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Focus on the Family Broadcast

How Waffles and Spaghetti Can Build a Stronger Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

How Waffles and Spaghetti Can Build a Stronger Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Bill and Pam Farrel discuss differing approaches men and women take on marriage. They offer practical marital advice on how spouses can understand one another’s differences and even delight in them. The Farrels discuss communication challenges couples face — how women tend to address multiple topics and emotions all at once while men want to address one subject at a time. They describe how men and women can learn to relate to each other’s different styles and needs. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: May 18, 2023

Woman #1: I usually think of women as more nurturing and men as more gruff.

Man #1: I feel like women can empathize more and oftentimes men just live very surface level.

Woman #2: I would say that on average, men tend to be more like on a one track mind, whereas women are able to multitask a lot more.

Man #2: I think men come hard-wired to physically defend and protect those they love.

John Fuller: Well, I wonder if those comments resonate with you? Uh, do you ever look at your spouse and wonder, “Why are you so different?” Well, we’re gonna be addressing that. Uh, those male-female personality differences today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: You know, in today’s, uh, secular culture, uh, uh, the line between gender has become so blurred that for some people, masculinity and femininity, uh, are indistinguishable. I don’t embrace that. I think it’s quite distinguishable and today we’re gonna spend time talking about how the genders are distinguishable. As Christians, we know that male and female differences have been part of God’s design from the beginning. In Genesis 1:27 he tells us, “God created man in his own image. Male and female, he created them.” So that’s pretty much right there in front of us.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Men and women are designed to fit together physically, emotionally, spiritually and the different ways we think, feel, and behave are meant to complement each other. Uh, sometimes it can grind each other, (laughs) but-

John: (laughs) yes.

Jim: … you know, the idea is we complement each other.

John: Yeah. Those differences tend, as you’ve said before, uh, time and again here on this show, th- the differences draw us together. And then we find out that-

Jim: (laughs)

John: … I’m an introvert married to an extrovert or I’m a night person married to a morning person, and sparks start to fly and, over time the … We can get kinda crazy over those differences.

Jim: Yeah. Or the toothpaste thing.

John: Oh, yes.

Jim: One from the end, one from the beginning.

Pam: (laughs)

Jim: I still can’t get Jean to squeeze it all up to the front, you know, but that’s my bad. I’m just lacking patience.

John: Okay, well there.

Jim: (laughs)

John: You and me both brother. (laughing)

Jim: Bill and Pam, welcome to Focus.

Pam Farrel: So great to be back here again. We raised our kids on Focus on the Family.

Bill Farrel: Yeah.

Jim: Oh, that’s always so good to hear.

Pam: Now they’re raising their kids on Focus on the Family. Pretty exciting.

Jim: (laughs)

John: Past performance doesn’t guarantee future-

Jim: Success.

John: Something like that.

Jim: No, that’s the, the legal disclaimer.

John: Yeah.

Jim: There you go.

John: Yeah. Well, our guests today are Bill and Pam Farrel. Uh, we love having them here. They’re authors, speakers-

Jim: (laughs)

John: … relationship experts, uh, longtime friends. Uh, they’ve written more than 50 books and, uh, one of the classics. We’re coming back to this book because it’s just so good. Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in your Differences. And we’ve got copies of that here at the ministry. Uh, our number’s 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459 or stop by

Jim: All right, I’ve seen on the menu chicken and waffles, but I’ve never seen spaghetti and waffles.

Pam: (laughing)

Jim: It might go well, I don’t know, but why’d you pick that title?

Pam: Oh, wow, that … I guess it … We should tell the story about how I get started.

Bill: Yeah.

Pam: Yeah.

Bill: Like, first of all we … we’re looking for a food analogy-

Jim: (laughs) Okay.

Bill: … that could describe-

Jim: You covered that.

Bill: Because we were looking for a way to be male friendly. Like, we discovered working with people, like, getting women to talk about relationships-

Pam: Getting men to come to conferences, easy. Mm-hmm.

Bill: Right. ‘Cause it’s like fishing at the hatchery to get a female to talk about a relationship.

Jim: (laughs)

Bill: Getting men to talk about relationships, it’s a little more difficult. And so, we were looking for a word picture that men would relate to. And the whole food analogy started actually in a very practical experience. I was working with our, our local youth basketball league.

Pam: This is when Bill was lead pastor. We were about 28, 30 years old.

Bill: And a guy in the league, named Montrel, came up to me one day and he went, “Hey, you’re a pastor, right?”

Jim: (laughs)

Bill: And I went, “Yes.” And he goes, “Do you ever meet with couples?” I said, “Yes.” He was like, “Okay, good, I want to bring my wife in because I think she’s broken.”

Jim: (laughing) That’s not a good sign.

Bill: And I was really intrigued because I wanted to know what he meant by broken-

Jim: Uh-huh.

Bill: … and a guy who’s initiating. So I, I said, “Yeah, bring her in.” Let’s meet and let’s, uh, see how it goes.” So we get to the … my office and w- his wife, Tabitha, is, to this day, probably the most verbal woman I’ve met.

John: Hmm. Really?

Bill: I, I know women, you know, studies show they have more words to work with per day than the average man. But, like, she’s in the top 10, maybe top five percent.

Jim: Wow, that’s impressive.

Pam: (laughs)

Bill: And they sat down and he looked at her. He went, “Go ahead.”

Pam: So she ta- started talking from subject to subject to subject to subject to subject and-

Bill: Uh-

Pam: He … The-

Bill: Like, while she’s talking-

Pam: … husband-

Bill: … he looked at me and went, “She does this all time.”

Pam: He was panicked.

Bill: Like, I think something’s-

Jim: (laughs)

Bill: … wrong with her. Like, something’s broken.

Jim: Okay. (laughs) So that was the point?

Bill: Yeah. And, and in that moment, like, all … It all kind of came together. And I said to him, “Hey, why don’t you think about her conversation like a plate of spaghetti.” Like, “Every thought’s like a noodle on the plate and she has to touch every noodle on the plate before she’s done.” And he went, “Okay.”

Pam: And he’s like, “What do I do?” And Bill s- taught him a few listening skills and, uh, he leaned and she continued to talk from subject to subject to subject for 55 straight minutes.

Bill: And I’m like-

Jim: Wow.

Bill: Yeah.

Pam: And then, she sat back. She’s like, “Oh, that was so good.” Probably because she hadn’t been interrupted. And, um-

Jim: (laughs)

Pam: … he …

Bill: Right. And so, he … She said, “Well, if I’m like spaghetti, what’s he like?” And I said, “Well, we’re out of time for today so we’ll get together in a couple of weeks and I’ll explain it to you.

Jim: Wow.

Bill: And I dismissed them.

John: That’s good.

Bill: I said, “Okay, God, I have two weeks.

John: (laughs)

Bill: I need a food analogy that shows how men process information.”

Pam: So we needed a compartmentalized … And so, we started praying. And my boys were making, uh, toaster waffles and up popped the Eggo there.

Bill: And I thought, uh, you know, I think that’ll work. So I went back to this couple. And I said, “Well, the way men process life is it looks like the top of a waffle. Bunch of boxes, all those boxes are separated from another … one another by walls. And we, as men, the first issue goes in the first box, second issue goes in the second box-

Jim: Hmm.

Bill: … third issue goes in the third box and so on. And we deal with one issue in our life at a time.” So I said, “It’s his turn to talk this week.” And I said to his wife, “You can only talk about the subject he brings up.”

Jim: Okay.

Pam: ‘Cause there was one subject that was pushing them to the edge of divorce-

Jim: Uh-uh.

Pam: … and that’s why he was motivated to come talk to Bill.

Jim: Mm.

Bill: And, and I knew I’d probably have to correct her several times ’cause she would try to veer off.

Jim: Uh-uh.

Bill: So six times I had to pull her back. I go, “Write that down. We can talk about that later, but you got to get back on the subject.”

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Bill: And they solved it in my office.

Jim: Huh. Wha- in-

Pam: Saved their marriage.

Jim: Over time or in that day?

Bill: In that day.

Pam: That day.

Jim: Wow.

Pam: Breakthrough.

Bill: It was a financial thing they’d been trying to work through.

Jim: Yeah. Yeah.

Bill: They could never connect on.

Jim: Boy, that is really good. Now some people are saying, “Well, that’s my husband you’re describing.” And I’m sure it’s the 80/20 rule. Is that fair?

Pam: And, you know-

Jim: And you see that?

Pam: It’s, um … We do. That’s a typical comment that we get is, like, “I’m not a typical woman or I’m not a typical guy,” you know? And there’s … We’re really multilayered.

Jim: Yeah.

Pam: You know, so gender, um, is the first layer that God put into our minds, XX, XY, and then layered on top of that is our personalities, our families of origin, any pain or hurt that we’ve gone through. So we try to deal with several of those topics in Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. Um, but we have to start with the easy, fun one first.

Jim: Oh, yeah.

Pam: Right?

Jim: This is so much more fun.

Bill: And, and the … You know, you mentioned people don’t have waffles and spaghetti at the same time.

Jim: Not typically.

Bill: Uh, and it actually is kind of the point.

Jim: (laughs) Okay.

Bill: ‘Cause one of the big points of your book is if you wanna get your needs met in marriage you need to take turns.

Jim: Ah.

Bill: And if you take turns meeting each other’s needs it tends to go really well.

Jim: Mm.

Bill: If you try to force them to get met at the same time, you tend to get in conflict.

Jim: Mm. Let, let’s speak to the brain science, ’cause you did include some of that in the book. Uh, and this is really good. I think this is interesting stuff. Again, I think God creates it all, right?

Bill: Yeah.

Jim: He puts those, uh, forces of nature in us and creates those brain pathways and our brain chemistry, et cetera. So what have you found in the brain science side?

Bill: So the most significant part of the brain science is, is that women have more connections between the two sides of their brain than men do.

Jim: (laughs) And women are gonna say, “Told you so.”

Bill: Right.

Pam: (laughs)

Bill: Right. (laughing) So when, when men are in the womb, like when boys are in the womb, there’s a testosterone bath that takes place. It severs some of the connections between the two sides of the brain and sends a signal for other connections not to develop.

Jim: Oh.

Bill: And so, women, literally, have more physical connections between the two sides of their brain, so, so they mix emotions and thoughts together very easily.

Jim: Right.

Bill: And men, we tend to stay on one side of the brain. So we, we can kind of go v- you know, front to back and one side of the brain efficiently. And we tend to be very focused on solving problems because we’re either looking for a creative solution or we’re looking for an analytical solution and we don’t go back and forth between those.

Jim: Right.

Bill: And so, there are some situations in life that require that, uh, that we’re gonna stay focused and we, we gotta stay on track. And men tend to be very good at leading those discussions. There’s other g- decisions in life that require a mix of thoughts and emotions and you have to see down the road. Like, how is this going to affect our child 12 years from now? And women tend to see those connections really effectively.

Jim: Hmm. In fact, you mentioned that in the book literally that women are left right and then men are front back.

Bill: Yes.

Jim: Describe that … Just that geophysical thing and what’s going on for us.

Bill: So I’ll, I’ll start off. With me, like, I tend to be analytical when I’m problem-solving. So that puts me in the right side of the brain and I just stay focused. I’m looking for reasons, I’m looking for structure, I’m looking for a system. And when the situation requires that, I’m really good at leading that discussion. Now, Pam, on the other hand, she can connect emotions and thoughts together very easily because she … And, by the way, guys, women tend to have better memories because they’re always-

Jim: Oh, you’re, you’re killing me now, man. (laughing)

Bill: They’re always connecting-

Jim: Jean is gonna say, “Remember-

Pam: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: … what Bill said.”

Pam: Remember that-

Jim: (laughs)

Pam: … what I told you? Remember?

Jim: She does though.

Pam: (laughs)

Bill: Well, but they’re always connecting a thought to an emotion.

Jim: Uh-huh.

Bill: And when you add an emotion to a thought you remember it better. It’s why … It’s why we all know song lyrics, but we can’t always remember a sermon. Because the music connects both sides of the brain. So, like, I just learned to rely Pam’s gonna have a better memory about things that have happened in our life because she connects them very easily to the emotions of the moment.

Jim: Well, that’s really fascinating. Uh, y- you know in communication we’ve touched on it a bit, but what advice (laughs) do you have for us husbands, uh, who were trying to keep up with the rapid pace of topics that our wife might be l-, you know-

Bill: So-

Jim: … talking to us about?

Bill: So what I say to guys all the time is the greatest skill you can learn in your marriage is learning how to listen recreationally. And what I mean by that is as men we think there’s always a point. You know, when your wife says, “Hey, let’s talk,”-

Jim: (laughs)

Bill: … we’re thinking, okay, there’s a point. I got to find the point. I need to give my input on the point and we need to agree on the point. And, uh, that’s not really how women operate all the time. Like, at times they, they do go there. But what women tend to do is they build trust by connecting. So if your wife thinks you are important she wants to connect your life to you. So she wants to tell you what she did, what she thought about doing and didn’t do, what her mom had to say about it, what her sister had to say about it, how she would do it differently next time. And she’s not looking for input on all of those thoughts. She’s connecting her life to you. And when she gets enough of her life connected to you, you suddenly turn into a trustworthy individual in her life.

Jim: Hmm.

Bill: And as men, we’re always short-circuiting that process. And if we can learn to just turn off that fix-it mechanism because as men we just think there’s a problem on the table and we need to fix it.

Jim: Yeah.

Bill: We can just turn it off, pack up our bags, and go on a listening journey with our wife. And if there is a point, she will ask you. She will say, “I need your input on this.”

Pam: ‘Cause we’re great problem solvers. We just do it differently.

Jim: Mm.

Pam: Men and women are both wonderful problem solvers-

Bill: Yeah.

Pam: … but we are unique in the way that we deal with our issues.

Bill: And what I like to tell guys is a lot of your conversations is like taking a walk. Like, if you took a walk around the block with your wife you wouldn’t get home and say, “Okay, tell me everything you saw while we were talking.

Jim: (laughs)

Bill: Tell me, uh, you, you know, which house had the dog in it.” Like, we don’t review all the details. We just went … We went for a walk. And if we can view conversation as we’re taking a verbal walk with our wife it helps keep her connected to us.

Jim: Yeah. Now the difficulty I fall into, I’m willing to listen to all that, sounds great, but then I wanna complete a sentence when she’s taking a little long.

Bill: (laughs)

Jim: This is very frustrating to my wife.

Pam: (laughs)

Jim: I still haven’t learned how to just tone that down. I mean, for me it’s like, “And he went to the park.”

Pam: (laughing)

Jim: No, I didn’t say, “He went to the park.” I was gonna say, “He went to get coffee.”

Pam: (laughs)

Jim: I mean … I’m like, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Bill: (laughing)

Jim: I, I am horrible at this and I’ve got to work on it to be better at it. But what am I doing-

Bill: Yeah. And all I can say-

Jim: … and what is sh-

Bill: … Jim, is, “Thanks for representing the male side of the brain.”

Jim: Okay. Great.

Pam: (laughs)

Jim: And so, this is common?

Bill: We all do it.

Jim: Okay, good. Yeah.

Bill: Yeah. Because again, we all think there’s a point.

Jim: (laughs)

Bill: Like, like I would never come to either one of you guys and say, “Hey, guys, I, I just wanna hear how your week went. You know, tell me all that you did and everything you felt.” And, yeah, I … Like, we’re not going there as guys.

Jim: (laughs)

Bill: I might say, “Hey, Jim, have you had a good week?” And if you say, “Yes,” I’ll go, “Hmm, Jim’s good.”

Jim: Well, that’s it.

John: Yeah, great.

Jim: That’s the answer.

Bill: Because if you weren’t good you’d tell me.

Jim: Yup. (laughs)

Bill: Yeah.

Jim: Oh, man.

Pam: And in the same way we women … After raising all boys and hearing, um, them talk about some of their interactions with the girls in their life and now, you know, their wives, um, it’s really easy for we, women, to kind of go on and on and on. And so, it’s good if we can learn to, like, observe the glaze of the eyes when, uh-

Jim: (laughs)

Pam: … when our husband is kind of like leaning back in his chair, getting a little bit, you know, too comfortable. Maybe it’s time to bat that conversation ball into his court, uh, and-

Jim: And, uh, it’s-

Pam: … cut that conversation shorter.

Jim: … an absorption moment.

Pam: Yes.

Jim: We need more time to absorb.

Pam: Uh, here we go.

Jim: (laughs) What, you know … We’re, we’re acting like waxed paper.

Pam: (laughs) One of our friends-

Jim: (laughs)

Pam: … he was … Like, wanted to help his daughter have successful rel- relationships later on, um, with guys. And so, he actually set a timer. Like, honey, you can talk for, like, five straight minutes-

Jim: Oh.

Pam: … but then you need to ask me a question. Uh, and-

Jim: Wow, that-

Pam: … she’s a great conversationalist now.

Jim: Yeah, that’s-

Pam: Has a happy marriage.

Jim: That’s a very-

Pam: (laughs)

Jim: … uh … Yeah.

Pam: Proactive, right?

Jim: Yeah. Very dangerous request-

Pam: (laughs)

Jim: … but I’m glad-

Bill: (laughs)

Jim: … it worked out for them.

John: (laughs) Yes.

Bill: Well, I, I think dads can get away with it.

Jim: Right.

Bill: Your husbands and boyfriends probably not.

Pam: No.

Jim: That’s true.

Pam: Mm-mm.

Jim: Yeah.

Pam: (laughs)

John: We have some great insights today from Bill on Pam Farrel on Focus on the Family. And, uh, as you can tell they are full of biblical advice. Uh, so much of that captured in their book Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in your Differences. Get a copy of that book from us here at the Ministry. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or stop by

Jim: And, Pam, you have a story in the book about a woman who was engaged. This is her fiancé.

Pam: (laughs)

Jim: And he liked to work on cars-

Pam: Right.

Jim: And she was worried about that. Kind of set that up and how did she find a … an epiphany.

Pam: Yeah. So we were youth pastors and so this is a girl in the college ministry. So Bill did a lot of weddings back then. Well, then, he went, went to pastor and did plenty weddings there. But, um, she was coming to me. She’s like, “I’m really in love with my fiancé. I mean, he’s a good, moral man. He’s good looking. He’s a great provider, but I’m kind of worried about him.” I’m like, “Really? How come?” She’s like, “Well, I think that they call it emotionally shallow at university.” And I just started to smile-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Pam: … ’cause she just hadn’t found the box that he felt comfortable in, uh, to open in and share his emotions. And so, I said, “Well, tell me about, you know, your fiancé.” She’s like, “Um, he’s a race car driver.” I said, “Oh, girl, then this is easy. You just go into the garage. And when you’re in the garage just repeat back key things to keep him talking.”

Jim: Key things?

Pam: Key things. Like, um, so she goes into the garage and, of course, he’s talking about his race car and he’s talking about rods and pistons and flywheels and she’s dutifully repeating back those car parts. She didn’t really have a clue what the car parts did, but she’s repeating back the car parts. And all of a sudden he came out from underneath the car and he put his hand on the hood. And he’s like, “Honey, wow, I’m so excited to get married to you.

Jim: (laughs)

Pam: I’m just like … Nobody’s ever taken the time to love me like this. Um, I wanna build us a big three-bedroom, two-bath house. And a balcony out back and a front porch swing I’ll hang up and I’ll put up a swing set for the kids that we’ll have one day. And every day I’ll bring you a skinny vanilla latte. I’ll sit next to you on the swing and I’ll just listen to your heart. She told me later, “I never wanna leave the garage again!”

Jim: (laughing)

Pam: Because it worked so well. And that’s really one of the keys is find a box where your husband, your fiancé, the … you know, your son, your dad loves. Park yourself in it and then just be a good listener and repeat back key phrases to keep him talking.

Jim: Yeah.

Pam: And when you do that, the very best of who a guy is, his sweet emotions, it’s like how syrup runs to the bottom of every one of those waffle box compartments. The sweetest part of a guy is in the very bottom of every one of those waffle boxes. And we women just are impatient listeners sometimes. And so, as we listen and repeat key phrases then he’ll open up and share, um, what’s important to, to him in this.

Jim: You know, sometimes when we’re talking about this, uh, subject, about gender communication, some people might think it’s a little superficial. Uh, but the problem is couples struggle mightily in this area. And this is usually the fuse that gets lit, right? It comes down to communication. We do a lot of marriage intensives and marriage counseling here at Focus and that’s usually where things start to decline is in the communication area. Then it, it goes into the issue of money or intimacy or whatever it might be. But it usually starts with communication.

Bill: Well, communication reveals a level of trust in the relationship.

Jim: Hmm.

Bill: So, for instance, on those guy side. Uh, w- when a man wants to start a conversation with his wife, he’s got a topic in mind he wants to talk about. And if he can work with his wife to actually resolve that topic or be heard on that topic, he’s gonna feel like he’s succeeded. If the subject runs off track, he’s gonna feel like he didn’t succeed.

Jim: Hmm.

Bill: And the way men build trust is I wanna be with people I can succeed with.

Jim: Mm.

Bill: And women, they wanna be with people they can connect to. So if the wife feels connected and the husband feels like he can succeed, trust is high. If trust is low then we bring it out on each other in communication. So the real issue here is trust.

Jim: Hmm.

Bill: And a lot of men are frustrated in their marriages ’cause they don’t feel like they can talk to their wives. ‘Cause every time I try to bring something up with her we, we go on this rollercoaster ride and when we’re done I don’t even know what we’re talking about. And he was trying to resolve something with her and he just ends up being frustrated. And when a man feels like he can’t succeed, he’ll just stop working at it.

Jim: He pulls back.

Pam: He pulls back.

Bill: He’ll go do something else-

Pam: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Right.

Bill: … that he can succeed at. And so, a lot of men don’t develop into communicators at the level they could because they don’t feel like they can succeed.

Jim: Mm-hmm. Yeah. In fact, uh, in the book you encouraged couples to fight for their relationship rather than fighting with each other.

Bill: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: You know, that makes so much sense. But emotions can steer you in directions that make sense. So speak to that idea and how do remember that in the heat of the moment?

Bill: So one of the things we have discovered is when, when emotions get involved you start having conversations with each other that you don’t even know how you got there.

Jim: (laughs)

Bill: You know, you bring up some subject and then, uh, she reacts emotionally, he reacts emotionally. He gets defensive. She thinks, “Oh, there’s a problem here, so she pushes a little bit harder.” And pretty soon you’re like, “What are we arguing over?”

Jim: Yeah.

John: Mm-hmm.

Bill: And we can’t even remember.

Jim: Mm.

Bill: And so, we encourage couples to develop a password between the two of them so you can interrupt that process.

Jim: What does that sound like?

Bill: So I- I’ll give you the-

Pam: Sure.

Bill: … the big example for our life.

Pam: Like how it happened in our life, yeah.

Jim: Yeah.

Bill: Like, one of the things I love about Pam … And the general principle-

Pam: Is the thing you love most about your spouse can become a source of irritation. That thing you first fell in love with can tick you off after a while.

Jim: (laughs)

Bill: So-

Pam: You need a way to turn the coin over, you know?

John: Feel the emotion right there. Yeah.

Pam: (laughs)

Bill: So one of the things I love about Pam is she’s very creative. Like, she has lots of fun ideas. I’ve had way more fun in my life because I’m married to her, than I would’ve ever had on my own. But when I got married I didn’t realize it applied to everything.

Jim: Mm.

Bill: So everything she does is creative. And there’s times that it’s really irritating. Uh, for instance, first, uh, 10 to 15 years of our marriage we would have a really nice evening together. Pam would think, oh, I’ve got Bill’s attention. And she would start sharing her ideas with me. And these ideas tend to be pretty large ’cause she’s got pretty big faith in our Savior, so she shares big ideas. So I would think, okay, well, here’s a big idea on the table. And I’m thinking in my mind she’s sharing this because she wants me to consider it and we might be doing this idea.

Jim: (laughs)

Bill: So I’m processing. Okay, I think we could do this. It’ll be a little bit of a cha- … And then, she would share the second idea.

Pam: And then, the third.

Jim: (laughs)

Bill: Whoa, okay, okay, we got two. Now we’re high energy people and, uh, I’ve, I’ve walked with Jesus too. I … We can probably do this, but it’s gonna eat up all our free time, all of our free … And then, she shared the third idea.

Jim: Overload.

Bill: And I think how in the world?

Pam: Exactly.

Bill: We can … We can barely get the first two done, now she’s got a third. And then, she shared a fourth one. And I would think, “This woman’s crazy.”

Pam: (laughs)

Bill: Like, there’s no way we could do all four of these ideas. And she’s still talking while I’m processing all this. And then, she shared the fifth idea. And I would think, if I don’t shut this down right now she’s gonna ruin our life.

Jim: (laughs) That’s dramatic.

Bill: So a lot of our nights-

Jim: Yeah.

Pam: Yeah.

Bill: We’ll have our really nice evenings ended with this really strange tension-

Pam: Awkward.

Bill: … between the two of us.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Bill: And after 10 years I realized she hasn’t really acted on most of these ideas. So I went to her and I said, “Pam, are all these ideas you share with me important?”

Pam: Of course. They’re my ideas.

Bill: Okay. Wrong question. Um, what I really mean is do I have to do something with every idea you share with me?

Pam: Of course, not. I don’t even do anything with most of my ideas.

Bill: Okay, so if you share an idea with me that I don’t want to act on-

Pam: Yeah.

Bill: … can I say to you, “Pam, that is a great idea.”

Pam: Yeah. That’s a good idea. I like that.

Bill: And it gave me a way to compliment Pam on her creativity, while I was telling her, “This idea is dead in the water.”

Jim: (laughs)

Pam: He-

Bill: Going nowhere.

Pam: Bill doesn’t have to do a thing with it.

Jim: Wow. Now, I would ask, being in my waffle mode, (laughs) so what is it when you think a idea should be acted on what do you say?

Pam: Right. Then, then I’ll say, “Hon, I’ve got a great idea, wanna run it by you.” And that run it by you is the part of the password.

Jim: Is the code word?

Pam: Yes. Exactly.

Jim: For this is more serious than all my other ideas?

Pam: Exactly.

Jim: Okay. That’s good communication.

Pam: And, you know, it could be like anything.

Jim: Hmm.

Pam: It can be a line from a movie, it can be a funny, you know, card. It can be an inside joke. Uh, so it … The … There’s three things that make a good password and the first is it’s tied to a good memory. And so, we have that. That’s a great idea, but we also had it show up early in our marriage.

Bill: Right. ‘Cause one of our favorite movies was the original Rocky movie.

Jim: Oh, okay.

Bill: And, and so, uh, A-, uh, Rocky was trying to get Adrian’s attention. So he’d go into the pet store every day same dumb joke. “Yo, Adrian, you know what you get when you tap a turtle on the back? You get shell shock. Get it? Shell shock.”

Jim: (laughs)

Bill: Which is a really dumb joke and I don’t even do a good imitation.

Jim: I think it’s pretty good.

Pam: (laughs)

Bill: But it got us laughing-

Pam: Right.

Bill: … about our relationship.

Pam: Right. And so, um, Bill would say something or hurt my feelings. I’d run to our room, I’d slam the door, I’d look back to see if Bill was following me. And there was this pattern as a newlywed. Until one day-

Bill: Right. So I’m watching all this happen and I’m like, “Uh, what do I do with this?” Like, when your wife runs out of the living room, slams the bedroom door, are you supposed to follow her?

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Bill: Or are you supposed to sit in the living room and outlast the behavior? I’ve-

Pam: One, one guy in Florida-

Bill: You have no idea.

Pam: … said, “Run, Forest, run.”

Jim: (laughing)

Bill: So my best guess was to go in and, and try to just encourage her. Say, uh, look, whatever you think I said I didn’t mean it the way you’re taking it. And we would kind of resolve things, but not really. And so, the idea of using humor finally kicked in one day. We, we had Pam’s brother over for dinner.

Pam: And, uh, Bill says something, it hurt my feelings, so I ran to the room, slammed the door, threw myself across the bed, looked back. But it was my brother, Brett-

Jim: (laughs)

Pam: … who walked in applauding.

Jim: Oh.

Pam: He took a trophy-

Jim: (laughs)

Pam: … down off the wall and he’s like-

Jim: (laughing)

Pam: … “Now, for best actress, we have Pam Farrel.”

Bill: And that was so-

Jim: That made you feel really good.

Bill: Yeah.

Pam: Actually I started-

Bill: I said, “We are in so much trouble.”

Pam: He … Bill thought we’re- he was in trouble. I started laughing. I’m like, “My brother so knows me.” And, um-

Jim: (laughs)

Pam: … s- Bill’s like, “Oh, wow, humor helps.” So tied to a good memory, the Rocky movie, uh, humor helps. And then, the last is-

Bill: W- well the, the next time that she, you know, did that run-

Pam: Right.

Bill: … to her room-

Pam: Slammed the door, looked up.

Bill: … instead of, instead of, like, trying to convince her I didn’t mean what she thought I said, instead I walked in and I’m like, “Yo, Pam, you know what you get when you tap a turtle on the back?”

Jim: (laughs)

Bill: And it got her laughing.

Jim: (laughs)

Pam: And which we can use in any … Like, we can be in, be in the middle of an argument and either of us can go, “Yo.”

Bill: Yo.

Pam: But we can tap the turtle-

Jim: (laughs)

Bill: Hmm.

Pam: … uh, on our hand. Uh, yeah-

Jim: That’s good.

Pam: … so it works.

Jim: You might want to try that with Dena tonight.

John: I, I think I’ll try that.

Jim: I, I wanna know tomorrow how that goes. But, uh-

John: (laughs)

Pam: Yeah. The last … The thing is you should both agree upon it.

Bill: Yeah.

Pam: Like, suck it up and get over probably not-

Jim: Mm.

Pam: … a real effective password. Like, yeah-

Jim: No, these are good-

Pam: (laughs)

Jim: … good thoughts and ideas. And we are getting into it, but we’ve run out of time today, so I wanna come back next time and go a little deeper and, you know, talk about those harmful and hurtful things that can happen and what we can do to kind of redirect that energy. And, uh-

Pam: Sounds great.

Jim: Are you willing to do that?

Bill: Sounds great.

Jim: Okay. Let’s do it. And, uh, obviously this is a great book. Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. I wouldn’t recommend eating them at the same time, but-

Pam: (laughs)

Jim: … maybe you want to.

Bill: Maybe.

Jim: I don’t know. I’d go chicken and waffles, but that’s just me.

Pam: (laughs)

Jim: Uh, but get a copy of this book. I think it is a humorous way to get into some very serious discussions with your spouse. And especially if it’s not working well. If there is something going on in your communication that you’re finding clunky, uh, this is a good first step. And, you know, obviously there’s other steps for more serious situations like our Hope Restored intensive counseling, which is always there for you. The bottom line is get in touch with us and, uh, you know, let’s make this fun. If you can give a gift to Focus of any amount, if you could do that on a monthly basis, that’s great. We’ll send you a copy of the book as our way of saying, “Thank you for being part of the ministry together.”

John: Mm.

Jim: And, uh, that way everybody’s, uh, taken care of.

John: So, uh, donate today. Either monthly pledge or one-time gift. Uh, request your copy of the book. Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. Uh, our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY or you’ll find all the details on And while you’re at the website you’ll also find a link to our Focus on the Family marriage assessment, which is a terrific tool for you and your spouse to spend a few minutes, uh, answering questions, uh, on this survey and then you’ll walk away with a better understanding of what the strong points of your marriage are and leave you some areas to grow. You’ll have some talking points as well. It’s all right there at the website. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time as we continue the conversation with Bill and Pam Farrel and, once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Men Are Like Waffles Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences

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