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Understanding Your Spouse’s Emotions (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
June 17, 2024 2:00 am

Understanding Your Spouse’s Emotions (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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June 17, 2024 2:00 am

Drs. David and Jan Stoop discuss the concept of emotional intelligence; 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 1 of 2)


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And he said, well, I think, I said, don't tell me what you think. Tell me what you feel. He couldn't.

He couldn't say a word. And so I started through a list of feelings. Do you feel this?

Do you feel this? And he could think a minute and say yes and say no. And his wife all of a sudden stopped crying. She said, you mean he has emotions?

And he just didn't have the language for emotions. That was the late Dr. David Stoup. And we'll hear more from him and his wife, Dr. Jan Stoup today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller, and you're going to learn how to put language to your emotions.

That's right. And we're going to be sharing some ideas that may be pretty groundbreaking for many couples. We're going to hear about emotional intelligence in marriage.

And this term is usually used in the business world, but the couple we're talking to today has found that these concepts can greatly increase intimacy and improve communication in your marriage. Before we recorded this interview, John and I took a quiz, the smart love inventory that our guests created to see how we scored in our own emotional intelligence. The highest score possible was 120. John, what was your score? I can't remember.

I think it was like 86, although I sometimes feel like I'm about a 50 maybe. That's kind of sad. I shouldn't have outed you.

I'm somewhere in the nineties, I guess. So we both have a room for growth. There you go.

That's a good way to look at it. And today we're going to learn exactly how to do that, how to understand our emotions better and use them to grow closer to our wives. And as I said earlier, our guests are Dr. Jan Stoup and her late husband, Dr. David Stoup. Jan is a counselor and David was the founder and director of the Center for Family Therapy. They wrote a book together called The Emotionally Healthy Marriage, growing closer by understanding each other.

And the former title of that book was Smart Love. You might hear us reference that in the show. Now we do have the book here at the ministry and we'd invite you to get in touch to get your copy today. You can find our contact information and details in the show notes. And here's how we began the interview recorded a number of years ago on Focus on the Family. Hey, David and Jan, welcome to Focus on the Family. Our privilege is great to be here. I'm looking forward to this in so many ways. How can it help me today be a better person?

But I love this concept. Now, first of all, you've been married 60 years. So when you're talking to 20 something, 30 something married couples, do they just like drop their jaw and say, you really did that? You married and stayed married for 60 years?

You really lived that long? And when I do it, we've been married 31 years and they'll go, wow, how did you do that? But 60 years, I'm in awe. And it's wonderful. Well, it's interesting. The first 10 years of our marriage, we've named it the Great Tribulation.

So we never read the tribulation books because we'd already lived through the Great Tribulation. We got married very young and we didn't know much about relationships and it was a tough time, but we stayed the course. And I have couples come in married five years and they're in difficulty. And I say, well, you've got maybe five more years to go before you just kind of settle in. Five years? Yeah. I don't know that. I mean, divorce wasn't in our vocabulary.

So it was like we had to... We would never speak the word. Yeah. And that's good. I mean, foundational. A lot of young couples today need to have that same attitude. Yeah. Because it takes on a life of its own if you start talking about it.

That's so very true. Let's discuss emotional intelligence. Some people may not have heard of that term and not read literature about it. What is emotional intelligence? How does it differ from IQ?

Just what is it? Well, Daniel Goleman introduced the term in 95 in a book called Emotional Intelligence. And he covered the whole spectrum. He covered family relationships and other relationships in the business world. But the business world and Harvard Business Review kind of just grabbed hold of it and ran with it. So it's only been applied primarily in the business world.

And it's been probably the most important quality that a leader can have is to be strong on emotional intelligence in terms of their leadership. So it has its value been proven in the business world. And that's different from what we want to talk about, because we're going and your application of those learnings really applies to marriage and to God's design in marriage, right? Yeah, I got involved in reading everything I could read on it. And every time I'd be reading it, I'd be thinking, this applies to marriage. Why doesn't somebody do the application?

And finally, we said, let's do it. Because nobody else did. And I appreciate that. That's so often what happens. But in your own marriage, what were those deficits? You referenced them and kind of made light of them.

But for us to better understand how you begin to say, OK, we aren't doing things properly, what were those things you were experiencing that lacked EQ? Well, we both grew up in Christian homes. And we had that great background. And my folks were the ones who are on their knees every night. And you would think that we would come into a marriage well prepared. But when I said to Dave, after the first few months, could we pray together? And he said, oh, oh.

And I was very creative with the reasons not to. And as our kids came along, I could pray with the family. And I could pray with people. I was an associate pastor at the time, I could pray with people in my office. But to pray just with Jan, oh, that was terrifying. What made that so difficult?

I think he was intimidated about what do I say? I thought I had to go down deep and reveal the dark side of my personality if I was going to pray with her. It was my own problem.

Nobody's ever said that. And I thought, I can't be that open with her because then she'll reject me. And about 12, 14 years into our marriage, I said I bit the bullet and said, OK, let's pray together. And we've been doing that ever since every night and got us through some terrible times within our family with one of our kids and got us through times with difficulty within the marriage. It's just been a stabilizing point. But it was a flash point until you said, OK, I'll do this. And often part of what we like to teach in the seminar is how to get that going, to really understand that it's not as easy for some.

Others are very fluent in it because they came from it. But to really have a starting point. So we talk to them about how to start praying silently, holding hands.

We go through the whole thing. And it's usually the men who are holding back. But that's not always true.

And you think it's that intimidation, huh? I think so because women pray with each other at women's Bible studies. Men don't pray too often at the men's Bible studies as comfortably as they do. Don't tell the women that. But it's a comfort. But I've had men complain on the radio calls that we do saying, my wife won't pray out loud with me and he wants to do it.

So there are exceptions. But one of the things that we comment on in the book is our basic emotional posture, or we call it the BEP. And that's what was the problem in the beginning of our marriage. We didn't understand our emotions.

We didn't understand. My instant reaction to any kind of criticism or conflict was to get angry. Because that was my basic emotional posture, was anger. That's what I'd learned from my father and his anger and his outbursts. And I didn't want to do it, but it was almost automatic, you know. And Jan's was fear.

And they complimented me. If I got angry, she got afraid. She had rheumatic fever when she was a kid and stayed out of school for a year. Her house was totally destroyed in an explosion at one time when she was about nine.

So those kind of feed into a fear posture. And so I would get angry, she'd get afraid and back off or she'd leave. She would often leave. Actually walk out. And go for a walk.

It'd be nighttime and I'd be worried about her, you know, and have to go find her. And part of it, this SMART concept, that acronym, and we want to dive into that. But give us a quick overview of SMART and then we'll start to dive a little deeper in each of those.

Well, the SMART is an acronym for five facets of what emotional intelligence in a marriage would look like. One, the S is self-aware of what I feel. And maybe I start to become aware of it after I feel it.

And after we've had the argument, I was angry, I'm sorry. And I want to grow to the place where I can become aware of what I'm feeling at the time so I can manage it in that. And the M stands for managing my emotions. The biblical concept from Timothy there was self-control. One of the fruits of the spirit is self-control.

And so how do I do self-control? Well, I manage what I feel, especially the four negative emotions of anger, fear, shame, and sadness. And then the A, we added the A and we felt – Well, it makes a much better word.

You didn't even bow. Yeah, the publisher didn't want to do SMRT. Smirt. My son said, well, that's kind of the way that people do things now.

I'm pretty smirt. But when Goldman first introduced it, he had five facets and motivation was the one that was eliminated eventually. So we added accountability, being accountable to myself, being accountable to my spouse, and being accountable to other couples and how important that is. And then the R is reading my spouse's emotions, which is a way of saying I have empathy. And I can read her emotions because I've developed my own self-awareness in managing my own emotions. And I'm comfortable now with my own feelings. And so I can be comfortable in reading and interpreting her feelings. This might be one of the key areas, reading your spouse's emotional feelings. That makes all the difference.

It does make all the difference. It's probably one of the most difficult of what you've mentioned so far to actually accomplish because we bury ourselves. If I work on the S and the M and those facets, then I'm equipping myself to develop the skill at the empathy level.

Right. And we're going to get into each of these more in just a minute. But let's get T. We got SMRT. SMRT is together in the land of emotion. I talk about the land of emotions in the beginning of the book.

And so T means that we're together, we're comfortable with our emotional world now equally. Boy, that's a big one too. That's a big one too. Being comfortable in the land of emotions.

Those are consequences. The R and the T are consequences of my developing the S and the M and the A. Let's go back, before we get into the SMRT acronym more deeply, the negative emotions you touched on, anger, fear, sadness, shame. No, all of the emotional theorists agree that there are six basic emotions. Anger, fear are common. And then sometimes they use disgust, but disgust doesn't fit what I'm doing. So I went with the others who use shame and sadness. And then there's joy and there's surprise.

And joy and surprise. So we concentrate on the first four because that's the issue. That's where the problems come. Yeah. Yeah. You don't get in trouble with it because you're too joyful.

I don't know. Sometimes I've surprised my wife and she didn't really like that a whole lot. Maybe it was the motivation behind the surprise. Now you're finding and have found over the years that you've done this that men are typically going to struggle a bit more with the concepts, more so than women.

Why is that? It's not that men don't have emotions, although their wives are convinced they don't have any emotions. You know, I had a couple in my office where she was extremely angry. I always said that the door frame or the door of my office was charred when she walked through it in the heat of her anger. And then she sat there with her arms folded and just stared at me and I said, you're very angry, aren't you? And she says, how astute. But she was talking and she started crying, really crying heavily. And I turned to him. I said, what are you feeling right now?

As you watch your wife feel so pained. And he said, well, I think I said, don't tell me what you think. Tell me what you feel. He couldn't.

He couldn't say a word. And so I started through a list of feelings. Do you feel this?

Do you feel this? And he could think a minute and say yes and say no. And his wife all of a sudden stopped crying. She said, you mean he has emotions? And he just didn't have the language for emotions.

But he could help. So we have a chart in the book of the four negative emotions. And I think there's nine sub feelings that go under it.

Emotion, descriptions of that emotion, how we might characterize it. And I suggest that you take it and laminate it and carry it with you if you're a man. It's a great idea. And I was even thinking about that. I think we do not connect these dots very well as men. We will say we feel angry.

But then what does that really mean? And in fact, the only emotion we are aware of. Yeah. Let me just read some of those descriptors because even as I was prepping for the show, it helped me go, oh, that's the label. But under anger, it's furious, enraged, irate, seething, upset, frustrated, annoyed, irritated, touchy. I mean, that that gives some substance to that.

Yeah, I found that to be really helpful because I it's multi-dimensional. Well, this was I'm feeling that goes under the rubric of fear or shame or what or sadness. You know, unworthy is the sadness. So I think women are far more adept at connecting to those descriptors than we are. It's innate for them. They know how to do it, but they don't. They don't know how to do it with their husband.

Yeah. Well, oftentimes they feel like we'll just make things worse. If we if we talk about our emotion, what we're feeling and it goes by, then the time goes by and they don't really get to share with him because they they're afraid. And many women have deep emotions. Of course they do.

And they share with their lady might share them with their or my purpose. They understand. They understand.

My husband doesn't understand, which is pretty sure she withdraws. And there is a way to express it. And to get him to understand the language is a big help. Our guest today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly are Dr. David Stoup and his wife, Dr. Jan Stoup. And we've been talking about some of the concepts in their book, The Emotionally Healthy Marriage. And we've got the book and a link to our free focus marriage assessment that we mentioned earlier.

Look for those in the show notes. Let's go ahead and pick up the conversation now with Dave and Jan Stoup. Let me ask you a more fundamental question. Why is it so scary or intimidating for us in our marriages to be vulnerable that way? You would think that particularly with Christian marriages, that we would want to understand each other as best as we could to learn about each other, to have a smart love.

But even in Christian marriages, we pull back, we hide, we don't let the other person in, the spouse that we know and love so much. Well, we can do it before we're married to some degree. Right.

And it's attractive. Yeah. And then all of a sudden, the person that we were going to marry disappears and the real person comes at the wedding. And now it all changes. It changed for us. As soon as the ceremony was over, it was like I was a different person. In what way?

Just give us some descriptors. I became more controlling and less understanding because I was, you know, like I say, I was young, I was immature, I didn't understand. I think it has a lot to do with maturity, but it has to do with self-acceptance because there's a sense in which my feelings are the closest part of me to my soul. And that's the most vulnerable place that I have is when I get emotional. So a guy will cry in a movie, but he's got to be sure and clear up his eyes before the lights come back on. That's for sure. And it's okay. He might allow himself to do that, but to talk about it with his wife afterwards, that's weak.

And we often define that as weak too, which makes it difficult. Yeah. Jan, how about for you as the wife and you, I don't know if you saw that right away, that change at the altar, sort of speak, you move from smart love to stupid love.

Thankfully, you got back to smart love. To me, it felt like, oh, I've got you now. Yeah. I've got you now. So we're done now. This is the real me. We're in the real world now. But, but a lot of it was triggered by my changes too. After the marriage, I felt trapped.

I felt like I was going to be just overshadowed or I, it wasn't important for me to get my degrees or all those things came about within the fact that. Here we go. Right here. Breaking news.

Will they make it to 61? But I think that it took a lot of years for me to feel comfortable. Like I was, my decisions were important and all those things that a woman wants, they were sort of shadowed because we were, but a lot of it was because we were, we were not on the same page a lot of the time. Both of us were working, we were busy and then we had children really quick.

And so I think that both of us had a big part in what we did those first 10 years. It's an interplay between the wife's fears and the husband's fears. And we don't know what to do with our fears at that stage.

And so we, we give into them and that just perpetuates the cycle. And so many, again, you've been married 60 years. So many couples experience 20, 30 years of hiding and maybe they continue to just be there and eventually one of them dies. That's a lonely feeling. And that's a lonely feeling.

And this is the point. So many, particularly women feel lonely in their marriages. That's why the seven year itch, the old seven year itch has become the 37 year itch because a lot of divorces are taking place in the late thirties and they're initiated by the wife. Right. Because she's fed up with the loneliness.

And the kids are gone, usually empty nest and that's what's happening. Let's dive into SMART again and let's go a little deeper with each of the acronyms. That's the goal.

And we'll get to one or two today and then we'll have to come back next time and cover the others. But let's start with S. What does it mean again? And what is that self-awareness? How's that defined and why are so many of us just bad at it? Is it the fall? Is it sin nature?

It is. I think as women, we are, we're, we are bad at it too. We, you know, I had never ever thought about what kind of category I was in as far as my emotions until we started doing something like this. But I had no idea of all the fears that I was working with.

Women do tend to be bound by fear. Yeah. I mean, it's a general statement, but so, yeah. So for me, that first part, what is so important under the S is that we begin to find our basic emotional posture.

And that's so important that you start there because that's going to overshadow everything else that you, you do with this SMART. Basic emotional posture. So define that for us. And we call it the BEP, B-E-P. And what does it actually mean? What is it to be in your basic posture? That's my default position.

That's the place that I go to automatically without even thinking. What do those attributes look like? Anger? For me, it would be anger. For Jan, it would be fear.

I did a workshop last week and my guy came up to me afterwards and said, when you started talking about that, he said, I knew immediately my basic emotional posture was shame because of how he was raised. And then the sadness is the feeling of total unworthiness and hopelessness. So those four basic, it's going to be one of those to start with. And those are just present and it takes a little bit of stress maybe or a circumstance and that's where it gets triggered instantly.

And it's probably come from things, people that I've experienced growing up or events that I experienced growing up. And so there's an action plan, the first action plan after the SMART. Under each one of those, SMART, that we have five action plans. And the first one that you come to is to define your emotional posture. And it asks you questions to discuss with your spouse about who represented that emotion when you were growing up, how was it experienced, and things like that to try to get at the root of it so that you understand where it comes from. But it's like a trigger point and boom, I'm there.

I'm acting out that emotion. So it's your buttons. What pushes your button?

So it's the buttons. Anger or shame or whatever it might be. Yeah, it's the emotion that's attached to all of my buttons.

And then once you decide or not decide because you don't have to decide, but you realize that you are probably in that category, then I can see all the places that I use that. One of the things, the fears I got out of my childhood was I was not going to have enough. I wasn't going to have the right things and all those things because of our losing everything as a child. And I realized that I treat him like that.

If I see him carrying something out of the house and I say, are you going to put that in the trash? And I think, okay, all right, but I wanted to have some choice in that. And so I can just feel even subtly the triggers of fear on things like that even. Yeah. You know, one of the difficulties again, as Christians, I think we can kind of play this down as just a bunch of psychology, but the Lord does encourage us to know our hearts as best we can to know more accurately who we are because that groundedness allows you to say, Oh, I'm outside of his will.

I'm sending. You have to have an awareness that you're in the right spot or you're not in the right spot. And that's really what we're driving at overall. Paul says, be angry, but don't sin. So there's a way to be angry that's healthy. And there's a way to be angry that's sinful. And I think that to be true for any of the negative. And there's a way to be fearful that that's reasonable. It's appropriate.

There's ways not to, but that'd be the basic. The reason we want to identify that, that becomes the first emotion that we're going to learn to manage because that's the one that gets us in trouble in their marriage. And that's the one that we've got to get a handle on and kind of release our buttons so that they're not so easily triggered. We're going to come back next time and talk more about this, but, uh, you used an analogy in your book. It puts a smile on my face right now. It's the Eskimo culture and how young people enter into adulthood.

Yes. Uh, it's kind of unique. What was it? Well, they had to touch a bear, not just a bear, a polar bear. And basically what they had to do was face the biggest fear that they would ever live with. And to successfully do that launched you into adulthood and to not successfully do it kept you from that. It's like the old Testament blessing.

Yes. Where the father would launch the, uh, him into adulthood by blessing him. David, in that context, just for some of us who may not see it clearly, what does that do for me? What's the emotion that it's pulling out that's positive to go up and touch your biggest fear? Well, if I can touch the thing I'm most afraid of, there's nothing I need to be afraid of anymore. And so I see myself as being competent. So courage, all the brighter sides of emotion.

Yeah. And fear grows when we don't face it. And so we become more afraid if we don't deal with the fear that we have. And, and I have a book called there's a nightmare in my closet where the little boy finally faces this fear that there is a nightmare in the closet and he turns the light back on after going to bed. And sure enough, there's this big monster at the bottom of his bed and he shoots it and the monster starts crying. And then he tries to get him to stop crying.

Finally puts him into bed with him and he says, I'm sure there's another monster in my closet, but there's only room in my bed for one. And it's a book on fear. And I have adults read it right in my office. It's a children's book because if you face what you're afraid of, it becomes a crying little baby rather than a scary monster.

And so in a sense, I have mastery over the polar bear because I could reach up and touch it and survived it. We're going to press pause right there on our conversation with the late Dr. David stoop and his wife, Dr. Jan stoop on today's episode of focus on the family with Jim Daly. Catch the conclusion tomorrow. There is so much good content in here, John. Treading into the territory of emotions can be scary, especially for us husbands. I remember a time in our marriage when Jean said, I love you, but I don't like you right now. And I didn't know what to do with that. I was like, what does that mean? And why don't you like me? Her saying that brought up so many emotions in me and I didn't know what to do with them.

It was like I was on overload. But as David and Jan have reminded us today, processing and sharing what we're really feeling, even when it may hurt or make us angry is a fast track to greater intimacy in our marriages. And here folks on the family, we care about your relationship.

We care about your marriages. That's why we create and provide resources to help you strengthen the bond you have with your spouse. A great place to start is our focus marriage assessment.

It's free. You can take it online at our website and you'll get specific information tailored to you on areas of success. And then we always love that boys and girls, and then areas of your marriage that may need some improvement to dive in on emotional intelligence, get a copy of the Stoops book, The Emotionally Healthy Marriage, growing closer by understanding each other. It explores each part of that smart acronym and gives you some practical ways to grow closer to your spouse. In fact, when you donate to the ministry, I focus on the family today, a gift of any amount will send the book to you as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry.

Donate and take that free marriage assessment and request your copy of the book, The Emotionally Healthy Marriage. We've got the contact information and details in the show notes. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller inviting you back next time as we continue the conversation with Dave and Jan Stoop, and once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ. Are you a pastor? Then you know ministry is full of challenges, but those challenges sometimes come from lies that you believe about your role and expectations of you. As a pastor, you and your spouse need to be refreshed and encouraged, and that's why Focus on the Family presents the Focused Pastor Couples Conference. Join us as we hear from Paul David Tripp, Dr. Greg Smalley, Ted Cunningham, and more. Mark your calendar to join us on October 28th through 30th right here at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. Visit slash refresh for more details.
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