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How Waffles and Spaghetti Can Build a Stronger Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
May 18, 2023 6:38 am

How Waffles and Spaghetti Can Build a Stronger Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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May 18, 2023 6:38 am

Bill and Pam Farrel discuss differing approaches men and women take on marriage. They offer practical marital advice on how spouses can understand one another’s differences and even delight in them. The Farrels discuss communication challenges couples face — how women tend to address multiple topics and emotions all at once while men want to address one subject at a time. They describe how men and women can learn to relate to each other’s different styles and needs. (Part 1 of 2)


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Hi, Jim Daly here. Today's culture deeply needs help, but in times like these, the light of Christ can shine even brighter. So be encouraged to share his light in this broken world. Listen to the Refocus with Jim Daly Podcast. Without time limitations, I'll have deep heartfelt discussions with fascinating guests who will encourage you to share God's grace, truth, and love.

Check out the podcast at or wherever you get your podcasts. I usually think of women as more nurturing and men as more gruff. I feel like women can empathize more and oftentimes men just live very surface level. I would say that on average, men tend to be more like on a one-track mind, whereas women are able to multitask a lot more.

I think men come hardwired to physically defend and protect those they love. Well, I wonder if those comments resonate with you. Have you ever looked at your spouse and wondered, why are you so different? Well, we're going to be addressing that, those male-female personality differences today on Focus on the Family.

Your host is Focus President and author, Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. You know, in today's secular culture, the line between gender has become so blurred that for some people, masculinity and femininity are indistinguishable. I don't embrace that. I think it's quite distinguishable. And today we're going to spend time talking about how the genders are distinguishable. As Christians, we know that male and female differences have been part of God's design from the beginning. In Genesis 127, he tells us God created man in his own image, male and female. He created them.

So that's pretty much right there in front of us. Men and women are designed to fit together physically, emotionally, spiritually. And the different ways we think, feel and behave are meant to complement each other.

Sometimes it can grind each other. You know, the idea is we complement each other. Yeah, those differences tend, as you've said before time and again here on this show, the differences draw us together. And then we find out that I'm an introvert married to an extrovert, or I'm a night person married to a morning person, and sparks start to fly. And over time, we can get kind of crazy over those differences. Yeah, or the Tuesdays thing.

One from the end, one from the beginning. I still can't get Jean to squeeze it all up to the front, you know, but that's my bad. I'm just lacking patience. Okay, well, you and me both, brother. Bill and Pam, welcome to Focus. So great to be back here again. We raised our kids on Focus on the Family. Oh, that's always so good to hear. Now they're raising their kids on Focus on the Family.

Past performance doesn't guarantee future success. Something like that. That's the legal disclaimer. Yeah, well, our guests today are Bill and Pam Farrell. We love having them here. They're authors, speakers, relationship experts, longtime friends. They've written more than 50 books, and one of the classics. We're coming back to this book because it's just so good. Men are like waffles. Women are like spaghetti.

Understanding and delighting in your differences. And we've got copies of that here at the ministry. Check the show notes for all the details, or give us a call.

800, the letter A in the word family. All right, I've seen on the menu chicken and waffles, but I've never seen spaghetti and waffles. It might go well, I don't know, but why'd you pick that title?

Oh, wow. I guess we should tell the story about how I get started. First of all, we were looking for a food analogy.

Okay, you can cover that. Because we were looking for a way to be male friendly. Like we discovered working with people, like getting women to talk about relationships. Getting them to come to conferences.

Easy. Right, because it's like fishing at the hatchery to get a female to talk about a relationship. Getting men to talk about relationships is a little more difficult. So we were looking for a word picture that men would relate to. And the whole food analogy started actually in a very practical experience. I was working with our local youth basketball league. It's when Bill was lead pastor.

We were about 28, 30 years old. And a guy in the league named Montrell came up to me one day and he went, Hey, you're a pastor, right? And I went, yes. He goes, do you ever meet with couples? I said, yes.

He goes, okay, good. I want to bring my wife in because I think she's broken. That's not a good sign.

And I was really intrigued because I wanted to know what he meant by broken. And a guy was initiating. So I said, yeah, bring her in.

Let's meet and let's see how it goes. So we get to my office and his wife, Tabitha, is to this day probably the most verbal woman I've met. I know women, studies show they have more words to work with per day than the average man.

But like she's in the top 10, maybe top 5%. Wow, that's impressive. And they sat down and he looked at her and he went, go ahead. So she started talking from subject to subject to subject to subject to subject. And while she's talking, he looked at me and went, she does this all the time. He was panicked. Like I think something's wrong with her.

Like something's broken. Okay. So that was the point. Yeah. And in that moment, like it all kind of came together and I said to him, hey, why don't you think about her conversation like a plate of spaghetti? Like every thought's like a noodle on the plate and she has to touch every noodle on the plate before she's done. And he went, okay.

In fact, what do I do? And Bill taught him a few listening skills and he leaned in and she continued to talk from subject to subject to subject for 55 straight minutes. And then she sat back. She's like, oh, that was so good.

Probably because she hadn't been interrupted. And he. Right. And so he, she said, well, if I'm like spaghetti, what's he like? And I said, well, we're out of time for today, so we'll get together in a couple of weeks and I'll explain it to you. Wow. And I dismissed it. I said, okay, God, I have two weeks.

I need a food analogy that shows how men process information. So we knew they compartmentalized. And so we started praying and my boys were making toaster waffles and up popped the Eggo there. And I thought, you know, I think that'll work.

So I went back to this couple. I said, well, the way men process lives, it looks like the top of a waffle. Bunch of boxes. All those boxes are separated from one another by walls. And we as men, the first issue goes in the first box. Second issue goes in the second box.

Third issue goes in the third box and so on. And we deal with one issue in our life at a time. I said, it's his turn to talk this week. And I said to his wife, you can only talk about the subject he brings up. Because there was one subject that was pushing them to the edge of divorce.

And that's why he was motivated to come talk to Bill. And I knew I'd probably have to correct her several times because she would try to veer off. So six times I had to pull her back. I go, write that down. We can talk about that later.

But you've got to get back on subject. And they solved it in my office. Over time or in that day? In that day.

It was a financial thing they'd been trying to work through that they couldn't ever connect on. Boy, that is really good. Now, some people are saying, well, that's my husband you're describing. And I'm sure it's the 80-20 rule.

Is that fair? And do you see that? We do. That's a typical comment that we get is like, I'm not a typical woman or I'm not a typical guy. And we're really multi-layered. So gender is the first layer that God put into our minds.

X, X, X, Y. And then layered on top of that is our personalities, our families of origin, any pain or hurt that we've gone through. So we tried to deal with several of those topics in Men Are Like Waffles and Like Spaghetti. But we have to start with the easy fun one first. Oh, yeah.

This is so much more fun. And you mentioned people don't have waffles and spaghetti at the same time. Not typically. And it actually is kind of the point. Because one of the big points of our book is if you want to get your needs met in marriage, you need to take turns. And if you take turns meeting each other's needs, it tends to go really well.

If you try to force them to get met at the same time, you tend to get in conflict. Let's speak to the brain science because you did include some of that in the book. And this is really good. I think this is interesting stuff. Again, I think God creates it all, right? He puts those forces of nature in us and creates those brain pathways and our brain chemistry, etc. So what have you found in the brain science side? So the most significant part of the brain science is that women have more connections between the two sides of their brain than men do.

And women are going to say, told you so. Right. So when men are in the womb, like when boys are in the womb, there's a testosterone bath that takes place. It severs some of the connections between the two sides of the brain and sends a signal for other connections not to develop. And so women literally have more physical connections between the two sides of the brain. So they mix emotions and thoughts together very easily. Right. And men, we tend to stay on one side of the brain.

So we can kind of go front to back in one side of the brain very efficiently. And we tend to be very focused on solving problems because we're either looking for a creative solution or we're looking for an analytical solution. And we don't go back and forth between those.

Right. And so there are some situations in life that require that we got to stay focused and we got to stay on track. And men tend to be very good at leading those discussions. There's other decisions in life that require a mix of thoughts and emotions.

And you have to see down the road, like how is this going to affect our child 12 years from now? And women tend to see those connections really effectively. In fact, you mentioned that in the book literally that women are left right and then men are front back.

Describe that, just that geophysical thing and what's going on for us. So I'll start off with me. Like I tend to be analytical when I'm problem solving. So that puts me in the right side of the brain and I just stay focused. I'm looking for reasons. I'm looking for a structure.

I'm looking for a system. And when the situation requires that, I'm really good at leading that discussion. But Pam, on the other hand, she can connect emotions and thoughts together very easily. And by the way, guys, women tend to have better memories. You're killing me now, man. Jean is going to say, remember what Bill said.

She does, though. Well, but they're always connecting a thought to an emotion. And when you add an emotion to a thought, you remember it better. It's why we all know song lyrics, but we can't always remember a sermon.

Because the music connects both sides of the brain. So, like, I've just learned to rely. Pam's going to have a better memory about things that have happened in our life because she connects them very easily to the emotions of the moment.

Well, that's really fascinating. You know, in communication, we've touched on it a bit, but what advice do you have for us husbands who are trying to keep up with the rapid pace of topics that our wife might be, you know, talking to us about? So what I say to guys all the time is the greatest skill you can learn in your marriage is learning how to listen recreationally. And what I mean by that is, as men, we think there's always a point. You know, when your wife says, hey, let's talk, we're thinking, okay, there's a point. I've got to find the point. I need to give my input on the point, and we need to agree on the point. And that's not really how women operate all the time.

Like, at times, they do go there. But what women tend to do is they build trust by connecting. So if your wife thinks you are important, she wants to connect her life to you.

So she wants to tell you what she did, what she thought about doing and didn't do, what her mom had to say about it, what her sister had to say about it, how she would do it differently next time. And she's not looking for input on all of those thoughts. She's connecting her life to you. And when she gets enough of her life connected to you, you suddenly turn into a trustworthy individual in her life. And as men, we're always short-circuiting that process. And if we can learn to just turn off that fix-it mechanism, because as men, we just think there's a problem on the table and we need to fix it. We can just turn it off, pack up our bags, and go on a listening journey with our wife. And if there is a point, she will ask you.

She will say, I need your input on this. Because we're great problem solvers. We just do it differently. Men and women are both wonderful problem solvers.

But we are unique in the way that we deal with our issues. And what I like to tell guys is a lot of your conversations is like taking a walk. Like if you took a walk around the block with your wife, you wouldn't get home and say, okay, tell me everything you saw while we were walking.

Tell me which house had the dog in it. We don't review all the details. We just went for a walk. And if we can view conversation as we're taking a verbal walk with our wife, it helps keep her connected to us. Yeah. Now, the difficulty I fall into, I'm willing to listen to all that.

It sounds great. But then I want to complete a sentence when she's taking a little long. This is very frustrating to my wife. I still haven't learned how to just tone that down. I mean, for me, it's like, Annie went to the park? No, I didn't say he went to the park.

I was going to say he went to get coffee. I mean, I'm like, oh, I'm sorry. I am horrible at this. And I've got to work on it to be better at it.

But what am I doing? And all I can say, Jim, is thanks for representing the male side of the race. Okay, great. So this is common.

We all do it. Okay, good. Yeah, because, again, we all think there's a point. Like, I would never come to either one of you guys and say, hey, guys, I just want to hear how your week went.

Tell me all that you did and everything you felt. And, yeah, we're not going there as guys. I might say, hey, Jim, have you had a good week?

And if you say yes, I'll go, Jim's good. Well, that's it. Yeah, great.

Because if you weren't good, you'd tell me. Yep. And the same way we women, after raising all boys and hearing them talk about some of their interactions with the girls in their life and now, you know, their wives, it's really easy for we women to kind of go on and on and on. And so it's good if we can learn to, like, observe the glaze of the eyes when our husband is kind of, like, leaning back in his chair, getting a little bit, you know, too comfortable.

Maybe it's time to bat that conversation ball into his court and cut that conversation shorter. It's an absorption moment. Yes. We need more time to absorb. Here we go.

You know, we're acting like wax paper. One of our friends, he was, like, wanting to help his daughter have successful relationships later on with guys. And so he actually set a timer. Like, honey, you can talk for, like, five straight minutes, but then you need to ask me a question. Wow.

She's a great conversationalist now, has a happy marriage. That's a very... Proactive, right? Yeah, very dangerous request, but I'm glad it worked out for them. Well, I think dads can get away with it. Right. Yeah. Your husbands and boyfriends probably not. No.

That's true. Pam, you have a story in the book about a woman who was engaged. This is her fiancé, and he liked to work on cars, and she was worried about that. Kind of set that up, and how did she find an epiphany? Yeah, so we were youth pastors, and so this is a girl in the college ministry. So Bill did a lot of weddings back then.

Well, then he went to lead pastor and did plenty of weddings there, too. But she was coming to me. She's like, I'm really in love with my fiancé. I mean, he's a good moral man. He's good looking.

He's a great provider, but I'm kind of worried about him. I'm like, really? How come? She's like, well, I think that they call it emotionally shallow at university. And I just started to smile, because she just hadn't found the box that he felt comfortable in to open up and share his emotions. And so I said, well, tell me about your fiancé. She's like, he's a race car driver.

I said, oh, girl, then this is easy. You just go into the garage, and when you're in the garage, just repeat that key things to keep him talking. Key things.

Key things. So she goes into the garage, and of course he's talking about his race car, and he's talking about rods and pistons and flywheels, and she's dutifully repeating back those car parts. She didn't really have a clue what the car parts did, but she's repeating back the car parts. And all of a sudden he came out from underneath the car and he put his hand on the hood, and he's like, honey, wow, I'm so excited to get married to you. I'm just like, nobody's ever taken the time to love me like this.

I want to build us a big three-bedroom, two-bath house and a balcony out back and a front porch swing. I'll hang up and I'll put up a swing set for the kids that we'll have one day, and every day I'll bring you a skinny vanilla latte and I'll sit next to you on the swing, and I'll just listen to your heart. She told me later, I never want to leave the garage again because it works so well. And that's really one of the keys is find a box where your husband, your fiancé, your son, your dad loves. Park yourself in it and then just be a good listener and repeat that key phrases to keep him talking. And when you do that, the very best of who a guy is, his sweet emotions, it's like how syrup runs to the bottom of every one of those waffle box compartments.

The sweetest part of a guy is in the very bottom of every one of those waffle boxes. And we women just are impatient listeners sometimes, and so as we listen and repeat key phrases, then he'll open up and share what's important to him. You know, sometimes when we're talking about this subject, about gender communication, some people might think it's a little superficial, but the problem is couples struggle mightily in this area, and this is usually the fuse that gets lit, right? It comes down to communication. We do a lot of marriage intensives and marriage counseling here at Focus, and that's usually where things start to decline is in the communication area. Then it goes into the issue of money or intimacy or whatever it might be, but it usually starts with communication. Well, communication reveals a level of trust in the relationship. So, for instance, on this guy's side, when a man wants to start a conversation with his wife, he's got a topic in mind he wants to talk about. And if he can work with his wife to actually resolve that topic or be heard on that topic, he's going to feel like he's succeeded.

If the subject runs off track, he's going to feel like he didn't succeed. And the way men build trust is I want to be with people I can succeed with. And women, they want to be with people they can connect to. So if the wife feels connected and the husband feels like he can succeed, trust is high. If trust is low, then we bring it out on each other in communication. So the real issue here is trust. And a lot of men are frustrated in their marriages because they don't feel like they can talk to their wives.

Because every time I try to bring something up with her, we go on this roller coaster ride and when we're done, I don't even know what we're talking about. And he was trying to resolve something with her, and he just ends up being frustrated. And when a man feels like he can't succeed, he'll just stop working at it.

He pulls back. He'll go do something else that he can't succeed at. And so a lot of men don't develop into communicators at the level they could because they don't think they can succeed.

Yeah. In fact, in the book, you encourage couples to fight for their relationship rather than fighting with each other. You know, that makes so much sense, but emotions can steer you in directions that make no sense. So speak to that idea, and how do we remember that in the heat of the moment? So one of the things we have discovered is when emotions get involved, you start having conversations with each other that you don't even know how you got there. You know, you bring up some subject and then she reacts emotionally, he reacts emotionally, he gets defensive.

She thinks, oh, there's a problem here, so she pushes a little bit harder. And pretty soon you're like, what are we arguing over? Yeah.

And we can't even remember. And so we encourage couples to develop a password between the two of them so you can interrupt that process. What does that sound like? So I'll give you the big example from our life. Like one of the things I love about Pam, and the general principle. The thing you love most about your spouse can become a source of irritation. That thing you first fell in love with can tick you off after a while.

Turn the coin over. Feel the emotion right there. So one of the things I love about Pam, she's very creative. She has lots of fun ideas. I've had way more fun in my life because I'm married to her than I would have ever had on my own. But when I got married, I didn't realize it applied to everything. So everything she does is creative.

And there's times that it's really irritating. For instance, first 10 to 15 years of our marriage, we would have a really nice evening together. Pam would think, oh, I've got Bill's attention. And she would start sharing her ideas with me. And these ideas tend to be pretty large because she's got pretty big faith in our Savior. So she shares big ideas. So I would think, okay, well, here's a big idea on the table. And I'm thinking in my mind, she's sharing this because she wants me to consider it. And we might be doing this idea. So I'm processing, okay, I think we could do this.

It'd be a little bit of a chat. And then she would share the second idea. And then the third. Okay, we got two. Now we're high energy people.

And I walk with Jesus. We can probably do this, but it's going to eat up all our free time, all of our free. And then she shared the third idea. Overload.

How in the world? We could barely get the first two done. Now she got a third. And then she'd share a fourth one. And I would think, this woman's crazy.

Like, there's no way we could do all four of these ideas. And she's still talking while I'm processing all this. And then she'd share the fifth idea. And I would think, if I don't shut this down right now, she's going to ruin our life.

That's dramatic. A lot of our really nice evenings ended with this really strange tension between the two of us. And after 10 years, I realized she hasn't really acted on most of these ideas. So I went to her and I said, Pam, are all these ideas you share with me important? Of course, they're my ideas. Okay, wrong question. What I really mean is, do I have to do something with every idea you share with me?

Of course not. I don't even do anything with most of my ideas. Okay, so if you share an idea with me that I don't want to act on, can I say to you, Pam, that is a great idea. Yeah, that's a good idea. I like that. And it gave me a way to compliment Pam on her creativity while I was telling her this idea is dead in the water.

Bill doesn't have to do anything with it. Now, I would ask, being in my waffle mode, so what is it when you think an idea should be acted on? What do you say? Right, then I'll say, hun, I've got a great idea, want to run it by you. And that run it by you is the part of the password. Is the code word. Yes, exactly.

For this is more serious than all my other ideas. Exactly, exactly. That's good communication. And you know, it could be like anything. It can be a line from a movie. It can be a funny, you know, card.

It can be an inside joke. So there's three things that make a good password. And the first is it's tied to a good memory. And so we have that.

That's a great idea. But we also had it show up early in our marriage. Because one of our favorite movies was the original Rocky movie.

Okay. And so Rocky was trying to get Adrian's attention. So he'd go into the pet store every day, same dumb joke. Yo Adrian, you know what you get when you tap a turtle on the back? You get shell shock. Get it?

Shell shock. Which is a really dumb joke. And I don't even do a good imitation.

I think it's pretty good. But it got us laughing about our relationship. Right. And so Bill would say something.

It hurt my feelings. I'd run to our room. I'd slam the door. I'd look back to see if Bill was following me. And there was this pattern as a newlywed until one day.

Right. So I'm watching all this happen and I'm like, what do I do with this? Like when your wife runs out of the living room, slams the bedroom door, are you supposed to follow her? Or are you supposed to sit in the living room and outlast the behavior?

One guy in Florida said, run Forrest, run. So my best guess was to go in and try to just encourage her. Say, look, whatever you think I said, I didn't mean it the way you're taking it. And we would kind of resolve things, but not really. And so the idea of using humor finally kicked in one day. We had Pam's brother over for dinner. And Bill said something that hurt my feelings. So I ran to the room, slammed the door, threw myself across the bed, looked back. But it was my brother, Brett, who walked in applauding.

He took a trophy down off the wall. He's like, now for best actress, we have Pam Farrell. And that made you feel really good. We were in so much trouble. Bill thought he was in trouble. I started laughing. I'm like, my brother so knows me. And Bill's like, oh, wow, humor helps. So tied to a good memory, the Rocky movie, humor helps.

And then the last is. Well, the next time that she did that run to her room. Slammed the door, looked back. Instead of like trying to convince her I didn't mean what she thought I said. Instead I walked in and I went, yo, Pam, would you give me a dab of turtle in the back?

And it got her laughing. Which we can use in any like you can be in the middle of an argument and either one of us can go, yo, we can tap the turtle on our hand. Yeah, I think I'll try that. I want to know tomorrow how that goes. The last thing is you should both agree upon it, like suck it up and get over it.

Probably not a real effective password. No, these are good thoughts and ideas. And we are getting into it. But we've run out of time today. So I want to come back next time and go a little deeper and, you know, talk about those harmful and hurtful things that can happen and what we can do to kind of redirect that energy. And are you willing to do that?

OK, let's do it. And obviously this is a great book. Men are like waffles. Women are like spaghetti. I wouldn't recommend eating them at the same time, but maybe you want to.

I'd go chicken and waffles, but that's just me. But get a copy of this book. I think it is a humorous way to get into some very serious discussions with your spouse. And especially if it's not working well, if there is something going on in your communication that you're finding clunky, this is a good first step. And, you know, obviously there's other steps for more serious situations like our hope restored intensive counseling, which is always there for you.

The bottom line is get in touch with us and, you know, let's make this fun. If you can give a gift of focus of any amount, if you could do that on a monthly basis, that's great. We'll send you a copy of the book as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry together. And that way everybody is taken care of.

So donate today either monthly pledge or one time gift. Request your copy of the book. Men are like waffles.

Women are like spaghetti. Our number is 800, the letter A in the word family. Or you'll find all the details in the show notes. And while you're at the website, you'll also find a link to our focus on the family marriage assessment, which is a terrific tool for you and your spouse to spend a few minutes answering questions on this survey. And then you'll walk away with a better understanding of what the strong points of your marriage are and maybe some areas to grow.

You'll have some talking points as well. It's all right there at the website. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back next time as we continue the conversation with Bill and Pam Farrell, and once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ. This weekly based counseling will help you find the root of your problems and face challenges together. We'll talk with you, pray with you and help you find out which program will work best. Call 1-866-875-2915.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-18 09:27:40 / 2023-05-18 09:40:53 / 13

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