FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Making Sense of the Differences

with Tim and Joy Downs | September 3, 2014
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Are you and your spouse as different as night and day? If so, you're not alone. Polar opposites Tim and Joy Downs laugh as they recall their differences and remind couples that God can use those "very different characteristics" in your spouse to mold and shape you in a beautiful way.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Are you and your spouse as different as night and day? If so, you're not alone. Polar opposites Tim and Joy Downs laugh as they recall their differences and remind couples that God can use those "very different characteristics" in your spouse to mold and shape you in a beautiful way.

  • 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.

Tim and Joy Downs laugh as they recall their differences and remind couples that God can use those “very different characteristics” in your spouse to mold and shape you in a beautiful way.

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Making Sense of the Differences

With Tim and Joy Downs
September 03, 2014
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Bob: Yes.

Dennis: Concept of “What’s on time?” She’s—um—she’s an artist. [Laughter] Artists, typically, are not on time. They’re kind of out there.

Bob: Kind of out there?!

Dennis: Well! My watch is ten minutes fast, and I like being places ahead of time. We had to set a record for being late to church—is all I can say—with all of our kids. [Laughter] 

She has a great appreciation of beauty and has taught me a lot about that. The way she looks at life—I mean, I can’t believe—Joy, you’re not going to believe this conclusion—she thinks like a woman about it. [Laughter] She thinks like a woman!

Joy: Oh, wonderful.

Dennis: Her needs, especially when it comes to communication, are totally different than mine—I can take the news report. Our approach to disciplining kids; differing dreams; different things fill her tank emotionally than fill mine.

Bob: Was this therapeutic?—making out this list for you.

Dennis: It really was. [Laughter]

Bob: I bet it was.


Dennis: It really was. I can keep going but, you know, the point is—when we marry, we marry someone who is different. Yet, the same differences that attracted us, initially—after you tie the knot—repel us. That really is what your book is about; isn’t it?—how the differences that attract us end up being a point of contention and conflict.

Tim: Absolutely. Everybody thinks that they are 100 percent compatible when they get married because they’re very much in love. What they don’t realize is that it takes time and the issues of life to surface the differences that are really there. When those differences come about, you can end up thinking that you’re not really compatible after all. That can be a discouraging thing.

Bob: So, you and Joy—on a scale of one to ten—differences versus similarities—or maybe I’ll ask it this way—

Dennis: He’s smiling! I want to hear him answer the question. Don’t rephrase it—just let him answer it.

Tim: I was hoping we could keep talking about Dennis and Barbara [Laughter] because I’m not sure they’re compatible after all.


Dennis: Okay. Here’s what I want you to do. Joy, don’t say the number out loud.

Joy: Oh, no.

Dennis: Get your number between one and ten—ten being really different—like poles apart—and one being, you know, you’re just helplessly and hopelessly in agreement all the time. [Laughter]

Tim: What are you laughing at?!  [Laughter]

Bob: So do you have your number locked in?

Tim: Oh, yes. We already knew that.

Bob: Do you have your number locked in?

Dennis: What’s your number, Tim?

Tim: We’re tens. We’re as different as night and day. Joy and I are different in every way. In One of Us Must Be Crazy, we describe seven fundamental differences. We are different in every one of them.

Bob: And you’d agree with the number that you guys are on opposite ends of the street on a lot of things?

Joy: Yes, yes.

Bob: On most things?

Joy: Yes.

Bob: Did you know it before you got married?

Joy: I knew to some extent what I was getting into but not to the full extent. [Laughter]

Bob: And, when you woke up and realized the full extent, what does that do?

Tim: There was a lot of screaming. [Laughter]

Joy: “God, help me!”

Bob: Do you think, “What have I gotten myself into?” I mean, did you have that thought early in marriage?

Joy: Oh, yes. Yes, yes. I had that thought yesterday. [Laughter]


Dennis: I’m sure Barbara did too. What was the first hint that there was really something different going on between you as you started your marriage? Do you remember that?

Joy: Yes. It still goes on to this day. I think it is really our innate differences in how we relate to people. I was an extrovert—what people call an extrovert. I love to be around people—that energizes me. While Tim likes people, he is energized more by tasks. So, he can be alone for long periods of time. I remember being kind of offended that he didn’t want to spend more time with me—that he was content being by himself. I would think, “He doesn’t really like me anymore.”

Dennis: He doesn’t need you.

Joy: No! I, in fact, asked him, “Can you think of any reason why you need me?” and he could not think of anything.

Bob: Oooh, oooh. That is not good!

Dennis: Bad answer, Tim.

Tim: Thank you. Yes, I’ve learned some things since then. [Laughter]



Joy: And it wasn’t that he was being arrogant or mean; but he thought in a very logical manner—which is another big difference in us. He thought: “Well, if you died, it would not be that I would die. I can survive / I can eat. I’ve learned how to be single.” So, he was thinking on very logical terms: “I can survive. So, I really don’t need you.”

Dennis: He was thinking like a man! [Laughter]

Tim: Yes; enforcing the problem.

Dennis: It is.

Bob: “Need you” for him meant survival—for you, it meant the value of being together.

Joy: Exactly: “Do I contribute anything to your life?”

Bob: Yes. Were you aware of this difference?—you were marrying this extrovert. If you liked to be alone so much why—why her?

Tim: Because people fall in love with their shadow selves. I looked at Joy and I saw all these wonderful qualities that I admired. Some of them I admired because I don’t have those qualities. You think, “You know, if I’m with a person like that, they will complete me.”

Bob: Yes.

Tim: But you don’t realize that your shadow self is something you’ll conflict with or compete with later on. So, it can be the source of disagreement.


Dennis: So, was it the same area that confronted you early in your marriage? Was that the first hint?

Tim: It probably was, yes—introversion/extroversion—because I enjoy people, but they take energy from me. People don’t understand that introversion/extroversion is not really about whether you like people or not—introverts like people. It’s about how you recharge your batteries. Introverts are worn down by people. Extroverts draw energy from other people.

So, Joy would feel tired and want to get a group of people together to recharge her batteries. For me, if I’m tired, I want to be alone because that’s how I charge my batteries back up.

Dennis: I really appreciate you sharing that, Tim, because, after we went out to dinner last night, I was wondering why you curled up in a corner in the fetal position. [Laughter]

Tim: It’s because of what you fed me.

Dennis: We gave him a southern meal last night. I don’t know if any of our listeners have had fried pickles; but we introduced—we introduced—

Bob: I’ve never had fried pickles! [Laughter]



I’ve seen them on the menu. I’ve thought, “Who orders those?” Now I know who orders them!

Tim: Now we know.

Dennis: You guys believe that, in all of these differences, there are what you call “hidden issues.” Explain that.

Tim: You don’t really realize what your issues are about sometimes. You can get to a point in a relationship where you are discouraged, thinking, “We disagree about everything.” What you don’t understand is there’s something hidden going on. You kind of have to clear away some of the debris—get down to the fundamental issue. That’s really why we wrote One of Us Must Be Crazy.

Bob: So the introvert/extrovert is a hidden issue; but it would present itself in things like Joy saying: “Hey, these folks are getting together next Friday night. Let’s go.” You go, “I’d just rather stay at home.” Her going, “What is wrong with him?”

How do you get from the presenting issue to the hidden issue? How do you dig below the surface and figure out what’s going on?



Joy: Well, sometimes, it takes years before you actually figure out what’s going on. So, I would really look at Tim and—you know, this is just my own sin nature / I didn’t know any better at the time—I would think: “A good Christian reaches out to people. A Christian wants to be around people. A Christian will give his or her time. A Christian will want to go to church—want to get involved.”

Then I realized, you know, “God made Tim the way he is.” There is a certain balance that I even needed to learn. I was more of a people-pleaser—God wanted to teach me some things through our marriage—and Tim did need to really venture out a little bit more. That’s why I was in his life.

Bob: You’re suggesting that getting all self-righteous about your differences is not a great way to go? Is that what I’m hearing? [Laughter]

Joy: Well, I’ve tried it. [Laughter]

Dennis: Well, we all try it. It’s the default.

Tim: Yes.

Dennis: We think, you know—it’s really what has helped Barbara and me come to a conclusion in our marriage: “Different isn’t wrong. It’s just different.”

Tim: Right.

Joy: Yes.

Dennis: “There’s more than one way to load the dishwasher.” [Laughter]

Joy: Right.

Dennis: Barbara loads it differently than I do.



It’s like there’s a biblically-approved way that the dishwasher has to be loaded—her way is the only way.

Joy: Right.

Dennis: Well, you can do it my way. [Laughter] You can just imagine what that way is.

Bob: Toss it in there and see what happens; right?

Dennis: So what’s the hidden issue between loading the dishwasher, Tim?

Tim: That just sounds perverse to me, Dennis. [Laughter]

You know, one of the things we talk about in One of Us Must Be Crazy is what we call dreams. That means we enter marriage with just this deep sense of how life is supposed to go and how things are supposed to run—how the dishwasher is supposed to be loaded.

Bob: Yes.

Tim: Your dreams are like the color of your eyes. You don’t even see them—you see through them—that’s the way you see the rest of the world. Your dreams collide when you get married and—especially, we think, when kids come along. It’s because of that conflict of dreams that we start having some of our deeper conflicts.


Bob: I was thinking about that whole idea, as I was looking at your book and thinking, “If you were to go to somebody and say, ‘In your relationship, who’s the more normal and who’s the more different person?’ wouldn’t everybody think: ‘I’m the more normal. The other person’s the more different’?”

Dennis: I think that’s the way we start out marriage.

Tim: Yes.

Bob: Our definition of “normal” is us—

Dennis: —“is me.”

Tim: Exactly.

Bob: That’s right. So, “If you vary from me, you’re abnormal. I’m normal.”

Tim: Right; right.

Bob: And that’s why we have that clash. We’re trying to pull somebody in our direction. Shouldn’t there be a time where we say: “This is who you are,” and we thank God and just let you be? Or do we keep trying to adjust one another? How do we deal with that?

Tim: You know, you’ll do both. We tell couples that the fundamental issue of marriage isn’t how different you are but the attitude you take toward your differences. What people have to come to grips with is: “None of us is the person that we were meant to be.”  So marriage is not just this process of two people living together so they can be happy.



God uses us to reshape one another into the people that he wants us to be. I’m always fascinated by the Proverb that says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,”—interesting metaphor; don’t you think?  I mean, he could have said, “As the sculptor molds the clay,” or, “As the painter paints the canvas…”

Dennis: “As the two flowers brush against each other…”

Tim: Yes, exactly. Why iron sharpening iron? Well, if you ever watch a blacksmith at work—there’s heat, there’s sparks, there’s fire. I think that the writer of the proverb was trying to tell us something about the process of one human being sharpening another. It’s not always a comfortable process.

Dennis: I wanted to ask you this question, Joy, because you said you married an introvert. Yet, as you know, Tim and you have been speaking at our Weekend to Remember marriage getawaysfor 25 years. You had to sit in the audience, at points, and go, “I can’t believe that’s my husband,” because in front of an audience—

Bob: He’s not all that introverted when he’s up on a platform.

Joy: No, no.


Dennis: I mean—he’s spectacular. He was the emcee for our I Still Do and Rekindling the Romance® arena events, where we had as many as 18,000 people. It was like Tim became this entertainer, comedian, fun-loving guy. If you’d have told the audience—if you’d have stood up and made the statement, “I’m an extrovert, and Tim is an introvert,” the audience would have booed you.

Joy: Right, exactly. We still get people that come up to Tim and say, “I don’t believe that you’re an introvert.” I really think that is true. I knew—you know, he has been speaking for as long as I’ve known him, in some form or fashion; but I knew the real him. I knew what really was the outward him, up in front, and what was the true him.

You know, when I said, “Yes, I’ve tried to change him in some ways,” I don’t think that’s all bad. I really think God put me in his life for that. I think Tim depends on me—maybe even more than I even want him to—to pull him out, to ask him to go places, to have him do things, to introduce him to people.



It’s just my method of how I do that—and how I internalize being grumpy about it or seeing that as my role.

Bob: Is she more introverted than she was when you married her?

Dennis: But before we get to that question, Tim was nodding his head.

Bob: Well, that’s true.

Dennis: He was nodding his head about—that you kind of like her pulling you out.

Tim: Absolutely. At this moment, I do. [Laughter] See, I’d be kidding you if I told you I’m always grateful for that process because it is, sometimes, something I resist.

Bob: Heat and sparks.

Tim: Absolutely. I’m absolutely convinced it’s one of her purposes in my life because introversion can be nice or it can go to an extreme—you can be locking yourself in a room, just telling yourself you’re recharging your batteries. There’s a proverb that says “He who separates himself lacks all common sense.” The introvert can be an unhealthy person. I think Joy is the person who has kept me healthy. I’m not always grateful; but, at this moment, I am.


Dennis: So, because you’re content, right now, Tim, and you’re not angry about it [Laughter]—I’d like to ask you a question. Coach the woman, or for that matter, the man, who is married to an introvert. What do they need to do there to celebrate their differences but also fulfill that role and that purpose in their spouse’s life?

Tim: Well, first recognize an introvert does like people; but they’re going to like them in a different way than you are. They may like fewer people at a time. They may prefer to get together with a small group of familiar friends rather than always meeting new people. The introvert isn’t going to like to chat—to have superficial conversation with a large group sucks the soul right out of his body. He needs alone time to recharge his batteries. So, make sure your introverted spouse has some alone time.

We tell couples sometimes: “Maybe Friday night, at the end of a busy week, maybe that ought to be your ‘rent a DVD night,’ where you have some down time—alone time / battery-recharging time. On Saturday night, that’s when you go out on the town.” You’ll find, if you get the order reversed, the introvert will be fighting with you every step of the way.


Dennis: I could have used that advice about 37 years ago—

Tim: So could I.

Dennis: —in our marriage because I married an introvert—very quiet. In fact, we’d go to parties, early in our marriage. Who was taking whom to the party?—I was taking her to the party with friends. I was enjoying things. I would turn to her, on the way home, and I’d say, “Sweetheart, you didn’t hardly say a word all night.” She would say, “That’s because you didn’t stop talking.”  [Laughter]

The point is—she is very selective about her friends. I like to compare her to like a warehouse full of goods—a lot in the warehouse. She’ll go out in the warehouse, pull out a can, and put it on the counter. “You like that can?” “You’ve got to earn the right to have a second can put on the counter.”


She’s not just a “Pull up the dump truck!” like I have been, on occasion, and just “Here’s everything I know and then some,” at that point. There’s where we do learn to balance one another.

Bob: I want to ask about this because we make it sound a little bit like introvert is bad, and you need an extrovert to help pull that out of you. But let’s turn it around: “How have you been a sanctifying influence on your extroverted wife? How has your introversion served her and helped her grow?”

Tim: I think the dark side of extroversion is you can be easily distracted. You can always be with other people—always on the run / always on the go—and running yourself down. You don’t let your own batteries recharge. I think that’s what Joy has had to learn over the years—she needs alone time. She said to me once, “I think maybe I’m an introvert too.” I said, “Honey, you’re just a pooped-out extrovert.” [Laughter]


She needs the down time and the alone time to do some recharging too. To have a reflective life—to be able to think, and read, and some very valuable things—you need some introversion.

Bob: Joy, you’re nodding your head like, “Yes.”

Joy: Yes. I think the greatest influence Tim has had for me is—I am a compassionate person—so I love to help people; but I can’t help everyone, and I can’t do that 24 hours a day. Tim has had to say to me, “Honey, you don’t need to do that.” He’s helped me pull back to some extent, where I don’t feel like I need to rescue everybody. Then that’s helped me trust God for those people too.

Dennis: Well, I’m listening to you both; and I’m reflecting back on how different Barbara and I are. In fact, one of the things we’ve talked about most—in the empty nest season of our marriage—is really refreshing the differences and rediscovering, if not discovering, how really different we are and how we really do need one another.


I think that’s the point of what God’s doing in marriage: He brings two people together to complement strengths and weaknesses. Some differences have nothing to do with strengths and weaknesses—just the appreciation of life and gender differences. The issue is: “Are you going to receive your spouse as God’s gift to you?”

Bob: And you guys know this is one of the key issues that we address at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. We talk about what we think is a cornerstone principle of marriage—that, in spite of our differences, we can affirm that this is the person God has brought me together with. Our spouse is a gift from Him, and we need to receive our spouse as a good gift from God.

I want to remind our listeners about the special offer we’re making, this week and next week, for those who would like to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.We’re going to be hosting 14 of them this fall. Then we’ve got, I think, more than 50 of them coming up in the spring.



If you’d like to register now, either for a fall event or a spring event—when you pay for one registration, your spouse comes free. It’s a buy one/get one free offer, and it’s good this week and next week only. Go to Click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” Or you can call if you have any questions: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number. We’ve got getaways happening this fall in Florida, and in Texas, in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Tennessee, Iowa, and Idaho. Of course, in the spring, we’ll be in cities all over the country.

The special offer, though, is good this week and next week only. Go to Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.” Register for an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. Take advantage of the buy one/get one free offer this week. Or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY” to take advantage of this special offer this week as well. We hope to see you at one of these upcoming getaways.


Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk more with Tim and Joy Downs about differences—really, about preferences—and about what happens when we start to think that our preferences are the right way to do things—not just the way we like things to be done. How do we resolve some of these issues in marriage? We’ll talk more about it tomorrow. I hope you can join us 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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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