Kathi Lipp: It’s OK to take care of yourselves. It’s OK to take care of your relationship because we want our kids to know that marriage is a priority and marriage is important. And while they are – kids are so important in our household. So much of the family’s peace and joy and purpose is going to come from the two adults who are there.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: As stay-at-home orders are beginning to be lifted and you start to reorganize your life, a date night with your spouse is probably the last thing on your mind. But it might be just what you need. That was Kathi Lipp and today on Focus on the Family, she’s going to help you find creative ways to really prioritize your marriage. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I’m so looking forward to getting Kathi into this conversation. She uplifts everybody because she has a vivacious spirit and is bubbly and I can’t wait to talk to her. One study found that married couples who had a regular date night at least once a week are three times more likely to describe their relationship as “very happy.” There’s evidence right there. Your always looking for a silver bullet. Well, there’s one. Spend time together. Good time together, not arguing or talking about budget or those kinds of things. But just have a regular date night. It doesn’t have to be even outside the house. You can do it within the house. But that is one way to secure the fact that you’ll have a much happier marriage. And I think that’s great.
John: It is. I think probably a lot of our listeners are feeling like, “Are you kidding me? A date night?”
John: “Given these circumstances? We can’t afford a date night.” Or, “We can’t afford to make the time for the date night.” Or, “We’ve been juggling so much. Date night isn’t even on my mind.” I mean, that’s a tough spot for some people.
Jim: Okay, here you go. I’m going to act like your brother, John.
John: Uh oh.
Jim: No more excuses. Just read Ecclesiastes 9:9 which says, “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love all the days of your life.” And I would say parenthetically, make sure you have a date night. (Laughter) That would be awesome. But you’re going to hear from Kathi today why this and many other things are so important in our relationship with our spouses.
John: Yeah. Kathi is a very popular author and speaker and a very good friend of ours here at Focus on the Family. She’s written a number of books. We’re going to be really zeroing in on one called Happy Habits for Every Couple: 21 Days to a Better Relationship. And of course, we have that at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Kathi, welcome back. As always, it’s good to see you and good to hear from you.
Kathi: Oh, Jim and John, it feels – it does kind of feel like we’re in the studio together. So that makes me super happy. It’s good to see your faces.
Jim: Well, the team has been wise enough, smart enough to be able to put a monitor right in front of me so I can actually look at the camera, but also see you out of the corner of my eye.
Kathi: (Laughter) Oh wow.
Jim: So, it’s wonderful that….
Kathi: I could see that.
Kathi: I feel – I do feel like I’m in the studio with you. That’s super cool.
Jim: Well, it’s so good to have you. Let me ask you – you have a great story that I think is right in the beginning of the book about whitewater rafting. And I want to get into that. I want to jump in. Excuse the pun.
Kathi: (Laughter) Yeah.
Jim: But what happened that gave you such insight when it came to whitewater rafting?
Kathi: Well, so I have two amazing step-kids, Amanda and Jeremy. And they were on – they were leading a whitewater rafting trip. And when I mean that Amanda works for a childcare center and they were doing a trip for an after school program. And so, they were going down the Russian River in Sacramento. And…
Jim: Oh, yeah, I’ve been on that river actually. (Laughter)
Kathi: Yeah. It’s – it’s quite the river.
Jim: It can run.
Kathi: And so, they – it can run. And they were with a paid guide. And I guess part of the fun of a whitewater rafting trip is the paid guide will get to a point where they throw everybody else out of the raft except for the paid guide because he knows how to stay in the raft. So, there my kids are with all these 10-year-olds. And Amanda and Jeremy started putting people – you know, these kids into the raft. And the guide said, “No, you have to stop. Amanda and Jeremy, you’re the adults you have to get in the raft first and then you can pull up all these kids, because if you spend all your energy pushing wet, dripping kids into the raft, you’re not going to have the upper body strength to get yourselves into the raft…”
Kathi: “…So, you have to get into the raft first.” And I love that illustration for parents because, of course, we are all concerned. There are so many people who became instant homeschoolers overnight. There are so many people who, you know, were working full-time and are still working full-time, but now also have their kids full-time. And of course, so much of our energy has to go to those kids. But here’s what I know. One of the things your kids are going to remember – and this is not to put guilt on anybody. This is to free you up to say, “It’s OK to take care of yourselves. It’s OK to take care of your relationship.” Because we want our kids to know that marriage is a priority and marriage is important. And while kids are so important in our households, so much of the family’s peace and joy and purpose is going to come from the two adults who are there.
Jim: I like that. I mean, I’ve always, you know – a marriage-centric home is really the healthiest home. And kids are there for a while, but they won’t be there forever.
Kathi: Right. No.
Jim: And sometimes I remember saying to Jean – I’ve got to remember that because I can ignore the relationship with Jean and concentrate too much on the relationship with the kids. But that’s a good reminder. Listen. And when it comes to marriage, in the book, you discuss something about the “and” of marriage. To concentrate on the “and” of marriage. What is that?
Kathi: OK. So, you know, life right now is hard. Can we just all agree? This is not what anybody expected. I mean, I wrote a book on being prepared for disaster that does not mention pandemic.
Kathi: Because, you know, it’s just – the this is this was so out of left field. It’s a really hard time. People have lost their jobs. People are sick. Kids cannot go out to the park and play.
Jim: Mm hmm.
Kathi: AND – and this can be a really amazing time for different aspects and different relationships in your home. So, putting us all in a pressure cooker of a house isn’t naturally the way to get to a closer place in our relationships. But if we’re purposeful, we can take that “and” and say this is a really, really hard circumstance AND God is still in control. AND we can still make something beautiful out of it. AND we can re-commit to different portions of our relationships. Maybe it’s with a kid. Maybe it’s with our spouse. And say, “There’s an ‘and’ here that we can make really, really beautiful in our time together.”
Jim: Yeah. And you know, I want the listeners to know we’re here for them. Here at Focus on the Family. We have, you know, great Christian counselors who are making phone calls from their homes.
Jim: And if you need to talk to somebody, we’re open.
Kathi: I love that.
Jim: And we have wonderful relationship services folks who are answering the phones to say, “How can we help you? And we’ll get resources to you. We’ll do what we can to answer questions.” It doesn’t have to be just about Kathi’s wonderful book, Happy Habits. But we’re here. And John, you can tell folks how to get a hold of us.
John: Yeah. The phone number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Hey Kathi, one thing I learned as a boy and we were, you know – we were poor.
Kathi: Mm hmm.
Jim: That’s true. I was with, you know, my mom as a single parent mom most of my elementary school years. And we didn’t have a lot. Birthdays sometimes we just didn’t get anything. She kicked – bake us a cake. And that was just our reality. It never – I was never sad about that, though. Somehow my mom found a way…
Kathi: Mm hmm.
Jim: …To always keep me and my siblings encouraged with things that she would do. Notes she would write. Her presence was a present to me.
Jim: And in that same context, one thing that she did so well was use humor. I mean, humor is such a wonderful outlet for stress. You know, when things aren’t going well, if you can kind of lighten the load simply by laughing a bit more about those circumstances. I know that’s hard, but it was an experience that I had. You and Roger have been trying to deal with this shelter-in-place thing with a couple of funny approaches. What are you doing?
Kathi: Well, you know, and I love your mom’s spirit.
Kathi: And I think so much of that is choosing what is our attitude going to be. Because I have been in that position as a single mom where I haven’t been able to buy my child the birthday present that they wanted or even the birthday present they needed. And so, there’s so much in that focus of our attitude. So, we’ve just been trying to learn new things. Like I learned how to cut my husband’s hair.
Jim: You did what? (Laughter)
Kathi: To cut my husband’s hair. I also learned that there’s a difference between a one and a seven on the blade.
Kathi: But I learned it a little too late. But I’ve – I’ve also come to find out when you use a one, you have to cut his hair as often.
Kathi: So, you know what? There is a blessing in all of that.
Jim: Now, does the customer get any input into this haircutting? (Laughter)
Kathi: You know what? He was – here’s the thing. He was just happy to not look like a hippie anymore.
Jim: (Laughter) I can relate.
Kathi: He – it – he needed a haircut before, you know – before shelter-in-place.
Kathi: So, we were getting pretty desperate. But also, he has learned to dye my hair. And so, this makes its so it’s easier for us to look at each other.
Kathi: But, you know, we’ve opened up (unintelligible) to each other and we – we’re learning to do these things. Also, my husband is a great barbecuer. But we, like I said – we’re sheltering-in-place at my mom’s. My mom doesn’t have a grill. So, we ordered a little tiny hibachi and we have our hamburger nights. And I – can I just tell you how much fun that – it brings back a little bit of my husband that was pre-shelter-in-place because it just – it’s fun for him. We’re also – we’re watching movies that we haven’t watched in years. You know, good familiar movies that make us super, super happy. And the other thing that we’re doing that’s really fun is we’re doing a game night once a week with all of our adult kids. So, we get onto a game site and then we open up a Zoom conference call. And, you know, it’s just like a regular game night. They’re all eating food. There are death threats that are going back and forth because we stole somebody’s card.
Kathi: And we are finding new ways to have fun in a time when, you know, options are limited. But there are so many things we can do at home to make it – to make just times and items more special. Like you guys have been working on your backyard.
Jim: Yeah. (Laughter)
Kathi: Right. Isn’t that what you told me?
Jim: Have you, John? I have.
John: I have been doing a lot of backyard work.
John: And yesterday Dena came in and said, “I think I overdid it.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I think we are overdoing it a little bit there.”
Kathi: Yeah. That’s your way to get out of it. I love it. But you know what? It’s so fun. These are things that we would not have maybe found time for before. But now we get to we get to do things that will just – are so special to our spouse that maybe would have been hard to fit in before with our time and work and things like that. I just love that, you know, we can focus on these little delightful things within the four walls of our home.
Jim: Yeah. And it’s so good. I know one of the things you and Roger have done, you’ve picked out your coming-out outfit, right?
Jim: The day you guys get to walk out of the house.
Kathi: OK. This was not my idea.
Jim: I can’t believe he went with a Hawaiian shirt.
Kathi: OK. This was a – it’s a tiki shirt. He will want you to know this. And this was so not my idea.
Kathi: He said, “What are you going to wear on the first day back in society?” I said, “I have literally given this zero thought.”
Kathi: And he said, “Yeah. I…” So, he showed me a couple of shirts…
Kathi: …And I kid you not, like one of the shirts look like a pattern that McDonald’s had on their upholstery in the 90s.
Kathi: And I’m like, ” Um, I will not leave the house with you with that one.” But he found a tiki shirt, so I have to find out what my tiki shirt equivalent is. But here’s what I love about that. To be able to dream about the future. And maybe it’s just a shirt. Or maybe it’s the first place you’re going to go when it’s safe for you to do that. One of the things that Roger and I have had throughout our marriage is we’ve always said, “We want to keep a ticket on the refrigerator.” And what that means is we always want to have something to look forward to. So like right now, our ticket on the refrigerator is not for a few years. It’s for 2022 right now, because that’s when we have a special birthday that’s coming up that we’re gonna be celebrating. But we’re starting to dream and plan about that vacation. And it’s fun to do. It gives us something to – that we’re both excited about and we can both focus on. knowing it.
Jim: Hey, bringing it all the way back to kind of the idea of this date night.
Jim: And again, for who those that are joining us maybe a little late. The statistics show that our marriages are three times happier…
Kathi: Mm hmm.
Jim: …Or will be three times happier than the others who don’t do a date night if we do a date night. And so that’s the encouragement here. But speak to that environment where – Kathi, moneys tight. You are so good. You’re like the guru of tight money.
Jim: So. What attitudinally, you know, do we have to get our head around to say, “OK. It doesn’t have to be a night at the Ritz. It can be something much simpler because it’s about connecting”?
Kathi: Right. So, when we think like, “We have no money” – that idea is a deprivation mindset. And I want us to think about in an abundance mindset. So maybe I don’t have a lot of money right now, but maybe I have more time than I did before. So, I can bake bread, or I can do something special to add to tonight’s dinner. Or, you know, even in the best of times, we would do $20 date nights. Like what is the most fun we can have on $20?
Jim: (Laughter) That’ s good.
Kathi: And so, to think about it in that way. So, could you do a movie night where you’re just, you know, watching something if you already have Netflix or something like that. Or maybe you download a movie that you actually pay for, but you can create pizzas at home or something like that. So, it’s – it’s a challenge. But also, what it does – when you up your creativity, when you up your purposefulness and saying, “I’m going to be intentional about blessing my husband because, man, he is just craving his hamburger from his favorite place. Well, I’m going to go online and find the duplicate recipe.” Or when your wife says, “You know, I’m just so sad because I don’t have flour to bake with right now.” And you’re online and you’re finding that flour and you’re saying, “OK, we’re going to have a date night where, you know, you’re going to be the bread baker and I’m going to be your sous chef. Or I’ll just clean up. Whatever you need for me.” But to be intentional about bringing comedy into your life. Bringing music into your life. One of the things that Roger and I love to do is when we’re cooking, we’ll put on James Taylor or something like that.
Kathi: Or something that – you know, happy music. Just happy music. And to bring that attitude back in, to be intentional about it. And this is what they always say, “Go with the person’s strengths.” You know, if your husband is taking care of the finances during all this and you hate the finances – I’m only saying this because that’s my life. Thank him. Are thank yous should be three times what they have been in the past right now because everything is harder. Banking is harder. Groceries is harder. Cooking is harder. Everything’s harder. So, let’s give a lot of appreciation and a lot of laughter in our households and bring that in in any way you know how. You know your spouse better than anyone. You’re the expert on your spouse.
Jim: Well, and this is such a great time to think about how to do a date night in an inexpensive way. In fact, John, let’s post – I think, Kathi, you have 20 great ideas under $20.
Kathi: Mm hmm.
Jim: So, we’ll post that at the website so people can take a look at it. But more importantly, get a copy of Kathi’s book. Kathi, let me ask you, though, I’m intrigued by your advice to treat our marriages like an online church service. What do you mean by that? I know. You know, there’s so many church services going on right now that are being filmed in pastors’ basements…
Kathi: …And with an empty sanctuary. All these things.
Kathi: But, you know, the pastor is doing the sermon. And there are places for you to laugh. There are places for you to clap. There are places for you to say, “Amen.” And when we’re in church we may do that more easily because the pastor can hear us. And so, my analogy for this is sometimes in our marriage, we’re not getting the responses we need. You know, think about that pastor who’s preaching to himself and a camera in the basement.
Jim: Oh, that’s tough.
Kathi: He’s not getting it. Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. It’s so hard to do and not getting any responses. And sometimes in our marriage, we feel like we are getting absolutely no response. But here’s what I want you to do anyway. I want you to go that extra, extra little bit to say, “I’m going to try just a little bit harder. I’m going to try to connect. And if I don’t get the connection, I’m still going to treat this marriage with integrity. I’m still going to show up for my spouse.” You know, both Roger and I have gone through different points in this shelter-in-place where it’s just been hard. I’m just going to be honest with you. We’ve had down days. You know, we’ve missed important things that were important to us. We’ve miscommunicated sometimes. And it’s just an opportunity to say, “I have to go just that little bit extra. And even if I’m not getting a kind response, I’m still going to show up and be kind. I’m still going to show up and serve.” And that is not in a way to be a doormat. It’s to say, “I’m changed my attitude by how I treat the people I’m living with right now.” And I want you to have good boundaries. I want you to be in a healthy relationship. But we can always respond, and we can always start with kindness.
Jim: I really wanted to punch that point because I think with a lot of the programing we’re doing right now, most of our guests, like you…
Kathi: Mm hmm.
Jim: …Are mentioning this need for kindness. And it’s so true. And especially, I think temperamentally – how you’re wired plays into this. I mean, I can be kind of sarcastic and snarky at times.
Kathi: Yes, you can. Sorry.
Jim: But, no, I find myself, you know, purposefully pulling back from that. I kind of see that is kind of fun and teasing and playful. You know, sometimes Jean does not see it as fun and playful. And, you know, I I’ve got a mentally say, “Whoa, pull that back. Don’t go there. Don’t say that funny thing.”
Jim: And, uh, you know, I’m just trying to be mindful, but that’s what you’re getting at, right?
Kathi: Well, you know, it was like the time when Roger was joking about, oh, I wasn’t paying attention to the shopping list because he had put one thing on there. And I’m like, “(Unintelligible), do you know what’s going on in the country right now? Do you know what store shelves look like?” He was just trying to be funny and cute.
Kathi: And on a normal day, it would have been fine. And I’m feeling like a warrior trying to get our groceries.
Kathi: And so, everybody is a little bit extra sensitive right now. And, you know, so we’re just pulling back and saying, “You know what, that extra measure of grace.” The thing that may have made us upset before, today is the day to let it go and just to go that extra mile to say, “How can I support you today?” So, Roger has asked me that a hundred times as we’ve been living with my mom. You know, “Is there a way I can support you while we’re here?” And I’ve asked him that with his mom living so far away. And you know what? It just builds this bridge of love and care to feel like you are extra supported during a really tough time. And I think that that is when, you know – when God talks about going as far as you can in a relationship that – that’s an example of to go as far as you can go to be at peace.
Jim: No, that is really good. Hey, Kathi, as we’re winding up…
Jim: …I do want to cover one other concept that you had, which was “comfortable love.” And I think it lines up very nicely with what we’re talking about. You describe it in Happy Habits as there’s kind of two ends to this comfortable love. One’s more kind of destructive where you get so comfortable, you’re not doing the things that you should do.
Kathi: Mm hmm. Right.
Jim: And the other end is truly kind of what you’re describing with you and Roger. That you get into kind of a good, nurturing comfortableness that you’re good in your own skin and you’re good in the skin of your marriage if I could put it that way. Describe it.
Kathi: Yeah. Well, so, I think Roger and I have been in all the places. We’ve been in the place where we were blending a family and we looked at each other after six months of marriage and said, “We made the biggest mistake of our lives.”
Jim: (Laughter) Right.
Kathi: We’ve been in that place. We have been in the place where we’ve been in severe financial crisis. We’ve been in all those places. But we have also been in the place where the kids have all left and it was very easy to kind of live our separate lives.
Kathi: And there was a comfortableness to this. And really that place of not trying too hard. And what we realized is we missed the best versions of each other.
Kathi: And so, one of the questions we ask ourselves very often right now is or we ask each other is, “What could you use for me right now?” It’s such a non-threatening question…
Kathi: …And it can open up such a great dialog. And to be able to say from Roger, “You know what? Right now, from you – work is really hard. Is there a way that you could take over like making lunch this week? That would just serve me so well.” Or, “You know what? Here’s what I need from you. Like Mother’s Day is coming up and I’ve been feeling a little insecure about that. Can you just make sure that each of the kids calls me on that day?”
Kathi: Like I know that that sounds like such a weird thing to ask, but sometimes, you know, our partner can’t read our minds and know those deep, dark places where we’re hurting right now. And to be able to think about it in advance – and people will often say, “But they should know that.”
Kathi: The only way they can know that is if they are you.
Jim: No, it’s good.
Kathi: And so, to be able to say that in a non-threatening way.
Kathi: “What could what could you use for me right now?” is such a servant attitude, but also such a loving – and it opens you up to having great communication in your marriage.
Jim: Kathi, I think a good place to end. And I so appreciate that. I’m thinking of the woman who discounts the husband that does have to ask. I’d just be patient with us husbands because we don’t – we’re not – we’re so compartmentalize. We’re not always thinking outside of our little box. But help us in that regard. But finally, I do want to ask this. I think perhaps the best question I could ask you through the whole half hour here, and that’s for the couple that when they get together, they’ll say something like, “We don’t have anything to talk about. I mean, we just – we’re lost in our togetherness because it’s become so mundane…”
Jim: “…that we don’t even know what questions or what interests to express to each other.” What will you say to that couple to kind of spark that again and don’t take being complacent as the end of the road for your marriage?
Kathi: Could you spend five minutes dreaming together? Just dreaming about what you would like your marriage to look like. What you would like your family to look like. What does it look like when maybe some of these restrictions are lifted and you can go on a date again?
Kathi: Or you could go on a trip again, even if it’s just overnight? And would you start to dream together you can start to align what it is that you want for yourself and for each other. And dreaming calls out the best in each person. And that’s what I want for your marriage. I want your absolute best for your marriage. And giving yourself, you know, not looking at what was just said or what was done but looking forward into what God can do with the two people who are willing to try. It’s really a beautiful thing.
Jim: Kathi, this has been so good. I, uh – I’m smiling because I’m thinking of you and Roger coming out on the first day in California that you can go to In-and-Out Burger or whatever.
Kathi: Oh, yes. With my animal style. Yes!
Jim: (Laughter) I’m just thinking of Roger in his tiki shirt and you in something.
Kathi: (Laughter) Yeah.
Jim: And, uh, I’m going to have to come up with my own. And John, you and Dena, too, I guess. But it has been so good to have you on as always. And let me turn to the listener. If you’re looking for a starting line in your journey to improve your marriage, let’s start right here. These are real basic things that Kathi is getting at. But these are the foundational building blocks that can make your marriage so much more joyful and so much more rewarding. And I would really encourage you to get a copy of her book, Happy Habits. And of course, we have it here at Focus on the Family. And let me just remind you, I know you can go to your Prime account and one-click it, but if you do that through Focus, if you get the resource, those dollars, they don’t go to shareholders. They go right back into saving marriages, helping parents parent better. Saving babies lives. I mean, when you purchase that product through Focus that’s where the profit goes. And we’re so grateful to Kathi for providing a great resource and tool for your marriage.
John: Yeah. We are. And I want to let you know that if you’re able to give a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family today, we’d like to say thank you for joining the support team by sending a copy of Happy Habits for Every Couple: 21 Days to a Better Relationship. Donate and get your copy of the book when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Next time, we’ll have John Stonestreet offering thoughts about helping your child develop a Biblical worldview.
Dr. John Stonestreet: So, all of these concepts, fundamentally, we’ve got to get to the heart of how words are used and how ideas are seeping into our minds and teaching kids to be thoughtful about it. And they can do it in a loving way. It’s not being a jerk to say, you know – it’s kind of like, you know, the Princess Bride. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” (Laughter) Right? And what a great way to teach ideas to kids.