Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley discuss biblically-based strategies to help couples build a romance that will last a lifetime. (Part 1 of 2)
Promotion: Focus on the Family Marriage Helpline
Announcer: Marriages in trouble don't always look like they're in trouble. In fact, Christian couples often struggle in silence. Why? Because people are afraid to talk about their problems because they're ashamed of how they feel inside. If that describes you, call the Focus on the Family Help Center. We'll listen to you, pray with you and help you find counseling if you want it. Just call us, weekdays at 1-800-A-FAMILY, the Focus on the Family Help Center, just a phone call away, at 1-800-A-FAMILY.
End of Promotion
Dr. Greg Smalley: The truth is this, is that my job in my marriage is to love, like I said in my vows. It has nothin' about being loved. It's not about being loved. See, the lie is, that I need to find someone who will love me. And I think so many couples enter into their marriage and go through their relationship over the years, believing that I've gotta keep figuring out how to get her to love me.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Well, you'll hear more from Dr. Greg Smalley, as he and his wife, Erin join us today on "Focus on the Family." Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, we're approaching Valentine's Day here at Focus on the Family and we are really excited, because we've worked with congregations worldwide to honor marriage. And that's what really Valentine's Day is about. It's about relationship, romance, but in the tradition of Valentine's Day, it's about what it leads to and that's marriage.
We're calling it the Day of Honoring Marriage, which is a time for churches to come together and talk about God's design for marriage. And I think in our culture right now, we've got to begin to talk about what is God's design for marriage between a man and a woman.
Greg and Erin Smalley always have such great marriage wisdom to share and I am so proud that they're on the team here at Focus on the Family. They are doing a great job with the marriage area here at Focus on the Family.
They've written a new book called Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage: 12 Secrets for a Lifelong Romance and we want to equip you today to help strengthen your relationship, to make it the best it can be. And I'm telling you what, in the Christian community today, we need our marriages to be strong.
John: And we're gonna have a few of those 12 secrets along the way here. If you can't finish through the whole program, you can get a CD or audio download or download our mobile app, so you can listen on the go. All of that is at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Greg and Erin, welcome back to the microphones.
Erin Smalley: It's a pleasure as always.
Greg: Thanks for havin' us.
Jim: It is so good to have you on the team. I just so appreciate every day you walk in the door, thinking about marriage and how to strengthen marriage. And you know, for those that kinda have an idea what Focus is about, we do the broadcasts, but we do so much more and one of the things we do is research. And that research tells us in the last 12 months, over 130,000 marriages were saved through the Lord's work in our midst. And I am so proud of you and what the Lord has done to accomplish that. So, thank you right from the top of the program.
Greg: Thank you for havin' us.
Jim: Isn't that an awesome feeling though?
Erin: We love it.
Greg: It really is.
Jim: I mean, when you're talkin' about how do we get the culture moving in a healthier direction, both the Christian culture and the culture at large, this is one of the key things we have to do, is make marriages stronger.
Greg: Absolutely, I mean, this is a passion of ours. Not only is it about how we have a great marriage, but we love helpin' other people have that, as well.
Jim: Well, that's a great goal. Again and it's good in your testimony that you had difficult times, because you know what? I'm convinced no one's perfect.
Jim: And you can get better at it.
Erin: Uh-hm and that's what I was gonna say, is that over the years, I mean, we had no idea what we were walking into when we married, yet we have learned and been equipped in so many ways and it's a joy then to pass that on to others and to encourage them in those difficult times.
Jim: Before we get into your book called Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage, how does a couple that's struggling right now, I mean, they're hearin' you say that, but they're in maybe year three or four and now they're thinkin', I really don't like this guy. He doesn't pick up his dirty clothes. I mean, how do you begin to change your attitude so that your relationship changes?
Greg: You know, the cool part is, like think playing ping pong. So, if Erin and I have been playing the same way for years and years and years, all I have to do is hit the ball a little bit different, put a different spin on it. Even if she tries to hit it back the same old way, it'll come off her paddle differently.
I always have the ability to influence my relationship and my marriage. And so, it really comes down to doing this. The worst question to ask is, "How do I have a great marriage?" The best question to ask is, "How do I become a great husband?" "How do I become a great wife?" See, I have the ability to control what I do and how I show up. And when I show up differently, then see, it's gonna influence, like that ping pong game. It'll influence our relationship, hopefully in a better way.
Jim: Yeah, unless she like hits a slam.
Greg: (Laughing) Unless she spikes it.
Erin: Totally, I've done that.
Panel: [Everyone talking at once] (Laughter)
Jim: But the Day of Honoring Marriage, let's talk about that for a second. What is the goal there? What are we tryin' to do and how many churches are involved?
Erin: You know, really Jim, the bottom line is, we are trying to encourage churches to take one day, Valentine's Day, which falls on a Sunday, to just simply honor marriage. Hebrews 13:4 says, "Marriage should be honored by all." And I don't think often we refer to that and realize that marriage should be honored by all, so it includes children, youth, singles, married adults. I mean, everyone should be honoring marriage.
Jim: But you know, it seems like marriage in the cultural context, its back is up against the ropes. People don't feel that motivated to honor marriage, because, you know what? My mom and dad didn't stay married and I'm not sure I'm going to. How do we get people to honor marriage, to do what the Bible asks us, requires us to do?
Greg: Yeah, for us, some of the things that we've learned in terms of what does this really look like, you know, if you were to ask me, "Hey, Greg, what do you love? What do you appreciate? What do you value about Erin?" Well, I could rattle off a whole bunch of things. But if you were to ask me a while ago, what do you value about your marriage, see our marriage is a separate entity. Always, in a marriage relationship, there's me; there's her. There's then our relationship. And I never really thought that through. Yeah, what do I really love, what do I like, what do I appreciate about my marriage relationship? [There's a] great verse that says, "Where your treasure is," so what you value, "there will your heart be also." So, a great way to strengthen your relationship is to begin to think about, you know, what do I love about our relationship?
Jim: Well, talk about society and what's going on. What are some of the lies that are goin' on about marriage in the culture today?
Erin: Yes, some of those lies are, you know, you think about that when you find the one, that everything's gonna be super easy and there's not gonna be challenges that come along, because you've found your soul mate. And that's something that our culture feeds us regularly. And the truth is, everyone is gonna have challenges in their relationship. And so, when you walk into a marriage relationship thinking, oh, we're not gonna have any challenges, kinda like we did, you know, you're greatly disappointed.
Greg: You know, some of the other ones, like conflict is a sign of a bad relationship, like if we fight, if we experience conflict, it means that, you know, our relationship, there's somethin' wrong with it.
Jim: Well, and that's particularly true in the Christian community. Is it okay to have disagreement?
Greg: Is it not only okay, we really do believe that conflict can actually take us to deeper levels of connection, of intimacy if we learn how to walk through it. We always say that conflict's not the problem. Combat is the problem.
Jim: Yeah. (Laughing) There's a—
Greg: And you know—
Jim: --fine line there.
Greg: --yeah, so, if I'm really upset and I'm yelling or if I'm withdrawing, you know, if I'm getting real critical, I mean, that's the combat kind of stuff. That's never good ever for a relationship. But when we disagree, when we see things differently, see what happens is, when we walk through that, boy, I've learned something new about Erin, maybe a feeling or a need. I learn about myself. Well, I didn't even know that bothered me. What's goin' on there? So, I mean, that can be a very, very good thing for a relationship.
Jim: Greg, you're describing something that I think for men is difficult.
Jim: 'Cause a lot of men would say, that sounds exhausting. I don't why that is, but I don't have that curiosity. I mean, it needs to be simpler for me. (Laughing) Do you hear what I'm saying?
Jim: And I'm not trying to defend it, but you need that curiosity, kinda like Solomon in the Song of Solomon. It's a beautiful description of how both people, both spouses need to have that curiosity.
Greg: Yeah, well, the truth is this. We are going have conflict. We are gonna disagree. We're gonna get into these arguments. It's gonna happen. I can either ignore it, sweep it under the rug. I can let that fester. I can let all that become a bigger problem or I can choose to do something about this.
That I love it in James. It says, "When trials hit, consider that an opportunity." That means, if we just took that and just applied that to conflict, going, you know, when we disagree, there's an opportunity there. Why not? Why not take advantage of that?
Jim: Okay, but the question is, why do we not see it in that way, especially in the Christian community? Why do we see it as abrasive, you know, whatever? How come we don't see it as opportunity? What are … what's our issue when we want to simply have conflict?
Greg: Yeah, I don't think anybody likes conflict. I don't like it, so please don't let me paint the picture like, I love conflict. Erin, let's fight tonight. (Laughter) Why not? I don't like it.
Erin: We put it on the calendar, schedule it regularly.
Greg: To be honest, a couple nights ago, we were in a pretty big fight, just a disagreement. I mean, we saw things very differently when it came to our son and I hate that. I hate the feelings of when we're in disharmony. I absolutely cannot stand when she and I just couldn't get to a good spot. And we talked it through to a point, but there was still this feeling of, aah! I absolutely hate that disconnected feeling.
Jim: How do you get to the resolution of that then? I mean, there you are.
Erin: Well, I'll tell you, that night we started the conversation about 8:30 at night after Greg had spent all day on the finances.
Jim: Oh, nice.
Erin: So, it's a perfect opportunity late at night, finances and parenting you know, it's a great combination to have a—
Jim: All the big three.
Erin: --great experience--
Greg: Yeah. (Laughter)
Erin: --having a deep conversation or discussion. And so, we just hung in there, you know. And we start recognizing what is happening, because that's why I don't like it is because of my previous experiences with conflict. Typically if it hasn't gone well, then you don't want to sign up for it again.
So, there we are. We're literally like, here we are again. I mean, this is the same thing, same cycle we've done since our first year of marriage. And you know what? Finally, it's like everything just calms down when we recognize, oh! We're stuck. And you know, then we know what to do. You know, take a break. It's 8:30 at night. We love each other. We're gonna resolve this and we're gonna get to the other side of it.
Jim: And it's a good picture that you're painting, but emotionally with couples, we don't have the backup. We don't have reverse, so we're stuck in drive and we've got out foot on the accelerator, because if you're gonna challenge it, then let's go for it. Rather than taking the pause, putting it in neutral, then backing the car up to say, okay, we're gonna get through this. What's that mech[anism]? How have you learned to do that, to put the e motion in reverse, to get back to a place where you can both laugh at each other and say, "Okay, let's wait till tomorrow and we'll get to the bottom of it."
Greg: Well, I, for me, one of the things that honestly and I'm not makin' this up. This really did happen. We're sittin' on the couch and it wasn't going well. We just weren't getting anywhere and it just felt like we were both more and more frustrated.
There came a point in time, Erin was talking about something and I don't mean that in a disrespectful way, but there was like, I was starting to check out and I realized again in that moment. Man, we were under spiritual attack, because here's what happens.
So, she's talking and I hear the lines in my head going, "See, she doesn't understand you. She's misrepresenting you. If she just would listen. If she just would give you a chance. Just explain yourself, man, all this would go away. I mean, she just won't listen. She doesn't really care. She doesn't love you." I mean, honestly—
Jim: You were pretty …
Greg: --that stuff is racing through my mind and the thing that I have learned after 24 years of marriage is, when the words turn extreme in my mind, that is Satan. He's all about making me believe all that extreme stuff is racing in my head. And honestly, I kind of sat back and remember I said to you. I said, "You know what, hey. Now I love you. We've gone through how many [times]?" I just asked her. I said, "How many of these fights have we had over the course of the years?" "A bunch." I said, "And like we're still here."
Erin: Same thing.
Greg: "And we still love each other. We'll get through this, Erin." And I said to her, I said, "Honey, you're not my enemy." And there was a way and it didn't solve anything, but there was a way in which it just kinda broke us out of just [that] mental churn that Satan goes after us by feeding us these lines and lies.
Jim: Well, and our flesh. I don't want to let our flesh off the hook.
Greg: I would rather blame Satan.
Jim: Yeah, right. (Laughter)
Greg: It's so much easier.
Jim: And it's true.
Greg: So, it's both.
Jim: As John 10:10 says, he comes to steal, kill and destroy and he definitely wants to do that in our marriages. You may have answered this, but we talk and again, we're always drawn to the negative side, but what does love look like in a healthy marriage? Paint that picture for us.
Greg: Yeah, this is actually probably for us as of late, this has become a huge piece of now looking back 24 years and going, man, I didn't get it in the beginning. And here's what happens. See, the other day I was taking our wedding video and I wanted to digitize it and so, I was watching it with my son. So, he's just sitting there and he's mocking me. You know, he's like, "Well, you look a lot different back there. Your hair wasn't grey and you were a lot thinner." (Laughter)
And so, he's just being playful around it and so, we're just watching and he's like, "Oh, that's pretty cool." Well, we got to the part, the vows, you know, as we're standing up there. And I'll tell you, as I listened to what I was saying, I heard myself say the absolute key to having a great marriage. I mean, I heard it. It was right there plain and simple and it was the part, so, it's kinda like this.
So, you know, "I, Greg, take you, Erin, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward." You know, it was the typical stuff, "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love." There is was.
I'm tellin' you, of all the things that we've learned about how to have a great marriage that, that simple thing, this idea of "to love," I think is more misunderstood that any other concept. I think in our culture, we believe that when we go into a marriage, that it's about loving and being loved. And that is the, I think, one of the biggest lies. That's not true at all. It causes so many people to get so distracted and it creates the wrong paradigm.
The truth is this, is that my job in my marriage is to love, like I said in my vows. It has nothin' about being loved. It's not about being loved. See, the lie is that I need to find someone who will love me. And I think so many couples enter into their marriage and go through their relationship over the years, believing that I've gotta keep figuring out how to get her to love me.
Like when we first got married, I desperately needed her to do things so that I would feel successful. That's how that really showed up and so, yeah.
Erin: And for me, I would look to him. You know, tell me I'm valuable. Tell me that I'm good enough and it was, in many ways, love me, but also, you know, value me as a person, which isn't a bad thing, but the myth is that we look to someone else for that, that really the truth is, is that we are fully, completely loved by this amazing God. And I wish 24 years ago, I would've recognize that and known that walking into our marriage, that I am loved. I am accepted. I am valued and I'm good enough.
John: Well, we're hearing some pretty candid admissions from the two folks who are in charge of our marriage ministry here at Focus on the Family and we so appreciate their honesty and Greg and Erin Smalley are such great experts on this topic, both personally and professionally. And Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage: 12 Secrets for a Lifelong Romance is the title of their new book and we've got that and a CD or a download of this conversation and our mobile app, as well, so you can listen again on the go at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us if you'd like these resources or any other help. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
End of Program Note
Greg: Okay, before we move on, this has really become the biggest thing that I'm understanding about marriage. I mean, just think of that. What would it have been like in the beginning for me, if I really truly would've understood that I am fully completely loved by God? He has loved me with an everlasting love. "For God so loved the world." I mean, He has already met that need; that need to be loved is completely met already by God.
Instead, see I went in, I was turning to Erin. I was saying, you've gotta make me feel a certain way. See, me chasing love meant that I needed to feel successful. Like just not too long ago, this Christmas, you know, we went and searched for the Smalley family Christmas tree. (Laughter)
So, we drive up into the mountains of Colorado and we pull off. I pull into this spot and Erin goes, "Well, I wouldn't park here."
Erin: Yeah, because you know, the infamous, "Let's create our own parking spot." (Laughter)
Jim: Yeah, that's right.
Erin: I knew it was a disaster--
Jim: Hey, we like that.
Erin: --in the making, but we were looking for a family adventure.
Greg: So, I pull the car in; parked in the spot. We go out. We find the perfect tree. We cut this thing down. We drag it back, put it in the car. So, now I'm pulling out. Well, I get stuck, just like she said.
Jim: In the snow.
Greg: In the snow.
Erin: In the snow.
Greg: And so, these couple guys were walkin' by. They're now pushin' on the car, rockin' on the car, tryin' to help us. As I start to pull out, our vehicle slides down this embankment and lands next to this gigantic tree, like it didn't bang into the tree, but it was like a millimeter next to this big honkin' tree.
And therefore, if I tried to back anymore, it would've raked the whole side of our car. It would've damaged our car. And I was so mad and of course, Erin was goin', "I told you."
Jim: I told you so.
Erin: [Told you] so.
Greg: "This was why you shouldn't have parked in this spot."
Jim: And this wasn't that long ago.
Greg: Not (Laughter) at all. So, for me though in that moment, I was glaring at her, you know, because I felt so stupid, so failed, like I screwed up. Now look. I'm gonna ruin our car. I'm gonna have to pay money to get the thing fixed.
Jim: How'd you get it out?
Greg: And yeah, this good old boy in a Dooley, pick-up truck comes by and gets a strap and literally, pulls it away from the tree and that's where we could back out. And so, we survived. The car's fine, but it's just one more example in my life that I and instantly started to try to get her to understand why she shouldn't say that. How was I supposed to know that there was a snow embankment? I mean, I started defending myself, all the same stuff over and over, because I felt failed. I wasn't feeling successful and now I'm trying to get her to do something so that I feel better. And I've pursued that thing again and again and again in our marriage.
But what I'm learning now and what I do a better job [at] is, that see, to go to God first. He's the One that helps. It's not … I don't need that stuff from Erin now.
Jim: Well, what she's saying to you though, "See you know what? I told you so." And you say, "Oh, just a second, Erin. I gotta go pray."
Greg: Yeah, no. (Laughter) No, I wish.
Jim: I mean, is that what you should do?
Greg: You know, being honest.
Jim: Well, it's hard to say that.
Greg: Well, yeah, of course. That would be the ideal. I'm not capable of doing that. And so, we got into a little battle there. But on the drive home, as I was quiet. I was givin' her the silent treatment, 'cause—
Greg: --she wasn't giving me what I was wanting. I did go to the Lord. And what's so cool. Like I love 2 Corinthians 12:9, "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest upon me.'"
That's become the verse that I go to and I will say that back to the Lord. And there's a way in which, that I get to a very different spot. When I take the time, when I get out of this thing that we're goin' through and I really just plug back into God.
Jim: Well, and that's that frame of mind. It's a different frame of mind. You know, we're talking about your book, Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage: 12 Secrets for a Lifelong Romance. And John, I think it's be fun to post those at the website, the 12 and we're gonna come back next time and talk about more of them. We've touched on them without identifying 'em.
Before we leave today though, something that really jumped out at me in reading the material, sacrifice is what love looks like. That's a powerful statement. What'd you mean by it?
Erin: You know, really what sacrifice is, it's giving up something that you have. So, whether it's your time, your money, your possessions, your comfort, you're giving that up for someone that you consider more valuable than you. So, really that's love in action. You know, I love the Scripture that talks about, "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."
Jim: Erin, let me ask you this though. In marriage, so often we do that in the dating phase. We'll lay down everything, my jacket over the puddle, open the door, take care of the bill. I mean, we'll do everything, but it seems like once the "I do's" occur, spouses forget the sacrifice part and now it's just how you irritate me.
Erin: Yeah and that's what we start focusing on, is the irritations and the annoyances and you know, "He always does that." Versus going back to, "I am fully loved; therefore those things, you know what? You know, [put them] by the wayside and start focusing on because I'm so loved, how can I then put that into action in the abundance and the overflowing love of God, that I can serve and sacrifice for my husband.
Jim: How do you keep that at the forefront of your mind though?. Day in and day out, how do I sacrifice today? I think I understand it, because I try to use it as a trigger for me when I get home and there's some chaos and you know, to get to the dishes, I don't want to present something false like I'm always doin' that or even several times a week doin' it.
Greg: Oh, Jean's …
Jim: Occasionally I can see that, you know, Jean will be overwhelmed with a lot of other things and I'll try to jump in and do something. I don't know that she sees it as often as I'd like her to see it. But it's that trigger, how to just do an action rather than ask for it, right?
Greg: For me it's just that understanding that my purpose, my destiny within my marriage is simply to love. There is nothing else and I'm so simple minded that it just makes this easy for me. And so, my goal is to love. I mean, take 1 John 4:11. Listen to this. It says, "Beloved," which by the way means "much loved," so God is reminding us that, hey, beloved, much loved, it says that, "If I have loved you, so you ought to love one another." Twice we're being reminded that God has loved us, to free us up to focus in on what is our true purpose and that's to love others.
And so, I then needed, okay, so love, it's this nebulous, wow, love. What does that mean? What it means as Erin is talking about it, it's just simply to sacrifice. It says in 1 John 3:16, "This is how we know what love is." I mean, it's right there. This is how we know what love is. If Jesus Christ laid down His life for us, we ought to lay down our life for someone else.
What I've been doing lately is just over and over and over I just remind myself, this is my opportunity today is to sacrifice for my wife, to give up something that I value, whatever—doin' the dishes; I've got time; I've got something else maybe I'd rather be doing—I want to give that up because she is more valuable than I am.
And I just keep saying that. We've been teaching our kids this, just been going over that verse, Erin that you mentioned.
Erin: And sweet Annie, our 8-year-old, she has gotten this. Literally one morning I came down and I made her bacon for breakfast. That's what she wanted, was bacon, three pieces--
Greg: I mean, who wouldn't?
Jim: Yeah, right.
Erin: I know.
Jim: Wise child.
Erin: --three pieces of bacon. Well, our 18-year-old comes down, Murphy and she says, "Oh, I really wanted bacon and sweet Annie looks up at me out of the corner of her eye and says, "Mom, I'm gonna lay my life down for Murphy. I'm gonna give her a piece of my bacon." And I was like, that's a huge sacrifice to give bacon up.
Greg: Huge, she is getting it though.
Erin: She is.
Greg: I mean, the other day she got in the car and said, "Daddy, you'll never guess what I did today?" "What?" So, this is after school and she goes, "Today we got smelly pencils and mine smelled like a watermelon." And I'm thinkin', what is goin' on (Laughter)--
Erin: What is goin' on at that school?
Greg: --at the school? She goes, but this other girl wanted the watermelon one and so, I laid down my life. I gave that to her. That's it.
Jim: Yeah, it's a great illustration of how Annie's future husband will look back and appreciate what you've done—
Greg: Yeah. (Laughing)
Jim: --in Annie's life.
Greg: I hope and then they'll take care of me.
Jim: Right. (Laughter) But so many more points to talk about. Let's come back next time and continue the discussion on your book, Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage: 12 Secrets for a Lifelong Romance. Can we do it?
Greg: Oh, we'd love to.
John: Well, as Jim mentioned, that book is really full of some great relationship advice for pretty much any stage of marriage. And you can learn about the 12 secrets to lifelong romance and practical ways to experience those in your marriage when you get a copy of Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us and we can tell you more, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459.
And when you contribute to the work of Focus on the Family, for your gift of any amount today, we'll send that book to you. It's a great resource to have or to pass along, so please donate to Focus on the Family today and we'll get that out to you.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. We'll hear more from Greg and Erin, as he shares some of the struggle to find his own identity and his new identity as Erin's husband.
Greg Smalley: The biggest thing was, you know, growing up in that home with Gary Smalley. He was such a spiritual giant, that [I] probably leaned too heavily on him as far as my spiritual … my own—
Jim Daly: Identity.
Greg: --spiritual relationship and identity. And it took a couple years to really struggle through some things before God really got ahold of me. And then I was able to figure out my own relationship with God, which then really made a difference in our marriage.
End of Excerpt
John: That's next time, as we once again, help your family thrive.
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Greg SmalleyView Bio
Dr. Greg Smalley serves as the vice president of Family Ministries at Focus on the Family. In this role, he develops and oversees initiatives that prepare individuals for marriage, strengthen and nurture existing marriages and help couples in marital crises.
Prior to joining Focus, Smalley worked for the Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University and as President of the National Institute of Marriage. He is the author of twelve books including "Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage,” “Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage," "The DNA of Relationships," "The DNA of Parent and Teen Relationships," and "The Whole-Hearted Marriage". He and his wife, Erin Smalley, co-created Ready to Wed, a complete premarital curriculum for engaged couples and The Focus on Marriage Assessment.
Smalley’s passion for marriage began as a young boy. He is the son of Dr. Gary Smalley, a family counselor, president and founder of the Smalley Relationship Center and author of 40 books on marriage. Smalley regularly attended his father’s conferences and absorbed the importance of marriage. He frequently had people come up to him at events and say, “Your dad saved my marriage.”
Smalley knew early in his career that he wanted to be more hands-on in helping couples. After receiving his doctorate at the Rosemead School of Psychology at Biola University in Southern California and a counseling degree from Denver Seminary, he and his wife, Erin, led intensive marriage seminars around the world and trained pastors, professionals and lay leaders on how to effectively work with married and engaged couples.
Married since 1992, Greg and Erin live in Colorado with their three daughters, Taylor, Murphy and Annie, and their son, Garrison. Smalley brings at least one child to every age-appropriate event, exposing them to the crucial role marriage plays in the family and society.
Gifted with the ability to demonstrate valuable relational lessons along with a heavy dose of humor, Greg and Erin deliver insightful, practical and passionate in-person conferences at your church to help couples deepen their marriage relationship.
Erin SmalleyView Bio
Erin Smalley serves as the program manager for Focus on the Family's marriage ministry and develops content for the marriage department.
In addition to her work at Focus, Smalley is a conference speaker. She presents with her husband, Dr. Greg Smalley, at marriage enrichment seminars where they guide husbands and wives in taking steps toward enjoying deeply satisfying marriages. She also speaks to women on faith, family and the importance of healthy friendships.
Before starting at Focus in 2011, Smalley served on staff at the Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University. She has also conducted marriage intensives with her husband and counseled women individually.
Smalley has published numerous articles for ParentLife, HomeLife and Marriage Partnership magazines. She is the co-author of "Grown-Up Girlfriends" and "Before You Plan Your Wedding, Plan Your Marriage." She has also been a guest on the "Focus on the Family" daily broadcast and "Midday Connection" on Moody radio.
Smalley earned a bachelor's degree in nursing at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz. She worked as a labor and delivery nurse for eight years before going back to school for a master's degree in clinical psychology at Evangel University in Springfield, Mo.
Smalley loves being a biological and adoptive mom of four children: Taylor, Murphy, Garrison and Annie. In her free time, she enjoys exercising, reading, hanging out with her family and bargain shopping.