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Understanding Your Spouse's Emotions (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
May 25, 2021 6:00 am

Understanding Your Spouse's Emotions (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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May 25, 2021 6:00 am

Drs. David and Jan Stoop discuss the concept of emotional intelligence‚ and the ability to understand your emotions, as well as your spouse's. The Stoops explain how bettering that understanding can help you improve and strengthen your marriage. (Part 2 of 2)

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Ken spends a lot of time away from home working on the pipeline in Alaska, but our podcast has become his lifeline. Focus on the family has helped my marriage by leaps and bounds. You give us so much meat and potatoes to think about.

It just keeps us grounded, keeps me grounded. I'm Jim Daly. Together we can bring real hope to marriages like Ken's.

Give today at FocusOnTheFamily.com slash Real Families. She might come to bed and say, are you going to pray? And I say, nope, because I'm still mad. She says, well, I am. And she would pray by the time she was done praying, my heart had softened and I prayed. That's the late Dr. David Stoop, and we're going to be hearing more from him again today on Focus on the Family along with his wife, Dr. Jan Stoop. And our host is Focus President and author, Jim Daly.

I'm John Fuller. John, something I find fascinating is that the Bible is full of emotion and emotional people. Just read a couple of pages from the book of Psalms. You'll see displays of frustration, grief, anger, and joy. God gave us feelings for a reason, but although it's not good to suppress our emotions, we also can't let our feelings harden our hearts or control us. Last time we shared a great conversation about how God wired us emotionally and how we need to understand what our guests call the BEP, Basic Emotional Posture. And from there, we can trace our feelings back to their original source and use that to figure out why we say things we regret to our spouse. Because let's be honest, we've all done that at one time or another, except for you, right, John? I have gone at least an hour without saying something I regretted to my dear wife. See, you achieved it.

One hour is pretty good. And that's why I'm really glad that we're having this conversation again with David and Jan Stoop to help me improve my emotional intelligence score. I shared I didn't do so well in the last program, so I've got lots to learn.

We all have a lot to learn, John. So let's dive back in and share the second half of our conversation with the Stoops. And if you missed Part One or you'd like to take that free emotional intelligence assessment, the Smart Love Assessment, stop by the episode notes.

You'll find the link there. And as I mentioned last time, Jan Stoop is a counselor and leader of marriage retreats. And she did that for many, many years with her husband, the late Dr. David Stoop. Together, they wrote the book, The Emotionally Healthy Marriage, Growing Closer by Understanding Each Other, that was previously titled Smart Love. And you might hear that in the program today. We, of course, do have that book at our website.

Here's the second part of the conversation, first aired a number of years ago on Focus on the Family. Last time we talked about the SMART acronym, you mentioned these emotions, the BEP that we briefly talked about. Let's recap for folks very quickly, the SMART acronym and your BEP. Well, the SMART, the S stands for self-aware of my own emotions. And I've got to be aware of what I'm feeling, at least after the fact, as a beginning point.

And then in the midst of it so that I can grab hold of it and begin to manage it. I was going to say, OK, ladies, so you're all saying, many of you are saying, that's my husband. He doesn't understand. He's got no self-awareness. Self-awareness is the key.

They're sticking with us the rest of the way, I guarantee it. Don't be so quick to point your finger at him, because there's three others pointing back at you. So that's the S of SMART, then M. M is to manage my emotions, and I don't want to be controlled by them.

I want to be able to control my emotions in a healthy way. A is accountability. I'm being accountable to myself. I'm being accountable to my spouse, and I'm being accountable to other couples. And I think that's extremely important that we have other couples in our lives that know us and pray for us and share with us and care for us.

It's a good thing to do. OK, so we've got SMA. SMA, and then R is reading the other person, reading your spouse's emotions, which is empathy. I'm resonating with this one. I think this might be my weak link. I think sometimes I'm driving so hard I'm not hearing.

Was it a low point on your chart? I'll have to go back to my test. Oh, no, we have Gene on the line right now. No, we don't. Hang up, hang up, hang up. So that's reading your spouse, understanding your spouse. Their emotions. OK, guys, come on.

You've got to be there with me. I mean, this is not something that is natural. Well, the other word there is to build empathy so I can understand what you're feeling is a good thing.

Neither the R or the T are easy to do, but they become easier as you develop the skills of the S and the M. OK, so it kind of flows together like a river, gains a little more momentum. So what's the T? The T is together in the land of emotions. We're comfortable with each other emotionally. Enough to be in that world together.

When you look at people, and I know you do this therapeutically, you have them write down, if I'm remembering this correctly, what is it that is the perfect marriage? When you look five years out and if all the negative stuff could be taken out, what does it look like? Five years from now, three years from now, one year from now. Well, just five years from now. And then later, you boil it down to three years and then one year and it becomes a goal-setting process.

But the initial assignment is just, dream, five years. You meet me on the beach and I haven't seen you for a while and you tell me you have a perfect marriage and I don't believe it. So tell me why it's perfect for you. Yeah, and what do people say? That's what I want to ask. Oh, they say all the things that they wanted when they got married. Help me, tell me why. I want dreams.

Be specific. I want to be known by my partner. We have a comfortable life. Spend time together. We talk together. We travel together.

We do things together. And all the things that every couple wants to have in their marriage, it's like I want to get them to focus on those again. And then I say, oh, now if you're going to do that in five years, what would you have to be doing by three years? What would you have to be doing by next year? To get ready for it. To get ready for that, to move towards that.

We'll come back to that because I want to fill those boxes in, but I wanted people to have a taste of what your goal is. You know, what's interesting is the couples do it separately. They write their answers separately and then they share them. And they always say the same thing. There's just a different order.

Right, interesting, interesting. So let's get to the manage, the M of SMART, managing your emotions. Why is this war going on in our brains between the emotional part of us and the rational part of us? Because if you think about it, who doesn't want that better marriage?

Maybe not perfect marriage, but all the attributes you just talked about, it would be rational for us to aim for that. So we wouldn't use anger toward our spouse or shame or whatever it might be. Our rational brain is often subject to the emotional brain.

Yeah, that's scary, isn't it? And that's scary because we haven't, and managing my emotions means I've got to develop my rational side of my brain. When we've been wounded as kids, when we've adopted a basic emotional posture of anger or fear or shame or sadness, that's giving precedence to the emotional brain.

You give power to that. You give power to it and you depower the rational brain. So you've got to activate the rational brain. So there's a language for each of those four negative emotions. The language of anger is I should, you should or you shouldn't or you should or I shouldn't. The demand that I make on a situation, it's like somebody cuts you off on the freeway and we get angry because they shouldn't have done that.

Well, they already did it, so it's irrational. Gosh, you're just going right at my weak spot. What are you doing? Are we in a session here?

Do I have to pay you money? No. That's good. I mean, that's exactly right. What else can be done?

Pray for the guy. Yeah. And then there's sometimes somebody cuts you off and you don't even notice it because your mind is somewhere else and you're thinking of something else and you just automatically tap the brake and go on. It's like whatever.

Yeah. The language of fear is what if and what if this happened? What if that happens? And I always say if you're going to what if the negative, you have to what if the positive because only God controls the future. You can't control the future by what if-ing it. So you're talking about the possibility of the deal falling through. Well, you've got to say, well, but what if the deal stays together and succeeds, you know? Yeah. You've got to what if both sides.

Yeah. And then the language of shame and sadness is the same as if only. If only this hadn't happened. The regret. And the living in the regrets. Constantly though, like a vicious circle, right?

It just keeps going. So if you can identify the language of the emotion, you can begin to manage the language like the woman who was so angry that charred my door frame as she walked in the office. You know, I, I gave her an assignment to make a list of all the things she was angry about.

I said, get an eight and a half by 11. She, she make three columns and the first column lists all the things you're angry about. Well, she came up with 27 pages. 27 pages? Of things she's angry about.

I feel sorry for you guys. No wonder she scorched the sign walking in your door. And I said, now in the middle when you got to get all of what are the demands you're making?

And that's the language she uses, you know? So she says, well, when I come, when you come home from work and he had a pretty high level job and you see the table set, the candles are lit, the kids are in bed. You should know I want some time with you. Instead, you get up from the dinner and say thanks and go to the office and continue working. So that's the should. That's the should. Then I said, third column, you got to restate it as a desire, as a wish, as a want.

I want you to spend some time with me. And he's over here making notes. He said, well, I'll remember that next time. He probably never thought of it at all.

Never thought of it. Well, Jan, I want to pull you into that because, again, the language between male and female can be as different as Chinese is from English. That's right. So how does, how do you teach young women and women of all ages to better communicate with their husbands that don't speak their language? Yeah, but that thing of changing the language to the wants or desires, it's a mind blower about how that is heard by your mate. But, you know, a big part of what the women really, really struggle with is criticism.

So we have that thing that we can turn anything into a critical statement. Well, and that's the shame part, correct? And women do it more than men. It's been proven.

Let's ask Jan and me. Okay, no. But that's because they want things to change and get better. Correct.

They're desperate and they're using that tactic in order to hopefully evoke change, right? So that's the language of shame. Would that be fair? Right. To describe it that way? It would trigger anger too in the recipient. What does that language of shame sound like in the marriage? Just role play a little bit for us.

What does that sound like between a couple? Of shame? Oh, wow. You should have worn that shirt. You should have worn the other shirt? No, anything I say that can be critical can put … I can take it as shame.

Shame. So you say to me sometimes, I come downstairs, are you going to wear that shirt? And I think, well, I wouldn't have put it on if I wasn't going to wear it.

Pretty straightforward. I have a friend who had a situation like that. And then she may even remind me, well, you told me to tell you when things didn't match, but criticism is always an indirect way to ask for something. And if she had said to me, you shouldn't wear that shirt with those pants.

They don't go together. I'd say, oh, okay, because that was a clear statement. So there's a shaming in, and there's a trigger point for anger for the statement.

Anything critical. Are you going to wear that shirt? Because I'm thinking, you think I'm stupid.

I don't know how to put a shirt on. Well, and what's sad is these little paper cuts is what derails a marriage. Oh, yeah. It's not necessarily the big thing, whatever that might be, but it's this kind of stuff constantly. And many of them are critical remarks that we've made to each other.

Right. And it goes both ways. Men do it, too. You want to stand up for the ladies, too, because men can be critical and sharp and cutting and dismissive. Many women in the seminar will say, he's the one that does the criticism, because I can't live up to his demands.

Yeah. But it's difficult. But women are fighting it, too.

They're fighting it every way to try to figure out how can we get the kind of relationship we really want without ever having to demand. So I take away the demands. We've covered the S and the M, and now we've got to get to the A of SMART. A is accountability. Yeah. So what does accountability look like?

Can I say a word there? Over the years, we were part of a group of couples. Mostly they lived in the Bay Area, far from where we are, but we got together twice a year. But they were our prayer group, and they were our youth sponsors when we were youth pastors in a large church up in the San Francisco area. But anyway, they became our accountability group. So we had a lot of prayer, accountability with each other, and there were 10 of us. So we named ourselves the 10 of us. But somebody like that. The 10 of us.

That was creative. The 10 of us. But to be accountable to other couples is a magnificent way to work out this, too. We'd get together for a long weekend, someplace unique.

We were in the Sierras, and we were in the beach and different places. But always on the weekend, there was a time of sharing. And the guys dreaded it, but we did it. And so it would be our turn to share with the other four couples. And we would talk about what was going on in our life, what was going on in our kids. They prayed our son into sobriety and prayed us through that time. And it was just a time of accountability with each other.

And then the next day, somebody else would share, and we'd pray for them. We do that through a book club, Jean and I. We have five couples that are in a little book club. The books have become less significant than being together. And we do exactly that.

An update about everybody's life. Every couple's got to have that kind of context. As Christian couples, we need that kind of support. And that's accountable. But being accountable to each other and being an open book to each other. There's a lot of men in our area that their wives don't know the slightest idea how they stand financially.

And the man wants it that way. And that's counterproductive. That's being unaccountable. So it's a lack of trust. It's a lack of trust. It leads to a lack of trust. But it's a failure at accountability. And accountability maybe has some negative feelings to it from how you grew up. But the only way you're going to have a solid marriage that lasts into old age is to be accountable to each other and in love. And of course, we're talking to a couple who has been married 60 years. So you know what you're talking about. And there's something great about growing old together. Yeah.

Yeah, I totally agree with that. Jan, I do want, though, in this accountability area for ladies. I think wives struggle here because accountability can be wrapped in fear. You know, that fear that I don't know what my husband's thinking. I don't know what my husband's really doing.

You can put that into the context of he works late at night. And you can spin yourself into a whole lot of emotions that may or may not be accurate. You know, that intuition that begins to develop. How does a woman who's feeling that way, I'm not connected with my husband, this accountability area. But not to come across with the assumptions that you're doing something wrong or that you've done something wrong.

And you come at that accountability in a way that's not constructive. Yeah. Well, I would think, I don't know if someone worried about that has a girlfriend or whatever. But to begin to trust whether the trust really feels like real. But I am going to trust you. I am going to ask you things.

And I expect you to answer. But in the midst of it, the thing that keeps coming to my mind is the praying together. There's even a smidgen of hope that that husband is willing to even listen to you pray.

And then you hold hands or something like that. But praying together for Dave and I, since we began, what, 50 years ago. 40s. Yeah, 50 years ago. But anyway, we never missed a day. Even when he's traveling for Youth With a Mission, he used to travel into some really strange countries, not strange. Wonderful countries.

Different. Wonderful countries. And he would get a phone somehow. And we always touch base. And so this starts to build the trust that we're talking about here.

No, that's good. But they may not be able to get their husband on that level. We did a book years ago on when couples pray together.

And it's out of print, unfortunately. We did a survey of the couples who had agreed to do it. Because we'd get a commitment from them to do it for six weeks.

You know, AA says if you do something for four weeks, it becomes a habit. We figured with spiritual warfare, we ought to make it six weeks. But one lady wrote back and she said, my husband won't pray with me. He's not a believer. But he said, I'll let you hold me and you pray. And so they would hug each other and she would pray for them as a couple. And I always had thought that that was a beginning of something that God was going to use in a powerful way.

No, I like that. Accountability. There's something in praying together that is a gentle accountability that keeps you on course with each other. And we've had a fight in the evening and we pray at night when we go to bed. And she might come to bed and say, are you going to pray?

And I say, nope, because I'm still mad. She said, well, I am. And you never pray your partner into shame. She would pray. By the time she was done praying, my heart had softened and I prayed, you know.

And so there was that gentle accountability that regardless of what was going on, if we couldn't pray together, we still tried and we still did usually. Well, you shouldn't have worn those pajamas because those are the wrong color, you know. That pretty old thing. They don't match. They don't match the sheets. But mismatched pajamas, how could you do that?

I'm not praying with you. Obviously, there's some very serious things too. And couples are struggling with that. And that's the goal here is to help you do better in your marriage, in your communication. That's what it comes down to.

Okay, we've got the S and the M and the A and now we're going to R. And this, we need a little bit of time here because I think this could be one of the world's greatest deficits. And that's reading your spouse's or the other person's emotions. Well, like we said before, it requires my being aware of my own emotions and being able to manage my emotions because now I'm not threatened by your emotions.

And so I can speculate and a lot of it begins by speculating. And there's some action plans in there like looking for emotions in media and talking together about general emotions and getting to understand how you can read what the other person is feeling by things that you've talked about that were neutral. What is an example where you struggled with reading one another accurately or with deference?

Do you have an example in your 60 years of marriage? Sure, there are many. Let's see. A lot over the kids. Now you're speaking my language. Okay, come on. Give it to me.

Oh, we have different opinions of how much we should interfere, should we not? That's very difficult. And it's hard to come up with, you know, I know better. I was there.

I saw it. But to understand that all this has to do with how we are on it. So we try to get together on at least one point of what we're talking about. When we were dealing with our son's addiction, one of us would be kind and manipulable. The other one would be firm and trying to draw the line.

And every kid in that situation can play you against each other and walks away with whatever he wants. And what we had to learn was how to read each other's natural tendency but to have talked it through enough that we knew that we had to stay on the same page. We had to be kind and firm at the same time.

Couldn't divide that. Now let me ask you this in the context of marriage, though, where you have the husband who doesn't display a lot of emotion and you have the wife trying to discern, trying to read her mate's cueing, and you're lost in that because he's not given you a lot of signals. One of the things I tell wives is oftentimes I define the man as being afraid. So he's hiding.

He's hiding. He's fearful. And instead of him rejecting you, he's really afraid of what he's experiencing and he's hiding from you. So if you can operate on that principle that he's being motivated by fear, not by rejection, it can change the whole dynamic between you. So sometimes you have to help somebody do some empathy.

So let's not leave people there. Let's say some of the audience just said, yeah, that's the relationship I'm in, whether you're the husband or the wife. How do they unwind that?

How do they start tonight? How do they say, okay. You sit down after dinner and say, let's let the dishes go for 10 or 15 minutes and talk a minute.

I heard this thing on the radio today that kind of suggests that a lot of times you don't talk to me because you're hiding, you're afraid. And it goes back to what you learned as a kid from your mom and the way she disciplines you. Talk to me about what that was like when you were a kid. And if I can get him to talk about what he experienced as a kid. Jan knows almost everything that happened to me as a kid.

And I know almost everything that happened to her as a kid. We've over the years talked about it because it's affected our here and now. It wasn't locked into the past.

It was still operating in the present. It would be hard to have that appetite as the wife to say, I'm going to really listen and understand this. Can it be hard?

I would think it could be difficult, especially if you're upset. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Blame it on your childhood.

Heard that before. I'm just role playing with you because I want to really help people. Well, it's not just blaming it on my childhood. It's trying to understand the pattern of behavior that I get caught in without even thinking. And you need to, I need your help to pull me out of that. And then we've got to talk about some ways that I can experience your helping me pull me out of it. So you can keep me talking. We've got to at least touch on tea so we don't end with smart.

Let's end with smart. But we don't have a lot of time. So just one minute together in the land of emotions, the tea together. Yeah, it's together.

How comfortable are we together in dealing with our emotions? And the goal is to become comfortable with a whole range of emotions. Right. That'll be the result of doing SMAR. So smart.

If I do smart well, I will do the, I will be smart. You get the tea. Yeah.

So it all builds on itself. A safe place for both. Oh, I like that.

That's good. Not only that, but scripturally, and that's a great place to end this discussion, scripturally, that's what you want. I think the scriptural version of this is called becoming one flesh, right? Togetherness. That's what that's saying. Becoming one emotionally. One emotionally. So you really are complementing each other.

And I think putting a smile on the face of God when his design is being made in his image, male and female, is actually functioning because you are one. Yeah. And that is a beautiful picture of where I would want to be if you asked me the five-year goal. Hopefully, maybe that could be done in six months.

I don't know. But create that plan. The book even has an outline on how to create that plan. Where you want to be together, your spouse has to participate.

Don't create the plan without your spouse. That's true. That's right.

That'll be a disaster. And love is the end result. And love is never in the list of emotions because love is a different emotion.

It's designed to come and stay and grow. Whereas anger, fear, sadness, and shame, designed to come and alert you to something and then go away. It's a symptom. It's a symptom. And love is more than a symptom. Love is a way of life.

And that's our goal is to increase love. Wow. That is a great place to end.

I'm sorry we have to. Dr. David Stoup and Dr. Jan Stoup go online. Get the book. That's the point.

There's so many good resources. The assessment in there. I scored 98.

Can we move on please? I bet it's out of 120, so I feel like I failed. I'm already shaming myself here. Man, I always want to get an A. But it's just great tools to provide a pathway for you. And I want to thank both of you for being here, making the trip to Colorado. Sorry you had to leave sunny California. It was not a bad move. Okay, good. Good trip.

We're delighted. Well, we trust that you picked up some really good nuggets of truth to apply to your own relationship today. And as Jim said, if you're finding yourself to be a little frustrated with all of this, maybe it's because it's difficult to tread into this territory. And if it helps, give us a call and schedule a time for a free phone consultation with one of our caring Christian counselors. They can help you get started in understanding all these emotions and really to grow in intimacy in your relationship. And we'll encourage you to get a copy of David and Jan's terrific book, The Emotionally Healthy Marriage, Growing Closer by Understanding Each Other. And if you can make a gift of any amount to focus on the family today, we'll say thanks for joining our support team by sending a copy of this book to you. Your donation goes a long way toward helping couples and families around the world, so please donate as you can today.

The number is 800-AFAMILY, 800-232-6459. Or stop by the episode notes where we have all the links. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again 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 Conde, 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 Conde's timeless wisdom give you hope even while you're in your own season of Aftershock. Learn more about Aftershock at focusonthefamily.com slash store.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-14 10:52:37 / 2023-11-14 11:05:04 / 12

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