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Filling Your Marriage With Joy

Filling Your Marriage With Joy

In a discussion based on their book The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages, Dr. Marcus Warner and Pastor Chris Coursey offer practical guidance for how a husband and wife can work together to experience greater joy in their relationship.
Original Air Date: August 3, 2020

Excerpt:

Dr. Marcus Warner: You think about it, uh, friendship is the foundation of a really good marriage. You want to be good friends. And if you’re not playing together, are you really friends, you know?

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s Dr. Marcus Warner, and he’s our guest today on Focus on the Family, along with his co-author Chris Coursey. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Here at Focus, uh, we talk about marriage quite a bit, John.

John: We do.

Jim: Don’t we? It’s a good thing. And, uh, we want your marriage to be the best it could possibly be. And you can have that kind of marriage. I’m talking about the resources, the tools, all the things here at Focus we’re trying to, uh, equip you with so you can practice a good marriage. Somebody said the other day to me, “You know, we spend a lot of time, you know, getting a license to do something, uh, or working hard vocationally. But we really don’t put, unfortunately, a lot of work into our marriage.” And I think, uh, that’s a good reminder that, if you don’t do that, it’ll wither and sometimes die. So, we want to plow that good ground around that plant of marriage. Feed it. Nurture it. Sometimes I do that well. Sometimes I don’t do that well. And today, we want to be able to talk about the tools that you need to do it better. You know, in the New Testament, 1 Thessalonians, it says, “Rejoice always.” And sometimes in marriage and certainly in other relationships, it can be a challenge. Uh, you know, the joy-sucking occurs rather than the joy fountain. And, uh, today, we want to give you some tools to cultivate that spirit of joy in your marriage.

John: Dr. Marcus Warner and, uh, Chris Coursey will help us do that. Dr. Warner is the president of Deeper Walk International. Uh, he and his wife, Brenda, have two adult children. And Chris is an ordained minister and pastoral counselor. And he and his wife, Jen, have two young boys. And, uh, together, these men wrote The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages and, of course, we have that here at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Marcus and Chris, welcome to Focus on the Family.

Mr. Chris Coursey: Thank you.

Marcus: Yup.

Chris: It’s good to be here.

Marcus: It is.

Jim: Okay. I’ve already got the ringing endorsement of my wife, Jean…

John: (Laughter).

Jim: …Because we were looking at the book and the content this morning early when I was prepping for the show. She went, “Wow. This is good stuff.” So, for all the wives listening, at least you have Jean’s stamp of approval on what we’re about to talk about.

Marcus: Well, that’s our best endorsement so far.

Jim: (Laughter).

Chris: Yes, it is. We’ll take that.

Jim: (Laughter) I think it’s because she wants to put a few of these things into practice, is my guess.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: …For me to be able to do these things. But, uh, you know, so often, we look at the purpose of marriage. And in some marriages, I’m sure, they shake their heads at times, the people in those marriages, thinking, “Lord, why did You create marriage like this?” And the interesting thing – it, typically, if not always, points back to us because what the Lord is trying to do, I think, in the institution of marriage and what He created, is to make us more like Him by making us more selfless – um, you know, giving yourself to another person. And, uh, the big question is, now, how do you find joy in that thing that does not come to the, uh, human nature, the fleshly nature so easily? Where do we find joy in that?

Marcus: No, that’s a great, uh, question because a lot of times, we forget that we – we usually we get married because we’re convinced will have more joy with this person than without them.

Jim: (Laughter).

Marcus: And so, it’s a…

Jim: Is that a fog, by the way…

Marcus: Uh, well…

Jim: …Early on? Is that just a fog, or what’s happening?

Marcus: Yeah. It’s because we’re having so much joy. It’s like…

Jim: (Laughter) There is a lot of joy.

Marcus: It’s like, “This is…” – yeah. It’s like, “This is so great.” There’s all this energy. You’re really looking forward to the next time you’re gonna see the person. Um, what we’ve also found is that – uh, brain science has shown us that joy is far more fundamental to the human experience than we’ve made it. Too many of us have treated joy like it’s the icing on the cake of life instead of that it is actually the fuel on which life is meant to run.

Jim: That’s interesting. Chris, again, what – from your perspective, what role does joy play in marriage?

Chris: You know, joy’s foundational. Um, joy is very easy to start early on in our marriages. What happens for a lot of marriages is joy’s hard to sustain. You actually have to be proactive. It’s like tending a garden. You’ve got to pull the weeds. You got to work the soil a little bit. And you have to be, uh, very purposeful about maintaining that joy.

Jim: Yeah. Let me ask you this question because I – that’s a great point because so often, we feel like we’re waiting for joy, like we’re at the fountain. “Okay, is it going to happen?” We just went to Yellowstone, saw Old Faithful. It’s kind of that moment, right? You’re waiting. You’re waiting. You’re waiting. And boom, there it is – joy. Is that what we do too often in marriage? Instead of cultivating it, we’re waiting for a circumstance…

Chris: Definitely.

Jim: …To dictate that joy.

Chris: Definitely. We’re waiting. We’re hoping. We’re praying. And we just sometimes wish that God would just zap us with a full bottle of joy. And – and many times, it’s kind of like Adam and Eve had to tend the garden. Um, you know, we have to tend the garden of our marriages…

Jim: Yeah.

Chris: …To really sustain those joy levels.

Jim: But what’s critical about that – I want to make sure we’re hearing that, that it’s not – it can be, but it’s not exclusively an external thing, that joy comes from within, too. And that’s probably the most sustainable.

Marcus: We should probably define what we mean by joy…

Chris: Yeah.

Marcus: …Because people are all over the place on that.

Jim: Hit it.

Marcus: And for us on a – from a brain perspective – right? – that is, that you’re – you know, we have the right side and the left side of the brain. Joy is a right-brain experience. Now, our choosing and our thinking are on the left side of the brain, so a lot of us are trying to think our way into joy and choose our way into joy. But really, joy is this reaction that we have to being with somebody. So, a lot of times, what happens in marriage is I’m waiting for the other person to make me joyful instead of doing the things that cause us to be happy to be together. In other word – so, what we’re doing in joy is we’re looking for more and more reasons to be happy together, more and more ways to be happy together and, uh, because our brain reacts to that. And, uh, so, from a brain science perspective, it is always a relational word.

Jim: Okay. That’s good. And we’re gonna get to that throughout the program. Let me move to something you call the joy gap, uh (laughter) now, that we’ve had the positive side of it.

Marcus: (Laughter).

Jim: I was thinking, joy gap. Jean got it right away (laughter). “I know exactly what they’re talking about.” What’s this joy gap?

Marcus: Well, the joy gap is simply the, uh, length of time between moments of sheer joy. So, for some couples, it’s, like, hours, you know, between. And if you’ve got – if you’re measuring your joy gap in hours, you’ve got a really good marriage. If you are measuring your – you know, “The last time we shared joy together was, like, a month ago,” there are some problems here. So, the gap is how long has it been since we were both experiencing joy from being together?

Jim: Now, do you and – and Brenda have – your wife, Brenda – do you have an…

Marcus: She’s here. Yeah. And, uh, so my answer…

Jim: Come on in, Brenda. No.

John: We’re going to ask her.

(LAUGHTER)

Marcus: Exactly. She told me an example.

Jim: But what’s an example?

Marcus: She told me to say it’s ours.

Jim: What’s a safe…

Marcus: No, we’re good.

Jim: What’s a safe story that you could share as an example of this, something in your marriage maybe where you struggled? The joy gap, for example…

Marcus: Yeah. Well, we got partway into our marriage and realized that we had a huge joy gap. And it was one of those things where I was oblivious to it because I was kind of a workaholic pastor. And, uh, I thought everything was fine because, as long as there wasn’t a flaring mess, I figured our marriage was fine. And then…

Jim: So, you were managing it.

Marcus: I was managing the marriage. But then I would realize – is that she was actually withering away from this lack of joy because joy is the fuel on which the marriage runs. And so, if there isn’t enough joy going on there, she’s going to feel like she’s not important to me. She’s – and she’s – and our marriage is actually withering, and I’m not, uh, aware of it. So, we realized, we need to do some things – we didn’t have this vocabulary back then – but realized we need to do some things to shrink this joy gap in our marriage and infuse it with more – more relational joy. And we started doing some things. I mean, you know, the basic things that you are always told, like start date nights – well, we did date nights, but we would have fights on our date nights, you know? ‘Cause…

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: That’s very honest. I appreciate that.

Marcus: Yeah. No, because – it was, uh, because we hadn’t spent enough time really doing the kind of habits, we talk about in this book that you need to develop in order for things like that to be successful.

Jim: It’s always good when authors write from their experiences (laughter).

Marcus: Yes, it is. We have a lot.

Jim: That’s a good thing.

Chris: We have a lot.

Jim: Chris, let me ask you in terms of this, uh – this label that you call the brain magnet – what is the brain magnet, and what are the different types of bonds we have with other people?

Chris: Uh, the brain magnet is really the foundation in the emotional brain. In other words, we’re created for relationships. We are designed…

Jim: That’s so true.

Chris: …For bonding. It’s kind of like, you know, Gorilla Glue, where you – you – really strong adhesive, um, that can glue things together. So, the brain magnet is really – when – when Marcus would – started bonding with Brenda, his brain magnet is looking for her on campus and just looking for that young lady to walk around the corner because his brain magnet is now bonded. And his brain magnet is saying, “You are personal to me, and I want to spend more time with you.” So, it’s this powerful force that God designed in the brain so that we will bond.

Jim: Um, you also mention a term called the joy bucket.

Marcus: Well, the joy bucket is a very specific part of your brain. It’s called the right orbital prefrontal cortex. So…

Chris: Fancy.

Jim: I like joy bucket.

Marcus: Yeah (laughter). That’s why we…

(LAUGHTER)

Marcus: Yeah, fancy – hence, the terminology. Basically, this part of the brain is fascinating. It’s the high – it’s the part of the brain we would identify as me. And that is when I say, “I am doing this. I feel this. I am, you know, reacting” – this is the part of brain I self-identify as my identity center. It’s also my joy center. And so, what happens is that the larger the capacity for joy, the larger my capacity to act like myself…

Jim: Huh.

Marcus: …Which is a lot of ramifications for a whole lot of things. But in marriage, the ability to stay myself, even when I’m in pain, is incredibly important because if there’s pain in my marriage and that pain makes me – overwhelms my capacity for joy – my joy bucket can’t handle that much pain – I will turn into somebody else. And I will go from acting like a friend to you to acting like an enemy to you.

Jim: Wow.

Marcus: And so, it’s…

Jim: That’s powerful.

Marcus: Yeah. It just changes everything. And so, I need a big enough joy bucket to be able to absorb the level of pain that’s going on in the marriage. And if those things get out of proportion – there’s just way more pain than there is joy in my marriage – things are gonna start turning, tipping and going south.

Jim: You know, there’s so many responses I think of in that regard. People that, um, when you say of them, “Oh, they’re comfortable in their skin,” that would remind me of that person…

Chris: Yeah.

Jim: …That he or she is very comfortable being who they are. They don’t have to pretend.

Marcus: Right.

Jim: Is that evidence of a person who’s in that joy bucket?

Marcus: That’s evidence that – right. That means that they have a well-developed joy bucket in their brain.

Jim: Yeah. I think, Marcus, you have this acrostic, uh, where you relate the on-and-off switch in the back of our head. Now, I – I’m gonna say it again, so men, listen to this.

Marcus: Yeah.

Jim: Women get this. Jean lit up on this one and said, “Yes. This is so true.” So, what is that acrostic?

Marcus: The acrostic is CAKE, right?

Jim: (Laughter) I love that.

Marcus: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

Marcus: Well, I designed it for men, right?

John: It’s a good word picture.

Jim: We can remember.

Marcus: …Because who doesn’t like cake, right? It’s like, this is a piece of cake to have a better marriage. So the, uh, idea here is that, um, the on-and-off switch in your brain means that on the right side of your brain are most of the relational circuitry. And the idea here is that when my relational circuitry is functioning and everything is going well, it’s easy for me to act like myself. It’s easy for me to stay engaged. You know, we can – it – it goes well. But if something happens and the switch goes off, I, uh – my relational circuits, when they shut down, I stop acting like myself. I turn into a different person. All of a sudden, I don’t feel like I want to be with you. So, CAKE helps us analyze if I – how I can tell that my circuits have gone off.

Jim: Okay, good.

Marcus: All right. So, the first one is curiosity. And that is, I lose my curiosity about you. And the main reason that I lose my curiosity about you is that I think I have you all figured out, right? So, if I think I’ve got you all figured – “I know why you’re having this emotion. I know why you’re making this decision. I know why you’re being the way you – all – because you always do this, and you never do this.” So, I have no curiosity about you.

Jim: I don’t like CAKE anymore.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: You’re exactly right.

Chris: It rings true.

John: It takes a lot of work.

Jim: That is so true.

Marcus: It is. Yes.

Jim: I mean, you tap out.

Marcus: You do.

Chris: Yes.

Jim: And you think you know it all.

Chris: That’s exactly what happens.

Jim: Boy, men, listen to this.

Marcus: So, when your switch goes off, you lose curiosity. If you want to get your relational circuits back on so that you act like yourself, you stay relationally engaged, you have to disconnect briefly, find some curiosity and reengage with that curiosity. Now, there is a counterfeit form of curiosity to avoid, and that’s called sarcasm, right? You don’t say, “So, I’m curious. Are you always this stupid?” Right? That is not, you know…

Jim: Correct.

Chris: Yeah, we don’t want to do that.

Marcus: Yeah.

Jim: And men – again, I’m being stereotypical, but we tend to fall that way.

Chris: We do.

Jim: We can become very cutting.

Chris: Mm hmm.

Jim: Okay. So, we have curiosity. We haven’t finished our CAKE.

Marcus: No. You want to walk them through some of this?

Chris: Yeah. Um, so appreciation. So, one of the wonderful, um, skills and habits that we can practice is just thinking about the good stuff. So, if my relational switch is off – I’m not enjoying being with my wife at this moment, I’m upset because my feelings are hurt or whatever it is – then I can think of, “Well, what is it I do enjoy about my wife? Or what are some of the gifts that God’s given us recently that I can be thankful for?” So, just taking a few moments to, you know, focus on the good stuff. What was great about your week? What was good from your day? What interaction was life-giving? And that actually helps to activate the switch…

Jim: Okay, good.

Chris: …So, that you shift back into (unintelligible).

Jim: So curiosity…

Marcus: Appreciation.

Jim: …And appreciation. And what’s next?

Marcus: And then kindness – and that is, when my circuits go off, I don’t feel like being kind to you, right?

Jim: (Laughter).

Marcus: I feel like – I feel like avoiding you. I feel like you just leaving would be a good thing. I feel like, uh, being a little snarky would be a good idea right now. I just don’t feel like being kind. And so, that is a sign that these circuits have gone off. Because when my circuits are on and I’m acting like myself, I’m a kind person, right? So, why did I stop being a kind person here? It’s because something triggered me, and my circuits went off. So, I need to recognize that. And then the last one is eye contact. You know, so a lot of times, my wife will say to me, “Would you, you know, look at me? You know, look at me.” And I’m like, “You know, I’d rather not” (laughter).

Chris: Yeah (laughter).

Marcus: You know? (Laughter).

John: Yeah.

Marcus: That’s a sign that my circuits are off.

Jim: What about the narrative engine and how does it affect us? And I want a story from you, so how have you personally experienced this?

Marcus: So, narrative engine – basically now we’re moving from the right side of our brain where all the nonverbal relational circuitry is over to the left side of the brain, which is the part of my brain that is really good at analysis and problem-solving and storytelling. So, it’s the part of my brain that is weaving a narrative together as to “Why does this keep happening?” So, what happens is if my relational circuits are on, I will literally tell myself a different narrative than when my relational circuits are off. So, if my circuits are on and I’m engaged in and excited, appreciative about my wife, I have a very different narrative about her. But when my circuits go off, my narrative about her changes.

Jim: Huh.

Marcus: And so, like, if my circuits go off, it’s like that’s when I go into my – it’s like we have, uh, some kind of a fight. We’re upset with each other. I go in the next room and I go into what I call my man cave in the back of my head. And I am just, like, going, “Why does she always do this? Why doesn’t she ever treat me like this? Why doesn’t – you know, when is she going to get this right?” And I hit – and what I’m doing is I’m rehearsing the narrative that justifies the emotion that I’m feeling.

Jim: Hmm.

Marcus: And so, if I’m going to break out of that emotion, I’m going to have to change that narrative. So, I’ve got to realize, “No, that isn’t – that narrative isn’t always true. It only feels true when I feel like this.” And so, trying to get – sometimes getting your relational circuits back on actually helps you change that narrative and get back to a – a healthier narrative about…

John: So, if we brought Brenda, in here, what story would she bring to the table of when that – that was a – a matter for you to discuss? (Laughter).

Marcus: All right. So, a classic one – I think we even have this in the book – was there was one time where – went – sometimes I could tell my relational circuits went off because I would just shut down – right? – and I would just stop talking. And, uh, and we’d be in the middle of a fight and I would just be quiet. And so, she’s sitting on the bed. I’m sitting on the couch, and she looks at me. And normally she would say, “We gotta talk about this. We gotta talk.” And, uh, this time she looked at me and she said, “Is it okay if I come and sit next to you?” And I just shrugged my shoulders because I was not talking (laughter). And, uh, she sat next to me, and then she looked at me and she said, “Is it okay if I hold your hand?” I looked at her. I said, “You’re really not good at this fighting – this stuff. Are you?”

John: (Laughter).

Marcus: You know, I said, “Okay, you can hold my hand.” And as soon as she did, it was like I could just feel this whoosh inside of – okay. All of a sudden, this on-off switch popped back on. My relational circuits came back on, and all of a sudden, I realized, “I like this person. I want to have a kind conversation with this person.” And, uh, we could talk about our problem now relationally because both of us had our relational circuits on.

John: Mm hmm.

Marcus: If we talked about that problem when I was – still had it off, I would have just, you know, been living out of this narrative instead of – but by getting our relational circuits reconnected and getting re-engaged with each other, a different narrative took over. I’m like, “No, I want this relationship to work. I want this problem to get solved.” And we were able to, uh, handle it totally differently.

Jim: But in that context, if I can add – Chris, you can bounce off of this.

Chris: Yeah.

Jim: But it sounds like you got to react almost opposite of what your emotions are telling you to do.

Marcus: Yeah, exactly.

Jim: That takes discipline.

Marcus: Well, it – it – it also took – but it largely took getting the circuits back on because what I found is that when my circuits were off, I do turn into a different person.

Jim: Right.

Marcus: And I will treat my wife like an enemy instead of treating her like a friend.

Jim: Mm.

Marcus: But when I – it’s as simple as getting the circuits back on and, all of a sudden, I don’t feel like treating her like an enemy anymore. I want to – I now want our relationship to be bigger than the problem. And so, she – what she did was helping me get there.

Jim: So, tying that together, you go back to your CAKE acrostic. And the first one, curiosity – this is where that would play, right? Where you have to keep – if you’re the one with more joy in your bucket or your bigger (laughter) joy bucket, you want that curiosity so you can help your spouse, um…

Chris: Yes.

Jim: …Enlarge his or her joy bucket.

Chris: That’s right. And if I am – if I’m in a – having a great day and my joy levels are really high and I see my wife, uh, hurt, she’s just not had a very good day. So, those joy levels are not what they could be. You know, what? I’m gonna say, “Hey, honey, what – what do you need right now?” Like, “You know what? I’m ready to go have some fun. I feel like we should, you know, go – go out and do something fun.” She’s, “No. You know what? I’m not in the mood.” “Okay. Well, what would be meaningful for you right now? Like, what do you need?” So, curiosity is a very helpful invitation, uh, for connection.

Jim: Right. And you have another acrostic – PLAN, is it. And let’s get into that because these are some of the practical ways to do what you just said, Chris.

Chris: Yeah.

Jim: And the first one, I like – play together.

Chris: Absolutely.

Jim: And I think that helps build that bucket as we’re talking. So, aside from the obvious, how does a married couple learn to play together?

Marcus: Well, and you think about it, uh, friendship is the foundation of a really good marriage. You want to be good friends. And if you’re not playing together, are you really friends, you know? (Laughter) Uh, ’cause friends are – tend to be people you would invite over to – to play and to do things together. And some of it’s really simple stuff like making sure you take time to take walks now and then, uh, playing cards together, doing things that you both like, watching a movie but talking about it and interacting over it. And not just – I mean, it’s just treating somebody like they’re a friend that you enjoy doing stuff with.

Jim: Yeah.

Marcus: And so playing together is huge.

Jim: You describe that like eye smiles and date night…

Chris: Yes.

Jim: …Getting, uh, relational. I was – Jean and I were talking about this this morning and she said, “You know…” actually, I said it to her, “You – you do eye smiles through the phone.” When she answers the phone when I’m calling, she’s so upbeat. And I said to her, “That is so good for me to hear.”

Chris: Yes.

Jim: When I call, she – “Hello, how are you?” I mean, it’s just upbeat. So, it’s like a phone smile (laughter).

Chris: It is.

Marcus: A phone smile, yeah.

Chris: And you know, joy is best grown visually and through voice tone. And so, that’s exactly right. You can hear it in the voice. “Are you glad to be with me?” And that’s what our joy center and our joy bucket is always asking, “Are you glad to be with me right now?”

Jim: And that leads into the next one – listen for emotion. The “L” of PLAY.

Marcus: Right.

Jim: What is that? And in – you know, for us people that may not understand that clearly, give us some concrete examples.

Marcus: So, going back to the right and left side of the brain, the left side of your brain naturally listens for problems and the right side of your brain, in order to train it, needs to be trained to listen for emotions. So, what happens at a lot of conversations that I have is as soon as I hear the problem, I quit listening because, “Oh, that’s the problem. I can fix that. I’ll let you finish whatever you’re doing, but we’ll circle back and fix the problem”…

Jim: (Laughter) Oh, that is such a big, uh…

Marcus: …Right?

John: …Landmine.

Jim: …Landmine.

Marcus: Yeah.

Jim: But also, I mean, I – I relate to that (laughter).

Marcus: So, uh, part of what we’re, uh, telling people in learning to listen for emotion is the idea that you listen for emotion first, and then you identify the emotion accurately and how big it is for that person. Now, you don’t have to agree that they should be feeling it. You’re just acknowledging that this is, in fact, how they’re feeling. And that helps them feel seen, and it helps them feel understood. And now you can circle back and solve the problem. And you’re gonna do it from a relational foundation instead of skipping the relationship and going straight to the problem-solving. And so, where most of us make our mistakes in all kinds of relationships, whether it’s leadership or parenting or marriage, is that we lead with problems in our conversations instead of, uh, you know, taking the time to listen for the emotion.

Jim: All right. We got to move quickly. So that’s the “P” and the “L” of PLAY – now, appreciate daily. That sounds like a no-brainer for us as Christians.

Marcus: It does, but a lot of us confuse gratitude with appreciation. And that is if I just say, “Well, thank you for doing that.” That’s almost a left-brain task and I can check off my list. Appreciation is where I take the time to really, uh, let them know how it made me feel, how it affected me, you know, how good this was. In other words, taking three, four, five minutes, you know, to let people know that this was really, uh, uh, something I appreciated.

Jim: Yeah. Chris, your wife, Jen, we got to get her in here.

Chris: Yes.

Jim: You have a little story about you and Jen. What happened?

Chris: Yes. So, when we were newlyweds, uh, we discovered something very important – that at night when she tries to fall asleep, she has a very busy brain and she can’t fall asleep. And I’m a light sleeper. So, we discovered this was not making a very restful night for either of us. So, uh, I was learning about all this research – brain research. And I thought, “You know, let’s try and exercise here.” So, one night we decided while laying in bed, just cuddling, um, we shared three things from our day that – that brought a smile. So, three good moments, good things from our day – could be very practical, like, “Hey, you know, I really enjoyed watching the snow fall today. That was really meaningful.” Then she does her three. And then I share three things I like about her. “You know, I appreciate, Honey, that when our friend came over, uh, this evening, you – your hospitality was amazing. I really like how warm and hospitable you are and how you make our home just a – a joyful place.” So, I’d share three things with examples. She would share three things. And it was this part of the – at this point in the exercise, I could physically just feel her body start to relax.

Jim: Hmm.

Chris: But there was one more step and that was, “What are three things that we appreciate about God?” I might say, “You know what? I really appreciate God giving me this opportunity of spend time with my friends today that this has been such a meaningful visit. And, you know what? I’m just thankful that God really values relationships.” I had my three things with examples. She shares her three things. It would take us 10 minutes to do this exercise. The nights that we did this exercise, Jen would fall asleep within 10 minutes of the exercise and have a wonderful night’s rest.

Jim: Wow, that’s great.

Chris: …Very practical.

Jim: There’s somebody’s thinking. I’m just feeling it. Someone’s thinking, hearing this right now, “Boy, three-smile day? That’s a good day.” (Laughter).

Chris: Oh, yeah. It is.

Marcus: That’s it.

Jim: All right. The “N” is nurture rhythm. And that’s PLAN. That’s the acrostic.

Marcus: Yeah.

Jim: So, who wants to speak to nurturing rhythm?

Marcus: Well, nurturing rhythm goes back to the idea that you have to have margin. You can’t grow joy if there’s no margin in your life.

Jim: Wow, that can be the hardest thing, Marcus.

Marcus: Absolutely. And that’s why you have to prioritize so that we give some practical ways that even busy people can grow some margin – for example, making your bedroom a problem-free zone. Like once we go to bed…

Jim: Amen (laughter).

Marcus: …Yes. So, when you go to bed at night, it’s – for a lot of married couples we’ve found is it – is the bedroom is the boardroom.

Jim: Yeah. Jean has been awesome at that. I mean, early on in our marriage I think she was far more, uh – she’s a night person.

Marcus: Okay.

Jim: And this can play into that…

Marcus: Yeah.

John: Oh, yeah.

Marcus: …You know, where she’s energized and ready to conquer the world at about 10:00, 11:00 at night.

Marcus: Yeah.

John: (Laughter).

Jim: I don’t know where the world is (laughter), you know, my eyelids are shut. But you have to learn to do that – right? – to…

Marcus: You do, uh…

Jim: …Where’s that rhythm for you as a couple?

Marcus: It is. And so establishing a rhythm of, you know, marking out our calendar, “When are we gonna have our breaks to have play dates together? When are we gonna have our weekends?” But also creating a rhythm in your day that says, uh, “This is when we’re gonna be together” knowing that I’ve got relational things to look forward to.

Jim: Okay. We have covered a ton of territory very quickly and folks need to get a copy of this book, obviously. But I’m thinking for tonight, you know, as a couple is listening to this going, “Ah, we’ve got a joy gap.” Let’s just go back to that very first thing we identified. What’s one thing they can do today that they can work on to close that gap?

Chris: You know what? I would have them do, um, one of the exercises is just, you know, sharing those qualities that you appreciate about your spouse with, while you cuddle…

Jim: Yeah, three and three – I like that.

Chris: …You know what? That’s a very simple exercise. And all of the exercises in the book always close with quiet and rest – right? – which is part of that nurturing rhythm. So, joy is high energy. It’s great while it’s there. But okay, I need to catch my breath. So, do the appreciation exercise. It’s fun. It’s meaningful. It’s life-giving. Spend about five minutes just resting as you hold each other. The – the bonding hormone oxytocin increases while we hold our spouse. So, just a couple minutes of holding each other, you feel very close, bonded, peaceful and joyful.

Jim: Yeah, it’s good. It’ll definitely turn your circuits back on.

Marcus: Yes.

Jim: And that’s the point, right?

Chris: Yes.

Jim: Uh, Marcus and Chris, this has been good. Jean was right.

Marcus: (Laughter).

Jim: This is great content. And I hope folks will get a copy of your book, The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages, uh, right here at Focus. Again, this is what we’re trying to do is equip you to not have just that mediocre relationship. Let’s, as Christians, model what it means – model what marriage can look like so that others, especially those that don’t know the Lord, can look at your relationship and say, “What – what do you have that’s so different?” Wouldn’t that be terrific?

Chris: Yes.

Jim: And we can have that. And this is one of the ways. Uh, learn these great habits, and, uh, I think your marriage will change. And, uh, we’re talking to those who have, you know, just the regular bumps in the road kind of marriage, not where you’re in an extremely bad place. Uh, there’s different things for you to do in that regard. And you can call us for that help as well.

John: Mm hmm.

Jim: But, uh, send a gift of any amount and we’ll send the book, uh, The 4 Habits of A Joy-Filled Marriage to say thank you for being a partner in the marriage. And if you can’t afford it, I mean, we’ll get it into your hands. We’ll trust that others will cover the cost of that. So, get a hold of us because your marriage is what we care about.

John: We’re a phone call away and that number is 800-232-6459. 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Marcus and Chris, thanks again for being with us. Great stuff.

Chris: Thank you. It’s great to be here. It’s been a lot of fun.

Marcus: Yep, we’ve enjoyed ourselves.

John: On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here at Focus on the Family, thanks for joining us today. And be sure to be with us next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages

The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages

Receive our guests' book The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages for your donation of any amount!

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Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!