FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Caring, a Source of Conflict

with Tim and Joy Downs | September 13, 2007
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Disagreements. We all have them, but it's how we handle them that counts. Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey swaps ideas about resolving marital conflict with Tim and Joy Downs, authors of the book "The Seven Conflicts.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Disagreements. We all have them, but it's how we handle them that counts. Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey swaps ideas about resolving marital conflict with Tim and Joy Downs, authors of the book "The Seven Conflicts.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Disagreements. We all have them, but it’s how we handle them that counts.

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Caring, a Source of Conflict

With Tim and Joy Downs
September 13, 2007
| Download Transcript PDF

 You can save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee for one of our upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences.  We're going to be hosting these in more than 60 cities this fall all across the country, and a lot of our listeners have been calling to say, "We want to attend the conference, and we want to take advantage of the special offer."

 In addition to the savings on registration, we're going to make available to each of the folks who call and register a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey's new book, "Moments With You."  It's the sequel to the bestselling book, "Moments Together for Couples," and it's not in stores yet.  It should be available in the next couple of weeks and as soon as it is available, we'll make arrangements to get a copy to folks who register for one of these upcoming conferences.

 So if you'd like to call us, find out more about when a conference is coming to a city near where you live or register today and save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee, you'll get a copy of this new book as well, you can call 1-800-FLTODAY, identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener.  It's 1-800-358-6329.  You can also get more information or register online at 

 If you're registering online, we need you to identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener, and you can do that by typing my name, that's "Bob."  Just type that word into the keycode box on your registration form, and as soon as you do that, we'll make sure that you get the special offer, the savings, along with the brand-new book, "Moments With You."

 Don't forget, this offer is good through this week so we need to hear from you today or tomorrow or, by the latest, on the weekend.  The number is 1-800-FLTODAY or register online at

 And we're talking about marriage this week, we're talking about conflict in marriage, and one of the things that can create conflict in a marriage is when we don't live up to one another's expectations, and that can cause us to wonder if our spouse really does care about us.

Rachel: [from audiotape.]  When Jake and I were first married, I thought it would be nice if he would call me from the office from time to time. 

Jake: One day Rachel asked me, "If you think of me during the day, why don't you call me?"

Rachel: And he said, "Because I don't think of you."

Jake: That was a big win.

Rachel: I thought, as a newlywed, I might have made a little more of an impression.  I knew that Jake had a tendency to get lost in his work, but I guess I thought I might accidentally pop into his thoughts once in a while.

Jake: I did start calling her after that.

Rachel: That was very nice.  Then one day I realized that he had put a post-it note on his phone that said, "Call Rachel," that's when I realized that he hadn't spontaneously started to think about me.  He was just obeying a sign like, "Pay electric bill."

Jake: Isn't the important thing that I called?

Rachel: I don't need more phone calls, I just want to know that you care.

Jake: Hm, caring.  Rachel and I have had a lot of discussions about caring.  To put it bluntly, I will never care as much as Rachel does about anything.  Rachel is a very caring person.

Rachel: Sometimes I wish I could care less, because it takes a lot of energy to care about everything.  But I'm not sure how to turn it off.  I do wish that I could "mind-meld" some of my caring into Jake so I don't have to do it all myself all the time.

Jake: Hey, I do care.

Rachel: Yes, you do, but sometimes I have to ask you to.

Jake: By the way, how did you know about the post-it note on my phone?

Rachel: I listen to your voice.  I care.

[musical transition]

Dennis: What do you think?

Bob: I am remembering some phone calls that I've made when I've been away from town – I've been out of town, and I'll call home because that's what you're supposed to do when you're out of town, you're supposed to call home, right?  Check in and see how things are.  Halfway through the phone call, Mary Ann will say, "So what are you watching?"  And I'm thinking, "How does she know I'm" – I've got the TV on mute.  She can't hear anything.


 And she knows that I'm watching something because …

Dennis: You're not fully connected.

Bob: Yeah, I'm not really engaged in that conversation.

Dennis: You know, that's the problem with marriage sometimes.  You get to know each other so well.

Bob: I hate that, don't you?

Dennis: You can read the mail without being there.  Have you ever wondered why God commanded a husband to love his wife in such a way that she is nourished and cherished?  Have you every wondered that?

Bob: Yeah, I've wondered that.  You got an answer for me?

Dennis: Because they're different from a man, and you don't think of a man needing to be nourished or cherished.  Now, we have a need – a need for a man biblically to be respected by his wife, but a wife really needs to feel cherished.

Bob: You're talking about her feeling cared for.

Dennis: Nourished, right, right.  And, Bob, if you could speak with any couple in the universe about how to care for a woman in marriage and how to express this so that they wouldn't experience conflict, what couple would you want to interview?

Bob: I'd probably talk to Percy Sledge, you know, because he said when a man loves a woman, he'll sleep out all night in the rain for her.  We're talking real caring there, you know what I'm saying?

[Percy Sledge sings in background]


Dennis: No, I don't, Bob.

Bob: You never heard of Percy Sledge, have you?

Dennis: I have heard it somewhere, but I don't think that he'd fit in our radio program.

Bob: Have you got a better suggestion for me?

Dennis: How about Tim and Joy Downs?

Bob: Well, they've done a great job this week as we've been talking about the seven conflicts that exist in marriage relationships, and that's really the premise of one of the two books you've written on conflict.  You've said that these issues just pop back up again and again in our face.  Welcome back to the program and tell us how you got to these seven as THE seven, Tim.

Tim: Well, it's history.  We just found in disagreeing over hundreds of things over the course of 22 years of marriage, finally we began to sort them all out and say, you know what?  We don't disagree about everything.  We disagree about seven things, that's all, and we can really get somewhere if we start talking about the seven instead of the hundreds of different things.

Bob: And, Joy, then, when you went to a couple of thousand couples who were attending Weekend to Remember conferences and asked them about conflict, you found they were disagreeing over the same seven?

Joy: Right.  It just seemed to boil down – we could fit them into one of those seven categories, the root causes for the conflicts that they're having.

Dennis: And, Joy, those seven categories are?

Joy: Security, loyalty, responsibility, caring, order, openness, and connection.

Dennis: Tim, before we came on the air, you were saying that you felt like these seven categories, for the most part – well, men felt some, and women felt some, but this subject of caring is uniquely – well, it is deposited in the heart of one sex more – much more than the other.

Tim: Very true, very true.  We found that these are not really gender specific – security is not, loyalty is not, responsibility is not, but, you know, when it comes to caring, it's very much a woman's issue, and a woman's complaint about her husband; that we don't care the way we should.

Dennis: You'd think I would know about this after 30 years of marriage, but last night, after a very, very long day, we fell in bed about 11:00 at night, and Barbara began to recount her day.  It had been a terrible, horrible, very bad day, and she wanted to move to Australia, and she was sharing this with me and, you know, after about, you know, six, seven, eight things that had gone on, I attempted to comfort her with some humor.

 Well, that didn't endear me to her in any regards, and so she begins to say, "You know, what I need you to do when I've had a tough day, is I just need you to hear me, to comfort me, and to tell me that you're sorry that you had a tough day."

 And, you know, Bob, it's amazing how many times you can relive your first year of marriage.  I mean, you can learn some of these lessons over and over again, but our wives have their own need – special need in a special language that we, as men, have to figure out what this language is to be able to communicate that we truly do care.

Bob: Tim, we do care about our wives, don't we?

Tim: We do, but we don't always express it in a way that they can appreciate, so what we've tried to do is break caring down into two components that will help the men out here.  One is awareness, and the second is initiative.  Awareness is just knowing what is going on without having to be told.

Dennis: Like the phone call with you?

Tim: Absolutely, that's exactly right.  You know, a woman doesn't want to have to say, "How do I look?"  Because if she has to ask the question, it doesn't matter what your answer is, you're disqualified.  From that point on, if you just begin, "You are fabulous, you are beautiful," you were asked for the answer, and so you lose all points for that.

 Awareness is when you happen to notice when your wife walks in the room, you notice she's dressed differently than she was yesterday or that her hair has been cut in the last month and to say, "Hey, look, I notice this," and then to comment on how nice she looks.

Dennis: You know, this could be another clue, last night, as to why I had negative points, because Barbara had gotten her hair cut yesterday, and the way it was fixed when I first saw it from the beauty shop – well, it was just different, and I didn't say what I was supposed to say dutifully at that point.  I said what I thought, and I shouldn't have done that, I shouldn't have done that.

 Now, I have to ask you, Joy, because you're a woman, what do you want a husband to do at that moment?  I mean, if he truly doesn't like it like that, what's he to say?

Tim: Let's all tune into this.

Bob: Yes, everybody's moving close to the radio right now.

Tim: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Joy: Well, you know, I don't think there's any blanket rules.  I mean, you could do this for a haircut, but it might not work for the outfit or the speech you give or – so my answer – this isn't what you want to hear is be a student of your wife, and ask her what she would like you to say, because my answer could be different than what your wife says.

 But I'll tell you what I would appreciate.  I would appreciate Tim to saying, "Honey, I noticed you got your haircut."  And, "Is this the style that you wanted?"  You know, to ask some questions and things, then, at that point, here, "That's not really the best way that I like your hair.  I liked it better the other way," or whatever.

 But, you know, sometimes after years of marriage, you know, by the questions they're asking, that they're avoiding saying, "I don't really like your hair like that," so that might not be the answer.

Bob: There may be a no-win [inaudible].


 But we can say things like, as you suggested, "Were you happy with the way it turned out," you know, and find out – "Were you pleased with – did you like the hairstylist?  Did you guys have a nice conversation?

Tim: Has that worked for you, Bob?

Bob: No, but I'm trying here.


Joy: Well, I can tell you one thing, I can tell you one thing that Tim has done that has – I think he's kind of learned over the years, and he has said, "You know, honey, you have very pretty hair just about any way you get your haircut is fine, but that's not my favorite way to have your hair cut."

 You know, I appreciate his honesty, and then the blow isn't so hard, because, wives, we want our husbands to think that we're pretty, and we want them to even see past the bad haircut and say, "You are such a pretty woman."

Dennis: So the bottom line is she comes home with haircut, you look at her carefully, and you say, "You look great," because the reality is, Barbara is beautiful regardless of her haircut, and you affirm her for that, and you hope and pray that she doesn't ask you, "What do you think about my haircut?"

Tim: And at that point, we do not recommend Bob's answer of, "Is that they way you wanted it to come out?"  Bob, you're going nowhere with that one.

Bob: You don't think that's going to work for me, huh?


 You talk about the first issue, it's awareness, and, I've got to tell you, sometimes this flies right past me, because I'll look at Mary Ann one night and go, "You got your hair cut, didn't you?"  And she'll say, "Yeah, about two weeks ago," and I realize that, at that point, you know, I would have been better – I've already lost.  What is it about us, as guys, that we just don't notice – we're not aware, and how do we get more aware?

Tim: You know, part of this even has biological roots.  You know, women have wider peripheral vision than men do, but men have greater depth of field than women do.  We are set up in different ways.  Women, I believe, engage the world more deeply than men do.  They feel more, sense more, they know more of what is going on, and that's why, when you were a child, getting trouble upstairs, your mother would call upstairs and say, "What's going on up there?"

Bob: She knew.

Tim: She knew.  She has senses working that a guy doesn't have, and when we're communicating, men tend to communicate through their words.  Women are listening to the tone of your voice, the look on your face, the angle of your body.  They just tend to be sensitive to more things and aware of more things, and they expect us to do the same.

Dennis: Okay, we've established the fact, then, that men are blind, and we don't see the world as clearly as our wives do, and if men are honest, our wives do see a lot more than we do.

 But, Joy, I need you to give us, at this point, some very clear coaching tips on how a husband can truly express a caring heart to his wife.

 We've already talked about being aware of this need.  Okay, he's aware of it, but he needs some practical hooks here to begin to know how to communicate this caring to his wife.  Where does he start?

Joy: Well, one of the points that we made later in our book is just to take small steps, and I think most wives appreciate the fact that they're trying, that they verbalize, "Honey, I care about you," and they are trying.

 I think withdraw is one of the biggest enemies that couple face and, particularly, I think it's a wounding thing for a wife to feel like her husband is withdrawing.  So the fact that he's trying to engage and that he is trying to take the initiative with her is just a big win to start.

 So I would encourage all the husbands, start somewhere.  And the conversations that Tim and I have had over the years are that I ask him, "Honey, if you don't know what to say, ask me questions, and that is very helpful to me."

 And the instance when you were talking about you and Barbara – for me, in that case, I would like to have had Tim ask me more questions about my day – how did that make me feel, what was hard about it?  And I feel like I can process things that way.  So by him asking questions is a big step forward to me.

Tim: Here is a classic caring argument.  A guy walks in, his wife, she is not in a good mood.  He says to her, "How are you?"  She says, "I'm fine."  Well, she's expecting him to pick up on this – tone of voice look on her face, but he doesn't really want to engage, so he goes, "Okay, fine," and he walks off.

 Well, later in the evening …

Dennis: Or maybe he missed it altogether.

Tim: He could have just missed it altogether.  But later in the evening, there is coldness, there is anger, he begins to ask, "What are you mad about, what's the problem?"  And she says, "Are you just picking up on this now?" And then he begins to say, "Well, now, wait a minute, earlier in the day I asked you, 'how are you' and you said, 'I'm fine.'  If you weren't fine, why didn't you say, 'I'm not fine.'"  You see this, because we're preferring words, and we're not looking for all the other things that are going on. 

 But what the woman is saying is, "Look, this is an issue of caring.  When you say 'how are you,' that's a cliché.  This is elevator conversation.  That doesn't tell me you want to engage me, so I'm not going to empty my soul to you when you say, 'how are you?'  If you cared, you'd follow up and say, 'Really?  Are you sure you're okay?  You don't look okay, you look' – and then I could talk with you."

 This is a problem we often have, and it's just because we haven't cared.

Dennis: And it may be a problem that we've not stopped to define some words and really evaluate how we can fulfill those words that we promised when we got married.  We promised to love, honor, and cherish, and one of the more interesting things is we've had some speakers who have come along and who have spoken about cherishing your wife, and it's interesting to read the evaluations that come out of the audience from men.  It's like the lightbulb has come on – "I really did promise something very specific to my wife when I promised to cherish her."

 But that word, "cherish" is a very specific word that has a definite meaning in the soul of a woman.  Now, I want to ask Joy, help us, as men, to define and better understand how a man cherishes his wife.  What makes you feel cherished?

Joy: Well, that's a big question.  I think what makes me feel cherished is that Tim has been a student of who I am, and I think, for you young married women out there, you need to give your husband a little grace, and you're going to need to coach them and talk to them more along the way.

 But it is so nice, after 22 years of marriage, that I feel like Tim has learned about me.  He knows the nuances in my voice when I may say, "I'm okay," but it cracks a little bit, and he knows I'm not okay.  And then he takes the initiative, even if he doesn't feel like it, to say "Why aren't you okay?"

 And for him to make positive account deposits, so to speak, telling me what he thinks along the way, that I am pretty, that I am valuable, that I am a good mom, so that those times that come up where I don't get a good haircut, or I don't feel especially good about myself, he can tell me the truth, and it's buffered by all of the positive things that he has said.

 What we have talked about is I've had to tell Tim, "Honey, could you just tell me what you're thinking," because he says, "I do think that you're attractive, I do think that you're smart," but I have to tell him, "I need to hear them."  And so rolling around in your head doesn't help me anymore.

Tim: And I do a lot of rolling.

Dennis: I had a conversation with a young man last night over the phone.  I was giving him a little counsel, and he was in the first months of his marriage, and I said, "How are you doing at communicating love to this new bride of yours?"  He said, "Well, we're getting there, we're getting there."  And I said, "Well, you just have to keep on loving and cherishing and keep on pursuing her and communicating that to her," because it takes a lifetime to communicate that love, and just because you cared for her last night doesn't mean that she feels cared for today.

 And, for a lot of men, we kind of flip a switch and, we go, "Well, you know, I took care of that, checked that off the list, that's good for a month."  That's not the way real life or real love works.

Bob: You know, we started with this phone call home, and the issue of "if you cared, you'd call home."  It's wound up for me after all these years of marriage that I'll call home someday and say, "I was just thinking about you and wanted to see how your day was going and how is everything?"

Dennis: "What do you want?"

Bob: Mary Ann will say, "What's the real reason?"  "No, really, you were just on my mind, I was thinking about you."  "Okay, so what else?"  You know, and that does expose that maybe there's not been the care there all along, at least not communicated as effectively, and I want to know what do you think about her hair today, do you think she looks nice, are you okay with that?

Tim: She's gorgeous today, she's fabulous today.

Bob: And if, ladies, you would like your husband to learn from a master like Tim Downs, you can either contact us and get copies of the books that the Downs have written – "The Seven Conflicts" and "Fight Fair," or you can make plans to attend one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences when it comes to a city near where you live this fall.

 There are couples like the Downs who speak at these conferences who provide practical, biblical authentic help for the real issues that couples are facing in a marriage relationship.  We're going to be hosting these conferences in more than 60 cities all across the country this fall, and we've been reminding our listeners this week, we're down to the last few days where you can sign up for one of these Weekend to Remember conferences and save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee as a FamilyLife Today listener.

 You can either register online or by phone at 1-800-FLTODAY, and, again, when you identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener, you'll be able to attend one of these weekend getaways for couples and save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee.  In order to that, you either call 1-800-FLTODAY, mention that you listen to FamilyLife Today, and tell us that you'd like to register for an upcoming conference, or register online at, and as you fill out the registration form just type my name, type "Bob" in the keycode box, and we'll know you're a FamilyLife Today listener, and you'll save $60 off the regular registration fee per couple.

 We'll also make available a copy of the new book by Dennis and Barbara Rainey called "Moments With You," when you register this week.  The book is not yet in Christian bookstores.  I think it's going to be there in the next couple of weeks, but as soon as it's available, we'll make sure you can get a copy.

 So, again, register this week.  You'll save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee for a Weekend to Remember conference, and you'll get a copy of the sequel to "Moments Together for Couples," the bestselling book by Dennis and Barbara Rainey.  This one is call "Moments With You," and you can register online at or call 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we'll get you all fixed up for one of these conferences.  Dennis?

Dennis: As we've talked about this subject that we've discussed today, caring for our spouses, especially for our wives, Joy, there are some women right now who are listening whose husbands do not express care.  They don't seem to cherish and nourish them as wives, and they may be tempted to really be preoccupied with how their husband is not caring for them.  What would you say to that wife who doesn’t feel cared for?

Joy: Well, that's a hard situation, because I believe that the Lord has designed us to want that from our husbands.  It's a good thing to want our husbands to care for us and I think it's a dangerous thing when we stop wanting that and stop caring about it.  Then that's dangerous.

 So I would say, first of all, just don't give up.  Whether you've been married six months or 22, 30 years, God can still work in your husband's life and work in your own.  And I would say pray and ask God to change your heart so that you could see the positive qualities about your husband.  He may not care for you in the way that you want him to care, but there are other positive qualities about him that are good qualities, and he might be a good man in other areas.  So try to focus on those.

 But then I would also say ask God just to change him in the way that God would have him change to be a more caring husband and, in humility, explain to him, talk to him, coach him, if you will, about how he can make you feel loved.

Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 


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