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Bringing Laughter to Your Marriage

Bringing Laughter to Your Marriage

On this lighthearted broadcast, Pastor Ted Cunningham shares humorous stories from life with his spouse to illustrate how laughter is a key component for a thriving and lasting marriage. He explores the emotional, physical, and spiritual benefits of laughter, and encourages listeners to discover their "humor muscle" and flex it on a daily basis.
Original Air Date: February 18, 2020

Excerpt:

Pastor Ted Cunningham: It is something you can get better at. Starts with the decision that I’m gonna lighten up, I’m not going to take myself so seriously. There are gonna be times in this relationship we need to be dead serious. But just like date night or an annual abandon, we need to bring the joy into it. So, we go through, clearly, all the mental and physical and emotional benefits of this and then end with the spiritual.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Well, that’s Ted Cunningham. And he’s with us today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Hey, John, here’s a revelation. Here at Focus on the Family, we love marriage (laughter). I mean, I hope that’s obvious to everybody. It’s foundational, uh, to the family, of course. And we believe it’s a gift from God. In fact, that’s one reason why we talk so much about marriage here on the program. We want to equip you, to help you have the best marriage you can have, a marriage that’s thriving – as we say – thriving in Christ, regardless of what season of life you’re in – as a newly married, God bless you (laughter), or as a couple that’s been married 40, 50 years. I – there are still things to learn. And I know that’s true in my life. And I’ve been married over 30 years. But every day I’m thinking, oh, I could have done that better or said that better. But one of the great ingredients that I have enjoyed in – in my marriage with Jean is being able to bring humor into it. It doesn’t always work.

John: No.

Jim: And I failed at it. But today, we want to help you brush up on those comedy skills (laughter) and not for an audience of many but for an audience of one, your spouse. And we’ve invited one of our favorite guests here today, pastor and all-around funny guy, Ted Cunningham, to help us with this.

John: And you’ll laugh along the way, I hope, as we talk to Ted. He is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri. He’s also the author of A Love That Laughs, which is a brand-new book that Focus on the Family is putting out.

Jim: Oh, that’s great.

John: It is. And most of the material, I understand, for the book came from Ted’s marriage to his wife, Amy. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but…

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: Well, there you go. Hey Ted, welcome to Focus, by the way.

Ted: Hey, you know, I’m not just a guest. I am a listener of this broadcast.

John: You’re family.

Jim: Oh, that’s so much fun.

Ted: I love following y’all and…

Jim: All right, so you and Amy – how long have you been married now?

Ted: 23 years.

Jim: Wow, that’s good. And you’re still laughing.

Ted: Still laughing, laughing more today…

Jim: (Laughter).

Ted: …Than we did in the first 10, first 20.

Jim: That is so good. Um, early in your marriage, you had to find that fun way, though, of communicating, right?

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: And how did that – how did that come about? I don’t see you as a serious guy. Even years ago, you were probably pretty funny.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: Did – did Amy ever go, “Can you just stop? Just stop.”

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: “Stop being silly.”

Ted: And, you know, sometimes people come up to her at events and they’ll say, “Is he like this all the time at home? Does he always tell jokes?”

Jim: That’s exhausting (laughter).

Ted: I’m not – I’m not telling jokes to my wife all the time, like, “Hey, have you heard this one?” No, it’s…

Jim: (Laughter).

Ted: It’s finding the humor in everyday life. That’s the emphasis of the book, is to be observational in our humor. And so, you don’t have to be a funny guy, a funny lady, you don’t have to be a comedian to find the humor in life for your marriage.

Jim: Okay, that right there, though, I did want to hit that, and we might as well hit it early because temperaments play into this.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: And you’re an extrovert. You can see that. You – you do have a lens in which you see the world with a bit of humor. You know, I’ve known you long enough to know that when something goes badly for you, you tend to find something funny in it. I – I tend to be that way, too. But not everybody’s wired that way. Some people are very serious about life.

Ted: Absolutely. And there’s a time and a place for it. So, it’s – I don’t find the funny in every single thing that happens to us. But as we introduce in the book, I want a laughter-to-conflict ratio that laughter’s 100 to 1. And Amy’s the one that gave us that first ratio when I asked her, “If you were to compare our laughs to our conflict, what would you – what would the ratio be?” And she didn’t even – she gives answers quick in our marriage. She already has answers. And she said, “A hundred to one.”

Jim: Okay, let me – let me get your best argument for this, and then we’re going to move to some examples which are funny.

Ted: Sure.

Jim: But for that person that’s saying, “You know what? It just – it doesn’t come easy to me.” I hate to blast the engineer mind. I know I’m going to hear from people say, “Hey, I’m funny and I’m an engineer.” I get that. But methodic, planning people, engineering people, process people tend to look at things with, you know, maybe less humor. So, tell me again why. Why do I need to – to laugh? It seems frivolous to me. “And I don’t know that the Lord would be laughing at these things.”

Ted: (Laughter).

Jim: I mean, seriously, right?

Ted: I just wish people could see your face right now. You got that scowl. My wife, when we started this book, she said, “Make sure it is early on that you make it clear to everyone I am not a comedian. I don’t tell jokes.” In 23 years of marriage, she’s maybe told one or two jokes. It’s just not who she is. She’s more of a serious, uh, person by nature. And she, you know, she looks into every detail of life. She’s into her environment. And so, she’s grateful that we’ve made humor a priority in our marriage. And so, I – believe it or not, I always start with Ecclesiastes 7 when it talks about a good name is better than fine perfume and the day of death is better than the day of birth. And you’re like, “Why would you start with the funeral to talk about laughter?”

Jim: (Laughter).

Ted: Because you read, it’s better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting. Meaning when you go to a funeral, that’s a recalibrating event. You’re learning about life. And you should be asking questions about how you’re living. How are you honoring other people? And yet, when you go to a party, that’s a completely different purpose behind it. And that’s why the Scripture says sorrow is better than laughter. Well because sorrow is a teacher. But it doesn’t say sorrow is good, laughter is bad. It’s just, laughter has its place. And so, laughter – a cheerful heart is good medicine. And what I love about humor and laughter in marriage is it’s not only a good medicine, but it helps other medicines go down.

Jim: (Laughter) I like that.

Ted: So, we can learn a lot in the process. And people describe my teaching at church or at conferences and seminars as, um, “Yeah, you – you get us laughing and then you just hit us with something. We – we weren’t expecting it.”

Jim: Right.

Ted: “We double over. And with laughter, you, kind of, pick us back up, and you give us a hug. And then ‘Bam!’ right there again you’re like, oh – what? – it’s like we just got shot.”

Jim: It’s very effective.

Ted: Yeah, because laughter is a great tool. Humor is a great way that we can express ourselves through – through difficult and challenging times.

Jim: All right. You’ve answered that. Um, let’s go back to you and Amy and your differences. Um, I think New York – you had something go on in a New York restaurant, which is an example of how to manage some things…

Ted: So, I was – I was born in the cornfields outside of Chicago, Illinois. Northern Illinois. And so, my favorite meal was meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and corn. And then…

Jim: I’m with you.

Ted: Take that – that’s just – I can eat that every day. My wife is a foodie. So, the first time she took us to a foodie restaurant – and you know what I mean by foodie? It means you’re gonna spend some money and you’re gonna need a snack when you leave.

Jim: (Laughter).

John: It’s a small plate of food for a lot of money.

Ted: You are not gonna leave full. And so, I already had all sorts of attitude going into it. But one of the things I love about humor is you can enjoy your spouse’s activity or hobby without actually enjoying your spouse’s activity or hobby because you’re having fun along the way.

Jim: Right.

Ted: We walked into this restaurant, and I – I don’t make up one word of this. The waiter comes over with a plank – like a – a cedar plank. And he’s got a mint leaf sticking out of both sides of it. And I looked at Amy. I said, “Is that the salad? Is this where we’re starting with this thing?”

Jim: (Laughter) One piece of (unintelligible).

Ted: And this waiter deadpan – I mean, he’s as serious as can be – says, “No, the chef picked this earlier today in New Jersey.” Like I’m supposed to be impressed with New Jersey mint. I don’t know what…

John: New Jersey produce is worldwide (unintelligible).

Jim: (Laughter) It is the Garden State. I must…

Ted: But he was very proud of where they got the mint. And he said, “The chef recommends that you rub this over your lips and under your nose and on your chin.” I am rolling my eyes at Amy.

Jim: (Laughter) And you’re in a restaurant.

Ted: And I’m in a restaurant. And he’s not joking.

Jim: Yes.

Ted: He wants us to prepare ourselves by cleaning our face with this mint. And I look over at my wife. She’s chuckling because she knows what I’m thinking, which is – that’s the fun part of being married a long time. You don’t – you don’t even have to have conversation and you can laugh because you know how your spouse is processing something. My wife’s fully into it. She is rubbing this leaf all over her lips and under her nose and fully into it. And I told the guy, I said, “You know, where I’m from we grew a lot of produce. We just never once thought about rubbing it on our faces.”

(LAUGHTER)

Ted: “And I think if a husband and wife are gonna, you know, be rubbing produce on their faces, this is something we should have a little bit of privacy for. I’m gonna need you to back away from this one a little bit, buddy.”

(LAUGHTER)

Ted: And, uh, he stood there. I wore that mint leaf out. I rubbed it everywhere. I was – I was given – and he was – he knew I was not appreciating it. But that – those are those moments. Like, I’ve only had one massage in my life. My wife loves massages. We were at an event. And – and I’m just gonna say, we were in California.

Jim: (Laughter).

Ted: So, the event gifted us a couples’ massage. And I hated every single minute of that 60-minute massage. I felt violated and uncomfortable. I didn’t like anything. And the entire time coming from underneath the other table this is all I heard from my wife, (snickering). Because she knew. We didn’t have to say a word. But she was laughing and having a good time because she knew I was miserable through the whole thing. And that’s what I love about humor and marriage, it’s – like, Amy doesn’t even have to be here right now, and I can tell you completely – you throw any scenario at me, I can tell you how she’s gonna react to it. And that’s where you find the fun.

Jim: You know, Ted, again, some married couples, that may not go down as well. And I want to explore that a little bit, where even in that scenario, you know, the wife’s chuckling because she knows and the husband’s getting mad, not – he’s not laughing about it. It’s like…

Ted: Yeah, and we’re not talking…

Jim: “Why would you put me in this position?”

Ted: We’re not talking about humor that’s biting. We’re not talking about humor that’s sarcastic that’s, like, tearing of the flesh.

John: Oh, I was going to ask about that. Yeah.

Ted: We’re not talking about mean, uh, hurtful, constantly ribbing. It’s that lightheartedness that I just see missing in so many marriages. And I – I’ll be honest with you; I think most couples start off lighthearted.

Jim: Yeah.

Ted: You know, I – I listen to your broadcast. I hear a lot of great stories of couples early on. But then something happens. And I think that something that happens is drift.

Jim: Right.

Ted: They drift away. It was natural – we say this often in – in marriage teaching – it was natural early in the relationship, but you drifted away from it. And all you need to do to make it natural again is become intentional. What was natural, you now need to be intentional with 10, 20, 30 years in. And if you become intentional, it can become natural again to where it’s just the ebb and flow of your daily life as a couple. And that’s the goal of this part.

Jim: Right, so if you’re listening and you’re – you’re really struggling here, chill out. Just give it a try. And let’s listen to some of the ways you can apply that. Uh, it leads us to what you’re calling the callback. Now, I’ve never heard this term before. But in the book, you describe the callback. What is it?

Ted: Okay, so the callback is why you love your favorite comedians because – and you – you’ve heard the callback a lot. You just didn’t know the name of it because the callback is when there’s a punchline earlier in a set, and he brings it back up – or she brings it back up – off of a different story or a different premise. It usually gets a bigger laugh because you didn’t see it coming. But it just – because what comedy is is the jostling of the brain, right?

Jim: Right.

Ted: It’s the shocking of the brain. Like, I didn’t see that – that one coming. So, for Amy and I, that New York restaurant, I’m not leaving that restaurant without a callback. And now my callback is whenever we’re at my favorite restaurant, which is Le Cracker Barrel.

Jim: (Laughter) You take a lettuce leaf (laughter).

Ted: I take broccoli off her plate and start rubbing it on my cheek.

(LAUGHTER)

Ted: And we have a laugh from something that happened six years ago.

John: Yeah.

Ted: And that’s why in the book, we get – we want couples to figure out what their callbacks are. Write them down at the end. Um, put them in that journal so that you can keep going back to them – you might call them an inside joke, but they’re – they’re the callbacks. And we have so many callbacks in our marriage, taking everything that’s irritating, frustrating, annoying that – that would just usually grate on us, and we just – the key with all of this is we’ve made the decision we’re going to enjoy life together.

Jim: Enjoy life.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: That’s what I like about that.

Ted: You have to make the decision. And I just want to put this out there first because if a couple comes into my office in conflict, if they’re – if they’re in need of Hope Restored and I need to send them to a marriage intensive, I’m – I’m not teaching them how to be funny with each other in that moment…

Jim: Right, exactly.

Ted: I’m not teaching them to tell jokes and all that. But after they go through the marriage intensive, which is what we hear from couples coming out of the marriage intensive years later – “We’re experiencing levels of marital satisfaction we never dreamed possible” – then it’s at that point, you begin to teach them how not to get back into the drift…

Jim: Yes.

Ted: …That took you into that. And that’s when I would begin teaching that couple quality couple time, enjoying life together and bringing more humor into your marriage.

Jim: Right, that it plays a role.

Ted: Exactly.

John: And the point is the callback helps defuse a lot of situations.

Ted: Yes.

John: Yeah.

Ted: Here’s the secret, though, with the callback. You have to give it time, okay? I’ve made the mistake of bringing humor at the wrong time, okay? So, timing is everything in comedy. We know this. And so, my wife was one day, um, making a – a brussel sprout salad, like a cabbage salad…

Jim: That’s a nonstarter right there.

John: You need a lot of mint for that (laughter).

Ted: …Because you know, every – every party needs a Brussels sprouts salad. But she spent an hour in the kitchen chopping and cutting and dicing, making this salad beautiful – put it in this bowl. And I had bought her the coolest as-seen-on-TV invention I’ve ever seen. It’s a suction lid. It’s just a flat silicone lid that you put on the top of it. And when you pick it up, it (imitating suction noise) suctions to the bowl, and – and the lid’s sealed it. It’s amazing. And so – and I watched her picking this up after she made the salad. And I could see her processing in her mind this thing is truly amazing. Well, the mistake she made is she picked it up and walked over to the refrigerator with it. And as she’s walking to the refrigerator, she’s not supporting the bottom of the bowl. She looks at me and actually says the words, “This thing is amazing.”

Jim: (Laughter).

Ted: And as soon as she said “amazing,” the bowl separated from the lid, smashed on the ground. Brussels sprout cabbage is everywhere in our kitchen, and I lose it. A little tear forms in the right corner of her eye. She walks over all of the mess into the bedroom, which I interpreted to mean, “You’re cleaning this up, uh,  ’cause you bought the lid.”

Jim: (Laughter).

Ted: My son Carson walks into the room, and – and he goes, “What happened here?” I go, “Come over here.” And we just have a good laugh. About 30 minutes later, I’m gonna try to use the “This thing is amazing” callback. Listen, that’s not enough time.

Jim: No, she wasn’t…

(LAUGHTER)

Ted: Okay, 30 minutes is not enough time.

Jim: I could’ve told you (laughter).

Ted: So, bringing humor in – that’s another aspect of this. You gotta know timing.

Jim: And if you’d like some of those suction cup lids, John, tell our fans how they can get one.

(LAUGHTER)

John: Well, if you order now, we’ll send you a copy of Ted’s book.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: That’s all a joke, by the way.

Ted: Hey, they come in all different shapes and sizes.

John: Yeah, it’s A Love That Laughs: Lighten Up, Cut Loose, And Enjoy Life Together. The author is Ted Cunningham. He’s our guest today on Focus on the Family. We do have copies of the book, not the lid…

Jim: (Laughter).

John: …At focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call 800-A-FAMILY.

Jim: Hey, Ted. I want to hit the benefits of laughter because again, for the scientists in the audience (laughter)…

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: …Tell me why. What’s the benefit of laughter? Hit it. It’s quite expansive.

Ted: And – and you mentioned the engineers. Uh, they’re going to love Chapter 2, which is 38 benefits of laughter.

Jim: Right.

Ted: Yeah, and to see…

Jim: What are they?

Ted: …The purpose – well, the mental, the physical, the emotional, the relational, and then I end that list with the spiritual – the spiritual benefits. The most, most research went into that chapter, uh, of the book. But we – we just talk about how it manages stress, and you can work through difficult situations and conversations, like we just have already really talked about. But it bonds us. It eases tension, diffuses anger, lightens the mood. I mean, and I go all the way through, it even makes you more attractive. You know, I tell the guys…

Jim: (Laughter).

Ted: I tell the young guys in our church who feel like, man, I’m never gonna find a woman, well, you don’t need, you know, the – the face of Brad Pitt, the body of The Rock or the attitude of Tony Stark…

Jim: That’s good to hear (laughter).

Ted: Well, you need a paycheck and a few jokes. That’s what I tell the guys in our church all the time. “You just need a paycheck and a few jokes.” But women find men with a sense of humor attractive. And you’re like, “But I don’t have a sense of humor.” Well, that’s why we talk about these benefits because it’s something you can work on.

Jim: I mean, that should be convincing right there. What’s the difference between choosing and pursuing laughter rather than just waiting for it to happen? How can we choose laughter?

Ted: Well, I’ve always been gripped with Scott Stanley’s definition of choice, of choosing when he says, “Decisions have power.” And I love that because we talk about decisions all the time. You need to make decisions. So, this is one of those decisions, a choice that you make, and it has power. And we decided. And now that’s the decision. But then the pursuing is, we’re looking for it all day long. We’re finding the opportunities. I can tell you, me laughing six times a day, if that’s the average adult laughter, that is not for me. That is not from my home. That is not…

John: That’s underachieving for you.

Ted: Oh, that’s way underachieving. I want – if I get to lunch and have only laughed six times, I don’t think I’m – I’m pursuing it.

Jim: Now that seems like a high bar, all of a sudden.

Ted: You’ve laughed – you’ve laughed 30 or 40 times already today, Jim.

Jim: (Laughter) Well, I’m just saying for the person that it doesn’t come naturally, that could sound really overwhelming now. Wow, six times before lunch?

Ted: (Laughter).

Jim: And that’s low? Now you’ve intimidated me.

Ted: Yeah, and I know there are jobs that – that are serious, and you’re not cracking jokes. And I just want people to get the emphasis of this book is not joke writing. The emphasis of this book is finding joy, humor…

Jim: It’s your heart.

Ted: …Yeah and looking for lighthearted moments throughout the day. We find it in our kids. We find it in our marriage. We can find it in our jobs. We can find it at the DMV. We can find it while driving.

Jim: (Laughter).

Ted: It’s everywhere you turn. It’s just – it’s just the decision that you make is I can be frustrated on this customer service call right now or I can have fun with it. That’s the pursuit part. So, I make the decision I’m going to find joy in life, I’m going to enjoy life with my wife. Ecclesiastes 9:9, uh, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” These are all decisions that we’ve made. Now we pursue it. And the book is full of over a hundred practical ways to pursue laughter and humor in your marriage…

Jim: Okay, so somebody who’s not had a high degree of humor in their marriage and they’re saying, “Okay, I heard Ted Cunningham today on Focus on the Family. I’m going to – I’m going to go for it tonight,” and then boom, their humor just bombs. And now they – they may give up. But what would be your encouragement to the person who’s attempting humor in their marriage, but it’s not landing right?

Ted: It’s – it – if so – we’ve already talked about timing. But if I – I give some low-hanging fruit for humor and laughter. And I think singing and dancing are the lowest…

Jim: (Laughter).

Ted: …The lowest forms of comedy because people will say the same thing. “Well, I’m not good at singing.” Well, that’s the point, okay?

Jim: Right, that’s what’s funny.

Ted: “I – I – I can’t – I don’t have rhythm. I can’t – I can’t dance.” Well, that’s the point, right? Commitment is everything. I walk offstage after I – I hear comedian bomb, and they’ll go, “Man, what happened?” I go, “The problem was you weren’t committed to the joke.”

Jim: (Laughter).

Ted: And when you’re not committed to it, the person receiving it’s not going to be committed to it. We’ve all seen comedians give up onstage and be like, “Oh, man, if they weren’t into it, I’m not going to be into it.” So, I think the person who hasn’t pursued humor or hasn’t made the decision to pursue it, they – they just haven’t been working that muscle. They just gotta get into a point where…

Jim: Yeah.

Ted: …They’re committed to it and trying and attempting. And this is – this is the big, important part. I cover this in the book over actually a couple of pages. So, there’s physical benefits to laughter. We all know that. You breathe in oxygen-rich air.

Jim: Yeah, endorphins…

Ted: Vanderbilt University says, you know, you can burn, uh, up to 40 calories with 10 to 15 minutes of belly laughing. That’s why I say so don’t go work out; just help each other laugh.

Jim: (Laughter).

Ted: And this is the cool part. Your body cannot tell the difference between fake and real laughter. So, I tell wives, when your husband’s attempting it, fake it, right? Laugh. Like, just fake the laughter. Pursue it – and this is key – it’ll – it’ll catch on. Uh, MD Anderson, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, um, the – the Mayo Clinic, they have laughter therapy. They’re not saying that laughter heals the body, but they know laughter is a great way to help people through the treatments. And one of the things they do is, they just sit around in circles, and they fake laugh, okay?

Jim: Gotta get this on video.

Ted: That fake laughter can turn into real laughter.

Jim: Right.

Ted: But just like a yawn, laughter’s contagious.

Jim: Well, it will.

Ted: And you watch somebody fake laughing and you’re like, “This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.” And it starts to trigger something in you.

Jim: Well, one of the things – and people are going to be shocked, but I mean, when the boys and Jean and I are praying – you know, we’re getting together; we do a little devotion or something, and then we’re about to pray. Certainly, one of the three guys – it’s never mom. It’s either me or Trent or Troy. We start giggling about something.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: Because something is funny.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, it’s even the – the ritual sometimes can be quite funny, the way we approach it. And so, one of us will start giggling, and it gets – the other two of us to get going.

Ted: It’s contagious.

Jim: Mom is not giggling so much.

Ted: Yeah, no.

Jim: ‘Cause, “This is time before the Lord.”

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: And we just, like – and – but we can’t help it. And then we, “Okay, yeah. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Let me try again. Dear – (laughter).” There we go.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: And it’s just so funny. But it’s – there’s nothing really funny. What’s going on with that? It’s, like, spontaneous.

Ted: Yeah, and when you watch a movie and something strikes you as funny but doesn’t strike your spouse as funny and you get to giggling, there’s been more times in movies where I start laughing at my wife laughing.

Jim: Right.

Ted: And that even becomes a – a callback of sorts because you get in the car later, and she’ll think about it. She’ll be falling asleep and she’ll think about that and start laughing. And I just start laughing because she’s laughing. This is the power of how God created us, this laughter, this joy. So, I – I just – it’s why Paul says, “Rejoice. I’ll say it again – rejoice.” I mean, these are decisions that we make.

Jim: There’s – but there’s something in there about vulnerability. It struck me a moment ago when you were talking about it – the ability to – to sing and dance.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: Okay. There’s a vulnerability in doing that. And you’ve got to be a little emptied of your ego to put yourself in a silly position, which again, is why I think the Lord loves it.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: Because it kind of humbles you…

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: …When you’re not taking yourself so seriously all the time.

Ted: Yeah, and I tell – I tell guys this, that they – if they do not have a sense of humor and they’re wanting to figure out how to bring more humor into their marriage – and I tell them, all right, I just want you to pick one of her favorite songs and sing it to her. They’re like, “Oh, uh, I, uh – at dinner, like, across the table?” No, no, no, in the car while driving because now you have another activity to focus on. This always helps.

Jim: And maybe…

Ted: This defuses a guy…

Jim: And maybe some background music that’ll help you (laughter).

Ted: That you’re almost – yeah, it’s just – it’s like karaoke in the car. And you’ve got the overhead lights that I use a spotlight, so when it’s my turn to sing, I put the spotlight on me, and then I turn it off and put it on Amy. There’s all sorts of ways that you can do this – and what I call, again, that low-hanging fruit to just make the attempt. And I always tell a spouse – even – even with apologies, even if the words aren’t coming out right, but you know the heart is there, receive it. I say the same thing with humor and laughter. If your spouse is making the attempt, that deserves recognition.

Jim: Exactly right.

Ted: That deserves a fake laugh if that’s all you can come up with.

John: This is where my girls in particular have watched us interact, and they’re like, “Mom, he’s just telling you the weather and you’re laughing about it. What is it with that?” But we’ve chosen to do that very thing, just to encourage each other and to find the humor in some of the silliest things.

Ted: Yeah.

John: And I – I hope that they catch that and go into marriage…

Ted: Absolutely.

John: …Looking for a guy that’s going to make them laugh.

Ted: Absolutely. And – and so, we talk about this in the book. When you get married, there’s also this shared sense of humor that you have to develop. And that’s a whole ‘nother level that I enjoyed, that, again, we – we don’t even have to be talking, and we can see something, and she knows what I’m thinking, I know what she’s thinking…

Jim: (Laughter).

Ted: …And the laughter starts. And that’s that shared sense of humor that you get with the oneness of marriage and you grow into overtime. And that’s what I want to encourage young couples with. If the joy and the fun and that which was natural early in the relationship – don’t drift from that. You have to make what we’re talking about right now intentional. And so, you have to find ways. Like, for Amy and I, we don’t watch heavy movies.

Jim: Right.

Ted: We – we really don’t. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with dramas or anything like that, but our life is serious enough with some of the issues we deal with on a regular basis can be quite stressful. Uh, and so, we kind of make sure we’re watching movies that make us laugh. And – and just – I just – I consider them free laughs.

Jim: No, that’s good.

Ted: You know, you’re paying for a movie ticket, but I mean, I consider – it’s not anything I’m working for, you know?

Ted: It’s now there, and we’re able to – and some of the humor in our marriage is bringing stuff from the screen into our marriage. You know, like, I always joke with her – I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but all of these couples that, you know, don’t have jobs and they’re cuddling in $5 million apartments in New York City, I always have to remind her, “I would stay home, Amy, and cuddle with you all day.”

Jim: (Laughter) Yeah, ’cause I can’t afford to go out (laughter).

Ted: “But I’ve got a good job. I’ve got a job, okay? I can do what we see.” And I’ll say that to her in a movie when she sees something happening, I’ll be like, “You know we can’t do that, right?”

(Laughter)

Ted: And she’s like, “Why?” I go, “Because we have jobs, okay? We got to actually go out.”

Jim: (Laughter) “And we’ve got kids. And we’ve got this and that.”

Ted: (Laughter) And we’ve got kids.

Jim: Well, Ted, your book is, uh, just full of great laughing activities. And we can do this with our spouses. So, start by bringing more laughter into your marriage. That’s a very inexpensive way. It’s a lot cheaper than counseling right now. If you’re in that place where you need counseling, don’t get me wrong, you need to get serious about that. But if you’re just in the normal doldrums of life, and marriage seems to be more dry than you remembered it in the beginning, try introducing again, uh, more humor into your relationship. Never at someone’s expense…

Ted: Never, yeah.

Jim: …But with them. And Ted, you’re done a great job.

Ted: Yeah, we’re not laughing at you, we’re – we’re laughing with you.

Jim: (Laughter) That’s right. And hopefully, we’re laughing at ourselves more often.

Ted: Yes. Amen.

Jim: But this is a great way, again, uh, to invoke some lightheartedness into your marriage. And here at Focus, we’re about your marriage. We want you to have a thriving marriage in Christ. And I think God has a great sense of humor. I think His belly laugh – I’ve often asked, uh, myself, what will that belly laugh be like?

Ted: Yeah. Randy Alcorn does a great job talking about the – the laughter that Jesus will participate in and be the source of when we get to heaven.

Jim: Well, and you started it too, Ted. Don’t underestimate, uh, the power of what you’ve written in your great book and how people can introduce that again, laughter into – and humor into their marriage. Thank you so much for being with us. If you want a copy of the book, hey, join us in ministering here through Focus on the Family. Make a gift of any amount, and we’ll send you a copy of Ted’s book to say thank you, uh, for helping marriages to thrive in Christ.

John: And our phone number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. You can donate and get a copy of Ted’s book, uh, by calling that number or stopping by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And while you’re there, be sure to check out our Focus on Marriage Assessment which is a great little quiz. It’s absolutely free, it takes only a few minutes. You’ll learn areas of strength as well as areas of growth when it comes to your marriage. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

A Love That Laughs

A Love That Laughs

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

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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!