes, it never seems to get any–

John: No rest.

Roger: –shorter either.

Jim: (Laughing)

John: No rest for the weary. And Diane is a vivacious personality who leads our guest relations team. Folks that come through here on tours get to interact with her and she takes care of a lot of other stuff here, as well.

Jim: Hey, John, let me mention, too, if you want to come to Focus on the Family, we have over 200,000 people that visit the campus every year, mostly in the summer, but you’re welcome year round and Diane will be there to greet you typically, unless she’s helping Roger on a to-do list item. (Laughter) But let me say to both Roger and Diane, welcome to “Focus on the Family.”

Diane: Thank you.

Roger: Thank you.

Jim: It’s kind of odd, since you both work here.

Diane: Yes.

Jim: But we know your story pretty well and we thought it would be good to talk to you about something you’ve done, like I said, for years and that is to help younger couples get an idea of how to do marriage as best as they can. Tell me what attracted you guys, three years into your marriage to help others. Did you figure it out that quick?

John: Ah … (Laughter)

Roger: That’s a great question.

Diane: Woo-hoo. No. (Laughter) It was interesting how God led the way. I taught a Bible study and it was through a church and we got permission from this church to be able to have the Bible study at our house. So, from high school, these kids were now graduating and we didn’t want to lose them, so we just kept teaching them.

And then they were saying things like, could you just like talk with us, ’cause could you tell us what to do? We don’t know how to handle this situation? And we’re looking at each other going, well, we’ve got four years, but what we had, we were at least able to share with them. And so, it was this slow morphing of …

Jim: It took some courage, ’cause I’m sure you at that time didn’t feel like you had it all figured out. But we’ve gotta answer the question we started with at the top. (Laughter)

John: I was wondering that. (Laughter)

Jim: How in the world did you date her for five years or pursue her for five and she said, she pursued you or dated you for two?

Roger: Well, for the first three of those, Diane was dating a plethora of young men at the time.

Diane: I had things to do and–

Roger andDiane: –places to go–

Roger: –and things to see, that goes with that.

Diane: And my philosophy was, men, you can’t live with them, you can’t eat free without them. (Laughter)

Jim: So, you liked to date.

Diane: I did like to date. I had a good time and we did lots of things and went lots of places. And here was this man standing there and it was Roger and he would say, “How would you like to go out? Would you like … maybe like next Saturday?” Ooh, how about like three Saturday … how about let … well, let me check my calendar.”

Jim: (Chuckling) You kept moving it.

Diane: Well–

Jim: (Laughing)

Diane: –I was busy. I already had a date. So, he waited through that. And at one point, I said to him, “You know, I don’t love you like you love me.” And he said, “I know. Just let me love you.”

John: Hm.

Diane: That was surprising. I’d never met someone that had this unconditional, I don’t care, I’m waiting because you’re the one that I want. And I was like, okay, if that’s what you want to do.

Jim: So, you made him wait.

Diane: I did. (Laughter) I did.

Roger: She wasted actually the best three years that I had (Laughter). That’s the way I look at it, but uh …

John: Yeah … on so much, yeah.

Roger: Yeah, but the bottom line is, my family thought I was nuts, you know, ’cause they knew she was out dating other people and I was sitting at home waiting. But the Lord hadn’t led me in any other direction. He hadn’t brought anybody else into my life. So in my own mind, this is one I wanted. It was worth waiting for and little by little, the Lord kinda weeded out the other guys. Now we are both Italian.

Jim: What does that mean, “weeded out” then, if you’re Italian?

Roger: Well … well–

Jim: Were they taken out?

Roger: –well … (Laughter)

Diane: There’s a good–

Roger: You can come to any–

Diane: –possibility.

Roger: –conclusion (Laughter) … any conclusion that you want. But you know, the reality is, maybe I won by default. I was the last guy standing, but …

Jim: Well, but it also probably gave you a good foundation for your relationship.

Diane: It sure did.

Jim: I mean, through the patience and all that. Well, let’s talk about the things that you learned initially in the early parts of your marriage then. What kind of marital difficulty did you have to turn for, for help?

Roger: Well, when we were in college, Diane was being treated by a doctor who was the director of medicine at the university we were going to. And I’d been praying for five years for a “mentor” in my life. I wanted somebody who had been there, had done it, you know, not somebody that was my age that certainly the Lord could use, but at the same time, I was looking for somebody that had experience, that had a family, had raised their kids. And as this man was treating Diane, he asked me out to lunch.

Jim: Hm.

Roger: And then some weeks later, asked me out for lunch again. Well, after a few of those, he commented to me, he said, “I would like you to pray about us getting together one on one on a more permanent basis. And I looked at him and I said, “I’ve been praying about this for five years. You’re the guy. I’m in. Let’s go.”

Jim: Huh.

Roger: And that started a 43-year relationship. I still meet with that man.

John: Hm.

Roger: And he’s now 87. He was the one that would actually begin them to walk us through the issues that we would find in our lives. I’m Southern Italian. She’s Northern Italian. There’s distinctive differences there–

Jim: (Laughing)

Roger: –that we had to work through in our own lives. But this mentor of mine who became not only our dear friend and was a pastor of ours also at the same time, who began to see areas in our life where we can be used of the Lord to impact other people’s lives, ’cause he saw what He was doing not only in our relationship, but he saw what we were doing with the young couples that were coming to us and asking for help.

Jim: Well, and you know, when you look at it today, there’s so few couples being mentored it seems. And that’s one of the things here at Focus, we’ve started a mentoring program.

Jim: Uh-hm.

Jim: And so often, we feel incapable of doing it if we don’t have a Ph.D., we don’t have a marriage and family counseling background, we feel like we’re gonna be overwhelmed. As a young couple three years into your own marriage and dealing with your Northern, Southern Italian roots, I guess–

Roger: Uh-hm.

Jim: –how did you have the confidence to say, okay, let’s start giving back to community? Let’s look for a couple or two that we can talk with? Diane, I think most couples would be mortified.

Diane: Well, I was and that was the thing. I didn’t think I was qualified. I didn’t think I had anything to give, because I wasn’t this trained person and I thought, well, who am I to be able to say to somebody, to give them advice or to listen to their questions? I don’t know what I’m doin’ here. And I had one of my friends say, “Just be my friend.” And that was … what? Just be my friend and just meet with me.

Because I had turned this person away a couple times, where she said, “Will you be my mentor?” And the word “mentor” to me meant, I needed a book. I needed a step-by-step plan. I needed to make sure that I knew what I was doing. Oh, what am I gonna do? And she goes, “Just be my friend.” I thought, I can be your friend.

Jim andJohn: Hm.

Diane: And we just started having lunch together and then she says, “I’m getting married. Would you mind like just meeting with us?” And we found that just by sharing our own experiences, I can do that. I have life. I can share experience. I can love you. And I think that was the big deal. It was the word that scared me.

Jim: I think one of the great things we could do when you look at the culture and the way marriage and its back is up against the ropes, for the Christian community to reach out to other Christians, that’s fine or even non-Christians, even better, to try to help them grapple through the pains of marriage.

Most marriages, struggle at some point. And so, to have somebody there that can help you think through things in a biblical way particularly, I think is a wonderful thing.

John: And I appreciate the conversation we’re having right now, because you’re giving, particularly younger couples permission to ask for that help. And some of those who have a little more experience, some permission to go ahead and seek out the younger couple and give that kind of help that we’ve talked about.

And Jim, you referenced the marriage mentoring program here at Focus on the Family and we’ve got a workbook, videos. We’ve got a lot of training for you, the tools to help you get on your way. Once you’ve said yes, I can share some life with you, if you’re not sure about what to do and you don’t have somebody as Roger had, kind of guiding those conversations, we’ve got some great tools. And you can learn more about the marriage mentoring program at

Jim: Now explain it to us the mechanics of it. Again, how do we draw people into the effort rather than push them away with talking about training and curriculum and all that? You need to be a friend; is that it?

Diane: You need to be a friend and you need to be available. People have questions. When they’re watching your relationship, they see something and that’s what they’ve said. We’ve seen how you treat each other. We see how you love each other. And gosh, we would like a little piece of that. What do you do, to do that? How do you do that life?

We’ve actually had people call us. We had a couple call us. It was like 3 a.m. and they were having a battle over how to cook peas. (Laughter)

John: I’m sorry … at 3 a.m.–

Diane: At …

John: –they were cooking peas–

Diane: Peas.

John: –and fighting about it.

Diane: About it, because apparently, some peas come in that little pouch and he thought you should boil the water first and then put the pouch in. She said you put the pouch in and you boil the water. And the fight was over peas. And we’re like, okay, first of all, go to bed. Don’t call me at 3 a.m. (Laughter)–

Jim: Yeah, you are really–

Diane: –about cooking peas. (Laughter)

Jim: –good friends, let me tell you. (Laughter)

Diane: We’ll talk tomorrow around 10 a.m. But the issue was not the peas. The issue was, who’s in control–

Jim: Hm.

Diane: –of this relationship? It was about who’s in control and who’s gonna win?

Jim: When you look at in the couples that you have helped along the way over these 34 years, a lot of couples I would think, would come to the conclusion, I’m embarrassed to go to counseling. We can’t afford counseling. I don’t think our problems are significant enough to require a professional.

Diane: Uh-hm.

Jim: I don’t know what that percentage might be, but I bet it’s a pretty high percentage of married people who come to that conclusion. And then they just suffer along for years and then decades and then multiple decades. They don’t deal with the core things in their marriage. Being a friend, a couple that is a friend to another couple with intentionality, I mean, it’s friendship–

Diane: Right.

Jim: –but it’s also mentoring. You–

Diane: Right.

Jim: –can’t forget that. But it plays that critical role in the middle, where you may not be so desperate that it’s obvious that you need help, but it’s moving in that direction.

Diane: Uh-hm.

Jim: And you can arrest–

Diane: Uh-hm.

Jim: –that direction in a couple’s life and get them on a better track. How do you go about doing that? How would you do that, Roger, with the man?

Roger: Well, you know, there’ve been young men that I’ve met with here at Focus, for example. I had a young man approach me one time and he said, “I’ve been watching you from afar. I’ve been watching your relationship with Diane and I’d like you to meet with me if you can, because I’m married. I have a young family and I’d like you just to tell me how you’ve done this along the way.”

Jim: Hm.

Roger: And so, sometimes people will seek you out. But the reality is, for Diane and I, it’s usually the people that need help, people that desire help, people that are at that place that you just described. It’s like, well, we don’t know if we could afford it. Or we don’t know if we need a professional counselor. When you become a friend and you have an interest in people, and you make yourself available to the Lord, the Lord’s gonna bring people into your life.

Jim: Hm.

Roger: Being a friend, being available to the Lord, I think we lose the perspective of, if I want to engage in mentoring or coaching or relationship development, we want to go out there and force the issue. I feel like this is what God wants me to do.

Well, what Jack saw in our life was that the Lord was bringing people across our path. And so, what he did then is, he turned around and equipped us to now respond to their needs.

Jim: Hm.

Roger: Because I think this is the bottom line. What is it that drives a person’s desire … I should say, need to get the help that they think they need? And where do they go to get it? How many couples, empty nesters with grown children, have the experience. We toss those people to the back of the bus, when yet, that’s where the wisdom and the experience really lies. How do we tap into that resource to say, those people have been through it.

Let me give you an example. We had a couple–they were in their 50s; we were in our 30s–who had both been through failed marriages.

Jim: Hm.

Roger: This man was basically a rocket scientist.

Diane: Oh, he really was.

Roger: Yeah, he was the kind of person that would travel into a foreign country and set up missile sites and you know, if somethin’ happens to you, our government doesn’t know who you are. And this is the kind of person. I was totally intimidated by this man. And he approached us and said, “Would you do our pre-marriage counseling?” And I looked at him.

Jim: And you’re 20 years younger.

Diane: Yeah.

Roger: And I looked at him and I said, “Why in the world would you ask us to do that?” And he said, “Well, we’ve watched you and we see you have been successful in your relationship and both of ours failed. So we figure you have something that we’re missing.

Jim: Hm.

Roger: And we shared our lives with these people, just, these are our experiences. This is what we believe. This is what we’ve been taught. This is what the Scriptures say.” Obviously, this becomes your foundation. “This is what the Lord says about husbands’ roles and responsibilities, wives’ roles and responsibilities. And this is what love really means, the meeting of the need of another person, being willing to risk rejection, doin’ it self-sacrificially.” All those things come into play. And we were able to just share that from our heart.

Jim: Roger and Diane, I think I can hear people saying, ’cause I’m thinkin’ it in my own mind, man, I got my hands full. And I’ve got kids, you know, workin’ hard, travelin’ a lot. Where in the world, A, would I find the time? And B, you know, life’s just too busy for this right now. We can go again years and years talking ourselves out of investing in other people, because we are busy. Life is hectic and it robs us in our marriage. It robs us in our parenting and certainly with the leftovers, it can rob us in this area of engaging other people. How did you fight that? How did you convince yourself that you do have time?

Diane: We liked the people. (Laughter) And we wanted to spend the time with them. And when they look at your face and they’re saying, “Would you meet with us? Would you have lunch with me?” that’s kinda hard to deny. And you’re like, “I can do lunch. I have an hour here. I can do lunch.”

Roger: I think there’s a balance that you have to strike. You just mentioned, you have a young family. You travel a lot and those kind of things. We had a young family. We spent our time with our young family. We made sure that we kept those things as our priority first and then, as we had the time leftover, we would invest in people’s lives.

As we have gotten older and you have a son that’s 36 and a daughter’s 34 and they’re married and starting their own families, we now have this opportunity as empty-nesters to avail ourselves even more to the Lord, to those people who are younger and have those needs. So, there’s a season for all those things.

But when your family is young, you need to keep the priorities in line, because what advice are you gonna give a couple downstream when your own family’s falling apart, because you misarranged your priorities?

Jim: Well, that’s well-said. There are many of you who are in that spot. You’re empty nesters. You can do that. It won’t take too much time. It won’t take training. It’ll take a little bit of vulnerability and the ability to ask good questions. And again, I hope you’ll consider doing that.

Let me ask you though, with respect to those early years again, and how you would probably I’m thinking, use your own shortcomings in your marriage–

Roger: Absolutely.

Jim: –to connect with people. You know, that’s a big difference with counseling. Counselors are taught to stay distant and detached from their client. In mentoring, you’ll all in. I’m–

Roger: Yeah.

Jim: –as messy as you are.

Diane: That’s true.

Roger: I’m real.

Jim: Describe some–

Diane: Yeah, oh.

Jim: –of those stories where you used your own shortcomings, if I could say it that way, to (Laughing) … they’re lookin’ at each other. But go ahead, use the nice ones obviously. (Laughing)

Diane: Well, it’s interesting. Rog wanted one day to buy a motorcycle and he just thought that was a great idea. And I thought that was a very bad idea, because …

Roger: Gas savings, dear.

Diane: Gas was the … (Laughter). I could drive it to work.

Jim: I like this one.

John: He’s got a lot of …

Diane: I mean, he was … but Honey, I have two little children. I’m like, this is a bad idea. He said, “No, I really think this is a great idea. Let’s just pray about this.” “Okay,” I said. “I am willing to pray about this.”

So, he went, “Great! She must be in if she’s willing to pray about it.” And the next thing you know, I hear this vroom, vroom pulling up into our driveway. And the man bought a motorcycle. (Laughter) And there …

John: So far we’re not seeing the problem.

Diane: We’re not seeing the problem there?

Jim: I’m not. (Laughing)

Diane: So, I think now how do you rectify this? What do you do? It’s been purchased. It’s sitting in the driveway and he wants to drive this thing to work and he is and he’s getting home late at night and I just am waiting to hear that motorcycle come down the (Sigh) driveway and that he’s on it and (Laughing) not being pulled behind it.

So, the conflict there was, how do I handle the anger that I’m feeling right now, because I feel betrayed? And he said, “But you said you would pray about it.” And I said, “That is right and I didn’t tell you what I was told, but I did say I’d pray about it.” So, we had some conversations and that motorcycle didn’t last too long in our household. (Laughter)

Jim: That sounds familiar.

Diane: Yeah.

Jim: (Laughing) Jean got right to it. She said, “Your children need a father.”

Roger: Yeah.

Jim: (Laughing) That’s what she said and I went, “Okay, I get it.” And so, I put that on hiatus for a while.

Diane: Yeah.

Jim: But what about a young couple that you saw. Maybe they came to you for premarital counseling and you notice this is not gonna be a good fit. There’s a heavy responsibility in that, when you see two people that at least on the outside, there doesn’t seem to be compatibility, spiritually or whatever it might be. Did you ever encounter that kind of situation? And what did it look like?

Roger: Yeah, we did. One of the couples that we worked with in these last 34 years, when we engaged in our initial conversation with them, we were actually in a premarriage counseling type scenario.

And so, in our initial contact with them, it was information gathering. And I was asking them about, you know, what’s your concept of submission? What’s your concept of marriage? How do you feel about children? And the list went on and on and on.

And I asked them the question, “Well, what’s your concept of sex? What’s your perspective? What have you discussed about sex?” And there was silence in the room. And the young man then looked at me and goes, “Well, we’re having it.”

Well, you can imagine, this is a Christian couple who is engaging in premarital sex and this is early on in our time spending with couples. And I said, “Well, okay.” And then I continued on.

And when we got towards the end of the evening, I was able to, by the Lord’s grace, go back to that moment, because what they said was, to a question such as, “What do you want your marriage ceremony to communicate to the people who are gonna be present? When you select the music, what message are you sending to all of those people who are gonna be observing and listening to your vows and your covenant to … etc.?

And I said, “You want them to see the Lord. You want Him to be honored and etc., etc., etc. The bottom line was, I said, “How is that going to happen, when before you even engage in the marriage ceremony, you’re already engaging in premarital sex, which is just totally contrary to what the Lord would have us do?”

I said, “So, you’re asking for the Lord’s blessing. So, you’re really saying, bless my flesh. No. You can’t ask the Lord to bless and to do all of this, when you’re not willing to do what He’s called you to do.

So, we had to actually after a couple sessions with that couple say, “I think you need to call this off.” And the invitations have already been sent out.

Jim: Hm.

Roger: But the beauty of that story was this. They actually did call it off. They cancelled it for six months. They stopped sleeping together. They re-engaged in their relationship with the Lord, did things they were supposed to do and here it is, some 30 years later and they’re successfully married and …

Jim: Goin’ good.

Roger: So, there are times. You see, Jack did that in our life, early on in our life. It was probably what, seven years in or so?

Diane: Uh-hm.

Roger: And he said, “Let’s have lunch.” Well, when Jack wanted to have lunch with me, it was either he wanted the fellowship or I was in trouble about something. But the reality was, he told me that morning, “I see earmarks of deterioration in your relationship to Diane and I’m concerned.” Well, he took a humongous risk to approach me at that level. But because of the relationship that had been developed, I knew he loved me enough to take the risk.

Jim: Hm.

Roger: And so, I took that to heart. And he was very specific as to what he was observing. We discussed it. We prayed about it. We made changes and here we are, 37 years later, which becomes a great example or an experience that we share with other couples all the time.

Jim: With respect to both spouses being in, I mean, I didn’t hear you talk about Dr. Jack’s wife.

John: Hm.

Jim: But was she equally engaged?

Diane: Yes.

Roger: Oh, absolutely.

Jim: And so, she was participating. What if you have a spouse who is more hesitant, maybe more introverted, doesn’t feel comfortable in that environment, what would you suggest the other spouse do?

Diane: They can still be in the room together. They’re still supporting each other. So, they don’t have to have words of wisdom, but just being in the room and having that male and female presence and that togetherness of the couple, that right there speaks volumes without saying a word.

Jim: You know, if we just sit in our homes and watch the news or do whatever we do and we don’t engage the culture, I think when you’re older, you’ll look back and feel like you failed as a Christian, because I think we do need to get out there and mentor young couples to be involved in people’s lives. It’s messy. It’s not always nice. They call you at 3 in the morning, arguing over peas. If you missed that part of the program, get the download (Laughter) and you can hear it. But you know, I just tip my hat to you, because you have done it for 34 years. You’ve done it just as a work and a labor of love for other people. And that’s a wonderful thing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us and John, give people information about how they can engage the Focus on the Family mentoring project.

John: Uh-hm. And probably the best way would be through our website, where we have helpful articles about building relationships and details about our marriage mentoring program and who you can be a part of making a difference and pouring into those engaged and newlywed couples, so they can have a thriving marriage that goes the distance. And you’ll find that at or if you’d like, call us for details. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Jim: And let me add, when you become a monthly supporter of Focus on the Family with a gift of 40 or $50 a month, you’re not only preparing an engaged or newlywed couple to go the distance, as John said, but you’re also gonna help your own family, ’cause we’d like to give you a choice of a gift to say thank you on our part–an Adventures in Odyssey CD set, my book, The Good Dad or CDs of some of our best broadcasts here at Focus on the Family. In addition to that, we’ll also give you a subscription to Thriving Family magazine, which is a wonderful resource for marriage and parenting. So, it’s our way of saying thank you for signing up as a monthly donor.

John: And again, sign up to be a monthly contributor through our Friends of the Family program at or when you call 800-232-6459.

Jim: Roger and Diane, as we end, how does a couple know that they’re ready to impart wisdom to others?

Diane: You know, I can answer that question because I was afraid of making a mistake. I was afraid I was gonna mess somebody’s life up. But I realized that I needed to be willing to be willing and say to the Lord, “Okay, I’m willing to be willing, but You’re going to have to bring the people to me to open my eyes, to let me see. Let this be natural. Don’t let me have to go out and recruit, because I don’t want to do that. But I want someone who’s drawn to my personality and to who I am as a person, as well. So, Lord, let me just step back and let me watch You work.”

Jim: That’s good. That’s good. It’s great to have you with us. Thanks for taking the time.

Diane: Thank you for having us.

Roger: Thank you.


John: It is so important to let God lead you in this and you can tak

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Balancing Gender Differences in Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Robert and Pamela Crosby help married couples understand and celebrate their gender differences so that they can enjoy a stronger bond and deeper intimacy. Our guests offer practical tips for improved communication, successful conflict resolution and offering affirmation to your spouse. (Part 1 of 2)