Jim Burns: One of the things to know in that question is am I “in love” or I’m “in infatuation?” And if you’ve never had a fight, or if you’ve never seen a negative thing about that person, then you’re not in love because you’re in infatuation. You’re still in that stage. And before you make a commitment to marriage or even seriously dating, you want to get past the stage of infatuation.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: That’s an insight from Jim Burns and he’s back with us today on Focus on the Family along with his co-author and friend, Doug Fields. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, yesterday, we had a lively discussion with Jim Burns and Doug Fields on starting your marriage out right. I mean, everybody wants to do that, right? These two men gave us solid insight and practical ways to strengthen your relationship, whether you’re dating or you’ve been married for 50 years. If you missed any part of the program last time, listen on the app or get the CD or the download. It is packed with encouragement and suggestions to better relate to your spouse and make your marriage stronger.
John: You’re gonna find these resources and more at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or call 1-800-232-6459 – 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
And we’ve mentioned this before, but we have a great intern program here at Focus on the Family. Every summer, we have interns who come and join us, and we give them an opportunity to sit in the studio with us on occasion. And today, we’re gonna hear some questions that those interns had for Jim and Doug. So let’s go ahead and share that with you now as Abbey steps up to the mike with the first question.
Abbey: Hi, I’m Abbey, and I’m from California. And I’m gonna be engaged soon. And so I’m looking at the pre-engagement counseling, premarital counseling and just was wondering maybe what topics to really focus on in that counseling and, yeah, how helpful it will be.
Jim B.: Well, there’s an interesting thing, Abbey, that says 31 percent of people who get premarital counseling or education will have a better chance at marriage. That’s a phenomenal statistic. And so I just commend you for getting that, and do it. That – get as much as you can. You know, I think some of the basics – and Doug and I wrote a book called Getting Ready for Marriage, where we talk about your family history and your family system. And then we talk about the basics – you know, finances, your walk with God, spiritual – are you compatible? Um, the other issues that you want to deal with. Communication is a big one, um, your sexuality. But you know, kind of the – you look at the basics. And what we find is that the more you can have just good dialogue with that special person in your life the better.
But you know, the Bible says where there’s no counsel, the people fall. In the multitude of counselors, there is safety. So make sure that you are around counselors and wisdom. And be – and find marriage mentors. We suggest to people, especially – you’re seriously dating right now. Find people who are – who are mentors in your life who can, you know, walk through this season of your life with you.
Abbey: Thank you.
John: Guys, she mentioned something that I am really just becoming aware of and that is pre-engagement…
Jim B.: Yeah…
Jim B.: …A lot of it.
John: Is that common?
Jim B.: Yeah, yeah, much more – we call it seriously dating. But what happens is, you know, 1 out of 3 engagements dissolve.
Jim B.: So if you have 1 out of 3 engagements that dissolve, it means why don’t you have the conversations before, um, you get engaged? And so what Abbey here is doing is really good because she’s thinking about it prior to, you know, putting the ring on her finger.
Doug Fields: Which is a great time to do it because I’ve just married off three of my children in the last four years. And as soon as the engagement happens, it’s a sprint to the wedding.
Doug: And so many…
Jim B.: Yeah.
Doug: …People plan for the wedding, but they don’t plan for the marriage.
Jim B.: Yeah.
Doug: And so getting it pre-engagement, I think, is a great idea.
Jim B.: Right, right. So many good resources – there are great resources here at Focus on the Family. There’s just great resources right now on that. It’s pretty daunting when you think about the chances of staying married if you just get premarital counseling.
Jon: Hey, guys. I’m Jon. I’m from South Dakota. And I was just wondering, for Jim and Doug, what is the most crucial thing you did while you were single that has now prepared you for marriage?
Jim D.: Good question.
Jim B.: It was make a commitment to Jesus Christ when I was 16 years old. Because what that did was that, uh, changed the trajectory, especially because I was not raised in a Christian home and neither was Cathy. So we became what we call the transitional generation. The Bible says that you inherit the sins of a previous generation – the third and fourth. Well, what we realized was we were going there. And we either are going to recover or repeat. Cathy and I made a decision to recover and change the trajectory now for our children, and now I have two grandkids. So honestly, that might not be the answer that everybody’s looking for. But for me, it was individually Cathy and I making that commitment to Jesus Christ. And then I would say that for us, also, in terms of our own marriage, the preparing for it was we got really good counseling. And that was really, really helpful for us, especially because we didn’t know what we were doing.
Doug: Yeah, John, I watched other marriages. That was…
Jim B.: Yeah.
Doug: …Something that was real helpful. I was a teenager in, actually, Jim’s youth group. He is way older than me. And…
Jim B.: Better looking but way older.
Doug: Yeah. And so honestly, I thought when I met him and Cathy – um, I thought, how did a guy like this get somebody like her?
Doug: That was number one.
Jim B.: That’s true.
Doug: I thought if that’s what being a Christian is I want to become a Christian. But I watched other marriages because I – my – my parents, they had – they stayed together. But they had kind of morphed into a roommate situation by the time I was in my, uh, you know late teens and early 20s. And so I didn’t really have a great model of – of passion and intimacy and fun. And, “Man, this really makes me want to be married looking at my parents.” So I had to look at other couples. And that was really helpful for me.
Jim B.: That’s a great illustration, yeah.
Carissa: Hi, guys. I’m Carissa from just north of Cincinnati, Ohio. Um, you talked about how, um, when you get married, almost it’s a good idea to come back to the basics of dating. But I was wondering if in a serious dating relationship if there’s any basics of marriage we should be putting into place?
Doug: I think you – you are. I mean, all the things that you’re doing while you’re dating and courting and pursuing one another come into play in marriage. I think what marriages miss is what you’re probably doing right now, and that’s pursue. And I tell people if you want to renew your marriage, you have to pursue. Um, all of us want to be wanted. We want to be valued. We want to be needed. You’re learning the essence of pursuit. Because if you’re not pursuing one another right now in a dating relationship, it’s not gonna work.
Jim D.: Yeah. I mean, sorry to step over you there. I was gonna ask you what are some of the good questions in that seriously dating phase that helps young couples get, uh, off on a good start? What would be some of the questions the girl or the guy or both of them could ask of each other?
Doug: Do you really like me?
Jim D.: Yeah.
Doug: I mean, that’s – I mean, there is a – it’s a basic. Like, I like being around you. I like – you know, Jim and I talk a different – we have different language that he always talks about having a high-maintenance marriage. And, um, Cathy and I, we don’t have a high-maintenance marriage because we start – we – we just really liked each other when we first started. And I’m not saying you guys didn’t like each other when you first started. But…
Jim B.: Yeah.
Doug: …That has a lot to do with it – I like being around you. I like your presence. I think – I know it sounds basic. But do we like each other?
Doug: And there – we have a friend who went through a divorce. And the wife said, “I know you love me, but do you like me?”
Jim D.: Yeah.
Doug: And I think that’s a basic question…
Doug: …That’s a good one to start with.
Jim B.: Well, you know, Doug and I wrote 50 questions in – for pre-marriage. And, you know, what’s fascinating about them is we divide them by things – just some of the basics that I think people should be talking about – for example, finances. You know, how are we going to handle finances? Because sometimes people get to the marriage, you know, wedding day, and they haven’t really talked about their school debt or things like that.
Jim D.: Right.
Jim B.: How are we going to handle finances? Do we want to have children? You know, those kinds of issues, the family type of issues. But also, I think we need to talk about our family system. You know, we were talking about the high-maintenance marriage. But, you know, I came from a family where there was alcoholism. And my family’s not your biography, but we’re getting close on some things.
Jim B.: Uh, I’m looking at you, Jim, of course. And, um – and what’s interesting is Cathy and I, we didn’t talk as much about our family background, and then two families sort of merged.
Jim D.: Right.
Jim B.: And that was hard for us. I wish we would have had more conversations about our family system, not that it’s – you can talk about every single thing. And then the other thing that I wished Cathy and I would have done was had more proactive conversations about – just about communication. Because we really do communicate differently. The other one – big one that I would say is have a lot of conversation about spiritual compatibility. Um, because, again, as Doug was saying, when people get engaged, they’re pushing for – they’re trying to create a wedding. They’re creating the greatest party of their life. They’re not engaging in the important issues that are gonna then take them to the finish line, you know, 50 years later – whatever.
Jim D.: Right. And – and that topic of your shared faith…
Jim B.: Yeah.
Jim D.: …Usually is the foundation that will – will hold you together…
Jim B.: Exactly.
Jim D.: …Through storms.
Jim B.: Well, you know, Cathy and I have said this – because – and literally, we do – when both of us talk, we talk about having a high-maintenance marriage. And we often say that if it wasn’t for God, we don’t think we’d be married. Our families went through the divorce issues. My mom and dad didn’t but all the rest have. And so our direction would have been to go that direction. Inject a relationship with God. It still doesn’t make the relationship perfect. We still have to, you know, fight for intimacy and emotional intimacy and all the rest. But the God factor, making the promise, if you would, um, till death do us part in God…
Jim D.: Yeah.
Jim B.: …Is a big difference.
Jim D.: Well, in the book, you mention that – the – the actual wedding vows…
Jim B.: Yeah.
Jim D.: …And the importance of those. Speak to that.
Jim B.: Yeah. Well, it seems to me that if we live by those vows, which we don’t remember – now, his – it’s interesting – one of his daughters has vows in the – is it in the car?
Doug: Yeah, the dashboard of her car.
Jim B.: Yeah, the dashboard of her car.
Jim D.: Wow.
Jim B.: Isn’t that cool? And Cathy remembers her vows. I have no idea – I cried through my vows, so I don’t remember what they were. I mean, I remember generally. But I think you make a promise to those vows. And that’s when you are feeling great and when you’re not feeling so great about each other. And I think the promise takes you to the finish line. We talk in the book about a word – it’s called “ahava.” It’s a Hebrew word actually. And it’s not a romantic word. It’s another – one of the other words for love that’s probably not as popular in the Hebrew – you know, when they talk about it. But what ahava means is, “I love you no matter what.” And, you know, I – we talk – we have – give an illustration in the book where Cathy and I had this moment in the evening one time. And we almost had to, like, separate. And so I think I went into my office or whatever. And we both came back after a while. And I said to Cathy, “I don’t really know what happened right there. But we kind of both said some kind of mean things to each other.” And I said, “But, you know, I’m not going anywhere, and I know you’re not going anywhere. So you know, where can we go from here?” And what I realized then – I didn’t know it when I was in the midst of that – but that’s kind of an ahava type thing that you just – you – we made a promise. We’re going to stay together. And for us, again, the promise is so personal because I’d say a year into the marriage I was beginning to wonder if it was gonna last. And I went “No! By golly, I made a promise. I made a promise before God, my family and my friends, and we’re gonna stick with it.” And I even said in my mind, not out loud, even if I’m miserable, I’m gonna make this – I’m gonna stick with it. And what we have found is that in troubling marriages – it’s so important for, you know, the interns to hear – but in troubling marriages, if you persevere for five years, there’s a 78 percent chance that people who say that they persevered, instead of leaving the marriage, say that they are glad they did it and that their marriage is better off.
Jim D.: Yeah.
Jim B.: That’s incredible.
Janae: Hi there. I’m Janae, and I’m from Louisville, Kentucky. I was just wondering – we hear the tagline “When you know, you know.” Could y’all explain a little bit…
Janae: …Like, when you all knew or, like, just some things that we need to be looking for as, like, as young people when we’re dating and, like, when we, like, know?
Jim D.: That is a…
Jim B.: Yeah.
Jim D.: …Great question. When do we know that we know?
Jim B.: Yeah. I hate that line.
Jim D.: I know it’s so hard though.
Jim B.: It really is a hard one.
Doug: I knew…
John: It’s hard to describe.
Doug: …Right away. I literally knew right away, but my wife didn’t…
Jim D.: Yeah.
Jim B.: You know, I wanna – I wanna tackle it just a moment, too, because I think it’s so key, and I’m – especially with who we’re talking to right here.
Jim D.: Yeah.
Jim B.: Um, you know, there’s a big difference between love and infatuation. And I find that a lot of people get infatuated with someone. And it might be that they were, you know, singing in the worship band. And, oh, my gosh, I love this – you know, this guy or this gal or whatever. But the difference with infatuation is that infatuation is short-lived a lot of times. And so when people say, “I’m in love” – like, my – I have three daughters, and they all said, “I’m in love,” you know, when they were in high school or whatever. And it was puppy love. What I had to recognize as a dad was that puppy love was real to puppies, Okay? But, um, one of the things to know in that question is am I “in love” or I’m “in infatuation?” A couple of things are going to help you. One is time. And if you’ve never had a fight, or if you’ve never seen a negative thing about that person, then you’re not in love because you’re in infatuation. You’re still in that stage. And before you make a commitment to marriage or even seriously dating, you want to get past the stage of infatuation.
Secondly, I think things begin to line up. Jim talked about a relationship with God. Does this person have a similar relationship to God? Can you see yourself long-term in that relationship? But I think other things that – that line up as well in terms of your – your likes and dislikes and, you know, can you – you know, they were teasing about do you like them instead of just love them? There was an old movie where, you know, the guy comes to the dad and asks for his daughter’s hand, you know, kind of an old formal thing. And he said, “Well, do you like her? And he goes, “Well, I love her.” And he goes, “I know you love her, or you wouldn’t be doing this. But do you like her?” And that’s an important part to it, frankly.
But I think that romance is one of those factors that line up. But sometimes what happens – and especially with young people – is they get overly involved in the romantic side. All of you have friends who, um, what happened was they started dating, then they got romantically involved. And one of the things that then happens is they become instantly intimate. Well, there’s a guy named Dr. Ray Short out of the University of Wisconsin that says, “If, um, a couple has a sexual relationship – an intimate sexual relationship – that it then confuses them for up to three years if they’re in love or in infatuation.” So what happens in those years? They get married. And so they got married partly because they were in a physical relationship. Now they’re like, “Whoa, we should’ve never gotten married because we were infatuated.” But the incredible experience of physical intimacy, which is God-given but not meant to be in that manner, that incredible experience caused them to actually marry the wrong person because they thought that they were in love. And, really, it was just infatuation. So it’s – you know, it’s good food for thought.
Jim D.: Yeah. Good. All right.
Adelay: Hi. My name is Adelay. I live in Parker, Colorado. And you mentioned growing up in a dysfunctional family and wanting to break free of that. And so I’m just curious if you – what your advice would be for someone who’s trying to get out of that system and not repeat that…
Jim B.: Yeah.
Adelay: …Specifically, also, if there was abuse involved before?
Jim B.: Well, I think we have to be ruthlessly honest about our own brokenness. And even by you asking that question, you’re very much aware of that. And, um – and not pointing a finger – like, for me I can’t point a finger at Cathy because there’s three fingers pointing back at me. But I also came from a family system where I realized eventually that I had to accept my family system for what it was, and I couldn’t just point a finger because, you know, because there were things working on me. So you know, I – when you’re ruthlessly honest about your own brokenness, it means that you’re being willing to be open and transparent.
Now, when the brokenness is something, like, really tough – abuse – then I really believe that the biblical, uh, concept that says “Where there is no council, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors, there is safety,” I don’t think we should or would ever be healthy to us to live in silent shame. And for us to get past that, to break the chain of dysfunction, to recover and not repeat some of those generational things. So I think we build people around us to help us become that person that God wants us to be. And I find the people that come from dysfunctional backgrounds, they can have incredible passion. And I honestly believe that in one generation, you can break the chain of dysfunction, but it will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do.
Jim D.: All great questions. Okay, you’ve got one more. And that will be enough.
Becca: Um, hi, I’m – I’m Becca. And I grew up in the Colorado Springs area. My question is – because I know when you get married, your joint spiritual life is something that’s really critical to your relationship. And I’ve heard varying things on how much you should work on a joint spiritual life when you’re dating or how much of it should be individual or how you should go about that. So that’s something that I’m just curious about.
John: Yeah – good. Yeah.
Doug: Well, your joint – your individual spiritual life is going to be real important for you to continue the track that you’re going on. My suggestion is that if you’re developing some joint spiritual habits together while you’re dating, while you’re engaged, they will carry on when you go into marriage. But if you’re just expecting marriage now that you’re one, you know, physically that you’re going to be one spiritually, you’re fooling yourself. So I would encourage you to practice those ahead of time to ask, “What are they? What does it look like for us to grow spiritually as a couple?” And it might be different. You know, not all the couples have to have daily quiet times and share what they’re learning from scripture. Spiritual compatibility could be praying at meals and having Jesus-focused conversations.
Jim B.: That’s a great answer. Where I think you also were going – and so he’s right. Do all of that. What I think some people talk about is in seriously dating or dating or even engagement, spiritual intimacy and spiritual compatibility is so closely tied to your even physical intimacy. And there are times when I think it would be very careful if you find that spiritual intimacy is drawing you so much closer to each other – because it is going to – that you’d then have a drawing toward the physical intimacy before marriage. And so when people say that, I always – I never want them to say don’t ever pray together because, as a couple, you should be doing that before you do get married. But if that is something that’s drawing you together – there are some people named – well, I used to speak for an organization called Promise Keepers. And there was a guy who would speak right before me every time. And he always said this. His name is Gary Rosberg. And you probably had him on the show. He’s a great guy. He and his wife wrote a book called, The 5 Sex Needs of Men and Women. The fourth sex need of a woman is spiritual intimacy. It’s not even on the list of men. Okay? But the point being is that when a woman feels spiritually intimate, connected, she wants oftentimes – wants to give her all to the guy. So where you’re getting that teaching probably – and it could be a good teaching for – depending on the person. But – because Cathy and I did a lot of that stuff that Doug was talking about. And that didn’t necessarily make us, you know, go jump in bed. Okay? But I understand that because it really made me like her more when we prayed together. So I get what they’re saying. So I think we have to be cautious but be in touch with our own spirit. So this is the beauty of the Holy Spirit – is the Holy Spirit might speak to you in one way and then speak to somebody else in a different manner. So do the basics of staying spiritually compatible. But if the intimacy is causing you to be too close then be careful.
Jim D.: So Jim and Doug, as I look into the audience here with the interns, you know, mostly in their early 20s, I would guess, one of the major issues that young people face today that was a little different when we were all in our early 20s is the plague, really, of pornography. It’s so easily accessible today. It’s not just having to get a magazine as a 14-year-old, 13-year-old boy. It pops up on your computer now and asks you just click here. And I’m mindful of the fact when you look at the statistics, you know, sometimes it’s 80 percent, 70 percent. Pick your number. It’s a big number of people. And I’m saying both Christian and non-Christian who gets ensnared in this. And as I’m looking, you’ve got to imagine that, you know, a tender young woman who maybe was in an environment that was well-protected – and I’m not trying to be stereotypical here – but she meets a boy who’s trying to get his act together, has made a commitment to Christ but continues to struggle with this – they get married. They didn’t talk about it. He didn’t want to reveal that secret. Bang. They’re there. And now it’s a disaster. And she’s feeling all those emotions. Speak to that major problem in the lives of young, married couples today – this issue of pornography.
Jim B.: Right. So I think there’s a couple of things. One is if – in engagement, if you see pornography as an issue, that becomes a red flag. Now, again, I don’t think you shame that person or you just walk immediately. But I do think that they need to get some pretty major help, or you do. You know, now, men tend to be more visual. Women are right behind men with – the greatest new users of Internet pornography are boys 12 to 17. Women 15 to 25 are behind them, but the point that I’m going to say is I think that’s a major issue.
We find in our – in our marriage conferences – and these could be people who have been married a lot longer – is if one of them is doing pornography then what they’re really doing is they’re now having false intimacy even with their spouse. They’re kind of trying to – you know, whatever they saw on, you know, the computer, they’re now trying to imitate. Well, that’s not now even beautiful, physical, God, you know, ordained intimacy. So I see it as a major flag. Now, the question that you asked was, what about when you find out after you’re married? I think that’s something you work on. And I think that you help them get help. I was just with a pastor who got caught with pornography. And he’s in a mess. And my wife and I love this pastor. And we actually sent him to a two-week deal. And then we tied him with his wife because wife was dying on this. And he was now kind of getting help, but she wasn’t. And his wife walked through all the process, too, just in a really neat way. You know, they’re being restored in a great way. But I think it’s partly because the wife – not the one who was – she wasn’t involved in pornography – is getting the help as well. But make sure that you understand the elements of pornography. There’s five real, real quickly. You view pornography and almost immediately your brain takes a picture or it’s in your mind. There’s amazing stimulation. It’s like you’re on drugs, and then you get addicted. Now, it’s an oversimplification. But addiction is just, “I want more.”
Jim D.: It’s dopamine in the brain and…
Jim B.: Yeah, yeah. So you want more. Then you go to being – you’re really, in many ways – what happens then is you want more so you want to see it more. So that’s the third part to it. Then you get desensitized. So it was gross a year ago, two months ago, two weeks ago. It’s not gross anymore. Then you begin to act it out. Now, the problem with that is we’ve got a whole bunch of folks in your demographic and our demographic that – age-wise I’m talking about – that now they’re viewing the opposite sex as a sex object because of what they’ve been seeing on pornography. Then they want to do it, of course. Okay? But that’s not even intimate sexuality. That’s imitating something that you saw.
So I think it’s very, very key and important that we understand what is happening to that person. And you can’t just say to somebody – I’m get back your question. I’m sorry I’m going long. But you just can’t get back to somebody and say – or, you know, to that person and say, “Stop it.’’ They actually need help because what’s happened is it really is an addiction issue. So they really need the help and the loving care and the grace. But actually, they need the boundaries, too. So you’ve got to give boundaries.
Jim D.: Well, in that seriously dating phase, I would think those are good questions.
Jim B.: That’s a great question.
Jim D.: Where are you at with pornography?
Jim B.: Exactly.
Jim D.: Because it’s so common today.
Jim B.: Yeah.
Jim D.: It’s the right question to ask.
Jim B.: Right.
Jim D.: Very difficult…
Jim B.: Yeah.
Jim D.: …But let’s talk, and let’s be open about this.
Jim B.: No, honestly.
Doug: I think you have to assume that who you’re dating has had exposure.
Jim D.: Yeah.
Doug: And so when my girls – I just said, “You have to have that conversation. You have to have that conversation.”‘ You know, the reality is – somebody earlier asked about their family dysfunction. We all have dysfunction. We all have a messy script. That’s part of our sinful nature. So part of seriously dating and engagement is finding as much as you can about that person’s script and how they grew up, how they were raised, what they value, what they’ve been into because those markers in that script are going to come to play in your marriage. When it comes to the idea of pornography, I think you just have to assume that your partner has participated. And then you find out what level and begin to deal with it.
John Fuller: And that’s gonna close out the question and answer session on today’s episode of Focus on the Family with some of our summer interns and authors Jim Burns and Doug Fields. And what great advice they had on relationships from dating to post-marriage it’s so good.
Jim D.: It is really strong and so applicable to any season of marriage. That’s why I love the content so much. This is why Focus on the Family is here. We want to see your marriage be the best it can so your family can literally thrive in Christ. That’s what it’s about. If you’re in a serious relationship – dating or engaged – and you need some answers, call us. We’re here to help with resources like our Ready to Wed curriculum and Jim and Doug’s book, too, The First Few Years of Marriage. Or if you’re a bit further down the road and you’re facing some struggles with your spouse, we certainly can help in that area as well.
John: Well we do have caring, Christian counselors, too, Jim, who can point listeners in the right direction. And our Hope Restored marriage intensives should be noted. That’s for couples who are really facing desperate times.
Jim D.: And if Focus has been there for you in some way, over the years, would you consider giving back so we can help even more couples now? We simply can’t do this without you. I think God intended it that way – for us to work together to reach and change lives in the name of Christ. Your prayer and monthly financial support are what allows us to help strengthen these families, not just here, but across the globe. In fact, when you pledge today to donate any monthly amount, we’ll send you a copy of Jim and Doug’s book as our way of saying thank you for joining the team.
John: And Jim, as you said, time and again, if you can’t commit to that monthly gift, make a one-time donation of any amount, and we’ll send that book to you as well. Donate and get your copy of The First Few Years of Marriage at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY – 800-232-6459.
Well, have a great weekend! And plan to join us on Monday. We’ll hear from Lorie Newman as she reflects on why we’re called by God to care for people in need.
Lorie Newman: And my heart broke for the first time for someone who was hungry. I had never seen someone who was truly hungry, truly in need. And I watched that man walk off down our dirt road into the silhouette of the evening. But his silhouette has never left my heart.
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