Give Now to Save America's Families!
Urgent Need: Will you become 1 of the 770 monthly donors needed by March 31 to embolden Christian homes to stand firm against cultural forces that dishonor God’s plan for marriage and families? Your monthly gift will ensure we can continue to provide trustworthy, biblical guidance and support to struggling families on an ongoing basis.
770 donors still needed! Choose the monthly amount you'd like to give

Focus on the Family Broadcast

Best of 2023: How to Stay Crazy In Love With Your Spouse (Part 1 of 2)

Best of 2023: How to Stay Crazy In Love With Your Spouse (Part 1 of 2)

In this best of 2023 broadcast, Greg and Erin Smalley discuss the importance of couples prioritizing time together, connecting on a deeper emotional level. They stress the importance of physical intimacy in marriage; urging men to care for their wives and encouraging women to “prepare” themselves for intimacy. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: February 13, 2023

Woman #1: Something me and my spouse do is we pray together and also pray for each other.

Man #1: Yeah, I think the thing that has helped our marriage the best is going to bed at the same time every night.

Woman #2: The way that I stay in love with my spouse is we have a date night every single week.

Man #2: Something I try to do with my wife is whenever she has an idea, uh, about how to do something, I make sure that I don’t shut her down right away. I wanna make sure that she feels heard.

Woman #3: We like to joke around with each other and tease each other. It helps us, uh, keep tough situations lighthearted.

John Fuller: 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.

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 and marriage.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: A good target.

John: Indeed.

Jim: Uh, this program was a big hit with the listeners, and we’re gonna 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 Smalleys experienced all of those things through some of their crazy adventures together. They have really, a wonderful sense of humor, very authentic. Uh, I think you will love to hear this once again or for the first time.

John: And let’s just say this upfront. 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 gonna find wonderful advice and encouragement in this best of program today. Now, Jim, you mentioned the Smalleys are colleagues, and they do a lot of, uh, 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, uh, you can learn more about the book, the podcast, and our guests, uh, all at And Jim, here’s how you begin the conversation with Greg and Erin Smalley on today’s Best of 2023 Focus on the Family.

Jim: Greg and Erin, welcome back to the studio. You’re just down the hall, so it’s not a long journey for you.

Erin Smalley: (laughing) It was a very long commute today.

Dr. Greg Smalley: I got lost.

Jim: Let’s not talk about that. (laughing) Erin’s going, “That was a long drive in.”

Erin: Well, we drove together, so yes.

Jim: Oh, is that the problem?

Greg: It was especially long. (laughing)

Jim: Well, let’s start with that.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: What happened this morning-

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: … that made the drive so long?

Erin: It was actually really fun to come together.

Jim: Oh, that’s good.

Erin: Yes.

Greg: But we’re not one of those couples that you mentioned who’s never had conflicts, so that’s… (laughing)

Jim: You say that with a big smile on your face.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: Yeah. That, that ended, oh, probably four days-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: … into our marriage.

Jim: Well, yeah, I know that story. It is kind of amazing. You guys seemed to, uh, embrace conflict after you learned the benefit of conflict. Maybe we should just start there. Um, is there a benefit to conflict?

Erin: Yeah, I think there’s an opportunity when couples w- walk through conflict in a healthy way. Often, when we hear the word conflict, we think of combat.

Jim: (laughs) Yeah, that’s true.

Erin: 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.”

Jim: That’s good.

Greg: It’s my father and I curse him for this. Come with all these…

Jim: (laughs) Yeah. Your dad, Gary Smalley comes up a lot, doesn’t he?

Greg: Exactly.

Jim: He was the marriage guru-

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: … back in the ’80s and ’90s. And yeah, what a great man. So sorry for that loss.

Greg: Yeah. M-

Jim: He passed away, how many years ago?

Greg: Uh, about six.

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Yeah, that’s amazing.

Greg: And Erin frequently quotes his best lines to…

Jim: (laughing) I can’t imagine being married to that kind of family. Well, your dad used to say. Don’t listen to me.

Greg: Exactly. Listen to your father. Thank you.

Jim: Let’s start with, uh, commitment.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Uh, that’s, I think in line with your romance secret number one of the 12 secrets. So, talk about commitment. Uh, 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?

Greg: Ooh, this was day four.

Jim: Okay.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Okay. So, what happened?

Greg: Yeah. So, we, there, there was a particular hike that I really wanted us to go onto a waterfall. And…

Jim: And you’re in Hawaii.

Greg: We’re in Hawaii. So, when we…

Jim: Nice choice, yeah.

Greg: So, when we get to the waterfall, we’re gonna play around and have this amazing moment as this brand new married couple. And so, each day, I would wake up and go, “Erin, 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 kinda went, “You know, this, this was important to me. C- Could we do this?” “Fine.” So, we set out…

Jim: Wait a second. I wanna m- Did you really say it like that? Fine.

Erin: I didn’t. I didn’t say it like that.

Jim: Jean would say, “Check that one.” (laughs)

Erin: I think it was more like…

Greg: No, I think she said, “Well, your dad wouldn’t wanna go on this.”

Jim: Yes. Okay, so back to reality. It was fine, sure, let’s go.

Erin: Yeah. And so, off we went.

Greg: Yeah.

Erin: 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.”

Jim: Ah.

Greg: Yeah. And so, th- this was it. Like, it took as 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, 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 start arguing. It escalates to the point that I say to my bride of f- (laughing) of four days, “Fine. If this is how you’re gonna be, then this honeymoon is ruined for me.”

John: Oh, my goodness.

Jim: That’s dramatic.

Greg: Yes.

Erin: Yes.

Greg: It should go on everybody’s list of what not to say-

Erin: Correct.

Greg: … on your honeymoon. And so, as you could imagine we were totally disconnected.

Jim: How did everything work out that night? (laughing)

Greg: Um, yeah. Well…

Jim: Let’s save that for later.

Greg: No, yeah. So, we ended up in a little luau. That was our last adventure.

Erin: Yeah, we had tickets. We needed to go to use the tickets, but we weren’t speaking. So, that was…

Jim: This is the luau?

John: Wow.

Erin: Yes.

Greg: Yeah.

Erin: We weren’t speaking at the luau.

Jim: Okay.

Erin: But we were sitting by each other.

Greg: Yeah. So, we were kind of stuffed in. She’s not talking. And I started thinking, this probably ain’t gonna work out for me tonight, when she’s not talking to me.

Jim: Day four, you still have some ideas-

Greg: Right.

Jim: … of what you want to happen.

Greg: Exactly. And so, I’m thinking, I gotta repair this thing. And so, I just, I, I, we were literally like sardines, all these people. And so, I kinda pried my arm out just to put around her, just a test. You know, you’re, you’re-

Jim: Sure.

Greg: … trying to figure out how in trouble am I, really. And she didn’t acknowledge me at all. And, and so, I, I, I then started gently rubbing her shoulders, thinking, well, surely she’ll see that I’m being sensitive and caring. No reaction. So, I kinda lean into 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.

Erin: A complete stranger.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: Okay, this is going deeper.

John: Oh.

Greg: Yeah.

Erin: Yes.

Greg: So, that would be strike two, um.

Erin: But ironically, I became friends with those two ladies.

Jim: Oh, that’s funny.

Erin: And we still get Christmas cards from them.

Jim: You still th-

Greg: Truly.

Erin: Yes.

Jim: That is so good.

Greg: There’s always a PS at the bottom-

Jim: Yes.

Greg: … Greg, whenever you’re tired of Erin.

Jim: You had to be crammed in there, you know-

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: … to, to make that mistake.

Greg: Yeah. But, but what I tell you, w- what hit me though as it applies to commitment, is that it, it rattled me that four days into our marriage, we ended up in this huge fight. So, we, 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.”

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: Is there something wrong with her? That was my first guess. There has to be something wrong with her.

Erin: Well, I was already wondering what was wrong with you-

Greg: Right.

Erin: … rubbing the woman’s shoulders sitting next to me. (laughs)

Jim: I think Erin has more of a case-

Greg: I was a very caring person.

Erin: Yes.

Jim: … for who’s at fault here. (laughs)

Greg: True, I agree. Looking back, yeah. But it, it hit me in a way that it, it, it caused some just some distance between us as we both tried to figure out w- this shouldn’t be happening. So obviously, there’s something wrong with us, with our marriage.

Jim: Yeah,

Erin: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Greg: 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, I, 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.”

Jim: Are you still in counseling for that?

Greg: Yeah. But I’m-

Erin: She is. (laughing)

Greg: But to let her know, I’m, I’m with you till the end.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: Yeah.

Greg: In, in looking back, when I think of commitment-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: … as Erin and I talk about this, I think the, the most important part of commitment, like I wish someone had told me this. Like, where was my dad, the marriage guru with this advice? I-

Jim: Oh, I think he was letting you learn your way.

Greg: Yeah. That’s true, that’s fair.

Jim: That’s what I think.

Greg: But it, but what I wish I would have learned is how important grit is as it applies to commitment.

Jim: Well, one of the things I wanted to ask you guys, you mentioned it in the book. And I, I read this book as a business book, ironically-

Greg: Mm-hmm. (laughs)

Jim: … but as Sun Tzu’s, uh, Art of War.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: You know, we did it in a, in a business environment, you know. And, uh, 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.

Greg: You wouldn’t think The Art of War…

Jim: So, how did The Art of War, The Art of War apply to marriage?

Greg: Yeah. He, he had a, a great philosophy that, that when they were marching into battle, you would actually have people go back and burn supplies, burn bridges, burn anything that would allow his troops to retreat.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: 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 gotta figure certain stuff out. And, and that, that creates that grit-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: … in, in our marriage. Grit means that I will do anything necessary. Whatever I need to do to keep moving forward-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: … then, then I’m gonna do that.

Erin: And it’s so interesting, in First Corinthians 7:28, it says, “But those who marry will face many troubles in life.” And so, it says in scripture, when you get married, you’re gonna face difficulties. You’re gonna 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 privilege in that God gives us in marriage to have a traveling buddy, a journeying buddy as we develop that grit. And the grit is something so powerful because it, it binds us together. It gives us, it makes us stronger on the other side of trials.

Greg: I tell you th- this grit really showed up a few years ago when our daughter, our oldest daughter went through a divorce.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: And, and what it did for me is it caused me to go, I mean, what are, what are some of those blind spots, you know? This was 28 years into our own marriage.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: Started thinking, what, what am I doing that’s causing harm to Erin, 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.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: And, and that’s how it hit me. And I went through a season to where, I mean, I jumped into counseling. I started meeting with this fantastic counselor, Christian counselor here in Colorado Springs, and just said, he, he was like, “Why are you here?” I went, “I don’t know.” But I wanna know that there aren’t some things that I’m dealing with that’s gonna injure my marriage.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Greg: And, and did that for a solid year, just working on stuff, and we figured some stuff out.

Jim: Well, 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.

Greg: Yeah, mm-hmm.

Jim: That there’s gonna be a lot of swirl, there’s gonna be a lot of-

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: … 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.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: Uh, speak to that.

Erin: Mm-hmm. 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, a body of faith together and that’s creating a, 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 20s, that haven’t co-habitated, and they share a deep faith.

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: Lowest divorce rate.

Jim: Yeah, that’s good.

Erin: So it’s, that’s a h- has a huge impact on a relationship.

Jim: Yeah.

Greg: 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, 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 on front of him. And believed 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.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Greg: And I began to really shut down. And, and there were times I didn’t wanna go to church. I didn’t wanna pray with Erin. And here’s a new bride, she’s going, man, along for this between the two of us. And yet, it wasn’t happening. Looking back, it was, I felt so intimidated that, that I couldn’t do it the way he did it. And I remember one time sitting, he and I, so he would teach marriage seminars. I’d go with him. I’d, I actually worked at his book table.

Jim: Yeah.

Greg: So, I’d be selling books.

Jim: Sounds like you my have missed some of the content, like. (laughing)

Greg: Well, ’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 Erin?” 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. And, and I said, “Yeah, things are fine.” He goes, “You know, how are you guys doing spiritually?” I’m like, “I, I mean, I, I get,” you know.

I, and I said, “Well, you know in all honesty,” I said, “It’s not going well and it’s your fault.”

Jim: Oh.

Greg: And, and he kinda went like, thinking I was joking. He’s looking at me like, “Uh, 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, and it was one of those odd moments that, that he literally comes up from his side of the table, kinda scoots me over, scoots in next to me, and just gets right in my face. Like, I’m thinking, man, he’s gonna yell. Like, what is 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 go through, “Listen, I watch-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: … you provide for your family, for your wife and, and 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 committed.” He just started 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 (laughing) or wherever we were, you know, over some whatever. And it was such a powerful moment for me because it redefined-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Jim: That’s p- That’s powerful.

Erin: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Greg: … my own expectations of what this should look like in a relationship.

Jim: That’s good.

John: This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. And our guest today are Greg and Erin 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. Uh, we have those here at the ministry. Just give us a call, 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or stop by at

Jim: Let me move it to, uh, that inevitable conflict. Which again, I think 98% of couples are gonna, I’m always gonna leave that door open for the 2% that, we never have conflict. Have you ever heard that before?

Greg: Um, I, I get that, that some people, their style-

Jim: Yeah.

Greg: … of relating-

Jim: Yeah.

Greg: … is very agreeable and they-

Jim: Yeah.

Greg: … they work through their differences. So, the question is, are they saying they just don’t have difference of agreement or difference of opinion?

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: Well, and couples handle conflict differently.

Jim: Right.

Erin: 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.

Jim: Right.

Erin: But the tension is there, it’s just inside.

Jim: So, let’s get back to the fighter, the two of you. (laughing)

Erin: Mm-hmm, yes. It’s…

Jim: Which I think you are the fighter types.

Greg: We are.

Jim: So, in that context, um, conflict does have a benefit, uh, that does help husbands and wives-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … draw closer together-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … which is an unsettling formula for some people.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: So, how does that work? Uh, kinda take us through that, how conflict can actually help us become stronger and closer.

Greg: Well, we could tell you a real recent conflict that we went through.

Jim: We always love the most recent conflict example.

Greg: (laughs) When Erin bought a new chair for her office and just simply needed my help in moving that chair into her office.

Erin: 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-

Greg: I wasn’t questioning her design feature. I just thought it was odd, but it’s her chair.

Erin: So, I-

Greg: So, you remember early in the morning.

Erin: Yeah. I, I asked Greg, “Hey, can you just help me move that chair into my office,” but we had to lift it and kinda hoist it over the desk, so I couldn’t do it alone. I needed help. And so, we begin doing that and it just didn’t go so well.

Greg: It’s not working. And so, I’m getting frustrated just, you know, I say to her, “Listen, lift with your legs. We gotta get this thing up and over.”

Erin: And I’m like-

Jim: This must be one big chair. (laughs)

Greg: It was a big chair.

Erin: Yeah. And I’m like, I’m a nurse. I know to lift with my legs. I was trained in proper body mechanics. (laughs)

Greg: But she, so she-

Jim: Wow.

Greg: … 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.

Erin: Well, what he didn’t know was I had received a text right before he came downstairs and was like, “Hey, um, 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, to like, speed this along. And so, the c- We didn’t h- I didn’t have time for conflict in the middle of moving the chair.

Jim: It sounds like you didn’t have time to move the chair.

Greg: Yes.

Erin: Probably.

Jim: Just an observation.

Greg: Yes, thank you.

Erin: Yeah. (laughs)

Jim: Maybe we could do this later tonight.

Erin: Yes.

Greg: Could we have Jim just oversee?

John: Well, thank you for joining us for this Focus broadcast. It’s, uh-

Jim: No, I’m not picking on Erin, but you know, prioritization.

Greg: So, she snaps at 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 then it kinda crashes to the ground. And I say, “Good luck,” and I walk out of our office.

Jim: Boooo.

Greg: Exactly.

Erin: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Greg: I agree, not. But I’m telling you, th- we do that when we get into these arguments and our hearts 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 lifting services.

Erin: Right.

Jim: Good point. (laughs)

Greg: Yeah. Do f- (laughs)

Jim: See, my reaction would be-

Greg: But I d-

Jim: … to grab the chair and take it out of Jean’s hands and put it on the other side of the desk.

Greg: I mean, it was like, 400 pounds though.

Jim: And then say, “See, I can do it.”

Erin: Yeah.

Greg: At least 500 pounds, probably was, it was.

Jim: Okay. (laughs) You need a different chair.

Erin: So, he drops the chair. I’ve gotta go. Like, I’m late. And so, I’m driving to the counseling center to see this couple that’s waiting. And I started thinking, I’m like, I really don’t feel comfortable going in and working with another couple when I’m in total conflict and disunity with my own husband.

Jim: And this is the real truth about counseling.

Erin: Yes.

Greg: Exactly.

Erin: So, I get to the office and I’m like, so I, 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.” I-

Greg: And I’m reading this text, going, “Uh-huh. Yeah. Exactly, right.”

John: Oh.

Greg: It’s, it was about time that she…

Erin: And I’m expecting like, a nice little, it’s okay.

Greg: It was my fault.

Erin: You know, we’ll talk about it when we get home. I shouldn’t have dropped the chair. I didn’t get that.

Greg: Uh, I’m sure I said something like, “Thank you for owning, you know, the fact that we were in conflict because you chose the w-” Yeah.

Erin: Yeah.

Jim: (laughs) Okay, this is funny.

Greg: Yeah. So, it, it-

Jim: This is really good.

Greg: It’s a great illustration of how-

Erin: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Greg: … pride can manifest itself in-

Jim: Now, one of the things in the book, uh, when you’re talking about this romance secret number four, which we’re on.

Greg: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Not that we’re naming or listing each one, but this is that idea of true love-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … fights for peace.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: You differentiate it between combat and negotiation. So, you’re kind of describing that I think now.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: Yeah. Combat is when-

Jim: But why should we avoid combat?

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: What is it and why avoid it? And then what’s negotiation look like?

Greg: Yeah. I mean, combat would be a good example of dropping a chair, when you’re in reacting.

Jim: Okay.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: 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 kinda stuff that we wanna avoid.

Jim: That’s combat.

Erin: Well, and it’s really, it leads to pride.

Greg: Yeah.

Erin: 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.

Greg: Well, and I l- I love Philippians 2:3. 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. And sitting in there, when I got the text, I was v- I was excessively proud of how I thought she had wronged me-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: … 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.

Jim: So, take the chair analogy-

Greg: Yeah.

Erin: Yeah.

Jim: … or story all the way through.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: So, did you come back that night and how did you work it out?

Greg: Yes. So, as I literally sat there, you know, thinking how wronged I was and, and just, I, I did pray and say, “God, I am feeling totally shut down. Like, give me your perspective.” Uh, instantly, I felt totally humbled. I felt the conviction that, that he brings, which is great. Uh, he needs to convict me and not Erin. And so then, I texted her, going, “Actually, you know what? The, I played a big part of this. And I shouldn’t have treated you this way. I shouldn’t have dropped the chair. Uh, 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.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: That’s what we’re arguing for that, that if we can go circle back. And like, Erin and I have learned to do this by saying, w- 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?” A lot of times, she’ll go, “Ah, I’m good.” Or in this case, she went, “Yeah, that didn’t feel good at all. L- Let’s talk that through.”

Erin: 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.

Greg: Let me ask you, what was the like?

Erin: Yes.

Greg: How did that feel?

Erin: Yeah. And you cared. You took time just to listen and care.

Greg: Yeah, she was like, I just, I felt disrespected, huh.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: Well, that, yeah, that makes sense. That was very disrespectful.

Jim: Well, I just broke the glass covering my desk.

Greg: Exactly. (laughing)

Jim: What are you thinking? (laughing)

Greg: I need a new chair and a desk now. And so, it, it, what I’ve learned is that, th- I think the worst phrase that we use around conflict is conflict resolution. It’s such a bad phrase ’cause it implies somehow, we’ve gotta-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: … find a solution.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: Which it, what we’re finding most of the time, we just need to circle back and repair by just caring-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Greg: … about how the other person felt.

Erin: But the truth is, Dr. John Gottman says that 70% of conflict is perpetual. So, it’s things that aren’t gonna change. Like, Greg is an introvert. I’m an extrovert. He’s a morning person. I’m a night person. We’re not gonna 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?

Jim: I’m shocked you’re a night person given you’ve had children.

Erin: Yes. (laughing)

Jim: That turned Jean into an instant morning person. But-

Erin: Now, I have a teenager, so.

Jim: Yeah.

John: 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, uh, we hope you laughed along and were encouraged by the stories and the insights that the Smalleys shared. And that this content has a positive impact on your marriage.

Jim: It’s definitely our goal, John. And one of, uh, 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, uh, 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.”

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: That is great. That’s the goal. And, uh, what wonderful news for this couple. And thanks to the generosity of listeners like you, friends who support this ministry. We’re able to give family’s hope like we did for Alexis and her husband. And you know what? Our research which we do every year, shows that f- less than 1% of our listeners actually donate to Focus. So, there’s millions of listeners every week, uh, but only about 1%, uh, 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.

John: You know that would be so huge, Jim. And it’s really exciting to think about that since we have a matching gift opportunity going on right now, with some generous friends of Focus willing to match any donation that you as a listener make, dollar for dollar.

Jim: So, the time is really now. And you know, uh, $5 gift, let’s just do that. If you haven’t given to Focus before and you’ve listened for a while, just give us a $5 gift. Now, thankfully, that’ll become $10. But it’s just a way to engage and start to help others. And, uh, before long, I think you’ll be, uh, supporting us in even bigger way.

John: Mm-hmm, yeah. Well, the number to call is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or donate generously at And when you make a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family, we’ll say thank you by sending you 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.

Today's Guests

Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage Book Cover

Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage: 12 Secrets for a Lifelong Romance

Receive the book Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage and a free audio download of “How to Stay Crazy In Love With Your Spouse” for your donation of any amount! Right now, you can DOUBLE YOUR DOLLARS to GIVE FAMILIES HOPE through our YEAR-END MATCH provided by generous friends of the ministry.

Recent Episodes

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Teaching Kids to Love God and Serve Others Well

Monica Swanson shares a story about taking her son Jonah through “character training” when he was 13 to learn more about the importance of godly character in his life. She also shares why allowing kids to suffer and learn through adversity will help them become stronger and healthier adults.

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Who God Says You Are

Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of two-thousand women, J.John uses his trademark humor and compelling stories to convey four traits that God sees in each of us: We are lovable, we are valuable, we are forgiven, and we are capable.

You May Also Like

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

A Legacy of Music and Trusting the Lord

Larnelle Harris shares stories about how God redeemed the dysfunctional past of his parents, the many African-American teachers who sacrificed their time and energy to give young men like himself a better future, and how his faithfulness to godly principles gave him greater opportunities and career success than anything else.

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Accepting Your Imperfect Life

Amy Carroll shares how her perfectionism led to her being discontent in her marriage for over a decade, how she learned to find value in who Christ is, not in what she does, and practical ways everyone can accept the messiness of marriage and of life.