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Combating the Lies That Can Destroy Your Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

Combating the Lies That Can Destroy Your Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

In a discussion based on their book 9 Lies That Will Destroy Your Marriage, Drs. Greg Smalley and Bob Paul describe how cultural myths and fairy-tale expectations about marriage have a detrimental effect on couples, and how knowing and applying biblical truth can help those couples develop a thriving marriage. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: July 9, 2020


Bob Paul: This is not about you being less than, this is about you being fully who you were created to be. Spread your wings and soar. A great marriage is always one that has room for us to grow into the fullness of who we were created to be and bring all of our gifts to the table.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s Bob Paul and he joins us today on this Best of 2020 episode of Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, along with Dr. Greg Smalley. Thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, I am so pleased to have Bob and Greg back with us today, and if you missed the discussion last time, I think you gotta get the download, you know, get the app for your smartphone. Call us. We’ll tell you what you need to do to- to listen in, but it was good stuff, and these two men have put together, I think a powerful treatise on the issue of marriage, and you know, both of them work with couples. Bob of course, is leading the team at Hope Restored, which is our four-day intensive program, and he sees a lot of stuff. He runs the clinicians. That’s his job and he gets to, uh, really, uh, peer into those counseling sessions and see what’s happening with folks and he’s brought all of that wisdom, along with Greg, uh, into this great book, 9 Lies That Will Destroy Your Marriage, but the wonderful news is, there’s truths that will save your marriage, and that’s what we’re gonna cover today.

John: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, and uh, we’ll encourage you to call us for a copy of that great book. Uh, our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, or stop by Uh, as you said, Jim, Bob directs our Hope Restored Marriage Intensive. So, we have three locations and more details of course, online. Uh, Greg heads up our marriage team here at Focus, and has been here almost 10 years.

Jim: Bob and Greg, welcome back to Focus.

Greg Smalley: Oh, thank you. It’s good to be with you.

Bob: It’s always good to be here.

Jim: It’s always good. Yeah, it’s so good to have you here, honestly, and- and I’m so appreciative of the- the work that you do to strengthen marriages, uh, through the efforts here at Focus. You guys both, you’re kinda the- the kingpins of that effort and I’m grateful to both of you, so thank you. I mean, hundreds if not thousands of couples have been saved, their marriages saved because of the work you’ve done and the Holy Spirit working through you. So, I can’t, uh, you know, say thank you enough for that sacrifice and what you do for this ministry and for the Lord, more importantly, so it is great. Um, let’s pick up with a little recap from last time. We covered, I think, four of the lies. Uh, why don’t you take two each and Greg, we’ll start with you.

Greg: Yeah. So, the first slide that we talked about last time is all about the pursuit of happiness. So, the lie is that the goal, the end in mind for a marriage, is to feel happy. Like, watch any program to where you see parents saying, “Hey, you know what I really want for my kids is for them to be…”

Bob: Happy.

Greg: Fill in the blank. Happy. And it drives me crazy, and I think that’s a part of where we buy into this lie. When- when I hear that, I scream out to my kids, “No! I do not want you to be happy. I want you guys to grow.” And that’s a big part of what we’re trying to help couples to do, is to move away from the pursuit of happiness to more, the pursuit of- of growing.

Jim: Well, as Paul said, contentment.

John: Mm.

Jim: Right? That’s a great goal.

Greg: Right.

Jim: Be content in all things.

Greg: Right. Abso-

Jim: What’s number two?

Greg: So, the number two, you see this in a lot of weddings, the unity candle.

Jim: (laughs) Okay, we did it.

Greg: So, you- you have two-

Jim: I said that last time.

Greg: … candles. You light the center and then you blow out the individuals, and the problem is, is what that means to couples is that the focus now, is on the marriage. The two individuals have been blown out. They don’t really matter that much, and the reality is, that all three have to matter. There’s me, there’s my wife, Erin, and there’s our marriage, and we have to invest a lot of time and effort and energy into all three of those.

Bob: And then the third one is, we call it, all you need is love, and in some respects, that’s really true as with all the lies, there’s, uh, kernels of truth in each of them, but where we see people really struggling is either going toward thinking that love is magical and mystical and the chemistry has to be there, wh- and if it leaves, you’re sunk, or that it’s just about a hardcore decision and I’m just gonna decide to do loving things and hope feelings follow, and what we’re saying where the problem is, is that love actually comes from God. We do not manufacture it and it’s really about open, being open and available, to his love coming in us and through us. And then the last one was about sacrificing, and the lie is, not that we are to sacrifice for a marriage, we are, but not sacrifice who we are because we were created on purpose, with purpose. God created us intentional with great ends in mind, for us and the contribution we can make to his kingdom and we are to sacrifice by giving and investing what we have of value, generously into our spouse.

Jim: Yeah, and that’s a good recap, and again, if you’re hearing something and go, wait a minute, wait a minute, uh, listen to the program from yesterday, and that’ll be more defined. When it comes to the unity of marriage, et cetera. And I think, what’s really good for both Greg and Bob, they’re getting us to think about these traditions that we share and then, how rooted is it in scripture? And that’s a good thing to do. All right let’s move on. Uh, co-dependency, I want a definition of that, and then lie number five, uh, is you must meet each other’s needs. Now generally, that seems pretty reasonable, but maybe not every need. That would be the issue but talk about co-dependency. What’s the definition of that? And then, how does lie number five apply?

Bob: Co-dependency really, as we look at it, now I know, uh, we throw around that term and I’m known for speaking a lot of psychobabble based on my profession, and it’s when we technically see our spouse as the source, that they are the source of what we need, and when I look to Jenni, my wife, of almost 40 years to be the source of my fulfillment, the source of my satisfaction, I’m putting a responsibility and a burden on her that is not meant for her, that God truly is my source, not Jenni. It is in God that I am supposed to find the fulfillment of my being, not in Jenni. Can Jenni contribute? Absolutely. Can I contribute to Jenni? Yes. But I don’t want Jenni to be responsible. Actually, I found now, after all these years working with couples, that virtually all marriage issues are a result of misplaced responsibilities.

John: Hm.

Jim: Hm.

Bob: Either taking too much responsibility for things that are not mine to be responsible for or not taking adequate responsibility for that which is my responsibility, and what we wanna encourage people to do is be full functioning adults. God created me as a grown man, not when I was a child, but as a grown man, fully responsible for the care and well-being of this temple, his temple, entrusted to my care, physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. And when I looked to Jenni, I was a sole, a card-carrying co-dependent.

Jim: Yeah. And again, I hope this is registering with you, especially if you’re struggling in your marriage. It doesn’t need to be that way, and the great news is, and I’m proud of this, if you hear me say it often, it’s because I mean it. 80% post two-year success rate at Hope Restored. It’s an awesome thing, and just to do a little break from the content, let me ask you guys, when… and Bob, this is directed to you, you’re directing the counselors there, the couples that come in, a lot of them are really at the- the end of the rope. This is it. They’ve decided to say, “Okay, we’ll do Hope Restored and if it doesn’t work, we’re getting a divorce.” What is the secret that is going on when those couples who would not hold hands, on day one, are holding hands on day four? What is actually, uh, transferring their relationship? What do you see most often?

Bob: You know, it’s a great question, and it’s really not one thing. Let me tell you what the core of it is. Uh, there’s one question that we ask all the couples, that they must answer yes to for us to be willing to work with them, and the question is, if God was to work a miracle in your marriage, would you accept it? And the reason that our program works is because we realize that, as good as my team is, and I’ve got some unbelievably skilled therapists on the team that God has blessed us with, but none of us are miracle workers. We know who the miracle worker is, and the key for us is to help couples see the obstacles that often, they have inadvertently placed between themselves and the Lord.

Jim: Hm.

Bob: And when they identify them, what we’re able to do if they choose, is to help move those obstacles out of the way, so the Holy Spirit has free unhindered access to their hearts. If God is in the place he’s supposed to be, he is so dedicated to showing up there and meaningfully transforming.

Jim: Yeah, and what it demonstrates to me is that, you know, brokenness in marriage is a deeply spiritual issue, and there is a way out because the Lord is always in your corner.

John: Mm, yeah, and the work is worth the effort. I mean, the- the fruit of that labor, of digging deep and looking at yourself and, uh, being honest with God, can really bring about, uh, his opportunity for a miracle, right?

Greg: And John, the whole book, the purpose of that is- is Bob talked about those obstacles, it’s we’ve identified there’s nine main obstacles that are going on within those relationships, and so we’re just trying to point out, here’s the obstacle and this is what you can actually do that’s going to make a meaningful difference, so we’ve had over 8,000 couples go through the marriage intensive program, so we’ve got this amazing lab. All we’re doing is going, here’s what we’ve seen work, here are the nine obstacles, and here’s what you can do about it.

Jim: Let me hit a phrase and get your response before we move on to lie number seven, um, and that is irreconcilable differences. The courts kinda created this terminology and you hear couples that are in a dark place use that phrase, “We just have irreconcilable differences.” I mean, you wanna go, “What? Everybody does.”

Greg: Right.

Jim: It’s called being human. But you know, there are serious applications to that where the fighting is terrible, the disagreements over whatever it might be, but speak to irreconcilable differences. Why is that so damaging?

Greg: Well, when you even look at the word, it means incapable of being brought into harmony. And somehow people-

Jim: Huh, exactly opposite of the Gospel.

Greg: Right.

Jim: And what the Lord wants. That’s interesting.

Greg: And so, that’s the goal. That’s what they’re trying to figure is, how do we come into this harmony, and all we’re saying is, “Listen, God created you on purpose with purpose. A part of that purpose is that differences. That’s how he made us. We are so different and that’s a beautiful thing. Differences are never the problem, that’s the beauty, that’s the gift.”

Jim: It’s how you manage them.

Greg: It’s how you manage them.

Bob: And utilize them.

Jim: Yeah.

Greg: Right.

Jim: Well, in that context, this is always the perplexing idea that God, and you- you know, you gotta tread carefully, say, “God, were you sure when you created marriage, you wanted to have opposites attract?” which is like, 80, 90% of the rule, right? But it also is the very thing that teaches us to be more like him.

Bob: Well, and it exposes the things where they need work. Nobody can expose my issues as effectively as Jenni, you know When they bump, when the differences bump, you know, it really is where the opportunities of where God meets me and says, “Hey, you know that little place you just saw there that’s really not like me? Hey, if you and I could just kinda hang there for a little bit, I think we could get this to a better place.”

Jim: Yeah.

Bob: And- and I love that.

Jim: Well, let’s move to number seven, and uh, we’re cooking now as we move into the last part of the program. Um, lie number seven is, I’m gonna make you love me. And that’s the lie that, if I just try hard enough, you’ll see how wonderful I am. Man, I- my heart goes out. I think this, it- it’s definitely not necessarily a gender thing, but I could feel a lot of wives, particular, a lot of women have that desire ’cause they want that bonding. They’re- they’re made for that bonding, and they’re sitting there going, if I could just do things better, I’m sure he’ll love me more. Uh, why do you gotta be careful with that?

Greg: Well, the lie is- is that as long as we have love and as long as we are committed to each other for a lifetime, that’s it  we’ve- we’ve got the necessary-

Jim: You’ve rung the bell.

Greg: … ingredients to make a marriage work. And that’s why when Erin and I were, early in our marriage, and we so were struggling. Well, we as believers, were going to church, we had lifelong commitment, we loved each other, and it wasn’t working. It was so confusing. And then one day, I finally began to understand there was something else that was so important, and I actually saw this in one of those little roly-poly bugs, you know, the ones that if you flick it, you know, this little bug will roll up into this tight little ball? What’s interesting is that, if you try to take that bug and pry it open, you’ll kill it, and that’s how God created our heart, is that when- when we don’t feel safe in our marriage, and we instantly like that little bug, our heart rolls up, and what I began to understand with Erin is that, yeah, we- we loved each other, we had lifelong commitment, but my wife felt so unsafe with me. The way that I was showing up, the way that I was trying to get her to love me in certain ways, made her feel so unsafe that she was like that little bug, so rolled up tight. Her heart was so tight, and it actually had begun to harden. And one of the things that I began to learn, is that love is necessary, commitment is necessary, but Erin and me both feeling safe, when we feel safe with each other, then our hearts open. Like that little bug, that bug will begin to open back up when it feels the threat is gone, and that’s why I never knew that. I never understood how important the idea of feeling safe. How do we create a marriage that feels like one of the safest places on earth? That became the goal and that began a very different relationship for Erin and I. Now we started to work on how do we create safety within our marriage.

John: Hm.

Bob: And what we realized when we started presenting these ideas to the couples that we work with is that, uh, and how central this is, we basically say, if you can’t remember anything that you hear this week and, except for one, if you can remember to make safety the center of the target, safety and security at the center of the target, because what actually happens, to your point, is that when people begin to truly feel deeply and profoundly safe and secure, we just always relax and open up, and when two hearts that are open are in close proximity to each other, that intimacy and connection we’re longing for happens naturally, but when people feel unsafe and insecure, they’re guarded. And there’s something that hinders as a result, the ability to truly connect in that way that our hearts are longing for.

John: Well, get in touch with us for a copy of this book, 9 Lies That Will Destroy Your Marriage, and uh, we’d be happy to tell you more about our counseling services and Hope Restored, our marriage intensives. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or online, we’re at

Jim: Um, moving to- to love lie number eight. Your love is driving me crazy. I think you have a story about that with a couple named Jeff and Michelle, so, an- and this relates to emotions, so connect those dots for us. What was their problem and what was the solution?

Greg: Well, their problem was the same problem that I had early in my marriage.

Jim: (laughs)

Greg: And what happened was that, any time that Erin would feel intensely about something, have intense emotions, I thought my job was to solve that, to fix that, to get her not feeling so intense, and to feel better, to feel, laugh, to whatever. And so, my job became managing her emotions and the, I’ll never forget the day that- that as Erin came home and just said, “Man, I had a really tough interaction with a good friend of mine out of the blue, and she was frustrated with me, yelling at me,” and instantly, I jump in and say, “Well here- well here’s what you need to do. You need to call her back and then if you say this, and- and frame it this way,” and she finally looked at me and she said, do- “Seriously, do you think I’m an idiot? Like, do you think that I couldn’t come up with that on my own?” Every time that I tried to move her away from feeling whatever, believing that, my- you know what, my job is to keep her from falling off the deep end because if she gets so emotional, she’s eventually going to, you know, somewhere that’s not gonna be good, and it sent the message that one, you’re incapable of handling, managing your emotions. It put me in a role of thinking I needed to do that, and therefore, we would always get into an argument.

Jim: Yeah.

Greg: I’m like, this was-

Jim: It kinda created that co-dependency.

Greg: Right. Versus really learning that very, very different way. Instead of trying to fix her emotions, solve some sort of problem, get her feeling differently, what if I just started to care about how she felt? And then, what if that became my goal? And I’m telling you, that’s one of the greatest things that we see within the marriage intensives-

Bob: And what-

Greg: And that what we’ve written in the book, is a method to actually help couples, instead of trying to solve and- and get away from emotions, how do you actually embrace that so that you can use those emotions to feel a deeper sense of connection and an intimacy.

Jim: Right, and Bob, you- you developed that heart talk concept, so, I- I think you did. What is the heart talk concept?

Bob: Yeah, that’s-

Jim: I think Greg’s talking about it.

Bob: Well, it starts off, as Greg is saying, recognizing that feelings were created by God, every single one of them. There really is no such thing as a good feeling and a bad feeling, like it’s a moral issue. There are pleasant feelings and unpleasant feelings, certainly, but they’re not bad. They are- they are data. Feelings, and this, I’m speaking to the guys now ’cause gals get this better than guys do, typically, feelings are raw data. They are just to- they’re informers. They’re not decision makers because we’ve got our heart, which is the data center, we’ve got our head, which is the interpreter and the processor, strategizer, and then we got hands, which carry out the marching orders.

If you haven’t honored the data, you’ve got nothing for the processor to work with. You’ve got no good information. So, for instance, pain. It’s easy to think that pain is a problem. Well, pain is telling you something important. If you feel no pain, you’ve got a problem. You can’t care for this temple. So, what we’re saying is, listen to the feelings and listen to them as important data, and heart talk is about hearing each other’s hearts, honoring the feelings for what they are, not catering to them, not indulging them, but valuing them as critical information and we teach people how to do that safely, so that nobody feels that they regret sharing who they are and their essential vulnerabilities with one another.

John: Mm.

Jim: That’s- that is good input. All of these, they’re really good.

John: Yeah.

Jim: Let’s get to the last one. We’re right at the end here. Uh, it’s the love lie that surrounds compromise. Now, compromise sounds like a good thing in a relationship. I give a little, you take a little, and so on. Why is that wrong?

Bob: Well, you know the problem with it, is that there’s always gonna be a loser or both of you will lose, and you know, and I believe that. You know, one of my passions in life is, I’m really big on winning. I will go to great lengths to win and I couldn’t understand why in my relationship with Jenni, every time differences would bump, that even when I got my way, I felt like I was a loser.

Jim: (laughs) Welcome to marriage 101.

Bob: Yeah (laughs) and- and it was so fr-

John: (laughs)

Jim: I don’t need to be a clinician to tell you that.

Bob: Yeah, I was so frustrated. What was the problem?

John: You need to put Jim to work inside the intensives.

Bob: (laughs) Come on and work, right. Anyway, so what I- what I finally realized, God broke through one time and he helped me to see that, by his design, marriage is a team sport, and when you’re on the t- same team, you either both win or you both lose. There is no such thing as a win-lose outcome in marriage, ever. It’s purely an illusion from the pit of hell because if anybody… I mean, I asked my son once in a conversation I had with him ’cause we were- we were locking horns on something and I overcame him and he surrendered to me, and then I saw that I just destroyed him emotionally. And what I realized was that- that God helped me to see how to rectify that. I went up to him and I said, “Hey, son.” He was playing little league baseball at the time. He was 13. I said- he played with a kid named Chuckie, and I said, “Is there ever a time when you win and Chuckie loses?” He said, “No.” I said, “How about Chuckie wins and you lose?” He said, “No.” I said, “How come?” He said, “Dad, we’re on the same team.” I said, “Exactly, son. I lost in that interaction with you because I’m your teammate, not your adversary.”

And what happened was, I walked away for several days thinking about my marriage and finally the light bulb went off and I saw for the first time that I set up virtually, every single interaction I had with Jenni, when a difference was at play, just like that one I did with Chris and marriage is a team sport and therefore, if either feels compromised, let’s use that word, if either feels compromised, less than, like they had to give in, that we lose as a team, and since that point to this day, which is 20 something years now, I’ve adopted, we as an organization have what we call a no losers policy. And I’ve made it 100% unacceptable for either Jenni or me to ever walk away from any interaction feeling like we lost because if either do we both do.

Jim: It- it sounds impractical at some point though, just to challenge you a little bit, and I like the winning side of being on the same team, but when you get to a decision or an impasse, how- how does one person not feel like I had to give in?

Bob: Well, you wanna know the- the- the cool thing about this is that it seems like, I’ve been on the front side of a difference with Jenni more times than I can count, where I said, “Okay, God, no way humanly possible we’re gonna come up with a win-win on this one,” and to date, when we’ve used the principles we teach, I have never been right once.

Jim: (laughs)

Bob: Now, I might have been right that there was no way humanly possible, but we serve a God who is devoted to unity and if we get out of his way, I mean, he lives in a perfect triune, unified relationship. If we get out of his way, he will miraculously at times, take us to a situation we both feel great about. It might not be what either one of you imagined you’d settle for at the beginning, but he will not leave a couple in disunity, if we will allow him to take over and have his way with us, and I set back at times and went, “How the heck did you pull that off?”

Jim: (laughs) That’s it. We’re right at the end. I love that statement. We’re right at the end. Greg, I’ll turn it to you for that couple, you know, both the husband and a wife, um, who are listening or watching on YouTube and they’re saying, “Boy, three of those nine hit me.”

John: Hm.

Jim: And they’re feeling a little, um, maybe distant now. They’re, what do I do? Tell them what they can do today, to improve where they’re at.

Greg: Yeah, the good news as Bob just said, we have a God that has given us this gift of marriage who so is fighting in your corner for your marriage, so know you’re not alone.

Jim: He’s always for you.

Greg: He is and we’re for you. And we have amazing counselors. We have Bob and his clinical team with- within the Hope Restored program, that there’s options. As you begin to go, “Whoa, yeah, I’ve bought into this one and I’ve bought into this one.” Well, get the book and you can begin to really start to study and understand and reread, going oh my goodness, the- the light bulb is coming off, the veil has been lifted. And you can start to make slow steps. The worst question you can ever ask is, how do I have a better marriage? ’cause it takes two. The best question is, God, how can I be a better husband? How can I be a better wife? What is in my control? And that’s really what we’re laying out for you in the book. We’re giving you simple ways that you can make some adjustments, that you can make some different choices that will begin to make a difference. You have such amazing influence on your marriage and sometimes, all it is, is some awareness and then, okay, so what do I do about that? And that’s exactly what we’ve given you within this book.

John: Well, I hope you’ve been encouraged by the wisdom, uh, that Dr. Greg Smalley and Bob Paul shared on today’s Focus on the Family, a Best of 2020, uh, presentation. They have such great insights on relationships and, uh, your marriage is surely gonna benefit in the coming days from their advice.

Jim: Well, yeah, regardless of what season you’re in, these principles will make your relationship stronger and more vibrant, and we know marriage can be a challenge. If you’re in a spot where you’re struggling and you don’t know what your next step is, uh, call us here at Focus on the Family. We have counselors who can help you, who can talk with you about what you’re feeling.

And we also have, um, our very effective Hope Restored Marriage Intensives. Those are for couples who might be in deeper trouble.

Jim: Maybe you’ve reached what you think is the end of your rope. Um, you’re considering divorce. Uh, we want to help you rethink that. Our research shows that four out of five couples who go through Hope Restored are still married two years later and have a much higher level of satisfaction in their marriage. And let me share with you what one participant told us after attending Hope Restored with her husband. She wrote, my husband and I truly received a miracle here. Our overall experience was beyond our expectations. We learned that there is hope when thinking all hope is lost. Our relationship has been forever changed.

John: And I love, Jim, hearing how God is using Focus on the Family like that, in the lives of couples who are, uh, receiving the help that they so desperately need and they’d been searching for.

Jim: And we’re all grateful to be a part of it. Knowing that almost half of marriages in America will end in divorce, we recognize that we still have work to do. Because of the isolation and financial uncertainties caused by the pandemic, many marriages are struggling. You can give families hope by supporting Focus on the Family today. God will use your support to save marriages through books, bible studies, marriage podcasts, the Hope Restored Marriage Intensives, and so many other resources. When you give a gift of any amount today, to the ministry, we’ll send you a copy of Greg and Bob’s book as our way of saying thank you. Your support is critical so that we can finish the year strong and plan to reach even more families in the coming year. God’s gonna do some amazing things through you and Focus on the Family in 2021.

John: Thanks for being a part of our support team and, uh, just know this, when you donate today through a special matching opportunity, your year-end giving will be doubled dollar for dollar. God’s gonna use your gift to bring healing and redemption to twice the families. Donate and get your copy of 9 Lies That Will Destroy Your Marriage online at or call 800-232-6459, 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. And tomorrow, we’ll continue our best of 2020 programing as Dr. Kathy Koch describes how to meet your core needs in healthy ways.


Dr. Kathy Koch: So, I think if people confuse needs with wants, then it may feel inappropriate, and it may feel self-centered and selfish and not Biblical, but these core needs are absolutely created in us by God.

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