Creating Sustainable Rhythms in Your Marriage – Chris & Jenni Graebe


Chris and Jenni Graebe both grew up with very strong opinions on how marriage should look, so once married, they struggled to find something that worked for them. They eventually went to other couples who were years ahead of them, and compiled a list of biblical lifestyles of “rhythms” that married couples can create in their lives. In this interview, they’ll focus on the important rhythms that have helped them through the years, and how God uses those rhythms to draw us closer to Him.


if you’re driving by a sunset, don’t just keep driving, pull over and take it in. You know, if you’re at the playground with your kids, don’t, you dare stay on that park bench. Get up and join in the fun. Welcome to the focus on the family broadcast, helping families thrive, john you know, marriage is one of the things we talked a lot about on this broadcast and in parenting too, that’s about 80% of the program. We measure it. So 75 80% of the time we’re talking about marriage and parenting and today we have a great show and one of the difficulties that we often have is we get into marital ruts right? You’ll go through seasons. Unfortunately, sometimes that could be years where it just feels like you’re in a routine and you’re not breaking out of that and finding may have something deeper, something more rewarding in your relationship as a married couple, we’re gonna give you some ideas today to change that. Yeah. We’ve got chris and jenny gravy with us to talk about some of the things that they’ve learned. Their husband and wife team parents of five kids and they host the podcast, The Rhythm of us and they’ve written a book called the Rhythm of Us, create the thriving marriage. You long for look for a copy at our website. The link is in the show notes or call 800 the letter A and the word family chris and jenny. It’s great to have you here for the first time. Thank you so much. We’re so honored to be here. Yeah. And what a, what a great concept. I so appreciate the fact that you’re trying to strengthen marriages. I mean that’s what we’re all doing right? Hopefully our own marriages. Let me just say that christian leaders, we need to make sure we’re walking the talk jenny. You went to a graduation party where you saw a table of memories for your friend’s daughter and that gave you some thoughts and ideas. That’s an interesting observation. Um I don’t know that as a guy, I would have picked up on this. But go ahead. What happened? Well actually I saw the pictures of the party, I wasn’t there, I was actually on a writing day supposed to be writing. Not inspired at all. So yes, just like please, I’m just not inspired. And some friends, a friend sent me pictures of her daughter’s graduation party. And I was looking through the pictures and she had this beautiful round table for her 18 year old daughter and on the table was just all the precious things that made up her 18 years of life. So there was a little baby rattle for when she was born, a little set of footprints of little guitar, some summer camp t shirts. And and as I was looking at these pictures, my eyes are, you know welling up with tears because I have five kids of my own. I’m picturing sending them off and all the things that would be on their tables. And I just heard the Lord whisper, what’s on your table, what do you want on your table? And I just thought, Oh my gosh! And we use this analogy in the book, thinking about our marriage when we when we get to 50 years, hopefully 60 years, what do we want on that anniversary table? Who do we want around the table? Who do we want saying? What do we want those to say about us that are standing around our table. But that’s a great thought. Especially in that context of marriage. What does your table represent about you as a couple? That’s awesome. Chris let me ask you uh taking a step back the books about rhythms and ruts and describe the rhythms. What are these patterns that you saw as a couple that are pretty generic to all couples? I think one of the things we wanted to do when we set out here, it’s like, okay, God’s calling us to write this thing. And we wanted to kind of think differently about this. A lot of marriage books and they’re all that’s all great to talk about budgeting and communication and sects and in laws and all that. We we wanted to give couples a framework that’s a little bit different. A framework to kind of put them on the same side of the table versus pointing fingers at each other, basically asking couples the question, are you in rhythm? Or are you out of rhythm? And when people think about that question immediately every couple within seconds goes alright, I know where we’re out of rhythm and know where we need to get in. 100%. Everyone listen, they may not verbalize everything goes like, okay, we’re out of rhythm in this department in our life. And so what we wanted to do was give a framework and just some context for a couple to be able to have a safe conversation with each other not to say, hey, you really need to get better at this, but just like, hey, are we in rhythm in this area of our life or are we out of rhythm? And how do we get back in rhythm? So we focus on these five different rhythms that are pretty easy to digest and easy for couples to kind of walk together and have those good, simple, hopefully healthy, good. Before we get to the five, I want to talk about the ruts for a second. I call it my personality type. I don’t know. But you know, ruts or the other thing you describe in the book and you use the story which I thought was really good about your kids and going to Disney and And so sorry to out you on that. But you wrote the book and so who, who has the story on the Disney Rut 100% and you know, people have different reactions to it really people, I mean if you love Disney, please just let me just amusement park and life sized cartoon characters. If that is your thing, please please enjoy it. Um we just learned the hard way that it was not for us. Um and we talked about in the book that there’s kind of three ways that we have observed in our own marriage, that you can fall into ruts, there’s inherited ruts, there’s ruts that you kind of inherit from your family of origin, that you just bring into your marriage without even realizing it because you observed it and then there’s seasonal ruts, there’s kind of, you know, these things that used to serve you when you first got married don’t necessarily don’t necessarily serve you when you’re in your forties, you have to reevaluate as you change as a couple. And then there’s cultural rights, which is where I told this story where we can, it can it can become really easy to look around at the couples around us and say, well they’re doing this, maybe we should, they’re doing this. Maybe we should everybody takes their family to Disney world. Maybe we should. Um but from the moment we started having the conversation about going to Disney World, I had a pit in my stomach, I just I did not want to go, I I knew that was not for us, I love taking that. You know, we talked about the vision you have for your marriage and your family, I want to take them there. I want to take them to the mountains and the streams and nature and just be in that, that is my vision Absolutely For time spent well with my family and crowded theme park full of fake food and like sweaty people is, oh, it is so it, it was, I knew it was the opposite and I just did not listen to that, that whisper in my spirit at all and we decided to go for it. It was like, well, you know, we got some discounts and like we should probably every family, you know, if you can, you should probably take your kids to Disney world. So we said yes and we spent an entire february day from morning till evening, freezing. And it was so crowded. This was before Covid. So I mean they shove as many people as possible into that theme park. We didn’t even see each other all day because it was like, okay, you take this one here, we’ll try and grab this right here. We, you know, we didn’t even get to spend any time together. And by the end of the day, we were so exhausted. All we could think about was getting to our nice warm beds at the end of the day. And when we crashed in those beds, we looked at each other and we were like, let’s never do this again. Okay. Um, but the gift that we received from that day was learning okay. It doesn’t matter what fills other people’s tanks. Like if they want to do that, that’s fine. It’s our job to evaluate what, what brings us life and make decisions based on those values. And that’s where the peace comes from when we make decisions for our family and for our marriage, that line up with those values. Okay, chris so what did the kids think of the day? Did they like it? You know, I don’t know. You know, I don’t, they won’t even look at pictures, right? You know, I look up and go, our four year old was much younger at the time. So, you know, one day she’s gonna send me a counseling bill because she didn’t get to go to Disney World and I’m okay with it. Send me that bill. I’ll pay that one because that’s really good jenny. Let me ask you, you observe how some couples can turn their stories about one another kind of into small jabs toward each other. I can relate to that. I think if a person’s style might be verbal attack, john, what do you think? You know, it’s just, it’s not, no, no, no. Me. I was talking about me. I mean it’s not malicious, but it’s more like I can go to a verbal spat with you if you’d like to and I’m gonna try to win. Yeah. I know you don’t have to write or call us. I know that’s not appropriate, but, but my point here is I’m relating to this jenny that, you know, you can turn a little, you know, even sarcasm into something that’s not edifying for your spouse. So relate the experience that you had in that regard and how you corrected it. Yeah. I think it’s really, really common to use your spouse as the butt of a joke. I mean it happens every week in, in the, in the circles that we hang out with. Um, but the story I share in the book is as a little kid, I was always that kid observing the people around me. I was like an obsessive observer, especially of relationships. You know, I grew up in a really loving family, wonderful parents, but they would be the first to tell you that they struggled in their marriage. That was their, their biggest struggle. And so I didn’t see a couple that I wanted to emulate. I didn’t see a marriage I wanted to emulate in my own house. So it caused me to kind of ferociously look for an example outside of my house that I could find for inspiration. Um, and so every, every fall, um, in texas, we would go on these trips together with other, other families. Um, and it was to the texas, hill country and after a long, hot, burning summer, It was such a wonderful thing to celebrate the crisp breeze finally coming into texas and so we would go out to the hill country and we would all, you know, all the kids would be surrounded at one end of the table and all the adults around the other. Um and you I always listened into the adult conversations, I was that kid kind of scooting closer and closer to, that’s what it was, that was fun. They were telling the good jokes over there. Um but you could start to hear, each couple would kind of start sharing stories about their spouse, listen to what Susie did last week and listen to what this idiot did, you know or whatever the jab was and it was funny sure, but you could watch their, I would watch their spouses face and they would drop as they as they were the butt of that joke. But there was one couple there that I noticed mike and linda and they just never seem to join in that banter. In fact the only stories that they shared about the other just revealed how much they really loved and respected and adored each other and it just stood out to me as a little kid and I just made a mental note, okay, never through your spouse under the bus. There’s something there, they’re practicing this and it’s showing up in their marriage, they have the kind of marriage that I want and here’s here’s a key practice that I can kind of hold onto even as a kid and you caught it. That’s the thing. I mean, even with our own Children, you think they won’t notice they’re listening to everything chris let me ask you, give us some practical ways that we can speak life into our spouse. Yeah, Well this is definitely one of the rhythms and I wanted, before we finish what she just shared is this can be an inherited rut, right? The, the jabbing thing learned this as a child, right? You, you hear it, it’s just, hey, we just as a family, we have everyone, they kind of own it. Like we all, we always like to poke fun at each other and go and it was great. Oh yeah, but, but you look up and go, you know what, like that is not a rhythm that’s going to bring life. And so this idea of speaking life, which is one of the rhythms we put in the book, is that really, we think this is the cornerstone of the other rhythms. If you can get to this place where you’re verbalizing and communicating with your spouse, your gratitude, your appreciation for them and really helping them understand, you know how thankful you are for them. Like it just is, it is money in the bank that is going to be a massive return to look at 100% and you just look up and one of the practices that we talk about even just practically speaking is like, we can go about our day, we’re busy, we have five kids, you know, y’all have kids. Everybody’s just busy work, all that or whatever. Now, I know you’re walking past her going dang, she looks good today and, and just keep walking. But I have a moment right there to literally just say, hey, you look so good today. And in that moment I could have just had the thought and gone on in my life, but just taking that brief second to tell her, tells her I love her. It’s speaking life. It’s, it’s putting chips in the bank that ultimately has the opportunity to let her know that I love her, I’m for her. And it’s just that speaking life that then reciprocates, right? That she, it just kind of stacks on top of, yeah, it’s really good. Another positive rhythm that you have in the book is service. I mean, I think everybody gets that, but practically how does that work in your marriage? Well, it’s so important, right? And, you know, of the five rhythms, just so people know, like, you know, we’ve been married almost 18 years, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s not that long. So 18, you know, it is okay. So, you know, you know, and We, we really tried to sit with couples who’ve been married 50 years, 60 years and learn from them in writing this book. So the five rhythms that we landed on are not only true of our marriage, we try and practice them, but they’re also true across the board in these couples that we admire, who have been not just married for decades, but in love with each other for decades. Those kind of couples that you go, oh my gosh, how do you still have that? I want that. What are those common five rhythms? So that’s where the rhythms came from. But this rhythm of serving was true across the board and they would all tell us that’s where you start is serving each other. It’s, it’s so important to get your eyes off of yourself and to see your spouse. You know, we just all wake up every morning and instinctively think of our own needs. That’s just human nature. That’s the way that we are. And it takes a lot of intentionality and practice to learn to see in a different way. I think it’s the whole purpose of marriage actually become selfless because whose character is that God’s character? Yeah, I mean, I think he created the institution of marriage to teach us this point and then we just blow right through it. I think the beauty of the way we kind of posture these five rhythms is everything that we’re trying to say, Hey, learn this rhythm with your spouse comes from relationship with christ, right? We should speak words of life to christ like in our prayer, in our worship. You know, when we’re serving it, we’re serving the Lord, right? Ultimately, it’s a great way to express what he’s doing through us to our spouse. But you know, serving the rhythm of serving is not the one, everyone’s gonna run to the book and let me read this chapter, you know, like it’s just definitely not comment about selfishness for us. The way it kind of plays out for us is I think, you know, after a few years we start to recognize, okay, there’s certain things she just does not, it’s really hard for her to do. There’s certain things that I don’t love to do, I mean, can I do the laundry? Yes, I’ll do the laundry, but she doesn’t mind. So for me, we talked about in the book, you don’t mind? I’m just right, right? And hers is does not one should not stick her hand in a dirty sink with dishes. So I don’t mind that I was a server for years, I put my hand and plenty of mashed potatoes, perfect strangers. Right? So I’ve got five kids, you can imagine how gross our sink can get at times, right? So we we serve each other in that way and those are just the practical things of life. But the thing for us that we learned, you know, a few years ago, it was probably 15 years ago, you know, we early on in our marriage decided jenny’s gonna stay home with our kids, you know, she’s gonna stay home with our kids, I’ll go out and work. And so by thursday she would kind of hit this wall and we just kind of said, okay, what’s the way that I can serve her, Having my ears and eyes attuned to what’s going on her life, How can I serve her? And so we decided, hey Fridays, you just leave, go out into the world. I’ll watch what however many kids we have at home at the time, I’ll work from home, we’ll make it work. And then what happened was she goes out in the world a few hours later, she’s walking through the trees, she’s doing her thing. She’s like, I love you guys so much like she just needs more. She just comes back. That’s good. That’s good while we’re there and john’s gonna mention how to get a copy of the book in just a moment, but we’re talking about speaking life and service for your spouse. What are the others? Just quickly before john slowing down being present. Um, seeking adventure and staying in awe. Okay, awesome. These are ways that you can bring balance and rhythm to your life as a married couple and we would encourage you to contact us today and get a copy of the book by chris and jenny gravy. It’s called the Rhythm of us and details are in the show notes or give us a call 800 the letter a and the word family, you mentioned in the book about coming across, I don’t know, it was a guy or a woman who mentioned that they had these dreams, but one dream was becoming a runner and it was only a dream in his head. Oh yeah, that was kind of interesting. Just a dream in his head, describe it. Yeah, well we were, you know, we were pastors for a really long time. So we spent a lot of time in small groups, right, developing small group, starting small groups. And this was one that we had started. So it was a group of strangers, um, except for our other pastor friend there and we kind of went around the circle. Everybody shared the top five things that they thought would help everyone get to know them. And he said, well, let’s see, I’m a, I’m a pastor. I’m a soon to be father. I’m a worship leader and in my head I’m a runner and everyone cracked up laughing, you know, because they know we all resonate, we all have those things, those identities that we think we are in our heads. But if you look at our actual life, you’re like, you know what? I think I’m a runner in my head, but I actually haven’t run in a long time. But it’s something I love, it’s something important to me. It’s something I used to do really well, but I can’t find it anywhere in my life. So I guess I’m not a runner, but in my head I still am. And when he said that, I mean light bulbs went off in my head, I just he just put words to something I had been feeling in that season for so long. You know, it was a season where we had a lot of little kids and part of being a good parent of course is sacrifice. You know, there are things that you need to lay down in those seasons. But I was looking up in our life going, man, I I feel like if you asked me, I would say, you know, we go camping as a family and we have a date night every week, romantic date nights every single week. And there’s things I think that we do. I know, I think I have a green smoothie every single morning of my life. There’s things I think I would tell you this is who I am. This is what I do. But if I took a look at my actual life, they’re nowhere to be found. We haven’t gone camping, we haven’t had a date night in weeks, you know, like, so it just caused me to look at our life and go wait a second. We’ve got to get more intentional with our life or we’re just gonna drift into a place we don’t want to be, you know, that’s a really good point because I can relate to that gene and I will set the compass to move that direction, but it’s like the wind of life than takes you off course because you just get caught up in the day to day routine and you got somebody calling that needs you or you know, a couple that needs to talk with you or whatever it might be. And so it just kind of takes you away from the things that you planned and now you’re beholden to the immediate right, what’s getting in your way and you gotta kind of tack back toward that direction, which takes discipline. Let me, let me ask you too jenny. You guys have moved quite a bit. I’m thinking of spouses in the audience that are watching or listening where you know that their security comes from that home, you know that we’re building something together. Our kids are here, we don’t want to uproot them out of elementary school or oh my goodness junior high, you know, you really want to do that to the kids, but you’ve had to make those decisions to support chris and a couple of moves. What advice do you have for that spouse? That’s, you know, that’s a tough one Moving. Yes, for sure. I mean I can speak to this pretty freshly because we just moved a couple of years ago, um, after being in the same place for 10 years, you know, we were in Texas for 10 years, we were pastors there. So that kind of community was so rich. I mean we had friends who have become family, you know that our kids have grown up together, we’d all had, you know, baby showers together and just build these bonds that are just feel irreplaceable. And then over time we just sensed this invitation from the Lord for this big move to franklin. Um, and we had kind of always known that we would end up back there. It was just this sense that we had, that’s where we met and fell in love and started our family and then went to texas and we just always thought we would come back and, but when it became the reality of actually moving, like you said, Uprooting our kids and I had no, I said yes before I really had any clue what that would actually mean and how heartbreaking that would be to leave all that behind. Um, but I think walking through it, you know, these last couple of years, um, you know, it’s definitely, I think it can be a wilderness season that can also bring so much fruit. You know, we don’t ever want to choose to walk through those wilderness seasons, but everyone will have them. If you, if you follow God there, you’re gonna have to walk through suffering. It’s just part of of your walk with him and that’s what he does to bring the best fruit out of our lives is walking through those seasons with him. So yeah, and I would think chris too, you know again husband can be erratic in those decisions and that’s not what we’re talking about. This is where it’s prayed for its thought through. You know it seems like a good opportunity, what have you? It’s not where there’s a deficit there in that leadership where you’re just erratically going from one place to another cause you’re not succeeding or whatever it might be. So I want to make sure we make that point. I think it I think in our younger years, in our younger years you just go cool look, shiny thing opportunity let’s go and you just go and you feel the whiplash of that. I think for us the way we’re wired and I imagine most of the people watching here is I’m a very futuristic minded individual. She is kind of present and and past her and she loves to look back. She’s nostalgic. So in a move like that when we’re gonna make those decisions, it hits me like a ton of bricks in that moment because I know what it is and then it’s over. Uh it takes a little bit of time when we live in it. She starts to go, oh gosh, this is more the reality. And so the grieving process is a little longer for her where for me I understand hits me like a ton of bricks. Like I’m so sad to miss my friends. Like wow you really you really cried at that going away party. Like cause I know it’s over and then we move on and move on with her life. But it’s just understanding your spouse’s wiring and how they’re wired and depending on where you sit to go, like, let me just help her get some time to walk through this and I will say this on the other side, those hard seasons, those really tough seasons that you walk through can either rip you apart or bring you so close together and and our prayer and what God has done in our life is genuine. We find ourselves in a place of comfort. We start to see a little bit of a drift because it’s like season schedule, but when it’s when it’s tough and we have to lock arms and fight together, like against all the odds are stacked against us, It draws us close together and there’s nothing else. We don’t have anything else but each other and the Lord, uh those are those seasons. You go, wow, we got refined a little bit more in this season. I trust you more. I love you more. I’m so grateful for you that you had grace for me as we were trying to navigate this new season and that that those are some really special times for us. Now. That is really good. Let me let me ask you covering a little bit of the staying in awe that you mentioned the last one. Um you had a podcast guests who actually were on our program, Mark and jan foreman terrific people. They’re the parents of the switch foot guys as they’re known as the parents of this guy. But you know, real popular band crossover band, you know, they’ve hit it well and they’re great young men. I’ve met him a few times and they’re just great guys. But they said something to you when you’re doing a podcast with them that I think is a beautiful place to end today. What did they express to you? Yeah, we love the foreman’s there, a huge mentor couple for us and we’ve had several times with them. They have taught us so much, but one of the things that they taught us um was what they call step into the painting and it’s this idea of if you’re driving by a sunset, don’t just keep driving, pull over and take it in. You know, if you’re at the playground with your kids, don’t you dare stay on that park bench, get up and join in the fun. If everyone breaks out dancing around, you don’t stay on the couch, you get up and join in that party. And the whole idea, the beautiful way that they put that is that this is the one life we get to live together, you know, and it’s an incredible gift, enjoy it. Don’t just sit back and watch it unfold in front of you, step into your life. I’m laughing because of the number of times I played ground. Z’s On the play equipment with my boys. And if you don’t know the game, look it up. I’m not gonna tell you, but we must have played that 200 times camping and everything else. But that was always my attitude. Let’s jump in. Let’s play not sit and read a newspaper. Well, what a great conversation chris and jenny. You guys, you’ve really brought it. What a great book. And I hope if you’re in that spot where you feel like you’re in a rut, you don’t know the way out. This book will fill you with ideas, the rhythm of us. And I wanna make sure you can get a copy if you can make a gift of any amount. Hopefully a monthly gift, but one time gift as well. We’ll send it to you as our way of saying thank you for joining the ministry and what a great resource to have, especially for marriages that are doing okay. But could do much better get to that place. And I’m gonna go home tonight, Jean’s gonna say. Did you hear what you said? Absolutely. I’m hearing. So, You know, I’m looking forward to applying many of these things to our own marriage. Even though we’ve been married 35 years. So I would do that. Also, we have a great marriage assessment online. It’s free. You can take that we’ve had, I think over, well over a million couples that have done that. And it will point out some areas that are you doing well at and some areas you need a little improvement in. Yeah. Stop by the website and order your book, donate as you can and take that marriage assessment. The program Notes. Have all the details or give us a call. Our number is 800 the letter a and the word family. 802-326-459 Chris and Jenny. Thanks for being with us has been so much fun. Thanks for putting these wonderful thoughts down into your book. It’s great. And thank you for joining us today for focus on the family. I’m john fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in christ

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