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Cherish Your Spouse, Change Your Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

Original Air Date 01/24/2017

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Author Gary Thomas describes what it means to truly cherish your spouse, offering practical advice to help you build a more satisfying and fulfilling marriage. (Part 2 of 2)

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Episode Transcript



Gary Thomas: Because when you get married, your first call, your first look has to be toward your spouse. And … and I would say that particularly to younger couples. That’s what has to change in marriage. When you get good news or bad news, if your first call is to your parents, if your first call is to your best friend, you’re not fully married yet. That first call, that first look has to be toward your spouse if they’re gonna feel cherished.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Gary Thomas returns for a second day on this Best of 2017 Focus on the Family broadcast with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and yesterday we featured Gary talking about one word that can transform your marriage and that word is ‘cherish’.

Jim Daly: John, I’m looking forward to part two of our conversation today with Gary-- he always brings such great insights and godly perspective to the issue we face in our families. Because let’s face it, marriage can be difficult at times. And often times, we can get a little too comfortable doing our own thing and neglecting our spouse just like Gary was describing there. We often hear from husbands and wives who are struggling and that’s why Focus on the Family is here! To help you.

Here’s a comment we recently received from a woman named Dora. She wrote, “I can’t tell you how often I’ve gone over my data limits listening to your broadcast on my phone app!” Sorry about that! (laughter) “I always find your topics encouraging and worthwhile and relevant to my life. When my husband left his faith shortly after we were married, he suffered from depression and anxiety. Your broadcasts encouraged me to continue to pray for him and now, all these years later, he’s not only walking in faith but he’s probably a better Christian than I am! Thank you guys for all you do!” We don’t deserve any credit for that; that makes me anxious. But, man, the Lord is the one working through all of us! For those of you who are praying for us and supporting us and for the team here who can reach out on your behalf and the Lord’s behalf and touch that soul.

John: Yeah, I hope you’re feeling a little bit of what she expressed there that we’re here to assist you and to guide you and to offer encouragement along the way. By the way, Jim, Dora should be happy to know that in about a month we’ll have a new app that lets her download so she doesn’t have to break her data limit anymore!

Jim: That’s good to hear! Here at Focus, we want to help your marriage thrive by giving you the tools you need to communicate better, work through the conflict and experience that ‘one flesh’ intimacy that God describes in the scripture for your relationship. If you need help, like Dora, contact us! Don’t be embarrassed. We offer counseling and our Hope Restored program is for couples who are on the brink of divorce. They have an 81%, post two-year success rate. And, again, there are so many other tools available to you here at Focus.

John: And the number to call is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or stop by to learn more. Let’s go ahead and return now to this Best of 2017 broadcast with Gary Thomas talking about his bookCherish: The One Word that Changes Everything for Your Marriage.


Jim: One of the major things you address is how well we respond when our spouse is talking to us and I imagine this is a common problem in marriage. Husbands and wives, they get busy or they get distracted. Maybe we’re staring at our cell phones or television or whatever it is right in front of us and we’re not paying attention to each other the way we should be. We’re not tryin’ to be rude, I’m sure, but maybe the point of the conversation doesn’t seem that significant to us. Husbands are probably guilty of that. But you say our response becomes critical over time. Why is that?

Gary: Yeah. An analogy I like to use for guys is that marriage is like baseball. You’re the batter at the plate and your wife is throwing pitches every day. And once a pitcher throws the ball, the pitch counts, right? You can let it go by and maybe it’s a called strike. Maybe it’s a ball. You can foul it off. You can hit it, but it’s gonna go in the record something happened. And every time our wife says something to us, it’s like she’s throwing a pitch and our batting average is going to be affected. And the best marriages and this is why it’s so hard (Laughing) for husbands, right? ‘Cause if you hit 350 in the Major—

Jim: That sounds pretty good.

Gary: --Leagues, you’re … you’re pretty good. If you hit 350 in marriage, it leads to disastrous consequences.

Jim: What do you got? What does your batting average have to be to …?

Gary: Well, the best marriages, they call ‘em “Marriage Masters” is about 90 percent and that means—

Jim: So, battin’ 900.

Gary: --9 out of 10 times. And (Laughter) … and it’s very practical and it’s helped me. You know, just being a guy, I thought, well, okay, here’s … yeah, how you can kinda keep count. But it’s basically if your wife says, “Honey, there’s this article that I just read” and so often something that interests her, might not interest me. But here’s what another husband said that helps me so much. He realized he was working on a $200,000 bid that was due the next day. He’s self-employed and this is a … a big thing.

And his wife had a little down time. She works beside him. She was on Facebook and found something that seemed so fascinating about some semi-distant friend that frankly (Laughter) he couldn’t care anything about.

Jim: Not the moment.

Gary: But here’s what I love [about] his approach. Here’s why his wife feels cherished. He goes, “I realize that when Jacqueline is talking to me, it’s not what she’s talking about, it’s who’s talking.”

Jim: Ah.

Gary: And if I want to cherish Jacqueline, I have to notice. And he was taught when he was young, you notice somebody by looking at ‘em. That’s how they know—

Jim: Right.

Gary: --you’re listening to ‘em. And so, he forces himself to look at Jacqueline when he’s talking to [her] to say, I might not care what she’s saying, but I care about her. I care more about that $200,000 bid than this semi-friend from Facebook-- but you know what? I care more about my wife than that $200,000 contract and so, I need to catch this bid.

Jim: Ah, when you talk about that idea of “bid,” um … what do you mean by it as a couple—bidding for each other’s attention or? What do you mean by “bid?”

Gary: If you see something in the newspaper and point it out or the husband says, “Honey, look at that bird. It’s incredible,” even if she’s not into birds or if the husband is just into something and shares something that matters to him, that’s a bid.

Jim: Yeah.

Gary: You’re throwin’ it out. What … whenever a spouse is saying something, here’s what they’re really asking. Do you still cherish me? Are you still interested in me? And that’s what made dating so intoxicating. You know, we were just going along on our way and we’re dating someone and they wanted—tell me more. What happened when you were younger? What do you think about this? Why do you care about that? Oh, that’s so funny—you like that movie? I liked it too! That’s what made dating so intoxicating is ‘cause somebody was curious and they asked us for more. Cherishing is about maintaining that curiosity and asking for more. Now some are gonna come back and say, “How can I be curious about somebody that I’ve been married to for 30 years?”

Jim: Ah.

Gary: And this is the thing. You’re not married to the same person. I’ve been married to my wife for 31 years now. But here’s the thing. Having children changes a woman. Becoming an empty nester changes a woman. A woman losing one or both parents changes a woman. A woman who succeeds in her occupation or fails in her occupation, a woman who goes through cancer, we change all the time because life changes us. And if we lose that curiosity, our spouse gradually becomes a stranger. So, to cherish them I have to maintain that curiosity and say, “Tell me more. What are you going through? What … how is that affecting you?” Because it matters to her, it should matter to me.

Jim: Now ho … how do you, I’m just thinking of Jean and I when we’ve had not knowing the approach, but doing it by default, we’ll have these exchanges sometimes on my end, sometimes on her end, but you know, I’ll have that moment where I’m kinda chatty, but she’s trying to get things done. (Laughing) And so, she’ll give me the, “I love you, but now is not a great time to talk.” How … how do you politely redirect that energy because actually right now I have to concentrate on this other thing? Even though I love you and I cherish you, but I practically have to get this done in the next two minutes?

Gary: Well, I think the way you said it is actually pretty good. Remember we’re supposed to catch 9 out of 10 bids. I don’t think—

Jim: Right.

Gary: --anybody gets 10 out of 10.

Jim: But I’m talkin’ about the one, I guess. (Laughing)

Gary: And if you have that foundation where the bids are usually caught and your spouse says, “This sounds fascinating. I can’t wait to hear about it. Let me get this done and then we’ll hear it.”

Jim: Okay.

Gary: But see, I’ve seen the damage when people don’t take bids seriously and it amazes me when they didn’t even realize it. I was behind a young couple at church. There were three people, a husband and wife and then he had one of his buddies there. And the pastor was very engaging. He told funny stories and … but good truth and it’s the kind of sermon where you’re just … a lot to respond to. And so, every time the pastor would say somethin’ that’s funny, uh … everybody would laugh and I’d watch, because the wife would look at her husband to share that laugh.

Jim: Ah.

Gary: But he always looked left toward his buddy.

Jim: Ah.

Gary: And then the pastor would say somethin’ that was really moving and so she’d look toward her husband, “Did you get that?” And he’s looking toward his buddy. And I saw her face begin to fall and I saw her become blank in her expression. And by the fifth or sixth time, she stopped looking. She’s just staring—

Jim: Wow.

Gary: --ahead with this frozen look ‘cause he kept sharin’ it with his friend. And I … look, I’ve worked with enough of these young couples. I knew what was gonna happen on their way home. She’s gonna be a little bit cold and frustrated and he’s gonna say, “What’s wrong?” And she’s gonna be upset that he doesn’t know what’s wrong!

Jim: Right.

Gary: And so, he’s thinkin’, “Oh, she’s impossible. See, how am I supposed to be married to a woman that is just so frustrated when I didn’t do anything wrong?” And here’s the thing. I’d just say to the young husband, she wanted to share the sermon with you and you chose to share it with your buddy. She wanted to have you catch those bids. She’s looking your way and I’m sure it was unintentional, but by always going to your buddy instead of her, she felt like she was frozen out and that’s what makes her feel frozen.

Because when you get married, your first call, your first look has to be toward your spouse. And … and I would say that particularly to younger couples. That’s what has to change in marriage. When you get good news or bad news, if your first call is to your parents, if your first call is to your best friend, you’re not fully married yet. That first call, that first look has to be toward your spouse if they’re gonna feel cherished.

Jim: Oh, those are good words, Gary. And so important for younger couples, and Jean and I made lots of mistakes in that area when we were first married.

John: We did, too.

Jim: I mean, we just (Chuckling) yeah, we were … what you referred to last time where you like the cherish factor better than being a newlywed and infatuated newlyweds, ‘cause you’ll go through the pain of learning the importance of cherishing after you’ve had, I guess, a few falls on your face when it comes to infatuation.

Gary: Right.

Jim: You know, you did touch on that, but we didn’t really describe infatuation. A lot of marriage specialists talk about that. They even contract that infatuation stage lasting about two years when you first get married and then it … it falls into different patterns and different ruts at that point. The newness of the relationship has worn off.

Gary: Uh-hm.

Jim: That’s what you’re talkin’ about. What comes after that infatuation of the newlywed phase, right?

Gary: Ab … absolutely. The problem with infatuation is what neurologists, those that study the brain, call “idealization.” You’re giving the person strengths they don’t really have. You’re missing the weakness that everybody else sees, but you don’t. You … you’ve fallen in love with this person who actually doesn’t exist. It has to die because intimacy is being fully known and fully accepted and you can’t accept somebody that you don’t really know. You’re accepting a mirage.

You can’t maintain an infatuation. Infatuation happens whether you want it to or not. You can control it. You can not act on it. You can not obsess over it, but it comes and goes. Cherishing can be built with a new mind-set, with a new heart-set. By doing actions that move us to cherish our spouse, we become more cherishing.

And like I said before, cherishing is better than infatuation. It’s more important than infatuation and that’s the whole point behind cherish as a new model for marriage. Marriages should be better in 2017 than they were in 1917 or 1967, because in every other arena of social society and intellectual thought, we grow.

So, why don’t we try to take our marriages to the next level and say, it’s not just about staying in there. It’s about a wife who really feels cherished, a husband who really feels cherished, so that young people can see, infatuation is wonderful, but there’s something even better on the other side. If we stay with this, we work through it, we can get something that pays off even more.

Jim: Well, and the reality is, when we can demonstrate that to the world that’s watching—

Gary: Yes. Yeah.

Jim: --that will lift Christ up. People will be intrigued by that. Why do you have that kind of marriage? I want that kind of marriage. What’s the secret to your marriage? And you can turn and say, it’s our commitment to Christ andthatis awesome, that moment.

Um … before we move away from that idea of the, you know, getting and being engaged with your spouse more regularly on a 900 batting average basis, you know, nine times out of 10 you’re gonna make time to hear your spouse express their thought to you. Talk about the, I think it was Gottman research where the other end of that continuum where you’re batting maybe 2, 300, [which] usually lays the ground work for divorce.

Gary: Yeah, they call them “the disasters,” that basically they almost never survive. And it’s … we talk about rose-colored glasses and I think you could talk about contempt-colored glasses. I’ve seen this with a couple where their mind has become so filled with contempt and disgust, they’re blinded to the one or two good things that their spouse does. In fact, she was asking him to share what he thought and he patiently and calmly did that, and then she screamed at him. “See, you won’t even say that. You won’t even answer,” after he had just answered the question.

Jim: (Chuckling)

Gary: He had just listened to her and it was shocking to me as an objective third party that she couldn’t see what he had just done because she was just so eager to pounce. And that’s why those are miserable marriages. Contempt hasn’t helped a single marriage—

Jim: Yeah.

Gary: --in the history of the human race.

Jim: You know, Gary, I’m thinking of it in this context and correct me if you disagree with me, but I’m thinking of how the Lord dealt with people on this earth.

Gary: Uh-hm.

Jim: And it puts a different um … really a different color to the time the Lord encountered the adulterous woman. Um … it’s not contempt. He’s speaking truth, but He almost tries to raise her game by saying, “Go and sin no more.” He does it not through contempt, not through shame, but through acknowledging that she’s forgiven.

Gary: Right.

Jim: And now I want you to go and sin no more.

Gary: Right.

Jim: It’s a beautiful way to describe that, again, in Romans 2:4 where it’s God’s kindness that leads one to repentance. There’s a connection there, isn’t there?

Gary: There is and there was one time in my life where I was convicted, believe it or not, by a cross-dresser. A man had asked to get together with me and sharing his story, issues in his marriage and it finally came out that he had had a long-standing issue with pornography that was really making it difficult for him to relate to his wife. So he was finally going to a recovery group where they were sharing and he experienced a certain level of victory. And it was impacting his marriage and he was so filled with hope and he was so grateful to God that this thing that had plagued him for so long, he’d had victory. But then his wife was out of town and he just collapsed and fell. And he’d had his chips, you know, I don’t know how long it had been, it’d been a number of months where he’d had his chips of success and abstinence.

And so he went into the group and he had to share his failure and... and he was so overwhelmed because he thought, “Man, I thought I had dealt with this. I finally had hope. I knew the things to do.” And he just shared the shame, “will I ever be free of this? Will I have to deal with this for the rest of my life?” And he just broke down weeping in front of the group and he couldn’t handle it. And he finally looked up and there was a man who was there because he dealt with... with cross-dressing and his name was Leon (which my friend reminded me is Noel spelled backwards). And Leon was weeping with him. He just cried with him as he cried because he knew what it felt like to have shame, to have regret, to say how could I be back here again, I thought I’d done this, I thought I’d done all the things that you’re supposed to do to be free and here I’m back. And he said, I can’t tell you how God ministered to me just seeing Leon’s tears.

I aspire to that attitude. That when my spouse is struggling, the first thing I’m doing is crying over their hurt. Because I think that’s what Jesus does. He cries with us. He hurts with us. Now he does say, “Go and sin no more.” And that group would say to my friend, “Go and sin no more.” But before they got there, they cried with him. And I think that’s what I at least aspire to in marriage. Can I be that way? Can I have that soft heart? In touch with my own sin, in touch with my own need of grace, so that my first response is to share tears instead of share judgement.

Jim: Mm. That is well said and I just love that attitude that comes through in scripture so clearly how much the Lord loves us, even though we are frail and we fail Him. That’s the wonder of His sacrifice for us.

Gary, let me zero in on a couple of feelings that I have on behalf of the listeners. I … I am sure there are people who are saying, um … you know, “I shouldn’t have to change for my spouse to cherish me. I’m a pretty good guy.” What’s your response? You probably have had that in counseling where, “Come on, Gary. I’m a good person. My wife [or my husband], they just need to accept who I am.”

Gary: Yeah. The reality is that I think all of us want to be cherished. When guys understand what it means, even guys want to be cherished. And if that’s the goal, I think if you live in the real world, it’s easy to say, how do I make myself a little easier to cherish? It’s not that my spouse doesn’t have an obligation to try to accept me, but why wouldn’t I make it a little easier for them?

Here’s an example. I know I’ve said before, I’m not clinically OCD, but I live in the neighborhood right next door to it (Laughter), you know. I’ve had my routines and early on in my marriage, because I didn’t understand this about me, if Lisa just upset my routines, I would just be all flustered and … and what not. And my son and his new wife had just moved into an apartment in Seattle. And they happened to move into an apartment that was like a quarter of a mile from Green Lake.

It’s this very nice trail around a lake in Seattle that I used to go out of my way to run there when I was going to the airport, ‘cause I lived about 70 miles north of that, but the airport was a little bit below it, and so I would set up my day coming back so I could have this nice run around Green Lake. And I always hated it because then I had to sit in sweaty clothes (Laughter) all the way as I drove back up to Bellingham, Washington. That was the price I paid to run in Green Lake. Now I have a son with an apartmentanda shower a quarter mile from Green Lake. I’m thinkin’, I’m gonna get to run around Green Lake and take a shower and go home in fresh clothes. This is just (Laughter) obsessive stuff, right?

So, I was thinking that day, we’re … we’re havin’ a[n] evening. I’m … I just was thinkin’, how am I gonna get a run in? We’d already gone to church. We had the afternoon. I’m thinkin’, well, I … I had to do 10 miles, which is ridiculous. I didn’t have to do 10 miles. I’m not on a program. I don’t have a coach, but this was just in my mind [that] I’m supposed to do. I kept saying, well, but then when am I’m gonna do my run and my wife very lovingly and gently, the model example, just said, “Gary, I … I know you need to get a run in, but maybe that’s not the most important thing right now. Maybe you can run a little shorter today and then you can do it tomorrow and we’ll have this or that.”

And she just said it in a way where I realized, I was obsessing. And I … I don’t want tobethat way. I want to be like Jesus who came not to be served, but to serve. I didn’t want the whole family to feel like they had to get around on that. And so, I was thankful for that because I don’t want her to just let me go into the worst parts of my personality.

Now people will ask, I did get the 10-mile run in, a glorious part (Laughter) of it, next to my son, which made it even better. He had to go much slower for me, but he was gracious and did that.But I recognized that there are things that must be very irritating about me. My friend Linda Dillow, wrote a book. I love the title:What’s It Like to Be Married to Me?

Jim: Hm.

Gary: And I think that’s a healthy question sometimes just to ask what is it like? What … what must be most difficult about being married to me? And if I want my spouse to cherish me and saying, “You know what? How … how do I address that? How do I make it a little bit easier? Because yeah, in the idealistic view of things she should cherish me regardless. In the real world, I can make it easier or more difficult. And if I want to be cherished, I can find out what those things are that make it more difficult to cherish me and at least try to address ‘em.

Jim: Gary, I really can’t relate with wanting to run 10 miles (Laughter). How about you, John?

John: Not at the present, no.

Jim: It might be my garage. That seems to me, that’s my—

Gary: It … it’s a—

Jim: --OCD place.

Gary: --to be fair, it’s a little easier in Seattle, which is like at 10 feet—

Jim: Oh, yeah.

Gary: --above sea level--

Jim: Oh, thank you.

Gary: --than where you live, where it’s—

Jim: Yes, that’s the reason.

Gary: --6,000 feet. There you go.

Jim: That’s the reason right there.Uh … Gary, we have had a couple of great days with you talkin’ about this concept of cherishing your spouse. Should the wife who’s hearing this or maybe the husband who’s hearing this today, when they get together tonight after work and after the dishes are done and they sit down for a moment, should they ask each other what can I do to cherish you? Or will that be too much of a leap? How do they get going?

Gary: No, I think for a lot of marriages that would be great advice. Tell me when you felt most cherished by me?

Jim: I would think some people won’t even know how to answer it.

Gary: Yeah, they might not. Um … some … you know, one real challenge is that a lot of people go into marriage and they don’t feel cherishable. They’ve been--

Jim: Yes.

Gary: --beaten up. They’ve been abused and it’s hard for them to receive it. Itjust said it. So, you have to realize, is your spouse in a place where they can be cherished? Now others and this is the thing about cherishing. It has to be very particular. I talked to a wife whose husband was rather famous.

He’d been drafted in the first round of a draft. He had been a quarterback. When he was in high school he played the glamour positions. He was short stop. He was point guard. He was even lead singer in a rock band. (Laughter)

Jim: So he had a successful high school career.

Gary: And then he’s the pastor. Then he becomes a minister. He’s the pastor of like a 10 or 15,000-member church. I mean, he’s succeeded everywhere he goes and she realized that she had set the bar so high. This is how husbands are. They provide. They’re full of energy. They’re faithful to the Lord.

And she realized most husbands weren’t like that and she was speaking to a group of women one time and she asked her husband just to share what it was like and he gave a word image that just shocked her. He says, “You know, the tough thing for me is, that I feel like I’ve been cheered my whole life by the cheerleaders.” Uh … his mom was such that she … you know, he was the apple of her eye. He said, “Coaches, I had all these people cheering for me.”

He goes, “And then I would come home and it was like I heard my wife” and he cupped his hands over his [mouth], “Boo! Boo! Boo! And … and I don’t get it. How come I’m pleasing all these other people and I … I can’t at home?” She was appalled. She was horri[fied]. She had no idea--that’s how he was feeling. And so, they had a … a moment when they got home and she just said, “I’m so sorry. I just realized I’ve just taken you for granted because you haven’t been beat up your whole life. You have been celebrated your whole life and so, I’ve become the detractor by comparison.” So, that marriage is a very different challenge than somebody that marries somebody who feels like they’re not—

Jim: Right.

Gary: --worth anything. So, you’ve got to figure [it] out.

Jim: But both are in danger.

Gary: Absolutely and … and it’s why the whole chapter is the uniqueness that cherish is based on your particular spouse. You have to understand.Spectacularly good advice for some couples might be spectacularly bad advice for other couples. If my spouse is going to feel cherished, it goes back to the Garden of Eden that we talked about before.

She’s Eve. She’s the only woman in the world. Song of Songs 6:9, “My dove, my perfect one is the only one.” I … if you’ve dated a lot before, if you’ve been married before, you throw all of that out. What does it mean to cherish this particular person? If you don’t treat ‘em as a particular person, they’ll never feel cherished.


John: And that brings us to a close for this Best of 2017 Focus on the Family broadcast with your host Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and our guest for the past couple of days has been Gary Thomas as he shared from his bookCherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage.

Jim: John, I so appreciate the wisdom and insights Gary shares. He’s given us a lot to think about and as we heard a couple of times these past two days, we really need to keep our marriage relationship strong. Why? Because you are a witness to the world of what a godly marriage looks like. You are a witness to your own children of what God designed marriage to be. So it’s my prayer that you will take Gary’s words to heart-- me too-- and really work on cherishing your relationship with your spouse. I also want to encourage you to get Gary’s book. In fact, I want to provide you with a complimentary copy if you can send a financial gift to Focus on the Family today. That’s how important this resource is. Get a copy for yourself or for someone in your church.

John: You can donate and request Gary’s bookCherishat or call 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And when you get in touch, ask about our Best of 2017 audio collection. As we’ve said, this conversation with Gary Thomas is part of that and there’s also a discussion with Deborah Pegues talking about how to forgive the past and embrace your future. And then we had Sadie Robertson from the Duck Dynasty clan describing how young people especially can live out faith in today’s culture. Those are just some of our “Best of”s and we invite you to get the CD or digital collection.

Well I hope you have a great weekend with your family and that you’ll join us again New Year’s Day, Monday for an inspiring message about how God can transform your life when you willingly serve him.


Dr. Lori Salierno-Maldonado: But when God calls you to His vision, He calls you to something that transcends safety; He calls you to something that transcends common sense. It is all about Jesus Christ.

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Gary Thomas

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Gary Thomas is an international speaker and best-selling, award-winning author whose books include Pure Pleasure, Holy Available and Sacred Marriage. He has also written numerous articles for several prominent national magazines. Gary and his wife, Lisa, reside in Texas and have three children. You can learn more about Gary by visiting his website,