Differences, though normal, often strain a marriage. Husband and wife team Tim and Joy Downs tell how differences in priorities, structure, and even the way we make decisions challenges husbands and wives to understand and love each other.
Differences, though normal, often strain a marriage. Husband and wife team Tim and Joy Downs tell how differences in priorities, structure, and even the way we make decisions challenges husbands and wives to understand and love each other.
Bob: Tim and Joy Downs are two very different people. They would tell you they are two very different people. But there’s one thing that they agree on—differences aren’t all that bad.
Tim: You are different, and you have no idea yet how different you are.
Joy: There will be differences that will come up. They’ll surprise you, and they’ll disappoint you.
Tim: It may take the kids to come along before you discover what you really care about—
Joy: That is normal.
Tim: —because kids are where marriage gets serious.
Joy: With those differences, God is working in your life to bring about the best in you.
Tim: When the differences come, the issue isn’t how different you are. It’s the attitude you take toward your differences.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, September 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk about the fact that we are different in marriage and that those differences aren’t bad—they’re just different.
In fact, sometimes, difference can be good. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. We are going to talk about differences today—about some of the challenges that those differences can present. But before dive into what we are talking about, I want to remind our FamilyLife Today listeners about the special offer that is going to expire next week.
You’ve got just a week left if you want to take advantage of a buy one/get one free opportunity for our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. These are the weekend getaways that we host for couples, all across the country—two-and-a-half days at a nice hotel where you can relax, unwind, have some fun, and learn together God’s design for marriage:
“What are the biblical blueprints for making a marriage work?”
This fall, we’re hosting 14 getaways in Florida, in Texas, California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Tennessee, Iowa, South Dakota, and Idaho. Then, in the spring, we are in cities, all across the country, with more than 50 events. You’ve got a little over a week left if you want to sign up and take advantage of attending one of these getaways, where you pay for your registration and your spouse comes free—the buy one/get one free opportunity. It’s good this week and next week.
You can get more information when you go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” We’ll answer any questions you have about the getaway. We can get you signed up over the phone, or sign up online. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button that says, “GO DEEPER.” The information about the Weekend to Remember is available there.
Of course, one of the things we talk about at the Weekend to Remember—
—is just how different we are, as husbands and wives. We’ve been focusing on that this week. Dennis, you’ve already shared with us about areas where you and Barbara are different. You gave us a rather extensive list of that. I’m just curious—where would you say the two of you are most alike?
Dennis: Well, I’ll tell you what my first thought was—and I hate to say this because this sounds kind of pious, and I don’t like pious people—but I’ll share it anyway—our faith. We’re both committed to Christ, committed to the Scriptures, and we’ve been pretty fierce about that over the years.
Bob: And that’s so central to who both of you are that, if the front lawn goes to seed—
Dennis: No; no, that front lawn going to seed—that trumps—
Bob: That’s right up there with—
Dennis: —that trumps the Scripture. [Laughter]
Bob: —love for Jesus; doesn’t it? [Laughter]
Dennis: We have a couple of friends with us, Tim and Joy Downs, back on FamilyLife Today. The fact that they’re back here for another day is really a testimony of their friendship with us, Bob. [Laughter]
We’ve found some fresh ways to offend them over the past—
Bob: And a testimony to their enduring marriage because we’ve put it to the test over this week.
Dennis: We have. Tim, Joy, welcome back.
Tim: Thanks, guys.
Joy: Good to be here.
Dennis: They’ve written a book called One of Us Must Be Crazy…and I’m Pretty Sure It’s You. I think some of our listeners, by now, are beginning to go, “I could have co-authored that book.” You talk about seven areas where we have differences—seven categories. There are a couple we haven’t talked about. One of them is loyalty. Now, how in the world does loyalty create conflict in a marriage?
Bob: Is it because one is and the other isn’t? Is that the issue?
Tim: No, it’s that one is more sensitive to issues of loyalty than the other one is. If you want to understand loyalty, break it down into the two terms: “faithfulness” and “priority.” That means: “In our relationship, I expect you to be thoroughly faithful to me; and I expect to have a certain priority in your life.
“If I don’t have that priority or if someone or somebody else has taken that priority, we’re going to have conflict.”
Dennis: So, if a man was a little too friendly with a waitress or maybe was in the airport and watched the opposite sex, a woman, who values loyalty, could really be offended, at that point.
Tim: Sure could. And you know, she may never express it in those terms; but that’s the underlying issue. We’re trying to help couples get it down to the point where they can name it: “That feels unfaithful / that feels disloyal to me. That’s why it hurts me so much when you do that.”
Dennis: How has that occurred in your marriage, Joy? Can you give me an illustration of where loyalty has popped up between you and Tim?
Joy: Sure. There are different areas, I think. In the area of—sometimes, when he puts more of his time toward his writing or work, that feels disloyal to me, in that, I feel that I don’t have the rightful place in his life. Maybe it’s just out of balance, at that point, so I feel like it’s petty for me to bring it up.
That’s what is hard for us—I think we feel petty. We maybe feel selfish; but really, the truth is that it’s okay to feel that way. Sometimes, it’s rightfully so—that we feel like our place has been taken by something else.
Bob: Well, let’s think about it—marriage—there’s a pledge of loyalty.
Tim: There is.
Bob: Faithfulness is something we have pledged to one another. So, a lack of faithfulness is a violation of the pledge; right?
Tim: There’s a pledge of priority too. If you think about the wedding vow, we talk about forsaking all others.
Tim: What that means is: “I’m going to move you into a place of priority that, before, belonged to someone or something else.” When we feel like our partner’s not keeping that part of the vow, that’s a source of conflict.
Bob: So, if we pledged faithfulness and priority, isn’t it legitimate, when somebody’s not living up to that, that we call them on it? I mean, I’m thinking, in this case, it seems like one person is right and the other one is wrong.
Dennis: Well, in Joy’s case—I’m just thinking of you, thinking about “Tim’s working too much.” It’s kind of like: “At what point does too much work become disloyalty?
“Is it 50 hours—60, 70, 80?” At what point does it move from being petty to you having a legitimate concern about his loyalty to you?”
Joy: Right. And there’s no cookie-cutter answer for that. I feel like each couple needs to talk about that, and it’s based on your situation too. There are some times in our marriage where we’ve felt that Tim has a right to be out long hours. I know he has projects that take a long time—
Bob: I’m thinking of book deadlines.
Joy: Oh, exactly.
Bob: So, if he’s facing a book deadline—and that just means, “I’ll see you when the deadline’s done,”—do you just say, “Okay”?
Joy: No. I think, sometimes—even if he’s there in bodily form, sometimes, he’s not there, mentally. So, I need to say, “Honey, I think we need some time to talk,” or “I feel like you’re not really present with me or the children.” It really starts with a conversation. But there are all different marriages that have different strains on their marriage.
Dennis: And so, when you’re facing a deadline, Tim, a deadline is a deadline. You’ve got a manuscript that has to be done; and your wife says to you, “I don’t feel like you’re here.” Logically, I could see how you could think: “I can’t be here. I have to be all there to finish this because my livelihood depends upon it.”
Bob: Sounds like you’ve been there yourself, maybe, on occasion.
Dennis: No doubt.
Tim: Everybody has in work—in one form or another. There are times when you have to say: “I’m sorry. I can’t be here until such and such a time.” But what Joy said is important. When I’m here—when I’m home—I need to be home in body and soul.
Tim: When I’m doing this thing, where part of me comes home but the rest of me is out—I’m not fully conscious / I’m not fully engaged with her—that’s something I can actually control.
Bob: And if you can say to Joy: “Look. I have this deadline. When the deadline is over, I’m going to block out this time—that’s for us, and we’ll reconnect. So, ride the wave with me and then we’ll be there.”
That’s better than just to say, “Hey, look, this is the way it is, and we’ll get some time sometime”; right?
Tim: Exactly. And the problem is, in marriage, sometimes, we’re going deadline to deadline. It’s always a promise of what we’re going to have once we’ve reached this next hurdle—it never happens.
Bob: When that’s the case, then, the pledge of priority that we made when we got married is being violated at a fundamental level. Somebody has the right to reach in the back pocket, pull out the yellow flag, throw it on the field, and go: “Wait. There’s a penalty going on here”; right?
Joy: Exactly. I think women can be guilty of this, too, only it takes different forms. Maybe they are working outside the home—so it takes that form. But I’ve certainly been on committees and headed up certain things, where it’s taken a lot of my time. I can be on the phone a lot / I can be even out a lot. Tim has a right to say, “Honey, I don’t feel like we’re connecting.”
Bob: I think as big as that may be, bigger than that is when the kids come along.
Bob: It’s real easy for the kids to move up on the priority scale, ahead of the husband.
So, all of a sudden, the husband’s going, “Remember me?” “Yes, I know, but the kids need me. You’re pretty much self-sufficient.”
Bob: That’s not a good way for a marriage to work, either; is it?
Joy: No. No. As empty nesters now, we especially see that—that you want your marriage to survive your children and you want to like each other, after the children are grown and gone.
Bob: That working okay for you?
Joy: It is.
Bob: Alright. I’m just making sure.
Joy: I still like him.
Dennis: Alright. Let’s go to the next one—the area of order and the discussion of how our differences—in how we deal with things being in their place, and structure, and organization. I’m married to a woman who has a high value of order—
Tim: There you go.
Dennis: —I’m telling you.
Tim: Some people like their ducks in a row. Other people have ducks, but they’re not sure where they put them. [Laughter]
Bob: Like them floating around in the pond.
Tim: That’s right, exactly. “I think I had some ducks. Do you see my ducks?”
Dennis: So between you two, let me just take an off the cuff guess—you’re extremely ordered and the extrovert you’re married to is kind of spontaneous.
Bob: No, I think it’s the other way around.
Tim: Well, you know what. It’s funny. We ride the fence a little more on this one. It depends on where you’re talking. If it’s work for me, I’m very structured. If it’s off-time, I want lack of structure.
So, a classic disagreement for Joy and for me: Vacation is coming. For me, I live by structure and schedule in my work time—so, vacation means no schedule. For Joy, she wants a schedule for vacation because we don’t get much vacation. If there’s no schedule, we won’t make best use of the time. So, we can actually end up disagreeing—arguing about our off-time.
Dennis: Yes. You’re flip-flopping.
Dennis: I’m hearing you say you need time off where you’re not driven by the schedule, while, all of a sudden, she’s going, “I need a schedule.”
Tim: Exactly. We’ve had to learn to compromise in that. What we’ve learned to do is to schedule unscheduled times. So, vacation is coming—and we’ll actually set up a schedule—but, within that schedule, there’s three hours/four hours when there will be no schedule.
That satisfies my desire and her desire as well.
Bob: You also spent some time looking at the fact that some people are fast processors / other people are slow processors, some people are quick decision-makers/ other people are slower thinkers—more deliberate. We’ve faced this in our marriage. I was talking to Mary Ann, just last night, about the fact that I’m pretty confident in making a decision. It could be wrong, but that’s okay.
Dennis: Have you ever lost an argument?
Bob: You know, there are many ways to lose an argument. [Laughter] Let me just say, you can be right—
Dennis: —and lose the—
Bob: —and lose an argument. That’s happened to me many times.
Dennis: Bob is lightning fast at processing.
Bob: I’m a quick processor / quick decision-maker. Mary Ann is slower and more deliberate.
Here’s a classic example. We’ll go out shopping for clothing. I’ll bring home a new shirt, and she’ll bring home a new shirt; okay?
When I bring home the new shirt—tomorrow, what am I wearing?—the new shirt. I just bought it! It’s my new shirt—I want to wear it. When she brings home a new shirt—tomorrow, where is it? It’s at the end of the bed, as she’s still thinking about whether she’s going to keep it.
Dennis: Yes. It’s probably already back at J.Crew—she’s returned it.
Bob: I will say that there are things that I’ve brought home, put on—wore the next day. A month later, I went: “Yes, I probably shouldn’t have bought that. It’s pretty creepy looking on me.” [Laughter] But it’s, again, how we process data.
Mary Ann and I were talking about this because one of our children wrestles with decision-making—a slow processor / think about it. I said, “How do we help this child make quicker decisions?” She said, “Well, I think we have to get to the root issue of why the child is delaying decision-making.” I said, “Okay, well, help me figure that out because I don’t know what a root issue for that would be because I just make them quick.” Again, it’s not that a quick decision-maker is right and a slow processor is wrong.
In fact, there have been many times when her slow processing—
Bob: —has bailed me out—when she said “You didn’t think about this, and this, and this; did you?” And I went, “No, I didn’t.”
Dennis: So, between you two—“Who is the quick decision-maker?”—and the other one, “Who’s the slower processor?”
Tim: I’ll decide that. [Laughter] I’m the quick decision-maker. And you know, Bob, you’re right. It’s just a personality issue because, when you’re a quick decision-maker, that just says, “I am satisfied making decisions this way, and I don’t look back.” So, I sum things up fast, make a decision, move on, and never revisit it again.
Joy will take more time, and she’ll be more analytical. She sees parts of a decision I never see, and she will revisit her decision later on. I rarely ever say, “You know, I’m not sure I should have done that,” because I’ve moved on to the next decision by that time.
Bob: I have made, in my life, quick decisions that were outside my area of competency—that I’ve been embarrassed by later on. I’m thinking of carpeting in the studio, back all those years ago; right?
Dennis: Ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you—
Bob: You do not want to trust your carpeting choices to me.
Dennis: That’s exactly right.
Bob: It doesn’t really matter how much time it takes.
Dennis: You can trust your microphone to Bob, but I’m going to tell you something—
Dennis: —we actually operated this broadcast out of a closet—
Bob: For a while.
Dennis: —for a while, and actually won some awards out of that closet.
Bob: We did. That’s right.
Dennis: It was pretty good—maybe ought to go back there. Anyway, Bob picked out this carpeting. What color was it, Bob? Was it purple?
Bob: It had kind of a purple hue to it, yes.
Dennis: I walked in, and what did I say? I mean, I’m not the most sensitive guy around colors and stuff like that because I married an artist; okay?
Bob: I think you walked in and said, “Uhh-uh.” I think that is what it was: “Uhh-uh. No. No, this must change.” It was doing something to your vision. It was causing disequilibrium or something.
Dennis: I think so. You know, in our marriage, this has shown up repeatedly—our differences. Again, I’m a quick processor and make decisions.
Where it shows up the most is around scheduling—airplane flights, trips, deciding how many days we’re going to be gone. It doesn’t take me long to decide, but Barbara needs an email trail that is several weeks’ long to kind of process this.
With airline tickets being what they are, and the cost of traveling, and the need to make a decision so you can book appointments—the number of times that we have argued about this, Tim—I mean, it’s astounding how we’ve argued about this because she’ll say, “I just didn’t have time to be able to make the decision.” Now, in that situation, how do you handle it? I was out in front of it, far enough in advance, and the processor was running real slow.
Tim: Well, the problem here is that you may spend your time disagreeing about the plan, or the flight, or the vacation instead of talking about the way you make your decision. We find that couples seldom look deep enough to say: “You know what? We just decide in different ways.”
Sometimes, you can help a couple to actually set a deadline for a decision—or even decide you’ll have a period when you’ll revisit the decision—but “After two days, we’ll just agree we’re not going back there any more—no more revisiting.” You can actually address the way you make your decision instead of just constantly talking about decision after decision.
Dennis: That’s good advice. I can see how that could work. Now, what about you two? What’s an area in your marriage, over the years, where you’ve had conflict repeatedly around this area, right here, of making a decision?
Tim: It might have to do for us with the kids. I just tend to sum things up and go: “A or B? It’s A. Let’s move on.” But for Joy, it’s complex. Life is complex, and she wants to think about it more. She wants to consider things and, then, go back and revisit them.
Dennis: Are you talking about discipline?
Tim: It can be discipline. It can be an issue—something’s come up at school. We’ve got this situation to deal with the kids. How do we deal with it? I tend to just take them off the cuff.
Bob: So, “Should Tommy take band or French next year?” And you just go, “Hmm, probably French.” It’s done, in your mind; right?
Bob: And Joy, you’re kind of wishing he’d enter into weighing out the pros and the cons, like you’re trying to do in your own mind.
Bob: We’ve confessed that, as fast processors / fast decision-makers, that it does help us to have somebody slowing us down. Has it benefitted you, over the years, to be married to somebody who makes quick decisions?
Joy: Yes, I think so. There are times where you know you need to make a quicker decision. I think that I live with regret; and sometimes I’ve had to just say: “I’m not going to regret that. I’m just going to move on, and so be it.”
Dennis: Both of you are going to get a shot at this question—kind of summarizing what we’ve talked about here this week. You’ve got 60 seconds, each, to give your best advice to a brand-new married couple. I just got the “Thank you,” from them. They just got married—got the sunset picture on the beach. They’re starting out their marriage together. They’ve got the little address on the back of the card—first year of marriage.
What’s your best advice, Joy, in terms of how they make the most sense out of their differences because they have no idea how different they are?
Joy: I think I would first tell them to recognize that there will be differences that will come up. They’ll surprise you, and they’ll disappoint you, and that that is normal—just to realize that, with those differences, God is working in your life to bring about the best in you.
Sometimes, it will look like the worst in you, and you’ll be angry with your spouse for bringing those things out; but I think just try to look at your spouse as a gift from God. We say that so frequently—but to realize that he or she—they’re in your life for a reason. God can use that for the best. Try to learn as much as you can.
We’ve written a few books / you all have written a few books—but try to learn all that you can—through reading / through a mentor couple—as much as you can about the differences.
And then, just try to talk about those things together. I think a lot of miscommunication and hurt comes from people when they don’t talk about things that hurt them or bother them. So, bring it up in as loving a way as you can.
Tim: I agree with Joy because I always agree with Joy—[Laughter]
Bob: Because it’s safe to agree with—
Dennis: You’re sounding like James Carville, at this point.
Tim: —because we always think alike on everything.
Tim: No, I would say the same thing. I think that I would tell couples: “You are different, and you have no idea yet how different you are. It may take the kids to come along before you discover what you really care about in life because kids are where marriage gets serious. When the differences come, the issue is not how different you are—it’s the attitude you take toward your differences.
“Joy described it well—if you realize part of the reason for marriage is to help couples be reshaped by God into the people he intended us to be—then, you recognize those differences—those are tools.
“They’re not accidents. We are supposed to be different. If two of you think alike, one of you is unnecessary. So, if you can embrace the differences and learn to kind of enjoy that experience of becoming who you are supposed to be, you’ll take a whole different view of conflict in marriage.”
Dennis: I would add one word and one piece of advice to what you just said. The word is “commitment”—commitment to Christ and to one another because that commitment is going to overlook a multitude of disappointments over your lifetime together.
And the piece of advice: “Go hear Tim and Joy at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.” As a young couple, starting out your marriage, you can do nothing better than to go saturate your soul with the biblical blueprints for how you build a marriage and a family because you’re not going to get it from the culture. What you need to do is—you need to hear real, authentic people, like Tim and Joy, who are on our speaker team.
You need to hear them talk about how they’ve applied the Bible in their marriage.
And I just want to say, “Thanks,” to both of you for your friendship and for being on the team. You guys are great teammates and speaking the truth about family across the country—just appreciate you and appreciate you being on this broadcast.
Joy: Thank you.
Tim: Thank you.
Joy: Our privilege.
Bob: Well, it’s a great weekend too. It’s a lot of fun. You laugh a lot. It really is a great getaway time for a couple—whether you’re just starting a marriage or whether you need a break—maybe, it’s been a while since the two of you have had some time away, just to be together and relax and spend time together. The Weekend to Remember marriage getaway—it’s that—it’s a getaway. But at the same time, it can have a profound impact on your marriage and can keep you guys headed in the right direction.
We have 14 Weekend to Remember marriage getaways coming up this fall. We’re going to be hosting events in Florida, in Texas, California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Tennessee, Iowa, South Dakota, and Idaho.
If you live in any of those states—or if you like to travel and spend a nice weekend getaway in Texas, or California, or Florida, or Colorado, or any of those states—you can get more information about where we are hosting the Weekend to Remember marriage getaways, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER”; and the information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway is available right there.
Of course, this week and next week, you can sign up for a Weekend to Remember. When you pay the regular price for your registration, your spouse comes free. So, it’s a buy one/get one free opportunity. It’s good through the end of next week. We hope our listeners will take advantage of this. Go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com and plan to join us at one of these upcoming events; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” Get registered for an upcoming event.
If you want to register now for the spring, go ahead and lock things in and take advantage of the special rate. You can do that. Again, register, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and register over the phone.
If you have any questions, give us a call; or check us out, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” That’s where you’ll find the information about the Weekend to Remember. We hope you’ll plan to come join us at one of these events this fall.
And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday.
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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