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Healthy Manhood in Marriage

Healthy Manhood in Marriage

As they examine the subversion of authentic masculinity in today's culture, Focus on the Family's Jim Daly and Greg Smalley describe how men can strengthen their family by reclaiming their authentic, God-designed roles as husbands and fathers.



Woman #1: Men are spontaneous. They sort of have a spontaneous reaction to things. And women, well, we like to plan things out.

Man #1: Men are much more, you know, calm and objective, without all that emotional response. And I really mean that!

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

Man #2: You know women are more sensitive and emotional and tuned in to what’s really going on in life. And men (Chuckling), we’re just kinda doin’ our own thing.

John Fuller: Well, men and women can be very different from each other and sometimes those differences drive us crazy. But as you’re gonna hear on today’s “Focus on the Family,” God designed us that way on purpose and He put us together in marriage to accomplish something much greater than we could ever do on our own. Welcome to our program. Your host is Focus president, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, it’s it just like us as human beings to get everything backward? (Laughing) I it’s called the fallen state that we’re in and we tend to twist the very thing that God made perfect. And it’s the reality of the world we live in.

Think about marriage. When you first fall in love with someone, it’s often because of how different things are, right? You’re attracted to that individual because they have things you don’t have. Those opposites attract, and you find yourself, well, I think fascinated, enthralled, infatuated with each other. The extrovert marries the introvert and we know the way that goes.


Jim: But when you get married, those differences start to become really irritating (Chuckling) and you notice that, you know, I don’t like going out every night and meeting with people. I want to stay home and just get to know each other a little better, whatever it might be. It is the differences in marriage that both irritate us, but make us stronger.and I’ve invited Greg Smalley, our vice president of marriage to join us today. Greg, you’re walkin’ in every day at Focus on the Family thinking how do we strengthen marriages? What can we do to help marriage? What gives you that passion?

Greg Smalley: Honestly, it was watching my parents who were married for 52 years, seeing what that did to me, to my brother, to my sister. Seeing the legacy that that’s created. Now I have four children. Erin and I have been married for 25 years and I want what my parents had. I want to leave that same legacy for my children.

Jim: And you know, I wrote this book Marriage Done Right: One Man, One Woman in part to lift up God’s design for marriage, to talk about that, the beauty of it, sometimes the pain of it. One of the great stories that you share about your mom and dad — now Gary Smalley was arguably one of the foremost marriage counselors in the country.

Greg: Oh, yeah.

Jim: But you talk about that one story, I think it was Thanksgiving, where your mom and dad had a fight and they went at it right at Thanksgiving. That’s normally (Chuckling) the best time, right?

Greg: Yeah—

Jim: (Laughing) Right, and mom’s stressed out. Tell us about that, because you know, again, we’re lifting your mom and dad up as these marriage experts, this perfect couple, but it’s not always perfect, is it?

Greg: Yeah, not at all and my one thing is, my dad passed away a few months ago and as I was preparing to speak at the funeral, I just asked my mom, I said, “Hey, I’m gonna talk about your marriage.” I said, “Is there one word that really stands out that would encompass and describe your marriage?” And I was blown away at what she said. She said, “Growth.” And I just went, “What?” Like, that was the last thing on earth to—

Jim: Sounds like—

Greg: –think that she [would say]

Jim: –an SAT score.

Greg: Yeah, exactly. (Laughter) But what she meant as she explained it was, that you know, “Your dad and I, we weren’t perfect. And we made a lot of mistakes.” But she said, “We both were committed to continually growing and growing in our marriage.”

Jim: Yeah.

Greg: The story back in Thanksgiving that perfectly illustrated that, yeah, they get in this huge fight. It’s like we’re all supposed to be gathered around the table, just being thankful. They get into such a fight that like they separate. Like my mom goes off in one direction. My dad goes off in the other. Of course all the women, so nurturing, relational, follow my mom. They’re glaring at my dad. (Laughter) And he walks by me.

I’m like, well, I don’t know what to do but I know humor can help, and so I tried to say some funny things and he just kept goin’ straight into his office, slammed the door. I waited a few minutes and I knocked on the door. “Who is it?” “Hey, it’s Greg.” I just hear this, “Uuh!” (Laughter)

Jim: That sounds exactly like your dad! (Laughter)

Greg: Love you, too, pops! Um … “Come in.” So, I went in and I saw him at his desk behind a computer, looking at his computer. I assume he’s online. I don’t know what he’s doin’. I was just gonna go around and just pat him on the shoulder and say, “Hey, can I pray with you? Do you want to talk about anything?” And as I made my way around, I could see what he was looking at and he wasn’t online. He had actually pulled up a WORD document, which I thought was kinda odd. And so, I [said], you know, “Dad, what are you lookin’ at here?” Because I saw the title and I’m not makin’ this up. It said, “Why Norma,” my mom’s name, “Why Norma Is So Valuable.”

Jim: (Chuckling)

Greg: And I said, “What are you lookin’ [at]? What is this?” And he said, “Well, a number of years ago I was thinkin’ about your mom, thinkin’ about some of the things I love about her, some of my favorite things. So I just wrote ’em down. I put ’em on the computer and then,” he goes, “over the years I’ve added to the list.” I mean, there were hundreds of little words and phrases about my mom. And I just went, “That’s really cool.” I said, “Why are you lookin’ at that now?” I said, “Aren’t you mad at mom?” He goes, “Oh, I can’t stand her.” (Laughter) And I said, “Yeah, well, so why are you looking at this?”

I’ll never forget his response. He said, “Well,” he goes, “Hey, you know, son,” he goes, “I’ve learned over the years, when I’m mad at your mom and get into a fight, I can come in here and stew, think about how horrible she is, how mad I am at her.” But he said, “It never does anything; I just stay mad at her.” But he goes, “What I’ve learned is that I make myself open this list and I just start to read through the things I’ve said about her, and he goes, “I’m mad,” so the first couple he’s like, “Phew! You know, that’s not true.” Or “Whatever I said, I’m erasing that one for sure.”

But he said, “You know, after I get through enough,” he goes, “I remember that you have an amazing mom.” And so, I think what he was saying is that what helps him deal with their conflict or like maybe get his heart back open to my mom is that he gets reminded of why she is so valuable—

Jim: Yeah.

Greg: –in his eyes.

Jim: And the word that comes to my mind is “commitment.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, that it helps cement the relationship that no matter what’s gonna take place, I’m committed to you. I’m gonna try to remember the good things and we’ll get through the bad things and hopefully, grow from it. Those differences though are what makes marriage so tough. And—

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: –I think in the culture today and the thing I was tryin’ to point out in Marriage Done Right is the selfishness that we have.And I think we’re getting more and more selfish as individuals. I think the culture is feeding that. Even the Christian church and we’ve gotta check ourselves constantly about our motivations, what’s driving me crazy with my spouse tonight? What was it that he or she said that got me so upset? What was that trigger point? And how do I de-escalate this and honor God in all of that?

Greg: I love in your book, you have a line that really hit me hard, like I had to read it a couple times and go, wait, what? (Laughter) ‘Cause you said that marriages often fail because of the confusion about true manhood.

Jim: Hm.

Greg: How have you found that to be true?

Jim: Well, again, I think that in the culture, we’re taught today soft and tender is the only—

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: –way and I don’t see that in the Bible only. That is part of Jesus’s character. Certainly, the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery, Jesus dealt with them in a gracious way, but—

Greg: Very tender way.

Jim: –also in a truthful way. And I think for men today, that’s part of it. We have to have the tender heart, but we also have to have that firm leadership to say, “No, I understand you. I hear you, but honey, I really feel before the Lord, we’ve gotta go this way and I need you to be with me on this.”

I think actually a lot of women are looking for that kind of leadership in the home.

Jim: Where it breaks down for Jean and myself, partly because of temperament and you are a guru of temperament (laughter), so jump in on this. But for me, you know, um … I can be kinda easygoing and Jean is uh … very much a control person and she wouldn’t mind me saying that.

Greg: There’s a passion.

Jim: A passion for—

Greg: There’s an intensity.

Jim: –control. (Laughter) Well, she’s wanting those outcomes. I’ve said it many times. She’s that science major, right? Biochemistry.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: And so, she’s formulaic. And we have… not a disagreement, but often a conversation about how we teach our kids spiritual truth.And for her, she wants a formal setting. She wants to, after dinner, saddle everybody up to the table.

Greg: Get the devo out…

Jim: And my boys, which it might work for girls; I don’t have girls, um … but for my boys, oh, no! I could see it on their face. Here it comes!

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: Rather than playing together, doing somethin’ together, illustrating a Scriptural truth through losing at ping pong or something where you can build in that spiritual truth. Jean wants that more formal and so, when she looks at me, she’s sayin’ “Man, Jim, it seems like you’re weak in this area. You’re not teachin’ our kids.”

Greg: Don’t you love it–

Jim: Yeah, it’s always—

Greg: –when they call us—

Jim: –nice

Greg: –weak?

Jim: Well, but she means it well, but I’m saying, you know, every day when I’m drivin’ ’em to school, we’re going over a Proverb or I’m referencing Scripture that we can focus on for the day.

She doesn’t see into that. But it’s on the go and there’s where a difference can collide, where a wife can lose respect for a husband if you don’t communicate what’s happening and you know, that I’m engaged. I’m just engaged in my way; is that okay?

Greg: Yeah.You know, I want to say something to you but I don’t want you to get a big head, all right?

Jim: (Laughing) Yeah, right. (Laughing)

Greg: So, and I mean this sincerely, as I was kinda re-reading some things from your book last night, um … and you said somethin’ that really had a profound effect on me. And Erin and I yesterday, my wife of almost 25 years, we got in this ridiculous fight. You know, you have those moments where, “Why are we even talkin’ about this? What is goin’ on?”

Greg: ‘Cause she said to me, she woke me up at like 5 in the morning which is probably not the best thing to do.

John: She wanted you to pray?

Greg: Exactly.

Jim: Yeah.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: Could we talk?

Greg: Devo time! She said, she’s just sayin’, “Hey, I’m frustrated. Can we talk about something?” And … and uh … and she said, “I just feel really alone in our marriage.” And I went, “What?” Like …

Jim: I’m right here!

Greg: “I’m laying next to you. What? We’ve just done all this stuff together. What?”And she said, “I just don’t feel like I have a teammate because there’s a—

Jim: Wow.

Greg: –lot goin’ on in our family right now.”

Jim: Yeah.

Greg: And so, of course, I debate that. I literally went through a list of what I have done over the past two months that should refute—

John: To show that you’ve been there?

Greg: –that. Yeah. I’m like, “You’re wrong. Look at … this, this, this, this, this.”And she just said, “All right, you’re right; I’m wrong.” She goes, “But I still feel alone.” And so, we just kinda parted on that and I was reading. You said something that really hit me. You said that as you were talking kinda that that nice guy, you know, phenomenon in our culture, you know, that sweet and gentle, almost feminine. But when you said though, it’s really more about passivity.

And that’s what hit me. You talked about that passive men overlook problems instead of facing them. And that hit me and I went to her last night and I said, “Erin, when we were talkin’ about this and you described you’re lonely and I’m not a teammate, would you say that I’ve been acting passive?” And it was like the light went on and that’s exactly, I realized that when I get stressed, I sort of become immobilized, but I become passive.

Jim: Right.

Greg: But that’s what you’re talkin’ about. I mean, right? That’s what you’re seeing within our culture.

Jim: Absolutely, I think for Jean and I with the way that plays out, if I’m watching news, weather and sports, that’s my passivity. I sit in a chair and I go into—

Greg: That’s a good day, though!

Jim: –no-man’s … (Laughing) Yeah, that’s a good day!

Greg: I’m likin’ that. Can we turn that on now?

Jim: And there’s lots of reasons that, you know, that’s one way I recharge. And I think Jean has learned that over the years, that when I sit and watch the news, it actually, it’s relaxing, even though it’s intense.

Greg: Kind of in the cave. 

Jim: But it’s also a place where we, as men, hide and we control the clicker and that gives us some sense of … of you know, control in our lives. But it is a form of passiveness and we’re not engaging with the kids. We’re not engaging with the home. Hey, you know what? I’m the provider and (Chuckling) you know, all that nonsense.But they need our heart. They need our partnership in what’s happening…

Greg: They do.

Jim: And I fail at this a lot—

Greg: Me, too.

Jim: — in the house, ’cause I’m sitting there. You know, I work really hard and when I come home, I’m kind of goin’ through the same thing you’re saying, how I give excuses for not—

Greg: What do—

Jim: –being engaged.

Greg: –what do we do?

Jim: Yeah, I think for us, one great thing to do is sit down and ask your wife, like you did, “Hey, am I being too passive? Am I being disconnected? How can I be a greater partner?”That’s a good analysis to start with and just say, “Okay, how can I improve this?” And I would ask your wife.

Greg: Someone encouraged me to ask a question very similar to that and that’s, “What is it like being married to me?”

Jim: (Laughs)

Greg: And that’s been a little bit easier for me ’cause it’s not that I’m starting from a place of, you know, all right, what’s one thing can I do different? Or how am I screwin’ up? Or, but like, genuinely, what’s been your experience? What’s it like being married to me? And that’s what I mean, I think when I’d ask …

Jim: You want me to share that with everybody? (Laughter) I think Jean would say general[ly], I’m a[n] easygoing person, water off a duck’s back. I can encounter a lot of difficulty and I manage it. And I think that is something I learned out of my childhood. 

Greg: Yeah. 

Jim: You just pick up yourself and you keep movin’. Where we hit— 

Greg: Yeah. 

Jim: –difficulty— 

Greg: How does that not work? 

Jim: –is one time I remember a very serious moment in Jean’s life where her brother had committed suicide. And I remember talking with her about Romans 8:28. Somehow, Jean, God will work this out for good. I don’t know how. I don’t know what it will be.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: And I remember she looked at me and just said, “I can’t believe you’re even expressing that.” To her credit she came back months later and recognized where God had been at work in her life and in her families lives to heal some things. But that lack of sensitivity caught me, you know, that she summarized it like this. “You know, Jim, not everybody can pull themselves up by their boot straps like you. And I’m one of those people.”

And what she didn’t say, but what she was conveying is, “Please treat me differently. I’m not you.” And that made a huge impact on me. And I stagger in that regard. I do it well sometimes and I do it poorly sometimes. I fall back to those tendencies to think of her as me–

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: –and not as her. And so, how do you value your spouse in such a way that she or he feels that you treat her as an individual?

John: Well this if “Focus on the Family.” I’m John Fuller and today Jim Daly and I are talking with Dr. Greg Smalley about Jim’s book, Marriage Done Right. And, you can ask for a copy of that and get a CD or download of today’s program when you all 800-A-FAMILY or stop by to learn more.

Uh, Jim, we’ve been examining some difference between men and women in marriage and I’m sure most married couples understand that, but you also about the value and the role that wives play in the relationship and the special sensitivity that women seem to have.

Jim: Well, and it’s not just the sensitivity. It’s, if I can say it, a domesticating of men. (Laughter) That’s what marriage does. It calms us down. It puts us in a role of responsibility that we can no longer be at the frat party. We’ve got to control our appetites, particularly in a Christian marriage, where men have got to align themselves with Scripture.

Let me tell you guys, wives are really good at reminding you where you’re not aligning with Scripture. And if I could use an example, this is a serious example, you look at the way that this culture particularly, how we have objectified women, how we have allowed pornography into our hearts and our homes. Um

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: … it is devastating.Couples, and you know it, Greg—

Greg: Absolutely.

Jim: –because of the couples you counsel with through Hope Restored, our marriage intensive course that married couples who are in trouble can come to. A large percentage of those couples—men and some women—are dealing with pornography addiction.

I can remember when Raul Ries, Calvary Chapel out in Southern California, got up to speak at a men’s retreat. There were about 1,500 men at this men’s retreat and he is an ex-Marine, Raul Ries. And I love it and I attended his church in Southern California on occasion.

Greg: Yeah, that’s who you want to hear preach–

Jim: Yeah, oh, no kidding.

Greg: –ex-Marine.

Jim: He got up there in front of these men and said, “Guys, I’m gonna start tonight by just saying if you’re addicted to pornography, get down here right now. We’re not gonna go any further. We’re gonna deal with this, because you are men of God! That is not godly!

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: And I’m tellin’ you folks, in the church it’s happening and we have got to become more serious as men to say, “We’re not gonna allow that into our homes. I’m gonna model it for my boys and for my daughters what not to do.” And talk about it and let people know that you know, this is not gonna get ahold of me.I’m gonna tell you what. Half the men of that 1,500, about 700 men got up and walked forward—

Greg: Isn’t it amazing?

Jim: –and admitted to their addiction to pornography. Think of that, Greg!

Greg: That’s staggering.

Jim: I think it’s job one and you want to honor your wife, don’t be doing it. Don’t look at that material online or in print or anywhere. Just don’t do it. Give her control of the Internet at home.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: Don’t do it.

Greg: such a huge problem. I know, I mean, honestly, even within my marriage. Erin and I wrote uh … two different articles for, under the marriage tab.

Where we really talked about kind of how that’s shown up in our relationship in just how I would justify that I’m not really into that. Every once in a while I’d kinda, you know, sneak a peek or I’ll look or I’ll stumble into somethin’, but it’s not that big of a deal. But how through Erin and I really having a conversation, she came out and asked me one time just straight out, “Is this something you struggle with?” And you know, every part of me wanted to say, “No!”

Jim: Right.

Greg: But just by being honest, man, that started a whole new depth of intimacy and honesty.‘Cause I think for guys, you know, a lot of times when we’re feeling failed or we’re not measuring up in our mind or we’re into something like pornography, we want to hide.

You know, it reminds me of the verse, um, where you treasure is, there will your heart be also. So what I love about what you’ve done within Marriage Done Right is that you’re really emphasizing the power of recognizing, what is so valuable about a man, what is so valuable about a woman. Because what you treasure, what you value, it’s like, that’s where your heart is drawn to. And you also then get into a great discussion on the differences in roles within a marriage.

Jim: Well, without a doubt. I mean, man and woman, they bring very distinct roles—

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: –to the marriage and—

Greg: Can’t replace it either.

Jim: –we know that and you can’t replace it. That’s one of the big issues with same-sex marriage. It’s like parenting in same-sex marriage. You can’t, by definition, you can’t provide that child either a mother or a father. You’re depriving them of the benefit of that experience.

Greg: And what they both bring that’s—

Jim: Right.

Greg: –so valuable to that family.

Jim: And I think in a lot of heterosexual marriages, we might be depriving our children of either a mother or a—

Greg: Totally.

–father, because we’re shutting down the spouse and they’re not able to be who they are um … and … and do it in a godly way and so, we need to celebrate that. The other thing that I think we’re failing at, Greg, is especially in the Christian community, we’re always down on what’s not working, rather than celebrating marriage.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: It should be something our kids see and they’re excited to marry at some point, if God hasn’t called them to singleness.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: You know, it should be an environment. They should see it in your home where they’re going, “Wow, that is so awesome.” Not every day, it’s not that kind of standard, but we should celebrate not only our differences, but the fact that God has put together marriage so that we can learn to be more like Him, more selfless.

Greg: Man, I remember I heard someone say one time that marriage helped them realize how selfish they were. And parenting helped them realize how angry they were, (Laughter) because and I know that in my own life that that’s so true, that marriage has taught me how selfish I am. And as a husband, as I’m being called to love my wife as Christ loved the church. I mean, that is all about sacrifice.

Jim: Oh, it is.

Greg: And that is a hard thing to implement–

Jim: But it’s the thing.

Greg: –day in and day out. Yeah.

Jim: It’s the thing and when we can lay our lives down for each other—

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: –you’re gonna see a happy marriage.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, you really will. I’m tryin’ to do that, but man, I’m tellin’ ya, sometimes it’s hard. I get home; I’m tired. I don’t want to lay my life down by doin’ the dishes and gettin’ after the kids, because Jean’s worried that some homework’s not been done. But that’s what I need to do to respond to her fears. You know, that’s what she’s expressing to me. I’m fearful that one of the boys isn’t doing the right thing or moving in the right direction. Women tend to, I think, come out of that fear base. Men tend to work out of the passivity base.

Greg: Uh-hm.

Jim: So women fear that we’re not doing things correctly. We gotta get this in order and men are goin’, “Ah, you know what? It’ll all come together.” And that’s passivity.

Greg: Well, it’s true, because if you reverse engineer why Paul is tellin’ a man to love his wife, it’s because of that fear that she has. And the reason he’s telling her to respect the husband is probably ’cause of that passivity. We so crave that affirmation.

Jim: Yeah.

Jim: You know, one time I sat down at a dinner in Washington, D.C. and I just happened to sit next to a Monsignor from the Catholic church and we began to talk about family and marriage. And he said, uh … you know, “We’re gonna have differences between us as Protestant and Catholic, but one of the things in the Catholic church that gives us the basis for why marriage is under attack today is because basically, Satan hates marriage.” And so, I said, “How would you define that?” And he said, “Here’s what took place. God chose to put His divine image into man and woman, that His very nature is seen in the union between a man and a woman. And Satan hates it.”

Greg: That’s right.

Jim: “He hates the illustration of it, the expression of it. So he is trying every day to break up your marriage, especially your Christian marriage, because it’s a stench to him that God chose to put His image into and onto human beings—man and woman made in His image. He thought the angels deserved that.” And I thought, wow! Isn’t that powerful? That is one of the things spiritually speaking that we’re fighting. The enemy of our soul detests marriage because it is the very image of God imprinted onto us.

Greg: I love that. I think that’s seriously one of the most practical things that couples can do, is to realize that your marriage is under attack. We can choose to ignore that and you think about the fights that we get into, the battles that happen. Man, to your point, Jim, there’s an enemy who hates what God has created. When I love to think of it as that marriage has a super power. And that super power is oneness. When God brought that man—

Jim: Unity.

Greg: –and the woman together as one, that unity, because what Erin and I can do together is far greater than anything that we could do apart.And so, it’s only logical if that’s the super power. In the comics and the movies there’s always a villain who’s always opposed, who’s always trying to destroy that power.

Jim: Hm.

Greg: And we need to be aware of that as couples and pray against that and hold hands in unity, speaking against the enemy, protecting that unity and realizing that when Erin and I are operating on all cylinders and we’re unified, we’re speaking the same language and we’re goin’ in the same direction, there really is nothing that we can’t accomplish through Christ.

Jim: Amen


John: Well some great insights and encouragement from Jim Daly and Dr. Greg Smalley today on “Focus on the Family.” And our conversation has centered around Jim’s book, Marriage Done Right. And I’ll recommend you get a copy of that along with a CD or download of our conversation today. And, we’ve got a free marriage assessment tool for you. It’s on our website and it’s a great resource to help you and your spouse think through and evaluate the strengths of your relationship. You’ll find these and other helps at or learn more when you call 800, the letter A and the world FAMILY.

Greg: Well, I love what you were talkin’ about today. Man, I’m so passionate about marriage, seeing couples strong, families strong. And I invite you to support Focus on the Family’s marriage ministry today, boy, that we can rescue hurting marriages, that we can strengthen others, so that they can have a thriving Christ-like marriage.

Jim: It’s so true, Greg and I’m proud of you and the team and what Focus does. Last year … we do surv

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