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Embracing the Various Seasons of Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
June 16, 2022 6:00 am

Embracing the Various Seasons of Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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June 16, 2022 6:00 am

Author Gary Chapman explains how couples go through four seasons of marriage – spring, summer, fall and winter and how couples can thrive through each of those seasons. (Part 2 of 2)

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When you focus on the negative and you say negative things and critical things to your spouse, there's something inside of him that wants to run from you, just get away from you.

So this whole thing of looking for the positive and choosing to think about the positive, it in itself has a way of moving you back towards spring and summer. That's Dr. Gary Chapman and he's describing one way that you can positively impact your marriage. And you'll hear more from him on today's Focus on the Family with your host, Focus President and author, Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. And John, last time we had a great discussion about the cyclical nature of marriage and how our marriage transitions from winter, spring, summer and fall and we find ourselves in any one of those four seasons at any time in our marriage.

And Gary Chapman, our guest, has done a beautiful job like he always does, just capturing complex human relationship ideas and then putting them into more bite-sized formats. And we are going to continue that discussion with Gary today to talk about what season your marriage is in and how to get to a good place. And let me just say here at the start, if you're struggling in your relationship, we do have counselors here on staff, caring Christians, who can have an initial discussion with you about where you're at. It may be that you're doing pretty well, you just want a resource, and Dr. Chapman's book, The Four Seasons of Marriage, is a great tool. We've got our counseling team and resources like this book available to you when you call 800-AFAMILY.

800, the letter A in the word family. You know, so often people will say, you know, I'm praying for focus on the family, we're supporting you, what else can we do to engage the ministry of focus? I'll tell you, one of the great things you can do is right here in this area of marriage, be in tune with your neighbors, be in tune with your friends at church.

What may be on the outside may not be the whole story. So keep your ear to the ground, and if you're in that good place, join us in ministry. Turn people toward focus on the family to help them in their marriage. Let them know you know of great resources where people can plug in. And you know what, I don't believe will disappoint your good advice to your friends.

I think if they come through the doorway here, we will do everything we can to help them in their marriage journey. So have that confidence, and it's a great way to help people in their life. And with that, Gary, let me say welcome back to Focus on the Family.

Well, thank you, good to be back again. You must experience that, where friends are saying, Gary, I've got a buddy you need to meet and straighten out. Does that happen to you? Oh yes, and sometimes it really is a buddy, and sometimes it's them. They're talking about themselves, you know. I've got a friend. I've got a friend, yes. And all of us have friends, and sometimes it's easier to try to get an answer for a friend than it is to reveal that this is where I am, you know, in my relationship. But it's okay.

Wherever people start, at least it's a step. You know, and last time, and if you didn't hear it, you've got to get the download or go to the website and listen. We talked about three of the seasons, winter, spring, and summer. And what I'd like to do, if you could, just give us that recap on those three, and then we're going to talk about fall and move into some strategies to help couples get to a good place. Well, winter is cold and bitter and harsh, okay?

It's not a good place to be in your marriage. And then spring, of course, is an exciting time. You're anticipating things, you almost always start off in spring, and life is going to be wonderful. You've got great plans and things you're going to do together. You have visions of really a happy marriage.

And then summer is you really do have a happy marriage. I mean, things are really going well. You're solving conflicts.

You've accepted some things that you used to be irritated about. You're enjoying discussing life with each other. You're reading books together. You're growing spiritually together.

Summer's a good place. And then the fall, which is the one that we will focus on here, things look good on the outside, but really inside there's a lot of apprehension, some fearfulness, maybe even sadness, things that just don't feel quite right in the relationship. No one else sees them yet, but we may feel unappreciated in a fall marriage, not verbalizing it. We're uncertain about where things are going, and we also kind of tend to start blaming our spouse. They're not doing what they should be doing. In fact, you talk about the number one cause of fall marriages is neglect. Describe that. Neglect can be so many different things.

How do we neglect each other in the marriage? I think it's failing to connect on a regular basis. We're involved in so many other things. It may be work. It may be children.

It may be church. It may be good things in the community. We're involved in good things, but we're not connecting with each other. We're not sharing those things with each other. We're neglecting the primary relationship in a family, and that's the relationship between the husband and the wife.

Gary, you cancel thousands of couples, and I'm sure this is probably coming from 999 of them. Dr. Chapman, I mean, life is busy, do you notice? Yeah. And I'm busy, and the wife is saying, I'm quite busy too.

We've got three kids in their teens. Yeah. So is it an excuse, or is it a legitimate issue of life that I'm so busy, it's number four, five, or 12 on my list to connect with my spouse? That's like the last thing I can get to.

Yeah. And if that's our attitude, we're too busy. You know, God would not have ordained marriage, and that marriages produce children, and thus families, if there wasn't time to do it all. There has to be time to raise children, and have a healthy marriage, and have a job, because God also ordained work. There has to be time to do it, and if we don't have time to keep the marriage relationship growing, then we need to look at our lives, and there's some things we maybe are doing that we don't need to be doing. We're neglecting the most important to do something that seems important. Now you can take a very drastic change in your life to correct that. What are you suggesting? If my vocation is really consuming me, it's 80 hours a week, and yeah, I don't really have time to spend on my marriage, and she knows I love her, because I told her that when we got married, but she's not going to get a lot more out of me.

What do you say to that guy? I think there is a time to assess. In fact, there should be many times in a marriage to assess where we are, and if we continue on the path we're now on, where are we going to be in five years or ten years? I think there are times to make drastic changes, and many couples have made those changes. I know couples where one of them, for example, a father has decided to be a stay-at-home caretaker for the children, because the mother's got a job.

She's making three times what he's making. So they just together agree, this will work, and we can have a family, and it may be the other way around. A mother may decide, I'm going to be a stay-at-home mom for a season in my life.

Maybe you have a vocation that you really, really love, but you're going to choose to stay at home for a season, and then later on you can pick back up your vocation. So some of those big decisions can be made, but many times it's more the smaller decisions. It's looking for time and making time to stay connected to each other.

That's the easier pathway. I was going to ask you with those couples, when you see them two, three years down the road, are they in, a majority of them, maybe 80, 90 percent, are they in a better place, and they were grateful for making the tough choices they made? They are, because they are enjoying life together. They've made time to enjoy life together.

And if you don't make time to enjoy life, and you spend all the time making money and doing this, that, and the other thing, it's gone before you know it. You know, the kids are gone, and now we don't have a life together. One of the strategies you encourage in your book to get to a better season in your marriage is to identify past failures.

That can be hard. I mean, we don't like looking in the closet saying, yeah, that was wrong. What's the importance of that? We don't like looking back. We would hope that time would just erase the effects of our failures, but time does not erase the effects. You know, the Scriptures are very clear. If we confess our sins, God is ready to forgive our sins.

Same principle applies in human marriages, human relationships. If we are willing to acknowledge that I failed you in this and this and this, most of the time our spouse is willing to forgive us, but the very fact that we bring it up and say, I've been thinking about us, I've been reflecting on our lives, and I realize that I failed you in some really significant ways. And you kind of spell them out and ask for forgiveness. And even if it's deep hurt and been there a long time, your spouse may not immediately forgive you, but they walk away thinking in their mind, wow, never thought I'd hear this. And three days later, they may well come back and say, I've been thinking about what you said the other night, and I realized I haven't been the perfect spouse either. And maybe they share some things, and then you forgive each other.

It's a huge step in moving forward to recognize and deal with past failures. I don't think I would be speaking out of turn. When we came up to this part of the conversation, I immediately thought of a past failure in our relationship.

And I won't go into details, but I said something very, very hurtful to Deena. This was many, many years ago, and I think we've resolved that. But I'm not sure.

Maybe we haven't. So when that one pops into my mind, should I let that maybe be a little prompt from God to go back to her to say, do you remember that time? Because I don't want to go there.

I mean, I caused such pain. I'd like to keep the door closed on that one. Is there value to going back just to make sure? I think if you have a question, it would be worth your while to say to her, we were discussing this today, and this popped back in my mind. I just want to make sure that that's all clear. And she may well say, honey, it's clear.

I don't know why you even thought about it. Or she may say, you know, it does bother me once in a while, too. Gary, you talk about a three-step process for working through those past failures that we're alluding to. Give us an example of how you've walked a couple through the process in your counseling, if you can. One is to ask God, just take an hour away and sit down alone with God and ask God to bring back to your mind all the places where you failed your spouse in the past. And just write them down. And just write them down. And God will do that because God wants us to deal with our failures. Then you go to your spouse and you tell them, you know, I sat down with God the other day and I asked him to tell me where I have failed you in the past, and he gave me a pretty good list. And if you've got a few minutes, I'd like to share these with you either now or later and see if you could forgive me.

Wow. Your spouse is listening. And chances are, they'll make time to let you read the list. That right there is probably worth the two days of listening to this program. I mean, I think that could make a dramatic difference in your marriage. Man, try that and then let us know the difference it made in your marriage a week or the next day. I would love to hear from you if that piece of advice right there made a difference for you.

Wow, Gary, that's powerful. And if your spouse happens to say, once you read the list, I'd like to forgive you, but I don't know if I can, give them time. Just say, I don't want to pressure you for forgiveness, but I hope that you can eventually find in your heart to forgive me, because you deserve more and I want to be what you deserve and let it ride.

I can tell you, there's a good chance now you start being kind and changing your behavior, that they're going to forgive you and may come back and confess their own failures. Gary, as you describe that, the word that jumps into my mind like a neon sign is humility and vulnerability. And again, what is it in us as human beings that that's so hard a place to get to, that vulnerability to be able to do that, which, I mean, I think a lot of people are exhaling going, if we could only do that, it would be different. Why can we not get there? What is it in us that we don't want to be that vulnerable?

We'd rather sit in the muck of our marriage than do that. I think it's the work of the enemy in our hearts and in our minds. He doesn't want us to confess our failures. He doesn't want us to experience forgiveness.

And anything he can do to keep us from getting there, he will. I think also we are self-centered, we are prideful, and yes, it's hard to acknowledge your failures, especially in a close relationship like marriage. But when we do, we're freed. Even if they don't forgive you, you feel better because you laid it on the table.

And it's so biblical. I mean, God doesn't just forgive everybody. He forgives people who confess their sins. And that principle is true here. We don't just expect our spouse just to forget all this stuff. But if we confess it, then they can forgive.

And now we've got the wall torn down. Now we can begin building our marriage or rebuilding our marriage. Let me ask you in that context, though, that scripture where the disciples and the Lord are talking.

And Jesus is saying, forgive seventy times seven. You can interpret that in a lot of different ways in a marriage conflict. And the husband who for the umpteenth time is coming back saying, please forgive me for that. What's the healthy approach in that? I mean, if you're thinking forgiveness anytime, cheap forgiveness, it may not mean enough.

In a marriage, what should it look like? Well, I think Jesus was saying most of all, we should always be willing to forgive and have no limits on forgiveness. Having said that, I think what you describe when they come back with the same failure over and over and over and over again, that there is a place for us to confront and to say, you know, honey, I think you're sincere.

I believe you're sincere. But why don't we talk about how we can change the behavior? And let's come up with a plan where you won't do this again. And most of the time, the spouse will be open to thinking about a plan. And one lady said to me, she said, Dr. Chapman, my husband just kept doing the same old thing over and over. And finally, I challenged him, let's think about this. He would lose his temper with the kids and with me.

And so we got a plan that was very simple. That if he felt like he was about to lose his temper with me or one of the children, he would say, honey, I'm hot. I've got to take a walk.

And I knew what it was all about. And he would take a walk and cool down. And then come back and say, okay, honey, I'm back.

I'm here to help you. He plugged back in. She said, Dr. Chapman, he seldom loses his temper now. And she said, he takes quite a few walks.

He's healthier. But he's not losing his temper. So I think that's the way you handle that. Gary, you've touched on those three key components of identifying your failures and confessing those to your spouse and then seeking forgiveness. Those are all biblical approaches to human relationship, particularly in marriage. Let me ask you about another part of the strategy that caught my attention. That is to have a winning attitude toward your spouse.

I mean, so many wives and husbands are going, yeah, but you don't know my spouse. What is it to have a winning attitude and where does that come from? Well, it's the opposite of having a negative attitude. The negative attitude is, you know, it's never going to be any better. It's gone on too long.

Too much has happened. Nothing can ever be better. If you keep that attitude, nothing will be better.

You will stay in a winter marriage. But if you begin to think in terms of there's got to be something good here in our relationship and you start focusing on the positive. You know, this is what Paul encouraged us to do in Philippians chapter 4 when he said, you know, if there's anything good and holy and right, and he listed a whole thing of things, he said, think on these things.

Think on the positive things. You start looking for positive things in your spouse and then you start verbalizing those things to them. Look at them the way God looks at them. Your spouse is somebody made in the image of God.

They're gifted by God. They have the ability to do things and you start walking down that road and you'll begin to see some good things in your spouse and then you verbalize it. It may be simple things, it may be little things, but you begin to verbalize the positive things in the relationship. And when you verbalize the positive to your spouse, there's something inside of them that wants to be better. Every time you commend them for something or point out something about them that you really like, they want to be better. I remember when my kids were little, my wife would tell the children what a good father I was. And I knew sometimes she was going way beyond reality.

But every time she told them how good I was, it made me want to be as good as she said I was, you know? And conversely, when you focus on the negative and you say negative things and critical things to your spouse, there's something inside of him that wants to run from you, just get away from you. So this whole thing of looking for the positive and choosing to think about the positive, it in itself has a way of moving you back towards spring and summer. And the power of these positive words and the positive attitude is not necessarily going to create instant change in a relationship, is it? Because there could be years of negative things going on. Not necessarily quickly, but they do move you in the right direction.

They begin to thaw the ice and they begin to move you back towards spring. Gary, you talk about the Dead Sea people and the babbling brook people. I thought that was pretty funny. What in the world are you getting at there? I'm talking about our personality when it comes to talking. Some of us are Dead Seas. You know, the Sea of Galilee flows south by way of the Jordan River into the Dead Sea, and the Dead Sea goes nowhere. That's why we call it the Dead Sea.

Some of us have that kind of personality. We can receive thoughts, feelings, experiences throughout the day. We have a large reservoir where we store all of that, and we're perfectly happy not to talk. If you say to a Dead Sea, what's wrong? Why aren't you talking tonight? A Dead Sea will say, nothing's wrong.

What makes you think something's wrong? It says that they can be content not to talk. Now, the other personality type is what I call the babbling brook.

And that's the personality that whatever comes in the eye gate or the ear gate comes out the mouth gate. And normally, there's not 60 seconds between the two. In fact, if no one is at home, these people will call someone on the telephone. You know what I just saw? You know what I just heard?

They have no reservoir. And usually, these two people marry each other. Usually? And the babbling brook will complain that her spouse doesn't talk.

And often, that spouse is a husband. He just won't talk. I just have to keep asking him questions.

He can sit down for a whole meal and not say a word about what happened today. Well, but in the difficulty is you don't bring a bulldozer in to make the Dead Sea a babbling brook. What do you do though to find some compromise? Yeah, you're never going to change the basic tendency.

But you can both learn to grow toward the middle. The Dead Sea can learn to speak more than he or she would normally speak. The babbling brook can learn to slow the flow, ask more questions, and become a better listener. And I say to the babbling brook, don't ever expect the other person to talk as much as you talk. But if you'll ask questions, they may give short answers, so you ask another question just to follow up. And don't get annoyed. Just keep asking questions. And they will respond to questions.

It's easy for a Dead Sea. It's easier if you ask me questions. Because otherwise, you just say, I wish we would talk more. And I'm thinking, about what? And why?

Yeah, and why? What do you mean, talk more? But give me a question.

I can respond to the question. Developing that empathetic ear to listen. I mean, I think, unfortunately, in marriages, that's where we lose our ability to do it so quickly. Maybe after year two, or maybe month two, we tend to not stay in touch with that ear to listen to each other.

How do we maintain that as a good, healthy part of our relationship? You know, I never heard the word empathy when I was growing up. It's a psychological word.

But really, it's simple. It means putting yourself in the shoes of the other person and trying to look at the world through their eyes. So when they're talking, what you're trying to do is look from their perspective. What are they saying? What are they thinking?

What are they feeling? And you ask questions to clarify it, to make sure you understand what they're saying. Honey, is this what you're saying? Sounds to me like you're saying this. Give them a chance to clarify. That's empathetic listening.

Really trying to look at their perspective. And if you do this, then a little ways into their listening, you can honestly say, Honey, I think I hear what you're saying. And you tell them, and they say, yeah, that's what I'm saying. Do you find that one gender, I mean, we laugh about that. That sounds exhausting. I mean, most guys will probably go, that's right, Jim, that sounds exhausting. And we even laugh like that. Women, do they tend to be better listeners than men?

You know, I don't want to put men in a category, but I do think that at least the men I've encountered have more difficulty doing this than do their wives. And then how do we get beyond the joke of that, that it's exhausting? How do we say, okay, it's exhausting, but I'm going to do it?

What kind of triggers do you use to say, okay, calm down, Jim. Listen to what Gene is saying. If you have to set time limits, then you can set time limits. See, some guys say to me, Dr. Chapman, I don't want to get in a conversation with her at night because it's going to be three hours. And I'm exhausted.

And I'm exhausted already. You see, and the wife is just crying for more conversation. And I say to both of them, okay, let's back off and let's not try to cram it all into a three-hour period. Let's give her 15 minutes each night. And if she knows there's going to be another 15-minute conversation tomorrow night, she can learn to accept that because she knows it's not going to build up and become a three-hour conversation.

So I think finding out what works for you as a couple, but we have to listen to each other. If we don't listen, we will never understand each other. But if you listen long enough, you can say, honey, I think I hear what you're saying, and here's the other line, and it makes a lot of sense. And it makes a lot of sense.

And it does. From their perspective, it always makes sense. And when you say that, you are no longer an enemy, you are a friend. And then you can say, let me share my side, honey. This has been fantastic advice both today and last time.

Probably the last question I need to ask is a final word from you. Okay, you've identified the four seasons, and I am living in winter. I don't know where my spouse is living, but I'm living in winter. People that feel stuck in that place, what can they do when they get home today, what can they do to begin to change it, to find spring or summer or at least fall? Do something different from what you did last night.

Don't do the same thing or you'll be at the same place tomorrow night. And maybe that means simply saying, honey, I haven't told you this in a long time, but I appreciate the fact that you work so hard to provide for us. Or something else that's positive. Just say something positive tonight, something you haven't said in a while to your spouse.

That's a good place to start. Dr. Gary Chapman authored the book The Four Seasons of Marriage, Secrets to a Lasting Marriage. It has been great to have you with us. Thank you, Jim.

Always good to be with you. Well, what a meaningful conversation we've had with Dr. Gary Chapman today on Focus on the Family. Well, I hope you've been encouraged to work on your marriage regardless of the season you're in. And you know, this is why Focus on the Family exists.

We want to help you have the best marriage possible. And of course, challenges arise. We get that.

Those are the winter seasons. But we can help. We have caring Christian counselors on staff that will listen to you, pray with you, and offer some insight on how you can move forward. And beyond that, our Hope Restored marriage intensives are really outstanding.

A couple of years ago, Dina and I had the opportunity to attend one. It really changed our relationship for the better. Well, lots of couples who have gone through those intensives say the same thing, John. I love hearing about the marriages that have been saved through Hope Restored. God is doing some amazing things in that program.

I'm so proud of it. Couples on the brink of divorce come back stronger and better than ever. And when we do our two-year follow-up survey, 80% of those couples report that they are still together, still married, and have a higher level of marriage satisfaction. That's excellent. That's the goal. So if you need help in your marriage, get in touch with us today.

Today may be the day that everything changes for you. And we also have Dr. Chapman's great book, The Four Seasons of Marriage, Secrets to a Lasting Marriage. You can order that directly from us. And the proceeds all go back into ministry here at Focus on the Family.

We don't pay shareholders. When you sign up for a monthly pledge of any amount today, we'll send you a copy of that as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry. And if that monthly commitment is too much, we get that. We can still send it out for a one-time gift of any amount. No amount is too small when it comes to saving marriages and helping families to thrive. We hope you're hearing how much we appreciate you, and we're thankful that you chose to do your ministry through Focus. Donate today as you can. Learn more about Hope Restored and get your copy of the book, The Four Seasons of Marriage.

All the details are in the show notes. We'll plan to join us again tomorrow. We'll have an amazing story of how baseball brought three generations together. Well, he joined us in our journey, and we had a shared goal. We had a shared dream, a shared vision together. Our dad actually got down into our world, and he helped birth this dream, but then he helped massage it for us. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ. Download our resource, 16 Questions to Ask if You Have a Blended Family. It's our gift to you at FocusOnTheFamily.com slash Blended Family eBook.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-04 02:07:56 / 2023-04-04 02:20:18 / 12

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