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

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
June 23, 2023 7:24 am

Growing Your Marriage in Times of Stress (Part 2 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. 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. That's Kay Yurkovich describing some of the common and unique ways that tension can manifest itself within the relationship you have with your spouse. Kay and her husband, Mylon, are back with us today on Focus on the Family, and your host is Focus President and author, Jim Daly.

I'm John Fuller. John, we had a great conversation last time with Mylon and Kay, talking about stress in marriage. And if you've had no stress in marriage, please write us a letter. Contact us.

Yeah, we'd like to know your secret on that one. Because I think we all, even the Yurkovichs, especially in the early part of their marriage, the first 15 years was very stressful. And, but they looked and studied the word to find ways to resolve this. And I am so grateful for those many years of pain that they had to go through, so that they can help us today, better understand what we're feeling, and they've lived it. And that's what makes their testimony so powerful and what they have learned.

And I'm sure many of you, like me, like you, John, we have moments when we're stressed out, and we don't even know why those triggers are occurring. And today we're going to talk about how to identify them and how to move forward. And if you missed the broadcast yesterday, get a copy of it because that sets the kind of the groundwork for what we're going to talk about today.

Yeah, download the app so you can listen on the go or call us for a CD. Our number is 800-AFAMILY, and online you can find additional resources at slash broadcast. Now, we mentioned last time that the Yurkovichs are marriage and family counselors, and they've written a number of books about the love style concept. And they have an in-depth video series that really is the basis for this conversation.

It's called Turning Stress Into Opportunities for Emotional Connection. That sounds like a challenge, but we're going to learn how to do it. Mylan and Kay, welcome back to Focus. Thank you. Thank you so much. It is good to have you. And I'm telling you, folks, Mylan and Kay have really lived it, and Gene and I are learning so much from you and going through your resources.

It's fantastic. So thank you for what you've done. Thank you for living through difficult times so that you can now live in a much more God-centered time in your marriage. Just briefly describe that, the first 15 years and the last 35 that you've had together. Well, I would say in the first 15 years, we didn't know how to describe our inner self. We didn't have a vocabulary for feelings.

Neither of us really had memories of comfort growing up, so we really didn't know how to take our stress into relationship. So we ignored a lot. We swept a lot under the rug. We really had very little ability to even resolve conflict because we didn't really have good modeling of that either. So it just simmered. And I'm saying that because so many of us live there. Oh yeah, it simmered.

And of course, when things simmer long enough, the pan goes dry and the smoke starts smoking, and you have to do something or you're going to just stay in this painful place. I would say, you know, we learned how to emotionally connect, which has made such a difference. We developed a vocabulary for feelings. And we still have stress. Stress is just a part of living in this world, but we know how to manage it now. We know how to take it to each other. We know how to ask for comfort. We know how to resolve a conflict of the stresses between us.

And those are just skills we did not have in the first 15 years. And I so appreciate that background because it paints the picture of your experience, what you have brought to bear on this, on human relationship. In fact, in the material, you talk about Hebrews 4, 14, and kind of the example that Jesus gives us there. What happens? Well, He says that the throne of God is a safe place to come and to bring our stress and our needs to Him. And, you know, that is even a great model for a parent.

You know, are we a safe place where kids can bring their emotions and their needs and be honest with what they're going through? Or a spouse. Or a spouse. Wow. That sounds, even when I say it, it sounds more dangerous.

Isn't that interesting? Well, and this is another point that I think is important to make is that all that we're talking about, to bring anything into relationship requires risk and it requires vulnerability. Right. And, you know, that is, it's uncomfortable because we don't quite know how someone is going to respond. And it took us a while to get comfortable. There were a lot of uncomfortable interchanges before we learned and developed skills to make it more comfortable. But even looking back to our families of origin, there's an atmosphere or a level of vulnerability, or lack thereof, in the home you grew up in.

And the more vulnerable your home, the safer it was to be open and express your hurt or your feelings, the easier it's going to be as an adult to go to people. You also use the phrase that you picked out of Scripture, the one another, how often Scripture talks about one another. Describe what you learned from that phraseology that the Scripture uses one another. Do you have some examples?

I do. We realized that here we are married, and yet we couldn't take the commands of Scripture to one another, which was to speak the truth and love to one another. We didn't know how to do that. Listen to one another. We didn't know how to listen well. You know, the Bible says, be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. Well, we had that all backwards. And we had to work so hard to learn to become good listeners.

It's a skill we had to learn to develop. And then we had to learn to comfort one another for whatever they were feeling, because we're told in 2 Corinthians 1 to comfort one another. Well, these are commands of Scripture. Now, we're big on, in the church, we get the command of the Great Commission. Okay, go make disciples of all the nations. And then we're big on the Great Commandment.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your hearts, all mine, and your neighbors yourself. We get those. We have missed, I believe, the one another's horizontally that we're supposed to do with each other. And they're the hardest in marriage, because that's where we build up resentment. That's where we have hurts that may not be resolved. And yet that's the most important place that we could practice the one another's. Right. Well, in fact, the phrase that, you know, nobody knows you like your spouse. That's exactly right.

That is, we don't say nobody knows you like your friend. But, you know, it's interesting, Jim, as much as that's true, when we ask a couple, what is your spouse's stress response, they kind of look at us like, what are you talking about? Well, what do they do when they're stressed? What do you observe about them?

What do you see in their behavior and their voice tones? And it's different for everybody. Some people go sleep. Some people get angry. Some people huff and puff. Some people withdraw and retreat. I think, you know, when you can really study your family, study your spouse, your kids, what do they do when they're stressed? Because that's the time we want to move toward them to find out what's going on inside.

They're obviously not okay. Yeah. And let me ask you that specifically, because I don't know if it's intentional, but I think we're just not observant. I mean, I can think of that for myself with Jean. You know, do I know her triggers and those things as well as I should?

Probably not. But it's almost like it's because I'm just not tuned into the frequency. Does that make sense? We automatically, when we sense those things, we're like, oh, stay away or pick a fighter, you know, but we don't know how to- Run for cover. Yeah, exactly. But we all do it. I mean, that's the thing.

It's not like I don't want to learn. It's like I have a different reaction that I'm not even seemingly in control of. Or aware of. I had a couple in my office who, when she was stressed, she would rip open a closet, tear everything out of the closet and rearrange it all and just put structure and organization in her world. She would put, and a lot of us do this, we clean and structure and sort our physical environment as a way of managing our internal chaos and distress.

And I taught her husband how to recognize that when she starts ripping a closet apart or dumping drawers out on the floor, to instead of saying, what are you doing? Or that's crazy. Or can I help you?

And none of those. It's, you must be stressed right now. Sit down and tell me what's stressing you before you finish that closet. And he learned to engage by observing what her stress response was. And they began to have a closer, more intimate relationship because he dared to walk into the hurricane. He did the opposite of what he probably felt like doing. But that's what God calls us to do.

Everything that God calls us to do is counterintuitive to our fleshly nature. You mentioned comfort. So let's go to something you call the comfort cycle.

What is the comfort cycle? What are the elements of it? There's four points. Awareness, and then to engage, and then to find out more, listen and find out more, and then to resolve. Awareness is just what Mylon was talking about. What is your spouse's stress response? Because when you see it, or in one of your kids, you can say, you know, you're doing the thing you always do when you're not okay.

So let's sit down. That's awareness. Or it may be that I'm now aware that when I'm ripping drawers apart, I'm not okay. I could go to my husband and say the second step to engage, which is, you know, I realize I really want to clean right now. I think I need to do the comfort circle, which just basically means I need someone to really hear me out and help me sort through what's inside my soul.

Yeah. And so that's engage and then explore. Explore is find out more. And the difference between the comfort circle and other forms of communication is when you are the listener, you stay the listener. It's all about the person you're listening to. Even if you disagree, you find out more and you keep listening. Right. So you have the seek awareness, engage, explore, and then resolve.

So what does resolve look like? So again, all of these are biblical mandates. Engage is to speak the truth and love each one of you with his neighbor. To listen and explore is be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

I'm laughing because we do that so poorly. I know that. And then to resolve is to ask the other person to say, look, I can understand you have unpleasant feelings on the inside and I can understand why you're doing what you're doing right now. But what would help you?

What do you need right now? And that resolves it because the person has seen, they're known, they have vented, they've told you what's going on, and then they create some closure. Closure is comfort one another, encourage one another. And so the resolution allows a person to pick from the things that would allow them to feel better, which is we could help me analyze this, which a lot of people want to do right away.

We don't analyze or fix anything. We listen first, empathize, fix tomorrow at some later date. But sometimes I would hold Kay if she was distressed. I would physically hold her. I had to learn to allow that. Yeah, because that did not come naturally.

Oh, not at all. I mean, again, if you have a very affectionate family and they have their arms around you when you're stressed, then that's normal. But that was very abnormal to me. And so learning to receive comfort through physical touch and through holding and learning to just even cry in the presence of my husband was a challenge. It took a few years to really feel comfortable.

Oh, the pain of that. So physical touch I had to learn as a male was not a sexual physical touch. I had to learn to distinguish and refine the skill and the art and the emotional tolerance within myself to have physical touch and not have it be sexual. I had to learn to be nurturing. Yeah. And that is something that both of us had to learn to do as well as to give it as well as to receive it.

I like the idea of the cycle. What are things that disrupt that in the relationship, the marital relationship? How do things go awry?

Because some people may go to the website, they may look at that and say, OK, we can do this. And then they begin to engage. Step two, they're trying to be aware. They begin to engage. And then what can go awry?

Everything. In fact, it's kind of funny. We had someone say, really, you should call this the discomfort circle. Oh, that's good. And we laughed. That's where it started.

You're right. It really, it started out as very uncomfortable, not comfortable. But I think the whole idea of just conflict in a marriage and the ability, I mean, we get defensive. We don't like what someone says, so we start to correct it. It's actually very hard to stay in the listener role when you don't like what you're hearing.

If you fight or flight or freeze, you can't do the comfort circle. You have to learn to unfaw and begin to learn to listen, which means I have to regulate myself in order to be able to be a good listener. Can I ask you on behalf of the listeners, can you just role play that for us? Just pick a topic, give us the topic so we understand what you're going through and just exchange that.

Maybe do it the way you should, the discomfort way, the way you shouldn't do it, and then do it the comfort way, the way that same dialogue should occur when it's healthy. Could you do that? Well, sure we can. Okay. Give us the what? I got this thing in the mail called Silver Sneakers, which means you can go to any gym and sign up for free.

But A, I don't like to admit that I'm aging, B, that I need help, and C, I want to pay for it myself. I don't want to walk in and et cetera, et cetera. So when Kay showed me the Silver Sneaker thing. This is how the first round went.

This is how the first round went. Hey honey, look, we got a Silver Sneakers thing. We can get in the gym for free now. We don't even have to pay.

We can go to all of them. That is so needy and no, I don't like that. Just no, I want to pay myself. I just want to go pay for the gym membership and go, hi, gym member and pay for it myself.

I don't want to just have to need things from people because I'm getting old. Are you serious with me right now? Yeah, I do not like what this is connoting. You want to pay when it could be free. I hate getting this stuff in the mail. That just doesn't make any sense at all. It doesn't matter.

I'm going to pay 400 bucks and join the gym because I don't want to do this because it is somehow an admission of weakness. I can't believe it. So that's the first conversation.

Right. How could this go differently? You know, honey, when we were talking about Silver Sneakers, I realized there's a lot going on inside you and I just kind of really reacted. And I didn't really bother to stop and say, what are you feeling about that? Can you pick a couple words off the soul words list that would help me understand, like, what's going on in you when you think of joining something for free or getting older?

You know what? I was reactive too. And I realized that the words would be weak and pathetic.

Oh, wow. Because I watch people in my family system growing up get weak and get weaker and weaker and more dependent and reliant upon other people taking care of them when they could have been stronger and chosen to try to resist and stay strong. So I think it just felt weak and pathetic. It felt like a decline.

It felt like something that I just didn't want to go to that place. Oh, so really inside it's a fear of aging and just looking at those in your family that didn't really handle aging very well. And it was also the inability to care for one's self and the dependence upon others. I saw a lot of that in my family and in my aging parents.

Oh, that makes a lot more sense to me. And so really the whole idea of just going downhill and losing that capacity, you're afraid of like getting to someplace where you're dependent on another person or I'm dependent on you or you're dependent on me. At least I don't want to do that prematurely. I know that the inevitability of that is somewhere in the future.

I just don't want to do it prematurely when I can pay my own gym bill. That makes a lot more sense to me. You know, the conversation, even when you're a listener, the second conversation sounds so much more relationally driven, much more intimate. And that's your point. That's the whole point.

We have emotional intimacy right now. Right. The rules, I think it's important for people to understand these rules that you have touched on, Kay. The speakers, the rules for the speaker, rules for the listener.

Let's touch on those quickly. And then we've got time for just a couple more questions. The rule for the speaker, that's the one talking, is stick to one topic at a time.

The average couple, once a person starts talking, puts a mound of issues onto the table to the point that you can't even see where the table is anymore. That's why the one topic was silver sneakers. It didn't switch to other issues. It stayed right on topic and we disciplined ourselves to do that. I could feel that.

Yeah. Kay, what about the listener? Well, for the listener, I think the hardest thing is to just stay in the listener role no matter what you're hearing and repeat back for clarity what you're hearing. And then to find out more means, I ask an intelligent question that gives me more information.

And that's hard. That's a learned skill. And so that's why we have the list of questions to help the listener be able to stay in that role.

Yeah. And you also talk about the four steps of listening, which are really important. I think listen and summarize if the message is too long.

I could see that happening easily. So am I hearing you correctly? People kind of resist that because it's like, well, I'm just repeating what I heard.

But if you really get into an emotional topic, you may not hear it correctly. Right. And you may say, so this is what you're saying.

And your spouse will say, no, no, no, that's not what I'm saying. Yeah. And so just clarifying, it's very important. I think for me, one of the skills I have to continue to work on is I tend to complete the thought. You know, I see that as active engagement. Jean sees it as interruption. I'm trying to tell you. Especially with an introvert.

Yes. Introverts process internally and they get interrupted a lot and their sentences get finished. And so if you're if you're listening to an introvert, you have to be let take the time to let them process internally before they speak.

Man, this again is so good. We have mentioned soul words a couple of times. And again, that's a list that you created.

We posted on the Web site. Jean and I are starting to use those as well. What are they? Give us an example of three or four of those. Well, we they're basically emotions and descriptors of emotions or words that describe emotions. Because we're made in the image and likeness of God, God is an emotional God and a cognitive God.

He's both. And from Genesis to Revelation, he has every emotion in the book. And he tells us why he has the emotion, where it came from and what he's going to do about it. So we then took a list of feeling words that we accumulated from various sources and we began to look at it every time we had a conversation.

And also, I started looking at it as a part of my devotional time with the Lord because I could pray and tell him what my real internal state was. So I feel sad today. I feel angry. I feel depressed. I feel anxious. I feel overwhelmed. I feel jealous.

I feel envious. All these are our feelings. I feel insecure. I'm frightened. I'm scared. I feel tentative. These are all things that we feel. We just have never had words to identify them and to be able to articulate them. You know, man, this time flies so fast and there's so many questions still, but we can't cover it all.

And that's why getting a hold of the resources is so critical. But let's speak to the process, because we're all going to process this differently. We're all going to begin to want to apply this.

What are some of those warning signs, you know, like on the side of the road, slippery when wet, right? So what are those warning signs as we begin to use the comfort cycle and we engage in meaningful communication? Where are the pitfalls?

Well, I think we are in a hurry. We think that once we hear a concept, we should just be able to apply it and it should all make a big shift in our relationship. And I think what we see with couples we work with, and certainly in our own marriages, everything took time. There were a lot of mistakes along the way.

There were a lot of frustrations. We just kept pushing because we knew we were doing what God was asking us to do. So it's being willing to push through the uncomfortableness of growth and to give it the time it takes to really make major shifts. And what I hear you saying is stick to it. Don't give up when you hit a pothole. Right, because you will. That's how we learned everything.

You learn a sport. How many times do you have to repeat things if you're good at it? You guys are fabulous interviewers because you've done it over and over and over and over again. You have to, you know, you think and you plan, obviously, but it's second nature to you now, which is what communication has begun to be for us. So it's a matter of learning to be able to spot if Kate starts to get dysregulated in the conversation, or I do, we'll say timeout. I'm not doing well right now. Let me catch my breath.

Let me do some slow breathing and then give me five minutes to walk around the house. And then I'm going to come back and let me try and listen one more time. So we got very practical along those lines. Yeah, redos are a big part of growth. Then we had to work on our tone because the Bible says speak the truth in love. Yeah, that's not an accidental comment.

No, no, no, it's not. We treat it that way, if you can. Right. Or let your speech be, as it were, seasoned with salt that it may give grace to those who hear. We can speak truthfully, but it can also be seasoned in such a way that it's palatable to the other person. That is so good.

So good. Had to learn to do all this. We didn't know how. We learned all this. And we weren't counselors when we were learning this.

We learned all this at 40 years old, you know, and around that time zone of our lives. Well, so good. This is so good. And there's so much more in the resources that you've created. I hope every one of you listening, I can't imagine a marriage that doesn't need this kind of help. And again, Gene and I are engaged with you guys. We're using your resources, too, because they're so helpful. And that, to me, is a sign that the Lord is with you when people are clamoring for that content. To me, that says something that you've got the nerve.

You've got the nerve, the hand on the right thing. And I'm grateful to you for doing that and allowing Focus to partner with you in this way to get it out. We love focusing with you and partnering with you. Thank you. Mylan and Kay Yurkovich on today's episode of Focus on the Family, talking about the way that you can actually grow your marriage through stressful times. That content is so helpful.

It is. And I'm telling you, if you're looking for a silver bullet to solve problems in your marriage, this is it. As Mylan and Kay just said, this stuff doesn't come naturally. We all have to learn to deal with stress in our marriage.

And in my opinion, the best place to start is by following Mylan and Kay's advice. And this is why Focus on the Family exists. We want to help you have the best marriage possible. Of course, challenges arise in every marriage, but we can help. We have a team of Caring Christian Counselors on our staff.

You can call and set up an initial consultation with them. And when they call you back, they will listen to your specific need, pray with you, and most likely give you some recommendations on where to start on your path toward healing. And if you feel like your marriage is in major trouble, we also have our Hope Restored marriage intensives. We hear from couples all the time that say these intensives have saved their marriages. With an 80% success rate, it's definitely worth giving a try.

I'd agree with that, Jim. And then of course we also have Mylan and Kay's terrific book, How We Love, Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage. It's available here at the ministry. Yeah, and when you make a pledge today, and no amount is too small, we'll send that book to you as our way of saying thank you for supporting the work of Focus on the Family and helping couples just like you. You'll also get an audio download of this conversation with Mylan and Kay that has some bonus content that they recorded on ways to help your spouse manage stress. Donate and get your copy of How We Love and that bonus audio download.

All the details are in the show notes or give us a call. Well, next time you'll hear some practical help from moms who are trying to do too much. But sometimes I was so tapped out that I was irritable or angry. I was not able to give them what they needed emotionally. So it really makes you take a look at yourself and think, okay, what am I doing in my lifestyle that's depriving my family of what they need from me? On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, hoping you have a terrific weekend and that you plan to join us on Monday as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. 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 / 2023-06-23 08:22:12 / 2023-06-23 08:33:54 / 12

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