We talked with Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family, about his new book, The Best Advice I Ever Got on Marriage.
Jim, Tell me about the book.
It dawned on us that we have so many wonderful guests coming through the radio broadcast studio — such as Dr. Greg Smalley, Ken Blanchard, Gary Thomas, and Andy Stanley — why not compile the best advice on marriage. So, that’s what we did. These terrific people are talking from their brokenness, not just from their successes. They talk about failures and difficulties in their own marriages, which really helps bring the book to life.
I don’t think it’s a surprise that all the contributors talked about the importance of marriage and the need for commitment. There seems to be a fatigue factor among 20 to 30-somethings. If they get bored, they’re looking to escape and exit quickly. And, boy, I just hope the advice on marriage from this book would encourage them to hang in there and do what needs to be done. If they do that hard work, they’ll have a wonderful relationship.
Jim, have you and Jean experienced that fatigue factor?
Fatigue is one of the big robbers of our bliss when it comes to marriage — it was for us. We hit the wall at year three. But we set a concrete foundation; we knew divorce would never be an option and that we’d always work through our difficulties.
Ironically, Jim, what’s so incredible is that research supports that. Even for a couple that’s on the brink of divorce, if they work through the issues, five years later 85% of those couples are together and they’re doing well. Versus their counterparts who decide to dissolve the marriage, five years later they’re unhappier than they were in their previous marriage. I think there’s something scriptural to that. Work hard at it and the fruit will pay off.
Jim, what’s your number one marriage priority?
Emotional connection. I don’t know why the Lord wired us this way. Wives long for that emotional connection, and men crave that physical connection. Maybe it’s God’s sense of humor to put those opposites together.
We, as men, need to remember our wives need our emotional attention. They need us to look them in the eye, hold their hand, and ask them how they’re doing. What did they struggle with today? As the spiritual cover for this home, I ask: What can I do to help you? You do that and you’re going to have a fantastic marriage.
What other practices build strong marriages?
Reading the Word together and praying together. The divorce rate in that group is less than 1%. There is something tender about that and it keeps you connected. That divorce rate means 99% are surviving and hopefully thriving. That’s a good thing. But it’s not easy; the pace of life can rob you of this blessing.
Jim, a recurring theme in the book, and a value we talk about frequently is the importance of community: not doing marriage alone.
I think one of the unfortunate things in our culture today is we’re so isolated. In our neighborhood, you put the garage door up, you pull in, you hit the auto close and the door goes down; it’s a metaphor for our lives. We stay within our walls. We don’t necessarily have strong community. Men are particularly vulnerable in that way. We talk about news, weather and sports with our buddies but we never really talk about deeper issues. Connect through your good friends, Christian friends, where you can be more vulnerable and trust them to let them know where you’re at.
Are you dealing with issues of pornography and other things that have great potential to rip your marriage apart? Do you have a friend that you can talk with that can give you good advice, not just pat you on the back and tell you you’re doing okay, but challenge you? Men need that. For women it comes so much more naturally. I would encourage wives to get involved with their friends. Husbands need to make sure they’re letting their wives to have a night out with the girls and to build those relationships. It’s one of the best things you can do.
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