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Cherishing the Differences in Your Spouse

Cherishing the Differences in Your Spouse

Authors Greg and Erin Smalley encourage spouses to embrace each other's differences, focusing on their good qualities instead of their faults.

Original Air Date: November 7, 2014

Teaser:

Woman #1: I’d say men are more factual, literal, um spontaneous. And women are more relational.

Man #1: Men are must more docile and more objective without the emotional response (Yelling) and I really mean it!

Woman #2: Men like to solve problems and women like to express their feelings. And that’s not always the best combination.

Man #2: Women are different from men in the sense that they are much more sensitive and emotional and tuned into what’s going on in life.

End of Teaser

John Fuller: Well, the fact is, men and women are very different from one another and that can lead to some interesting interactions in your marriage. We’ll talk more about that and your marriage on today’s “Focus on the Family” with Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, you know what? It’s fascinating how in some ways we can completely opposite with our spouse, and I think the Lord does that for a purpose.

John: Well, opposites attract, right?

Jim: Well, they attract, and I think He planned it that way so that we can become more selfless. We’ve talked about that. But when you sit there and think, “Okay, Lord, why did You design it this way?” I think that’s one of the major reasons. He brings an introvert together with an extrovert. He brings a night owl together with a morning person. And before long, what you thought was bliss because you were so much alike, you suddenly realize, oh, we’re not that much alike, and that can create friction.

John: It can and uh … the program we have today is really for marriages that don’t have really intense friction, Jim. We’re talkin’ today to those who have healthier marriages. There’s good interaction and connection. You’re not dealing with a crisis. Uh … but you just have those general day-to-day kind of confrontations.

Jim: Uh … you know, and that’s where there is a sense of good will toward your spouse. That’s a probably a good indicator that you’re healthy but may be strugglin’ where you still have good care and concern. But maybe there’s some cracks, like you said, John, in that relationship. And you know you need to work on some things. If it’s an abusive situation, call our counselors. You want to get out of that situation and we certainly are here to help you.  

That’s why Focus is here. Not just for that troubled crisis, but also for the tune-up and that’s what we’re gonna talk about today. And I think you’re gonna find great help from our special in-house marriage experts, our guests today, Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley. Greg and Erin, welcome back for the many times to “Focus on the Family.”

Greg Smalley: Great–

Erin Smalley: Thanks for having us.

Greg: –to be here with you guys again.  

Jim: Okay, differences, I want to start right here. You’ve got some kind of story about shopping. Let’s kick it off with that.

Greg: (Chuckling) We were just a couple weeks ago, we were doin’ a seminar in Florida. So, when we were finished with the seminar (laughter), just again just illustrates how different we are, ‘cause we get into the car and I’m done talking. You know, men, we’ve got about 12,000 words that we’re gonna speak every day on average. I’ve used ‘em all up. I don’t want to talk. The moment we get into the car, Erin wants to talk. And I had to tell her, I’m like, hey, I just need … I … I need a break. So, the nice part is, you … you call your friends–

Erin: Yeah.

Greg: –Call the kids.

Erin: So, I pick up my phone and call Taylor, our daughter and our … my friends. And I start texting and we head to the mall, because I’m looking for a specific bag. A … a large like tote bag. And so, I tell him, and he gets into it. He’s like, okay we can go and find that.

Greg: Oh, it was perfect, ‘cause it … now I don’t like to shop, but boy, you give me a purpose, if there’s some reason why we’re there and she said—

Jim: You’re on the hunt.

Greg: –I didn’t even know what a tote was, but it was something to carry a computer that … that she was looking for. So, now we’re on the hunt. So, now we’re at this mall. We go to one store. There’s tons and I’m looking. I’m holding them all up. (Laughter) I think we’re there, but no; it wasn’t quite good enough.

Erin: No, because as we looked, I started thinking, well, really, I could use this compartment and I need that, and I need this kind of strap. Well, maybe it’d be good to have one with wheels on it and …

Greg: Wheels! When did wheels factor into the whole thing? So, we … we went to another store. And then we went to another store. And she comes up with a bathing suit for our son. (Laughter) She bought it. And I went, “When did you even…?” (Laughter)

Jim: That’s called a diversion.

Greg: When did you even …

Erin: I was …

Greg: We’re looking for a bag, a tote.

Jim: But it caught your eye.

Erin: Well, it was the bargain basement.

Greg: Uh!

Erin: I mean, it was—

Jim: Three bucks.

Erin: –it was seven bucks, and so—

Jim: Okay, not bad.

Erin: –I was like, I can’t pass that up. Well, then we ran into a woman from the seminar and we had to have a conversation.

Greg: We’re in Florida–

Erin: And …

Greg: –a mall. We run into someone that Erin knows and so, now we have to stop and talk. And I’m goin’, we don’t have time to talk. (laughter) We’ve gotta find this bag. I’ve gotta shoot it, bag it and let’s get out of here. And then somehow, we even ended up at a … at a food court.

Erin: We just needed a little snack, a little energy to keep going (Laughter) But then we…

Greg: She wants to talk again!

Erin: –we …

Greg: Although she did get me some meat, so I was at least eating meat–

Jim: And you were good.

Greg: –while we sitting … oh, man!

Erin: But then we ended up not finding the right bag. We saw—

Greg: It’s painful.

Erin: –one that was nice—

Greg: I had to leave.

Erin: –but it was way overpriced and so, that night we get back to the hotel and he … Greg lays down. He was exhausted, but he’s sound asleep. Well, I find it online for a great price and so, I hand him my phone. I’m like, “Hey, I don’t know how to do this” and so …

Greg: She wakes me up! (Laughter)

Erin: From a dead sleep. And so, he ends up buying me two bags from a dead sleep, but—

Greg: For the … for—

Erin: –we conquered.

Greg: –less than what we were gonna do. But all that to say we could’ve skipped everything (Laughter) and just laid in our hotel room.

Jim: You will have found the $7 swim shorts!

Erin: Yeah, see?

Greg: Uh!

Jim: There is purpose to that! Let me ask you this — there’s a Scripture I love, because I think again, it’s God’s sense of humor. Genesis right there in 1:27, He says this: “So God created mankind in his own image. In the image of God, He created them (Chuckling) male and female He created them.” What’s your spin on this? I gave you mine at the top of the program. Why did He do it this way?

Greg: Well, I … I … I love that verse, even the very next verse down, I think it’s in 31, it says, “Then He looked over all that He had made and saw that it was very good.” So, here … here’s God Who creates male and female so different and then ends up saying, and that’s a good thing. And I think that’s one of the most important uh … realizations that we can make, is that, you know, these differences that are probably gonna frustrate us, irritate us, maybe be the basis for a lot of conflict, even for some couples who are splitting over irreconcilable differences, it … the truth is… See, Satan wants us to believe that differences are the problem. God is sayin’, what I created will never be the problem. The problem is never differences, is how people manage their differences. That’s the problem. That’s how we get in the way.

Jim: Hm.  

Erin: Uh-hm and really these differences, they bring spice. They bring balance. They bring all kinds of beauty to our relationship because we’re different and that’s a good thing, like Greg is saying. But it’s all in how we manage those differences.  

Jim: Okay, let’s talk about those differences. I mean, the Men Are From Mars—famous book title. I think a Christian version of that was Men are Like Waffles and Women are Like Spaghetti. I didn’t make that title up (laughter) so if you’re offended by that, if you like waffles, that’s not my fault. Uh … but what …

Greg: More of a pancake guy, myself. (Laughter)

Jim: There you go. What are they drivin’ at, these differences? Describe ‘em.

Greg: You know, for me, when I think about differences, I would say it this way. Marriage is like being in a canoe. (Laughter) With all my degrees, everything I’ve learned, that’s how I would say it. Marriage is like being in a canoe and this is what’s important. Okay, think about before we were married, Erin and I were in separate canoes and we’d go on dates and we’d kind of row up next to each other. And in life, you know, we’re always rowing up to someone we can relate. But when we get married, when we become one, we’re now in the same canoe.  

The problem is that every single little movement that she makes, every time that she leans one direction or does something, it throws me off balance, as well. The threat is that somehow, we’re gonna tip over. I would say differences are like those movements. All those differences that … that was have gender, personality, all that, are like the movement to where, when Erin is moving, it’s threatening me. I’m afraid we’re gonna tip over. It’s doing something to me. So, then I have to try to control her, settle her down. Don’t move! Stop doing that! Quit doin’ it like that! And more than anything that … that I’ve learned is that, marriage is like that canoe. We’re in this canoe together.

Outside of that, I mean, if I row up next to John Fuller, you know, and he’s doin’ somethin’ I don’t like, I can always push away and paddle back. But in a marriage, I can’t do that. So, all those little movement[s], like those differences, really what it does is, it … it … it feels like a threat. It’s somehow making me feel unsafe, nervous. I don’t like it. It’s doing something to me.  And so, if we can just remember, we’re in the same canoe and that’s a good thing. That’s how God—

Jim: (Laughing) For as long as you’re—

Greg: –designed it.

Jim: –not beating each other with the paddles!

Greg: Exactly (Laughter)

Erin: Yeah!

Jim: Uh … let me ask you this though, the uh … you know, a lot of couples will experience this where uh … those differences are … are so … they drive so much energy, so much angst that they begin to go into the red zone, you know, where I would say communication shuts down. How does a couple first recognize, you know, we’re gonna have differences, we’re not the same person. And how do we keep out of the red zone, if I could call it that?

Erin: Well, you think about before you get married, I know we experienced this. There were so many of those differences that actually drew us together. That we … you know, little quirks, things that he did I thought were so cute and sweet (Laughter) and …

Jim: And now they’re irritating! (Laughter)

Erin: Well, amazing, what happens, then (Laughter) you get into the same canoe. I like your analogy, Greg. And you get into the same canoe and you know, they’re no longer cute. They’re threats. They’re not like you. And so, when you start seeing someone that’s different, you know, especially as women, we just think a little tweak here, a little tweak there and it’ll—

Jim: You could fix us!

Erin: –be all good, yeah. But think about what it feels like when someone’s trying to change you and control you. You’re not being accepted. You’re not being embraced for who God made you to be.  

Jim: Well, from a … a marriage counseling perspective, which both of you have done many hours with couples, when one spouse is trying to change the other spouse, that’s usually a recipe for disaster.

Erin: Mm-hm.

Jim: Why? It seems uh … maybe rational. That’s the best way to go. I can change him.

Greg: Well one, it’s manipulative. So, if I’m trying to change her basically what I’m saying is, I don’t like what you’re doing. I think what I want or the way I think it should be is better than the way you think or what you’re doing. So, one, it … it sends a message that … that I’m superior.  I think I’m better. I know more than you do. But also, it says what God created is …

Jim: (Laughing) And you’re supposed to say yes, dear.

Greg: Yeah. (Laughter) I’m sorry; yes dear, yeah. But it also …

Erin: I don’t remember that happening like that though. (Laughter)

Jim: Sorry, you were talkin’ about the Lord.

Greg: Well this … (Laughter) listen to this podcast over and over and over again; you can hear me saying, “Yes, dear.” It also says though to God almost that, hey, what You created I don’t think is that good.

Jim: Hm.  

Erin: Yeah.

Greg: You said it was good, but I’m kinda saying it’s not, because I don’t like it. That’s not the way that I would do it. That’s different than me. Again, those movements are makin’ the canoe feel real unstable. And … and that’s why this doesn’t … it just doesn’t work.  

Jim: Let … let me ask you a common uh … maybe debate … whenever I use the word “argument,” somebody will write a letter saying, “Christians shouldn’t argue.” Uh … so, let me just say the debate between a couple. It could be something like this. “Honey, you treated that person with such deference and such kindness.

John: Mm.

Jim: How come you don’t treat me that way? If I were to say something that bad—

Erin: Uh-hm.

Jim: –you would’ve been down my throat. We’re far more comfortable with our spouse and letting them know what we really feel than perhaps with even close friends or family members. Why is that?

Erin: I had a realization just last week. I was at the Children’s Hospital with our little Annie, who has a few special needs. And you know, the doctors were coming in one after the other and really looking at her and evaluating for what was wrong. And for so … you know, like you’re saying, I see everything that’s right with her. But then why when we look at our spouse, do we look at these differences as something is wrong?

Jim: Hm.

Erin: In … thus, you know, with our friends, with our kids, we … we will see what’s right.

Jim: Hm.

Erin: And so, why can’t we extend that grace and see what … what God created is good, it says. And like you said in Genesis, it’s good and to really allow Him to be who he is. But again, being intimate and being close, often we can’t… or we choose not to do that.  

Jim: Well, and I guess it’d be another way of saying it, the cup of grace for others can sometimes be much deeper than the cup of grace for your spouse.

Erin: Uh-hm.

Greg: And if you really can think of that … that analogy of being in the same canoe. That’s what I think is perfect about this is that I give someone grace because I can push away from you. I can paddle back away.

Jim: Right.

Greg: If you’re doin’ somethin’ I don’t like, you’re not in my canoe. You are not a threat to my well-being. In so many ways, Erin and I are in that canoe. Everything that she does, every movement she makes can create that instability, that threat. In some way, it’s the deepest, most intimate relationship that I will ever have, outside of my relationship with God is with my wife. And therefore, she knows more and it’s that threat when she’s movin’ around, I think is why that it’s easier for us to extend grace to other people.

Jim: The only … the only thing when I hear that analogy, it sounds like a bit of fear, that you’re fearful that my canoe is tippin’ one way or the other. You don’t want it to be that, right?

Greg: Well, I just think in a deep close relationship because we’re one, because we’re in this marriage, it’s true. That every movement I make, it moves the boat in some way. And if you’ve ever been in a canoe, we … we know what that’s like. And so, it’s not a bad thing. I’m not saying that the canoe thus is wrong or there’s something bad about it. I’m just saying the reality is that Erin and I are in this together.

Jim: Hm.

Greg: And what happens is, that I go from seeing all these little differences as cute and funny and oh, I laugh at ‘em, to they start to irritate me a little bit. I … I don’t like the way that happens. It keeps me maybe from doing something. So, I begin to see them in a negative light. I… I develop these negative beliefs that creates conflict. And then down the road, hearts close. Hearts harden. I mean, all because we didn’t know how to manage these differences. So, I’d say the key is, can you learn how to manage these differences?

John: I’m John Fuller and this is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. And today we’re listening to a conversation that we recorded with our colleagues, Dr. Greg Smalley and his wife, Erin.

And we’re hearing about differences in marriage and how to navigate those with your spouse. And the source for this great content is Greg and Erin’s book, called The Wholehearted Wife: 10 Keys to a More Loving Relationship.

We’ll recommend you look for that and for a link to our free marriage assessment at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Okay, I don’t feel like we’ve actually fleshed out the gender differences, so I’m comin’ back to that one. Men and women — this is a generalization, I get that. And probably the 80-20 rule applies, where 80 percent of men will act this way and women and 20 percent the other way. So, I get that. But typically, Greg, I’ll let you speak for the men. What are men like?

Greg: (grunting)

Jim: What’s … maybe we should reverse this actually! (Laughter)

Erin: I know, after that noise I think . . .

Jim: Now that I think about it (Laughter) …

Erin: Like start over.

Jim: But go ahead, take a swing. What are men about? Typically?

Greg: You know, so take communication for example. So, as for me, a lot of men see communication needing some sort of specific purpose—a problem to solve, something to fix, a question to answer, some decision that we need to make. So, if there’s not a clear purpose in my mind, I … I don’t need to do a lot of talking. So, there’s…

Jim: Is this hard-wired? Why is it so predictable?

Greg: I … I think it’s exactly hard-wired. I think it’s back to the Genesis verse. God made us male and female. So, as a male, just the way that God’s created us, for most men, we communicate when there’s purpose. We’re looking to fix something, to solve something. Our goal is action. So, I’m listening for facts. I’m listening for what is it that Erin wants here? And the irony is that she’s completely different. So, within communication, you know, Erin, you … she’s wanting to connect. She’s wanting to relate.

Jim: Erin’s gonna talk about that. (Laughter) Go ahead, Erin. Tell us about the women.

Greg: I wanted to say it …

Jim: I saw her face!

John: She really wants to talk about that!

Jim: Man, he’s telling me what I’m about. (Laughter) I want to tell ‘em.

Erin: No, because he knows that I’m gonna have a lot of words to say and a lot of emotion and I … I really want to connect. So, he was trying to … to … stifle that.

Greg: Just because I love her. (Laughter)

John: He was getting to the point.

Jim: All right, formally, Erin—

Erin: He was trying to control me, so … (Laughter)

Jim: —tell me … tell me what women are about mostly again 80-20 rule.

Erin: Exactly and … and like you’re saying, so many couples will say, “Oh, I’m totally opposite of that.” But as women, we want to connect. We want to build an intimate, close relationship through conversation. We just want to share. There’s no limit on the number of words we have to emote with. And really, we’re sharing our feelings and our needs. And the ultimate goal is just this deep level of connection. And it … obviously, it’s very different than what men want through this conversation. Thus, it can be frustrating.

Greg: Hey, one of the funniest times, we were drivin’ in the car. And I remember we’re driving there. I’m drivin’, so we’re on (Laughter) this road trip.

Jim: Somebody’s driving.

Greg: Someone’s driving. (Laughter)

Erin: Hopefully!

Greg: Driving and I literally am just thinking, how nice this is. We’re … I’m with my wife. I’m with my family and we’re just drivin’. We don’t need to say anything. We’re just enjoying the beautiful scenery. (Chuckling) And finally Erin goes, you know what? She goes, “What is wrong?” She goes, “You won’t say anything.” (Laughter) And I’m going, wait, what? Here I’m thinking we’re having this lovely time. Silent. We’re just looking at the beauty that—

Erin: And here—

Greg: –God’s created.

Erin: –I really thought he was blocking me out or you know, ignoring me. And all … I mean, I … we’re sittin’ side by side. What a great opportunity to connect.

Jim: So, there’s not much relationship looking at a tree is what you’re saying, Erin (Laughter) and Greg’s feeling quite comfortable!

Erin: It’s not doin’ it for me!

Greg: There was no purpose in this conversation (Laughter) other … we’re just driving together. It … and again, now I know that she likes to connect that way, so as her husband, I have to remember that. That she wants me to initiate, to share, to ask her questions, to get to know her, so I get that. It just shows you the difference though. I was perfectly content just bein’ next to my best friend, my wife, in the car, not saying anything. And here she’s thinkin’ I’m blocking her out of my life!

Jim: Okay, I gotta ask you though. Did that erupt into a little argument? (Laughing)

Erin: It did. Do you remember what happened?

Greg: And then I shut down, because I was—

Jim: Then you really …

Greg: –mad.

Erin: Yeah, I think we drove across—

Greg: Before I was peaceful.

Erin: –the state of New Mexico in silence. (Laughter)

Greg: It was a long drive—

Jim: Well, that … and that’s—

Greg: –let me tell you that.

Jim: –an illustration of what happens. Just expectations are in a different place and then you end up truly upset with each other.

Erin: Yeah. And what would’ve been so helpful for me to understand that he needs these times of just quiet. And it’s not that … it has nothing to do with me; it’s how he was created. And that’s understanding these differences helps so much.

Jim: Uh … we have talked a long time ago. You dad, Gary Smalley, who’s a contributor and co-author of this book, The Wholehearted Wife — he and John Trent created something, a tool. It’s a quick tool. It’s not a uh … you know, full diagnostic on personality, but it was the animal—

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: –comparison.

Greg: So good.

Jim: Walk us through that, because I think that’s an easy way for people to understand themselves in a humorous style. And then, John, we’ll put that test up online and if you haven’t taken it before, come to the Focus on the Family website and you can take it. But describe the lion, otter, beaver, Golden Retriever.

Greg: Yeah, it’s so perfect, ‘cause we’re talking gender differences in communication but then there’s also personality difference. Like a lion is that person that really wants to be in charge. You think of an otter as this … that fun-loving, life is a party, always wants to be the life of the party. And you’ve got a golden retriever, just that sweet, very relational, caring, you know, a lot of empathy. And you’ve got the beaver personality that’s more structured…

Jim: Engineering.

Greg: Engineering. Detailed. You know, gets things done ‘cause there’s so much order. So, as Erin and I got married, you know, I’m a beaver/golden retriever. So, I … I … I can be relational, but really my … the key … I … I like things done right. I … I … I like the order and the systems and all of that, but I married an otter. (Laughter) So Erin is just … she is so extroverted and fun-loving. You know, life is a party. And so, that … that … we quickly began to bump into—

Jim: How does—

Greg: –each other’s differences.

Jim: –an otter like living with a beaver? (Laughter)

Erin: Do you want the truth? (Laughter)

Jim: Absolutely!

Greg: You’re killin’ me, Jim Daly. (Laughter)

Erin: Well, it … it … as he’s talking, it makes me laugh, ‘cause I … it makes me think of our house. He has order in ev … you know, his areas, but me, I have piles of stuff and you know … and I know where everything’s at generally. (Laughter) But it’s, you know, a little disordered chaos and I’m totally okay with that. Where for him, that drives him crazy. So, it’s important to understand how each of you are created.

I tell a story in the book that early on, growing up, I was adopted and so, in my family I always wondered if there was something wrong with me, because I was so different than my other family members. And I will never forget, my sophomore year of college, his sister brought me this personality test. It was the first time I had ever taken anything about … and I had no idea about personality. So, I took it and I realized I was an otter, Golden Retriever. And it just made sense. No one else in my family was an otter or Golden Retriever.

Jim:  It was who you are, unique.

Erin: It was who I was. And it just brought so much peace and understanding. Nothing was wrong. It was all right; it was how God created me. So, understanding yourself is critical. But then understand who your spouse is in their personality because then it’s so much easier to see it as a good thing—

Jim: Right and not a bad—

Erin: –versus—

Jim: –thing.

Erin: –a bad thing.

Jim: Yeah. Uh … Let me quickly, as we’re wrapping up, get to the positive nature of this, Greg and Erin. What are some of the benefits that married couples can experience when they learn to accept each other for who they are and embrace their own uh … you know, their own personality bents?

John: Hm.

Erin: You know, really first and foremost, if we as women especially can stop trying to change our spouse. You know, to see it as a positive that we’re different and that’s okay. You know, if something’s out of balance, being careful of how we bring that up. Bringing it up at a time other than conflict. But there has to be room for both of us in this relationship and in this marriage. We have to make room for both of us. It’s two people.

There’s a quote that I love. It’s my job to love and respect. This was actually from Billy Graham’s wife. “It’s my job to love and respect Billy, it’s God’s job to make him good.”

Jim: Wow! I mean, there’s … yeah, that’s good. Let me … let me mention this Scripture, which I think fits and then Greg, you can respond to all of it. But Philippians 4:8. This is beautiful! This is Scripture. We’re Christians, those of us that believe in Jesus Christ. Here’s what it says, not what Jim Daly says. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” And I would think that what he’s saying there is, um … act in such a way. That sums it up, doesn’t it, Greg?

Greg: It perfectly does, because not only God created us different, He said that was good. So, we need to give each other room as Erin said and accept these differences. Understand these differences. But Jim, what you’re talking about I think is the key to the whole thing. You want to change the way you see your spouse if you see their personality differences as irritating, really work on valuing those differences. That’s the key, is it’s whatever is good. I mean, God made this good.

I love in Luke where it talks about, “For where my treasure is (so, what I value, see there) will my heart be also.” I think when we really recognize those differences is bringing such uniqueness, spice into our relationship. Otherwise relationship would be bland. It would be boring. If we both were alike, well, where … where’s the fun in that? I mean, literally one of us wouldn’t be necessary!  

But I think, for the moment that I really went from trying to change Erin and trying to deal with all these irritating differences in gender and personality and family of origin, to really going, God, show me the value of … of … of what she’s bringing to our marriage. And if you want to change that right now, all you have to do … I would encourage you, make a list of what is it that you love about your spouse. Think about their personality, their character, their gender differences. Write those things down. Make that a list. Call that your “value list” and hold onto that.

Jim: Hm. 

Greg: It’s in those moments that I’m irritated with Erin, I have an option. I can pull that list out and look through it and go you know what? Yeah, God created an amazing person. She’s amazing and it’s because of all those differences! And so, if we can get to that place of really valuing those differences, I think that’s how we really change this.

Jim: Okay, so we’re in the canoe together. We’ve gotta accept our differences and celebrate them really—

Greg: Value them.

Jim: –and lean into them. See what’s right versus what’s wrong in our spouse and we’re so quick to find out what’s wrong.

And do come to the website. Take the test. It’s fun. And I think it’ll put a little laughter into your relationship with your spouse. Man, John, this has flown by, hasn’t it?

John: It has. I’ve benefited a great deal from the conversation. I’ll have some talking points when I get home tonight, in fact. (Laughter)

Jim: Greg and Erin, thanks so much for being with us.

Greg: You’re welcome. Thanks for having us.

Erin: Yeah, thanks for having us. 

John: That’s how we concluded our conversation with Greg and Erin Smalley on this episode of Focus on the Family. And some great insights from them, based on the book they co-wrote with Greg’s dad, the late Gary Smalley, called The Wholehearted Wife.

Jim: John, it’s always a good time in the studio with Greg and Erin. They’ve got such a great sense of humor. And we really do hope you found some good encouragement for your marriage. And I want to recommend you get their book.

We talked about gender and personality differences today, but that’s just one of the many topics they address. Greg and Erin have identified 10 keys for a more loving marriage. Who doesn’t want that? Things like honoring your spouse, diffusing anger, and the importance of connecting spiritually.

This is great content — and I’d love to put a copy of The Wholehearted Wife into your hands when you send a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family to do ministry together. That’s our way of saying thanks for joining us in strengthening and rescuing marriages today!

John: And you can donate at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459.

At that website you’ll find a link to our free marriage assessment which is a wonderful tool where you can quickly get a good overview of what’s working well in your marriage, and some areas where you may need to improve a bit. And we’ll urge you to check that out!

On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

The Wholehearted Wife

Receive a copy of Greg and Erin Smalley's book The Wholehearted Wife with your donation of any amount!

Recent Episodes

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Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

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Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

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Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

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Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Randy Schroeder

Dr. Randy Schroeder

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Simple Habits for Effective Parenting

Effective parenting is now within your grasp! With this inspiring how-to comprehensive book, achieve extraordinary results in raising a child to be self-assured, self-reliant, and responsible! You will be able to successfully lead and lovingly encourage your child toward a Godly life!

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Tim and Noreen Muehlhoff Cropped

Dr. Tim and Mrs. Noreen Muehlhoff

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Defending Your Marriage

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Headshot photo of author Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder

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Revival Rising

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Reigniting Your Passion for Jesus - Part 2

For those of faith whose passion has waned over time, Kim Meeder will reinspire you in your relationship with Jesus Christ as she tells powerful, true stories about God that will spark renewed joy in your heart and encourage you to share the Gospel with others.

Headshot photo of author Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder and her husband, Troy, are the co-founders of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, a non-profit organization in Bend, Oregon, that rescues abused horses and pairs them with hurting kids for mutual healing. Kim is a popular motivational speaker and the author of a half dozen books including Hope Rising and Bridge Called Hope, which feature inspirational stories from her ranch.

Revival Rising

With enthusiasm that will set ablaze your passion to reach the hurting, Kim Meeder encourages you to let the holy fire of God’s presence fill your heart, soul, mind and strength. As your fear and pride melt away, those around you who are losing their battle for hope will be transformed by encountering His redeeming love in you. This–this is revival rising.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 2

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Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

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Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage - Part 2

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Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 2

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Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Embracing Your Role as a Spouse

As a spouse, you have three roles to play—a friend, a partner, and a lover. On this one-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Pastor Kevin A. Thompson explores those different roles and challenges you to live them out by investing emotionally, physically, and mentally in your relationship. As friends, he suggests we learn to play and laugh together. As partners, he equips us with solid ways to handle conflict and communication. As lovers, he offers some thoughts on how to bring back the sizzle. He shares five keys to saving your marriage: humility, respect, mercy, communication, and resilience. You’ll be encouraged to intentionally invest in your marriage.

Headshot of Kevin Thompson

Pastor Kevin Thompson

Kevin A. Thompson (MDiv, Beeson Divinity School) is lead pastor at Community Bible Church, a growing multi-site church with four locations in western Arkansas. Every year he meets with nearly one hundred couples with a range of needs, from pre-marital counseling to navigating the most serious betrayals. A marriage and parenting conference speaker, he and his wife, Jenny, have two children and live in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He blogs at kevinathompson.com.

Cover image of Kevin Thompson's book "Friends, Partners & Lovers"

Friends, Partners, and Lovers: What It Takes to Make Your Marriage Work

With engaging stories and clear, simple language, pastor Kevin Thompson shows how to live out three distinct roles in marraige. Using solid biblical principles, he helps you and your spouse grow your friendship, be supportive partners through the good times and the bad, and develop a healthy and satisfying sex life.

Sharing Your Faith with Grace and Purpose

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Mr. Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl is a writer, public speaker and talk show host who’s spent 30 years advocating for and defending the Christian worldview. Greg has written or contributed to 15 books, including The Story of RealityTactics, and Precious Unborn Human Persons. Greg has published nearly 230 articles and has spoken on 80 college and university campuses in the U.S. and abroad.

Tactics front cover

Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions

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Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

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How a Former Abortion Doctor Became Pro-Life

As an abortion doctor at Planned Parenthood, Dr. Patti Giebink believed she was helping women. Later, she began reading scripture and God gradually changed her heart on the abortion issue. Patti tells the story of her long journey from abortion doctor to pro-life and encourages listeners to share the message of life with compassion.

Headshot image of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Patti Giebink

Mrs. Patti Giebink

Dr. Patti Giebink is an OB-GYN who serves on the board of the Alpha Center, a well-known pregnancy center located in Sioux Falls, S.D. She also travels intermittently to work in mission hospitals in Pakistan and other countries. After completing her medical training, Dr. Giebink worked for Planned Parenthood from 1995-1997, during which she was the only abortion-provider in the state of South Dakota. She eventually experienced a radical change of heart on the issue of abortion after receiving God’s grace, forgiveness, and love, and she is now a passionate advocate for the pro-life movement.

Cover image of the book "Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life"

Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life

Unexpected Choice is told from the perspective of a doctor who actually performed abortions through Planned Parenthood. The book chronicles her journey from being a pro-choice physician to someone speaking on behalf of the pro-life movement.

Giving up Sugar, Tasting God's Goodness

As a latchkey kid, Wendy Speake turned to sugar for comfort. Every Friday, she would pedal to the candy show and use her allowance to fill her bag with candy. And one day, when she was older and a mom of three young boys, she came to realize that she was still “pedaling” away from her stress and using sugar as comfort, instead of turning to Jesus. She was joyless, worn out, tired, and in need of a change. In this interview, Wendy will challenge Christians to take 40 days to focus on fasting from something they turn to instead of Jesus for comfort. She invited people to break free from a dependence on sugar and taste the goodness of God.

Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

Mrs. Wendy Speake

With a background in Hollywood as a trained actress, Wendy Speake ministers to women as a bible teacher by applying the power of drama, poetry and comedy to the study of Scripture and real-life application of biblical truths. She has co-authored two books with Amber Lia titled Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and their latest, Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, Say Something New. Wendy is also the co-author (with Kelli Stuart) of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom.

Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Thank you for committing to pray for the pre-born!

Sign up below for your free seven-day prayer guide. This daily guide will help give direction to your prayers for the pro-life movement. We will be praying with you! 

Focus on the Family

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