Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Flourishing in Your Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

Flourishing in Your Marriage (Part 2 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 2 of 2)

Original Air Date: October 4, 2019



Karen Ehman: We’ve known people in our life who have become Christians in part because they said they saw the Gospel in our messed-up, but always forgiving, keep-showing-up marriage. That’s what it’s about. When you can keep that perspective in mind, those bad times aren’t so bad anymore.”

End of Excerpt

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

Jim Daly: I’m so grateful to have the Ehmans back in our studio today. Last time, we talked about God’s purpose for marriage—that it’s a picture of His relationship with us. We also discussed how to deal with a sandpaper spouse. That is a pretty good illustration of what can happen and the trio of trouble that follows us into marriage—the baggage we bring in, the expectations, and our perceptions.

Karen and Todd were open and honest about their struggles, and after thirty-plus years of marriage, they have great wisdom and insight into the institution of marriage.

If you missed any part of the program last time, let me encourage you to listen on the app, or get the CD or download.

John: And you can do that, online Or if you have questions our number is 800-232-6459.

And Karen has been with us before. She is a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and New York Times bestselling author. Todd, this is his first time with us in this interview. And he is in the automotive industry and together they call Michigan home and have three adult children.

Jim: Todd and Karen, welcome back to Focus on the Family.

Todd Ehman: Good to be here again. Thanks.

Karen: Great to be here.


Jim: It was good, our discussion last time. I mean, it’s funny, but it’s so spot on, what we talked about. And if you missed it, uh, get the download. Just go to the website. John’ll give those details a little later. Uh, let’s lay out some rules of engagement. So when we’re talking about how we go about conflict and resolving conflict in our marriage, what are some of those rules?

Karen: Well, one, I think is to believe the best and not assume the worst.

Jim: That’s good.

Karen: Because our brains can always go to assuming the worst.

Jim: (Laughter) Yeah, but let me ask you – why do we do it inversely? Especially as Christians, why do we assume the worst?

Karen: I don’t know. You tell me.

Jim: Until you can prove to me…

Karen: You tell me. I’ve been doing it my whole life. I have to train my brain to not assume the worst.

Jim: Isn’t it funny?

Karen: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, is that just our fleshly nature getting out in front of our spiritual nature?

Karen: It probably is.

Jim: Yeah. I mean, it’s crazy because we should know better.

Karen: Right. Right.

Jim: OK, so that’s one.

Karen: So in order to do that, we need to ask clarifying questions. So if something happens that kind of threatens to knock the nice out of you because of how they behaved or what they said, instead of just going right to the worst-case scenario, believe the best about that person and ask questions like, “OK, so when you said this, this is what I heard. Is that what you meant?” Or, “When you said this, this is how it made me feel. Can we talk about how that made me feel?”

Another thing that I have told myself – and this will be specific to wives but husbands can make it, uh, specific to them, too – is I tell myself, he’s not just my husband; he’s also my brother in Christ.

Jim: That’s good. Todd, what about sticking to the facts? Is that one of the rules?

Karen: Sticking to the facts. Well, sure, it would have to be for us.

Jim: Like, “Just tell me the facts, Karen.” (Laughter).

Karen: Well, he does in that, when I start getting off on my little tangents, and I’m adding stuff to the story and trying to get historical – not hysterical; I get hysterical, too – but historical and dredging up the past.

Jim: Which is one of your rules.

Karen: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it is one of them. I think he’s good at saying, “Let’s just stick to what happened now.” Because I tend to be colorful in my language, and I kind of wander all over the place, you know. I’m one of these people…

Jim: You’re painting a full picture.

Karen: Yeah. I’ll tell you how to make a clock when all you asked me was, “What time is it?”

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: You know? So I think that he does, in his own way, say, “Let’s – we aren’t gonna talk about that. Let’s talk about what happened now, not what happened two years ago.” So in that way, I feel like he is kind of more of a stick-to-the-facts guy.

Jim: Let me ask maybe the most crucial question here. How do you not let these things trigger you, you know? Because, again, we all have these triggers. So, uh, what are some of the questions you ask yourself in the heat of the moment, which slows you down in the trigger area?

Karen: I try to ask myself, first of all, does this really matter? And for me, being a controlling person, am I just trying to get my way here and prove something or prove I’m right? ‘Cause I love to be right. Oh, man, do I love to be right, you know. But just because you’re – you even are right doesn’t give you the right to act wrongly.

Jim: No, it’s good. It’s an important thing, that you’re filtering. I think a lot of husbands say – that’s a good lesson for all of us. But I think husbands particularly feel like, is that really important right now? Is that the most critical thing?

Todd: I think the way I protect myself in those times, as far as the trigger points, is I’ll just always ask myself – I’ll say, “Karen, what is the issue?”

Jim: (Laughter) That’s good.

Todd: We learned a long time ago the issue is never the issue. I think I mentioned this a little bit earlier, maybe yesterday. That whatever she’s upset about probably is not what she’s upset about; it’s something that just kind of made her top blow. So I’ll say, “Karen, what’s going on? Is there something I’ve done, you know, in the past that – recently that’s triggered this? Because this is not usually an argument that we have or something you get upset about.” So I assume the best and say…

Jim: Yeah.

Todd: “…This is not the issue.”

Jim: There’s two ways you can ask that question.


Jim: I’m guilty of the second, which you didn’t mention – was…

Todd: OK.

Jim: “…What have I done? I’ve been completely innocent here.” Eh, maybe not. Is that right?

Todd: Oh, yeah. I’ve said sometimes to her, “Now what have I done?”

Jim: (Laughter).

John: So is that an example of – I think what you called, Todd – a flesh ball that you throw at somebody?

Todd: It is, exactly. Yes. Yeah, we react in the moment, rather than thinking spiritually and thinking with control. We tend to – to ball up a flesh, which is of the nature, and just whip it right back.

Jim: Yeah.

Todd: And that’s when it becomes an enemy-against-the-enemy type of thing for us.

John: It feels so good to do that.

Karen: (Laughter).

Todd: It does feel good, yeah. It does feel good.

Jim: It comes so naturally (laughter).

Todd: It does come natural, yes.

Jim: Let me strike you with this flaming arrow called me tongue, right?

Todd: So yeah. And it’s funny because those terms, I mean, they sound so funny, but we bring those up in our marriage so often. Like, we have what’s called a File 13. It means this is an issue that’s come up for the multimillionth time before. OK, File 13. We’re having this discussion again. What’s going on?

Jim: OK, now I gotta ask you…

Todd: So we trigger those little things.

Jim: Yeah. What’s in your file?

Todd: Oh, we have lots of files in File 13.

Karen: (Laughter).

Jim: Well, give us one example because it helps couples because – I’m sorry (laughter). You brought it up.

Karen: Well, I think one of them just is the way we process conflict.

Todd: Yeah.

Karen: I wanna talk now. He wanna talk – he wants to talk later. And like, “No, we’re talking now.” And he’ll go, “Here we go – File 13.” You know, we’re gonna have this issue all the time.

Jim: So how do you resolve that? It seems like, you know, an unsolvable behavioral pattern between the two of you. So how do you solve that?

Karen: Well…

Jim: Do you have to take a deep breath – say, “OK, later is fine?”

Karen: I do, so – well, somebody’s gotta give, you know.

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: In negotiations, the first thing, you know, with professional negotiators, is finding common ground. And if, you know, one’s way up here and one’s way down here, you know, and neither’s gonna give, you’re not gonna go anywhere. So you have to – somebody’s gotta move – hopefully both of you.

John: Does that mean that you’ll say, “OK, tomorrow at 2 we’re gonna talk about this?”

Karen: Maybe.

John: ‘Cause it, like, never works for us.

Karen: It doesn’t?

John: No.

Karen: OK.

Jim: Why say it?

John: Something comes up. The kids will be there. Or Dena will say…

Karen: Oh, I see.

Jim: Oh, OK.

Karen: So the day gets broken, yeah.

John: Dena will say, “I can’t possibly wait that long.”

Jim: (Laughter) So then you argue about when we should argue about something.


John: Yes, that’s my point.

Todd: Well, and there are those…

Jim: That’s pretty funny, actually.

Karen: I love that you argue about when you’re gonna argue.

Jim: There are those discussions – to be honest, for me, is I just walk away.

Jim: It’s fatiguing.

Todd: And I guess that’s where my – my avoidance, I think, becomes a strength, at least at moments like – this is not even worth bothering about. It’s not like the sun’s gonna go down, there’s gonna be a ton of anger. I think we do quite well with anger to some degree, that we don’t let that go down…

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: We’ve learned to.

Todd: So there’s sometimes you just – you just walk away, and you know it’s gonna – it’s gonna be OK. I don’t think you have to have a deep, heavy discussion of everything. And again, this is where marriages are so different, as in parenting. You can’t always rubber-stamp and say, “This is what you need to look like, smell like,” and so forth. There’s just – there’s certain things that work in some marriages and – yeah, so.

Jim: Well, it helps to experiment on what will work in your marriage.

Karen: And sometimes when he walks away, he’s just like, “I’m – we’re just not gonna deal with this now.” He just walks away, and I’m mad ‘cause I wanna talk about it now. Then tomorrow I think, what were we gonna talk about? ‘Cause I know I was mad about something. But I’d forgotten it.

Jim: And I want to win (laughter).

Karen: I’d forgotten it.

John: Do you ever follow him and just not give him that chance?

Todd: No.

Jim: But I – but, Todd, I can relate to this, and I – let’s try to put words to it, um, both for the husbands listening and for the wives listening. It’s almost like when you’re – you’re burning fuel, you know. You’re – in a normal relationship, there’s so much caloric outburst that’s going on, right? And then when you get into that conflict situation, whoosh (ph), it, like, triples. I get tired. I don’t want to do that. I wanna go hide. I wanna curl up. I just don’t wanna burn at that rate right now. I’ve been burning at that rate all day at work (laughter). And I come home, and now all of a sudden, I’m burning at this rate, and something needs to be resolved. “I don’t want to deal with it right now. Go away.” Is that – is that the feeling?

Todd: Oh yeah. I fatigue much quicker than Karen does in discussions.

Jim: Yeah.

Todd: So like I said, if – if you’re – my temperament and – have a tendency to wanna walk away, there has be a coming together, a common ground. So I’ll say to myself, you know, “Karen wants to resolve this now. I wanna resolve it in four days.” I’ll say, “Let’s talk about this a little bit later.” I think that’s a – that’s a happy medium for us.

Jim: Right.

Todd: That’s kind of how we resolve that.

John: This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, and we’re talking to Todd and Karen Ehman. And, uh, Karen’s written this great book, Keep Showing Up: How to Stay Crazy in Love When Your Love Drives You Crazy. And, uh, we have copies of this book and, uh, digital copies of the broadcast available at, or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Jim: When you and Todd go out to dinner – I think this is funny ‘cause we do this occasionally – but you’ll observe other couples and how they’re behaving with each other. It’s kind of funny to confess that you do that (laughter). I don’t know why. It seems weird. But you’ll see people not talking, just going through the dinner, and you know, they never speak a word to each other. And then you’ve got the couples that might be arguing about something. And then you got the – you know, the listener and the speaker, and it seems to go one direction. It’s probably pretty rare that you see kind of this fluid conversation going back and forth, where both are engaged. Is that fair? Is that what you’ve observed?

Karen: It is, and we actually play a little game about it.

Jim: Oh. Well, that takes it to a whole new level.

Karen: Yeah. We call it married or matched.

Jim: Oh, interesting.

Karen: So when you see a couple out, are they married? Do we think they’re married? They look maybe in their 40s. And we think they’ve been married, oh, 10, 15, 20 years. Or are they both single, and they were just matched on a dating site? And some…

Jim: (Laughter) Yeah, ‘cause they’re really behaving?

Karen: Yeah, ‘cause they’re really – the last scenario that you mentioned, there’s conversation going both ways, they seem interested.

Jim: Interesting.

Karen: And then I’ll look, and I’m like, “Neither of them have wedding rings on. They were just” – I might be completely wrong, but.

Jim: No, but what does that say to you? I mean, that is speaking volumes. What does it say to you?

Karen: Yeah. That old – familiarity breeds contempt is kinda true sometimes, when you’ve been married for a long, long time, and now you’re together with each other out on a date that’s supposed to be, like, a date, so the purpose of it is to spend time and converse and interact, it’s easy to just look at your phone, you know.

Jim: So the big question is, how do you reframe romance in that context and do better engaging each other and not just kind of laying back and – this is the 1,400th time we’ve had dinner, and I’ve run out of things to say?

Todd: Well, what works for us – again, I think marriage is as different as raising kids in a lot of ways – is I think what we tend to do is, Karen will say, “You know what? I just need to talk to you. Nothing’s wrong. You’ve done nothing wrong, Todd. Everything’s good with us.”


Todd: Or whatever. But I just – I don’t wanna talk. So I consciously say to myself, “OK, we’re gonna – we’re gonna go out, and we’re gonna talk,” which we just did this the other day. It was, like, an hour and a half talk. She was just talking about life, and then I talked about life. But when we go out to dinner, you know, when guys go out, we can go out and have no contact – eye contact and talk about anything and still feel like we bonded. It’s like if I were to drive my son to school, and then my wife would say to me, “Well, what’d you guys talk about?” “Nothing.” “What do you mean you talked about nothing? You were in a car for three hours.” “We talked about nothing.” “How can you talk about nothing?” We talked – but it was the greatest time we ever had.

Jim: Right (laughter).

Todd: I just took a trip with my son, backpacking. We didn’t talk a lot, but we’re together. It was a great thing. So if we go out to dinner, sometimes we don’t say anything. OK, that puts us in the category that it must be a boring, old set…

Karen: (Laughter).

Todd: You know, a married couple. But it’s – we don’t have to always talk.

Jim: There’s a comfortableness to that, yeah.

Todd: And so I think she’s coming to my side that – even when we take long trips – Todd doesn’t like to talk a lot, so I’m not gonna talk. It works out OK. There’s times where she says, “I just really need to talk,” then I respect that, and we talk.

Karen: Well, and I’ve had to learn that just him stopping his schedule to be with me, even if he’s not saying anything, that’s a big deal.

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: He could be doing – he loves to do yard work. He’s just great at keeping stuff up around the house, and he just likes to do projects all day long and dink around and not talk to a soul. So when he’ll stop that to go out to dinner with me, I have to tell myself, you know, just him being here with me is a big deal. I don’t need to have him solve all of the world’s problems with me, like I would like to do.

Jim: Well, this seems – and again, let’s – let’s follow this bunny trail a little bit because a lot of – let’s just put it in the categories – a lot of women might be really frustrated with their quiet husbands. And they’re feeling like there’s something I’m not doing because my husband doesn’t seem interested in what I have to say. And then you ruminate on that, and then you create a lot of imaginary motivations that probably are not accurate. And you sit there and think about that, and then you’re upset with him, and the poor guy doesn’t even know why (laughter). I mean, the tank has fired, and your bow and arrow isn’t even – the arrow’s not in the quiver yet, and the shell’s exploding right next to you. You’re going, “What’s going on?” How – how can you vent that? “Honey, I need you to respond to me when we’re talking.” I mean, a lot of – what I – Jean has said this, you know. There’s physical intimacy, which is so important to you – man.

Karen: (Laughter).

Jim: And I need emotional intimacy. And I – you know, that’s a big tripwire that God has put there for some reason (laughter). And how do you just – how do you get across that line? That, you know, as husbands, we need to realize our wives need this emotional intimacy that we struggle to give.

Karen: Well, I think the first thing is to package that conversation in a way where you’re not telling them that they’re doing it wrong. Like, “You never talk, and you don’t open up, and you’re wrong.”

Jim: Right.

Karen: But just say, “This is how you roll. And sometimes I need you to roll a little different way because I need to talk. I need to have you give me your thoughts. I want to know what you’re thinking about this issue with the kids or with the new house we’re saving to buy or which way we should go with this financial decision or whatever. I need you to engage. And so I know that’s not how you normally roll, but can you try just for me?”

Jim: OK. And then, I’m telling you, some guys are looking at you, going, “Huh? I mean, does that come with a manual? Can you tell me what that means?” (Laughter).

Karen: Well, then just say, “Can you at least answer some questions? I will pose the question to you, and you can answer it, right? I’m not gonna make you come up with conversation from the get-go. I’m not gonna…”

Jim: And this isn’t combat (laughter).

Karen: No, it’s not. It’s just, what do you think about this?

Jim: But you’ve got to say that.

Karen: Yeah. “And so I’m gonna give you some scenarios, or I’m gonna get – or throw some questions your way. And could you just answer the questions so I know what you’re thinking?” Because we can’t read our spouse’s mind. And they might think we know what they’re thinking. But how do we know if they never open their mouth tell us?

John: I’ve had to say that sometimes to my wife – is, “I know you are thinking a lot, but I can’t read you right now. So I need you to help me understand.” Cause, otherwise, it’s just gonna – it’s gonna become a conflict because I’ll ask the wrong question or I won’t ask the right question at all, and then – you’re relating to this, Todd.

Todd: Yes. Yeah, yeah. Exactly. That’s how we tend to be sometimes. Like, I can’t – it’s like it’s a – it’s a no-win situation sometimes in marriage, you know. I’m doing the wrong thing. I’m doing the right thing. “Well, what do you need me to do?” You know, just women are just so different. She feels differently this way. She wants to communicate different today – differently than she did yesterday.

Jim: (Laughter) You mean it changes?

Todd: Yeah, it changes.

Jim: OK, that’s a complicating layer.


Todd: And maybe – you know, maybe having those conversations with a man might be – it’s very intimidating for a man to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with a wife.

Jim: Let me go here. What are some ways we can unearth – I guess we could call that magic, when we’re living our everyday lives. And then it’s that expectation issue, too, that, you know, one person’s magic is – is beyond my ability to deliver. I mean, I don’t know. But speak to that idea of , you know, keeping your romance fresh. And how do we do that after 20 years? Thirty years for us. I mean, we’ve been married 33 years, and you guys are over 30, right?

Karen: Mmm hmm.

Jim: So how do you do it?

Karen: Well, the first – the first tip I would give might seem kind of strange, but I’m gonna say it. Stay off of social media sometimes. When you are looking at other people and their marriages, and they’re out to a fancy dinner while you’re warming up leftovers, or they got a new upgraded diamond ring, and it’s strategically in the Instagram shot or whatever, and you’re thinking, you know, I – he doesn’t get me jewelry. I think it’s really, really dangerous for us to be looking at other people’s marriages and then sizing up your own and seeing how it – how it falls so short.

Jim: Especially one photo at a time…

Karen: Yeah. And…

Jim: …(Laughter) ‘Cause you’re getting a snapshot.

Karen: I’m serious. I’ve had women that – that just, you know, have voiced this just displeasure and this despair about their marriage. And when I’ll say, “Well, what’s going on?” And it’s really – there’s really not a ton going on. It’s just that they think someone else has got it better ‘cause the grass always looks greener on the other side. And so if you’re constantly exposing yourself to all these perfect marriages and perfect romantic things…

Jim: Which they are not. Trust me.

Karen: Well, no. It’s not.

Jim: There’s no perfect anything.

Karen: No, it’s not. But we think – we think it is. We know what’s happening in the reality behind our four walls of our house. And we perceive again that somebody else has it perfect, and then we don’t measure up. And we get depressed.

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: So I think you need to just – I’m not saying delete your accounts, but just be careful.

Jim: Healthy and good is the goal. Just be healthy and good.

Karen: Yeah.

Todd: I think it’s also finding out, uh, like, Karen’s interests. I’m kind of, uh, against the, you know, when someone says, “Well, write down all your needs, and then she writes down all – all her needs. And then you share those, and then you basically meet those needs.” Well, first of all, we’re human. We’re sinful. That’s not gonna happen. That becomes, uh, a major issue. It’s the expectation. Why is she not meeting my needs? Well, I’m gonna withhold what she wants from – from me on my list. So I’m not a real fan of that unless you’re really mature in your marriage, and you really can talk through that and walk away and say, OK, eh (ph), nothing – expect nothing whatsoever, and whatever they give is great.

But there are things that, with Karen, I – I need to find out that she does have an interest in, uh, some things, whether it be just, uh, go out for an ice cream, uh, enjoy the time together doing something like that.

Jim: Sounds like talking might be a good first step.

Todd: Talking might a good thing, but at least connecting with some of the things that are her love languages. I know that’s a hot word. But knowing – she has to know I’m not gonna fulfill every single love language she has. I’m gonna fall short every day and every moment.

Jim: Well, and this hits that expectation issue. So Karen, knock it out of the park.

Karen: Exactly. So when we expect nothing, we can’t be disappointed, right?

Jim: Right.

Karen: So we gotta just tell ourselves, “Lower your expectations.” And then 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: 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.”

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: Just a very simple prayer.

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: And so where I see it is every time I get in my vehicle – just about – my gas tank is full ‘cause that’s one thing he just does. When he’s filling up his tank of gas, he thinks, oh, I wonder if Karen needs a – gas? And he’ll take my – he doesn’t even tell me. He just drives away in my car. And we’re like, where’s he going? He keeps my gas tank full. He’s great at picking up the kitchen, doing dishes without me nagging or being, you know – or asking. And he just…

Jim: You had to say that one, didn’t you?

Karen: He – yeah. Well, you know…

Jim: (Laughter).

Karen: …There – see, these people listening, there – it’s there. It might not be dishes and a full gas tank. But I think when we as spouses look for the ways that our husbands or our wives do show us love, it’s just not the way that we thought they would or that we hoped they would. But they are doing things that are showing love. And for him, it’s acts of service. For me, it’s words of affirmation. We speak two different languages I’ve had to learn to interpret and go, “Wow, he does love me. Look at that.” One time, he – when I was flying home in the winter to the airport in Lansing, Mich. – and we just had six inches of snow – he had driven to the airport and scraped off my car on his way to work. He was working nights that – that time of our life. And I got to that car, and I cried. I thought, oh, he does love me, even if he doesn’t say it. (Laughter) He does.

Jim: No, that’s…

Karen: You gotta look for it.

Jim: No, that’s good. I – I think that admonition to keep your expectations – I would say reasonable. I mean, there’s always gonna be that desire that we’re connecting, and that’s healthy and good.

Karen: Yes.

Jim: Can’t be so low that, you know, I spend no time with my spouse.

Karen: Right.

Jim: That’s ridiculous. But I – I like that idea. The critics will say, “No, you need to have higher expectations,” but I reinforce that all the way. And I think that’s – when you know humanity, if you know we’re sinners saved by grace, and we’re all starting there, even in our marriages, your husband or your wife is not gonna meet all of your expectations. They’re not gonna be Jesus to you. I mean, he’s perfect. We’re not. If you can start there, you’re starting in a much healthier place anticipating that there will be letdowns. There will be communication issues. There is gonna be other issues that we’ll encounter. And it’s how do we manage those. Communication is what you’re saying, and make sure the rules of engagement are – are correct.

Todd: Mmm hmm.

Karen: And when we can remember that marriage isn’t about making us happy and, you know, finding that other half that just, you know, makes you happy, but marriage is all about showing the Gospel to the watching world because your marriage is a message, and people are watching you preach. It’s not just pastors that deliver a sermon.

Jim: Right.

Karen: And we’ve known people in our life who have become Christians in part because they said they saw the Gospel in our messed-up, but always forgiving, keep-showing-up marriage. That’s what it’s about. When you can keep that perspective in mind, those bad times aren’t so bad anymore because they’re…

Jim: Right. And – and it’s life.

Karen: They’re – yeah, it’s life. It happens. You – you get through it. You work through it. There are hard times. There are good times. But people can see that keep showing up, offering grace and forgiveness and starting every morning, we’re gonna try it again. We’re gonna stay married for one day. And if we get to the end of the day, well, then we’re gonna do it all over again tomorrow.

Jim: In fact, uh, Karen, you have a sign in your office. What does the sign say, why is it significant?

Karen: It says “June 21, 1986.” And then, under that, it says, “221 guests” because there were 221 people at my marriage, at my wedding, when I said my vows to this man who I stood in front of and said – and I stood in front of the Lord, more importantly – and said, “Till death do us part, for better, for worse.” And sometimes when I’m more in the worst parts, and I want to just throw in the towel – and again, I’m not talking about serious situations where people do have grounds for divorce – that’s not what I’m saying – but just those normal bumps of marriage where you get frustrated, where you think, what in me ever thought it was a good idea to marry this man who’s so different from me and driving me crazy, I can walk by my office. And I see that sign, and I say, “No.” On that day, I stood before the Lord and before those people. And I said, “I am going to keep showing up.” And so it kind of gives me this renewed, you know, vow that it’s not just this person who’s driving you crazy. There are other people involved who are watching my marriage.

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: And I’m gonna keep showing up for them too.

Jim: Even – even in your voice, I hear the emotion of that. Is that commitment? What – what is that I am hearing?

Karen: Yeah. And I think just because I grew up around a lot of marriages that didn’t survive. And we’ve had friends. I mean, I was thinking the other day we used to lead a Bible study where there were eight couples. It was a marriage Bible study. Only three of them are still married.

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: You know, we’ve just seen it. So many people just – you hit a bump in the road, and you think, ugh, I must have picked the wrong person. This one’s not my soulmate. And they just – they just chuck it, and they go try to find happiness somewhere else. And rarely does that ever make them happy either.

Jim: They take all the same baggage along with them.

Karen: They do. Instead of saying, “Look, I – I made this commitment. It’s hard. Marriage is hard, but it’s not about me. It’s about something bigger. What’s it about again? Oh, yeah, the Gospel.”

Jim: Yeah.

Karen: “I can keep doing it. I can keep doing it.”

Jim: Man, Karen, I so appreciate that. And I know, Todd, you’re right there with her. And…

Todd: Well, there’s more joy in 30 years of marriage than there is in two days of marriage.

Jim: Yeah.

Todd: Does that make sense? There’s…

Jim: Oh, it does. That’s maturity.

Todd: There’s so much emotion and so much thrill.

Jim: Yeah. Yeah.

Todd: And – but in 30 years, I can say it’s – it’s – it’s a greater, richer love even though we still get on each other’s nerves sometimes, you know?

Jim: (Laughter) That’s good. I really do appreciate this. It’s been great to hear from both of you. And I love your book Keep Showing Up: How to Stay Crazy in Love When Your Love Drives You Crazy. And, uh, folks, this is for you. I mean, this is that kind of resource that you need to read together before you lay your head on the pillow and fall asleep. I mean, just do this. I think I’m gonna do this with Jean. I’ll make that commitment. She’ll be thrilled, by the way.


But, you know, it – it does take this kind of effort. And, uh, I so appreciate it. We have a friend in Southern Cal. And, you know, we’ve been, uh, developing Hope Restored, which is an intensive marriage counseling effort. And it’s got a great success rate, over 80%. Post two years, the survey shows that these couples are doing better. Kind of affirms what a University of Chicago study showed, that these two groups of people – I’m not sure how they set the research up – but two groups. One group went forward through divorce, and the other stuck it out and got counseling. Five years later, 85% of those who divorced were less happy. And five years later, those who stuck it out and – and fought for their marriage, 85% of them were happier. So isn’t that amazing?

Karen: Wow.

Jim: So what you’re saying is even, you know, supported through the scientific research that they find in marriages that are breaking up and those that fight for their marriage. So thank you for that. But this – this man in Southern Cal, he and his wife, they just called and said, “You know, too many of our friends are divorcing, and I wanna do something.” So we’re working right now to try to, uh, set up Hope Restored in Southern California because of their love for their friends – such a Christian thing to do.

Karen: That’s fantastic.

Jim: And I love that. So, um, boy, if you’re in that spot where you need really deep help, call us because we have Hope Restored, an intensive marriage effort. And we’ll get you in in Michigan or in Branson or even at Winshape down in Atlanta, and hopefully soon in California. But, um, if it’s not that, give our counselors a call. Let us help you with the steps forward. And it includes great resources like Karen’s, uh, book, Keep Showing Up, along with so much more that we can provide for you. And if you can support the ministry and help not only yourself but those others who are gonna phone, that would be great too.

Karen and Todd, let me thank you again for being with us.

Todd: It’s been fun. Thank you.

Karen: Thanks again for having us.


John: And we’d be happy to talk to you, as Jim said. Just give us a call…800 – the letter “A” and the word FAMILY – 800-232-6459. Or online we’re on

And when you make a monthly pledge today to the ministry of Focus on the Family—any amount—we’ll send you a copy of Keep Showing Up, as our way of saying thank you. And if you can’t afford that, we’ll send it to you for a one-time gift as well.

Have a wonderful weekend! And join us again on Monday. Arlene Pellicane will encourage you to find happiness as a wife.


Mrs. Arlene Pellicane: When you think of a happy wife, you know, I always think of, that she’s smiling, that she is enjoying her life as a wife. She’s not complaining and when she thinks of her marriage, she thinks this is a good thing and not like, how did I get myself into this mess?

End of Teaser

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Keep Showing Up

Keep Showing Up

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