Why did you choose the house metaphor for the book?
Guys don’t read marriage books. What is it that guys do? We fix things. We fix our cars. We fix our house. We might not like fixing it but, man, we’re at least smart enough to know that if there’s dry rot in the corner of the living room we’d better do something about it. We don’t need another book for women. Women will buy anything that has the name “marriage”!
As guys we need something that we can wrap our hands around and it needs to make sense to us. That’s where I said, “You know what? Let’s just walk through the house.” I mean twice a year I walk through my house and kind of say, “Okay, what sort of fall projects do I need to do here and what sort of spring projects do I need to do.” And I just kind of walk through and I just mentally look for things that might need to be fixed. I thought, “That’s what we all need to be doing with our marriages. If we could do that once or twice a year, man — I see all these couples that are in here that are on the verge of divorce and I just shake my head and say, “You guys shouldn’t be here. If you guys had just done your homework, if you had just done your prep, this shouldn’t have ever been a problem. But you let the problem way too long.”
You talk a lot about stress and conflict in the book.
Conflicts and stress happen. What’s important is I talk to couples is don’t worry so much about it. Don’t worry about doing it the perfect way. Don’t worry about having to agree on everything. What you do is you say, “Let’s just be a team.” Sometimes we do it Tammy’s way in our house. Sometimes Tammy does it my way. What we do is we talk through a strategy so we’re on the same page. Most of the things we argue about really are stupid things in the long haul.
So I see conflict as an opportunity for me to understand Tammy better. I get to understand what she’s passionate about, what she feels strongly about and I need to learn to be less selfish and say, “You know what? Sometimes it’s okay to do it her way.” Tammy is great at saying, “You know what? If you feel so strongly, let’s do it your way.” And then what we do is just develop a strategy to where we work through the problems.
What would you say about maintaining good stuff in a marriage?
I think part of maintenance really has to do with asking, “Tammy, what are the things that you feel we really need to do in our relationship as we’re looking forward?” Several times a year what Tammy and I do is we look at what we’re doing on our schedules and we say, “What are our plans? What are the things that we need to work on in the next six months?” Some of those things have to do with our house, some of them have to do with our marriage, and some of them have to do with kids.
See, maintenance really has to do with just communicating my needs & dreams and understanding Tammy’s needs & dreams. As I understand Tammy, it helps me to come along beside her. I look at the passage in 1st Peter where it talks to the husbands. This is kind of my paraphrase: “Husbands, know what you wives needs are and start meeting her needs. And if you do this God will answer your prayers.” That’s an interesting promise. Because I think as I know her needs, as I start meeting them, part of my prayer is that I have a great marriage. And when Tammy knows that I’m listening to her, and as I learn to listen to her and learn what is important and what she wants to do, then I can start maintaining the relationship, making sure things are fixed.
Dreams are an important part of your marriage…
They really are. We share our dreams. Let’s say I’ll share five of my dreams for the next ten years and she’ll share five of her dreams. I want to do everything I can to make her dreams happen. But sometimes the dreams just are not practical. At one point Tammy had a dream that she wanted to help start an orphanage in Puerto Rico. Now, that sounds great and yet I’m not sure how to help start an orphanage in Puerto Rico. So we decided to morph that dream to where we support a bunch of kids through Compassion and World Vision.
Recently we sat down and we came up with 20 dreams. This makes life exciting; it keeps us going forward, but we have to be sensitive, not just to pushing our dreams, but to have a sensitivity to making our spouse’s dreams come true.
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