Rick Warren
Pastor, Saddleback Church

Rick Warren on Making a Marriage Work

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Rick Warren on the myth of compatibility.

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is an evangelical leader, best-selling author, and founding and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California. Along with his wife, Kay, Warren founded Saddleback in 1980 with just a single family to fill the pews. Today the church has a 120-acre campus, 22,000 weekly attendees, and has provided spiritual guidance and source material to over 400,000 ministers worldwide.

He also leads the Purpose Driven Network of churches, a global coalition of congregations in 162 countries. More than 400,000 ministers and priests have been trained worldwide, and almost 157,000 church leaders subscribe to the Ministry ToolBox, his weekly newsletter. His previous book, The Purpose Driven Church is listed in “100 Christian Books That Changed the 20th Century.” Forbes magazine called it "the best book on entrepreneurship, management, and leadership in print.”

Warren received his BA from California Baptist College, his MA from the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, and his Doctor of Ministry from the Fuller Theological Seminary. Warren has recently taken on several issues previously ignore by the evangelical community; he is the most prominent signatory of the "Evangelical Climate Initiative," and is the co-founder and co-director (with his wife) of The Global PEACE Fund, which fights poverty, disease, and illiteracy.  Warren has spoken at the United Nations, the World Economic Forum in Davos, the African Union, and the Council on Foreign Relations.


Question: How do you make your marriage work?


Rick Warren: When people want to know about how do you make a marriage work, I say marriage is a work of art. And it’s half art and it’s half work. It literally does take work. Great marriages are not accidental. They are international and it takes work.

I don’t believe in the phrase “incompatibility”. I honestly believe that any two people can be compatible if you grow up. The bottom line is, I want what I want, you want what you want, and that’s just selfishness.

And the purpose of marriage is to teach you to grow up. It’s to teach you to be unselfish. We all think marriage is to meet all my needs. Well in the first place there are many needs you have in your life that your husband or your wife will never be able to meet. And so you’re setting yourself up for major disappointment if you ever think you’re going to find the man or woman who’s going to meet all your needs. You won’t. Only God can meet all your needs. And a lot of people get married looking in their husband or wife to fulfill a need that only God can fulfill. And it just causes disappointment, frustration, bitterness, and anger.

As a pastor now for over 30 years, I’ve counseled many, many couples through marriage problems and pre-marital counseling. All marriage problems come down to one of five areas: money, sex, in-laws, communication and children.

When Kay and I got married, we went five for five in the first month. And our marriage was down dooby-doo down, down. And we were in love, but we did not get along because we were the exact opposite in every single DNA cell of our bodies. I say high, she says low. I say why, she says I don’t know. It’s ob-la-di, ob-la-da. We are literally totally opposite of each other; but that can be a good thing if you’re willing to grow.

I’ve grown more from my wife than from any other person. She’s grown more from me than from any other person. Because if you have the same strengths, then you tend to have the same weaknesses. So you both get depressed at the same time. You both get up at the same time. And marriage is complimentary. It’s not competition. It’s not 50/50. It’s 100/100. It’s learning to offer yourself to the other person, and they offer themselves to you. And it’s, “Well I’ll go this far if you go this far.” It’s 100/100. It’s learning to be unselfish. And so I believe that there are things you can only learn in marriage. If you don’t get married, you need to get in some other kind of close relationship where you have to give yourself away. And I strongly believe in taking care of nieces and nephews, and helping with kids and things like that. If marriage teaches you unselfishness, having a kid really teaches you unselfishness. Because all of a sudden you just can’t live on your own schedule. You have to think of somebody else first. It’s work, but it’s worth it.


Recorded on: December 11, 2007