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Growing Your Marriage in Times of Stress (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
June 22, 2023 7:46 am

Growing Your Marriage in Times of Stress (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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Hi, Jim Daly here. Today's culture deeply needs help, but in times like these, the light of Christ can shine even brighter.

So be encouraged to share his light in this broken world. Listen to the Refocus with Jim Daly Podcast. Without time limitations, I'll have deep, heartfelt discussions with fascinating guests who will encourage you to share God's grace, truth, and love.

Check out the podcast at or wherever you get your podcasts. Stress is really a gift, if you will, because it sheds light on my weaknesses. It gives me a clearer picture of where I am on the inside, and it also helps me know where I need to grow, possibly. But the other thing it does is it offers an opportunity for intimacy.

Well, what do you think? Does that statement that stress is good resonate with you? Mylan and Kay Yurkovich are here on Focus on the Family to help us understand what causes stress and how we can really benefit from it.

I'm John Fuller and your host is Focus President and author, Jim Daly. John, I have a certain understanding that most people don't see stress as a benefit. It comes from my own life.

I don't see stress as a benefit. Usually, stress stresses me out. That's how it goes. And I think, like most people, I feel like I'm pretty middle of the road and things don't tend to toss me too far. But there are days I'll come home, and I've had a tough day here at the office or something, and I probably don't speak as kindly as I would like to to Gene or maybe the boys do something that set me off a certain way. If that's you, I think today's message is going to be for us.

And so I'm hopeful that we can help with the aid of the Yurkovichs, bring this to light, embrace it, talk about it in the context of Jesus and who He was and how He dealt with it, and then move forward in our relationship with Christ and in our relationship with those around us. I'm looking forward to the conversation, especially as we look at stress in marriage. There are times, Jim, I go home, and I just think, why can I be so nice to everybody there at work or at church or wherever I am? But here at home, it just blows up for some reason.

That is very open. Boy, John, that's a very nice thing. Well, I'm hoping we can fix that so I can go home tonight and be nice. Fix it in a day.

Yeah, sure. Well, with that, here are the fixers, Mylan and Kay Yurkovich. Welcome back to Focus. Thank you. Good to be here. Very happy to be with you. The Yurkovichs are counselors and radio hosts, speakers and authors.

They've been here before at Focus. They have a passion for helping you as a husband or a wife, as a couple, to experience stronger, healthier marriage. Mylan is an ordained minister and pastoral counselor, and Kay is a licensed marriage and family therapist. They're probably best known for this love style concept, and we're going to unpack that and see how it applies to stress in marriage today.

Well, let's get going. You know, we talked about what might be normal stress, and then there's some line. I don't know if it's a consistent line with all people, but what's normal stress and what is that line that crosses into unhealthy stress? Well, it's what you do with the stress. What God wants us to do is learn to take our stress into relationship for the help that we're supposed to receive from one another. If we don't take our stress into relational relief, we'll take our stress into non-relational forms of relief, which leads to addiction, obsessions, compulsions. And all the things we do, or as you have already wonderfully illustrated, we lash out at people and we hurt people, or we retreat and we shut down and we become silent and noncommunicative.

So what happens is it's either a relational or non-relational response. Kate, define stress. Somebody might be saying, I don't know if that qualifies as stress. Well, I think really when you ask someone if they're stressed, what they're feeling, it's always a difficult emotion.

I'm annoyed, I'm anxious, I'm hurt. You're dealing with a difficult emotion, and really our ability to deal with stress is kind of related to how our families taught us to deal with difficult emotions. So I think for some people, they're stressed and they don't even know it. And if you took the measure of their blood pressure or their cortisol levels in their blood, which indicates stress, it'd be very high even though they'll tell you I'm not stressed. And then other people feel a lot of stress over even what we might think small things. And within marriage, let's get specific with that.

What are some of the stress factors in marriage? Well, at some level, when we have challenges in the relationship or we don't see things eye to eye, as Kay said, and I love how you said that, Kate, these unpleasant feelings come up on the inside, just like you described, John. And all of a sudden, I'm more harsh, I'm more irritable, and these unpleasant feelings come out of nowhere. They come out of the depths of our soul. And that's why we have people learn to identify them, Kay, which you asked a question earlier, how would they know how to identify stress? If you use a soul word list and ask what am I feeling right now, you get the list of words that Kay just said. And then my spouse has to feel that, and she has to somehow, that is a conflict that I bring in.

If we don't know each other's stress response and how to help each other there. And let's post those at the website. A soul word list? Yeah, it was created by you, if you're okay with that. Of course. And that way people can go look at it and begin to use that. It's very effective. Jean and I have started to use that as well.

Sure. In that context in marriage, though, let me ask you this. Why, as human beings, why do we go to the attack mode then? Why, you know, if we're feeling stress and our wife says something, which we take as negative, bang, then we fire right back, perhaps. I know this is a general question, but I'm just trying to, for the listener, trying to define the mechanism for them.

Excellent. When they're walking along and all of a sudden there's a little exchange of words, and all of a sudden now you're ready to fire back. Well, I think that's such a common thing that we do in marriage because, and like you said, when we're at work or church, we do our best to put our best foot forward. But at home, our stressed self is going to be more evident. And I think, you know, to help people understand that that stress response is different for, some people do lash out. Some people shut down. Some people go out the back door as quick as they can. Some people sleep.

Some people sleep. You know, I know there was a period in our marriage, really for the first 15 years, Mylon cleaned when he was stressed. And I had no idea that he was cleaning because he was anxious inside.

Now, another woman might say, that's an awesome blessing. Yeah, you know what? It's like he doesn't clean as much as he used to. The healthier I got, the messier my garage got.

That's right. What? You got a messy garage? You know I can't stand that. I'm just saying. I'm just saying. We've covered that on this broadcast. But we haven't covered your cleanly garage. It's a mess right now.

It's driving me crazy. But let me ask you, are those exchanges always rooted in stress? Well, yes, they are.

Oh, interesting. Bad feelings. They're rooted in dealing with difficult emotions. And the things that really just pop our anger button, just get us going, are often triggers. And triggers are something that a spouse is stepping on a childhood wound. So, you know, we don't often realize that some of our reactivity, whether it's to fight or flee or freeze, is really occurring when, as you interface with someone in the present, they're actually recreating or reliving a childhood experience. And so you're going back to your coping mechanisms that you had as a child and they're often not great.

Yeah, so it's dredging up history, jamming it into the present, which turbo charges the reaction. And I want to make sure, again, because someone listening might say, well, this is great. Mylan, of course, is an ordained minister and Kay is a family therapist and I get all that. It sounds like psychology here. But let's talk about Jesus. I think he used Matthew 26 as an example because we're going to move into some of these other stress definitions and the love styles and how stress plays into that.

But let's put the spiritual application. I guess the goal in many ways, where was Jesus stressed? I guess the question would be, was he ever stressed and how did he deal with it? Well, when you put on your WWJD bracelet, what did Jesus do when he was stressed? You look at Matthew 26. It was the night before he was going to die on the cross. It was a miserable preparation that he had to go through and he knew he was going to be judged and beaten and hung on a cross.

But the night before, it says in Matthew 26, and taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, which were James and John, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. So he had a stress response. This was his stress response. He was sorrowful and troubled. If you think what he would have looked like, he was, I'm certain, making noise.

He was walking. He was pacing. He was breathing heavily. As KU said earlier, his physiological responses, his heart rate was probably up, adrenaline is flowing. And instead of being silent, he said to his disciples, my soul is very sorrowful, even to the point of death.

Come watch and pray with me. And what he did was he revealed what was going on on the inside of him. He didn't just act in his stress response and let them guess what was happening. He said, my soul is distressed to the point of death. The word soul is a Greek word sukhe, P-S-U-C-H-E. We get our word psychology from it. And it is the word of the inner person. And I can't read what's going on in your soul.

You have to tell me. And that's why Jesus proactively sought support from Peter, James, and John. And he said, remain here with me and pray and watch with me. And then it says in Hebrews that he cried with great, loud wailing and tears. And then it says in the Gospels that he was so stressed that blood was commingling with his sweat. And he was so stressed physiologically and emotionally. And he's crying before the Lord.

Is there another way that we can do this? And he said that three times. And a lot of Christians think that this would be a weakness of faith to show emotion, to be real, to be transparent, to be vulnerable in front of other people. But Jesus modeled that horizontally with Peter, James, and John and with the Heavenly Father.

But where faith came in is where Jesus said, nevertheless, let thy will not mine be done. So this is beautifully modeled that we see him highly stressed with self-awareness, horizontal support of his three closest disciples, Peter, James, and John, vertical support with the Heavenly Father. That's how he managed to stress. It was relational. And that's the point I wanted to highlight as you have in the material, that it is godly to take stress into a relational direction, not to shut down, not to isolate, which to me would be evidence of the enemy of our soul and his influence on us, to keep us separated, to be that lost sheep.

That's right. But why then is it so difficult for us, created in his image? Why do we not go that direction?

Why don't we seek help? What pitfalls are there when you turn horizontally to Peter, James, and John? Well, there's two difficulties there. One is your early training in terms of what do you do with stress? What did your mom do when she was stressed?

What was modeled? These are learned things. These are learned things. What did your dad do? In my home, no one was relational with stress. You just looked at dad and knew, oh, he's in a bad mood.

Don't go near him. Oh, mom's really quiet. She must be stressed. But there was never any description, nor were we asked as kids, you don't look so good today. What's going on inside you? So hopefully the beginning point is that we have self-awareness. We cannot ask for help if we don't even know what's going on inside. So that was one thing I had to do was learn to describe my inner self. And as I was reading the material, one of the things that stressed me out a little, you said that parents are our first regulators of stress.

And I thought, oh, poor Trent and Troy. I mean, but that is true, right? It is.

It is. They learn from us, and that's a burden too, and a good one. Well, we do the best we can, but I say there's no perfect parent, but we can be a growing parent. And we can model how to manage stress at any age to our kids and show them that we're even growing in that. So what do we do about that? I mean, let's say that I'm hearing this thinking, okay, I have missed it.

I haven't helped my kids regulate at all. What are some beginning steps? Well, I think for us, one of the huge things we started with was the soul words list, because we didn't have great self-awareness. We weren't teaching our kids to have great self-awareness, and we put that on the refrigerator.

We put it on the table at dinner. And when we were talking about our days, we started to incorporate, well, how did that make you feel? And while that sounds so simple, for us it was revolutionary, because none of us had a vocabulary for feelings. Well, the other thing we did was we confessed to our kids, or we would share. Another word for confess is to share publicly, as Jesus did with the disciples. Right, so that's relational.

It's relational. So I would say to my kids, you know what, I have had a hard day. I'm a bit impatient. I'm not doing real well. Please give me a little grace, and I just want you to understand my behavior.

That's helpful. Well, I tell that to Kay. I tell that to my kids and to my fellow associates that I work with. And that it's not you.

It's not you. You're not causing this. That's what a kid needs to understand, is that they're not causing it, because that's what they assume. Is they then feel guilty, or what have I done to make dad or mom upset?

Or become the parent to the parent. So Jesus informed them proactively of his emotional state. And we do that and learn to do that as well.

It was really hard, because Adam and Eve, they were fearful, and they hid, and they blamed. And so that's what we do. We're a lot more like Adam and Eve than we are the image and likeness of God. They're blended, and sanctification is moving from one end to the other. Let's quickly describe the love styles you've identified.

We've waited a while to get into these, but I think this will give people context. And hopefully they will see themselves in one of these categories. And these styles are learned in your family of origin. These are child development issues and can lead to addictive behaviors. That's what you described so well.

Let's go through them for the sake of those listening who may not be familiar with the love styles. Well, the secure attachment is Jesus. We're all supposed to be growing up to look more like Jesus Christ, as Paul said, to a mature man to the measure of the stature of Christ.

So he was able to be honest, vulnerable, transparent, take his real inner self into relationship horizontally and vertically. That's our growth goal. That's number one.

That's where we want to go. That's the secure attachment. Now Kay was an avoider. As an avoider, she was distant. She was not connecting. She would isolate when she was stressed. She wouldn't communicate when she was stressed. She didn't have really the words to describe, nor did she ever think to bring those feelings into relationship.

So her stress response was to flee, was to get away from whatever was stressing her. So would you add to that, Kay? Well, that's what I learned to do as a kid. Right. It's pretty much figure it out on your own and pull yourself up by the bootstraps and we don't talk about it.

Right. Keep it all bottled up, basically. I didn't even really realize I was bottling it up. But when I really understood that avoider imprint, it was like, oh, yeah, I don't know how to go to people. In fact, you had a story about a boy in Little Lake with his dad.

Describe that, because I think that's a great illustration of the avoider. Oh, well, I was walking up the stairs toward the baseball park and this dad was following his son coming down the stairs and the son was crying. And the father was ahead of him by quite a few paces yelling back over his shoulder, stop crying, we're going to go to the batting cages and you're not going to strike out next time. So it was just this no empathy for what the child felt like striking out in front of several hundred people.

I could so relate with that pressure. I'll fix it. We're going to fix it and we're going to stop this.

Now, there's nothing wrong with the solution, though, right? Well, it's the end that hurts. First of all, we say this, empathize today and connect today emotionally and fix it tomorrow. So if a person is crying, you come along, you give them a hug, and you say, tell me what you're feeling. You don't try and fix it right then because they're not ready to fix anything.

Tomorrow we might talk about the batting cages. Mylon, moving from the avoider, which was Kay, into the pleaser, which was you. In fact, I think they called you smiling Mylon. I've had that. I identify as the pleaser.

People will say, you always got a smile on your face no matter what the circumstance you're in. So I think you and I are similar in that way. Well, was. Correct. That's fine. And I'm working my way through it.

Help us understand how stress, particularly how stress impacts a marriage with the pleaser attitude. Well, now I smile when I want to. I smile by choice. I used to smile because if I would smile and you would smile, then I would be okay with, I'd feel comfortable around you if you were smiling. So they're giving you cuing. They're giving me cues that I would actually precipitate with a smile to see if they would smile back so I'd be okay. But what was it like with me, Kay, as the anxious person?

What did I do when I was stressed? Well, pleasers often chase you around when they're stressed to make sure you're okay because if you're okay, they're okay. So they're always pursuing with nice, kind gestures to keep anger from happening, to keep everything harmonious.

But they lack the ability to really dive into hard subjects. And many pleasers don't even know they're anxious. They are so used to that chronic feeling of worry and anxiety that they don't even describe themselves as anxious until we really help them define that word.

And then they come back and say, oh, I'm anxious every day all the time. Right. So the avoider would flee. I would freeze.

Okay. Especially if there was conflict. If there was conflict, I would freeze. And then because I was fear-based, I would start trying to do something to appease. Clean the house. So I started cleaning the house.

I would stay in from playing to just monitor the situation in the house as a kid. When he was a kid, yeah. And we went so powerful. These are things that you learn. Absolutely. And then you bring that what we so often call baggage, right? Right. When people get married, they bring their baggage into the relationship. This is the baggage stuff we're talking about.

Yes, it is. This is the behavior that really makes the other scratch their head a little, saying, where did you learn that? Why are you behaving like that? Let's also cover the vacillator, controller, victim. So hit those characteristics as well.

Okay. The vacillator is the protester. They protest the lack of ideal. They like things to be ideal because if it's ideal, then they don't have to feel any difficult emotions. And the ones they feel the most, they have strong feelings inside, and they can pretty well describe them to you.

But they're usually around themes of disappointment, abandonment. You let them down. You didn't see them. You didn't say the right thing.

You didn't say it the right way. So the vacillator is expressing this to those around. Yes. Yes. Angrily.

Angrily. So they kind of go from all good to all bad. So if they're in a good mood and their ideal is being met, they can be so much fun and lovely to be around and wonderful company. But if something disappoints them, they can flip moods really quickly.

So avoiders flee, pleasers freeze, vacillators protest, and they're protesting the lack of ideal. And their stress response is that they ruminate. So when they are stressed, they ruminate on what just happened, and they feel bad about that.

And they think, what just happened back there? Why did that happen? Why did that person say that? Why did this person give that person a hug and ignore me when I walked by?

Why, why, why, why, why? And so they ruminate. And so that is their stress response.

And then they lash out because they're upset with whoever spoiled the situation. Yeah. It really is a release of anxiety.

It is. And tension. And tension. And a vacillator will tell you, I feel better after I vent. Right.

But no one else feels better. There's a, yeah, a field of disaster. Right. And they don't really realize they're dumping a lot of anxiety in that vent.

Yeah. So the controller, you ask about the controller, which is a chaotic disorganized home, is a home where there is fright without solutions. There's often neglect.

There's often substance abuse. And the child is victimized by the inadequacy of the parent. This is perhaps the most dangerous environment. It is very, very dangerous.

This is chaotic, very difficult. And children die here in this kind of a home. They literally do. Or they are taken from this home into foster care because Child Protective Services get involved. But this child is not regulated by the parents. They're dysregulated by the parents. So when they're agitated, I had a man in my office one day who said, when I was 14, my dad handed me a bottle of wine and said, here, this will help take all the bad feelings away. A 14-year-old kid, the dad handed him that because that's all the dad knew how to do to manage the distress that was felt in the home.

That's what he did, obviously. That's what he did because these homes are filled with addictions and they're also filled with dysregulated emotions and behaviors. So if you came from this home, you might become a controller. And controllers get very stressed when things are not predictable to them.

If they can't tell you what's going to happen right now, they get very agitated and they want to put things back into a place where they can manage it. And then they protest just like the vacillator, but they're not protesting a lack of ideal. They're protesting a lack of conformity.

Yes. And then they will be very angry at people until they step back in line. The victims simply lose a voice. They often dissociate. They often disconnect from the stressful events. And they become very passive and very complacent. And so that is their stress response is to simply check out. The phrase, and we're right at the end here, but I want to capture this because again, I'm thinking of in terms of conversations that we have as a normal course of things.

When we describe a young woman who always chooses the bad guy, is that typically, and I know this is fraught with danger, but is that typically a person that may come from a victim background where she's making those kind of choices, she's seeking out someone who is harsh? Yes. Well, it's not a conscious thing. Right, exactly. But victims do learn to tolerate the intolerable. And the intolerable is normal to them. It's comforting.

I wouldn't say it's comforting, but it's predictable. And when they go to marry, the victim is going to be attracted to someone who is going to take charge and be just like the parent that was in charge in their family. And most often in these chaotic homes, there's a very dominant parent and a very passive parent. And so they will replicate that model in their marriage.

Such great thoughts from Mylan and Kay Yurkovich today on Focus on the Family. And we're going to pause right there and bring the balance of the conversation to you tomorrow. We do hope that their insight has helped you to begin to identify the root of some of the tensions that you might be experiencing in your marriage. Well, in marriage, probably more than any other relationship, you have to think through your stress responses.

And I think that's where we fail. You want to be aware when those triggers start to ramp up so that you can better manage your emotions and not let those negative things erode your connection with your spouse. And this is why Focus on the Family is here. We want to help you have the best marriage you can have to celebrate with you in times of joy and to walk alongside you in times of struggle. And we're here for you, not just on the air with programs like this, but with reliable, practical help. And if this program has touched a sensitive place in your life, please contact us here at Focus. We have caring Christian counselors who would love to talk to you, no charge, over the phone to help you begin healing for yourself and for your marriage.

Maybe you and your spouse are really struggling and losing hope. We have an outstanding marriage-intensive program called Hope Restored with a mission to bring healing to husbands and wives who are ready to sign divorce papers. We also have Mylon and Kay's terrific book, How We Love, Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage. It will dive a bit deeper into the content that they discussed today, and you can get that directly from us. Let me just say, Jean and I did it. We have worked through the workbook.

It's really good. In fact, when you make a pledge to sustain the ministry here at Focus on the Family today, and any monthly amount helps, we'll send a copy of How We Love to you as our way of saying thank you. You'll also get an audio download of this conversation along with some bonus content from Mylon and Kay. And if you can't commit to a monthly amount, we get that.

We know everybody's situation is different. We can send that book to you for a one-time gift as well. And you can donate and get your copy of How We Love and that bonus audio download.

The links are in the show notes. Or just give us a call, 800-A-FAMILY. We'll have more from Mylon and Kay Yurkovich next time. For now, on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller thanking you for joining us for Focus on the Family, inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. Your marriage can be redeemed, even if the fights seem constant, even if there's been an affair, even if you haven't felt close in years. No matter how deep the wounds are, you can take a step toward healing them with a hope restored marriage intensive. Our biblically based counseling will help you find the root of your problems and face challenges together. We'll talk with you, pray with you, and help you find out which program will work best. Call us at 1-866-875-2915
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-22 08:16:11 / 2023-06-22 08:28:35 / 12

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