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Uncovering the Secrets to a Happy Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Original Air Date 06/23/2014

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Best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn offers insights from research she's conducted on what makes for a happier, more fulfilling marriage. She also outlines practical ways to develop a more Christ-like relationship with your spouse. (Part 1 of 2)

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Episode Transcript



Jim Daly: Shaunti, what is one thing a couple can do today to feel happier in their marriage?

Shaunti Feldhahn: When they’re hurt, believe the best of their spouse’s intentions.

John Fuller: Hm … so, don’t make any assumptions about their motives.

Shaunti: Bad assumptions--

John: Ah.

Shaunti: --about their motives (Laughing)

End of Excerpt

John:That’s some great advice and you’ll hear more from Shaunti Feldhahn on our broadcast today with Jim Daly. This is Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller and Jim, this should be a fun program.


Jim: Well, fun but enlightening. Uh … you know, sometimes we focus so much on the hard things in marriage, the holiness of marriage and that’s critically important, uh … how it’s a refining process. I mention that all the time, you know, how marriage is a refining process. The Lord is teaching us to be more selfless in that regard. But we gotta celebrate it, as well and we’re gonna do that today with a very special friend and uh … Shaunti, I want to say welcome to Focus on the Family.

Shaunti: I’m always glad to be with you guys.

Jim: But also, I was reading your bio. I found this really interesting, because you’re a Harvard grad and that’s impressive. I bet your mom and dad were pretty happy, except paying the bills may not have made (Laughter) them too happy.

Shaunti: Not so easy, exactly.

Jim: Oh, that’s … yeah, that’s quite a …

Shaunti: I think it was 20 years before I paid off the student loans--

John: Oh.

Jim: Yeah.

Shaunti: --for college.

Jim: I’m sure … I’m sure it was. But in … in your bio, uh … it’s listed, you served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Shaunti: Yep.

Jim: Now how in the world with that background did you end up writing marriage books? Is banking like marriage?

Shaunti: Ye … yeah, absolutely. It’s all transactional, right? (Laughter)

Jim: It’s all transactional. (Laughter) Here’s a dollar, give me $5 back.

Shaunti: Exactly.

Jim: Is that how it works?

Shaunti: Not really. Yeah, it’s actually really interesting. I had no idea that I would be doin’ this and it’s amazing how God set me up, ‘cause really, I basically got thisanalytical training. That was my graduate degree as an analyst. Went and worked on Wall Street as an analyst. And I had no idea that when I was learning how to dig into the things under the surface, that one day I’d apply that to relationships.

Jim: It is amazing.

Shaunti: It--

Jim:God uh …

Shaunti: --it’s the same--

Jim: --twists and--

Shaunti: --skill set.

Jim: --turns in the journey with Christ. I mean, that’s what’s wonderful. You’ve written this new book, uh … some have called it “one of the best books, if not the best book on marriage.” That’s a big --

Shaunti: Yeah.

Jim: --endorsement. Uh … it’s titledThe Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. Let me challenge you on the title right out of the gate. Is happy marriage really the goal for us as Christians?

Shaunti: You know what. Here’s I think the thing that we get into, is it’s so easy for us to say, “Well, our goal shouldn’t be to be happy. It should be to … like Gary Thomas’ book, to be holy, right?” And I once had a um … a pastor that I really respected and he’s done tons of marriage therapy. He said, “The problem with that is that we get to the idea that they’re mutually exclusive.” And he said … he has couples come to him all the time who think that they have two choices, which is break up and be happy or stay together and be miserable. And he’s like, door No. 3! (Laughing)

Jim: Yeah.

Shaunti: Stay together and be happy. And …

Jim: Why don’t we talk about that more often?

Shaunti: Well, I think it’s because in our culture, we’ve gotten, especially maybe in the Christian community, into this idea of basically saying, marriage is tough and it’s hard and--

Jim: We carry the burden of it.

Shaunti: --and we’ll carry the burden. And you know, yeah, absolutely. For some marriages, it is tough and--

Jim: And for some seasons.

Shaunti: --it is hard and for some seasons. And that’s never an excuse to give up. It’s never an excuse to leave. But here’s what I realized as I started doing this research, is it is so easy to focus on our problems to try to fix them. Problem, fix it. Problem, fix it. You know, what’s the issue here? And what’s getting in the way? And that means you’re only focusing on the problems. And …

Jim: Well, I want to say something before you--

Shaunti: Yes.

Jim: --move on, because--

Shaunti: Yes.

Jim: --as a man, I’m relating to what you’re saying (Laughter) right now, because we’re problem solvers. You’re that analytical mind. I like what you’re saying.

Shaunti: Well, here …

Jim: Do most women resonate with that though?

Shaunti: They absolutely do and you know why? Because one … one thing I always say, when I realized this, I’m like wait a minute. If I want to have a happy marriage, who do I look to? Like if I want to be more like Jesus, do I study the Pharisees?

Jim: I hope not.

Shaunti: (Laughing)Or do I study Jesus? No, I actually study the One Who I’m looking to as the role model. And so, let’s look at what the happy marriages have to teach us and celebrate that and say it’s possible.

Jim: Well, that leads to a great next question, I think, John. What was your No. 1 finding when you did the research for the book?

Shaunti: Actually, I think the biggest thing that is the biggest prerequisite, you can’t have a happy marriage without it, is you have to believe the best of your spouse’s intentions when you’re hurt.

Jim: What does that look like practically? ‘Cause I … there are times to be vulnerable. I don’t always have that thought. (Laughter) I mean …

Shaunti: Well, most of us don’t--

Jim: It … it--

Shaunti: --necessarily.

Jim: --it seems more natural and human to have not-so-good thoughts in that regard, that you don’t think the best of your spouse’s intentions. (Laughing) You know, why did she leave that in the walkway toward the driveway, whatever.

Shaunti: Well, she knew I’d trip over it and break my back--

Jim: Correct, basically--

Shaunti: --I guess, right, yeah.

Jim: --that could be a thought. You’re not falling at that moment thinking, I’m sure she intended this for my good. (Laughter)

Shaunti: Pretty much. Here … you know, here’s the difference. It wasfascinating. As I was talking to the really happy couples and you know, we should explain that what I was doing was researching the happiest couples--

Jim: Right.

Shaunti: --to try to find out what they’re doing--

Jim: So, that was your pool--

Shaunti: --differently

Jim: --of research.

Shaunti: Yeah, what are these people doing differently than everybody else, ‘cause …

Jim: And it was 1,000 couples. Is that right?

Shaunti: Yeah, it was … I did a huge research with a big nationally represented survey, which is, you know, one of the things I always try to do, to … to nail it down. And I found that these really happy couples, that when they were hurt and everybody gets hurt, right? I mean, just ‘cause you have a happy marriage, doesn’t mean it’s perfect, right? When a normal average couple is hurt, the natural human tendency is to think to yourself, oh, he knew how that would make me feel and he said it anyway, right?

Jim: So, you process that maybe without even thinking that way.

Shaunti: Without even … it’s subconscious often.

Jim: It just …

Shaunti: Great point. It’s really subconscious. And … but you don’t realize that what you’re kinda feeling is, he doesn’t care. The happy couples I noticed this completely different trend. They basically would say to themselves, ow! Yeah, that hurt, but I know he cares about me.

Jim: Huh.

Shaunti: I know he loves me, so he must not have known how that would make me feel or he wouldn’t have said it. It was a totally different way of looking at it.

Jim: And I would think that that would be a predominant thought. I don’t think, um … happily or average couples uh … go out of their way to hurt. They may just speak without thinking. I mean, is that a cop out, do you think?

Shaunti: No, I think … you’re right on actually statistically. This is one of the things that I think [the] reason it’s a prerequisite is that in almost 100 percent of cases on my survey, even in the most struggling marriages, everybody really cares about their spouse. But if you want to be happy, you have to let yourself believe it. Do you mind if I give you an example?

Jim: Sure.

Shaunti: ‘Cause I was talking to this one we … young woman, who’s probably, I don’t know, late 20s, married a few years. They were pregnant with their first child and she had been planning this like big romantic, like the last dinner out before the baby comes kind of deal, right?

And her husband worked late that night and they missed the reservation. And it was this big like deal, that this restaurant they’d been looking forward to forever. And she’s like, I can’t believe that he did this. And so, I said, “Take me through what happened, you know, in your mind.” And she said, “Well, I was so upset, like I can’t believe he’s working late again and he doesn’t care. Wait a minute. No. I know he wanted this as much as I did. I knew he was looking forward to this.

And so, she approached him totally differently. Instead of, “I can’t believe you missed this and this was our last chance before the baby came” and something that would’ve him on the defensive and you know, started a negative spiral. What happened was, she said, “What happened? I know you were looking forward to this, too.” And she heard him say, “The client call came in right at the end of the day. His boss was standing right behind him and he had heard there were gonna be layoffs next week. And he’s like, “We have a baby coming. I can’t afford to be, you know, looked at negatively by my boss.” And so, it … now we could say as women, well, I wish he would’ve approached it differently or whatever.

Jim: Choose me over him.

Shaunti: Yeah, but … but she … by the way she approached it, because she believed for the best of his intentions towards her, it preserved their happiness and gave him a change to explain and for her to see, he does care. That’s an example of how different things go when you assume the person cares about you.

Jim: Let me continue with the newlywed story, ‘cause I think it’s a good analogy. I’m sure most people get married with the best of intentions for each other. And you think rightly of each other and the excitement is there. How does the rut begin to get dug, that you know, you end up having a thought that maybe their intention isn’t so good for me. They’re--

Shaunti: I …

Jim: --believing the worst of me. And then how do you get into that pattern 10 years down the road?

Shaunti: I think it is basically the opposite of what we see in like Philippians 4, where Paul says, you gotta think on what is lovely and pure and excellent and honorable, right and worthy of praise and not what’s driving you crazy.

Jim: That applies to a broad array--

Shaunti: Yeah.

Jim: --of--

Shaunti: This is actually …

Jim: --life.

Shaunti: Yeah.

Jim: I think it’s one of the great issues in the Christian walk where we areso hypercritical on people.

Shaunti: No, really? (chuckle)

Jim: We don’t want to think highly of people. (Laughter) It’s much more comfortable to be aggressive with people.

Shaunti: And we don’t realize how much we do that, even with a spouse

John: Well, that’s Shaunti Feldhahn. She’s our guest on today’s Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. And the book that we’re talking about, it’s the foundation for the conversation today, isThe Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference. And you can get a CD or a download of this program and find out more about the book when you stop And in fact, we’ll send a copy of that to you for a gift to Focus today, a financial gift of any amount. So, please contact us and make a donation today.

Jim: Uh … Shaunti, I’m gonna come back to this and press you a little more, because I think it’s--

Shaunti: Go for it.

Jim: --it’s part of--

Shaunti: Yes.

Jim: --the cultural problem that we have today. Some people can take happiness to an unhealthy extreme, an unbiblical extreme. And basically, they say in their minds, “If I’m not happy, this marriage is a failure and I gotta find a way out.” Speak to the person that’s not in that happy marriage right now. They’re in that rut. How can I go home today and think differently about my spouse?

Shaunti: Well, one of the most important things honestly does come out of that great passage in Philippians, right? Because one … and this is actually one of the other secrets. There were 12 of these habits that I identified of what these couples were doin’ differently, the happiest couples. And one of ‘em was basically, they learned how to talk themselves out of being upset--

Jim: Huh.

Shaunti: --or being mad or having this weird, you know, icky feeling towards their spouse.

Jim: So, they choose a more positive--

Shaunti: They--

Jim: --perspective.

Shaunti: --they choose a more positive perspective and it’s biblical. It’s not this like weird, you know, guru on a mountain top in Nepal, just you know. (Laughter) It’s … think … think out in the cosmos somewhere in some weird New Age way. No, no, no. This is biblical.

Paul is saying in Philippians 4, rejoice, right. Remember this; it’s this command. Again,I’m gonna say, rejoice. And--

Jim: Right.

Shaunti: --you think, okay, you know, you were in prison while you’re saying this, Paul. You’re chained to a wall. How do you rejoice in a prison or in a difficult marriage? And the answer comes in verse 8, just a couple verses later. He says, “Okay, here’s how you do it. You think on the best instead of the worst.”

You think on the things that you can appreciate about your spouse, rather than what legitimately is really an issue. For example, one of the things that I saw in these happy couples, which just blew me away, is these really happy couples, they had issues just like anybody else. I mean, there was a husband who was struggling with pornography. Or there was a … a wife who was dealing with, you know, special needs kids all day at home or there were all of these issues and yet, they were so enjoying their marriage.

And okay, what is it? And I was noticing that what the thing was, one of the things that made this big difference is, when they legitimately had an issue, like, “I wish this wasn’t an issue.” And we’re working on this real problem with my husband, say. But you know what? He’s a great dad. He always … he’s so tired after work and he takes the kids out and plays ball with them and what a huge way he’s pouring into his children. So, she’s choosing to focus on what is lovely, rather than what is legitimately an issue. It doesn’t mean you ignore the problems, but it does mean that you can completely change how you feel about your whole marriage.

Jim: Well, I like that emphasis, because one, it’s rooted biblically and two, it reflects the heart of God. You know what we’re challenged with, I think, in our culture today, not just in our marriages, but our culture at large, is we’re getting more and more and I think too comfortableattackingeach other.

John: Uh-hm.

Shaunti: Yes.

Jim: And even in the Christian church, rather than trying to think the best of people while you work out your differences, it’s almost even within our Christian orthodoxy, we become so polarized that if you don’t do it a certain way, you’re no longer a Christian. And we’re forgetting the principles are what are key, not some of the tactics.

Shaunti: You know, what’s really fun is um … one of the other habits, you know, and this is a little one. I almost missed it. I didn’t realize what a big deal it was until I started looking into the numbers. Talking about that kind of polarization and attacking and how you speak to each other, we’ve gotten into this weird habit when we’re in a marriage. We kinda let it all hang out.

And we kinda think, you know, I should be able to say, you know, whatever is on my mind. I should be able to tell it like it is, ‘cause brutal honesty is really important.


AndI asked one women who kinda had that sharp kinda snappy, you know, sarcastic “teasy” attitude. But she had a really happy marriage. I said, “What do you think about brutal honesty?” And she looked alarmed and she was like, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no--

Jim: I don’t want to deal with that.

Shaunti: --no, no, no, no.” It wasn’t that I wouldn’t want to deal with that, she said, “It’s dangerous.”

Jim: Ah.

Shaunti: She said, “I need to be able to be honest, absolutely. I need to go deep. I need to tell him when there’s real issues, but that’s what I most need to be carefulnotto hurt him.

Jim: To be tactful--

Shaunti: Kind.

Jim: --and kind.

Shaunti: And kind to one another, I think that’s in the Bible somewhere and (Laughing) there is a real need for us to, I think, pull back a little bit from that sense that I should be able to tell it like it is. Yeah, but that’s when you most need to be careful. You know, how you sometimes see somebody speaking to a husband or a wife in a tone that, you know, like I can’t believe you forgot the dry cleaning. And when will … (Laughter) And I think … and I think--

Jim: Do you ever …?

Shaunti: --to myself …

John: Nope, no.

Shaunti: You never heard anybody (Laughter) say that? Well and … and I’m not talkin’ about you gentlemen.

Jim: Oh, of course not. I have--

Shaunti: I’m talking--

Jim: --a friend.

Shaunti: --about … I’m talking about …

John: A mutual friend. (Laughter)

Shaunti: I’m talking about --

Jim: His name’sJohn.

Shaunti: --the people. (Laughter)

Jim: Yeah, you’re talking aboutthose people.

Shaunti: I’m talking about the people that you sometimes hear like standing in line at a restaurant or something.

Jim: Yeah.

Shaunti: And you think … you hear this stranger saying this and you think, “Would you ever say that … use that tone of voice with your best girlfriend, like you were talking to your husband like that? Why would you ever use that tone of voice with your husband?”

And that was another big difference. These happy couples, one of the reasons they were happy is, they had a high level of just kindness.

But I noticed these same five things. It … it was saying thank you and “He did a great job” in front of other people. It was some of that showing you desire him in the bedroom, you know, some of those things.

And on the women’s side, the husbands tended to, without knowing it, they would sit at church and put their arm around her in church. And they would walk across the parking lot, just you know, reach out and hold her hand.

Jim: hm.

Shaunti: And the men were just doing it without realizing that to a woman, that was this like, oh! It feels so good. It says … it’s like he’s saying, you’re mine. And it says these special things to a woman. And so, even though these arelittlebitty things that the opposite sex doesn’t realize are important, they have this huge meaning. And so, that’s one of the reasons these couples were happy, ‘cause day in, day out, they were sending this message, I care about you. And five minutes later, I care about you still. And five minutes later, I still care about you. And it builds like a bubble or a cocoon that protects the relationship--

Jim: What …

Shaunti: --from some other shocks.

Jim: In some ways it sounds … Gary Chapman, of course, has been a guest on this broadcast, talking about the love languages. And in some ways, you’re correlating some of this, I think because a person whose love language is touch. Now you’re saying these are more universal truths, but …

Shaunti: That was what surprised me.

Jim: Yeah, so it’s …

Shaunti: It was like 97 percent of the men said that when she said thank you day in and day out, it had a big impact, whether or not his language is words of affirmation.

Jim: Let me ask you this though, because uh … you’re talking about, they do this without even intentionally thinking about it.

Shaunti: Sometimes, yeah, it just sort of depends on--

Jim: But it gives--

Shaunti: --the couple.

Jim: --perhaps those that struggle thinking about it, a little hope. How does the person that is maybe not as clued in--

Shaunti: Yeah.

Jim; --I always pick on the engineers (Laughing), but you know, let’s talk about that analytical mind. It may not be as clued in. They’re laser focused on something. How do they break out of that, so they can think to reach over and grab their wife’s hand or put their arm around her shoulders? What do you … if you’re not thinking about it unconsciously, what clues can you use to say, “Oop, I better do that.”

Shaunti: Oop, I better do this. Well, here’s an example. One of the other things that made a big difference to women on that list is when he would send her a text message or an e-mail during the day saying, “You know, you’re … I just can’t waitto see you tonight. I love you so much.”

Jim: Not--

Shaunti: Okay?

Jim: --”What’s for dinner?”

Shaunti: Not what’s for dinner, exactly. And what are you gonna do for me, woman? (Laughter) So … and … and so, that’s an exactly of something. It is very easy for most of the men listening to this. I know you know what it feels like to get just so laser focused on the issues of the day, that just goes away, that idea.

So, I hope this is not speaking out of turn, but you know, I was doing one of these programs with Greg Smalley not too long ago. He says he has a little note on his computer monitor that says, “Remember to text Erin.” And it’s just a little reminder, you know that--

Jim: (Laughing)

Shaunti: --that … to … to kind of pull your brain out of the tasks of the day.

Jim: We’re gonna get him for that.

Shaunti: And do that. (Laughter) But I love that, that’s an example. You can put yourself in positions to remember and then itdoesbecome a habit.

John: Shaunti, there is someone who is thinking, I … I am really glad to hear what you’re saying, but it seems like our roles are reversed in our marriage.

Shaunti: Uh-hm.

John: And so, um … it’s actually the man saying, “I wish she would cozy up to me in church.” Or the woman saying, “I could care less if he changes the light bulb. I mean, it just doesn’t mean a--

Shaunti: Yeah.

John: --thing to me. So, address that gender stereotype that you’ve raised, which obviously is true across the board most of the time.

Shaunti: Yeah.

John: But there are … there are some differences--

Shaunti: Oh, yeah.

John: --uh … in personalities and style.

Shaunti: Oh, sure. There’s always exceptions. I mean, when I was writing the books about understanding men and understanding women, that’s one of the reasons I did the survey, so I would know what I could make generalizations about. And you know, Ialways say if … if 75 percent of men said this way, that means 25 percent didn’t, right? And so, there are those exceptions and that’s just the way God has wired you. Great. But that’s one of the reasons I spent a lot of time also talking to the majority, is because these really are the little things that you don’t know matters so much to that other person, ‘cause you are wired so differently.

Jim: Hm. Uh … there’s another one that caught my attention, which uh … is counterintuitive, because we’re told as Christians, trained as Christians to not let the sun go down on your anger. So, I mean … you … in premarriage counseling, you get that all the time.

John: Uh-hm.

Jim:Resolveyour conflict before you hit the bedroom. And--

Shaunti: Yep.

Jim: --we’ve beenpoundedwith that and yet, in your book you found one of the things that married … happily married couples do is, they go to bed mad. What is that?

Shaunti: I knew--

Jim: What do you mean--

Shaunti: --you were gonna--

Jim: --go to bed mad?

Shaunti: --raise this one, yeah. That’s so counterintuitive. Here’s really the funny part about this, is that we’ve all heard that phrase. You know, don’t let the sun go down on your anger. And when I started talking to these couples, I … the happy couples, I would … one of the things I most wanted to do was to find out what do they actuallydoas opposed to what theyadvisedothers to do and advised to do?

And so, I would always hear them say this. That would be one of their pieces of advice for me. You know, well, it’s really important to not go to bed mad. And I would say, oh, yeah, so um … do you (Laughter) ever go to bed mad? Well, it’s a really important principle, you know. And they’d kinda backpedal, backpedal. And when I’d say, no, I just … I want to know, do you ever?

And almost always the answer was, “Well, yes, sometimes.” And so, I started digging into that. What is up with this? And this is the way they put it. In real life, one of the things they found, which we’ve all seen, is that nothin’ good is gonna happen when you get to a certain hour at night and you feel this pressure to try to resolve something because I have to resolve it before bed. And you’ve got two tired, cranky, exhausted, emotional people trying to duke something out at midnight.

And they said, “You’re gonna hurt each other. You’re gonna say things you don’t mean. You’re gonna agree to things you wish you’d never agreed to and you get resentful. And so, they said sometimes they would get to the point where they would say, you know what? Nothin’s good is gonna happen from us doing this. Let’s say we’re gonna sleep on it. We’ll come back to it in the morning. We’re okay. I love you. We need to do this in the morning.

And then the next morning, half the time they were like, what was that about? You know, ‘cause you get a good night’s sleep; it looks different. So, that was the first thing that I heard.

But then I started getting nervous, because it doesn’t matter if the happy couples do it, if it’s anti-biblical, right? That was my--

Jim: Right.

Shaunti: --big concern, as a believer.

Jim: How could you explain it?

Shaunti: Yeah and so, I’m like, uh … uh … uh. And so, I took another look at that Scripture in Ephesians 4 that says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” So, it turns out that the whole Scripture is basically saying, in your anger, don’t sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. We’ve interpreted that as “Don’t go to bed mad,” which is not actually what it says, okay.

So, it turns out, Paul in that passage, he’s quoting a verse from the Psalms, Psalms 4:4, which says basically, in your anger, don’t sin. Think about it overnight and remain silent. (Laughing)

Jim: It’s almost the exact opposite.

Shaunti: It’s the exact opposite. (Laughter) And I had a counselor who was just a very wise person. And he said, “Look, here’s what it is. The key there is don’t sin in your anger. If you need to work it out before you go to bed to not sin in your anger, do it. If you need to say, “Look, we’ll be able to work this out in the morning,” not holding it over your partner’s head obviously, but we’ll be able to work this out in the morning and work it out the next day in order to not sin in your anger, dothat.

Jim: I’m just impressed that they’re up at midnight disagreeing. (Laughter) I mean, that’s pretty incredible. (Laughter) I mean, I can’t get past 10 o’clock. (Laughter) So, I admire the fact that they could stay up that late. (Laughter)

Shaunti: So, one of the interesting things actually about the people who decided to go to bed (Laughter) on it, which is the majority of people regardless, is what they did the next day it turns out was the biggie. The happy couples handled it totally different[ly] from everybody else. If it was still an issue the next day, if the hurt feelings were still there, they dealt with it. The less-than-happy couples were much more likely to just kinda let it float away and hope it went away on its own and not deal with it. And I think that’s one of the things that eventually will pull a couple apart. And so, that’s the difference often. It’s what you do the next day.

Jim: Let me tease that out a little bit.

Shaunti: Yeah.

Jim: So, you go to bed uh …you think you’ve resolved this conflict and yet, you haven’t, as from your perspective.

Shaunti: You think you’ve resolved it?

Jim:Uh … maybe …

Shaunti: Like the guy is like, “Whew!

Jim: Let me--

Shaunti: --done with that.”

Jim: -- let me say it this way. Maybe your spouse thinks you’ve resolved it, but you don’t feel that it’s been resolved yet. How … how does the happy couple continue to solve a problem when only one of you thinks it’s resolved?

Shaunti: Okay, that’s actually … I’ve seen that as an example several times. And I hate to say it. It’s usually the woman, you know, who is … she’s got … we call that an “open window,” like on your computer. It keeps popping up--

Jim: Right.

Shaunti: --right, on the screen of your mind, as a woman. Like … but what about this? And what about that?

Jim: So, the man’s moved on.

Shaunti: The man’s--

Jim: --He thinks it’s--

Shaunti: --moved on.

Jim: --done. We’re--

Shaunti: Yeah.

Jim: --all happy, right?

Shaunti: Yeah and--

Jim: But no.

Shaunti: -- but no, maybe not. Actually, it’s really interesting. That gets into how you approach each other when you have a difference of opinion. And that’s where that kindness comes back in. And the happy couples, if she still had an issue, she wouldn’t be like, “I can’t believe you’re ignoring this.” Instead, it was, “Listen, I know you care about this as much as I do, I’m still having a problem with this.” And because she is approaching it kindly and in a way that affirms him, like I know you care about me and believing the best, because she’s approaching it that way, he’s a lot less likely to get defensive.

Jim: Shaunti, we have so much more to cover. In fact, you talk about (Laughing) … this is one of those counterintuitive things, that it’s good to keep score. (Laughter) And I--

Shaunti: Yes.

Jim: --I don’t … I’m not sure how to understand that, but I want to keep goin’ and uh … will you be able to help us better understand where there’s ahealthyway to keep score in a marriage?

Shaunti: Absolutely.

Jim: Let’s do that.

Shaunti: And everybody’s like, what on earth? Yes, absolutely.

Jim: Let’s come back and do that.


John: Well, we are looking forward to hearing more from Shaunti next time and Jim, as we wrap up here, you wanted to say a word about how every day Focus on the Family is here to help couples.

Jim: That’s so true, John. We are striving to strengthen and save marriages through everything we do here at Focus. Last year alone our efforts to help couples in crisis have contributed to over 170,000 marriages saved.

Recently we heard from a woman named Kim that I want to share a little piece of what she wrote us. She said, “I can’t even explain how your ministry has helped my marriage. A year ago my life changed forever when I found out my husband was having an affair. It was a time in my life when my relationship with God was getting closer and closer but my husband was running as fast as he could away from Him. It has been hard, but with the help and strength I receive through God and your ministry--” and when she says ‘your ministry’ everybody? That includes you, those who support us.

She went on to say, “We are in the process of restoring our marriage. My husband’s life is turned around and he is now the head of our household. Although I would’ve never chosen this journey, it is worth all the pain to see my husband loving God, me and our children. May God bless your ministry!”

That’s it, everybody! That’s the payoff! And I am grateful to each and every one of you who support the ministry with large gifts and small gifts-- it all matters. And I hope you feel a sense of contribution that you are helping the kingdom, helping us save marriages, save babies, do the things that really are God’s business and we’re doing it together. We love to hear your stories and how God works through all of our efforts to bring hope and healing to your family.

John: And if you believe in the mission of Focus on the Family, please make a generous donation today. And when you do, we’ll send a complimentary copy of Shaunti’s book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. It’s our way of saying thank you for standing in the gap for people like Kim, who wrote that letter, Jim.

Jim: Yeah. So good.

John: Make that donation and request a copy of Shaunti’s book and a CD or download of this conversation at or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459.

On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. Join us again next time; we’ll hear more practical marriage advice from Shaunti Feldhahn and once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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Shaunti Feldhahn

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A graduate of Harvard University and a former Wall Street analyst, Shaunti Feldhahn is a popular speaker, best-selling author and social researcher. Her books include For Women Only, For Men Only, Through a Man's Eyes and The Good News About Marriage. Shaunti and her husband, Jeff, reside in Atlanta and have two children. Learn more about Shaunti by visiting her website,