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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Building a Dream Marriage During the Parenting Years

Building a Dream Marriage During the Parenting Years

Author Arlene Pellicane offers practical suggestions to wives on strengthening their marriage, especially if their relationship with their husband has taken a backseat to raising children.
Original Air Date: June 1, 2015



Arlene Pellicane: When a woman is getting ready to marry a man, she kisses him. She loves him. She pours affection on him and he’s like, “This is amazing.” And they get married and a few years goes [sic] by and then they have children and all of a sudden, all of that attention that once went to that man sometimes goes to the children or a career. And the man is there thinking, “What happened?” And if we’re smart, ladies, we’ll say, “Hey, somethin’s gotta change here.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Well, Arlene Pellicane on today’s Focus on the Family. You’ll hear more from her, talking about that marriage relationship and how you can really nurture it in the midst of endless demands.

Jim Daly: John, we want wives to see how they can strengthen their marriage by making subtle changes. Maybe just little things can be done to really move your relationship forward. And that’s what we are going to talk about today. And I think these little things, you know we always talk about the desperate situations. That’s not this program, this program is about how to tune up what God has already given you. And keep your mind on the right things, so that your relationship reflects God’s love and I’m looking forward to this discussion. And to do that we have invited a very popular guest back, Arlene Pellicane, welcome back to the program.

Arlene: Great to be with you.

John: Arlene has written a number of books and the one that forms the foundation for this conversation is called 31 Days to a Happy Husband: What a Man Needs Most from His Wife. And she and her husband, James have been married since 1999. Jim, just before we started, she had her bundle of energy, her three kids in here in the studio–

Jim: They are cutie pies–

John: –precious children.

Jim: –10, 8 and 5. I mean, they are really cute kids. You’re doin’ a great job.

Arlene: They’re fun. They—

Jim: That’s the fruit.

Arlene: –they loved seeing you guys. (Laughter)

Jim: They were fun to see.

John: It was really a lot of fun, yeah.


Jim: Hey, let me ask you from the beginning, Arlene. You’re talking about and some people will jump right to the critical spirit and say, “Okay, it’s not about happiness. It’s about joy.” You’re saying 31 Days to a Happy Husband…

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: Let’s just get that one out of the way.

Arlene: Yeah, they want to say—

Jim: What do you mean by it?

Arlene: –”31 days to a joyous husband?” I am (Laughter) all for it.

Jim: Okay. (Laughing)

Arlene: That is fine.

Jim: I mean, that’s what—

Arlene: Yes.

Jim: –you’re talkin’ about is—

Arlene: Yeah, because you—

Jim: –how to have joy.

Arlene: –know if you see a person and they’re glum; they’re sour; they’re complaining, that’s not what we’re talking about. So, we’re talking about how can you have a husband who’s optimistic, who loves life, who is enjoying his life, who’s content, who’s enjoying being a husband and how can we help our husbands be those kind of people?

Jim: And you’re right, in the set-up piece there where you talked about the fun things of courtship—

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –and then marriage and then kids come along and things get busy. You’re payin’ the bills.

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: You’re workin’ on your career. Maybe two of you are in a career and you’re workin’ on the home and all those kinds of things. It can be very distracting from the “lovey-dovey” stuff (Laughter)–

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –you used to feel. (Laughter)

Arlene: Things can get pragmatic very quickly. (Laughing)

Jim: Well, and that’s why so often in marriage, we may be aiming for the wrong thing, which is purely happiness—

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –because sometimes the mundane things of life, that is life, isn’t it?

Arlene: Yes, it is; it is. Life is not, you know, “Oh, let’s have dinner tonight and let’s go to a show afterwards and let’s rekindle the romance by overlooking a park that’s beautiful,” you know. That’s the sometimes and we need that. We need those, “I can hardly waits” in marriage, so that there are things to look forward to, but a lot of marriage is mundane, so it is bringing those things that, you know, it could be as small as the five- to 30-second kiss every day.

Jim: Yeah, I like that.

Arlene: Yeah, which is really when I go and I speak to ladies and I tell ‘em, “Go home and just kiss your husband for five to 30 seconds per day. This was advice that Dr. Cliff and Joyce Penner gave me when I was interviewing people from the book. And you would not believe, you know, everyone laughs because I say, “How are we gonna kiss my husband, because he’s gonna think that is the ‘go” signal and I don’t (Laughter) want him to think that, so I’m not gonna do it.”

So, I tell you ladies, to have a conversation with your husband that says, you know, “I was listening to this Focus on the Family broadcast. I want to kiss more often, but every time we kiss it is not the ‘go’ signal. I will make it very clear when it’s the ‘go’ signal, but it just means I want to be closer to you.”

And the truth is, you know, when you’re busy, you forget to do that five-second kiss, 10-second kiss, 30-second kiss that is that passion. And usually we do those things when we feel a certain way, but instead to say, I’m gonna do that behavior and then wow, the feelings will follow.

Jim: Well, and—

Arlene: And–

Jim: –it’s important, I think.

Arlene: –yeah, husbands love that.

Jim: Well, it’s important for husbands to realize, too, they’ve got to show that kind of, innocent intimacy—

Arlene: Yes.

Jim: –that you know, that it doesn’t–

Arlene: That prematch.

Jim: –have to lead to something.

Arlene: Right.

Jim: Are you guilty of that, John?

John: Never. (Laughter)

Jim: I … I don’t know, you just … that’s I guess in some ways, the way God has wired us. (Laughing)

Arlene: That’s right, so you have to put—

Jim: But …

Arlene: –it in your mind; this is just a sweet little romantic interlude that’s going—

Jim: Yeah.

Arlene: –to last 30 seconds and then we’re gonna go on—

Jim: Well—

Arlene: –with our day and—

Jim: –and it’s—

Arlene: –then, yeah.

Jim: –it’s a small way for men to be selfless—

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –as well, because that, you know …

Arlene: And you know, and men will say, “Well, that’s nice, but isn’t it ever gonna lead to that other thing?” (Laughter) But it’s, you know, one of those keys in the book and it does.

Jim: Well, let’s move on to some of the great content you have in your book. Um, you talked about a time when you stopped pursuing James. I think every husband just kind of leaned in right there.

Arlene: (Laughing)

Jim: And I think that happens in every marriage, where typically, not always, I know that the data identifies a large portion of women, maybe 30, 40 percent of women that are typically physically initiating. But you have said that there is a point usually where wives stop pursing their husbands and we all know that happens. Talk about that.

Arlene: Yeah and you know, I don’t think it’s a fixed point necessarily. It’s something that you might be doing really well and then you get sidetracked for a little bit and then you realize, wait a minute. I’ve got to think about this more proactively, because we tend to think of our husbands, you know, they’re capable. They can take care of themselves, not like the children in our homes who cannot take care of themselves yet. And so, we put them on the back burner.

But the problem is, then they stay on the back burner for so many years and then it’s so difficult to bring them into the foreground. So, you know, when your children are young, they’re 2-years-old or younger, yes, you know, life kinda orbits around that child.

But when your children grow up, it has to click and it has to change that you start orbiting around your husband again and that the children start taking care of themselves. And I think that’s a huge thing for women today, that their children are right there. They’re louder. They’re needier and they forget about their husbands.

For James and I, we’ve always been very happy, content in that sense, but you … the romance it waxes and wanes and you have to be much more proactive in that. We were teaching a young marrieds class, probably five, six years ago. And we were noticing all the couples were just smashed next to each other, you know. There was no space between ‘em. When the woman answers, the husband’s like, “Oh, isn’t she so smart?” You know, this longing gaze.

And James and I were the teachers and we’re like four feet away from each other. (Laughter) You know, and we felt like–

John: And good with it probably.

Arlene: –yes and good with it and that there’s nothin’ wrong with that. And we both left that encounter like, wow, maybe we have become too businesslike in our relationship and we’re too much like roommates. And he always laughs. He likes this book, obviously, 31 Days to a Happy Husband. (Laughter) And he’ll say whenever I talk about it, he’s like, “I like that, because it makes you more affectionate towards me,” because it’s on my mind.

Jim: But you’re not talking and I don’t want to give that impression—

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –we talk about a time when you stopped pursuing and all that, it’s not just physical intimacy.

Arlene: Right,

Jim: We’re talking—

Arlene: It’s interest—

Jim: –about–

Arlene: –in the other person—

Jim: –yeah a broad—

Arlene: –consideration of them.

Jim: –approach.

Arlene: Put on our lipstick before they come home, because you think, “My husband’s coming home,” and not like you know, put on lipstick for your girlfriends, but you would never dress up for your husband, you know, things like that.

Jim: Well, you’re probably steppin’ on some toes right there.

Arlene: Yeah, sorry.

Jim: But let me ask you this. You said something a moment ago I want to pull out a little bit, because I think it’s important. As a mom I can only imagine, I see it in Jean—

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –I’m sure it’s true for Dena, John. There’s a lot of value that you derive out of taking care of the kids at 2, 3, 4, or 5. You get into a groove, and um I think this whole idea of failure to launch, meaning, are your kids prepared at 18 to go into the big world. Sometimes that is not happening cause moms have over-mothered and they haven’t made that disconnect ion, so I appreciate what you are saying there, but give us some more handles and tools. When is it good to put the marriage back in the center of the relationship and the household?

Arlene: Yeah, really when your child, when your youngest one is 3-years-old, you know, then … because what tends to happen is, okay, one is old enough, but now I’ve got another one. And then now they’re old enough, but now I’ve got another one and you’re constantly taking care of this baby, but–

Jim: But that’s a season, you’re saying.

Arlene: –and that’s a season, but what tends to happen is, we let that season continue, continue, continue, ‘cause we’re so used to it and we want to be needed and that fulfills that in us.

But I think when your youngest child is 3-years-old, that you start as a mom thinking, okay, my job is to get their kids to be independent of me and I really need to focus and really the whole time, even when your child is under 3, to have the date nights, to spend the time with your husband, because your baby will not remember that you were not there (Laughter), you know, once a month for them on a Friday night. But your husband will remember, my wife built a time to have special moments with me and it wasn’t just all about the children all the time.

So, I think that’s so important to remember, because our children are gonna grow up, but our husband, he’s gonna be there the duration and that’s who we’ve got to really think, how can I please my husband? How can I make him happy? And I know ladies right now are like, “Oh, I have so much–

Jim: That’s the last thing I want to do.

Arlene: –yeah, I have so much to do, I have to do this with my kids and now I have to please my husband, you know. But really, it’s this idea of, if you work to please him, it’s gonna come back to you. And even if it didn’t come back to you, you ‘re still honoring Christ–

Jim: So, you don’t want to be—

Arlene: –by—

Jim: –manipulative in that.

Arlene: –by putting your husband, you know, ahead of your children.

Jim: Right, don’t … you don’t want to be manipulative in that way.

Arlene: Yeah.

John: Well, that calling of motherhood is so special.

Arlene: Yeah.

John: And so many women take it so seriously.

Arlene: Yes.

John: Jim, we talk about date nights here at Focus on the Family and I remember one time we were on a date night and I said, “Well, could we just like not talk about the kids for a while.” And I really shut Dena down, because she said, “That’s my world right now.”

Arlene: That’s what I want to talk about.

John: “I know where we’re away from them—

Arlene: Right.

John: –but I still need to process and think through.” That’s a tough one. I mean, we’re still … I think there’s still a lot of women that are hearing you right now—

Arlene: Yes.

John: –but they’re saying, “Yeah, but …”

Jim: I’m givin’’—

Arlene: I …

Jim: –you points for having a date night. (Laughter) Way to go.

John: Well, this was a couple years ago. (Laughter)

Jim: Our last date night …

Arlene: This was in 2001. I think having those date nights and talking about your family is okay, but it just can’t be everything you talk about. So, in the book, 31 Days to a Happy Husband, I have the acronym DREAM, because it’s about dreaming again with your spouse and the M stands for “mutual activities.” And it’s that you need mutual activities with your husband that are not kid-centered.

You know, and I know some of us are scratchin’ our heads like, what in the world (Laughing) are we supposed to do that’s not kid-centered? But the idea of maybe you put together a list. Have your husband put together a list and maybe there are two activities. You know, we can play tennis and chess together, you know, whatever it is. But there’s something where you can find mutual ground, because of course, we women, we like to talk face-to-face and have coffee and discuss things. But men like to do things side by side.

And I remember James, you know, when we were dating, it was like, he loved mountain biking. Well, I was a terrible biker. You know, I like ran into a parked car, ‘cause I couldn’t (Laughter) make the turn fast enough. (Laughter)

John: Ouch.

Arlene: I mean, it was like–

Jim: I like your style.

Arlene: –a disaster. But when he said, “When I’m biking I’m so happy and I love it. And when I look over my shoulder, I don’t want to see a guy friend; I want to see you,” I was like, Oh! Well, I’d better learn how to bike, you know. So, for us women, sometimes it means learning a new skill or even being willing to do it. You don’t have to be good at it at first or really ever, but as long as you’re out there trying to do something with your husband, he appreciates that so much. So, having things to do that have nothing to do with your kids, but that are purely for fun.

Jim: Arlene, I appreciate it. I know there are some women saying, “When are we gonna get to the guys and what they can do?”

Arlene: Right.

Jim: Take a deep breath. We just … today we’re concentrating on what wives can do and we hear ya and I think there’s a lot of Focus content that helps husbands think about—

Arlene: That’s right.

Jim: –what they should be doin’, too.

Arlene: So much of it is the woman’s attitude, because a woman will look at my book, 31 Days to a Happy Husband, and I will have a woman who’s been married 40 years say, “Oh, I would love this book, because there’s always something I can learn.”

Jim: Wow.

Arlene: And I’ll have two minutes later a woman say, “Thirty-one days to a happy husband, I’ve been married 15 years and if he ain’t happy by now, forget about it,” you know.

John: Ooh!

Jim: Well, that shows you the extremes.

Arlene: That shows you the extremes. And so, for us women, what do we … who do we want to be more like? And I think if we have that learning mentality, tell me more; I can do better at this, not only will it make our husband happier, but it makes you happier as a person, as well.

Jim: Well, and I don’t mean to over spiritualize this, but an even better question I think might be, because I’m a Christian, I follow the Lord–

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –who should I be more like?

Arlene: Yes.

Jim: And you know, we gotta integrate that more than what we see today in all of us.

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: And that’s a good opportunity to, I think, think about what God would want you to do.

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: Let’s talk about the DREAM—

Arlene: Yes.

Jim: –the acronym and what the letters stand for.

Arlene: Yeah, D is “domestic tranquility,” which I know to some of you seems like an oxymoron (Laughter), but it’s the idea.

Jim: Well, the word “domestic” makes everybody’s hair go up.

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: So, you’re really saying, just peace at the house.

Arlene: Peace in the house, have your home be a happy place. It doesn’t mean that it has to be perfectly neat and picked up, but it’s a place your husband wants to go—domestic tranquility. R is “respect,” that you have respect for your man. E is “eros” and it’s that Greek word for that romantic love. A is “attraction,” that you are still attractive to your spouse. And the M is “mutual activities,” that you do things together.

Jim: Arlene, I want to pick up with a sensitive topic. It’s more that eros you talked about and so, if you’ve got small listeners around, you might want to move them away from the radio or turn it down and come back to us in a few minutes.

But in that context, I’m really saddened by some of the data you had in your book where you talked about 47 percent of Christians … Christians, people that are—

Arlene: Uh-hm.

Jim: –identifying as Christian say pornography is a major problem in their home. That’s a shocker. That shocked me, because that just isn’t wise—

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –for all the reasons that we should know. But talk about what’s happening in our physical intimacy, what you’re seeing through your research. You’ve talked to literally hundreds of women. What is that lonely spot? What’s happening? Why is there so much dysfunction around something that God gave us as a wedding present?

Arlene: Yeah, you know, and I think women can be very defensive about this, that they’ll say, “Well, men are just made this way, but I am not made this way.” And the idea of, this is something God created for both of us and for mutual enjoyment and that it is that mutual service. We get all bent out of shape about 1 Corinthians. It says ”My body doesn’t belong to me; it belongs to him and then his body doesn’t belong to him; it belongs to me.” And it’s this mutual submission to one another that I think is so important, but that we have to embrace.

And I think we can, as women, put too many things on our schedule. We’ll see the things that are trivial and we’ll make them important. So, for instance, we will, you know, plan an amazing birthday party for our child. We will go the extra mile at work. We will bring the casserole to someone who is sick. We will volunteer for the church activity. And then when it’s time, well, let’s be intimate with my husband, it’s like, “Well, I don’t have time for that.” You know, that’s way down on the list.

But when you think about it, if that casserole doesn’t get made and you know, you didn’t volunteer for the thing, all of those things would continue, but your relationship with your husband, that’s something that only you can feed and love and nourish and strengthen.

And so, I think for many of us, it’s saying, okay, I need to say no to other things, so I can say yes to having a really good love life with my husband. You know, even myself, when I’m writing books or when I’m speaking, you know, to talk very frankly, it’s like that’s all okay with my husband, as long as we … I have enough energy to say, our physical relationship is important. But if it’s like, “I’m way too busy for this,” then it all falls, you know, it all falls apart.

Jim: Well, and I think you’re putting your finger right on a big issue in the culture and including the church, mostly—

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –the church and that is, I think men and you quote Bill Farrel, who’s—

Arlene: Yep.

Jim: –been on the program, John, Bill and Pam Farrel—

John: Uh-hm, they have been, yes.

Jim: –who talks about men having a cycle like women have a cycle.

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: And it is a more frequent cycle. I think one of the reasons men are getting into trouble in this area is that, that need is not being met. And I know that’s dangerous ground—

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –and I know that you’re the female voice here. I’m the male voice and we need to recognize …

Arlene: I actually have a funny story for you—

Jim: Yeah, but …

Arlene: –that I think about, should I say this (Whispering) on the radio? (Laughing)

Jim: Well, now we need to hear it.

Arlene: Yeah, now you have to hear it. When James and I were first dating, it was like our second date and I was meeting his parents and this is the second time we’re kinda sitting as boyfriend, girlfriend with his parents.

And his dad said, “I have advice for you: three words.” And his … James’ mom is like, “Oh, I don’t know; I don’t know.” And he said, “If you marry my son, I have three words of advice for you. Kill him sexually.” That’s what he said. (Laughing)

John: Oh, my word.

Jim: Kill him?

Arlene: And I was like …

Jim: What does he mean by that?

Arlene: I go, “What?” And he said, “Make it so he’ll never look at another woman.”

Jim: Well, and that, I think—

Arlene: And so, you—

Jim: –in the end is–

Arlene: –understand.

Jim: –the point.

Arlene: The advice is, make sure that your husband is happy, satisfied, full and then it will be much easier for him not to give in to everything that he’s looking at in the culture. Because let’s face it, you know, women, we don’t have these like pictures of men’s thighs in advertising, because we’re not turned on by that. And it’s … we’re not visually stimulated like that.

But a man, of course, is surrounded day after day after day by all this eye candy. And if we, as women, are disrespecting his need for sexual intimacy, then it’s going to make it easier for him to stray.

Jim: And I … I’m hearing you. I can hear you literally through the microphone saying, “What about his responsibility before the Lord?” We get that and we understand that and that appetite needs to be bridled so that—

Arlene: Yes.

Jim: –if it isn’t as frequent—

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: — he’s not—

Arlene: It’s not an—

Jim: –finding an—

Arlene: –excuse.

Jim: –excuse.

Arlene: Yeah, it’s not an excuse–

Jim: I want to make sure—

Arlene: –for the man.

Jim: –you hear that.

Arlene: And the man is still fully responsible—

Jim: Correct.

Arlene: –before God for his actions–

Jim: Yeah.

Arlene: –but we women could kinda help it out a little bit.

Jim: Absolutely. In fact, again, you quote Joyce Penner. You talked about something she’s talked about—duty sex versus decision sex. I find that very interesting.

Arlene: Yes.

Jim: What’s the difference?

Arlene: Yeah, ‘cause I was asking her. I asked them this question, you know, how can a woman get herself more in the mood? And they talked about how she’s gotta think of it not as this, “Oh, I’ve gotta do this, this to-do list.” But instead to say, “Wait a minute, you know. It’s been this amount of days and this is something we really need to do, so I’m gonna decide to make time for this.

Jim: Time to throw a birthday party.

Arlene: Time … yeah (Laughter) for her husband.

Jim: For her husband, right and he may have, you know, a few birthday parties.

Arlene: That’s right. (Laughter)

Jim: But I appreciate that. It’s important. I hope it doesn’t cause you as you’re listening to simply rebut what we’re talking about. Think—

Arlene: And to make it—

Jim: –about it.

Arlene: –and really to make it something fun. And you know, it sounds very serious and weighty, but to realize, this is something that we’ve borne out of affection and that this will come naturally.

Jim: Have you ever heard, turning a corner, if I could say it that way, have you ever had a time when James didn’t take care of the kids? That seems to be the other big issue that—

John: Uh-hm.

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –we don’t parent the way—

Arlene: Yes. (Laughter)

Jim: –moms parent.

John: (Laughing) Not even close.

Arlene: You don’t?

Jim: Yeah (Laughter), yeah, we don’t. And I hear that quite frequently actually. But there are differences there.

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: Let’s take it out of the bedroom. Let’s get it to the practical things.

Arlene: Yeah.

John: Uh-hm.

Arlene: And that’s part of that respect piece. A lot of women will think, well, he doesn’t know a thing about parenting, so we disrespect him—

Jim: Which is very true—

Arlene: –about that, which—

Jim: –in many ways. (Laughter)

Arlene: –many things he does different[ly].

John: Well, it’s pretty obvious when you see guys throwin’ babies up in the air and doin’ all sorts of things—

Jim: Come on, John.

John: –like that.

Jim: Don’t take all that—

Arlene: Don’t take the fun away.

Jim: –the fun out of it.

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: But talk about those differences—

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –and how she can help her cause by understanding them better.

Arlene: Yeah and I think it is respecting that he’s going to do it different[ly] and being okay with that. I remember when Ethan was just a baby and James had said, “Go out and do this women’s event.” And I was so happy, so I was going to something with friends.

And I came home. It was 10 o’clock at night and I thought for sure my baby would be asleep. (Laughter) And instead, my baby was in the kitchen with James eating and I’m like, “Why are you guys eating?”

Jim: At 10 o’clock at night.

Arlene: “Why is he awake?” And they had been at the mall till just moments before, walkin’ around.

Jim: He’s my kind of guy.

Arlene: And I was like, “Why were you at the mall after past 9 o’clock with a baby? And now you’re feeding the baby.” And I was so bent out of shape, like, “I cannot believe you did not stick with the schedule.”

And he said, “Relax. One night on the town’s not gonna kill him.” That’s what he said, you know. And I thought to myself, and it took me a few months to think this, you know what? That’s not a big deal. It was just one day and it gave me the evening out and I should be grateful that he was willing to do it. And if he rolls a little bit different, it’s okay.

Jim: Okay, but here’s the big question. You can go 10, 15, 20 years—

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –in your marriage and not come to that point, weeks later—

Arlene: Yes.

Jim: –after grappling with it, that it’s okay.

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: Talk to that woman that for years, it’s not okay.

Arlene: Right.

Jim: And it’s caused this really deep friction between her and her husband, ‘cause he doesn’t do it the way she wants it done. What can she do to say, “Ah! Okay, I can do it differently.”? That’s a big step.

Arlene: Yes. I would go back to that respect, to realize your husband so needs respect as … to feel like I am competent in this home. And even if you think, no, you’re not (Laughter), for you to be able to say, wait a minute. My opinion about how things should be done, that is not as important as me saying to him, “You’re competent,” because the man is gonna live up to the name you give him.

Jim: Huh.

Arlene: And if you make him always feel like you’re a loser and you cannot get this right, then he’s gonna feel like he’s all thumbs when it comes to parenting. But if you will, as Dr. David Clarke, who has, of course, been here, if you will learn how to praise mediocre, praise … that was pretty good, then he’s gonna be more encouraged to engage and to do it better and better.

So, I think if we can say, it doesn’t have to be perfect and instead to respect that you are the man. You are the head of our household. You may not do things like I do and that’s okay. And later when you act this way, he’ll be more open to you saying, “You know, when you take the baby out, it’d be really good for (Laughing) you to be home by 8.” But that respect I believe, comes first.

Jim: You know, Arlene, as you’re talking, I’m thinking of parenting experts that we’ve had on—Kevin Leman and others.

Arlene: Sure.

Jim: In so many ways, they say the same thing about dealing with your tough teenager.

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: You begin to give over the control and when you do it in a healthy way, it’s amazing, they tend to, not always, but they tend to start making better choices. When you’re trying to control the environment—

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –they rebel against that. When you lay it over on them and let them have the responsibility, quite often the kids respond exactly the way you wanted them to. It’s the same in marriage, isn’t it?

Arlene: Your husband—

Jim: That’s kinda the principle.

Arlene: –can kinda do the same thing.

Jim: Yeah, when you hand it over, it’s amazing that they tend to move in the very direction that you wanted. The harder you press, usually, the farther they run from—

Arlene: That’s right.

Jim: –your goal.

Arlene: Yeah.

John: So, are those control issues then? I mean, you were upset because I wouldn’t have done it that way and you really wanted to press in and control?

Arlene: I think it’s also control and you really think that’s the best way. And I think sometimes having the humility of realizing, even if we did things my way, maybe my way isn’t the best way. And that’s just (Laughter) anyone—a man, a woman—just the humility to say, this is my best shot, but hey, I could be wrong about that. And if you have that kind of attitude in parenting, that will really help you to get along with your husband better.

Jim: Arlene, we gotta cover this one, I’ve had this question here for a moment. What can husbands do to make our wives feel cherished?

Jim: Arlene, we gotta cover this one, I’ve had this question here for a moment. What can husbands do to make our wives feel cherished? And we’ve really laid it on pretty heavy—

Arlene: Yes.

Jim: –for the wives and I (Laughter) do want to cover one—

Arlene: Yeah. (Laughing)

Jim: –for the guys that you know, what can we do to make sure they feel safe and cherished?

Arlene: Yeah, you know, and I have to go a little back to Dr. Gary Chapman and the love language. So, my love language is words and so, if James sees me and he says, “Wow, you look beautiful today.” Or “Wow, you did a really good job with the kids today. I’m really proud of you about this.” That means so much to me. So, for a husband to discover what … how does my wife receive love and how could I do that.

And it doesn’t have to be this huge thing. If her love language is touch, it could be a hug. If it’s acts of service, it’s that you, you know, vacuumed a room. It doesn’t have to be this huge thing, but this idea that you’re thinking of her.

Jim: Hm.

Arlene: And it could be just holding her close and whispering in her ear, “I love you today, dear.” It could be something very small like that.

Jim: Well, and I’ve gotta follow up with this one. Can you really change your marriage in 31 days?

Arlene: You sure can. You know, people ask, you know, “Thirty-one days, really?” You know and Dr. Leman will say, you could do it in five days, so I’m (Laughter) giving you extra days to do the work, you know. But it’s this idea that we are in patterns of thinking. We’re in patterns of habit and if we can just make a few subtle changes, like that five- to 30-second kiss a day and we make a subtle change and we do that for 31 days, it can really change the temperature of your home. It doesn’t take that long.

I know women who have picked up the book and then their friends say, “Why are you pickin’ up that book? Your husband, he’s you know, unemployed. You do all the work already and now why do you have to make him happy?” And she said, “Well, I think I should try.” And so, she started implementing a few things in the book and within days, her husband, who had then been kind of, you know, what women would say, “lazy,” she came home and the house was picked up. The dinner was made and he was sensing that appreciation of, “Wow, you’ve been trying so hard to make me happy” and he was giving back. So you know, it only takes a few days of you changing your behavior for your husband to notice.

Jim: In that context, how do you pick the right friends, ‘cause I think what—

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –you’re saying in a way is, make sure you’re not hangin’ with folks who are tearing, helping you tear your—

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: –spouse down.

Arlene: It’s that verbal respect. It’s the lifeblood of a man and it’s so easy. It’s fashionable to put down your man, but it’s not fashionable to lift him up. So, if you’re with your friends and you know, “Oh, he did this.” “Oh, that’s nothing; my husband does this.” “Oh, my husband would never take me on vacation.” And that’s okay, but if you say, “Oh, my husband is so considerate. He took the kids to school for me because he knew I was busy and then he picked up the groceries.” The women would look at you like, “Well, la-de-da. (Laughing) I’m so glad you married Mr. Perfect,” you know. It’s not as acceptable.

And so, for us to realize we’ve got to find friends where it’s acceptable to be positive about marriage, speaks positively about our husbands. Now of course, there are times where you have to say honest things that may not be positive, but the idea there is constructive.

Jim: Right.

Arlene: It’s not something that’s destructive, disrespecting to your husband.


John: A great challenge from Arlene Pellicane on today’s Focus on the Family—having a happier husband in just 31 days. I love how she gave us the idea that simple changes can make all the difference!

Let me again mention her book, 31 Days to a Happy Husband: What a Man Needs Most from His Wife. And of course we have copies here at Focus on the Family. Get your copy from us, knowing that when you do your money goes right back into ministry. Donate, and to get your copy of that book, at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call 800-232-6459. 800—the letter “A”—and the word FAMILY.

And by the way make a generous contribution today of any amount, a monthly pledge, or one time gift and we’ll send you a copy of Arlene’s book as our way of saying thank you for joining the support team.

Next time our own Jim Daly shares some lessons he learned in a childhood filled with adversity.


Jim Daly:Character counts, and we learn character in the valleys. You learn who you are. And I would say, “Run to a valley to learn who you are.”

End of Teaser

Today's Guests

31 Days to a Happy Husband

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