Author and blogger Jessica Smartt offers suggestions for capturing special moments with your family that you will cherish remembering for years to come.
Jim Daly: I married this wonderful, beautiful bride and here she is, sobbing in bed. And I remember laying there late in that night about 11 or midnight saying, “Jean, I’ve had so much negative stuff in my life. I am not gonna lose in this one. And so, there’s only two ways we’re gonna do this, happily or unhappily, but divorce is not gonna be an option. What do we want to do? Do we want to do it happily? What do we gotta do to get there?”
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John Fuller: That’s “Focus on the Family: host and president, Jim Daly, describing his passion for his wife Jean and for marriage in general. In fact, he’s written a new book that we’ll hear more about today called Marriage Done Right: One Man, One Woman. Thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller and as we talked last time, Jim, you were urging us, especially those of us in the Christian community, to live out our faith, to model well for the culture around us what Christ calls us to do in our relationships–to sacrifice and to serve. And Jim, this issue is something that’s deeply personal for you. You’ve experienced what a broken marriage means for a family.
Jim: It’s true, John. You know, for me, I was a 9-year-old boy. My mom died of cancer. My dad was already out of the picture. My stepdad fled the scene ’cause he couldn’t take it emotionally. And I ended up in foster care. I reconnected with my dad about a year later. I was with him for one year and then we decided it wouldn’t be good for me to live with my alcoholic father on my own as a 12-year-old boy. All my siblings had graduated at that point.
And it was hard. I had to tell my dad I didn’t want to live with him. About four months after I left his house, I moved in with my brother, who was like 20. And we struggled along in that journey. But my dad died four months after I left living with him. And that weighed on me because in some ways I think I felt a bit of the guilt for him having no other reason to live. And he died abandoned in a building. He was drunk and he froze to death. That’s a sad thing to say and it’s a sad legacy.
But for me, I experienced that pain that a lot of children are experiencing right now. What concerns me most, without the Lord Jesus Christ in my life, I think I would’ve been a mess. And if you look at some of the data when you look at broken families, broken marriages, which is what we’re talking about, the outcome of that, let me read some of the stats. And I hope this grips you by the throat the way it does me. Think of this.
Seventy-one percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. Eighty-five percent of all youth in prison come from fatherless homes. Ninety percent of all homeless and runaway children come from fatherless homes. When you look at the impact of a father in a family, yeah, we know that Hollywood wants to caricature dads as buffoons and all that. But when you look at the data, dads do a tremendous job of bringing stability to the house. Moms do a great job of bringing that love and nurture into the home, but there’s somethin’ about havin’ a dad there that holds the boundaries together.
Jim: And we’ve gotta remember that. Now I know there’s gonna be single moms and some single dads raising kids and we’re giving these statistics and their heart gets heavy. These are predictive things. It doesn’t mean that that’s gonna be the outcome for your son or daughter. Look at me. I mean, I came from a single mom household and the Lord’s intervention and good mentors sin my life made the difference. And it doesn’t mean your son or daughter are doomed to failure. It just means they’re in a predictive model that says, it’s more likely for them to struggle in this life because of the shortcomings through divorce of their parents and other things.
But let me put it on a positive side. Let’s talk about the benefits of married parents, biological mom and dad stayin’ together. Listen to this. If you’re thinkin’ of divorce, listen to this for your kids’ sake. Those that stay together, their children will experience this. They’ll live longer. They’ll have healthier lives, both physically and mentally. They’ll do better in school.
These children with biological mom and dad in the home are more likely to attend and complete college, are less likely to live in poverty. They’re less likely to get into trouble with the law. They’re less likely to drink and use drugs at an early age. They’re less likely to be violent or sexually active. They’re less likely to be victims of sexual and physical violence and more likely to have successful marriages when they’re older.
I can’t imagine a better list of things that you want for your children and it all starts with keeping your marriage together.You want your children to experience an abundant life? Stay married and stay rooted in Christ in your marriage and your kids will see that. And you could do nothing better for them.I don’t care about sending them to Stanford University or some other college to get a degree. You want to see them do well in life? Make sure your marriage is healthy.
John: I couldn’t agree more, Jim. And you also addressed the fact that children really need the influence of both a mother and a father.
Jim: That’s correct, John, because research is showing us that children are more likely to be healthy—emotionally, psychologically and spiritually—when they are experiencing the different perspectives that men and women bring. MRI’s are showing that now. Guess what? We’re not the same. Men are wired differently than women and it’s okay. We don’t have to be exactly equal, and that’s what’s happening.
You look at play for example. Dads tend to rough house and moms tend to be more nurturing. I see it in my own house. Whenever the boys and I are down in the basement messin’ around and one of us knocks over somethin’, Jean is down there quick and, “What’s the matter? What’s wrong? Don’t do that, you guys. It’s too rough. You’re playin’ too rough.” That’s completely normal, everybody’s behaving normally. I’m puttin’ to the edge; Jean’s pullin’ ’em back from the edge. That’s how you learn where the line is.
Discipline, another great example. Dads tend to enforce the rules and give those consequences. In fact, you know, “Wait till your father gets home.” That’s—
John: Yeah, yeah, right.
Jim: –a common classic. Moms are more likely to show that grace and that sympathy. Both are fantastic attributes, but both are needed for balance. Modeling is another great area. Boys learn, particularly boys, learn best from dad about how to be a mad. My heart goes out to single-parent moms, who often write us to say, “I can’t find a good man to be a role model for my son and I’m a single-parent mom.” I hope all of us guys in the church will hear that. If you can reach out to that single-parent mom, she probably is not gonna look for you. She’s not gonna put up a wanted ad for you. You’ve gotta seek her out. So, if your family is good with that, try extending a little love and encouragement to a little boy that doesn’t have a dad right there in your church.
Communication is another one. Mothers, you know, often simplify their words to speak on the child’s level. I’m laughing, ’cause I can hear Jean in my head. Us dads, well, we’re less likely to do that. We grunt a lot more. (Laughter) “Get it done.”
John: Uh, yeah, yeah. (Laughter)
Jim: You know, we’re pretty stupid when it comes to that stuff. But those are again, different styles. Respect for the opposite sex. You know what? With teenage boys, I don’t know if they’re catchin’ it. I’m sayin’ it as much as I used to say, “Please and thank you” to them. You know, and you say it 5,000 times. But could you open the door for your mom? Can you carry the groceries for your mom? I’m constantly drillin’ that into the boys. Sometimes they do well; sometimes they don’t, but that’s how you respect and teach respect for those in the opposite sex. So, again, those are the highlights. Those are the things that we see in research, hard and fast, true facts. [You] can’t get away from it and let’s run into it, not away from it.
John: Well, and as we said last time, Jim, your book is Marriage Done Right, not Marriage Done Perfectly.
Jim: (Laughing) Right, that’s important to make that point.
John: Yeah, well, nobody’s gonna have a perfect marriage and it does take a lot of work. We addressed that last time. There are some practical things that we can do day in and day out that strengthen the relationship, that allow us to have a stronger marriage that can go the distance, that speaks into our kids’ lives, either directly or at least, by modeling what a good marriage looks like.
Jim: You know, the ground floor on this and Jean and I experienced it early in our marriage and it was the idea that divorce is not an option. Just when you’re together, as a married couple, commit that to each other. Say, we’re gonna go through some dry patches, I’m sure. Maybe we’re in a high spot right now, but at some point, we may struggle. And we’ve gotta determine, we’re not gonna get a divorce. We’re gonna fight our way through our problems and our difficulties. Jean and I, probably the third year of our marriage, I’m the happy-go-lucky guy. I’m comin’ out of the bathroom. I had just brushed my teeth. I was headin’ to bed. Jean was already in bed and I got to the bed and she’s sobbing. I’m thinkin’, what’s happening?
And she said, “I’m just not a good wife. You need a better person. I’m not a good enough person.” And my wife is an awesome person. She’s got a Golden Retriever heart. We have two foster kids living with us right now because of my wife. She wants to give to those around her.
Jim: And so I’m caught off guard. I’m thinkin’ this is the third year of my marriage. We’re doing well (Laughing). This is fun. I’m excited.I married this wonderful, beautiful bride and here she is, sobbing in bed. And I remember laying there late in that night about 11 or midnight saying, “Jean, I’ve had so much negative stuff in my life. I am not gonna lose in this one. And so, there’s only two ways we’re gonna do this, happily or unhappily, but divorce is not gonna be an option. What do we want to do? Do we want to do it happily? What do we gotta do to get there?”
That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Put divorce off the table. There is no “Plan B.” You gotta make Plan A work and that’s a good place to start.
John: Yeah, I think that mutual commitment is so crucial and you did a fun thing as you researched this book. You talked to couples who had gone 30, 40, 50, 60 years together and you found out what kinda kept them going, what allowed them to weather the storms and not to say, this isn’t workin’; we’re outta here.
Jim: Well, and I want to give credit where credit’s due. I have a collaborator, a staff member here at Focus, Paul Batura, and he was the one that engaged these couples and gleaned the summary of their wisdom. And we thought together, what a great thing to do. Let’s go talk to couples who have been married 50 years, 60 years, 70 years, have demonstrated that longevity when it comes to commitment.
And I’ll run through the list and if you’ve got a pen and paper right now, or if you can’t write it down, call us and we’ll give it to you. But the five things that were consistently stated by these couples are these. No. 1, don’t keep secrets from each other. Be transparent. And there’s so many biblical truths to that. When you have that kind of trust in your relationship where you can share kind of the hidden parts of your heart together, it builds intimacy. And so, that was one thing that they said consistently.
Another was, don’t hold grudges. Forgive each other. Of course, there’s that scriptural reference, don’t let the sun set on your anger. That’s the same thing. Don’t hold grudges. That’s where bitterness can start and that’s where you start thinking, I’ve gotta find the exit door, because this is too much. I’m overwhelmed.
Another, the third, was don’t dwell on conflict. And man, how many of us today in our marriages dwell on the conflict? It’s never about the happy things. It’s all about the budget, the raising of the kids, the fact that dad’s not doing devotions the way mom wants them done, um … whatever it might be. Um … we are dwelling on the conflicts rather than certainly addressing the issues, but finding ways to lift up the joy in the marriage and in the family and to maybe understand your spouse’s point of view equally to your own. That’s another scriptural truth.
And fourthly, love changes because we change. And so often we’re thinking there’s the perfect mate out there. In fact, a lot of the online dating services eliminate the people that are gonna cause you pain. I think that in some ways that can be a mistake ’cause God uses that to make you a better person.But love changes. We change as we go through the different phases of life. And again, what we’ve gotta do is be committed to each other, not look for a new spouse now that the kids are raised. You look at the greying of divorce. A lot of Christian couples are divorcing because the kids are raised and to be blunt,
And she looks at her husband and says, I don’t really know you anymore and I don’t really like you anymore. And so, I’m not gonna stay with you any longer. It’s a sad truth. It was in The Wall Street Journal that these couples are divorcing at the highest rate—empty nesters.
So, that’s a big one. Fifth, support each other’s interests and help your spouse do the best they can. That one I think is that empty nest opportunity. What can we do now that the job of childrearing is over? Let’s find hobbies together. Let’s have fun together. Let’s do things together. I’m lookin’ forward to doing more camping and hiking with Jean after the boys are gone, ’cause that’s something we like to do and just havin’ fun. So, those are the main five things that older couples told us. Don’t keep secrets from each other. Don’t hold grudges. Don’t dwell on conflict. Realize that your relationship is gonna change over time, because both of you change and lastly, support each other’s interests and what they are doing. Be part of it. And I think that’s great advice.
John: Well, that’s a great short list of ways to stay true and faithful and loving through the seasons of a marriage. And we’re gonna have that list posted, as you mentioned, Jim and also a number of other resources. We’ve got a lot here at Focus on the Family to help you through the different aspects of marriage. And uh … it’s all a phone call away, 800-A-FAMILY or stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. We’ll link to some of those key resources for you.
Jim: John, you know, another thing I captured in the book, Marriage Done Right was research done by psychologist, Dr. John Gottman of the Gottman Relationship Institute. He listed about six things that are really vital in a healthy marriage and let me give you those, too and we’ll post those.
First is, you and your spouse have high levels of friendship, respect, affection and humor with each other. You like being together. Isn’t that a beautiful picture?
There’s times for Jean and I that it’s on fire. It’s workin’. There [are] other times we’re not feelin’ quite like that, usually at home, having homework problems or some (Chuckling) other budget issue or something like that. But generally speaking, you want to see those attributes in your marriage, that you and your spouse have high levels of friendship, respect, affection and humor with each other. Secondly, your positive interactions outweigh negative interactions 5 to 1.
John: Now wait a minute there–
John: –’cause that’s hard.
Jim: It is hard and I’m concentrating on this one and I think again, for many guys, but all of us, men and women, you’ve got to use your mind in this place, not just rely on your heart to remind you. You gotta think at the beginning of the day, I gotta have a 5 to 1 ratio, so let’s start with those positive attributes right out of the gate. How can we speak up our spouse, not speak down our spouse?
And that’s hard when your husband forgot to get milk last night on the way home (Chuckling) from work or whatever it might be. But find those ways to create that 5 to 1 ratio. Thirdly, you and your spouse pay attention to one another and that simply means …
John: It seems natural, doesn’t it?
Jim: Well, I don’t know. I mean, there [are] so many things distracting us at home. I mean, for us, we’ve got four kids at the house right now. You know, we’ve got our two sons who are teenagers and two foster kids who are 3 and 4. So, we are scrambling. I forgot how busy you are as a parent with little, little kids. It’s like a bird’s nest and they’re chirping at you. (Laughter) Help me!
John: (Laughing ) All the–
Jim: Help me! Feed me!
Jim: More, you know. (Laughter) And wow, I’m just goin’, that is why young people should raise (Laughing) children, not older people.
John: But those are the moments when it’s (Laughter) hard for you to pay attention to Jean, because …
Jim: Totally, you’re consumed by distraction and you’ve gotta find a way to grab the cheeks of your spouse (Laughing) and hold that face right in front of you and say, “First of all, I love you. Now you gotta listen to me. This is what we need.”
So it’s that pay attention kind of reminder. Set down what you’re doin’ and actually look eyeball to eyeball. Next your disagreements start softly without a lot of critique or anger.
John: I wonder how many that’s a struggle for.
Jim: Well, this is a tough one, because my back-up style is verbal attack. So, if I feel like I’m not being heard, I’m gonna make myself known (Laughing) by goin’ after the person. Why aren’t you listening to me? And for Jean, her absolute wrong interaction is for me to start with an attack—
Jim: –’cause her defenses go up and wham, she’s in it. Okay, I’ll shut you down. (Laughing) And so, I love that point. It means a lot to me. Start softly with your disagreements, not harshly and try to find language where you can point out the problem in a very calm way. And that’s the best way to get those disagreements resolved.Next, husbands will accept the influence of their wives.
John: That doesn’t work both ways? (Laughter)
Jim: I think men generally think they’re in control already (Laughing), but the reality is, your wife has a lot of sway. And I think we, as men in the home, have to be open to that influence.
Jim: And that is a godly perspective.That’s what the Lord’s tellin’ us.
John: You know, that reminds me of a story that when we were looking at our first house together (Laughter) and we went to the very first house showing and we walked away and I said, “I like it a lot.” And she said, “I would not buy a house from that guy for any amount.”
Jim: Even if the house—
John: I don’t–
Jim: –is nice?
John: –I don’t trust that agent at all. (Laughter) And I realized she sees something I don’t.
John: I think that’s what the point would be, is guys your wife is intuitive. Listen to her and pay attention to her—
Jim: Boy, that’s—
John: –and I’m really glad—
Jim: –so true.
John: –I did at that moment.
Jim: Well, and you know, you think about it, John,the Lord generally, not always, but generally you are drawn to your opposite. I don’t know if you see that in your spouse, but I’m the morning person. Jean’s the night person. I’m the squeeze the tube of the toothpaste at the end; she squeezes it right at the front. (Chuckling) And you know, all those things and I think the reason again, this is really important, is your spouse is going to see things and your wife particularly will see things that you don’t see—
Jim: –because you have blind spots in that area. That’s why you were attracted to each other. She’s going to recognize some things that totally go right over your head.
John: And in happier marriages, husbands listen to their wives.
Jim: That’s the point here.
Jim: These are the attributes of solid strong marriages. Next and last, you respect each other’s needs, likes, dislikes and inner life—your spiritual life. And this is an important one. You just need to respect each other and it’s hard to do. Jean and I struggle over devotions for the boys because she’s a very formulaic, scientific person. She did a biochemistry degree. She has tasks lists for everything she wants to do.
I make pancakes real sloppy. She makes them with a knife over the measuring cup, I mean, exactly one cup of pancake batter. I just throw it together and if it’s close enough, it’s close enough. The point of that is, I need to respect how God has wired her. And she needs to respect how God has wired me.
John: So, in the kitchen, you let her make the pancakes that way?
Jim: Yeah, I would, yeah. We tease about it now. It’s that laughter thing. Her pancakes usually turn out pretty good. (Laughter) Mine, sometimes it’s too thick or too thin, but I mean, that’s the thing in life. And it gets back to another simple concept. It’s difficult to change your spouse. It’s much better to pray for your spouse and to love your spouse unconditionally. I didn’t say it was much easier. I said it was much better.
When your goal in your mind is to change your spouse’s behavior, you have nothin’ but conflict, conflict all the time. But if you can settle your own needs down and say, okay, that’s not gonna be my goal. My goal’s gonna be affirmation 5 to 1, five times the positive affirmation to every one criticism and that I’m going to pray for my spouse and I’m gonna lift my spouse up. You’ll see some amazing things change in your own attitude and the things that he or she does that irritate you will become less irritating. It’s amazing how that works.
You know, I hope people are hearing my passion for marriage through the discussion last time and today. And one of the great things we have here at Focus is the Marriage Assessment Tool. Dr. Greg Smalley and his wife, Erin Smalley created this assessment tool. He runs the marriage effort here at Focus. And it is a great way to get the checkup and see where am I at in my marriage? And you do it separately. Don’t do it together and you can go online. We’ll post it and it’s free, so you don’t have to worry about that. But it will give you some indication about where you’re at.
Listen, you’re gonna do it for your car. If your engine light goes on, you’re gonna take your car in, at least you should. And I would say, do no less for your marriage. If your engine light is on and you’re feeling like your relationship is not in a good place, take the assessment. Let us do the diagnostic with you so you can say, okay, we have some places we need to work on. And then we’ll help you with the tools to do that.
You know what? There are some wonderful Focus donors, many of them who have provided a way for us to be able to stand there with you and help you do better in your marriage. They want to see that. We want to see that and believe me, the Lord wants to see that.
John: And that assessment takes only about 10 minutes to complete and it’ll really help you see where the strengths and weaknesses are in your marriage so you can start to address some of those things that probably are not huge, but will be difference makers.
Jim: Absolutely, let me also say, I hope what people have heard is a good defense of marriage done right and a God-structured way of doing this. There’s no way, as I said last time, we’re gonna cover God’s truth. Believe me, mankind is not gonna get to the place where we know more than God knows. And I think what I have tried to do is give a non-emotional defense of marriage, as to why God has designed it the way He has.
What we’ve gotta do is hold true to the truth, to defend it with grace, to stand on that truth and to live it. And all of us here at Focus on the Family, from our board right down to all of us doin’ the work, what we want to be able to say is, we’re here for you. We want your marriages to do well and we want to help you. And we have so many resources to do that, not just Marriage Done Right, but Dr. Greg Smalley and the many things that he has put together. Reach out to us. Let us help you strengthen your marriage for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We’re not livin’ in a bubble. People are lookin’ at you as a Christian couple to see if you can do it better than the world.
John: Well, we believe you can and the resources we’ve got can help you do that, Jim’s books, his monthly newsletter, the marriage assessment tool we mentioned and so much more. We’re just a phone call away, 800-A-FAMILY or stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio to learn more.
Jim: And you know, John, I also want to mention that we are here for you. If your marriage is struggling and my suspicion is, there are many Christian marriages that are struggling, call us. Let us put tools in your hands to make your marriage better. I believe we can do that. And in addition to that, if your marriage is in a desperate place where you’re feeling lonely, you’re feeling like the only course left is divorce, may I suggest our Hope Restored program, which is run at a retreat center in Branson, Missouri or out at WinShape near Atlanta.
And that is where couples who are headed to divorce will come for an intensive course over about a four- or five-day period and they have an 84.7 percent success rate two years post counseling for these couples. And I’ll also add this. The University of Chicago did research on two groups of people, one headed for divorce, the other contemplating divorce, but deciding to stick with it. At the end of that five- year study, here’s what happened. Those who divorced were still unhappy. But those who fought through it were much happier.
And the point is, don’t give up on your marriage and we are here for you and we want to see thousands of couples go through Hope Restored or use the other resources here at Focus on the Family. So, call us. Talk with us and we’ll help you decide what it is that you need at this moment to help your marriage thrive in Christ.
May I also say, if you can help us financially, that would be terrific. We need to hear from you because all of this takes your partnership. We’re doin’ it together to reap the harvest for Jesus Christ. And right now the fields are white when we talk about marriage and the disintegration of marriage in our culture, even Christian marriages. So, if you can, can you support us today and stand in the gap for these couples and be there with us to deliver help and hope?
John: Again, our phone number is 800- A -FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radiofor details about Hope Restored, about the marriage assessment we mentioned and Jim’s book, Marriage Done Right. And if you’re able to make a generous contribution to Focus today to help us strengthen marriages, we’ll gladly send a complimentary copy of Jim’s book, just because we’re so thankful for your support.
Let me also make one more mention and that is, that Jim writes a monthly newsletter in which he examines key issues in the culture, like we’ve talked about today and if you don’t get that free newsletter, it’s a great place to get more of his insights and passion. And we’ll invite you to sign up for that. We’ll link over at our website.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. Our Wednesday program features a conversation about true happiness.
Dr. Randy Alcorn: I found in Christ a happiness that was the lightness, the weight that was taken off of my heart.
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John: That’s popular speaker and theologian, Randy Alcorn and he joins us on the next edition of “Focus on the Family, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.
Author and blogger Jessica Smartt offers suggestions for capturing special moments with your family that you will cherish remembering for years to come.
Dr. Mike Bechtle explains how we can stop allowing difficult people to control our emotions, and how we can set healthy boundaries and extend the love of God to them.
Cheryl Martin encourages singles to view their singleness not as a mistake or a holding pattern until marriage, but as an opportunity to become the person God wants them to be. She also shares how to honor God in the dating process through the use of firm boundaries and an accountability partner.
Pastor Dave Carder offers couples practical advice for protecting their marriages from adultery in a discussion based on his book Anatomy of an Affair: How Affairs, Attractions, and Addictions Develop, and How to Guard Your Marriage Against Them. (Part 1 of 2)
Pastor Dave Carder offers couples practical advice for protecting their marriages from adultery in a discussion based on his book Anatomy of an Affair: How Affairs, Attractions, and Addictions Develop, and How to Guard Your Marriage Against Them. (Part 2 of 2)
Robert and Pamela Crosby help married couples understand and celebrate their gender differences so that they can enjoy a stronger bond and deeper intimacy. Our guests offer practical tips for improved communication, successful conflict resolution and offering affirmation to your spouse. (Part 1 of 2)