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Building Blocks for a Stronger Marriage

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
April 6, 2023 6:00 am

Building Blocks for a Stronger Marriage

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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April 6, 2023 6:00 am

In this broadcast, pastor and author Bob Lepine encourages you to strengthen your marriage by working toward oneness with your spouse. This requires honesty about past hurts, working through conflict, and asking forgiveness when you’ve wronged each other. 

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Listen on your favorite podcast app. I was getting ready to speak at a marriage conference and I was listening to Focus on the Family and Gary Smalley was on Focus on the Family. And Gary Smalley in his inimitable way said, I'm going to tell you the one thing. If you can learn how to forgive, he said, that's how to resolve conflict and forgive in a marriage.

That's the key. And I thought, well, that should have dawned on me before now, but we're going to have conflict in marriage. If we can't figure out what do we do when that happens, we're always going to have problems. But if we can figure out how to resolve conflict, then we can have a good marriage. And the key to that is to be generous forgivers with one another. That's Bob Lapine and he joins us today on Focus on the Family. Thank you for being with us.

Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. You know, John, over the years, we have heard some incredible stories about marriages that have been restored coming back from the brink of disaster. It can be infidelity.

It could be just the argumentative nature of the relationship. The one thing that's so true that I've seen for Jean and I is just how we push each other's buttons at times. And I had to say to myself, not that long ago, unfortunately, like, why do I go there? I know I'm going to get this reaction when I say this. And it's so selfish of me. And it just is part of our flesh. And I think what the Lord is trying to teach me, certainly, maybe you, the listener, don't push that button.

It doesn't really bring any fruit, right? Try something different. In today's program, we're not talking about physical abuse or deep emotional abuse. If you're in those situations, get to a safe place, get the help you need. You can start with a call here to focus on the family. But we're talking about those marriages that are just clunking along that need a little tune up, that needs some help. And today we're going to talk to a great friend, Bob Lapine, in a book he's written called Build a Stronger Marriage. That should be everybody's goal, by the way. I love the simplicity of that title. And I'm looking forward to the practical steps, practical helps that Bob will bring.

I am too. And if you would like to contact us and learn more about his book or connect with one of our counselors, our number is 800, the letter A and the word family. And we've got the link in the show notes. And Bob is a pastor, a speaker. He was for many years, the co-host of Family Life Today.

He's written a number of books. And as you said, Jim, we're going to be talking about this particular one, Build a Stronger Marriage, The Path to Oneness. Bob, welcome to Focus. Welcome back. It is great to be with you guys.

Always look forward to the time. I think one of the funniest memories I have of working with you and Dennis was that April Fool's Day where you started the Focus program together and we started Family Life's program on April 1st. I remember calling John and saying, I've got this crazy idea.

And it worked. I mean, we had people just laughing about that and just showed the great camaraderie that we've always shared with you and Dennis and Family Life and Focus. Well, we're in the same line of work, in the same struggle, praying about the same stuff. So it's been great to be allied with you guys over the years.

Appreciate it. And as a pastor, let's go to that component of your life experience. You've counseled many couples who probably hit a bump like I was describing. Little things can start piling up, right? It's just this weird thing. Well, it's the natural course of every relationship. Your car over time starts to develop noises and clunks.

And if you're not... That's so true. How do you know that? Because I drive too. And if you're not going in for regular preventive maintenance and getting things adjusted and tuned up and tweaked, then you're going to find out that the car is going to break down over time. A practical question.

I'm sure a listener saying, you know what? I'd love to do that, but time, we're so busy. We have young kids. Speak to the importance of getting that maintenance done. I mean, it's so funny you should say that about the car because my Toyota just lit up yesterday saying, maintenance required. And you don't have that billboard for your marriage.

It's not a light that'll go off on your dashboard. So for those couples in different life stages, address that quickly, how important it is to make time. Yeah. This is one of those things that winds up being important, but not urgent.

Right. Until it is. We put it on the back burner and what happens is over time, it just grinds on us a little more. It wears down a little bit more. And you're right until it is. Then there's a defining moment in a marriage where we go, how did we get here?

Well, you got here because you didn't do the regular preventive maintenance. So I remember a friend of mine who said he encourages couples every week, have a date every month, have a day and every year have a weekend. And just use that time where the two of you can focus on your relationship just to keep it humming so that as you go through life, you're doing well.

You know, it's so dynamic with even that simplicity is if you apply that, how much it contributes to positivity in your relationship and marriage. That's not a lot of time if you think about it. I'm embarrassed to say that I've not been that diligent at times. You know, where Gina are pretty good with date nights, not as good about a getaway day every month. I'd like to concentrate on that actually.

And then every year take a serious vacation together without the kids. I'm better as at prescribing it than I am actually taking the council. I just want you to know the listener that yeah, even the experts aren't always doing a great job with that, but a great thing to target and to aim at. In the book, you describe some of the mistakes that we make early on. I think one of them is how when we get into marriage early, we make the assumption that we can change that person's defects.

You know, that I love this person so much except for those two or three things, but I'm going to work on them and I'll get them to improve in that area. I remember hearing somebody say that the marriage ceremony is designed to plant the wrong idea in our heads because the bride is in the back of the church. And the first thing she sees when she walks into the church is the aisle that she's going to be walking down.

Then she looks up and she sees the altar at the front of the church. And then she hears the hymn that is being played in the church and she looks and goes, I'll alter him. I'll alter him. I'll alter him. Okay, that's good.

I've not heard that one before, but that is good, yeah. So we do come in. Here's what we come in with. We know a limited amount about the person that we're marrying. We have a limited amount of data and everything we don't know, we're just assuming assuming that it's all going to be good.

It'll work out. Exactly. Then we get into marriage and we start learning new things about the other person and it's not always as good as we thought it was going to be. And we go, wait, why is this not what I thought it was going to be? We come in with a lot of expectations. Right. In fact, you mentioned those three.

Let's hit them. Expectations is one. What are those three things that we fail to understand? We come in with expectations about what marriage is going to be, about who our spouse is going to be.

A lot of them are just unknown. A lot of them are based on Hollywood movies and based on pop songs that have taught us what to expect from a marriage relationship. And we have to go back and say, is the problem in my marriage my spouse, or is it the expectations that I came in with that were unrealistic expectations in the first place? I think the biggest one for a lot of wives is the expectation is that their husband is going to meet every emotional need that they have. Right. And God didn't design any husband to meet every emotional need in a wife.

Let's aim for one or two. No, it's true. Marianne and I were talking this weekend and she was talking about her frustration over the fact that there were certain things that I just was not in tune with about what she's going through emotionally. And she stopped and she said, I guess it's why it's good that I have girlfriends. And I said, of course it's good.

I'm not going to be the guy who's going to be able to be in tune with all of this. Well, that's a huge comment. I don't want to let that just slip by. I think women do need that network of girlfriends that they can go to and talk and trust. And Jean has found that and it has been so good for us. And her girlfriends listen and understand things about what she's going through emotionally that I'm just clueless about. Totally.

I've been doing this for a long time. I'm still clueless about it. I appreciate that honesty. So expectations and then what are the other two? Motivations is one of the other things. So what motivated you to get married in the first place? True love.

Well, exactly. In my case, we dated for four years. You're either getting married or you need to end this thing and move on, right?

You're so practical. Was that somebody's advice to you or did you just come to that moment? That was Marianne's mandate to me. That was pretty much what it was. She was putting a fire in.

She laid the line. I mean, we were at a point in the relationship where, yeah, we were in college. I thought we should wait till we graduate. Well, my original plan was to go to law school.

That's three more years. And I'm thinking, can I really get married and start law school at the same time? And she's going, we better. What in that motivation category beyond the motivation to get married, which you so aptly illustrated for us, what would be one once you get married that fits that motivational category? Well, I think we look back and say, what was fueling us coming together in the first place? So for some people, it's I just want out of the bad situation I'm in. And if I marry you, I'll get out. For some people, it's the clock is ticking. If I don't get married now, I'll never have the baby I really want. For some people, it's the motivation of we're just going to make each other happy for the rest of our lives.

There are all kinds of superficial motivations. And there was an epiphany for me. This didn't happen until 15 years into our marriage. I was sitting down with a group of other pastors. And I said, if you were going to talk to couples getting married, and you were going to share with them an important scripture about marriage, and it couldn't be the usual ones, can't go to Ephesians 5 or Colossians 3, you can't even go to Genesis 2.

And they started giving me very practical advice. They said, Ephesians 4, preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. Don't let the sun go down on your anger. Be kind to one another, forgiving one another.

All of this was good. But I had two guys who said, I would share the verse. One of them said, this is a verse I proposed with. It's Psalm 34, 3. And I couldn't pull that up on my, I had to go to my Bible and look that one up.

But I'd heard the verse. I just never applied it to marriage. It's the verse that says, oh, magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together. And for me, it was like, that's what marriage is all about. If there's a right motivation for marriage, it's so that the two of us can come together and magnify the Lord and exalt His name in a greater way than we're able to do on our own. We tend to think it's about our mutual happiness or our support or the companionship. All of that is God's blessing to a marriage that has a higher purpose. And that is pointing people to Jesus. So that really is the third thing, the purpose of our union and knowing that. And that does begin to cascade, hopefully better behavior, better treatment of one another.

Here's how that works out practically for Marianne and me. When we know that that's our goal, then when we find ourselves at a place where we're not on the same page, we can say, okay, time out. What would honor the Lord here? What's God's desire for us? Because I know what I want and you know what you want and we don't necessarily want the same things. Now the question is, what does God want? And let's unite around that. Well, the next time Gene and I have a disagreement, I'm going to deploy that because I think that's the right leadership for the home to say, hang on a second.

What does the Lord want out of this? That's really good advice, Bob. Bob, one of the things that Dean and I have really struggled with, and you addressed this in the book, is the baggage we bring in from our family of origin. Oh my goodness, 30 years of marriage, we're still unpacking some of those bags that we've been dragging around for all this time.

What do you think about that? Well, I remember sitting with a couple who were in a hard spot in their marriage and the wife was expressing her frustration. She said, my husband does this all the time. It drives me crazy. And then she said, my brother did this when we were growing up and it made me so mad.

And I thought, hang on just a second. You have unresolved issues with your brother that you're taking out on your husband. This is where the patterns that were developed, where did we learn how to do relationships? Where did we learn how to communicate with one another? Where did we learn how to be kind to one another? It's in our family of origin. And some people grew up in families where when conflict came, you shouted it out and then you all hugged when it was over. Others grew up in a home where when there's conflict, you go to your corner, I go to my corner, we'll talk in three days. And if the two of you get married and one of you shouting and the other one's running away, there's real issues in how you handle all of this. And we have to peel back and go, okay, what did I learn in my family of origin? What's right about that? What needs to be addressed about that?

What are some of the bad patterns or bad habits that I need to deal with? And what are some of the ghosts or the shadows from the past that are still finding their way into our marriage relationship? In fact, that identity issue is probably the core issue for all of us. Whose are we and why are we here? And we get so messed up in that pursuit because we are bombarded by the culture about what we need to be, where we need to find that identity. Exactly. And I think so many people are starting to find out that if their identity is found in their job, or if it's found in the approval that they get from other people, or even if it's found in how you're perceived by your kids or how you're perceived by your spouse, those can't be the foundation of your identity. Your identity has to be, what does God say is true about me?

Yeah. And you have to live in that. And then everything else, if you're built on that foundation, everything else can handle. Bob, a practical question in that regard, we can hear each other saying this, and we know this to be true, but how do we, if you were looking at your core identity, how do you pull out those destructive modules? If I can, I'm kind of a linear thinker at times.

And how do we put in the right module, the God module? People can hear us say this and they can agree with us and then still struggle to not absorb the world's identity for themselves. Let's pick on men for a while since we've picked on women. You know, the guy's identity at work. And so you work 12, 14 hours and then your marriage falls apart. How do we remove that and say, okay, my identity is not with my job.

It's with my family. It's with my commitment to my wife. We often drift toward finding our identity in the thing where we have the most success or where we feel the most affirmation. And so a man will often drift toward work because at work, when he does a good job, he gets a bonus or he gets the boss calling him and saying, you did a good job, or they have a celebration because he brought in the deal, whatever it is. He goes home and does a good job and that's expected. Or if he does a bad job, he hears about it quickly.

And so pretty soon he goes, you know, I get more strokes. I get more positive affirmation in the workplace than I do at home. I'm going to just spend more time here. But this is where we have to recognize that it is not the cheer of the crowd in either arena that should be our focus. Our focus should be to hear the cheers of heaven for what we're committing ourselves to. And so in the workplace, in the home, we're performing, we're living out our identity to please and honor God.

And there'll be some challenges in whatever arena we're in. But if we can lay our head on the pillow at night and go, I was about God's business today, then whatever your wife or the boss or the world around you is saying, you can know I'm living the way I'm supposed to be living. You know, that's so good because like the scripture says, when you're doing those things in the spirit of the Lord, everything else falls together. Your marriage, you won't have an affair because your prioritization is correct. You know, you're living for the Lord.

And so if that presents itself, you say, hey, that's not that's not where I'm going. And I honor my wife because I honor my my God. Don't be conformed, the Bible says to this world, be transformed by renewing your mind regularly. You know, that whole string of things that we talk about in terms of family of origin, trauma, guilt, shame, they all affect the marital relationship. So how do we as a married couple?

How do you begin to lasso that and say, honey, let's talk about some of these things? Yeah, I think this is where we have to, again, come back to what's going to be the clear foundation for where we're living. Are we building our marriage on patterns from the past and on our preferences and on the habits that we've accumulated over the years? Or are we building our marriage on a renewed platform that says we're going to put away the things that are destructive and not just put away the destructive things, but replace them with the positive virtues that the Bible talks about? So put on kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, patience. A lot of people, I think, Jim, find themselves going, I'm going to try really hard not to be this person, but they don't work equally hard to be the other person, the kind, compassionate, humble person that the Bible calls us to. And in the power of the Spirit, we need to be cultivating those positive virtues while we try to put away the negative. Bob, you also write in your book about anger.

And I think it's an important one, if we're honest. I mean, I feel like I controlled my anger generally pretty well. But speak to that wicked tool that does such destruction, anger. Yeah, anger. I think anger is a secondary emotion. I think anger is provoked in us when we are fearful. When we find ourselves afraid, we use anger as a way to strike back at the person who is prompting a fear in us. So if I'm afraid of what's going to happen, I get angry hoping that you'll back off and that I can use my anger as a way to stop you from threatening me or for me feeling anxious or fearful in this situation. I think when we recognize that there's something behind the anger, then instead of just trying to tamp down our anger, we can say, what's really going on in my soul when anger is stirred up? And how can I find the peace in my soul so that the anger is not provoked? You know, let's just put it in this context. Women can get angry too, by the way. But I'll put it in the male context for the wife listening whose husband struggles getting that under control.

And again, I'm not talking about physical abuse or deep emotional abuse. You need quick help for that. Get to safety, like we said. But I'm talking about just that general thing when something isn't right, he goes to that anger mode.

Is there anything she can say that's constructive to help him get his attention on that so that they don't have to deal with that? Yeah. In the moment, I'm not sure what you can say because in the moment when anger is being expressed, I mean, I know in our marriage there are times when it's just, okay, time out to your corners. Get out of the way. We just need some time to let things settle down.

But I do think we can come back around after that. And again, here's where I think the Bible's practical. Galatians 6 says, right after talking about the fruit of the Spirit, it says, if you see somebody who's caught in a sin, then you who are spiritual, it says, that is you who have spiritually prepared for this moment. And the goal is restore that person with a spirit of meekness. So your spirit should be a gentle, meek spirit. And the goal is I want to restore you to who God created you to be, which is not this angry, out of control person.

Isn't that what you want too? And then I'd say, when you feel angry, what's really going on in your heart? Can we look and say, is there something you're afraid of?

Yeah. Oftentimes just asking that question, is there something you're really afraid of that makes you angry? Some husbands will have a hard time getting there because we're peeling into parts of their emotional makeup that nobody has ever gone to with them before.

Typically family of origin stuff when it comes to that outburst of anger, that's a childhood trauma thing. Let me ask you about the power of forgiveness, because we're going to run out of time and I still want to get to the four practical best practices, but the power of forgiveness and how it needs to play in a marriage. Well, Billy Graham's wife, Ruth Graham, once said that a great marriage is the union of two great forgivers.

And isn't that true? If we don't know how, in fact, I remember driving through Seattle, I was getting ready to speak at a marriage conference and I was listening to Focus on the Family and Gary Smalley was on Focus on the Family. And Gary Smalley in his inimitable way said, I'm going to tell you the one thing, this one thing will revolutionize your marriage. You can hear Gary say that. Good impersonation. And I'm thinking, well, I better know this.

I'm about to speak to people. What's the one thing that will revolutionize your marriage? And he said, if you can learn how to forgive, he said that's how to resolve conflict and forgive in a marriage.

That's the key. And I thought, well, that should have dawned on me before now, but we're going to have conflict in marriage. If we can't figure out what do we do when that happens, we're always going to have problems. But if we can figure out how to resolve conflict, then we can have a good marriage. And the key to that is to be generous forgivers with one another. Let's hit those best four practices for strong marriages.

What are they? One of them is that idea of generous forgiveness. We've got to be quick forgivers. We've got to learn how to overlook many transgressions. Love covers a multitude of sins and then how to confront when necessary.

The second one is extravagant love. And I think a lot of us are chintzy with how we express love to one another. We're thrifty, right?

We don't want to give away too much. You know, we don't want to run out. Well, you can't run out of love. If you're receiving an abundant supply of love from God, you can't run out of love to give to your spouse. If you're running out of love, then something has crimped the hose between you and God.

You get that worked out and all of a sudden you'll have enough love to give to your spouse. So generous or extravagant love, generous forgiveness. The third one is enthusiastic encouragement. We've got to learn how to be cheerleaders for one another in marriage.

Life and death's in the power of the tongue. If we're saying positive things to one another in our marriage relationship, that can be so strengthening to a marriage. And then the last one is common commitments with one another. If we're on the same page about what matters most, that's the clear foundation on a marriage. When you're not on the same page about what matters most, your marriage is on a more fragile foundation. And I know we're talking to some folks where a husband or a wife is a strong believer, the other spouse is not, and they would be the ones who would tell us. It makes for a challenge in our marriage relationship because we don't have these shared priorities.

I'm not talking about priorities about where we're going to eat on Thursday night or the priority of the core core. I'm talking about what's life all about, what's most important to us, what matters most to us, the little stuff we can work our way through. But if we've got those common convictions, that's going to be so strengthening for a marriage.

Yeah. Bob, this is so good and you have hit it. I mean, I think people have gotten a taste of what's in this really quick read of a book that Bob has written, Build a Stronger Marriage. Thank you for being with us and making the effort. It's so fun to see you, number one. But number two, just being here with us and sharing together and fellowshipping together. Thank you.

It's a delight. Always love being with you guys. And, you know, the core thing there, we're here for you.

As Bob said, I mean, we're speaking to you. And we hope that if you're in that situation where things aren't the way they should be and you feel it, act on it. Don't spend another decade waiting for something to improve in your marriage and not taking it to the garage to get the work done. Let us be at least that first mechanic that you can turn to to say, you know, let us help you with the tune up.

And Bob's book is a great way to do that. And also we have counselors, we have Hope Restored, the intensive effort that we provide that can help the more seriously strained marriages. But I mean, like Family Life Focus, we're just a giant resource center for you. Tap us and let us be present and be part of your healing. Yeah, we're a phone call away. And our number is 800, the letter A in the word family.

As Jim said, counselors, resources, so much to offer you. 800, the letter A in the word family. Or click the link in the show notes and you'll find details about Bob's book as well. And if you can make a donation of any amount to support the work of Focus as we come around marriages, come alongside, encourage, we would appreciate it so much. A monthly pledge or one-time gift will make a difference as we move forward with this ministry to couples. And we'd invite your participation today when you call 800-AFAMILY. When you donate, either a monthly gift or one-time donation, we'll say thank you by sending Bob's book to you. We want you to get this book and maybe share it with somebody in your circles. Well, join us tomorrow as we hear from Ray Vanderlaan, who has a special Good Friday message about Jesus, the Lamb of God. The people come into the city thinking maybe this year the Messiah will make his appearance and drive out our enemies with great power.

And here came this miracle worker from the Galilee and their natural reaction was to wave palm branches and to shout hosanna. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. The Adventures in Odyssey series already provides your family with trusted entertainment.

Now it's time to take it to the next level. Give your kids a safe, faith-focused and biblically-based community and so much more. Give your kids the Adventures in Odyssey Club. By joining the club, your family will gain on-demand access to the exciting Adventures in Odyssey series, including more than 900 episodes. Club membership also gives kids access to exclusive content, daily devotions and faith-building activities. The club allows each family member to engage at their own pace with customizable parental controls and closely monitored message boards. With more than 100,000 like-minded families already involved, the Adventures in Odyssey Club could be your best adventure yet. Learn more about exploring the Adventures in Odyssey Club for free at slash radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-06 06:43:16 / 2023-04-06 06:55:33 / 12

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