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

Air Date 01/24/2017

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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 2 of 2)

Episode Transcript


John Fuller: And this is John Fuller in the studio with Jim Daly and we'd like to remind you about the Kindness Challenge that we mentioned a couple of weeks ago and give you a quick update on how we're doing with that.

Jim Daly: (Laughing) A little bit of silence there, hey John, hey, John?

John: Yeah, you have to think about this.

Jim: You know, we launched an honoring marriage Cherish Your Spouse campaign for churches here at the beginning of 2017 and part of that is the 30-day Kindness Challenge for husbands and wives. And there [are] really just three simple rules. First, don't say anything negative to your spouse or about your spouse. And second, instead say somethin' positive to them or about them every day. And finally, do one small act of kindness each and every day during this 30 days. So, I'm doing pretty well. I might give myself a B, I think. I started a little journal. That's a good thing.

John: I think that's very kind of you, very good of you.

Jim: And then I've made a phone call to Jean during thy middle of the day to say, "Hey, I just wanted you to know I'm thinkin' about you and I love you and bringing her maybe a little sweet treat from a road trip or something like that. So, that's my report, John. Now over to you. (Laughter)

John: Awkward silence, no I think it's a good challenge to put down and it's hard to execute every day those three things, right?

Jim: Wait a second. It is.

John: I mean, I find myself trying to be kind and then I kind of X that out by being unkind later in the day. But I'm trying to be more proactive. Dena is an "acts of service" person, so I'm tryin' to beat her to the punch if you will and take care of things in the kitchen or make the bed, simple little things.

Jim: Make the bed, I've done that one a couple of times.

John: Well, it's a small thing, but it means a lot to her, so I'm trying to do that more and more. I think it's good that we have 30 days to kinda get in the habit and place some muscle.

Jim: Without a doubt and it does change your attitude. That's what the whole point of it is.

John: Well, we want to invite you into this kindness challenge. Learn more about it and Honoring Marriage 2017 at www.focusonthefamily,.com/radio.


Mr. Gary Thomas: Because when you get married, your first call, your first look has to be toward your spouse. And I would say that particularly to younger couples. That's what has to change in marriage. When you get good news or bad news, if your first call is to your parents, if your first call is to your best friend, you're not fully married yet. That first call, that first look has to be toward your spouse if they're gonna feel cherished.

End of Teaser

John: Gary Thomas is back with us today talking about an important word that can transform your marriage--"cherish." Now if you don't know what it means to cherish your spouse on a daily basis, then stay tuned for today's "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller.


Jim: John, I think it's easy for a lot of us married couples to get into kind of a routine or a rut. It's that default mode for how we treat each other and I'm guilty of it and I think Jean would say she's guilty of it, too. It's natural for us as human beings. It's not talking about overly harsh or cruel, but we may not be loving each other as much as we should.

And Gary last time gave us some great practical ideas on how we can do that and some funny stories on how other couples maybe they didn't do it that well. And I think today we're gonna dig into some more of those practical approaches on how to cherish your wife, based on Gary's new book, Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage.Gary, welcome back.

Gary: It's great to be back. Thank you.

Jim: One of the major things you address is how well we respond when our spouse is talking to us and I imagine this is a common problem in marriage. Husbands and wives, they get busy or they get distracted. Maybe we're staring at our cell phones or television or whatever it is right in front of us and we're not paying attention to each other the way we should be. We're not tryin' to be rude, I'm sure, but maybe the point of the conversation doesn't seem that significant to us. Husbands are probably guilty of that. But you say our response becomes critical over time. Why is that?

Gary: An analogy I like to use for guys is that marriage is like baseball. You're the batter at the plate and your wife is throwing pitches every day. And once a pitcher throws the ball, the pitch counts, right? You can let it go by and maybe it's a called strike. Maybe it's a ball. You can foul it off. You can hit it, but it's gonna go in the record something happened. And every time our wife says something to us, it's like she's throwing a pitch and our batting average is going to be affected. And the best marriages and this is why it's so hard (Laughing) for husbands, right? 'Cause if you hit 350 in the Major—

Jim: That sounds pretty good.

Gary: --Leagues, you're pretty good. If you hit 350 in marriage, it leads to disastrous consequences.

Jim: What do you got? What does your batting average have to be?

Gary: Well, the best marriages, they call 'em "Marriage Masters" is about 90 percent and that means 9 out of 10 times.

Jim: So, battin' 900.

Gary: And (Laughter) it's very practical and it's helped me. You know, just being a guy, I thought, well, okay, here's how you can kinda keep count. But it's basically if your wife says, "Honey, there's this article that I just read" and so often something that interests her, might not interest me. But here's what another husband said that helps me so much. He realized he was working on a $200,000 bid that was due the next day. He's self-employed and this is a big thing.

And his wife had a little down time. She works beside him. She was on Facebook and found something that seemed so fascinating about some semi-distant friend that frankly (Laughter) he couldn't care anything about.

Jim: Not the moment.

Gary: But here's what I love [about] his approach. Here's why his wife feels cherished. He goes, "I realize that when Jacqueline is talking to me, it's not what she's talking about, it's who's talking."

Jim: Ah.

Gary: And if I want to cherish Jacqueline, I have to notice. And he was taught when he was young, you notice somebody by looking at 'em. That's how they know—

Jim: Right.

Gary: --you're listening to 'em. And so, he forces himself to look at Jacqueline when he's talking to [her] to say, I might not care what she's saying, but I care about her. I care more about that $200,000 bid than this semi-friend from Facebook and you know what? I care more about my wife than that $200,000 contract and so, I need to catch this bid.

Jim: Ah, when you talk about that idea of "bid," what do you mean by it as a couple—bidding for each other's attention or? What do you mean by "bid?"

Gary: If you see something in the newspaper and point it out or the husband says, "Honey, look at that bird. It's incredible," even if she's not into birds or if the husband is just into something and shares something that matters to him, that's a bid.

Jim: Yeah.

Gary: You're throwin' it out. Whenever a spouse is saying something, here's what they're really asking. Do you still cherish me? Are you still interested in me? And that's what made dating so intoxicating, 'cause somebody was curious and they asked us for more. Cherishing is about maintaining that curiosity and asking for more. Now some are gonna come back and say, "How can I be curious about somebody that I've been married to for 30 years?

Jim: Ah.

Gary: And this is the thing. You're not married to the same person. I've been married to my wife for 31 years now. But here's the thing. Having children changes a woman. Becoming an empty nester changes a woman. A woman losing one or both parents changes a woman. A woman who succeeds in her occupation or fails in her occupation, a woman who goes through cancer, we change all the time because life changes us. And if we lose that curiosity, our spouse gradually becomes a stranger. So, to cherish them I have to maintain that curiosity and say, "Tell me more. What are you going through? How is that affecting you? Because it matters to her, it should matter to me.

Jim: Now how do you, I'm just thinking of Jean and I when we've had not knowing the approach, but doing it by default, we'll have these exchanges sometimes on my end, sometimes on her end, but you know, I'll have that moment where I'm kinda chatty, but she's trying to get things done. (Laughing) And so, she'll give me the, "I love you, but now is not a great time to talk." How do you politely redirect that energy because actually right now I have to concentrate on this other thing? Even though I love you and I cherish you, but I practically have to get this done in the next two minutes?

Gary: Well, I think the way you said it is actually pretty good. Remember we're supposed to catch 9 out of 10 bids. I don't think anybody gets 10 out of 10.

Jim: Right, but I'm talkin' about the one, I guess. (Laughing)

Gary: And if you have that foundation where the bids are usually caught and your spouse says, "This sounds fascinating. I can't wait to hear about it. Let me get this done and then we'll hear it."

Jim: Okay.

Gary: But see, I've seen the damage when people don't take bids seriously and it amazes me when they didn't even realize it. I was behind a young couple at church. There were three people, a husband and wife and then he had one of his buddies there. And the pastor was very engaging. He told funny stories, but good truth and it's the kind of sermon where [there's] a lot to respond to. And so, every time the pastor would say somethin' that's funny, everybody would laugh and I'd watch, because the wife would look at her husband to share that laugh, but he always looked left toward his buddy.

Jim: Ah.

Gary: And then the pastor would say somethin' that was really moving and so she'd look toward her husband, "Did you get that?" And he's looking toward his buddy. And I saw her face begin to fall and I saw her become blank in her expression. And by the fifth or sixth time, she stopped looking.

Jim: Wow.

Gary: She's just staring ahead with this frozen look 'cause he kept sharin' it with his friend. And look, I've worked with enough of these young couples. I knew what was gonna happen on their way home. She's gonna be a little bit cold and frustrated and he's gonna say, "What's wrong?" And she's gonna be upset that he doesn't know what's wrong!

Jim: Right.

Gary: And so, he's thinkin', "Oh, she's impossible. See, how am I supposed to be married to a woman that is just so frustrated when I didn't do anything wrong?" And here's the thing. I'd just say to the young husband, she wanted to share the sermon with you and you chose to share it with your buddy. She wanted to have you catch those bids. She's looking your way and I'm sure it was unintentional, but by your always going to your buddy instead of her, she felt like she was frozen out and that's what makes her feel frozen.

Because when you get married, your first call, your first look has to be toward your spouse. And I would say that particularly to younger couples. That's what has to change in marriage. When you get good news or bad news, if your first call is to your parents, if your first call is to your best friend, you're not fully married yet. That first call, that first look has to be toward your spouse if they're gonna feel cherished.

Jim: Oh, those are good words, Gary. And so important for younger couples, and Jean and I made lots of mistakes in that area when we were first married.

John: We did, too.

Jim: I mean, (Chuckling) [back to] what you referred to last time where you like the cherish factor better than being a newlywed and infatuated newlyweds, 'cause you'll go through the pain of learning the importance of cherishing after you've had, I guess a few falls on your face when it comes to infatuation.

Gary: Right.

Jim: You know, you did touch on that, but we didn't really describe infatuation. A lot of marriage specialists talk about that. They even contract that infatuation stage lasting about two years when you first get married and then it falls into different patterns and different ruts at that point. The newness of the relationship has worn off.

Gary: Uh-hm.

Jim: That's what you're talkin' about. What comes after that infatuation of the newlywed phase, right?

Gary: Absolutely. The problem with infatuation is what neurologists, those that study the brain, call "idealization." You're giving the person strengths they don't really have. You're missing the weakness that everybody else sees, but you don't. You've fallen in love with this person who actually doesn't exist. It has to die because intimacy is being fully known and fully accepted and you can't accept somebody that you don't really know. You're accepting a mirage.

You can't maintain an infatuation. Infatuation happens whether you want it to or not. You can control it. You cannot act on it. You cannot obsess over it, but it comes and goes. Cherishing can be built with a new mind-set, with a new heart-set. By doing actions that move us to cherish our spouse, we become more cherishing.

And like I said before, cherishing is better than infatuation. It's more important than infatuation and that's the whole point behind cherish as a new model for marriage. Marriages should be better in 2017 than they were in 1917 or 1967, because in every other arena of social society and intellectual thought, we grow.

So, why don't we try to take our marriages to the next level and say, it's not just about staying in there. It's about a wife who really feels cherished, a husband who really feels cherished, so that young people can see, infatuation is wonderful, but there's something even better on the other side. If we stay with this, we work through it, we can get something that pays off even more.

Jim: Well, and the reality is, when we can demonstrate that to the world that's watching that will lift Christ up.

Gary: Yes. Yeah.

Jim: People will be intrigued by that. Why do you have that kind of marriage? I want that kind of marriage. What's the secret to your marriage? And you can turn and say, it's our commitment to Christ and that is awesome, that moment.

Before we move away from that idea of the, you know, getting and being engaged with your spouse more regularly on a 900 batting average basis, you know, nine times out of 10 you're gonna make time to hear your spouse express their thought to you. Talk about the, I think it was Gottman research where the other end of that continuum where you're batting maybe 2, 300, [which] usually lays the ground work for divorce.

Gary: Yeah, they call them "the disasters," that basically they almost never survive. And we talk about rose-colored glasses and I think you could talk about contempt-colored glasses. I've seen this with a couple where their mind has become so filled with contempt and disgust, they're blinded to the one or two good things that their spouse does. In fact, she was asking him to share what he thought and he patiently and calmly did that, and then she screamed at him. "See, you won't even say that. You won't even answer," after he had just answered the question.

Jim: (Chuckling)

Gary: He had just listened to her and it was shocking to me as an objective third party that she couldn't see what he had just done because she was just so eager to pounce. And that's why those are miserable marriages. Contempt hasn't helped a single marriage in the history of the human race.

Jim: Yeah, you know, Gary, I'm thinking of it in this context and correct me if you disagree with me, but I'm thinking of how the Lord dealt with people on this earth.

Gary: Uh-hm.

Jim: And it puts really a different color to the time the Lord encountered the adulterous woman. It's not contempt. He's speaking truth, but He almost tries to raise her game by saying, "Go and sin no more." He does it not through contempt, not through shame, but through acknowledging that she's forgiven. And now I want you to go and sin no more.

Gary: Right.

Jim: Gary, let me zero in on a couple of feelings that I have on behalf of the listeners. I am sure there are people who are saying, "I shouldn't have to change for my spouse to cherish me. I'm a pretty good guy." What's your response? You probably have had that in counseling where, "Come on, Gary. I'm a good person. My wife [or my husband], they just need to accept who I am."

Gary: Yeah. The reality is that I think all of us want to be cherished. When guys understand what it means, even guys want to be cherished. And if that's the goal, I think if you live in the real world, it's easy to say, how do I make myself a little easier to cherish? It's not that my spouse doesn't have an obligation to try to accept me, but why wouldn't I make it a little easier for them?

Here's an example. I know I've said before, I'm not clinically OCD, but I live in the neighborhood right next door to it (Laughter), you know. I've had my routines and early on in my marriage, because I didn't understand this about me, if Lisa just upset my routines, I would just be all flustered and what not. And my son and his new wife had just moved into an apartment in Seattle. And they happened to move into an apartment that was like a quarter of a mile from Green Lake.

It's this very nice trail around a lake in Seattle that I used to go out of my way to run there when I was going to the airport, 'cause I lived about 70 miles north of that, but the airport was a little bit below it, and so I would set up my day coming back so I could have this nice run around Green Lake. And I always hated it because then I had to sit in sweaty clothes (Laughter) all the way as I drove back up to Bellingham, Washington. That was the price I paid to run in Green Lake. Now I have a son with an apartment and a shower a quarter mile from Green Lake. I'm thinkin', I'm gonna get to run around Green Lake and take a shower and go home in fresh clothes. This is just (Laughter) obsessive stuff, right?

So, I was thinking that day, we're havin' a[n] evening. I just was thinkin', how am I gonna get a run in? We'd already gone to church. We had the afternoon. I'm thinkin', well, I had to do 10 miles, which is ridiculous. I didn't have to do 10 miles. I'm not on a program. I don't have a coach, but this was just in my mind [that] I'm supposed to do. I kept saying, well, but then when am I'm gonna do my run and my wife very lovingly and gently, the model example, just said, "Gary, I know you need to get a run in, but maybe that's not the most important thing right now. Maybe you can run a little shorter today and then you can do it tomorrow and we'll have this or that."

And she just said it in a way where I realized, I was obsessing. And I don't want to be that way. I want to be like Jesus who came not to be served, but to serve. I didn't want the whole family to feel like they had to get around on that. And so, I was thankful for that because I don't want her to just let me go into the worst parts of my personality.

Now people will ask, I did get the 10-mile run in, a glorious part (Laughter) of it, next to my son, which made it even better. He had to go much slower for me, but he was gracious and did that.But I recognized that there are things that must be very irritating about me. My friend Linda Dillow, wrote a book. I love the title: What's It Like to Be Married to Me?

Jim: Hm.

Gary: And I think that's a healthy question sometimes just to ask what is it like? What must be most difficult about being married to me? And if I want my spouse to cherish me and saying, "You know what? How do I address that? How do I make it a little bit easier? Because yeah, in the idealistic view of things she should cherish me regardless. In the real world, I can make it easier or more difficult. And if I want to be cherished, I can find out what those things are that make it more difficult to cherish me and at least try to address 'em.

Jim: Gary, I really can't relate with wanting to run 10 miles (Laughter). How about you, John?

John: Not at the present, no.

Jim: It might be my garage. That seems to me, that's my OCD place.

Gary: To be fair, it's a little easier in Seattle, which is like at 10 feet above sea level--

Jim: Oh, yeah, thank you.

Gary: --than where you live, where it's 6,000 feet. There you go.

Jim: Yes, that's the reason right there.Gary, we have had a couple of great days with you talkin' about this concept of cherishing your spouse. Should the wife who's hearing this or maybe the husband who's hearing this today, when they get together tonight after work and after the dishes are done and they sit down for a moment, should they ask each other what can I do to cherish you? Or will that be too much of a leap? How do they get going?

Gary: No, I think for a lot of marriages that would be great advice. Tell me when you felt most cherished by me?

Jim: I would think some people won't even know how to answer it.

Gary: Yeah, they might not. One real challenge is that a lot of people go into marriage and they don't feel cherishable. They've been beaten up.

Jim: Yes.

Gary: They've been abused and it's hard for them to receive it. I've worked with some couples on a second marriage where the wife was abused, cheated on, just the nightmare stories that you get counseling calls all the time about this, where it's just not even a question. The other spouse has destroyed the marriage and how hard I've seen one husband in particular I could think of, had to work to make her feel valued and honored and cherishable.

And one night it just finally clicked and it was so healing. It was just such an incredible story, where you began to see her come back to life, that she had something worth saying, that he was interested in her. And he said to her, "I don't care what other women want. I don't care what other women think. I only care what you want. I only care what you think."

And when she had been married to a husband that dismissed or ridiculed her every time, it just said it. So, you have to realize, is your spouse in a place where they can be cherished? Now others and this is the thing about cherishing. It has to be very particular. I talked to a wife whose husband was rather famous.

He'd been drafted in the first round of a draft. He had been a quarterback. When he was in high school he played the glamor positions. He was short stop. He was point guard. He was even lead singer in a rock band. (Laughter)

Jim: So he had a successful high school career.

Gary: And then he's the pastor. Then he becomes a minister. He's the pastor of like a 10 or 15,000-member church. I mean, he's succeeded everywhere he goes and she realized that she had set the bar so high. This is how husbands are. They provide. They're full of energy. They're faithful to the Lord.

And she realized most husbands weren't like that and she was speaking to a group of women one time and she asked her husband just to share what it was like and he gave a word image that just shocked her. He says, "You know, the tough thing for me is, that I feel like I've been cheered my whole life by the cheerleaders." His mom was such that he was the apple of her eye. He said, "Coaches, I had all these people cheering for me."

He goes, "And then I would come home and it was like I heard my wife" and he cupped his hands over his [mouth], "Boo! Boo! Boo! And I don't get it. How come I'm pleasing all these other people and I can't at home?" She was appalled. She was horri[fied]. She had no idea that's how he was feeling.

And so, they had a moment when they got home and she just said, "I'm so sorry. I just realized I've just taken you for granted because you haven't been beat up your whole life. You have been celebrated your whole life and so, I've become the detractor by comparison." So, that marriage is a very different challenge than somebody that marries somebody who feels like they're not worth anything.

Jim: Right.

Gary: So, you've got to figure [it] out.

Jim: But both are in danger.

Gary: Absolutely and it's why the whole chapter is the uniqueness that cherish is based on your particular spouse. You have to understand.Spectacularly good advice for some couples might be spectacularly bad advice for other couples. If my spouse is going to feel cherished, it goes back to the Garden of Eden that we talked about before.

She's Eve. She's the only woman in the world. Song of Songs 6:9, "My dove, my perfect one is the only one." If you've dated a lot before, if you've been married before, you throw all of that out. What does it mean to cherish this particular person? If you don't treat 'em as a particular person, they'll never feel cherished.

Jim: Yeah, Gary, this has been so good, hey, John? I just so appreciate it. You've given all of us a lot to think about and we've touched on this a couple of times, but folks, we need our marriages to be strong because they are a witness to the world. They're a witness to our children.

So often it breaks my heart where I speak to 20-somethings and they'll say to me, these are Christian young people, they'll say, "I'm afraid of marriage because my parents didn't do it so well," Christian folks. And we need to change that. We need to own that responsibility of doing marriage so well that the Lord is blessed by how we treat each other.

And Gary, you have done for years now such a wonderful job, Sacred Marriage, this new book, of reminding us of what it means to be married in the eyes of God. And I just want to say thank you for that.

Let me turn to our listeners for a minute. If you're in that place where you're not experience the kind of love and cherishing that we've been talkin' about today, contact us here at Focus on the Family. We're here for you and we want to come alongside you and help you to have the kind of marriage that is far more fulfilling, far more honoring to our Lord Jesus Christ than what you may be experiencing today. We've got lots of resources to help you—our Hope Restored program and our counseling team, so many resources. Don't hesitate to contact us and don't be embarrassed. Let us know so we can stand in that gap for you.

John: And our number is 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or online you'll find help and resources at

Jim: Gary, thank you again for that commitment that you have to married couples. It's been great bein' with you.

Gary: Well, I'm so grateful for the commitment Focus on the Family has every day. You get down in the trenches with real marriage and real families and you're such a blessing to the church and it's just an honor to spend a few days with you.

Jim: Thank you.


John: Well we appreciate that and we obviously are grateful for your insights, Gary and your book is called Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage. It's a wonderful tool and we're recommending that to every couple, no matter what stage of the relationship you're in.

And if I could please, if you've been listening to "Focus on the Family" for a while or perhaps you're a new listeners, we just want you to know that we want to be your go-to resource center for all of your marriage and parenting needs. That's why we're here and that's why hundreds of thousands of families contacted us in the last 12 months for help.

If you've benefitted from our program today or in the past, let me encourage you to pay it forward a bit here by enabling us to continue producing programs like this and helping families in the coming days. With your financial support, we can keep producing programs and providing resources like our websites and counseling team and so much more. Your donation will enable us to serve families just like yours, so please be generous when you call 800-A-FAMILY or visit to learn more.

And when you do make a financial contribution to this ministry, we'll say thank you by sending a gift of Gary Thomas's book, Cherish.

And of course, you can listen to our programming on the go through our mobile app on your phone or tablet, but we also offer CDs and downloads of our two-part conversation here with Gary and there is more content on the CD and download than we could fit into this radio program today.

Now coming up tomorrow, we'll share the remarkable story of a baby boy who wasn't expected to live and his parents courageous choice to trust God with this precious little life.


Mr. Brandon Buell: For me is was complete disbelief, because just hours before we got the news we were havin' a boy, which we--

Mrs. Brittany Buell: We wanted.

Brandon: --selfishly wanted. And then the very next morning it feels like the entire world is crashing down around us, because now that boy that we truly did want, he may not make it at all.

End of Clip

John: You'll hear the value of every life tomorrow on "Focus on the Family" and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, thanking you for listening today and of course, inviting you back tomorrow then, 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,