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About this series
Interview with Chip and Theresa
Insights from 45 Years of Marriage
Have you ever seen those couples on the news who have been together for decades? How did they make it? And how are they still just as happy and in love as when they first met? In this short series, Chip and Theresa Ingram will reveal their secret as they reflect on 45 years of marriage. They’ll explain how an authentic, committed relationship with God has been their foundation for the past 4 decades. Discover the ways a God-first marriage can lead to deeper intimacy with your spouse, strength in difficult seasons, and a happier home.More from this series
ANNIE: Well Mom and Dad, it has been really fun being on air with you guys and talking about your marriage, celebrating your forty-fifth wedding anniversary.
Today we want to jump in and talk about every marriage, no matter our background, there are common areas that create conflict and we have struggle in
ANNIE: That if we can step outside and be honest, even a husband and wife who truly love one another, who puts God first in their life, they are still going to have problems.
ANNIE: And some of those common ones are money.
ANNIE: Kids, sex, communication, and navigating hardships. Just to name a few.
CHIP: Just to get us going.
ANNIE: I think we could add to that list. But today I just want to cover some of those. Which one, as you look back over your marriage to the beginning, even up until today, which one has been hardest for you?
THERESA: Some of them are seasonal…
THERESA: …in our lives. It’s like there are different seasons of life, different things come up. I love being a mom, I love being a grandmother. I’m a nurturer, I just want to take care of them and make sure they have everything they need and love on them and Dad and I are so different. And I think one of the things that we, during our raising children years, was disagreeing on discipline.
ANNIE CHIP: Mm-hm.
THERESA: That was hard for me, because he’s, uh he’s uh General Ingram.
ANNIE: Reporting for duty.
THERESA: And I don’t know. I’m Mary had a little lamb, I guess. I don’t know who I am. But there were times when I felt, for me, it was a struggle when I felt like he was disciplining a little too much or too harsh. And it would hurt, it hurt me inside and there were times that we argued over that and then we got to a point where we realized that we weren’t always on the same page and so we would sit down every so often and talk through all the kids and what they needed where they were in their lives and what kind of discipline. Because the same kind of discipline doesn’t work with all those years.
THERESA: And different children have different personalities and so, you have to, you have to, I think you have to sit down as a couple and really talk about each of your children and what do you see in them? Where, where are they having their struggles and what do we need to see God do in their lives? And doing that really helped us be more on the same page as we disciplined the kids.
CHIP: And I think to that point too, you look through a different lens. So, your mom, she’s a woman, she’s a nurturer, she wants to protect, she wants to provide, she wants them to be safe. And my lens is I want them to develop, I want them to grow, I want to launch them into the world. I want them to have an impact. Both are really good things.
And looking back, I’m just really glad, very imperfectly and sometimes you wish you could move the clock back because, you know, there’s a reason why first-borns tend to be more driven than any other children is because when you don’t know what you’re doing, you can have the expectations. They don’t get quite the balance that you want for others.
And so, yeah, it was really, really good and hard to hear her side like, “Wow, just being intentional, this one needs this to solve the struggles. But then they need this to grow.” And recognizing what I hear from your mom is, too, is taking the time where every one of your children are this special gift from God.
CHIP: And what is your plan of intentionality? What do they need? What needs to develop? And the other side is where do you see giftedness? Where do you see creativity? where do you see the fingerprints of God that are unique on them? And you say, “How do we cooperate with that?” And it doesn’t have to be like us and it doesn’t have to be so much education or they don’t need to be successful or have some occupation that fulfills your desires. And I think little by little, we learn to do that together as a team, but boy, we had a lot of arguments getting there.
THERESA: Yeah, we learned to do it better. I wouldn’t say we learned to do it and never had another issue with it. But we learned to do it better.
CHIP: Well said.
ANNIE: Well, and it sounds like you guys taking the time early on in your marriage to figure out communication was a foundational tool so that you could communicate about kids, because that was another topic that you really had to meet each other in the middle and understand, you know, what your kid needs and each of you have such different perspectives.
THERESA: The one that I think can override a lot of the others, for a lot of marriages, is sex. And when you come from a background that, where sex was so distorted, so different than God’s design, I think it can cause a lot of negative feelings and arguments, misunderstandings in your marriage.
CHIP: That’s so critical, because I think, I knew your mom loved me very much and in my mind, I’m super attracted to her, she is so beautiful, I love her, I know she loves me. I have this complete disconnect on, well, why, what is the problem? You know? I didn’t understand her background, her wounds, what is it like to be married before, how that experience has not been very, very positive. Even views from, you know, her family of origin.
And so, to me it was very, like, I don’t get it. What, is there, what is wrong? And so, it was really frustrating and I felt really rejected and my default response, it’s not a good one, but my quick default response when I’m really frustrated is anger. And because your mom is so sensitive to rejection and has been deeply rejected at very deep levels, when I began to raise my voice, not even yell or scream, or if I show a disapproval and it was around this, it was like putting gasoline on the fire. And it was just, there was just times where what is wrong? Where do we get some help? I don’t, how can I love someone so much and her not want to be with me?
THERESA: When you don’t understand what’s wrong with you or why you think a certain way or…and so, it took us getting some counseling. So we went to a counselor and for several weeks and just, and learned, actually, learned some communication tools and just some other things that helped us – we really needed to communicate and I didn’t know how to communicate in that area at all.
And I had come from such a negative background that for me, becoming a Christian and then marrying a Christian man, well, I thought it was going to be totally different. I thought, well, you know, I looked at sex as a bad thing, because I was in uh a non-Christian world. And all I saw was couples, you know, sharing partners and just all kinds. It was just all negative.
And then when we got married, in my mind, I don’t think I, just how I was feeling, I’m not sure I actually thought this, but I think I expected angels to show up on our wedding night. And just praise the Lord. Just praise! Well, that didn’t happen and I was so, so discouraged because I felt, well, why? And then, and I thought, Well, how can God, why does He ordain sex? Why did He make sex?
ANNIE: That’s a great question.
THERESA: You know, and I struggled with that for a long, long time. And those days, you know, there weren’t hardly any, well, you couldn’t find any information. It wasn’t like today. There’s so much, so much help. Well, we didn’t have any help and when I tried to get help from friends, nobody wanted to talk about it.
CHIP: And conversely, today, there’s more messages even inside the Church that I think are such a sad and broken perversion where sex is all about just my experience and that sex outside of marriage is okay, God understands, and that covenant is a very sacred, sacred covenant. And you can’t fully be safe and fully be yourself apart from a marriage covenant.
And I think the other thing maybe for, I can only speak to men. I think this is true of women, but I, you know, I’ll go out on a limb, I think there’s part of my growth was getting off of just being frustrated all the time and digging into: there’s a way that my wife thinks about things that I don’t understand that make no sense to me. I think sex is a gift from God.
And I need, I need to learn what makes her tick. I need to discover her family of origin. We need to have talks about what, how she views things. I need to have empathy. Anger is not working. Getting mad doesn’t work. I need to be understanding and empathetic and then I need to have expectations that say: you know what? Sex is one aspect of let’s consider ten your marriage. And I think somehow the culture and even inside the Church is: well, if it’s not like raging hot, awesome all the time, you have a bad marriage.
And I remember really thinking through, Wow, I have this amazing wife, amazing mother, she is faithful, she is godly, we are best friends. I have all these things that are positive. And I could say, “Is my sex life what I really want it to be? No. Do I have a really good marriage? Yeah. Are we going to keep working on this? Yeah.”
But it doesn’t break everything and, you know, I remember when we had a few years we couldn’t communicate. I mean, we read so many books and so, we made it through that. I’m kind of guessing we’ll make it through this. Versus starting to attack the other person and a lie that I believed was when I got really frustrated, our marriage will be better when she changes. She’s got to change. And, you know, God, You’re not seem to be doing a very good job. I am going to help You. I am going to change her.
And it was just, finally came to the point, I mean, not like some big spiritual awakening. It was, I am so angry, so hurt, so defeated. Everything I try doesn’t work. And I just came to, The only one I can change is me. And so, okay, what, you know, even in my worst moments where it’s ninety percent her and ten percent me, it was, Lord, would You show me my ten percent? And by the way, it was way more than ten percent in various areas.
THERESA: Yes, it was.
CHIP: That’s right.
ANNIE: I wanted to touch on hardships. You guys have definitely not had a trouble-free marriage, a perfect marriage, and have gone through loss, grief, cancer, lots of moves, job changes, broken relationships with different people in your life. How have you navigated those?
CHIP: I think it would go back to some things we talked earlier about why it matters so much to get up and meet with God, trying to take those hardships through the lens of: Is God sovereign? Is He really good? If He’s all-powerful, if He’s all-knowing, just getting a lens on, you know, theology matters.
It’s, I mean, I remember when your mom went through cancer twelve, thirteen years ago. God, I know You love me, I know You’re good. You know I want her to live. I will, we will see each other forever and ever. I am begging, asking, and we are getting the best medical help, but I want to hold her loosely. And, you know, we have been through injustice, betrayals, super financial hardships, times with, you know, kids where maybe someone is rebelling or a tough time in our marriage.
Or, you know, these major changes where we’re starting over from one coast to another and the adjustments to, you know, cultures that are so radically different. And, you know, I think most of all is drawing near to God, drawing near to each other, and then, people in your life, you can’t make it through hardships alone. I just, I just think of mentors, friends, supporters, whether it’s fellow staff members or mentors or the closest friends.
ANNIE: Why do you think that hardships tend to be an environment for division in marriages?
CHIP: I think it’s, it puts your relationship to the test. And, you know, we have actions and we have reactions. Our actions show our intentions; our reactions reveal our character. And I think hardships peel away and we react and we can say whatever we want about what we believe and what we think is real and true. Our behavior always is the evidence of what we genuinely believe.
And I think hardships reveal some things that are painful to see in yourself, but they’re also times that they either kind of make you or break you. You draw near to God and you’re desperate and some really, I would never want to go through some of the things that we have been through together. But there’s been an intimacy that has been created through going through those that I wouldn’t want to trade for anything.
THERESA: As I look back on my life, the hardest hardship that I experienced was just being abandoned as a young mom. And just having the man you love get involved with another woman and the rejection that that…so, I had lived through that, I had come to Christ through that. And going through that as a believer, early on as a believer, my hope, my help, everything was just running and getting on my knees and crying out to the Lord just giving Him everything and crying out for His help.
And it’s not that – He didn’t always change the circumstances, but He always helped me. He always picked me up and I think when we go through as a couple, we do the same. We cry out to God, we cry out to God together if it’s something with our children or something really serious. I mean, we really seek the Lord and uh, and God’s Word, a verse in Psalm 119 says, “If God’s Word had not been my delight I would have perished in my affliction.” And I have lived by that.
That, and it doesn’t mean that, I mean, we had I think when we moved from Santa Cruz, California to Atlanta, Georgia and Dad fully believed that God was calling him there and we were leaving our church, which I loved, and leaving our son, it just, I got so angry with him…
THERESA: …because, and so, for a while, I didn’t like him. I mean, so, I, you know, there are sometimes when you just, it just hurts so much. And you feel like, Well, if it wasn’t for him, this wouldn’t be happening.
ANNIE: It’s like easy to blame others for the problem.
THERESA: Yeah, oh yeah. Yeah. But I went. I was always, you know, I always surrendered. I always surrendered to the Lord, I always surrendered to my husband, because I knew that was the right thing to do.
And then later as I look back upon those years, I’m so glad we went. And you see it in hindsight what God did and I grew so much through that time, even though it was hard. You were in high school and we had so much fun, getting you ready for the proms and all the different things you did and just those high school years and your friends and, I look back and just, just see the amazing things that God did through that time. And so, sometimes you have to, in the hardships, you have to remind yourself…
THERESA: …that God is good, He is for me…
THERESA: …and I can’t see it now, but He promises, He promises…
THERESA: …whatever He allows us to go through, that He has good for it. And you just have to hang onto that.
CHIP: I think my one verse that I hang onto, Hebrews 10:36 says, “You have need of endurance so that once you have done the will of God, you might receive what was promised.” And I think so much of hardships is just not giving up and not giving in and realizing in the pain and the difficulty and the grind, as you persevere, it really does lead to proven character and proven character to hope and hope doesn’t disappoint, because the love of God is poured out in our hearts.
And there is a real progression of how God works through these things for our good. But I think it’s okay to say, “And I hate the process.” You know? I just hate the process. And, at times, it feels like you can’t make it. But you just persevere.
CHIP: And not, I don’t mean that just pull up your bootstraps. It’s, it is you draw on God’s grace, God’s people, God’s Word and tell Him, “I can’t make this, but for this hour…”
CHIP: …or, “For the rest of this day, if You’ll give me what I need, I won’t quit.” And you get up the next day and you do it again. And as your mom says, then you look back in a year or five or ten and you think, Oh please, if there is a different way, I’d like that one. But I wouldn’t trade what You produced. I think of the Hebrews 5 passage where it says, “For even the Son of Man learned obedience through the things which He suffered.”
CHIP: That there is a process – even when you have never sinned, there is a process in a fallen world where God uses suffering and difficulty and tribulation to develop us and love us and make us who He wants us to be. That there is no other way.
ANNIE: Yeah. Well, and that’s guaranteed that we are going to suffer.
ANNIE: That’s just part of life. And I love that we began our time and we have ended our time with Jesus as our hope and that no matter what happens in our lives, that we can lean into Him. I just wanted to say thank you to both of you for your time to share your story and to be honest.
Congratulations to forty-five years of marriage. I pray you’ll have many, many more years to celebrate ahead. And I just wanted to share with our listeners what my greatest takeaway has been from your marriage. And it’s that Jesus Christ is your greatest treasure. And that to me was modeled day in and day out. And that Christ is our greatest treasure and our greatest hope is the foundation for our relationships. And you modeled. And that’s the foundation for a father/daughter relationship, for a mother/daughter, for a spouse.
And I just, whoever is listening today, whether you’re married or not, if you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, cry out to Him. He wants to meet you right where you are. And He wants to show you that He can satisfy all the desires of your heart and He can help you have a lasting relationship.