Bill Farrel: What I see shuts guys down all the time is too much criticism, because you know, as guys, we’re all kinda awkward. And it’s easy in a person that you spend your whole time with, it’s easy to find things to criticize. And when a man gets too much criticism, he just starts to conclude, “I can’t succeed in this relationship, so I’m not gonna try.”
End of Recap
John Fuller: Well, it’s important to have some good strong conversations about how you’re wired and how you’re communication could be having a negative impact on your spouse. And we’ve got some great conversation starters for you and ways to better understand your mate on today’s “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly.
I’m John Fuller and we’re continuing our conversation with Bill and Pam Farrel, who’ve written the book, Men are Like Waffles and Women are Like Spaghetti [FYI: Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti]
Jim Daly: (Chuckling) It takes you a minute to think that through, doesn’t it? Hey, men and women are just different. That’s the way we are. We’ve been created differently and there’s no way around that. And too many times we feel so comfortable with our spouse that we feel the freedom to point out the shortcomings and the inadequacies of our mate and that is unwise. We end up alienating the very person that we love the most without even intending to do it. Instead of trying to change our spouse to communicate like we want them to, we simply need to understand how God has wired our bride or our groom so we can strengthen that relationship. And I’m tellin’ you, Bill and Pam Farrel have been helping couples see the value in those differences for more than 30 years. They joined us last time and we’re comin’ back to their thoughts again today.
John: And if you missed any of the previous conversation or you can’t stick around for the entire discussion today, get the download or a CD or better, get our app for your phone or tablet, so you can listen on the go at any time. Now the Farrels have come up with that analogy of waffles and spaghetti and it does take a moment to kind of grab onto that, but as you listen, it’ll make sense and I so appreciate their vulnerability. This is not a couple that claims perfection. They just have some great insights. Let’s go ahead and hear more from Bill and Pam Farrel on today’s “Focus on the Family.”
Jim: Pam, we talked a lot last time about the spaghetti side of things understanding how our wives integrate and connect all the different parts of their lives together like a bunch of spaghetti. But men in contrast, we tend to compartmentalize. We’re like the top of a waffle with a bunch of little boxes and nothing’s really touching anything else. How do you counsel couples who feel like they’re just at the end of their rope in trying to understand one another and be understood?
Pam Farrel: Well, I think one of the tips is just to keep the overall picture of valuing those differences. Bill likes to quote his favorite theologian.
Bill: It’s Rocky Balboa.
John: Oh, yeah. (Laughter) Well known as a theologian.
Jim: (Laughing) Rocky!
Bill: Right, he was dating Adrian. You know, Adrian’s brother, Paulie, got concerned about the relationship, so [he] asked Rocky one day, “Hey what are you doin’ with my sister?” And Rocky’s response was something like, “I got gaps; she got gaps. Together we fill gaps.” (Laughter)
Jim: (Laughing) I remember.
Bill: Which is pretty good relationship advice, ’cause we all married people with gaps.
Bill: And God puts us in each other’s lives to kind of fill some of those gaps and make the total picture better than the individual picture.
Pam: So, to realize you know, my man has value and to get to that value sometimes, I’ll have to get at it a different way. And like the No. 1 question I’m asked when I do women’s conferences or marriage and family conferences, the girls always say, “Okay, how do I get my man to open up?” How do I get my dad to open up, my son to open up, my husband to open up, my boyfriend? How do I get them to share with me?
And here’s the deal. We women have, you know, way more words per day than the average male, so we can basically just outtalk the guys. And so, because of that, a lot of times we sell guys short, you know, because they don’t respond to life like we respond to life, we think something’s wrong with them.
And I think the best way to get to a man’s heart is to go to his favorite box. And if we know what our husband loves, then we can go and park ourself [sic] in that favorite box, whether it’s fishing, whether it’s sports. It tends to be, if you can get a guy in a car he’ll open up. Like this one girl, she came to me. She was engaged and she said, “Pam, I’m like really excited about getting married to my fiancé. I mean, he’s such a good moral man and he’s such a great provider. And he’s just a good guy, but I’m kind of afraid, too.”
And I said, “Well, why are you afraid, girlfriend?” And she said, “Well, I think something’s wrong with him. I think he’s broken. I think it’s called ’emotionally shallow.’” And I started to laugh, because I thought, oh, she just hasn’t found the key to unlocking a guy’s heart.
And so, I asked her, “Whatch’ your fiancé like to do?” She’s like, “He’s a sports car driver.” I said, “Okay. Go into the garage and when you get in the garage, just go in. Listen to his heart and repeat key phrases that he’s saying.”
So, she goes into the garage and he’s workin’ on the race car, of course. And so, he’s tweakin’ this and he’s torquing that. And he’s talking about rods and pistons and fly wheels and she’s repeating back all those car parts. She doesn’t have a clue what she’s saying, but she’s repeating back the car parts. And all of a sudden he comes out from the car and he said, “Wow! Nobody’s ever cared about my life like this. Nobody’s ever loved me like this. Nobody’s ever taken the time. Honey, I’m so excited to get married to you. I want to build us a big three-bedroom, two-bath house and put a balcony out back. And I want to hang up a front porch swing so that every night when I come home from work, I can just hold you in my arms and we can watch the sun set and I can just listen to your heart.” She told me later, “I never want to leave the garage again!” (Laughter)
Pam: Found the key to his heart.
John: And you’re not talking about doing this superficially. I mean it would be easy to fake that kind of interest. You’re–
John: –you’re saying, make it genuine.
Pam: Care, yeah.
Bill: Again, we’re fighting our tendencies on this, because the complaint I hear from men all the time is, “I started this conversation with my wife and she just took it over and we were running somewhere else. I don’t know how we got there.” Because once a woman sees an issue in a man’s life, she also sees the six issues that are attached to that and she wants to explore all of them.
Pam: So, our gift that we can give is to stay in the box. If he brings up a subject to talk about, it’s actually that subject that he wants to talk about. So, if we can stay in the box and repeat back those key phrases, we’re gonna go down to that deeper level and that’s where the best of who a guy is. It’s just kinda like how syrup sinks down to the very bottom of every waffle box compartment. The sweetest part of a guy is in the very bottom of every one of those compartments. If we become a good listener, we’ll be able to get down to the very best of who our man is.
And you know, it’s not as hard as one might think. Our son, Brock, is a football coach. And so, he was the quarterback for Liberty University. I mean, the guy lives and breathes football. And he married a sweetheart of a girl, Hannah, who really didn’t know much about football when they got together.
But we came to their house one night and Brock was at a coaching meeting. And Hannah was watching reruns of highlight films from one of the station[s], what’s that station where they–
Pam: –watch, yeah (Laughter), you know, the best of games. There was no male in there. She was just watching it. She had learned to love his background..
Bill: Well, and I asked her. I said, “Hannah, what are you doing?” She said, “Well, if I’m gonna be married to a coach, I gotta learn to love football.”
Pam: And she has.
Jim: So, it’s an active interest. That’s what you’re saying there.
Bill: And these differences, Jim, they apply to all relationships. So, it applies to a relationship with mom and dad, brothers and sisters–
Bill: –workplace. And so, it’s just those of us who are married know it gets more intense because you deal with it every day–
Jim: Well, and–
Bill: –over everything.
Jim: –and in marriage, I mean, one of the big [issues], in addition to communication struggles and things like that, is intimacy.
Pam and Bill: Uh-hm.
Jim: I mean, that is an awkward thing for many married couples.
Jim: Talk to us about that. How does “spaghetti” and “waffles” work into the intimate marriage relationship?
Pam: Well, you kinda have to go back to the way that we process stress and that will lead into romance, in that we women talk our way through stress. But guys like to go to their favorite easy boxes to rest and recharge. It’s kinda like a battery in a battery recharger. When you look at a battery sitting in a battery recharger, what does it look like it’s doing?
Pam: Nothing. But it’s doing something; it’s recharging. So God kinda helped us girls out, so we could recognize these favorite easy boxes of men and that most of them are shaped like boxes. The TV screen is shaped like a box. The computer screen is shaped like a box. The garage is shaped like a box, football field is shaped like a box, a baseball diamond. The refrigerator is shaped like a box and the bed is shaped like a box. In fact–
Jim: That’s an interesting observation. (Laughter)
Pam: –yeah, that sex box (Laughter), that “red hot monogamy box” as we like to call it, is the favorite box for a guy to go to on his waffle when he’s all stressed out especially. And a guy can get to that box. It’s like the free square in the middle of a bingo card and guys can get there from every other square on their waffle.
Bill: And so, when guys look at intimacy, it’s one of the boxes on their waffle.
Bill: That I’m gonna do what it takes to get my wife’s attention. We’re gonna enjoy each other and it’s gonna lead to sexual intimacy. Like so, we just view it as, that’s a part of our life.
Jim: Step one, two, three.
Bill: Yes. And women don’t see it as a part of their life.
Pam: It’s all of life. Like, if you don’t vacuum, there’s not gonna be a lot of red hot monogamy. If I ask you to dust, I’m sorry and you didn’t dust, man, I’m not feeling very amorous. So, it’s all connected up together. What do you mean, you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning? Ah, she just falls out of the mood.
Bill: And so, again, we both need to learn to adjust. You know, as guys, we need to learn that everything we do is part of the intimacy formula in our marriage. And we just need to start thinking. We’re never gonna get it perfect. We’re never gonna do it all right. I mean, it’s guaranteed, all of us are gonna fall short. But we need to learn that, you know, what we say at breakfast and the phone call we make in the middle of the day and the e-mail that we send and how we treat our kids, that it all ties in. So, we want to do our best to keep respect high in our marriage relationship.
But the wives need to adjust also, because again, we can’t get it perfect in our relationship. And so, the ladies need to adjust and to kind of just address our needs.
Pam: Right and sometimes we need to schedule in that red hot monogamy and it’s a box that we can look forward to. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel and it can just bless our husband. And you know, if we want to wow each other, then we need to take into account the differences.
For example, when you can lower a man’s stress and raise his ability to succeed, he perceives that as romance. I shared that at one university. The men in the audience when I said to the girls, “Girls, what guys are looking for is a low maintenance woman who can help them relieve stress and succeed in life,” they gave me a standing ovation.
Pam: I mean, they don’t change just because they get married either. That’s really how they perceive romance. And so, if I want to romance Bill, that means I want to tie together his favorite easy boxes. So, the girls in the audience would just be wrackin’ their brain right now. Okay, what were the three favorite boxes of my husband? ‘Cause that’s what will make a great date. Obviously, you’ve heard our boys played football, so box No. 1 might be a couple tickets to a football game. Box No. 2, Bill loves great gourmet food, so takin’ him to his favorite restaurant. Box No. 3 would be every guy’s favorite box–
Pam: –that bingo box. And he would give you two the tickets to the football game if he can make sure that box No. 3 was gonna happen that day. So, that’s how you wow a guy.
John: What are some of the common ways, Bill and Pam, that husbands and wives sabotage this part of life? I mean, I’m just thinking everybody’s busy and so, busyness and stress can get in the way of understanding and recognizing those differences and working toward productive goals and even sexual intimacy in marriage. What are some other things that get in the way?
Pam: I think one of the things that gets in the way is when we have conflict come into our marriage or stress–hard circumstances–we process them differently. For example, we women, we are the first ones to reach out for a third party to help. Instinctively studies say that women are the one to pick up the phone and call for the counselor or a pastor or a mentor couple.
But guys oftentimes, it appears like they’re not doing anything. Like the family’s fallin’ apart. We walk in. He’s watching TV, ESPN. He’s on the computer. We’re like, “Can’t you see the world is falling apart? Don’t you care?” He does care. Studies say that men, when a family’s under crisis, when a marriage is on the rocks, a man feels it at a deeper level than the woman. But–
Pam: –we don’t know that, ’cause they don’t talk about it.
Bill: Right, because he gets emotionally flooded and doesn’t know how to process it.
Pam: They just shove it down, shove it down and shove it down. And we perceive that, is that they don’t care.
Jim: They’re disconnected.
Pam: Exactly, but they do care. They just have heart–
Bill: They’re just overwhelmed.
Pam: –attacks and strokes instead.
Pam: That’s how they manage it. And we want our guys to be around. And so, it really is a gift when things are not going well, if you girls go out of your way to try to relieve the stress in your man’s life.
Bill: And Jim, the two things I see that really sabotage this whole intimacy connection is one, as guys, we forget the little things. And the little things are the things that work over time. Like I kiss Pam every time we pray. And it doesn’t matter how I feel about her or it doesn’t matter how we’re doing. If we pray together, I kiss her, because it’s one of those little things I’ve committed to do every time for the rest of our life.
And what I see shuts guys down all the time is too much criticism. Because you know, as guys, we’re all kinda awkward. It’s where we all start. Our romantic things tend to be awkward to begin with and if we get criticized too much, we just shut that down and say, “Well, we’re not very good at it, so never mind.”
And it’s easy in a person that you spend your whole time with, it’s easy to find things to criticize. And when a man gets too much criticism, he just starts to conclude, “I can’t succeed in this relationship, so I’m not gonna try.”
And so, for instance, I mean, a lot of times the way Pam approaches stuff, it’s confusing to me. Like after 31 years of marriage, I still have a hard time telling if we had a discussion or we made a decision.
Bill: Because you know, we’re guys that go, “Okay, we decided.” But in the next day, the topic’s back on the table. I’m like, “Well, I thought we made a [decision].” And that gets confusing to me. And what I see a lot of guys do is, we get critical at that point. We start to, you know, complain about our wives at that point. We start to say they’re wrong in the way they do things.
Pam: And so, now we just have a code word, “green light,” “yellow light,” “red light,” so we know what status that decision is in.
Pam: And that’s really helped. And it kinda goes back to one of the concepts we encourage couples to have is a password when they are in conflict, when they’re not gettin’ along, when somethin’ like … when they’re tryin’ to understand each other, but have you ever had one of those conversations where you’re talking and then you start arguing and then going (Laughter), know what you are arguing about, okay–
Jim: I’ve never had one–
Jim: –of those (Laughter). Have you had one of those, John? (Laughter)
John: No, never. (Laughter)
John: No, I haven’t, no.
Pam: And so, did you just gotta-
John: Somebody out there did.
Pam: –yeah, regroup.
Bill: Well, and it’s usually related to something you love about your spouse.
Pam: Right, the thing that–
Bill: Like …
Pam: –you first fell in love with can drive you crazy after a while.
Jim: You said that with emphasis by the way. (Laughter)
Bill: A good thing I love about Pam, it’s been one of my favorite things of her life is, she’s very creative. And so, I’ve had a lot more fun in my life because I’m married to her than I would’ve ever figured out on my own.
But I didn’t realize it applied to everything, that it’s a constant process. And she also tends to be pretty ambitious, so she has big ideas. So, the first 10 years of our marriage, a lot of our really nice evenings ended really rough, because we’d get together. Pam would think, “I’ve got Bill’s attention. I’m gonna start sharing my ideas with him.” Well, I thought I had to do something with all those ideas, ’cause that’s how I would’ve shared.
John and Jim: Uh-hm.
Bill: If I share an idea, it’s ’cause I want to know, should we take action? So, she shared the first idea and I would think, “Okay, I think we could work with this one.” And then she’d share the second idea and I was alike, “Whoa! Okay, two big ideas. We[‘ve] got a lot of energy, so maybe we can go after this, but it’s gonna squeeze our budget, but I trust her. She walks with Jes[us].” And then she’d share the third idea and I’d think, “Well, how in the world can we do all three of these ideas? This is not even possible. The first two were at our limit there.” And then she’d share the fourth idea and I would think, this woman is out of her mind and if I don’t stop her, she’s gonna ruin our life. And so, a lot of our really nice–
John: So, you’d stop her.
Bill: –evenings, yeah, ended with this real harsh tension between the two of us.
Jim: Now one thing you do on your date night or whatever evening you get together, you do talk about household business, don’t you?
Pam: We have two different date nights and one’s to deal with the business and one is to deal with romance. And so, that way you’re not on a romantic, you know, encounter talking about the bills and the IRS. It kinda like ruins the mood.
John: Those are two–
John: –mutually exclusive kinds of things–
Bill: But we plan both–
Bill: –so that they don’t run into each other.
Jim: On a weekly basis.
Bill: Weekly basis.
Pam: We do, on a weekly basis we have both of ’em. And when Bill and I were goin’ out for those meals and they would just shut down with tension, Bill learned, okay, this is–
Pam: –not really workin’ for us. We need a new method here. So, he came to me.
Bill: I said, “Pam, are all these ideas you share with me important?” (Laughter)
Pam: I said, “Of course, they’re my ideas.” (Laughter)
Bill: Okay, wrong question. What I really want to know is, do I have to do something with every idea that you share?”
Pam: I don’t even do anything with most of my ideas. No, that’s okay.
Bill: Okay, so, if you share an idea that I don’t want to do anything with, can I say, “Pam, that is a great idea.”
Pam: That’s a great idea, Hon.
John: And that’s all she’s looking for right there, right?
Bill: And that became our password, that phrase, “A great idea–“
Jim: For that transaction.
Bill: –took a lot of the tension out of our conversation, because it gave me the freedom not to take on responsibility for all of her ideas. And it gave her freedom to share ideas, knowing that I didn’t have to do anything with ’em.
Pam: Right, like even that “password” thing was huge in our relationship, ’cause Bill married a drama queen. I mean, my dad was a[n] alcoholic and so, I had trust issues all over the place. And so, Bill would say something. It would hurt my feelings. I’m like, “Oh! You don’t love me anymore!” Ran to the bedroom, slammed the door, looked back, waiting to see if he’d followed me.
Bill: So, like do your dads tell you what to do with stuff like that when–
Bill: –it happens–
Jim: It’s not part–
Bill: –in marriage?
Jim: –of the training.
John: No. (Laughter)
Pam: One man at a conference said, “Run, Forrest, run!” (Laughter)
Bill: So, I did my best. You know, I did my best to encourage Pam and go, “No, I’m in this thing with you. Hey, you can trust me. I’m in, 100 percent.” But it still just kinda you know, carried on.
Pam: And so, one day my brother was having dinner with us and Bill said something that hurt my feelings. I ran to the room, slammed the door, threw myself across the bed, but instead of Bill, Bret walked in applauding. And he took a trophy down and was like, “Now for best actress, we have Pam Farrel.” (Laughter)
Jim: Oh man.
Bill: And I thought, we are in so much trouble. (Laughter) Like this is funny, but we are in so much trouble!
Jim: You’re dead.
Pam: But instead of being angry, I’m like, “Oh, my brother so knows me.” I started laughing and Bill’s like, “Whoa! Humor helps.” So, he’s like, okay, tied to a good memory, we like the Rocky movie.
Pam: Humor helps.
Bill: –so, you remember when Rocky was trying to get Adrian’s attention, she was workin’ at a pet store. He’d walk into the pet store, same day and same joke every day.
Bill: “Yo, Adrian, you know what you get when you tap a turtle on the back? You get shell shock, get it? Shell shock.” (Laughter)
Pam: So, the next time Bill hurt my feelings, I ran into the room, slammed the door, threw myself across the bed, in walks Bill.
Bill: Yo, Pam, you know what you get when you tap a turtle on the back? You get shell shocked, get it? (Laughter)
Pam: It’s like a bad imitation. It’s a stupid joke. It still works to this day. Like if somethin’ happened in the studio right now and I needed encouragement, you’d see Bill tapping his little wrist looking like the turtle, tappin’ the turtle on the back.
Jim: So, that’s your password.
Pam: It’s our password and we can be at a big ol’ argument, intense fellowship and Bill can just say, “Yo” or one of us can start tappin’ the turtle and it gives a little bit of humor. You can restart. You can regroup and we really encourage every couple to have a password, because there are just times when you’ll start arguing and you don’t want to be arguing. Or you just don’t understand each other. Or the differences get in the way and so, think back to a happy time, an inside joke, a day that you laughed together and see if maybe you can create a password–
Pam: –from that happy memory.
Bill: Because not everything that feels like a problem is a problem. Sometimes it’s just your differences got you off track.
Jim: Well, I would say that’s the core at most marital difficulty right there. But let’s summarize. A couple is not communicating; they’ve lost that in their marriage. There’s no intimacy or it’s coerced, you know. The man’s tryin’ to find a way to manipulate that in order to meet that happy box.
Pam: (Laughing) The bingo box.
Jim: We’ve said a lot here, but what’s the kernel? If you’re in that situation right now, what do you say to that couple that’s desperate? There’s nothing happening. They’re ready to divorce.
Pam: The Bible says, serve one another in love. And when we invite God to be a part of the equation, God will tell us what to do to solve that dilemma. And I think the biggest picture of that was actually on our honeymoon. You know, I mentioned that Bill married a drama queen.
Well, I stepped out of the shower and I was blow drying my hair. I was looking in the mirror, pointing out all the flaws that I thought were in my 20-year-old frame.
Bill: And I started gettin’ pretty frustrated. You know, here I am on my honeymoon and I’m thinking, this is a great thing. There’s Pam criticizing herself in the mirror and I’m thinking, this is not gonna go well. She’s gonna get self-conscious and depressed and like, our honeymoon is a mess now.
And I said, “God, You got anything for me? ‘Cause I don’t know what to do here.” And the thought that crossed my mind was, “Bill, you could do better than the mirror’s doin’.”
Pam: And so, instead of becoming angry at me, he came over and he wrapped his arms around me and took my face in his hands and he said …
Bill: Pam, let me be your mirror. If you need to know how beautiful you are, what a great woman you are, you come see me and I’ll tell you. And if I have to break every mirror in our house to get you to believe me, I will, ’cause from now on I will be your mirror.
And I learned a couple of important things that day. One is, our words count. Like she just changed right in front of me and I was like, “Whoa! Okay, Bill, pay attention, because when God gives you an idea like this, it’s amazing how fast it works.”
Second thing I didn’t know that I was learning at that point, but it was the beginning of [my] understanding that all marriages are one breakthrough away from great success.
Bill: And those couples that feel like we’ve got nothin’. It’s dead. There’s nothin’ goin’ on. You know, our marriages are a reflection of salvation. And the way salvation works is it’s a breakthrough, that you’re lost one day; you’re found the next. You go from being God’s enemy to being God’s friend. And God works in breakthroughs. So, every marriage is one breakthrough away.
And the other thing that I learned that day is that in the midst of any situation, God makes something obvious. That like, marriages can get very confusing. You can see all kinds of problems and all kinds of issues and all kinds of stuff floating around. In the midst of it, God will make one thing obvious. Okay, I want you to do this; try saying this. And it’s often that one thing that starts setting the stage for the breakthrough.
Like one couple we know, they were in such bad shape. She was gonna issue divorce papers to him on his birthday, so that every year he would have a reminder of what a jerk she thought he was.
Jim and John: Hm.
Bill: And that–
Bill: –couple experienced the breakthrough and two years after that day, she threw another birthday party to announce to all of her friends the miracle that God had done and the breakthrough they had experienced.
Bill: So, every couple, I know it seems like there’s some couples out there that can’t make it, but every couple is one breakthrough away and it starts by doing what’s obvious, not getting lost in all the confusion.
Pam: What Bill did that day for me as I looked in the mirror is he reflected back to me my worth and value from heaven’s point of view. And that’s really at the core of Men Are Like Waffles, Women [Are] Like Spaghetti is, when we recognize the value of who God gave to us in our mate and in our spouse. And we can use those differences for us and for our relationship.
John: Well, what a great way to end these past couple of days with Bill and Pam Farrel on “Focus on the Family.” Every couple is just one breakthrough aw