Focus on the Family Broadcast

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

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. We’ve got to start fixing me.”

John Fuller: Well today we’re all about marriage and Amber Lia joins us on Focus on the Family, along with your 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 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 (laughs) moments like, “Do I have to tell you again where the milk is?” (laughs) You know?

John: Or I’m so sorry.

Jim: Or worse.

John: Yeah.

Jim: But the irritating things, right?

John: Mm-hmm.

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…

John: (laughs)

Jim: … 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.

Jim: And uh, I’ve asked Jean, my wonderful wife and, uh, accountability partner… (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Jean: (laughs)

Jim: … 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.

Amber: (laughs)

John: And, uh, they’ve written a book together called Marriage Triggers: Exchanging Spouses’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses. And we have that here at the ministry. Give us a call, 800-A-FAMILY or stop by to get your copy.

Jim: Welcome each and every one of you.

Amber: (laughs) Thank you.

Guy Lia: Tha- 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…

John: (laughs) Who’s going first?

Guy: Well, yeah.

Jim: Let’s put their hand up.

Amber: Emphasis on the word little.

Guy: (laughs)

Amber: We had a little bit of a honeymoon period…

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: … but not, 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 going to be the fun room suddenly turned into the baby’s room.

Jean: (laughs)

Guy: And, you know, all that 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.

John: (laughs)

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

Amber: Yeah.

Guy: Uh, no-

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

Amber: Yeah.

Guy: It, uh, uh, I, it still is, I’ll, I’ll admit that-

John: (laughs)

Guy: … can still be a thing because we-

Jim: Best foot forward.

Guy: 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’m very happy thinking one or two steps ahead and being in the moment. And so we-

Jim: Yeah.

Guy: … we have to continually find that balance for ourselves.

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.

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

Jim: (laughs) Really?

Guy: (laughs)

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, you know?

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Amber: Our wedding photo and, you know, make room for when baby comes and all of that and the-

Jim: (laughs)

Amber: … planner in me…

Jim: The big wall of pictures.

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: The big wall of pictures and I thought on a Saturday, this is going to be amazing. We will all lay it out.

Jim: (laughs)

Amber: We’ll do all the measuring, Guy will do all the hammering. And he woke up-

Jim: Run, Guy. Run.

Jean: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Amber: … ready to watch the football game, you know?

Jean: What?

Amber: And he was like, “Whoa.”

Jim: An excellent choice.

Amber: “Wait a minute here.”

Guy: Was, was the Notre Dame USC football game.

Jean: Oh.

Guy: And that’s what I had planned.

Jim: You don’t wanna miss that one.

Amber: First the game.

Jim: Amber.

Amber: I know.

Guy: Planned for weeks for that day.

Jean: The baby is coming.

Amber: That’s right. So-

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

Amber: … we just had different perspectives-

John: (laughs)

Jean: (laughs)

Amber: … on what was important at the time. And because we didn’t, at the time, have the communication skills to work through those-

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: … things together, which we want to 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-

Jean: (laughs)

John: … the pictures or did the game get watched?

Amber: Oh, yes. The wall-

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

Jean: Oh.

Guy: … I think we-

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

Jean: Yes.

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

Guy: It, it ended up in the book. So it’s still… (laughs)

Amber: Yeah. (laughs)

Guy: It still exists as one of those days.

Jean: Yes.

Guy: It was a pivotal day for us.

Amber: Yeah.

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

Amber: Yeah.

Jim: (laughs)

Jean: Tell us about that.

Jim: That’s a big statement.

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

Jean: Mm-hmm.

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

Jean: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Amber: 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.” I mean, 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 that I wondered, “How is this going to happen? How are we going to navigate this for the rest of our lives?” And it wasn’t until God started working on me personally, after I nagged and argued and yelled for a really 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.”

Jean: Yes.

Amber: “And so, as long as you continue 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.

Amber: Because the minute that you say, I do, you do become a match made in Heaven. And so that’s what I had to come to.

Jean: Yes.

Amber: It 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 p- two people that are sinful. We need to yield to being perfected in Christ day by day. And that’s what’s going to make us right for each other.”

Jim: You know, Amber, as you describe that, one of the things that, that certainly Jean and I have encountered, 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 outta your ears.

Amber: Yes.

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.

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?

Amber: Yeah. The pain-

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: … 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 fork in the road in your relationship. You gotta decide if that’s where you want to live.

Guy: Yeah and y-

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) What?

Guy: … prideful me first-

Jean: Right.

Guy: … I want to 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 and I need to be more loving.

Jim: Yes.

Guy: If I 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.

Jim: I mean, obviously.

Jean: Yeah.

Jim: Let’s go to some of the triggers in the book.

Amber: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … because I want to hit those.

Amber: Yes.

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

Guy: Yeah.

Jim: And Jean wants-

Amber: Yeah.

Jim: … to tell the world about all of my, you know…

Amber: (laughs)

Guy: (laughs)

Jim: … stuff.

John: It’ll be a separate extra.

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

Jean: That’s triggering me.

Jim: I see the list. (laughs) It’s going to the floor there, what’s-

Jean: (laughs)

Jim: But one of the things, uh, 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 and you and Jean are… (laughs)

Amber: You know, it’s a combination…

Jim: Is it-

Amber: … of things.

Jean: Mm-hmm.

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

Jean: Mm-hmm.

Amber: Sometimes the house is very clean. Wives will tell their husbands when they, you know, are coming after being gone from work or whatever, and we’ll say the house is clean. It’s just cluttered.

Jean: That’s right.

Amber: It’s messy. (laughs) 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 (laughs) 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, you really have to live a day in your spouse’s shoes, I think, to understand how challenging it is to maintain a home. And especially if there are children involved too, they have more stuff. And all of a sudden, you don’t know where to put that stuff. And it’s just life.

John: Mm-hmm.

Amber: But it, we can choose to respond every time. When I see the clutter, I used to just get huff and puff. That’s what I’d do. It’s just, “Ha,” you know, “again, there’s all this stuff left out. None of this is mine. Why is this all here? Guy, why is your stuff here?” (laughs) “Kids, why is your stuff here?” And I would immediately, like, go into a place of frustration. 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.”

John: (laughs)

Amber: 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 want to keep reacting. I want to 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, four kids at home that 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 got off work and I should come into a house that’s clean and ready.” And, you know, and I’d be frustrated or I wouldn’t say anything.

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

Guy: And I would, and I would allow the, 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 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 concentrating on yourself, thinking about what your attitude is, going into something, I think you can get a better understanding of what you’re walking into with your spouse.

Amber: And he would do that also. He would call me on the way home…

Jean: Yeah.

Amber: … from work. He got in the habit of doing that 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) to walk into that room.

Guy: Yeah, yeah.

Jean: That’s good. That’s good.

Amber: That was one thing we did.

Guy: I’d take a moment…

Jim: (laughs)

Guy: … either in traffic or right out in front of the house, while in the car, just, “How’s it going?”

Amber: (laughs)

Guy: “What, what, what am I walking into?”

Amber: “What do you need help with?”

Guy: Just so I know.

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-

Jean: (laughs)

John: … I was walking into something.

Guy: Yeah, exactly.

Jim: Sounds more like military communication.

John: (laughs)

Guy: (laughs)

Jim: “We got four zombies sitting right there. Look out when you come in the door.”

Amber: That’s right. Yes, yes, prepare yourself…

Jim: I mean, that’s crazy.

Amber: … for the landmines.

Jim: Okay, well that was very good of the ladies on this, uh, house being cleaned 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.

Jim: Right, Jean?

Guy: Yeah.

Jim: I’ll confess it.

Amber: Me too.

Jean: (laughs)

Jim: I can be a backseat driver.

Jean: Absolutely.

Jim: (laughs)

Jean: But…

Amber: (laughs)

Jean: But we, yes…

Amber: She didn’t hesitate much there.

Jean: 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…

John: (laughs)

Guy: (laughs)

Jim: Okay, let’s move on to the next triggers.

Guy: Yeah, I mean you talked about it.

Jim: Guy, there was early in your marriage, you had a driving experience, I think, with the two of you.

Guy: Yeah.

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

Guy: Yeah, we were, you know, we, we, 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: Yeah.

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.

Guy: … this immediate-

Amber: I panicked. (laughs)

Guy: … lash out at me. And I’m like, “Well, it wasn’t me, it was him.”

Jean: (laughs)

Guy: “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.

Guy: Clearly would have hit the guy.

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

Guy: Yeah, clearly.

Amber: I am now.

Guy: However…

Jean: Because it’s scary.

Amber: I wasn’t then, but I am now.

Jim: Yes.

Guy: The principle, uh, is, and we, we didn’t necessarily work it out that night as successfully.

Jim: (laughs)

Jean: (laughs)

Guy: 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 we were in danger.

Jim: It was a trigger.

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 in my bad driving. She was actually lashing out at her sense of safety for our four kids that were in the back seat 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 allowed me to accept her prompts-

Amber: … anxiety. (laughs)

Guy: … and the anxiety 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: Yeah, it 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 going to have to drive together a lot for the next-”

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: “… however many years. We’ve got to figure this out.” So I was like, “Okay, I’m going to 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.”

Guy: That’s great.

Amber: And I will try to allow my anxieties to take a backseat, you know?

Jim: Yeah. And, but the question is, how did you control your tongue? That’s what all of this is about, right?

Amber: I, uh, a couple of things.

Guy: This is, yeah.

Amber: 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.

Jim: Were these instructional driving podcasts?

Amber: (laughs)

Jean: (laughs)

Guy: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Amber: Yes, that would, that was-

John: Focus on the Family podcast, no doubt.

Amber: See, we should have come here back then. That was a good idea.

Guy: Those, those calming videos, like…

Jean: Yes.

Guy: … just picture the blue skies and you are…

Amber: Wa- 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.

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.

Jim: That’s a great move actually.

Jean: (laughs)

Amber: 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.

Amber: Let it go.

Jean: That’s good. It’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 to get your copy. And for those just joining us, the triggers idea is that I’m having a reaction, but it’s kind of the tip of the iceberg, right? There’s something else going on perhaps, that’s kinda coming forth. Is that fear?

Amber: Yeah, a fear, for sure. Fear, um, anxiety, uh, a sense of lack of control. Even positive change can cause some measure of stress in a relationship where you’re more easily, um, set off by things that your spouse is doing.

Guy: Well, the book, the book is split up into internal triggers and external triggers…

Amber: Yeah.

Guy: … for a reason. Um, all those things are, you know, encompassed in both of those.

Amber: Mm-hmm. Right.

Jean: And Amber, I can relate to this next trigger. Actually, I can relate to all the triggers.

Jim: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Jean: Frankly, but, um-

Jim: Oh, we’re signing off.

Amber: (laughs)

Jim: Thank you for joining Focus on the Family.

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.

Amber: And for us, I thought it was going to be a lot of security financially, white picket fence.

Jean: Mm-hmm.

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. And so-

Jim: (laughs)

Amber: … I had this idol of, you know, closeness and intimacy that he was going to do things my way, we were going to be on the same page. And when that didn’t happen It caused me to become really bitter. And so, no matter what Guy would say or do, he couldn’t get it right.

Jim: Right.

Jean: Yes.

Amber: And that is a really dangerous place to be, 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, the, 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 recognize that is so unfair, only Jesus, only God can read our minds. (laughs)

Jim: And I am not God.

John: (laughs)

Guy: (laughs)

Jim: I know that every day.

Jean: It’s okay, and you should sit down with your spouse and during the season and say, “Okay, this is really what my expe- expectations are for my birthday.” Or…

Jim: (laughs)

Jean: … or for when-

Amber: Yeah.

Jean: … you come home for work or, “These are my expectations for when I come home for work. And how can we get there?”

Jim: The birthday one’s funny you should bring that up.

Amber: (laughs)

Jim: Because one-

John: (laughs)

Jim: … 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.

Jean: Mm-hmm. Yes.

Jim: Very, very crisp, bright attitude. I thought, “Oh wow, take 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.

Jean: Mm-hmm.

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

Jean: (laughs)

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

Amber: Yeah.

Jean: Well, and-

Jim: Well, I thought you said-

John: (laughs)

Amber: (laughs)

Jean: (laughs)

Jim: Uh, what I heard was you didn’t want-

Amber: I heard something different than you said apparently.

Jean: Yes.

Amber: (laughs)

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-

Jim: Swing and a miss.

Jean: … I remember, 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?

John: What I meant-

Jim: I’m sorry.

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 wanted a cake.

Amber: An acknowledgement, yeah.

Jean: I wanted, you know, dinner.

Amber: Yeah.

Jean: (laughs) yeah.

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

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 day off her birthday.

Amber: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: So we thought, “Wow, that is so kind of mom. How selfless.”

Jean: But I felt that, I will say, I mean, truly after that, there, I was able to say to Jim, “Okay, these are my expectations for my birthday.”

Amber: Yeah.

John: (laughs)

Jean: It was I want-

Amber: You work it out.

Jean: … I want, can you…

Jim: Necessity.

Jean: … work with the boys to make a handwritten cards and…

Jim: Now, you guys had this-

Amber: Yeah.

Jim: … with Christmas, right?

Amber: We did.

Jim: Your first or second Christmas…

Amber: Yes.

Jim: … you had a-

Amber: … our first Christmas.

Jim: … stocking battle?

Amber: Right. I mean, uh, we were so excited we were going to do stockings. W- you, you say it Guy ’cause (laughs)

Guy: Yeah, I was-

Jim: You did it.

Amber: You did it.

Guy: I was so excited when she wanted to do stockings. I was really excited that, that was going to be a, 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, 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, I pulled out a-

Guy: … way… We were so…

Amber: … red feather boa and I was pretty sure that-

Guy: Yeah.

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

Jim: The beginning of the end.

Jean: Oh.

Guy: Yeah.

Amber: Because I mean-

Guy: It was very different.

Amber: … 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 in two different planets here.”

John: 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.

Guy: That’s right.

Jim: Having that high, high, 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 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 and being open to trusting God with my marriage 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 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 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.”

Jim: (laughs)

Amber: “We’ve got to start fixing me.” (laughs)

John: And that brings us to the close of today’s Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. And our guests were Guy and Amber Lia, along with Jean Daly. And they offered some great insights for couples in just about any season of marriage, I think. And I trust that the conversation has really spoken to you and given you some solid handles in your relationship.

Jim: Amber and Guy had great wisdom and practical thoughts for working through some of the little things in marriage that really get under your skin. You know what I’m talking about. And here at Focus on the Family, we care about your marriage. We work tirelessly to highlight content like this so you can have a healthy, thriving connection with your spouse.

John: Yeah, and if you’re finding yourself struggling, we also have Hope Restored, our marriage intensives for couples who need some extra intervention to help with the relationship.

Jim: The Hope Restored team does such a wonderful job, John, for broken marriages. Some couples report the intensive was like a year’s worth of counseling in just a few days. And we follow up with those folks who attend. After two years, 81%, it’s moved up a notch.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: 81% of the couples have a better relationship and a stronger one and more satisfying too. And I love the work that’s going on there at Hope Restored. If you’re not in a spot of brokenness, though, we have many other resources to help strengthen your marriage. Guy and Amber’s book, for example, Marriage Triggers: Exchanging Spouses’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses is a great place to start. You can get that through Focus on the Family. In fact, when you become a monthly partner of Focus on the Family, and no amount is too small, we’ll send you a copy of Marriage Triggers as our way of saying thank you for your sustaining support. Uh, you’ll help rescue couples from divorce, equip parents to raise godly children, stop abortion, and save mothers and babies. I mean, it’s a great investment. Uh, we’re looking for thousand people to join us in this ministry. If you care deeply about families, why not become a friend of Focus on the Family? And of course, if you can’t commit to a monthly amount, we’ll send Amber and Guy’s book to you for a one time gift as well.

John: Yeah, join the support team and request your copy of the book, Marriage Triggers. We’ve got all the details at Or call 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Well, tomorrow we’ll have more of this conversation with Guy and Amber Lia and Jean Daly. And, uh, for now, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Marriage Triggers: Exchanging Spouses' Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

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