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Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
March 14, 2024 2:00 am

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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March 14, 2024 2:00 am

Amber and Guy Lia discuss common, everyday things – from house cleaning and backseat driving to workaholism and lack of intimacy – which can provoke anger and tension in marriage. Our guests explain how couples can identify those 'triggers' and deal with them in a healthy way. Jim Daly's wife, Jean, joins the conversation. (Part 2 of 2)


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Lonnie and Kay were high school sweethearts, but over time, the never-ending conflict and their loss of love threatened to tear their marriage apart. When we filled out our forms with Focus on the Family, they asked us if we believed in a miracle, if we were willing to allow a miracle to happen. And, you know, with all my heart, that's what I wanted. Lonnie and Kay attended Hope Restored, where Focus counselors help heal and restore broken relationships, giving husbands and wives godly hope for the future. I guess what I'd say is I cherish her now more than I did before, and I have a way that I can communicate to her that I did not have before, and Focus on the Family has given me that ability. I'm Jim Daly. Working together, we can save more families like Kay and Lonnie's every month.

Become a friend to Focus on the Family by calling 800-A-FAMILY or donate at slash family. The Lord eventually started to say, Amber, you are Ms. All Wrong, and He's Mr. Wrong, but that's because nobody is perfect. There is no perfect person except for Jesus Christ, and so that's what I had to come to.

It was like, you know what? We made a vow. God did bring us together. He is wrong. I'm wrong, but that's because we're two people that are sinful.

We need to yield to being perfected in Christ day by day. Well, Guy and Amber Leah are back with us today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller, and we're going to continue to help you find a more peaceful existence with your spouse and really tamp down those conflicts that, Jim, unfortunately come up from time to time for married couples.

Yeah, they do. We talked about that last time. I thought it was very fun, but it was deep too.

It had great content. If you didn't hear our program last time, get the download. Download the app on your smartphone.

Go to the Focus website. You can listen there. There's a verse in Romans that catches my attention. If it's possible, the verse says, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Now, I don't know that we always think about that verse in the context of our spouses, but that would be the first place to apply it, right? Live at peace with your spouse. If that describes where you're at, maybe not at peace with your spouse and you need to be at peace with your spouse, today's program is going to be for you because God's mercies are new every morning.

As you listen to today's program, I'd encourage you to surrender your marriage and your heart to the Lord in this area of your life. Guy and Amber are some great guests. As Jim said, the last conversation we had with them was wonderful. They're relationship coaches.

They're TV production professionals. They've written a book called Marriage Triggers, Exchanging Spouses' Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses. What a great deal.

Yes. And we do have, of course, that book here at the ministry. Give us a call if you'd like a copy. And Jim, we should mention that your wife Jean has joined. I think that's very brave of you to invite Jean into the studio.

You took the words right out of my mouth, John. No, it's great to have Jean with us. Welcome, Jean. Well, thank you. I love being here. And so many people, yeah, so many people love it when you're here, so thanks for saying yes. Guy and Amber, thanks for being back with us.

Thanks for having us. Let's get into it. Marriage Triggers.

I'm sure people listening right now are thinking of all kinds of triggers that they might have. We talked about a few last time, the backseat driver. Jean and I had to navigate that a bit.

We're both backseat drivers. And then just the expectation. I think out of last time, the thing that I captured the most was how to manage your expectations in your relationship. And Amber, you did a beautiful job describing that as a new bride and what you expected Guy to live up to, which was basically God. Yes, exactly.

Sure. Unattainable. I think all of us guys were going, whew, finally a woman said it.

I can't be that. And I so appreciate that honesty. Let's kick off today, Amber, with your love language. It's something Gary Chapman is the author of the Love Language book.

He's been on Focus many times. He's a great friend. And you identify with words of affirmation. Jean, I think you would agree with that for you, right?

Sure, absolutely. Words of affirmation is your core love language. But you describe Guy as pretty much pathetic in that delivery mechanism of words of affirmation. Right. Is that fair, Guy?

Did I over-momentize that? That's very fair. I think, just to be honest, Jean might agree with Amber that I, too, am pathetic at delivering in that love language. Jean, do you want to affirm that?

That's pathetic is so harsh. There's room to grow. Room to grow. What a good HR person you are. You've got room to grow. So, Amber, describe that area where, you know, this is how you communicate.

That's Gary Chapman's conviction on this. Everybody's wired with a certain communication style, things that affirm your heart. Words of affirmation are what affirm your heart, what affirms Jean's heart. How did Guy let you down and Jean get ready?

I'll come to you about how I've let you down. Yeah, and, you know, that book, Gary Chapman's ministry, was profoundly impacting on me early on in those early days of our marriage because it gave me a concrete understanding of why some of these triggers were also taking advantage of our relationship because we were not feeding each other. But early on, especially when I recognized that my love language was words of affirmation, Guy's is really acts of service. You know, he would just, I mean, our kitchen was sparkling. I mean, I never had to do a dish and I loved that, but he just thought he was loving me so well because I never had to dry a dish and put it away. I mean, and he was excellent. He's still excellent at that. I still don't do dishes to this day, really.

I mean, he's so good at that. But I was just starving for that affection and I couldn't understand why he wouldn't get with the program. Did you ever talk that out? I mean, did you ever sit down? I'm pretty sure that his book was the first book that was given to me by my wife.

It was actually the DVD set for the drive in my 45 minute commute every day. There's a hint. But, you know, we were so triggered for so long that we couldn't even get to the point where we were doing that really well for one another, giving each other what each other needed. What was that turning point then? Crisis where I just thought, you know what, I'd come to a day where I was in so much pain in our relationship and I just finally, it was just a God thing where I came to the end of my tether and I just said, I have to either do something radically different or tomorrow's going to look just like today. And because my efforts in trying to fix my husband and be his Holy Spirit voice were not working, I knew the only person that I could control was myself. And so I just started with, Lord, and here's a really, I think, important underestimated prayer is, Lord, I'm not sure what to do, but I know that you know what to do. And so I'm just going to be an open book. I need you to just cleanse me and show me what to do, think and say, because I don't know what to do, Lord.

It's in your hands. I ironically had to, it's one of those situations where you see your wife walk by you and you think to yourself, wow, she looks absolutely stunning, but it stays in me and doesn't come out of my mouth to her. And because I, for some reason, I just wasn't purposeful about getting that out and telling her what I was thinking in those moments.

And that's what she needed is she wanted to hear those things. I appreciate you. I appreciate what you did yesterday, those kinds of things.

And I just didn't verbalize it. So I found myself having to schedule in my calendar twice a day. I would do a reminder in my calendar that just said, think Amber, and it would pop up. It would be a quick reminder on my Blackberry at the time. And it would just say that it would be purposeful for me to call her and say something or to remember. And not that I did it all the time, but I needed a prompt to like remind myself that she needed something. It was okay.

And honestly, for me, it didn't remove the meaningfulness of it because at least he was working towards it. Now, Amber and Guy, you make a statement in the book where you're identifying a question that God often puts on both of your hearts during arguments and misunderstandings. That's really spiritually sensitive that you can hear the Lord as you're arguing.

That's far better than me. I usually have to calm down and then, okay, Lord, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that.

And I love what it is. Do you want to win the argument or do you want love to win? That is a beautiful starting point and one that most of us couples just blow right by. Again, when you get to a place of brokenness and you say, God, I don't know what to do, but I need you to show me. He will show up for you. You can always count on God to be there to you. He hears our prayers.

He hears the ache in your heart that you can't even put into words. And that's where I was. And so I remember very vividly being at a point where Guy and I were in an argument and I just remember this thought that came into my mind. Amber, do you want to win or do you want love to win? Because if you want to keep winning this argument, tomorrow is going to look just like today and you're not living life to the full. You know, Amber, the thing about that, it sounds right and true and everybody just went, oh, yeah, that would be good. But then you got to do it. That's right. And that's the hard part.

And why? I guess two questions. One, why do we have that hesitancy? What becomes the obstacle in doing what is so right?

It's because we're not living out Colossians three, 12 through 14. And at least for me, that was true, which says, you know, put on a compassionate heart with kindness, meekness, patience. And it says to bear with one another.

Right. Which means we're going to have to bear with each other through some of these triggers. And then it also says be forgiving of one another as Christ has forgiven you. And so what that looks like is me taking a deep breath instead of starting to no, no, no, no, no. Again, and literally I would stop. We've got to the practice of stopping in the middle of the wrong words and saying, I'm upset.

I recognize it. I didn't mean to really say that. And I want to not say anything further that's going to be damaging. Let's take a break for a few minutes so that we can refocus on what it is that we want in our marriage, which is we want to be for each other. We want the marriage that God designed it to be. So we need to step away for a minute. We gave each other's permission.

Hey, can we stop for a minute and go take a breather so we can calm down and have a conversation outside of conflict? And we just got good at giving ourselves permission to do that. And then that did just take spiritual maturity. But isn't that the point, you guys? Isn't the point for us, all of our relationships to be about being refined? This life is not our own if we start thinking, well, it's just about healing the marriage. It's not just about healing the marriage. This is about an eternal reward.

This is about living and becoming more like Christ. And that's our end game. So we need to start doing things differently than we've been doing. And we need to be radical in our commitment to saying, let's stop.

Let's take a break. Let's put each other first and let's be forgiving each other just like Christ forgave us. And then we've got to start saying and doing things differently. Well, I think you're saying exactly what I believe is the purpose of marriage. You know, the whole culture and the me orientation that we have is what am I getting out of this?

Almost like a contract. It is so obvious that the Lord said, listen, I'm creating this institution so you can become more like me. That's scary because that description is selfless, giving, kind, loving. And learning to serve one another, which is not natural.

Right. That's not natural. It works against our flesh, but it's what the Lord wants. I think that is the whole answer to why marriage?

Why did we do it this way? We always tell people, if it feels like the death of you to yield in that moment, then you're in the right place because it should be the death of you. It's the death to self.

So if it feels like the death of you, that's the right place to be. And it's so helpful just to pause, to give permission to pause and not try to solve the problem in the moment when the heat is going. Stepping back has been so helpful for us. And I hope as you're watching and listening along here, you're finding a lot of great handles to grab onto for your relationship. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. We've got Guy and Amber Leah here with us as our guests and Gene Daly as well. Guy and Amber have a book, Marriage Triggers, Exchanging Spouses, Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses. That's what we're talking about right here. And we want to make sure you get a copy of this book.

Just give us a call, 800-AFAMILY, or click the link in the episode notes. Let me transition a little bit and go to something that really caught my attention in the book. There was a point you said in your marriage when you realized you didn't have a foundation of friendship. Okay, I believe most married people are leaning in right now when they've heard that because there are seasons in marriage when you don't feel close. It's busy, it's kids, it's, you know, littles running around and pulling on everybody's time. But I guess the first question is what made you realize that I don't have a foundation of friendship with my spouse?

And what did that look like? We didn't like each other very much at one point. Yeah, I think, you know, just like you said, you get so caught up in all of the demands and the things that are happening. You shift your focus from being a married, young married couple who are very good friends to suddenly everything shifts to care of the kids, care of parents, care of your career, all of these other things. And the friendship slowly becomes the last thing that you get to because everything else feels important. And so we didn't, we stopped dating, we stopped having time for ourselves when we would go out to parties. We always had kids with us, you know, and it just, the opportunities to continue to build our friendship became less and less and less. And so we had to decide that in order for everything else to flourish, we have to redevelop our friendship and find ways to build that again.

And it just has fed into all of the other areas of our lives. Let me ask you this for the wife, just picture someone in your mind, a wife or husband who's saying, I hear what you guys are talking about, but I don't feel like my spouse wants friendship with me. What recommendation do you have to that desert feeling that I'm not getting any response and maybe they're using the wrong tactics that might be.

But what would you say that individual says, I'm in trouble? When you get to the point where you don't really like each other because the friendship has faded, it's difficult to have the emotional energy to want to even be together in those kinds of moments. So Guy and I early on in one of those early conversations we had was we need to simply fake it till we make it for a little bit because we know that putting in place some time for one another and to do things that we used to do that we no longer do that were fun for us together.

We have to start putting those things back in place and trust the process that we are going to rekindle those emotions and feelings of friendship at some point. And it's really important. I want to punch that a little bit because what you're saying is go through the motions when you don't feel it because your feelings will catch up with the right actions.

That's right. It's not lying or it's just doing the right thing. Absolutely. I mean, we do a lot of parenting ministry and one of the things I tell moms and dads, like if you're having a rough day, just stop and smile. Just start smiling. You know, if the kids are getting to you or it just stop and smile, just the act of smiling.

It scientifically you can do read the research reports, but it has an impact on your on your thinking, on your mindset. And it's the same like even if it's something new that you're trying together, you know, find some common ground that you both is new territory for both of you even. But make that time be purposeful, be intentional. And Guy and I also got really structured in our calendar. You know, if you feel like like life has a chokehold on you, your schedule has a chokehold on you, then you have to remove that chokehold in very purposeful ways. We're intentional to plan downtime in our calendar where we we have time where it's just nothing is planned and we don't let anything in crouch on that. So we can just relax at home even and not have something to do all the time.

But also, you know, we color code our calendar. Here's things for the kids. Here's things for home school. Here's things for work. But that is organized. I know.

That's me. And we're and we run three businesses. We homeschool. We do everything together. So we're not talking about like I work and she's at home.

We both have crazy, crazy schedules like a lot of you guys do. So it's a challenge. Yeah. And I hear that. And that applies. And if you guys can do it, others can do it. That's the point.

Let me go to the spiritual side of this in the last few minutes that we have here. This is one of the big triggers. And we hear from couples, a lot of wives to disclaim that. But they feel like their husbands aren't leading. They're not taking that spiritual leadership role. And it's frustrating. And the wife is you know, it's hard to to not have some expectations.

And so I guess that would be the question. What do you say to that spouse who is struggling with that wife, who's struggling with the lack of her husband doing what he should be doing to be the spiritual leader of the home? Yeah, that lack of spiritual leadership issue is one that I had no idea was so common until I started being transparent about that in our own marriage.

Then you found out just about everybody. A lot of people struggle with that. Right. And so I got really caught up in what my kind of growing up mindset of what a spiritual leader would look like. And then really was putting that on Guy. And, you know, Guy is on his own spiritual path.

And so am I. And so we had to allow room for one another to be who we are in Christ and for the Holy Spirit to work on us. So it didn't mean that we didn't have couldn't have conversations about that, but we're supposed to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. So what that means is it doesn't mean that Guy has to lead a Bible study over dinner every night. You know, this expectation that I had that he was going to come in spiritual leadership looks like him picking the Bible verse for the month that our kids are going to memorize.

And he's going to come up with a cool song. So they memorize it because that was what I like to do. That was my strength. And so I just put that on Guy.

Like, why aren't you doing this? And so I became very judgmental of him. And that's not a good place to be in a marriage. And I entered our relationship feeling this way because Amber, we both have grown up in Christian homes, but Amber, you know, literally studied, you know. She took it seriously.

Yeah, took it very seriously. I went to Bible college. I have a minor in theology. Very different experiences. And so my faith, I think, tends to come out a little bit more in when I'm with the kids hiking and I can make things very real to them spiritually or when I can have conversations with them on a one to one basis. I may not sit down and have the family Bible study, but I pour into them in the way that I can connect with them.

And it's a very different way. Did you feel that pressure coming from Amber? Oh, absolutely.

Without a doubt. But I never felt like I could ever do that because I always felt like she would criticize me or I can never do the right thing or I'm going to do the wrong verse. I just literally went into it like that. This may be the 80-20 rule. I think 80, 90 percent of us husbands feel this. I know for Jean and I, that was it. She did, I think, you can speak to this, but being a biology major, I mean, she wanted a very traditional devotion with the family after dinner. And I'm like, we have two boys.

We had daughters that might work, but two boys, we got to go out in the backyard, roll around. And then when they hurt me, I'm going to say, you remember King Saul? And that really was my approach to integrating faith into everyday life.

And I think that is typical of husbands where we're looking for like driving them to school. We talk about Proverbs. I have the Merida Proverb as I was taking them to school. But Jean wasn't seeing that. And I think, you know, it gave her the sense that I never talk about the Lord with the boys and that wasn't accurate. And it is judgmental.

Amber, you use that. It is judgmental. Better you say that than me.

Absolutely. And that to think that we have it all right, that we know exactly how it should be done, sitting down with that devotion. Let me come to your rescue for a minute, because one of the things I've noticed with moms particularly, there is a fear and control component. We're in a very difficult culture where the culture is grabbing our kids and telling them, you know, about sex and about other things. And it scares us. And I think moms particularly really deeply feel that threat. And so they want an antidote. They want if they're going to give our children this, we've got to give them that. And that's absolutely true. And so I think it's born out of a good place to compensate for the messaging that kids are receiving in the culture. It is. Their hearts are in the right place.

Yeah. We just have to figure out how we do that effectively, because if you're wagging your finger at your kids, that's not going to work. And it's really about letting each person's spiritual strengths be their spiritual strengths. You know, we have different personalities. And because we're on different spiritual levels of maturity, just naturally, you're two different people. It was really important for me to come to a place where I didn't have to live in fear that my kids were going to be sucked into culture or other influences. And it's so meaningful and so personal and so spiritually rich.

And if I had continued to place my expectation of what spiritual leadership should look like on him, we would all be missing out. No, and I so appreciate that. And that's a good word for, again, I think moms particularly who do have those concerns. I mean, husbands aren't off the hook.

Don't get that message here. We've got to be engaged. We need to be engaged.

You need to be dad and talk about the Lord in those contexts that fit you and amplify the Lord's work in your own life. We are right near the end, Amber and Guy, and we've taken a mostly lighthearted approach to these things. But there's been depth to what we've talked about. I always say, you know, it's hard to cover all the content in this great book.

People just need to get the book and they can read it and highlight it and underline it. But there was a night, and I want to make sure we capture this, there was a night when your fighting got so bad. And some couples are going to identify with this because they're there right now. But you, Amber, considered leaving your marriage. What happened that night and what helped you to turn the corner, the two of you? Well, I recognized that I would give up every personal happiness for the sake of my kids.

I would have stayed in my marriage unhappy just to try to give my kids some semblance of security. But that wasn't really working because I remember very distinctly the Lord speaking to my heart and saying, I am not creating you to settle for less than God's best, for less than my best for you. I did not design or bring you together to just navigate through life and soldier through and try to keep peace.

That's a false peace by just not arguing anymore. I came to give life to the full, you know, Jesus says. And so I recognized that I could not at that point allow Satan to win and to fracture us and to overtake us by our triggers. And so I just came to the point of great humility of saying Lord.

And it was totally the Lord because when you're at that point and you just think that it's hopeless, it's a very dark place to be. But because we had children and I think a lot of couples feel this way, they want to keep that marriage intact. And so I just made a decision and actually I remembered our wedding vows. Guy and I said on the day that we got married and people kind of guffawed at the thought of what we were saying. But we said out loud to each other, I will not divorce you. And so we'd said that because we knew that there would be challenges and we wanted to hear it. And really, the fact that we had said that and I think a lot of couples obviously are, that's the intention when you get married is that you'll till death do us part. But we wanted to say it out loud so that when those nights come, like the one where I wanted to just go, we would remember what we said and continue to fight for one another as opposed to with each other. Because if we're so busy fighting each other, we are powerless to fight the good fight, to fight the better fight. And that's what I realized. I realized that if I walked away today, I will not be fighting the good fight anymore with him. And God can make a way.

If he is the God of yesterday, today and forever and he is unchanging, then there's nothing that's impossible with him and he can bring us back together again. And it does take intentionality. But when you come to that point, we really are prayerful that you will consider that your triggers are not the end of your story and that there is an opportunity for hope and for growth. And we're living proof of that. Guy, your perspective on that. Yeah, I just totally agree. Amber made a comment one time about there is nothing that anger can do that love cannot do better. And for me, that really has settled for me in those moments when I'm feeling anger.

It just pops into my mind and I just remember this is not what the Lord has in store for me. And I control the ship and I have to make a decision right here to love her better, even if it's not what I want in this moment, because I know that that's what's best. Well, I so appreciate the transparency from Amber and Guy Leah today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and some convicting reminders there. Jim, it was really nice to have Jean in the studio on this conversation as well. I always enjoy it when Jean brings her perspective into the discussion.

I really appreciated Amber and what she was talking about, too. Fixing those little problems in your marriage isn't just about praying for your spouse to change. It's about working on your own heart first. And if you can get there, your marriage is going to be in a good place over the long haul. And we're here to be kind of a drip irrigation system for you and your marriage here at Focus. We want you to have a strong, thriving marriage. Well, we know challenges are going to arise.

We get that. We get that in our own marriages. We also know that sometimes professional help is needed to dig deeper and perhaps even rescue a marriage. That's one reason we have our Hope Restored marriage intensives, and they work. In the post two year survey that we do with these couples, 81% are doing better and still married. That's an outstanding program and a great result for those desperate marriages. And you know, this is why Focus on the Family exists.

This is our mission. We want to help couples remain strong so their families can thrive in Christ. But we can't do this type of relationship ministry without you. Let me ask you to consider becoming a friend to Focus on the Family, what we call a monthly sustainer. And when you sign up today with a monthly gift of any amount, we'll send you a copy of Guy and Amber Lea's book, Marriage Triggers, Exchanging Spouses, Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses. But we understand if you can't make that monthly commitment, we'll send you a copy of the book for a one time gift as well. Donate today, become a friend of Focus on the Family and request your copy of Marriage Triggers when you call 800, the letter A in the word family.

Or stop by the program notes for all the details. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. As a parent, it's easy to find myself sitting backseat to my kids in the back seat. It's tough to be a step ahead and full honesty, I'm pretty hard on myself when that happens. But I've found Practice Makes Parent, a podcast from Focus on the Family hosted by Dr. Danny Huerta and Rebecca St. James. It helps me be more intentional and not feel alone when things get tough. Everything they share is practical and well practiced, and I can use it right away. Listen to Practice Makes Parent wherever you get your podcasts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-14 05:09:29 / 2024-03-14 05:22:11 / 13

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