Focus on the Family Broadcast

Loving Your Spouse in the Midst of Parenthood

Loving Your Spouse in the Midst of Parenthood

Patrick Schwenk and his wife, Ruth, offer help for maintaining a thriving marriage amidst the demands of parenthood in a discussion based on their book, For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse With Kids in the House.
Original Air Date: October 27, 2017


Ruth Schwenk: We’ve tried to help them understand that marriage is really important in our home. And, I think we wanna be an example to our children, not just to the world, but to our children. They’re gonna remember how we, uh, made our marriage a priority in our home.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s Ruth Schwenk, and she her husband, Pat, join us today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Yeah, John, here at Focus we are big proponents of marriage and parenting. Uh, it’s kind of the bread and butter of what we do in the name of Christ. Uh, it’s the very heart of who we are, strengthening families so that they can thrive. Uh, sometimes that transition from marriage to parenting can be a little sticky and have some difficulty attached to it. And we tend to forget about our spouse and concentrate on our children. So, often, we, we call that a kid-focused home, right, rather than a marriage-centric home. Uh, it doesn’t have to be that way, and frankly, it’s not healthy to stay in that place. Uh, you can love your spouse even with kids in the home. Uh, Patrick and Ruth have lived through this. And being the parents of four children, they’ve been put to the test. Tyler, Bella, Noah, Sophia are their kids, and they’re doing it. They are making it happen. And we’re gonna hear more from them today about how to be a marriage-centric home, even with children.

John: Hm, and, uh, Pat is a pastor, and Ruth blogs about her motherhood adventures. They’ve been married for 19 years and have been in full-time ministry for, uh, over 17 of those years. They’ve also written a book called For Better or for Kids.

Jim: (laughs)

John: Which is a great title-

Ruth: (laughs)

Jim: It is good one.

John: … and that’s the foundation for our conversation today.

Jim: Pat and Ruth, welcome to Focus. Uh, Ruth, welcome back, actually.

Ruth: Thank you.

Jim: It’s good to have you. Pat, first time.

Patrick Schwenk: Yes, it sure is.

Jim: Are you nervous?

Patrick: No, not at all.

Jim: (laughs)

Patrick: Not at all.

Ruth: (laughs)

Patrick: Not at all. No, it’s-

Jim: Yeah, most husbands comin’ in here, I mean, it’s like, wow, okay, what are they gonna ask us?

Ruth: (laughs)

Patrick: Yeah.

Jim: But this is a great story. It’s, uh, an important one.

Patrick: Mm-hmm.

Jim: You’re a pastor.

Patrick: Yes.

Jim: And, uh, I love that perspective that you’ll bring, in terms of the scripture and how it enlightens us. Uh, but your expectation of an ideal marriage was kind of dashed the morning of your wedding, right?

Ruth: Uh, yeah.

Jim: Uh, what happened? I mean, I love these wedding stories. I do wanna do a book someday-

Ruth: (laughs)

Jim: … just on, you know, wedding stories and-

John: Weddings gone wrong.

Patrick: Wrong [crosstalk]. (laughs)

Jim: Yeah, and, uh, honeymoon stories.

Ruth: (laughs)

Jim: Because it’s, it’s rare to have it go perfectly.

Ruth: Well, I, I don’t know what in me thought it was a good idea to get married really early in the morning. So, I wasn’t thinking-

Jim: (laughs). I, I, I thought you were gonna end the sentence right there.

Ruth: No. (laughs).

Patrick: (laughs).

Jim: I’m so sorry. Now, we’re doing counseling.

Patrick: I just instantly broke out in a cool sweat, yeah.

John: That’s a marriage program.

Ruth: (laughs).

Jim: Continue, please.

Patrick: Now, I’m nervous, yeah.

Ruth: But it takes so long to get ready, and all together, so-

Jim: (laughs) What time was this?

Ruth: Well, I think it was at 10:00.

Jim: Yeah, that’s pretty early.

Ruth: Don’t tell … Okay, I don’t know if I really remember the exact time, but it was either 10:00 or 11:00.

Patrick: I think it was 11:00, but it was before noon.

Ruth: Okay, well, I say 10:00-

Jim: (laughs)

Patrick: It was too early.

Ruth: He says 11:00.

Jim: Before lunch.

Patrick: Yeah.

Ruth: You know-

Jim: Okay.

Ruth: … it’s 19 years ago, but I got up at like 4:00 in the morning, and I don’t do so well early in the morning, so-

Jim: (laughs)

Ruth: … I for- kind of forgot about that, and I started to feel sick as I was ge- They were doing my hair, and I wasn’t feeling so well, so we have a picture of me sitting in the back of the car on the way to the wedding ceremony. I had my wedding dress on. My hair is all done, my makeup, and I have a towel over me and a huge pot in my lap, because I thought I was going to get sick.

Jim: (laughs)

Ruth: It was awful.

Jim: Oh man. I thought you were going to say you had a pot of coffee.

Ruth: Oh no.

Jim: (laughs)

Ruth: No. That, that is, uh, it didn’t start out, uh, just like I thought it would, but it all worked out.

Jim: Did it get better?

Ruth: It did get better.

Jim: (laughs)

Patrick: (laughs)

Ruth: Thankfully, everything was o-

Jim: Let’s say the ceremony. Did it go well?

Ruth: Yes. Everything went well, but the road leading up to that did not go so well, but …

Jim: So, that was kind of the, uh, kind of the imagery of what marriage was shaping up for you.

Ruth: Yeah.

Jim: Like, like, chaos.

Ruth: I thought, this is going to be beautiful and wonderful. And then I felt really sick.

Jim: Yeah.

Patrick: I, I think we stopped by, uh, my groomsmen and I were, were on the way to the church, and we actually stopped by, uh, her parents’ house and so-

Jim: You’re not supposed to do that, you know?

Ruth: (laughs)

Patrick: We’re not supposed to do that, and I just remember, uh, in the wee hours of the morning, seeing Ruth darting out of the house, carrying this large, you know, cooking pot, like the kind you make loads of chili in-

Jim: (laughs)

Patrick: … and she was just running from the house to the car, and, uh, knew right then and there that-

Jim: (laughs) You were in trouble.

Patrick: … that marriage was, yeah, going to be very different than what I thought.

Jim: (laughs) I bet.

John: Yeah, the, the, the luster was, uh, erased pretty quickly, wasn’t it?

Patrick: Yes, absolutely.

Ruth: Right.

Jim: W- why do you think marriage is so important to God? I’ve asked this of marriage experts almost always. Why do you think he did it this way?

Patrick: Yeah. That’s a great, great question. Um, I think, you know, what you see at the very beginning of the Bible is God creating that first man, and throughout Genesis 1, as you guys know, you know, everything he’s creating, he’s declaring to be good. And, uh, then, for the first time, we see in Genesis 2 that something that he created, uh, was not good. He looks at that first man and says, “This is not good. It’s not good for a man to be alone,” and he gifts him with uh, a wife, with a spouse. The, the two of them get to do life together. There’s something special about doing life together that reflects who God is.

Jim: Yeah.

Patrick: Yeah. And, of course, we come to the New Testament and read Paul’s words in Ephesians 5 that there’s something good about marriage, not just because of what we get out of it-

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Patrick: … but because of what God is doing, uh, to a watching world or for a watching world that in some way our marriage has a greater mission to put God on display to those around you. And, you know, we oftentimes ask that question of ourselves. Is our marriage telling the truth about who God is?

John: Hm.

Jim: Wow.

Patrick: And, uh, and, so, I think that it, it for whatever reason, God in his wisdom, in his goodness, gives us this beautiful gift of marriage, the sharing of life together, not just for the sake of one another, but ultimately, uh, to reflect his glory, his goodness, his love for us to a watching world.

Jim: Oh, and I love that picture, because it makes you want to relate to your spouse m- more wisely-

Patrick: Right.

Jim: … you know, than perhaps we do right now.

Patrick: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Even in Christian, you know, community.

Patrick: Yeah.

Jim: Um, in your book, For Better or for Kids, uh you mention why we need to look at our spouse as a gift from God. Now, (laughs) I’m just hearing somebody just go, “Oh, really? You don’t know my husband.”

Patrick: (laughs)

Jim: “Man, he can never find the spot where all the dirty clothes go, and it’s d- been this way for 15 years. It’s driving me crazy, and the way he eats, and the way he does everything.” (laughs)

Patrick: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, you get, you could fill in the blank. There’s exasperation. (laughs) They’re just going, uh, I have to look at him, or I have to look at her as a gift from God? Well, God, you sent the wrong gift. FedEx got this messed up.

Patrick: (laughs)

Ruth: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Ruth: Yeah, actually, just this past week on Instagram, I asked my followers to think about their spouse and why they are a gift to them. And it was pretty amazing to see all the responses and how thankful they were-

Jim: In a good way.

Ruth: Yes, in a good way.

Jim: Good. That’s encouraging. (laughs)

Ruth: You know, that, well, that they were able to say, “This is what I am thankful for.” You know, obviously, there’s things that we don’t agree on, or things that bother us or exasperate us, but really seeing the gift they are to us I think changes our perspective on them.

Jim: How do we s- maintain that kind of an approach to think-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … dwell on those things which are good? (laughs)

Ruth: Well, I think it’s a constant battle-

Jim: Yeah.

Ruth: … just like, you know, against self, and selfishness, and just being thankful, uh, for the ways that, you know, Pat blesses me. He’s an encouragement to me. I know that he, he’s always there to cheer me on. Those types of things, if I can keep remembering those things, it’s a constant battle, but it’s just being intentional about trying to remember that.

Jim: (laughs) Yeah, and of course, if Pat, you keep remembering to do those things.

Patrick: Absolute- Well, yeah. Uh-

Ruth: Or I might remind him.

Patrick: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Patrick: I get a few reminders.

Jim: That’s sweet.

Patrick: I, I think it’s, you know, I think w- we’ll either use our difference to compete with one another or complement one another.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Patrick: And I think that there, there’s a reason why God has gifted us with the spouse that we have. And I can either choose to look at those differences and feel superior, feel better, um, be resentful, or I can look at those differences and go, you know what? That, in God’s wisdom, uh, he’s gifted me with Ruth for a reason, and, um, she is meant to complement me. She is meant to supply my weakness with her strength.

Jim: And I love that approach. I love that concept, and for us, as men, to keep that in mind-

Patrick: Yeah.

Jim: … well, both men and women-

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … but men particularly, we need to be reminded of that, what God has done for us.

Patrick: Yeah.

Jim: And it’s so critically important. We’ve laid a g- a really good foundation for the marriage side-

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and the importance of it, and God’s design, so, then he says, “Okay, be humble. Be selfless. This is why I brought, uh, usually an opposite-”

Patrick: (laughs)

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Jim: “… into your heart and-”

Patrick: Yeah.

Jim: “… into your love.” And, then he says, “Okay, now, you’re going to have some kids.”

Ruth: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Patrick: (laughs)

Jim: This is God’s plan for you.

John: Now, it’s a lot harder. (laughs)

Patrick: Yeah, yeah, that’s right.

Jim: And the dynamics begin to change everything in the household. Uh, describe early years of parenting, and what’s going on there, and the chaos of it.

Ruth: Yeah. It, it was, uh, my kids are getting a little bit older, so our youngest is eight now. Um, but it’s still crazy. It’s just a different season. Um, but when they were little, I mean, I felt like I was just trying to get through the day. And then Pat comes home from work, and he wants dinner on the table, and-

Jim: (laughs)

Ruth: … I can’t even, you know, I’m just really tired. I just need a nap, and so, I think, you know, it is, it is a wake-up call during those years that-

Jim: Yes.

Ruth: … that we really really have to fight for our marriage.

Jim: Yeah.

Ruth: This is, this is serious.

Jim: How long do those years last? (laughs)

Ruth: Wow. You know what? No, um, actually, I’ll tell you what. I feel like I can finally take a big, deep breath.

Jim: Your kids are now …

Ruth: My youngest is eight.

Jim: Yeah.

Ruth: Um, and we’re busy in a different way. I mean, they have different activities.

Jim: Yeah.

Ruth: They’re getting older. Um, but I’m not as-

Jim: A little more self-sufficient.

Ruth: Right, and I can get sleep at night. And honestly-

Jim: (laughs)

Ruth: … wow. That can make a big difference.

Patrick: (laughs) That alone is a gift, yeah.

Jim: There, there you go. That’s the deepest spiritual truth you’ve ever-

Ruth: Right?

Jim: … stumbled across.

Patrick: (laughs)

Ruth: (laughs)

Jim: Be well-rested.

Patrick: Yes.

Jim: Patrick, you were actually, uh, I think, into watching a football game, which I can so relate to-

Patrick: Yeah.

Jim: … on one Saturday, I think Michigan.

Patrick: Yes, go blue. Go blue.

Jim: I don’t know why you’d want to waste your time on that, but-

Ruth: (laughs)

Patrick: (laughs)

Jim: But, uh, watching a college football game.

Patrick: Yeah.

Jim: What took place? How did the Lord get ahold of your heart with that?

Patrick: Well, yeah, it, it was a, a scary moment. I, I was, actually, I was preparing to watch a Michigan game-

Jim: It’s always scary to watch a Michigan game.

Patrick: (laughs)

Jim: No, it’s easy.

Ruth: (laughs)

Jim: I’m only teasing everybody. I’m just joking.

Patrick: No, we were, Ruth was actually running to the store. I think she was going to run to the grocery store, and I was given the assignment, and I mean that in the kindest way-

Ruth: (laughs)

Patrick: … I was given the assignment, the responsibility of, of mowing the yard while she was gone. And, at the time, we just had two kids, uh, Tyler and Bella. And I, I don’t remember how old they were, but they weren’t terribly old.

Patrick: And, uh, and so, I gave them, uh, you know, very good instructions to stay in their room, gave them Legos to play with, and I gave some dolls for Bella to play with, and to, you know, play dress up. And so, it was only going to take me about a half hour to do the yard, and so, I went out, and I was scurrying to get the yard mowed before Ruth got home before kickoff, and I was-

Jim: (laughs) Yeah, that’s the real truth.

Ruth: Right? (laughs)

Jim: Forget Ruth, right?

Patrick: (laughs)

Ruth: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Ruth: Right.

Patrick: And I was almost done. I was on the last leg, and we just, a block away, we had these railroad tracks, and the, the road came over. And, I remember turning to the left, and I could see Ruth just coming up over the railroad tracks and getting ready to turn right into our street, and as I continued turning left, uh, I also saw Bella, uh, our youngest, a- at the time, uh, walking down the sidewalk, uh, carrying a large, yellow umbrella, and the problem was, is that she was supposed to be inside playing dress up, but she d- tr- decided to, to dress down, and I saw her walking down the sidewalk with a big, yellow umbrella, completely unclothed.

Ruth: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Patrick: And so, you can imagine the terror.

Jim: This is every mother’s fear, you know?

John: (laughs)

Ruth: [crosstalk]-

Patrick: Yes. So-

Ruth: And we lived, yeah.

Jim: You’re killing us, as dads.

John: (laughs)

John: Never trusting you to watch the kids again.

Jim: Pat is killing us.

Patrick: Yeah. (laughs)

Jim: The father’s union wants to talk to you.

Patrick: Yeah. I didn’t know whether I was going to-

Jim: (laughs)

Patrick: … Ruth was going to kick me out of the house first, or I was going to get arrested, but, uh, so that’s, uh-

Jim: (laughs)

Patrick: … sort of the, the moment I knew that as much as we loved being parents, and what a gift our kids were, this was hard stuff. Uh, thi- this was a challenge. Kids are unpredictable-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Patrick: … and they really do disrupt, in many ways, uh, that marriage relationship-

Jim: Yeah.

Patrick: … that they do join us in the journey of marriage, and we have to work, uh, to keep them from coming between us, uh-

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Patrick: … in the journey of marriage.

Jim: Just a little tip, its playpen, either right side up if they’re young-

John: (laughs)

Jim: … upside down if they’re older.

Ruth: (laughs)

Jim: Just telling you, with a rock on it, maybe, if necessary.

Patrick: Yeah.

John: (laughs)

Jim: So, Ruth is the mom, coming home, and seeing this. I’m not going to let the story go.

John: (laughs)

Ruth: Yeah.

Jim: So, what was your angelic response to Pat?

Ruth: (laughs)

Jim: Yes, you know?

Ruth: I think it was like, what are you doing?

Jim: (laughs)

Ruth: I mean, I can’t even go to the grocery store and-

Patrick: I’ve blocked it out of my memory. I don’t remember.

Ruth: … right, everything falls apart. Yeah. (laughs)

Jim: Every dad has heard this before, right?

Ruth: Oh. Can’t you keep it together?

Jim: So, you got through it, though?

Ruth: Yes. We did. We got through it, but I just, I love that picture of … I feel like that is just a picture of marriage, and young kids, and how everything can kind of, uh, fall out around you.

Jim: Yeah, it’s so true. Pat and Ruth, uh, you have mentioned a couple of times that it’s getting easier for you. Uh, how, how old’s your oldest?

Patrick: He’s 15.

Jim: So, 15 to 8-

Patrick: Yep.

Jim: … are the range of the kids. It is getting easier. It does get a little easier at that point. Self-sufficient. They can make a sandwich. (laughs)

Patrick: Yes. (laughs)

Ruth: (laughs) Yes.

Jim: Happiness. (laughs)

Patrick: (laughs)

Ruth: (laughs)

Jim: But, yeah, dial it back just a little bit when that demand was so high. What were some of the practical ways that you protected and guarded your marriage? Uh, maybe this will even sound uncomfortable, at the expense of your kids.

Ruth: Right.

Patrick: Yeah.

Ruth: Well, I think during that time, what was really helpful for me is that Pat didn’t look at me as the mom who had to do everything, but he actually came alongside me, and helped me in so many just normal, day-to-day tasks. That was huge for me-

Patrick: Yeah.

Ruth: … during that time. That really helped me get through.

Jim: That was an area I could have done a better job. How about you, John? You’re probably pretty good.

John: I, I delegated too much. (laughs)

Jim: You delegated. I could have come home and done better at that; you know?

John: Yeah.

Jim: But, uh, Patrick, way to go.

John: Yeah. (laughs)

Jim: You get the A. You get the A.

Ruth: A plus. (laughs)

Jim: And how about for you, Patrick? What were some practical ways that you protected the marriage in those-

Patrick: Yeah, I think-

Jim: … busy years and even today?

Patrick: Sure. You know, I think, um, for us, uh, like Ruth just said, we, we both went into that understanding that this is, uh, us laying down our life for one another, that, that, you know, Jesus calls a husband to lay down his life for his wife and his family, just as he did for the church. And so, I think us recognizing that this is something we had to do together, uh, that alone, uh, helped carry some of those heavy burdens early on. But I think one of the things we, we’ve done over the years is just redeemed the time that we do have. I think, oftentimes, we get so caught up in looking at all the time we don’t have in this busy season, and so I think looking at the time that we do have, um, that can go a long way. I mean, I know, um, you know, even still today, just Ruth and I going and walking the dog together, uh, is time that we do have. That’s something I’ve got to do every single day, multiple times a day, but we can take that ordinary, everyday event-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Patrick: … and use that, um, as time together. Uh, we oftentimes go to the grocery store together. Not, not super romantic, but again, just the two of us-

Jim: That one we all do. We all do that.

Ruth: (laughs)

Patrick: … going to the, to the grocery store, yeah.

Jim: Yeah.

Patrick: And again-

John: Yeah, but do you walk the aisles together, or do you, do you divide the list up and then meet at the end?

Ruth: Divide it.

Patrick: We, we divide it. It’s divide and conquer, yeah.

Ruth: But we still, we’re in the car on the way there together.

John: There you go.

Patrick: Yeah, and I think one of the things we’ve done as our kids have gotten older is kids start getting involved in sports, you know, activities, and extracurricular activities, we’ve done our best to live with limits. And I think one of the mistakes that we make as parents is thinking that we have to give our kids the best of everything. And I’m not sure that that’s always the best thing for them, in the long run. And so, I think we’ve been very intentional about saying, you know what? God, God does love marriage. He loves the family, and this time that we have together is so quick. It’s fleeting.

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Patrick: And so, we want to keep that a priority. It doesn’t mean that we become greedy with our time, but it does mean that we learn to live with limits, and that means that we need to say no to certain things that, uh, for us, practically, it means that our kids are not involved in four, five different events throughout the year, and there’s things that, that we have to say no to that you can be involved in this, but you can’t be involved in that. You’ve got three other siblings in the family. And so, I think those kinds of things, uh, can go a long ways, uh, to cutting down the business and helping us to live with, with greater energy for one another.

Jim: Yeah, and Pat, I got to re-emphasize that, because what you said there is really good-

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … that you don’t want to give your kids the best of everything if it costs you your relationship and your marriage.

Patrick: That’s right. That’s right.

Jim: That is something to walk away with today. That is well-said.

Patrick: Thank you.

John: Well, Pat and Ruth Schwenk are our guests today on Focus on the Family, and they’ve written a terrific book full of some great stories and practical tips for couples. It’s called For Better or for Kids, and, uh, you can get your copy at or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. And now, more of our conversation with Pat and Ruth Schwenk.

Jim: Y- you mentioned in the book, something about the missing vow.

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Jim: That caught my attention, because I thought-

Patrick: Yeah.

Jim: … well, they meant vowel, (laughs)-

Patrick: Yeah.

Jim: … but no, the missing vow. What is it?

Patrick: Yeah, well, you know, as a pastor, I’ve done all sorts of weddings, had the joy of doing weddings, and, and we’ve all been to weddings or officiated weddings. We’ve seen, you know, couples stand at the altar and make those vows to one another. I pledge to, you know, um, love you in sickness and in health, good times and bad times, uh, whether we’re rich or whether we’re poor, and the more I did that, as the years went on, I began to realize, boy, there’s a big vow that’s missing (laughs) that as kids join a couple, uh, in this journey that that’s, there’s a tremendous vow that we need to make, this vow to love one another with kids in the house. And it’s a missing vow for most of our ceremonies, and yet, it’s an important one.

Jim: That’s a great observation-

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … actually, when you think about it. We don’t include that. Uh, you had a little story that, that was so funny about you guys getting out and getting away to a restaurant just to kind of get away (laughs) from the kids.

Patrick: (laughs)

Ruth: (laughs)

Jim: Uh, this is going to resonate with every parent listening right now. What happened?

Ruth: Well, we were, we like to take date nights. Now that our kids are a little older, it’s a little bit easier, and, um, we said, the kids were asking where we were going, and why are you doing this, and why are you leaving right now? Well, we need to get away, and, and, I think our oldest son, Tyler, is like, “What, you want to get away from us?” Well, kind of. Right now, we do.

Jim: (laughs) You said it.

Patrick: Yeah.

Jim: You said it.

Ruth: (laughs)

John: To be honest …

Patrick: Yes. Exactly. Bingo.

Jim: How did he respond? What?

Patrick: Well, I think, I think that’s exactly what we said was exactly, yes, we are getting away from you.

Jim: (laughs)

Ruth: (laughs) Oh …

Jim: And did, did you have to patch up or wipe his tears away?

Patrick: No, no. Yeah. (laughs)

Ruth: No, I think they understand. You know, we’ve tried to help them understand that marriage is really important in our home, and I think we want to be an example to our children, not just to the world, but to our children, they’re going to remember how we, uh, made our marriage a priority in our home, so they were, he, he didn’t have to wipe any tears, definitely not.

John: Now, you’re, you’re telling us that your child’s not going to remember that Mom and Dad left us because they were tired of us?

Jim: (laughs)

Ruth: (laughs)

Jim: That’s right, yeah.

John: They’re going to see it as a positive modeling?

Jim: (laughs)

Ruth: Right, exactly.

Patrick: Love covers over a multitude of sins, yeah.

Ruth: But it, yeah, it was in jest, yes, so …

Jim: No, I’m sure it actually taught them a good lesson.

Ruth: Yeah.

John: Yeah.

Jim: Listen, we’re first. You’re second.

John: Yeah.

Patrick: Yeah.

Ruth: Yeah.

Jim: (laughs) I mean, our marriage is the core of the family.

Patrick: Well, yeah, yeah, and that is something that we, you know, we try to practice, but we also do, you know, talk about, and we feel like one of the greatest gifts that we can give our kids is a God-honoring marriage-

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Patrick: … and, and a healthy marriage-

John: Yeah.

Patrick: … that that will have an impact on them, uh, for years and years to come.

Jim: Now, let me put the pedal to you guys, because I think, in fact, the way we act sometimes is the opposite.

Patrick: Sure, yeah.

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Jim: That our kids are the most important thing, our marriage is actually second, because honey, we don’t have time to really concentrate on each other. Do you know how [inaudible] …?

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And it’s justifiable, from a rational standpoint. There’s lots of to-dos-

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and tasks that need to be done. And me loving you right now in the way you need me to love you may not just … It may not, I don’t have time.

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Jim: But that’s not a healthy way to look at it, is it? It’s the inverted, uh, position.

Patrick: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s, you know, one of the things that it is so, uh, counterintuitive, you know, is kids come along. You know, there is this shift in attention and affection from your spouse to your kids, and rightfully so. I mean, kids demand and deserve a lot of time, and energy, and attention, and affection. And so, I think the desire there for us to be great parents is a good thing. I think the dangerous thing is when that desire to be a good parent overshadows the desire to be a good spouse. And so, we want to protect that. We want to continue loving one another, uh, serving one another, making time for one another, uh, even when we’re trying to parent together.

Jim: Well, I, I hope people are hearing what you’re saying, because it is so critically important. Um, you suggest this idea of self-care, also, as a big part of the book. Describe for us self-care and what you’re getting at, not neglecting who you are.

Ruth: Right. That’s just taking time for yourself to be in God’s word, first and foremost. I mean, that has to be our priority is-

Jim: But you don’t know my time constraints.

Ruth: I know.

Jim: You know? You just don’t know how busy my life is.

Ruth: I know. I don’t.

John: (laughs)

Jim: … how busy my life is.

Ruth: Listen, I know. I know.

Jim: Help me, friend.

John: (laughs)

Ruth: Right, and here, we realize how many pockets of time are in our day, if we pay attention, you know? We’ve got five minutes here, five minutes there, and God says we can talk to him at any time, so-

Jim: Yeah. Just take a moment.

Ruth: Yeah. Just taking a moment, and honestly, I think, as a busy, busy mom, that’s what’s gotten me through, is that I know I don’t have to have an hour every morning to spend with God. I can spend five minutes here, and five minutes there, and certainly there may be a season that I can spend a whole hour.

Patrick: Yeah.

Ruth: But it’s just making sure that God is the priority in my life.

Jim: Ruth, let me ask this, um, as mom. You can carry a lot of guilt. Um, you know, I think men are much easier at saying, “Well, it’s the other person’s problem, not mine.”

Ruth: Yeah.

Jim: Women tend to own that. What have I not done?

Ruth: Right.

Jim: What am I not doing, as a mother? What am I not doing, as a wife? And then, that guilt just kind of compounds-

Ruth: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and you feel bad about yourself. Then, your self-care doesn’t happen, because it just kind of snowballs. And I know women listening are going, yeah, that’s me.

Ruth: Yeah.

Jim: I feel bad about every aspect of my life-

Ruth: (laughs) Yeah.

Jim: … because I can’t do it all perfectly.

Ruth: E- I feel-

Jim: Speak to that woman who’s there.

Ruth: As my children get older, I didn’t struggle so much with guilt when they were little, but as they get older, I start to think, oh no, did I totally mess them up in this area, or did I do this wrong? And, something that I’ve just tried to remember over the years is that no matter what I do, the only reason that my children turn out at all is all because of God’s grace, you know? And I, I didn’t even grow up in a Christian home, and he took care of me, so certainly, he’s going to take care of them.

Jim: And that’s a good thing to remember, that our imperfection is actually what he perfects. (laughs)

Ruth: Yes, absolutely.

Jim: It’s not our perfection that he perfects more.

Ruth: Right.

Jim: You know- … and that’s dangerous to run that line. You mention five commitments that matter in times of trial, and I think this is a good place to end the program.

Ruth: Yeah.

Jim: W- what are those five commitments that we should take away from, uh, your book, For Better or for Kids?

Patrick: No, that’s a g- Well, number one is this, is that we trust what God says, and not just how we feel. Uh-

Jim: Boy, that’s good.

Patrick: That, that’s such a, a critical, um point for us. We, we will pray and read God’s word together regularly. We will keep Christ at the center, remembering that he’s the one that gives us the resources that we need to keep marriage a priority, to parent well, um, that we’ll be selfless lovers. We’ll commit to doing that. And then, the final two …

Ruth: Well, the final two are, we’ll talk often. We’ll talk openly, and then, finally, we’ll not walk through this alone.

Patrick: Yeah.

Ruth: And, I think that’s really fighting for your marriage, even in the midst of all the uncertainties that life brings.

Jim: Yeah. Those are so good for married couples to remember.

Patrick: Mm-hmm.

Jim: That’s the place we’re living. It is the kind of spiritual direction that we need, uh, to get us not only through the child-rearing years, but also to the, uh, finish line-

Patrick: Yeah.

Jim: … where we’re celebrating 50, 60 years of marriage.

Patrick: That’s right.

Jim: And your kids and your grandkids-

Patrick: Yes.

Jim: … are saying, “Wow. How did they do that?” And, you have a testimony. We did it because of our commitment to God-

Patrick: Yeah.

Jim: … and his love for us.

Patrick: Absolutely.

John: What a great conversation with Patrick and Ruth Schwenk on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. And their message is so encouraging for couples in really any season, but especially those with children still in the home.

Jim: I love how they emphasized making marriage a priority in the midst of parenthood. That is so important. And, let me turn to you, the listener. Uh, I hope you know Focus on the Family is here for you. Uh, your marriage is important to us. I know it’s important to you, but we also, uh, want to be there with you and for you, because it’s important to God. We have great resources available to you, like Focus on the Family’s marriage assessment. I think over a million people have done that one, uh, John. It’s free. You can go, and take it, and it’ll identify those things you’re doing well at, and probably a couple things you could do better, and then give you some resources to help you in that area, it’s perfect. And, uh, you know, real families, just like, uh, yours and mine, tune into the broad cast looking for hope, and couples in crisis, broken families, struggling parents, lonely singles need encouragement, too. Uh, but it is that, uh, biblical guidance, that biblical hope, and practical help that we want to be there to provide. Uh, God is using your support to reach literally millions people each week as they tune into the broadcast, podcast, etc., and they hear the information and get an idea of the resources that will help them in their journey. You can share that hope by supporting the minister. Be a part of it. God sees that. He’s not blind to the fact that you’re sending resources to help touch people’s lives. So, I, with a smile on my face, I want to encourage you to be in with us. Uh, Jean and I support the ministry. Uh, you and Dena do, too.

John: We do, too, yes.

Jim: And it’s such a great way to touch people lives. You know, just recently, I was down in Arizona, John, and my brother and I, we happened to, uh, play golf. And, we were there, getting lunch after we had played, and this waitress came up to me and said, “Are you Jim Daly?”

John: Huh.

Jim: And she started to cry and just thank us. And, I want to say, thank you, indirectly, for changing her life. She said, “My marriage was saved by Focus. My kids were helped because of you and the ministry,” and what a great thing. It was making me cry.

John: (laughs)

Jim: And it, it’s not an ego thing at all. I felt very humbled by it but be a part of the ministry. The Lord puts you in that seat.

John: Yeah. Donate today, and give a gift of any amount, and we’ll make sure to send a copy of Patrick and Ruth’s great book, For Better or for Kids: A Vow to Love your Spouse with Kids in the House. It’s our way of saying thank you for joining the support team and making that kind of ministry that Jim just described possible. Donate, take the marriage assessment, and get that book. All the details are online,, or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Well, plan to join us tomorrow, as we hear from a dad of a child with special needs sharing how he learned to be honest with God through doubt and trials.


Jason Hague: And I think he’s waiting for us to tell him, just, would you just be honest about this thing? Just give it to me. I’m a really big God. I’ve seen a lot harder cases than you, so let’s just talk about it.

Today's Guests

For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse With Kids in the House

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