Expectations and Adjustments, Part 2
About the Guest
You might have left the wedding in a cloud of dust, but are your parents still trailing behind? Tune in today when Dennis Rainey talks about the importance of leaving your parents to cleave to your mate.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
You might have left the wedding in a cloud of dust, but are your parents still trailing behind?
Expectations and Adjustments, Part 2
Dennis: This is Dennis Rainey. Before we start today’s program I’ve got some good news and some great news. As many of you we’ve had a matching gift challenge during the month of May of $356,000. That challenge has been met and to those of you who gave I want to say thank you.
Thank you for your generous financial support. As you’ve heard me say more than once this has been a tough year here for us here at FamilyLife and your donations this month have given us a huge boost. Now for the great news. In our excitement last week we shared with a number of our friends how well the match had been going and how it was about to be met and you know what they encouraged us to do? Keep it going.
In fact they committed another $170,000 in matching funds. They wanted to extend this
matching challenge through Sunday night. That’s an additional $170,000 good for all gifts we receive by this Sunday night. But that means we only have five days left now. Here’s what I’m asking, would you do whatever you can do this week. Keeping in mind that your gift will be doubled up to $170,000. Help us take full advantage of these new matching funds that will enable us to stay on this radio station and our full network of stations all across the country.
Now I want you to hear me on this. To try to raise this amount of money in this period of time is a huge challenge. Would you pray and would you consider giving so that we can take full advantage of this $170,000 of matching money. You can donate on line at FamilyLife Today.com or you can donate by phone at 1-800-FLTODAY. Again, I want to say thank you for your ongoing support of FamilyLife especially during these financially challenging times.
Bob: And now as a public service, FamilyLife presents four ways to load a dishwasher.
Here’s the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: There are four ways for a man to load a dishwasher. The first one is how
he has been trained by his mother:
[Begin taped segment.]
Mom: Now, dear, when you load the dishes, always put the cleanest plates near
Boy: Okay, mom.
Mom: And, honey, rinse the glasses before you load them.
Boy: Oh, okay.
[End taped segment.]
Dennis: The second way for a man to load a dishwasher is the way he would load
it if his wife is in the house:
[Begin taped segment.]
Woman: Honey, didn’t your mother teach you anything?
Man: She taught me to rinse the glasses before I put them in.
Woman: Honey, always put the cleanest dishes…
Man: I know, I know, on the inside so that the clean water …
Woman: No, silly, on the outside.
Man: But, I …
[End taped segment.]
Dennis: The third way for a man to load a dishwasher is when he’s just there and
his wife isn’t there:
[Begin taped segment.]
Man: [Loud music and glass breaking.] Plates; teacups; there, skillet. Sure, this can fit,
get in there. Yeah, soap. Okay, what’s next?
[End taped segment.]
Dennis: And finally, the fourth approved way for a man to load a dishwasher when he is
at his mother-in-law’s house:
[Begin taped segment.]
Woman: Hi, mom. That was a great dinner.
Mom: Thanks, dear. Judy, could you give me a hand with the dishwasher?
Woman: Sure, mom, but hasn’t Roger already loaded the dishes?
Mom: Yes, dear, but Roger is so incompetent about these things.
Woman: I bet I have showed him how to load that thing at least a dozen times.
Mom: I’ll bet he didn’t rinse the glasses either.
[End taped segment.]
Bob: Thanks for joining us. We’re not going to be talking about dishwashers all day on
the program. [Laughs.]
Dennis: We’re not, but we are talking about expectations early in marriage …
Dennis: … especially as you start your marriage out right. And I’ll tell you, Bob, men,
they really deserve some kind of heroic medal for learning how to make the necessary
adjustments on how to load a dishwasher. I mean, think of how this scars them
Bob: I have to tell a story here that gives equal time, because I have a friend of mine
who, when he got married, his wife had grown up and she had never … are you ready? …
she had never had to do dishes in her house the whole time she’d grown up.
Dennis: So she didn’t know how to load a dishwasher?
Bob: She didn’t know anything about a dishwasher. And after she got it all loaded the
first time she took the dishwashing detergent that you use there in the sink and she loaded
up the dishwasher with that dishwashing detergent that she used in the sink. Now, the
dishwashing detergent for the sink …
Dennis: Like Joy liquid you mean?
Bob: That’s what I mean.
Bob: It’s a little more concentrated that what normally goes in the dishwasher. And the
husband told me as he recounted this story that, well, he realized it when he started seeing
soap coming out of the cracks in the dishwasher as the machine was going for the first
Bob: He said, bless her heart, she just didn’t know any better. So it’s not just men who
need help in knowing how to load the dishwasher; sometimes it can be a woman. But it’s
usually men. [Chuckles.]
Dennis: Yeah, it usually is men. And, you know, early in our marriage we didn’t have a
dishwasher. You’re looking at him. I mean, I did it. And I can’t say that I appreciated, at that point in our marriage, our differences. All this week we’re talking about expectations and the adjustments we must make in meeting our mate’s expectations or knowing how to handle it when our mate, or our spouse, doesn’t meet our expectations.
And Proverbs, chapter 13, verse 12 has been our … our verse all this week: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” And I can tell you that this area of loading the dishwasher is just symptomatic, Bob, of a huge area where … we have a list of 25 adjustments that every couple, I believe, must make if they’re going to achieve oneness in their marriage and see a marriage that goes the distance.
Bob: Well, we talked yesterday about big things like your spiritual relationship with one
another, and finances. Loading the dishwasher seems like a gnat in a marriage
relationship. Is it really all that big a deal?
Dennis: Well, that’s not the problem, it’s a symptom.
Dennis: The problem is that we’re different … and we marry one another because we’re
different; male and female it says in Genesis, chapter 2. He created them, okay? Why
was I attracted to Barbara? She was different than I was. It’s interesting that the
differences that attracted us to one another before we get married, how much those
differences end up repelling us later on after we get married. And I load the dishwasher
one way and Barbara goes, you do not know how to load it in the approved way. Now,
we’ve been married 28 years …
Dennis: I’m telling you …
Bob: You got it down yet?
Dennis: I don’t.
Dennis: I’m just thinking of all these poor guys starting out their marriage together. You
need to learn early that your differences … well, that there are places where you need to
defer to her differences.
Bob: Mm-hmm. But you’re not just talking about gender differences, you’re talking
about differences in backgrounds, differences in the way we do things, differences in how
we were brought up, differences in the way we approach life, right?
Dennis: Yeah, preferences for one thing. It’s not a issue of one person being right and
the other person being wrong. In fact, 28 years into our marriage we’re still laughing
about this. She’ll say, this is how you should do this, and I’ll say, well, there’s more than
one way to do that, isn’t there, sweetheart?
But these unmet expectations, we’re laughing about them now but someone once said … made the statement, “The person who says that small things don’t bother them has never slept in a room with a mosquito.” Little things can bother you, and they can become more than irritants; they can kind of stick in your … in your heart and they can result in not only unmet expectations and disappointment and hurt, but they can fester and you can become angry about it.
Bob: Dennis, these are the things that cause couples to go seek counseling or to go see a
Dennis: Yeah, and you’ve got to learn how to deal with one another’s differences. So
don’t resent the way your spouse does something, even though they may do it differently
than how you would want it done.
Bob: Okay, but who gives in, who flexes, who adjusts to whom? Who decides which
way the socks ought to be put in the laundry hamper?
Dennis: I think Jesus spoke to that very clearly. He said, “Unless a grain of wheat fall on
the ground and die, it bears forth no fruit.” And I think the issue for both husband and
wife is that we need to die; we need to die to some of our own expectations and defer to
the other person. That means you don’t nit-pick them to death. Don’t use your tongue
like an ice pick to chip away at them and constantly harp at them or nag at them that
they’re not doing it the way you would want them to do it. Instead, let things go.
Bob: But in some areas, Dennis, our differences end up being significant differences.
You put on the list of adjustments the whole area of communication … and this is an area
where our different styles of communicating can create some serious conflict in a
Dennis: We get married to be intimate with one another, to know and be known and to
experience transparency. I remember when Barbara and I were dating and she lived in
Dallas, and I did, too, and we would go out at her apartment complex and we would sit
on the steps until 2:00 a.m. in the morning, just talking. After we got married I can still
remember the drive from Houston, Texas all the way to Boulder, Colorado. And I
remember on the way up there, there were moments of silence where she didn’t have
anything to say. And later on in our marriage I would ask her what she was thinking and
she would say, “Nothing.” And it was one of those words that you knew needed to be
unpacked a bit.
Dennis: And yet, she needed to communicate and share with me what she was feeling,
but she didn’t know what she was feeling. She was all wrapped up in her emotions and
she was discouraged or disappointed or angry with me about something I did do or didn’t
do. And I was just a young man starting out our marriage. I didn’t know how to handle
those moments when what she was thinking about was “nothing.” And I didn’t know
what to do and how to communicate through that.
And here’s where expectations going unmet is so important. It takes years for a man to
learn how to become a husband and speak “woman.” Now, he’s never going to become a
woman. You didn’t marry him, ladies, to become a woman, you ..
Bob: And you don’t want him to.
Dennis: No, but you do want him to speak “woman.” You do want him to know how to
relate to you in a tender way, like Stu Weber talks about, being a “tender warrior” on
your behalf. And it takes years for a woman to learn how to speak with a man and how
to understand what her man is thinking and when he wants to talk and when he needs to
be left alone.
Bob: And to understand that when he’s thinking out loud about, “I wonder what it would
be like to live in Arizona,” that doesn’t mean that he’s planning to sell the house and
move the family, right?
Bob: I mean, there are times, again, in our communication where we miss each other
simply because we don’t understand what we’re doing in our communication. We talk at
the FamilyLife Marriage Conference, Dennis, about the need to be more clear in
expressing ourselves to each other and to become better listeners. And this is an area
where husbands and wives can take some quantum leaps in their communication
ability if they’ll just listen to what the other person is saying and to what the emotion
behind what’s being said is.
Dennis: And again, the reason it’s so natural before we get married is because we’re all
geared up to understand one another and sit and gaze into one another’s eyes and think
deeply about what they’re saying, but after we get married the prize is won, the contest is
over, and you no longer have to compete … we think in our own minds … we no longer
have to compete in this area of listening to your spouse, and so now you begin to see your
differences really come out in this area of communication.
But we have to learn early in our marriage, Bob, to listen to our spouse and their style of communicating, and realize it’s not a matter of meeting them halfway; it’s a matter of understanding who they are. There are times when they need to be left alone. There are times when they need to be drawn out. There are times when you need to drop what you’re doing and go for a walk; go for a drive. There are times when you need to leave them alone, let them sort it out, and then discuss it a little later in the evening.
Those are all expectations in the marriage relationship that as a young couple starts out … I think sometimes these young couples, in their early years of marriage, are so trying to do things so perfectly and so right, and they get so focused on applying all these principles and at the same time they don’t give one another space just to work through it and grow. The marriage relationship starts with two nearly total strangers with one another, and you begin living with one another and this art of communication is developed over a lifetime together. And I can promise you, if you focus on it it really will be that familiar friend who really does communicate well with you.
Bob: There’s probably one person in each relationship who is listening to you right now
going, I would love to have more communication with my spouse but my spouse is just
not a communicator. Is there anything I can do to make communication a higher priority
for my spouse than it currently is?
Dennis: The first thing I would do is reflect back on your dating days, and what were the
circumstances, the environments and the surroundings that allowed you to communicate
back then? Was it going and doing things around a sporting event? Was it talks? Was it
a chunk of time? Some of those have to be replicated in the marriage relationship in
order to recreate the opportunity to communicate. And early in marriage I think many
times we make the mistake of stopping our courtship. We no longer date one another and
no longer pursue one another. If you’re going to meet one another’s expectations and
keep disappointment minimal you need to pursue your spouse, especially in the area of
And it’s at this point I want to address the men. Your assignment, men, not should you
decide to accept it … no, if you are a husband, you’ve already [chuckles] … you’ve
already accepted the challenge. Your assignment is over your lifetime to learn how to
communicate as a man with your wife in a way that pleases and nourishes and cherishes
your wife’s soul. You need to become a student of how to communicate with her, and to
her, and for her in such a way that she feels like she’s been understood, she’s been heard,
that things that are discussed, even points of disappointment where you haven’t met
expectations … you can use this one right here to reduce the disappointment and hurt if
you do a good job communicating.
Bob, I know what I’m talking about because just the other night I didn’t meet an expectation of Barbara, and she was hurt. And so I paused and I listened. And I listened to what she said. I didn’t allow my mind to wander, I didn’t walk off while she was talking, I didn’t get angry, I didn’t get defensive; many of the things that I might have done in our early years of marriage. Instead, I gave her full attention. After she was finished I looked her in the eyes and I said, “You know, you’re right. I think I understand exactly how you feel.” And I began to tell her what she had told me. Then I said, “Did I get it?” And she said, “You got it.”
And you know what? It took … it was almost like some concrete that had been poured where somebody had come in with a stick and etched it … and broke it up. And it was like my listening and conversation back with her took a trowel and just smoothed over while the concrete was still wet, and allowed us to have a point of understanding and to really continue to build a foundation in our marriage.
Bob: Part of what you’re talking about here really ties in with one of the other
adjustments that’s on your list, and that is how we resolve conflict. Communication is a
big part of that. In fact, oftentimes we’ve found that the conflict has more to do with how
we’ve been expressing ourselves to one another in the communication process than it
does what we were talking about in the first place.
Dennis: Yeah. I wish at this point I had some of the testimonials from couples who had
attended one of our FamilyLife marriage conferences, and just let them, at this point, step in and tell you how important being equipped in this area has become in their marriage. But couple after couple go through these Weekends to Remember that are held on a Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday, and they come out of it saying, for the first time in our lives together we now have a common way to resolve conflict.
Now, what they had in common before was conflict. They both were experiencing conflict with one another but they didn’t have common tools to be able to resolve the issues together as a couple. And so, as a result, if you have an unmet expectation, you get hurt, you’re disappointed, you get angry, but if there isn’t a way to resolve that anger it does become resentment. You do hold that in, you do begin to punish, and you begin to punish your spouse way on down the road for things that are really minor issues when the real thing that has hurt you occurred in year one of your marriage and you didn’t have the ability to know how to move beyond that and forgive one another.
So the first thing you need to know in making the adjustment to resolve conflict is realize that all conflict in marriage is normal and will occur in a marriage relationship. You’re not weird to experience conflict. It’s not wrong for two people, a husband and a wife, to experience disagreement and therefore conflict in a marriage.
Bob: In fact, Dennis, this is an area … as you said, it’s common to all marriages, but this
is the area that’s been identified as the critical skill for couples if they’re going to make a
marriage work. If you don’t know how to resolve conflict when it occurs in your
marriage then you’re going to have just that buildup of ongoing frustration and anger and
pain that’s going to lead couples to … to want to abandon their relationship.
Dennis: As you were talking I was thinking back over 28 years of marriage and how
many conflicts we had in our first months, first years, over those childbearing years when we had six children in 10 years, the pressure of the ministry when it was growing 40 percent a year throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and how that all came … really came down on our marriage and we had all kinds of conflict. Had we not been equipped to know how to deal with hundreds … and I daresay there have been hundreds if not thousands of situations where there has been conflict that we’ve had to deal with, Bob, we would be angry at each other today. We wouldn’t have a relationship; we wouldn’t be enjoying one another.
But I can sit here before you right now and tell you I have nothing against Barbara. I feel confident she doesn’t have anything against me … at least I don’t think … right now. She might have before the …
Bob: Before the day’s over. [Chuckles.]
Dennis: … before the evening’s over … I may make a mistake … but we both have a
common way to resolve conflict. And that is, speak the truth in love. So you confront the issue. Secondly, you ask for forgiveness. And third, you grant forgiveness when you’ve been wronged. And then you make restitution, really, as a fourth way that we resolve conflict. If you will apply those four principles over and over and over again in your marriage … and sometimes they’re applied over a matter of hours. It’s not a matter of just clicking them off like you flip a switch. It’s a process whereby you work through it as a couple.
But every newly married couple needs to listen to me carefully. If you don’t establish the right habits, the right disciplines in resolving conflict, you’re headed for an atomic explosion, three, five, ten years down the road because someday all those unresolved issues are all going to finally become so heavy, so weighty, one of you … on of you is either going to walk out or explode in front of the other one.
Bob: What are those four things again … the four patterns you talked about?
Dennis: Number one, speak the truth in love. Number two, ask forgiveness when you’ve
wronged the other person. Number three, grant forgiveness when you’ve been hurt. And number four, seek restitution; make it right. Make sure your spouse knows that you understand and you’re willing to not just keep on repeating this process over and over and over again.
Bob: Forgiveness is at the heart of all of this, isn’t it?
Dennis: Forgiveness means that we give up the right of punishment. Jesus talked about
the seven times 70 club, that we should forgive our neighbor seven times 70, an infinite number of times. And that means that it’s never our right to hold onto a grudge. It is our biblical responsibility before God to give up our right of punishment and to put it away. Why? Because Ephesians, chapter four, at the end of that chapter it says, “forgiving one another as God, in Christ, forgave you.” We are to forgive one another.
And, Bob, there’s probably no more practical application in dealing with unmet expectations than becoming a skilled person who knows how to resolve conflict in the marriage relationship.
Bob: You know, you talk about this in your book, Starting Your Marriage Right, and
it’s something we spend two sessions on at the FamilyLife Marriage Conference. If couples don’t learn how to resolve conflict, there will be this excess build-up in a marriage relationship, and that’s why early on you’ve got to get the right patterns established.
If you would like more information about the book, Starting Your Marriage Right, it’s available from us here at FamilyLife you can go online at FamilyLifeToday .com or you can call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. If you know a couple that is not yet married but they are making plans to be married in the couple of months consider getting them a copy of the Preparing for Marriage workbooks that we’ve put together. These are designed to supplement the premarital counseling that they are hopefully getting in their local church.
Again, the toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY, or you can go online for information about these resources at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Tomorrow we’re going to talk about the importance of putting some healthy hedges and boundaries around a new marriage in order to protect it. I hope you can be back for that.
Thanks to 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. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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