Focus on the Family Broadcast

How to Stay Crazy in Love With Your Spouse (Part 1 of 2)

How to Stay Crazy in Love With Your Spouse (Part 1 of 2)

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


Dr. Greg Smalley: My job in my marriage is to love, like I said in my vows. It’s not about being loved. See, the lie is that I need to find someone who will love me. And I think so many couples enter into their marriage and go through their relationship over the years believing that, “I’ve got to keep figuring out how to get her to love me.”

End of Preview

John Fuller: That’s Dr. Greg Smalley, identifying a pretty common challenge in marriage today, what is true love? What does it look like? And how can you experience it in your own relationship? That’s our topic today on Focus on the Family, and it’s especially relevant as we’re right on the eve of Valentine’s Day. Thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller, and your host is Focus president, Jim Daly.

Jim Daly: John, I’m sure most couples when they get married, uh, they’re in deep love. Maybe mixed with a little infatuation.

John: (laughs)

Jim: And then over the years, that infatuation might wear off, like the second, third argument over where you squeeze the toothpaste or (laughing) whatever it might be. Something is gonna throw a roadblock up to say, “Man, did I marry the right person?” somewhere down the line. Now, there are a handful of people, and I know you’re listening, ’cause you’ll write or get in touch with us to say, “My husband and I, we have never had an argument.” God bless you, that’s amazing. Uh. I don’t think it’s typical of most couples, though. And over time, that initial passion and undying love can begin to diminish. It’s just, uh, potentially a fact of life. And before long one spouse or the other is beginning to wonder, “Where did our love go? What do we need to do to get that back?”

John: Hm.

Jim: Today, we’re gonna help you find it.

John: Right. What you’re describing, Jim, uh, really points back to the struggle that Greg was sharing in that clip, uh, Greg Smalley.

Jim: (laughs).

John: So many men and women get the wrong idea about love and marriage, and we think, “Oh, it’s about you making me happy,” which is of course not the idea.

Jim: (laughs) It’s, uh, it’s funny to even hear that because it sounds so self-centered, right? “Your job is to make me happy. Are we got it? We got it straight?”

John: Yeah.

Jim: Okay.

John: It all works fine.

Jim: It all works well (laughs). Well, listen, we’re gonna cover a lot of the right stuff today when it comes to making your marriage healthier than it may be today.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And let me remind you, this is why Focus on the Family is here, to be that resource center for you. I’ve described Focus before as just this huge treasure trove of resources to help you in your marriage, your parenting, and in so many other things. So lean in today, uh, let’s grow together in our relationship with our spouse.

John: Mm-hmm. Dr. Greg Smalley and his wife, Erin, do a lot of speaking, writing, and counseling. And, uh, they, uh, together head up our marriage team here at the ministry, and we’re so glad to have them in the studio with us. They’ve written a wonderful book. It’s called Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage: 12 Secrets For a Lifelong Romance. Get your copy today when you give us a call. 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or stop by for all the details.

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

Dr. Smalley: (laughs).

Erin Smalley: It was a very long commute today.

Dr. Smalley: I got lost.

Jim: Let’s not talk about that.

Erin: (laughs)

Jim: Erin’s going, “That was a long drive in.”

Erin: Well, we drove together.

Jim: Oh, is that the problem?

Erin: So, yes.

Jim: It was especially long?

Erin: (laughs).

Dr. Smalley: (laughs).

Jim: Well, let’s start with that.

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

Jim: What happened this morning …

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

Jim: … that made the drive so long?

Erin: It was actually really fun to come together.

Jim: Oh, that’s good.

Erin: Yes.

Dr. Smalley: But we’re not one of those couples that you mentioned who’s never had conflicts, so that’s-

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Smalley: (laughs).

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

Dr. Smalley: Yeah, that, that ended, oh, probably four days …

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: … into our marriage.

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

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

Jim: (laughing) Yeah, that’s true.

Erin: And so healthy conflict is, there’s a, a possibility that you can grow and learn about yourself, about your spouse, and even about your relationship, and as my father-in-law always said, it’s the doorway to intimacy.

Jim: That’s good.

Dr. Smalley: It’s my father. I curse him for-

Jim: (laughs).

Erin: (laughs).

Dr. Smalley: this.

Jim: Dad-

Dr. Smalley: Coming with all these-

Jim: Your dad, Gary Smalley, comes up a lot, doesn’t he?

Dr. Smalley: (laughs) Exactly.

Jim: He was the marriage guru-

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

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

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

Jim: He passed away many years ago?

Dr. Smalley: Uh, about six.

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: And Erin frequently quotes his-

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Smalley: … best lines-

Jim: I can’t imagine being married in that-

Dr. Smalley: … to me.

Jim: … kind of family.

Dr. Smalley: (laughs)

Jim: “Well, your dad used to say…”

Dr. Smalley: Exactly.

Erin: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: “Listen to your father.”

Jim: Let’s start with, uh-

Dr. Smalley: Thank you.

Jim: … commitment. Uh, that’s-

Erin: Hm.

Jim: … I think in line with your romance secret number one of the 12 secrets. So talk about commitment. Uh, I understand your commitment to each other was tested as you said-

Dr. Smalley: (laughs)

Jim: … pretty early. Is the day four story? Is this yet another test-

Dr. Smalley: No-

Jim: … of commitment.

Dr. Smalley: … this was day four.

Jim: Okay, so what happened?

Dr. Smalley: Yeah, so on our honeymoon o- one of the things that I was-

Jim: It always happens on the honeymoon.

Erin: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: … very excited about… So it, it became a, a huge expectation of mine. So when we talk about unrealistic expectations, this is a great example. So we… There, there was a particular hike that I really wanted us to go on, to a waterfall. We’re in-

Jim: And you’re in Hawaii?

Dr. Smalley: We’re in Hawaii. So when we-

Jim: Nice choice.

Dr. Smalley: Yeah. So when we get to the waterfall we’re gonna play around and have this amazing moment as this brand-new married couple. And so each day I would wake up and go, “Erin, let’s go hiking, let’s go to the waterfall,” and there was always something else that she wanted to do. So literally, the last day before we returned home I kind of went, “You know, this, this was important to me. C- Could we do this?” “Fine.” So we set out-

Jim: But wait a second.

Dr. Smalley: (laughs).

Jim: I wanna… Did you really say it like that?

Erin: I didn’t-

Jim: “Fine.”

Erin: … I didn’t say it like that. I think it was more like-

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

Dr. Smalley: No, I think she said, “Well, your dad wouldn’t want to go on this…”

Erin: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs) Y- Yes. Okay, so back to reality, it was fine.

Erin: Yeah-

Jim: “Sure, let’s go.”

Erin: … and so off we went. And we got to this waterfall, and Greg ran and jumped in, and I didn’t for a very important reason. It said, “No Swimming.”

Jim: Ah.

Dr. Smalley: Yeah, and so th- this was it. Like, it took us long enough to get to this place that this is our one and only shot. And so I’m thinking, “How… Who cares?” We’re, we’re in the middle of nowhere. No one else is around. I’m, like, “Just come on in. It’ll be fine.” So then I’m trying to do everything I can to coax her into the water. She wouldn’t do it. We started arguing. It escalates to the point that I say (laughs) my bride of f- (laughs) of four days, “Fine! If this is how you’re gonna be, then this honeymoon is ruined for me!”

John: Oh, my goodness.

Jim: That’s dramatic.

Dr. Smalley: Yes.

Erin: Yes. (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: It should go on everybody’s list of what not to say-

Erin: Correct. (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: … on your honeymoon. And so as you can imagine we were totally disconnected-

Jim: So how’d everything work out that night? (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: Um, yeah. Well-

Jim: Let’s leave that for later.

Dr. Smalley: No, yeah, so we ended up in a little luau. That was our-

Erin: Yeah, we had tickets-

Dr. Smalley: … last adventure.

Erin: … and needed to go to use the tickets, but we weren’t speaking, so that was-

Jim: This was the luau?

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

Erin: Yeah, so we weren’t speaking at-

Jim: Okay.

Erin: … the luau. But we were sitting by each other.

Dr. Smalley: Yeah, so we’re kinda stuffed in. She’s not talking. And I started thinking, “This probably isn’t gonna work out for (laughing) me tonight-”

John: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: “… when she’s not talking to me.”

Jim: Yeah, day four, you still have some ideas-

Dr. Smalley: Right.

Jim: … of what you want to happen.

Dr. Smalley: Exactly. And so I’m thinking, “I gotta repair this thing.” And so I just, I, I… W- We were literally like sardines, all these people, and so I kinda pried my arm out just to put around her, just to test. You know, y- you’re trying to-

Jim: Sure.

Dr. Smalley: … figure out, “How in trouble am I really?” And she didn’t acknowledge me at all. And, and so I, I, I then started gently rubbing her shoulder, thinking, “Well, surely she’ll see that I’m being sensitive and caring.” No reaction. So I kind of lean in to (laughing) say something to her, and my eyes hit the eyes of the woman sitting next to Erin on the other side. Somehow, because we’re all jammed in there, their shoulders overlapped. I had rubbing-

Jim: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: … this woman’s shoulder. I kid you not.

Erin: A complete stranger.

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

Jim: Okay, this is going deeper-

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

Jim: … and deeper.

Erin: Yes.

Dr. Smalley: So that would be strike two. Um-

Jim: (laughs)

Erin: But, ironically, I became friends with those two ladies and we still get Christmas cards from them.

Jim: Oh, that’s funny.

Dr. Smalley: Truly. There’s always-

Erin: Yes.

Dr. Smalley: … a P.S. at the bottom-

Jim: Yes.

Dr. Smalley: Greg, whenever you’re tired of Erin.

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

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

Jim: … to, to make that mistake.

Dr. Smalley: Yeah. But, but I tell you what, what hit me, though, as it applies to commitment, is that it, it rattled me that four days into our marriage we ended up in this huge fight. So w- we didn’t talk to each other (laughs) that whole afternoon, into the luau. And it made me go, “Wait, this isn’t the way it’s supposed to work-”

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: “… is there something wrong with her?” That was my first-

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: … guess. “Has to be something wrong with her.”

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

Dr. Smalley: Right.

Erin: … with you rubbing the woman’s (laughing) shoulder sitting next to me.

Jim: I think Erin has more of a case-

Dr. Smalley: I was a very caring person.

Jim: … for who’s at fault here.

Dr. Smalley: True. I agree, looking back. Yeah, but it, it hit me in a way that it, it, it caused some, just some distance between us as we both tried to figure out, “This shouldn’t be happening, so obviously there’s something wrong with us, with our marriage. Something-”

Erin: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: “… is going on.” Versus what I’ve now learned, in those moments how important it is to let her know that, “Hey, I’m with you. I, I know we’re in (laughing) disharmony. I know that we see things differently. I’m sorry for rubbing the woman’s shoulder-”

Erin: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: “… next to you.”

Jim: Are you still in counseling for that?

Dr. Smalley: (laughs) Yeah. But I’m-

Erin: She is. (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: But to let her know, “I’m, I’m with you till the end.”

Erin: Yeah.

Dr. Smalley: And, and looking back, when I think of commitment-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

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

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

Dr. Smalley: Yeah, that’s true. That’s fair.

Jim: That’s what I think.

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

Jim: Well, one of the things I wanted to ask you ’cause you mention it in the book, and I, I read this book as a business book, ironically, but, uh, S- Sun Tzu’s, uh, Art of War.

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

Jim: You know, we did it in the, in a business environment, you know, and, uh, there’s so many of those principles that you can apply. But I as a little shocked to see you use it in a marriage context.

Dr. Smalley: You wouldn’t think The Art of War-

Jim: So how did uh, The Art of War (laughing) apply to marriage?

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

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: … because retreat is easy when it’s an option. And that’s the idea about commitment is that I want Erin to know our only option is to move forward together. Divorce isn’t an option. And so let’s move forward, which means that we’ve gotta figure certain stuff out. And, and that, that creates that grit-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

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

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: … then, then I’m gonna do that.

Erin: And it’s so interesting, in 1st Corinthians 7:28 it says, “But those who marry will face many troubles in life.” And so it says in scripture when you get married you’re gonna face difficulties. You’re gonna face hardships. And I always say, “Thank goodness we can do that together.” There’s another person that I would want to face some of the trials, some of the troubles that we’ve experienced over 30 years of marriage. I wouldn’t want to go through any of that without Greg. And what a blessing, what a provision that God gives us in marriage to have a traveling buddy, a journeying buddy, as we develop that grit. And that grit is something so powerful because it, it binds us together. It gives us… It makes us stronger on the other side of trials.

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

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: And, and what it did for me is it cause me to go, “Man, what are, what are some of those blind spots?” You know, this was 28 years into our own marriage.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: Started thinking, “What, what am I doing that’s causing harm to Erin, to me, to our marriage that I’m not even aware of?” Just, our daughter’s circumstances just, just came out of nowhere, this divorce.

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: And, and that’s how it hit me. And I went through a season to where, I mean, I jumped into counseling. I started to meet with this fantastic counseling, Christian counselor here in Colorado Springs, and just said… He, he was, like, “Why are you here?” I went, “I don’t know. But I wanna know that there aren’t some things that I’m not dealing with that’s gonna injure my marriage.” And, and did that for a solid year just working on stuff, and we figured some stuff-

Jim: Well-

Dr. Smalley: … out.

Jim: … yeah, and the thing that’s critical there that is most important for people to hear is you talk in the book about your faith commitment being the foundation-

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

Jim: … that there’s gonna be a lotta swirl, there’s gonna be a lot of-

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

Jim: … tribulation that pops up in your marriage. And if you can have that commitment to the Lord first, that will give you the foundation for commitment to each other. I really appreciated that because I feel like Jean and I have shared that.

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

Jim: Uh, speak to that.

Erin: Mm-hmm, there’s something so powerful, um, when a couple goes before God together. A, that infuses your relationship with unity. And, you know, you’re seeking the same morals, the same values. You’re attending a, a body of faith together, and that’s creating a, a village of like-minded people to surround you, um, to fight for your marriage with you. And it’s so important to have that. And I know there’s actual research that Brad Wilcox looked at, and he looked at the number one indicator for those that will have the lowest divorce rate are religious couples that marry in the 20s, that haven’t cohabitated, and they share a deep faith.

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: Lowest divorce rate.

Jim: Yeah, that’s good.

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

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Smalley: Yeah, but this, this was painful, though, in, in our marriage when we started off because I had this, I had a dad who was a spiritual giant. And, and it was super intimidating for me. I’d, I’d get up often in the morning and find him at his chair, like, on his knees with this Bible in front of him, and believe that those were the kind of things that would then define me as a spiritual leader in our family. And I just wasn’t measuring up at all.

Jim: Hm.

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

Erin: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: So I’d be selling books.

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

Erin: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: Well, ’cause I was out in the lobby. He didn’t let me come in to hear the good content. And so we were just over dinner one time, and he goes, “Hey, how are things going between you and Erin?” I was, like, “Ah, fine, you know, now that we got the whole, you know, conflict on our honeymoon-”

Erin: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: “… straightened out, and that woman’s leaving me alone now, that I was rubbing her shoulder.” And, and I said, “Yeah, things are fine.” He goes, “You know, how are you guys doing spiritually?” I’m, like, “Uh, I mean, I, I gue- you know, I…” And I said, “Well, you know, honestly,” I said, “It’s not going well, and it’s your fault.”

Erin: (laughs)

John: Oh!

Dr. Smalley: And he (laughing) kinda went, like, th- thinking I was joking, he’s looking at me, like-

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: … “Uh, wait, you being serious?” And I said, “Dad, I just, man, I can’t, I can’t do what you do, and I feel so much pressure. I just don’t know how do that.” And, and it was one of those odd moments that, that he literally comes up from his side of the table, kinda scoots me over, scoots in next to me, and just gets right in my face. Like, I’m thinking, “Man, is he gonna yell? Like, what is going on?” And he goes, “Son,” he goes, “lemme tell you the spiritual man that I see when I look at you, when I watch you.” I was, like, “What?”

And he started to go through, “Listen, I watch-”

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: “… you provide for your family, for your wife and, and your young daughter.” You know, ’cause we, we had our daughter on our second wedding anniversary. He goes, “I watch you protect them. I watch you, you know, when there’s a problem you guys work it through. Your commit-” I mean, he just started to list all these things that I never would’ve thought defined spiritual leadership. And, you know, I, and I broke down, and I, I, I’m just crying in a Denny’s (laughs)-

Erin: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: … or wherever we were, you know, over some whatever. And it was such a powerful moment for me because it redefined-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Jim: That’s pow- that’s powerful.

Dr. Smalley: … my own expectations of what this should look like-

Jim: Hm.

Dr. Smalley: … in our relationship.

Jim: That’s good.

John: This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, and our guests today are Greg and Erin Smalley. They lead the marriage team here at the ministry, and they’ve written a great resource, Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage: 12 Secrets For a Lifelong Romance. It’s a terrific book, and we’ll encourage you to get a copy of it. Uh, we have those here at the ministry. Just give us a call. 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or stop by

Jim: Lemme move it to, uh, that inevitable conflict, which, again, I think 98% of couples are gonna… I’m always gonna leave that door open for (laughing) the 2% that, “We never have conflict.” Have you ever heard that before?

Erin: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: Um, I, I get that, that some people, their style-

Jim: (laughing) Yeah.

Dr. Smalley: … of relating-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Smalley: … is very agreeable and they-

Jim: Yeah.

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

Erin: Well, and couples handle conflict differently.

Jim: Right.

Erin: Some, you know, they’re fighters and they are both fighters and it’s loud and gregarious. So, some are both withdrawers and it’s real quiet-

Jim: Right.

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

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

Erin: Mm-hmm, yes. It’s-

Jim: Which I think you are the fighter types.

Dr. Smalley: We are.

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

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … draw closer together, which-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … is an unsettling formula for some people.

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

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

Dr. Smalley: Well, we could tell you a r- real recent conflict-

Erin: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: … that we went through.

Jim: We always love the most recent conflict example.

Dr. Smalley: (laughs) When Erin bought a new chair for her office and just simply-

Erin: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: … needed my help in moving that chair into her office-

Erin: Well, my favorite thing is that this chair sat in the middle of hallway for, like, two weeks. And I was, like, “Does no one else see that there is a big chair, like-”

Jim: (laughs)

Erin: “… blocking the hallway?” People are just walking around it and I’m, like-

Dr. Smalley: I wasn’t questioning her design feature. I just-

Erin: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: … thought it was odd, but it’s her chair.

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: So you remember early-

Erin: So I-

Dr. Smalley: … in the morning-

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

Dr. Smalley: It’s not working, and so I’m getting frustrated just (laughs), I say to her, “Listen, lift with your legs. We gotta get this thing up and over.”

Erin: And I’m, like, “I’m a-”

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

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

Dr. Smalley: But she- So snaps at me and I, I take offense at that, going, “I’m the one giving of my time, sacrificially, and now you’re snapping at me.” So I just said, “Don’t yell at me.” And she goes, “Just help me!” ‘Cause she was also late to see some clients.

Erin: Well, what he didn’t know is I had received a text right before he came downstairs and was, like, “Hey, um, let’s move the chair.” I’d received a text that there was a couple waiting in the waiting room at my counseling practice, and I needed to, to, like, speed this along. And so the con- We didn’t, I didn’t have time for conflict in the middle of moving the chair. (laughs)

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

Dr. Smalley: Yes.

Erin: Probably. (laughs)

Jim: Just an observation.

Dr. Smalley: Yes thank you. Where were you?

Jim: Maybe we could do this later tonight.

Erin: Yes.

Dr. Smalley: Could we have Jim just oversee?

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

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

Dr. Smalley: So she snaps at me and I say something to her, and the finally in my mind I’m so right and so wronged by her that I just (laughing) simply let go of the chair and it kinda crashes to the ground, and I say, “Good luck.” And I walk out of our office.

Jim: Boooo!

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: Exactly. I agree. Not…

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: But I’m telling you that we do that when we get into these arguments and our heart shuts down, now we’re reacting. So I was simply reacting. But in my mind I’m thinking, “Man, I was being nice and offering my muscles and professional-”

Erin: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: “… lifting services.” (laughs)

Jim: To the point. See, my reaction would be to grab the chair and take it out of Jean’s hands and put it on the other side of the desk-

Erin: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: I mean, it was, like-

Jim: … and then say-

Dr. Smalley: … 400 pounds, though.

Jim: … “See, I could do it.”

Erin: Yeah.

Dr. Smalley: At least 500 pounds, probably.

Jim: (laughs)

Erin: So he drops-

Jim: You need a different chair.

Erin: … the chair. I’ve gotta go, like, I’m late. And so I’m driving to the counseling center to see this couple that’s waiting. And I start thinking, like, “I really don’t feel comfortable going and working with another couple-”

Jim: (laughs)

Erin: “… when I’m total conflict and disunity with my own husband.”

Jim: This is the real truth about counselors.

Dr. Smalley: (laughing) Exactly.

Erin: So I get to the office and I’m, like, so I, I start texting Greg. “I’m so sorry. I don’t… I didn’t tell you that there was a couple waiting and I was just a little stressed and, you know, I’m r- I’m really sorry for how I influenced that interaction.”

Dr. Smalley: And I’m reading (laughing) this text going, “Uh-huh. Yeah, exactly. Right.”

Jim: Oh!

Dr. Smalley: “It’s-”

Erin: And I’m expecting-

Dr. Smalley: “This is about time that she-”

Erin: … like, a nice little, “It’s okay-”

Jim: “It was my fault.”

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

Dr. Smalley: I, I’m sure I said something like, “Thank you for owning, you know, the fact that we were in conflict because you chose to br-”

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

Erin: Yeah.

Jim: Okay, this is funny.

Dr. Smalley: Yeah, so we… It-

Jim: This is really good.

Dr. Smalley: It’s a great illustration of how-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: … pride-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: … can manifest (laughing) itself in-

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

Dr. Smalley: Mm-hmm.

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

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … fights for peace.

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

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

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: Yeah, combat is when-

Jim: … why should we avoid combat? What is it-

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

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

Dr. Smalley: Yeah. I mean, combat would be a good example of dropping the chair when (laughing) you’re in reacting… I mean-

Jim: Okay.

Dr. Smalley: … it’s the reactions that we do when we withdraw or we, we start criticizing, you know, we get angry. It’s, it’s, that’s the kinda stuff that we wanna-

Jim: That’s combat.

Dr. Smalley: … avoid.

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

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

Erin: And pride leads to conflict is what it says in scripture. And so it’s when we get triggered and our hearts close that we end up prideful.

Dr. Smalley: Well, and, and I l- I love Philippians 2:3. So it says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” That’s just how pride manifests itself in, during arguments, especially the vain conceit. Vain conceit means we’re excessively proud of our own opinion. And sitting there when I got the text I was v- I was (laughing) excessively proud of how I thought she had wronged me and how that-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: … if she hadn’t done this or that, that all that, that’s the combat stuff because we’re, we’re shut down.

Jim: So take the chair analogy or story-

Dr. Smalley: Yeah.

Erin: Yeah.

Jim: … all the way through. So did you come back that night, and how did you work it out?

Dr. Smalley: Yeah, so as I literally sat there, you know, thinking how wronged I was and, and just… I, I did pray and say, “God, I, man, I’m feeling totally shut down. Like, gimme your perspective.” I, instantly, I felt totally humbled. I (laughing) felt the conviction that, that He brings, which is great. He needs to convict me, not Erin. And so then I texted her, going, “Actually, you know what? The… I played a big part of this and I shouldn’t have treated you this way. I shouldn’t have dropped the chair. I… That was basically an adult throwing a temper tantrum. That’s on me. When you get home tonight let’s talk through this.” So when she did come home… ‘Cause that’s the opportunity. That’s what we’re arguing-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: … for, that, that if we can go circle back… Like, Erin and I have learned to do this by saying, w- we’ll even say to each other after some weird interaction, “Is there anything we need to repair? Like, do I need to repair something?” And a lotta times she’ll go, “I’m good.” Or-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: … in this case she went, “Yeah, that didn’t feel good at all. Let, let’s talk that through.”

Erin: But it’s amazing when someone comes to you with a humble heart how more likely you are to lean in. And so when Greg was, like, “Yeah, I shouldn’t have dropped that chair. I’m so sorry,” the humbleness, I was, like, “Oh, my word.” It just drew me towards him. And just to, you know, just the openness that that-

Dr. Smalley: Lemme ask you, what was that-

Erin: … brings.

Dr. Smalley: … like?

Erin: Yeah.

Dr. Smalley: How did that feel?

Erin: And you cared.

Dr. Smalley: Yeah, she was, like-

Erin: You took time to still listen-

Dr. Smalley: … “I just, I felt-”

Erin: … and care.

Dr. Smalley: “… disrespected.” Ah-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: … that, yeah, that makes sense. (laughing) I was very disrespectful.

Jim: Watch the broken glass covering my desk.

Dr. Smalley: (laughing) Exactly.

Jim: What are ya thinkin?

Erin: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: “I need new chair and a desk now.” And so it, it, what I’ve learned is that the, I think the worst phrase that we use around conflict is “conflict resolution.”

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Smalley: It’s such a bad phrase ’cause it implies somehow we’ve gotta-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: … find a solution-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: … which… What we’re finding most of the time, we just need to circle back and repair by just caring-

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Smalley: … about how the other person felt.

Erin: But the truth is, Doctor John Gottman says that 70% of conflict is perpetual. So it’s things that aren’t gonna change, like Greg is an introvert, I’m an extrovert. He’s a morning person, I’m a night person. We’re not gonna wake up and, like, all of sudden by different. We have to learn how to manage it. And so really you’re saying conflict resolution isn’t really the word, it’s conflict management. How do we manage our differences?

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

Erin: (laughing) Yes.

Jim: That turned Jean into-

Erin: And now I have a teenager-

Jim: … a morning person.

Erin: … so … (laughs)

Jim: Well, listen-

Erin: Yes.

Jim: … we have gotten off to a good start but we have got to wrap up, and we wanna come back next time, and we really have just scratched the surface. And we’re gonna come back if you guys are willing-

Dr. Smalley: We’d love to.

Erin: Of course.

Jim: … to walk down the hall. And, uh-

Dr. Smalley: As long as you don’t yell at me like my dad would.

Jim: Yeah, we’ll come back and we’ll cover some more of this great book, uh, Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage. And we’ll talk about some more of those principles you’ve laid out. And lemme recommend to you, the listener, the viewer, man, you can tell the content’s coming from the heart with Greg and Erin. There’s no fluff here. It’s all out there and exposed, which I so appreciate. And it’s probably, for many of you it’s things that you’re experiencing too. So this will be directly applicable. Get in touch with us. If you can become a monthly donor to Focus, $10 is great. Doesn’t have to be a lot. It just, there needs to be a lotta people doing that, and we’ll be able to even the budget out for Focus and do more ministry together. If you can do that, we’ll send you a copy of Greg and Erin’s book as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry. One-time gift is good as well, but that monthly help really does make a difference.

John: Mm-hmm. Donate as you can, um, and our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459, or you can donate and find more about this great resource, Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage at And when you’re on our website be sure to look for the link we have to the Loving Well Podcast, which is a great podcast hosted by Greg and Erin with all sorts of, uh, insights like you’ve heard today, and more. So we’ll post that link to the Loving Well Podcast, uh, there at the website. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus On the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we continue the conversation with the Smalleys next time, and help you and your family thrive in Christ.


Today's Guests

Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage Book Cover

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

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