Man #1: My wife isn’t into the traditional things like candy or flowers, so what she really appreciates is a back rub or a foot rub. And I have to do that without any agenda, of course.
Woman: My husband really likes to go to the movies, and so, every week I ... on Thursday evening, I try to see what’s gonna be on that he might like and ... and start planning a date night for him.
Man #2: My wife, I believe, appreciates getting to rest in the morning while I make breakfast for her and I love doin’ that and taking care of our daughter.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Some good reminders there for all of us who are married, to spend more time together as a couple, to serve each other and really reconnect and refresh our marriages. You’re gonna hear more about that today on Focus on the Family, with your host, Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I think all of us who have been married more than a few years uh, need those kinds of reminders, simple ideas that don’t require a lot of planning or expense or extravagance, just thoughtfulness. And sure, having special dates is important, candlelight dinners or a weekend getaway. They’re lots of fun, and they will create special memories for you as a couple, but those are not every day, life situations. I mean it’s great to come up with something every so often, but every day’s tough. Always showing love to your spouse uh, is obviously but, kinda those deep plans, they’re more sporadic uh, and you certainly don’t wanna keep a romance quota between each other. “You haven’t met my quota,” you know, to your spouse. It’s not a good way to start your morning discussion. We’re all at a different season of life. For example, you may be raising young children on a limited budget, so you can’t do much. Or, your work schedules are so different that finding time together as a couple is pretty difficult.
John: Or, if I may, Jim, like you and I have confessed before here on this broadcast, there are times when you get home, and you’re just brain dead.
John: And there’s like, “I’ve got nothing for you!”
Jim: Far too often...
John: I’m so sorry.
Jim: LAUGHTER. It’s so true, John, um, welcome to the club by the way, but we can’t let that extreme become our normal routine either where we just ignore our spouse and chalk it up to fatigue. Marriages can’t survive on cruise control. What we need is something in between, a balanced approach where you find those simple, every day ways of saying, “I love you, and I still care about you.” And to reach out to each other. And I know our guest, Kathi Lipp, is going to help us emphasize that message today.
John: Yeah, we have a great conversation recorded with Kathi a while ago about her book, Happy Habits for Every Couple: 21 Days to a Better Relationship, and Jim, here’s how you began the conversation on Focus on the Family.
Jim: Let’s get right down to it. Do we have to be that methodical to get to a good relationship?
Kathi Lipp: Well, I think that … okay, let’s talk about this. We’ve been talking off the air a little bit about running and exercising and things like that. And I don’t think that a marriage is any different than trying to get health … you know, whether it’s healthy in your life or healthy in your marriage. If you’re saying, okay, well, I’m gonna be running a 5K, but I’ll do that on the day, you know, and not doing the prep work--
Jim: (Laughing) Ouch!
Kathi: --you’re gonna be in pain, exactly. There’s gonna be some soreness and some other things involved. But I do think that we need to be a bit intentional about our marriages. And that’s not to put a burden on anybody. This is all good stuff. This is all fun stuff. But there does have to be a bit of a plan, because you can go, especially, depending on the season of your life, we were talking about that, you could go for a month and not have a real in-depth conversation except about the bills or maybe the trouble your kid’s in at school. And if you’re not pouring into that relationship, those conversations are so draining, you could end up feeling like, wow, this is really tough.
Jim: Kathi, you know, what’s hard with that, diet is a great … for me, it’s that analogy. You want to lose weight, you know. So, you say, okay, I’m not gonna eat these things. But then all of a sudden, it’s like you’re craving those things.
Jim: And you end up eating the very things that are not the right things to eat--
Jim: --more so than if you were kind of ignoring it all.
Jim: And it’s such an odd thing. Why does the human spirit (Chuckling) … why do we gravitate toward doing the very thing we shouldn’t do?
Kathi: Well, you know, God started talking about that back in Genesis. You know, we want what we can’t have or shouldn’t have. And we are created for so much more than that. We are created to have these healthy relationships, these things that God wants us to be able to enjoy. He wants us to be able to enjoy our marriage, enjoy our partner.
Kathi: But when we’re stuck in the minutia of all that has to get done during the day. And we’re putting our emphasis on the urgent, instead of the important. And the important thing is that relationship.
Kathi: Then it’s easy to get distracted and spend our time wanting the things that we don’t necessarily need.
Jim: And it’s really well-said and I don’t know about you, John. I can relate to that, putting your emphasis on the urgent, rather than the important.
Jim: That’s a great way to say it, because so often those things that are most important to us, we neglect and our relationships within the family are certain one of ‘em. I know as a father, that is a burden that I have at times, not just with Jean, my spouse, but often as a dad, you know, I travel quite a bit and I’ll feel that burden that, you know, I’m not there at that moment for my sons.
Jim: I try to be. I mean--
Jim: --it’s one of the burning desires in my heart to make sure that I’m dad that they need. But I still fall short and it’s so frustrating. It’s so frustrating to be human!
Kathi: To have real life get in the midst of what is really, really important. And I think that, you know, part of what I’m talking about in the book is that, it’s not saying okay, every single day we’re gonna spend two hours looking longingly into each other’s eyes, and…
Jim: Well, what does it look like?
Kathi: I think it looks like a lot of little things--
Kathi: --a lot of little things and it’s about paying attention and being intentional. So, most of the things in the book are, you know, I give you 21 projects, these little things to do. And that it’s not every day for each of the spouses. But one day it’s saying, You know what? You know what your husband’s favorite candy bar is. Sometime this week, pick it up, put it on his nightstand, tell him he doesn’t have to share with you or the kids (Laughter) or the dog. It’s the little things to just say, it’s going back to when we were dating or maybe when we were engaged. And our mind was on our spouse all the time. We couldn’t help but think about them. It was hard to work. It was hard to anything else in life, because we were so concentrated on that relationship.
And then the marriage happens and daily routines happen. And then kids come along and it’s easy to lose a little of that. And all I’m saying it, let’s recapture five percent of that. And five percent can go a long way to making your spouse feel loved and making you feel loved.
Jim: Why is that intentionality that’s required to get this accomplished, why is that so hard for us? Why is it hard? I mean, John, I don’t know about you, but--
John: You’re just speakin’ for yourself.
Jim: --yeah, thanks a lot (Laughter) for bailing me out here. (Laughter) But it’s so simple to put those things first, to think about what Jean might like tonight--
Jim: --what would inspire her tonight? What could I give her that would show her I love her? I mean, what is robbing our imagination of that kind of creative expression in our marriages?
Kathi: So, here’s what … okay, I love a good chick flick. I’ll be honest with you. (Laughter)
Jim: So does John.
Kathi: A good … (Laughter) so, John, okay.
John: Yeah, we have them in common. (Laughter)
Jim: I do, too. There’s some good ones out there.
Kathi: But you … the premise of the chick flick is that we spend all our time winning the love of that other person. And the end of it is the marriage.
Kathi: And once the marriage happens, it’s all done. You don’t have to try anymore. You don’t have to do anything. You know, that is the goal. And we know that marriage is just the beginning, but it’s hard to stay intentional when all of our society says, you know what? You’re just building up to this. That is the prize at the end of all this and everything will just magically work itself out. And we know that, that’s not true.
Kathi: We know that more effort has to be put in after the vows are said than before.
John: You know, I’m sure if I’ve mentioned this, Jim, but there was a time when we were courting, when Dena looked at me, it had been a long day. (Laughter) She looked at me across the sofa. We were both just bone tired. And she said to herself, there will be plenty of nights like this--
John: --if that’s okay.
Kathi: That’s a smart woman.
John: It … well, yes and I’ve delivered on my end (Laughter). I’ve given her lots--
Jim: There have been plenty--
John: --of moments like that.
Jim: --of nights like that. That’s funny.
John: But it … it … I think what you just said is so true. We …we … the expectations is for this, but in reality, there are ups and downs, to use that word that Jim used in the introduction; there are “seasons.”
Jim: Describe for me some of the habits. I mean, in 21 days as you do this, just give me a couple and then we’ll play off those.
Kathi: Well, the cool thing about this book is, we did this as a giant experiment (Laughter) with my church. We got 200 couples at my church—Church on the Hill in San Jose, California—and it was led by me and my pastor. And what we did is, we took these couples through about 45 habits. And we said, things like, guys, write your wife a note and tell her 10 reasons why you love her. Girls, tell your husband 10 reasons why you respect him.
Buy their favorite candy bar. And then we asked them to go on dates together and so, to set up a date. We asked them to go on different kinds of dates. We asked them to go on a double date. And it was so exciting to see people who started to re-engage in their marriages in really exciting ways. And the thing that just blew me away is how much the guys loved it. Because the guys were told, hey, we want you to do this, this and this. And they loved saying, okay, if I do this and this, I’m not gonna get in trouble and she’ll probably like it right? Yes. (Laughter) And so, the guys were all in and I got all these e-mails and phone calls telling me what they did and how their wives responded.
And so, it was little things like, we asked people to fill out a little survey. We asked the wives to say, okay, tell me when your birthday is; tell me when your anniversary [is]. And you’re not allowed to write, you should know this already. (Laughter) You’re not allowed to write that. And what’s your favorite flower? What’s your favorite perfume? And so, when it came time to buying his wife a treat, he had all--
Jim: They had a list to go to.
Kathi: --the information. Yeah. It was in the sock drawer.
Jim: They didn’t have to guess.
Kathi: He could go to it. Exactly and so, we gave them information so that they could make these projects a little bit more specific and a little bit more interesting. And so, it was just little simple things, five-minute things, buy a card, write a note, do something to really delight your spouse.
Jim: Well, I love that and what’s great about that is, anyone could do that. You could do that in your church today. Everyone listening could talk to their pastor and say, is this something we could do? I think that’d be great.
Kathi: We had a marriage revolution in our church. It was so exciting. On the last day of the project and what we did is, we picked the 21 that people felt had the biggest impact and effect on their marriage. And on the last day, we had a celebration and we had Post-It notes that they put up on the side of the church, talking about what God did in their marriage. And it was so exciting to go and read all of those things, you know, saying things like, this was the first time I ever got a card from my husband. One of them was, this is the first time I ever wore lingerie for my man. And then there was another one that said, this is the first time my wife ever wore lingerie. Praise God for lingerie. So (Laughter) I’m just …. (Laughter)
Jim: John, over to you! (Laughter)
Kathi: But you know, there was real impact by doing these simple things, because these are all people who loved each other, but had kind of gotten out of the daily habit of talking about exactly why you matter so much to me.
Jim: Such a good reminder.
John: Yeah, this is the kind of practice programming that we love to present to you because most marriages can use a little tune up, and Kathi Lipp is terrific when it comes to ideas for fine tuning and improving your relationship. Her book, Happy Habits for Every Couple is Available at our website. We have other resources there as well. focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Let’s go ahead and continue the conversation with Kathi Lipp on Focus on the Family.
Jim: Kathi, when you talk about the date nights in Happy Habits for Every Couple, that’s something we support here, Dr. Greg Smalley’s on the team here at Focus and we have a big push to do date nights. But one of the concerns that a lot of young couples particularly have is, we can’t afford it. We don’t know what to do, ‘cause we don’t have a lot of money. How can they do this in a cheaper way without spending $100 or $150 for a big night? In fact, you have what you call the $20 approach. Talk about it.
Kathi: I really do. We did this for a long time, especially when we were first married and we knew we needed a date night. This wasn’t optional. This wasn’t something that … wouldn’t that be fun? It was, if this marriage is gonna continue to thrive, we need some time together. So, we came up with a list of 20 things we could do for under $20.
Kathi: And so, it was things like, when the coupons came around for miniature golf, where it was buy one, get one free, we were on that. And we would do things like that and say, you know, expensive dates put pressure on you, because you have to have a great conversation and you have to get dressed up. And that’s not the point. The point is, to go out and have some fun, to recapture a little of that romance you had when you were courting or dating and saying, you know what? We enjoy being together. We like each other. And so, I do have a list of 20 dates for under $20. I’d be happy to share that with you.
Jim: Oh, let’s post it.
John: I think that’s a great idea.
Jim: We’ll post it.
Kathi: And to say … and also the other thing that I think is really important, especially for young couples with kids is, the babysitting factor. And I understand, you know, that can get very expensive. What we did is, we had a babysitting co-op. And so, we would swap with other families and we would have a little ticket that we would trade for our babysitting time together. And it made such a difference, because not only did we have this great date, but we’d come back and pick up our kids and we’d be able to have a little couple time with the other couple and just enjoy ourselves before we took our kids home. It changed the dynamic of what we were doing.
Jim: So, in that co-op, did you ever say, “Okay, we’ll be back next week.”
Kathi: Yeah. (Laughter) We’d have to save up a lot of tickets for that to happen.
Jim: Yeah, here you go!
Kathi: But you know, we did have a couple of times where we did weekend getaways. And I think that, that was so critical to our time together.
Jim: It’s a great thing to do.
Jim: Let’s look at the other end of that equation.
Jim: Let’s talk to the couple whose kids have grown.
Jim: The 20 bucks is not the issue anymore.
Jim: They could spend a bit more on an evening out--
Jim: --but now they’ve gotten into this rut where they just don’t do it. Speak to that 50-something couple that has the cash, but not the desire.
Kathi: Yeah, and I think it’s important to say, sometimes you just gotta shake up the routine. You gotta do something different. You gotta get out of yourselves. You know, we are kind of heading into that area. We celebrated my husband’s 50th birthday this year. And we just decided that some of the stuff we’ve been doing in the past isn’t working for us. So, one of the things we’re doing now is, every Saturday that we’re both home, we are going for a hike. And this is something … we want to get out. We want to be healthy, but we also want to spend time connecting with each other. We have signed up for a 5K. This terrifies me (Laughter) beyond anything else I’ve done. But we are working together to--
Kathi: --get ready for this 5K. And it gives us a common goal and I think that, that’s really important. When you don’t have the day-to-day crises with the kids anymore, to have something you’re shooting for. So, shake up your routine. What would be fun? What would be something that you couldn’t do with the kids, because there wasn’t the time or money? And now you’ve got the time and maybe a little bit of squiggle room money-wise.
John: Okay, now there’s somebody in between here, Jim and it … between the young couple and between the couple that’s perhaps a little more seasoned. And that is, the couple who have, I don’t know four or five or perhaps six kids and they’re thinking, “Okay, I’ve got the want to. I can afford 20 bucks. I want to shake up the routine, but there’s little appendages--
John: --and we just … we just can’t get away from.”
John: And I mean, a co-op is a nice idea, but we can’t do it.
Kathi: But when you have six kids--
Kathi: --that’s too many tickets. So, my thought on something like that is, maybe you save that for once a month. Maybe you’re “out” time is once a month. But then you should be dating at home. And there are ways to do that. You get the kids into bed and if you have teenagers, you say, you know what? You don’t have to go to sleep, but you can’t be downstairs. And you guys have a little bit of time that’s just for the two of you. And I know that when we had kids at home and we had a blended family, we said, “Unless you’re bleeding, do no knock on our door on certain …” You know, we just needed time to be in our room by ourselves.
Jim: You know, Kathi, I appreciate that. I think it’s interesting and I think it’s particularly difficult for women and I see Jean, my wife in this way, because even that, there’s a sense that I’ve gotta be available for the kids
Jim: And even to squeeze that time is difficult emotionally to manage that. Speak to that person who can’t seem to make that space because they wanted to be the super mom.
Kathi: I understand, but you know what? I think we … and this is nothing against Jean or any mom who wants to be available for her kids, but we also need to understand that our kids need to learn the skills to entertain themselves. Our kids need to learn the skills to take care of certain things on their own. We’re helping them. As they grow, they need to become more and more independent. And part of that independence is saying, you know, I don’t need to be here for ev … I’m gonna tuck you in and you can go to sleep on your own.
And I understand, there are all sorts of issues that can surround that, but we have to understand, we’re giving a gift to our kids when we’re teaching them, you can do things on your own. And mom and dad are gonna be here. If there’s an emergency, we’re here. But you know what? We want to model for our kids what a healthy relationship looks like. And a kid-centric house is not a healthy house.
Jim: Yeah and that’s an important thing and it’s good. It’s good to have the heart for the children, but you also have to have the heart for the marriage--
Kathi: And the--
Jim: --and that’s important.
Kathi: --best gift you can give your kids is a healthy relationship. What more could your kids need than to see their parents being together and loving each other?
Jim: In fact, you talk about having an “encouragement crew.”
Jim: I love that word. What does it look like though? What does that mean?
Kathi: It is other couples who are saying, you know what? This is something we want to do, too. We want to make our marriage the top priority after our relationship with God in our house. And so, we’re gonna encourage each other. We’re gonna hold each other accountable. Maybe it’s just the women saying, okay, we’re gonna make sure that we plan some time for our men during the week.
And I think that really the women can often be the instigators. Now I’m not saying guys are off the hook, but I don’t think it’s up to the guys to plan the dates all the time. I … we’ve done stuff like with other couples. The girls and I got together and we said, okay, we’re gonna do a mystery date for our guys. So, the first thing we did is, we went to dinner and then we got a roll of tokens for each of the guys. And we went and we played video games and did Skee Ball and all of that kind of stuff. And then we went to a fancy pants place for dinner. And we all were in the same car and we all did this together. It took us no time to plan it. It took us very little money, but it was so much fun to be with other couples. And it’s fun to be with your spouse with other people around. You get to see a different side of them. That’s your encouragement crew.
Jim: That’s a great idea. I don’t know; do you have an encouragement crew?
John: Well, actually, I … yes, we do have a Sunday school class where there’s community there. And we really do en … we don’t spend a lot of time outside of that Sunday morning together, but we do speak into each other’s lives. We do have laughter together, even in the context of the class. And when we get together, it’s really good.
Jim: It is good. I like that. I think every couple should find that kind of community to be a part of. We do it through a book club. We’ve got about five couples.
Kathi: Oh, neat.
John: Yeah, you’ve been meeting for a long time haven’t you?
Jim: Probably seven years and it’s just a lot of fun. It’s a great group of couples and we just enjoy that time, very, very good time.
Jim: Kathi, let’s talk about this aspect of it though. We want to have pure motive. So often in this area, we can become a bit manipulative perhaps with ulterior motives. How do we, in order to honor the Lord and honor our spouses, how do we make sure that we’re not being kind tonight so we can get something later?
Kathi: Okay, so (Laughing) I’m sorry. I’m turning a little red here. But I understand exactly what you mean and women have their own motives. Guys have their own motives. Let’s just be honest. I … you know, and one of the jokes among women is, the sexiest thing a man can do is scrub the toilet. Let’s just be honest.
Jim: (Laughter) That …
Kathi: It …
Jim: John, how’s that seem to you?
John: -- clean bathrooms across the country tonight. (Laughter)
Kathi: That’s right, exactly. (Laughter)
Kathi: You know, and I … so I think that it’s okay to say that to our spouses, to say, you know, I’m not doing this because I want that end result, but let me be honest with you. When I feel like you’re pitching in with the kids, when I feel like you’re pitching in with the housework, you have never been more desirable to me in my life.
Jim: So, get beyond scratching my back and I know what that means.
Kathi: Exactly. (Laughter) Let’s just lay it out there and be honest. And also, let’s talk about … I think it’s important to be honest about our needs, whether they’re physical, emotional, spiritual or relational. I think that those are important things. I think going in with motives that are not expressed is not a good thing.
Kathi: But I think to be honest with your spouse and say, you know what a great date night looks like to me is, I feel loved when you go buy me flowers. That makes me feel loved. And it may not seem that important to the husband, but to the wife it’s really important.
Kathi: And the husband can be really honest and say, you know what’s important to me? That you and I have some “couple time” with the quotes firmly in place there at the end of the night. And let’s just be honest. There are times when it’s important to have those conversations, so that everybody’s needs are getting met.
Jim: Hey, as we wrap up, one of the things … I love the term you use, “comfortable love”--
Jim: --’cause so often we create expectations. I’m sure even people hearing us today, you know, we’re setting the bar so much higher than where they’re living at today.
Jim: We’re not saying, “have to,” “must,” all that. We’re simply trying to give recommendations and suggestions on how to have a more fulfilling and richer marriage. Talk about “comfortable love.”
Kathi: Well, the perfect example for this is my 16-year-old daughter. At one point … I know that sounds crazy. But at one point, I was talking to her about the husband I was praying for, for her. And I said, “You know, I’m praying that you find a husband like the husband I found, one who honors you and loves you and cares for you.” And my daughter at 16, said, “I don’t want your kind of marriage. It’s boring.” And I was brokenhearted when I heard that. I mean, it tore me up, because I thought she has such a distorted idea of what true love is.
Kathi: And I carried that hurt around for a really long time. She’s 21 now and she says, “I want the kind of marriage you and Roger have, because,” she said, “I thought, if there’s no drama, it’s not exciting. But you know what? I see how much you guys care for each other and how much you love each other.” And you know, she didn’t recognize the value in that. But that’s “comfortable love,” that we serve each other, which is not a very popular term these days.
But I see my husband die to self almost every day, to make sure that I know that I’m loved and that I’m happy. And I try to do the same for him. And I can’t think of a better way to be married than the way that we are right now. It’s taken us a long time to get there, but we had to get past a lot of drama and a lot of, you know, is this what marriage is supposed to look like? And now we’re at a place where we couldn’t imagine anything better.
Jim: Well, and you’ve so wonderfully illustrated, I think, Christian marriage--
Jim: --that comfortable love, the giving of self. The world’s not gonna understand that.
Jim: They’re gonna be very much more me-focused. And I don’t mean that in a general context. I know there are people that give of themselves that are not Christian. I get that.
Jim: But that is the Christian ethos. They may not know they’re expressing it.
Jim: But that is God’s heart and that will become, I think, more and more unique in the culture as Christians live out a rewarding marital relationship. And I think it’s what’s gonna bring the culture back to marriage and to the benefits of marriage and the beauty of marriage. Kathi Lipp, author of the book, Happy Habits for Every Couple, thanks for bein’ with us again.
Kathi: Thanks again for having me, guys.
Jim: All right.
John: What a terrific conversation with Kathi Lipp today on Focus on the Family and Jim, I really appreciated the energy she brings and the positive message for taking our marriages to that next level.
Jim: It’s a great reminder John, that marriage isn’t that complicated. The little everyday things we do and say really matter, and with some intentionality and creativity, your relationship with your spouse will grow in amazing ways, and that’s why we’re sharing this broadcast today. Because Focus on the Family wants to help strengthen your marriage and help you become a living witness of what a God honoring marriage looks like even with our failures at times.
Jim: With your help, we can see a lot more husbands and wives experience that same thing. This past year, our research with you, the listeners, uh we estimate that more than 600,000 thousands were able to build healthier, stronger marriages thanks to the resources that Focus has provided. But, imagine how many more couples we could impact working together to give them practical advice and Bible based encouragement, hopefully like we’ve done today. Please join our marriage building team with your generous support to Focus on the Family.
John: We’d love to hear from you, and if you can, please make a generous donation of any amount to Focus. We’ll say thank you by sending a complimentary copy of Kathi’s book, Happy Habits for Every Couple.
Our number is 800-232-6459. 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or, you can donate online at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. We also have a free marriage assessment for you, which is very easy to fill out. It just takes 5 or 6 minutes, and it’ll give you a good overview of what’s working well in your relationship and maybe some areas to improve in. Check that out on the website. And we hope you have a great weekend with your family and church friends and then join us again on Monday when you’re going to hear a great conversation with Deborah Pegues about your attitude.
Deborah Pegues: First of all, we were created for a purpose, and by faith we’re saved. By faith we understand the promises of God. By faith we believe that what God has said, He’s going to do. And when we believe, it affects our behavior and our attitudes.
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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 You Don't Have to Try So Hard. 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.