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Cultivating Joy in Marriage

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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January 5, 2021 1:00 am

Cultivating Joy in Marriage

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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January 5, 2021 1:00 am

Dr. Marcus Warner and Reverend Chris Coursey encourage couples to cultivate joy in their marriage. They point out recent discoveries in brain science that are shown to increase joy in couples.

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Marcus Warner remembers the season when his marriage wasn't bad, it just wasn't great, so he went to work to try to figure out what's wrong here. Here's what he came up with. We had what we call a joy gap in our marriage and that is joy Is simply that the amount of time between them is when you share joy together and what I found was that I was not doing things on a daily basis that let my wife know that I'm happy to be with you. We were ensuring that. You know, looking each other's eyes have that sparkle. We worked hat sharing a touch sharing those things with their that wasn't a regular feature of our marriage and I no expectation that it should be I did not realize that this joy gap in our marriage again quite so big. This is family life today. Our hosts are Damon and Wilson I'm popping you find us so is very joy gap in your marriage and if there is how you fix it. Will talk with Marcus Warner and Chris Corsi about that today. Stay with us and welcome to family life to the thanks for joining us. I think were to find out what happens today. If family life and Marie condo have a mashup you know because Marie yet what your big thing you know Marie condo right do not know who Marie condo as I know you're talking right now need to know what you're talking about. I just don't know.

Okay, so Marie condo is that the woman who's teaching you how to organize everything and it's all about doesn't spark joy. That's what is so you pick up your old T-shirts and you ask, does this spark joy and if it does, you keep it as she is a Japanese is yeah yeah okay daughter watches her items in your closet and you decide to keep a watch episode one on Netflix of yes and then she became of these people's house and and had them empty out the closets on their bed and then you go item by item and you hold it up and you go. Does this still spark joy and if it does spark joy you keep it and if it doesn't you say thank you to it. They may last for for serving and when you put it in the file so you can do this with your spouse here can be tragic.

I would be pretty pleasing to you today about this parking joy in marriage for habits of joy filled marriages and we got the authors of a book by that name for joining us, Dr. Marcus Warner and Chris Corsi, Marcus Chris, welcome to family life today great to be here. Good to have you guys think you Marcus is a conference speaker and author. He's the president of deeper walk international working with issues of recovery and leadership in marriage and family life. Chris is president of drive today which is a nonprofit that focuses on training leaders and communities on relationship skills and together they worked on this book that that says on the front. 15 minutes a day will help you stay in love.

That's one of those things you put on the front of a book or somebody else is out by that book a little. Tell me how to stay in love 15 minutes a day.

Pretty bold promise what's up based on Marcus well is based on the fact that the intentionality 15 minutes of of actually being happy to be with somebody can do things in your brain that you might not expect. And if you make it a habit.

15 minutes a day, day after day after day after day.

Your brain chemistry literally changes in your attachment can move out of the fear mode and more and more into the joy mode, received you looked at brain science and and there's a lot of brain science in this book away. We should start off by saying the brain science is just affirming what Scripture says is true about the human condition all along right here exactly right. There's a lot of references in the Bible to joy. And so what brain science is doing is really highlighting the significance of joy because joy means were glad to be together. It's a relationship and so it's really interesting to look at Scripture with this lens of of relational lands of this. Glad to be together. Joy have a God who was really glad to be with his people and so it's good to see brain science really starting to highlight that while our brain works best when joy is, is there when Joyce present. I find it fascinating as I picked up your books.

I feel like I'm with two brainiacs today.

You guys are absolutely just think of us like that. I mean, it is interesting that I haven't seen a lot of marriage books that start with the brain science and how our brain works and how that affects your relationships in your marriage to talk about this.

The how the brain works brain science and even the motivator that sparks something good in your marriage will in the 1990s. All this brain science came out because technology had advanced where they could now scan the human brain while people are alive then have to wait till people died and so what happens you could see really how the brain works and you could actually observe changes in the brain as well. Over time, and this guy by the name of Dr. Alan shore out of UCLA just just spent a lot of time in the library pulling together all this brain research and as we looked at all this research that came out. He highlighted something very significant about the brain and that was when you look at how the brain works. Relational joy is what it's all about. In other words, from boy even before were born exit when were still in the womb with just the sounds and everything when babies are born and different senses develop joy is that feeling that someone is glad to be with me and so we looked at joy really is like the best motivator for the brain and other words if you want to build a really good brain and develop a really good brain. What you need to have present one of the very important ingredients has to be this, glad to be together where you are. The sparkle in my eye and I show it with my face and my voice tone and my body language and so forth. So just looking at how joy how significant joy is on the human brain really impacted. Marcus and I as we started to try to figure out okay. How can we share this news in a in a very useful resource where people can actually not just talk about joy, but build some joy in their marriages.

What you're describing is the wedding day when it looks at each other all you see is joy emanating from one another and love and anticipation of the future and Dana have been working with couples for 30 years and then we find this couple Disney married maybe 15 years and there's no joy. So what happened what you what happened with you Marcus, because 11 years in your marriage. You had a no joy evening with your wife and absolutely I was a pastor and sighed we are to do the date night thing and our first three date nights, and it invites no one. That was the first clue.

Okay, there's more to marriage than date night.

One of these realize was that probably going shopping for date night wasn't a good call to hear that so at dinner one night, my wife starts giving me the images in her mind of feel like she's in a cave. There is like bars in front of the cave and that I'm outside and basically ignoring her and occasionally throwing her scraps and you can tell the tears are starting to come for her as she's telling me this and I am so detached from my right hemisphere completely in the left part of my brain that I'm getting angry as she tells me this.

I'm not feeling compassion. I'm feeling like here I am taking you want to date night you don't understand the sacrifices I make for you. You don't understand the priority I'm putting in this and you feel like you're getting scraps right so I'm getting angry as well. She's pouring out your heart wanting to feel me to feel compassion and all sudden she said wait a second way to second is a what's a Jesus just showed up in my picture might what you mean and she said she just unlocked the the gate and let me out and she goes I don't know what this means but I feel different, and I was still mad, which kinda shows you where my emotional maturity was at at that particular point, but what it happened was that what we call a joy gap in our marriage and that is joy Is simply that the amount of time between moments when you share joy together am what I found was that I was not doing things on a daily basis that let my wife know that I'm happy to be with you in a look in each other's eyes have that sparkle. We weren't hat sharing that touch sharing those things wasn't a regular feature of our marriage and I no expectation that it should be. I did not realize that this joy gap in our marriage again quite so big and it was shortly after that that we began discovering the brain science that put words and language into what we were experiencing and began to give some track to run on the beacon repairing that so did you just you know the next day though.

I need these practices in my marriage and I went look and bring a sparkle back and I want to touch her hand, and that whole thing or take us on the journey of the the brain science. It really impacted your marriage sure well I didn't know any of this brain science.

At that point, so we haven't learned it yet. I discovered it in a different context, began bringing in in in all sudden we understood the importance of joy and I realized okay so what I'm after and my marriage is actually joy.

They just change my whole paradigm because before were my wife and I would have a fight I go and what I call my mental man cave and I just you know going to this room and I would sit here and feel sorry for myself and tell myself you know how unlucky I was that you know I had a wife like this instead. Now I began to realize actually what is happened is that half of my brain has shut down and is not working and so now when I intended to go to the mental man cave I would very different paradigm and that is my task now is to get my brain completely back online so how do I get my brain reengaged so I can act like myself here because actually if I think about it I'm not acting like myself right now I've turned into a different person so learning the brain science gave me some terminology to put to this and said I have a on-off switch in my brain and when it goes off, I turn into a different person. I don't act like myself and I can't find joy. I can't find appreciation. I forget why I like you. I forget why even got married you in the first place so I'm gonna have to do some things in those moments to get that switch flipped back on so that I can once again even feel appreciation I can and feel curiosity and feel some of these things, so it was a journey to get there but but how you do that up in a person around on my I would rather watch ESPN them, talk to my wife. I I'm not feeling any joy. I'm kinda isolated how do I flip the switch.

Every listener is like tell me how to let this right.

I actually don't think my switch works not to get a lot of of us.

The ride is then flip so how to how I do this well.

One of the best ways to do this is by focusing and remembering the good stuff so appreciation is what we call package joy and so if my wife and I are in and off space. One of the things that will will help once we quiet would be to remember, think about and share what were some special moments. What were some good things from your day.

So for example every evening and in my household.

My wife and I will do an exercise.

It's in this book we call it happy and sad and that we do this with my son. So what were three things from your day that were good rates all had this great moment. I met some new friends we have to talk about joy so it share the three things and then we would talk about what made us sad from the day as well. For every sad thing we have to do three joyful things three good things so wind that switches off just doing this exercise. It's remarkable the other day dinnertime stressful like our family switch is probably flickering but after this exercise, the switch is on everybody's engage were smiling were laughing so the goal if if you can take a little bit of time even if it's just three minutes to think about, talk about and feel the good stuff and notice while how are you feeling as you just remembered that fun getaway that we had on the beach. It's amazing what can happen. The goal is though I have to feel it, so I'm not necessarily having to go get out the photo albums and say let's remember a fun thing we did together. If I just talk about what's brought me joy today. Whether you been involved in that or not you're saying that kind of opens up the whole joy, capacity, and it starts to happen between us. Yes so so if I'm off-line and my wife is online. I can even just think about those good things from my day. But what happens is when you share it with your partner, you get more mileage out of it. In other words, the switch is kind of brighter, so to speak.

So my goal would be I won't get my switch on and then my goal would be for my wife and I okay now let's talk about some shared moments and so that's just going to give you more mileage in that joy moment and let me add to the two in in our book. Were you a very concrete answer your question, which is how to get the switch back on and that is that you first you disengage and you acknowledge that I am disengaged, but you use your disengagement to try to find for things right. Curiosity appreciation, kindness and eye contact cake cake I like tell your across six in the book.

That's a site I can remarry thing is a is a that's why we have that in there is that you notice that when your switch goes off. I lose all curiosity about you, and partly because I think I have you all figured out right so marriages that's really common is like I really know what you think about this already know how you feel about this. I have no curiosity about what you think because you always do this and you never do that water so I know curiosity.

So if I don't curiosity my switch goes off and I need curiosity get back on.

So one of things I do my disengaged I'm looking for is there anything I can be curious about here and was using curiosity to reengage second one is appreciation, which is really where Chris is going camping out here because appreciation whether it's for that person or not, helps to get your circuit career, but we call your relational brain circuits back on and that get your switchback back on. So one things I've actually done is I've created an acrostic off of my wife's name of things that I appreciate about her so that it helps me immediately and that moments like no remember what you appreciate about her, you go down the thing on the list of of things and it gives you a pre-thought through strategy of thinking on, you know, and there are things you appreciate.

I gotta get my mind here helps get my switchback on so I can engage relationally. So walk me through this day and I really struggled around our 10 year anniversary our 10 year anniversary is a little bit like you're living your date. So let's say I go back and I think these are the things that I use to appreciate Dave. I could see myself opening and traveling and thinking all he used to be And he used to be Bob but now I mean how do we get out of that because I'm thinking those things now. I think a lot of people could say that.

Well the good news is, God designer brain that it can update and so when this this joy a part of our brain is on you can update and so so yeah this is how it feels.

But maybe this can change so even trying to build some joy in the present actually and noticing how you feel right now you just spent five minutes together doing this fun joy. Exercise Ellis talk about how does it feel if I were in your shoes right now. What would I be thinking what I be feeling until the moment you do something that's joyful, but then you kind of pay attention to it, Noel.

All that was fun.

That basically is like putting some cement into that memory for your brain going.

All this is good.

This is really good so it's actually letting your brain update. When you start to notice. Hey this was meaningful. This was special. I really enjoyed what you shared about me.

That made me feel love. Now how does it feel that we did that and that's why every exercise in the book has this component of not just physically connecting like holding hands or something, but also pay attention to how you feel, what did you notice doing this exercise and it's like your brain is going okay.

Even though this is how it's always felt was how used to fill because your brain always looks back in order to predict the future. So in those moments you're at your brains. Looking back, and oh yeah this is just how he is and you know I feel pretty discouraged right now and is this ever going to change well with a little bit of joy. What happens is your brains is okay. Let me look forward now, let's see what's around the corner. Maybe there's something good here. Maybe there's hope in the moment you get hope into the equation.

That's a really good thing to have. And there's two other points I make on that first of all, whenever you're doing an appreciation exercise. We have one firm rule and that is there's one forbidden word whenever you do appreciation and that is the word, but that you can't say I really appreciate it when you did this, and when he used to do that but you don't do this anymore you you're not to say that when you share appreciation with people because obviously pulls the rug right out from under it. It also does it for us.

But if you find yourself in your mind having a lot of these, but that becomes an opportunity for prayer because now what you do is you take that to God ago. What perspective do you want to give me about this thing that I'm feeling about my husband right now and I find that the devil wants to give us a narrative, and the Holy Spirit wants to give us a narrative and where we have those problems with our our spouse is often where those narratives collide and without realizing it because the devils narrative feels true.

And there's evidence to support it. I don't realize how fully I bought into that narrative. So when you do find that coming up.

This is a good opportunity to back up and say God has the devil been influencing my narrative here and do you have a different one for me and that gives me an opportunity to begin rethinking what's to what you want me to look at this and then when I do talk to the person know. Don't use the word but when you're sharing appreciation for tell me this. I'm thinking to use the on off switch. What you do when you feel like the circuit board is shut off. I'm trying to flip on the switch. I I realize I'm off I'm discourage a man. There's no joy in I'm supposed to. Right now, flip the switch and be curious and be appreciative and kind. I can't I'm stuck. Even if you're talking to your seven-year-old you know there like no I don't want to. I'm just stuck. It's almost like the power board is disconnected or been shut down and how I get out of that rut you know some for some people their high-energy responder. Some people are low-energy responder. So if you're a high-energy responder. It might help to go walk go move people in all will notice if they go for a jog, they actually find that it helps to get them back into relational mode pretty fast over some people there overwhelmed by stimulation. Our noise so that you will find a nice quiet place with some soft music and then they can actually do the cake that Marcus was talking about with kids. For example, my oldest son who's nine, he is switch 99.9 from the time will come on if we can make him laugh so it's worse silly. If we can remind him of a funny moment like his switch will come on quickly. But if we just tried talking to him and that switches off.

I can't come on buddy. Let's try to remember something it's not gonna go well, but if we can playfully interact with him, that'll work. Now that would work for my seven-year-old Matt seven-year-old would not respond well to that he would just get annoyed. So for my seven-year-old he needs the low-energy, so I might sit with him and then I might share some stories about some fun moments that we've had together and it in a short amount of time it will actually help to warm up that circuit, but your brain works according to patterns. So whatever I'm used to. That is what kinda becomes my natural state. So when when couples are going through the exercises in this book.

At first they find us a bit of an uphill climb. It's work because they're used to the switch being off but what surprises them is if there building some joy and their feeling some joy in their actually starting to smile, your brain starts saying hey, this is good if if your brain says I like how I feel when this happens in your brain wants to do it again and again. But if our switch is often were just trying to like talk it through your brains.

Gotta say, this is not fun.

I don't enjoy talking with my wife when our switch is off and were talking about the finances or whatever those buttons are your brain, just as I want to avoid that, therefore, would avoid her. So the goal is spark some joy and you gotta do it.

You know for a while. That's why we say 15 minutes a day to start.

Just get the joy growing so what's the first step if were talking to a couple today and they would say were kind in the doldrums block were not mad at each other. We just there's not a lot of a lot of desire a lot of joy in our marriage we want to jump started 15 minutes. What do I do tonight what I would have them do is actually picking exercise and do an exercise. Here's an exercise I would do my favorite exercise is what we call 333 appreciation in this exercise started because my wife when it was about time to go to bed. Her mind would race and race and race for up to several hours and we discovered when we are first married. I'm a light sleeper. So those nights where she's up in her mind racing and she's tossing and turning and we know maybe worrying about something neither one of us got much sleep so with this brain science and mine is like.

Let's try and exercise and the first step of this exercise were laying in bed words over cuddling and the first step is. We share three things from our day three highlights from the day.

Here's what was good for my day and so were cuddling and I share these three things, and then Jan, my wife shares her three things were already breathing a little easier okay and the next step is three qualities I appreciate about my wife and so while Cheryl said Jan you know I really appreciate your your heart for hospitality when our friend came over for dinner. You just you are so in your element serving and making our guest feel well, and I really like that about you so and I would name again to other qualities I appreciate about her with examples and now even though there's another step here. This would be the step for my wife.

I could literally feel her body relax after I shared my three things. What I appreciate about her physically. Her body would relax, she would breathe deeper. She was calm and down. It was noticeable and then she would share her three things about me and then the third is three qualities we appreciate about God so I might say, you know, I really appreciate God's presence.

I really felt like God was with me today when I was feeling overwhelmed with this work stuff, you know, I just took a few minutes I prayed. I just felt like God was seeing me and hearing me in understanding me and I just that that meant a lot to me. I like that Emmanuel is God with us, and then a meal come up with two other qualities I appreciate about God.

This exercise would take us less than 15 minutes and consistently every time we would do this exercise. My wife would fall asleep within 10 to 15 minutes.

The nights that she would that we would do the exercise she could be up for easily two hours and I admit there were nights so I was very half-asleep and she say hey can we do that 333 appreciation could you in Jesus and bless her, she would try but she's letting you know I find this helpful to have you and Jesus, and with me doing this so that exercise when when we saw the effects of doing that exercise and under 10 to 15 minute exercise made that much of a difference in and for her sleep and really for Mary saying if you look at the brain as that was happening.

It would look different from beginning to yes because what happens is the moment you think about an appreciation file. You remember that special moment as far as your brains concerned your brain is reliving the moment so just thinking about you know the special moment with my wife while were watching the sunset as I bring that up and I'm thinking it and I'm feeling, and I'm sharing it with her. My brains responding as though I'm reliving the moment like as though I was there watching the sunset all over again.

So this is why the stuff so powerful like it's it's kind of interesting because God designed the brain for joy but you can imagine.

What do horror movies and scary movies like that like your brain responds as though you're living those moments so what Marcus and I want to do is to help couples learn to amplify the good stuff to share the good stuff and you have the in the book on number of exercises like this.

The couples can do that are a part of your 15 minutes a day.

This is your new workout for your marriage to try to grow joy and the book or documents called the four habits of joy filled marriages out 15 minutes a day will help you stay in love. We got copies of this book are family left at a resource center you can order the book from us or you can call to order at one 800 FL today. Again, our website is family life to

If you want to order a copy of the book the four habits of joy filled marriages or call one 800 FL today to request your copy and I know many of you have wanted to know about our plans for weekend to remember getaways this spring, we have a handful of getaways scheduled were still adding dates this spring. Of course all of this is contingent upon restrictions that apply in various locations. You can go to our website a family life to find out more about some of the upcoming getaways that we expect to be having this spring I should say we expect these cutaways will also be sold out. We have limited availability because of social distancing. So if you're interested in attending a getaway.

Sign up now and a plan to join us for a weekend to remember this spring and for those of you who can't get to a getaway. We are making plans to send a getaway to you it's family life's date box that were still putting the finishing touches on but it's a great way for you to have some customized dates that will help unlock some great conversations in your marriage again.

Stay tuned to family life today for more information about the date box. It should be out before Valentine's Day and we hope you can join us again tomorrow to talk about communication and how when communication breaks down the marriage, so does the joy. What can we do to keep joy at the center of our marital communication even when we're not seeing things I do talk more about that tomorrow could be with us for the thinker engineer today. Keith Lynch along with our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our hosts Dave M. Wilson about pain. See you back next time for another edition of family life today. Family life to you as a production of family life of Little Rock, Arkansas. A crew ministry help for today hope for tomorrow

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