Comparison vs. Investing in Marriage
About the Guest
When we look for the positive or the negative in our spouse, we see what we want to see. Jeff and Stacy Kemp coach husbands and wives on how to address the causes and cures for marital discontentment.
Jeff and Stacy KempJeff and Stacy Kemp have been a dynamic team for 38 years. They married in 1983, early in Jeff’s 11-year NFL career as a quarterback for the Rams, 49ers, Seahawks, and Eagles. Jeff founded and led Stronger Families in Seattle and then served as a VP for FamilyLife. Stacy graduated from the University of Southern California and Jeff from Dartmouth and Pepperdine Business School. Stacy’s ministry is mentoring young moms. Jeff and Stacy love speaking for Weekend to Remember marriage getaways an...more
When we look for the positive or the negative in our spouse, we see what we want to see. Jeff and Stacy Kemp coach husbands and wives on how to address the causes and cures for marital discontentment.
Comparison vs. Investing in Marriage
Michelle: In your marriage, or in any relationship for that matter, do you tend to dwell on things like, you know, the things that drive you crazy in the other person? Stacy Kemp warns us that that could be damaging to our relationships.
Stacy: When we look for the negative, we're going to see negative in our spouse; and when we see negative, we feel negative toward them. And when we feel negative, then we tend to act and spew negative. Something we can do to turn that around is to look for the positive. It's just that whole idea from Philippians 4:8—I call it treasure hunting—you know: “Whatever is good, right, true, noble, beautiful; if anything is worthy of repute, dwell on these things.”
Michelle: We're going to get a little bit of coaching from Jeff and Stacy Kemp on the causes and cures for marital discontentment on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
And welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. A couple of weeks ago, we talked about contentment or, rather, discontentment. We heard from Kay Wills Wyma, and we were talking about how we're always looking at the Bentley in the lane across from us—you know, we always want a better car—or we look on Facebook® or Instagram® and we want more-defined muscles. We always want more, more, more. And your friend Susie has that amazing farmer sink that you've always wanted; and her husband, Rick?—well, he has that new outboard motor that your husband wanted. And Rick and Susie's marriage?—well, it looks easier than your marriage—and so, if only your spouse was like Rick, then life would be better!
We go on this comparison game, and soon, we find ourselves discontent. Recently, I sat down with Jeff and Stacy Kemp. You may know them as great friends of FamilyLife®. They're also speakers for our Weekend to Remember®s. Jeff is a speaker and author. They are catalysts for the family; they believe in marriage!
Jeff says that there's a source of discontentment that actually comes from us wanting more, more, more; he calls it “consumerism.” Here's Jeff.
Jeff: Consumerism is rampant in America. This is the most productive, amazing society in history; but because it's wealthy/because we're prosperous, we are advertised to all the time. We see about eleven hundred ads a day—depending on how much time you're on your phone—and on the Web, even more. Those messages are always saying, “Hey, we've got something better for you!”—
Jeff: —and “You will be satisfied and joyful, and life will be awesome when you get that.” But you're not to be satisfied with what you have now, because it doesn't compare as well to the next. All those messages are pretty much revolving around you/me—
Jeff: —making me happy.
That concept comes into a lot of life, that you're thinking, “I need to be happy by the circumstances, and the products, and the services and experiences that I have.” It's very difficult—for marriage, relationships, family, parenting/how our kids are doing—not to fall into that same mindset of being a consumer.
We can talk about it, but I contrast it with being an investor.
Michelle: Investor; okay.
Michelle: Well, let's talk a little bit about consumerism, just a little bit more, because what I want to know is: “Where could it easily take a marriage? If you have two consumers, what happens?” I mean, it just seems like that could be a snowball effect.
Stacy: What we're talking about—when we're talking about consumers—is basically, selfishness. You're just thinking about you: “What am I getting out of this?”—you know—“What is my spouse not doing? What should they be doing?” versus, you know, having a selfless attitude, where you're putting the needs of your spouse ahead of your own. You're thinking about: “What could I be doing to meet his or her needs?”—you know—“What could I be doing better? How could I be a better husband or a better wife for them?” rather than thinking, “…what they need to be doing to be better to please me.”
Jeff: Yes; it's me-centered. I have a friend who realized that he was tending towards selfishness and worried about how the marriage turns out for him. He decided to change. He put a little post-it note on the mirror in front of him in his bathroom; and it says, “Would I want to be married to me?” What it does is—every morning, when he sees it, it flips the equation to thinking—“What is this marriage like for her? How am I treating her, as a husband?” versus “How is she treating me, as a wife? What am I getting out of this deal?”
That was an intentional step by him, to not be a consumer as he enters each day, but to think like an investor that wants to add value to his wife/add value the relationship—apologize first/forgive first; you know, date; talk/communicate—meet her needs—which makes the whole relationship better.
Michelle: Yes; it really does. I'm just sitting here, going—even as a single, going—“If someone wants to breathe life into me and help me through life, I’m going to like them. I'm going to love them! I'm going to want to be married to them.”
Okay; so let's talk about consumerism a little bit more. I know you guys have mentored a lot of young couples. I'm sure that, as young couples start off marriage, there's some consumerism/there's a lot. Stacy, as you talked about selfishness that's going on, it sounds very unbiblical—is what it sounds like—it sounds like the unbiblical side of things, which, when you've got two selfish people getting married, I mean, that's where things are. How do you advise people to move from being a consumer to an investor?
Jeff: You really need to, first of all, realize that you've been acting like a consumer; and a lot of us don't realize that.
We were impressed/one time, I asked a 29-year-old guy, Jeremy: “What is marriage like for your generation?” He had just gotten married—saw what was going on with all of his friends—he wrote me an email. Stacy's got it; it's pretty fascinating what he said.
Michelle: Okay; let’s hear it.
Stacy: He said:
I think that one of the major challenges for my generation is consumerism. We've been taught, by society, to not be satisfied with what we have; and most of us have never learned how to be content. Then we move into marriage, a world where there are no easy upgrades/no quick fixes. If we've never learned how to be content—how to stay committed to something despite how it feels—it will be that much harder to succeed in marriage.
Unless we make a blatant effort to view our spouse differently than we have been taught to view everything else in society, we’ll slip into our consumeristic hypnotic trance without even knowing it. The mindset of marriage is at odds with the mindset of consumerism—it's not self-focused; it’s self-sacrificing.
Stacy: Very astute for a young man.
Michelle: Very astute!
Stacy: And we don't realize it. We don't realize—like Jeff was talking about the ads/everything—how we've been trained, where we wait in line for the next iPhone® that comes out. We've got to have it the day it comes out, and we're just constantly upgrading.
You don't do that in marriage. I mean, that's, I think, what we're seeing—a lot of people think—“Oh! This spouse isn’t the right one. I’m going to change him in for a different one.” It's really more recognizing, I think, what we talk about a lot at Weekend to Remember is receiving our spouse as God's gift to us and recognizing—in His sovereignty and Him knowing what's going to be best—in choosing each day to think of our spouse as a gift and viewing them that way rather than being discontent with the things that we don't like.
None of us are perfect. We all have idiosyncrasies and, you know, things that just aren't fun. When you get into marriage, you’re two completely opposite people; and that can be difficult. I think God does that on purpose so that we grow, as people, and learn how to become more tolerant and how to sacrifice just the way we like to have things done. Our way isn't always the right way.
Stacy: It feels like it, but it isn't.
Michelle: Well, it seems like you need a change of heart. You know, just as you were mentioning about discontent, as we’re discontent in the way things are going, we need to have a change of heart. How do we even go about doing that?—because there are times that I'm discontent with things, and I can sit and grumble and complain.
Since I'm single, no one has to hear me grumble and complain. My friends can hang up the phone on me; my boss can shut the door to his office—no one has to hear me—but when you're married, and you're grumbling and complaining, that's/that’s ugly.
Jeff: Well, it's going to show up in the tone of voice and the words you say, or the way you harrumph and cross your arms and walk away from the other person when they say something. Because you're feeling dissatisfied, and not getting a good deal out of this thing,—
Jeff: —your attitude’s worse and your behavior's worse. They get a worse version of you. And what do you think you end up getting after that?—a worse version of them. That's why you need to remember that a consumer drains the value out of things. A consumer husband or a consumer wife is going to drain the value, the joy, the hope, the reconciliation, the peace out of the marriage.
Marriage is awesome!—it changes you to be a better you—but not when you're viewing marriage as, “Oh, marriage is this perfect thing that's supposed to make me always happy.” That sounds Christian; doesn't it?
Michelle: Yes; it does.
Jeff: It's not; because the world won't make you perfectly happy until you get with Jesus, and He's meant to be our contentment. If you start thinking excessively romantically about your marriage, you'll raise your expectations like a consumer and start to whine about it, thinking: “I deserve a great Christian marriage. I deserve a great wife,” or “…husband.” You're not putting much into it, because you're consuming versus investing.
Michelle: Yes; so, Jeff, I know that, in your book, Facing the Blitz, you wrote a consumer marriage quiz. Now a quiz—did that happen because of life experience?—[Laughter]—some of those questions in there?
Jeff: A lot of the questions are things that I have struggled with, so they're very personal. I got the idea from Bill Dougherty, a marriage expert that I met during some marriage strengthening efforts years ago. I just adapted it and made it kind of simple, thinking about: “You know, what's a husband or wife deal with on a day-to-day basis?”
Michelle: Okay; well, we need to take a break. But when we come back, I'm going to have Stacy read off a few of those questions so that we can understand who's the consumer and how we move to investor. Stay tuned. We'll be back in two minutes.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Welcome back to FamilyLife this Week. I'm Michelle Hill. I am sitting in the studio with Jeff and Stacy Kemp, and we are talking about marriage, and talking about contentment, and how to move from being a consumer to being an investor.
Jeff, we were talking about your book, Facing the Blitz, and how there is a marriage quiz in there, talking about: “Are you the consumer?” You had mentioned it came a little bit from some life experience.
Jeff: Yes; I know when I'm consumeristic; that's why I was able to write some of these questions.
Michelle: Is he consumeristic, Stacy?—or was he?
Stacy: Well, I mean, I think we all have that tendency; because selfishness is what comes natural to us. We really have to be intentional to be investing in a relationship.
Stacy: So this, though, if you're not aware of it—which, sometimes, we aren't—some of these questions might help: “Do I sometimes compare my spouse, unfavorably, to others?”
Jeff: “Not today. She's amazing today.” [Laughter] I just want to make that clear.
Michelle: Yes; and vice versa; she's thinking the same thing. [Laughter]
Stacy: “How often do I focus on my spouse not meeting my needs rather than on how I'm not meeting their needs?” We get in that trap of just thinking, “Well, he's not doing this,” or “She's not doing that,” instead of the other way around. And then: “Do I expect apologies from my spouse but rarely apologize to him?” or “…her?”
Stacy: So these are things that just can shed light on: “Oh, wow!
Stacy: “I am being a consumer,” because it's something we don't really even see.
Michelle: Yes; well, I'd like to put this quiz on our web page. Is that okay if we do that?
Michelle: Okay; you can find this quiz on our web page, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Jeff: If you have any [male] listeners, they might identify with this question: “Do you ever look at the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, or pictures on the internet, or any other material in a way that compares your wife unfavorably to others?” It's so easy; because we're wired, visually, and our culture's gone bonkers with using sex and the body for advertising and entertainment.
But it really is shooting yourself in the foot, if you're a man or a woman, who's letting your excitement and attraction and energies be looking at other images; because then you're comparing and less satisfied with who you have. You tend to praise them less, enjoy them less, thrill at them less. Proverbs says just the opposite: “Focus on your one wife,”/ “…your one husband.” “Let her be the beauty that you enjoy all your time for the rest of your life.” Focus is a good thing—and that's an investor thing in marriage—focus on your one spouse. To focus on everything else is dumb!
Michelle: That’s a good point.
Jeff: Because you can't have those!
Michelle: That’s a really good point.
Jeff: You can't have those until you do something illicit or addictive; and it makes you appreciate and focus less, and bless and enjoy your own spouse less—it's just common sense—but in a consumer culture, we miss that.
Michelle: So, obviously, focus is part of that investing that you were talking about earlier. But how do we change our focus from looking at—I know, for me, as a woman, I'm looking at Facebook and I'm comparing myself—but, you know, if it's a guy and he's seen it on Sports Illustrated, or he's seen other things and he's comparing his wife, how do you change that focus so that you are focusing on your wife?
Jeff: I'm going to go to a spiritual answer.
Michelle: That's always the perfect answer.
Jeff: Jesus said, “Seek first Me and My kingdom,”—your relationship with Jesus and all the things He's given you—“and then everything else that you need will be provided.”
If our attitude becomes gratitude:
Thank you, God, that You saved me. Thank You that Jesus is real. Thank You I have the Holy Spirit. Thank You that I'm going to live with You forever.
Thank You for my wife. Thank You that we don't have a perfect relationship, and it’s conforming me to the image of Christ. Thank You that we're having to pray together and turn to You and get mentored and go to counseling to grow; because all those things will make me closer to Christ and more like Christ.
Gratitude is the starting point; and it's not just for a perfect marriage, because it's not perfect.
Jeff: But it's the marriage God wants for you. And that's, like Stacy said earlier, one of the key things to remember is—to receive your spouse as a gift from God, who is a perfectly good God/who knows what He's doing. Don't question Him—say, “Thank You,”—then, with that attitude, you're better able to focus on your spouse as your place of best investment.
Michelle: Okay; so as your place of best investment, I'm thinking of the verse in Philippians 2: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition—
Jeff: —selfishness; yes, or vain conceit.
Michelle: —“vain conceit.”
Jeff: Selfishness and pride—they lead to everything bad—“But in humility of mind, consider others more important than yourself.
Jeff: “And don't just look out for your interests, but look out for the interests of others.” That is the ultimate investor passage. It actually comes from Jesus; because the next verse says: “Have the same mindset/the same attitude as Jesus,” which is humility, which has caused Him to serve, not asked to be served.
Michelle: How do we move to this investor mentality, where we are—we already talked about how to focus—but how do we move to a total investor mentality?—where all of a sudden, in the marriage, you're looking to each other, and you are loving one another, which is—well, that’s the second greatest commandment—is to love one another or “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Your spouse, really, in some respects, is your neighbor. How do we think through loving our spouse as loving our neighbor in that second greatest commandment?
Stacy: I mean, it's just—to borrow from the Nike® slogan—we just have to “Do it.” [Laughter] We have to have a mindset to know that: “That is our goal,” “That's our purpose,” “That's the intention of our hearts,” and be praying to do that.
I was thinking about, when we were talking—not to take it back too far—but to focusing. Something I'll share a lot of times with young women or even, you know, the people at the Weekend to Remember, is that, when we look for the negative, we're going to see negative in our spouse; and when we see negative, we feel negative toward them. And when we feel negative, then we tend to act and spew negative.
Stacy: Something we can do to turn that around is to look for the positive; because when we look for the positives in our spouse, we're going to see positive things. When we see positive things, we feel positive toward them; and when we feel positive, then the actions that we do/the words that we speak are positive.
It's just that whole idea from Philippians 4:8—I call it treasure hunting—you know, “Whatever is good, right, true, noble, beautiful; if anything is worthy of repute, dwell on these things.” We want to have that mindset, where we're looking for the good. We're told that about our children, but we need to use that with our spouses as well.
Michelle: I love how you said “treasure hunting,”—I just love that thought! Have there been times where you've had to treasure hunt? I mean, I'm not even talking about the big things that we look for in our spouse; but sometimes, I'm wondering if there are even the little things that you have to say, “That's a positive thing: you picked up your towel.”
I mean, are there times that we even have to start that small?
Stacy: Absolutely! I remember a time where—because it's so easy to just start focusing on the negative things/the things that kind of rub you the wrong way—usually things that attracted you in the first place; but it's those areas of differences. I was/I had a time where I was really down on Jeff, and I realized I was only seeing the negative in him. I made a conscious effort to do that treasure hunting in looking for those positive things, and it was amazing to me!
I just started, rather than looking at the things that weren't like me, I started looking for things in him. I saw so many things that were really cool! They weren't things that I had; but just seeing, you know, how he is with people or that he's such a visionary. It started replacing those negative feelings, and this love for my husband just flooded back into me as I saw all of those positive things.
Michelle: As you guys were raising your four boys, and they were young adults and they were looking toward marriage, what was one bit of advice that you gave them about being an investor in their marriage?
Stacy: I think the biggest thing for me, and this really isn't necessarily answering your question, but was just to talk to them about the need for it to be a lifelong commitment; because that would be what would cause you to work through things/go the distance—to make the sacrifices that you needed to make; you know, make those tough decisions and to sacrifice for the other—if you knew that that was your goal/was that commitment, that was an unbreakable one.
Jeff: And I will add to that question; because as the father of sons, I had trips I took my boys on when they're 18. I brought other men; and we talk about manhood, and identity, and purpose, and life, and relationships, and sex. We did talk about marriage, and we did put it in the context of investing. They heard stories of other men who, when they behaved selfishly, their marriage was in trouble; and when they woke up, and started following God's ways to be unselfish, their marriage got better. They've heard that investor concept.
Secondly, I did dinners—Stacy always encouraged me in this—she would say, “Hey, it's time for this son's groom dinner; so call some of your friends.” I'd get some friends; we'd go have a great dinner. The men would share stories from their marriage with my son. They heard the investor model from those men.
Jeff: So they've seen it in examples.
Jeff: They've heard it as kind of a blueprint for life.
I'm very, very thankful that God answered our prayers and brought them, you know, wives who know Jesus. They are, I think, doing well investing in their marriages; but everyone has their own journey.
Jeff: And it's a lot harder in the culture of consumerism today. Like you were saying, comparison is rampant with Facebook, and Instagram, and all these media messages. Your friends seem to be living the perfect life; that makes it harder sometimes.
Michelle: It does make it harder.
I want one more question from you guys. I am just wondering, as we're talking all about this consumer mentality and investing: “How do you, personally, consume media? Do you just turn off the TV and not watch it at night so that you guys can talk?”
Stacy: Oh, it is hard. I don't know that it's necessarily the TV as much. I mean, just your iPad®, you’re going through e mails, and those types of things. We do try to, you know, set things aside; but I mean, that can be an issue for us. We're not on social media, per se—I'm on nothing like that, which is kind of funny.
Michelle: That's a great choice: not to be on social media.
Stacy: Well, I just—I guess part of it, for me, is—I really value my time. To me, it just represents a lot of time that can get wasted; and you don't even realize it.
Stacy: You know, it's like going down a rabbit hole or something, but I think it's just making conscious decisions of the time that you want to spend together and “How do we want to spend that?”—and needing to talk about it.
Sadly, for young people today, I feel like, though, it's just normal for them; so they don't know any different. To them, it doesn't seem like anything.
Jeff: My friendship is with people on phone calls; and staying in touch sometimes by an e-mail; and then, physically, in person; okay?
Michelle: That’s good.
Jeff: I use Facebook and Twitter® to send out messages that I think could help people—because I love to help people—I love to lift people; I like to encourage people. I’ll put some of this stuff out there about being an investor, you know, on one of those medium. But I'm not posting pictures of my family and our ski trip; and “We played tennis today”; and “Look at this enchilada; it's amazing!”—I'm not doing that.
I'd rather sit at the table and eat Stacy's enchiladas and talk to another couple that's at the table with us. I know, to some degree, we seem, you know, not realistic; but it works well. And yet, I still struggle with my phone, sitting in my recliner, paying attention to the texts and the emails, while Stacey's hoping to have me focus on her; and that's a poor husbanding moment. I have to turn it off, or set it down, or put it aside if I want to be an investor-husband.
Stacy: And there have been times where I've talked about, “Are you going to put your mistress down?” [Laughter]
Jeff: Yes; she's called it my “mistress” before.
Michelle: That was a/oh, such a great, uplifting conversation with Jeff and Stacy Kemp. I mean, we were real; we were real—they were real. I hope you were able to glean some information and maybe even some practical tips on how to move—if you are a consumer—how to move from that to being an investor. I'm, also, reflecting on my time with Jeff and Stacy.
You know, it just hit me that maybe you might be listening and thinking that, “I invest, but my spouse only takes!” And that's a really hard place to be; so I challenge you, in this space of life that you're in, to find a mentor/friend—somebody who is older than you and who can be honest with you—and tell you if you really are an investor.
If you walk away from that conversation, and you realize you are the investor
and your spouse is the consumer—if that is the place that you're in right now—I want to pray for you: “God, I just pray that you encourage the heart that is struggling today/the one who’s trying to make sense of it all and desperately wanting things to be right.
I just pray that You calm their heart as only You can. Give patience; give understanding; give strength and hope for the future. Amen.”
Don't forget! Go to FamilyLifeThisWeek.com. We have that investor/consumer quiz there for you that Jeff and Stacy came up with. We'll also put a link up to a recent FamilyLife Today program, where Dave and Ann Wilson talk about this consumer mentality in marriage and how hard it is. Please go to our website if you are seeking some help: go to FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Hey, you realize that people are watching you; right? No; I'm not talking about how Amazon® and Facebook seem to be listening closely and know our every move, and want, and need. I'm talking about people you're influencing—and that could be your co-workers, your children, your friends—they’re watching you. Whether good or bad, your life is building a legacy. Next week, we're going to talk about building a good legacy, and we're going to hear from father and son, Crawford and Bryan Loritts. I hope you can join us for that; it's going to be a great show.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today®, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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