Focus on the Family Broadcast

Men and Relationships: What Works and What Doesn’t (Part 2 of 2)

Men and Relationships: What Works and What Doesn’t (Part 2 of 2)

Authors Greg Smalley and his brother Michael help men know how to better communicate and interact within their primary relationships, especially their marriages. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: April 27, 2021


Greg Smalley: God has given us some amazing tools to help us to be successful at work and, and as a protector as a provider within our family and we need to celebrate those. Th- those are, those are important tools, and so we’re not asking men and suggesting, “Well you need to change”, what we’re encouraging them to do is just to add some other tools into their already full toolbox that will help them within their marriage, within their family as they deal with relationships, we just notice there’s some tools that can really really help.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s Dr. Greg Smalley describing how we as men can learn to communicate more effectively and the good news is, and it’s a lot easier than you may think. Greg and his brother Michael are back with us today on Focus on the Family, your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, last time we had a great conversation with Michael and Greg, uh exploring how much we men love our toolboxes and the question is, do you have the right tools in the toolbox for a relationship? And typically the answer’s gonna be maybe not all of them and we covered the fact that we’re pretty good at data collection, problem-solving, those things that at one point they helpful but at another point may frustrate your wives terribly. And today we’re gonna equip you with some additional tools, building on the conversation last time, to help you and your marriage communication, that’s the basic idea here. If you missed it last time uh get the smartphone app, get the download, go to the website and uh, listen to the program last time and uh, it’s gonna be fun to once again talk with Michael and Greg about um, both our strengths and our deficits as men.

John: Mm-hmm. And a lot of the content is from the book they wrote with their uh father, the late Gary Smalley, it’s called Men’s Relational Toolbox and we do have copies of that here, we’ll encourage you to get one, when you call 800-A-FAMILY or stop by

Jim: Greg and Michael, welcome back to Focus.

Greg: Thank you so much.

Michael Smalley: Thank you for having us.

Jim: Good to have you and uh, let’s just uh, quickly a little more depth on that review, last time we did talk about those tools that again the 80/20 rule applies, about 80% of men are gonna possess these and 20% uh, have different tools that they’re born with, they’re God-given I would say, but uh review those for us Greg, wha- what were those basic things that most of us men possess?

Greg: Yeah, I think God has gifted us in so many ways to be successful as a provider, to be successful um, as a protector, like I-I-I was with my, my youngest daughter, she’s 13 and it snowed here in Colorado, so we’re out shoveling. You know I can see in our next-door neighbor some tire tracks because he gets up at like 5:30 every morning and drives wh- you know, far to be at his place of business to provide for his family. And and, so we went over and shoveled his driveway, cause I was trying to teach Annie going, lo- look isn’t that cool? Look th- he’s getting up that early to provide for his family, wh- what an amazing gift and that’s what God has equipped him to do, so he’s able to get up that early and drive and do all that because again, those are strengths th- that we possess, we possess things like being good at, at hearing the facts and- and- and pursuing details, to figure out how we need to solve something and we, we have a competitiveness and can do tasks. All those are, are amazing tools that helps us-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Greg: …To be successful as that provider, as that protector and we need to embrace those and celebrate those and and that’s a great thing. And all we’re encouraging guys to do, is to recognize those same tools that help you to be successful at work, probably you’re gonna need to use a different tool, so it’s not that those are bad tools that you’ve been equipped with but wh- what would it look like to develop some of these other tools that will help you be just as successful within your marriage.

Jim: And list those as you’re talking, what are the six that you highlight in your book.

Michael: Well I mean for me I would say the biggest take away from Greg’s precious story is uh, for you Jim, like clearly Greg does not put a lot of time into his job here at Focus. (laughing) Cause he should, he can shovel everybody’s lawn and so I’m just throwing it out there, just a green light idea [crosstalk] would it be easy to replace him with another Smalley. (Laughing) You could call me Greg, I don’t even care.

Greg: G, we called him G Smalley.

Jim: But, to those six that you pointed out of the book, wh- just for the listeners, say what they are.

Greg: Yeah, there’s one called the open sharing tool, so this is recognizing that, that we need to be known, our wives so crave to know what’s going on the inside? So, when we answer, “No I’m fine,” they want more, and so really developing that skill, the patient listening tool, learning how to really, to feel with, to empathize with our wife and our kids.

Jim: You know how scary that sounds? (laughing)

Greg: I know, I know. But it’s -it’s -it’s such a cool example in the bible when Jesus got to Lazarus’s family and so Lazarus had died and equipped with the natural tool problem-solve, Jesus shows up and you know, he’s gonna ultimately raise Lazarus from the dead which is the the greatest problem-solving way ever-

Jim: Sure.

Greg: And yet I love what he models, that when he got to the family, Jesus wept, he cried with them, he empathized, he felt what it was like, even though he knew what he was gonna do, why he didn’t say “Hey everybody, it’s me, I’m here Jesus, just relax.” But he took the time because people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. That’s my favorite Teddy Roosevelt quote.

Jim: Yeah, no that’s good.

Michael: And you know, I’m, when you think of the selfless honor tool, one of the most painful things I had to learn uh, in July of 2019, so this was fairly recently…

Greg: You’ll never be as good as your older brother? [crosstalk] (laughing)

Michael: …I didn’t have to learn that, I lived it. But the selfless honor, I- I wanna encourage men, I u- I genuinely believed that uh, I’d been asked a question when our marriage hit just a real critical crisis thing and it just flat out got toxic. Someone asked me, that, you know how have you done this, and my answer was kind of always the same of, well I claimed to love Jesus so I need to lay down my life and walk the extra mile, love people when they’re being difficult and blah blah blah and my first coach to really helped me in this time of crisis. He goes, “Would you mind if I push back on that?” And I thought, “You’re gonna push back on me wanting to be like Jesus? A’ight I’m in.” You know what’s going on and he goes, “I don’t know if you’ve been doing those things to actually be selfless, sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of those things to avoid pain.” And I mean, I wept, it was like the holy spirit weeping. It was so convicting that I thought I was being selfless. I thought I was doing and trying to be like Christ and then all of a sudden I have to recognize that, no I may have looked selfless, I may have even sounded selfless, but the heart behind those things, those behaviors towards my wife were really selfish and were really motivated to avoid pain.

Jim: What a gift to be able to recognize that though, seriously, to- to see that and kind of wrap your mind around that.

Michael: Yeah.

Jim: That’s a great challenge from a friend.

Michael: It is, and it’s painful to do that but, I just wanna encourage guys like, we- we really do, it is about our heart, so, you can learn these tools right, you can do the time and energy tool, the tender touch tool, these are wonderful tools, but if you’re not constantly aware of your heart and what’s behind this, right? I used to offer earlier on in our marriage, this is humiliating to even share, and I can’t believe I’m about to do it, but I’ll do it. So, I used to, I I was at one-point gonna be a masseuse, like I wanted to be a massage therapist right, so I’m actually…

Greg: I actually never knew this. I’m learnin’ things about my brother.

Michael: …I’m gifted, at massage and so cause I learned, and I used to massage, you know offer massages for my wife. Well the problem is, every time I go, “Hey, would you like a massage?” Really what I was wanting was sex. My wife finally, lovingly, kinda called me out, going, “Hey look, it kinda feels like when you offer to give me a massage what you really wanting is sex.” And I just knew instantly, and I wasn’t necessary trying to be manipulative or, but it was. It was true, she called me out. And I went, “Yeah, that’s probably fair,” and she goes, “I think I would love to be able to have a massage just for a massage.” Those are some of those difficult conversations that the two of you have to be willing, you’ve got to be honest, but you need to do that out of care and concern for that person right? Not to punish and so, what we finally figured out because she was willing to kinda call me out on it, we figured out that I could now go, “Would you like a sport massage or a sexy massage?” (laughing)

Jim: Well you know that’s so true and I think all of us, if we’re open and truthful we do those things even the minor manipulations, you may engage in talking more at that bedtime moment and your wife is really quick to put two and two together. I mean we think we’re out foxing them, but they get it.

Greg: They get it.

Jim: And it is good to be able to delineate. Um, let me go back for a second to the first two tools that are essentially talking and listening um, that’s what we’re getting at I mean, is there anything um that we need to know further about that struggle that we have to do these well. How do we mentally say, okay tonight I’m really gonna engage my wife with listening and with talking? Do you have to set time up to do that Greg, how do you uh, start a discipline to be able to do that better?

Greg: Yeah the research actually shows that that spending about 10 to 15 minutes a day exploring the inner life versus you know talking about tasks and to do lists and who’s gonna do what tomorrow, makes such a big difference. So when-when instead of trying to have a business meeting with Erin, which is easy for me to do, and I’m good at that, again that’s one of those natural tools to come up with some questions that I can ask her. I asked her this one time. “So, so if I need to explore your inner life 10 to 15 minutes a day, wh- what would I ask you?” Cause I was clueless, I was like I don’t know, and it was so good for her instantly. There was no pause, she said “Well I have four.” And I went “Well, gah do you wanna pray about it or think about it?”

Jim: She has. (Laughing).

Greg: Yeah, she’s like, “I’ll come up with 10 to 15, how many do you want?” And so, I’ll take four, and she just said, “If you were to ask me on a daily basis how am I feeling, so what’s going on emotionally, how are things going relationally between me and the kids? How are things going between me and my girlfriends,” So friendships are very important to her and then, “What’s one things God’s been teaching you as of late?” And so I’m telling you, I have, those are so deeply rooted in my brain now that when we have some time maybe over coffee in the morning or laying in bed you know, after the massage, that Michael was talking about (laughing) you know tho- those, that’s a time when- when we can ask those questions. So, ask your wife, explore that. What what could I ask you that would help me understand better who you are on the inside and I guarantee most woman instantly will- will have a question or two and then just be committed to exploring that, asking that. And that’s, that’s really helped me to learn how to just be that, that patient listener with her.

Michael: Well, and by the way, don’t be embarrassed, it is not a failure of anything to have, to find que- we have questions in the book. It’s okay to have conversation starters, that’s the number one thing that couples requested at uh at a big survey of all of our people at and they just– Their number one thing they wanted were conversation starters, it’s not a bad sign that you don’t know what to talk about. I mean, y- you don’t really learn that growing up and with guy -guy friendships and you’re out hunting, we know what we’re gonna talk about. Killing things and the weather and you know,

Jim: And killing things.

Michael: And killing things.

Jim: We kinda repeat the loop.

Greg: And sports, let’s not forget sports.

Michael: And so don’t be afraid to utilize questions that are already there and that you can find, um, just google, you know, conversation starters or even google deep questions to ask your spouse or I- I- I actually know, Focus, at your website, you have a done of those kinds of things that, it’s okay to print that out. Put it on your phone, go out to dinner. And then look, the ki- and I’m tell- my wife and I have actually had a lot of fun doing that, cause I’ve, I’ve got a bunch on our website too and a lot of them are just fun. Like, what, you know, if you could be any marvel character which one would you be? (laughing) a- and it sounds like a silly question, now I am a marvel fanatic so everyone just back off, there will be no negativity.

Jim: Yeah right. (laughter)

Michael: So, you know, but it really can lead to a deeper understanding of your spouse, even with some of the goofier questions so that’s why I feel bad for people sometimes, is they, they sort of belittle themselves going, well we shouldn’t need this, it’s like what are you talking about? If you don’t already know, you weren’t born naturally gifted at something like my brother is at everything (laughing) uh-

Greg: I know.

Michael: We need to learn and so pul- you know, having resources, printing them out, pulling them up on a phone. Those are wonderful ways to utilize these tools we’re talking about.

John: Mm-hmm. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and today we’re talking about uh, some of the concepts in the book, Men’s Relational Toolbox, written by uh, Dr. Greg Smalley, Dr. Michael Smalley and their father, the late uh, Gary Smalley and we do have copies of that here, we’ll encourage you to get one when you call 800-A-FAMILY or stop by

Jim: Greg let’s go into the win-win tool, what is it? It sounds good, everybody’s a winner (laughs) but what is the win-win tool?

Greg: Yeah, it’s really recognizing that there has to be room for both people inside the marriage. And that took me a long time to really fully understand. When Erin and I would have to make a decision around something or we’re trying to discuss something, I was always prepared to defend my ideas, why I thought the way I think the solution layout and it was so good that sometimes it was th- I can’t remember who told me that, but it was kinda like Michael, you’re experience when that coach kind of encouraged you to think through the motivation. Someone said, you know what wh- when you and Erin tend to, to get in these discussions it seems like all you do is advocate for your side. And then she’ll do the same thing and then maybe you guys will agree on something and and he just said th- there has to be room for both. Both have to matter, and that’s really the basis of this idea of a win-win. Just recognizing that that this isn’t competitive between Erin and I, she’s never my advociary. We have an enemy and he wants to kill, steal, and destroy our unity, our oneness. And so, we have to learn how to protect that as we go into making decisions. I say that to myself, Erin matters. Well, easy example is, the lights in our home is one of our biggest irritations between the two of us because I’m one of those people that I probably would never ever turn a light on, you know, I’m like, there’s plenty of natural lights, or—

Michael: What are you hiding from? (laughter)

Greg: I know, I hate paying, thinking in my mind that I’m paying (laughing) especially if there’s no one in a particular room why do we have to have every lamp, every conceivable light.

Jim: There goes another nickel.

Greg: But it, I had to realize that Erin matters too. And that if she wants lamps on in our home even though no one’s there, that that (laughing) needs to matter to me, that’s important. And I told her, and I said, you know what, I’m done arguing about this, it sounds like this is super important to you and that matters to me. And so, I think that’s the sort of attitude. Now, people are gonna deal obviously with much greater you know issues than a la-, do we leave a lamp on or not.

Michael: What I would add though to the win-win tool and this is something, again that I’ve had to really learn and just come to embrace. There’s also a term called compromise to win and we’ve got to stop looking at compromising as someone’s losing, it’s no, I might compromise so I can get to the win. It’s not a dirty thing and, by the way, and I don’t know how all of your marriages are, but my wife and I could not be more different. I mean, really stark differences between the two of us, so the reality of us ever aw- like consistently landing on a win-win is impossible. That’s just not going to happen. We uh, we took this assessment that says how many perpetual problems do you have? Oh my, I mean, it was like discouraging (laughing) had like 48 perpetual problems.

Greg: How could we have hundreds of these?

Jim: At least you have those two.

Michael: Oh, my heavens, it was like, you know, wow. And so, one of the things we’ve had to learn is, it’s okay to disagree and it’s okay to compromise to win.

John: And how does that work though, because it it feels like the compromise does necessarily mean somebody isn’t gonna be happy in in this equation.

Michael: I- it’s a matter of mindset, right, but kinda talking about Greg, with the lights going, recognizing that hey, it’s not just about me. One thing I like to say to husbands especially going, “Man the dumbest thing you ever did was get married.” And they’re like, “Wait, but we’re at a marriage intensive, I thought you’re supposed to be helping.” I’m like, “Well apparently you want the world to revolve around you and unfortunately when we choose to get married that’s over (laughing).” It’s not about me anymore, it’s about this woman I’ve married. And so now she, her needs are more important than mine, right? Her life is more important than mine, my whole job is to lay down my life and serve her, that’s the biggest part of being a leader as a man, which means that, I’ve got to a- allow lights to be left on. Now I’ve seen Greg at night, I think he is right, it’s just better for it to be darker with Greg around.  (Laughter) [Crosstalk] So I would encourage a man, John, don’t think of it as, oh I’m losing something. Oh no, you’re winning, you’re getting to serve your wife, you’re getting to be more like Christ, you’re getting to lay down your life, you’re getting to be selfless and sacrificial and that’s the greatest win of all.

Jim: Well in fact you had a story in the book about a uh, I think a guy named Troy that attempted to do that for a summer if I remember correctly. What happened with Troy and his his good desire to lay his life down for the summer?

Greg: Yeah, it’s a great story cause it illustrates, he had plans that he wanted to do during the summer. He was a teacher so he had some really cool things that he wanted to do, but- but she wanted to to do some writing and he recognized that he had an opportunity, that that he could sacrifice what was important to him for her because of her value in his mind. Like, he gets her value and he wanted to give up something for her and a- and I love that in in what he ended up doing, growing closer to his kids, I mean, he had the best summer because he focused more on what was going on at home. It freed her up to be a writer and it took their relationship to such a a better level. I love it reminds me that there’s a George Eliot quote that says, “What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other.” And that honestly, that quote is one of my favorites because I’m always trying to think, how can I make life less difficult for- for my wife Erin. Even through COVID quarantine, I remember like day one she gathered the family and said, “Listen let me be super clear, I can’t, I can’t cook three meals a day for this entire family. Someone else is gonna have to step up.” So, we did the spiritual thing and cast lots. (laughs) And uh, I lost and- and I became in charge of cooking dinners, which I’ve just never done, cause she’s such a good cook. And so as- as I started to learn t-to do that and to cook more, here’s what was so interesting, is that I found myself getting up in the mornings starting to worry about what I was gonna cook. Did I have the ingredients, would I have to go the store, what they actually like, when would I have to start defrosting the meat. An- and I went to Erin, I said, “Hey wh- do you like, has this ever happened to you, like to you worry about this stuff?” And she went, “For 28 years, that’s what I do during the day is I worry about that.” And it was uh, if you could’ve seen it, there was such a big light bulb that went off above my head, because all of the sudden I realized that Erin has suffered alone in that burden, thinking about dinner, I had literally no idea. And what I said to her is I said, “So from this day forward I’m gonna cook, you’re never gonna have to worry about this again.” Because it’s that idea, I have an opportunity to find things that Erin hates or that she struggles with or that she’s just flat tired of doing, especially alone and sacrifice and jump in to do those kinds of things, to make life less difficult for her and that’s the idea behind that tool. Is that we can employ that tool, a- and like th-the teacher did, I mean it just it just was so cool how God then used that within his family. He was closer to his kids and they were closer as a couple.

Jim: Yeah. Let’s end on this because it perhaps is the most important tool, and that’s forgiveness. Um, you know it’s what we’re about as Christians. It’s hard to do at times, depending on the severity of the treatment that we’ve received. We tend to calculate it, frankly, right. Uh, uh, I don’t know if I could forgive that person because they hurt me so deeply. But bringing it into the marital relationship how do we learn to forgive deeply, not just in a token way?

Greg: You know Colossians 3:13 says “Bear with each other and forgive one another.” I love that idea bear with simply means be patient with me, and you talk about tenderness, you talk about all these tools giving us ability then to turn around and to forgive. If I’m willing to bear with my wife, to be patient with her, if I’m willing to- to give her grace, which means that I see who she really is and not how she’s showing up in that moment and through that grace and- and- and patience it keeps me open and it keeps God’s love flowing through me so that I can then quickly forgive, but, you know so I have to know when pride gets in the way.

Jim: Right, exactly.

Michael: Oh, the ego does, and I- I’m a simple-minded man, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed-

Greg: We weren’t gonna bring that up (laughing).

Michael: And other allegories I could use. I don’t understand. We can’t ask that question, like do I or should I forget it, like this isn’t, you know, an idea. Jesus was like, you know maybe think about it, yeah whatever you know.

Greg: If you’re in the mood.

Michael: This is a command and the biggest part of forgiveness that people have to understand, it’s not for the other person. This is for myself; this is healing to me and so people get hung up on that idea. And it’s like well, this is an option, so how I tend to encourage someone is, it’s okay cause Jim you said, depending on the severity of hurt that you’re having to forgive that is gonna be a harder process. And so if you’re at a place with your wife or husband or father, sibling, you might need to start it going, Lord I know I have to, I know this isn’t an option, but I can’t and frankly right now, I kinda won’t, so Lord would you even just give me the desire to want to forgive? We can start at that baseline. The Holy Spirit’s gonna come through, right? He will, this is guaranteed if you’re willing to ask him for it, that is His will is for you to live in forgiveness. And then don’t get hung up on how many times you have to forgive. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t forgiven if you’re still hurting, I- it doesn’t mean that you haven’t forgiven. And it doesn’t mean that something’s broken if you have to continue forgiving and releasing, this is a part of the human existence. Right, this is a product of sin, that yeah, I might have to forgive you a thousand times for this thing and I’m gonna do it because of the benefits of forgiving-

Jim: Yeah. You know it’s so good and, you know, we tend to say this John, often but, we’re talking about the normal dysfunctional relationships. We’re not talking about where someone’s safety is in jeopardy and we wanna make sure that we say that loud and clear. If you’re in that situation you get to a safe place and that maybe you get out of the house, whatever you need and and certainly call Focus. Call for help, uh, if that is th- the situation you’re in. Gentlemen this has been so good, Michael and uh, Greg Smalley and your late father Gary, what a great book Men’s, uh, Relational Toolbox and there’s just so many good stuff in here and I hope people will contact us for a copy of it. Um, support the ministry here at Focus with the gift of any amount and we’ll send it as our way of saying thank you for being a part of the ministry. Uh, Greg said it, I’ll put the dare out to the guys, get the book and maybe wives, you get it for your husband and circle, uh the six tools, one of or two of the six tools that you would like your husband to think about. What a great way to start, do it lovingly, do it in a fun way, kindly, but uh, that would be a great way to start the discussion, and there’s one purpose and one goal in all of this: so your marriage can reflect the character of Christ. And that’s what we’re about here at Focus on the Family. Guys thanks for being with us.

Greg: Oh, thank you for having us.

Michael: Yeah, it’s an honor.

John: What a great conversation we’ve had and uh, I hope our heart here at Focus has come through. We wanna help you in any way we can and so if you’re facing problems in your relationship, get ahold of us please. Uh, if you’d like to speak with one of our counselors, we can make that happen, uh, if you have a prayer request about your family, we’re here for you. Um maybe you just want to communicate better because of a great resource like the book by Michael and Greg. It’s all available to you when you call 800-A-FAMILY. I should note if you could make a donation of any amount to today to the ministry of Focus on the Family, we’ll say thank you for joining the support team by sending a copy of Men’s Relational Toolbox. And if you can support our family building efforts on a regular basis that would be wonderful. Real families in crisis are contacting Focus every day and because of the generosity of friends like you, we can offer them real hope for the future. Please donate and get your copy of Men’s Relational Toolbox when you call 800-A-FAMILY or stop by I should also mention that we have a free marriage assessment, uh, to offer you a quick overview of what’s working well and maybe an area or two that needs some help as uh, you build that stronger relationship with your spouse, uh, the link is on our website. And coming up next time on this program, a powerful story about caring for a loved one with dementia.


Sarah Smith: You see that they need someone to love on them even if they can’t remember. It fills them up with joy in their heart that can last the rest of the day and they may not even know why.

End of Excerpt

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

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Men's Relational Toolbox

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