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Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Based on their book Marriage Triggers, Amber and Guy Lia discuss common, everyday things – from house cleaning and backseat driving to workaholism and lack of intimacy – which can provoke anger and tension in marriage. Our guests explain how couples can identify those 'triggers' and deal with them in a healthy way. Jim Daly's wife, Jean, joins the conversation. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: March 8, 2021

Excerpt:

Amber Lia: So, I had to do a cleaning house of my idols and my thinking and it had to start with me, that the Lord had to work in me, to work on how I was going to love Guy. Because regardless of whatever Guy did or didn’t do, even if he was sinning, it did not mean that I had to sin. And so, I had to start being humble and saying, “Okay, Lord, trying to fix him isn’t working (laughs). We’ve gotta start fixing me.”

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Well, today we’re all about marriage and, uh, Amber Lia joins us on Focus on the Family, along with her husband, Guy, to help you learn how to deescalate and have a more peaceful relationship with your spouse. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, it’s pretty normal for, uh, marriages to experience the ebb and flow of relationship. You have those beautiful days, those wonderful moments, and then you have the maybe not so wonderful moments, like, “Do I have to tell you again-

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … where the milk is?” You know (laughs)-

John: Or, “I’m so sorry-”

Jim: Or worse-

John: Yeah.

Jim: … the, the irritating things, right?

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Um, here’s some encouragement from the Book of Hebrews. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Maybe not you or your spouse, but Jesus is and that’s something to stand on. No matter what things look like with your spouse today, rest in the fact that we have an unchanging God, who is willing to comfort you and help you, and transform your marriage. Uh, today we’re going to bravely trudge into some areas that might be a little uncomfortable, uh, the triggers in your marriage. Every marriage has them, and all of us need God’s help to get through those things, and kind of mature so those triggers don’t trigger us, right?

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: And, uh, I’ve asked Jean, my wonderful wife, uh, and accountability partner (laughs) to be here with us today.

John: I think it’s wonderful that we have Jean along with us. And, uh, Guy and Amber Lia are relationship coaches and co-owners of a faith and family production company in Los Angeles, and they’ve been married 14 years and have four boys. And uh, they’ve written a book together called Marriage Triggers: Exchanging Spouses’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses, and, uh, we have that here at the ministry. Give us a call, 800-A-FAMILY or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast to get your copy.

Jim: Welcome, each and every one of you.

Amber: Thank you!

Guy Lia: Thank, thank you very much.

Amber: We are so glad to be here.

Jim: Now, I’m really looking forward to this. I think it’s one of the core communication issues in marriage. How do we not trigger each other? How do we better understand those triggers? And we’re going to get into that. Uh, Guy and Amber, you came up with the idea, so let’s start with you. Uh, you describe your marriage as triggered from the start. That sounds a little frightening.

Amber: (laughs)

Jim: Why was that the case? And didn’t you enjoy a little bit of a honeymoon period?

Amber: Well… (Laughter), Emphasis on the word little. We had a little bit of a honeymoon period, but not-

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: … not very long.

Guy: Things moved very, very quickly for us, um, when we, we got married. And within, within a couple of months, we got pregnant. And so, we didn’t have that time to kind of develop ourselves and get to know our identity as a young married couple. Um, we quickly shifted directly into parenting, and, you know, the extra room that was gonna be the fun room suddenly turned into the baby’s room.

Amber: (laughs)

Guy: And, you know, all the… She… My wife is a wonderful planner. And so, she shifted into high gear planning mode and painting and all the things.

Jean Daly: Oh, yes.

Guy: And I’m like, “Wait a minute. Like-”

Amber: “What about me?” He was saying (laughs).

Jim: It is evidence of your growth, the fact that you just said, “She’s a wonderful planner.” It sounded so heartfelt.

Jean: Yeah.

Guy: Uh, no-

Jim: Did it used to be like, “Man, she plans everything”?

Guy: It… Uh, uh, I… It still is. I’ll, I’ll admit (laughs) that can still be a thing, because-

Jim: Best foot forward.

Guy: … we- those are one of the differences we have in our relationship, is she very much is the planner-

Amber: Yes.

Guy: … and she thinks 10 steps ahead. And I am very happy thinking one or two steps ahead and being in the moment.

Jim: Yeah.

Guy: And so, we, we have to continually find that balance for ourselves.

Amber: Right.

Jim: So, I get the, the baby part, but before that even, there were other stressors going on.

Amber: Yes.

Jim: For the newlyweds listening that may be going-

Guy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … “Oh, my goodness, that’s my wife,” or, “That’s my husband-”

Amber: Yes.

Jim: … what were some of those other stressors?

Amber: Well, you know, they say opposites attract and there is some truth to that, but it also creates a lot of everyday practical problems.

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: And when you’re in a friendship and dating and then you get married, living with one another is a different beast (laughs).

Jim: Really?

Amber: And, you know, it was even early on just with, for example, we would… Um, I wanted to put in our new apartment a wall of portraits.

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: You know, our wedding photo and, you know, make room for when baby comes and all of that, and the planner in me-

Jim: The big wall of pictures.

Guy: Yes.

Amber: The big wall of pictures. And I thought on a Saturday, “This is gonna be amazing. We will all- lay them all out, we’ll do all the measuring, Guy will do all the hammering.” And he woke up, like-

Jim: Run, Guy, run (laughs).

Amber: He woke up ready to watch the football game.

Jean: What?

Amber: You know, and he was like, “Whoa, wait a minute here.”

Jim: Excellent choice.

Guy: It was, it was the Notre Dame/USC football game and that’s what I had planned. I had planned for weeks for that day.

Jim: How could you plan that during the SC/Notre Dame game?

Amber: We just had different perspectives on what was important at the time, and because we didn’t at the time have the communication skills to work through those things-

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: … together, which we wanna offer people hope that that is possible, at the time, we weren’t doing that. We were just triggered and easily provoked to anger, and so we were reacting instead of responding to each other. And uh, and it kind of went downhill from there for a long time.

John: Did either of those things happen, then? Did the wall get, uh, the pictures, or did the game get watched?

Amber: Uh, yes. The wall-

Guy: The wall get- got done and the game got watched, part of it. So, I think we-

Amber: But none of- neither of us were very happy-

Jean: Yes.

Amber: … about either place at the, at the end of the day.

Guy: It, it ended up in the books, so it still (laughs)-

Amber: Yeah.

Guy: … it still exists as one of those days that was a pivotal day for us.

Amber: Yeah, it was.

Jean: Well, and you both became convinced that you had married the wrong person.

Amber: Yeah.

Jim: (laughs)

Jean: Tell us about that.

Jim: That’s a big statement.

Jean: Yeah.

Amber: Yeah, I, I married Mr. Wrong, for sure.

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: Um, and he married Ms. All Wrong.

Jean: (laughs)

Amber: Um, I mean, we just… We got it all wrong. And I used to think, “Well, I believe in God’s sovereignty, but boy, this was a mistake.”

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: I mean, we… I really felt that way early on. Even though I loved him and a lot of the time I liked him, we had so many triggers-

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: … that I wondered, “How is this gonna happen? How are we gonna navigate this for the rest of our lives?”

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: And it wasn’t until God started working on me personally, after I nagged and argued and yelled for a really-

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: … long time and that didn’t work, um, the Lord eventually started to say, “Uh, Amber, you are Ms. All Wrong and he’s Mr. Wrong, but that’s because nobody is perfect. There is no perfect person, except for Jesus Christ. And so-

Jean: Yes.

Amber: … as long as you continue-

Jean: Yep.

Amber: … to be prideful and argue, you are not going to live life to the full or have the marriage that I designed.”

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: Because the minute that you say, “I do,” you do become a match made in Heaven. And so, that’s what-

Jean: Yes.

Amber: … I had to come to, was like, “You know what? We made a vow. God did bring us together. He is wrong, I’m wrong, but that’s because we’re pe- two people that are sinful. We need to yield to-

Jean: Yes.

Amber: … being perfected in Christ day by day, and that’s what’s gonna make us right for each other.”

Jim: You know, Amber, as you describe that, one of the things that, uh, certainly Jean and I have encountered, and I think you and Dena, John, have probably encountered this too, it’s hard to, if I could say it this way, get your fingers out of your ears.

Amber: It is.

Jim: Because I think we, we get into the habit in our marital relationships, where the more pain you’re causing me, the more trigger you’re causing me-

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … the harder I stuff my fingers into my ears, ’cause I don’t wanna hear it. And it, it is the exact opposite of what the Lord wants from you. Right?

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: Yeah, the pain acts as blinders. You know, it, it filters us to not being able to hear or see each other.

Jim: Yeah, and it, it… And that is a, a, a fork in the road in your relationship. You gotta decide if that’s where you wanna live-

Guy: Yeah, I think-

Jim: … in that constant conflict.

Guy: Amber came up with this wonderful principle that I think is one of the pivotal things in our book, um, and in our marriage-

Amber: Yeah.

Guy: … is the development of a me first attitude. And at first thought, that sounds like-

Jim: (laughs) Yeah.

Guy: … prideful, me first-

Jean: Right.

Guy: … I wanna get what I want. It’s actually the flip of that. It’s the, “If I want my wife to be more loving, then I need to start with me-

Jean: Yes.

Guy: … and I need to be more loving. If I-

Jean: Yes.

Guy: … want her to be more understanding and compassionate about my needs, I need to show her that compassion and the understanding of her needs first. Be first.” And it changes everything.

Jim: Well, that’s a good foundation.

Amber: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: I mean, obviously.

Amber: Yeah.

Jim: Uh, let’s go to some of the triggers in the book-

Amber: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … ’cause I wanna hit those.

Amber: Yes.

Jim: And you’re gonna come back next time, because we’re gonna keep this discussion going.

Guy: Yeah.

Jean: Yes.

Jim: And Jean wants to tell the world about all of my, you know (laughs). [crosstalk]

Guy: She’s got quite a list over there. [crosstalk]

Jim: But uh, one of the things, Amber, you identified with, and Jean, uh, said, “Yeah, that’s one for me too,” is when the house is a mess.

Amber: Yes.

Jim: That’s a trigger.

Amber: It is.

Jim: How is that a trigger? I, I mean, are Guy and I triggering this in you and Jean, or (laughs) is it-

Amber: You know, it’s a combination of things.

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: And it, it… You know, every marriage is unique, right? Because you’ve got a uni- two unique personalities, and that’s gonna make up a unique marriage personality. But for a lot of couples, we’ve found that one or the other is more bothered by clutter or dirtiness.

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: You know, which are two different things. Sometimes the house is very clean. Wives will tell their husbands when they, you know, are- come in after being gone from work or whatever, and we’ll say, “The house is clean. It’s just cluttered. It’s messy (laughs).”

Jean: That’s true.

Amber: But those are two different things. I’m trying really hard here. But so, for Guy and I, you know, he’s not as, uh, bothered or triggered by clutter as I am. And when you’re home a lot, like I was with our kids when they were young, a lot of couples will tell us, “This is such a problem.” And so, I had to disrupt that habit of being reacting, being quick to anger. And you know, I believed God when he said, “Be slow to anger. You know, be quick to listen.” And I had to say, “Okay, deep breath. What can we do together to tackle this? You know, put some things in place, communicate?” Part of it was just me practically having to get some better storage bins for the mess, teaching the kids to take on a little bit more responsibility. But if that’s your biggest trigger, you know, don’t get overwhelmed by the 10 triggers that you have, but take one at a time. And we would do that. We’re like, “Look, the constant clutter is not working for me. What can we do to strategize together? I don’t wanna keep reacting.”

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jean: Right.

Amber: I wanna be more proactive.

Guy: If I can say, from my side of things, um, you know, I was working a really intense job, where I’d be at work 10, 12 hours a day and I’d come home and Amber’s got, you know, two or three or four kids at home. At this time, it was three kids, two of them still in diapers and I’d come home and could barely open the door because there’s, like, toys all over the floor.

Jean: (laughs)

Guy: You know, and I’m walking into that going, like, “I just off of work and I should come into a house that’s clean and ready.” And you know, and I would be frustrated, or I wouldn’t say anything. And I would, and I would allow-

Amber: Yeah, that was not a good stage (laughs).

Guy: … I would allow that trigger to kind of bubble up in me and it would immediately push me towards frustration and anger right away. But until I gained a full understanding of what her day was like with those kids in the house by herself, without a lot of friends at all in our- in this new neighborhood that we had moved into, until I had a better understanding of what her days were like, I, I was triggered very quickly. And so, once we had a better understanding of that, it allowed me to be more understanding of walking into that-

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Guy: … knowing that, you know-

Amber: Guy went through a job loss. And while that wasn’t-

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: … a good thing in the end, God used it for good, because he was home more.

Jim: Yeah.

Amber: And he got to see how difficult it was-

Jim: Yeah.

Amber: … and that made things better for us.

Jean: Well, let me ask, Guy, for those spouses who, who can’t walk in those shoes then, who do have that stressful job and are stressed out… Well, I can ask Jim, as well (laughs).

Jim: Well, I’d say, ask Guy. (Laughter)

Jean: Stressed out by the clutter and the chaos, what advice do you have for them?

Guy: I, I, I wanna say that it’s a really simple one, but I just think that you have to have an understanding of what your spouse, what their day is like and what they’re going through. And again, it goes back to that me first attitude a little bit. When you, um, are concentrated on yourself, thinking about what your attitude is going into something, I think you can get a better un- understanding of what you’re walking into with your spouse.

Amber: And you would do that also… He would call me-

Jean: Yeah.

Amber: … on the way home from work. He got in the habit of doing that-

Guy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: … just to kind of get a lay of the land, a feel for the environment he was walking into, so he could prepare himself mentally (laughs), until I could-

Jean: That’s good.

Guy: Yeah, yeah.

Jean: That’s good.

Amber: That was one thing we did.

Guy: I’d take a moment, either in traffic or right out in front of the house while in the car, just, “How’s it going? What’s going… What, what am I walking into?”

Amber: What do you need help with?

Guy: Just so I know (laughs).

John: When, when I would call home-

Amber: That’s a good question, “What do you need help with?”

Jean: Oh, “What do you need help with?”

John: When I would call home, if Dena said, “What do you want?” I knew that I was walking into something.

Guy: Yeah (laughs), exactly.

Jim: Sounds more like military communication, “We got four zombies sitting right there (laughs). Look out when you come in the door.”

Amber: That’s right. Yes, yes.

Jim: I mean, that’s crazy.

Amber: Prepare yourself for the landmines.

Jim: Okay, well, that was very good of the ladies on this, uh, house being clean thing. Now, let’s go to a guy one, Guy.

Guy: Yeah.

Jim: Uh, when it comes to us being triggered, uh, maybe backseat driving?

Guy: Oh (laughs).

Jim: I mean, I’m terrible at that.

Guy: Yeah, yeah.

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Right, Jean? I’ll confess it.

Amber: Me, too.

Jean: (laughs)

Jim: I can be a backseat-

Amber: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … driver.

Jean: Absolutely!

Jim: (laughs)

Jean: But, but we-

Amber: She didn’t hesitate much there (laughs).

Jean: Yes, no, no, but we’ve-

Jim: No.

Jean: … worked through that.

Jim: Good. I’m glad.

Guy: Yeah (laughs).

Jim: That one’s off the… Okay, let’s move onto the next trigger (laughs). All right, Guy, there was early in your marriage, you had a driving experience, I think with the two of you.

Guy: Yes.

Jim: What happened? And we’ll respond (laughs).

Guy: Yeah, we were… You know, we, we-

Amber: Yeah.

Guy: So, we live in Los Angeles and, um, it is just crazy. It is fill every hole, it’s traffic for hours, it’s just nuts.

Amber: Yes.

Guy: And um, on this particular evening, we were driving back, it had rained a little bit, and, um, we were… I was changing lanes and someone in front of me just changed right in front of me and caused me to have to, you know, jerk the wheel to get out of the way. And Amber immediately was like, “Guy, what are you doing? You shouldn’t drive like that.” And it was-

Amber: Yeah, I panicked (laughs).

Guy: … this immediate, like, lash out at me. And I’m like, “Well, it wasn’t me, it was him. And I’m trying to be defensive and take care of this.”

Jim: Yeah, let me ask you this question.

Guy: Yeah.

Jim: If you didn’t swerve, would you have been hit?

Guy: Oh, absolutely.

Amber: Probably.

Jim: Okay. I’m on your side on this one, Guy.

Amber: Yeah, I am now.

Guy: However-

Jean: Because it’s scary.

Amber: I wasn’t then, but I am now.

Jean: It’s scary.

Guy: However-

Jim: Yes.

Guy: … the principle, uh, is, and we, we didn’t necessarily work it out that night, uh, successfully (laughs), but a little while later-

Amber: And Guy’s being nice, because the truth is, this was a habit of mine. I mean, I, I was-

Guy: Yes.

Amber: It wasn’t just when-

Guy: It was a trigger.

Amber: … we were in danger.

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: I was always telling him how to drive.

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: I, I admit that.

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: Yeah.

Guy: But uh, what I was able to do, is to think the best about my wife and realize that she wasn’t lashing out at me and my bad driving, she was actually lashing out at her sense of safety for our four kids that were in the backseat most of the time. So, she, being the mama bear, her concern was safety for them. And so, um, that’s where her frustration was coming from. So, I just had to realize that it wasn’t towards me. It was literally about the situation, and it allowed me to accept her prompts-

Amber: Anxiety (laughs).

Guy: … and anxiety and all that in a much different way.

Amber: Yeah.

Guy: And it really changed… Um, it still crops up from time to time. It’s an organic thing (laughs). Marriage, you know, every day is different, so it still comes up every once in a while, but-

Amber: But it required a conversation.

Guy: But yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Amber: I mean, one of the things that Guy and I did is-

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: … I mean, it was so constant that we were getting frustrated in the car. We were like, “Look, we’re gonna drive together a lot-

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: … for the next however many years. We’ve gotta figure this out.” So, I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna focus on you. You’re the driver, you focus on driving. I’m the passenger, I will work on being a passenger and not a driver. And I will-

Jim: That’s great.

Amber: … try to allow my anxieties to take a backseat.” You know, but-

Jim: Yeah, and but the question is, how did you control your tongue?

Amber: I-

Jim: That’s what all of this is about, right?

Guy: This is… Yeah.

Amber: A couple things. I’d bite my tongue, literally. I’m not kidding. I would just, like, bite my tongue. You know, like, “Okay, Amber, zip it.” But um, we started listening to podcasts or books on tape, just to distract me.

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Were these instructional driving podcasts (laughs)?

Amber: Yes, that would.

John: Focus on the Family podcast no doubt.

Guy: Those calming videos.

Amber: We should have come here back then. That’s a good idea.

Guy: Just picture the blue skies.

Amber: Water trickling. But honestly, like, I… It, it seems like a small thing, you know, being a backseat driver.

Jim: I get it.

Amber: But it really… The perpetual, you know, interjections of while someone’s driving-

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: … it gets to you. It just creates a layer of frustration that you may not even pick up on overtly, so now when Guy is driving, I’m in charge of the map. And not in a, “Hey, turkey, you were supposed to turn there,” which I still do (laughs) sometimes. Yeah, but, you know, and letting him take the scenic route. You know, if he doesn’t go the way I would go, it’s okay.

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: Let it go.

Jean: That’s good. That’s good.

John: Yeah, this is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and his wife, Jean, our guests, uh, also include Guy and Amber Lia. We’re talking about the book by the Lia’s, Marriage Triggers: Exchanging Spouses’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses. Great resource. We’ve got it here at the ministry. Give us a call, 800-A-FAMILY or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast to get your copy.

Jean: And Amber, I can relate to this next trigger. Actually, I can relate to all the triggers frankly (laughs), but, um-

Jim: Oh, we’re signing. Thank you for joining Focus on the Family (laughs).

Jean: But uh, in your book, you’ve mentioned that you’ve had a struggle with an intimacy idol in your relationship, because you didn’t feel loved. Uh, tell us about that.

Amber: Yes, I had very many preconceived notions and expectations about what our marriage was supposed to look like.

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: And for us, I thought it was gonna be a lot of security financially, white picket fence-

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: … um, Guy will go to work. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, uh, and work from home on occasion. And the Lord, you know, he’s got a… All his plans for us are good, and they work together for good. But in those early years, I didn’t think much of the plans that Guy was making for our family were good.

Jim: (laughs)

Amber: And so, I had this idol of, you know, closeness and intimacy, that he was gonna do things my way, we were gonna be on the same page. And when that didn’t happen, it caused me to be really bitter.

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: And so, no matter what Guy would say or do, he couldn’t get it right.

Jim: Right.

Guy: Yes.

Amber: And that is a really dangerous place to be.

Jean: Yes.

Amber: And it’s a painful place to be.

Jim: Well, and it sets up conflict, obviously. Jean, I just… You know, for people to understand your connection with this, what were you feeling? And uh, I think it’s rooted in expectations.

Jean: Absolutely.

Jim: That’s what you started with.

Jean: Absolutely, that we have unrealistic expectations. And I would say, you know, that maybe the greatest thing that I’ve learned through marriage is that your spouse cannot read your mind. And I can remember being hurt that Jim couldn’t read my mind.

Jim: (laughs)

Jean: He didn’t know everything that I expected, and if I had to tell him what I was expecting, that that made me angry. And until I recognized, “That is so unfair. Only, Jesus, only God can read our minds (laughs).”

Jim: And I am not God (laughs).

Jean: Right.

Jim: I know that every day (laughs).

Jean: That it’s, it’s okay and you should sit down with your spouse and during a season and say, “Okay, this is really what my ex- expectations are for my birthday or-

Jim: (laughs)

Amber: Yeah.

Jean: … or for when you come home from work, or these are-

Amber: Yeah.

Jean: … my expectations for when I come home from work. And how can we get there?”

Jim: The birthday one’s funny. You should bring that up (laughs), because one… There was one birthday where Jean said to me, “I just…” You know, I’m not sure you can tell us all the motivation behind this, but said, “You know, I really don’t want anything for my birthday. I’m good this year,” basically.

Amber: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jean: Yes.

Jim: Very, very crisp, bright attitude. I thought, “Oh, wow. That takes some pressure.”

Jean: Very selfless.

Jim: So birthday comes and, you know, we have dinner and the next day I could tell she’s not happy.

Amber: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: And I’m like, “What’s the matter?”

Amber: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: “You didn’t even get me a card for my birthday.”

Amber: Yeah.

Jean: Well, and I-

Jim: “Well, I thought you said (laughs)… Uh, what I heard was you didn’t want-

Amber: I, I heard something different than you said-

Jim: … anything.”

Amber: … apparently.

Jim: I mean, anything is like a gift. It’s a card, it’s anything.

Amber: Right.

Jim: But that wasn’t quite it.

Jean: No, and I still… I remember-

Jim: Swing and a miss.

Amber: Yep (laughs).

Jean: I remember where we were when I said it.

Jim: (laughs)

Amber: Wow, yeah.

Jean: Like, and what I meant was-

Jim: Have I ever said, “I’m sorry”?

Guy: What I meant was-

Jean: Yes, you have. What I meant was, I, I didn’t want Jim to buy me a gift.

Amber: Yeah.

Jean: I didn’t want Jim and the boys, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want homemade cards from the boys, you know, that I, I-

Amber: Acknowledgement, yeah [crosstalk]

Jean: I wanted, you know, dinner.

Amber: Yeah, yeah.

Guy: She wasn’t fully letting you off the hook (laughs).

Jim: What she didn’t-

Amber: Yeah (laughs).

Jim: What she didn’t realize is, she was actually giving the boys and I a gift.

Amber: Yeah, right?

Jim: A, a day off of birthdays.

Amber: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: And we thought, “Wow, that is so kind-

Jean: But-

Jim: … of mom. How selfless.”

Jean: But after that, I will say, I mean, truly, after that, there… I was able to say to Jim, “Okay, these are my expectations-

Amber: Yeah.

Jean: … for my birthday.

Jim: (laughs)

Amber: Right.

Jean: It was-

Amber: You work it out.

Jean: I want, I want… Can you-

Jim: Necessity.

Jean: … work with the boys-

Amber: Yeah.

Jean: … to make a handwritten cards? And-

Amber: Yeah.

Jim: Now, you guys had this with Christmas, right?

Amber: We did.

Jim: Your first or second Christmas-

Amber: Yes, our first Christmas.

Jim: … you had a stocking battle.

Amber: Right. I mean, it… We were so excited. We were gonna do stocking. You, you say it, Guy, because (laughs)-

Guy: Yeah, I was-

Jim: Because you did it.

Amber: You did it (laughs).

Guy: I was so excited when she said she wanted to do stocking. I was really excited that that was gonna be a tradition in our family, because that was something that was a tradition that my family had. Uh, the night before Christmas, we would always get together and open the stockings and it was so much fun. But our stockings would be filled with gag gifts, um, and little funny things and just crazy stuff, and we’d do even a White Elephant thing, where you’d end up sending the bad gift around. And um, and it was so much fun. Amber’s stocking for me was filled with cologne and movie tickets-

Jean: Oh, no.

Guy: … and all this wonderful, you know, oils and different fun things. And it was-

Amber: Yes.

Guy: Boy, we were so-

Amber: I pulled out a red feather boa and I was pretty sure-

Guy: Yeah (laughs).

Amber: … that pulling that red feather boa out of my Christmas stocking that we weren’t gonna make it to Christmas number two (laughs).

Jim: The beginning of the end.

Jean: Oh, no!

Guy: Yeah, it was very different.

Amber: Because I mean, I had been so thoughtful, all these favorite things in his stocking, valuable gifts and I had just gag gift after gag gift and I just thought, “Wow, we are really living on two different planets here.”

Guy: Yeah (laughs).

Jim: You know, Amber and Guy, and Jean, I just, uh, at the end here, I think it’s important to really hone in on that idea of, um, coveting the ideal marriage.

Amber: That’s right.

Jim: Having that high, high-

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … impossible expectation, I guess, Amber-

Amber: Yeah.

Jim: … that you describe in your book. Uh, I want to, again, address that. Why is that really one of the most damaging things to a marriage?

Amber: When you have an idol in your thinking and you don’t even realize it, because your spouse is not living up to your expectations or your marriage or your circumstances, the life that you’ve created is not the life that you hoped for and prayed for, you have a choice to make at some point in that moment. You can continue to be triggered and angry and bitter, and you can go down a path toward destruction, because Satan is alive and well, and he is, um, seeking whom he may devour. And we’re convinced that he was trying to devour us-

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: … in those early years of our marriage. And, and even now, he still is on the attack. But the other option was to recognize that my desire for what I want is either going to become so obsessive that I sin if I don’t have it. And that is an idol in my life, because I covet that more than putting on humility, a compassionate heart, kindness, and forgiveness-

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: … and being open to trusting God with my marriage-

Jim: Right.

Amber: … and my husband and my life. And so, I had to tear down all those idols of what I wanted, and I had to start approaching Guy differently and he had to start approaching me differently. And ultimately, we had to say, “Our lives are not our own. If I am so fixated on Guy’s, you know, ability to make me happy or not-

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: … or my circumstances to be ideal, then I will always be miserable, because in this world I will have trouble” But Jesus says, “Fear not, for I have overcome the world.” So, I had to do a cleaning house of my idols and my thinking, and it had to start with me-

Jim: Yeah.

Amber: … that the Lord to work in me, to work on how I was going to love Guy. Because regardless of whatever Guy did or didn’t do, even if he was sinning, it did not mean that I had to sin. And so, I had to start being humble and saying, “Okay, Lord, trying to fix him isn’t working (laughs). We’ve gotta start fixing me.”

Jean: That’s good.

Jim: No, and, and it’s so good.

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: And it’s such a great place.

Jean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: I would say most of marriage counseling tries to get at that realization-

Jean: Yes, yeah.

Jim: … that if you can get there, your marriage is actually gonna be in a good place over the long haul.

Amber: Yes.

Jim: And uh, that’s what we try to do with Hope Restored-

John: Yeah.

Jim: … the couples that come to our intensive marriage counseling.

Jean: Yes.

Jim: And you know, these are really broken relationships, and it’s amazing that the post-two-year survey that we do with these couples, 81% is now the number of couples that are doing better-

Amber: That’s amazing.

Jim: … and still married.

Jean: It is.

Jim: And if you ask Dr. Bob Paul, the one who is responsible for the clinical side of the effort, it really is teaching couples how to communicate.

Amber: That’s right.

Guy: Yep, absolutely.

Jim: And when they get that skillset, their marriages actually can do much better.

Guy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber: Yes.

Jim: And thrive, which is the goal.

Amber: Yep.

Jim: Well, this has been really great. We’ve gotta come back next time and we’re gonna talk about more triggers-

Amber: Yes.

Jim: … and, uh, uh, hopefully… Uh, you know, some of this is a little lighthearted, some of it’s very serious-

Amber: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … as you just described. And our goal here at Focus is to make sure that your marriage is doing as well as it can do, especially as Christians. You look at the culture right now, we need to be, uh, committed to the Lord in our marriages. People are watching-

Amber: Yeah.

Jim: … and they wanna see, is it really something different? Do they really love each other the way they’re supposed to? And uh, I think it’s a wonderful challenge. It’s not something to shrink back from. It’s a good thing. Let’s show the world what Jesus does in our marriages, because they’re that different from those that don’t know the Lord. And I would love for you to get a copy of the book. If you can become a monthly sustaining partner for Focus on the Family, uh, that would be great. It really helps us out to know month to month what the budget is and can be. I’ll send you a copy of Marriage Triggers as our way of saying thank you. And if you can’t do that monthly, we get it. Uh, a one-time gift is also deeply appreciated, and we’ll get the book out to you for that gift, as well. And you’ve heard me say it before, but if you can’t afford it, we’ll get it to you, ’cause we believe in the content. Just call us and we will trust that other donors will take care of the cost. Uh, we care about you. We believe in the content we put out here at Focus on the Family, and we want you to have the best marriage you can possibly have in this world.

John: Yeah, so get in touch and please let us know how we can help you. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Amber, Guy, Jean, uh, can you come back?

Guy: Absolutely.

Amber: Yes, we’d love to.

Jean: Absolutely.

Jim: Okay. You sure you wanna come back?

Jean: (laughs) Yes.

Jim: Okay, let’s do that.

John: And you’re sure you want her to come back?

Jim: Absolutely (laughs). I love it, I love it when Jean is here.

John: Well, we’ll continue next time with, uh, a look at Jim and Jean’s marriage (laughs) and hopefully give you some more practical advices from the Lia’s. Thanks for joining us today. On behalf of Jim and the team, uh, I’m John Fuller and do plan to be with us next time as we continue the conversation, and once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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