What does it take to be a good husband? Jess MacCallum, a married man for over 20 years, knows, and he's willing to let you in on the secret. He humorously shares some marital wisdom on a husband's provision, the best way to communicate, and hanging out with buddies.
What does it take to be a good husband? Jess MacCallum, a married man for over 20 years, knows, and he's willing to let you in on the secret. He humorously shares some marital wisdom on a husband's provision, the best way to communicate, and hanging out with buddies.
Bob: If you’re making plans to get married anytime soon, have you taken a good, hard, long look at the benefits of singleness that you’re going to be giving up? Here’s Jess MacCallum.
Jess: Sacrifice is part of the deal. If you don’t want to sacrifice, you should have stayed single. There are a lot easier ways to move through the Christian life, and I think I have St. Paul on my side when I say the single man is easier to do whatever he has to do. He is more mobile, he can sleep on the sofa at his buddy’s house, and he can call his own shots; but when you have another person to provide for, you’ve taken on a responsibility. It causes you to grow up.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Now understand me: We are pro-marriage, right? You also need to understand there are some sacrifices that come with saying, “I do.” Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You think we’ve got many newbies listening today?
Dennis: I would hope.
Bob: If you had to rank it on a degree of difficulty—first year of marriage, scale of one to ten, degree of difficulty. What would you give it, for you and Barbara?
Dennis: Nine point five.
Bob: Was it hard for you?
Dennis: Oh, man. Was it tough!
Bob: See, for us, it was just not that hard. I mean, if you asked Mary Ann to go back to the first year...
Dennis: You just told her she was right every time she said anything.
Bob: We were naïve; and as long as you stay kind of oblivious, it’s not that difficult.
Dennis: I just attended a wedding not too long ago for a friend whose name is Molly, and she married Max. I’m thinking about her as we speak to Max today about the first year of marriage. Let me just set the context for this because—well, let me just ask our guest, Jess MacCallum, if he’s aware of Deuteronomy 24:5.
Jess: I’m sure I’ve read it at some point, so I am aware of it in the subconscious level.
Dennis: You know, that’s a highly-religious answer, Jess.
Bob: “I’m sure I’ve read it at some point.”
Jess: The gist of it is that in Israel, during the first year of marriage, a young man was excused from military service or any severe duty so that he could stay at home and make his wife happy.
Dennis: You got it. You nailed it.
Bob: There you go.
Dennis: He wasn’t bluffing was he?
Bob: You thought you were going to pull one over on old Jess, didn’t you?
Dennis: Jess called it up off the back screen there. Share with our listeners how you came upon this topic.
Jess: Well, yes. It was a home group, and I knew this young man for some time. They’d been coming to the home group; and one day, out of the blue, he pops in and says, “I’d like you to disciple me.” I thought about it for a minute and I thought, “There’s no way he really knows what that concept is.” There was a young lady across the room; and I said, “It’s her, isn’t it?” He said, “Yes, it’s her.” “You’re serious about her?”
“Yep, I really am.”
Well, she was way ahead of him in terms of going and getting it. She was at a Bible college there in Columbia, South Carolina, where I lived for two years while her parents were missionaries in the Philippines. She lived with us during the summers, had a part-time job. She was just on about her life.
He was in his early twenties, no college education to speak of, no job, still living at home, and was a musician. He didn’t have a lot together. He kind of came to me; and I said, “Alright, we need to meet as long as you’re dating my foster daughter,” as we called her. Her curfew in the summers was two hours earlier than the Bible college.
(laughter) He was not allowed to come in after that evening, and he was not allowed to see her if he didn’t meet with me on Wednesday mornings for breakfast.
Bob: So you really laid down the law with him.
Jess: That was my requirement for the time it would take to meet with him and get this thing, if he really wanted it. He was serious, and I think he was. He had a really noble heart, a very noble-hearted guy.
Dennis: I like where you start the book because you go immediately to what a man does in terms of his job. I really agree with you here. For a young man to start a marriage, he needs to have a vocation, a place of work where he’s providing for the young lady.
Jess: And a lot of people, their first jobs are not going to be their vocation; but their work ethic is important. If you don’t show your wife, your new wife, or the woman you want to marry, and especially her parents, that you have a work ethic—that you can and are willing to stick his neck out there and do it—but we have a mentality, “That we’ll just kind of—well, we’ll survive on our love.” I thought it was important to lay the foundation as, “You might be able to do a first year unemployed, but I can tell you it’s going to be one of the worst first years you could have ever had.
Bob: When you sat down with him at breakfast, he’s a musician and working part-time somewhere?
Jess: Yes, just some gigs here and there and a little part-time here and there. I told him the first thing he needs is to get a job.
Bob: And what did he say?
Jess: He said, “Okay.” He was ready, I’ll tell you this. You don’t find many young men who have the willingness to do what I asked him to do and to think about these things; but he was motivated. You know, a man in love is crazy. He’ll do anything you tell him, even if it’s wrong. He went out and got a job.
Bob: And you felt like that was important, foundational, because there does need to be a sense that, “My role as a provider is an important part of the equation of what this relationship is going to look like”?
Jess: I think it’s critical that a man be a provider. I will make one footnote: “You don’t have to make more money than your wife.” You may not even make enough money to survive on without a second income. There’s just too wide a range for me to throw that out and say that has to be the case; but a man is supposed to be a provider because when he leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, he’s leaving the provision of his father and the caretaking of his mother and starting an entirely new unit in which he is the provider and she is the caregiver.
In this society, you may not make as much money as your wife. If your wife is a lawyer, and you’re a guy who does landscaping, it could be completely unequal; but your wife has to see you providing for her—for her environment, for her security—that you’re willing to go out there and hack at it every single day, no matter what the financial results are. Now, of course, you can get into a long counseling session on careers and better options and more education. Anytime you can better yourself, that’s fine; but the demonstration of provision is what I was getting at.
Of course, just on a practical level, how are you going to make ends meet if you are still in school, for example? I know people who have gotten married while they were still in school. They graduate with more debt. It weighs down that first year of marriage.
It’s probably better to postpone and to think, you know, “If we want to do this?” and the right timing. It would be better to wait until you can get into something. Again, it’s not your lifetime vocation; but you must get into the work world because I’m going to tell you, you’ll learn something in the work world you haven’t learned yet.
Dennis: You actually tie a man’s work to his romance. Explain that.
Jess: Well, you know a work ethic can be sexy. My dad was an accountant, and in the traditional World War II style, you know—just a very quiet guy; but he had the John Wayne-appeal of getting out there day after day after day. My mom respected that. She thought it was—that was security.
In fact, in the old-school way of thinking, your parents would ask you, “Well, what does he do? Is he going to be able to provide for you and take care of you?” That was a critical—I mean, that’s almost disappeared from young people’s thinking today is, “Can he provide for you?” because women are supposed to be independent anyway.
Bob: Jess, when Mary Ann and I were dating, she had graduated college a year before me. She was a registered nurse and was making decent money as a registered nurse. I was still getting my degree in communications, which doesn’t come with registered- nurse income on the back side of that. We had dated for three years, she was ready, and she had the income.
I just couldn’t do it. The reason I couldn’t do it was there was something inside of me that said, “Until I know, kind of at my core, that I can provide for her, that I can get the job and sustain it, I can’t take the plunge and ask her to be my wife.” I do think that God has put in the heart of men a sense of responsibility that comes with getting married.
Dennis: I agree with you, Bob. Ephesians 5:33 says, “Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself.” A part of what we’re talking about here is a man who sacrificially goes out there and conquers kingdoms for his wife. It may be being a CPA, it may be being an entrepreneur—but the point is, “You get a job and you provide.”
The second half of Ephesians 5:33 says, “And the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” The wife is commanded to respect her husband—period—but a man needs to be a man worthy of that respect, in character and in his duty, and in that sacrificial love that that passage begins with.
Bob: So what kind of practical guidance did you give to this guy that you were counseling in terms of getting a job?
Jess: Well, the first thing I told him was, “Don’t assume you have to do what you love for your first job.” Because he’s a musician, he wanted to make a living as a musician. After we talked through how that looked—and he tried a couple of things that didn’t work out so well—I said, “I think you realize that that’s your love. You can pursue it, but your first job—my first job was not one that I was in love with, but I did it because it was necessary. Then I looked for better opportunities and went from there.
Dennis: So you counsel young men to deny themselves.
Jess: Sacrifice is part of the deal. If you don’t want to sacrifice, you should have stayed single. There’s a lot easier ways to move through the Christian life, and I think I have St. Paul on my side when I say that a single man is easier to do whatever he has to do. He is more mobile, he can sleep on the sofa on his buddy’s house, and he can call his own shots; but when you have another person to provide for, you’ve taken on a responsibility that, I think, is a biblical challenge. It causes you to grow up. So yes, you sacrifice and take a job that you don’t love. Again, we’re not talking about locking in for 40 years. Get something, start, and you’re going to learn something about yourself.
I had made a personal commitment when I was pursuing Ann for all those years—we met when we were 15, so this kind of grew over time. I knew that I would not ask her to marry me, or even really pursue it seriously, until I had had a full-time career-based job for one year, at least.
Dennis: You also advise young men to, “Shut up and talk.” What does that mean?
Jess: That was my description of communication because there’s a number of us men who could go on and on about the last movie we saw or this cool thing we did with fantasy football picks. We could talk, and talk, and talk and never communicate with our wives. What I learned, and have—well, from the beginning, even up until, let’s see, about an hour ago...
Jess: My wife called me here to ask me something—is that it helps to shut up about what you think is so fascinating and ask her questions, even if you dread the answer and the journalistic detail you’re going to get. If your wife is talking, she’s bonding. She’s not an irritation or a waste of time; she’s your covenant partner. In order for her to get out of her soul what needs to come out, it’s going to be through talking. You have to ask questions.
Bob: Yes, but you say, “Shut up and talk.” What do you mean?
Jess: Well, shut up on the stuff you think is great.
Dennis: Such as. Such as...
Jess: Your collection of Kung Fu movies, or what you’d do if that guy’s dog comes back in your yard, and all the stuff that just pops in your head. You need to say, “Well, how was your day?” instead of coming home and starting off complaining. Sometimes, she’s going to want to communicate. As my wife says, “The first 20 minutes of what I have to say is like throwing up. You’re just going to have to let it come out, as bad as it is. Don’t try to fix it.”
I know this is going to sound crazy, but after she’s poured all this out, you have to ask her more questions. If she ever gets to the point where she says, “Honey, I think we need to talk,” do not ever reply, “Okay, what do you want to talk about?” That’s a trap.
You should start off with something like, “Well, I have noticed that you’ve been on such-and-such a topic lately,” or “I’ve noticed that you’ve been a little tense,” or “I think that there’s something I need to apologize for before we get into any deep communication,” or “Would you like to go out and have a cup of coffee while we do talk about what you want to talk about?”
Dennis: There you go. In fact, one of the best things I could have done in my first year of marriage would have been to have practiced the discipline of taking a walk, or of going and getting a cup of coffee and removing all distractions, including this little device that we hold in our hands that has a screen on it. You can’t listen to your wife and look at that thing at the same time, right Bob?
Bob: I’m still working on that. I think there may be a way to do it. (laughter) I’m not going to be absolute on that. I’m just trying to—you know—well, we’ll see.
Jess: It’s easier for men, as you know, to be the center of things. If you’re in a group of men, you basically tolerate their discussion until you get to talk about your job, or what you do, or what you like—just in the back of your mind is that setting. With your wife, she’s got a whole list of things you’ve never thought of, and things are evolving in your first year together that neither one of you thought of. They’re going to pop up to her first, most of the time.
Bob: And I thought you made a suggestion in the book that was helpful. Again, it may be counter-intuitive for a lot of guys or it may be scary for a lot of guys; but as your wife is unburdening her soul, as she’s sharing about frustrations from the day or whatever is going on, one of the things you suggested is to let her do that and then say, “You know what? Can we just pray about that?” and take her by the hand and lead her in prayer. There is nothing that provides a sense of security and strength for a wife than for a husband to take that kind of initiative.
Dennis: Let me just interrupt you for a moment. Do not offer those prayers too quickly.
Dennis: Make sure the boxcar has been unloaded before you offer to pray.
Bob: Don’t try to land the plane when there’s still some fuel.
Dennis: It could sound like you’ve been listening to Jess MacCallum, you’ve read his book on FamilyLife Today, and you’ve reduced your relationship to an equation. That doesn’t work.
Jess: No, we’re looking at –the opportunity is to learn about your wife. That’s what the communication is: to get her going, get her talking and processing—because truthfully, you don’t know what you’re going to say until you open your mouth. No one can memorize the last 20 sentences we just had; but we have a concept and somehow, and this is the way God magically put us together, once the words come out of the mouth, that’s the overflow of the heart, plus the brain, plus the concept, and then there it is.
You learn a lot about your wife when you start to listen to that, without jumping in to fix it. Leading in prayer can be misconstrued as manipulation. It’s a spiritual way of saying, “Conversation’s over. We’re done. It should be fixed by now; but if you bring it up again, it’s going to be more of a spiritual issue for you, not a problem that I have.”
Dennis: You also, Jess, talk about a topic that I think is very important for a young man starting out his marriage. You talk about, “Telling the boys when to leave.” Explain that.
Jess: Well, a lot of guys have a group of friends or a certain guy they hang out with a lot. Even while they’re dating, they’re either double dating or they’re still kind of sharing time. Once that covenant begins and the marriage life begins, it’s disloyal to make your wife say when enough is enough. You should be the one setting parameters to keep the household under the leadership God assigned to you. You never blame your wife and say, “Guys, look, my wife’s going to be really upset. Can we get...”
Jess: You know, you hide behind her skirts, it makes you look weak, it undermines your relationship, and those guys are laughing about it. If they need to be told privately and say, “Look. This is the new lay of the land. You guys will never even compete with my wife. She will always be first; there is not even a second place.” They need to be told that, perhaps even individually, if they don’t get the message.
Dennis: This is a huge deal because young men are getting married later and later in life. They’ve got all these video games they’ve been playing with their buddies, things they go do—they’ve been used to doing on the weekends and during—well, on weeknights.
A man—and I want the young man to really hear what we said there. Jess just gave you an important piece of advice. Your loyalty is to be demonstrated toward your wife. That’s what it means to leave, cleave, and become one. Your actions around that—well, they will speak louder than your words.
Bob: So do you have a “boy’s night out,” you know, once a month, once a week? I mean, can you get together with the guys and just hang? Does she have a “girl’s night out”? Where does that fit in the first year of marriage?
Jess: That fits in one of those conversations you go out to coffee and you talk about because every one of the relationships is unique. I’ve got a friend of mine who’s going through that right now. It used to be “Grand Central Station” at his house, with a guy’s night on Wednesdays on top of that. Now that he’s married, he’s scaled it back to Wednesday nights. She sets up something, he has his friends over, and it’s been very amiable for their relationship.
Bob: But I think it’s really key in the midst of this for your wife not to have the sense that your night out with the guys—man, “You love that!” Spending time with her—you know, “That’s okay, but you really can’t wait until Friday night when you get to go out with the guys!” That sends a message in marriage that says, “Marriage is okay, but I’m still kind of a single guy.”
Jess: Well, there’s a little bit of singleness left in all guys when they’re first married. You’ve really taken on a whole new dimension.
Dennis: You think?
Jess: Well, I did. I think you guys probably started off much better than I did, but...
Dennis: That’s a dangerous assumption.
Jess: What we do is: We learn each other that first year, especially. This is why it takes a little patience and a lot of communication on both sides to come out with a solution that fits both of you. But yes, you don’t want to communicate competition with your wife on any level—not the guy’s night, not her family, not your family, not your job. That’s part of becoming a loyal leader, a protector, so she doesn’t feel like she’s being supplanted or competed with.
Dennis: The big idea of this broadcast—I want our listeners to catch this. First of all, you need to be, as a newly-married, under the wing of someone who is preparing you and walking you through those first months and the first years of marriage. A mentor will make all the difference in the world.
Second big idea, though all of us are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ, the word disciple means” learner” and to be learning about how Christ called you to love your bride or your husband. That’s all a part of the disciple-making process that the Holy Spirit wants to accomplish in your soul and in your life.
If you’re both, as a husband and wife, engaged in following Christ, you know what? The road will still be steep at times, it will be dark at others; but you know, it will be meaningful, you will be growing, and you’ll become a better person in the process.
Bob: Well, you’ve said many times on FamilyLife Today that marriage was part of God’s process to finish growing you up—that you weren’t there and you had a few years to go before you got grown up.
Dennis: And Jess helped his friend out, who was the musician—helped him grow up in advance of getting married. I hate to think what would have happened, Jess, if he hadn’t run across you.
Jess: Well, the Lord provides. What’s the old saying? “When a student is ready, a teacher will appear.” The Lord will bring a teacher to someone who has a heart like his, I believe; but I learned a lot in the process of what’s missing in this generation.
Some of this book may not apply to older people who are getting married for the first time because they have a career or they have established good communication. One of my best friends just got married a week-and-a-half ago. He’s 51 years old. Even he didn’t think he was ever going to get married, and God completely opened up this relationship.
The book doesn’t apply to him in some areas because he’s an outstanding teacher, has a great established career. He is a provider; but the communication part, some of the other relationship issues with other people coming and going—these are universal principles that, when I reread the book once in a while, I get a lot of what I learned from taking this guy through this a few years ago.
Bob: I’m thinking of a half a dozen of my sons’ friends who are right in the middle of this. They’re either getting married or have recently gotten married. This kind of practical counsel—these reminders—are helpful for any husband. We’ve got copies of Jess MacCallum’s book, Put the Seat Down, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
There is a companion book to this called He’s Not a Mind Reader that offers counsel for women in the first months or years of marriage as well. There’s information available about both of these books online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Go to the website or give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY,” to get more information about either or both of these books.
You know, we’ve said for years that one of the best things that a couple can do before they get married, or in the first year of marriage, is to attend one of our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. The getaways are about to launch here in the month of September. We’ve got, I think, about four dozen events taking place between now and Christmas. There’s more information online at FamilyLifeToday.com about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaways.
I want to talk for just a minute to those of you who have listened to FamilyLife Today for any length of time but have never gotten in touch with us to make a donation. We’re listener-supported. Those donations are what make it possible for us to be on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country. During the month of August, we’re hoping to hear from 2,000 listeners who have listened for a while but have never made a first-time donation.
If you’ll do that this month—you make a donation for the first time—and if that donation is $100 or more, we’d like to send you as a thank-you gift a certificate so that you and your spouse, or friends you know, can attend one of these upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways as our guests. It’s our way of saying, “Thank you,” for stepping up and making a donation to support FamilyLife Today.
Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and, as you fill out the donation form, again, if you’re a first-time donor, your donation is $100 or more, all you have to do is type the word “HUNDRED” into the key code box on the online donation form. We’ll send you that certificate to attend a Weekend to Remember.
If you can’t make a $100 donation but you do want to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we’d like to send you a CD set that features six of the messages from the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, messages that Dennis and I shared recently at one of these getaways, talking about resolving conflict in marriage, improving your communication, sexual intimacy, and understanding God’s plan for marriage.
If you’d like to receive that CD set, just type the word “SAMPLER” in the key code box on the online donation form. We will send that out to anybody who requests it this month when you make a donation to help support FamilyLife Today. Again, we’re hoping that those of you who have never made a donation will step forward and do that this month. In fact, we’ve got a goal: We’d like to hear from 2,000 of you who are regular listeners but have never made a donation.
There’s a little thermometer on our website that’s keeping track of how we’re doing toward that goal. We hope to hear from you this month, and we just want to say, “Thanks,” in advance for whatever you are able to do to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We appreciate you and are glad to have you listening.
And we hope that you’ll be back with us again tomorrow. Jess MacCallum is going to be here. We’re going to continue providing counsel for husbands in the early years of marriage—and some good reminders for all of us, for that matter. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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