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Loving Your Spouse Day by Day

Air Date 02/27/2018

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Best-selling author Josh McDowell explores some of the best things you can do to regularly show your spouse that you love and appreciate them in a discussion based on his book 10 Ways to Say "I Love You."

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Episode Transcript



Josh McDowell: I want every young person that’s ever heard me speak to know that a happy, fulfilled, loving, intimate, dynamic, out-of-this-world marriage is possible.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s Josh McDowell, and you’ll be hearing more from him today on how you can have a vibrant marriage. This is Focus on the Family, and your host is Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, Josh McDowell oozes inspiration, doesn’t he?

John: He does, yeah.

Jim: Whenever you’re around him, he’s just got this, um, insatiable appetite that is upbeat, ready to go and, you know, let’s follow the Lord right into the furnace. And he does that each and every day. Today, we wanted to come back to talk with Josh about his 45-plus years of marriage to his wife Dottie. Now, Dottie’s not going to be with us. We’d get the real...

John: We’re only getting one side of the story. (Laughter).

Jim: We’d get the inside scoop if Dottie were here. But, uh, Josh, I’m sure....

John: Actually, we sent our camera crews.


John: We’re gonna spring that on him.

Jim: That would be nice. Uh, here at Focus on the Family, we want to help you. We want to equip you to do the best job you can do in your marriage. And, I think, for those of us who claim Christ, that’s a tall order. For guys, the Lord says, lay your life down for her. That’s a tall order, and we want to give you some help today. In fact, we’re going to talk about Josh’s book,10 Ways To Say I Love You.

John: And you’ll find that and other marriage helps at Or give us a call, and we’d be happy to serve you that way. Our number is 800-232-6459, 800-A-FAMILY.


Jim: Josh, welcome back to Focus.

Josh: Well, thank you. I woke up this morning and said, wow. This is, like, the best day of my life.

Jim: (Laughter) I bet you say that every day.

Josh: Just about.

Jim: (Laughter) I could see it all over you. Hey, uh, with the10 Ways To Say I Love You, I just want to start right here. When you married Dottie 45-plus years ago, what was the thing she did that caught your heart, that she said I love you? How did she express it that meant something to you?

Josh: I would have to say, one of the first things off the bat, for a woman, her deepest need is know my husband loves me. That’s not true for a man. For a man, his deepest need is to know my wife respects me. And this is scriptural. And one of the first things I caught after we got married, and I caught it even before, is how much she believed in me and respected me. She’d come to every one of my talks - and she’d heard ‘em many times - and sit right in the front row. And she’d be the first to applaud everything. And afterwards, yes, honey, that was so good. And if it wasn’t, she told me also. (Laughter) But...

Jim: (Laughter) Well, that’s good.

Josh: Oh, it’s very good. But I would say the first thing that caught me and Dottie’s love for me was how much she respected me and verbalized that respect for the way I did things, what I did, uh, everything, how I treated people. She would say, honey, I just - I watch the way you treat people that come up after a talk. I just so admire that and respect you for that. Oh, my gosh. I thought I was in heaven and Jesus was talking to me.

Jim: (Laughter) Josh, some couples don’t have that experience. I mean, here you are. You’ve spoken to over 25 million people. You’re thinking about the Lord each and every day in different ways. You’re studying his Word so you can go and give a speech and give a talk and encourage people in their faith. What about the husband who is - you know, he’s the engineer. He’s the accountant. He’s the one who may not have that kind of, uh, expression when he comes home. How does that couple get that level of respect and love?

Josh: I think one of the first things a couple of needs to do - and I wish I would have done it the first week or two of our marriage or even before we got married. But after a year or two, I learned I’ve got to ask this question. I think it’s so healthy, for when I sat down with Dottie - and I wish I’d done it right at the beginning of our marriage - and I said, honey, what shows you that I love you? And the reason that question was so key, what shows me that people love me, I figured, well, that’s what shows Dottie. It wasn’t. And, I mean, for one hour, I got an earful, and a page-full, of notes of what shows Dottie that I love - for example, she said, honey, the greatest thing you could do to show me you love me is to listen to me. I thought, what? But that’s true for her. Uh, she said...

Jim: (Laughter) Yeah. It’s a different language than men. (Laughter)

Josh: Yeah. Just - honey, just listen to me. I’m not the best listener in the world. God gave me two ears and one mouth, and I think I got five mouths and one ear. I talk more than I listen, and that’s not a good habit. And that was one of the things I learned with Dottie, um, when asking her. And then she would ask me, well, what shows you that I love you, that I respect you? And so I started to share, and I had to think through things. And that was probably some of the best time we ever spent together and seen our marriage improved.

Jim: Yeah.

Josh: By learning from each other, what shows you that I love you?

Jim: Yeah. And Josh, I’m trying to represent that wife, that woman, who - you don’t know my husband Josh. If you sat with my husband, he doesn’t do anything to deserve my respect. Why have so many marriages fallen into that trap, where the wife doesn’t respect her husband or the husband doesn’t love his wife anymore? That’s not an uncommon theme, even within Christian marriages. So I’d like you to address that woman and how she’s approaching that, and maybe the man too on how he’s not loving, uh, his wife the way the Lord would want him to. Hear the heart of that woman who says, you don’t know my husband, Josh. He’s not worthy of my respect.

Josh: I’ve heard that so many times. And I’m not in marriage counseling. I’m not a marriage counselor. But...

Jim: Oh, yes, you are.

Josh: ...I hear that so, so many times. And I often say to the wife - now, it’s pretty hard to give just across the table something to do, because every situation is different. Every marriage is different. There’s a different idiosyncrasy in it. But for the most part, I have confidence in saying this. Start out by looking. I don’t care if you’re married to a jerk. There’s something in his life in all that you can express appreciation and respect for.

Jim: A starting point.

Josh: A starting point, just something little. Be looking for it. Say, I appreciate that. I respect you for the way you’ve worked so hard. Now, maybe you don’t - you’d like to have him home more and everything else, but maybe he works hard. And he’s trying to be a provider, and that’s what most people think is love - men. And saying, you know, I just so appreciate and respect you for the way you’ve worked and taken care of our finances. And just start with something like that and then gradually build on it, and then you’ve got to come to the point where you’ve got to confront your spouse.

Jim: How does that work? Tell me - just give me an example. You know, I love you. I - I so appreciate how you provide. But can you pick up your dirty laundry and stick it in the laundry basket? How do you confront?

Josh: Well, I’m not the easiest person in the world to be confronted because I’m personality A. I’m very dogmatic. I know not only what I believe, I know why believe it, even though sometimes what I believe is wrong or why I believe it is not justified. (Laughter) And I remember the first time Dottie said to me, honey, we need to talk.(LAUGHTER) Now, the first time, I thought...

Jim: It sent a shiver down your spine. (Laughter)

Josh: ...She was going to share some things, some faults in her life, and thank me for ministering to her. (LAUGHTER)But after that first time, I realized, every time my wife would say, honey, we need to talk, it was like driving a spear into my gut.

Jim: (Laughter) You knew what was coming.

Josh: And I’m thinking, I gotta go back to Promise Keepers.(LAUGHTER) And I never understood why my wife ever said “we”, because she would do all the talking.

Jim: (Laughter) OK.

Josh: And when my wife would confront me, I would be silence. And it would just drive her nuts.

Jim: Because you were upset, or because you were trying to listen?

Josh: Well, no. I wish I’d say it was trying to listen. I was trying to find the quickest way to get out of there. (LAUGHTER)No, I’m - I’m not - I’m not... I’m serious.

Jim: No, it’s good, that’s honest! Yeah.

And - and then she would say to me, well, say something. You’re the great communicator. Say something.

Jim: Ooh, I love that line. (Laughter)

Josh: So one time I used this line, and I thought it was so great in using it. I said, honey, I’m processing it. That was not the right thing to say in that time.

Jim: Now, I totally connect with that.

John: Yeah, I’m trackin’. (Laughter)

Jim: Why? I said, oh, that’s a good thing to say. Where do we all miss it, as guys?

Josh: Because I wasn’t processing it.


John: Oh, OK.

Jim: And she knew you were lying.

Josh: And she knew it. She knew it. I wasn’t thinking, oh, that’s a great point. I need to change there. But I thank God that my wife loves me so much she’s willing to take that chance to confront me. And not only that, I’m so thankful now that most of the things my wife confronted me on - now, this will sound dumb, maybe, whatever - I didn’t know how to correct it.

Jim: Yeah. That’s typical for all of us.

Josh: I didn’t know how to correct. And - and I - so I - show me what that looks like, honey. And my wife was always willing to help me. And I don’t think we’d have anywhere close to the marriage we have today or the family relationship with our children if my wife hadn’t confronted me. Because if anyone in the world is blind to their own faults, it’s the husband - not the wife, usually, the husband. And I have to admit - I wish I didn’t have to - that many times over the years, I’ve been so blind to my own faults. And the one person that God placed into my life to help me was Dottie. But I reacted a lot. I reacted a lot. But, um, I’m thankful for it.

Jim: Yeah.

Josh: And this worry your husband could react, storm out of the house - and I did that a couple times. I have.

Jim: Oh, this is getting good now. (Laughter).

Josh: I stormed out of the house. And, uh - but my wife always knew I was going to come back. I was halfway to Julian. We lived about two miles out. Turn the car around, went back, walked in, apologized to Dottie and asked her forgiveness. And that night, she says, you know, honey, we need to share what happened today with our kids. I said, what? I said, why? She said, do you realize? We have very little conflict in our family, and our kids are growing up not really knowing by model of how to deal with conflict.

I said, OK. So that night - we had three children at that time - I said, you know this morning when I - you heard the tires spin out in the driveway? Yeah. Well, this is what happened. Honey, you tell from your end, and I told from mine. And Dottie said, but you know one thing about your dad? He always turns around and comes back, whether he walked out of the room or drove out of the driveway. And, uh - so after that, whenever we would have a conflict - and we’ll - appropriately- we would share it with our children, so they would grow up knowing how to deal with conflict.

Jim: Yeah. That’s really good, I think, um, and to model how to resolve conflict. And there may be some who, say, they have no conflict in their marriage. They’re, uh, troubled by the fact that you would dothat. But I appreciate the vulnerability of this, Josh, I really do. I thank you for...

Josh: Well, I don’t think I’ve ever shared this publicly before.

Jim: But, you know, that’s normal people.

Josh: Uh...

Jim: That’s what normal people go through. This is what we all go through when we have discussion and debate within our marriages about things that are not working well. I think that actually is an error that the church makes today is that we’re not willing to talk about these things, that the mark of our spirituality is projecting perfection in our marriages even if it’s not there.

You’re listening to Focus on the Family. We’re covering Josh McDowell’s book10 Ways To Say I Love You.And, uh, Josh, let me, uh, dig into this a little bit - because you must have brought a lot of baggage into your marriage with Dottie. And you’ve done 45 years together, which is awesome. But how were those first couple of years when you were trying to figure out can I love someone, can I be loved, am I lovable because of what you dealt with?

Josh: Probably my greatest salvation - and I think I shared this once before on one of your program - is the woman whom I married. I never knew, Jim, I never even dreamed or had a concept that a woman could love a man as much as Dottie loves me. I have never ever seen it in a Hollywood movie love story. I’ve never seen it. I never knew one person could love another person so unconditionally as Dottie loves me. And she came from a very functional family compared to me. And if I had married a woman, who was highly needy, that came from a dysfunctional family, I wouldn’t be sitting here, and you sure wouldn’t want to interview me. And so I owe so much of it to Dottie and to her parents. But when I hear the struggles that people go through in their first two, three, four years of marriage, I’d have to say - now, I don’t want to sound superficial - we never had those struggles. Now, not that we didn’t have struggles, but nothing to the depth of things. Um...

Jim: But why? I really want to pry into that because you did bring a lot of stuff. I mean, you were...

Josh: I think, one...

Jim: ...Had an alcoholic father, for those that don’t know, you were sexually abused. That’s a lot of stuff for a child to grapple with.

Josh: But, you see, it’s not so much what I brought into the marriage, it’s what Dottie brought in.

Jim: It was bigger.

Josh: Oh, it was bigger. It was greater. It was more powerful. It was more biblical. It was more exciting what Dottie brought into it, and then just being so patient, patient with me and little by little, nudging me to do that which is right, to look into the scriptures, to see that God loves me despite of my background all. And then the other is, um, after I became a Christian, or even before I became a Christian, I made certain decisions in my life without counsel, Jim, without counsel, except for the Holy Spirit - had to be the Holy Spirit. One, I made the decision- I’m not a victim.

Jim: But you had to decide that.

Josh: That’s right. That was a decision. No one can make you a victim, unless you allow them.I don’t care what anyone has done to you. Because once you determine you’re a victim, you’ve lost it.

Jim: You know, Josh, there’s people listening right now who are struggling to forgive somebody. Uh, in the context of marriage, it’s perhaps their spouse, right? - for some wrong that happened to them.Butwhat advice do you have for the person that is wrapped in unforgiveness? You know, you don’t know how he’s hurt me Josh. You don’t know how he has hurt me. How can you forgive somebody like that? Well, you do know how to forgive somebody like that.

Josh: It’s one thing for me to answer it over the radio, the other is sit there and look the person in the eye and feel their heartbeat and everything else and know the situation. But in most situations, I would say this - now, this’ll sound cruel maybe - get out of your selfishness.

Jim: I understand that.

Josh: Get out of thinking of your own self. Oh, woe is me. I’m a victim. Josh, you can’t imagine what has happened to me. I said, I’ll stand nose to nose with anyone. God is greater than anything that’s ever happened to you. There’s nothing in your life too great for God’s power to deal with nor anything too small or insignificant in your life for his love to be concerned about. And I would say, if you do not forgive, then your husband, or whoever it is, is controlling your life. I’ll say this to anyone. Any little thing you don’t forgive, then that person - and there are some people I know that are 60-65 years old, and their father hurt them, never forgave him, and from the grave - I said, you’ve got to be one of the dumbest people I’ve ever met. You’re letting your father from the grave still control you today? And it’s your decision.

Jim: What does that control look like? Help a person understand that I’m living there. What does that look like?

Josh: It hits you with your feelings, with your emotions.

Jim: What drives you.

Josh: I resent him so much. And you just keep that anger, and you feed the anger by not forgiving.

Jim: Right.

Josh: And, uh, oh, it is so true. And this is one of the key things of a great loving relationship - Ephesians 4. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath. Dottie and I made a commitment to this in Ephesians. And for us, what it meant is we never go to bed and go to sleep without making sure everything is right with our spouse.

Jim: What if you can’t get it resolved? (Laughter) I mean...

Josh: You don’t go to sleep.

Jim: Wow.

Josh: At least that’s some nights. You get it resolved. And sometimes it means you go to others for help.Don’t try to do it just yourself. But go to an outside source, maybe someone you love and respect who’s older than you - a woman to a woman, a man to a man. Uh, or go to a professional counselor, uh. Call Focus on the Family. I so admire what you do, and I just thank people that support Focus because it sets you free to help so many people through your on-phone counseling situations. Seek help. You say, well, we have a good marriage, but it can be “good-er.”

Jim: (Laughter).

Josh: We have a great marriage, it can be greater.

Jim: Yeah.

Josh: And that’s what I’ve had to learn. And I’ve been married 46 years now, and I’m still trying to find ways to make my marriage better.

John: And if you want to take advantage of those counseling services Josh is mentioning, our number is 800-A-FAMILY, and we have a find a counselor tool as well, and other resources like Josh’s book,10 Ways To Say I Love Youat

Jim: Josh, we’re down to the last few minutes here, but I have two really important questions I want you to address. One is, what do you think when you get the big perspective here? What is it that God wants out of our marriages? I don’t think we think about that often enough. We know what we want out of our marriage and we know what we expect the other to provide in our marriage, our spouse to provide in our marriages. But what does God want out of our marriages?

Josh: I believe our marriage is a way that we worship God. When we fulfill in our lives the original design, no matter if it’s marriage, family, sex, whatever, when we live out the original design of God in our lives, he is glorified and he isworshiped. And I believe one of the first things he wants us to do is to worship him through our marriage.

Jim: Well, that’s where the culture, I think, doesn’t understand this. It...

Josh: Well, of course it doesn’t.

Jim: We’re created in His image, male and female. He created us. And the whole union of marriage is really to show his creativity, his handiwork in this world. And that’s what marriage is about, that we are made in His image. Come together as one flesh.

Josh: And I think second with that ode, Jim, is God desires us to live out the original design of marriage to be a testimony in the world around us. If there’s any one thing that people are hurting in, that’s their marriage. It’s always my desire that when they look at Dottie and me, they get to know us and everything, they’ll say, God, do something in my marriage. I want what they have.

There’s two reasons why all the time I talk about Dottie when I’m being introduced and everything. And some people probably get a little tired of it. And I do it for two reasons. One,Iwant every young person that’s ever heard me speak to know that a happy, fulfilled, loving, intimate, dynamic, out-of-this-world marriage is possible. I want them to know that I love my wife. And I love loving my wife. And it’s just - there’s no other thing you can experience in life like a Christ-centered marriage.

But second, I want everyone to hear me to know, every woman who hears me, don’t you come on to me. I’m a monogamous man with one woman. Don’t you dare to come on to me. And I want every woman to know that. And so I - I talk always about my relationship with Dottie that I can give hope to young people and I can build in a safety factor around my own life.

Jim: Um, that great listener - we need to come back to that as well, um, because that can be so difficult. But help John and me - we need help here, Josh. We’re not always the great listener.

Josh: Here is one thing is to listen without interruption. And then, in communicating, it seems so dumb to me as a man, but, boy, is it incredible with Dottie. And when I changed the way I communicate, it had direct effect, even on our sex life. She said, honey, we’re not comedians. I’d say, what do you mean? She said, you never give me details. See, I’m the type of person - I don’t care about detail. I’m the big man. I’m the big vision. I can show that vision and everything else..

Jim: In three words or less.

Josh: Yes, and without the detail. Dottie is the other way around. She needs details.

Jim: Paragraphs (laughter).

Josh: A good illustration. In the first few years of our marriage, I’d come home and say, honey, a friend of ours - so-and-so - had a baby. A boy or girl? I don’t know, uh. How big was it?

Jim: That’s exactly right.

John: I have been there.

Josh: I don’t know. What’d they name it? I don’t know. And I would get so frust- I just want to say, it’s a human baby. But I learned, for Dottie, she needs the details. And I’ve had to struggle. And then I remember after about five years in our marriage, I could hardly wait to have a friend have a baby, come home, say, honey, so-and-so had a baby. It weighed this much, was a boy, and they called it this. And - and Dottie didn’t want extra. Thank you, honey. And it just encouraged me all the more to give details. And even to this day, after 46 years of marriage, Jim, I struggle with it.

Jim: Sure. I was going to say all the men said, were you exhausted doing that?

Josh: Yes, because it’s contrary to my modus operandi.

Jim: Without a doubt.

Josh: And - but it’s one way, and I think if Dottie were here, she would say it’s one way that my husband, over the years - the way he’s tried so hard to give details shows me that he loves me.

Jim: Josh, um, I am mindful of that person, though, that spouse that, for whatever reason, they can’t talk about these things. There’s a blockage. And I don’t want to end the program until we hit this. Um, what can they do tonight that’s different? They’re gonna sit at the dinner table. They’re gonna go through their routine, um. She’s desperate, he’s desperate. They’re not communicating in a healthy way - in a Christ-like way. How do they, um, clear the fog in their minds so they can honor the Lord and do this better? What can they do tonight that’s different from what they’ve done for the last - every night of their marriage?

Josh: Probably nothing, Jim. What I would say to that spouse - because this is a habit ingrained in ‘em, it’s part of their DNA, spiritually, everything. And it just doesn’t change overnight. You just don’t make up your mind - well, I’m going to do this. I would say to that person, get some help. Your marriage is worth it. Your own personal walk with Jesus is worth it. And - and I’m not being flippant here. Call Focus on the Family. Call your church. Ask for someone that could counsel you.

Jim: Just reach out to someone.

Josh: Reach out to someone because there’s many things in our lives, we need others to help us walk through it. One another - go through the Scriptures. One to love - love one another, encourage one another, bear one another’s burdens, teach one another, pray for one another. We can’t go it alone.

Jim: That’s so good.

Josh: And even she could maybe say to the spouse, do you know an older lady in the church who you admire, you look up to, she seems to have her life together, their marriage? Just ask her, can I spend some time with you? You need someone else, and you need a woman, not a man like me or someone else you know.

Jim: Right.

Josh: So I would say start off by - call Focus on the Family. I mean that. Uh, you guys are a gift to the body. You’re a gift to people like me. I’m not trained to be a professional counselor or anything else. I don’t have the background for that. And so I say call and get some help. And then maybe a month from now, you’ll know what to do at the dinner table that can be different and make a difference in your marriage.

Jim: That’s honest advice, um. You can’t expect it to change overnight. I appreciate that. Josh, this has been so good, uh. Your book,10 Ways To Say I Love You. What’s the old adage? We can’t say “I love you” enough, right? So this is another resource and tool that you need in your arsenal to make sure that your marriage is as healthy as it can be, so contact us. Josh mentioned our counseling department. These are caring Christian counselors who can talk with you, they can refer you to someone in your area if you need to continue that discussion and get deeper help. And it’s OK. We also have Hope Restored, which is for those families, those couples that are desperate - maybe even sign the divorce papers. It’s probably one of the best things that Focus is doing. About a thousand couples a year are currently going through that program. I would love to see 10,000 couples a year. That’s something that is available to you, so, uh, contact us and ask us, what do I need to do? And we will point you in the right direction.


John: And to speak to one of our counselors, just call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or stop by and get the CD or instant download of this conversation. Those include additional content and I’d also point out Josh’s book, 10 Ways to Say I Love You. And that’s a great resource; we’d love to send a copy to you. In fact, when you make a generous donation of any amount to the ministry of Focus on the Family, we’ll send a complimentary copy of 10 Ways to Say I Love You. It’s our way of saying thank you and putting a great tool in your hands.

On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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Josh McDowell

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A former agnostic, Josh McDowell is now a well-known Christian apologist, a popular public speaker and an award-winning author who has influenced the lives of millions of people around the world. He has written or co-written nearly 150 books which have been translated into more than 10 dozen languages including the best-selling Evidence That Demands a Verdict and More Than a Carpenter. Josh and his wife, Dottie, have four children and 10 grandchildren. Learn more about Josh by visiting his website,