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Reconnecting With Your Spouse (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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March 4, 2021 5:00 am

Reconnecting With Your Spouse (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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March 4, 2021 5:00 am

If busyness, exhaustion, and distraction have caused you and your spouse to drift apart, listen in as Dr. Greg Smalley and his wife, Erin, offer practical suggestions for rekindling intimacy in a discussion based on their book "Reconnected: Moving From Roomates to Soulmates in Your Marriage." (Part 1 of 2) (Original air date: Aug. 11, 2020)

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Man, I knew my marriage was falling apart.

I just didn't know how to fix it. I felt like I would always be alone, even if I stayed married. At Focus on the Family's Hope Restored Marriage Intensive, we offer hope to couples in crisis so they can have the marriage they've always dreamed of. For the first time, I felt like my husband truly heard me. I've received some great tools from the counselors that have changed my life and my marriage.

To begin the journey of finding health, go to today. I think we put so much effort and energy into courting, dating, winning, putting that ring on her finger. What we notice is that oftentimes when we accomplish that, then our focus changes to all these other things. So figuring out job-wise, career-wise, having kids, staying involved with friends and family, all these things cry for our attention.

And there begins then a slow fade. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and our guest today, our Dr. Greg Smalley and his wife, Aaron. I'm John Fuller, and thanks so much for joining us today. You know, John, Gene and I have been married for, well, let me say a number of years.

Over 30, actually. That's awesome. Congratulations. It is awesome, and you and Dina have been, too. But some wonderful seasons together, and then there's those other seasons. We'll just put it that way. You know, someone said, I've been married 30 years, and 28 of them were great.

It's one of those lines. But, you know, we do want you to have a great marriage. That's what God intends for all of us, to be connected emotionally, spiritually, physically. And here at Focus on the Family, couples contact us all the time because they've drifted apart.

And it's kind of normal in this culture to allow that to happen. And today we're going to talk about how to counter that so you can invest in your marriage and your marriage can grow in a way God is honored. And we care about your marriage, and we want to give you the greatest potential to have the best marriage you can have. And Greg and Aaron Smalley head up our marriage team here at Focus, and they've written a number of books. We always enjoy talking to them. Reconnected, Moving from Roommates to Soulmates in Your Marriage is just out, and we've got that here.

The links are in the show notes. Greg and Aaron, it's always good to have you here. Welcome back. Oh, it's always such a pleasure. Yeah, we love it when you let us out of our offices to come down and join you.

I was going to say, what? Well, listen, you have written a wonderful book together, and you speak together and encourage couples to have strong, healthy marriages. So we're going to kind of put that to the test today. There was a point in your own marriage where you felt like things were drifting. And I you know what one thing I like about what we're doing, John, it is normal to have this happen. You don't have to be embarrassed as a Christian couple, particularly. But the tools to correct these things is what we want to talk about. So what was going on earlier in your marriage when you felt this drift?

And what does it look like? Well, I was stunned when Aaron sat me down and said, here's the bottom line. I love you. I'm committed to you for a lifetime. But I feel like we are nothing more than married roommates. And it was so surprising to me, because we were, I guess, as I look back, we were in a really hard season of just being super busy. We had young kids, we had started a new ministry, working with couples in crisis. So here we both have our master's degree and doctorate and counseling. And we're supposed to have this great marriage. We'd written books on marriage. And here I have my wife telling me that, yeah, we're nothing more than married roommates. And so I think it was just that that season that we were super busy, working a lot and just had drifted apart. And I didn't realize that I thought everything was going great.

And this I didn't know what she really meant by that. Like what, okay, what are you saying? Are we done? Are we, am I in trouble?

I was so taken back by it. So what were you saying? Well, I was just helping him understand. So I was available because I love them. Oh, you were helping him.

So I could just help him understand what was really going on. The truth is, is that most couples, when they get married, you know, they've been hard after pursuing each other. And so their focus is directly on one another.

And then they conquer, they get married. And then many other things start to take their eyes off of each other. You think about, you know, work and kids and just the pursuit of this new life. And that's what I was saying to Greg is that our eyes have not remained on each other. It's been this slow fade of we went from absolutely pursuing each other wholeheartedly to pursuing many other things wholeheartedly.

Yeah. Tell me about the safety pin in your, in your first travel experience. What was that all that was in courtship, but what was going on? So we just been engaged for a few months, I was moving from Phoenix, Arizona, to Denver, Colorado to attend Denver Seminary. So I asked Aaron, he wants you to come with me, we've got some friends, family, friends, you can stay with them.

See where we're going to be next year, we get married. And so I'd loaded up a U haul, I was going to tow my car behind. The only U haul that was available because I didn't pre book anything was one that had a stick shift.

And it just didn't, I really didn't have good experience driving. And it was a humongous one. Like we needed a little tiny one. And the only one left was this massive thing. It was like a 45 footer, you know, standard. It's quite where you went over by.

No. And so, so I thought I hooked everything up right. And so as I started so early in the morning, Aaron came over, we got in, said goodbye to my parents. And so as I started down the road, I think I popped the clutch too hard. And we kind of jerked four or five times down the road. And all of a sudden, he looked in a side mirror. And I see my dad, you know, this famous author, Gary Smalley running after the truck.

And I'm, I'm like, it's embarrassing. Oh, he told her Yeah, it's time to cut the cord. What is he doing?

And he ran marathons. So I'm like, he can at least go for 26 miles here. Following me. Just like just pull over. He probably wants one last hug. I pull over, roll the window down in as he comes right up. I'm kind of reaching for him to give one last hug. And he goes, Greg, you idiot.

Like, wow, that's one way to kick me out of the nest, so to speak. He goes, Don't you see what's in front of our house still? And as I really scanned through the rear view mirror, I could see my car that was on the trailer still at one time. Left behind. I guess when I popped the clutch, I knocked the whole thing off the hitch.

Didn't install it right. Whatever I did. But there it was. I tell you, what stands out is Erin laughed and laughed and laughed for like 10 minutes. She thought that was the cutest thing that I wouldn't check to see if the safety pin was in right. And that's so true, right? About marriage early on in our marriage. Everything's funny and adorable and cute.

All these things that begin to irritate us. Because it just wasn't the car. Because I can remember we're, you know, 20 miles outside of Phoenix. And I said, you know, do you have directions?

Do you have a map? Because before, this was before, you know, GPS and everything else and I thought it was so sweet that he had no idea where we were going. We were just going to follow signs.

Okay. So then things, you get married and things begin to change. Very much so. Those aren't so cute anymore.

I wish I could have seen the indication of what I was signing up for. But, you know, those things are cute and funny back then. They become irritations and annoyances. And often we can become bitter and begin to believe, what in the world? I married this, the wrong person.

And, you know, the truth is this slow fade sets in. And we can become roommates and isolated and lonely. And that is not what marriage was created to be.

Yeah, I hear this all the time. So as we work with couples, as we're out doing events for focus, we hear this. People come up and say, we love each other. We're just, you know, we're committed, but we're just so disconnected. We feel like nothing more than married roommates.

And so Aaron and I went on sort of this journey to go, well, what does that mean? So if John is saying that he feels like roommates, if you're saying that, if we're saying that, does that mean the same thing to everybody? And what we discovered by interviewing and studying all these couples that it seemed like there were about 10 major things that stood out that caused people to feel like the roommates. And so we went, all right, let's take those 10 things, help people understand why it happened.

And then what's one, just one solution for each one of those 10. And that's really the book. And that's why we're thrilled. And I tell you, it's made such a big difference, even in our own marriage. Aaron, let me ask you in this, this roommate, I guess, comparison you use in the book, this idea of soulmate roommate.

So elaborate on both of those. We heard, we hear this a lot from couples, especially when they're hurting that I've met my soulmate. And so just the world's definition of soulmate, just we hate it.

We don't like it. And so really what we're talking about soulmate in the instance of this book is that there's one person that you have made this covenant relationship agreement with. Kind of a biblical context, right? That the two shall become one. And that one you're saying is like a soulmate.

Yes. And that you're experiencing the deepest levels of connection and intimacy possible this side of heaven, that we are having those deep conversations, deep connection. We're experiencing sexual intimacy. We're, you know, we're doing life together.

We're best friends. And it is, that's what a soulmate is. And I love experiencing that with Greg and it's a lifelong journey that we're committed to forever till death do us part. And we're going to get more into that as we describe the attributes of the book. But Greg, you also use this combination of wild beasts, the little foxes that attack or affect your marriage. What are you getting out there?

Yes. So King Solomon, as he was getting married, his fiance told him that, listen, you need to guard our relationship. You need to catch the little foxes that will come into our vineyard of love and destroy it. And what she was saying is that there are some big wild beasts out there, bears and lions who certainly would do damage, but it's actually these small little foxes, these little creatures that can invade our marriage that we really need to guard against.

The research is so clear that couples certainly will divorce. You know, if there's been some infidelity or some of these big things, but more often what you hear is, well, we just fell out of love. We just drifted apart. There's irreconcilable differences.

Those are the little foxes. It's a, it's a slow fade. We get married super quick. We, we find this person, we court this person and we get married.

And then over time, there's just this tiny slow drift. Greg, you helped develop something that's been incredibly successful here at Focus, the focus on marriage assessment. And you've had, you know, we have had like 800,000 people take this assessment.

So the, the data is now extremely meaningful. And what are some of those common struggles that are being lifted up in that assessment? What are the like top three most common things that are separating people emotionally, physically, spiritually? Yeah, the three top three areas that people struggle in are these little foxes.

It's so interesting how even our own assessment bears that out. So number one is they're just unhappy about their sexual relationship. So maybe they're sexless, they're not having sex or it's just not as often or something's going on. Another one is conflict is Aaron kind of talked about, we're just not able to really work through the problems that are there.

So just kind of sweep them under the rug. And so it's just frustrating. And then communication is another one. And what they're saying is that we're just not talking.

Yeah. Now, the problem is that they are talking, but they're just not talking about the things that bring life to their relationship. For a lot of couples that we've worked with who are struggling in their communication, they're talking a whole lot about to do lists and tasks and who's going to pick up the milk and whose turn is it to pick up the kids from wherever. And they get stuck in a rut that monopolizes their communication, which over time, that becomes boring. Or if I start to believe, and by the way, this happened to me, there came a moment in our marriage that I honestly thought, I don't really enjoy talking to my wife.

And I just I wanted to be off by myself and be in the man cave in because what was happening is that all of our communication focused around finances, who's doing what tomorrow, it was just one big business meeting. And it's funny because we'll ask couples as we travel and speak, you know, what percentage of time do you spend talking about, you know, business stuff? What percentage of time do you administrate your marriage? And it's funny because they'll kind of sit back and then they'll go, it's really about 90% of our time. That's where we're spending our time. And how life giving is that to a marriage? The thing is, is we're often not aware of it.

So we don't know. That's what we're doing. Well, go ahead and find out more about some of what we're talking about today in the great book, Reconnected, Moving from Roommates to Soulmates in Your Marriage, written by Dr. Greg Smalley and his wife, Erin. And we do have that here at Focus on the Family.

Give us a call, 800-A-FAMILY, or check the show notes for the link. Let me ask you this again for that person listening and they're, okay, am I in that roommate phase or am I in the soulmate phase in my marriage? Let's give some description to that roommate. You identified several characteristics that the married roommate experience is like.

Give me some of those. Yeah, so someone might feel that exhaustion to where they just don't have anything to give. It might be a really, really busy season. And that's what Erin and I were talking about. When we felt like roommates, it was because we were so invested in all these other things. So we were just constantly busy so there wasn't any time. Okay, let me ask you this, though. We live in a busy culture.

Totally. I mean, we've got the smartphones and we're connected 24-7 to the world and it just feels like you're carrying a heavy load each and every day. So just in that area, what can you do to say, okay, let's change something?

One of the things that really stood out, a guy named Dr. John Gottman, fantastic marriage researcher, found that oftentimes throughout any given day couples are doing something called bids for connection. It's like this. So recently Erin and I were driving down the road and we hit a stoplight. So we're just sitting there and all of a sudden I went, whoa, look! And approaching was my very favorite vehicle, like my dream vehicle.

Like if I was to have this unlimited supply of money, this is what I'd get. It's a Ford F-150 Raptor. I love it.

It's definitely a guide truck. Yeah, it means nothing to me. I'm like, oh, nice. But what Greg did, as he said, oh, look at that. And he goes, hey, by the way, that was a bid for connection that I just read all about it this morning. John Gottman talks about when we throw out these little, like, hey, there's that truck. I love, we have a choice in how we respond to it. So then of course, I was like, oh my word, a Ford Raptor.

It's so exciting. In other words, when we do this constantly, so I go, hey, look, the Ford Raptor, she had a choice in that moment. She could have gone, who cares? Pretend she's sleeping.

We're never going to get one. Or she could have said, who cares? Like we could never afford one of those. But instead what she did is she went, whoa, that's really cool. Like, is that fast? And I went, it is so fast for a truck. Why is it so expensive? What's so special about it? And just began engaging and asking questions about it.

What color would you get if you got one? Yeah. And that's a bid for communication.

It just created a little micro connection for us. And I'm telling you, those happen throughout the day. Erin will come home, you know, I haven't seen her. She'll come home and maybe she got to go shopping for a quick second. Aaron loves to bargain shop. So every time she bargained shop, she'll come in and instantly find, seek me out.

And she'll go hold up an outfit and she'll go. Guess how much this originally was. Now I shop once a year. I hate going to the mall.

It's all done online. So when she holds up an outfit and goes, guess how much this cost originally? I mean, I have a choice that is a bid for connection. I can go, I don't care. Does leave me alone or was watching the show?

Coaching all those guys. What do you say? $500. Well, go high. So I, I will say like 99 bucks and she'll go, no, not even close. It was like 105.

And I'm thinking that was pretty close. But anyway, guess what I paid. Now I've learned that you got to go under $10.

If she's that excited, I don't know, like eight bucks, no 699. And we just have this tiny little connection. And that over time, those little micro connections add up and it actually creates stronger connections between us. Now, is this going to cure everything?

No, it's just one of those little tools that we've started using that makes such a big difference. It's the awareness that I'm trying to connect with you. I love what, as I work with couples just to say, you know, there'll be complaining out. He talks about these boring things and on and on. And I'll say, but when he brings those up, what he's really saying to you is I want to connect with you. And they're like, really?

Wow. That, that is really good insight that may change my communication right there. But let me, let me get some of the others because people are, again, they're thinking, am I in that roommate phase? We've talked exhausted, busy.

Let me just really quickly go through the list and then we'll come back to some of these, but exhausted, busy, pragmatic, gentle, neglect, complacent, spiritually distant, conflict avoidance, sexless, disengaged, unsafe, and visionless. I mean, if someone's hearing this and going that describes my marriage, I mean, this is what this is for. This is for you.

I want to move to another story you have, Greg, that illustrates one of these points. And that is when you're a kid, I so identify with this. You took a piano lesson.

Oh, man. And I think it used a metronome. Oh, it was horrible. I hated taking piano lessons.

I wanted to be outside with my friends. And all I can remember, and my poor piano teacher would be horrified, but she would set this metronome, this little wooden thing that tick, tick, tick, tick back and forth. It taught you beat?

Well, I thought it was hypnotizing me, so I would stay in my chair. But what it actually does is it teaches pace. It teaches rhythm so that you don't have to pay attention to time.

And in life, everything's coming at us. And we need sort of this internal metronome, something that helps us to be able to create a rhythm and a pace so that we can stay full, so that we have things to then give our spouse. And what Aaron and I have learned is that, again, a lot of things can help you kind of develop this inner metronome, this rhythm, this godly rhythm. But what Aaron and I have realized that if you pay attention to what gives you rest, and then to what gives you life, if you figure out, okay, this is what truly gives me rest, and what gives me life, what brings my heart alive, and invest time and effort into those things, then I have more to give her. That's how we kind of manage this inner rhythm that we need so that we stay full. Yeah, so often we want to cut things out and, you know, pair the schedule down.

Great, if there's things that you can cut out. But I know in my life, there's things, I'm in a busy season with kids and work and ministry, and I'm in a busy season with kids and work and ministry. And so it's important to recognize, I have the opportunity, and it's my job to make sure that I'm full. So when I come home, I don't serve the leftovers that I, you know, what is it that brings me rest, you know, maybe it's sleep, maybe it's sitting and reading, you know, whatever it is for you, versus what brings me life, what brings my soul alive, is it being outdoors, whatever, that then I have more to give. Now in that context, you're saying yourself, but what we want to do today before we wrap up here, and let's come back next time, we'll continue the discussion, because there's so much more in this great book that you've done. But let's end where we can give folks some examples of how to reunite themselves. So we've described this roommate kind of marriage culture that we have, we're so busy, we've identified these 9, 10, 11 things that separate us.

What are some things, some ideas that we can change tonight and tomorrow, and as we move forward, what are just a couple things we can do that reunites us as a married couple? I think it's so important to recognize, Jim, that there's an opportunity to build a stronger attachment between the two of us. We build this attachment with our kids, and we do it pretty naturally, but it's just recognizing that there's things specifically I can be doing to strengthen that connection, and it's really, am I available? When Greg wants to sit and connect with me, am I open to that? Does he know I'm available to him? Am I reaching for him?

Am I turning towards him, or am I leaning away and turning towards other things? So it's important just to recognize we're building that strong connection between the two of us. One of the key things too, and I know many couples that have done this, is especially in the busy child rearing season, is to carve even just 10 minutes together and tell your kids who run around at five, six, seven, nine, hey, you know, this is mommy and daddy time. We're going to just spend a few minutes together because we want to love on each other, and we want to make sure you see us loving on each other, but go away, and don't interrupt us. And actually, it's great for kids to see that because now we're a marriage-centered home, not a kid-centered home. And that's important. But is that something that you guys have done?

We do. We told our kids that 8 o'clock was bedtime because it was now mom and dad time. And if you get up, if you're bothering us, then we will take time from you tomorrow, and you'll sit in time out or whatever to teach them so that they understood that.

You know, you mentioned this idea of 10 minutes, and believe it or not, that's actually the researchers found that if couples spend 10 minutes a day just talking, not about schedules and to-do lists and administrating their marriage, but actually talk about the inner life. Like, how are you feeling? What are you thinking about, dreaming about?

What's creating anxiety? Things like that. The inner life. If I explore and pursue Aaron's inner life for 10 minutes a day, they found that that makes such a huge, huge difference. Isn't that amazing? That little time. I know. When I heard that, I was like, I can do that.

I can find 10 minutes. And I asked Greg, what was the high of your day? What was the low of your day? And just knowing that, just doing that, I'm hearing about what's going on inside of him.

Not about work or schedules or whatever, but more about what is inside of him in his heart. Yeah. I just love the Lord creating us in that way, that he said, you know, I can make this so easy for you guys. You can do this.

Just spend 10 minutes like this. Greg, I want to end on a funny story you had in the book, which was most of us guys will now want to overcompensate, right? And you had a thing with the family camp that I thought was hilarious, because that's what I would do.

Explain what happened. Well, so part of what happens for people is that when we're feeling disconnected and we're busy and we're investing all this time into other things, then we place so many expectations and hopes on big things like vacations and in holiday time. So as we were headed to a camp as a family, I had built this up where it was going to be this most incredible experience. We were going to be connected and have fun and laugh and play. And we're going to walk away. The kids would say, I love you, Father.

Exactly. You're the greatest parents of all time. And so the very first morning, so after a restless night of sleep, we're just walking over to the breakfast hall and two of our kids get into this huge argument. And the one gets so mad that she goes, I'm done with this family. And she walks off. And this is family camp. This is the beginning of our connection and reconnection is a family. Well, I lost it. I started yelling at the family.

You guys make me sick and we're supposed to be having fun. And by the way, we were the teachers. Everybody's watching.

We couldn't find our daughter who's now wandered off. Well, finally she came back to the cabin. I had everybody in the cabin. I stood up. I lectured. I told them that you are going to have fun.

We will enjoy it. And then I connected and I stormed out. I was so mad. So Aaron follows me kind of down the lake area. And she's like, what's going on? And I'm like, it's your children.

They're driving me crazy. And the more we talked, actually, what I realized through Aaron's just great questions is that I had built this up and I had so many expectations and hope for the time. And upon realizing that I was able to let those go, came back to the cabin, pulled everybody together.

And I said, listen, my hope is that we do connect, but I'm not going to worry and I'm not going to force this to happen. And I think a lot of times that's what couples do is they kind of, they exist between date night to date night, vacation to vacation. And it's all that other time that they're not using. So thus when they're on the vacation, it's built up and those experiences can't deliver the connection that we long for, which is really why in the book, we've taken these 10 things.

There's an assessment that you can take that will pinpoint which of these 10, maybe it's multiple things that you're, where are you struggling? And then we give just a real easy, simple solution to each one of those, those 10 things. And it's made such a difference to where now Aaron and I don't operate between date night to date night.

We don't operate between vacation to vacation. We're finding these other small ways to connect that makes such a big difference. And that is so good. And we do want to come back next time, continue the discussion, but Greg and Aaron, this has been really informative. And let me tell you guys, focus is here for you. And we want you to call us and get in touch with us and let us know where you're hurting, where you're coming up short.

Maybe it's okay. We all do. And I love Greg and Aaron's willingness to share that. So get in touch with us and we'd love to put this book into your hands. We'll send a copy to you when you become a monthly partner of Focus on the Family. You can pledge any amount today to the ministry and we'll get this resource into your hands as our way of saying thank you. We rely on your support. Your prayers and financial gifts give Focus on the Family the means we need to provide resources like Hope Restored, our intensive counseling effort, or our counseling team for those hurting individuals that need some help.

So please join us today in this ministry effort. And if you can't commit to a monthly amount, we'll send you a copy of Reconnected for a one-time gift as well. And you can donate and get your copy of Reconnected when you call 800-232-6459.

That's 800, the letter A in the word family, or check the link in the episode notes. By the way, when you're at the website, we mentioned that free marriage assessment. Go ahead and take that. It's really helpful. It takes just five or ten minutes to fill out and it really is, as Jim said, very, very insightful about where you're at in your marriage.

Again, all that is on the website. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks so much for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ. When a woman discovers her husband's struggle with pornography, she needs a practical plan. The latest book from Focus on the Family, Aftershock, by professional counselor Joanne Condy, will help you through the seven steps of self-care. And you'll learn how to deal with the emotions involved in the discovery of your husband's addiction. Let Joanne Condy's timeless wisdom give you hope even while you're in your own season of Aftershock. Learn more about Aftershock at slash store.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-18 17:47:04 / 2023-12-18 17:59:43 / 13

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