This is Part 2 of a 2-part conversation between NC Family President John L. Rustin and Focus on the Family President Jim Daly, regarding the perspectives found in Daly’s new book, “Marriage Done Right.” Daly shares some valuable suggestions for the church regarding marriage.
INTRODUCTION: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters! We are excited to have Jim Daly with us on the program. Jim is President of Focus on the Family, “a global Christian ministry based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that is dedicated to helping families thrive in the United States and around the world.” I am sure that Jim Daly is a familiar name and voice to many in our audience. Jim is with us today to bring a refreshing, practical, and hopeful perspective on marriage. He has just released a new book called, “Marriage Done Right: One Man, One Woman” and he’s here to discuss his new book on an incredibly important topic. Jim, welcome to Family Policy Matters!
JOHN RUSTIN: Why is it important that we are willing, as you have done in your book, to talk about the struggles that we go through, kind of the real-life side of relationships in marriage, when we are having these discussions with policy leaders or members of our family, friends, neighbors, that sort of thing.
JIM DALY: I think at the core of the issue is our selfishness, so let’s just start there. As human beings we are selfish creatures so when we’re looking at the institution of marriage, even within the church, the culture has seeped in, gushed in, to where it’s impacting our ability to understand our care for one another. And, it’s something I’m reminded of constantly here as I’m recording a radio broadcast for Focus on the Family, I think “OK Lord I have failed miserably with Jean my wife yesterday, so forgive me for that,” and I’ve got to go home and say “Jean, forgive me, I was thinking of myself and not of you.” But, part of it, is when Jesus says to us men, and I think it applies to both, “Lay your life down for one another” what does that mean? I think if a burglar was to come into our home with a gun I would jump in front of that bullet for Jean and my boys, I love them that much, and I would do all I could do to protect them. That’s what a man should do, but what about if my wife wants to go shopping this weekend and look at furniture for three hours, am I willing to lay my life down for that, or do I really want to watch that Bronco game. That’s the challenge and it’s those little incremental, selfless acts that I think undergird a marriage that lasts a lifetime. And I think within the church we have to recommit ourselves to loving each other in that way. Sure that’s a silly example, there’s other ways that we have to lay our lives down for one another, but we’ve got to become more serious about it. And when we handle marriage lightly within the church how should we expect the world to respond, why don’t they redefine marriage because it’s not working with us. And, I don’t want to be hypercritical, but it starts with us, we are the witness of our Lord Jesus Christ, and if it’s not working for us they’re gonna say “Well they can’t even do it, and they’re committed to each other.” So, I want to look at the log in my own eye, and in our eye, as a community of believers first, then look at the speck in their eye. The Lord will deal with them, but man we’d better not be the stumbling block that causes them to fail.
JOHN RUSTIN: I like what you said earlier that we’re not called to perfection, and I think we often in our culture today feel like we have to present a perfect image of marriage, and that’s just not reality, we need to be real, we need to be transparent and share with, and walk alongside other couples who are facing challenges and kind of work through this together and with the Lord’s help and seeking the help and guidance and assistance and mentoring of others who have been through struggles as well.
JIM DALY: Oh, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I think one of the great mistakes we’ve made in the Christian church is we have projected this perfection that doesn’t truly exist, when you peel the veneer back you know we have children that struggle, we have marriages that struggle. How much better for us to be real, you know with discernment, but to be real with that. To say, “We are all broken, we live in a sinful world that’s the reason Jesus came, to die for our sins,” and to be able to express that to a broken couple whose struggling. They may be quietly, silently, sitting in the pew at church struggling desperately in their marriage. Certainly about 35 percent of them are, and they’re sitting there and they’re looking at John and Mary going “Wow, they seem like they’ve got it all together.” And they may have a really good marriage, but if they were able to go to lunch with that couple to say “You know what, when we were 10 years into our marriage we hit a wall, and we almost got divorced, and here’s what we did, we recommitted our lives to the Lord, we decided to lay our lives down for each other every day, some days we do it well, some days we don’t, but let us encourage you to do that.” That’s the kind of mentoring that we need in the church today, not perfection, but imperfection, in Christ.
JOHN RUSTIN: Jim, one of the things, the other myths that you discuss in your book, is the idea that somehow divorce will make people happier and solve their problems. Why is this a myth in our culture today?
JIM DALY: Just about every research project, and there’s one from the University of Chicago that is the most quoted, and they took two groups of people and they just followed them, you know morally they didn’t encourage one to divorce and the other not to divorce, they just identified who was willing to go to counseling and who decided to divorce. Five years after those decisions were made they followed up with that group to find out where their happiness scale was, and it was interesting because those who divorced, 85 percent of them some of whom remarried, 85 percent of them were less happier than they were in their difficult first marriage. And in the group that stuck it out, learned to communicate better, went to counseling, did the things they needed to do to get through the rough patch, to build intimacy, to better understand one another, 85 percent of them were happier. And my point in that is as we go through a highly fast-food oriented, disposal society where, if you’re not meeting my needs we’re done because I’m looking out, I’m looking out for me. In that kind of environment that’s the outcome where you just give up because you don’t want to fight through, but where character is formed, where intimacy is formed, where long-term relationship is formed is being able to fight through those annoyances and learning to love each other’s differences rather than accentuating each other’s weaknesses. And I think John, that’s one of the great important things about marriage, when you look at it, the institution of marriage, and what I way trying to point out the bottom-line of marriage, Marriage Done Right, is God has brought us together, and the irony is God tends to allow couples of opposite natures to attract. But we have to lift up those differences and celebrate them and learn to work with each other and understand that when God bring two halves together like that you make one whole. I mean the scripture is very clear about that, the two come together to form one flesh, and I think it’s far deeper than the letters on the page. What it’s saying there is you’re one in Christ, you’re made in His image, male and female, and guess what the enemy of our soul is going to fight against that because it’s the very image of God in the institution of marriage, and that’s why we’ve got to get our act together and do it better.
JOHN RUSTIN: Jim, speaking of doing it better, you outline some ways couples can make their marriages stronger and less likely to drift toward divorce. People can read certainly your book, and I would encourage them to do so, for the entire list, and we’ll let them know shortly where they can get a copy of that, but what are just a few of the ways that couples can strengthen their marriages that you outline in the book?
JIM DALY: I riddled the book with lots of different ones, but there’s a handful that I like to quite. This is top advice from long-term married couples, so I went out and we interviewed 100-200 couples that had made it past 50 years. So you know go to the source, these are people that found a way to do it, and what they told me was: 1. Don’t keep secrets from each other, have an open intimate relationship where you’re talking about what’s going on in your heart. 2. Don’t hold grudges, and forgive each other. Man, that right there is so important. How many times have you gone to bed, I did it just once this week already where I was a little miffed with a discussion Jean and I had about something and I didn’t resolve it, I slept on it, and sometimes that is wise, but I held on to that too long. 3. Don’t dwell on conflict. Let it go, once it’s over don’t bring it up four months from now and say “You know what, when I asked you to take that trash out you didn’t do it.” Let it go. 4. Love changes because we change and we have seasons of love. And what I mean by that is you know there’s a childrearing season. It’s tough, especially for moms of young kids to express all the love she’d like to express to her husband. She’s tired in every way, not just physically but emotionally, and husbands too. When the job is demanding and how do I express that love, and I forgot to call, and I forgot to pick up milk, and I forgot the flowers, we just need more understanding. 5. Support each other’s interests, and I love this. Jean, I’m a football, ex-football player, I love football, and she has learned over the years when she really needs to talk to me she’ll ask “Is this a good time or shall I wait till halftime?” And if it’s a bad game I’ll say “No, please talk to me now, this is boring.” But if it’s an intense game I’ll say, “Can you just give me ten minutes and there’ll be a break and I’ll dial in with you?” That’s respectful and I appreciate that. I try to do that with her when she’s on the phone with a girlfriend and I’ve got my hair’s on fire or whatever the problem is, I’ll just wait till she’s off the phone, I won’t interrupt her, and I’ll let her know that I chose to do that because I respect her and I love her. Those kind of little clues that you can give or little queues you can give each other are very helpful because you’re saying “I love you.”
JOHN RUSTIN: In your book, you challenge the concept of romantic love that is often portrayed in popular media and that many folks sort of liken to marriage, that there has to be a strong element of romantic love present for marriages to be successful. You contend that this romanticized view is really putting a strain on marriage both institutionally and individually. Talk about that a little bit if you would.
JIM DALY: Sure, I mean the bottom line is your husband, let me speak to the women, your husband is not going to meet all your emotional needs, that’s the bottom line. They can’t be your best girlfriend. And I’d encourage you and I’d encourage husbands to encourage you to have two or three great girlfriends that you can go out with and spend that intimate time, sit at coffee and have a discussion with. Now, it doesn’t get us off the hook as husbands, we need that time together. We’ve got to unplug from other distractions and plug into our spouses to really get to know them. But I’m just saying don’t look for your husband to fulfill all those intimacy needs. And I think the other key thing is really laying your life down for each other, letting each other know that you care for them, and I think if I could be so bold John, even in the area of physical intimacy, that is usually the number one, two or three issue that we hear of at Focus on the Family where a marriage is breaking apart because it’s not happening. And, there needs to be greater understanding on emotional contact, physical contact, and when those things are happening in a healthy way you have a strong marriage.
JOHN RUSTIN: Jim, I know at the end of the book you provide a personalized marriage assessment. Why did you consider that an important element to include in Marriage Done Right?
JIM DALY: You know actually my colleague Greg Smalley, the son of Gary Smalley, the marriage expert, he’s been at Focus here for five years, walks in the door every day thinking about marriage and what we can do to help save marriages, and I’m grateful for his participation in the mission here at Focus. He actually created that assessment, and it’s actually to help a couple and an individual decide—Where am I at? How am I doing?—and there are 12 traits that Greg developed for healthy marriages and we have built a curriculum around that, we have stood there to support those couples and we believe that when couples can assess where they’re at, know where their weaknesses are, and begin to work on those things, usually self-evident really. It’s kind of a personality profile test, when you take it, it’s “Ah ah, that’s me, it’s absolutely me.” When you take that assessment in the book and go to the website mentioned in the book, it’s brilliant, it shows you those things you need to work on. I would say John, so often when it comes to marriage you know if you’re a real-estate person you’ve got to go get a license, if you’re in insurance you’ve got to go get licensed, it’s interesting to me we do very little in this culture to train a man or a woman about marriage and what needs to be done in marriage to keep it healthy. And I think this is that course where you can learn those communications skills that will keep your relationship vibrant for 50-60, even in some cases 70 years. That’s what most people yearn for when it comes to commitment.
JOHN RUSTIN: Jim that’s great. Let’s make sure that our listeners are able to access that really important took in this book Marriage Done Right. Unfortunately, we’re just about out of time but I do want to give you an opportunity to let our listeners know how they can connect with Focus on the Family, where they can get your new book, “Marriage Done Right: One Man, One Woman.”
JIM DALY: I appreciate that John, and focusonthefamily.com is the easiest place to go. The book you can get anywhere, we always appreciate it when you come through Focus because the proceeds go to helping save marriages, and helping save babies and keeping “family” in the forefront of the culture, so we appreciate it when you order the book through Focus on the Family.
JOHN RUSTIN: Great, well I definitely want to encourage our listeners to do that. I’m sure many of them have already, and many more will as well, and Jim Daley I just want to thank you so much for your time, for your incredibly important work at Focus on the Family, for your leadership in the realm of marriage, religious liberty, life, and all the other issues and matters that Focus on the Family is involved with, and especially for thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to be with us today on Family Policy Matters!
JIM DALY: Appreciate it John, thanks for your work in North Carolina when it comes to engaging the culture and engaging the public policy square and helping people understand the issues, so appreciate it.
JOHN RUSTIN: It’s our privilege and our honor to be a partner with you and Focus on the Family. Jim, thank you so much.
JIM DALY: God Bless You.
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