FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Security, a Source of Conflict

with Tim and Joy Downs | September 10, 2007
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How do you approach conflict? Join us for today's broadcast when Dennis Rainey, a husband now for some 25 plus years, talks with authors Tim and Joy Downs about the source of marital conflicts. Don't miss it!

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • How do you approach conflict? Join us for today's broadcast when Dennis Rainey, a husband now for some 25 plus years, talks with authors Tim and Joy Downs about the source of marital conflicts. Don't miss it!

  • 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.

How do you approach conflict?

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Security, a Source of Conflict

With Tim and Joy Downs
September 10, 2007
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Tim: We went to see a pastor about the premarital counseling, and he hands us a test, a personality profile to take.  We fill it out knowing that, of course, we're perfectly compatible in every way, and when he brings them back it looks like a graph, like a lightning bolt streaking down from left to right – at least mine did.  Joy's went from right to left, and we compared the two, and we thought there had been some mistake because we were virtual opposites.

[musical transition]

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, September 10th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  It's true that opposites do attract, but can they figure out how to get along?  Stay tuned.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  You know, we probably have some new folks joining us because we just kicked off our fall season of FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences this past weekend in Columbia, South Carolina.  So we have some folks who were at the conference who may have never listened to FamilyLife Today before, and we're glad you're along with us.

 Let me remind the rest of our listeners that this week you can register for one of our upcoming fall conferences at a special rate because you're a FamilyLife Today listener.  You can attend one of our upcoming fall conferences and save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee if you register before midnight on Sunday.  So you have a week to take care of this.  This is the last week that this offer is available for FamilyLife Today listeners.

 And in addition to saving $60 per couple off the regular registration fee, you will also receive a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey's brand new book, which is called "Moments With You."  It's a follow-up to their bestselling book, "Moments Together for Couples."  It's a daily devotional for husbands and wives, and we'll make sure you get a copy as soon as the book is available.  It's not off the presses yet, but we're expecting it any day.

 So when you register for one of our upcoming conferences this week and identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener, again, you'll save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee, and you'll get a copy of the brand-new book by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, "Moments With You," as soon as it's available.  If you want to find out when the conference is coming to a city near where you live, go to our website at or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, and we'll get you that information.

 You can also register online at and, remember, you need to identify that you're a FamilyLife Today listener when you do that.  The way you do that if you're registering online, you'll come to a keycode box.  Just type the word "Bob" in that box, and we'll know you're a FamilyLife Today listener, and you'll be entitled to this special offer that expires this week.

 Or call 1-800-FLTODAY and register over the phone and mention that you listen to FamilyLife Today, and we'll make sure that you get the special offer as well.

 So let us hear from you this week.  Again, this is your last opportunity for the savings.  Call 1-800-FLTODAY or register online at  And we're going to talk about marriage this week.  In fact, we're going to talk about – well, let me ask you – are you sure you want to talk about what we've got lined up to talk about this week?

Dennis: Well, we've talked about it a few times with our listeners, Bob, and they've told us that even though talking about this subject helps, it also hurts.

Bob: I'd just rather kind of leave it alone and, you know, let's just – can't we all get along?

Dennis: Sweep it under the rug?

Bob: Yeah.

Dennis: You think that's what we ought to do with conflict?

Bob: Well, it just …

Dennis: Are you a peacemaker, Bob?

Bob: Well, isn't that – that's the Christian thing to do, isn't it – be a peacemaker?  Blessed are the peacemakers, right?

Dennis: Right, right.

Bob: Yeah.

Dennis: Is that what you do in your marriage with Mary Ann?

Bob: Well, let's not get real personal here, okay?

Dennis: Well, we do want to talk about the subject of how a couple approaches conflict, and we have a couple with us today, Tim and Joy Downs, who have never had a conflict in all of their years of marriage.

Bob: Wow.

Dennis: Tim has always been right.  This is how it's been handled in their marriage.

Bob: Do you have that on some authority?

Dennis: Well, they've written a couple of books on this, which indicate they do know a little bit about this experientially.  Tim and Joy are good friends of Bob's and Barbara and mine.  Tim and Joy, welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Joy: Thank you, Dennis and Bob.

Tim: Thanks, it's a pleasure to be here.

Dennis: Tim and Joy joined us to speak at our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences at least 150 years ago.  Actually, it was what, Tim?  Close to …

Tim: Eighteen years ago.

Dennis: Close to 20, yeah.  They have three children.  They live in Carey, North Carolina, and they have written a couple of books about resolving conflict.  One of them entitled, "Seven Conflicts, Resolving the Most Common Disagreements in Marriage."  And a second one that I really like, "Fight Fair."

 Now, when you and Joy were married, you created the most fantastic proposal I think I have ever heard.  And, Joy, I think some of our female listeners would enjoy hearing how Tim proposed to you.

Joy: Well, it's been a long time ago since I've thought about it, but we had been separated for nine week because Tim was traveling and speaking at that time, and I was working in a ministry with Crusade, so he had just said that he was planning something special for when he came back into town.

 Well, I didn't realize what was happening, but the time that he was supposed to be coming back in town, I instead got a knock on my apartment door, and there was a delivery that just had an envelope on my front door, and I saw someone speeding off, and it just said, "Get a bag ready.  Here are some tickets" to a certain place, "and I'm going to meet you at this place."  And people say to me "Why did you do it?"

Dennis: So you drove to the airport and got on a plane …

Joy: I did.

Dennis: In total obedience to this guy?

Joy: Right, I guess I trusted him, didn't I?

Dennis: And when you got there, what happened?

Joy: Well, I was on the plane, and they said "Is Joy Burns on the flight?"  And that was my maiden name, and so I sheepishly raised my hand, and a stewardess came by and gave me another envelope.  And so in that envelope it said, "Here are four silver dollars and, with that, when you get off the plane, you are supposed to buy a few red carnations" at this particular flower place.  So I did as I was told. 

 After I got off the plane I bought my flowers, and so I'm carrying my red carnations, and I’m going through the airport, and I am supposed to look for someone else – oh – to go to another ticket counter.  And so I went to the ticket counter, got my next clue, and there was a driver, and he was going to take me to a hotel that I was supposed to stay at and in that hotel room I opened up the door.  Well, there was a clue on the table, and it said just – "Get the nice dress that I told you to pack and put it on and just wait."

 So there was a knock on the door after I was dressed, and there was a man that came to the door.  He was my driver again, and I thought it would be Tim – anyway, I'm trying to shorten this, but we …

Dennis: I'm telling you, there is more to this story.

Tim: Keep going, keep going.

Bob: So the driver shows up – what?

Joy: And so he says "Come with me."  So I go up to the restaurant, and finally there is Tim.  And so then he had given me one last clue, and in that clue it said, "I have asked you to come here to ask you a very special question," and there was dot dot dot, and from there he asked me if I would marry him.

Dennis: And you said?

Joy: I thought about it for a while.

Bob: Wait, wait, wait, you didn't think about getting on the airplane, you didn't think about getting in the car and buying the carnations.

Joy: Well, I was in shock because he had told me that beforehand he didn't want to think about anything future, he was very tired, he was exhausted from all the traveling, and so it took me offguard.  I thought, "Surely he's not asking me to marry him."  This is not what I thought.  So it was a very short thinking but, really, I had – I really seriously thought, "Can I live with him for the rest of my life?  Can he live with me for the rest of his life?"

Tim: And we're still asking that question.


Dennis: And the question I have out of this is did you ever think, Joy, with such a romantic guy like this who swept you off your feet and made such a statement that you'd ever have a conflict in your marriage?

Joy: Well, I will say he hasn't done anything like that since.


Tim: I set the bar pretty high.  You know, most guys always hear, "Why can't you be more like John?"  What I hear is, "Why can you be more like you?"

Bob: Back in the old days.

Dennis: Well, I make that point because when we start out marriage there is this unbelievable focus and intensity where we start this relationship, and we really do marry with stars in our eyes not thinking that we would ever have a moment when our teeth would be clenched, and yet early in your marriage did you ever hit a bump in the road or maybe a wall where you realized, Tim, that you know what?  We really do come at life from a different perspective.

Tim: Our first tipoff was going through premarital counseling.  We went to see a pastor who was about to retire and basically he said, "I've got one day.  I can do premarital counseling one day."  So we got the Jiffy Lube version of premarital counseling, and he hands us a test, a personality profile to take.  We fill it out knowing that, of course, we're perfectly compatible in every way, and when he brings them back it looks like a graph, like a lightning bolt streaking down from left to right – at least mine did.  Joy's went from right to left, and we compared the two, and we thought there had been some mistake because we were virtual opposites in every category.  We were just virtual opposites.

Bob: Now, some people would look at that and say, "There is either something wrong with the test, or we better wake up here."

Tim: I think most people, because they're very much in love, and they feel the emotion, tend to suspect that this is funny, and what Joy likes to say is, you know, "They were trying to show us some red flags, and we've been waving them at each other ever since."

Bob: When, then, did it hit you?  I mean, the tests show we may have some areas of incompatibility, but do you remember a defining moment early in the marriage where you said …

Dennis: What Bob is asking for is what was your first argument? 

Bob: Give me the – let's cut to the chase here.  The first big one here – something that woke you up and had you say, "I didn't expect this."

Joy: Our first year of marriage actually was pretty calm.  We did not see a lot of the differences surface.  We knew we were different, but I think we were so comfortable with each other at first, I don't think a lot of the issues started to really surface until later on, and then we began to see how different we really were.

Tim: I think sometimes there need to be triggering events and for a lot of couples, it's the arrival of children.  Because marriage can be a kind of game, but parenting is where life gets serious.  And what Joy and I realized through the kids is that we took an essentially different approach to life in a number of ways.

 One of the first of the seven conflicts that emerged for us was the issue of security.  We took instinctively different approaches.  As a mom, joy values security very much, and for each of our seven conflicts, we try to break them down into two elements.

 Security is made up of protection and provision.  Protection means I want your safety, I want your security, I want to make sure you're taken care of.  Provision means I want to make sure you have enough not just for today but for tomorrow as well.

 Well, here we have the kids, so here's my son, Tommy, learning how to ride a bicycle at the age of 3, Joy would say, "Make sure he has a helmet on," and I would say, "He's only riding around the block."  And she would say, "Well, that doesn't matter, you can die riding around the block.  Make sure he has a helmet on."  And I would say, "It's good for him to fall off the bike because by falling off and hitting your head you learn 'I can fall, and I better not do that again.  I better pay more attention.'"

 So I'm valuing his freedom and autonomy, I'm valuing risk-taking, she's valuing security; they are both good things, but the point is instinctively we both approached childrearing that way, and we began to feel like, "You know, we just don't raise kids the same way."

Bob: You've alluded to these seven conflicts that are at heart of the first book you wrote on this subject really saying that as you analyzed your disagreement, you found yourself gravitating back to seven primary areas that were the traps that were laid around your home.  You talked about security, this provision and protection.  But, just quickly, what are the other six?

Tim: Well, just to list them, they are security, loyalty, responsibility, caring, order, openness, and connection.  Of course, they all require some explanation.

Bob: Yes, but you're saying in those seven concepts, you find the heart of most of the conflict that you've experienced in marriage, and as you talked with 2,000 couples, they were pointing you back in that same direction?

Tim: Exactly.  We were amazed.  We thought at first it might be our own experience alone, but then as we talked with friends and then to a large group of people, we found, you know, people are saying the same thing.  Ninety percent of all our disagreements really boiled down to just a handful of essential worldview differences – we just see life in different ways.

Bob: And if couples can figure out where do we clash in those areas – some of those areas, you probably have some decent agreement and so the clashes are relatively minor, but in the other areas, the security, the bicycle helmet thing, you look at each other and go, "I don't know that you're wise.  I don't know that you're making right decisions.  I don't know that you think right on this," and, all of a sudden now we've got to figure out who is right and who is wrong, and that's where conflict comes in.

Tim: It sure does.

Bob: So did you figure out that he was wrong on this bicycle helmet thing?

Joy: Totally.

Bob: Yeah, okay, I'm glad we've got that straightened out.

Joy: The law is on my side.

Dennis: Yeah, really.  You know, as you talk about the subject of security, you all mentioned that there are some indicators in a spouse that are tipoffs that you're married to someone who values security.  What's that tipoff?  What do you look for in the other person?

Tim: Well, we looked at a number of different things.  One would be the issue of protection.  Do you tend to shelter the kids or yourself or are you more of a risk-taker? 

 Another is in the area of spending versus saving.  You know, people think that money is one of the most common sources of disagreement in marriage.  What we're saying is, you know, it may not be money that you're disagreeing about at all.  It's an issue of security.

 You go on a vacation.  One of your wants to spend it all, just have one great, big time, just go out like a comet burning out.  The other wants to just budget and just a little bit because you're thinking, "I want to have fun, but I want to be able to have fun tomorrow, too."  One of you has more of a future orientation than the other one does.

 It also has to do with saving things around the house.  You know, Joy and I have joked about if there's extra food, I like to do what we did in my house growing up, I throw it down the garbage disposal, because that's the neatest thing to do.

Bob: Just dump the extra food?

Tim: Dump the extra food.  It's very clean and very neat that way.

Bob: But you have leftovers, you've got to have the left – don't you?

Tim: Right, but what happens is, you put them in containers, put them in the fridge where they mold, and you throw them away two weeks later.

Joy: But that's not always true.  But, see, there again – you have to understand the background of where Tim's family – he came from a family – his dad tried out new recipes.  He would take a bit of a whole casserole, and if it didn't come out the way he liked it, he would dump it down the garbage disposal.  In my family you would eat it.

Bob: It doesn't matter how bad it tastes.

Joy: You would eat it.  Well, it was fine, but even a little ingredient could be a little bit off, but it comes from two families of origin where I value something – and it's true, there are things that grow in my refrigerator at times, but a lot of times I eat leftovers.  Tim never ate leftovers growing up.

Dennis: So what do you do if you're the person who values security, and you're married to this risk-taker, this other person who just – you know, they're just constantly pushing your boundaries.

Bob: Yeah, how do you figure out who is right and who is wrong because somewhere in there there's got to be some sense of right and wrong, isn't there?

Tim: Well, the first thing we would suggest is recognize the fact that you aren't necessarily wrong.  You're both right – that the value, let's say, in raising children – which is better for your kids – that they are protected and secure or that they grow up to be independent and can stand alone?  Which is better?  The fact is, we want both of those qualities for our kids.  It would be a crime to eliminate either one, but that doesn't make it easy for the raising of the kids, does it?  Especially when you're polarizing over those two issues.

 So the first step is to recognize, hey, wait a minute.  It's not that one of us is being boneheaded here, we just value different things, and they're both good things.  So what we've got to do is what we call move toward the fence, which means I have to move towards Joy's world of security, and she has to find ways to move toward my world of risk-taking.  She will never be the risk-taker that I am, and I will never worry about the security things that she does.  I can't do it.  It's just not in me.

Dennis: So, Joy, what I hear him saying is he's being asked to move toward your fence, and he's asking you to uproot the fence and move the fence toward him.


 Is that the case?

Joy: No, not really.  I think that God can use us for good, and in my case with wanting security so much, I think that I have been required to move toward that fence toward him and that it makes me examine why am I fearful and who am I ultimately trusting?  And because he will never be as security-oriented as I am, it's caused me to pray more, it's caused me to trust the Lord and ask, "Am I really trusting the Lord for my children's lives?"  And I do what I can do, but there are innumerable things that I will never be able to cover.

Bob: There's a hidden spiritual blessing you're talking about here in just the recognition of what's going on because we do grow by learning to see in our mates the values that may be lacking in our own lives.

Tim: We sure do, and we call this – we keep each other from becoming extreme people, and I think that's one of the most important things that we do for each other in marriage. 

 But, you know, this is important to emphasize – that's not always a pleasant process.  It's much easier to live in your own field, forget the fence, and do it your own way and instinctively you believe that the way you do it is the right way to do it.

Bob: And we've got a lot of couples, Dennis, we see them week after week at the Weekend to Remember conferences, and they are in separate fields, and they're not moving toward the fence, and they're just kind of barely tolerating one another or ignoring these issues that still bubble under the surface.

Dennis: And it's not just a technique of moving toward a fence or moving your fence toward the other person; it's ultimately a spiritual solution to a problem of our hearts.  The Apostle Paul said this, this is probably one of the most oft-quoted verses on FamilyLife Today, Philippians, chapter 2 – "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself." 

 That's how you end up moving toward the other person's fence or you move toward them.  "Do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of man and being found the appearance of a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

 And Tim just mentioned this a moment ago – these conflicts are unpleasant.  They demand something of us, and what we need to realize is God has given you a gift in your spouse, and what you need to do is you need to embrace Jesus Christ and what He has called you to do and emulate Him.  He emptied Himself, He became a bondservant, He denied Himself, and He became obedient to the point even death on a cross.

 And conflict to really resolve it, I believe, at its core, demands that we deny ourselves, and we yield to Jesus Christ.

Bob: You know, we talk on Saturday afternoons at the Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference about this whole issue of conflict, and we layout for couples step-by-step how you go through the process of seeking forgiveness and of granting forgiveness and, for a lot of couples, this is a breakthrough time at the Weekend to Remember, because they come with stored-up anger or frustration or hurt or disappointment, and we take them to the Scriptures and show them what the Bible has to say about how you deal with that and how God would have us deal with that.

 Let me again remind our listeners that if they would like to attend one of these upcoming weekend getaways for couples, the Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference, when it comes to a city near them this fall, if you register this week, you will save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee.  You can find out when a conference is coming to a city near where you live by going to our website at

 Get out your calendar, check the date that the conference is coming, check your calendar, make sure that weekend works for you.  If it doesn't, find a conference in a city near where you live and make plans to get away for a different weekend.  But get to one of these weekend conferences.  It really is a great getaway for couples, it's practical, it's biblical, it's fun, it's romantic, and if you sign up this week you'll save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee, and we're going to throw in a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey's new book, which is called "Moments With You." It's a follow-up to the devotional book, "Moments Together for Couples," which was a bestseller, and as soon as this book's available, we'll get a copy to those folks who register for an upcoming Weekend to Remember this week.

 So you can register by calling 1-800-FLTODAY.  Make sure you identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener, or register online at, and if you're filling out the registration form online, type the word "Bob" in the keycode box there.  We'll know you're a FamilyLife Today listener that way because you knew my name, and we'll make sure that you get the special savings and get a copy of the new book as soon as it's available as well.  And then have a great weekend at one of the upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences when it comes to a city near where you live this fall.

 And don't forget the special offer expires this week so contact us today – 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at

 When you do get in touch with us, we also have available on our FamilyLife Resource Center copies of the books that Tim and Joy Downs have written on the subject of conflict in marriage.  One is called "The Seven Conflicts," and the other is called "Fight Fair."  It's a guide for how to resolve conflict in marriage, and you can order copies of the books from us at or call 1-800-FLTODAY to request a copy of either of these books.

 If you go online at, click the red button that says "Go" that you see in the middle of the screen, and that will take you to the area of the site where there is more information about both of these books or just call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and ask about the books by Tim and Joy Downs, and we'll make arrangements to get copies of them sent out to you.

 Now, tomorrow we want to talk about the issue of loyalty and how questions that we have in our heart or our mind about our spouse's loyalty can be a great source of conflict.  We'll talk about that tomorrow.  I hope you can be with 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'll see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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


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