Becky Thompson: And I think, if we’re all honest, we have these lists that we’ve been keeping in our heart where, last night, I put the kids to bed and you didn’t help. You know what? Tonight it’s you. Or you know, you didn’t handle that situation the way I wish you would have handled that situation, and I’m still a little, you know, I have a little bit of unforgiveness about that.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Becky Thompson is back with us for another day here at Focus on the Family talking about how to find the balance between being a great mom and a great wife. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, we had a wonderful conversation with Becky last time exploring how husbands and wives can get stuck during those early parenting years. So much of your time and energy goes into taking care of those little children that you can stop paying attention to each other. And I think it’s one of the most critical aspects of, particularly, young marrieds with young children. And it can be a real drain and a breakup even of the marital relationship.
As we said last time, Becky’s advice is directed primarily to women, but she has a lot of great truth and advice for us men as well. And I want to encourage you to listen for how God might be speaking to you as a man, as well as that mom, about ways you can better love and serve one another. And contact us here at Focus on the Family if we can help your marriage. We’re here. Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t think we haven’t heard this. We’ve heard most things over the last 40 years.
And we’re here for you. You’re not going to be judged or anything like that. We have a great counseling team. We have Hope Restored, which is a marriage intensive experience. Most of these couples are couples that have signed divorce papers and they’re heading to end their marriage, but they come back. There is hope. And that’s the goal here.
If we can do that, we will reduce Christian divorce rate, maybe, by half if we can get there. So I’m excited about that initiative.
John: If you’d like to learn more about Hope Restored or other resources that we have to keep your marriage strong, the starting point is focusonthefamily.com/radio or give us a call, 800 the letter A and the word family. And one of the resources we should mention, Jim, is Becky’s book,Love Unending: Rediscovering Your Marriage In The Midst Of Motherhood.
Jim: Becky, welcome back to Focus on the Family.
Becky: Thank you so much for having me back.
Jim: I love it. I love a couple of things. One, you’re a fairly young married couple. Twelve years, right? But you’re figuring out some things that some of us have been married 20, 30 years still struggle with. And I love that. It’s refreshing, and, uh, especially to help moms get a better handle on the dynamics of being a young mom, and all the expectations and all those, um, swirling things that load guilt onto you.
And you said that last time. If you didn’t get a chance to hear the program last time, get the download. Get the app. It’s an easy way to listen by phone. But I loved what you were saying there because it was encouraging, that this – don’t let this be overwhelming, but lay it out there. Understand what the dynamics are. Let’s kick that off right there. Recap yesterday, just in terms of love first and what you meant by love first.
Becky: Well you know, I think as moms, we get so focused on our children and so focused on life at home, you know – if we are stay-at-home moms, even work-at-home moms – we get so focused on our role as mother that we lose ourselves as wives.
And so it would be wonderful if our husbands could come home and sweep us off our feet and at the end of the day we could have this romance. But the reality is our husbands are also tired. So who’s gonna put out the effort to love first? Who’s gonna start that cycle that sometimes gets stuck in early motherhood and never gets going again? Who’s gonna make the initiative?
The truth is, we can love because Christ first loved us – and maybe not because our husbands first loved us – we can love in response to God’s love. And so while it would be great for our husbands to put out that initiative, if they don’t, then we can actually love our husbands first.
Jim: That is a great summary. Becky, let me ask you this, though. When you said that, what struck me is the resentment that can be built up when you want that initiative. You want him to be the rescuer. And when it doesn’t happen, you can get bitter. How does a mom and a wife fight that tendency to be bitter, and then it sets everything off in the relationship? You have an attitude. You kind of express, you know, you’re not a favorite person right now in my life.
I remember one time long ago – thankfully, long ago – I remember Jean – Jean is a scientist by background, so she’s black and white, but she said to me one time “I love you, but I do not like you right now.” Have you thought those words, too?
Becky: I have. Uh, yes, raising my hand. I have.
Jim: So I mean, how do you fight back the – what I would say, the fleshly expression, what the bad side of our nature would want to do and lean into the good nature of God?
Becky: So you know, we say this all the time, falling in love is easy, walking in love is harder, but it’s intentional. And so what I think we need are a blueprint and a map and a practical strategy that can walk us back into love with our spouse. And I feel like that’s whatLove Unendingaccomplishes.
Because it’s not – here’s the trick – it’s not new. (Laughter) These are things that we did before. These are things that we, you know, performed. We would speak kindly. And we would love intentionally. And we did all of these things before. No one has to teach us them. We just need to have the perspective shift to go, oh, yeah, I should do that, and now, here’s how to do that.
Jim: Yeah. Well, in one area of the book you talk about conflict and forgiveness. And I’d love to dig into that because for couples to get out of the hole that they’re feeling they’re in, they’re going to have to resolve some of this conflict and forgive each other.
One surprise young couples face in early marriage is that big fight where you can’t believe how opposite your perspectives are or you begin to wonder, who is this person I married? I thought you were different. Um, did you ever experience that with Jared? And what kind of shocking revelations did you have in your marriage?
Becky: So before we, you know, got married, when we were dating, I remember walking out of the mall and seeing this couple. And the wife was ahead of her husband, and he was sort of, you know, plodding on behind her. (Laughter) And she was mad. She was – you could just tell on her face, and he’s trying to talk to her, and she’s not letting him catch up. She is walking out of this conversation. And I looked at Jared and I said,Do you think we’ll ever fight like that? And, you know, we were just so naive. I was just so naive to think that we wouldn’t have hard conversations and hard moments.
And so when we first got married, there were a few, you know, doozies. Can we say that? Can we – can we go there? Can we say that we had some moments where we had disagreements, and I thought, I don’t know how we’re ever going to see eye to eye on this issue? Um, but the secret about fighting fairly needs to be addressedbecause as familiarity comes in this relationship, we share the vulnerable places of our heart with our spouse. We trust them with the deepest, most intimate things that we haven’t shared – the – the most vulnerable places within us.
And the truth is when we fight unfairly, we might be tempted to use those special secrets as weapons, and because we know exactly where to aim our fiery target.
Jim: Yeah. We’re much more, uh, knowledgeable. We’ve done our – our reconnaissance. (Laughter)
Jim: We know where the enemy is (laughter).
Becky: We know where to go. Those arrows.
Jim: You know, Becky, sometimes when we talk about disagreements, we’ll get responses from our listeners – and we love you guys. But sometimes there are those comments that – “We never fight. Christians should not fight.” That’s wonderful if you have a low degree of conflict in your marriage. Call that a blessing.
Jim: It’s not normal though.
Becky: (Laughter) Right.
Jim: That’s probably the 20 percent that you should, you know, really bless God or evaluate whether or not you’ve got great communication going.
Jim: I mean, that’s a fair question, too.But for the 80 percent of us that do have disagreements, we see things differently. We gotta get through those obstacles. I love the idea of learning to fight fairly. What would you say to those couples that are like you and Jared walking out of the mall – will we ever disagree like that? Will we ever fight like that? – who haven’t had a big argument?
Becky: You know, I think it’s important – two things here – is to forgive immediately. And that’s hard. I mean, that’s hard when you’re in the middle of this huge fight, but you have to remember wounding your opponent damages both of you when you’re a couple. You know, you don’t want to say that one thing, deliver that one blow so you win and your side wins, because you don’t win. You just have a wounded partner that you have to, you know, carry along in your relationship. It’s unhealthy.
And so, um, fighting to damage or fighting to win or arguing to take down your husband or for husbands to take down their wives and let their point triumph is not healthy. And we have to say, OK, the goal is not to win. The goal is to come to a mutual understanding. And that comes through the steps of fighting fairly. So…
Jim: That is so good. And it’s so hard. That’s the thing that’s quite a, uh, conundrum because what you’re saying is exactly right. Think of the character of Christ. And it’s clear. It’s – the winning is over. It’s done. Now it’s just a matter of how to love others and draw them into the Kingdom of God.
Jim: We don’t understand how to do that well out of our fleshly nature – out of our humanness, which is sinful. And I think that sinfulness shows up in our marital relationship in this way. We fight with the tools of the world and the enemy, thinking we’re – we’re – we’re winning because we’re on top here. We won the argument. But guess what? You’re not talking now (laughter).
Becky: Right, right.
Jim: What did you really win? You won your point, but you lost the battle.
Jim: And, uh, I love that. But it’s hard to do. It’s really hard to do. Becky, so often when we have different personality types in our marriage, which is normal – extrovert-introvert, all those things – parenting styles can become a flare point, you know, where we go after each other. “You’re too easy. You’re too rough. Too much of a disciplinarian. Well, you’re not disciplinarian enough.”
Jim: Did you and Jared have those kind of breakdowns?
Becky: No, never. Never! No, never. (Laughter) Of course, we did. My husband and I are complete opposites, and so this filters into everything we do.
Jim: Well, describe yourselves then. Help us.
Becky: Oh, my word. My sweet husband, um – he processes silently to himself, and he might come back with an answer three or four days after we have the conversation.
Becky: Very methodical. And – but once he comes to his decision of what he wants to do and what’s the best choice, it’s the best choice. It is – it is the right choice.And so, um…
Jim: From whose perspective, may I ask?
Becky: Oh, yeah. From his – of course, from his. (Laughter) It’s his right choice.
Jim: Okay, so you’re not necessarily bought in?
Becky: No. No, no.
Becky: No. Here’s the thing.So when our children were younger, as a stay-at-home mom, I had very strong opinions about what was right. These are the right diapers. These are the right (Laughter) wipes. This is the right type of pacifier that they don’t spit out and I have to put back in in the middle of the nap. You know, this – there are so many rights that I have had to figure out on my own while he was gone.
And, you know, the truth is that’s not the case at every home, and I think it’s important to point out that, you know, not all wives are at home making these right decisions. But I don’t think it’s entirely uncommon for mothers to think that whatever decisions they are making are the right ones.
Becky: You know, we come to our right decisions.And my husband would come home, and he would do things differently. And I would think, well, you weren’t here all day, and that – I tried that already and it didn’t work. But – so we’re just going to go with my idea. You – you weren’t here.
Jim: Did you get frustrated?
Becky: Well, I felt like I was always teaching him how to parent because …
Becky: …I was there. And that’s very hard, because he is an adult man who makes good decisions and is very capable of coming up with good answers. And so for me, I had to have this space where I let him make choices, but I was not very good at that. It was, this is the way we’re going to do it. And so he – wait for it – he would back away and say, OK then. Just do it. Just do it your way.
Jim: And I’ll never see you again in this space.
Jim: I mean, that’s what men do. That’s what we do.
Jim: Um, from the time of being a little boy, if you come after me, I just go in a hole. That’s the temperament of men – not everybody.
Jim: But we do, don’t we? And we – we, uh, really – if you don’t want me to play in this box, I won’t. See you later.
Becky: But then the wives are saying, well, why aren’t you helping me anymore? Why aren’t you coming back? You know, why aren’t – just help me take care of this. But do it the way that I want you to do it and everything will be fine.
Jim: So how do you solve this problem?
Becky: Oh, I don’t know. (LAUGHTER)
Jim: No, I appreciate that honesty, but there’s got to be – I think going back to what you said about communication – talking it through. We struggle with our frustrations in these spaces because we – we don’t feel like there’s a resolution, or maybe even a potential resolution, so we just suffer in silence, don’t we?
Becky: Exactly. You know, I think we have to not be so aggressive with our point of view. We have to have a grace to our tone and our words. And in the beginning, you know, we would make simple requests or offer simple suggestions with so much love in our words, you know.
For example, if I needed to get my little girl out of the bath and I didn’t have a towel in the bathroom with me, you know, if I was using the tone that I had used when we first were dating, I might have said, hey, sweetheart, I know you had a hard day. I know you’re sitting down to rest. When you get a minute, will you bring me a towel? I’m so sorry to – you know, that you have to get up now to bring me one.
Jim: That’s how you would say it?
Becky: In the beginning!
Jim: (Laughter) I was gonna say, that’s wonderful. I would get up and get a towel right now.
Becky: Exactly. Do you know I do now? I’m ready to go to bed. And the faster you bring me a towel, the faster we can get her out of bed and go to bed. Get up. Will you just get up?
Jim: Or, where’s that towel!?
Becky: I said bring me a towel. Get off your phone. (LAUGHTER)
Jim: Oh, man. This is painful!
Becky: It is, but it’s true. And it’s both ways. You know, help me do it my way. What are we going to do to solve that? The solving part comes with simple, kind tweaks.
So I am going to speak kindly. I am going to listen intently. I am going to operate in the grace that may be missing that the children might be, you know, taking from my day. I cannot afford to run out of grace before my husband comes home.
Jim: And again, what I’m hearing is grace over retribution. I love it.
John: Hm. Well, this is Focus on the Family. And our guest today is Becky Thompson. And, uh, she’s the writer of the popular blog Scissortail SILK, and, uh, has written a book called,Love Unending. We’ve got that and a CD of our conversation last time and today at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Becky, another big issue in marriage, especially during the parenting years, – especially during the younger parenting years – is that intimacy. I’m not talking about physical intimacy, although that’s part of it. It’s just intimacy – emotional intimacy, having time to hold each other’s hands.
How does a couple kind of recognize that, not become resentful when it’s not happening? And when you talk to women, what are they expressing to you in this area? Let me guess – are you kidding? (Laughter) Something like that?
Becky: You know, the truth is…So last time, I shared that sometimes I tune my husband out because my mind needs space because I’m so responsible for all of the noise in my life all the time, that there’s always this conversation happening in my head, and my children are always talking and I’m always listening for things that might go wrong. I tune my husband out. The truth is, sometimes I do the same thing physically. I’ll say, there have been children climbing on me. There have been children in my lap. I’ve been feeding small children.Someone has always needed me physically today, and I need to just be alone. I just need to be Becky in a room by herself for a minute. And so when our husbands, you know, re-enter our space, you know, it’s almost easier if they don’t need us to touch them, to hold their hand, to rub on their shoulder, to say, I see you in the same space as me. But the truth is, that is where intimacy of all kind begins. Not just with the touching, but with the acknowledgment of our spouse in our space and allowing them to be in our space– mentally, emotionally, physically– without resenting them for being in our space.
Jim: I love the description but I wonder how much of that conversation is staying in the wive’s head and not making it out to the husband’s ears, you know what I’m saying?
Becky: Right. Right.
Jim: And I – the way you express that, I think most husbands will go, OK, yeah, I get it. But I don’t know that they’re expressing it that way.
I would think many husbands, um, when that rejection is coming – if I could say it in that context, for physical intimacy, particularly – again, we go and hide. We get frustrated. We don’t want to talk about it. That’s fine. You know, I get it.
They’re not seeing the little children tugging on you as me and you having time together physically. How would you say to a husband – how would you coach your husband to better understand what that means? I mean, because we’re gonna be – if I could be blunt, we might be a little offended that you’re saying I’m like a 5-year-old tugging on you.
Jim: That’s not what I’m doing.
Becky: It is offensive, and it’s a dangerous place for a marriage to be in this particular season. I feel like a lot happens in the season that leads to other seasons of space, intimately. And so what I would hope that a husband might understand in this season is that she wishes she had space for you.
Jim: Oh, that’s a good way to look at it.
Becky: She wishes that she wanted for you to hold her and love on her and just be with her the way she did in the beginning. She wishes she had more of herself to give to you in every area.
And so this expectation that women believe that husbands have on us is something that we carry. It’s – this is not something that we never think about. We think about this all the time. And so I feel like if a husband understood that she is thinking about this – that she is thinking of her husband and wishing she had more to give him – that there would be a grace and understanding that it’s not just on the back burner of her mind. It’s not just one more thing she needs to check off on her list – you know, connect intimately with my husband. It’s this almost feeling of failure. And I feel like there is a sympathy that could come from a husband when he recognizes that his wife feels like a failure in this area.
Jim: Well, right. And that guilt just compounds, and then she, you know, typically or sometimes can lash back in order to protect that wound.
Becky, um, is it good for a husband – now let me do a little for coaching for the husbands here, um – for him, when he comes home – and again, we know there are moms that are working outside the house and then coming home and trying to keep everything going, and hopefully husbands are jumping in. But if a husband comes home and says, what do you need from me tonight? Is that a good starting place?
Becky: I would cry.
Jim: Without expectation.
Becky: I would cry, and I would say, thank you for seeing my need. And the truth is, it’s the heart behind the action that makes the love, right?
Becky: And so we think of connecting intimately with our spouse – and if we can if we can go here, there’s so much that takes place before we ever get to our bedroom that’s incredibly important for intimate relationships to be healthy. You know, I need my husband to see me, but I also need to learn to see him. But if he were to come home and say, what can I do? My heart would be softened for anything else that came later because I wouldn’t feel alone in my responsibilities. It would be a willingness to rescue me from my own life in a sense, even though I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself.
Becky: It’s a pursuing of the heart, which is so often missing.
Jim: And it gets, um, kind of drowned out by the hecticness of the day and what you walk into.In fact, in your book, you said, it’s the heart behind the action that makes love. I love that. But describe it or explain it more for me, ‘cause you could take that in a lot of ways. But what did you mean by it?
Becky: So in my family and in my home, we miss these opportunities too often because we are so busy. We’re flying by each other. We are not connecting. We’re taking care of the kids. And these are things that we’ve said throughout the program and things that we’ve said throughout our discussions – that we’re missing these moments to connect.
But each moment that I choose to connect with my husband, each moment that I stop and listen or put my hand on his shoulder – when I am doing it intentionally, it creates a connection that can lead to deeper connection. So it’s my heart behind those attitudes. Not like it’s something I’m checking off. Not like it’s something I have to do, but my desire to want to connect with him that leads to anything else.
Jim: Yeah. In fact, Becky, in your book,Love Unending, you mention the fact that you felt broken in some way in this area – that your intimacy with your husband, that something had gone wrong and that you were to blame. Explain it.
Becky: So I felt guilty. You know, I had these two very small children before my third, and I just had no desire for intimacy whatsoever. I was so drained from all the physical touch. And I was so tired. It almost seemed like it would be intimate – like an intimate gift – for him to allow me to sleep. Just give me the gift of sleep. And so – but there had been all of this space that came in from that. So I actually went to the doctor. I scheduled an appointment. I thought there was something wrong with me.
Jim: Physically or emotionally or both?
Becky: I thought maybe hormones were involved somehow. I had two little kids.
Jim: Right, OK. That’s normal.
Becky: I thought something was out of balance. And I thought, maybe they can give me something that’ll help me, because our marriage is struggling as a result of this.
And I went into the office, and I’ll never forget the doctor just leaning in close and saying, “Sweetheart, you are not broken. You are just tired.” And seeing me in that moment was enough to change everything. I mean, I went home and I thought, I am just tired. I still love him. Everything’s fine. It’s – we’re gonna make it through this. And there is something about somebody looking at you and really seeing you that begins a healing process.
Jim: Wow. So many women are going, yes. Yes, that’s what I needed.Uh, Becky, we’re nearing the end. And one of the aspects in your book – you also talk about prayer, um – the importance of it. Just describe it for us, how you and Jared have implemented that. Is it tough at times (laughter) with all the kids pulling on ya? And how do you say, OK, now let’s bow our head (laughter)?
Becky: Right. Now we’re gonna pray together. You’re driving me crazy, but let’s pray. Um, you know, in the very beginning before we got married, before I knew I was going to marry Jared when he was just this guy that I kinda had a crush on, I got on the back of his motorcycle. Sorry, Mom. (Laughter) I got on the back of his motorcycle.
Jim: Don’t ever do that.
Becky: No, never. And, um, the Lord actually spoke to me. And he said, I want you to put your hand on his shoulder and pray for his future wife. And I did. I prayed that she would know quickly that he was the one for her. I prayed that their marriage would be blessed. I prayed all of these things for this woman and found out that I was praying for myself – that I was asking all of these things for our marriage, and that I was asking God to bless something that hadn’t even begun yet.
Jim: ‘Cause you were just friends, right?
Jim: And that thought hasn’t crossed your mind yet, that you might marry him.
Becky: Yeah. I didn’t even think that I was praying for myself. And I thought how strange it that I have to pray for this woman. But, you know, maybe this is important.
And I was praying for my future spouse at the same time. I was praying that, you know, the Lord would bless this man, whoever he was out there. And it was so strange because when I met the man I was gonna marry, I stopped praying fervently for his heart because I knew it was him. The moment I knew that I was going to marry Jared, I stopped praying for this unknown person out there that God would bless him in the same way because it was almost like the mystery had been revealed.
Becky: If that makes sense.
Jim: Yeah. The job was done.
Becky: The job was done. I had – we had gotten to this point. And so how do I pray practically for my husband now? What do I need to pray? Well, I can pray that his attitude changes, or I could pray that he does things differently, but I’d be praying for symptoms. Because the truth is, I need to pray for my husband’s heart becausein Proverbs, we hear that, you know, out of the abundance of the heart, you know, everything flows. And if I am praying for my husband’s heart to change, then I can believe and trust the Lord that he’s going to move in ways that I don’t even see there’s a need.
Jim: Becky, this has been fantastic. I hope you have enjoyed these insights. We have covered some territory here, John. And Becky’s book,Love Unending: Rediscovering Your Marriage In The Midst Of Motherhood. This is practical, and I hope you will get a copy.
Call us here at Focus on the Family. We’ll get it into your hands for a gift of any amount as our way of saying thank you. If you can’t afford it? Let us know. We’ll get it into your hands, trusting others will cover the cost of that. But we so appreciate you, Becky, and your vulnerability. Jared’s not here with us, but pass along a big hug to him. I love this guy.
Becky: Absolutely. He is a great guy!
Jim: I look forward to meetin’ him some day. Yeah, he’s just a guy. He’s like all of us. And we so appreciate – and your heart and your tenderness to try to help other couples deal with the things that you’ve dealt with and are still dealing with. So thank you so much.
Becky: Thank you so much for having me. This has been a real joy.
John: We’d love to hear from you today so please, let us know how we can help. You’ll find all kinds of resources for your marriage at focusonthefamily.com/radio or you can learn more when you call 800-232-6459. 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
One of the resources that we have for you here is our free Marriage Assessment. You can evaluate twelve essential traits that you need for a great marriage. It takes about 10 minutes of your time to do this online tool and you’ll learn about what’s working and what can be improved and it’s a great conversation starter for every couple. You’ll find that and so much more at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Coming up next time, you’ll hear Dr. Kevin Leman, who has some fascinating insights about birth order and how that affects your parenting.
Dr. Kevin Leman: All of us have a birth order in this room, okay, and you tend to over-identify with the child that’s in the same ordinal position as you were.
End of Teaser
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here at Focus on the Family, thanks for listening. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.