In 1 Corinthians 728 it says, But those who marry will face many troubles in life.
And so it says in Scripture, when you get married you're going to face difficulties, you're going to face hardships. And I always say, thank goodness we can do that together. There's not another person that I would want to face some of the trials, some of the troubles that we've experienced over 30 years of marriage.
I wouldn't want to go through any of that without Greg. That's Erin Smalley sharing some really good insights and encouragement about marriage. And she and her husband, Dr. Greg Smalley, joined us last time to share a few of their romance secrets that they've identified to help couples build a stronger, healthier relationship. The Smalleys have more to share today on this Valentine's episode of Focus on the Family.
Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, last time we talked with Greg and Erin, I thought in very practical ways about marriage not being about combat but negotiation and just how do we move beyond our triggers emotionally and find healthy ways to resolve conflict, even though they didn't like that word, conflict resolution. But, you know, these are helpful things. And, you know, part of the goal here at Focus on the Family is to help equip you to have the best marriage you could have. And certainly we all need it. Jean and I need it.
I'm sure you and Dina need it. But it's part of human nature to be self-centered and to be, you know, a little bit prideful about what we think is right and who's wrong usually isn't you. That's wrong, right?
It's the other person. And we covered a lot of that. So if you missed it last time, go back, get the download, get the smartphone app, whatever you need, and you can listen at your leisure. But I thought it was really good content.
Yeah. And what's great about the Smalleys is they bring so many great stories to the table. It's not just head knowledge, it's heart knowledge and experiential. And we're so glad to have them back. They've captured a lot of stories and insights in a terrific resource, Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage, 12 Secrets for a Lifelong Romance. It's a terrific book and we'd encourage you to get a copy.
We have details in the show notes or call 800, the letter A, and the word family. Greg and Aaron, welcome back. Thanks for coming down the hall.
Thank you. I always love saying that because most guests are coming from across country, right? But it's so fun to have you here. I'm grateful that you guys have planted yourself here at Focus on the Family, doing such a great job with the marriage outreach. We love it. It's really been wonderful to watch that blossom, really. And people are benefiting from it.
Their marriages are benefiting from it. So thanks for leading that overall effort. We really appreciate it. Let's jump back in. It was so much fun last time.
Hopefully the listeners, the viewers enjoyed that. You guys are so transparent. That's what I love.
It's just right out there. And here's how we argue. This is what we argue about.
We know it's stupid, but this is how you repair that. It was just so refreshing because so many of us as couples, we're struggling with the same stuff. Totally. You know, and it just equips us to, I think, think the right way and therefore do the right thing. Let's discuss the importance of husbands and wives spending time together. Now, when you're doing this, spending time together is not about the budget.
I mean, sometimes that's true. You got to do that. But what's your definition of spending time together? What's that look like for each of you? I would say, Jim, that there's this deep longing inside of each of us to be fully known. So therefore, when we're spending this deeper level time, because like you said, we can talk about the budget, we can have conflict, we can small talk. But there's something about, I always say, going under the waterline and really seeking to know what's really going on inside of Greg, what's going on inside of his heart, as well as me sharing what's going on inside of me. There's something so it's such a deep need inside of each of us to be fully known in that way.
And I was interesting. We at our marriage events will ask the crowd at some point to have them rate what percent of their time, their communication is devoted to just managing the family, business meetings, talking about task, who's going to pick up kids who's run into the store, that kind of stuff. And it blows my mind that on average, it's about 90% of our communication is around almost like administrating our marriage, having a business meeting. And the problem is, if that's all we end up talking about, quite honestly, the marriage can get boring. Like if I know that anytime Aaron and I are going to talk, we're probably going to work out who's doing what or whatever, it robs us then of really, as Aaron was saying, learning and updating each other below the waterline. We call that inner life conversation. The problem is that that sort of conversation when I'm finding out, how are you really feeling? What's stressing you out? What do you dream it about? What, whatever, what's going on in your life?
That stuff will never happen on its own. Right. I'm smiling because I think so many men are lost in this. And I'm one of them, too. You know, Jean would say to me, we need to communicate. Well, we're talking right now. This is communication, right? But she's meaning what you were saying, Aaron.
I want to go deeper. And sometimes there's that ad. I can't even tell you what the ad is for, but it's like football wives. They're on the field chasing down football players. And one of them is chasing a football player saying, I just want to talk.
And the guys running scared. It's kind of a metaphor for how many husbands can feel at times that I don't know what you're talking about. Let's talk. We've been talking all morning.
Yeah. And it can sound overwhelming when you think about, yeah, I want to talk. It's so interesting because the research is really clear that if a couple spends 10 minutes a day talking at that deeper heart level that they can have a relationship that is thriving.
So it's just going, how do we create that space just to check in? And I know for Greg, he likes to know what we're going to talk about. So, you know, sometimes I'll ask him, you know, what was the high of your day? What was the low of your day? You know, what's stressing you out? What are you dreaming about? What are you looking forward to in the next month?
So just some very specific questions. It helps him to not be so flooded when I say, hey, I want to talk. Yeah. And we've actually figured out two things around this that have made such a huge difference in our 30 years of marriage. And one is that we're now at the end of the day. So as we're both laying in bed and I've been initiating this, that I'll ask her, yeah, what was the higher of your day in the lower of your day? And then we just have a quick just back and forth. She asked me and then I will say, what's one thing that I can pray for you about tomorrow? And the time we spend doing that maybe is around 10 minutes, but I'm telling you, it so connects me to her that there's a way in which that I keep updated, like I keep current with what's going on in her life.
So that's been one thing that's made such a big difference. The other, and this is really my favorite, is that we've started playing a card game while we eat. Okay.
Elaborate. After 30 years of marriage, this is what we now do. Okay. So it's monopoly deal and it's just it's a fun little game, but we're playing something which hits on my love language. We're doing something like as much as Aaron says, you know, just, you know, I want to spend this deep time talking that that doesn't necessarily do it for me. I like to be doing something together. So we're playing the card game and then I'm just simply asking her, tell me about your day. We just get in these great conversations. It's your role. Hey, what are you doing?
Hey, you can't take my property. But it's not it's not like this high paced, challenging game that you've got to think about. It's just mindless. So we're doing something together, having fun. So we're laughing and we're talking in both of those things.
So what we're doing right before we go to sleep, just kind of catching up and then doing something, having fun. And again, over dinner, I never would have thought we actually take these cards when we go out to a restaurant and we'll just simply play and talk because it gets me because I'm doing something fun and I'm more likely to talk. And what I love about it is I love to talk. I mean, I can talk at any point, but I love that Greg is being able to experience what helps him to warm up into the conversation.
You're not looking over at the restaurant, looking at people, looking at you. You know that he's doing something exactly that he's doing something fun. And then I get to lean in and have fun, too, and talk. And I like to talk. Yeah, that's good. It's fun to find a groove, if I could use that term to get that going. And that's that's great that you guys have done that.
We tend to eat dinner and then we do board games after dinner, but I don't know that speed scrabble would work with spaghetti. We might give it a try. The two things that bubble up and when folks contact us, you, the viewer on YouTube or the listener, however you're listening. And we love the two way communication.
We don't want this to be a monologue. So we love when you get in touch with focus and let us know how a program strikes you or what help you need. That's why we're here. And the two things that bubble the most in marriage are finances like we just talked about. You know, that little epiphany, maybe we need to do something differently. And then physical intimacy. I mean, those are the two things that will come up over and over in marriage.
Communication would be in that same spot. But speak to the way that we in the Christian community talk or don't talk about physical intimacy. The damage that the don't talk about it does to us and then how that becomes dangerous to a marriage.
And you're exactly right. So many couples are not talking about this gift that God has given us in marriage. The wedding present.
Yes. And so, so often there's such a misunderstanding as well about what it is like. Is it what is this physical intimacy and what is the purpose of it? And really looking at so often we think, well, you know, we don't I don't think we do this on purpose. But sometimes we end up thinking like this is for me to be pleased to be served versus looking at this physical intimacy as a gift. That in many ways, like Greg was saying earlier, that we both matter and really looking at how do we pursue this in a way that feels good to both of us. Yeah, that's good.
Right before our wedding night, you know, my dad did the classic. Hey, son, you know, I want to I want to share a couple of things. I forgot a few things. Yeah. Yeah. So I'm like this is about it.
Thankfully, I think I've covered that ground with Trenton Troy, but I don't want to do that on his wedding. And it was I mean, I got his heart and it was actually sweet advice. But the advice itself, though, now I disagree with it. Basically, here's what he said to me. He goes, son, you know, as you and Aaron experience that physical intimacy, you know, that that wedding present, as you put it, he goes, your your job is to be a servant. This is this is about you really thinking about her, her needs, serving her, pleasing her in looking back now.
I again understand what he meant. But the problem is, is Aaron talked about that this needs to be about both of us. This just isn't about me thinking about Aaron and how do I serve and please her. I have to matter in that as well. In what Aaron and I believe, if both the husband and wife come together in a way to where they are serving one another. But and thinking about what do I want?
What do I want in this moment of us being together? That if you're thinking about both, everybody has to matter to each person, you know, so often. And I'm seeing it more and more that post covid women are carrying a lot of anxiety, anxiety as well as, you know, you think about everything that a mom or a young wife carries, you know, career and home stuff. And, you know, kids and on and on.
It's just a lot. And so often what I encourage them to think about is what's getting in the way for you as far as creating space to prepare to engage with your husband in this way and really evaluating what is it that's getting in the way? Is it that I'm carrying a lot and that I'm anxious and, you know, which makes sense.
But then, you know, or is it hormones or is it a season of life? And but then what do I do in really fighting for this connection with your spouse, with your husband? And looking at what is it that's getting in the way?
Is it prior abuse? You know, going in and seeking counseling, going in and talking to your doctor about hormone difficulties or whatever it is. And I would say the best thing you can do is talk to each other about it, because often what we end up doing is assuming, you know, if he's not pursuing me, well, then he doesn't find me attractive or, you know, what's going on over in his yard. And so it's just looking at open up that dialog in a way that feels good to both of you. And if that means going in and sitting with a third party, with a pastor, a mentor, a counselor, do that. You know, we were in and we're seeing a couple in a counseling session not too long ago. And I love hearing how you challenge this wife going in.
By the way, you will enjoy this as well. Like this is for not just his benefit and for the relationship connection. But this is actually so you can enjoy this because she kind of her her belief is growing up in her family, whatever. Even in the Christian culture was this just about me pleasing my husband or this is the right thing that we should do for a marriage. And she was left out of that equation.
Yeah. And really looking at. Yes, it benefits women and men. It benefits our marriage. I actually wrote an article, something like the 10 benefits of physical intimacy for a woman. And there are benefits.
It lowers your stress level, is physically a positive thing for you. So it's just looking at that women. We matter, too, in this whole thing of physical intimacy.
Yeah. And again, it's a touchy subject. But the Christian community, we need to talk about it. And if you don't know who to talk with about this topic, give us a call here. We have caring Christian counselors.
Our number is eight hundred. The letter A in the word family. We're stopped by the show notes. You can learn more about our counselors and about the great book that our guest today.
Greg and Erin Smalley have written. It's called Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage. Twelve secrets for a lifelong romance. I was really intrigued by a quote in the book, and it kind of goes back to what we talked about yesterday with Sun Tzu, the art of war, which again, I read in my business classes. I didn't apply it to my marriage.
It seemed a little dicey, but you did. And you said in the book, every great love story is set in the midst of war. That sounds odd. Who wants to explain it? Well, one is because we have an enemy who hates marriage.
I love that analogy. God created marriage in anything God created, Satan hates. So war between good and evil, not between husband and wife necessarily. It'll manifest that way.
And so because what's interesting is that, you know, Aaron, I've been married 30 years in something that I just so now understand is that that what Aaron and I can accomplish together is far greater than anything we could have done on our own. There's a synergy there. The unity, our oneness, that honestly, that's a superpower. And it's a threat to Satan.
Right. Because that way he knows what we're capable of, our marriage is capable of. And he fears that. And so he comes after us in all kinds of ways. And he does get us fighting. He wants us disunified.
He doesn't want us one and in unified operating together, pursuing something together. And so Aaron and I believe that we our marriage exists in a battlefield. And there are times that that battlefield then we become adversaries. And all of a sudden now we're fighting each other.
And yet if we can remember, first and foremost, that that's exactly what Satan wants, that he wants to take our our unity away. One of my favorite examples in this is still one of my favorite marriage stories. We were in the process of of purchasing a home and it was so stressful for me. I was worried about the finances and the budgets. And in as as my personnel will worry about those things, Aaron's a dreamer and I love her vision. And she can start imagining, you know, well, if we had this kind of furniture, this thing in issue would talk about these things. It was so stressing me out. And I could tell like I this one time we were sitting in the living room and all of our kids were home and the girls and I were talking about.
I said, oh, yeah, the buyers want, you know, that piece of furniture and this piece of furniture and this. And I'm like, yeah, because then we can just replace it with new stuff and just dreaming. And I was watching Greg. No, all of a sudden I go stop. Like I yell out, stop it. And it was so awkward. Everybody just slowly turned around and looked at me and I and I said, Aaron, you have promised me that you will stick to the budget and I'm overhearing you and everything you laid out would like triple our budget. And so Aaron gets up. So she's across the room, gets up and purposely comes right at me.
It stands over me. And for the first time in our 30 years, I really thought that she was going to scream at me or worse yet, you know, hit me. I don't know what was going to happen, but I've just she had that look and she gets right in my face and then she grabs my face and she holds me and gets right. I level and she goes, listen to me.
And I'm thinking, oh, man, I that was the straw that broke the camel's back. I'm in so much trouble. She goes, I love you.
We are on the same team and I will do nothing around spending money that isn't a win for both you and for me in this. And she plants the biggest kiss on me and then like it isn't like drops me no better. And it goes right back to the couch and starts talking with the girls again as if nothing happened.
But what would you have the kiss? What so struck me, though, is that in that moment I allowed Satan to rob our union, our oneness. I became Aaron's adversary. I saw her as my adversary. And in that moment, our unity was broken.
The fact that she came over there and did that restored that. Yeah. And what I will say is that 10 years ago, I probably could not have done that. But doing my own work, no, I'm meaning that I would have been triggered myself. But watching everything play out as like, you know, he's just worried that I'm not with him. And so I was able to kind of self soothe and keep my heart open. And then I was able to go over and just say, I remember looking deeply in his eyes and going, I'm not going to do anything that is going to harm our team because we're a team. Have you noticed a pattern every Friday night he wants to talk about the budget now?
He's waiting for the kiss. That's right. Let's talk about those together. You're spending way too much money.
I'll be like, I haven't spent any. But the opportunity is, is just recognizing there's all kinds of things that we're going to face together as a couple. And we can do that individually or we can do that together. And it kind of leads to this open closed heart idea that you also have in the book. Being aware, I would think, of an open and a closed heart between you. And then how do you try to keep more of an open heart more consistently?
Yes. And the key to that, what's so important is I used to think that Greg had to do something for me to get my heart back open. And that is not the case at all. I personally that God has given me my heart and has told me to guard my heart. And it's my job to keep my heart open. There's times it's going to close when we have, you know, a negative interaction or he screams stop from across the room.
My heart may close, but I have full ability to manage my heart and to get it back open. Me and God, we've got that. Well, that's a big statement you're making.
I'm sure some women are going, I don't know if I agree with that, but I get it. But that's a far healthier place to be. That it's not, well, either spouse, it's not the other one's responsibility to open or close your heart. I mean, probably we're closing each other's hearts more than we're opening them. But it's my responsibility to keep my heart open. And that means that I've got to show up and be aware of what's going on inside of me and continuing to grow in who I am as a person and in my faith and, you know, processing when my heart gets shut down.
Right. And really go to the greatest commandments. So this is sort of cheating because how do you argue against Jesus saying this is the greatest commandment to love God, to love others as you love yourself? That means that as I love me means to keep my heart open. If I'm going to love God, if I'm going to love others and Aaron is my closest other, that means that I've got to be doing the job of keeping my heart open and keeping my heart well cared for.
And that's really what what is meant within that verse, the as part of love God, love others as you love yourself. Yeah. And one thing that I want to clarify, too, is that sometimes that means setting a boundary.
Sure. And, you know, making making that line that, you know what, the way you're treating me is not OK, because often what we think is when we set that boundary, I'm doing it to keep Greg out. Really, when I set that boundary and I say, hey, that doesn't feel good to me, I'm setting that boundary to keep my heart open. And sometimes we don't recognize that is the purpose of that.
That's really good. And there's so much more in this great resource that you two have done. Let me ask you this, though, for the couple that they're hearing this going, wow, this is painting a picture of our relationship. Why is there such a probably a stigma would be a good way to describe it to get help. I mean, so many couples suffer in silence. They don't get the help they need. Sometimes it's both of them that don't want to get the help or one.
And it puts the other one at a great disadvantage because what do you do? And so speak to the stigma of not wanting help, but overcoming that. I mean, you're both counselors, so you're doing this every day. There's so much fear around going in. You know, what is this person going to say?
Are they going to blame me? And, you know, what am I going to become aware of some deep child? They show that actually I'm damaged and unlovable.
Those kinds of things. And what I love when a couple walks into my office, first and foremost, I will praise their courage for coming in because it does take courage to walk into a counselor's office. And then I say, you know, of course, you're here with this stranger and now you're sharing some deep heart things that, you know, you usually don't share with a stranger. So it takes time to build that connection, that safety within the counseling relationship. But the point in all that is the risk is your marriage is going to get better. That's the thing. That's the hope, right? Yes. I guess it's not guaranteed, but that is a more typical outcome.
And if nothing else, you're in a place that feels safe, that you can have some of those harder conversations with a third party who's able to help manage the level of safety in the room. Right. And if you know, the bottom line is if you've got concrete boots on this subject, you just can't move. You're you're feeling stuck as a couple. Call us here at Focus.
We've been at this for forty five years. I don't think you're going to surprise us. And we can be the initial start to getting you the help that you need. And don't hold back. It's a free call. I mean, we'll have a counselor get back in touch with you. But why not?
It doesn't even cost you anything. So why not start there? We have a great referral list of other counselors in your area, probably.
I think we cover most of the United States that we can refer you to a qualified Christian counselor even in your town or city. So let's do that. Give us a call.
Don't hold back. Get the help you need to have a more God centered, biblically oriented marriage today. Our number is 800. The letter A in the word family, 800-232-6459. Or you can learn more about our counseling services online.
The details are in the show notes. And also, obviously, this great book, Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage. What a resource to start reading together and talk about. There's 12 key secrets for a lifelong romance that Greg and Aaron talk about.
Just talk about those 12 things and read what they've said about them. That'll get you started in the right direction toward that North Star, really toward the Lord. And I think it'd be a great resource if you can send a gift of any amount. If you can do that monthly, it really helps us be part of the ministry, help save other marriages and help parents do a better job. Save a baby's life through supporting us every month.
Ten dollars, twenty dollars is terrific. And as a thank you, we'll send you the book and we can do ministry together. Join the support team as you can when you call 800, the letter A in the word family.
We're stopped by the website. The link is in the show notes. And we'd like to have you as well check out the Loving Well podcast that Greg and Aaron host, which addresses respect in marriage and cherishing your spouse and what it looks like to put Christ's love in the center of your relationship. Again, details about the Loving Well podcast are in the show notes. Greg, Aaron, thanks again for being with us. This is really fun and helpful. Thanks for having us.
Thanks. We won't say goodbye. We'll just say see you at lunch. And thank you for joining us today for Focus on the Family.
And next time we're going to hear from Deborah Pigay. She'll be describing how to have a more godly attitude. First of all, we were created for our purpose. And by faith, we're saved. By faith, we understand the promises of God. By faith, we believe that what God has said he's going to do. And when we believe it affects our behavior and our attitudes. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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