TIFTON, Ga. (BP)--The heavy rain of Hurricane Fay didn't keep 200 couples from a "Great Marriage Experience" in south Georgia sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"Your marriage is not about you. It's about Jesus Christ," Gary Rosberg told the couples Aug. 23 in Tifton, Ga., as the remnants of Fay continued to drench the region.

Rosberg and his wife Barb traveled from Des Moines, Iowa, to lead the conference. The Rosbergs are marriage conference speakers, authors, hosts of a daily radio program and cofounders of America's Family Coaches ministry.

Marriage was created by God, Rosberg said, but culture has tried to take it away by saying that marriage is temporary and unnecessary and that sex with anyone anytime is okay. "When culture says that there is no hope for your marriage, that is not God speaking," he said. "It's the enemy of God speaking."

God will give a vibrant marriage to people with "a teachable heart," Rosberg said. "God has a plan for your marriage, but the enemy of God has a plan for it as well."

Protecting marriage takes "intentionality and it takes support from our churches," he said. "Churches should be saying, 'We're not going to let culture usurp our marriages.' ... We have to stand up for biblical marriage."

Barb Rosberg listed six saboteurs of marriage:

-- Allowing conflict to go unresolved

-- Being "I" centered instead of "we" centered

-- Being walk-away wives and husbands

-- Giving in to temptation

-- Lacking joy in the relationship

-- Being stuck in the same old routine

"God's Word has the answer to what is bothering you in your marriage," she said.

Statistically, most divorces happen in the third year of marriage, Gary Rosberg said, and years 15-18 are another tenuous time. The solution, he said, is, "You just don't bail. You stay. Commit to the relationship as a nonnegotiable. No one said it would be easy or trouble-free, but you don't give up; you hang on to the cross of Jesus."

When husbands and wives take the attitude of serving each other, Barb Rosberg said, they begin to try to "out serve" each other. "Marriage is not about getting from each other; it's about giving to each other," she said.

The fact that men and women are created differently is no surprise to anyone. Speaking to the husbands in the group, Barb Rosberg reminded them that women need to be shown LUV: "listening, understanding and validating."

"When a woman feels honored in this way by her husband, she feels incredible," Barb Rosberg said.

The Rosbergs said they believe there is a secret to improving any marriage. "This works every time," Gary Rosberg said. "If you will just talk for 20 minutes a day, I can guarantee you that your marriage will go to the next level."

"When you get home from work," Barb Rosberg explained, "take 20 minutes and sit in your chairs, at your table, somewhere comfortable and quiet. Tell your children that this is your mom and dad time. Then just talk about your day. That way, at the dinner table, you can have your time with the children to talk about their day and you have already had that special time with your spouse."

Concerning difficult times, Gary Rosberg said, "I got conflict, you got conflict, all God's children got conflict. It's not a matter of IF conflict comes up in your marriage. It's WHEN conflict comes up. Then it's how you deal with it."

They listed four elements of conflict: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling and withdrawing.

"These elements are real," Barb Rosberg said. "You have to be careful and not injure your spouse."

"When you can depersonalize conflict and just look at the issue, you can work on the conflict in a constructive way," Gary Rosberg said. "Hurt is the primary emotional response to conflict in a marriage, then anger comes in as the result of the hurt.

"Unresolved anger can really trip up a Christian couple," he said. "It takes you places you don't want to go. Bitterness and resentment can eat you alive."

But forgiveness creates a clean heart, he noted. For forgiveness to happen, he said four sentences are necessary from the offending party:

-- I am wrong.

-- I am sorry.

-- I don't want to hurt you again.

-- Will you forgive me?

"You can't leave out any of those steps for the forgiveness to be complete."


Polly House is a corporate communications specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Gary and Barb Rosberg will lead two more Great Marriage Experience events in 2008: Sept. 13 in Orlando, Fla., and Sept. 27 in Plano, Texas. For more information go to www.lifeway.com/rosbergs. The Great Marriage Experience video series and other resources by the Rosbergs are available at www.lifeway.com or www.lifewaystores.com.

(c) 2008 Baptist Press. Used with permission. All rights reserved.