Just looking at your spouse again, just listening to them, just being present with them, just celebrating them. Even this comfort of looking at their face and mimic, not mock, but mimic the look on their face that you're getting them. I'm getting where you're coming from, whether that's frustration or excitement, wherever you are on that continuum. But just to pause and take a breath and say, you know what, I don't have to figure all this out. The God of the Universe loves me and wants to help me reset my mind, and I don't have to change my spouse.
I just need to change my mind. Well, that's Ted Lowe, and he's our guest today on Focus on the Family. Thanks for joining us. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. Well, I'm pretty sure most experts would agree that there is great power in thinking positively, and before you say, that's new age.
No, no, it's biblical. Embracing a positive mindset can boost your confidence, ward off depression and anxiety. How about that? Help you manage stress. There's a whole lot of benefits like that that research has shown. But did you know that thinking more positively of your spouse can change your marriage? How about that?
It's pretty straightforward, right? You think positively, you're going to have a positive marriage. Today, we're going to help you better understand how to shift in your thoughts from the negativity to the positivity, and help you have a healthier and happier marriage.
And yes, it's biblical. And we've got Ted Lowe here. He's a senior communicator at Family First, and he's also a popular speaker, writes books, and we'll be talking about one of those today. It's called Us in Mind, How Changing Your Thoughts Can Change Your Marriage. Stop by our website for your copy.
The link is in the show notes, or call 800, the letter A, and the word family. Ted, welcome to Focus. Thanks for having me, you guys. It's fun. It always is good to come and help John and I with our respective marriages. So this is therapy for us, and I'm sorry, we just try to do it for free. Okay, I'll do what I can.
I'll do what I can. Let me ask you, it's kind of funny. You kind of got thrown into the marriage end of pastoring, because I guess you were standing in a room, and somebody said, do we have a volunteer to run the marriage ministry? Everybody left, and you had your earbuds in, or something.
That's more truth than me. I got hired as the director of marriage life at our church, when Nita and I had been married for six years at the time, and we weren't even that great at it. So we look back now, we don't know it was crazy, or the church offered me the position, or me for saying yes.
So is that like a God thing, or what went down? I think that it was. I mean, if nothing else, I was enthusiastic.
I thought, I'm going to learn everything there is. So yeah, we do think it was a God thing, and has been a great journey ever since, and this was 2001. Yeah, good. So you're at it now, and you're a professional. Oh, I don't know about that.
I don't know about that. Do we ever get there? I would hope people would understand we're always a work in process, even those of us that talk about it often, as part of our vocation.
That's so true. Listen, you have done some interesting things in us in mind, and I want to highlight a few of those, obviously, over the next 25, 30 minutes. You identified three mysteries of marriage that led you on that journey.
What are the three? Let's go right to the jugular. You know, it was funny. In 2020, for some reason, I had a little bit more time on my hands to do a little research. Yeah, because you couldn't go grocery shopping.
Yeah, I'll just stay home and research. But after doing this for 20 plus years, I thought, I've got a couple of questions that I want to get to the bottom of. I would wonder why is it that some couples will come to a marriage retreat or hear broadcasts like this or read a marriage book, and they'll apply what they're learning, while another couple will see the same thing, read the same thing, and won't apply anything.
So I started digging into that piece. And then why is it that some couples will get divorced without even seeking any counsel first? That was blowing me away. And then why is it some couples thrive, some couples get stuck, some couples just survive? What's the difference? And what it all came down to in the research was that happy couples think in a way that unhappy couples don't. And it was asking the question of, what is it that couples that would say, we're doing great in our marriage? So much of the research, which is very important, is around couples who are struggling, which that's very important. But I wanted to know, what about the couples that are really crushing it, that are really doing great? And all the research was pointing back to the same thing, that our thoughts matter most to our marriage, which I'd never thought about it that way. And I think it's the thing a lot of us are not thinking about. No one taught me in school or church, for that matter, that I need to question my thoughts. I just believed every thought that I had. And Scripture is very clear that that should not be the case.
Taking captive. It's the opposite. No autopilot thinking, and I never thought about that. So happy couples just think in a way that unhappy couples don't. You use a term in there in terms of that positivity called positive illusion.
Yeah. Now, what does that mean? So Dr. Helen Fisher did a fascinating study, Brain Skins, on couples who reported being madly in love after average of 21 years.
So these were long term couples. And there were three areas of the brain that had higher level of activity than average. And one of them is the part of our brain that's responsible for this thing called positive illusions. And it's the ability to focus on what you do love and not focus on what you don't. And these couples that were happy, especially long term couples, they just had this ability that I'm going to see the good and I'm going to pretty much ignore the bad. Now, red flags are going up everywhere right now as people are listening, and I understand that. Just turning a blind eye.
Just turning a blind eye. But it's not that at all. But it's the ability to see what we love and not focus less on what we don't. And these couples had that.
Yeah, I mean, it's really fascinating. Let's hit that issue of the theological basis for this. I teased it in the beginning, but you're the pastor. So when you're talking about positivity in marriage, that can be misconstrued. So what's the theological underpinning for the idea that, no, being positive in your marriage is biblical? Well, you go to Philippians 4-8 and say, just run your spouse through the Philippians 4-8 filter, which starts with whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is right. And so the fact that that verse starts with true is really a great protector of anyone who's being abused psychologically or physically.
If that's true, then that can't be, right? So this is not about rose-colored glasses. This is not about just saying I'm going to fake it or not communicating. But it starts with what's true, and then it goes to what's noble, what's pure, what's right, what's lovely. If anything is worthy of praise, think on those things. And so I think when people have a running list, what do you love about your spouse? I think it postures us to love our spouse in a way that we would never naturally love them on our own.
Yeah. Just the simplicity of being positive, why does it have such a strong impact on us? I mean, it's kind of a duh question, but somebody might be thinking it. Well, I think one study shows that 80 percent of our thoughts are negative and 90 percent of them are repetitive, and that we have between 16,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day. So with all that going on, with all that negativity going on, when we stop and we get positive, we take captive. When we transform our marriage by transforming our mind, by renewing our minds, it changes things. We start to see things through a different lens, and that's why scripture is so clear.
And I got so excited about that just to think that our relationship with Jesus could really transform us by us feeling his love for us and remembering and focusing on that and focusing on who he is. It's just powerful. Yeah. You know, one thing I've noticed, and this isn't too stereotyped, but I do see it most often in women, the sense of guilt, if something doesn't go right or if something wasn't done right, they're very quick to put that on themselves. I think our egos for men are just a little big, and it's always the other guy's fault.
Just like Adam in the garden, right? It was the woman you gave me, Lord. And to that extent, that person that can feel like I'm not good enough, that woman that takes on that burden, that maybe my husband's better than I am, or she perceives that, and she says her negativity is I'm not good enough. How does she deal with that?
How does she get that bucket emptied and fill up the, you know what, God has given me this man as a husband, and this is good, and we can move forward, and she doesn't need to wear that guilt. That's a great question. The second chapter of the book is what do you think about yourself? It's typically more critical, I would think. I absolutely think.
In fact, that is one of the things personally that I've struggled with. In fact, I call him Fred in my head. The other guy? The other guy.
I golfed with him. Listen, Fred is not kind to me, and so what I started to find out as we started teaching this, marriage retreats and different things, I have so many people come up and say, I have a Fred. I have an inner critic in my head, and here's the thing with Fred. Fred can become louder than the voice of God. So if you are to process those thoughts, to answer your question about somebody that's really struggling, I give an exercise in the book to kind of, I say, this is how you get Fred out of your head, and this is where you start hearing more of God's voice and less of Fred's voice, and it's been one of the things that people have responded to the most, and you say, what in the world does, what do you think about yourself?
What does it have to do with your marriage? Well, it's got everything, because it increases our anxiety when we listen to Fred. It increases our self-doubt. We're not as present. We're not as available. We're not as good a listener. They're not living with the best version of ourselves. We tend to want God-sized things from our spouse that they can't give us when we're listening to Fred, but when we lean back and remember and focus on whose we are, it's transformational. It really is. Well, this is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, and our guest today is Ted Lowe, and we're so grateful for what he's captured in his book, Us in Mind, How Changing Your Thoughts Can Change Your Marriage.
Contact us for your copy. It's 800-A-FAMILY, or stop by the show notes for the link. Ted, let me ask you, this might be the question of our time together, but how can we start to change our mindset toward our spouse if someone's listening or watching going, yeah, that's me. 80% of my thoughts are negative about myself and about my spouse. How do you arrest that and get that under control and put Fred and Freddie or Frederica back in the box and have a more positive, joy-filled life? Well, if we just focus on what do you think about yourself, there's five intentional thoughts in the book, but if we just focus on what do you think about yourself, I'll give an exercise in there, and this exercise has been proven.
It's been around for 30 years. It's just nobody knew it, but it's basically you name your Fred, you give your Fred a name, Fred or Frederica. You give them a name, and what that does is it separates those thoughts from you. It gives them distance from them, and then you write down those negative thoughts, and when you see those on a piece of paper, when you see them and you capture them, you see how concrete they are, you can see more easily why they're not true, why they're not kind, and would Abba really say this to me? Would my Abba really say this to me?
And then it gives people categories. What types of thoughts does Fred typically use with you? Is he a mind reader? Is he saying, oh, I know what they were really thinking about you? Is he a fortune teller?
Oh, I can tell you how this is going to go. I mean, Fred tends to have, I call them side hustles, different ways to talk to people, and then finally to say, write down what would your Abba say back to you, and this is where you pull in Scripture, what would my Abba say to this? Because, yes, he might convict you, but he's never going to condemn you. And so when you see this in front of you, it just changes things, and it's pretty powerful because it can feel pretty instant when you see that, and you go, wait a minute, this is not true of me.
This is not true. You know, the person listening is going, ah, this is, forget this, I mean, a Fred thing, what are you talking about? But they most likely do have that flesh or that impression about the things that they're not good enough at, spiritually, physically, whatever it might be. I wish I played golf better, and I think to myself, why in the world am I going out there again just to shank a few balls? But, you know, it's pleasure. It's something you do for fun and relaxation. You don't have to be an expert at it or a professional at it, but, you know, even something so simple like that. You and Nancy, your wife, you have a phrase that you share to keep this kind of on track.
Maybe that'll be helpful. Help me with that phrase. What is it? So we have a phrase at our house that we say, we know tragedy and this ain't it. Yes, I know that's poor grammar, but it gives it a little more punch. It gets the point. Okay, I like it. We experienced several years of grief, and so somewhere along the way, there came this phrase that we use called, we know tragedy and this isn't it.
And so it will come up with different things. Like, for instance, I took my daughter on a trip with me to New York, and we decide we're already in New York. Let's just go to Manhattan, you know, because that's what we do, the Teds. We make impulsive decisions, and I booked a hotel, but I booked it on the wrong night.
And then when I got there, they said I couldn't cancel it, and they were going to charge me double. And my wife is very good with finances. Dave Ramsey is her hero, so she's very, very good with finances. So I called her and told her about the mistake, and she could have very easily and justifiably gotten really frustrated with me. But instead, she said, you know what, we know tragedy and this isn't it. And I think sometimes people will withhold seeing the best in their spouse because they say if I don't get frustrated with them, they're going to keep doing these things over and over.
And I say that's not marriage, that's parenting, and I don't even think it's great parenting. To say, look, here's the thing, I didn't need her to make me feel bad about that. I already felt bad about that.
In fact, I'm terrified to order anything online now, and I will spin my computer around and go, can I push purchase here? But I look back at that, and that allowed me to have a day with my daughter. That was a gift from her.
Oh, yeah. That was a gift of grace from her. And because we do know tragedy, and when you do know tragedy, and I'm sure a lot of people listening, they would say the same thing, that when you put that lens, it eliminates the petty stuff. And I watch people get so frustrated with their spouse about mistakes that they would never get frustrated with someone else about. I watch a young couple coming up from the beach, little kids.
You could tell it had been a long day. Mom hands Dad a beach bag. Hold this. Dad sits it up on the fence. Immediately, beach bag falls, stuff goes everywhere.
Mom is not happy, and she is letting Dad know it. And I thought, I don't know their story, obviously, but I thought if her friend had been with her and her friend had let the bag drop, would she have responded the same way? I don't think so because friend would have gotten a new friend. So I think when we can just see the best, it eliminates all this petty stuff. If you can just see the best in their mistakes, it changes things. The point I was going to make, I thought about that because I think when that intimacy is high, like a spouse, that you can treat that spouse like yourself. So when I see something like that happen, what comes to my mind is that's the internal negativity that she has or he has toward himself and feels comfortable enough to express that to their spouse. Wouldn't do it to a friend, but they would be so upset at themselves that that bag tipped over, and I was so dumb to not put it on the ground.
Why was I so stupid? And then bang, it just goes right to the spouse. Absolutely. I guess you could say that's one flesh definition, but I think that's the comfortableness of their guilt, I think.
What do you think of that? I think you're right. I think some people's friend, they have a different type of friend. Their friend says if people had only listened to you, if she would only do it your way, if he would only do it your way, when is he ever going to learn? They play the blame game. So you've got kind of a different type of friend that's forcing all this frustration that's more outwardly focused, and I think that can be what happens sometimes.
People are living in this level of frustration. And you mentioned there's a safety in marriage, and we can use that safety for intimacy or we can use that safety to hurt them, because what do people say? I talk to them like that because I can.
Well, because you can is the very reason you shouldn't, right? We reserve so much of the best of us for even strangers. Do you have time to even flash that through your mind? I mean, our minds work incredibly fast.
They're amazing what God has created. But for you to say, whoa, okay, how would I treat my friend before I say this to my spouse? That'd be a great question.
I think I'm going to try to do that, but just hopefully it can catch me before my mouth speaks. Well, there's a chapter on what do you think about your response? Because when your brain is triggered by your spouse, it's called the amygdala. It's the same part of your brain that's triggered. If you were to accidentally put your hand on a hot stove, boom, boom, the frontal lobe, which is where all your logic is, goes out to lunch.
So people are so reactive. So the amygdala is great, but it's too efficient when it comes to marriage. And so James 1 19 and 20, this is where I love to have scripture and science.
They have no conflict whatsoever on this. You know, if your brain is triggered and you're not thinking for a solid eight seconds, what is James 1 19 and 20? Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. I will say personally, the most regrettable moments in my life as a dad and as a husband is when I did not pause. So that one of the five intentional thoughts is just pause. Let your brain come back online. Let the logical part of your brain invite God into the process. Like people, where does God fit into marriage? In those moments when your husband drops the bag, take a breath, take a deep breath, pause, and then respond the way you want to in those logical times.
People only talk about frustrated things oftentimes in the middle of frustrating things. Yeah. Hit those five.
Gotcha. So the first one starts off with remember who you are in your child of God. The second one is see the best, which is your spouse. The third one is choose empathy.
The fourth one is pause in the fifth one is love first. Yeah, that's good. First, I like that, you know, I'm thinking of application here.
So these are just kind of down at the ground level for me. But there's times with Jean and I were, you know, she's feeling something so deeply because she's so well wired and connected. And I'm just not keeping up with her or I'm running from it because I don't know how to manage it myself. And so, you know, I feel like I start to apply the antidotes, the fix. It's like, well, if you didn't talk to that person for another, you know, whatever it might be. And she's just looking at me like, are you serious?
Did I ask you for help? But but in that context, that advice that you might have for just the normal couple that that is part of it, where the guy is not connected as emotionally and is kind of out there in the field of vastness when it comes to a wife going through something deep or, you know, connected a little more thoroughly than we are. What do you do in that situation? This is the chapter perhaps for us that is the freshest for us in terms of application, because Nancy and I are both fixers. We are both fixers. And she said to me one time, I would typically, if she told me anything was bothering her, I immediately I was like a relational Bob the Builder. Can I fix it?
Yes, I can. And she would share something going on with and I'm a million to fix it mode. And then she would not respond well. And I would make her emotions about me.
And I would say, you don't respect my opinions. Instead, one time she finally puts words to it. She goes, I don't need you to fix this. I need you to feel this, which I wish I could say, oh, I've not been meeting that emotional need.
My mistake. I think I probably rolled my eyes and thought, well, that sounds ridiculous. I told her, I said, that's like me seeing you broken down on the side of the road in the minivan with the kids.
Me driving up and going, oh, that looks really tough. I'll see you at home. That's how that feels with me.
But for her, she said, I don't want you to fix this. I want you to feel this. And so we just use the passage, rejoice with those who rejoice and cry with those who cry. And there's so much research behind this. And one of the things I get really excited about in the research is the rejoice with those who rejoice. Because one study shows that how we celebrate with our spouse is more predictive of a strong relationship than how we fight.
And I think that's one of the things that we're missing. I think when we think about empathy, which is what we're talking about here, is to have empathy with our spouse. Say things like that's understandable.
That is so understandable. Full stop, because the opposite of that is so tough. But back to the celebration part, it is that when they make bids and they get excited about something, if they smile about something, you smile back. If they're laughing about something, you laugh with them.
Let's go to the last thing we can cover today. And I'm just thinking of that wife or that husband who's in a spot saying, yeah, but you don't know my spouse. He or she comes home and it's just not clicking.
It's not working. What are some things they can do pretty immediately to try to arrest that negativity and move it in a more positive biblical direction? Right. It's a big question.
It is a big question. But I think if we just rewind and we go back to Philippians 4.8 to stop, because the whole book is written to individuals. Nowhere do I say as a couple you need to do this, because I wanted to give power to the individual to change their thoughts. So, so often, you know, I'll teach at marriage retreats and people are always coming up to me, I'm so glad my husband's here to hear that, or I'm so glad my wife was here to hear that.
No, no, I'm just going to be talking to you. And so I just talked to the individuals. And so I think when we go back and you go, OK, I'm going to reset my mindset about my marriage and I'm going to reset my mindset about my spouse. And you start listing and you've got to write them down when you see them, it's different.
You list what are those things about them? And it starts wiring you in a different way to respond in a different way to each other, to look at empathy. What's so fascinating about empathy and even eye contact can be so simple. The research shows that when you make eye contact with your spouse, it creates empathy in your brain for them. And so just looking at your spouse again, just listening to them, just being present with them, just celebrating them. Even this comfort of looking at their face and mimic, not mock, but mimic the look on their face that you're getting them. I'm getting where you're coming from, whether that's frustration or excitement, wherever you are on that continuum. But just to pause and take a breath and say, you know what, I don't have to figure all this out. The God of the universe loves me and wants to help me reset my mind. And I don't have to change my spouse.
I just need to change my mind. Well, and that's critical what you're saying. It's your list, not their list. You're not creating the list about them.
You're creating the list about yourself and where you're at. You know, that's so true and so refreshing that you don't have to worry not only for yourself, but the other person. There's enough to worry about within you with your relationship with the Lord to try to improve. And that to me is one of the best things you could do in marriage is don't set up to change the other person.
Just work on your own attitude. I appreciate that. Ted, this has been great.
Thank you so much. And I'm so encouraged that you are showing once again how science undergirds scripture. The scripture is not in conflict with science. And it's awesome to see that, especially brain science, you know, because there's so much there like James and other references in scripture point to. And it helps us better understand God who created all of it. And let me turn to the listener. Helping you have a thriving Christ-centered marriage is one of our core missions here at Focus on the Family.
That's why we cover content like this. But with all the growing economic challenges in our nation and a barrage of unhealthy messages from the culture, more and more marriages are in trouble. That means we need help and we need to do this together. You can help husbands and wives just like yourself redeem their marriages through our Hope Restored marriage intensives. And the work Hope Restored is doing for marriages is outstanding.
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Currently, we have locations in Missouri, Georgia, Michigan, Phoenix, and also adding Wimberley, Texas, outside of Austin soon. So we are moving capacity up so that we can get more and more marriages saved and reduce the Christian divorce rate. That is the goal. So I want to ask you, will you help us? In addition to Hope Restored, your support allows Focus on the Family to continue providing resources like this broadcast, podcast, counseling resources, print and online materials, mentor training, special events, and so much more. Just $30 saves one marriage through our Hope Restored Marriage Intensive and other resources.
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We've got all the details in the episode notes. Join us tomorrow as you'll hear how godly moms can raise godly sons. This is your time in history, mom. This generation needs mothers who will selflessly embrace this blessed calling of motherhood and raise sons and daughters who are courageous and righteous. 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 as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. We'll talk with you, pray with you and help you find out which program will work best. That's 1-866-875-2915.
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