A Conversation with Terry Owens

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We talked to Terry Owens about his new book, Extreme Marriage.

Terry, in the dedication of your new book, Extreme Marriage, you say “you are not there yet”. Once we’re married and we love each other,

aren’t “we there yet”?

I don’t think we’ll ever be there. Tari and I have adopted this approach that marriage is an ongoing process. And wherever we’re at in the process, we need to be improving. We need to loving each other better; we need to be becoming better spouses to each other. I don’t think we’ll ever, “be there”.

Boy, I don’t think any of us who are married can honestly say, “We’re there”. It seems to be a consistent and constant growth and development thing, isn’t it?

It sure is. After being married twelve years, I look at people who have been married longer, and realize they have gone through things we haven’t experienced. And I realize they know things we don’t know. I know there is always the opportunity to do marriage better.

Terry, tell us how you use extreme sport to bring us back to the biblical truths and challenges of marriage.

Over the years I’ve developed a consuming interest in marriage and I read lots of marriage books. But I know that most people don’t — They’re not getting the same information I’m getting. I knew I needed to make this information more accessible, more appealing.

Each chapter begins with an extreme sport. As the story is told, I draw a principle and apply that principle to marriage.

For example, take skydiving. Once you’re out of the plane, you’re pretty much committed to the endeavor. It’s not a matter of, “Gee, was that the right thing to do?” or “What could I have done differently? It’s more, “Now that I’m out of the plane, how do I make this work?” The marriage application is commitment.

My view of marriage now is, once we’re married — we’re committed. There is no looking back. Let’s figure out how to make this the best possible marriage it can be.

Have you and Tari experienced any of these extreme sports together?

Absolutely. The great fun of doing this book was the research (laughs). As the book idea came together, we began our own adventure — white water kayaking, skydiving, caving, we hiked the Grand Canyon, and we bicycled Tuscany. Tari is probably more adventurous than I am, but we knew we wanted to experience as many of these sports together as possible. We knew that would make the writing more authentic.

Terry, what are your favorite chapters?

I personally relate to the big picture applications of caving and skydiving. Tari and I experienced these sports together so the commitment application of skydiving and the exploration component of caving are especially significant.

In the Catch a Wave chapter… You write, “We should never use loving acceptance by our spouse as an excuse for indifference to our appearance or mediocrity in our approach to life.” Can you explain that for us?

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A crucial component of marriage is acceptance — and feeling that our spouse accepts us and loves us exactly as we are right now. In that environment, you are freer to grow and freer to share of yourself.

Someone might say, “Well my spouse loves me and accepts me regardless”, so they let their appearance slip.

As Christians, we should be pushing the development envelope. We should let our spouse’s acceptance be a springboard to improvement — and not say, “I’m good enough”.

It’s a lot like grace. We’re forgiven — it’s done, we’re in. But as Paul asks, because we’re forgiven does that mean we should go on sinning? No. Likewise, when our spouse accepts us, we’re free to grow.

How has the book affected your marriage?

You can’t write a book like this, with integrity, without it challenging you and affecting you personally. Often while I was writing the words, I’d stop and ask myself, “Is this really you?” I found myself doing constant reality checks with Tari.

And I believe the project was God-inspired — There’s something different about investing in a vision like that. It’s a different quality. And I know Tari saw something unique in me as I worked through the book.

Have there been any revelations about God’s design for marriage or what a Christ-centered marriage means?

God’s primary purpose for marriage, His design, is to make us more like Christ. That has stuck with me through rough patches in our marriage. Through a relationship challenge I can say I don’t have the option of quitting — becoming more like Christ means becoming more relational with my wife. So I need to figure out more ways to love her better, to meet these challenges and persevere.

I came to the realization that even loving Tari as much as I do, I need to love Christ more than I love Tari. When I do that, I am a much better husband. When I can see her needs and understand what she needs from me, then I can grow.

What’s next for you?

My second book, Super Bowl Marriage, will be published by WaterBrook in July. Extreme Marriage is a book for men and women — Super Bowl Marriage will be more of a man’s book. It’s similar to Extreme Marriage in that it uses sports to convey marriage principles. In this case, it’s the National Football League.

I’ve always been a huge football fan. Super Bowl Marriage is part NFL trivia game, part marriage book. In each chapter I tell the stories of different players, teams, games, and coaches, but I don’t identify who I’m talking about. I give readers clues, hoping that they’ll want to solve the mystery for themselves. I then draw some point out of the story and apply it to marriage.

For example, I might tell the story of the fanatical off-season conditioning program of the 49ers first-round draft choice in 1985. I’d discuss this receiver’s many accomplishments as he became one of the league’s premiere offensive players. And I’d go into detail about how he approached his preparation for each season. Then I’d say “That’s how Jerry Rice prepared for an upcoming season. This is how we can approach our role as husbands.”

Copyright © 2005 Growthtrac.

Terry Owens has a Master’s degree in communications from Wheaton College. He and his wife Tari, now in the 12th year of their own extreme marriage, have been skydiving, caving, cycling in Tuscany, hiking in the Grand Canyon, and sea kayaking in Alaska. They teach in the marriage prep seminar at Willow Creek in the Chicago area.

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