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Greg Smalley: Reconnecting in Marriage

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
April 28, 2022 2:03 am

Greg Smalley: Reconnecting in Marriage

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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April 28, 2022 2:03 am

Life has a way of moving us into roommates in marriage when we want to be soulmates. Ron Deal talks with Dr. Greg Smalley about how to stay deeply connected.

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I love the verse in Song of Solomon 2.15.

So it's talking about catch all the foxes, so these little foxes before they ruin the vineyard of love. And I think for a lot of us, we guard against the big things, infidelity, affairs, abuse, you know, whatever, the big things. I think we do a pretty good job of really guarding our marriages from those things.

It's honestly the little things that really can trap us. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.

And I'm Dave Wilson. And you can find us at or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today.

So one of the things that every marriage needs is a lot of joy, joy, love, communication. Here's one nobody thinks of. Rest. Because you can get so busy. I don't know why we're talking about this. We have gotten so busy in our marriage that we don't rest. We don't play. And we talk about playing, but it's hard to do sometimes, isn't it? We need this.

We need help in this area because we work hard and we're struggling to find rest. And I think a lot of marriages find the same thing. You just become roommates. You sort of become like a business partnership.

We've actually used those terms. And so today, we got help for marriages that are in that place we've been in. We've got Ron Deal on his Family Life Blended podcast. He sat down with Greg Smalley, who's the executive director of marriage and family formation at Focused on the Family. And guess what they talked about?

Rest. Rest in marriage. And it's a great conversation. So here's Ron and Greg talking about a really important topic for your marriage. What are some of the things that pull couples apart, turn us into roommates?

Yeah, we hear that a lot. We hear sort of this idea that, hey, I love you, committed to you, but, man, I just feel like we're nothing more than married roommates. And actually, that's about what my wife, Erin, said eight years into our marriage. And so I just had finished my doctorate. I just had my very first marriage book come out.

Perfect timing, right? Marriage you've always dreamed of. So while that is just being released, my own wife, just in tears, just says, yeah, this is far from the marriage I've always dreamed of. And I just feel like we're married roommates. We've drifted so far apart. I don't know you.

I feel like I'm sleeping with a stranger. And of course, I'd love to say that I met that statement with just total compassion and empathy and deep understanding. I defended myself. I rationalized.

I gave every excuse, tried to reframe. And yet when I really was willing to hear her, I realized that that's exactly what had happened is that we had just we had drifted. And I think for a lot of couples, they go through that and then they try to do bigger things like, well, let's make sure we're doing date nights. Let's go on a vacation. Let's do a holiday.

Let's do something big. And the problem is that a marriage can't survive from date night to date night or from vacation to vacation. I think that's what's going on for a lot of couples. They're hoping that they can make up for all the disconnect, for all the busyness. And thus, they try to live from vacation, holiday, date night to date night, holiday, vacation. It's just a marriage can't survive off of that. I definitely want us to talk a little bit more about some of the things that lead us into being roommates.

Aaron have identified a number of things. But let me just pull back a second. I love that story and I appreciate that story. One of the things those of us that are in marriage and family ministry know is that our own families are not perfect. Nana and I have been in counseling numerous times in our 35 years and I suspect we will again at some point. I mean, I've tried to help you. It's just really hard and difficult.

But you're not that good. So, tit for tat. I've said so many times, you're always going to be working on your marriage because God is always using your marriage to work on you. And so, as soon as you feel like we've arrived, well, then God, if you're humble enough to listen, He'll show you that next piece of you that you have to deal with.

And usually it comes out in a relationship environment. And so, it's sort of like, but why can't we get it up? Well, because we're working at this and there's a process that's going on within it. And I'm also pleased to hear that you, like me, have the spiritual gift of defensiveness. I'm very good at it. I'm amazing at it. I'm so well trained. One of my other spiritual gifts, by the way, is sarcasm, which I just used. We're like brothers. We're like twins.

And so, it's easy to put up those walls and react. And what do you mean you're upset? What do you mean you're disappointed? You don't know my heart and my intentions. And next thing you know, the other person's feeling unheard and not listened to.

And now things are getting worse, not better. If you, the listener right now, are going, oh, I think that's us. Or there's some element in any of this that you can relate to. Okay, good. You know, you're normal. And let's just keep talking about what this stuff is.

Put words on it. So, you guys have identified some characteristics of roommate marriage situations. Let's walk through a few of them.

Tell us about them. Aaron and I kept hearing about people saying, yeah, we feel like married roommates. Well, why? Like, this one couple might feel that way because they're just in a really busy season, young, young kids, or taking care of aging parents. You know, another couple may be in a lot of conflict. And so, they're not connecting.

Maybe spiritually, they have no mutual, you know, spiritual relationship. And so, we started going, okay, so what would those main things be? So, we just began to interview couples. We kind of generated a list.

And we probably researched with about a thousand couples just to better understand this. And by far, kind of the biggest one was exhausted. Really? Just like physically, emotionally tired? Yeah. So, a lot going on. And I think, you know, by doing intensives, you know, working with couples in crisis, we hear this a lot that they have nothing to give. You know, they're going at such a rapid pace.

So, they keep pouring out and they don't know how to get full so that they have something to give. You know, as you're talking, I'm sitting here listening for the blended family couples that are hearing this. You get married and there's three, four, five, seven kids between the two of you. You got multiple households you're trying to coordinate with. Former spouses, former mother-in-law, all kinds of stuff outside your home and inside your home.

Just draining the batteries. Exactly. You know, so exhausted is a good word for emotionally, it takes a lot to just try to maintain and keep up and chase kids and do whatever. And this is true, I think, even if they're adult children.

They may be halfway across the country. But you're still trying to figure out how do we stay in touch and connect and maybe there's step-grandkids involved and you're trying to figure out how do we bond with. So, I think what I hear is saying is that there may be different circumstances that create the exhaustion. But nevertheless, the exhaustion just means they can't quite connect with each other. Is that what you're saying?

Right. So, if we stay empty, then we have nothing to give. And if I have nothing to give, I'm not going to connect with you because you become a threat. You're just going to want something. You're going to want more. You're going to want affection.

You're going to want whatever it is. Versus really understanding that if we're going to connect, it has to begin with this idea of what am I doing to make sure I'm staying full. And I can hear the young moms, you know, the step-families with so many kids rolling their eyes.

You just feel it. Going, sure, yeah, come over and watch my kids and I'll get some rest or whatever. Aaron and I really have tried to narrow it down to, okay. So, if you identify with that going, yeah, I'm just in a really busy season where I end up exhausted, nothing to give. We just encourage people to figure out what gives you rest and what gives you life.

And they're kind of the two sides of the same coin. What gives me rest probably isn't going to set my heart on fire. It's not going to bring me passion. But at the same time, what does just get me going and gives me life probably is not going to give me rest. And so, we encourage people to really talk about that. Ask each other in this season of our life together, what would rest look like?

What would life look like doing activities that really give you life? And so, for example, we live in Colorado. So, we're right there in the base of Pikes Peak and I love to fish.

So, when I think about something that would give me life, it's all about fishing. So, Aaron knows that. And so, I'll go to her and say, hey, I'm going to take off a day of work. I'm just going to go by myself. I want to go up in the mountains.

And she blesses that because she knows what it does. So, I'll get up super early. I drive. So, I don't come back rested. But my goodness, man, getting a big old trout on the end of that line. Just standing in the middle of a river in God's beauty. I mean, just there's something about it that so brings me alive. And then when I think about rest, for me as an introvert, just unplugging from people and kind of being by myself. And sometimes it's just listening to some praise and worship music. But doing something like that just gives me real rest. And so, it's going to be different for everybody.

It's going to be different based on the season. And so, again, young parents are going, yeah, right, if we just get rid of our children, we could get a lot of rest. And you just have to figure that out. It's your job to figure that out.

I'm hearing you got to know yourself. You do. And you got to then prioritize some self-care. And isn't that a problem sometimes for people? Totally.

I know going fishing is really going to help. But no, I don't, you know, there's too much to do. Just whatever. So, you end up not doing it. Right. And then you're empty.

You have nothing to give. So, your family gets leftovers and no one wins versus understanding that like the greatest commandment, love God, love others as you love yourself. I think as Christians, we often rewrite that verse to say, love God and love others before ourselves instead of ourselves. And God gave us two commandments there to love Him and to love others. He's assuming that we are already doing the job of loving us, which means we're doing what we need to to get full of His love. We're allowing our hearts to be full so that we have then something that we can just keep giving and giving and giving. So, my goal is not about selfishness.

It's not this narcissistic, well, you know, I'm going to focus on me. It's focused on you to get full so you have something to give out. So, it's really about giving but from a place of abundance. And that's why when you figure out what gives you rest and what gives you life, that's a great way to balance to make sure that you have something to give. We've been listening to Ron Deal talking to Greg Smalley about finding rest in marriage and I am so convicted right now.

Are you? Yeah, because we can run pretty hard and we've been running hard and it's a great reminder that God gave us a commandment, the Sabbath, to rest. And it isn't just a legalistic law. It does our body and as we're learning today, does our marriage good. I think, too, as followers of Christ, we are so busy giving our lives away that when we hear somebody saying, hey, I need a me day, that does feel narcissistic and selfish. But we do need to learn how to fill up and what does fill us up. That's important. Yeah, and the thing about it, as Greg just said, is it makes us better for others. So, we love God better. We love others better. We love our spouse better. We make our marriage better. And there's more to learn about this.

So, let's go back to Ron and Greg and find out how we can actually live this out. So, what are some other characteristics of roommate relationships? Yeah, I think busyness, obviously, duh, was another big one. So, you can be busy to the point of being exhausted, but you can also just not taking care of yourself is going to lead to exhaustion. But busyness, we all have these seasons. And Aaron and I go through them. You know, some seasons are much less busy than others.

But for a lot of us, we're just running. We have so much going on. And when we speak and we're talking about busyness, people automatically get super defensive. And so, now they think that we're going to start going through some time management habits and look at your calendar.

What can you jettison? And they feel like their plates are overflowing with a lot of good things. We always tell them, relax, we're actually not going to do that. We're actually going to show you that let's look at your plate because we guarantee there's things that are happening already that you could take advantage of. So, we just tell people, just relax.

We're not going to add. We're just going to show you that you're doing things. For example, one of my favorite researchers, I know you respect this gentleman as well, John Gottman. So, he's done some of the best research. He found something called a bid for connection. And as I've learned and really understood this, this has made a huge difference in my marriage. So, what he found is that throughout the day, all of us constantly are turning toward our spouse.

We're making some sort of bid for connection. For example, the other day, Erin and I were just driving down the road. I'm driving, she's in the passenger seat. Approaching me is my very favorite vehicle. Like, if I had money, if I could buy whatever I could, this is what I'd get.

It was a Ford F-150 Raptor. Oh, wow. So, Google that if you want to see an image. It's beautiful.

Sounds great. Here's your eyes. So, it's approaching, I can tell. And so, I say to Erin, oh, look, there's a Raptor. Now, she, in that moment, that was actually a bid for connection. I'm basically saying, hey, would you, for a moment, be interested in what I'm interested in?

Join me in this celebration of what could be. Exactly, because I can tell you on no level does my wife care at all about vehicles, much less Raptors. I mean, she's like, just buy me something and give me the keys and I'll drive it. She's Erin Raptor, like, that's dangerous, right?

A dinosaur, run away. You don't want to go towards that. She knows, because I've said it a million times, she knows what it is, but she could, that's not her thing. Yeah, yeah.

But it's my thing. And so, in that moment, she had a couple choices. She could turn away and basically ignore me, keep texting on her cell phone or scrolling through, you know, Facebook, whatever. So, she could turn away and ignore me. She could turn against me and actually say something snarky, like, come on, we're in ministry, as if we could ever afford an expensive vehicle like that. Give it up.

Come on, you're being ridiculous. So, she could have turned against me or she could turn towards that connection, which is what she did. Just simply, she went, ooh, she goes, oh, the red one? I was like, yes. She's like, oh, that's cool.

She's like, why? I know you love those. Why do you like that so much? Oh, man, it's so fast. It has zero to 60 in like six seconds. And we literally had maybe a 10 to 15 second connection, but it was a connection.

It was a micro connection. Those are the things that are happening constantly throughout the day. Oftentimes, we ignore it or we turn against it versus really turning towards. Erin loves to, her idea of a Ford Raptor is bargain shopping. That's her Raptor. Now, on no level do I have any interest in, I hate to shop. I go one time to the Dillard's, you know, New Year's Day sale. I get a couple of things.

I'm good for the year. But Erin loves the bargain shop. And so, she'll come home. She'll walk in the door with her bags. She'll set them down. She comes up to me and she'll hold up an item and she'll say, guess how much this originally was. Now, it's like we're playing the price is right all of a sudden.

Now, I've learned that I've got to guess high. She doesn't care. So, I'm like, I don't know, like 150 bucks, you know, not even close, $200. I'm like, whoa.

Again, could care less, but I'm turning towards her. She's making a bid and she'll say, guess what I paid. And I know if it's like under $10, it's a real exciting bargain. So, I'm like, I don't know, like $9.99, not even close, $8.

I'm like, not even close, what? And that's when you say, honey, you're amazing. Exactly.

It was how the stewardship you're displaying for our finances is amazing. The point is, again, I have no interest in clothing, but she was making a bid. I can turn towards that.

And that's one of those things in the busy, busy season, you may not have the capacity to add. Let's do a date night. Let's go on a vacation.

But you can really notice these little tiny bits and they can be anything. A phone call going, you got to hear what happened to me. I can choose. I can say, hey, I'm right in the middle of something. You know, I don't have time.

Or, hey, let me call you back in five, whatever. But I can turn towards that. And the more that we do that, those little micro connections, they add up. And so, for that busy person, relax. They're already happening. Just do your best to turn toward those.

Take advantage of the 10 seconds and just watch how those will add up. I imagine somebody's listening right now and they're feeling what I'm feeling. Do you want a Ford Raptor? I know.

No. Guilt. I'm feeling guilt.

Because as I'm listening to you talk, I'm feeling, you know what, I missed a bid just this week. And I got a lot on my mind. And I got this and that.

And I line up with this. And I'm so focused there that I missed a bid. And it's like, wow, what do I do now?

Yeah. Here's the good news. You will have dozens tomorrow. You will have more the next day. See, the fact that you noticed that you missed a bid, I think is the true battle.

It's noticing them, seeing them for what they are. There will be plenty of times that we even know it and don't respond. Okay. So how about the next one? How about the next one?

So I would just say to someone, don't be discouraged. Be glad. I noticed it. Okay. I didn't take advantage of it. And now I can tune in a little bit better next time.

There'll be hundreds coming your way. Yeah. You know, it might even be that I could go back to my wife and say, hey, I realized I missed something there.

That you were leaning toward me and I was so focused I didn't catch it. Totally. Maybe that in and of itself, an apology in effect, would be a bid, would be responding to it.

Totally. At least moving toward her in a way. Well, it's another bid because basically you're apologizing.

So now she would have the opportunity to respond, turn towards that and receive that. I mean, whatever. Good. But it's just, they happen all the time.

My job is to really notice and look for it. Aaron and I have even gotten to the point to where we'll call it out. Hey, that's a bid. You're making a bid right now. And we'll just make it a fun thing. But we've, I think we've grown to the point where we really notice those and thus we're going to turn towards them.

Just either micro. And that's the nice part. We're not talking about, hey, you have an hour conversation. You know, doing a little self-care, I can imagine somebody kind of playfully tossing it the other way. Hey, did you notice I just made a bid? You know, sort of making it overt. Yeah.

I'm inviting you to join me in this discussion about shopping for raptors or whatever it might be. Again, the playfulness in that is a connection. But I don't want our listener to miss what you're saying. The big picture you're saying here is people who are busy and exhausted feel like, no, this is not a, you've got to add something to your life. This is a just notice.

Tune in, turn toward and let that be something that energizes. And just because a marriage can survive between bids because they're going to happen so much. So we may not be able to add in the big stuff. But man, again, those little foxes on the flip side, the good news is the bids will happen constantly and we can take advantage of those. And that's how we can stay connected when we're busy.

We've been listening to Ron Deal and Dr. Greg Smalley and their conversation from the Family Life Blended podcast talking about rest and even knowing how to do that as a couple. Does this mean, as I've been listening, does this mean that I need to learn to play golf? You know what I was thinking? I was thinking you do. When I throw out the bid to you, hey, you want to go ride on the cart with me as I play golf? You go. And yeah, I'd love you to play golf. You want to learn to play golf. But I love you just being in the cart, you know, watching me hit the ball 350 yards down the middle of the fairway.

That has never once happened. You really like it when I just tell you that your butt looks good as you're getting ready. I didn't think you're going to say that on air, but that's a nice thing, too.

You usually say it used to look good back in the day. No, I don't. But no, I mean, I was thinking we do the bid thing, like Greg and Ron were talking about. And your bid to me often is I'm going to go for a walk. You want to go?

Yes. Because you love to walk and you want me to go walk with you. I'd rather run, but I walk with you. And what do we do? We talk.

We do. And it makes our marriage better. But I think this discussion is really helpful and it keeps us from being lazy and it helps us to pursue one another.

And we need to listen for the bids and take time to rest. And if rest looks like play, whatever it looks like for you that gives you energy back, do it in your marriage. Your marriage will be better for it. You've been listening to Family Life Today with Dave and Anne Wilson. Now, if you know anyone who needs to hear today's conversation between Ron Deal and Greg Smalley, you can share it from wherever you get your podcasts. And while you're there, you can search for the Family Life Blended podcast as well and subscribe to hear more from Ron Deal.

In fact, I don't think you'll want to miss the episode that just released this week about the story of a stepmom and a biological mom and how they turned their toxic relationship into a healthy one. Again, search for Family Life Blended wherever you get your podcasts. At Family Life, we believe strong, godly marriages and families can help transform the culture and our world. If that resonates with you, would you consider giving to Family Life Today? We are listener supported and all this week we want to send you a copy of Eric Reid's book, Uncommon Trust. He was a guest earlier this week on Family Life Today. We want to get that to you as a thank you for your donation of any amount to Family Life Today. You can give securely online at or you can give us a call with your donation at 1-800-358-6329. That could be a one-time gift or you can become a partner with us and make it a recurring monthly gift.

Again, the number is 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today. So how do you resolve conflict in your marriage? Is it a yelling match?

Is it the silent treatment? Is it a rousing game of rock, paper, scissors? Well, whether you're in a stepfamily or not, I think you'll find some practical wisdom when we hear again tomorrow from Ron Deal and Dr. Greg Smalley. I hope you can join us. On behalf of Davin and Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-09 15:30:53 / 2023-01-09 15:41:57 / 11

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