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Starting Your Marriage Out Right (Part 1 of 2)

Air Date 01/17/2019

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Best-selling authors Jim Burns and Doug Fields offer practical advice to engaged and newlywed couples in a discussion based on their book The First Few Years of Marriage: 8 Ways to Strengthen Your "I Do." (Part 1 of 2)

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Episode Transcript

Opening:

Excerpt:

Jim Burns: So what I found in my own marriage was that Cathy would say - early on, she would say, “Well, do you love me?” And I’d think, “Well, of course, I love her.” But what she was really saying was, “I need emotional connection from you, and I’m not sure you even know how to give that.”

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s Jim Burns. And he’s with us today on Focus on the Family along with Doug Fields, his friend and co-author. And your host is Focus president Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Okay, John, I did not know this, but did you know December is by far the most popular month for engagements?

John: I would not have guessed...

(LAUGHTER)

John: ...December.

Jim D.: I thought that was Christmas.

John: I don’t know why.

Jim D.: Well, according to one source, 19 percent of couples become engaged during the holidays from Thanksgiving...

John: Well, that makes sense.

Jim D.: ...Through the New Year.

John: Yeah.

Jim D.: And I guess it makes sense.

John: It’s romantic.

Jim D.: When did you get engaged?

John: I don’t know.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim D.: Yeah, okay, good.

John: Summertime.

Jim D.: Sorry, Dena.

John: I think it was summertime.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim D.: I think we were January, so it fits. And, uh, we are starting off the new year, so we want to encourage you to prepare for marriage if you’re in that zone right now. We want to have you do that in healthy ways - uh, to grow together as a couple and to learn to celebrate your differences and become one. That is what the Scripture says: “Become one.” And you think it’s gonna be easy when you’re engaged. Wait until you’re married.

John: Oh, no. (Unintelligible).

Jim D.: And the toothpaste and everything.

John: It’s fun though.

(LAUGHTER)

John: It’s a fun journey.

Jim D.: It should be a fun process and hopefully not too annoying. And I guess that’s the point. We’re gonna equip you today with our guests, uh, addressing this issue to help you, um, see the right side, the humorous side, the fun side of marriage and I hope lift it for everyone.

John: Mmhmm. Yeah, Jim Burns and Doug Fields, um, both lead the Homeword Center for Youth and Family. Uh, this is a pacific university. And they’re very popular authors and speakers. And get this, Jim, they say that between them they have over 75 years of marriage experience from which to share.

Jim D.: I’m not gonna divide that number. It could be one year and 74.

John: I don’t know.

(LAUGHTER)

John: I don’t think...

Jim D.: But it’s great.

John: ...Either of them have married that long.

Body:

Jim D.: Hey, Jim and Doug, welcome to Focus.

Doug Fields: Thank you. It’s good to...

Jim D.: Yeah.

Doug: ...Be here.

Jim D.: Welcome back.

Jim B.: It’s great to be here. And when you said that number, you looked at me, Jim. I’m...

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: I’m just a little bit offended.

Jim D.: I didn’t look at anybody. I looked at the wall.

Jim B.: Okay. Well, we’ll see.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: We’ll look at the tapes.

Jim D.: Well, you did 44 years?

Jim B.: 44 years.

Jim D.: Let’s just get it out on the table.

Jim B.: Exactly. And I do know the day. It was August 9th because it was also the - it’s the day of my daughter’s first birthday. But on August 9th is when I asked Cathy. So I wasn’t...

Jim D.: Well, you’re totally outside the norm then.

Jim B.: I’m totally a mess.

Jim D.: It wasn’t...

Jim B.: It wasn’t...

Jim D.: ...The holidays...

Jim B.: No, no...

Jim D.: ...For you.

Jim B.: ...It wasn’t the holidays.

Jim D.: It wasn’t Christmas.

Jim B.: No.

Jim D.: How could you do that?

Jim B.: It - well, I was desperate and...

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: ...I was afraid, on August 10th...

John: She was slipping through your hands.

Jim B.: I was afraid on August 10th she would say no. So I was - I knew August 9th I had her.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim D.: You wanted to get married August 11th, right?

Jim B.: Exactly.

Jim D.: August 9th was the proposal. Let’s get married...

Jim B.: Yeah...

Jim D.: ...August...

Jim B.: ...I wanted that. It didn’t happen. It was one week after college graduation. And I have three daughters. And if they would have got married one week after college graduation, I would have, like, you know, croaked.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim D.: Found that boy and...

Jim B.: But - but that was kind of, uh, worrisome. But it was - it - you know, it was - it’s been a great - a great run.

Jim D.: Well, let’s get into, Doug, uh, for you and Jim both. How did you meet your wife? How did you get started? How long did you date, engage and then get married? How many months? Just to give a little background...

Doug: Yeah, for me...

Jim D.: ...of your experience.

Doug: ...Ballpark, I met my wife when I was a freshman in college. She was actually a senior in high school, and I was at a friend’s baseball game and saw her. And we started a conversation, went to a Christian camp where we worked together. And I fell in love, knew I was going to marry her right away. She didn’t. It took her about six months. But we dated for two years. And we actually got engaged in August also - August 27th, gentleman, 1984.

John: Good for you.

Doug: I remember the day.

John: Oh, there you go.

Doug: ...Because it was our two-year anniversary of dating. So...

Jim D.: Oh, good.

Doug: ...That was our story.

Jim B.: With me, I met Cathy the very first day in college. This was specific. And I was sitting in the nerd section where people like me would sit.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: She was sitting in the front. And I said, “See that girl down there? I’m gonna take her out on a date.” And you know what those guys did? They laughed...

Jim D.: Yes.

Jim B.: ...At me. They literally laughed. And I think they said, “Yeah, right.” But it did take me a while. We became just friends first. And then, uh, she kept - she got - immediately, she got a boyfriend. And she kept saying, “What should I do with this guy?” And I’d say, “Break up with the guy. There’s somebody better.”

Jim D.: So you became the consultant?

Jim B.: I was the consultant.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: But I was always consulting in one direction.

(LAUGHTER)

John: Little biased.

Jim B.: Yeah, not a good counselor.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim D.: When did she arrive at the understanding that you were kind of...

Jim B.: December.

Jim D.: Yeah?

Jim B.: December. We held hands for the first time, and that was a big deal.

Jim D.: She liked your input about...

Jim B.: Yeah.

Jim D.: ...Her dating life?

Jim B.: She...

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: She did, or she was desperate of the other guy. No, she had dropped that guy. So actually it was really kind of neat to start as friends...

Jim D.: Yeah.

Jim B.: ...First, to be honest.

Jim D.: Absolutely.

Jim B.: Because we were friends before we became, you know, boyfriend and girlfriend. That was a big deal. Then we dated all through college and, like I said, got married one week after college.

John: Hm.

Jim D.: Now, in your book, The First Few Years of Marriage: 8 Ways to Strengthen Your ‘I Do’, you really press on this idea of drift. Which I like that concept. I think the question that I have for you is why does it occur - the drift? And describe what it is so that those that are drifting, uh, better understand what they’re in because sometimes you don’t even notice it. So what does drift look like and why do we go there?

Doug: Yeah, I think the drift is - happens in any relationship. It’s not just a marriage relationship. I’ve just, in the last five years, married all three of my kids off. And, you know, they stand at the altar with this great expectation, share these vows that sound beautiful, but they’re very unrealistic. And they don’t - they don’t have an intention for their marriage to drift, but it’s going to. It’s just by the natural course of all relationships. You have a - you have a name. You have a direction. You know where you want to go. But because of apathy, because of regularity, uh, because of comfortability, we just begin to drift. And what Jim and I talk about is all relationships drift. And really, the secret are the course corrections.

Jim B.: Yeah.

Jim D.: And what do they look like?

Jim B.: Well, it’s funny. I was speaking in Houston, and, uh, the guy that was running the conference said, “Hey, do you want to meet an astronaut?” And I said, “Absolutely.”

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: I’d never met one. So he was in the audience. And so I go over there. And I said, “What is it like for NASA to be in charge of you when you’re up in space?” And he said, “Well, they’re only in charge 3 percent. 97 percent, we’re doing course corrections.” Wow. Well, in many ways, when you drift, the secret to it - and I think especially in the first few years because we don’t know what we’re doing, we weren’t trained - it’s like you say, engagement’s great, and then, you know, boom, you get married, and it’s harder - is - it’s making those course corrections. And then what are those course corrections? I know for Cathy and I - and Doug and his Cathy have a different story. Um, Doug’s high maintenance, but Cathy’s not. Cathy...

Jim D.: We’ll let you weigh in...

Jim B.: Cathy Burns and...

Jim D.: ...In a minute, Doug.

Jim B.: Cathy and Jim Burns are both high maintenance. But what we had to realize was we didn’t communicate the same, we didn’t approach very many things the same. Now, we did approach our faith the same. We were both committed, uh, Christians at the time. But the drift goes this way. And let me quote - and I’m sure you quote on Focus on Family, all the time, this great theologian. His name is Vince Lombardi...

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: ...Of the Green Bay Packers, right? But he said to the football players - he said, “When you’ve strayed away from the basics, you’ve gone a long ways toward defeat.” In engagement, you pretty much do the basics. You date. You court. You’re thinking about that person. And then you get busy. You get busy with jobs. You get busy making babies. You get busy doing other things. And that is a natural course toward that drift. So what we are trying to do is help people make those course corrections. And frankly, it’s not easy, but it’s kind of simple.

Jim D.: Well, let’s get into that. Um, so a couple that’s listening, or an individual who’s married going, “Yeah, I think we’re in that drift stage,” what does drift feel like, first of all? I really am serious about that. You’re - we’re assuming people know what drift is. Give us a definition or description what that feels like, what that looks like.

Doug: I would say that it’s a feeling of it’s just doesn’t feel like it used to.

Jim D.: It’s more like business...

Doug: Yeah, yeah, just...

Jim D.: ...Or roommates.

Doug: ...It’s not the same. And I think roommates is a pretty significant drift. I mean, you...

Jim B.: Right.

Doug: ...Think about the minor drifts. If you’re on - you’re on course for some destination, and you get just one degree off, you’re gonna miss it.

Jim D.: Right, by a lot.

Doug: But that one degree is subtle, you know, in the...

Jim B.: Yeah.

Doug: ...Moment. So I feel like it - in a marriage, it’s like we’re just not clicking. This isn’t what it used to be. Uh, it doesn’t feel right. Um, we’re like two trains going on a different path. I think it takes on various degrees, don’t you, Jim?

Jim B.: Sure. It does take various degrees. And it’s a little bit of distance. And, again, you can have a small amount of distance or a large amount of distance. And a lot of people do marriage with distance. And so when you know you are distant, you’re either going to choose to make those course corrections, or you’re gonna basically choose to stay on the same course, and then you get in trouble. It’s like you’re talking about - your voyage. You know, if you’re trying to get to Hawaii from California, and you’re one off, I think you’re gonna end up in, like, Australia or something. So then you’re in a mess. So the secret is - is - make the course corrections early in your marriage if you can.

Jim D.: Yeah, and that’s - I think that’s the key thing. And that’s the - the reason you’re here today - is to help these couples that are recognizing that it’s become a little mundane - go to work, pay the bills, have some discussion. Uh, probably on the surface things look okay. That’s really what you’re saying. It’s not severe. And if you’re in that spot, give us a call. There’s other resources and tools to help you. But for the average couple who’s been married, uh, maybe five to 10, maybe 20 years, and they just notice they’ve fallen into this rut, that’s who you’re really addressing. And in that context, let’s move some of the solutions, you know, you mentioned eight ways to make the “I do” feel better and, uh, resonate. So let’s go over them. What are the eight? Just give us the list, and we’ll dig into a handful of them.

Jim B.: Okay.

Doug: I’ll tell you the list. One is laugh daily and date weekly. Second is slow down. Third is celebrate differences. Fourth is, uh, choose the positive. Fifth is fight fear and conflict. Uh, six is have great sex. Seven is enjoy the baby. And eight is keep your promise.

Jim D.: Okay, now you write, Jim - you mention these sounds - they sound pretty easy. Why is it so difficult?

Jim B.: Well, I mean, a sinner marries another sinner, and then you have sinnerlings eventually.

Jim D.: Sinnerlings?

Jim B.: Sinnerlings.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: That’s what I call my kids. Uh...

Jim D.: And what do they call you?

Jim B.: The sinner.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim D.: The sinner?

(CROSSTALK)

Jim B.: The primary sinner. But, you know, in reality - because we miss the mark. You know, it’s - it’s - we do miss some of those kind of basics. I mean, Doug was talking right there. He mentioned, uh, laughter. And we say, no, have serious fun in a marriage. And a lot of marriages used to have fun. You know, they had fun when they were dating. And then they sort of quit dating, or they quit having fun. I remember our daughter Heidi came home from babysitting one day, and she said, “Mom and Dad, oh, my gosh, Scott and Anita, they are so amazing. They’re the best parents I know.” Of course, that makes us feel terrible.

Jim D.: Yeah, right.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim D.: You love hearing that from your kids.

Jim B.: “But they are so fun. But they said something. When you were their youth pastor, they said you, Mom and Dad, were fun and funny.”

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: And then this pause.

John: Awkward pause.

Jim B.: More like - she didn’t say it, but was like, “What happened...”

Jim D.: What happened?

Jim B.: “...To you?” And, you know, I got thinking about. And I thought, you know, Cathy and I don’t have as much fun as we used to. And we’re actually pretty disciplined. I mean, we’re doing a weekly date and things like that. But it wasn’t the fun atmosphere. Now, that’s both for parenting and for marriage in many ways. And what we find is that when couples invest in or proactive about having fun, it really does make a difference.

Jim D.: Yeah, it’s an important aspect. But it’s easy to lose the fun because...

Jim B.: Right.

Jim D.: ...You are down into the business...

Jim B.: Right.

Jim D.: ...Of being...

Jim B.: Right.

Jim D.: ...A couple...

Jim B.: Right.

Jim D.: ...Being a family...

Jim B.: Sure.

Jim D.: ...Paying the bills...

Jim B.: Sure.

Jim D.: ...Making the money...

Jim B.: And if you don’t make it...

Jim D.: ...All those kinds of things.

Jim B.: ...A proactive intentional appointment - you know, Doug often talks about the - the 1 percent.

Doug: Yeah, we actually have found - when Jim and I do our conferences or talking to couples, we’re blown away by how few people actually date one another.

Jim B.: Yeah.

Doug: So you know, they pursue one another. They date one another when they’re married. And then they - they stop. It’s like - and we say “I do.” And then we say “I don’t” to dating. So what we say is, is your marriage worth 1 percent of your time? Because if - you know, and everybody in the audience would go, “Of course it’s worth 1 percent of my time.” Well, 1 percent of your time is an hour and 40 minutes a week. And so we call that a date. Whether that’s at night, during the day, it’s an intentional time to be together where there’s no kids, there’s no calendar. Uh, we’re not talking about finances. We’re not talking about work. And if you start that - you know, that’s why we - we started this - you know, wrote this book, The First Few Years of Marriage - we want people to start right. Because when you start talking about people who have been married 20-30 years, and you say, “Hey, you should date.” They’re like, “Gosh, I can’t even remember the last time we went on a date where we...”

Jim B.: Right.

Doug: “...Didn’t talk about kids or...”

Jim B.: Right.

Doug: “...Calendar or finances.” So...

Jim D.: But they can pick up if they haven’t been?

Doug: Absolutely.

Jim B.: Absolutely.

(LAUGHTER)

Doug: Absolutely. You know, something is better than nothing. Start somewhere because...

Jim D.: Right.

Doug: ...You know, we all feel guilty about things we should be doing. But sometimes, uh, a couple just needs to be reminded or shaken or encouraged or motivated. If you put 1 percent into your marriage, that’s about 15 minutes a day, knee to knee, eye to eye, just talking, connecting, again, not talking about the problems of the day. You know, “How are you feeling? What would you like me to know about your heart today?” I mean, something connecting. And then an hour and 40 minutes a week, that’s a real doable deal.

Jim D.: No, that is good.

Doug: And that’s a course correction, Jim.

Jim D.: Now, let me play the - the negative side of that.

Doug: Yeah.

Jim D.: And - and rebuff me. I’m asking for you to correct me. So if you have the rationale that any...

Jim B.: I’ve been doing that for 20 years (unintelligible).

Jim D.: Yeah, thanks, Jim.

(LAUGHTER)

John: And we keep inviting...

Jim D.: But...

John: ...You back.

Jim D.: But this is...

John: I don’t know why.

Jim D.: ...The first time I’ve asked you to do it.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim D.: But, Jim, seriously, you know, you’re busy. And you - you have a good relationship. And you think that will be enough. Like, you got enough in the bank. You are laughing together. There are good things. But it’s busy. And I don’t got time this week to do the date night. Something’s come up. And next week, the same story happens again. Or maybe it’s the wife saying, “You know, there’s so much to do. I’m gonna help the kids with their homework.” I’m just thinking of all the excuses. And how does a couple put the excuses to the side and say, “No, this is critically important”? Because I could be that person. I know Jean - and we could be that couple - we have been.

Jim B.: Right, right.

Jim D.: Sometimes we don’t date for a long time.

Jim B.: Right. Well, you know, again, I don’t think you’re - are legalistic about you have to date this week or, you know, your marriage is awful. But, you know, what I find is, you know, if I work out, but I don’t work out for a long time, guess what? You know, my - my muscles start to atrophy.

Jim D.: Okay, now you’re really going at me.

(LAUGHTER)

John: Double dip here.

Jim D.: I didn’t tell you to talk about that.

Jim B.: Right. But, you know, my muscles do start to atrophy. And I think the marriage atrophies way before we even recognize it. And sometimes it’s that - that we’re just so busy doing other things. But they’re all good things.

Jim D.: Right.

Jim B.: So what happens is - and I think we, as couples - and the couples who are a lot of your listeners, they’re overcommitted. They’re under-connected, but they’re overcommitted doing good things. I mean, you mentioned all good things - help the kids with the homework, all those kinds of things. At the same time, you know, it has to be a priority. And I think it helps in the relationship. But also for people who have kids - you know, my kids would kind of go, “You guys are going out again?” But it was actually a good thing. And now my married daughters, guess what they do? They go on dates because Mom and Dad did, you know.

Jim D.: Right.

Doug: Yeah. Well, and it’s one of the issues about busyness, too, is that is one of the excuses that we hear more than anything. And it’s one of the things that we talk about as a course correction. Because sometimes busyness is busy in activity and not in priority.

Jim D.: Well, and you’re making choices. And that - I guess that was the root of my question.

Jim B.: Yeah. Well, it’s a priority, too. You know, we have God, our marriage, our children and then our vocation. Now, I can’t speak for any of the rest of you all, but I get that confused all the time. Sometimes I get my vocation mixed up with my relationship with God. Cathy and I have been child-focused as opposed to marriage-focused. And at the same time, again, I’m not gonna say to a 2-year-old, you know, “There’s some peanut butter, you know, over in the closet. Why don’t - we’re gonna go out for a couple of days and...”

Jim D.: Yeah, right.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: “...Take care of yourself and change your own diaper.” You’re not gonna do that.

Jim D.: Right.

Jim B.: But you can - what we have found is that when we help people understand the incredible benefits of this, it’s just - it’s just great.

Jim D.: And fairly simple.

John: Yeah. Doug Fields and Jim Burns are our guests today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And we’re gonna encourage you to stop by our website to get a copy of the book, The First Few Years of Marriage: 8 Ways to Strengthen Your ‘I Do’. You can download or get a CD of this conversation as well. There are so many helps for you there at the website, and that’s focusonthefamily.com/broadcast - or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. And so if we take it back to the first few years, how many of these disciplines are lacking in the younger couples that you see? Because I’m just thinking about a lot of the younger folks I know, they’re already busy in their own separate orbits, and they don’t ever bring it all together. So is it - is it common for that to happen?

Jim B.: I think it’s very common. And, you know, just speaking personally, I mean Cathy and I got married. And we went on a 10-day honeymoon, came back. I was a youth pastor. And we were busy and focused. And she was working, and I was working. And for us, we had to look back maybe at five years and say, wow, you know, we’re not as close as we were. We really have drifted. And you know what? - I’m not sure we even knew what it was. So then we had to start asking - this was very personal for Doug and I writing because we wrote it partly because we said we wished we would have had this. But we started realizing some of the basics we had just dropped along the side, not because we were, you know, not wanting a good marriage, but because we weren’t willing to do the discipline. I like to say this phrase - you know, there’s pain in life, and it’s either the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. And marriage is a discipline, and having a good marriage is a discipline. And so for these younger - a younger generation, they do get distracted, and they do get busy. And I understand.

John: But those first few years are crucial...

Jim B.: Sure.

John: ...If you want to have a good...

Jim B.: You’re gonna...

John: ...Long-Lasting marriage?

Jim B.: ...Build a foundation in those first few years, or you’re gonna have to rebuild it later and pay the price.

Jim D.: You know, when you look at some of the symptoms of what takes place in a marriage that’s drifting. For me, one of those things I observe and hear here at Focus on the Family pretty consistently, especially for newly married couples - uh, two to five years, let’s say - is this idea that “I can’t change him.”

Jim B.: Yeah.

Jim D.: Speak to this issue of changing your spouse into something more to meet your needs versus working on yourself.

Jim B.: Well, I’m kind of giggling because all four of us would say we haven’t had a very good, you know, response to try and change our wives over the years, right?

(LAUGHTER)

Doug: We’ve tried.

Jim B.: Yeah. I would say, you know, collectively, that’s not gonna - you know - get a lot of enthusiasm. I can remember one time my wife had set the toilet paper roll on top of the toilet paper holder.

Jim D.: That’s a terrible thing.

Jim B.: Well, I know. And I’m thinking, “Really, sweetie, how long does this take, you know?” And then I showed how quickly it can be done. And it’s seconds.

John: And she embraced that in...?

Jim D.: Yeah. How was that response?

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: Oh, she was so happy for me to coach her.

Jim D.: “Thank you for showing me this.”

Jim B.: Exactly.

Doug: How was the couch that night? Was it good?

Jim B.: Yeah, yeah. “And because Jesus rolls the toothpaste from the bottom and not the middle, sweetheart, you know, we should do that as well.” And what I realize - all these areas that I wanted her to change in, they were really obnoxious and dumb and petty. I mean, that’s where it started in marriage because I had been doing my life my way. And I was - just realized one day that my wife is incredible. She’s faithful. She’s godly. She’s fun. She’s mellow. She digs me - you know, all of this stuff.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: Like, who cares that she, every once in a while, doesn’t put the toilet paper - and I realized that instead of trying to change her, there are a lot of things in life that I just had to minimize because in marriage and any relationship, if you want to fight over stuff, you could fight over it all the time. So for me, I kind of learned early on that changing Cathy was really a dead-end street.

Jim D.: So what’s the God lesson in that, Jim? I mean, what is God trying to do in marriage? I’m always thinking about that. He created the institution. It’s his. He draws two opposites - typically, not always - together. He doesn’t do it to irritate each other. He does it so that you can become selfless.

Jim B.: Exactly. And we have to learn to embrace those differences. Many of them are God-given differences. Both Doug and I talk about the fact that we’re both extroverts, and our wives are introverts. And I think Cathy Burns’ introversion - can’t speak for Doug. But I think Cathy Burns’ introversion actually drew me to her. I love...

Jim D.: Sure.

Jim B.: She’s a great listener - incredible. She’s deep - on and on. Once we got married, that drove me nuts.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: We’d be in a room. And I’d have a shallow conversation with everybody. And she’d have a significant conversation with one person. I’m thinking, “She didn’t meet everybody.” And in many ways, what I had to do was realize that, no, God created her that way. And so I have to learn to embrace that. Now, there are some things - we talk about this in the book, talking about their learned traits. Communication is a learned trait. That’s something different. But there’s a lot of things that God places in our hearts way before we knew each other. And we have to actually, I believe, learn to agree to disagree and to embrace them. And the phrase for me is, does it really matter? I mean, does it - and Doug said it so well. Does it really matter if the toilet paper roll goes one way or the other or if the toothpaste tube - it really doesn’t matter. So what we have to learn in maturity with a marriage is, does it really matter? Now, some things matter. Abuse matters. You know, addictions matter. I mean, there are things that matter. But a lot of stuff, it doesn’t really matter.

Jim D.: Let me read you a question that I’ve got here. And the reason I’m setting it up this way is it’s challenging to me. And I just want to be honest about it. But it’s this idea that we serve our spouse and fall in love again every day. Wow. That - at first - I guess my first thing is that sounds like a lot of work. And I know that’s not a healthy perspective.

John: It is a lot of work.

Jim B.: Isn’t...

Jim D.: Be honest with me. How do you...

Doug: Well, isn’t servanthood a lot of work?

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: It is.

Doug: You know, you were going after a little bit ago when you asked Jim the - you know, where’s the God piece in this? And, you know, ultimately you’re never more like Jesus than when you serve.

Jim D.: Wow.

Doug: And so what we have found - or I’ve found personally is that I am the most selfish human alive. Really, I’m the president...

Jim D.: That’s selfish of you to think you’re selfish.

Doug: No. I...

Jim D.: I think I’m the most selfish person.

(LAUGHTER)

Doug: No, no. I’m more - I mean, you know, I’m the president of the Doug Fields fan club because I’m always thinking about myself and my comforts and my needs. And, you know, even the middle of the night when Cathy hears something downstairs and wakes me up and says, “Can you go check that out?” I’m like, “No, you.” You know?

(LAUGHTER)

Doug: You know, and this is the person that I love more than anything else because - but I don’t want to get out of bed. Or when the baby’s crying and you lay there and you pretend that you don’t hear it...

Jim D.: You did that?

Doug: ...And keyword there - pretend. Oh, yeah.

Jim D.: I did, too.

Doug: And the baby was on my side of the bed.

(LAUGHTER)

Jim D.: Okay. Now we’re ‘fessing up.

Doug: Yeah. So really, isn’t it - isn’t marriage and life about being less of yourself and more of - so the closer I am to Jesus, the better husband I am to Cathy.

Jim D.: You know, we’re four guys sitting here at the table. Let’s put on our wives’ hat and try to think from their perspective. Oftentimes in a new marriage, what the wife is desperately wanting is that emotional connection. And, you know, men think compartmentally. We - you know, what’s the task? How can I fix it? We’ve done many programs on that. We know how the different brains work between male and female. But speak to that woman, if we can represent her in fairness, that “I want that emotional connection. I get the physical. And I need to be present there. But what I really need is that heart for my husband, and I’m not getting it.” How can she help to develop that? I know it’s good to work on yourself. “But I’m starving, guys. My husband is not meeting that emotional need in me. What should I do?”

Jim B.: Well, I think it obviously comes along with the husband. But let me talk about the wife first. Doug and I do these refreshing marriage conferences together. And a woman will sometimes come and say, “I’m not getting it.” We talk about intimacy. And intimacy - women get it. It’s connection. It’s what you’re talking about. Men think intimacy is just sex. And you know, there you go. But intimacy - “And it’s not happening. And I want this. And I want this and that.” And I say, “Well, have you told him?”

(LAUGHTER)

Jim B.: And she’ll oftentimes go, “Well, no. I mean, that ruins the spontaneity of the romance.”

(LAUGHTER)

Jim D.: Right.

Jim B.: And I say to her, “You know, men are kind of simple, you know? But you need to tell him.” So what I found in my own marriage was that Cathy would say - early on, she would say, “Well, do you love me?” And I’d think, “Well, of course, I love her.” But what she was really saying was, “I need emotional connection from you, and I’m not sure you even know how to give that.”

Jim D.: Well, to be even bolder, I could hear that conversation going, “Of course, I love you. Look what I do for you.”

Doug: Exactly. Yeah.

Jim D.: That’s how a man will react. And she’s going, “I could care less.”

Jim B.: No, exactly, exactly. And so but - I think a woman can teach a man, as long as she’s not doing it in a negative manner because it’s very important to have that positive connection. And I think a woman can teach a man how to do that. But I think she has to be very careful and delicate because we have our, you know, poor self-images as well. And I think when a woman says, “You know, here’s what I would like” and not really put the bar so high, I think she can kind of teach and train. It’s kind of funny to say train your husband. But, you know, there’s a biblical verse about training your kids. Well, I think husbands and wives need to be trained, too. And I think that’s an important thing. And then men, actually, literally, do need to learn how to be more effective at emotional connection because it’s not - for many of us, it’s not our strength.

Jim D.: It doesn’t come naturally.

Jim B.: But you can learn it.

Closing:

Jim D.: You can. Jim and Doug, this has been such a great look at The First Few Years of Marriage, laying that solid foundation and being intentional with your spouse in order to have a long-lasting, healthy marriage, which will ultimately be a testimony to the Lord. Uh, our Focus on the Family interns are in the studio audience and I know they wanna ask you some questions. So let’s keep talking and we’ll share that portion on tomorrow’s program. But first, let me remind you, the listener, that Focus on the Family is here for you. We want your marriage to be the best it can be, whether you’re just starting out or if you’ve been together for many years.

John: Yeah, we’ve been collecting great resources for 4 decades now and one of those is Ready to Wed - a curriculum that we have. We, of course, have Jim and Doug’s book as well, The First Few Years of Marriage: 8 Ways to Strengthen Your ‘I Do’.

Jim D.: And of course, all these resources are listener supported, just like this broadcast. We need your help to keep fueling the engine of marriage, to provide answers and wisdom for couples who may need encouragement or even more in-depth help when a crisis hits. When you pledge your monthly support to Focus on the Family, any amount will really help us. There’s no gift that’s too small. We’ll send a copy of The First Few Years of Marriage to you as our way of saying thank you. And if you can’t make a pledge, we’ll send it to you for a donation of any amount. And let me tell you, if you can’t afford it at all, we’ll find a way to cover it. Other friends will take care of that cost. Your prayer and financial gifts, though, give Focus on the Family the means we need to be there for couples and families. So please, join us today in this ministry effort.

John: And you can make that monthly pledge or one-time donation and get your copy of The First Few Years of Marriage at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast 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. We’ll have Jim Burns and Doug Fields back answering questions from our studio audience next time. I hope you’ll join us then as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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More Episode Resources

Guest

Jim Burns

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Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. and the executive director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. He is a popular public speaker and writer who has almost two million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily addresses the topics of building strong marriages, encouraging parents and empowering kids and healthy leaders. Jim's books include Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, and Creating an Intimate Marriage. He and his wife, Cathy, reside in Southern California and have three grown daughters and two grandchildren.

Guest

Doug Fields

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Doug Fields is the executive director of HomeWord's Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University, where he conducts marriage and parenting conferences and teaches in the university's masters degree program. He is also the co-founder and president of Downloadyouthministry.com, a pastor, a popular public speaker and a prolific author who's written more than 50 books. Doug and his wife, Cathy, have three grown children. Learn more about Doug at his website, dougfields.com.