Us In Mind: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Marriage: Ted Lowe
Could the way you're thinking about your spouse be shaping your marriage in ways you've never imagined? Author Ted Lowe helps revolutionize your marriage…starting with your mind.
The only common denominator in couples that reported the highest level of marital satisfaction—they were basically given a spousal report card and told, “Rank your spouse,” in categories like generosity, kindness, and loyalty; and the ones that were happiest were the ones who ranked their spouse highest in every category than their spouse had ranked themselves. So, I think it’s made up of, you know, “If you could only see you like I see you!” -- Ted Lowe
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Could your thoughts be shaping your marriage in ways you’ve never imagined? Author Ted Lowe helps revolutionize your relationship…starting with your mind.
Us In Mind: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Marriage: Ted Lowe
FamilyLife Today® National Radio Version (time edited) Transcript
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Us in Mind: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Marriage
Guest: Ted Lowe
From the series: Us in Mind: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Marriage (2 of 3)
Air date: September 5, 2023
Ted: The only common denominator in couples that reported the highest level of marital satisfaction—they were basically given a spousal report card and told, “Rank your spouse,” in categories like generosity, kindness, and loyalty; and the ones that were happiest were the ones who ranked their spouse highest in every category than their spouse had ranked themselves. So, I think it’s made up of, you know, “If you could only see you like I see you!”
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Alright, I’m going to ask you a question, and you’d better know the answer.
Ann: Oh, no!
Dave: My greatest moment on a golf course?
Ann: Um, when you shot under par by a lot.
Dave: I’ve never done that! [Laughter] I shot par once or twice; never under! Last week, I had a birdie, and almost an eagle. But no, here’s the thing: you remember, and I won’t go into it, because our listeners have heard this, but playing in a charity celebrity golf thing, and a woman finds out; she walks up to me and says, “So, you’re a marriage expert. That’s what I hear!” I said, “No, I’m not.” She said, “I’m on my second marriage. What’s the problem with marriage?”
I had ten seconds, and I said, “I can answer that in one word.” She said, “Really?!” And I said, “Selfishness.” Classic response! I’ll never forget it; she said, “You are so right! My first husband was so selfish!” [Laughter] It was like, “Oh, my goodness!” That’s how we all think! We can’t see it in ourselves. We see it in somebody else.
Dave: And that all begins in the mind. We’ve got Ted Lowe [here]. You can hear him over there laughing in the studio. Welcome back, Ted.
Ted: Thanks for having me.
Dave: And you’re laughing partly because it’s funny. But you wrote a book called Us in Mind, which is all about how our thinking—our mind—determines how it impacts our marriage. So, bring us into this world. We started the conversation yesterday a little bit.
Ann: And if you didn’t hear, go back and listen to that one.
Dave: Oh, yes.
Ann: It’s so good!
Dave: We went somewhere I wasn’t expecting us to go on empathy. And if you hear that word and think, “Oh, that’s not that important,” you’d better listen to yesterday.
Dave: You’ll discover how critical it is. But one of the things we just started to talk about yesterday was a little bit about how what we think about our spouse greatly impacts our marriage. Take us there.
Ted: I think I mentioned to you guys yesterday, I did a lot of research on: “What are happy couples doing?” They do; they think differently. There was a fascinating study—this brain scan study—on couples who’ve been married an average of 21 years, who reported being “madly in love.”
Ted: How did we find these?
Ann: “Madly in love.”
Ted: “Madly in love.” They were just going for the top-notch tier here. But they did a brain scan study, and there were three areas of the brain that had higher activity (than the rest of us, I guess). [Laughter] But one of them was an area of the brain that’s responsible for what’s called “positive illusion.” It’s the ability to focus on what you do like about your spouse, and not focus on what you don’t.
Now, I know red flags go up. This is not about ignoring anything abusive. Let me just say that right off the top.
Ted: This is not about being delusional or putting yourself in harm’s way. But we think, for most of us, that can not be our tendency, to remember all the things that we do love about our spouse and stop focusing so much on the things that we don’t. And that’s where, you know, our brain can be playing a game called “confirmation bias.” In other words, you find what you’re looking for.
The roughest point in our marriage was a time that my brain was playing confirmation bias, and I didn’t know it. We spent our first five years of marriage on the West Coast. We had an incredible church we were working with, great buddies; we were close to the beach. I mean, I loved it there! But when we started talking about having our family, we talked about moving back closer to our folks.
And we decided that—you need to hear me on this point—we decided that together. [Laughter] I was all in! I had made that decision with her. But when we moved back, we moved to the Atlanta area, I didn’t know what was going on at the time, but I was just struggling! And I thought it was just where we were. I thought, “I don’t like this! I don’t like this.” And Nancy loved it! She was close to her mom and her friends, and she can make friends in two seconds. [Laughter] So, she was doing great!
And I just remember one day, I was outside mowing the lawn, and it was 5,000 degrees. [Laughter] Our lawn in California took me like four seconds, you know?
Ann: And it’s a dry heat.
Ted: Oh, it’s not even heat, it’s like heaven! [Laughter] Are you kidding me? It’s like a postage stamp size. I pull the cord and go five feet. “Welp, I’m done! Let’s go to the beach!” You know? And I was like, “Do we need to own the park? Or do we need access to one? This is ridiculous! What is this? Why am I in charge of this big space?!” [Laughter] So, I’m out there mowing, and it’s hot! She’s inside in the air conditioning, so I’m not bitter at all.
And I have this thought: “I wonder: did I really want to move here, or did she talk me into moving here?” Then I thought, “You know what? I think she always gets what she wants.” And then I had this thought—and I say it with zero humor; zero humor; I thought, “I think she’s manipulative.” And when you hang that banner over your spouse, or you put that badge on them, you start treating them like they’re manipulative. So, you can imagine what my attitude was, going back into the house. Quite frankly, for a season! I was thinking, “Here I am in a place I don’t like, and it’s because of her.”
Ann: It’s her fault.
Ted: It’s her fault!
So, imagine, any time she got excited about something. How do you think I responded? Do you think I said, “Oh, I love seeing you happy!” No! Or just anything she would say, I would view through that lens. You know, “Call me for dinner,” and that was manipulative. So, if one of those times—it’s just so important: what filter are we putting on our spouse. What are you telling yourself about your spouse, because you’re going to live like it’s true?
Ann: Oh! I’ve done the same thing, while mowing the grass, actually! I remember to this day—
Dave: And by the way, Ted, I mow the grass, too. It isn’t just Ann! [Laughter]
Ann: This was back in the day when you were gone so much. I remember Dave was in the house. I actually like mowing the grass, but in my head, I was mowing the grass, and here’s my thought: “I do everything around here! What does he do!?” And then I start logging in my head: “What does he actually do around here?” And I was thinking, “I do this, and this, and this. I’m not sure he does anything!”
Ann: Then, when I’m treating him like, “Well, you’re selfish!” That’s what I say in my head. “You know why? Because he’s self-centered. He never sees me, and he’s all about himself.” And I really did treat you like that.
Dave: Do you want me to comment? [Laughter]
Ann: But I will say—I will say—that the one time that I said that, I felt like God was saying—here’s what I felt that He impressed on me: “Do you like mowing the grass?” I said, “I actually do. Yes, I like it.” And I felt like He was saying, “Then why do you keep complaining?” And I was, in my head, constantly complaining about Dave.
Then, actually, it gradually started coming out, and I would complain to him incessantly. And you’re saying it all starts with our minds.
Ted: It does! Again, your thoughts are not your actions or your attitudes, but they lead to both. It postures you. Scripture’s so clear about being careful with your thoughts. So, one of the things I point couples to, you know, if you’re thinking like this. If you think, “My spouse is manipulative,” or “My spouse is selfish or self-centered,” or whatever that label that you’ve put—negative label that you’ve put—onto them, you take Philippians 4:8. He’s very clear! “Here’s what you think about!”
He says, “Finally, brothers and sisters.” In other words, “Here’s the last thing I want to tell you. Before I leave, brothers and sisters, whatever’s true.” And the reason I love it being “true” is, every time I talk about, you know, seeing your spouse in a positive light, there’s always the pushback of, “This is denial. Does this mean I can’t talk about things.”
Ted: “Is this just rose-colored glasses?” And it starts with truth. So, again, if someone’s being abused or hurt, the truth is, that’s got to stop!
Ted: There’s nothing more true than that.
Dave: Get safe! Yes.
Ted: So, if somebody’s listening and that’s the case, get safe immediately!
But for most of us, it’s not so extreme. It’s like, “Okay, what’s true is he’s working a ton right now. What’s true is—okay, he really does ‘x, y, z.’ What’s true is I like to mow.” So, for us, in that situation, what was true is we both decided to move. What’s also true is I’m having a harder time with it than she is. It says, “Whatever’s true, whatever’s noble.” Well, let me tell you what’s noble: we got married when I was 25, and she was 23. She leaves her whole life; she moves 2,500 miles to join my life; my friends. She had to drive 45 minutes one way to work. She left a Master’s degree program and had to start it there. [She] lost a couple classes of credit, so she’s going to class. She joined my life for five years!
We get back and I’m, you know, having a hard time adjusting, and all of the sudden, she’s manipulative? Come on! What’s noble is that 23-year-old lady who did that for me, right? So, you say, “Okay, what is nobble?” “Whatever is pure, whatever is right, whatever is lovely; if there’s anything worthy of praise.”
So, if someone’s having a really hard time with their spouse—I mean, I’m talking about, “Ugh! They’re driving me crazy!” and some of it is so valid; some of it is absolutely so valid that they’re not doing the things that they need to be doing or they’re just driving you crazy, it says, “If anything is excellent or praiseworthy.” If they’re wiping something or somebody, start there! If they’re flushing, start there. You have to bring the bar down so low for a little bit, and then you start looking in that way.
What it does is, it postures us to love them in a way we can’t love them on our own. You know, when you were talking about how you felt like the Lord said, “Why are you complaining? Don’t you like to mow?” I was not listening to Him. I was not listening for Him to reposture me at that time.
Ted: It took me too long. It didn’t happen on the same day [I was] mowing, right? It took forever! I didn’t even know what was going on. So, what it does is, it calms the brain, it calms the mind, and it helps you to focus and see them like you hope they’re seeing you.
Ted: Or you feel like they even should see you, right? It just changes things.
Dave: Yes. And the question would be: how do you get your mind to change if it’s tending to go negative? Because when you said, “what is true,” it would be easy to say, “Well, it’s true that she is selfish!” [Laughter] Rather than, “It’s true that I am selfish.” You know, even when I said to that woman, “Yes, that’s easy to answer: selfishness,” she couldn’t see it in herself. We all do that! So, we have to sometimes change. I loved the stats in your book, where you [say] the average person [has] 12-60,000 thoughts a day and 80% of them are negative!
Ann: That was crazy to me!
Dave: That’s crazy, because we do it [about] ourselves, but we do it on our spouse.
Dave: So, how do you change that?
Ted: Our brains are wired to protect ourselves; to look out for trouble. Our brain’s not naturally wired to look for the positive.
Ted: It truly is a rewiring of the brain; it’s new neural pathways. And we’ve seen this happen in other areas of our lives, like when our life changes in terms of things like exercise or work. You know, you can just use a few guiding thoughts—a few intentional thoughts—where you think, “You know, if I would look at this situation through this lens, then it could really change things.”
We see that—you know, there’s a great book by John Acuff called Soundtracks, and he talks about that from a career perspective.
Ted: He just has people to repeat ten things in the morning out loud in the mirror, and ten things at night out loud and in the mirror. The results of that have been staggering to people’s productivity. All it is, is a rewiring and a [new] thought process. So, because I’m a fixer, I’m more of a natural—I’m going to look for a problem, and I’m going to try to fix it!
That is not my natural wiring. That’s the thing with all of this; I’ve had to rewire my brain from the way I’m naturally wired. But again, it’s looking at their face, because another study—and we talked about this in the last episode—[showed] when you have eye contact with your spouse, it creates empathy in your brain for them.
Dave: Just by looking at them?
Ted: Just by looking! It creates—think about all the times when you’re frustrated with your spouse. I know I’ll look down at the kitchen counter; I’ll look at the floor; I’ll look at the sky; you know? And it’s harder to say those things to their face. For us, a lot of this, in the last few years, has just made our marriage so much stronger and so much more relaxed; that’s the other word. It’s just been easier, quite frankly.
Ann: I think this is so smart. I’ve talked to women, and I’ve shared some of these same things, because I’ve done it wrongly for so many years. At one conference, this woman came up to me at the end, and she said, “You said to find the positive about your husband and start thinking about those things.” She said, “There is nothing! I can’t think of one thing that is good about him.” I remember saying, “But you married him, because you saw something in him. So, it might be that you have to go back to those things.” She said, “So, you want me to lie?”
But I like what you said: “It’s a positive illusion.” It’s what you used to think about him! Start reminding yourself, and reminding him, of those things. So, there are little acts. I told her, and I tell women, “You might not feel like saying it. Your emotions might not be there at first; but they might come later. Maybe not, but it’s that act of being obedient; of seeing the greatness and then saying those things.”
Ted: So good!
Ann: It’s so helpful.
Dave: I mean, here’s my question to the wife (and it could be the husband) of a spouse who’s really hurt them: “How do I change my thoughts, think positively about the man who had an affair? A woman who’s broken her promises? And is still continuing to make promises, but never live up to them?”
Ann: Is not repentant.
Dave: Yes, you know, it’s a deep hurt and wound. “I love him. I still want to make this marriage work, but I’m having a hard time believing positive [things] when all the evidence keeps coming back negative.”
Ted: I think the reality, when you start with whatever’s true; whatever’s true may be, “Hey, the thing I can see the best in is that the two of us need to go talk to somebody.”
Ann: That’s good.
Ted: “We need to invite a pastor, or we need to invite a counselor. What’s true is, I can’t do this anymore. What’s true is, I can’t let you hurt me like this anymore. What’s true is, if you do, I don’t know where we’re going to head. That’s what’s true. I love you, but this can’t be.” So, I think that’s when you invite wisdom into it.
So many times, the two of us have created pain for each other, and frustration. And sometimes that’s way more one-sided than the other. And I know somebody’s listening, and that’s really hard. I think sometimes, the strength of the truth of that situation is, you need to bring in a third party.
Ted: And don’t wait until you’re all done. Don’t wait until apathy comes, because then, you’re in trouble.
Ann: Or hopelessness.
Ted: Or hopelessness! Oh, when I see a couple come in, and one of them is apathetic or hopeless, and the other one’s still fighting, I’m like, “Oh, you’ve gotten into that.” So many people won’t go see a counselor until their spouse says, “I’m all done.” Don’t wait until then! Don’t wait until then.
So, I don’t want anybody to put themselves in harm’s way; and I don’t think any of this is about somebody not speaking what’s true of the situation. It starts with that. But it’s truth and grace. Say, “I love you. I want to make this work; but we’ve been trying, and we’re not doing a great job here, and we need to talk to somebody.”
Ann: I was amazed at the statistics, saying the best marriages are couples who, the spouse might think better of them. How would I say that?
Dave: Than they do themselves.
Ted: Oh, yes.
Ann: That was mind-blowing to me! Dave, I thought, “That’s what you do.” I feel—
Dave: Wow! Look at this!
Dave: Are you kidding me!?
Ann: I feel like you’ve always had me higher than I thought of myself. I marvel at it, like, “I’m way worse than you think I am, dude!” You know? [Laughter] But I think that that has always been so sweet to me. And, statistically, you’re saying that shows up.
Ted: The research is so clear about this. And this study is actually 10-12 years old, where there was a group of psychologists that said, “Hey, it feels like we do a lot of research on couples that are struggling, and then we basically say, ‘Don’t do that.’”
Ted: Or “do the opposite of that.”
Ted: And you say, “Well, wait a minute! What if a great marriage is not the opposite of one that’s struggling? What if it’s different, like everything else?” You know, a great church is not the opposite of one that’s struggling; it’s different. A great football coach is not the opposite of one that’s struggling; they’re different! So, they did an enormous study in the United States and the United Kingdom, and they came back, and they said, “It turns out, our hunch was correct.” Because, [for] the ones that were struggling, the commonality was, “I don’t feel understood.” So, everybody went, “Oh! Well, communication, communication, communication! You’ve got to have a firm grasp of reality in strengths and weaknesses!” Which would make sense. They said, “That’s logical, but that’s wrong!”
The only common denominator in couples that reported the highest level of marital satisfaction—they were basically given a spousal report card and told, “Rank your spouse,” in categories like generosity, kindness, and loyalty; and the ones that were happiest were the ones who ranked their spouse highest in every category than their spouse had ranked themselves. So, I think it’s made up of, you know, “If you could only see you like I see you!” I mean, we know those couples, right?
Ted: We know them! And the crazy thing is, we can be them. We really can start to say, “Whoa! Let’s pull back. Let’s not just talk about things when we’re mad about things. Let’s pull back, and let’s think when our brains are wired to do it.” This is where you invite Jesus into this thing, and say, “Help me see them like you see them!”
Ann: Yes, yes.
Ted: “Because I see them like I’m seeing them, through my own selfishness and my frustrations and my weaknesses. How do You see this person?”
Ann: How have you done that with Nancy? What’s that look like?
Ted: You know, we’ve been teaching this Philippians 4:8 thing for so long.
Ted: I think it’s when I run through the lens of that, and also, sometimes the things that can drive us the craziest about our spouse—our lives are really benefiting a lot from that. My wife is very, very organized. She’s always organizing the finances, and it just makes our lives run better. There are four kids at our house. There are a lot of people in our home! So, it runs more smoothly because of that. And she would say—and she does when she speaks with me: “He’s always wanting to go somewhere or do something.” She said, “I’m thinking, ‘Are you kidding me!? We’ve got this and this and this—‘.” She said, “Aren’t you aware of what’s going down in our home right now? You’re talking about going on date night, and we have blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” You know? She says, “Okay, I’ll go.” Then she says, “Oh, I’m so glad we went!”
I think it’s those things of looking at, even the things you struggle with, and saying, “Okay, but how is my life radically impacted for the positive in this way?” Then, really look at those you’re just endeared toward.
Ted: I mean, I look at her, and she is still the cutest human I’ve ever seen in my life!
Ann: That’s so sweet.
Ted: And I don’t say that because I should. I see her like I did on our first date. She still blows me away when she walks—You know, I hear all the appliances going on in the bathroom and stuff. [Laughter] And I’m thinking, “Oh, man!” She walks out, and I think, “If this doesn’t make you believe in Jesus! Her marrying me!” [Laughter] “I don’t know what does!” But it’s looking at them and seeing them, saying, “Wow!” You know, on holidays and different things like that, there’s Mother’s Day where you focus; you stop, and you start thinking about all that they do. Even in your quiet time, thinking, “I’m going to think about them, and not just about me.”
Shelby: We’re going to hear more from Dave Wilson here in just a second, but first, pause and appreciate your spouse in those quiet moments. Look, really look, at him or her and reflect on all that God has blessed you with in your spouse. I’ve found that thankfulness is often the antidote to so many negative feelings in life. So, I personally want to be thankful for my spouse.
I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Ted Lowe on FamilyLife Today. Ted has written a book called Us in Mind: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Marriage. You know, this book is going to help you discover simple ways of rethinking how you see your marriage, utilizing Scripture, research, and neuroscience. You can find a copy at FamilyLifeToday.com. Scroll down and click on “Today’s Resources.”
So, I have an honest question for you: how would you rate your marriage on a scale of 1-10? Well, that number may genuinely scare you or make you excited, but regardless of where you are, I encourage you to check out FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. Here’s what a wife of 27 years said about her experience at the Weekend to Remember; she said this:
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That’s beautiful! You know, we’ve been doing this for the last 40 years, and we’ve seen so many marriages impacted for the glory of God and the health of relationships. We want to see that for you, too! Now through September 18th, registrations are 50% off. So, don’t wait! Visit WeekendtoRemember.com, find a date and location that works for you, and save 50%. Your marriage is worth it!
Alright, here’s Dave Wilson on appreciating your spouse:
Dave: I told Ann years ago that when I go outside to speak and minister and do things, I feel like I get cheered. When I come home, I feel like I get “booed.” That story became this classic moment in our marriage. It changed our marriage, because I really did feel like that. It was like, “Wow! They think I’m good out there! They tell me I’m good.” Whether I am or not, it doesn’t matter. I just feel [good]. Then, when I came home, I feel like, “She thinks I’m bad!”
Ann: And Ted, he told this story in front of 100 people. [Laughter]
Dave: Whatever! I never said it to her. I did not say it to her in our family room.
Ted: So, wait! This story’s still in process!
Dave: Oh, yes.
Ann: No, no! It was a long time ago, but I’m just saying—
Dave: It was decades ago, but the reason I’m bringing it up is just to remind our listeners that what you said happened in our marriage over decades. She, first of all, was shocked. She said, “I’m not booing you. I’m helping you! I’m pointing out things.” But over time, what happened—and our son said it once in a sermon; he was up there preaching. And when your son says something, you’re like, “Wow! That was profound!”
I’ll never forget it. He said, “When you see your spouse the way God sees your spouse, you will say to your spouse what God says to your spouse.” It was one of those [things] like, “Wait, wait! I’ve got to write that down!” And it was like, “God’s looking at your spouse and saying, ‘I created you in My image! You’re a beautiful daughter of the King.’” And we often do the opposite: “You’re a loser!”
She started speaking life to me, Ted, like, “You’re a good man. You’re a good husband.” At first, I said, “You’re lying! You’ve never said that before!” All I know is, she never stopped! And 42 years in, this woman believes in me more than I believe in myself; everything you just said. I think we’re madly in love, and it’s because of what you just said. So, all I want to say to our listeners is: your marriage can be transformed by God!
Again, it starts in your mind, when you start to see what God sees; you start to speak what God speaks. It will change your marriage. It’s “Us in Mind!” It’s exactly your title! Changing your thoughts can change your marriage.
Ann: And I would just add, Dave, it is possible, because Jesus does that. You know, He transforms, as Romans 12:2 says, “to be transformed by the renewing of our minds,” and that’s what He does! He renews our minds for our spouse.
Shelby: Now, coming up tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are back again with Ted Lowe. He’s going to talk about negative self-talk and the impact it can have on your perception of yourself and other people. That’s tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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