Ted Cunningham: Early in our marriage I had to tell her, I go, “Listen, baby, there’s just not a lot of adventure left for men in the world anymore, okay. So please let me find my own parking space, okay? I want to do it all by myself.”
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family we’re gonna hear from Pastor Ted Cunningham as he shares some really fun insights about how to have a more enjoyable relationship with your spouse. I’m John Fuller and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: Man, Ted does have that gift of humor, and today he’s going to combine that with some great ideas to promote intimacy between husbands and wives. And I know you’re really gonna enjoy this message. Ted Cunningham is founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri. He’s the author of several books on marriage, including, Fun Loving You. And as you’re gonna hear, he’s a great speaker.
John: He really is. Uh, here’s Ted Cunningham speaking at one of our date night comedy events on Focus on the Family.
Ted: Well, it is good to be here. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure.” Now I grew up in an Independent Fundamental Premillennial King James Version-Only Baptist Church.
And so, I really shouldn’t even be here tonight, ‘cause you all got some – anyway, I grew up in a church, in a home that taught me how to love Jesus, but I grew up in a church and a home that taught me how to honor purity, but not necessarily how to honor marriage. So you can imagine, seven years into marriage, one night my wife was in bed reading a book on how men think. It’s not a real thick book.
You can read it in about a night. And I remember her reading this book and flippin’ the pages and I could tell she was gettin’ more and more mad, getting more and more frustrated. And I told her for years, “The problem with our marriage is you read too much.”
“If you’d stop readin’, we’d have a better marriage.” And she’s flippin’ these pages and she finally sets the book down and she goes, “I have to ask you a question and I need an honest answer.” She said, “Have you ever struggled with lust towards another woman?”
Now let me teach you somethin’. All right, you start by acting as though you didn’t hear the question.
“Have you ever struggled with lust towards another woman?” Tactic two, you act as though you didn’t understand the question. “What do you mean?”
But then I knew we were going there. We were gonna have a long conversation about the way men think. And – and for the week as we discussed this, we’d walk into stores and anytime a woman would walk towards me, Amy would look right at me and I’d have to look right to the ground. That was the – for the whole week. At the end of the week – this is a true story – she comes up to me and she said, “I’ve been gettin’ some discipleship. I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on.” For – who’s the first person she had to go hear? Right, she had to find out what Beth Moore said about the subject. ‘Cause if Beth Moore said it, Jesus believes it.
And she said, “I’m gonna tell you somethin’ right now, Ted Cunningham. I will be your only fantasy. Okay, there’s a Hebrew term for that. You know what the Hebrew term is? Bow, bow, chicka, bow, bow.
But I think Christians should be leading out in this. Husband and wife, the marriage bed kept pure. We – we can have a lot of creative ideas in the marriage bedroom without bringing anything from the world into it. And all God’s people said…?
Ted: You’re like, “I don’t know. Depends on how far he’s gonna go with this.” I’m gonna start with the guys just to help you out, ‘cause I love you and I care for you and this is pastoral uh, care tonight. I want to give you a list on how to prepare your wife for a night of romance, okay. And if you haven’t taken any notes, this is the time to start. You get your phone out and you start writin’ it down, because we believe in our home, men are microwaves; women are Crock-Pots.
That’s Number One. We actually got a candle that we call the Crock-Pot candle and when that candle’s lit, it means tonight’s the night. I taught my kids to play with matches. “You guys light that thing anytime you want.”
I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve blown the candle out because of you kids.
But the candle can be lit and it means, “Okay, we have all day.” So guys this is all day we’re preparing her for a night of romance. Okay, Number One, it starts early in the morning. Number Two, give her a non-sexual touch before you leave the house. That’s what we call a NST, okay? Dr. Gary Smalley says you need 12 of those a day and it’s not, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. You know what a non-sexual touch is, right? It’s the hair over the ear. It’s a hand on the back. Is it’s the – maybe opening a door and the hand on the small of the back. Driving down the road, a hand on the thigh, holding hands, a gentle kiss on the cheek. That’s a non-sexual touch, okay?
Call her during the day. Just add it to the list. Call her during the day for no purpose other than to connect with her, just to say, “Hey, how’re you doin’? Just callin’ to say, I want you to know, I’m at work, but I’m thinking of you.” Mm!
Get home a little bit early. Do something domestic. If you beat your wife home, get the dishwasher started. You – the key here is you don’t even need dishes in it; just get the dishwasher started. The sound of the dishwasher goin’ on does somethin’ to my wife! I can’t explain it. But when I do any sort of cleaning around the house, she’s like – and when she just looks at me, we don’t even have to communicate with words anymore. She looks at me like, “You’re my man. The candle is lit.”
Download a lovemaking playlist. Oh, this is good. We got songs. You got songs? We grew up in the ‘80s. We got songs. All I have to do and if I don’t even play it, if I sing it, it’s even better. And I want to give you permission to join me as I start singin’ this song, okay? See, some of you know, “Oh, it’s gonna be good,” but it’s good. Listen, all I have to do is walk into the kitchen and start singin’ this, “Now I’ve had the time of my life, no I never felt like this before. This I swear.” And she jumps in the air. I grab her…
And off we go. Now see, all of this is building, right? And I – I try to help my brothers along in this, because they’re like, “Well, we don’t really connect all day and we’ve been tired and well, she’s workin’ and I’m workin’ and we’re doin’ the kids’ activities and we’re getting’ home, but – but I always like to go into the kitchen about 9 o’clock and tap her and be like, “Hey, baby, do you want to go?” And she says, “No. Like you haven’t prepared me.” Right, for a woman, sexual interest is driven by – by energy.
John: Pastor Ted Cunningham on Focus on the Family. And we have a CD of his program for you when you make a gift of any amount to the ministry. Just call 800-A-FAMILY – 800-232-6459 – or donate and request that CD at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Ted: This is why you have to remove distractions. In our home right now, we got a 10-year-old distraction and a 12-year-old distraction. And most nights, the candle’s lit, I have to run around the house goin’, “Stay away from your mother,” right. “Leave her alone; go to your room right now.”
“I just have to say somethin’ to mom.” “No, you’re gonna say nothin’ to mom.”
“You’re gonna leave mom alone. You can talk to her in the morning.” You’ve done all this work. You’ve worked for 12 hours and the kid can say or do somethin’, “Oh, I’m not really in the mood.” “You stay focused! I’ll take care of the kids.”
You gotta bring some candles into the bedroom and this is where the ladies start to go, “I’m kinda insecure about my body.” Well, put a votive in the far corner of the room. Make ‘em squint, but get a candle.” Okay, that’s enough for the guys.
Ladies, here’s my list for you on how to prepare your husband for romance. Show up naked. That’s it.
We don’t need no calls during the day just to see how we’re doin’. We’re fine. The house doesn’t even need to be clean. You would be amazed at how dirty it can be. Marriage should be honored by all. You know, that means every single, every married, young, old, it doesn’t matter, all of us are called to esteem marriage as highly valuable.
I think we’ve gotten away from this next key uh, verse in the Scripture. It’s found in Ecclesiastes. I love the book ends of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes 1, “Life is hard.” Ecclesiastes 12, “Then you die.” That’s a – it’s why a lot of people avoid that book, but generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. And then you get to chapter 12, and it says what? “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come when you say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’” It’s old age.
Here’s the book ends. Life is hard, then you die. But in the middle of this book is Ecclesiastes 9, 7 to 9. It says this: “Go and eat your food with gladness. Drink your wine with a joyful heart.” We were independent, fundamental, premillennial, King James version-only Baptists. We never did that part. We left that part out.
It says eat your food with gladness. Drink your wine with a joyful heart, for now God favors what you do, but not the Independent Baptists, but God favors it. “Always be clothed in white and always anoint your head with oil,” speaking there of joy and festivity. And then verse 9 says this: “Endure life with your wife all your miserable days.”
I love going to churches where Bibles are closed and I misquote that verse like that. I’ll say, “Endure life with your wife all your miserable days.” And I’ll always get a few, “Mmm! It’s good; it’s good.” And I say, “That’s not what it says.” You know what it says? And it’s the only place in your Bible where it says this, “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all your meaningless days, for this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.” In other words, you can enjoy life and marriage at the same time. Part of esteeming marriage as highly valuable is reminding all of us that you don’t have to choose between life and wife. I want you to think about this for just a second, just a second. E-Harmony, Match.com, Farmersonly.com comes on the screen. But think about the guy who’s sittin’ at home right now in a bad marriage or in a stuck marriage or the wife is in a bad marriage, a stuck marriage. They see the twirling couple on the screen. You’ve seen ‘em. Guy comes on. “They found their soulmate. They found – we have an algorithm that all you have to do is take a test. It puts you with the perfect person.” And he’s goin’, “Oh! Look how happy they look. They’re enjoying life. I’d like to enjoy life like that maybe again one day. I did before marriage. But now I’m married and our problem is we never took a test.”
You know, our culture really is fallin’ for this idea, that compatibility is something you find or something you test for and that’s just not true. Compatibility is something you create. It’s some – you learn to enjoy one another. You learn to be compatible. My wife and I, we are different. I grew up in a home that taught savings was money you put away for a rainy day. She grew up in a home that taught savings was the difference between the actual price and the sale price. Does anybody know what I’m talkin’ about?
But with our money, we’re learning to become compatible. She grew up goin’ – holidays, we weren’t compatible with the holidays. They’re comin’ up again. My wife grew up in the White House, right, tree in every room, garland over every door, lights everywhere. My family decorated for Christmas on a commercial break. Does anybody know what I’m talkin’ about? Dad would go over to the crawl space, pull out a 3-foot pre-decorated tree and put it on the deal, pull off the garbage bag and we’d sing “Joy to the World” and back to “That’s Incredible.” That’s how it works. But not my wife and so you can imagine. Every Christmas early on especially, by the time I’m gettin’ the 57th box down out of the attic that says “Christmas Décor,” I’m in no mood to celebrate the birth of my Lord and Savior. Anybody with me? Am I the only one? I’m ticked off!
But we’re finding ways to be compatible.
John: You’re listening to Ted Cunningham today, on Focus on the Family. And just a quick reminder, we have a CD of this program when you call 800-A-FAMILY or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Ted: And here’s one of the little tools that we’ve picked up. And actually I picked this up from my friends, Jason Earls and John Branyan. They’re comedians and they have what’s called, in comedy, “The callback.” The callback, it’s what makes your favorite comedian your favorite comedian. It’s what makes your favorite sitcom your favorite sitcom. And … and here’s how it works. Something happens. There’s an event. You put a little space between the event, but then you bring the callback in at a later time. It’s Jeff Foxworthy, right? Anytime he says, “You might be a redneck,” we all die laughin’. Bill Engvall, “Here’s your sign,” right, those are the callbacks those guys have. And we’ve decided we need some callbacks in our marriage in order to enjoy one another. My wife, she – she’s a foodie. Do we have any foodies in here? Let me see the hands of all the foodies. Okay, I’m not a foodie. What a “foodie” means is, you go into a restaurant and you never leave full. That’s the definition of a foodie. Small portions, big prices.
We’re in New York. She walks me into this restaurant and I sit down. I’m like “Oh, this is gonna be bad. I’m not gonna get enough food.” Waiter walks over. He has a plank and there’s a mint leaf sticking out this side and a mint leaf stickin’ out that side and I asked him, “Is that the salad?”
“Is this where we’re startin’ this thing?” And I kid you not, he says, “No, here’s what the chef recommends, that you take the mint leaf and you begin rubbing it over your lips and under your nose and on your chin and just really begin. It’s gonna prepare you for the meal.” I look over, my wife’s totally into it.
I’m still holdin’ mine. And I told the guy, I said, “You know, I grew up in Illinois where we grew a lot of produce, we just never once thought about rubbing it on our faces. And I think if a husband and a wife are gonna rub vegetables on their face together, I think it should be done in privacy and you don’t even need to be here right now.”
He wouldn’t leave, so I – ‘cause he wouldn’t leave. I decided I’m gonna wear this mint leaf out, so I’m…
I’m rubbin’, I hand it back to him and he takes it off. But now watch the callback, ‘cause my wife knows that is just not a comfortable situation for me. And – and I hear guys say this to me a lot. They’ll say things like, “Oh, that’s her thing; it’s not my thing.” But compatibility is her thing becoming your thing and your thing becoming her thing, finding ways to enjoy it. So here’s the callback on that one. Now when we’re at my favorite restaurant, Le Cracker Barrel…
All I have to do is lean over, grab a piece of her broccoli and go like that a little bit and she’s ready to go. We’ve become more compatible in this area, too. Early in our marriage, I had to tell her, I go, “Listen, baby, there’s just not a lot of adventure left for men in the world anymore, okay. So please let me find my own parking space, okay? I want to do it all by myself. I want to provide it for my family.” She’d point at a spot three spaces in, I’d drive 20 spaces down, and she used to look at me with those eyes that said, “You stubborn, stubborn man,” but not anymore.
You know what part of becoming compatible requires and enjoying life together requires? You have to fire one another as the source of life. Jesus is our source of life, not one another.
So here’s what we did and I’m gonna ask you, I’m gonna invite you to be a part of doing this with us. I’m gonna have you raise your right hand and repeat after me. Go ahead. This is the participatory part of the night. Raise your right hand; repeat after me, “I…”
Ted: …state your name.
Audience: …state your name.
Ted: Everybody’s part of the comedy tour now. “Do hereby resign…”
Audience: Do hereby resign…
Ted: “…as general manager of the universe…”
Audience: …as general manager of the universe…
Ted: “…and my spouse.”
Audience: …and my spouse.
Ted: Okay, now watch this; this is the best part. Take your finger for the very last time, that finger that has been pointing blame at your spouse for years for your unhappiness, point it at your spouse for the very last time and say these words that will set you free in Jesus. Say, “You’re fired.”
Audience: You’re fired.
Ted: “You will no longer suck the life out of me. Jesus is my source of life, not you.” You don’t have to keep repeating; I’m teaching now.
But some of you are really gettin’ into that – “And I’ll say another thing! The way you…” Okay, so stay with me. We’re almost done for the night. So now because we fired one another as the source of life, no more “You will not.” So now guess that does? It turns conflict into fun, turns it into that callback where we’re able to enjoy one another even in a parking lot. And so, now we pull in and she points – I’ve told her. The rules of the parking lot have not changed. I can’t – from the foundations of the earth, God set up the rules. When a woman points out a spot, automatically disqualifies that spot.
It’s no longer an available spot. So I’d go pass her third space in, 20 spaces down and there I sit. And you know what she does now and I love it. She leans over and she starts massaging my bicep. And she’ll say, “You did this all by yourself.” And I can’t fully explain it, but it does somethin’ to me.
You know what I caught her doin’ a couple years ago? She knows those Andes Candies at the end of an Olive Garden meal are like crack to me. I love those Andes Candies. She bought a bag of ‘em. She keeps ‘em in her purse for when I do something good.
And it was in a parking lot I received my first one. She pulled it out, she handed it to me. I grabbed that out of her hand. I’m openin’ it up and I realized, “My wife just gave me a treat. She is rewarding my good behavior. I am dog!” I was all right. I opened it up and I enjoyed it anyway.
That’s turning conflict into a callback. And you just have to make the decision, right? The decision to stay married flows from your character. That commitment flows from character and character trumps compatibility. Compatibility flows from your character and we have received some great callbacks from those out on tour. And one of my favorite ones comes from a guy. He – he said, “My wife called me at work one day and the toilet was running. And I told her to go over, take the lid off the top and look down. The chain’s probably on the bottom. Just reach down and grab the chain, put it back.” And he goes – and he’s explaining it to her and she goes, “Ew!” She says, “I’m not reachin’ my hand in there. It’s disgusting.” And he goes, “Honey, it’s clean water. It’s like the water that comes out of the sink.” And he has to talk her into it. So, he finally talks her into reaching her hand in there, but right before – right before she does, she asks him the question, “Oh! Am I gonna get electrocuted?”
And he came up with the most brilliant callback. He said, “Honey, you have to unplug the toilet first.”
Thank you very much, Date Night Comedy Tour. It’s been great bein’ with you. You’ve been a lot of fun tonight. Thanks.
John: You can hear why the crowd was so enthusiastic at a Focus on the Family date night comedy event featuring Pastor Ted Cunningham.
Jim: Well, what a great message of encouragement for marriages. Um, I want to emphasize what Ted did there toward the end. He had everyone resigned from the position of general manager of the universe and my spouse. And I hope you caught what he meant. It reminds me of the saying, “You can’t be your spouse’s Holy Spirit.” Man, that’s a good one. And as much as we want to be that, we really can’t create lasting change in our spouse. And unfortunately, it’s really easy for us to see what needs to be changed. That’s the problem, right? But if we can have this mindset that we have resigned as the manager of our spouse, we can relax a bit, accept our spouse and their faults, and then work on our own flaws instead. That’s a much better recipe. And you are the only person you can really change. That’s what you gotta remember. And John, I gotta tell you, this is really a recipe for a peaceful home.
John: And I wanna write the recipe down and go to it frequently. As Ted said, this really does open the door, too, for some light-heartedness, to be able to laugh at those things that, you know, maybe used to be a wedge between you and your spouse.
Jim: Well, that’s right, and humor really helps in any relationship. In fact, a famous comedian once said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between 2 people.” And that is so good. Our marriage team here at Focus on the Family, led by Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley, they have found that laughter really bonds people together and can help rekindle romance with your spouse. It can also help you face challenges and trials as they come up in the future. Based on that research, Focus on the Family is offering a fun date night for husbands and wives. It’s called Love, Laugh, Pursue. And it will be a great way to get out of the house and unplug from your busy life and reconnect with your spouse. Greg and Erin will present some practical tips on how to enrich your marriage. And today’s broadcast guest, Ted Cunningham, will keep you laughing along the way. And this will be a creative and fun way to enrich your marriage.
John: Yeah, that’s quite a lineup and we’re kicking off the Love, Laugh, Pursue events here in Colorado Springs on Friday the first of February. And you can find out more at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or by calling 800-A-FAMILY. That’ll be Friday, February 1st, right here at the Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs.
Jim: Well and you know, Focus on the Family’s here to help your marriage. We’ve got the Love, Laugh, Pursue events designed as a quick tune-up. Just some things you can take away to apply to your marriage to make it better. And of course, we have counselors who are available by phone to help you in a pain point or in a, you know, difficult spot. And then there’s our Hope Restored intensive for marriages that are in crisis. We wanna support your marriage any way we can. And the good news is, our research shows we’re helping to save almost 500 marriages a day. Did you catch that? I mean, a day!
And here’s just one success story from a listener. She wrote: “The Focus on the Family broadcast has helped restore my marriage. I began listening several years ago when were on the brink of divorce. By applying suggestions from your program, our marriage is now thriving. Thank you so much for obeying God and being a channel for His truth.”
John: We love feedback like that. God does some remarkable work through these programs.
Jim: Yeah, that is so good. So if you have a heart for marriage, be a part of our marriage-building team. Make a donation today to help strengthen marriages at all stages – from engaged couples to those in the retirement years. And when you make a generous donation of any amount, I’d like to send you a CD of today’s message from Pastor Ted Cunningham as our way of saying thank you for getting involved in helping others. Get a copy and listen again with your spouse.
John: Yeah, I like that idea, Jim. And for our listeners, give a call. Our number is 800-232-6459. That’s 800-A-FAMILY. Or donate online and request the CD at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Today’s program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.