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Cherish Your Spouse, Change Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Air Date 01/23/2017

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Author Gary Thomas describes what it means to truly cherish your spouse, offering practical advice to help you build a more satisfying and fulfilling marriage. (Part 1 of 2)

Episode Transcript



Mr. Gary Thomas: Marriage will take off when a woman hears Song of Song 6:9 from her husband.

Jim Daly: And what is it?)

Gary: "My dove, my perfect one is the only one." Just think about it. My dove, my perfect one is the only one. I don't want you to be anyone else. I'm never comparing you to anyone else. I love you for who you are. You are my woman. You define woman to me. And the wife's saying the same thing to my husband, "You are my man; you define what it is to be a man to me." That's when you really feel cherished

End of Teaser

John Fuller: That's Gary Thomas describing one of the best ways that you can improve the relationship you have with your spouse and strengthen your marriage. Gary is with us today on "Focus on the Family" and your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller.

Jim: John, what Gary's talkin' about is such a powerful word, "cherish," which means to hold dear, to feel or show affection or to care for someone, to nurture them. And in this culture today, I think we have lost the meaning of it and so often, the practice of it.

It's not a word we use very often, but millions of us who got married said it during our vows, right? I think it was, how does it go? We promise to love and to cherish until death do us part. And we try to love each other. Here at Focus on the Family, we're constantly talking to married couples about how to love each other deeper. But we really have missed this idea of cherishing your mate and we are gonna talk about that today with Gary Thomas. I'm lookin' forward to it.

John: And Gary's been on the program a number of times. He's a gifted writer and speaker, at least 20 books and hundreds of magazine articles. He's part of the teaching team at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas and he's here to tell us more about his newest book which captures that concept you're talkin' about, Jim, Cherish:The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage.


Jim: Welcome back, Gary.

Gary: Thank you.

Jim: It's always good to have you here.

Gary: Ah.

Jim: You're just bubbly and smilin' and it's great to have you at Focus.

Gary: Well, it's a highlight for me to be at this place.

Jim: Hey, let me ask you. You heard my little intro on Cherish and it did strike me. We say that word when we do our marriage vows, but I don't know that even Jean and I, if we've ever talked about it since that day. (Laughing) I mean, what's your definition of "cherish?"

Gary: I believe "cherish" is taking our marriages to the next level. You mentioned how all of us, just about all of us pledged to love and to cherish till death do us part. We always speak about love. And when we think about love, we think about commitment and sacrifice and hanging in there.

Cherish raises the bar a little bit higher. And it's interesting because when I was working on this book, I would ask women, how do you feel cherished? What makes you feel cherished? And it's like, turn over the hour glass (Chuckling), get a cup of coffee, 'cause you're gonna be there for a while.And I would say to guys, what makes you feel cherished? And there'd be, "Am I supposed to be?" It [is] almost like it's awkward.

Jim: Yeah. (Laughing) It doesn't sound like a masculine word.

Gary: But here's what I've found.

Jim: It's "be cherished."

Gary: I put it in the language of a car. A lot of guys are into their cars.

Jim: There you go.

Gary: What does it mean to cherish your car? Well, if you cherish your car, you protect your car. You're not drivin' down pot holes. You're indulging your car. You're giving it the best wax job and the wash job. You think about that car and when you do, it gives you pleasure. You want to showcase your car. You want others to see. "Hey come on outside and see my baby."

And it's kinda funny. I don't mean to insult wives. I'd say, "Can you treat your wife the same way you treat the favorite car you've ever had, you know, before you had to get the SUV or the minivan?" But (Laughter) that has that direct application. And I think it's so sad that we often think of cherishing things more than cherishing people.

But the good thing, I think the good news is, that cherishing is a skill that can be learned. It can be practiced. We can choose to cherish. You know, infatuation comes and goes, but cherishing is something that we can build.

Jim: Now you see that cherishing happening even back to the Garden [with] Adam and Eve?

Gary: Yes.

Jim: Refresh my memory. Where did you catch that moment where there was cherishing occurring?

Gary: That I believe is the goal of a cherishing marriage. You might ask why were Adam and Eve in Paradise? Why were they so happy early on in their marriage? And you could say, well, there wasn't any sin and that's true. I don't think it's just because they were naked and unashamed. Some younger men might think that, but I don't think that was it. Here's what I think was a huge spiritual issue going on.When Adam first saw Eve, there was literally no one to compare her to.

Jim: She was it.

Gary: There was no Juanita (laughter), there was no Shenice. There was no Janet. There was just Eve. She defined what a woman was for Adam. And Adam defined what a man was for Eve. He couldn't say, "Well, you know, Juanita has a better sense of humor." Or "Shenice is slender or curvier or has, you know, more intelligence or is more gracious." She just defined woman for him.

And I often tell guys, 'cause this is a time when guys often cherish their wives. It used to be when the bridal march started, everybody would turn around and watch the bride come in. But I've noticed that's changed and I think the Internet memes have sort of changed that. A number of people look up front at the groom's face.

Jim: Right.

Gary: Is he crying? What's his expression? They want to see that. And I've stood by a number of those men as a pastor when they're watching that bride come down the aisle and at that moment, she's the only one he sees.

There are hundreds of other women in the room; he is just so fixated on her. He's focused. She's the only women in the world to him. And I said, cherishing is about making that a daily reality, not a once in your lifetime experience, but a daily reality.Marriage will take off when a woman hears Song of Song 6:9 from her husband.

Jim: And what is it?

Gary: "My dove, my perfect one is the only one."

Jim: Ah.

Gary: Just think about it. My dove, my perfect one is the only one. I don't want you to be anyone else. I'm never comparing you to anyone else. I love you for who you are. You are my woman. You define woman to me. And the wife's saying the same to my husband, "You are my man; you define what it is to be a man to me." That's when you really feel cherished.That's when you really feel accepted. And I think that's what Song of Songs is getting at, that cherishing attitude. 1 Corinthians 13 celebrates love. Song of Songs celebrates cherishing.

Jim: Now some couples, or let's just say some wives are going, "Ah! I don't have that. I want that. Maybe some husbands, too are saying, "I wish we had that kind of relationship." How does a couple reset and recalibrate, because we've not recognized that important ingredient of cherishing one another? How do we change it today? We've been perfunctory. We love each other. We said those words and we remember that commitment, but we don't cherish. We don't cherish each other.

Gary: There has to be a new mind-set and then there are a number of practices we can put into place. The mind-set, I think, is best captured by a statement about the ballet. Russian-born choreographer George Balanchine once said, "The ballet is woman." By that he meant that the best, at least in pas de deux, the couple's dancing. The best male dancers recognize [that] people come to the ballet to see the woman, her agility, her grace, her strength, her beauty.

And so, his job is to help her be more than she could be on her own. Because he can lift her, turn her, support her, catch her, she can do things that you just can't do on your own. And George Balanchine also said, "My job is to make the beautiful yet more beautiful."

And I think if men would adopt that attitude, how do I showcase my wife? How do I hold her up? How do I support her so that people see the beautiful woman that I know is there? And then you help her through that performance. And then I love it at the end. If a male dancer has done his job, he's helped her; he supported her. She's wowed the crowd. He finally throws her. She lands in the spotlight. It's so powerful. The audience stands up and a thunderous standing ovation.And the male dancer steps back into the shadows. He's breathing hard, but he's done his job. The female dancer is celebrated. She's adored. That's what he was there to do.

And so, the idea is, how do I take somebody who's probably been beat up in life and ignored and rejected, how do I indulge them with my love and celebrate them so they become really the powerful person God created them to be celebrated and even recognized by others.

Jim: Yeah, you know, in many ways, Gary, that can sound exhausting. The demand is so high to be able to do that. God, of course, can do that, but I'm not God.

Gary: Right.

Jim: I'm just somebody's husband and a friend to many.How does that person, you know, see that requirement to cherish in that way and actually begin to meet that expectation?

Gary: My marriage changed when God gave me a heart that took pleasure in my wife's pleasure. I think that's the difference.

Jim: Was there a moment that occurred.

Gary: No, no, I think it was going through these Scriptures. I think it's just praying about my marriage, asking God to come into my marriage.

But when I got my highest fulfillment in loving her well and just sensing that, you know, when we talked earlier in a broadcast about a lifelong love, seeing our marriage as worship, that recognizing that that's one of the best ways I could love my heavenly Father, was treating Him as my "Father-in-law" and loving on His daughter.

Gary: And I think it was sort of a corollary from that when it came down from that and just being able to realize that that's when I find the most meaning in my marriage. And so, it's not a burden. It's not oppressive. It's kind of fun. It's a delight. It's just a change of mind-set. And here's the thing.

The lust to be appreciated, to be noticed, to be served, to be pleasured is like another lust. It can't be satisfied. It has to be crucified. If you're still operating with that mind-set in marriage, you can't have a spouse that can focus on you that much to satisfy the lust because you're never noticed enough. You're never appreciated enough.

But when you have the attitude of Romans 12:10, outdo one another in showing honor. And so, okay, if I want to be a faithful believer today, I've gotta out do my spouse in showing her honor. Then if your spouse isn't honoring you, say okay, this is an easier day. You're running downhill that day, not uphill. If your spouse is really spoiling you and lovin' on you, you think, man, it's gonna be hard to obey Scripture today. (Laughter) I've gotta really up my game.

Jim: Rise to the challenge!

Gary: And it's that sense of fulfillment that comes and there's just a joy that comes, I think, from aligning your heart with God's.

Jim: We've talked a lot about the relationship and how a man needs to honor and cherish his wife. What does that look like in the other direction, a wife cherishing her husband? What are some of those examples?

Gary: Well, when a wife looks at her husband like Adam, the way I describe it is, the day she gets married, she has a commitment to contentment. No guy has it all. You have to realize that your guy has certain strengths and he doesn't have [everything].

Jim: (Laughing) So start with a deficit.

Gary: Right.

Jim: That's how we begin this.

Gary: And you decide that he defines what a successful husband is for me. I'm not gonna compare him to Joe. I'm not gonna compare him to Frank. I'm not gonna compare him to Antoine.

And women, I don't think they really realize they're doin' it. I was working with a young couple and he was a champion swimmer in high school, so he got attention from an Ivy League school, but had him come to their school because he was willing to swim for them. And he had a girlfriend who now has become his wife and she was just seeing somebody else that it was an actor or football player or somethin' that was just stacked. And she just remarked about it and he thought, "Man, I've gotta look like that." And so, he starts liftin' different kinds of weights and what-not. But that actually made him less effective as a swimmer because if you're a really good swimmer, you're not gonna be necessarily a really good linebacker or vice versa.

Jim: Right, that's true.

Gary: I mean, a linebacker's just gonna sink and so, it's a wife blessing her husband with the realization that he can't be everything. And so, when she gets married, she's makin' a commitment. If you're not a handyman, I'm not faulting you for not bein' a handyman.

Jim: Whew! That makes me feel better.

Gary: If you're not the kind of guy that enjoys two-hour soulful conversations, I'm not gonna feel jealous that my girlfriend's husband, the first thing he does, he comes home and says, "How about your day? How are you feeling? Where are things going?" But you made a choice and you're tryin' to build on the strengths of that choice.

Jim: You know, Gary, you talked about the ballerina. I think that's a beautiful illustration of a man's role, a woman's role, a husband and a wife. You also use an analogy of second violin. Second fiddle might be more commonly said.

Gary: Right.

Jim: You know, I don't play second fiddle to nobody, you know. (Laughing) But how does the second fiddle position work? And what I appreciated about it is that limelight search. Who's gonna be the one in the limelight?

Gary: Right, it came from a famous conductor who said, "I can get any number of first violins." He goes, "The most difficult person to find is the second violin."

Jim: Not because of their playing ability but because of their attitude.

Gary: Willing to play that role to put as much effort and excellence and meticulousness into playing second violin as you do for the first violin. But he said, "Without the second violin, the orchestra isn't gonna sound well." I mean, you've got instruments that they do their part. If everybody's tryin' to play first violin, it's gonna be a disaster. And that's what happens in marriage, is that we always want to be first violin and people are listenin' today and saying, "Boy, I wish my husband was like that with me as the ballerina."

And that's the mind-set that we're talkin' about, that (Sigh) do we believe Jesus or not? He said it's better to give than to receive.

Jim: Right.

Gary: And it's hard for us to trust that. I'm just saying, when I test that out and trust Jesus, I find that those words are true.

Jim: Yeah, that's powerful. But there's something in our humanness, in our flesh that keeps us from moving in that direction, isn't [it]?

Gary: It is.

Jim: It's odd, especially for us as believers and it's true in our marriages, too, Gary. Talk a bit about how you undo those patterns that you've been maybe into for 10 years or 20 years or in Jean and my case, it'd be 30 years we've been married.

Gary: Yeah.

Jim: And I see those things. Sometimes temperament can come into this. I could see as I read the book and looked at the material, temperament, you know, one of the things for me when I'm under pressure, my personality type as I've tested it, I can be a verbal attacker. I mean, I will respond with verbal jabs.

Gary: Right.

Jim; And I could see how that doesn't play well in cherishing. So, I've got to learn how to back that off and think before I speak, right? Rather than saying, "Man, have you looked at the house today?" That would be like a verbal jab.

Gary: Right.

Jim: Or what's happened today?

Gary: Well, see, that's why I like to present cherish as the new model of marriage. Most wives don't want to know that their husbands are just willing to be committed to them. And most husbands don't want to know that their wives just put up with them. We want to be cherished.

A friend of mine was driving with seven other men and he said, "How many of you feel like your wives love you? Every man raised his hand. And he said, "How many of you believe that your wives like you?" Every hand went down. (Laughter) Those husbands felt loved; they didn't feel cherished. So, what you're talkin' about is exactly where we need to go, Jim, because I do think that needs to be the new model. I don't want my wife just to know that I love her. I want her to feel cherished. And a lot of it comes with this mental determination that I'm gonna display cherish. And let me give a couple examples where I've seen it in action, that it's worked really well.

I got onto an elevator one time. Another married couple got in, middle-aged. And I'm in the back of the elevator and he's standing in front of the buttons, just kind of staring at 'em. (Laughter) So his wife says, "Floor 9." And you'd think she's just given him a physics test. I mean, I wanted to say, "It's between eight and 10," but that would've been mean (Laughter), so I just [kept silent] and she just smiled. He finally found it and she just cuddled up to him and said, "Your mind is really full about that business meeting, isn't it?" And he goes, "Yeah." She goes, "Don't worry; it's gonna come out."

And you know, she could've shamed him. She could've been sarcastic. But what she did is, she recognized he's doing something really important and that's distracting him from something that really doesn't matter. And so, she chose to look at the best, not to use it as a moment to ridicule him or belittle. And I think that man walked out of the elevator feeling cherished and supported and encouraged.

Here's how another wife did it. It was great and it was a younger couple. They got married very young and got pregnant almost right away. And they're walking through a mall. She is eight months' pregnant at this time and she's just kinda sauntering through the mall, trying to get going. And this beautiful lithe blonde woman walks by, very athletic. And her husband, Brian says, "Man, I forgot how pretty you are when you're not pregnant."

John: Ooh.

Gary: He really said that.

Jim: Yikes.

Gary: And she just broke out crying and he honestly didn't know why she was crying. He thought he was complimenting her. (Laughing)

Gary: And here's what was so amazing. When I was talkin' to her, and this is why they are now happily married 28 years later and she goes, "I realized I had to give him the benefit of the doubt. He would never intentionally hurt me. Things got jumbled up in his mind. He was trying to say, you know, you're a beautiful woman. I know things are different now, but I remember that. And she goes, "And so, I just had to do that mental gymnastics, realizing that's not my husband and giving him the benefit of the doubt."

Jim: Yeah.

Gary: And she goes, "And we laugh about it today, because he honestly was mystified, why are you crying? I don't know." (Laughter) And she goes, "You know what? It can be really hard for a new bride to do that with her husband. She doesn't understand the way a man thinks. She doesn't understand the way a man feels." And she says, "At least give your spouse the benefit of the doubt."

Jim: That's a gracious woman, let me tell you!

Gary: It (Laughing) definitely [is].

John: Gary Thomas is our guest on "Focus on the Family" today and we would invite you to get his book, Cherish or a CD or download of this conversation at Gary, why is it so hard for us to give that grace? I mean, it seems like a lot of younger couples, they live there and then time kinda happens and kids happen, and we get a little more comparing?

Gary: Yeah, yeah. You know, I think part of it is just our sinful nature, because the reality is, a cherishing marriage is so rich, it's worth working for. I think one of the biggest lies is that infatuation is the pinnacle of marriage.

And the reason I wrote Cherish is that infatuation, neurologically lasts about 12 to 18 months. Unless you have a damaged brain, it can't go longer than that.Cherishing is better. I'm been infatuated and I'm in a marriage where we're growing in cherishing. I'm saying cherishing is better. I don't envy those infatuated couples, because I know the infatuation's gonna end and they're gonna have to do the hard work of realizing who they're married to, go through the grace and forgiveness and get through the bitterness.

And the other thing, John, it's just so silly, is contempt makes no sense. I was with a couple one time at a dinner and he's a very quiet man and he wasn't participating at all. I was just tryin' to be nice and bring him into the conversation and so, knowing what he did, I said, "Don't chefs usually think such and such?"

And she immediately cut in. He's not a chef; he's a cook. A chef prepares things. He just heats 'em up. There's a difference." (Laughter) And it was clear that she was afraid I was gonna give her husband a little more respect than he deserved and she was horrified. Why would anybody respect my husband?

And I knew his situation. He worked at a rest home. He had charge of the kitchen where they fed 200 residents every day and I know that the budget is always tight and then say, "Okay, here's the budget and we're cuttin' it by 10 percent and you've gotta offer three different entrees." And so, sadly a lot of meals probably are just heated up and what not.

And yet, he said, "But I prepare things." She goes, "No, you don't. You just heat 'em up." And she goes, "Besides the residents don't care what the food tastes like anyway." (Laughter) And he said, "They do; they really do."

Gary: And I thought, here's a man really tryin' to make a noble effort. He can make a difference in those people's lives. Why wouldn't she pray for him, even a miracle of provision like Jesus feeding the 5,000. She could say, "Lord, with a decreased budget, can my husband create tasty, nourishing meals for people at a difficult time in their life?"

When you look at Scripture, there are two groups I wouldn't mess with—orphans and widows. If you want to see God get angry, I mean, God so many times says, "Look after the orphans and widows in their distress" in the New Testament, in the Old Testament that's what really gets Him angry. He's directly addressing one of the demographics that gets so ignored in our society.

But she was just so afraid that she was not gonna let anybody call him a chef, and the cook. And I just thought, I'm sorry, but how stupid, because they're gonna go home and they're gonna have a tender evening? "Honey, thank you; we had such a wonderful evening. Can I rub your feet? Can I give you a back rub before we go to bed?" He's gonna feel distant and he's gonna be quiet, so she's gonna say, "See how boring a guy I married?" And I just thought, it serves no purpose to express disdain or disrespect or contempt. It's never in the history of the world produced a more intimate, more fulfilling and happier marriage. So, have contempt for contempt. Aim for cherishing and cherish is the strategy we can use to bring our spouse to their glory.

Jim: Gary, we are comin' in for a landing here on day one. I want to speak specifically to that couple and I don't know if it's the husband or the wife. And again, they've been married maybe 20, 30 years. And this is the rut that they have been following now. They haven't done the cherishing. How would you give them hope as we sign off today? What do you say to them about changing it tonight, rather than goin' after each other verbally? What can they do differently?

Gary: Here's what I think cherishing can point to an entirely different marriage and why this mind-set thing matters. I was in Winnipeg in February. I wouldn't recommend that to anyone.

Jim: Yeah. (Laughter) I think July is [better].

Gary: You don't know cold until you've been to Winnipeg in February. I met a delightful man named Terry who had, had two different marriages. Both wives died of a terrible disease. And he had heard me talk on marriage and he just said, "Gary, what you say is so true, but I want to share my story with you"

He'd been married to his first wife for, I think, 17 years and she'd been fighting cancer for five years and the last seven months around the clock care, just had to do everything. And when your wife gets that sick, that's all you can do.

Gary: She died and he was single for four years and then married his second wife, who would later die of cancer. But he said his second marriage was so much richer and happier than his first marriage, not because his second wife was more excellent than his first wife.

Jim: Huh.

Gary: He said, "I knew 'em both well," 'cause he'd been married to both of them for almost two decades. He goes, "My attitude was completely different."

Jim: So it was a bit more about him than them.

Gary: Yeah, "I treated them like you're talking about. I treated my wife like royalty. I treated my second wife like royalty. I called her 'Princess.' I treated her like one. I served her." He goes, "I got used to doing that with my first wife when she went through cancer and I had to do everything. And I had to do everything as a single man, so I just kept doing that for my second wife. And she was so grateful and she was so happy and she thought she had, you know, already got a taste of heaven. "I didn't know that husbands acted like this." But he didn't realize, "I didn't act like that in my first marriage."

But what really hit me and what I really stress is that he was adamant, "It's not that my second wife was more excellent than my first. That's not why we had a happier marriage. It's that my attitude was so different. I cherished my second wife and had a much happier marriage." And so, I'm saying, regardless of what your spouse does, if you cherish your spouse, I believe you're gonna have a happier marriage.

Jim: Gary, that is a good word and this has been so helpful to understand an avenue into your spouse's heart that will lift both husbands and wives in marriage. I love your book, Cherish, The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage. And I want to encourage every married couple listening right now to get a copy of this book. Don't hesitate to contact us if your relationship isn't in the place where you want it to be.

Maybe you're struggling or you feel stuck in that proverbial rut. Let us help you. we have our Hope Restored program, which provides intensive counseling for couples over a four- to five-day period if you need that. Or you can talk with one of our Christian counselors. They will pray with you and refer you on to someone in your area and hopefully, put some tools in your hand to make your marriage stronger. And why do we do this? So that you can be a great witness to the world around you in your marriage.

John: And you'll find resources, as Jim just described, at or when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459.

Jim: And folks, we really need you to help support the work that Focus is doing each and every day. It's to rescue and strengthen marriages and so much more. We want to help husbands and wives find godly solutions to whatever issues they're facing. Maybe you've benefitted from the advice and encouragement that we offer on programs like this one. Or you've gotten a resource from us that really helped your family. I hope that's true.

Now you have the opportunity to return the favor and help many other families who are looking for solutions, as well. Support Focus on the Family with your prayers, of course and a financial gift, so that we can do what we need to do together to do ministry and bring biblical solutions into the lives of people who are hurting.

And for a donation of any amount today, I want to send you a copy of Gary's book, Cherish as our way of saying thanks for supporting the ministry.

Gary, it feels we've just started the discussion and we have so much more to talk about. Can you join us next time so we can continue a fabulous conversation?

Gary: Can't wait.


John: Well, me neither and we hope you're going to make plans to join us here, as well. In the meantime, let us know you're praying for us and that you can support Focus on the Family. You can do so by calling 800-A-FAMILY or you can donate at And when you call or go online, be sure to get the download or CD of our conversation with Gary Thomas. That'll include what we have for you next time, as well. Generally our CDs and downloads have more content than we can fit into these half-hour broadcasts.

Now coming up next time, Gary's going to explain why paying attention to your spouse is a great way to cherish them and how you can become more "cherishable" in return. I'm John Fuller and on behalf of Jim Daly and our entire team, thanks for listening. Please join us tomorrow, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.

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Gary Thomas

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Gary Thomas is an international speaker and best-selling, award-winning author whose books include Pure Pleasure, Holy Available and Sacred Marriage. He has also written numerous articles for several prominent national magazines. Gary and his wife, Lisa, reside in Texas and have three children. You can learn more about Gary by visiting his website,