Romance Like It Used to Be
About the Guest
Becky Thompson, author of "Love Unending," encourages wives to keep the romantic fires burning in their marriages through 21 days of rediscovery. Thompson reminds wives to do what they did at the beginning of their marriages, things like making time for romance, purposefully touching like you did when you were dating, being intentional, resolving conflict, and forgiving.
Becky Thompson encourages wives to keep the romantic fires burning in their marriages through 21 days of rediscovery.
Romance Like It Used to Be
Bob: Becky Thompson remembers as a mother of young children having very little interest in being intimate with her husband, so she went to see her doctor and got some wise counsel.
Becky: I started to cry, and I told her, “I am not interested in being intimate. I’m not, and I feel like there’s something wrong with me.” I honestly thought maybe I just needed a hormone replacement or something like that. I thought maybe there’s something like, “What can you give me that will help my heart?” I remember she took off her glasses and tucked them into her hair and she put her hand on my knee, leaning forward, and she said, “Sweetheart, you’re just tired.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, June 23rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
So, I know a lot of moms are nodding their heads, going, “Exactly. That’s exactly how I feel.” So what do you do if that’s you? We’ll talk today with Becky Thompson about that; stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
You know, we’ve been trying to provide for wives today a plan. This is actually for wives and moms; a plan for getting your marriage out of the fridge, putting it back on the stove, heating it back up again to where it’s at an edible temperature, and bringing some...
Bob: Bringing some sizzle back into your priority relationship, which ought to be your marriage relationship.
Dennis: Especially moms with young kids.
Bob: I’m just wondering whether the principles that are in here, this 21-day plan that’s been laid out by our guest, I wonder if this is author-tested or not, if she’s done the 21-day challenge.
Dennis: That’s a good question. Let’s ask her. So, Becky Thompson, author of Love Unending, have you taken the 21-day challenge for your own marriage with your husband Jared?
Hold your right hand up.
Here’s the Bible right here; just put your hand on the Bible, right there.
Have you done it?
Becky: I have, and I’ve done it again and I’ve done it again and I’ve done it again.
Dennis: Does he recognize when you’re doing this?
Becky: You know, the good thing about this 21-day challenge is that hopefully your spouse picks up on it. Hopefully your spouse starts to notice the little changes that you’re making. But you know, by the second or third time through this, it’s sort of become a lifestyle, which is my hope for every person that reads the book, is that it becomes a lifestyle, and that all the days blend together and that you just sort of catch yourself doing these little things that you did one at a time all at once.
Bob: Explain for listeners what it is you’re trying to help a mom with, what you’re coaching her with in this book.
Becky: When we become a mom, it’s really hard to remember how to be a wife, practically. What does that really look like, to be wife when we’re busy being a mom? How do we continue to stay intentional and invested with our spouse when the demands of the day pile up? Twenty-one days of rediscovering your marriage in the midst of motherhood is exactly what it is.
It is walking her back to the very beginning of what it looked like when she first fell in love with her husband. What were some of the things that she did? You know, how did she speak to him? How did she engage with him? It’s funny, because these aren’t new things.
Becky: This isn’t anything new I’m teaching her. I’m just reminding her of who she used to be and showing her, strategically, how to continue to be that version of her, in motherhood.
Bob: So, there’s one thing we haven’t talked about in terms of a wife connecting with her husband and putting him first in marriage, and it’s—I want to be discreet here, but this would be something that during the dating years it would be hard for her to restrain herself. This would be something that during her honeymoon she would be finding great delight in, hopefully.
Bob: And this is something that after you’ve been a mom for a few years has moved down the priority list to about number 57, and all of a sudden something that used to be appealing and attractive—talking about marital intimacy—is something that’s last on your list of things you’re looking forward to.
Becky: Exactly. And so, you know, when children come along we remake the marriage bed, and I mean that in every way. Sometimes we’re sharing our bed with children. Sometimes, you know, we have kids that crawl into bed with us. We have babies that take us away from the bed at night. We have exhaustive schedules. We are pulled in every direction to complete capacity, and then we still have to turn back toward our spouse at the end of the day and say, “I want to connect with you.”
What does that really look like after kids come along?
Dennis: I had a mom one time say—excuse me for interrupting on this—but she said, “It was our romance that gave us kids, and then our kids took our romance.”
Becky: That’s exactly right.
Dennis: It happens.
Dennis: And so you have to be intentional, and you’re talking about day 16: “Connect intimately.”
Becky: That’s right.
Dennis: How did you do that?
Becky: Being intimate with our spouse actually begins before we hit the bedroom, before we’re ever alone with them, intimacy begins. You know, it happens through kind conversation. It happens through intentional listening. It happens on all the other days that lead up to day 16—making space for our spouse, maybe even just touching purposely.
You know, day three is actually “Touch purposefully.” When we’re dating, we might have just reached out and held our husband’s hands, or our boyfriend’s hands, however that looked, because we just wanted them to know that we saw them, that they were in the room, and we wanted to connect with them physically. But when we don’t connect physically—as a mom I need space sometimes. “Everybody just sit on the floor in your chairs.” As a nursing mom or a mom with little ones always in her arms, I need my own personal space. I need to remember that “me” is sometimes alone.
But then, I also have to willingly invite my husband back into my personal space and gauge him physically in some way; holding his hand, putting my hand on his back, acknowledging his presence in the room—before we ever go to bed at night. Before intimacy is ever a thought, it begins throughout the day.
Bob: And let me just stop you there, because a lot of moms in the middle of the day who might be thinking, “Okay. Should I try to get ready for tonight?” And everything inside of them is saying, “No; sleep tonight. Just sleep is what you need. You need sleep tonight.” So they go, “Okay, I’ll sleep tonight.” And then the next day it’s the same cycle.
Bob: Pretty soon, there’s never a day when it’s a priority—if you just keep thinking to yourself, “I’ll wait till I can kind of bring the mood on,” it’s not going to come for you as a mom unless you make it a discipline.
Becky: Sometimes, you know, especially with little kids, going to bed is exhausting. The actual act of putting children to bed is exhausting.
Becky: By the time everybody’s off-duty and the house is picked up and you’ve fallen into your own bed, it almost seems like a gift to your spouse to leave them alone.
Becky: When we first fall in love and we’re newly married, it is like the pinnacle of our love, shown in those intimate moments. It’s everything that we couldn’t do all day that now we can do because we’re alone together.
But this is where falling toward each other has to be the new way we fall at the end of the day. We have to fall into each other. We have to fall toward each other, and not alone, not fall away.
Dennis: You had a friend who looked in the eye after you had a couple of children. I don’t know, was Cadence your last child that you had?
Becky: Jackson’s my youngest, but I think this happened after Cadence.
Dennis: Yes, Cadence. She said, “So how are you really doing?”
Dennis: To which you said?
Becky: I started to cry and I told her, “I am not interested in being intimate. I’m not, and I feel like there’s something wrong with me.” I honestly thought maybe I just needed medicine, like a hormone replacement or something like that.
I thought maybe there’s something like, “What can you give me that will help my heart?” I remember she took off her glasses and tucked them into her hair, and she put her hand on my knee, leaning forward, and she said, “Sweetheart, you’re just tired.” I fell apart at the reality that it was okay to feel that way. It was okay to be overwhelmed. It was okay to be exhausted and tired and not interested. But then what was I going to do about it?
It’s one thing to have someone look you in the eye and say, “How you feel is permissible and understandable,” and then it’s another thing to leave that conversation and go out and say, “Okay, but I can’t stay here, so what are we going to do?” That’s where connecting intimately is one of the most important days of Love Unending. You know, intimacy after children doesn’t look always like it does before children. Physically, sometimes it’s just not possible.
There are some ways that intimacy physically changes after kids and during child-bearing years, and so it’s important that we give ourselves permission to let intimacy look differently.
Becky: It’s important.
Bob: It is exhausting to be a mom and to take care of the kids all day, and it’s okay to be exhausted at the end of a day like that, but if you think, “I’m just—this is a season,” and that “season” of exhaustion goes on for nine months, or then you have another kid and now it’s 18 months, and…
Bob: If that season is perpetual, your marriage is in danger, unless you’re saying, “I’d better get some rest, some sleep, and we better be together as husband and wife.”
Becky: It’s really easy to fall into these behaviors. It’s really easy. It requires intentionality to step out and to course correct.
Dennis: And practically; and again, without getting into the inappropriate details, how did you break the cycle, to pull yourself back into an attractive situation with your husband?
Becky: I had the first change in my perspective of it being required work, right? It couldn’t just be one more thing on my to-do list.
Bob: A duty.
Becky: A duty.
Dennis: That really doesn’t go over well—
Becky: Start any sparks.
Dennis: —with the hubby, either, by the way.
Becky: Mm-mm. No flames, no passion with, “It’s the last thing on my to-do list, and now I’m done for the day,” you know.
Becky: So, really, as a wife, it begins by making a space, if possible. Getting the kids to bed at a reasonable time, if it’s possible. Creating space in the evening, in the morning, wherever you have your alone time, making the space, and that’s where, you know, we go to into choosing wisely.
Because as moms, a lot of our choices are made for us. A lot of what we have to do during the day is predetermined by the ages of our children and their school schedules or their feeding schedules or their soccer practices. A lot of our time is prescheduled.
But the time that we do have that’s alone, and maybe our time, when we’re around our spouse we have to make sure that we’re giving it to them, we’re choosing to engage.
So on the days of connecting intimately, whatever that looks like, it looks like finding the space—looking for the space.
Bob: There’s one other thing I think we need to just make clear in here: it is okay for a wife to say, “I’m exhausted tonight.”
Bob: And her husband should hear that and appreciate that and respect that, but if she’s saying that every night—
Becky: That’s the issue.
Bob: That’s the problem.
So, in those times when you’ve said to your husband, “Oh, sweetheart, I’m just beat,” how have you said that in such a way not to just cause him to despair about the state of your marriage?
Becky: You know, I think what you said is true, in that if it’s every night it’s an issue. So, I can’t change my husband’s feelings; I can’t. I can’t change really the wording or any of it.
If a spouse has certain expectations that aren’t being met, physically, emotionally, whatever that looks like, there’s really not going to be necessarily a way to say something that’s going to change what they were wanting to happen and the reality of what is going to happen. So what I can say—what has worked in my own heart is just honesty and looking at the time. I mean, looking at how frequent it’s happening; looking at how frequently this is taking place, and changing my own perspective of the situation.
You know, like we said, if it’s a duty it’s an issue, if it’s a heart thing and we want to invest, that’s where it becomes different. Knowing that it’s permissible to be tired and exhausted, that’s fine. Knowing that we need a break, that’s fine. Wanting to engage, wanting to come back and be intimate as we did in the beginning, these are all ways where we become more intentional and look and just make the perspective change of how things work, how they are.
Bob: There’s another day you talk about that is an important day. You felt like this was one of the important ones on the journey, and that is learning how to resolve conflict in a way that keeps the marriage intimate rather than driving a wedge between the two of you.
Becky: Exactly. Learning to fight fairly. You know, I think we keep lists, whether we admit it or not. We keep records of wrong, even though love specifically keeps no record of wrong. If we don’t fight fairly, then in a moment when it should be just about the fact that our heart was hurt by whatever is just in front of us, by that one issue right in front of us, we end up bringing up the entire list and using it as a weapon, if we don’t forgive completely. If we don’t forgive our spouse, then we use those words as weapons.
Dennis: Sometimes it can happen, or be initiated, by the smallest of things, and you tell the story on day 11 where you’re talking about fighting fairly about getting in his truck with him and the seat belt…?
Becky: Yes. So, he actually pinched me with the seat belt buckling up, and this was when I used to ride right next to him in his pickup.
He had a bench seat in the front seat, and I couldn’t even stand to be in my own chair; I needed to be right next to him. This was back when touch was important and I wanted to—
Bob: That’s sweet.
Becky: Isn’t that sweet?
Bob: I think that is sweet.
Becky: It’s sweet.
Dennis: He’s a pipe-fitter in western Oklahoma—you see a bench seat, cuddled up in the bench seat pickup. Absolutely.
Bob: You’re out driving in western Oklahoma and you have to have a couple snuggling up in the bench seat pickup, you know it’s the Thompson family.
Becky: Exactly. So, I sat up next to him and he accidentally pinched me, and I said, “Ouch, that hurt!” He said, “Well, I didn’t mean to do it.” We’re both laughing. And I said, “Well, say you’re sorry!” He says, “Well, you know I’m sorry; why do I have to say it?”
I wish that I could say this in a way that helps everybody know that we really were joking back and forth. There really was an honest time, but he wouldn’t say it. He just—he never would say it. He thought it was funny that I wanted him to do it, and he wouldn’t do it. We were laughing, and I got mad.
Bob: All of a sudden the mood changed.
Becky: No, no! I wanted him to do it just because I had asked him—
Bob: The clouds have rolled in.
Becky: Just because I had asked him to do it, and he wouldn’t do it, just because I had asked him to do it.
Dennis: Hold it. I want to read to you what you wrote in your book.
Becky: Please read it.
Dennis: You said, “The longer it went on, the more it escalated. I wasn’t upset that he pinched me, I wasn’t even upset that he wouldn’t say the words; I was mostly upset that he wouldn’t do something just because I’d asked him to do it.”
Dennis: You said this was a preview of the next ten years of your married life, “I just didn’t realize it then.”
Becky: I just didn’t know that this was going to be a perfect representation of the next ten years of our marriage, where I would want him to do something just because I had asked him to do it, and he wouldn’t all of the time. You know, as time goes on in relationships fights change. You know, it’s not just about the buckling in the seat belt and the accidental pinch; it’s deeper wounds. It’s real heart issues. It’s lack of trust or miscommunication, and things like that.
We have to make sure that we don’t use our spouse’s secret places that they’ve shared with us in intimate times in complete disclosure, in moments of vulnerability, against them. We have to make sure that we don’t use these moments as weapons.
In our relationship, it’s not just about that list of things that are wrong. It’s not just about the things that we’re holding against them. It’s about respecting and honoring and caring for the deep places that they have, that they have opened up to you. You know, how he feels about his dad, how he feels about his job, how he feels about who he is as a man, can never be something that I use against him if I want him to trust me enough to share those things with me.
Bob: You said at the beginning that we all have lists; whether we want to or not, we keep a record of wrongs. So, do you have one right now? Do you have a list in your mind of things that your husband has done that you’re kind of hanging onto in case you need to go pick something up in a fight?
Becky: You know, the beauty of this process and the beauty of this book is that I have been able to recognize these things when they happen. You know, sometimes, whether you’re a husband or a wife, you push things down rather pulling them up, and you don’t realize it until it grows into something ugly. You don’t realize that you’ve made it go away, these feelings, by just shoving them down deeper until they fester.
So through this process I begin to recognize the little things and say, “Okay. I have to let this be done. I have to forgive him quickly, I have to address it,” or I know my fickle heart. I know how I’m prone to work, but I know how God works and how God looks at us and how God’s love is not, “You did this before. You always do this, child. You always do this.” God doesn’t say that about us, you know? He forgives us fully, completely, and entirely when we ask Him to. So, with my spouse, I have to extend that same kind of grace.
I have to let today be a fresh start, which is the beauty of love unending; every day being the first day you fell in love means there cannot be a yesterday full of offense.
Bob: There’s a proverb that says, “It is one’s glory to overlook an offense.” The reality is in marriage most of the offenses that we’re going to commit against each other, we just need to overlook them. We just need to extend grace and say, “I’m going to forgive you, and I’m not going to hold this against you,” and maybe not even have a conversation about it. We’re just saying this to ourselves. “I know my wife didn’t mean to do that and I’m just going to let it go.” That’s what we do most of the time.
There are sometimes when we need to have a conversation about it. We need to sit down and we need to say, “This did hurt. You just need to be aware,” and then seek and grant forgiveness in that situation.
But the only way not to keep a record of wrongs—and by the way, First Corinthians 13 says love does not keep a record of wrongs—the only way not to do that is to either determine for yourself, “I have let that go,” or to go to your spouse and go through a process of seeking and granting forgiveness.
Dennis: And really, that’s the healthy side of a relationship, to ultimately say to your spouse, “You know, honey, I feel disrespected when you say that to me with that tone in your voice.” I think some people don’t realize how they are saying what they’re saying.
Dennis: Because a lot of communication is not just what you say, it’s the facial expression, it’s the tone of the voice, and it’s habitual. As we talked about earlier, it’s not something that marks the dating years, how we relate to each other, but it is something that begins to mark a marriage. I think these little things matter in a relationship, where you don’t keep the list and where it has to be carbon-dated, find out how old it is and how long ago was it you were wounded, but keep the list clean, and ask your spouse to forgive you when you’ve offended him or her.
In fact, a great question. I’ve just started asking couples this question: when’s the last time you asked your spouse to forgive you for something? Just think about that. Here’s the thing: if you can’t remember the last time you did, or you’re saying, “Therefore, for the past six months I haven’t hurt my spouse through either the lack of paying attention or apathy or words I’ve said or something I’ve done to purposely hurt him or her,” I think it’s a healthy question to ask frequently.
Another question that’s similar in our relationship with God: when’s the last time you confessed a sin to God? Say, “God, I did that. I had that attitude. I was selfish. I’ll name it. I’ll confess it. Will You forgive me?” That’s really what you’re calling wives to do here in your book, Becky, Love Unending.
You’re encouraging wives to be honest and never stop pursuing their husbands. You do that through your 21-day challenge, and I’m glad that you’ve come all the way from western Oklahoma. In fact, I was kind of hoping we could call him on his cell phone. A pipefitter—
Bob: They don’t have cell service out in that part of western Oklahoma.
Becky: That’s actually true! He wouldn’t pick up.
Dennis: Thanks for joining us, and I hope you’ll come back again sometime.
Becky: Thank you; I’d be honored. Thanks.
Bob: Let me encourage our listeners to go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, so they can get a copy of your book, Love Unending. We have it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center, and we would love to send you a copy. Again, the title of the book is Love Unending by Becky Thompson. The subtitle: Rediscovering Your Marriage in the Midst of Motherhood. You can order from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FLTODAY to order. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; our toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329.
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And with that we have to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for being with us.
I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to talk to a mom who recognized that her family needed a spiritual makeover; they just needed a little spiritual life injected back into the home, and find out what Melissa Spoelstra did to give her family that spiritual makeover. That comes up Monday; hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back on Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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