Today’s interview is with Bob and Emilie Barnes. The Barneses have been married 58 years, getting married when Emilie was a senior in high school and Bob was just graduating college. From the very beginning, the Barneses made the Bible the authority in their relationship. Through the years, they’ve raised two children, battled cancer together, and published a combined total of nearly 100 books on organizing your life, growing closer to God, and building a happy, Christ-focused marriage. For today only, get their devotional, Together Moments for Couples: Devotions to Draw You Closer, along with three other marriage resources, for our Wedded Bliss Bundle—part of Vyrso’s 10 Days of Love!
1. Bob, after 58 years of marriage, what’s your best piece of advice for husbands who want to make their wives feel loved?
Emilie and I have always said, “Men are strange and women are weird.” I’ve spent 58 years trying to figure her out, and one of my biggest pieces of advice is to realize that your wife’s thinking process is different than yours, so men—don’t expect her to be like you.
God has given her unique qualities that are intentionally different from mine: her strengths strengthen my weaknesses, and my strengths cover her weaknesses. Someone once asked me if it was hard to be in competition with Emilie and I replied, “No, because we don’t compete with each other; we complement each other.”
I know that if I love her and tell her often that I love her she responds in a positive fashion. I’ve also found out that our children are made to feel secure when they hear me talk to their mother like that.
Women also love to know they’re secure in their relationship. Show me a confident woman and I’ll show you a woman that’s secure with her husband. Husbands should express their love daily. You can never tell a wife often enough that you love her.
2. Emilie, what’s your best piece of advice for wives seeking to make their husbands feel loved?
Show your husband RESPECT, RESPECT, RESPECT. Inside each husband is a 12-year-old boy. He might look mature, but inside he’s still looking for approval. You might say, “I’ll show him respect when he deserves it.” That’s not how it works. As his wife, you should be his number-one cheerleader. He wants to know that his wife respects his leadership and wants the best for his family.
I’ve always tried to only say positive things about him when I’m with other women. In fact, one year I bought him a Superman T-shirt and laid it out on the bed when he retired for the evening. He was so amazed that I thought he could fly. Often when things get strained, he’ll remind me that he’s Superman.
And don’t forget—long after your children have grown up and left home, your husband will still be with you, so make sure the two of you are still friends.
3. How has our society’s perception of marriage changed over the years, and how has this helped and hindered how we approach dating and marriage?
Never in our life time could we imagine that our country would be so divided over the word “marriage.”
Today our culture has attempted to make marriage old fashioned and out of style, and those who believe in the biblical ideas of marriage are out of touch. Today’s culture wants to do what pleases them for the moment, without taking into account what the consequences might be. The road is cluttered with lives that have been destroyed by not trusting in God’s principles. They have been sold a bill of goods on what Hollywood has portrayed as the truth, rather than believe what God had in mind for his people.
Thank God there are still people who want to believe in God’s plan for marriage and those who want to live out his plan for their lives.
4. What’s your best advice for maintaining a relationship that glorifies God?
Here are a few that have been effective in our relationship:
- Ephesians 5:21: “Submitting to one another . . .” We are in this relationship to serve—not to be served. When difficulties arise, it’s usually when selfishness sets in and one of us wants to be served rather than to serve.
- Ephesians 5:33: “. . . let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” There are two action words for a healthy relationship: for the husband it’s to LOVE your wife, and for the wife, it’s to RESPECT your husband. It isn’t always that simple, but it’s certainly a good beginning.
- Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths . . .” If we say we love each other, we must treat each other accordingly. I’ve always tried to encourage Emilie to become the woman that God created her to be, and she’s treated me the same. One of our guiding principles of communication is, “You never have to apologize for words never said.”
- John 11:4: This was our theme verse when Emilie was going through her bone marrow transplant in Seattle. It reads, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
5. You dedicated Together Moments for Couples to the families you met at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA. What did you learn from the other couples battling cancer, and what did you learn about your own relationship?
We seldom grow during the peaks of our life—it’s the valleys that let us grow. The cancer journey tested me, regarding how big my God was and how much I really wanted to serve my wife.
Any valley of life will test your relational level. The valleys test you to see what you truly believe, they strengthen your prayer life, and they bring your family and friends closer together. The power of prayer comes alive during these times.
We were in Seattle for five months. Those individuals and family members became a community and family. We were able to pray with them, to smile when they got good news and to cry with them when the news wasn’t so good. Most of them were treated and able to go back home for local treatment, however, we lost three good friends who passed away while being treated. Some were ones with great faith and some had no faith.
We continued to grow in our faith and truly recognized that God had a plan for our lives. And it was for our good (Jeremiah 19:11).
6. How have you two overcome the difficult times in your relationship?
We have not overcome our difficulties, but we are overcoming them. Scripture has been such a powerful resource for us. Having a community of fellow believers hold us up in prayer, great medical professionals who have provided us with medicine, and a tight-knit family who are our biggest fans have all helped.
There are also simple gestures that help: a note in the mail, a short phone call, a dish of food left at the front door. These actions also gave meaning to those around us. They had the opportunity to serve someone besides themselves.
We all have difficulties in relationships, but I have to say that our difficulties have been so small compared to many of our friends. God has been so gracious to us and we have been so blessed. I find that four words have helped us not let the little things become big: THANK YOU and I’M SORRY.
7. What sets Together Moments for Couples apart from your other books?
This book encourages couples to come together and read one thought a day, discuss how to implement it in their lives, and pray a simple prayer.
Many of our books deal with the individual audience, but our couples books try to encourage the husband and wife to spend devotional time together and grow closer. It’s a time where mom and dad come together and communicate, and usually that time branches out into other topics concerning their lives.
8. Between work, kids, family, and life’s everyday distractions, how can couples make daily prayer and devotions a priority?
You have to make time together a top priority and stick to it like you would a business or social appointment. We’ve learned over the years that people do what they want to do, so devotions must be a top priority for both of you. It may take shape in a lot of different ways, so be flexible depending on your stage in life.
Emilie and I can testify to the importance of coming together on a frequent basis to share God’s Word. It gives you a time to slow down and quiet your spirit and soul. We all need to be reminded to slow down and know that he is God (Psalm 5:1–3).