After four abortions, Distara finally learned the truth. I heard it from Focus on the Family, and they were talking about pro-life being a baby, a human being, in your stomach. And I was like, wow, that's pro-life.
I'm Jim Daly. Together we can rescue preborn babies and their moms, giving families hope. Donate at focusonthefamily.com slash gift, and your gift will be doubled. Something me and my spouse do is we pray together and also pray for each other. Yeah, I think the thing that's helped our marriage the best is going to bed at the same time every night. The way that I stay in love with my spouse is we have a date night every single week. Something I try to do with my wife is whenever she has an idea about how to do something, I make sure that I don't shut her down right away.
I want to make sure that she feels heard. We like to joke around with each other and tease each other. It helps us keep tough situations lighthearted.
Well, how about you? Do you think any of those ideas will work in your marriage? Today on this best of 2023 episode of Focus on the Family, we'll be reviewing some effective ways that you can enhance your relationship with your spouse. I'm John Fuller and your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly. John, earlier this year around Valentine's Day you and I recorded a conversation with our colleagues Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley about what it takes to build a lifelong love in marriage.
A good target. Indeed. This program was a big hit with the listeners and we're going to come back to it again today. Greg and Erin would be quick to admit that loving marriages don't just happen.
You need a lot of commitment and grace and forgiveness and seeking God's best. Again, another good formula for a fantastic marriage. And as you'll hear today, the Smalley's experienced all of those things through some of their crazy adventures together. They have really a wonderful sense of humor, very authentic. I think you will love to hear this once again or for the first time. And let's just say this up front, if you're one of those couples who say we never fight or we don't have any issues, well, we're glad for you.
That's amazing. But many of us are going to find wonderful advice and encouragement in this best of program today. Jim, you mentioned the Smalley's are colleagues and they do a lot of writing and speaking and counseling and together they head up our marriage team here at Focus. And they recently started a new podcast for the ministry.
It's called Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage. And they've written a book with that same title. And you can learn more about the book, the podcast and our guests.
All the details are in the show notes. And Jim, here's how you began the conversation with Greg and Erin Smalley on today's best of 2023 Focus on the family. Greg and Erin, welcome back to the studio. You're just down the hall, so it's not a long journey for you. It was a very long commute today.
I got lost. Let's not talk about that. Erin's going, that was a long drive in. Well, we drove together.
Oh, is that the problem? Especially long. Well, let's start with that.
What happened this morning that made the drive so long? It was actually really fun to come together. Oh, that's good. But we're not one of those couples that you mentioned who've never had conflict. You say that with a big smile on your face. That ended, oh, probably four days into our marriage. Well, I know that story.
It is kind of amazing. You guys seem to embrace conflict after you learned the benefit of conflict. Maybe we should just start there. Um, is there a benefit to conflict? Yeah, I think there's an opportunity when couples walk through conflict in a healthy way. Often when we hear the word conflict, we think of combat. And so healthy conflict is there's a possibility that you can grow and learn about yourself, about your spouse, and even about your relationship. And as my father-in-law always said, it's the doorway to intimacy.
That's good. It's my father. And I curse him for, yes, coming up all these- Your dad, Gary Smalley, comes up a lot, doesn't he?
Exactly. He was the marriage guru back in the 80s and 90s. And yeah, what a great man. So sorry for that loss. He passed away how many years ago?
About six. And Aaron frequently quotes his best lines to me. I can't imagine being married in that kind of family. Well, your dad used to say, don't listen to me.
Listen to your father. Let's start with commitment. That's, I think, in line with your romance secret number one of the 12 secrets. So talking about commitment, I understand your commitment to each other was tested, as you said, pretty early. Is this the day four story?
Is this yet another test of commitment? This was day four. Okay.
So what happened? Yeah. So there was a particular hike that I really wanted us to go into a waterfall. And you're in Hawaii. We're in Hawaii. Nice choice.
Yeah. So when we get to the waterfall, we're going to play around and have this amazing moment as this brand new married couple. And so each day, I would wake up and go, Aaron, let's go hiking. Let's go to the waterfall.
And there was always something else that she wanted to do. So literally the last day before we returned home, I kind of went, you know, this, this was important to me. Could we do this? Fine.
So we set out. Wait a second. I want to, did you really say it like that? I didn't. I didn't say it like that. Jane would say check that.
No, I think she said, well, your dad wouldn't want to go on this. Okay. So back to reality. It was fine.
Sure. Let's go. Off we went and we got to this waterfall and Greg ran and jumped in and I didn't for a very important reason.
It said no swimming. Ah, yeah. And so this was it. Like it took us long enough to get to this place that this is our one and only shot. And so I'm thinking how, who cares? We're in the middle of nowhere.
No one else is around. I'm like, just come on in. It'll be fine. So then I'm trying to do everything I can to coax her into the water.
She wouldn't do it. We started arguing. It escalates to the point that I say to my bride of four days, fine. If this is how you're going to be, then this honeymoon is ruined for me. Oh my goodness. That's dramatic. Yes.
She'd go on everybody's list of what not to say on your honeymoon. And so as you could imagine, we were totally Had everything worked out that night. Yeah. Let's leave that for later. No. Yeah. So we ended up in a little luau. That was our last adventure. It needed to go to use the tickets, but we weren't speaking. So that was, yes, we weren't speaking at the luau, but we were sitting by each other. Yeah.
So we're kind of stuffed in. She's not talking. And I started thinking, this probably isn't going to work out for me tonight when she's not talking to me. Day four, you'd still have some ideas of what you want to happen.
Exactly. And so I'm thinking, man, I got to repair this thing. And so I just, I, I, we were literally like sardines, all these people. And so I kind of pried my arm out just to put around her, just to test, you know, you're trying to figure out how in trouble am I really, is she didn't acknowledge me at all. And so I, I then started gently rubbing her shoulder thinking, well, surely she'll see that I'm being sensitive and caring, no reaction. So I kind of lean in to say something to her and my eyes hit the eyes of the woman sitting next to Erin on the other side, somehow because we were all jammed in there, their shoulders overlapped. I had been rubbing this woman's shoulder.
I kid you not. A complete stranger. Okay, this is going deeper and deeper.
So that would be strike two. But ironically, I became friends with those two ladies and we still get Christmas cards from them. There's always a P.S.
at the bottom, Greg, whenever you're tired. You had to be crammed in there, you know, to make that mistake. But I tell you what hit me though, as it applies to commitment, is that it rattled me that four days into our marriage, we ended up in this huge fight. So we didn't talk to each other that whole afternoon into the luau.
And it made me go, wait, this isn't the way it's supposed to work. Is there something wrong with her? That was my first guess. There has to be something wrong with her.
Well, I was already wondering what was wrong with you rubbing the woman's shoulder sitting next to me. I think Erin has more of a case for who's at fault here. True. I agree. Looking back.
Yeah. But it hit me in a way that it caused some, just some distance between us as we both tried to figure out this shouldn't be happening. So obviously there's something wrong with us, with our marriage. Something is going on versus what I've now learned in those moments, how important it is to let her know that, hey, I'm with you. I know we're in disharmony. I know that we see things differently.
I'm sorry for rubbing the woman's shoulder next to you. Are you still in counseling? Yeah, but I'm but to let her know I'm, I'm with you till the end in, in looking back, when I think of commitment is Erin and I talk about this, I think the, the most important part of commitment, like, I wish someone had told me this, like, what was my dad, the marriage guru with this advice? Oh, I think he was letting you learn your way. That's true.
That's what I think. But, but what I wish I would have learned is how important grit is as it applies to commitment. Well, one of the things I wanted to ask you, cause you mentioned in the book and I, I read this book as a business book, ironically, but Sun Tzu's art of war, you know, we did it in the, in a business environment, you know, and there's so many of those principles that you can apply, but I was a little shocked to see you use it in a marriage context. So how does the art of war apply to marriage? Yeah.
He had a, a great philosophy that, that when they were marching into battle, he would actually have people go back and burn supplies, burn bridges, burn anything that would allow his troops to retreat because retreat is easy when it's an option. And that's the idea about commitment is that I want Erin to know our only option is to move forward together. Divorce isn't an option. And so let's move forward, which means that we've got to figure certain stuff out in, in that, that creates that grit in our marriage. Grit means that I will do anything necessary, whatever I need to do to keep moving forward, then, then I'm going to do that. And it's so interesting in first Corinthians seven 28, 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 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 and what a blessing, what a provision that God gives us in marriage to have a traveling buddy, a journeying buddy, as we develop that grit and that grit is something so powerful because it, it binds us together.
It gives us, it makes us stronger on the other side of trials. I tell you that this grit really showed up a few years ago when our daughter, our oldest daughter went through a divorce in, in what it did for me is it caused me to go, what are, what are some of those blind spots? You know, this was 28 years into our own marriage, started thinking what, what am I doing? This causing harm to Aaron, to me, to our marriage, that I'm not even aware of. Just our daughter's circumstances, this just came out of nowhere, this divorce.
And that's how it hit me. And I went through a season to where I jumped into counseling. I started meeting with this fantastic counselor, Christian counselor here in Colorado Springs and just said, he was like, why are you here? I went, I don't know, but I want to know that there aren't some things that I'm not dealing with that's going to injure my marriage. And, and did that for a solid year, just working on stuff. And we figured some stuff out.
Yeah. And the thing that's critical there that is most important for people to hear is you talk in the book about your faith commitment being the foundation, that there's going to be a lot of swirl. There's going to be a lot of tribulation that pops up in your marriage. And if you can have that commitment to the Lord first, that will give you the foundation for commitment to each other. I really appreciate that because I feel like Jean and I have shared that.
Speak to that. There's something so powerful. Um, when a couple goes before God together, a that infuses your relationship with unity and you know, you're seeking the same morals, the same values, you're attending a body of faith together, and that's creating a village of like-minded people to surround you, um, to fight for your marriage with you.
And it's so important to have that. And I know there's actual research that Brad Wilcox looked at, and he looked at the number one indicator for those that will have the lowest divorce rate, are religious couples that marry in their twenties that haven't cohabitated and they share a deep faith. Yeah.
Lowest divorce rate. Yeah, that's good. So it's, that's a, he has a huge impact on a relationship.
Yeah. But this, this was painful though, in, in our marriage when we started off, because I had this, I had a dad who was a spiritual giant and it was super intimidating for me. I'd, I'd get up often in the morning and find him at his chair, like on his knees with his Bible in front of him and believe that those were the kind of things that would then define me as a spiritual leader in our family. And I just wasn't measuring up at all. And I began to really shut down in, and there were times I didn't want to go to church. I didn't want to pray with Aaron and here's a new bride.
She's going, man, I long for this between the two of us. And yet it wasn't happening looking back. It was, I felt so intimidated that I couldn't do it the way he did it. I remember one time sitting he and I, so he would teach marriage seminars.
I'd go with him. I actually worked at his book table. So I'd be selling books. Sounds like you may have missed some of the content. Right. Cause I was out in the lobby. He didn't let me come in to hear the good content. And so we were just over dinner one time and he goes, Hey, how are things going between you and Aaron? I was like, ah, fine. You know, now that we got the whole, you know, conflict on our honeymoon straightened out and that woman's leaving me alone. Now that I was rubbing her shoulder in it, I said, yeah, things are fine. He goes, you know, how are you guys doing spiritually? I'm like, I mean, I, I get, you know, I, and I said, well, you know what, honestly, I said, it's not going well.
And it's your fault. And he kind of went like thinking I was joking. He's looking at me like, wait, are you being serious? I said, dad, I just, man, I can't, I can't do what you do. And I feel so much pressure.
I just don't know how to do that. And it was one of those odd moments that, that he literally comes up from his side of the table, kind of scoots me over, scoots in next to me. It just gets right in my face. Like I'm thinking, man, he's going to yell it. Like, what's going on? And he goes, son, he goes, let me tell you the spiritual man that I see when I look at you, when I watch you. I was like, what? And he started to yell at me. And he started to go through, listen, I watch you provide for your family, for your wife and in your young daughter, you know, cause we, we had our daughter on our second wedding anniversary. He goes, I watch you protect them. I watch you, you know, when there's a problem, you guys work it through, you're committing me to start to list all these things that I never would have thought defined spiritual leadership. And, and I, and I broke down and I, I, I'm just crying at a Denny's or wherever we were, you know, over some whatever. And it was such a powerful moment for me because it redefined my own expectations of what this should look like in our relationship.
That's good. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and our guests today are Greg and Aaron Smalley. They lead the marriage team here at the ministry and they've written a great resource, Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage, 12 Secrets for a Lifelong Romance. It's a terrific book and we'll encourage you to get a copy of it. We have those here at the ministry.
Just give us a call, 800, the letter A in the word family, or stop by focusonthefamily.com slash broadcast. Let me move it to that inevitable conflict, which again, I think 98% of couples are going to, I'm always going to leave that door open for the 2% that we never have conflict. Have you ever heard that before? I get that some people, their style of relating is very agreeable and they, they work through their differences. So the question is, are they saying they just don't have difference of agreement or difference of opinion? Couples handle conflict differently. Some, you know, they're fighters and they are both fighters and it's loud and gregarious or some are both withdrawers and it's real quiet, but the tension is there. It's just inside. So let's get back to the fighter, the two of you, which I think you are the fighter types.
We are. So in that context, conflict does have a benefit that does help husbands and wives draw closer together, which is an unsettling formula for some people. So how does that work kind of take us through that, how conflict can actually help us become stronger and closer?
Well, we could tell you a real recent conflict that we, we always love the most recent conflict example when Erin bought a new chair for her office and just simply needed my help in moving that chair into her office. Well, my favorite thing is that this chair sat in the middle of the hallway for like two weeks and I was like, does no one else see that there is a big chair like blocking the hallway. People are just walking around it and I'm like, questioning her design feature. I just thought it was odd, but search hair. So you remember early in the morning?
Yeah. I asked Greg, Hey, can you just help me move that chair into my office? But we had to lift it and kind of hoist it over the desk. So I couldn't do it alone. I needed it help. And so we began doing that and it just didn't go so well.
It's not working. And so I'm getting frustrated. Just if I say to her, listen, lift with your legs, we got to get this thing up and over one big chair.
Yeah. And I'm like, I'm a nurse. I know to lift with my legs.
I was trained in proper body mechanics. So she snaps at me and I, I take offense to that going, I'm the one giving of my time sacrificially. And now you're snapping at me. So I just said, don't yell at me.
And she goes, just help me. Cause she was also late to see some clients. Well, what he didn't know is I had received a text right before he came downstairs and was like, Hey, let's move the chair.
I've received a text that there was a couple waiting in the waiting room at my counseling practice. And I needed to like speed this along. And so the company had, I didn't have time for conflict in the middle of moving the chair. It sounds like you didn't have time to move the chair. Just an observation. Thanks for joining us for this broadcast.
No, I'm not picking on Aaron, but you know, prioritization. So she snaps to me. I say something to her. And then finally in my mind, I'm so right and so wronged by her that I just simply let go of the chair and it kind of crashes to the ground. And I say, good luck. And I walk out of our office. Exactly.
I agree. Not, but I'm telling you that we do that when we get into these arguments and our heart shuts down now we're reacting. So I was simply reacting, but in my mind, I'm thinking, man, I was being nice and offering my muscles and professional services. Yeah. See, my reaction would be to grab the chair and take it out of Jean's hands and put it on the other side of the desk and then say, I can do it. Yeah.
At least 500 pounds. So he drops the chair. I've got to go.
Like I'm light. And so I'm driving to the counseling center to see this couple that's waiting. And I started thinking like, I really don't feel comfortable going and working with another couple when I'm in total conflict and disunity with my own husband.
This is the real truth about counselors. So I get to the office and I'm like, so I start texting Greg. I'm so sorry.
I don't, I didn't tell you that there was a couple waiting and I was just a little stressed and, you know, I'm, I'm really sorry for how I influenced that interaction. And I'm reading this text going, uh huh. Yeah, exactly. Right. It's. And I'm expecting like a nice little, it's okay.
We'll talk about it when we get home. I shouldn't have dropped the chair. I didn't get that. I'm sure I said something like, thank you for owning, you know, the fact that we were in conflict because you chose to work. Yeah.
This is funny. So it's a great illustration of how pride can manifest itself. Now, one of the things in the book, uh, when you're talking about this romance secret number four, which we're on, not that we're naming or listing each one, but this is that idea of true love fights for peace. You differentiate between combat and negotiation. So you're kind of describing that I think now, but why should we avoid combat?
What is it and why avoid it? And then what's negotiation look like? Yeah. I mean, combat would be a good example of dropping a chair when you're in reacting. I mean, it's the reactions that we do when we withdraw or we, we start criticizing, you know, we get angry.
It's, it's, that's the kind of stuff that we want. Combat. Well, and it's really, it leads to pride and pride leads to conflict is what it says in scripture. And so it's when we get triggered and our hearts close that we end up prideful.
Well, and I love Philippians two, three. So it says do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. That's just how pride manifests itself in during arguments, especially the vain conceit. Vain conceit means we're excessively proud of our own opinion in sitting there. When I got the text, I was, I was excessively proud of how I thought she had wronged me and how that if she hadn't done this or that, but all that, that's the combat stuff because we're, we're shut down. So take the chair analogy or story all the way through. So did you come back that night and how did you work it out? Yeah. So as I literally sat there, you know, thinking how wronged I was and, and just, I did pray and say, God, I had, man, I'm feeling totally shut down.
Like, give me your perspective. Instantly. I felt totally humbled. I felt the conviction that he brings, which is great. He needs to convict me, not Aaron. And so then I texted her going, actually, you know what? I played a big part of this and I shouldn't have treated you this way. I shouldn't have dropped the chair.
That was basically an adult throwing a temper tantrum. That's on me. When you get home tonight, let's talk through this. So when she did come home, cause that's the opportunity. That's what we're arguing for. That, that if we can go circle back at like Aaron and I have learned to do this by saying, we'll, we'll even say to each other after some weird interaction, is there anything we need to repair?
Like, do I need to repair something? And a lot of times she'll go, I'm good. Or in this case she went, yeah, that didn't feel good at all.
Let's talk that through. But it's amazing when someone comes to you with a humble heart, how more likely you are to lean in. And so when Greg was like, yeah, I shouldn't have dropped that chair.
I'm so sorry. The humbleness, I was like, Oh my word. It just drew me towards him.
And just to, you know, just the openness that that brings. Well let me ask you, what was that like? How did that feel? And you cared. You took time just to listen and care. I just felt disrespected. Yeah, that makes sense.
That was very disrespectful. Plus you broke the glass covering my desk. Exactly. What are you thinking?
I need a new chair and a desk now. And so it, it, what I've learned is that the, I think the worst phrase that we use around conflict is conflict resolution. It's such a bad phrase because it implies somehow we've got to find a solution, which what we're finding most of the time, we just need to circle back and repair by just caring about how the other person felt.
But the truth is Dr. John Gottman says that 70% of conflict is perpetual. So it's things that aren't going to change. Like Greg is an introvert. I'm an extrovert. He's a morning person.
I'm a night person. We're not going to wake up and like all of a sudden be different. We have to learn how to manage it. And so really you're saying conflict resolution isn't really the word it's conflict management.
How do we manage our differences? I'm shocked you're a night person given you've had children. That turned Jean into an instant morning person. Obviously we had a great time in the studio with Greg and Erin Smalley on this best of 2023 episode of Focus on the Family. And we hope you laughed along and were encouraged by the stories and the insights that the Smalley's shared and that this content has a positive impact on your marriage. It's definitely our goal, John. And one of the reasons why Focus is here to help you, the listener, the viewer experience a more loving and committed relationship with your spouse that will ultimately become a witness for God's love in your lives.
Others will see that and go, man, we want what you have. I'm reminded of a note we received from a woman named Alexis who described some of the stress and baggage she and her husband were struggling through, which again don't give up. This is normal life.
Here's what Alexis said. It hasn't always been easy for us, but day by day through the ministry of Focus on the Family, our minds are being reshaped and our hearts transformed. We are growing in oneness. That is great.
That's the goal. And what wonderful news for this couple. And thanks to the generosity of listeners like you, friends who support this ministry were able to give families hope like we did for Alexis and her husband.
And you know what? Our research, which we do every year, shows that less than 1% of our listeners actually donate to Focus. So there's millions of listeners every week, but only about 1% end up supporting us financially. So imagine if we could just bump that up to 2% and how many more marriages and parents we could help. It would be huge, Jim. And it's really exciting to think about the thousands of couples who can not only experience greater love and intimacy in their relationship, but they can turn around then and mentor other marriages toward the same outcome.
That's so good. And working together, we can help transform marriages right here in North America and around the world. So let's do this. Please be generous with your support of Focus on the Family today.
Yeah. Well, the number to call is 800, the letter A in the word family, or you can click the link in the program notes to make that contribution. And when you make a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family, we'll say thank you by sending a copy of Greg and Erin's book, Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage, 12 Secrets for a Lifelong Romance. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us for this best of episode of Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we hear more from Greg and Erin about communication, intimacy, and spiritual warfare in your marriage, and once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.
Feel that nip in the air? It's time to put on fuzzy socks, drink some hot cocoa, and decorate your home with a new season of Focus on the Family's Christmas Stories podcast. This year, we'll talk about the nativity story in the Gospel of Luke. Join us as we chat about how Christ's birth inspires us, how we celebrate the season, and ways we find that childlike wonder again. Listen to the Christmas Stories podcast on your favorite podcast app.
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