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Flourishing in Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

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Flourishing in Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Todd Ehman and his wife, Karen, share valuable lessons they've learned from working through their relational challenges during their 30+ year marriage, lessons that helped inspire Karen to write her book, Keep Showing Up: How to Stay Crazy in Love When Your Love Drives You Crazy (Part 1 of 2)

Original Air Date: October 3, 2019
Keep Showing Up

Keep Showing Up

Receive Karen Ehman's book Keep Showing Up for your donation of any amount! Plus, receive member-exclusive benefits when you make a recurring gift today. Your monthly support helps families thrive.

Featured

Today's Guests

Keep Showing Up

Keep Showing Up

Receive Karen Ehman's book Keep Showing Up for your donation of any amount! Plus, receive member-exclusive benefits when you make a recurring gift today. Your monthly support helps families thrive.

Featured

Episode Summary

Todd Ehman and his wife, Karen, share valuable lessons they've learned from working through their relational challenges during their 30+ year marriage, lessons that helped inspire Karen to write her book, Keep Showing Up: How to Stay Crazy in Love When Your Love Drives You Crazy (Part 1 of 2)

Original Air Date: October 3, 2019

Episode Transcript

Opening:

Excerpt:

Karen Ehman: how you find the magic in the mundane is you look for it in unexpected places, not where you think you’re gonna find it. I think I’m gonna find the magic when he just verbally tells me how wonderful I am, and how wonderful dinner was, and how great the house looks and how amazing…

Todd Ehman: Did I tell you how nice your hair looked today?

Karen: Yeah, you did. Yeah. Mmm hmm, yes. So I think that’s where he’s gonna give it to me is in all the verbal stuff. That’s not how he rolls. I need to just say, “Lord, I know he loves me. Help me to see it.”

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s Karen Ehman. And she joins us today on Focus on the Family along with her husband, Todd. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Hey, John. We are guilty. Did you know that?

John: I…

Jim: (Laughter) We’re guilty…

John: I – OK.

Jim: …of talking about marriage a lot. And, uh, you know, that’s what Focus on the Family – it’s one of the major pillars that we stand on, is God’s design for marriage, a man and a woman and, uh, hopefully – if the Lord blesses you – with kids, right? It’s a precious, holy relationship. But it’s not always easy. That’s the big lesson in marriage. I think it’s so simple. God is just saying, “Listen. I’m going to pair you up, typically with somebody a little different from you, you know, kind of extrovert-introvert kind of thing. And then I want you to become more like me in this relationship, which is selfless and giving and kind, and” – I mean…

John: It’ll be easy (laughter).

Jim: Marriage, if it’s doing its job, is making us more like Christ. And that is really hard with our flesh, right?

John: Yeah.

Jim: But that’s it. Marriage takes a lot of intentionality and care, especially as you weather, uh, various seasons and struggles that you’re gonna encounter. As those years go by, some spouses grow closer together. Others may even break apart. And we understand that. Wherever you’re at today, we want to speak to you in this journey. Uh, we want encourage you as a couple to work through your differences to understand them and to better understand your spouse as well. Todd and Karen Ehman – Ehman, right? OK, I got it right. Todd and Karen Ehman have a little over 30 years of marriage experience and wisdom to share with us today. And I know you’re going to be inspired by them. And I was reading their book, Keeping – reading their book Keep Showing Up. I love the title.

John: And Todd is a first-time guest here. Karen has been here a number of times.

Jim: Yay, Karen.

Karen: Yay.

John: …Talking about a broad range of subjects. Uh, she’s a speaker for Proverbs 31 Ministries and a New York Times bestselling author. And they hail from Michigan and have three adult children.

Jim: Todd and Karen, welcome.

Todd: Thank you.

Karen: Thanks for having me back and letting me do a little show and tell, bring my husband with me.

(LAUGHTER)

John: Yeah, we wondered if there was a husband.

Jim: You finally brought Todd along. That’s good. We have some questions for you, Todd.

(LAUGHTER)

Todd: Oh, please. How (unintelligible) know what it’s like.

Body:

Jim: Oh, right. Let’s set the stage for the listener. How did you two meet?

Karen: Whose story do you want?

Jim: (Laughter) OK. Great.

Karen: No, no, no, no.

Jim: We want the truth.

Karen: Yeah. We met in college. It was my sophomore year. And he had transferred in from a community college. And we met – I know the exact day. Wanna tell them? Do you remember the year?

Jim: Are you bragging?

Karen: Remember the year?

Todd: I always love to hear Karen tell the stories…

Karen: (Laughter).

Todd: …And tell the dates because she does it with so much color than I do. So I like to hear her…

Karen: You want….

Todd: …Tell the story…

Karen: You can…

Jim: (Laughter) That’s very good.

Todd: …And tell the dates.

Jim: That’s good.

Karen: You can tell the black-and-white version. No, we met in the fall of, um, 1983. And we’re friends for about a year, got – uh, boyfriend and girlfriend for about a year, got engaged and, eight months later, got married.

Jim: You know, something that’s so good that couples should do is premarital counseling. And you did that. And you were told (laughter) something that kind of rocked your relationship. What was it?

Karen: Well, back then, there weren’t quite as many personality tests and all these evaluations that there are today.

Jim: Right.

Karen: But there were some. And I remember taking a battery of tests. My husband and I went to premarital counseling with the pastor on staff at my home church. He went in one room.

Jim: Which I applaud you for – good job.

Karen: Yes. Yes. We knew we wanted to do that. We knew we needed to do that. They took him in one room. I went in another room. We took this battery of tests, came back together. And I was just ready for the pastor to say, “This marriage was just made in heaven. You guys are going places. You’re going to do great things for God.” And instead, he kind of looked at Todd’s profile and my profile and said, “I just have to be honest with ya. I know you love each other, and you love the Lord. But people with your two unique personalities married to each other probably have about a 5% chance of staying married.”

Jim: That’s amazing.

John: Oh, my goodness – how discouraging.

Jim: Talk about letting the air out of the relationship.

Todd: Welcome to marriage.

Karen: (Laughter).

Jim: Yeah. So OK. How did you react? What was your immediate response? Let me start with Todd.

Todd: Oh. Well, I didn’t really know what to expect ‘cause I didn’t know what marriage was all about. But…

(LAUGHTER)

Todd: I just – really, the statistics and all that kind of stuff really didn’t affect me that much because…

Jim: So you’re ready to throw it out the window.

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: “They don’t know me.”

Todd: Yeah, exactly. Right. So…

Jim: Yeah. That’s fair.

Todd: I mean, I was pretty neutral, to be honest.

Jim: Yeah. OK.

Karen: And I think I kind of had two reactions. Part of me was like, “Oh, no.”

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: “Maybe I’ve picked the wrong person.” And the other part of me, because of how my personality is, was like, “Oh, yeah? I’ll show you” – ‘cause you tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to show you that I can.

Jim: Yeah. But, you know, in the – there are 20-, 30-somethings listening, either through the podcast or, you know, radio, too. That can be a fear-gripper for somebody who’s single, thinking they’ve got to find the exact right person that God has matched me with in eternity. And I think that’s true when you pick the person. God knows already what’s happening there, right? So how do you – as a single or a courting single, how do you put that at ease, that even though you only have a 5% chance – I mean, you’ve done it.

Karen: Right. Right. Well…

Jim: So how do you wrestle with that, going back to, uh, that single moment? Why didn’t you bail on Todd?

Karen: Well, I think, luckily, I had some mentors in my life that kind of went against the grain of culture and this whole soul mate concept.

Jim: Right.

Karen: I think that’s ruined a lot of marriages.

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: …From the get-go because, first of all, single people aren’t two half people looking for their other half that’s out floating in the universe, that one person that’s going to finally complete them.

Jim: That’s so good. Say it. Say it.

Karen: You know? They’re – single people are whole people.

Jim: Right.

Karen: Right?

Jim: That meet whole people (laughter).

Karen: Yes, that meet people. And there’s not just this one person that, you know, is the only fit and the best fit for you. And if you pick the wrong one, now you’re doomed. That’s just a real wrong and selfish view of marriage because marriage isn’t about making you happy and complete. Marriage is about two whole people coming together to glorify God.

Jim: Now, the only caveat to that – I would agree wholeheartedly. But when you have a person who’s in a, you know, terrible situation that emotionally or whatever psychologically they’re damaging – I mean, that’s a big issue.

Karen: Oh, absolutely. And that…

Jim: So that would be the one caveat.

Karen: Yes. And whenever I talk about marriage or write about marriage I always, I’m careful to say, you know, I’m talking to the average…

Jim: Correct.

Karen: …Marriage.

Jim: And I want to make sure…

Karen: You’re not talking to those situations…

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: …That, you know – totally. They have biblical grounds. There’s abuse of all kinds…

Jim: Correct.

Karen: …Going on. That’s – those people, we are not talking about

Jim: Well, let me dig into the first few years of marriage. What did it look like, and how many triggers were being pushed and that kind of thing?

Todd: Yeah, we had a lot of triggers going on.

(LAUGHTER)

Todd: I would say…

Jim: I wish people could’ve just seen them looking at each other. Like…

Karen: Seen his face, uh…

Jim: OK.

John: YouTube viewers can just roll back and watch that one again.

Todd: Well, I read this statement before – the first 50 years of marriage is the hardest.

Jim: The first 50…

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: Second 50 are great.

Todd: Right. I say the first 10 were the hardest. Now, Karen might say the first five. But I think for us, it’s coming into this relationship that’s so romanticized. Either Hollywood or whatever it may be, we have this expectation of what it should be. We get in the midst of it, and it’s just not quite what it looked like. And all of a sudden, I’m seeing this person, these fears, these reactions I never saw before as she saw in me as well. So it’s like, “Wow, I don’t know if I signed up for this program.” So all of a sudden, we’re starting to bring – reveal these things in our marriage that were from the past that were never exposed in our dating. And it’s like, “Ooh, I don’t know if I’m liking that so much.” But I would say that was really the hardest part in those first 10 years, and even today, is understanding what she brought in the marriage and she understands what I brought the marriage and how it affects how we interact.

Jim: Karen?

Karen: Well, I think because we both make decisions very differently, and we both handle conflict very differently – and come on, marriage is full of decisions and conflict – it was always coming up. And I was always thinking, “He’s not doing it right because he’s not doing it like I would.”

Jim: (Laughter).

Karen: You know, for example, making decisions, um, Todd’s a little more thorough – I’m not going say slow, but that’s what I mean – when…

Jim: Right. You’re so polite.

Karen: (Laughter) I know – when he makes decisions. So I always joke that he’s the kind that says, “Ready? Aim. Hang on a second. I gotta make sure I’m aiming. I think I’m ready. Aim, aim.” And I’m like, “Just fire already, you know?” That’s how he rolls. But I kind of go, “Ready. Fire. Wait. Was I supposed to aim, you know?”

Jim: (Laughter) Right.

Karen: And so I…

Jim: Good description.

Karen: Yeah. And so I would be like, “Come on. Let’s make these decisions. Let’s make them quickly. I think quick. I talk quick. Let’s make the decision quick.” And he wanted to kind of process things a little bit more. And when it came to conflict, if we needed to talk about something, I wanted to talk about it now. He wanted to talk about it, I don’t know, maybe never, but at least three days from now.

Jim: Right.

Karen: But I would have wanted to talk about it yesterday if I known it was going to happen today. I mean, I’m just that kind of person. And so we have these decisions to make, this conflict that’s coming up. And I started to see his ways as wrong, and he saw my ways as wrong instead of just seeing them as different.

Jim: Well, it’s interesting. Some people, they’re so comfortable in conflict they will create conflict to feel comfortable.

Karen: Yes.

Jim: That sounds like you.

Karen: That’s exactly what I was doing until a mentor pointed out to me what I was doing.

Jim: Stop it.

Karen: And she said, “You’re going to ruin – you’re creating conflict where none exists just ‘cause it feels familiar. Stop it.”

Jim: This is the question I always put to Gary Chapman or Gary Thomas – why did God construct marriage this way? And I think in the opening, we hit it. But it’s that idea, and it’s so simple – I want you to be more like me. So you’re going to have some issues in marriage that make you hopefully look inward, right? And that’s so important for people to hear that you’ve – you can work on you, and all you can do is influence your spouse. I mean, that’s it, right? And it’s best to work on you.

Karen: Exactly, and I think what happens in this very strange way is the thing that we want the most and we maybe even pray about the most happens, and we don’t even recognize it. And by that, I mean this – what Christian doesn’t want to be more like Jesus, doesn’t want to be more loving, more grace-filled, more patient, more forgiving? We want to be like Jesus. “Oh, make me more like Jesus.” And then this person appears in our life who gets on our very last nerve and tries our patience, and makes us have to exert patience or makes us have to forgive and give grace. And they’re standing right in front of us as a tool God uses to make us more like him.

Jim: But, Karen, man, you’re on it because what we say we want and what we truly want are often different.

Karen: Exactly.

Jim: And I think in our Christian bubble, we’ve really honed the ability to say the right things but not necessarily believe them. And that’s what you’re saying.

Karen: Yes, we want to have our Instagram-worthy quiet time in the morning. I’m not saying I haven’t taken pictures of my Bible and my coffee in the morning. I have.

Jim: No.

Karen: But we want to read the words, shut the book, and just go be it.

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: We just want to be like Jesus. We don’t realize we have to become like him. It’s a process.

Jim: Well, and I’d say the toughest place to be it is in marriage because that person knows you more intimately than anybody, and they know when you’re faking it, if I can be that blunt. Um… Karen, in fact, you even came up with a nickname for Todd. He’s your sandpaper (laughter).

Karen: Yes, my sandpaper spouse.

Jim: That’s – that’s a wonder – how does that make you feel, Todd, Mr. Sandpaper?

Todd: Uh, about a 60 grid.

(LAUGHTER)

Karen: Grit, grit.

Jim: That’s pretty good.

Todd: Sixty grits.

Jim: See, look at that grit, correcting you. I love it.

John: (Laughter).

Karen: You corrected him first.

(LAUGHTER)

Karen: If you rewind the tape, I think you corrected him first, mister.

Jim: We’re two controlling people. What are we doing? But yeah, sandpaper. That is…

Karen: Well…

Jim: …In fact, exactly what the Lord, I think, intends.

Todd: Yeah, and now – I understand now big picture, you know? As we grow together, and it’s the old – it’s just a new way of saying iron sharpening iron…

Jim: That’s right.

Todd: …The Scripture says. So, you know, the older you get, the more you understand that’s kind of what it is. I mean, you’re two different people. You’re very rough in how you deal with each other sometimes, but the intent is always should be for the other person. And as you are grinding against one another, and you’re thinking to serve the other one and how can I encourage the other one, it becomes smoother. But the reality is, you know, the grit is always going to be there until death because we live in these things called fleshly earthly bodies that are still sinful, yet saved by grace and all that. But it’s gonna be – it’s a struggle to the end. It just truly is.

Jim: Yeah.

John: And if you need encouragement in that struggle in being the sandpaper or being the one sanded, then we do recommend a copy of this full conversation with Todd and Karen Ehman and Karen’s great book Keep Showing Up: How To Stay Crazy In Love When Your Love Drives You Crazy. We’ve got that and other helpful resources at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim. Ok.. if we get right down to it, it really comes down to little things that can drive you crazy. And I guess the main question is why? Why do these little things, in the big scheme of eternity, why do we let these little things get a hold of us and irritate us like a pearl?

Karen: Well, I think if you really dig down deep, you will find that those things that drive you nuts about your spouse actually have a flip side. And they’re probably something that first attracted you to them in the first place.

Jim: Give us two or three examples.

Karen: Oh, I could give you…

Jim: Just two or three (laughter).

Karen: …I can do a whole hour with no topics, so (laughter).

Jim: Hold back. Hold back (laughter).

Karen: Well, I think of – with Todd and I, one thing that I loved about him was how laid back he was. When we were first in college and we were becoming friends and we were…

Jim: Now he takes too long to make a decision (laughter).

Karen: Exactly, it comes out later as he’s not just laid back and go with the flow, you know? When we would say we were going to go for dinner or a movie that night, he would always say, “I have no opinion. You pick.” I loved that setup. I loved it until we got into marriage, and then I saw his hesitancy, maybe, to make decisions as it came across as, in my eyes, him being passive. So it made me…

Jim: Indifferent.

Karen: Yeah, it made me aggressive. So I guess you could say we have a passive aggressive marriage. But anyhow, for me, he loved how I could talk. I could work a room, talk to the college president, make everybody feel included. But then he said, “You know, about three days into our honeymoon, I thought, when is she ever gonna stop talking?” You know, in fact, he’s – have I ever told you that he’s already decided what he’s going to put on my tombstone if I pass away before he does?

Jim: No.

Karen: Yes. It’s not going to cost him very much to put on there.

Jim: Well, what is it?

Karen: A period. She’s finally done talking (laughter).

Jim: Not even an exclamation point.

Karen: No.

Todd: It is finished.

(LAUGHTER)

Karen: But I think, you know, I…

Jim: It’s very nice of you to laugh at that, by the way.

Karen: Yeah, I got an upgraded ring on – no, I’m just scratching.

Jim: (Laughter).

Karen: But I think, you know, those things that maybe bother us now, they have a good side. It’s just that our strengths sometimes morph into – well, we don’t really call them weaknesses. We were taught once to call them non-strengths. And even just the way we do things around the house, yeah, it bugs us maybe because we think that our way is right and their way is wrong. And the controlling person thinks more like, “I wish they’d get with the program.” But then I think – and I’m sure Todd would agree with this – the person who feels like they’re being controlled, they want out. Like, they don’t want you to tell them how to hang the towel. They know how to hang a towel. They’re an adult.

Jim: But they struggle telling you that.

Karen: Exactly.

Jim: That’s part of the problem.

Karen: You’re right.

Jim: Would you agree, Todd?

Todd: Yeah, to me it seems – because I’m passive, and I tend to be a peacemaker, I tell myself, “It’s not an issue.”

Jim: Right.

Todd: But it becomes an issue to me later on.

John: Do you…

Todd: It kind of reveals itself in, like, a weird argument. Like, Karen would think – would say to me, “Why’d you get mad at me about that?” And it’s like, “Well, it was really probably not about that. It’s probably two months back on something else I just stuffed.”

Jim: Yeah, that’s what I was going to ask…

Todd: So…

Jim: …Because normally, that passive personality is stuffing…

Todd: Yeah, typically.

Jim: …Or withholding.

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: And some Christians – let me ask you this, Todd, ‘cause it’s really important in a marriage – it’s really important in the marital relationship that you got to deal with that because some of us, I think, in the Christian community, think that absorbing it is a fruit of the spirit. This is Christ-like. It’s restraint. It’s kindness. It’s always goodness even though it’s festering there. So it’s really not a fruit of the spirit. I mean, if it’s causing that kind of explosion at some point two months down the line, three months down the line. So why do we get that crossed? Why do we try to fake the fruit of the spirit when underneath it’s really agitating us?

Todd: Well, I think it’s just our facade in Christianity. We’ve been taught to wear a mask, to be somebody you’re really not. So I think that’s our nature to kind of be that way. Got lost on that one.

Jim: No, I think that’s true. No, that’s good.

Todd: I…

Jim: It’s good and bold.

Todd: …At that point, though, I lost my mind my train of thought, though.

Jim: No, it’s – take a second. It’s all right.

Todd: So the question again.

Jim: Yeah, it’s basically, we can feign, you know, well, I withhold my response or my conflict…

John: Because we think it’s Christlike…

Jim: …Because we think it’s Christlike to take the blows.

Todd: Right, and that’s the facade[off mic] that we’ve learned in Christianity – and I believe in America – is that we pretend to be somebody that we’re not because when we say we struggle with these issues or it’s a sin issue that we have, we see it as a weakness. God sees it as a weakness, but the ability to empower a strength into you through his Holy Spirit, to make something weak strong. But there’s something that we’ve told ourselves – this is weak if I share, if I have an issue with this or if I have a thought about another woman about this or whatever. But it’s not because in the midst of that, Christ will come in. He takes what is weak and becomes strong.

Jim: Right. How – I mean, this is a personal question, but how have you dealt with that on a scale of 1 to 10? As a passive person, do you feel like you’re at a 7 or an 8 now that you’ve matured in that area? Or – you know, this is hard for a person who’s learned from childhood how to behave.

Todd: Yeah.

Jim: So how – how are you doing?

Todd: For me – well, for me, I’ve picked certain people, I think. If there’s a certain area of my life that I need to talk to someone about, then there’s that person I hit. Because I’m not a real relational person – um, there’s people, they have lots of relationships, but very shallow.

Jim: Uh-huh.

Todd: I have very few relationships with people, and I would say they’re very deep. They’re people that I maybe wouldn’t even talk to for a month or two. And I can connect them with (ph) right away if there’s an issue.

Jim: Yeah.

Todd: So I think it’s finding the right support. I would say as a passive person, that still tends to be my weakness – is to say, “I can control this. I can manage this and take care of it.” So until the day I – I die, I think that’s going to be one of my issues.

Jim: Yeah. Well, that’s good. I mean, you’re aware of it. You’re moving along. And I would think the other thing is, Karen’s complementing you in that way.

Todd: Mmm hmm.

Jim: Because, you know, she’s pushing some of those buttons, and it’s good to know that they’re there, right?

Todd: Right. Exactly.

Jim: I mean, it’s a positive way to look at something that could be taken negatively.

Todd: Right, yeah. And it’s always how a spouse comes across when they kind of push that button.

Jim: Right.

Todd: I think – in our marriage now, I think Karen does a good job at that. It’s not like a prying, a pushing or, you know, “I wanna see your phone,” or I – you know, whatever it might be…

Jim: Yeah.

Todd: So…

Karen: And I think, too, not only just in observing our own marriage but other marriages that we’ve been close to, what happens with this whole not speaking up when – you know, when you should and thinking it’s the Christlike thing to take a bullet, I think what happens with couples is – well, I have this theory that there are a lot of Bible verses that we gravitate toward one or the other of the half of the verse. So think of speak the truth in love. So some people just bark out the truth in an unloving manner. Hello. That would be me.

Jim: (Laughter).

Karen: And other people think the only loving thing to do is not to speak at all. But we need both personalities, need to learn to do both things to…

Jim: Correct. Those are the extremes on both ends.

Karen: Yes. And rather than just hold back and not say the truth ‘cause you don’t think it’s very loving, no, speak it, but speak it in a loving way. That person usually doesn’t have a hard time speaking the loving thing. They have the hard time just saying it. But then for someone like me, who tends to bark out the truth in an unloving manner, I need to just stick to the facts, say it in a loving way, don’t hitch things to it like, “And you always and you never,” you know. But just…

Jim: Man, that’s so good because…

Karen: …With – “With this situation, this is what happened. This is how I feel.”

Jim: I’m just thinking of truth and grace. I mean, we hide behind both.

Karen: Exactly.

Jim: And of course, the Lord is always balancing that. Here’s the truth, and here’s the grace.

Karen: Right. And we…

Jim: And…

Karen: Depending on our, you know, personality makeup, we go to one extreme or the other.

Jim: (Laughter) Boy, it’s so hard in (ph) marriage to do that. Tell us about the trio of trouble that can affect marriage. I think this is very practical for the listeners.

Karen: Yeah. A lot of times when you ask people, “What are the biggest areas of conflict?” – they’ll say finances or sex or in-laws or raising the kids.

Jim: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Karen: And those are areas of conflict, but what happens is, it’s – but what I see even more is when you dig down deeper, there are three things that seem to bubble up in all of those different areas, and…

Jim: So those are symptoms and…

Karen: Yes.

Jim: …These are root causes.

Karen: Yes. Yes. And it’s not original to me. I actually remember listening to a guest speaker Todd had in when he was a youth pastor that was talking about getting along with your parents to teenagers. But I remember depositing these and thinking, “Wow. This could really relate to marriage.” And it has. I’ve seen it over 30 years. So those are unmet expectations, emotional baggage and also perceptions – wrong perceptions. So unmet expectations – you know, I grew up with a dad that could fix everything and a brother that could fix everything. And I married a man who, when the first faucet in our first little apartment started dripping, he said, “What do I do? Who do I call?”

Jim: I’m with you, Todd.

(LAUGHTER)

Karen: Well, I expected, you know, that he would know that. So we have these unmet expectations, or we have emotional baggage, things that were said to us or about us that we have carried with us. And it’s like we’re standing in front of our spouse with a suitcase. We each have a suitcase full of stuff from our past. I don’t know what is in his suitcase. He doesn’t know what’s in mine until, in conflict, it comes tumbling out. Like, I remember one time when I thought Todd wasn’t coming clean, like, that he ate the last brownie in the pan, I said, “Oh, come on. Stop playing dumb with me.” Well, that was an expression in our house that meant you were bluffing.

Jim: Right.

Karen: Well, he was raised with a learning disability. He has dyslexia, and he’s never felt like he was the smartest kid in the class. And that triggered something when I said, “Quit playing dumb with me.” Later, he said, “Why did you call me stupid?” And I – “I wasn’t saying that. I was saying you were bluffing.” But his baggage interpreted it differently.

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: And then the third one, the untrue perceptions, are when – I don’t know – I ask him to bring home half and half for me, and he brings home half and half, and it’s fat-free.

Jim: (Laughter).

Karen: And so I perceive…

Jim: Ouch.

Todd: Whoops. Was there a problem there (ph)?

Karen: I perceive, you know – I manufacture a motive in his brain that was not there, that he thinks I were – he wishes that I were a little more fat-free, too, you know? So my perception becomes my reality when it’s not at all based on truth. It’s – it’s skewed.

Jim: Well, this is really important because I think – my guess would be, you were just reaching for the first, you know…

Todd: It was – it was a complete error, yeah.

Jim: …Bottle of – yeah. Boom.

Todd: I grabbed the wrong one. Exactly.

Karen: (Laughter).

Jim: I could so relate to that. But there’s – there’s that ruminating effect, Karen, that you’re describing. And you know, let’s – we don’t want to be stereotypical, but women tend to put a lot into those mishaps that aren’t – it’s not there.

Karen: Exactly.

Jim: And – and that really goes to the expectation area, where you’ve got to first ask the question. And I would suggest that playful is always good. You know? “Honey, why would you have grabbed this?” And you’re going, “Grab what?” Right? And is that a good diffuser of a trigger?

Karen: Playful’s good. And then the other one we use a lot – and it’s not original to me; someone taught me to say it – is help me to understand. “Help me to understand what…”

Jim: That sounds more serious.

Karen: Yeah, that sounds a little more serious. But yeah, sometimes, I’m like, “What in the world? Fat-free? It better have been on sale. There better not be another message in there.”

(LAUGHTER)

John: Yes, it was.

Jim: It was half-price.

Karen: But you’re so right. Not to be stereotypical, but I think women – we can concoct things in our mind, and we create this whole scenario and this narrative that’s not even there, rather than just stopping and saying, “Hey, when you did this or when you said this, this is how I heard it. Was that correct?”

Jim: No.

Karen: And if they say, “no,” believe them.

Jim: Yeah, it’s so good.

Karen: Believe them – don’t – yeah – manufacture a motive that’s not there.

Jim: Yeah. But again, the unawareness is usually what is left behind. The spouse fails to realize it may have been a total accident. Let’s start with – that’s really starting with, um, you know, a good place. I’m sure you didn’t do…

Karen: Right.

Jim: …This on purpose, hon (laughter)

Karen: And this is another place where that – one of those trio of trouble comes. This perception might be based on some baggage you have.

Jim: Correct.

Karen: Maybe you were called chubby when you were little, and so you see the fat-free, and it triggers something. They’re all kind of connected.

Jim: Those are good examples. Conflict – hang on one second – yeah – conflict is part of every marriage. And I know some of have contacted us after hearing something like this and said, “My husband and I have never argued.” So, you know, wow, that is gonna be in a small percentile of marriages, even Christian marriages. And there needs to be that recognition that when two people are together, there can be disagreement. And I would suggest – typically disagreement. And you’ve gotta work through that, how you’re gonna do it. You share a word picture about a bottle of adhesive (laughter). Let’s figure that out. What are you talking about?

Karen: Well, there’s this product called J-B Weld. My husband has used it on many items to repair them in our house (laughter).

Jim: Way to go, Todd.

John: You can even use it on faucets (laughter).

Jim: You have grown.

Karen: He’s Mr. Handyman now. Yeah, we’ve been married 30 years; he’s now Mr. Handyman. He’s not back at the, how do I fix the washer?

Jim: I’ve been married 32, and it hasn’t rubbed off on me.

(LAUGHTER)

Karen: But J-B Weld is not like a glue stick. It’s not got a pretty packaging. And it’s just this little tacky substance that only holds a couple little things together for a little amount of time.

Jim: (Laughter).

Karen: It comes with two tubes of completely different substances. And when you mix them in equal amounts, it forms some kind of chemical reaction, and this heating happens that then will bond anything together. He’s fixed an old colander I’ve had, I think, since we got married over 30 years ago, an old stainless-steel colander that was coming apart. The bottom rim was coming apart. And he fixed it with this…

Jim: Hold it. Hold it. If you order now, we’re gonna double your offer.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: This is the best commercial they could have.

Karen: No… but what I love about this picture of marriage and J-B Weld is – they’re two completely different compounds. But when they’re mixed together equally, over time this – this heat that happens, it forms this bond that can’t be broken.

Jim: Man.

Karen: And so we need to learn to see the conflicts, the frustration, the times where we have to say, “I’m sorry,” and forgive – those are bonding us together.

Jim: OK, you have hit it. That is the core. Man, this has been so good. I want to come back tomorrow and continue the discussion, get more from you, Todd (laughter).

Todd: Great.

Closing:

Jim: No, but to really talk about, um, how we can be present in our marriages and, as your book says, “keep showing up.” We’ll get to some of the practical advice on how to do that and to have a view of marriage – that this is something we’re gonna work at. And it’s probably the most important thing you can work at, more important than your vocation. And it’s important for the culture, especially the Christian culture, to better understand that. And, man, we want to get a copy of Karen’s book in your hands. So for a gift of any amount, even if you can’t afford it, somebody is gonna be able to offset that, and they will. So if you’re struggling in your marriage, and you feel like this is the kind of tune-up material that you need, get in touch with us and just ask us for a copy. If you can make a monthly contribution, be part of the ongoing team, that’s great. A one-time gift is super. If you can’t afford it, get in touch with us. And that’ll be our way of saying “thank you” for any of those, uh, efforts on your end. Also, we have, uh, counselling, and we have a, uh great marriage, uh, intensive program called Hope Restored. It’s got an 80% post-two-year success rate. I think it’s probably the greatest thing going on in Christian therapy today. And if you’re in that spot where your marriage is hanging by a thread – you may have already even signed divorce papers – that’s a more aggressive intensive that we would love to talk to you about.

John: Mmm hmm. You can get details about everything Jim just mentioned when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back, as we have Todd and Karen with us again and once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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