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Best of 2022: Simple Habits to Embrace in Your Marriage

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
December 7, 2022 5:00 am

Best of 2022: Simple Habits to Embrace in Your Marriage

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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December 7, 2022 5:00 am

Dr. Randy Schroeder has counseled thousands of married couples and has discovered simple tools that help couples avoid divorce and build a thriving marriage. In this best of 2022 broadcast, he describes practical habits to help couples navigate expectations in marriage, build emotional closeness, and resolve disagreements.

Receive Dr. Schroeder's book "Simple Habits for Marital Happiness" for your donation of any amount! Plus, receive member-exclusive benefits when you make a recurring gift today. Your monthly support helps families thrive:

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Betrayal was the biggest, I think, feeling at that moment.

And just, you know, this belief that that could be going on in my home and in my marriage. When Jenny discovered her husband's emotional affair, she was devastated. Thankfully, she found resources at our website to heal her marriage. I think Focus on the Family has been almost like a conduit to kind of pull together two lives that's been broken.

It pulls them together through brokenness, through hurt and heartache. I'm Jim Daly. Working together, we can rescue more hurting marriages like Jenny's and give families hope. Please join our marriage restoration team by calling 800-A-Family or donate at and your gift will be doubled. Now, I always ask couples, when was the last time you had a 10-minute, eye-to-eye, consistent eye contact with each other, purposely focused eye contact, without any distractions, cell phone the other end, TV off, almost every couple that comes to see me will say, we can't remember. What a great question and wise insight from Dr. Randy Schrader, and he'll be offering more insights to help you better understand and enjoy your spouse. On today's episode of Focus on the Family, it's a Best of 2022 program. And thanks for joining us today.

Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, the normal wear and tear on a marriage can take its toll, and it can be anything from financial worries to getting the kids homework done. Just the routines can really wear down your relationship with your spouse.

And many of these stressors are unavoidable. We get that. But there are some things you can do that are what I would call regular maintenance that really help your marriage thrive. And that's what we're going to talk about today.

It's not the situation where you're in some serious trouble. This is more the tune-up activity that we all need and we all can do. Right. If you're in trouble, if you're feeling like we're in a crisis, we can't pull up, give us a call. We have really a terrific team of caring counselors, 800, the letter A in the word family. As you said, though, Jim, this is more of a tune-up for couples, and I think it's going to help a lot of folks feel like they're closer. As I said, we have Dr. Randy Schrader here. He's a pastor, former seminary professor, and has been a marriage and family counselor for over 30 years. And Randy's been married to Jenny for over 45 years, and they have two children and, is this right, six grandchildren. His book is going to be the foundation of our conversation today.

It's called Simple Habits for Marital Happiness, practical skills and tools that build a strong, satisfying relationship. Randy, welcome back to Focus on the Family. Jim and John, it's great to be with you again. I really appreciate you and Focus on the Family for promoting biblical values and supporting marriages and parents and families. Just thank you so very much for having me again.

Well, it's a treat, actually. And I was telling the team as we were getting ready for the program, you have a really good gift, which is to bring everyday metaphors into the marriage situation. So you make it rather easy, I think, to remember little principles that really do help your marriage, and we're going to unpack those today. And I'm looking forward to people hearing more from you in this marriage area. In fact, you've canceled thousands of married couples, so that's where you get your expertise from.

You've got stories galore. What are some of those top skills that you need to make a successful marriage? Great question, and it always begins, Jim and John, with, I think, expectations.

The big E. That's so true. Expectations impact relationships. The habits determine the quality of our life and our relationships, including marriage. And so what happens before marriage, Jim and John, are couples are meeting each other's expectations over and over. And that feels good, you know, to have your expectation met over and over, and so they decide to get married because they want that gratifying relationship for the rest of their life.

And what happens, though, after marriage, often couples stop expressing their expectations that they so much desire and requesting different things, expectations from their spouse, and they forget it's all about the big E. You know, sometimes expectations can be, boy, they're conflict-oriented. I'm thinking of Jean and I. One of our early conflicts, and it was around this era of expectations, was if I went to the movies with my guy friends, like I went and saw Terminator. She wasn't happy about that, because that's not a properly rated movie. And I was shocked, like Terminator is just, you know, good old robot violence.

Yeah, yeah. But that was something that she thought, wow, you know, I wouldn't expect a decent Christian man to go and enjoy that. So we had to kind of work through that, like what is appropriate in that way.

And that kind of took me by surprise a little bit. And that is a good point, Jim, because we all have our own dictionary of words and how we define them. And so it's important to make sure expectations are specific, and then you talk about what's reasonable, what's realistic. Are they godly words and behaviors that need to be met to make an emotional connection for a couple? But it still comes back to the big E, expectations, and you and Jean talking about that. Let me ask you, too, in the book you have an example of a couple that had been married 32 years. And, you know, Jean and I have been married 35. How long have you been… Thirty-seven.

Yeah, so you think… Congratulations to both of you. That's terrific. That is terrific. And you're 45, right? Forty-six.

Forty-six. I mean, that is great. And that's something I think we three men are committed to, our marriages, right?

Yes, sir. But a lot of young couples would look at us and say, wow, how did you do that? How did you get through all that expectation issue? This particular couple at 32 years had some major unmet expectation issues.

Describe what was going on. Well, they went to their pastor, and they were very faithful Christians. Jim and Jean, they went to church every Sunday. They had adult children that were married out of the house, and they both contacted lawyers.

They absolutely wanted a divorce. Yeah, this is happy time. Kids are gone.

This is time to enjoy life. A big range, 25 to 35 years, is a lot of couples getting divorced. So what was going on there? Well, there was no unfaithfulness, but they just weren't happy. They were not meeting each other's expectations without knowing how to make the expectations known.

And I think that is the key. I'm on a mission to share with couples practical, specific behaviors, words, and guidelines that make a difference. And so they came to see me with every premarital couple, Jim and Jean, with every couple. In the first couple of sessions, I talk about expectations, and I talk about being specific. Oftentimes what I'll do, I'll have a couple make a list of their top ten expectations for their marriage. And so I explained expectations to this couple in the first session because they were in a crisis, and then I asked them for the next seven days, will you please, and I think requests are better than commands which are sentences, will you please ask one expectation of each other every day?

Doesn't have to be anything big. Will you please put your shoes in the closet when you come home? Will you please put your clothes in the laundry rather than throw them on the floor? So 14 total expectations, they came back the next week, and they both had smiles on their faces. And they said, we want you to know we contacted our lawyers and told them we're putting our divorce on hold, and we want you, Dr. Schrader, to give us the specific practical words, behaviors, and guidelines that lead to a satisfying Christian marriage. All right, so we write down our expectations, I guess big and small, those things that are going to irritate you. And I would say the other aspect of this is don't assume your spouse knows what your expectations are.

And they need to be specific. You know, when couples make a list of their top ten expectations, like premarital, you know, because I do it with premarital couples too, they'll say go to church. Well, that's a good expectation, but what church? You know, how often are you going to go to church?

Once a month, once a year, Christmas and Easter, every Sunday. So it's good to be specific with those expectations. Yeah, that's good. All right, we have that down. Now we move into the idea of practical wisdom and those good wisdom habits. You identify four.

What are those four? These are – I really wish I had called them stay-in-love habits. They are fall-in-love habits that need to become stay-in-love habits. And so what do all couples premaritally do? Well, they go on a variety of dates, and they do a lot of fun things together all the time. And they also look into each other's eyes.

They make the heart – the Bible says the eye is the lamp of the body. They look into each other's eyes, and they make a heart connection. They talk hours and hours premaritally.

And again, they're meeting each other's expectations. And then premaritally, they give each other lengthy hugs and lingering kisses. And those four fall-in-love habits need to continue, Jim and John, after marriage. Unfortunately, after the second or third year of marriage, I would suggest to you, have no scientific facts, 95 percent of couples stop doing the fall-in-love habits. And that's what causes their hearts to go cold, what causes them to drift apart, what causes them to stop making their expectations known.

The challenge there, it seems almost too simplistic. I'm sure some couples that are listening that are in some trouble, you know, they're not where they want to be. Again, not serious. And we're here for you. If you're in a more serious situation, give us a call.

Our counselors are here, and John will give those details in a minute. But even for, you know, again, the tune-up kind of attitude, it sounds almost too simple, Randy, that – really? It's just like, spend 10 minutes eye-to-eye talking, hug for 10 seconds. Give a 10-second kiss, you know, and then make sure you're dating your mate. If I do those things, I'm going to have a great marriage.

Seriously? Well, marriage – and that's a good question, Jim. Marriage takes a lot more than the fall-in-love habits and the stay-in-love habits. But if couples are not doing those, I kind of call them the foundation. Right. They're not going to be emotionally connected. And the – I would ask your listeners, Jim, and I always ask couples, when was the last time you had a 10-minute eye-to-eye heart contact, consistent eye contact with each other, purposely focused eye contact, without any distraction, cell phone in the other room, TV off, almost every couple that comes to see me will say, we can't remember.

Yeah. We can't remember the last time we spent 10 minutes because couples are – you know, they may cook dinner together, cook dinner, clean up the dishes together, but it's just passing eye contact. Just to look into each other's eyes like the three of us are doing just doesn't happen after the second or third year of marriage.

That complacency sets in. Randy, you describe in the book something I'd really not connected, but it's the attractiveness of politeness. And that – you know, I hadn't thought about it that way. I just think of being polite as the right thing to do. But the attractiveness of being polite to your spouse. Well, and again, after the first few years of marriage, politeness kind of drops out. And being extra polite, saying please and thank you and you're welcome. And if there's a sneeze, God bless you. But when couples or spouses have affairs, it's often because the other person is so polite and quiet and is so polite and kind to them.

In fact, I mention in my book a husband who had an affair, and he said to me, he said the other woman wasn't really that attractive, but she was polite, she gave me compliments, she looked me in the eyes for a lengthy period of time for what we just talked about. Let's cover two simple habits for resolving conflict. I mean, these are just all, like you said, Jon, examples that you could rapidly put to work.

And hopefully folks will get a copy of the book because there's so much we're not going to be able to cover. But the first idea of resolving conflict is to stay inside the nines. Now you're going to explain this, and I'm going to come back and say, could we make it inside the eights? Because I'm a morning person and not a night owl.

But go ahead. Well, I actually was going to, I'm glad you said that, Jim. And I'm glad we're talking about this. So what inside the nines means is there's never a serious discussion before 9 in the morning or after 9 at night. When I ask couples, when was the last time you had a big blow up?

Almost 100% of the time they'll say before 9 in the morning or after 9 o'clock at night. Now, Jim, you mentioned the eights. One of the things I love about you, Jim, is your sense of humor. But yeah, I tell couples, massage those guidelines. But the thing is, when we're tired early in the morning or late at night, our feelings are tender. And so even though I'm a marriage expert and help thousands of couples, my wife and I abide by that guideline. Because if we don't have the energy, what do we do? We blame our spouses, and we don't look for solutions. So some couples, Jim, based on your eights, will say, we're not going to have a serious discussion before 10 in the morning. We both are not energized to look for solutions.

We're going to look for blame. Or we're not going to have a serious discussion after 8 at night. You also mentioned it's important to sit next to each other, not to stand and not to be across from each other.

I mean, these are subtle things. I don't know that I would think of that, but it makes sense. And I'll ask couples, when was the last time you had those three negative words, a fight, an argument, or a conflict, were either one of you standing, Jim and John, 100% of the time, 99%?

They almost always say yes. One of us was standing. If I had the two of you yell right now, you could yell.

If I had you stand up and yell, you'd do a better job, and you would yell louder. And so standing is an intimidating posture. Standing leads to poor listening.

We can't listen as well. I mean, the three of us right now are not standing. We're sitting so we can look each other in the eye and listen well to each other.

And so it's essential in the business world, when there's an I need your help situation, where do they all sit, around the conference table, so they can look for solutions. In the marriage world, I suggest sit at the kitchen table and kind of sit adjacent, because this is one time, Jim and John, couples don't want to look eye to eye, because they're talking about a tense topic. And so they need to be able to kind of look away, you know, if we're kind of adjacent. And a lot of couples will hold hands, okay? Now, that may not always work with kids.

If you have kids, sometimes they have to go to the bedroom and have two chairs there so they can be seated. But standing will lead to poor listening, leads to yelling. And when couples implement stay inside the nines, I need your help, always be seated, it's amazing, amazing how their discussions improve. Absolutely, I can certainly feel that. It might even feel a little awkward, though, to do that at first until you get used to it. I think I'm more of a like sit across the table from you, here's where we're going to go. Yes, sir.

Competitive mentality, you know. Well, and that puts, you're right, Jim, that kind of puts that wall there. And I appreciate you having me in the spring to talk about my parenting book.

I suggest the same guideline to parents is to sit at the kitchen table when they talk to their kids so they can listen and have good eye contact. Randy, I want to get through the last couple of analogies here, because, again, they're so good. You talk about scratches, cuts, and lacerations, and this is really helpful. I mean, I love this.

Describe it. So I use a medical model, scratches, cuts, and lacerations. Scratches, if the three of us are working around the house and we scratch ourselves, you know, it hurts a little, maybe a little faint mark on our skin, but we know that's going to heal up on its own, so we don't do anything with it. If we cut ourselves working around the house, we will put ointment and a Band-Aid on that cut so that it doesn't get infected. And so couples need to let scratches go, and don't stress out over scratches in your marriage, okay, and let those go and address cuts. And then lacerations, rarely, rarely do we get a laceration working around the house that we have to go to the doctor and get stitches to pull it back together, okay? And laceration, my description would be adultery, physical abuse, extreme verbal abuse, you know, those kind of things, and hopefully lacerations don't happen too often, but couples need to just address cuts and lacerations and let scratches go, and that makes a big difference. Give some more illustration to scratches and cuts, because, you know, one spouse's cut is another spouse's scratch. Great insight, Jim, again. You're right. What one defines as a scratch could be a cut, you know, and so that could lead… Where everything is a cut or a scratch.

Yeah, that could lead to issues. Yeah, if one, well, what does the Bible say? Gentle words create life and health. Griping brings discouragement.

And so griping all the time, God's telling us in His Word, don't do that. That brings discouragement, and so we've got to let those scratches go. So if I, and going back to the hug and the kiss, Jim and John, Jenny and I giving each other a lengthy hug, lingering kiss every day, and it's an odd date. Hopefully it becomes natural, but it's an odd date, and I come home and forget to give that to Jenny. Hopefully, if I've done it 300 days in a row, she would forgive me and say, Randy just forgot.

Not that she couldn't initiate, but hopefully she would just view that as a scratch, you know, and just kind of let it go, and so not deal with it. You use an analogy of wallpaper about the importance of apologizing and forgiving. How does that work? These are so catchy.

That's why they do work. If this room, and I know there's brick on the wall, but let's say there wasn't any brick. If this room was filled with steam, and we wanted a wallpaper to beautify this room, we could try to wallpaper till Jesus returns. But the walls will be damp, and the wallpaper would just keep sliding down.

So what we would need to do is open the door, let the steam out of the room, let the walls dry, and then we can wallpaper the room and beautify it. Likewise in a marriage, when a marriage is struggling, the heart is filled with the steam of bitterness and resentment. And apologizing and forgiving allows that steam to leave the heart so that the heart can be beautified. We talked about the stay-in-love habits, the hug, the kiss, the out-of-our-heart talk. That's not going to stick if there has not been apologizing and forgiving for a cut or laceration to get that steam of bitterness out of the heart.

That needs to be there first. And forgiveness is the core of our Christian faith. There are 125 references in the Bible to the importance of forgiveness for interpersonal relationships. And so that is the glue for brokenness for my marriage when it happens, for your marriage, for every marriage. And in that context, I think it's really important to hit the three types of forgiveness or components of forgiveness that you illustrate. So the first one, Jim, is to say, I'm sorry I hurt you, bye. And to use the word hurt, you know, and be specific. I'm sorry I hurt you bye, calling you a name. I'm sorry I hurt you bye for getting to do that important action.

And that's the first step. Probably, though, the most important is the second one, which creates humility, will you please forgive me. And that can be a tough one because it takes a lot of courage, a lot of humility for someone to ask, will you please forgive me. And then the third part is to always use the forgive word.

Couples should never say, no problem, that's okay, I'm over it, whatever. We always need to use the forgive word. And forgive others as we have been forgiven.

Now, there's two phrases I suggest. I forgive you or with God's help, I'll work at forgiving you. With God's help, I'll work at forgiving you.

It's going to apply more to lacerations or deep cuts. But I had, when I went over this, it was not healthy on my part because I had couples that came where it was mostly husbands had committed adultery. And I would have the husband say to the wife, I'm sorry I hurt you by being unfaithful, ask will you please forgive me. And when I was doing my dissertation, I just had I forgive you.

And the wife would be in tears saying, you know, Pastor Schroeder, do I have to say I forgive you? And I said, yes, you do, which was unhealthy because forgiveness is a process. The Bible says God forgives and forgets. We only forgive. And so I recognize now what's important, because forgiveness is a process for us as human beings, is to say with God's help, I will work at forgiving you basically every day for being unfaithful. Well, there's so much here, Randy.

You think of the habitual sinner in that situation. And, you know, there has to be balance in that, that people need to be responsible. We don't have time to cover all that. I do want to address, and I think from the wife's perspective, if I can speak for Gene, but that concept that maybe the wife feels like she is trying, she is putting in the effort. What we've talked about today may provide some additional tools that she hasn't thought about, but it's a very uneven effort.

I'm giving 100 percent and he's only given 20 percent. What does she do with that angst? So she doesn't get the humidity or the steam of bitterness. Jim, another terrific question, and I'm glad you brought that up, because wives are very committed to learning and growing to be healthy. Most typically. Yeah, most typically. Yeah, I should say generally speaking.

Yeah, you're right, Jim, most typically. And husbands, not so much, okay? And so I have 90 simple yet effective habits in Simple Habits for Marital Happiness that most of them can be read in two or three minutes so that although a husband doesn't want to read, they'll take two or three minutes to read about Stay Inside the Nights, to always sit, to give a lengthy hug, lingering kiss. And so I suggest to couples that they, and husbands are willing to do that. They don't want to read, and that's why my book is so thin.

Like I said, I have 350 pages on apologizing for giving, but I wanted a thin marriage book that can be looked at immediately and that the husband will be willing to get on board and say, hey, I want to implement this so that we can have healthy disagreement discussions, so that we can have emotional closeness and connect. And so that, I think, makes the difference, is that it's not going to take a lot of time. And couples, I tell you, Jim and John, a lot of times will do this, doing their eye-to-eye heart talk.

They'll take one simple yet effective habit three times a week and just keep growing. So you're saying relax a bit, let the process take place, and encourage him to read two or three of these with you on a regular basis. Exactly. He can pick one out.

She can pick one out. And if it's two a week, and just say, hey, let's talk about this. This is specific words and behaviors and guidelines that we can use, and let's just talk about it.

And it doesn't take that long. And he'll get on board with that, but he won't get on board with, here's a great big book. The Ph.D. dissertation. With a lot of diagrams and a lot of concepts and a lot of philosophies, and this is explanation of marriage.

They won't get into that. Well, Randy, this has been so good. And, man, I hope this gives you an inkling of the tools and the resources here. And Randy's done such a good job distilling what he learned through his Ph.D. and really grabbing the core things from a Christian perspective, which I also appreciate, Randy. We want to be biblically based here at Focus on the Family and use those principles that really do help in the human relationship of our lifetime, which is the one with our spouse. So thanks for being with us. Thank you again for having me and God's richest blessings on your lives and your marriages and your families as well. Some great advice for married couples today on a best of 2022 Focus on the Family. And I hope you've been inspired by Dr. Randy Schrader's ideas to improve your relationship with your spouse.

And I hope you know Focus on the Family is here for you. We want to give you the resources you need to end the year strong in your marriage. One way to kick off that journey is through our marriage assessment.

It takes just a few minutes to complete, and it will point out some areas that you're doing really well in and then some areas that probably need some improvement. And it's absolutely free. It's a great conversation starter with your spouse. And then we do have Dr. Randy's terrific book, Simple Habits for Marital Happiness, right here at the ministry. The great thing about getting it from us is that all the proceeds go right back into ministry.

We're not paying shareholders anything. And as we approach the holidays, it's more important than ever to share the hope that Jesus Christ came to give each one of us. With overwhelming inflation and high costs for food and fuel and marriages that are struggling, we need inspiration from the Lord. Yeah, this is a tough time of year for a lot of people, and thousands reach out to Focus on the Family by phone, mail, and email.

They're seeking answers. They are, Jon, and this time of year is also an opportunity to come alongside those facing challenges and give families hope through your support of Focus on the Family. Your prayers and financial gifts provide Scripture-based resources and programs to strengthen marriages and help strengthen parents as well. And when you donate today, a gift of any amount, we'll send you a copy of Dr. Randy's book, Simple Habits for Marital Happiness, as our way of saying thank you for partnering with us. So on behalf of the families, you'll be reaching through Focus on the Family.

Let me say thank you. Donate today and get your copy of Simple Habits for Marital Happiness when you call 800, the letter A, and the word family, 800-232-6459, or we've got complete details in the show notes. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm Jon Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ. Just like a warm fireplace when it's cold outside, the joy the Christmas season gives comfort and draws us closer to loved ones. I'm Jon Fuller, and Focus on the Family is excited to let you know about our Christmas Stories podcast. Each episode brings heartwarming conversations to bring your family closer together and remind you of the hope we have in Jesus. You can enjoy that podcast at That's slash Christmas Stories.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-07 13:57:09 / 2022-12-07 14:09:18 / 12

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