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Focus on the Family Broadcast

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The Best Choices You Can Make for Your Marriage

The Best Choices You Can Make for Your Marriage

Psychologist Dr. Ron Welch and his wife, Jan, outline several simple but highly effective decisions a husband and wife can make to nurture their marriage in a discussion based on his book 10 Choices Successful Couples Make: The Secret to Love That Lasts a Lifetime.
Original Air Date: April 8, 2020

Excerpt:

Ron Welch: It’s a daily decision if you want to be in love that day. And we have this language that talks about it happening to us, like it’s an outside force and we fall into love, as opposed to making a conscious decision to say, “I want to love, I’m going to love you, and I’m choosing to love you.”

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Dr. Ron Welch is our guest today on Focus on the Family, and he and his wife, Jan, have some simple advice for your marriage that can really, uh, be implemented today. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Hey, John. Uh, if you think about it, every day of our lives is made up of lots of little decisions. Uh, we decide whether or not to hit the snooze button. Did you do that this morning (laughs)?

John: I wanted to.

Jim: Or, uh, perhaps-

Jan Welch: Me, too (laughs).

Jim: … uh, what shoes to wear. But researchers say that on average, a person makes about 35,000 decisions a day.

Ron: No wonder I’m tired (laughs).

Jim: Well, I said this to Jean and to Troy last night. And they said, “Yeah, I could see that.” I said, “Tell me.” Whether to get up right now, whether to scratch my head, whether to walk across the room. When you put it in that context, yeah, I could see how we would reach 35,000 decisions a day. But here’s something we often don’t think of as a decision: loving our spouse. Uh, Hollywood often paints love as this, you know, huge romantic… You hear the themes-

John: The big buildup, yeah.

Jim: … the big music and the, you know, the theater release, diamond rings, all of that. But as we’re going to learn from our guests today, it’s actually the small, simple choices that can transform your marriage in a big way.

John: And that’s big news. Uh, Dr. Ron Welch is a clinical psychologist. He specializes in marriage and family. His wife, Jan, is a teacher, she works with at-risk children. And they’ve been married for over 30 years, have two grown boys and two grandkids. Uh, Dr. Welch has written a book called 10 Choices Successful Couples Make: The Secret to Love That Lasts A Lifetime. And we have that, of course, at our website, focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Ron and Jan, welcome to Focus on the Family.

Ron: Thank you so much for having us. We’re glad to be here.

Jim: Okay. Well, let’s get into it. You’ve been married over 30 years now. I understand you, uh, decided to get engaged only four days after meeting each other.

John: Wow.

Jim: Okay, everybody’s going, “What (laughs)? Honey, did you hear that? Four days!” What’s that all about?

Ron: I think this is my wife’s story to tell, so I’ll let her (laughs)-

Jim: Oh, nice punt. I’m gonna punt this one right over to my wife.

Jan: Um, Ron and I were at Denver University together and I realized he was such an intelligent, kind person. And we ended up, um, doing a project together and we were able to… Um, he asked me out and, um, he was… When we left, he wanted to borrow a quarter because he was gonna move someone from our date to another date.

Jim: He was gonna make a phone call?

Jan: Make a phone call.

Jim: Okay.

Ron: Yeah, and I don’t look very good in this part of the story, just so you know.

Jim: (laughs)

Jan: And thank goodness the line was busy, because I asked him what it was and he says, “Well, explain that.” And I was like, “Uh, I like movies.” And we were never apart.

Jim: Oh.

John: (laughs)

Jan: So, we-

Jim: That’s really fast-

Jan: … talked all night-

Jim: … condensed story there.

Ron: I had to move one date around to make room for another-

Jim: Yeah, I like it.

Ron: … so it didn’t turn out to work very well. But the, uh, end result-

Jan: He didn’t have that date.

Ron: … was we spent a lot of time together over the next few days and after three or four days of spending time together, we looked at each other and said, “Should we go look at rings?” And we’re like, “Yeah, let’s do that.”

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Okay, so then you get married.

Ron: Yep.

Jan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: How did that go in the early days of your marriage (laughs)?

Ron: Well, we had to get to know each other after we got married.

Jim: Right (laughs).

Ron: Um-

Jim: I would think there were some problems.

Ron: Not the, uh, not the best plan. Uh, as you hear our story unfold a bit, uh, you’ll find that one of the reasons that I wanted this to happen so quickly was that I was a really insecure guy. Um, I needed to control things and be in charge, and I really believed at that point that if she really got to know me, then what would happen is she probably wouldn’t wanna marry me.

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Huh.

Ron: And so, I wanted it to happen quickly and soon so that God could move things along, um, because I was pretty insecure about how that would work otherwise.

Jim: So, did that come out pretty quickly then, uh, what, what-

Jan: Yes.

Jim: … I would describe-

Jan: Yes.

Jim: … as a marriage trap, in some ways. Not to… I’m not trying to be unkind, obviously, Ron.

Ron: Not, not at all.

Jim: But when you try to compensate for those insecurities, it’s kind of like, “Get the girl and then we’ll deal with my issues later.”

Jan: Right. And to the point of the controlling, I couldn’t leave the apartment without him. And if I chose to do something, I would kind of pay for it, because it would be an inquisition. He would keep asking questions-

Jim: Wow, that’s tough.

Jan: … “What did you do? Who did you see?”

Ron: Yeah.

Jan: And it got to the point, it’s not worth that.

Jim: Yeah.

Jan: And-

Jim: And in fact, in your book you talk about the difference between falling in love and jumping in love. What’s your distinction?

Ron: You know, that’s where these choices come in, right, Jim? It’s a daily decision if you want to be in love that day. And we have this language that talks about it happening to us, like it’s an outside force and we fall into love, as opposed to making a conscious decision to say, “I want to love, I’m going to love you, and I’m choosing to love you.”

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: And in my case, after a year she told me, “This is not working.” And in God’s perfect world, I would have been healed, everything would have been great. In reality, it was probably eight or 10 years, um, and there’s-

Jan: Probably a little longer (laughs).

Ron: … there’s nothing I regret more in my life than the fact that she had to help me become the man God wanted me to be.

Jim: Well, and the irony is, that is in part what marriage is about. Um-

Ron: It is.

Jim: … unfortunately, in the modern world, we’ve lost that understanding of-

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: … completing each other. And we’ll unfold some of that as we move through the story. Uh, you also mention something called choice theory.

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Uh, you say that it can bring hope to any marriage. So, walk us through choice theory.

Ron: You know, I think there’s a level of ex- expectation people have, and there’s a level of understanding that makes them think, “This is just the way it is and it’s the way it has to be, and there’s not much more we can do about it.” Choice theory says that in every single situation, you have opportunities. God created us to be a certain kind of person in his image, and we can act in that image if we so choose, or we can act not to. And so, what I’ve done in my understanding of choice theory is to apply that to how couples make choices. Whether it’s getting up in the morning and deciding, “Today, I’m gonna honor my wife. I’m gonna look at her in the face and tell her how beautiful she is.” Or “I’m gonna be someone who will honor and respect and love my wife or my husband in a way that is more about me than about them.”

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: And I think that’s where it comes from.

Jim: Yeah, I th- and in one of those, you mention it’s a choice to be unselfish. And I think when you look at marriages and you, um, you know, embrace a Christian perspective, you’re trying to walk more like Christ.

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: This is exactly, I think, why he created marriage the way he did.

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Because we’re attracted to opposites-

Ron: Yeah.

Jan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … that typically can rub you the wrong way over time. And what you’ve gotta learn to do is to choose to be unselfish-

Ron: Right.

Jim: … ’cause we’re selfish creators-

Ron: Right.

Jim: … because of our sin nature, right?

Jan: Exactly.

Ron: I think there’s two kinds of models of marriages in the world right now. One is the me kind of marriage and one’s the us marriage. The me marriage really focuses on this idea that, “I’m in this for me. As soon as you don’t meet my needs, I’m out.” And you see divorces-

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ron: … you see people who have affairs, because it’s about me and if I don’t get my needs met, I’m gonna go find someone who does.

Jim: Let me, uh, ask you think question about the early years of your marriage-

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … the first eight to 10 years, then. Uh, Jan, you had to be unselfish-

Jan: Yes.

Jim: … to recognize Ron’s controlling-

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … you know, temperament. How did you survive that?

Jan: Well, my father was very similar in a way of control. And so, it was very easy for me, because I wanted him to be happy and I would sacrifice everything that- so he could be happy, and that things would be good. And I really wish I’d had an- someone tell me that you have to hold them accountable.

Jim: Well, right. Easy isn’t necessarily healthy.

Jan: Right.

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: And that’s a big point.

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: So, that’s what you’re saying, is that “I, in essence-

Jan: I allowed it, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … I went with it-

Jan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … and you allowed to happen.”

Jan: And that’s what happens, I think, in a lot of those things, because we’re- your insecurities, whatever reason, you hold back some of the things you might have said to the person.

Jim: Right.

Jan: And you just kind of keep doing that. And so, it’s not always beneficial in your marriage.

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jan: So, when controlling, you also have a part in allowing that-

Jim: I wanna-

Jan: … if that makes sense.

Jim: Yeah, and I appreciate that honesty, really, both of you, to talk about those first eight to 10 years. I think for a couple that may be in that situation right now, they’re still at year four.

Jan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Let’s just imagine that couple who’s listening. Uh, how can we cut their pain in half. They don’t have to go eight to 10 years. What were some of those things in those, uh, years six, seven, and eight that begin to change things for you? Or what was it that woke you both up to this unhealthiness?

Ron: So, I remember the day God slapped me across the face with this.

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ron: Um, my sons were starting to talk to my wife in that same manner, “Why aren’t you where you’re supposed to be? Why didn’t you get me here? You need to do this for me.” And I gave them the dad lecture, right? “Don’t talk to your mom that way.” And I remember God just slapping me across the head and saying, “Who do you think is teaching them to disrespect women?”

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ron: “I’ve taught you a different way to value your wife.”

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ron: “Why are you doing this?” And this was inconsistency between my faith and between what I was. And I think that’s that couple you’re talking about in year four. I think there’s an inconsistency between, “I love you, I’m going to church with you, I’m telling you I, I value you, but when we get home, I’m telling you what you need to do for me.”

Ron: Let me give a quick example. I would ask Jan, um, something like, “Where do you wanna go for dinner?” I really wasn’t asking her, “Where would you like to go for dinner?” I wanted to start a conversation about barbecue, right? I mean-

Jim: So, you actually knew?

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: See, I’m the guy that really doesn’t know where I wanna go for dinner.

Ron: (laughs)

Jim: I don’t… I could care less.

Ron: Yeah. And, and I wish I could portray myself in a better light, but I can’t, ’cause it wasn’t just Jan I did that with. That was how I worked my life, because-

Jim: What’s the root of that?

Ron: Insecurity.

Jim: Do you-

Ron: It’s like, I’m so scared about things getting out of control that as long as I can control everything, it’ll be okay. And I fight that every day, trying to say, “If I trust God and God has my back, why am I so anxious and worried?”

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Where did that come from?

Ron: My mom, God bless her, she was an anxious woman, but she was kind of like the glass wasn’t just half-empty, it was draining rapidly, if that makes sense.

Jim: Oh, it does.

Ron: She could look around the corner and see all the things that could go wrong-

Jim: So, fear and anxiety.

Ron: Yeah, and I got really good at trying to do enough-

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: … to maybe prevent those bad things.

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Yeah, I mean, that, that… There usually is that, you know, early childhood-

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: … development issue that-

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: … people encounter.

Ron: And it worked well until I got married, and then it caused a lot of problems.

Jim: Yeah. No, and I, I understand that.

Ron: Yeah.

John: Our guests today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly are, uh, Dr. Ron Welch and his wife, Jan. And uh, Ron has written a book, 10 Choices Successful Couples Make: The Secret to Love That Lasts A Lifetime. He unpacks this choice theory and, uh, has a lot of great insights in the book. We would commend it to you. We’ve got it at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800-A-FAMILY.

Jim: Yeah, I think many people are gonna lean into this next question, because it affects all of us as human beings. It’s just part of being on this earth. Uh, you mention a choice that you outline, is choosing to let go of old baggage. And Jan, I think, uh, this was especially difficult for you. Even though we’ve heard Ron’s letting go of some of that baggage, how has your past affected your, uh, marriage?

Jan: I think it impacted it a lot. As I said, I… Being controlled was kind of normal for me. I didn’t know something different. Um, and pleasing somebody. And that was my-

Jim: So, you were pretty much always controlled by your own parents, right?

Jan: Yeah, my dad-

Jim: Okay.

Jan: … pretty much.

Jim: Do you think that helped you make a decision to marry Ron, ’cause you saw that in him?

Jan: Yeah-

Jim: And it was comfortable?

Jan: Uh, I don’t think I saw that I him.

Jim: Okay.

Jan: I didn’t really realize it until after we were married, and then it was like, “Oh, I married my dad.” But in a good for many, ’cause people… There’s so many wonderful qualities about him. He’s an amazing person. That was just a part that we needed to work on, and I really didn’t do my part in holding him accountable and saying, “No, I’m gonna go and be with my friends and-”

Jim: Well, Jan, in fact, in the book, I think you position it as blaming yourself. Which, can I say this so that women can hopefully release this? Women are so quick to look at their own selves.

Jan: Yes.

Jim: And sometimes that’s good-

Jan: Yes.

Jim: … but sometimes it can become unhealthy.

Jan: Yes.

Jim: And that’s what you’re describing.

Jan: Uh, it was very unhealthy.

Jim: If you’re always blaming yourself, that’s not-

Jan: No.

Jim: … the right spot.

Jan: That’s not good. And baggage is what kind of weighs you down. And when you unpack it, it stays in the marriage, and you use it as a crutch. And so, un- getting rid of that baggage-

Jim: Yeah.

Jan: … and really looking at it, it helps so much. Uh-

Jim: When did you find the courage to say, “Hey, Ron, can I challenge that a little bit?” Did you ever have that-

Jan: Our first anniversary.

Jim: The first anniversary?

Jan: Yeah. I said, “I, I feel like I’m in a golden cage, because there’s other good things, but I can’t get out of the cage, because you won’t let me.”

Ron: And I didn’t listen at all.

Jim: So, that was the beginning of an eight more-year journey?

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jan: I think a little- a few more years.

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jan: Because my part in not really trusting in it, because at some point it always came back up again, you have to work through that.

Jim: Well, speak for a moment to those deep patterns that we learn-

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: … as children-

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … and then how we, you know, manifest those as adults. This is, you know, almost compulsive behavior. It’s hard to grab ahold of that. And when you have that thought, to grab it captive. Just like the word talks about-

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: … to take that captive so it doesn’t come out of our mouth, as James talks about-

Ron: Yep.

Jim: … the power of the tongue. So, what-

Jan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … discipline have you applied, self-discipline, to change those things?

Ron: I had a student… I’m a professor up at Denver Seminary. I had a student ask me that exact question, maybe a year or so ago, because they wanted to know-

Jim: What a bright student he is.

Ron: Yeah (laughs).

Jim: A very good student, very good student (laughs).

Ron: And part of the answer was, you can’t start by trying to change your entire life. You can’t just say, “I’m gonna be different tomorrow. We’re all done.”

Jim: Wow, that’s good.

Ron: You have to start with a small choice and say, “So, what could I do today that would lead me to make a selfless choice or an unselfish choice, as compared to a selfish choice?” So, it might be something like, “Okay, you said you wanted to play softball.” I’m talking to the guys out there. They assume they have a softball game, so they should just go play softball, but they don’t ask their wife whether the wife would take care of the kids that night. They just assume, “Oh, it’ll be fine.” She wants to go out with the girls, and there’s, like, some permission needed. That’s a power issue. That’s not okay. Everybody should say-

Jim: Right. Where one needs permission, the other doesn’t.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: It, it should be a matter of saying, “So, how can I serve you today? What would you like to do tonight so you could really get closer to God? If you wanna go to Bible study, I’ll take care of the kids.” But more of the time, you look at peoples’ schedules, I have the couples I work with, I’m a marriage therapist, I have the couples pull out their planners and you’ll see everybody in there. You’ll see their job, their dog, some guy named Frank. I mean, everybody shows up in their schedules, but their own names don’t show up in each other’s schedule-

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ron: … ’cause they don’t plan time. They don’t think about the week and say, “When are we gonna be married this week?” So, one of the choices I try to make with Jan is to say, “Today. When are we gonna be married today?”

Jim: That is so good.

Jan: And it’s great. You know, um, especially when you know that person is thinking about you and really cares about you may wanna do, which was such a change, um, in our marriage, because it was always what did he want to do? If he wanted barbecue and I wanted Mexican, we would go get barbecue. And now he’s like-

Jim: In the old days.

Jan: In the old days. And now he’s like, “Where do you really wanna go?” And I’m like… I feel like I can say that. I mean, I know it’s a simple thing, but it really impacts your life in other ways.

Jim: Well, I’m with you. Let’s go get Mexican food.

Jan: Amen (laughs). Sounds good to me.

Jim: You know, uh, Ron, I wanted to ask you this, too. You have a, uh, statement, or a, uh, descriptor called The Niagara Falls-

Jan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ron: Yes.

Jim: … analogy, that helps couples deescalate.

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: So often, I mean, even for Jean and I, that’s what we need so often, is how do I deescalate this? Because I’ve said something that obviously has triggered-

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: … her. And uh, sometimes I look for that de-escalation and sometimes I don’t (laughs). So, speak to that. How do I Niagara Fall this in a he- healthier way?

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: How do I pull back, especially if you wanna win in this moment? Which is a competitive nature thing, which I do possess (laughs). And so, you know, it’s about, “Hey, can- how do I win this argument?”

Ron: Uh-huh (affirmative).

Jim: Okay. Help me out, Mr. Therapist.

Ron: You betcha.

Jan: (laughs)

Ron: I’m so glad you asked about that, Jim. This is the single most effective thing I’ve ever seen in counseling, by far.

Jim: This is important.

Ron: It is so amazing. I was in the prison system for many years. Um, I guess I-

Jan: Not in prison.

Jim: Which side?

Jan: Not in prison [crosstalk 00:16:33].

Jim: Yes, I got it [crosstalk 00:16:34].

Ron: But I worked with a lot of inmates with a lot of anger problems, and I met a guy named Bill [Fleeman 00:16:38], who was doing work on, on Niagara Falls, looking at how that affected anger. And I said, “Man, can I use this for marriage?” And afterwards, his organization let me use this with marriage couples. And what I do is… Have you ever been to Niagara Falls?

Jim: I have.

Ron: Big waterfall, lots of water.

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: My Canadian friends wanna make sure I say the Canadian side is prettier.

Jim: (laughs)

Ron: So, it’s-

Jim: That’s probably true, actually.

Ron: Probably true.

Jim: (laughs)

Ron: But what most people don’t do is go back upriver about two or three miles. It’s calm, it’s peaceful, you can get in and out of the water, you can make choices about what you wanna do. As you get closer to The Falls, when we’ve been there it was… You know, you have a roaring sound of the water, there’s, there’s a point of no return. And this is what happened with the inmates I worked with, where two days before in the lunch line when someone elbowed them, they could make a different choice. When they’re down on the rec yard with a shank trying to stab somebody, it’s too late to make a different choice. They’ve already made their call.

Jim: They’re over The Falls.

Ron: They’re over The Falls. And so, with couples I say… I ask them to make four lists. I ask the husband to make a list about how he knows when he’s okay and when he’s not okay. I ask the wife to make a list about how she knows when he’s okay or not okay, ’cause sometimes, uh, our wife or our husband knows a lot more about how okay we are than we do. Right? And then I ask the wife to make a list about the husband and about herself.

Ron: These four lists give you all sorts of ideas of how you know things aren’t okay, and I ask them to rank order them. What they do then is they use these lists and I have some couples that have had a huge picture laminated of Niagara Falls up on their kitchen wall, and they just identify, “What are our warning signs? When are we getting close to The Falls? When are we getting anxious or upset or angry or frustrated?” And they choose to make choices way upriver before they go over The Falls.

Jim: Yeah, those are in essence the cable- the safety cables.

Ron: That’s right, that’s right.

Jim: No, that’s really good.

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Uh, another choice you mention and talk about with couples is the choice to, uh, communicate positively. I think I get that one, but… And I think the power of that… I’m doing that more in my marriage now than I have in the past. And it, it is really good. Make sure you’re more positive than negative.

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jan: Yes, I, I like to think about what I can do to make someone else’s day better. Is there something that I can compliment them on? Is there something… If I can tell they’re worried about something, “Do you need to talk about it?” Um, I work with children and you need to be able, in many ways, to kind of see if things are hap- bad things are happening, and you communicate with them, you pull them out, you can talk to them.

Jan: Um, I love being able to make someone else’s day better. And I think by being positive and communicating that… And sometimes you just don’t know, a smile could make somebody’s day-

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Oh, yeah.

Jan: … if they’re having a really rough day. Um, unfortunately, many teenagers are needing that a lot more.

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Yeah, I would say double down on the positivity with your teenager.

Jan: Exactly.

Jim: ‘Cause at that stage of life, there’s so many negatives coming at them.

Jan: Exactly.

Ron: I would also add, delivery matters.

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: Uh, the attitude, the tone of voice can throw a message right out the window. So, you gotta deliver it positively, too.

Jim: That’s good. In fact, you have 10 rules, uh, for positive communication, and John we’ll post those at the website.

John: Good idea.

Ron: Yeah, excellent.

Jim: Give me a couple of those. I mean, you mentioned one or two, but what’s, uh-

Ron: So, for example, nothing good tends to happen in communication after 9:00 PM.

Jim: (laughs) That’s close to the-

Ron: Okay?

Jim: … “Be home by midnight-

Ron: Right?

Jim: … because nothing good happens after midnight.”

John: That’s very applicable in my home (laughs).

Ron: Right. When couples… And John, you know, if, if, if a couple starts talking about a conflict at 9:30 when they’re both tired, the kids just went to bed, it’s not gonna go well. Another would be, if, if you think about bringing up the past, you know, the great pancake incident of 2012 or whatever, you know, just let it go. Don’t bring up the past and bring in new stuff. So, I think the rules have a lot to do with being fair in your communication.

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Yeah. Marital Code of Arms. Let’s mention that one.

Ron: Oh, boy, this is interesting. I do this a lot with couples near the end of counseling. And you remember back when, uh, there used to be a family crest on your front door? I ask couples to think about that and say, “What are the words and images you’d like your family to represent?” And I ask them to put those together, come up with the words, come up with the images, and then make a, a project, make a crest, put it on your front door for everyone to see, “These are the things that our family represents. When people see God through our family, this is how they’re gonna see it.” And its amazing what people come up with, in terms of how they represent how people will see God through them and what their family stands for.

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: That is really good. Uh, I think I’ll do that with the, the boys [crosstalk 00:20:48]. No, no, you gotta do your own. But, uh, Ron, uh, you say there’s something called unspoken truths and that they can be a silent killer in marriage. What do you mean by that?

Ron: This is all the things that you know about your wife right now, that you believe to be true and you’re fairly certain they really can’t talk you out of it. Um, you believe for instance, something like, “You kind of are a lazy person.” Or someone else thinks, “My husband cares more about work than me.” Or maybe, “Oh, you really probably are gonna think of yourself before me most times.” It’s the unspoken truths that are what in the scientific world would be called givens. They drive everything else, because they are assumptions that are so powerful that they form the basis of what you choose.

Ron: One of Jan’s assumptions was that she wasn’t worthwhile enough to stand up for herself and be treated the way she deserved to be treated. And so, she kind of took my inappropriate, ridiculous, immature behavior for many years. Uh, we call it learned helplessness. Do you guys, uh, remember the old-

Jim: Sure.

Ron: … animal experience?

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: They’d shock the dogs, the dogs would jump, the dogs come back down, eventually the jo- the dogs lay down and they say, “You can shock me, but you can’t make me jump.”

Jim: Right.

Ron: It- it’s-

Jim: I’m done jumping.

Ron: Yeah. And, and that’s… I think that’s kind of what it was like for you. It’s like, “Why bother trying? He’s not gonna listen?”

Jan: Yeah, and sometimes especially, um, when I would bring something that was not f- like, money or something, and he kind of explode out of that, “Why did you spend that?” Or those kind of things. And those became my unspoken truths, so I’m not gonna talk to him about money, because it usually comes back on me.

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: So, you’d hide-

Jan: Hide it, yeah.

Jim: … emotionally.

Jan: Yeah. And then, you know-

Jim: Yeah.

Jan: … you buy something, you stick it in your closet in the back and bring it out and then he’d be like, “Oh, is that new?” “No, it’s been in my closet for a while.” You know, because I knew that if-

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jan: … I told him, he might react ne- so negatively. And I already felt bad maybe about buying it, so unspoken truths can really be- strangle your marriage.

Jim: Okay. So, a woman is going, “Ugh, that’s exactly where I’m at today.”

Jan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: What do you do to change that trajectory? How do you work up the courage to say, “We need a different way of doing this, we need a budget,” whatever it might be? How do you go about doing that?

Ron: I think if you can agree as a couple, even if you’re not gonna make changes immediately, just to say it loud. Um, there’s a way you can do this. You can say something like, “My husband always.” Or “I wish my wife wouldn’t.” And fill in the sentence and show it to each other and say, “I don’t know how we can work on this, but I wanna say it out loud. I wanna let God know, I wanna let you know, this is not okay.” And maybe you can even say, “How does this work with the kind of man Christ called you to be? Is this consistent?” Just throw a little guilt trip in there, you know?

John: And this is not the kind of thing, Ron, that a couple should just spring on each other, right? I mean, I should go home tonight and say, “Hey, I was thinking about things that you shouldn’t do anymore, and here’s my list.”

Jim: Yeah, let’s not start there.

John: Right? I mean, the context is very important here.

Ron: If they were gonna start, I’d start with, “Here’s some things I’ve learned about myself that I want to do differently.”

Jim: That’s good.

Ron: Let’s share an example first and then say, “And maybe if you have some time, it’d be great if you sa- think of some things that maybe could be better for- on your side of the street.”

Jim: And we’re right at the end, but I do wanna grab that, that question for that spouse who’s saying, “I’m pretty good. I’m in a good spot. I’m all right, but it’s my spouse. That guy, he’s this, he’s that.” How does that spouse… And it doesn’t have… You know, just put it in a generic term.

Ron: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: But how does that person make that turn to not amplify the spouse’s negatives, and amplify their righteousness (laughs)?

Ron: I can only speak for myself. I had to look directly in the mirror, hear what God was saying, what God’s taught me to be, what the Bible tell me to be, and see the discrepancy between what I’m called to be and who I am. And you have to be honest with yourself and God and say, “I can’t keep living this way, ’cause this isn’t who you’ve called me to be.”

John: Well, I’m so glad that we can turn to God to help us in every area of life, especially marriage. And this has been a Best of 2020 Focus on the Family Broadcast, with Ron and Jan Welch.

Jim: Uh, John, that conversation with Ron and Jan was so refreshing and so real. Um, you know, sometimes as believers, uh, we want to honor God by projecting that we have a perfect marriage, even though nothing’s perfect in this life, including our marriages. There’s always things to work on.

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: Uh, Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians, “God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses.” Uh, maybe your marriage looks good on the outside, but behind closed doors, you’re struggling a bit. If that describes you, uh, please reach out to us. One couple, Kiara and Daniel, wrote to us after attending our marriage intensive, Hope Restored, as we call it, and said this, “For seven years, our home has felt like World War III. We came to Focus broken, nervous, and skeptical, but the intensive has truly been an amazing journey. God has opened our eyes. We have learned how to take care of our hearts and truly care for our spouse’s feelings. We opened up to each other. I will cherish this memory of Hope Restored forever.”

John: Well, that is, uh, such a great story and it’s really why we do these marriage intensives at Hope Restored, to give couples like Kiara and Daniel something to cling onto so they can rebuild that relationship.

Jim: You know, uh, in addition to those couples we’ve helped through Hope Restored, there’s also about 100,000 couples this past year that Focus helped them work through a major crisis in their marriage. And if you’d like to join the team to help keep marriages together, whether it’s Hope Restored or just the broader marriage effort here at Focus on the Family, uh, become a supporter. A one-time gift helps us, uh, so much. A monthly gift is really stabilizing to the efforts here. Either way, uh, when you give, I’ll send you a copy of Ron’s book, 10 Choices Successful Couples Make, to say thank you.

John: And we do encourage your, uh, prayerful support right now, and there’s a matching gift opportunity available today. So please, uh, donate as you can and know that your gift is gonna go twice as far because of that matching gift opportunity. The number to donate and get the book is 800-A-FAMILY, 800-232-6459, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.  And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family, I’m John Fuller, inviting you back for a special conversation tomorrow with two infectious disease specialists. They’re going to help you separate fact from fiction when it comes to the new coronavirus vaccine. That’s next time on Focus on the Family as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

10 Choices Successful Couples Make

10 Choices Successful Couples Make

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