Author Lysa TerKeurst, along with her husband Art, tackle the underlying expectations and strong emotions that accompany conflict in marriage, and provide listeners with practical tools for navigating disagreements. (Part 1 of 2)
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John Fuller:Welcome to "Focus On Family" with Focus president and author, Jim Daly.I'm John Fuller and a couple of weeks ago we shared a conversation with Lysa TerKeurst about how you can better handle your emotions. By the way, you can download that for free at www.FocusOnTheFamily.com/radio. Lysa's back with us again today, along with her husband, Art, to share how you can manage emotions in your marriage. And as a way of setting the stage for the program today, let's go ahead and listen to a short audio clip, featuring Lysa TerKeurst and then we'll get into that conversation recorded just a few years ago.
Lysa TerKeurst:So, one day my husband called and said, "Hey, you want lunch?" "Oh, I would love lunch." So, he brings me what I ordered. I ordered a chicken sandwich and a Coke.So, he brings me the chicken sandwich.He puts it down in front of me and then he puts my Coke down in front of me, only it had a little lid on it and the diet button was pushed in.See, I had ordered a Coke and he brought me a Diet Coke.
Jim Daly: Uh-oh.
Lysa: And to him, it was a simple mistake. To me it was a statement. You think I'm fat and ugly and you wish you would have never, ever married me.And I've got all this proof.Every day you ask me to run and I don't want to run.And you think I need to run.And he's like, "Ah! I brought you lunch, scary woman!" Nice guy. (Laughter)
End of Clip
John:Well, that's a really good illustration of what we're gonna try to address today on the program and Jim, I am so glad Lysa's back with us in the studio.
Jim: Oh, I am, too. Now let me ask you as a husband, does the hair on the back of your neck go up during--
John:--I felt for Art (Laughter) as we heard that.
Jim: I think every husband--
John:I could understand.
Jim:--has that dilemma. What have I done wrong?
John: Uh-hm. What did I get into?
Jim:I'm tryin' to do something right.
Jim:But guess what.Not only are we gonna welcome Lysa back and Lysa, it's great to have you back—
Jim: --at "Focus on the Family"--
Lysa: --thank you.
Jim: --with your book, Unglued.But guess what. We've got the other half of the story today (Laughter) with your husband, Art.Art, it is great to have you with us, too.
Art TerKeurst: Well, I appreciate y'all having me back.It's been 10 years.It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since I sat in this seat.
Art: So, it's a privilege--
Art:--to be back.
Jim:--the bottom line is, we want to get to the crux of the issue.You were wonderful to bring your wife lunch, that nice chicken dish--
Art: Right, right.
Jim:--and that Coke that ended up bein' a Diet Coke.What kind of message were you tryin' to send?
Art:Yeah, what was I tryin' to say? (Laughter) Here I was just being--
Jim: Were you thinking about that?
Art: --a knight on a stallion, deliverin' the lunch, thinking that I was doing the perfect acts of service and oh, to my dismay.
Jim: (Laughing) A little glitch.
Art:I came in and thought I had hit it just right and little did I know that, that little depressed dimple of Diet Coke would have such a ramification of what I--
Art: --was thinking and ...
Jim:But I need to put you on the spot.Did you think of saying, "Oh, that was pushed by accident. It's really Coke." (Laughing)
Art: You know what I was thinking was, that I was such a good student of my wife that I knew that that's what she would want, because that's what I would expect that she would've ordered had she ordered it on her own. So, I was just tryin' to do the right thing and ...
Jim:Oh, now we're diggin' a ditch here.
Art:Man, I was--
Art:--not good.It was just not a good day, not a good moment.But we lived--
Art: --through it and we're still here and that's what matters.
Jim: Lysa, you have been very good sittin' here nice and quiet, takin' all this in.But let's talk about Unglued, your book and it really [is] around this area of marital tension.
Jim:Why does marriage, tend to bring out hopefully, the best in us, but you know, if we're honest, also perhaps the worst in us.
Lysa:Well, if you think about it, you're bringing two sinners (Laughter) together and you're sayin', hey, I'm gonna fill your life with budget stress and kid stress and schedule stress. And I want you, these two sinners to come together and figure it out and just live happily ever after.
And in the girl's mind-set, it's always gonna be like Cinderella. And in the guy's mind-set, I don't know what it's like, but it's not Cinderella.(Laughter) And, you bring two people that are coming together with these vastly different expectations and you're putting them together with their own issues, their own background. And opportunities for conflict will definitely be there, because you feel very vulnerable in this relationship and at the same time, great expectations.
And I know for me, I came into our marriage thinking, I know the secret to finally feeling secure as a woman. And that is, that I'm gonna get married and he's gonna right all my wrongs and fill up all my insecurities and just make me feel loved and treasured and adored all the time.
Now no man could ever do that for a woman. I mean, we definitely have moments where he makes me feel loved and we definitely have moments where he makes me feel treasured and adored. But ultimately, I was looking to Art to be my savior and God didn't assign him that role.God assigned him the role to be my husband.
Jim: Now one of the things I've noticed, even in my relationship with Jean, it can be the small things, the stupid things really that set you off. In fact, you've got a story about that.You were lookin' for a towel one day out of the shower right? What happened with that?
Art: Yeah, so I was in the shower and I finished up and I was just looking and reaching for where I typically would've found that towel and there was no towel to be had. (Laughter) And so, I started callin' out.And eventually I think after a few minutes, it was a you know, a drippy moment where Lysa finally came in and she just kinda reached in, grabbed something, threw it back at me and what she grabbed was a pink Barbie towel. And--
Jim: Did that offend you in some way?
Art:--well, you know, it wasn't so much that I couldn't just kinda just do what I needed to do when it came to realizing pink, masculinity, the whole nine yards. I wasn't not up to that challenge, but what got me was that was the very same towel or a very close-looking towel to the towel that I put down on the floor for the dogs. (Laughter)
Jim: Okay Lysa, was--
Art: And the uh ...
Jim:--that the towel?
Lysa:Okay, so ...
Jim: Was that the dog towel?
Lysa: It was not the dog towel.It did look like the dog towel (Laughter), so I understood.But see, from my vantage point, I was having my own internal dialogue here, because I was thinking in my brain, No. 1, I was frustrated that my girls had used our bathroom and had taken all the towels out of our bathroom. So, there should have been towels. I had a plan for towels to be where they were supposed to be, but ...
John:That didn't include children.
Lysa:But my girls had come in, used our bathroom, taken all the towels, so the towels were missing. I couldn't find the towels. And I'm feeling this pressure.He's in the shower and every second that goes by, you know, he's dripping wet; he's cold.
Jim: He's cold.
Lysa:And so, I'm like, where are the towels?Where are the towels?Can't find the towels.So, I'll go back, oh, oh, good, Barbie towel. So, I pulled the Barbie towel up and I was thinking he was gonna be so grateful for the Barbie towel.Instead, he said, "This is the dog towel.You would think a guy could get a clean towel in this house." (Laughter)
Now something about that comment set me off, because I have this little insecurity in me that I never quite measure up when it comes to domestic stuff. And so, I'm thinking in my mind, "I know what you're really thinking.You're thinking, 'You never measure up with domestic stuff.'"And so, I'm seeing it as a statement of his feeling that ... of my faults.
Jim: And Art, you just wanted to make sure there's no dog hair on this towel.
Art:You know what, I'm seein' (Laughter) it--
Lysa: He just wanted a towel.
Art: --as a bunch of bristle-haired Jack Russell terrier hair (Laughter) that--
Jim:Pretty simple, straightforward.
Art: --you know, not that I couldn't use the hair, but it was all about the moment and realizing that, that's the towel that the dog sleeps on (Laughter) and there's all of the dog remnants. And now I'm gonna have to dry off with it.
Jim: But Lysa, keep goin', because that is--
Jim: --the dynamic.
Jim:A woman reads more into it.
Lysa: That's right. A woman usually will interpret something a man says more emotionally than he ever intended it.To Art, it was a simple statement, "I need a towel. Is this the dog towel?"To me it wasn't a simple comment. To me it was a statement of, just kind of an exposing of my insecurities.
And so, that's usually what happens right, as conflict is marching down the pipeline.Like conflict will arise when we feel exposed or opposed. If someone threatens to expose our vulnerabilities, our inadequacies, our insecurities, those feelings, those chaotic feelings come and chaos will ensue and conflict is right there.
So, we feel exposedor we feel opposed, because we want what we want when we want it, how we want it and if we don't get it, conflict will happen.And so, I know for us, you're right, it isn't usually the big things that cause us to trip up daily. It's little things like this towel situation. Such a silly, simple little thing and yet, it felt so big. By the time I left the house that day, I slammed the door, got in my car. I was so angry and so defeated and so mad.
And I just thought, we have huge issues in our marriage. We just have huge issues. And in reality, we had a towel issue (Laughter), you know what I'm saying? But in my brain, it had gotten blown up so much more because I felt exposed.
Jim: And when we look at marital relationships today, I mean, that's where those stresses are gonna show, because we're spending time together. I mean, this is the relationship in your life that I think God intended to expose your selfishness, expose your sin. That's what happens in a marriage, those things that you can hide from your friends.You typically can't hide from your spouse, because she or he is with you 24/7 oftentimes.
Jim: So that's probably reasonable to expect that you're gonna have friction there, right?
Lysa: Oh, yeah, friction is a mild term for it (Laughter).
Jim: Well, I gotta say though, I would like your response to this. I mean, some people believe their relationship is so strong and that Christians generally should not argue if they're married.I think that is not necessarily the sign of health. But for those of you that feel that way, I mean, you may have a great relationship, but there are many Christian couples that struggle and that's why Christian marriages are failing.
Lysa: Yeah, you know, and if you don't have a lot of conflicts in your relationship, that's wonderful.Maybe you happen to be that rare exception of beautiful compatibility and that is wonderful.For us, that hasn't been the case. We have renamed our arguments and fights to "growth opportunities."(Laughter) That's what we have. We have ... and we have a lot of growth opportunities, because we both came into the marriage as very strong-willed, determined people and very strong opinions, very capable and yet, so different in how we approach life.
And so, we've renamed our fights "growth opportunities."And we've discovered for us, it's not the absence of conflict that will determine whether or not we have a good relationship.We understand we will have conflict. The dynamics of our life, we will have conflict. The dynamics of our personalities, we will have conflict. So, it's not the absence of conflict that determines whether or not we have a healthy relationship. It's us knowing how to handle the conflicts that arise that will determine the health of our relationship.
Jim: Well, give us an example. What have you learned in that regard? One of these little sticklers pops up; what do you do for each other to ... ?
Art:Yeah, I think that for us, looking past, oh wow, just in the 10 years since we've been here last and the growth that's occurred. Too many people come into marriage and right out of the gate they think that marriage is kind of the destination and you know, that it's going to right all their wrongs.
And for a man, you know, coming into a relationship, it's gonna be one of those situations where, hey, I'll find the woman that I can provide for. I'll find the woman that will finally be able to meet all of the needs that I have, so therefore, I won't have any temptations outside of that. And it's just not true. It is truly an adventure; it's not a destination.
And along the way of the adventure, I think that you're gonna realize, there's gonna be some hiccups.There's gonna be some things that need to be navigated. And so, what we've realized is, in navigating the way during the adventure, you learn. You learn things that you can do for one another that help.
And I think for me, one of the greatest things that I've learned is just the ability to communicate effectively. And it's not out of my mouth; it's out of my ears or it's from my ears.And you know, James talks about how we need to be active listeners or we need to be, you know, able to be quiet, to be still and to listen. And that needs to be our first response.
And so, I want to take it even another notch and say, not only should we be a good listener, but we should be an active listener.And I've learned that with Lysa, when she comes and she wants to share something with me, I need to hear what she's saying and then I need to engage with her on the level of what she's talkin' about.
Jim: You know, at Focus we talk a lot about unmet expectations.That's probably the biggest barrier in marriages and you've touched on that, how you come in thinking, "Okay, my man is gonna do all this for me."Or "My wife is gonna do all this for me," or--
Jim: --it's just gonna be bliss, because all my needs'll be met. But that's not really how it works. These expectations that we set up often create bitterness in us, because they're not meeting my needs. And yet, we won't honestly share what needs need to be met and how.Lysa, how do you address that in Unglued?And how does that make us unglued when these expectations aren't being met?
Lysa: Yes, and I think the story that Art was telling, too, gets right at exactly what I would say and that is, you gotta become a student of your spouse. And so, becoming a student of your spouse is really, really important.
Jim: Do we not do that because we're lazy?
Lysa: You know, maybe. I mean, you can lay it on the table and call it what you want. I mean, maybe it is some laziness.Maybe it is some self-centeredness.But I think for most of us, it's just an unaware [sic], like we're kinda unaware. And so early on in our marriage, we've been married for 20 years now and we still go through those growth opportunities. I think it's important to say that. Like we are not approaching this like, "Oh, we've mastered this."No, I think we're the couple like, whew! If these people have survived 20 years and are actually having a good marriage, then there's hope for anybody.
So, we came into marriage with lots of expectations. And we somehow figured out that with expectations there's different categories. There are realistic expectations, unrealistic expectations and then, intentional like become a student of your spouse so you can meet these expectations.
And we had to lay our expectations out on the table, which meant we had to get honest about what they are. And so, we came up with this thing of having conversations of understanding, what are the realistic expectations?What are the unrealistic expectations?And how can we creatively meet the realistic expectations that each other has?
So, we had started this dialogue, but I came to Art one day and I was just in tears. And I just said, "You know what.I have this list in my mind of what are realistic expectations for wives and the list is just growing longer and longer and longer. I so desire to be a great wife.I really do, but I go to bed every night and I feel like I can't complete the list.
Jim: It's too much.
Lysa:It's too much. I can't do everything a good wife is supposed to do.You know, I read books.I talk to other women.You know, maybe I've even been listening to radio broadcasts and I collect this big long list of everything a good wife is supposed to do. And I came to him in tears and I just said, "I can't do the good wife list. I can't."
He said, "What are you talking about?What good-wife list?"And I said, "I go to bed every night and I feel like I'm a failure, because I can't get through the list." And he said, "I don't have a list in my head, Lysa."And I said, "Okay, well, Art, tell me, if I can only do three things very, very well each day, tell me what are your top three realistic expectations?"
Jim: That's a great question.
Lysa:And he was able to tell me his top three realistic expectations. And so, in my brain I thought, okay, I am gonna be a three-things wife. Every single day I know as long as I've done these three things, I can lay my head on the pillow at night and think, "I'm a good wife."And there's something that just helps me so much about that, because I want to feel a little bit of a sense of satisfaction and completion in this "adventure," like Art says, this adventure of marriage.
And then he was able to ask me, "Hey, Lysa, what are your top three things."
Jim:I was gonna ask that question.
Lysa:--yes and so, we brought our top three things and said, okay, are these realistic expectations?Yes, they are. Let's cut through the unrealistic expectations and now that we know each other's top three things, let's get creative and really meet those three things each day for one another.
Jim: That's a great idea.
Art: You know, the amazing thing about that exercise was, that it was done early in the relationship. And here we are, year 20, that was maybe year 5--
Art:--and in the 15 years since, those three needs that I expressed and communicated to "Lys," they haven't changed.
Art: And so, still to be able to focus on that in terms of being able to understand your spouse and in the words of Capture His Heart, Capture Her Heart, be able to speak their language of love.
John: Well, you're listening to Art and Lysa TerKeurst on today's "FOF," with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and some good insights here. As we're hearing about your top three, I don't know that you've identified them (Laughter)
Jim:Well, I was being a gentleman. (Laughter)
John:Okay, well, (Laughter) I think it would be instructive for some of us who haven't had that conversation.
Jim: Okay, the remedial husband tutor here.
Art: So, yeah, yeah.
John:Just some simple ways to ascertain what really those needs are and how to express them and maybe start with your own.
Art: Sure.Well, for me, it was this. I told "Lys," I said, "You've got this long laundry list of things that you are coming at the end of the day saying you cannot fulfill. And I don't have that list in my head. These are the only things that really matter to me.One is, I want you to nurture the kids, because you're the only one that can do it as their mom.And I need to know that the kids have that type of relationship with their mother. So, I want you to nurture the kids.
No. 2, is I want you to take care of yourself." I said, "For me, I'm a very active personality and I like to remain active and I want to be active with my spouse, because I see it as a way for us to stay connected and engaged. So, I want you to remain active with me and let's do some sporting activities together. And I want you to take good care of yourself. I want you to make sure that you are doing that and staying healthy. And then No. 3 is, I just want the house to have (Laughter) some organization to it. I'm not a personality of, you know, absolute perfection."
John:You're not a neat freak.
Art: I'm not a neat freak.Lysa would say I'm a fly.She said that, you know, sometimes I'll come home and I'm in the restaurant business and so, the restaurant business has instilled this need for order. And as I come home, she said, sometimes I will alight, a lot like maybe a fly.
Lysa:So, he lands in the house. He's like (Sound of zz, zz, zz,) (Laughter) and he's honing in on everything that is like chaotic in our home.
Art:And you know, I don't communicate, you know, some things I'm disappointed with. I don't say anything that you know, that maybe is of a volatile nature. But what Lysa says will happen is, is that when I do that, that I'm unsettled.And she can tell I'm unsettled. And what I'll actually begin to do is, I'll start--
John: Straightening things out.
Art:--to maybe get things orderly to a point--
Jim: Well ...
Art: --where I can then not be unsettled.
Jim: Well, and manage that for us. Let's say you have that conflict. You've been very diligent to say, these are the three things, but one of the things, it's just not happening, so what do you do?
Lysa: Yeah. Well so, I have choices that I have to make every day. And one of my choices is, okay, I only have a limited window of time before Art is driving down that driveway and I know he's coming home. And I want to make sure that I have invested wisely in what matters the most to him.So, I can either straighten up the house, which usually looks like, oh, dear, he's gonna be here in 10 minutes. Quick, quick, hide this; hide that.Light a candle.
Jim: The closet.
Lysa:"Hello," you know. (Laughter) So, honestly, it's not like super clean, 'cause that's not it. But at least, he's not tripping over stuff when he walks in the front door and maybe I lit a candle and it smells nice, okay. So, I can either tidy up the house that way or I can cook dinner. I have a choice there, you know. And what matters the most to him, if I'm pressured and I can only pick one of those two, I know what matters more to him is to have the house tidy, rather than having a home-cooked meal. So, I get take out and I tidy the house. And because I know that, I don't create this internal pressure: I'm a bad wife; I'm a bad wife; I can't cook dinner and tidy the house; I'm a bad wife. I don't have that anymore.
Lysa: I can totally free myself up. And he is great. Honest to goodness, I think he is sometimes disappointed when I cook dinner, because he's a creature of habit.He loves ... do you want to tell "asparagus soup?" (Laughter) He ...
Jim: He loves asparagus soup?
Lysa:He loves asparagus--
Lysa: --soup and he makes it himself (Laughter) and he eats almost every single night. (Laughter)
Lysa: But that is the unique dynamic that we have in our relationship. Now I have other friends that, you know, one of their husband's top three is that they have--
Art: A good meal.
Lysa:--some kind of food on the table, you know. And so, that ...
Jim:Yeah, there's various ...
Lysa: You know, it varies for different couples, but here's the secret. We've talked about it-
Lysa: --and we know.
Jim: Okay, I don't want to let Art off the hook and on behalf of all the wives out there, what were your three?
Lysa: Okay.My top three, No. 1 biggest thing is, that I need my husband to speak encouraging words to me every day.
Jim: Ding, ding, I think a lot of--
Jim:--wives just said that's No. 1.
Lysa:Yep, I need, when I wake up in the morning, I need him to say something encouraging to me.Sometime during the day, I just want to know that he's thought about me, at some point during the day. And at night, every single night when we crawl in bed and there's hardly ever an exception, I mean, I did it last night in the hotel, I'll say, "Do you love me?" And he'll say, "Yes, I do." And I'll say, "Why?" And now what I'm really saying is, "I want to go to bed thinking about something encouraging that you've said to me." I mean, just to know that he speaks that encouragement to me, that is A-No. 1.
No. 2, I need him to be a partner.I don't need him to be a babysitter for our kids. I need him to be a partner in raising our kids. That's so huge for me, 'cause I can be a nurturer and that is what I am. But I need him to be the organized systems guy to kinda keep us on track spiritually, emotionally, just moving our family forward.You know, he brings great strength to the business world. I want him to bring those same strengths and intentionality into our family life. And he's the one that can do this. So, I want him to be my partner with the kids, not a babysitter for the kids.
Lysa: And then, my No. 3 kinda shifts sometimes. But No. 3 is, I want him in the long run of our relationship, I just want to know that he is gonna allow me to be the woman that God has created me to be.You know, that for me is so important, that ...
Jim: What does that mean for you?
Lysa: For me, it means that he respects how God created me and Art is fabulous at this. You know, he gives me the freedom to be in ministry and to do what I feel God calling me to do. And it doesn't fit naturally with his bent. So, like coming here to Focus On the Family today, you know, this is getting him out of his comfort zone. His comfort zone is flipping chicken for a livin'. That's what he loves to do.You know, he's a Chik-fil-A operator.That's his comfort zone. That's his sweet spot.
But because God has called me to write books and to speak and he's the only husband I have, him coming along beside me today and joining me in this interview, you know, this is one of my top three, is to know that he's gonna allow me to fulfill what it is that God has created me to do. And God's created me to be a speaker and a writer and sometimes, that causes him to make sacrifices, because I'll be gone. And he, you know, needs to um ...
John: He's got to eat his soup alone then.
Lysa: That's right. He'll (Laughter) have to eat his asparagus soup alone.
Jim: Hey if you give us the recipe, we'll post it.
Art: Uh ... yeah, I ...
Jim: How do you do it? I'm hungry.
Jim:Hey, let's end here and if you can stick with us, we want to talk more about your book, Unglued, because there's some application here that's so important and the way that you've defined how personalities work in conflict and we want to come back next time and talk about the "stuffers" and the "exploder" personalities. Can you stick with us--
Jim: --and do that? Okay--
Jim: --let's do that.
John:We do look forward to hearing more from Lysa and Art TerKeurst next time and Jim, we heard a lot of practical ideas today, didn't we.
Jim: I love hearing that description of being a three-thing spouse; asking your spouse to prioritize the most important things so that you can better focus your efforts as a spouse. It would be helpful for me. It's hard for us to focus sometimes.
Jim: And if you, the listener, have benefited from what Lysa has shared today we want to get a copy of her book Unglued into your hands.
John: And you can find that at our online store and a CD or instant download of the conversation. And we also have a free marriage assessment tool www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Or, we can tell you more when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: And I hope you, as the listener, can feel from the bottom of our hearts that the first and foremost we want to introduce you to Jesus if you don't know him and we want your marriage to thrive. And that's a good portion of what we do here day in and day out here at Focus; to make your good marriage hopefully better, make your bad marriage certainly better. And hopefully save your marriage from divorce, which is a goal as well. Just recently we heard from Vickie who shared this with us:
"I was scheduled to sign divorce papers on March 18. My husband was already living in a separate house. I heard the broadcast on March 17th, "Loving and Leading Your Strong Woman" and broke down into tears in my car. I contacted my husband and asked if I could have just a moment of his time. He agreed and I told him all about the broadcast and the healing of LeRoy Kimberly Wagner's marriage. God saved our marriage that day. And we are working on our communication and just a week later we are in a good place."
Jim: Man, I'm telling you John and everyone that supports this ministry. That is it! Mission accomplished and I want to say thank you for helping us be here for this woman and her husband.
John: Well, you can be a part of stories like this one and so many more as God uses Focus on the Family. Make your generous contribution to this ministry online at www.FocusOnTheFamily.com/radio. Or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And today when you make that donation we'll send a copy of Unglued as our way of saying thank you for your partnership. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller inviting you back tomorrow. We'll hear more great advice from Art and Lysa TerKeurst as we help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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