Extending Courtesy to Your Mate
About the Guest
It’s the little things that count, especially in marriage. Author Jess MacCallum talks about some of the little courtesies that lead to marital bliss like putting the toilet seat down, filling the gas tank, and rearranging the furniture just the way she likes it.
It’s the little things that count, especially in marriage.
Extending Courtesy to Your Mate
Bob: The Bible teaches us to affirm one another, to encourage and build up one another. That’s something that a new husband has to learn how to get good at. Jess MacCallum says he has got to learn how to do things like this.
Jess: If you have just moved into a new apartment together, you make sure that you point out what she has done to create an environment because that’s what she is trying to do. She isn’t trying to match drapes and curtains; she isn’t trying to match that. She’s trying to creating a feeling. You will go a long way on that if, when you have people over, you bring them into her remodeled area and you brag about it.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We have lots of very practical counsel today for husbands who are in the first months, maybe the first couple of years of marriage. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’m just wondering if our guest, Jess MacCallum, is going to take any heat for the title of this book. Do you think?
Dennis: Well, it's the first book we’ve ever featured on FamilyLife Today where there is a toilet on the front.
Bob: The toilet seat! The book is called Put the Seat Down; and I’ve talked with guys who say, “Well, now, wait a sec. Why is it me who has to put the seat down? I mean, she can put it up when she is done. Why is it the guy that has to put the seat down?”
Dennis: I know how I would answer that. Let’s let Jess.
Bob: Well, that’s what he called the book, Put the Seat Down. He better have an answer for it.
Dennis: He undoubtedly has a great answer to that. He and his wife Ann dated for nine years, been married since 1988, have three children. He is a businessman, and how would you answer Bob’s question?
Jess: I would say, “You can learn it the hard way or you can do what Peter said.” In one of his letters was, “to live with your wife in such a considerate way that your prayers will not be hindered.” If you want to be considerate—and this is what that chapter is really about—is being considerate and thoughtful in the small things that serve her in ways that will multiply. These are small things that add up to a huge amount.
Now, the hard way is she will sit down in a cold bowl of water one night because you are a guy and you are used to rooming with guys, and being in dorms, or with roommates. She hits that cold water because she is used to living with girls, who always put the seat down. So you tell me which battle you want to fight.
Bob: Did you ever forget to put the seat down?
Jess: She can tell you, in 23 years of marriage, about three times, where there was something on my mind so much. That’s how she knows something is really bothering me is because I will forget to put the seat down. She will come up and say, “Well, something is bothering you. What is it because you forgot to put the seat down?”
Bob: Well, all I know is, I remember being awakened from a sound sleep. (laughter) I was sleeping very peacefully and, all of a sudden, I hear a loud crash in the bathroom; and I woke up. Mary Ann was not next to me in the bed. I said, “Did you hear that, what was that?“ She said, “Oh, I was just putting the seat down for you.” I think I have remembered since then to put the seat down.
Jess: I actually got this from one of my old mentors from the Navigators who had four daughters. He used to say in Bible study—he says, “Look, guys, I am the only male member of a sorority. So when you use my bathroom, put the seat down when you leave.” He says, “I will pay for it later.”
Bob: And we make this—I mean it seems like this is trivial, and it's kind of like everybody jokes about this. There is really a bigger principle than who puts the seat down, isn’t there?
Jess: Yes. It’s that whole idea of consideration, which goes beyond the manners or upbringing. I am talking about the little things that make a huge difference. For example, the one thing Ann wanted most, little thing that she wanted in our early years, she wouldn’t have the side of the bed where she could see the moon at night. That was a big deal to her—was to be able to look out the window and see the moon.
Well, when you move as many times as we did in the first few years, the bedrooms change. The windows are in a different position. You are always moving the furniture differently. I am a creature of habit; I like routine; I like the same side of the bed.
So I switched sides back and forth and back and forth for about four years. It's always one or the other, and then I would just stumble to the bathroom in the middle of the night because I couldn’t remember which side of the bed I was on. I had to rearrange everything in my life. That nighttime thinking, it goes on autopilot. So I would get up and walk the wrong direction in the new place we were staying, but it was important to her to see the moon when she looked out at night when she woke up.
Dennis: A young man who is starting out a marriage is beginning a journey to really learn how to love another imperfect human being. Marriage is the most intimate of all relationships. The way I would encourage a young man to look at the toilet seat or what side of the bed you sleep on is to look at it as an expression of love, maybe consider tying it to common courtesies. I have always enjoyed thinking about courtesies the way Elisabeth Elliot, the missionary to South America, described it. She said, “Think of a common courtesy as, ‘My life for your life.’”
So I have thought about, as I open the door for my wife, still after 38 years of marriage, “I will try to get over to the side of the car to open the door for her;” or when we go in the house, I will wait after I have turned the lock, I will step back so she can go in first. It's a statement of, “My life for yours.” I believe, as you just said, Jess, those little things really do begin to add up in a woman’s life and her soul.
Bob: I have a friend who shared this a number of years ago, and I have never stopped to think about it. He said, “One of the things that honors my wife, that’s a blessing to her is,” he said, “I will pretty regularly take her car and make sure that I’m the one putting the gas in her car for her, that she doesn’t have to stop and fill up with gas.” I thought, “That’s a simple thing. I mean, it's not saying, ‘You’re not qualified to fill up your own gas tank.’ It's just saying, ‘This is one of the things I’m going to do for you—is keep the car full of gas, get the oil changed, and take care of your vehicle.’”
Jess: Well, what you are doing is exactly one of the practical points I would like to make on this topic in your first year marriage is, “When you have a household set of chores—and it was divided up differently when you were rooming with whatever situation—pick the chores she hates the most and you do those.” Just tell her, “Write down which is it; we’ve got all these things to do. Tell me the ones you don’t like; I’ll do them.”
Dennis: That’s great advice.
Jess: Take that right off her back.
Bob: My son is still single. He is in his 20s. He has got a job and, in fact, decided he was going to become a homeowner. So he bought a home. He has got a three-bedroom home with a couple of guys living with him in the home, charging them rent. He refers to the home as Fort Lepine, and he will talk about getting the guys over, “Everybody is coming over to Fort Lepine tonight for whatever else.”
Now, let’s just imagine for a moment that my son had met a woman and had decided that he was going to kick out his roommates and bring her in. She is going to be the new queen of Fort Lepine. How does Fort Lepine need to change if it's going to be the two of them living there as compared to my son and his buddies?
Jess: He may want to remember that it's his castle but it's her nest. She is going to have a nesting instinct. If you have any experience with women at all, you know they like to make an environment. They like to put their personality onto it, whatever it may be. He is going to have to sacrifice. In fact, I almost wonder if that’s not too much for a man to be a single homeowner and bring a woman into it. It might just be too stressful for him to give up all the cinder blocks, and wooden planks, and that ‘80s eclectic style and—
Dennis: Not if he changed the name of Fort Lepine.
Jess: I think that would be a good step to begin with and—
Dennis: To Ann’s Castle.
Bob: Something like that.
Dennis: Or Ann’s Nest?
Jess: Green Gables or something. Yes, something more appropriate.
Dennis: I mean, you are offering some really profound advice here. I mean, I am—
Jess: This is really practical.
Dennis: It really is. We have been married 38 years, and I’m still discovering that Barbara really likes to feather her nest and make it an expression of her.
Bob: Well, let me just ask you a question. Anytime in the last 38 years when you have thought to yourself, “You know, I would kind of like to rearrange the furniture in this room”?
Dennis: No, never.
Bob: How about you? Ever occurred to you?
Jess: I would like to get rid of some furniture—to make some space.
Bob: Alright. So, the other day, Mary Ann says, “Can you come in the living room?” I said, “Yes.” She wanted the sofa in a different place. So, I helped her move the sofa. I remember doing it thinking, “What is it inside a woman that says, ‘Let’s change the environment,’ because—and it's fine with me. The sofa can be here; it can be there. It doesn’t really matter.”
Jess: And it can stay there for 25 years.
Bob: I am good with that, too.
Jess: The same one.
Bob: The same sofa is good but—
Jess: Or she can move it back and forth and back and forth on the same day, and you have to do it. You need to be quiet and say, “Yes, dear. Yes, I think you are right.” Whatever she decides on, you just affirm it because if you don’t, you are going to keep moving it.
Dennis: Really, if I give any advice around this, enter into her moving stuff around and engage around what looks good. She doesn’t just want you to move the furniture like a robot, “Yes, I can do that, dear.” No, she wants you to enter her world because that is an expression of who she is.
Bob: Okay, but wait just a sec. When she says, “Do you think we should have curtains here or mini blinds?” and you are looking and going, “Doesn’t matter; I don’t really care.”
Jess: My wife’s never consulted me on the details.
Bob: So when she tries to engage you in the decorating process, and you are going, “Really, I am fine with it either way.” Should you pretend that you are engaged or—
Jess: Well, I don’t pretend. I actually want to find out why she thinks what she thinks, so she says. Well, because it's the only way I can actually stay awake during the conversation. So I want to know. She says, “Would you like this or would you like that picture hanging there?” and I have absolutely no opinion on that. Instead of saying that, I’d say, “What's the concept you are after? What do you think it's going to do?”
Dennis: That’s brilliant. That is a brilliant question.
Bob: Write that down. What's the concept you are going after?
Dennis: Do not give Jess credit for this in your marriage, though.
Jess: Please take the credit yourself.
Bob: I got to believe Barbara because Barbara has an artistic side to her. She likes the nest to look beautiful. I can hear her saying, “Do you think we should do this or this?”
Dennis: I just looked at blinds the other day with her.
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Bob: And does it matter to you?
Dennis: No. (laughter) No, but because it's important to her—again, we have been married a lot of years. So, I mean, I’ve made some of these bonehead choices in the past. I think what you are saying here is, “Enter into her world. Realize that it's not Fort Lepine; it is a castle, and she is the queen of the castle. If you treat her as queen, she may crown you king.”
Jess: You will go a long way on that if, when you have people over, you bring them into her remodeled area and you brag about it because they’ve seen it before.
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Jess: Or if you’ve just moved into a new apartment together, you make sure that you point out what she’s done to create an environment because that’s what she’s trying to do. She isn’t trying to match that; she’s trying to create a feeling, and that’s what you need to point out to people.
Bob: Let me ask you about—because really, we’re talking about adjustments that we have to make when we get married. I think it's was Norm Wright who said, “In a first marriage, it's a three- to five-year process to make the adjustments, where you are kind of learning how to be in rhythm with one another.”
He said “If it’s a second marriage, it goes five to eight years to try to make those adjustments just because you bring a lot of patterns in with you.” What about the first year of marriage as it relates to intimacy and the sexual relationship? A lot of couples get married today—that’s been a part of their relationship prior to marriage. Does marriage somehow change that?
Jess: Well, that’s a huge topic. I do have a chapter in the book called “Holy Sex” because there is holy sex and then there are unholy patterns that people have and they bring into their relationships. It would be naïve for us to sit and think that most Christian couples are virgins, or even a large percentage in today’s society. Even those that are—are inundated with sexual message—the movies and television. The internet is just trying to poison about everybody’s thinking it can get its hands on, in some areas.
Having said that, I think that this is an area where, if you are going to get counseling on anything, it would be this one if you feel like there is significant baggage. Only you can tell whether or not you brought baggage, created your own baggage with each other, or expect to face significant issues like anything from childhood sexual abuse for one of the partner’s past experiences, experiences with each other—maybe you have come to Christ later, and it's just a very complex situation.
The bottom line is, “You must be sacrificial. You must be patient. You must lead toward things of God in the bed and away from the things of world right there in the bed.” The New Testament says, “The marriage bed should be honored by all. It should be pure. It should be holy.” It's the actual act of intimacy that is considered an act of worship. It's a oneness that the world has got no idea, but we bring all that baggage in.
This is an area where I don’t think any couple would say, “This is not in the top one or two.” In fact, I have a cartoon in the book, where the couples are in front a counselor and say, “We only argue about money or sex, depending on which one is in shorter supply.”
Dennis: Your dad gave you some advice five minutes before your wedding. Your dad must have observed your relationship. You dated for nine years before you were married. Five minutes before you are to welcome and coming down the aisle, he said what?
Jess: To tell you about it real quick. My dad was a World War II vet, a John Wayne type—not a big communicator, not a big talker. We never had “the sex talk.” So right before we were to walk out, I said, “Dad, I guess it's about time for that sex talk.” He nodded. He looked to me and said, “Take your time buddy. You will do fine.” That was some of the best advice I have ever gotten when it came to sex.
Bob: You made an important point here. Most people getting married today are bringing with them into the bedroom some pattern of sexual sin prior to marriage, whether it's been with one another, been with other partners, whether it's been sexual sin through pornography. There is some pattern being brought in.
I think many couples, many individuals, have a tendency to minimize, downplay, and figure, “That’s not that big a deal,” and to be surprised then when marital relations—there are challenges in that area. They never pull back and go, “Gee, I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that I have had some sin patterns in my life and I have never really dealt with those honestly before God?”
Jess: I agree with that. Let me read you a verse, where we interject a phrase; and you will know where it goes when I read it. Romans 8:6, “For the mind set on the flesh is death in the bedroom, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace in the bedroom.”
I mean, that’s where the holiness takes place. That act has to be held in such sacred esteem that you will not tolerate, as the leader, the world’s pattern coming into your bedroom. You will not let your bride—the one that’s supposed to be Christ in the church—the holiness that you want her to experience—you will be ruthless with anything that’s lingering. You won't have anything left over, you won't be trying anything uncomfortable for her, you will be communicating, and above all, you will be there for her satisfaction first and yours second, which if you sacrifice, Christ’s promises that He will multiply the results.
Dennis: Two other points you hit in the book on different topics, Jess. I just want you to comment on the topics of in-laws and money because both of these can cause enormous conflicts early in a marriage relationship.
Jess: In-laws. Boy, it gets very complicated because there are multiple sets of in-laws for a lot of people. They don’t have just her set of parents and your set of parents. In fact, it's her two sets of parents with re-marriage and his single mom and dad’s second wife and these are issues that require—back to the communication.
You are the leader. You need to set boundaries. You need to find out what your wife thinks on everything that goes on and you need to lead her through the things that make her feel safe and secure. You have to help with disappointments. If she doesn’t get the sister she always wanted because your sister is not the kind who wants to be pals, you have to help her adjust to that. You have got to decide about everything from holiday schedules—even in the best-case scenario when you have sets of parents and everybody likes everybody—there is only one Christmas, and there is only one Thanksgiving, and there are distances and things.
All these complications need to be talked about, and you need to come up with some agreements well in advance of any event. If you have in-laws that are intrusive, it's the kind of thing that as the man, you don’t let her take care of her side of the family. This is your wife, and you really don’t have sides of the family anymore. Your family relates to those two other families as a unit. If you get that out on the table early, you are going to avoid so much conflict by shooting from the hip.
Dennis: Honestly, that piece of advice right there is worth the price of the book because a lot of young men underestimate the power of the family they came from or the power of their wife’s family and where she is coming from. I mean, the failure to leave and cleave, either by the husband or the wife or by both of them, cause a lot of problems.
Now let's go on to money. What's your best advice on money?
Jess: Do not try to manage two economies. You must blend those economies. I have seen it both ways; and if you are paying your side of the bills and she is paying her side of the bills, that is going to create more tension than blending the two and then wondering, “Why you wrote a check to such and such?” or, “How did you overspend on that?” Better to have that discussion than to have two separate economies going on in the same household. I think that is just—I have seen it. I know people doing that now; I think that’s a terrible mistake.
Dennis: I was with a young lady not too long ago, and she was commenting on this. She was about to be married; and she said, “Did you know we put all of our money into one checking account and we are no longer fighting about who is filling up whose car?” This was all occurring as an engaged couple; but this husband had the wisdom to say, “Let's put all of our money together in anticipation of marriage into one checking account. Let's begin to pay our bills out of that.” She said, “It’s liberating because he is taking responsibility for that side of our relationship.”
Jess: I would encourage complete transparency on the financial front. You know, a couple of little things is, “Don’t get any credit card. You have already got enough.” If you are 16 years or older, you probably already have a credit card. Don’t get into the credit card debt.
When you mix those economies, don’t assume that the man is the one who is the handler of the money. I know too many guys who are terrible with money or details. They don’t like it, and their wife is strong in it. So long as she feels protected—you are not abdicating so that she feels like she is alone in that decision; but if you delegate it to her, support her in that. If she is stronger in it, that’s the logical thing to do.
Dennis: Your book, Jess, Put the Seat Down is really an older man sitting down with the younger man and saying, “Don’t make the same bonehead mistakes I made as a young man.” Honestly, this is a perfect book, 125 pages. There are not a lot of words in here—
Jess: Cartoons. Cartoons.
Dennis: There are cartoons and the print is big. This is ideal, frankly, for a couple starting out their marriage because a young man needs an older man’s guidance and advice. We all do. I am looking to older men in my life right now, and I am over 60. So you know, it’s healthy to remain teachable and listen to those wise godly counselors who will give you advice according to the Scriptures, which is what you have done here.
Bob: Well, we have got copies of Jess’ book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center, along with a companion book that’s been written by Brenda Garrison called He's Not a Mind Reader; and that’s for wives who are in the first months of marriage. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about either or both of these books: Put the Seat Down for men; He's Not a Mind Reader for women.
Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com. Go online for more information; or you can order from us online or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That is
1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word TODAY. Of course, it goes without saying that we would recommend that couples who are approaching marriage, or have recently been married, ought to consider attending one of our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. These are coming up this fall. We are going to be at about four dozen different locations with weekend conferences for couples.
In fact, Dennis and I spoke together at a getaway not long ago; and this month, we are making available a CD set that features a half dozen of the messages that we gave at that Weekend to Remember marriage getaway—messages on sexual intimacy, conflict, communication, understanding God’s plan for marriage, the things that threaten oneness in marriage. That CD series is our thank-you gift this month when you make a donation to help support FamilyLife Today.
We are particularly interested in those of you who are regular listeners, but you have never made a donation. In fact, we have got a goal this month of trying to hear from 2,000 listeners who have never gotten in touch with us before, never made a donation before. If you can go online today at FamilyLifeToday.com and make a donation in support of the ministry and you would like to receive this CD series from FamilyLife with these messages from the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, just type the word “SAMPLER” into the online key code box; and we will send that out to you.
You can also keep track online of how many first-time donors we have heard from so far this month, again with our goal of getting to 2,000 new first-time donors this month. Let me just say, “If you are a first-time donor and you can make a donation this month of $100 or more, we want to encourage you to type the word “HUNDRED” into the key code box; and we will send you a certificate so that you and your spouse can attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. We will cover the cost of the registration fee for you; or you can pass the certificate along to someone else, if you would like. This is only for those of you who are first-time donors to FamilyLife Today and can make a donation of $100 or more to help support the ministry. We appreciate your financial support to FamilyLife Today.
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Now tomorrow, we are going to talk to young wives. We have been talking to young husbands yesterday and today. Tomorrow we are going to talk to young wives with some advice on how you can be the wife that God’s calling you to be in your marriage. That comes up tomorrow. 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 back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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