My Spouse, My Partner
About the Guest
Do you think of your spouse as a business partner? Author Kevin Thompson believes husbands and wives are more than partners in marriage. He explains that partners have an equal desire for success in a venture, and they value the differing strengths of their counterpart. Being partners is about how we can make our dreams come true together.
Kevin ThompsonKevin A. Thompson (MDiv, Beeson Divinity School) is lead pastor at Community Bible Church, a growing multi-site church with four locations in western Arkansas. Every year he meets with nearly one hundred couples with a range of needs, from pre-marital counseling to navigating the most serious betrayals. A marriage and parenting conference speaker, he and his wife, Jenny, have two children and live in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He blogs at www.kevinathompson.com.
Do you think of your spouse as a business partner? Kevin Thompson believes husbands and wives are more than partners in marriage. Being partners is about how we can make our dreams come true together.
My Spouse, My Partner
Bob: When was the last time you got some input from your spouse that caused you to change your mind about something? Kevin Thompson says that’s a part of what goes on in a healthy marriage—the two of us are partners.
Kevin: Men tend to struggle. They disrespect their wives, or their wives don’t feel respected. Here is a great question I would have for any men listening / women as well: “Does your spouse’s voice influence you? Can it change your mind? Can it change your opinion? Can it keep you from doing something that you want to do, or cause you to do something that you may be hesitant on?”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, May 16th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I’m Bob Lepine. Respecting one another, valuing one another, honoring one another—these are biblical commands for husbands and wives in a marriage relationship. It’s what being partners looks like. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’ll never forget a pastor we talked to on FamilyLife Today—this was in the first few years we were on the air—he’s a well-known pastor. I’ll out him, because he shared this story himself—it was Chuck Swindoll. Do you remember this story?
Chuck Swindoll was speaking to a group of people in a local church in the first few years of his marriage—he said, “I want to introduce to you my partner in ministry, my wife Cynthia. Would you stand up?” Cynthia stood up. Everybody clapped for her. On the way home, Cynthia said to him: “Never refer to me as your partner in ministry again, because I’m not. You’re doing it on your own. You’re off here; I’m out of the picture, so don’t call me something that’s not true in our marriage.” That was a wake-up call for Chuck Swindoll—to say, “There’s a difference between somebody who tags along for the ride and somebody who is really a partner with you.”
Dennis: And I recall, Bob, she told him that at the dinner table. I think he had lost his appetite.
Bob: I think the meal got cold real quick.
Dennis: I think Chuck heard her plea for making her a partner in life.
By the way, I thought where you were going with that story was—Dr. Bill Bright and his wife Vonette, founders of Campus Crusade for Christ®, who—one of the first interviews we did, here, on FamilyLife Today was with Bill and Vonette—it was called “Partners for Life.”
Dennis: Well, there’s a reason why we’re talking about this theme of being partners. We have with us, for second day, Kevin Thompson. Kevin, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Kevin: Thanks so much—great to be here.
Dennis: He’s written a book called Friends, Partners & Lovers. We’ll get to lovers at a later moment, but we want to talk about this theme of partners. You’re a pastor; you’re a blogger; you’re in touch with people at a lot of different levels of need.
Let’s just back up and define the word, “partner,” because I think there are probably some listeners who’ve never really thought, “What is a partner?” and “What’s the definition?”
Kevin: To me, a partner would be somebody that has equal desire for success and, generally, with different strengths; so they are fully invested in what’s going on. Think about it—if you’re going to start a business, then, you’re going to want to find a partner that cares about the outcome just as much as you do / that’s going to be willing to put in just as many hours. If it’s a 50-50 partnership, then, they have to be willing to care and to work as hard as you do; but chances are you want them to have strengths that you simply don’t have. If you’re a real big people-person, maybe, you want to have a partner that is better behind the scenes. If you are better at details, maybe, you want a big-picture kind of person.
For me, a partnership in marriage is somebody who cares just as much about this relationship—about my life / about who we are—is equally invested / will do an equal amount of work but probably will work in a different way than the way I work.
Dennis: I’ll tell you a mistake I made this morning.
I made the mistake of pushing the “send” button on an email without first sending the email to Barbara and letting her proof it. What the email was about—it was about a board that we’re both on together. She had some thoughts about what we were going to talk about in this board meeting. I should have sent it to her; but because of a matter she was facing, I thought, “I’ll just go ahead and handle it.” Well—
Bob: I’ve made that mistake before.
Dennis: Have you?
Dennis: Okay. So, right before walking into the studio, I get an email. Barbara says, “Would you please make the corrections to the email that you sent out? I’ve added a few thoughts here.” And it’s to your point—she sees things through a different set of lenses than I do; and it’s not that one is right and the other is wrong—it’s not that way at all. It is—it’s using the strengths of your partner. A lot of times we’ve—I think we’ve forgotten what our partner’s strength is in marriage.
Kevin: No; I think that’s absolutely right. The beauty of it—think about this—in a healthy relationship, you’re going to value differences; you’re going to long for them; you’re going to need them. The differences / the diversity within your relationship is actually where the strength is going to occur; but in an unhealthy relationship, the differences do nothing but irritate—we see that as almost an attack on who we are, as people/individuals.
In my opinion, in a healthy partnership—because of a healthy partnership—my strengths are multiplied, and my weaknesses are divided. You think about it—so Jenny has my back—she sees me and understands me in ways that nobody else does. She knows my strengths. She wants to mesh my strengths with her strengths and have a multiplying effect on what I can accomplish.
This book/my blog—these kinds of things are done, in part, because of Jenny. Jenny said, “What is one of your dreams?” “Well, one of my dreams is to write. I want to write a book.” Then, she got to a point: “How are we going to make that happen? How are we going to make that happen?”
Then, she began to make sacrifices of what that would look like: “We have small children: When are you going to have time to write?
“You pastor a church,”—she runs a family / she runs a business—“Alright, the time to write is 10 to 12 every night—10 to 12. How can we make that happen? We’re going to make that happen.”
She has this great mind and understanding of editing things. My grammar is horrible; my spelling is horrible; right? So, I would write out the ideas. She would, then, edit them properly. She would have ideas about them—she would put graphics to them. Then, the blog began to take off, which led into the book. Those are her strengths and my strengths. She was able to multiply my strengths; but then, she divides my weaknesses because there are things that I am just not good at all. Yet, because that’s a strength of hers, it really compensates for my weaknesses. I don’t feel the negative consequences of my weaknesses nearly as much, because of her presence in my life. When a partnership is healthy, literally, your strengths are multiplied and your weaknesses are divided.
Bob: Kevin, there are some people, listening, who are going: “We don’t have any mutual projects in our marriage. I mean, I’ve got my hobbies and the things I like to do and my work / my wife has the same thing, so there’s not a lot of opportunity for partnership.”
But when you peel back a marriage and a family, there’s some partnership that’s built in to the fact that our relationship—we’re going to be partners together in what this looks like—and as we raise the next generation, we’ve got to be on the same page with that; don’t we?
Kevin: There’s no question. You’re partners in multiple areas. I think one of the great mistakes couples make is—they never look at their marriage as its own unique institution. I think the negative impact of that is—because we can’t see our marriage as its own individual entity, we are, then, not able to properly define it, discern it, figure out profit and loss to it: “What direction is it headed?”
I think you’re right—I think anybody that says: “You know what? We don’t have any mutual projects,”—they are missing the point. Their marriage is a mutual project. Every marriage is a partnership. The question is not: “…if it’s a partnership? / the question is: “How good is the partnership?”
Dennis: Barbara and I—we’re both very hard workers—and we’ve been partnering together to write a book too.
Writing a book—you know this—it is hard, hard work.
Last night, we were taking a walk, back to this concept of friendship. While on that walk, I said: “You know, we just need to go have some fun. I mean, we have been working long days / hard days”; and we both agreed. I told her—and this will give you an idea of our marriage here—I said: “I think I’m just going to surprise you. I’m just going to surprise you and have the bags packed and ready to go.” Well, Bob’s heard some of these stories, here, that I’ve told about doing this for Barbara.
Bob: She did not feel safe in that moment—trust me. [Laughter]
Dennis: So, I said, “What do you think about that?” She said, “I don’t think that’d be a good idea.” [Laughter] She said, “Maybe, give me three choices.” So, it’s like, “Okay.” So, here’s—it’s not going to be a big deal—but it’s going to be something fun and playful, where we can just get out and refresh the friendship, which is what we talked about earlier.
You find that same thing true as well; you talk about it in your book.
Kevin: I think it’s vitally important. I think this idea of playfulness is a great barometer of where the relationship is. You think about it—when the weight and the pressure of life gets down upon you—and you’re raising kids, and you’re running businesses / you’re doing all these things—every now and then, you just need to check out and have fun.
You think about—what, so often, defines friendship is playfulness. My guess is most people can go back to their first grade class; and they might have, at least, one friend that, maybe, has endured from elementary school. Well, what made you all friends? What made you friends was you were forced to sit close to each other for eight hours a day in what you thought was a horrific experience. Yet, you found a way to endure it together. Generally, the way you did was you had fun together—you made eyes; you made notes; you got in trouble together.
In some way, life can be very difficult; it can be very hard. The partnership of life can be difficult—friendship/playfulness allows you to endure that in many ways.
I think, just as trust is so important for friendship, for me—on this concept of partnership—the issue is respect.
Bob: I want to go to that; because one of the things you say is: “You didn’t marry a child; you married a partner.” A lot of people get into marriage, and the loss of respect causes them to diminish this sense of partnership.
Kevin: Yes; I think, when a partnership goes wrong, the relationship devolves into a parent/child relationship. Now, whether or not it is actually that, I don’t know—but, at least, one of the partners is taking on the responsibility of a parent; and one of them is beginning to act like or feel like they’re being treated like a child.
In a healthy partnership, it’s two equals working in different ways—but two equals. In an unhealthy relationship, one of them is taking on too much responsibility; the other one is slacking off in some ways. Some of these parent/child relationships are just situational—it’s just in certain areas—but I’ve seen them become chronic. When there is a chronic parent/child relationship, that marriage is suffering dramatically.
Dennis: Jesus, I think, has some words for us here; because, if you want to have that partnership, it’s going to demand self-denial. Jesus said in John 15, verse 12 and 13—He said: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that someone lays down his life for his friends.”
If you truly want a partner for life, you’ve got to take your hands off the scales—and see who is giving the most and who is giving the least—and figure out how you can give, and how you can invest, and how you can deny yourself and say to your bride or say to your husband: “I love you. I’m committed to you, and I’m on your team. I want to do ‘X,’ ‘Y,’ and ‘Z’ with you.” In my case: “Let’s go have some fun together; okay?” The point is—find a way to deny yourself on behalf of your spouse and invest in that marriage.
Kevin: When you think about the passage that Jesus is talking about there, what is the most direct application of that passage?—love one another. What we tend to do with those passages—we think, “Alright; how can we be obedient with that without really changing or demanding much from us?”
I think to myself: “Alright; I’ve got to love people / I need to love guys the best I can today. I need to love the convenience store worker. I need to love the cashier. If I do that, then, alright, I’m being obedient.” But let’s face it—it’s not going to take much for me to love you guys today. I’m not going to see you for very long. The convenience store worker—I can fake it for five minutes—I really can.
But the direct application of that text, first and foremost—it applies to everybody, no doubt—but it is literally: “Disciples, you love each other when you—as you’re walking along the road, as you’re starting to build this church, as you’re doing all these things—the first application is for you guys to get along; then, it will ripple out.” The first application for us, within marriage, for that verse, for me, is: “Kevin, you love Jenny. Lay down your life for her.”
Dennis: You know, we’ve been talking about partnership here, Kevin.
Partnership can sound a little dry, stale, [and] a little too businesslike—
Bob: —corporate; yes.
Dennis: Yes; a partnership-like marriage really has got some benefits as you look forward; doesn’t it?
Kevin: Oh, there’s no question. Whenever I’m talking to young couples—they are about to get married—they are all excited. Obviously, they’re already friends. They’re excited about the intimacy that’s going to happen. I talk about the importance of this middle role—this idea of partnership as the walls of the marriage—and their eyes glaze over, and they think this is the most ridiculous thing ever.
But to me, partnership has defined Jenny and me in our 30s. I’m now 40, but the 30s were defined by partnership. During that season, I started writing the blog; I started writing a book; she started her own business—and how exciting it was to be engaged in that—because it really came down to this idea of: “How can we make our dreams come true?” That’s what partnership is to me: “What kind of life are you going to create together?”
And to know that you always have somebody who has your back, who is watching out for you, who is there for you, who is cheering you on, who is going to take part of the load / part of the work that is there—
—and the idea of, when life is stressful, or heavy, or you don’t feel well, she’s going to step in and, maybe, do a little extra with the kids or do a little bit extra with the house. When she’s busy—when her business is growing and blowing up—I’m going to step in and try to do more in that moment—to know that you are not alone in the midst of this process. Partnership sounds cold; but it really comes down to: “How can I make her dreams come true?”
Bob: You talked earlier about both couples being equally committed to the marriage and to the partnership, and you talked about it in terms of a 50-50 commitment. There’s a danger to thinking about marriage as a 50-50 relationship—this is one of the things we talk about at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway—because you can start measuring the other person’s commitment and go: “I think I may be 52, and you’re 48. I’ve got some chips on you for that.” We’re really talking about being all in—both of us—aren’t we?
Kevin: Absolutely; it’s 100 percent for both partners. There’s absolutely no question. Here’s the thing—
—if you don’t feel a little bit like, maybe, you generally give more than your spouse, then chances are you are giving far less. It needs to, at least, probably feel that way to some extent in order for the relationship to work. Again, I think it comes back down to the issue, in partnership, of respect.
Here’s where I see a great problem—specifically for men. Men tend to struggle, and they disrespect their wives; or their wives don’t feel respected. So, here’s a great question I would have for many men listening /women as well: “Does your spouse’s voice influence you? Can it change your mind? Can it change your opinion? Can it keep you from doing something that you want to do, or cause you to do something that you may be hesitant on?” If the answer is “No,” the issue is respect—you don’t respect that person.
Jenny—literally, if she tells me not to do something, I’m going to back up; because she loves me. She loves me more than I love myself half the time. She knows me—she knows my dangers / my weaknesses. If she really says here, “No; you shouldn’t do this,” I believe her. Why?—because I respect her. Her brain is bright; her intentions are right; and she loves me.
When respect is not present, the partnership begins to erode.
Dennis: I think another good question would be for the guys to ask their wife: “When you speak, do you feel like I listen to you? Do you feel like I value what you say?”
One of the things I’ve talked about, for a number of years, is: “Marriage is like a bicycle built for two”—speaking of horizons and partnerships. In Ephesians, Chapter 2, verse 10, it talks about us being “…His workmanship, created…for good works, which He prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” I think every couple ought to have something in their lives that they do together—some vision / some portion of the horizon—where they are pedaling that bike together at the same speed in the same direction; and sharing the benefits and the challenges and the struggles together; but sharing in the exhilaration—
—in this case, of being used by God; because when God says, “He’s got works for us to do,” these are genuine spiritual and eternal works that married couples can be a part of.
Kevin: Oh, there’s no question.
When my grandparents finally both died; right?—married 70 years—on my mom’s side of the family—there are three granddaughters and me. I’m the only grandson. My mamaw had all this jewelry, and the jewelry was being divvied up to all the granddaughters. My mom comes to me and says, “Kevin, what is it that you want?” because there really wasn’t any lasting legacy piece for me to hang on to.
I immediately knew what I wanted—I said: “I want the marriage rings / I want the wedding rings”; because, to me, that is a lasting legacy of their love. It’s a lesson for me that I come from this legacy of love. They couldn’t have had it all perfect all the time. They were born in the midst of the Depression. He was overseas for a war. They had to struggle in so many ways. Yet, they found a way to make it; they were building a legacy.
And today, when Jenny and I struggle, or when my kids are going through a difficult time, I can remind them that we come from a committed legacy of love. That is a strong partnership that is still paying dividends to this day.
Dennis: It’s interesting, Kevin—you go to that illustration of those two rings that you hold those in your hands—right?—when you do weddings today? You skip over a generation, because you came from a family that got a divorce. You’ve decided to leave a different legacy; you’ve decided to leave the legacy that your grandparents gave you.
Kevin: Absolutely. That’s not to put any fault or blame to my parents. They did the best that they possibly could; but I had this example in marriage through my mom’s parents / through my mamaw and papaw. That’s who the book is dedicated to, apart from my wife, and that’s the generation I look to. I cannot think of them apart—they’re not individual people to me. I know they are to God, but they weren’t to me. They were inseparable—Mamaw and Papaw. Mamaw was the toughest person I ever met, and Papaw was the most tender person I ever met.
They’re the legacy for me and Jenny that I look to, in saying, “That’s who we want to be.”
Bob: And that legacy—at the end of the day, all of us are going to leave a legacy. I think, for a husband and a wife to say, “How are we doing in the corporate legacy we’ll leave?—not just our individual legacies / how I’ll be remembered—
Dennis: That’s a good point, Bob.
Bob: —“but how we’ll be remembered?”—because we will be remembered as one—“and how are we doing in that legacy? Is our relationship something that we’re investing in, and do we feel like it’s strong? How are we doing in training the kids? How are we doing in our relationships with them? If they are adult kids, how are we doing at continuing to pour into and investing in them?
“How are we doing in the spiritual multiplication / the Great Commission that God’s called us to so that it’s not just: ‘What I’m doing in that,’ / ‘What you’re doing in that,” but ‘What are we doing in that together?’”
These are just, again, some gauges we can look at and say, “Is there an area that we need to step it up or an area where we need to tinker a little bit?”
Dennis: I want to speak to that for a moment, Bob, because I’ve thought about it three times in this conversation. If a couple is looking for a way to link arms together and be a part of God’s work in the Great Commission, FamilyLife® has created a resource that’s been out now for six or seven years called The Art of Marriage®. It’s been seen by over 800,000 people, and I don’t know how many languages—a half a dozen?—it’s been translated. It’s being used by couples who want to link arms together, look to the horizon—Kevin, like you’re talking about—and say: “You know what? Together, we can make a difference.”
This culture of divorce that we inherited from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, I believe, needs to be turned around by another generation that says—like Kevin and his wife did: “We’re going to make a difference in marriages and families. We’re going to invest in them.”
The Art of Marriage, either in a small group or in an event, is set up to make you a winner and make an impact on other couples in your community.
Bob: Yes; we’ve had some great feedback from people who have used The Art of Marriage in a small group setting or those who have had a weekend retreat and have used the expanded Art of Marriage content as a church event. This series features contributions from a great lineup of speakers and authors—communicators—who help provide the biblical foundation for what makes a marriage strong.
You can find out more about The Art of Marriage at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY for more information. We also have copies of Kevin Thompson’s book, Friends, Partners & Lovers: What It Takes to Make Your Marriage Work. That book is in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order copies from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, if you want information about The Art of Marriage, or if you want a copy of Kevin’s book, go online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—
——1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about how friends and partners in marriage can become better lovers. Kevin Thompson will be with us tomorrow. I hope you can be back with us as well.
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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.
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