Focus on the Family Broadcast

Being Completely Transparent With Your Spouse

Being Completely Transparent With Your Spouse

Marriage coaches Dave and Ashley Willis encourage couples to be completely open and honest with their spouse about ‘private’ struggles they may face, like depression or a secret addiction. They assert that transparency leads to a better marital relationship, and a better chance at healing!
Original Air Date: January 18, 2023

Preview:

Dave Willis: One of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is to model for them what marriage should be and to give them the security that comes from seeing a mom and a dad in a loving relationship with God and in a loving relationship with one another.

End of Preview

John Fuller: Well, loving well is a terrific goal for a marriage and you’ll hear how to improve the relationship with your spouse on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. Thanks for joining us. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Uh, Dave and Ashley Willis have been in studio with us several times, but they are also conference speakers with a ministry called XO Marriage, and we’re featuring one of their very lively presentations today and they have a lot to share. So let’s roll with it, John.

John: Alright. We’ll hear our Dave and Ashley Willis speaking at an XO Marriage conference on Focus on the Family.

Dave: We are honored to be here. We’re gonna talk to you today about really what we believe as we study the Bible, as we interview and have talked a couples so much older and wiser than we are about three keys, they’re foundational for buil- building a stronger marriage. But before we get there, I wanna give you a little public service announcement. And, and, and that’s this, it’s something your spouse knows about you that you might not know about yourself. And it’s that it’s really hard to be married to you.

Ashley Willis: That’s right.

Audience: (laughs).

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: Now, this isn’t all your fault, okay? This is our theory. A lot of this is your parents’ fault.

Ashley: Of course.

Dave: You were messed up before you got into the marriage.

Audience: (laughs).

Dave: I’m gonna do a quick survey, just a little interactive exercise to just kind of see where we are. How many of you, like us, we’re both firstborns. How many of you are the firstborn-

Ashley: Firstborns.

Dave: … in your family? Yes.

Ashley: Put those hands up real quick. You know?

Dave: Yes. A lot of strong, confident people. You know, most presidents are-

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: … firstborns. You know, we raised those hands fa- fast. But here’s the thing we firstborns don’t talk about for all our confidence, we are hard to love and it’s because we’re, we’re messed up.

Ashley: Totally.

Dave: But it’s not your fault.

Audience: (laughs).

Dave: It’s your parents’ fault. When your parents brought you home from the hospital, they had no idea what they were doing.

Audience: (laughs).

Dave: They had no idea. It’s amazing we even survived, you know. And then this is what happens. They start having other kids and they, they feel like they need to make an example out of the firstborn, right? To scare-

Ashley: Yeah.

Audience: (laughs).

Dave: … the other ones. So firstborns are, are hard to love, but-

Ashley: Yes. But then we come to who’s the baby? Who’s the baby in their family? Yes. You’re like, “Look at me. I’m the baby,” right?

Audience: (laughs).

Dave: “I love attention.”

Ashley: “I love attention.” And you know, of course babies in the family are even more messed up than the first born.

Dave: Way more mess-

Ashley: You know this, right? And it makes you, it makes you a little hard to love because you know, your parents, by the time you came along, you, they were just so exhausted and they, and they just let you eat pizza for breakfast. They, they let you stay up way later than your siblings. I mean, they probably rocked you. They rocked you like a crazy long time till you were like in high school. I mean, we do these weird things with the babies and so it makes us a little bit hard to love, right?

Dave: Yeah. It, it does. You babies, you’re, you’re, you’re (laughs). We love you. Jesus loves you, but you’re hard to love.

Audience: (laughs).

Dave: Now, how many of you are, are a middle child? Yeah. A couple of you cheered, but most of you were like, “No one’s ever asked about me before.”

Audience: (laughs).

Ashley: Yeah.

Dave: “I, I am I allowed to raise my hand? I never, mom and dad never noticed me.” You know, and you guys-

Ashley: Oh, middle child.

Dave: … are of course the most messed up.

Audience: (laughs).

Dave: And it’s not, it’s not your fault. It’s, it’s really not your fault at all. It’s that your parents, they didn’t even know you were there.

Audience: (laughs).

Dave: You know, they, they spent so much energy on the firstborn and then they babied the baby. They might have had some kids in between. They’re not even sure.

Ashley: They don’t know.

Dave: You know, you go to their house right now, there’s not even a picture of you. And I’m so sorry.

Audience: (laughs).

Dave: I mean, I’m so sorry that you had to endure that. I’m not even gonna ask about you only children because you’ve raised your hands three times already. You do, you have.

Audience: (laughs).

Ashley: Yep. That’s true. (laughs).

Dave: And so the truth is, we, we all bring some baggage into the marriage. And honestly, birth order really has nothing to do with it. It’s just a funny way of pointing out that all of us come into marriage with some things that make us difficult to love, some blind spots we have. And some of it is the result of our own quirk, some of it’s the result of our own sin, our own choices that we’ve made. And some of it’s the result of things that have happened to us that are completely out of our control. And yet God tells us to love at all times. And people usually need love the most in those moments when they deserve it the least, don’t they? And God gives his very best to us. He sent his son to us to die for us while we were still sinners. He gave his best when we were at our worst. And then he says, “And that’s how I want you to love each other.”

Audience: Amen.

Dave: So before we jump into these, these three keys, we wanna give you one Bible verse because if you’re like me and sometimes you only remember one thing at a time, we wanna give you that one thing right here at the beginning. Because if you do this one thing, then I’m convinced instantly-

Ashley: Right.

Dave: … you know, marriage will improve. And it’s one, it’s one little verse. This can be the life verse for your marriage. And it’s a short one. ‘Cause if you’re like me, you got kind of ADD and, and you like short verses that, that, that pack a punch. I Corinthians 16:14. And it says this, “Do everything with love.” Do everything with love. Now our, our world has taken that word love, and it’s said, it’s just an emotion, it’s a feeling that comes, that goes, you can fall into it, you can fall out of it. But as you look at what the Bible says about love, love is a commitment. Love is rooted in action. And, and love is something that we’re, we’re commanded to do for one another. So-

Ashley: Yeah.

Dave: … everything the Bible says about love, do that for your spouse. The Bible says, love is patient, love is kind. How would your marriage look different if you were always patient and always kind to your spouse?

Ashley: Yeah.

Dave: The Bible says that, that love never gives up. So what would your marriage look like if you both had that mentality that said, “We are never going to give up on each other.” The, the Bible says to speak kindly to forgive. If we just do what the Bible says that sometimes we’re more likely to do for strangers and coworkers and people throughout-

Ashley: Yeah.

Dave: … the day than we are for that person that should matter most our, our spouse. And so if we’ll just love and realize that love is not just this empty emotion, but love is this beautiful action that the Holy Spirit empowers within us to, to give freely, especially in those moments when the, our spouse might not be particularly lovable, then our marriage can transform.

Ashley: That’s right.

Dave: So with that in mind, we’re gonna jump into, we believe are, are kind of the three foundational ways to put that love into action. Sweetie, you wanna lead off here?

Ashley: Absolutely. So number one, and this is huge, always be honest with each other. Secrets and lies are the enemies of intimacy. There are no secrets, there’s no hidden bank accounts, there’s no secret cell phones, there’s no friends on Facebook they don’t want their spouse to know about. There’s nothing that we hide from our spouse because when we do this, we don’t have the kind of marriage that God wants us to have.

Dave: Yeah. The, the, the level of your honesty is always going to determine the level of your intimacy in marriage.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: And the moment you find yourself keeping secrets from your spouse, then you’re already outside the bounds of that covenant that God created. Your marriage is no, no longer naked. I think God intentionally painted the picture of that first marriage before there was sin, before there was anything getting in the way. And he told us they were naked, not just to paint the picture of the importance of physical intimacy in marriage, but to paint the picture, as Ashley said, of being naked, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

Ashley: Right.

Dave: Nakedness is, is a picture of saying, “I’ve got nothing to hide from you. There’s nothing up my sleeve. I’m not even wearing sleeves. There’s nothing that I’m hiding from you.” And so if you want your marriage to go to that next level, then take what we call the secret free guarantee. It’s saying, “I’m not going to keep anything from you, and there’s no question that’s off limits. You can ask me anything, and I wanna do my best to give you an honest response. You can ask me anything. And, and the first time that I start stepping outta bounds and making a purchase that I don’t want you to find out about or having a conversation that I hope you don’t find out about, then I’m gonna recognize I’m outta bounds and I’m gonna confess that and I’m gonna fight for trust in our marriage because trust is the foundation of every healthy marriage. And so we’ve got to fight for that kind of transparency.”

Ashley: And it’s true. You know what, what, really having trust starts with being vulnerable with one another. But that word vulnerability has kind of gotten a bad rep in our culture. You know, we live in a culture that says trust no one, don’t even trust your spouse. And when you go into marriage, you need to have a secret bank account or something just in case it goes wrong. And this even happens among Christians, among Christians who, you know, we, we know the God that designed marriage. We know what he says about marriage, and yet we get so afraid to completely be vulnerable with our spouse. But God designed us as vulnerable creatures. You know, we’re designed first and foremost to be vulnerable with God. We don’t hide things from God. He knows it all anyway but he wants us to come to him and to give it all to him, to surrender everything to him. And as far as human relationships go, marriage is the, the biggest place, the biggest relationship we can have, where we can be vulnerable with one another. And when we are, it just binds our hearts. And like Dave said, it’s really the first step to intimacy. And you really can’t have the kind of phy- physical intimacy that God wants you to have in marriage without having vulnerability first. And so, you know, if we’re not willing to be vulnerable with our spouse, we still have that desire. And so what we’ll find is, we’ll, we’ll be vulnerable with someone else. And like Dave said, we’ll step outta bounds of the marriage. We’ll have maybe a person at work that we find easy to talk to, and we step outta bounds and we start sharing our hearts with them instead of with our spouse. Or maybe we form a codependent relationship with one of our children. I know people who are more vulnerable and open and honest with their children than they are with their spouse. And that is completely out of whack. That is not what God designed. And really, it’s too much to put on our kids, even if they’re grown, we’re supposed to be vulnerable with our spouse. So it’s so important that we, we don’t hold back. We gotta give it all and share it all and say, “This is me. This is what I’m feeling, and I’m not ashamed to share it with you because I love you and I trust you.”

Dave: That’s, that’s absolutely right. And, and one thing that I think, especially for those of you who are like us, who are in that season of life where you’re raising young kids, and it is intense. I mean, we’ve got four little boys-

Ashley: It’s crazy (laughs).

Dave: … I, I am exhausted. Like right now, I’m not-

Ashley: I know (laughs).

Dave: … I’m not even sure I’m awake. This might be a dream. I’m not sure, I’m so tired.

Audience: (laughs).

Ashley: “Is this happening?” I don’t even know.

Dave: And we, we talk to couples a lot of times and they have this mentality of like, “You know, we gotta put the kids first. We gotta put the kids first.” And they put their marriage on hold.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: And, and they put their marriage on hold and they think, “Someday I’m gonna get around to, to working on my marriage. But right now, my kids have to come first.” And what happens is the kids finally grow up and move out and these two co- this couple looks at each other and they realize they’re looking at a stranger.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: And they, they, they realize that they have an empty nest and an empty marriage at the same time. And so there’s an epidemic of divorce that’s happening among people that, that have been married for 20 years that have raised their kids. And they realized we were really good business partners, we were really good co-parenting partners, but we forgot to be husband and wife. And so yes, I, I’m all about sacrificing for our kids. But one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is to have the kind of marriage that makes them want to get married someday.

Ashley: Absolutely.

Dave: One of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is to model for them what marriage should be and to give them the security that comes from seeing a mom and a dad in a loving relationship with God and in a loving relationship with one another.

John: You’re listening to Focus on the Family and that’s Dave and Ashley Willis. And, uh, they have a terrific book called Naked and Healthy. We’re making that available today, uh, to you when you contribute generously to the work of Focus on the Family. Uh, donate as you can, a gift of any amount, and we’ll send the book and a free audio download of this entire presentation. You can do that at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or when you call 800 the letter A and the word FAMILY. Let’s go ahead and return now to more from Dave and Ashley Willis.

Ashley: So number two is don’t make assumptions about how your spouse feels. When we make assumptions, we limit our ability to hear and understand each other’s true feelings. And there is a verse in Ecclesiastes in 10:13, where it, it just paints this picture so perfectly. It says, “Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions so their conclusions are wicked madness.” And I don’t know about you, maybe you’re not as crazy as I am, and maybe you haven’t made the same mistakes I have, but I, when I got married to Dave, I thought that when you got married, that your spouse, you know, day-by-day just became a better mind reader. And that that was just something that happens. When you get married, you know, you become professional mind readers of each other, right? And so I started doing this thing where I would just assume that if I stomped around enough, or if I rolled my eyes enough, or if I, you know, kind of paused in my, my speaking enough, I didn’t really have to tell him how I felt because we’re married, he’s supposed to know me. He should know, right? I would say should quite a bit. And there usually was this attitude with it too.

Dave: And, and I as a guy, I had this idea that whatever she says is what she means. Even if she’s stomping around.

Audience: (laughs).

Ashley: And, and ladies-

Dave: So, like, I didn’t know what-

Ashley: …we don’t do that.

Dave: … I, I would think, well, she said she’s okay-

Ashley: That’s crazy.

Dave: … if I didn’t know better, I’d think she wasn’t. But I’m gonna go back to watching SportsCenter because she said she was okay-

Ashley: Right.

Dave: … even though she’s stomping around. And it kind of got us into trouble.

Ashley: It did. It did. So I kind of had to learn this the hard way. And there was one word in particular that really got me in trouble a lot. And in our house we call it the F word, and it is a four-letter F word, not the one you’re thinking of. This word is one we use often. It’s-

Dave: But it’s a cuss word.

Ashley: … but it’s a cuss word in our house. It truly is. And that word is fine.

Dave: Fine. Fine.

Ashley: Like I’m fine. I mean, I might as well be cussing at him.

Dave: It’s the, it’s the most-

Ashley: “I’m fine. You know.”

Dave: … dangerous word. We used it all the time and here’s why. Fine, it ends conversations instead of starting them, doesn’t it?

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: Fine is, is like guy code for like, “It’s been a long day. I’m outta words. I don’t want to talk. How was your day? ‘Fine, fine.’” And you know, our wi- our wife’s trying to connect with us-

Ashley: Right.

Dave: … and, and, and we’re just like shutting her down, “I’m fine.” Or you know, you would say fine. And, and it would be sometimes masking-

Ashley: I was not fine.

Dave: … the, the fact that you’re not fine. And so-

Ashley: Correct.

Dave: … so when we realized that, when we were saying, fine F-I-N-E for us actually stood for, I’m faking, I’m ignoring, I’m neglecting, I’m evading. That-

Ashley: Right.

Dave: … when we said fine, that’s what we were really saying. And really there was one key moment-

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: … in our relationship where we realized this word is dangerous, it’s causing miscommunication and it’s a word we need to remove. Do you wanna relive?

Ashley: Yes, I’ll, I’ll relive it. And it doesn’t paint me in a very good light. In fact, it makes me look quite crazy and like a toddler. And it happened when we were moving and at the time we only had two small kids. We had moved to Florida, we had been in temporary housing for a while and then we finally got a house. And it had just been a hard move. And for any of you who’ve ever moved, it can be really hard, especially with kids. And when you’re adjusting to a new job, a new town, and you miss home, it’s just really hard. And it kind of is what I call a sandpaper season. It’s like everything is just rubbing you the wrong way. And that was what it was for me during that time. It was a sandpaper season, so I was kind of on edge anyway. And we ended up getting in this house and I’m putting it together. And normally that’s something I love to do. So one morning I’m putting up a curtain rod and I’m walking up the ladder and I’m using the drill and it’s just not quite going in there like I had planned. And it’s like I can’t quite get it square and I’m struggling with it. So I’m stomping up and down the stairs. And in walks, Dave, fresh from the morning and he’s like, “Hey sweetie, how’s it going?” And I’m like, “Fine.” And so then I stomped back up. And he is like, “Well good, because you know, I was thinking about going on a run and it’s such a, such a beautiful day.” And I’m like, “Okay, whatever.” You know, those are two other words that are hard. And, and so he goes on his run and the whole time he is gone for like 30 minutes. I’m thinking, “How dare he leave? I mean, I clearly wasn’t fine, clearly was not fine. And he’s out there running and feeling the wind through his hair and feelin’ in the sun on him like this. And he’s glistening.”

Dave: I was amazing.

Audience: (laughs).

Ashley: “And then he’s blowing off steam.”

Dave: I was, yeah.

Ashley: “I mean he’s just having this great time.”

Dave: Oh, felt, it was so good.

Audience: (laughs).

Dave: And I was thinking, “I’m so glad Ashley’s fine, ’cause this feels amazing. And I mean, she’s just great letting me do this.”

Ashley: And, and I’m, I’m just fuming and I don’t, maybe you’re not crazy like me, but I was literally having an argument with Dave in my head at the time, and I was like winning it, totally winning this argument. And so he comes home and I’m just, I’m just raring to go, you know, I’m ready. And he’s like, “Whoo. Good run. Yeah.” Comes in and he is like, “Oh my goodness, sweetie, the curtain rod’s still not up.” And I’m like, whip my head around-

Dave: Okay.

Ashley: And I’m like, “No, it’s not.”

Dave: I don’t remember this part of the story. It-

Audience: (laughs).

Ashley: Yes.

Dave: … okay, just to interject real quick. I know like it, it’s bad. But to give you the full backstory, to help you understand how I could have been led to the conclusion that she didn’t want my help is that I’m terrible with tools. We’re like the reverse stereotype. She came from a home where her dad could fix and build anything. The show MacGyver is loosely based on her dad’s life.

Ashley: Yes.

Audience: (laughs).

Dave: Like he could just fix it, do it. She thought all guys were like that. And like, she married me, I don’t even know which end of the hammer to use half the time (laughs). So she’s really good at this. And most of the time when she says, “I got this,” it’s a nice way of saying, “You don’t know how to do this. You’re gonna put holes in the wall, I’m just gonna do this.” And so I thought-

Ashley: He did.

Dave: … that this was one of those times. And, and I, I misread the situation.

Ashley: (laughs), I literally whipped my head around and I said, “I can’t even look at you right now.”

Audience: (laughs).

Dave: Where, I replayed the whole thing in my head. And I’m like, “Oh, I totally-”

Ashley: “She’s not fine.”

Dave: “… misread that.”

Ashley: I honestly realized in that moment how completely ridiculous it was for me to expect him to read my mind. And that I was storming up and down the ladder like a toddler. And I realized, “Oh my goodness, my husband was listening to my words and he really thought I was fine (laughs). And I could have just told him I wasn’t, I could have just asked for help.” And so I apologize to Dave. I he graciously, you know, accepted my apology. And we realized that we just need to use our words. You know, we tell our kids all the time, use your words, but for some reason when we’re married, we like stop using words sometimes we just make all these assumptions. What really happens when we start making assumptions like that with one another is communication breaks down, the vulnerability breaks down, the intimacy breaks down. And you just have these two people passing, you know, day-to-day and, and not really engaging in, in a real marriage. They’re more like business partners or roommates. And God doesn’t want that for us. God wants us to have this union, this beautiful partnership with one another. And so we have to stop making assumptions.

Dave: No, it’s, it’s so true. And that, that changed the way that we communicated. And when you change your communication and you get real and you get honest and you get thoughtful and you get consistent in your communication, then everything goes to the next level. And that, that takes us the kind of the final of these, these three pillars. And this one I think is, is really the most important. Because there’s gonna come times in your marriage when you are struggling and, and, and, and many of us are in this room, are struggling right now. Maybe you’re not necessarily struggling in your relationship with each other, but you’re struggling in some part of your life. I mean, we live in a, in a broken world that has a lot of struggles. I mean, Jesus never promised us a life without struggles. He just promised that we would never face them alone.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: He said, “Never will I leave you or forsake you.” But he also said, “In this life, you, you will have troubles.” He wanted us to be ready. And in marriage we have the opportunity to face those troubles and those struggles together in partnership. And we sadly, we see so many couples who kind of look at their issues as those are my problems, those are her problems. And we face them individually.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: And that’s not what marriage is. It has to be unified that we’re gonna face this together. And it leads to this final principle.

Ashley: That’s right. Number three says, never let your spouse face a struggle without your full partnership, encouragement, and support. And a verse that goes along with this is Galatians 6:2. It says, “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” And, and Dave and I are no stranger to struggles. And, uh, we like to really talk about this when we go to conferences because we want you all to know that you’re not looking at a couple up here that’s never had a reason to divorce or a reason to, to have, you know, a, a communication breakdown. We’ve had some struggles of our own. And one I, in particular that I wanna share with you is when I went through a four-year battle with anxiety and depression. And it started a little bit after we got married and, uh, we were having a lot of trouble with some family members, um, kind of infringing on our marriage, which is a whole other, um, issue that could have a whole other talk. But it ended up, uh, lingering with me and I was just dealing with anxiety and depression. And, and it, it was, it was like those commercials you see for medication for these things where it has like a little person with a cloud over their head and it’s raining and it’s like this dark cloud and they, it’s following them around wherever they go. And that’s exactly what it feels like. It was like this heaviness over me that I couldn’t shake off. And there were days where I had trouble breathing, it felt like something was sitting on my chest. And, and I just, I couldn’t even figure out exactly what it was that was causing me to be so sad or so anxious. But it, it just got, it got bigger and bigger and I would pray about it and, and I wouldn’t feel the release necessarily. I mean, God would get me through the day as he always does, as our sustainer, but I just, I just could not shake it off. And I, I finally was very real with Dave about it. I mean, I’m sure he could sense that something was wrong with me. And, and you know, there would be nights where I couldn’t sleep where I would wake up and feel physically ill and I’d run to the bathroom and, and my mind would just be spinning with lies because that’s what Satan does when he is trying to mess with us. And he, he sure did a number on me. He would tell me things like, “Dave’s gonna leave you ’cause you probably did something wrong to, to feel this way anyway. And you’re damaged goods now. I mean, you’re not even the woman you used to be. You know, you’re not fun anymore. It’s, he doesn’t feel like he married the same, you know, that his wife is there anymore, so he’s probably gonna leave you. Oh, and you know what? You must not be a really, a strong Christian because no strong Christian would have anxiety or depression if they really believed.” I had all these thoughts weighing on me day in, day out. And there would be nights where I would wake up and I just knew that I needed prayer. And I would wake Dave up sometimes like 3:00 AM, 4:00 AM and every time you all, every time I woke him up when I know he was exhausted, I know he had to go to work really early in the morning. He never once said, “You know what, Ashley, this has been going on long enough. You need to just put on your big girl pants and you need to handle this yourself.” Or he never once said, “You know, I’m just really tired of this. I’m exhausted. Can you just call somebody, call somebody else, call your mom, maybe she can pray with you.” He never once said, “You know, I, this is really your problem, it’s not really mine. You know, I just, I’ve told you everything I can tell you, so you just need to handle this on your own.” Never once, never once, not one time. And I woke him up a lot, believe me. I woke him up a whole lot. Every time I woke him up and I asked him for prayer, he would grab my hand, he would pray with me as long as it took. And these were sometimes some long prayers and, and prayers full of tears from me and a and a heart racing just ’cause I could not get relief. And Dave would pray with me and I would feel the relief come over me. And then I would sometimes say, “You know, sweetie, I just so appreciate your prayers and I’d understand if, if you wanna leave me,” ’cause I would have those lies, I would have those lies in my mind. And every time he would look me straight in the face and he would say, “I love you more today than I have ever loved you even on the day that I married you. And I am staying with you, I am never leaving your side.” And he would say that to me every time, every time. And you all, if it wasn’t for God sustaining me through that time and for a husband who prayed with me time and time again and was with me in my corner, and then eventually he helped me take the steps necessary to get some really good Christian counseling. If it wasn’t for all of that, I would not be standing here today. It looked very bleak for me. I felt very alone before I shared it with my husband and, and let him come into this dark place with me and be my partner. But when I did that, everything started to change. And I’m just so thankful I share this story ’cause I’m so thankful that Dave was there for me. ‘Cause I do see so many couples who are struggling or maybe one couple is dealing with depression or cancer or a really bad work situation. And I see them struggling alone and I see their partner feeling like they can’t do anything. But let me tell you this, you may not be a counselor, maybe you don’t know the answers, but the best thing you can do for them is get in their corner with them, in that dark place and stay by their side till you’re able to both walk into that light out of that dark corner. And you’ll be so glad that you did. And so just be there for each other. We have to be there for each other because we will face struggles like Dave said. So we have to face ’em hand-in-hand.

Dave: You have to face ’em hand-in-hand. And you can’t always pick your struggles. But here’s what you need to remember. Every struggle in your marriage, every struggle in your life is going to become a story someday.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Dave: It’s either going to be a story about how you got stronger, how you leaned on each other, how you grew in your faith, and how you came out stronger on the other side. Or it’s gonna be a story about why you gave up.

Ashley: You know, the couples with the strongest marriages, with the happiest marriages, they aren’t the ones that never had a reason to give up, they’re the ones who just refused to give up through it. They refused and they kept on going and they kept on going. And they chose for their story to be one of victory, to be one of coming through the hard times out the other side, one where God was at the center of it all. Even in the midst of something that you thought, “I don’t know if we’re gonna make it through this.” When you come together and you lean on God together and you refuse to give up, he can do the miraculous. And we see it every day. He’s still in the business of raising dead things and bringing them back to life. And he does that not only with, with uh, people and with sickness, he does it with marriages, he does it with marriages. And so if your marriage is struggling, I don’t think it’s any accident that you’re here and it’s just my hope and prayer that you will hear something and you will let it seep into your heart and you will know that God wants you to stick it out and, and that you have something amazing on the other side of this that you really can’t even see right now. But it’s something that only God can do and he wants to do it for you and your marriage today.

John: What a transparent message from Dave and Ashley Willis today on Focus on the Family.

Jim: I’d agree John. And that’s what, uh, they’re advocating for, transparency in our marriage relationships as well. Developing that level of open and honest communication with your spouse is something we should all be striving for. And I don’t always do it that well, uh, Jean would attest to that. And we are almost outta time today. So, uh, let me just remind you that if this program brought up some issues that you’d like help with, please give us a call. Our friendly staff would be happy to listen to your concerns, pray with you, provide a resource or two and if needed, uh, they can request a call back from one of our Caring Christian counselors. That’s a free service that we provide thanks to the donor community that support Focus. And if things are going well for you right now, can I ask you to consider, uh, if Focus on the Family has had an impact on your life, uh, to give accordingly so that we can together help others. We’re a nonprofit ministry and we rely on the support of those who benefit from our broadcast, podcast, magazines and all the other resources. And when you make a donation of any amount, we’ll send you a copy of the book written by Dave and Ashley Willis called Naked and Healthy: Uncover the Lifestyle Your Mind, Body, Spirit, and Marriage Need. And that will be our way of saying thank you for partnering with us in ministry.

John: Get your copy of the book and a free audio download of this presentation at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or when you call 800 a letter A and the word FAMILY. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Book cover for Naked & Healthy: Uncover the Lifestyle Your Mind, Body, Spirit, and Marriage Need by Dave and Ashley Willis

Naked and Healthy: Uncover the Lifestyle Your Mind, Body, Spirit and Marriage Need

Receive the book Naked and Healthy and the audio download of the broadcast "Being Completely Transparent With Your Spouse" for your donation of any amount!

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Tim and Noreen Muehlhoff Cropped

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Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

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Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

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Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

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Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

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Headshot of Kevin Thompson

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Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

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Headshot image of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Patti Giebink

Mrs. Patti Giebink

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Cover image of the book "Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life"

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Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

Mrs. Wendy Speake

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Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

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Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Thank you for committing to pray for the pre-born!

Sign up below for your free seven-day prayer guide. This daily guide will help give direction to your prayers for the pro-life movement. We will be praying with you!