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 fullest of who we were created to be, and bring all of our gifts to the table.
End of Preview
John Fuller: That’s Bob Paul, and he joins us today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, along with Dr. Greg Smalley, and we’re gonna be talking about marriage. And, uh, 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 (laughs) 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, uh, 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. 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 focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Uh, as you said Jim, Bob directs our Hope Restored: Marriage Intensives. 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.
Dr. Greg Smalley: Oh, thank you. It’s good to be with you.
John: It’s always good-
Bob: It’s always good to be here.
Jim: Yeah, it’s 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 kind of 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.
Dr. Smalley: Yeah. So, f- the first lie 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 our 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-”
Dr. Smalley: … fill in the blank, happy.
Dr. Smalley: 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. How- how-
Jim: Well, as Paul said, contentment.
Dr. Smalley: Right.
Jim: Right? That’s a great goal.
Dr. Smalley: Right.
Jim: Be content in all things.
Dr. Smalley: Right, abso-
Jim: What’s number two?
Dr. Smalley: So the number two, you see this in a lot of weddings, the unity candle.
Jim: (laughs) Okay, “We did it.”
Dr. Smalley: So you- you have two candles-
Jim: I said that last time.
Dr. Smalley: … 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, w- and if it leaves, you’re sunk. Or, that it’s just about a hardcore decision, “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 our 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 going, “Wait a minute, wait a minute,” uh, listen to the program from, uh, yesterday and that’ll be more defined, uh, when it comes to the unity of marriage, etc. And I think what’s really good, for both uh, 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.
Jim: 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.
Jim: 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 one- 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. And God- it is in God that I’m 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’ve found now, after all these years working with couples, that virtually all marriage issues are a result of misplaced responsibilities.
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.
Bob: And what we’re- 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 wellbeing of this temple, his temple, entrusted to my care, physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.
Dr. Smalley: And that’s really a big part of the intensives. And what happens for couples is they really start to understand the definition of an adult. And that’s a person who is understanding it’s their responsibility, and doing the job of taking good care of themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. That’s an adult.
Jim: No, that- and that’s a good definition, and I’m sure about 50% of the audience is going, “Uh-oh. I’m in trouble.”
Dr. Smalley: (laughs)
Jim: “I’m living there.” And that’s a good reason to call us, here at Focus, to get that help, so you can be healthier spiritually and in every way. Bob, let me ask you, uh… In the book, you point to a five-step care cycle. Let’s describe that, then we’ll move on with the other lies. What’s the five-step care cycle?
Bob: Well, getting that it’s my responsibility to care for me, um, we realize that we wanna define for people… With God’s help, we found a tool, a five-step tool that people can use to figure out how to identify what, truly, they’re needing and how to fully embrace the responsibility to make sure they are functioning on all cylinders. So, it’s a five-step process we call, The Care Cycle. It’s five A’s: aware, accept, allow, attend, and act. Now, we go into it in great depth within the book and it’s a little bit challenging to try and line it all out. But the purpose of it is to identify what’s going on, what really is at the root of it, what am I really needing, and what am I capable of doing to make sure that those needs get attended to and met? It really is, ultimately, the key to empowerment. When Greg was talking about the situation, that he went into the relationship with Erin, on- the problem is, and I did the same thing with Jenni, I was always looking to Jenni as the source of the problem and having the keys to the solution. And then, under those circumstances, who had all my power? Well, Jenni did. And then I ask couples all the time, “And how did she get it?” Well, I gave it to her. And I hate feeling disempowered, and when I- when God helped me to see it, I finally thought, “That’s stupid.”
Dr. Smalley: (laughs)
Bob: If I don’t like- if I- if I don’t like feeling disempowered, why would I keep giving it away? This is a way to fully embrace the power that God gave us, not to give away, but to use it well, for our wellbeing and the wellbeing of all those around us.
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 focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Let me hit a phrase and get your response before we move onto lie number seven. Um, and that is, irreconcilable differences.
Jim: The courts kind of created this terminology and you hear couples that are in a dark place, use that phrase.
Jim: We just have irreconcilable differences. I mean, you wanna go, “What? Everybody does.”
Dr. Smalley: Right? (laughs)
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?
Dr. Smalley: Well, when you even look at the word, it means, “Incapable of being brought into harmony.” And somehow, people-
Jim: (laughs) Exactly opposite of the gospel-
Dr. Smalley: Right.
Jim: … and what the Lord wants.
Dr. Smalley: Right. And so-
Jim: That’s interesting.
Dr. Smalley: … 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 difference, is- 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.
Dr. Smalley: It’s how you manage them-
Bob: And utilize them.
Dr. Smalley: 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-
John: Yeah, right. (laughs)
Bob: … w- that need work. Nobody can expose my issues as effectively as Jenni.
John: (laughs) Right.
Bob: You know, when they bump, when the differences bump, you know, it really is where the opportunity is. It’s 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 kind of hang there for a little bit, I think we could get this to a better place.”
Bob: And I- 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. Uh, lie number seven is, “I’m gonna make you love me.” Uh, and that’s the lie that, if I just try hard enough, you’ll see how wonderful I am. (laughs)
Jim: Man, I- my heart goes out. I think this- it- it’s definitely not a- necessarily a gender thing, but I could feel a lot of wives particularly, a lot of women, have that desire because 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?
Dr. Smalley: Well, the lie is- is that, as long as we have love and as long as we are committed to each for a lifetime, that’s it. I mean, we’ve- we’ve got the necessary-
Jim: You’ve rung the bell.
Dr. Smalley: … 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 were- as believers, we 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-
Dr. Smalley: … 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, o- 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 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 t- tight, and it actually had begun to harden. And one of the things that- 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?
Bob: And what we realized, when we started presenting these ideas to the couples that we work with, is that, um, 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 the 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.
Jim: And that’s really- that’s critical. You’ve said it, this is number one. So, I think folks have heard that. Um, moving to- to love lie number eight, “Your love is driving me crazy.”
Dr. Smalley: (laughs)
Jim: I think you have a story about that with a couple named Jeff and Michelle. So- a- and this relates to emotions, so connect those dots for us. What was their problem, and what was the solution?
Dr. Smalley: Well, their problem was the same problem that I had-
Dr. Smalley: … early in my marriage. 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-”
Dr. Smalley: “And then if you say this and- and frame it this way…” And she finally looked at me and she said, “Do you- seriously, do you think I’m an idiot?”
Dr. Smalley: “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, “Well, you know, my job is to keep her from falling off the deep end.” Because 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- and therefore, we would always get into an argument, (laughs) I’m like, this was-
Jim: Yeah, it kind of created that co-dependency.
Dr. Smalley: Right.
Dr. Smalley: … versus, really learning in a 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.
Dr. Smalley: And then, 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-
Dr. Smalley: … and intimacy.
Jim: And Bob, you- you developed that Heart Talk concept, so- w- I think you did. What is the Heart Talk concept? I think-
Bob: Yeah, that’s-
Jim: … Greg’s talking about it.
Dr. Smalley: Yeah.
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-
Bob: … but they’re not bad. They are- they are data, feelings… And this- I’m speaking to the guys now, ’cause g- gals get this better than guys do, typically. Feelings are raw data. They are just t- 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’ve 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, th- 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 e- essential vulnerabilities with one another.
Jim: That’s- that is good input. All of these are- they’re really good.
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)
Dr. Smalley: (laughs)
Jim: I don’t need to be a clinician to tell you that. (laughs)
Dr. Smalley: (laughs)
Bob: Yeah, I was so frustrated. What was the problem?
Dr. Smalley: You need to put Jim to work inside the intensives.
Bob: Come on, onboard.
Dr. Smalley: Right.
Bob: Anyway, so when I- when 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… And when 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 Chucky, and I said, “Is there ever a time when you win and Chucky loses?” He said, “No.” I said, “How about Chucky 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.
Dr. Smalley: Mm-hmm.
Jim: It- it sounds impractical at some point though, just to challenge you a little bit, and- and I- I like the winning side of being on the same team. But when you get to a decision or an impasse, h- 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.
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’ve sat back at times and went, “How the heck did you pull that off?”
Jim: 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 a husband and a wife, um, who are listening or watching on YouTube, and they’re saying, “Boy, three of those nine hit me.”
Dr. Smalley: Mm-hmm.
Jim: And they’re feeling a little, um, maybe distant now. They’re, “What do I do?” Tell them what they can today to improve where they’re at.
Dr. Smalley: 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.
Dr. Smalley: 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 f- 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 within 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: I love the passion there, and what wisdom from Dr. Greg Smalley and, uh, Bob Paul on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. They have such great insights, and I hope your marriage has benefited from their advice.
Jim: Yeah. Regardless of what season you’re in, these principles will make your relationship stronger and much more vibrant. And we know marriage can be a challenge, uh, let’s just talk about personal experience. (laughs)
Jim: But if you’re in a spot where you’re struggling and you don’t know what your next step is, call us. Let that be your next step. Uh, h- we’re here, at Focus on the Family, to help you. We have caring Christian counselors who can talk with you and, uh, pray with you, and probably provide additional resources to help strengthen your marriage.
John: We also have our very effective Hope Restored Marriage Intensives, uh, for couples who are in deeper trouble.
Jim: M- maybe you’ve reached what you think is the end. It’s the last knot in the rope. You may have even described it like that. Well, we wanna help you. 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 many of them had already signed divorce papers.
Jim: So, there is hope. Uh, here’s one testimony that we have received, a- amongst many, but I wanna read it to you. She said, “My husband and I truly received a miracle here at Hope Restored. Our overall experience was beyond our expectations. We learned that there is hope when thinking all hope is lost. Our relationship has forever changed.”
John: Mm-hmm. Well Jim, that’s, uh, just one story of thousands that we’ve heard of, uh, from people who have said God used Focus on the Family in their lives, as a couple, and they’re getting the help that they so desperately have been searching for.
Jim: And we are grateful to be a part of that, a- and you can be part of it too. Our first sustainer drive is underway. We’re looking for, and hoping for, 1,000 people to come together for family and join our Friends Of Focus on the Family Sustainer Program, which powers our mission to help families to thrive in Christ. Will you, uh, consider being one of them? I mean, it’s that simple. 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 commit to sustain the ministry, a monthly gift of any amount, uh, we will send you a copy of Greg and Bob’s book as our way of saying thank you. And if that’s not something you’re capable of doing right now, we get it. We can send you that book for a one-time gift as well. I’m excited to have you join our support team, and to benefit from the ministry that you will deliver, through Focus on the Family.
John: Mm-hmm. Become a part of the friends of Focus on the Family Sustainer Program and get your copy of 9 Lies That Will Destroy Your Marriage. Uh, the starting point is focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or give us a call, 800-232-6459. 800, the letter A, and the word, FAMILY. Coming up next time, uh, you’ll hear the remarkable transformation that God did in the heart of a feminist and lesbian professor.
Dr. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield: What I realized is that I was standing in a long line of godly women, the Mary Magdalene line, and that that was right where God had me, and that my sin was wiped away. And if he brought to me a godly husband, he would make me a loving, godly wife, and the Lord did that.