How to Be a Dream Releasing Spouse
This week I got to interview my husband, Zac Allen, about being a dream releasing spouse. I brought my husband onto the podcast for two reasons:
He’s my best friend.
The way we do life without being competitive is unique in a marriage.
I hope this blesses you whether you’re married or not, because it’s really a picture about how to be in relationship with other people. We’ve compiled the best of this episode below, but make sure to tune in wherever you listen to podcasts!
FRIENDSHIP IN MARRIAGE
What I want to talk about is our friendship that was built in marriage. It was not easy. We have struggled. The first five years of our marriage were pretty dark and hard. We have worked hard to be such good friends. Both of us have had our own struggles, and here is what Zac had to say about the issues he worked through in the beginning of our marriage:
“When I think about what I fell in love with when I met you, it was your passion. It was that you were a dreamer. You were emotional and you were up and down, but you were going to follow Jesus no matter the cost. That girl that I fell in love with, because of my insecurity early on in marriage, is what I essentially tried to stifle. I almost tried to kill your passion because I couldn’t control it. My view of maturity in the Christian life was about keeping your poise and consistency at all costs. I thought that was maturity. That wasn’t who you were. So it led to some tough early years for us. I didn’t feel like I knew what to do with this human I was married to.”
In those years, I feel like I lost my personality. I desperately wanted to please my husband. I cared more about our relationship than anything else. Almost out of idolatry, I squished everything God had made me to be. But I realized that was not obedience. That was fear. I came to my husband in year five and suggested we go to counseling. At first, Zac wasn’t so sure about it, and this is his explanation of why:
“I think any time that we got in conflict early in marriage, I always was thinking, “how could I fix this?” and if I couldn’t figure out a solution, or if we continued to have the same fight over and over, it felt like I was a failure. It felt like I would never be good at this. I would never be able to be what you need. We got married as babies - we were 20. I had no idea what to do with emotions early on in marriage. Through counseling, I realized emotions were a part of worshipping God. My connection with God was strengthened, and out of that, my worship got deeper. As a byproduct, I was able to have empathy and connect with my wife in an emotional way.”
CHOOSING APPRECIATION OVER CONTROL
In all relationships, we can tend to want the other person to be what you need them to be. We had to learn how to lean into what that person needs, rather than what you need them to be. It took us a lot of time and counseling to figure that out. It was hard. We knew that if we didn’t put that work in, we wouldn’t make it.
That year and a half in counseling shaped our marriage. We became different people through that, we became best friends through that. There was a unity and an appreciation of each other’s differences.
Instead of trying to control each other, we found freedom to appreciate each other.
“After 18 months of counseling, I became an emotional infant for the first time. I was like a grenade going off, just exploding, of God having to sanctify my emotions. Now we have two fighters in marriage, and we still do. We have to apologize to our kids when we fight in front of them.” We went from a pretend relationship with a lot of guards to a really deep relationship. It was harder. We did fight more. There was a lot more emotion and difficulty, but it was so much healthier. Now we’ve been married 22 years, our kids are every age and in every life stage. We’re both leading and leading, but we have an awesome friendship. We enjoy each other so much. Our kids complain that we love each other too much! They hate it when we kiss or huge in front of them - they still cringe. What’s fun about our marriage is that we are such good friends.
MARRIAGE WITH TWO STRONG LEADERS
Zac constantly gets the question, “is it hard for you that your wife has such a public-facing platform and is such a strong leader?” Zac has always smiled and said, “it’s not hard at all.” He explains what that journey has looked like for him and how he has become my biggest cheerleader.
“It wasn’t always easy. Our church was merging, and I stepped off as pastor. What happened was, as I was stepping off and handing off leadership of our church, that was when you were being thrown on stage. It was a vulnerable time for me to process what this means for me, now that I’m not on stage. We had no idea what was about to happen with ministry and your public platform. We didn’t see that coming. I recognized that this was going to cost our family. Whatever we committed for you to do outside the home would cost us. I remember taking some time away and praying and what I came back to was Ephesians 5. Christ cherishes and nourishes the church and I was thinking about how I do that with you. I recognized that my wife had been given unique callings and gifts and opportunities and there will be a day that I stand before Jesus and I give an account for how I stewarded my wife’s gifts. At the end of the day, if God’s call on my life is to pastor my family and just to pastor my family. And if His call on my wife’s life is to shepherd and lead thousands of women, am I okay with that? Am I content with that? Is that a life worth living? I can say, without a doubt, absolutely. I had to get to that place where I was secure in my identity in Christ, and it didn’t depend on my role, my job, and my financial status. I was still leading my family, just in a different way than what I pictured going into marriage.”
Zac does lead me so well. So much of what I do in the world is not because I’ve wanted to do it, but because he has pushed me to do it. He sends me out the door. He really believes in the kingdom of God coming and that we’ll be accountable. He has helped me steward my gifts bigger and better than I ever would.
People always think it’s hurting our marriage, when really he’s the one that makes me live into where God has called me. He has helped me stay faithful and obedient.
HOW WE VIEW OUR FAMILY
This bleeds into how we view our entire family and Zac’s mindset as he leads us. There is this idea of competition in family. That if someone else in the family wins, it’s to the detriment of everyone else in the family. It stirs jealousy and discontent. Whenever anybody walks out our door and succeeds, we are going wild for them! We know they’re an extension of the work of our family. We see each other as a team. We all get to celebrate that person and their accomplishment.
“We view our family as an entire family ministry unit. This is the collective output of our family ministry. Sometimes it looks like you. Sometimes it looks like me. Sometimes it looks like our kids. But we all recognize that we play a role in that. Sometimes different people are on stage. Every time Jennie accomplishes something I am just so proud of her. I’ve gotten to watch God grow you in front of people. That’s who I’m married to. It’s the same person that is out there in a public way. There’s integrity there. So when you go out or you produce a book or a Bible study or a podcast and I get to see it, it makes me so emotional. I’m so proud of the work you’re doing. We don’t want to put stuff out in the world that is just neutral. We want God to use this. It’s easy to be your cheerleader.”
I mean, I love my husband! Next, we got to answer a few questions that our team put together for us.
How do you press through the not so fun days and seasons of marriage?
Zac: If your happiness and joy is based on your spouse or your circumstances, then it’s going to always be unfulfilling. Jennie is not who I worship. I don’t idolize her. She’s not the primary goal in marriage. We are about the Kingdom of God together. We can look at circumstances, whether it’s sickness or suffering, we know that there’s a greater purpose. That’s life and you don’t bail on life.
Jennie, what do you like most about Zac?
Jennie: I love your steadiness. I love that I’m all over the place, but you’re always the same.
You’re so faithful. You are such a faithful dad. Our kids know they can count on you. I know I can count on you. I also know that you’ll tell me the truth, and sometimes that’s hard. I have learned to value those people so much in my life, because I know that will make me better. I love that you are so for me. It helps me to trust your leadership because I know that you’re for me and you’re for God. You have deferred yourself over and over and over again in marriage.”
What rules do you two have for your marriage?
We don’t have too many rules, but we do go on date nights! No matter how poor we were. We used to go to Big Lots and take $10 and see who could get the best stuff. Then we’d go to Fuddrucker’s and get the kid’s meals. We have always had date night, even when our kids were young.
Annually we always get away for 48 hours, assess, do the dream guide, and see what God did in our lives this past year and where we think he’s leading us. We’ve learned to break our year down in two semesters and a summer, and we reassess after each of those segments to see what we need to change.
How has God changed your view of fun in marriage in the last five years?
I think we’re good at being fun! The reason why is because we have prioritized each other. We haven’t stopped our relationship because of work or kids. We continue to learn things together. We just learned to fly fish together! I feel like we do our best to not get stagnant and explore new things. That makes our life more fun.
What three things would you tell your 22-year-old married selves looking back?
Chill out. They need to hang on. They’ll have an amazing marriage one day, but to do the work. Don’t settle being decent roommates. We would still be surviving, but we wouldn’t be best friends if we hadn’t done the work. I always tell young couples to go to counseling and figure each other out before problems hit. You don’t just want an okay marriage. You want an amazing marriage. But it takes work.