Popular author Kathi Lipp shares practical ways for women to take simple, daily steps to improve their marriage and affirm their husbands.
John Fuller: When you were dating, it was easy to see the best in that other person, but after you get married, well, it’s easy to take that person for granted. Author and speaker, Kathi Lipp shares an experience related to that.
Kathi Lipp: And I remember at about six months, looking at Roger and thinking, “What did we do? I mean, I love you, but this is really hard stuff.” And when we started to do the project, I realized, man, I had been neglecting all the best parts of Roger. I wasn’t calling anything out in him that was saying, “I love you; I respect you; I appreciate you.” And so, it changed the dynamic of our marriage. It really did within a week.
End of Excerpt
John: Well, we want to share with you the small intentional actions and steps that Kathi took to transform her marriage. And I think you’ll see some ways that you can apply her lessons to your life. This is “Focus on the Family” with Focus president, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, having a good marriage doesn’t happen by accident. We think that it does, but it doesn’t. It takes work and it comes by our daily choices being the right choices.
Jim: Here at Focus on the Family, this is our mission, we want to come alongside you each and every day and give you hope and encouragement to help you not just survive in your marriage, but to thrive in your marriage.
It’s one of the most disheartening things right now in the Christian community. When we need to be the example of how marriages are designed and how God intends such good things in our marriage and yet, when the world looks at our marriages, maybe they’re not seeing much different from their own and that’s unfortunate.
So, as we talk about marriage and about thriving in marriage, that’s our goal at Focus on the Family, to help you be not only happy and fulfilled in your marriage, but to be a testimony to others. Today to help inspire and encourage all of us to have stronger marriages, we’ve invited back someone you make a quick friend of. That’s Kathi Lipp. She’s a speaker, an author of numerous books, including The Husband Project and Praying God’s Word for Your Husband, which is the basis of today’s discussion. She and her husband, Roger, live in San Jose, California and they’re parents to four kids, really grown kids, right, Kathi?
Kathi: Yes, they are.
Jim: Hey, let me say welcome back to Focus.
Kathi: Thanks so much for having me back.
Jim: Kathi, we heard a little bit in that clip about your journey and what you experienced in your marriage, kind of that “aha” moment, which you know, so many of us have that,especially women.
Jim: They think, wow, that’s not the man I thought I married. For the woman that is looking for maybe just a ... a rung of hope here, what’s one thing she can do to improve the situation?
Kathi: I think the quickest way to improve your marriage is really to speak encouragement into your husband. And you guys know my heart. Prayer is on my heart, loving your husband on purpose, but I think that we are in such a culture of tearing each other down, finding the weakness in another person and using that to our advantage and we’re not taught to encourage each other. And our husbands are so desperate for that word of encouragement.
Jim: Why does that come so naturally, to tear down rather than to build up?
Kathi: I think it’s television; it’s all those things thatwe’re always looking for that one-upmanship and I think it’s just part of our sin nature.
Kathi: I think it’s just something that we have to fight against. And we were never taught to encourage our brother and sister when they’re growing up. I think some great families do a great job of that, but like I said, it’s not in our nature.
And so, if we can give that encouragement that our husbands are so desperate for, we could give that to him on a regular basis, I have seen this happen, not dozens of times, hundreds of times where women have said, “I don’t think it’ll work, but I’ll try it.” They’re going in with a bad attitude, but least they’re willing to do it and they give that word of encouragement and their husband’s like, “What’s going on?” They don’t even know how to respond, because it’s been so long and it changes the trajectory of their marriage.
Jim: Typically, when you’re dating and courting, you get a lot of encouragement.
Jim: I love your hair. I love how tall and strong you are.
Jim: We do that and then the marriage comes and then it’s man, this is not the way my mom made chicken.
Kathi: Well, exactly and you know, those things that we loved when they were dating, you know, he took charge. He was so much fun. You know, those are the words we put in the left-hand column. And when we get married, we move to the right-hand column. You know, he took charge; he’s so controlling.
Kathi: He’s so much fun. He’s so irresponsible. Yeah, when we know that we’re in it for the long haul, the things that we loved about our man are the things that can sometimes drive us crazy.
Jim: Now that’s a big speed bump to get over.
Jim: I mean I can feel it. You know, even for Jean and I, there are days where we may have had a little disagreement or something. I don’t feel like encouraging. I should; I know that and I feel guilty, but in that context, how do we get over that speed bump? How do we make it a minimal bump and not a brick wall?
Kathi: I think if we, as women, can understand that the only encouragement our husband is probably going to get throughout the day is from us, when we realize we’re their only source. Now for women, we get encouragement for [from] our friends. We get encouragement from other sources, but for a man, we’re it for the most part.
And so, when we understand how desperately he needs that and we can start looking for the good for him. You know, when you buy a new car, if you’re not looking for that car,you’ve probably never seen it on the road. But once you buy that car, you see it everywhere.
Jim: (Chuckling) That’s right.
Kathi: And so, it’s the same thing with encouragement. When you are looking for the bad in your husband, you’re gonna find it.
Jim: Well, that leads to one question and when the girls get together and they’re having their favorite coffee or something,now, John, I don’t know if this is true, there tends to be a little apprehension on the part of men and husbands, because are they talkin’ about us?
Kathi: Yes, right.
Jim: And if so, how’re they talkin’ about us?
Kathi:Let me just answer yes; we are talking about you (Laughter).
Kathi: But I think this is where that circle of friends can either save your marriage in many ways or destroy it.
Kathi: Because if you’re hanging around women who are on purpose working towards a better marriage, that’s gonna call out the best in you if they’re praying for each other’s marriages. And when you’re saying something that maybe is not the most building of your husband, your friend says, “Well, did you look at it from his viewpoint?” that can be a place where you can start to really work out some of the things instead of bringing them all home to your husband. You can be an encouragement to each other instead of tearing the guys down.
Jim: Well, what should that wife do then? And she’s hangin’ around a group of friends and it’s negative pretty much all the time about the husbands in the group, what should she do?
Kathi: I think that there are two approaches, one to say, I can’t speak like that about my husband and I don’t want to hear it from you guys. I want to see your husband at church and be able to give him a hug and say, “You know, it’s great to see you,” instead of “Oh, I know what you did last Saturday.” You want to make sure that it’s a place where if there are issues, they can be prayed out; they can be talked out, but they’re not gossiped out.
And then the other thing is, I think there are times when I as a woman, need to remove myself from a group of friends, when it’s just, you know, maybe there’s too much brokenness and bitterness. And brokenness is great if you’re working on something. But if you want to stay in that place of brokenness and bitterness, I can’t stay there with you.
Jim: And it can be really toxic. I mean, with the number of people divorcing today, one of the things even within Christian circles is, you find those discussions very negative, because if a friend’s husband is doing something that the other friend who did get the divorce recognizes as, you know, suspect behavior, she’ll feed into that.
Kathi: Right, yeah.
Jim: “But that’s what my ex-husband was doing.”
Jim: And it can be very negative when she doesn’t maybe even really understand or know the circumstances at all.
Kathi: And she doesn’t know the guy. And you know, so we have to be very, very careful when we are giving advice to other women, that we are always pointing them back to what is God’s will in this situation?
Jim: And what is it?
Kathi: God’s will is for you to pray for your husband, to pray for your marriage, to pray for your family and to work on these things. My chief complaint is, people are giving up before they try. You know, have you been to counseling? Have you talked to your pastor? Have you read the books? And you know, some people have said, “Yes, I’ve read the books; I’ve gone to counseling.” Okay, but maybe you’re in a different place than you were two years ago, so read the books again. Go to counseling again. Keep trying.
Kathi: Keep going.
Jim: Ah, in your book, The Husband Project: 21 Days of Loving Your Man On Purpose and with a Plan, you break these down into project lessons basically.
Kathi: Yeah, right.
Jim: And the one that stuck out for me was being his friend. You know, it’s so different in what we’re talking about, how husbands-- you can validate this John--I think when we get together, we actually don’t really open up about those things.
Jim: We go the other direction and I think in some ways that’s why we don’t understand it when our wives do that, ‘cause we’re thinking, “Wow, how could you share that with somebody?”
Jim: ‘Cause a guy would not do that.
Jim: Is that accurate?
Kathi: It’s so true and when you think about guys getting together, they’re not sitting face to face. They’re doing things side by side. You know, they’re doing an activity together. They’re hanging out together. And women are coming together to kind of figure out, am I okay? Is my marriage okay? Where are we at? And kind of comparing and calibrating all the time.
Jim: All the time.
Kathi: And we’re taking in all this information and we’re processing it and we’re seeing what’s on TV and we’re processing that. And we’re trying to figure out where do we land?
Jim: Now that can be good to a degree.
Kathi: If you’re end goal is to have a Christ-centered healthy marriage, absolutely. I want to be around women who are working on their marriage, who are saying, “This is who God has me with and I want to make the absolute best of it, not just for me, but for him. I want to see him become all that he is designed to be in God, too.”
Jim: Well, and back to the project lessons, the one that caught my attention, as I said, was being his friend.
Jim: When you talk about guys doing things side by side, it’s usually an activity and then we rib each other.
Kathi: Uh-hm, yeah.
Jim: I mean, all the fun that goes with that, it’s very jocular.
Jim: That’s typically a guy’s way of relating.
Jim: Are you suggesting that woman try that? If your man likes to go out and play golf, go out and try to hit that thing.
Kathi: Absolutely. My husband, part of the reason he married me was so he would have something to do on Friday nights.
Kathi: That’s really it. I know that. And when we were dating, if he wanted to go watch a[n] action flick, I was right there with him. I would go to that action movie with him. Now that I’m married to him, I’m thinkin’, I’d rather scrub grout (Laughter) than seeing one of those kind of movies.
Jim: Oh, yeah, Jean’s never got[ten] to the first part. She was (Laughter) there when we were dating. No way am I going to an action flick.
Kathi: She had other reasons that you wanted to be with her. But we go from being that buddy and friend to being that partner where the kids and the jobs and all of that kind of stuff and we lose that friendship aspect.
Jim: Another one that caught my attention was the issue of stress. Men and women handle stress differently and respond to stress differently.
Kathi: Yes, right.
Jim: I think in one of your projects, you said, eliminate a stressor from his life.
Kathi: Yeah, stress be gone. I realized that at one point, I was trying to do too much before my husband came home. I got off of work before he did and so, I was trying to have, you know, dinner on the table, which is excellent. I was tryin’ to get the laundry done. And he would come home and there would be chaos everywhere. And my laundry table was his chair that is his favorite chair. And so, he came home and--
Kathi: --yeah, he told me, “I felt bad moving the pile so I could sit down, because I felt like you were telling me I needed to fold the pile.” And so, when I realized that, that was stressing him out at the end of the day, I needed to make sure that’s not where the laundry ended up. Is there something in his life that is causing him stress that you could take off of his plate, even in a small way?
Is there a chore, like maybe he mows the lawn every Saturday or whenever it needs to be done. Could you hire a neighborhood kid or have one of your kids do that, so that could be taken off his plate? And you don’t brag on this and like, “Look what I did for you.” You’re just subtly changing the way that you approach your husband and show him love and taking those stressors off is a big way to do that.
John: Kathi, somebody listening’s saying, “Oh, great; here’s another “Focus on the Family” program throwin’ guilt on me, ‘cause I don’t have that in me. I’ve got these little ‘ankle-biters,’ as Dr. Leman calls them.
Kathi: Right, door-slammers, got it, yeah.
John: My energy is gone, so when he’s home, I’m ready for him to rescue me. I don’t have anything to give back.”
Jim: In fact, I’ll throw the laundry in the chair (Laughter) so he will (Laughter) fold it.
John: Yeah, finally got the hint, hey?
Kathi: But here’s the secret that women are missing. I have to tell you, this is the greatest secret in the world. When your husband comes home, if you can give him 10 minutes of transition time, if you can give him that time for him to change from thinking about work to thinking about home, whether it’s him sitting in his chair for a few minutes or him going upstairs just to change into more comfortable clothes, there is something different about the male brain. [For] you guys, (Laughter) multitasking is not the strong suit for most men. Our brains work differently. You guys have other advantages.
So, if we can give you that time and you have 10 minutes of “Pretend Daddy’s not home,” I have seen it happen over and over again, where men will jump in and help with dinner or men will take the kids and say, “We’re gonna go wrestle in here; let’s give mom a break.” I’ve seen it happen over and over and over again. And can I tell you? Women do not believe me. They won’t try it one night, but I guarantee that for most women, this is a huge thing, that if they can give their husbands that 10 minutes, he can re-enter the family situation.
John: Boy, she just nailed me here, Jim, because I have some strange pleasure in being able to sneak in undetected and get to the bedroom and close the door quietly and lock it so I can change and just kinda go, “Aah.” And reorient a bit.
John: Now sometimes Dena facilitates that. Sometimes she says, “Oh, you’re home.” (Laughter) But that’s exactly right.
Jim: And some of it is stage of family.
Jim: And for me, you know, this hit me. I had one foot outside my door and one foot in my door, opening our front door and Jean met me at the door with the kids in tow, saying “Help!”
Kathi: Hm, yes.
Jim: “It’s now your turn.”
Jim: It was that fast.
Jim: I mean, I literally was not even through the door.
Jim: And I went, “Uh! This is the Gordian Knot.”And shewrapped the Gordian Knot,” you know, that knot that can’t be untied, ‘cause I need some time, just a few minutes.
Jim: And it was good. Jean reacted really well to that. She said, “I could be frustrated another 10 minutes.” (Laughter)
Kathi: Right, it’s like I can hold on if I know there is an end in sight.
Kathi: And it can’t be every night. For most families it just can’t be. There sometimes has to be “give” if you’re saying, “I cannot take this child one more second.”
Jim: Yeah, you gotta hear that.
Kathi: Yeah, a husband needs to be able to respond, but if he knows, okay, but tomorrow night, I get some time, it can help the whole family.
Jim: Well, and for husbands to coach them a little bit, you know, to be open-minded about that. I think what you’re saying is exactly right. Don’t stress out, ‘cause this can be a point of such conflict, especially for families with young kids, ‘cause you gotta remember, mom, maybe if she’s working in the home, has been with those kids all day long.
Kathi: Right, yes.
Jim: And they’ve been just demanding. You know, you have one of those days.
Jim: And you step through the door. The husband have got to realize that and turn it into something a little more humorous, you know. “Okay, kids, come with me outside. We’re gonna roll in the grass.”
Jim: Or do something fun with it, rather than, “Oh! What?!”
Kathi: Yeah, it’s not my turn.
Jim: I’ve been working all day long.
Jim: And then, boom! Then the spark, you think I haven’t been workin’ all day long?
Kathi: Oh, yes.
Jim: You know where it’s goin’.
Kathi: That’s a great way to come home, isn’t it?
Jim: Yeah (Laughter), I know. And that’s all before you’re through the door.
Jim: So, it is important to just take a deep breath and find a way to de-escalate the situation.
Kathi: Yeah and I really think, like you said, it’s a stage. Your kids are not gonna be like this forever, but if you can each give each other a little bit of grace. And if you know that 10 minutes between work and home is the key time for men and just knowing that and understanding that your time may come a little bit later. But I want husbands to step up, too and say, “You know, you gave me your time; I’m gonna give you mine and I want to take this on for you.”
Jim: Now you talk about affirming your man.
Jim:This can be hard when there’s tension in the relationship if it’s that late.
Kathi: Absolutely, right.
Jim: But it’s still helpful, if you can bite the bullet and get that bitterness out of you, being affirming to your spouse, whether it’s your husband or your wife, it’s a wonderful thing to do. What magic does it work?
Kathi: It really does. I think that affirming your husband can change the way he walks through the world. It can change his posture. It can change how he approaches other people. When he knows that his wife is at work or at home praying for him, has got his back and believes in him, it changes the way he parents, because he parents with confidence now, knowing that he has somebody on his side. He can walk into work saying, “You know what? Work was terrible today, but I get to go home to somebody who cares about me, even if somebody here doesn’t.”
And so, I really think this is where the power of women and friendship can come in. And challenging each other and holding each other accountable, have you said something to your husband today? I believe in a good Post-it note, even if you write it [when] you’re not really feeling it and you put it up and say, you know, “It’s been a hard day; thanks for taking the kids when you got home.” Or if you have to say, you know, “Thanks for making the bed six months ago when your mom came to visit.” (Laughter) If that’s all you’ve got, write it down, because he needs to hear that desperately.
Jim: Kathi, in your speaking and counseling, I’m sure you’re gonna hear this, but people have got to say to you, women have got to say, “You don’t know my husband.”
Jim: “There’s nothing left to hang my hat on for affirmation.”
Kathi: Right, yes.
Jim: “He’s not worth it. There’s nothin’ there, Kathi.”
Kathi: And can I tell you, I’ve been there in a different relationship with my son, because when I was doing these projects, my husband said, “Why don’t you do some of these with your son?” And I said, “I would if I liked him, but I don’t right now.”
Kathi: You know, and that sounds really harsh, but when you’ve had teenagers, there are times when, you know, everybody else’s kid looks like they’re on the top of the world and you’re like, what is going on with this relationship? So, I had to look desperately for things to encourage my son about. And I got so desperate. Let me tell you guys. I wrote him an e-mail saying, “I like the font you chose for your e-mail signature.” (Laughter) That’s how deep.
Jim: That’s a little thin.
Kathi: Yes, it was, but you know what? He heard that and he received that and he said, “Thanks. I looked for a long time for that font.”
Kathi: You know, so these guys are desperately, desperately looking for some kind of affirmation. And there is something in your husband, something when you were dating him, something in his parenting, something in him that is worthy of calling out in him and honoring.
Jim: The picture I get in my mind, Kathi in this regard is, you’re building a bridge. And you don’t build a bridge all at once.
Jim: You have to lay down a plank.
Jim: And you’re still far away from the other side. And then you gotta lay another plank and another plank. It’s kinda what you’re saying. Use affirmation to build the bridge so that you can open his heart up.
Kathi: Right, it’s creating an environment of encouragement. Recently my husband, Roger had a birthday. And he was going through some tough stuff at work. And so, he is a “words of encouragement” kind of guy. So, what I did was, the kids all did their little presents for him and I said, “Okay, now we’re gonna go around in a circle and we’re gonna talk about why Roger rocks. Tell me (Laughter) something about Roger that rocks.
And I said, “And no sarcasm, guys. We’re banning that.” Can I tell you, my husband has told everybody in his life about that day because no kid is gonna go up to their dad usually at 18 or 19 or 20 and say, “This is why I love you so much, Dad.” But each of our kids--his stepkids, his kids--came to him and said, “This is why I value you so much.” It changed who he was as a father.
Kathi: It changed how he walked in that family.
Jim: When you’re looking at affirmation, I would think the way that some people’s brains work, not just women, but there can be all affirmed for an ulterior motive, because I want affirmation.
Jim: So, I’ll affirm you, hoping you’re gonna affirm me.
Jim: What’s the danger there?
Kathi: I think that we have to understand, the reason we’re affirming our husband is not just to benefit him though; it’s also to change our hearts, to change how we look at our husbands, because when we’re looking for the good, we’ll find the good. When we’re looking for the bad, we’ll find the bad.
Jim: ‘Cause it’s all there.
Kathi: It’s all there and it’s all there in us as wives, as well. And I know that, that can feel like an ulterior motive, but I have to say, I’ve seen it happen so often where when a woman starts speaking encouragement into her husband’s life, she does get it back. There’s sometimes an uneasy agreement, that we’re just going to do life. We’re gonna get through life. And there’s no give; there’s no take. There’s no blessing in that relationship. And when one person says, “I give up my rights. I’m just gonna bless without expecting anything in return,” how often that offers up a new freedom in that relationship.
Jim: It really changesyour own heart, doesn’t it?
Kathi: It does. That’s exactly what it does.
Jim: Uh ... the other thing that you talk about, which is probably the most important thing is prayer.
Jim: You’ve mentioned it throughout the half hour, but the power of prayer, why is that so significant?
Kathi: Well, again, I think it is something that changes our hearts as well as our husbands. And when we can start to look at our husbands as uniquely created by God, put here on earth for a purpose and we can see our husbands through our Father’s eyes, as somebody who’s cherished, somebody who’s precious, somebody who’s broken, but worthy of redemption, it gives us a new way to think about them and a new way to love them. And prayer just opens your heart. When you’re praying for somebody, you can’t be selfishin your prayer. You just can’t be. You have to be praying for their best and for God’s blessing on their lives and it[‘s] the best thing to build your marriage on 100 percent.
Jim: Man, Kathi, this time has flown by. It’s been terrific and I hope each of you, if you’re struggling and even if you’re not, find a way to put these things into practice.
Jim: Kathi Lipp’s book, The Husband Project: 21 Days of Loving Your Manon Purpose and with a Plan is a terrific tool to just reset your [calculator] here to understand what it is that God is expecting. Thank you so much for being with us and for writing the book.
Kathi: Thank you so much.
John: And this has been a great conversation with our guest, Kathy Lipp and you’re gonna want to get a copy of her book, The Husband Project and I’ll encourage you to order the CD orinstant download of the conversation, as well, so you can share that with a friend. And you’ll find these resources and more at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: John, today we’ve taken a really positive view of marriage and given tips to help relatively healthy marriages be even better. We hope that’s where you’re living in your marriage, striving daily to make a good marriage even better. But we also minister to a lot of hurting couples and every day here at Focus we hear from couples who are struggling and our goal is to give you hope.
One listener recently shared this with us. She wrote, “When my husband and I first got married, we had different work schedules. I remember going to sleep crying, wondering if I had met the right person, because I had expectations that I didn’t even know I had. I couldn’t go to church because of my schedule and I felt I was hanging onto God by a string. I started listening to “Focus on the Family” and it really changed my perspective, my expectations and taught me how to love God and my husband. You’ve been my own personal mentor I can always turn to. Now nine years later, I love my husband more than ever. We’ve been blessed with two wonderful children and I continue to listen to “Focus,” because it continues to help me. Thank you for everything you do. I feel you saved my marriage.”
And that is powerful and I hope that comment is as energizing for you as it is for me. Those comments encourage us and I hope it encourages you, too and that it will inspire you to be a part of the restoration of family in this country and around the world. Join the ministry here at Focus to save hurting marriages. And I’m excited to share that thanks to some generous donors, we have a matching gift campaign starting today and that means every dollar that you give will be matched dollar for dollar to help struggling families.
One way we save marriages is through our Hope Restored program. This is a marriage intensive based in Branson, Missouri, that helps couples work through their challenges and restores areas of brokenness in their marriages. So, please make a donation today. Let that dollar become $2. Let that $50 become $100 and let’s together through the power of the Holy Spirit, do what we need to do as the Christian community to help these marriages not only survive, but thrive.
John: And you can make your donation and get a CD or instant download of this conversation and take our free Focus on Marriage assessment, as well. That’s gonna help you gauge where you’re at in your marriage and give you some action points for improvement and get your copy, of course, of The Husband Project at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY: 800-232-6459. And when you make a generous donation of any amount today, we’ll send a copy of The Husband Project as our way of saying thank you for joining our support team.
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I’m John Fuller, inviting you back next time. You’re going to hear the heartbreaking story of a 13-year trap of sexual addiction.
Mr. Jonathan Daugherty: Well, I can only describe it as a traumatic event in my life. I was not expecting to see pornography. I don’t think any kid necessarily expects to see pornography.
Jim: How old were you?
Jonathan: I was 12-years-old and so, I think it’s always a shocking experience.
End of Excerpt
John: Hidden lust, devastating sin and God bringing healing and reconciliation, next time on “Focus on the Family.”
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Kathi LippView Bio
Kathi Lipp is a popular public speaker and the author of 16 books including Clutter Free, Hot Mama: 12 Secrets to a Sizzling Hot Marriage, The Get Yourself Organized Project, The Husband Project and The Cure for the Perfect Life. She is a frequent guest on radio and TV, and host of the podcast Clutter Free Academy. Kathi and her husband, Roger, are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, Calif. Learn more about Kathi by visiting her website, www.kathilipp.com.