Erin Smalley: I can honestly say the number one thing I wish I would’ve done differently early on in our marriage was given him more grace and allowed him to make more mistakes because you learn through your mistakes. And, you know, to have encouraged him more in how he was leading.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Erin Smalley joins us today to talk about having a vibrant marriage and ways that you can build up and encourage your husband. This is Focus on the Family. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I’ve got a big ol’ smile on my face. I think I’m gonna really like this program.
Jim: Encourage your husband.
John: Yeah, look, guys, you should know this is a great program for you in terms of outcomes.
Jim: That’s right. That’s right. Uh, this is a show about empowering wives to recognize the impact that you can make on your husband. And it’s a very positive program. Uh, we’ll get into some of those things that might be obstacles to look past when it comes to your husband’s behavior.But I think, uh, you will want to get a copy of this, or get the download, get the app - whatever you need to do. This is one you’re gonna want to share with your husband.
John: And a, starting point to - to get these resources is to call 800-A-FAMILY, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/radio. And, Erin Smalley is a regular broadcast guest and serves as the program manager of Marriage Ministries here at Focus on the Family. And, she’s written her first book,10 Things A Husband Needs From His Wife. And then, uh, joining us as well in the studio, Eva Daniel - one of our broadcast producers. And she and her husband, Jacob, have been married for seven years. And then, um, in our gallery, we have audience members, and we’ll be taking some questions from them later on.
Jim:Well, let me say to both Erin and Eva, welcome.
Eva Daniel: Thanks.
Erin: Yep. Great to be here.
Jim: We’ve torn you away from your normal day-to-day tasks to bring you into the studio. And Greg - your husband, Erin - has blessed you with about a dozen beautiful red roses and a card to, uh, congratulate you on your first solo book. Now how do you feel about that?
Erin: Oh, it was a very nice surprise, and he’s, you know, back in listening to everything I say so.
Jim: Is he taking notes and gonna correct you?
Erin: He’s taking notes, yes.
Jim: You know, you should have said this (laughter). He’s not gonna do that, is he?
Erin: No. He’s my biggest fan.
Jim: Well, one of the reasons you’re both here is you’re kind of living in different stages. Uh, Erin, you have older children now, uh, some off to college.
Jim: And, Eva, you’ve got a 5- and a 3-year-old at home - two boys, by the way. I’m proud of you and Jacob. That’s - way to go. You guys have two boys, and that’s kind of wonderful, right?
Eva: It is. It’s a very busy life season though as well. It’s hard to - on this topic of marriage, it’s hard to feel like we have a lot of time together. We both work, and work flipped schedules, and have little kids, and so it’s kind of an exhausting season, as well as being fun.
Jim: Well, and that’s true. So you’re at the - kind of the front end of that exhausting season. Sorry to tell you that.
Eva: And Erin’s still exhausted? I don’t know.
Jim: And, Erin, you’re kinda getting to the point of happiness.
Erin: I am - yes. Eva, I hate to tell you, I’m still exhausted.
Erin: It doesn’t get better.
Jim: There’s a truth right there.
Erin: Yeah, we have a married daughter who’s 23, a 20-year-old in college, a 16-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. So I have one in every single season of life. And so it does get a little crazy at times, and it - it kinda has never stopped. (laughter)
Jim: Well, and that’s, you know, so women are going, OK, so you understand my environment. Why 10 things I could do to meet my husband’s needs? I’ve got so many other things to do, Erin. Why in the world did you write this book? (chuckle)
Erin: You know, I think that as women in general, we’re pretty hard on ourselves, and we know we’re supposed to be giving to our - to our husbands. And yet, when you have kids or jobs or careers, you’re being pulled in so many directions. And yet, I know in a woman’s heart, she desires to be a good wife and desires to connect with her husband. And so really, these are just some simple truths that you can pull on to encourage your husband.
Jim:Um, in the book, Erin - I’m going to turn quickly to you to answer this, Eva.
Jim: Erin mentions this idea of self-care. And, you know, the number one thing is making sure you’re healthy, because that seems to be, you know, spiritually, we obviously know that’s the foundation but that next important thing I think you’re trying to stress, Erin, is being healthy - getting sleep, uh, exercise. It keeps you buoyant even through difficulty. I just want to ask you, Eva, as a practitioner, is that an area that you can succeed in, or is it a struggle?
Eva: Well, reading your book, you had a scale in the book from zero to 10 of how you would rank yourself - zero being poor and 10 being doing well. I would give myself about a three. I’m really good at sleeping, and...
Erin: That’s good.
Eva: ...I’m moderately OK on exercise. And it’s one of those - I know what I should be doing, but it often feels like by the time I get the kids down, I find myself standing in my kitchen at night, scrolling through social media, eating handfuls of their Halloween candy, going, what are you doing? Like, go workout, read your Bible, do something productive. And oftentimes, it ends up watching Netflix, or I just - it’s hard for me at the end of the day to, I guess, make better, you know, self-care, which feels like a trendy word, but better choices. It’s hard for me to actually do that and to not just fall into bad patterns of eating lots of sugar and giving likes on Instagram.
Jim: See, there’s the example right there. You give yourself a three.
Eva: I know what I should do.
Jim: Hearing that description, the guys would say, I’m an eight. I mean, I work out sometimes. That’s an eight. That’s the difference between men and women.
Eva: Yeah. Maybe I’m too hard on myself - I don’t know.
Jim: But answer, uh, Eva’s question, Erin.
Eva: And I’m also not a morning person, and so my children usually wake me up. And so I don’t necessarily get it in the morning either.
Erin: Mhm, and what I would say is that what I’ve learned over - through the seasons, especially during those busy, crazy seasons, I know that I can not give to anyone if I am not well cared for. Even yesterday, I was - Greg said, why don’t you just stay home? You know, stay home from bible study, and, you know, you can get everything done that you need to get done before Thursday. And I said, you know what? I can’t. I need to go to bible study because that allows me to do what I need to do. You know, and I - I recently signed up to work out with a trainer, which has not been fun, I will say, because it’s early mornings, it’s not my - my - the time that I like to work out, but it’s the time that I figured I could do it. And I can fit it in, and I fight for that time because I know it will make a difference ultimately in how I show up in my marriage.
Jim: Oh, that’s so good. We’ve got to hit some of those harder issues, um - the most common things where husbands and wives will struggle. And you talk about that in the book - those frustrating things that a wife has to endure with their husband. So doing the research for the book,10 Things A Husband Needs From His Wife, what were some of those things that women have to kinda take a deep breath and say, OK, now I’ll try to, you know, work with this? But what were those things that husbands do that really irritate their wives?
Erin: You know, especially when you start reading or hearing about differences and how different he is than we are, which is probably shocking to you. (chuckle) But often his differences will irritate, annoy us, frustrate us. And the truth is is we have a choice in how we view those. And we can view those in a way that we can see them as a blessing. I know for Greg, he’s so different than I am personality-wise--he’s introverted, he’s a slower pace. And I just - instead of seeing that as an issue or a problem, I have the opportunity to see that as a blessing that he brings so much balance to my life.
Jim: Do you think - and I’d like both of you to answer this - we tend not to celebrate differences, and, uh, we’ve had one or two guests actually talk about that in that marriage space - maybe Gary Thomas and others. Why don’t we - rather than allowing it to irritate us, why don’t we celebrate that, acknowledge some of those differences with a smile on our face rather than with a stern look of, why are you picking on me? Why is that?
Eva: Well, I mean, the way that I do life is the right way. And so - (laughter) kidding.
Erin: But I think...
Jim: If I could be so bold.
Erin: But honestly, I think often we think that our way is the right way.
Eva: And I think our spouse thinks that.
Erin: Totally, we all do.
Eva: You do life the way that makes sense to you, otherwise, hopefully, you wouldn’t be doing it that way. And I know at least for myself I married an opposite, but I didn’t realize how opposite we were until we got married. I still remember in premarital counseling, we did one of these extensive online tests, you know, to see all your compatibilities and points of conflict, and we were pretty comparable on everything, you know, finances, values, all these important things. And then it came to lifestyle, like, just lifestyle differences, and I was a 99, and he was a seven on this scale.
Eva: Basically how you - how you process life, and what you do, and...
Jim: How’s that worked out for you?
Eva: You know, well, it’s been - it’s been a little conflict along the way, just because we do - just how much energy we have or what we want to do or extrovert vs. introvert, morning person vs. night person - it’s - it’s so fun when you’re first getting together, and then, now seven years in, sometimes it really is frustrating.
Erin: And I would say the same thing is true for Greg and I. We took, you know, the premarital assessment, and we actually found that about six years ago before we moved here to Colorado, as we were packing. And I remember when we took it, we were like, oh, this isn’t true. We’re not gonna struggle in those areas.
Jim: We’re much closer that that.
Erin: And as we found it, six years ago, we were dying laughing because honestly, every single thing that came up that were gonna be challenges, they’ve been challenges.
Erin: And it was right. And around dealing with finances, and, you know, just our introvert-extrovert, and there’s just - we have differences. But, you know, we often bump up against those and get into conflict over them. But I just really have tried to step back and recognize the beauty that the differences bring.
Jim: Erin, let me ask you this. We’ve talked about the issues and the conflict, but what is the greatest predictor of marital satisfaction? Let’s go to the answer.
Erin: Yeah, there was a study that Dr. Terri Orbuch did. And it was a revolutionary study because she followed 373 couples for 22 years, which has never been done. And what she decided to do was to look at the happy couples, so the couples that we’re succeeding, not - you know, often in studies, they look at what’s going wrong, but instead, she looked at what was going right for these happy couples. And what she found was that the women that were affirming their husbands, they found that those marriages had higher marital satisfaction. So it was super intriguing that simply affirming your husband can make a huge difference in his level of satisfaction in your marriage.
Jim: There’s gotta be more there. Come on. What else?
Erin: Isn’t that amazing?
Jim: Was that kinda the core thing?
Erin: Yeah, that - that was the biggest difference she found.
Jim: OK, now I’ve got to ask you though, some women are going, that’s so hard to do. You don’t know my husband. He’s all of what you just said before the break plus other things. So how does a woman who doesn’t feel that respect for her husband turn that gear and say, I want a successful, happy marriage? How do I get there emotionally and attitudinally to want to, uh, you know, celebrate my husband’s stuff?
Erin: Yeah, I would say that what I would encourage her to do is to start watching.Startwatching what he is doing instead of looking for what he’s not doing. And as you do that, you’re gonna start seeing what you’re looking for. And, you know, as you do that, you’re gonna start seeing things that he’s probably been doing all along, but you haven’t noticed it because you haven’t been watching for it.
Jim: That’s your two-part affirmation that you mention in the book. Describe that.
Erin: Yeah, you need to - to celebrate what you see in him and tell him, you know, I see this in you. I see that you’re a great provider.
Jim: Give us an example with you and Greg. Not to pry...
Jim: ...But I need hardcore evidence.
Erin: Let me tell you, I came home from work recently, and Greg was gonna surprise me and make dinner. And I walked in, and I immediately saw the bag - the big, Costco-sized bag of hash browns sitting on the counter, and I knew...
Jim: I like it already.
Erin: ...That they had gone bad.
Jim: Hash browns for dinner.
Erin: I - they had - they - he likes to make this breakfast hash. And so I knew that those hash browns had gone bad. And I went over and I put my hand in the bag, and it was all, you know, slimy. And it smelled.
Jim: We get it. OK, got it.
Erin: And so he was dumping all this in, and he had a bunch of onion, and he was just building this creation. And I said, oh, babe, I said, those hash browns are bad. And he can’t - he doesn’t have a good sense of smell, so he couldn’t smell it. And I was like, no, Greg, those are bad. You can’t - you can’t use those. And then, I said, are you gonna put that much onion in what you’re making? That’s a lot of onion. And so he looked at me and he said, honey, if you want to ever see me make dinner again, you’re gonna need to encourage me instead of criticize me. And I was, like, total - I, you know, I want you to make dinner again, of course.
Jim: I want to be able to eat it.
Erin: That’s right. I don’t - I don’t want food poisoning.
Jim: There’s two parts to this, right?
Jim: Making it’s great, but it’s gotta be edible.
Erin: It’s gotta be edible. And so we have to be careful around those things that when we see him doing what we desire in our marriage from him, you know, to notice that and to affirm him.
John: So roll back what - what could you have done differently in that situation?
Erin: I could have, you know, well - I don’t know what I would have done differently around the hash browns. They were flat-out bad.
Jim: I think that’s - we’re all accepting of that.
John: Yeah, apart from the hash browns.
Erin: Yeah, I could have gone with an affirmation first, instead of...
Jim: This is great. You’re making dinner. Thank you.
Erin: Yes, thank you. Wow, you know, that’s awesome. You’re making - you’re surprising me with dinner. You know...
Jim: Can I get you some fresh hash browns?
Erin: Actually, I went out in the garage and I got a potato, and I put it in a food processor and I made our own hash browns, so it all worked out.
Jim: Yeah, that is good. But a great example of how to - how to do that. Um, respect for leadership. This is probably one of the areas where women struggle the most. Here at Focus on the Family, we hear from you about the struggle here where your husband’s just not taking the lead. And you thought when you got married he would do the bible studies, he would spur you on to greater things, I’m just assuming. And, you know, again, men can be very passive. First, let’s talk about that dynamic - the general dynamic of men and passivity. Who wants to take that on? And then we’ll move to the leadership question.
Eva: Well, I’ll kind of toss the question maybe a little your way. I feel that I have a lot of friends that out-earn their husband, and in many ways kind of “out-spiritualize” their husband. They’re more involved in Bible studies. They’re the ones that are excited about family devotional. So as far as a lot of these Christian ideals of ways that a husband would be leading, they don’t necessarily see it. And so it’s hard to feel that sort of respect towards their husbands.You know, if you - if you’re out-earning and you’re out-spiritualizing, and if you’re, you know, kind of in some ways out-parenting or out-doing, it’s hard to see, I guess, where they are leading sometimes. So - and, you know, a lot of my friends are a lot more, I guess, maybe a little more type A, or, you know, big personality women and maybe married to more laid-back men,so kind of, I guess, what is that - what is that balance?
Erin: I would say first and foremost, I don’t see how it’s gonna go well when we’re competing in our own marriage. Often, we desire for our husbands to lead like we would lead. So our strengths - we expect them to have the same strengths in their leadership, and that’s not always the case. Again, we’re often marrying our opposite. And for Greg and I, Greg is much more laid-back, and he is - his personality is more just even-keel than mine. And so he doesn’t - he wouldn’t lead like me. I’m hard-charging, I’m competitive, I have lots of energy.
Eva: This is why we’re friends.
Erin: Greg is different than me, and so...
Jim: And that’s why we’re friends.
Erin: Oh, yeah. And often, we just expect them - that they’re gonna lead like our personality would lead. And instead, it’s looking at their personality and looking at their strengths and seeing, you know, what is it - how would he lead? And how can we encourage him to lead? I can honestly say the number one thing I wish I would have done differently early on in our marriage was given him more grace and allowed him to make more mistakes because you learn through your mistakes, and, you know, to have encouraged him more in how he was leading. He was trying. He was 23 years old. He didn’t know how to be a great leader to me - how to lead me, a stronger woman. And so it, you know, it’s just stepping back, giving yourself grace and extending God’s grace to him.
Eva: You were talking about the importance of encouraging. I’m wondering, what is the balance between encouraging and nagging? Like - like, how do you encourage in a way that sounds like encouragement to kind of inspire them to improve? I mean, accepting who they are, but, like...
Jim: I hear the word manipulation here, but (laughter).
Eva: Well, no.
Eva: Like, what are some - what does the language, I guess, sound like where it’s encouraging, but not nagging if you do see something that maybe could be done better or actually would be better for them?
Jim: Do you have an example, Eva? That might help Erin.
Eva: No, um...
Erin: What I would say is that your goal is encouraging him to grow. In his - I mean, he’s encouraging me to grow. We’re sharpening each other. And so there’s nothing wrong with sitting down and having an honest conversation about something you’re wishing he would do, but do it in a way that can be received. You know, give yourself the greatest chance of being heard. And so instead of being accusatory and critical and escalating, you know, wait until you’re in a time where you’re just talking. Or ask him, you know, when would be a good time to talk about this? I have some feedback.
Jim: Boy, that’s so good. Let’s turn to the gallery. Let’s, uh, ask them to, uh, give their first name only, for anonymity, and then ask your question. So let’s go there now. The first question.
Ben: Uh, hello. My name is Ben. I’m one of the few men in the audience right now. (laughter)
Jim: How are you feeling, Ben? Overwhelmed?
Ben: I - I recently - uh, slightly, yes. Toeing the line. I am recently married to a very strong, Type-A personality. I would describe myself as a strong Type B. Not to brag, no one watches Netflix like me - no one.(laughter) And as you were just talking about both of you being Type A personalities, dealing with passivity of men, uh, what advice do you have for two young, uh, newlyweds about how - well, me, in particular - how should I lead my wife in a way that’s not just becoming something that I’m not?
Jim: That’s a great question.
Erin: That is a great question. And I love that you’re asking this question early on. I wish I would’ve asked this question early on. And how can we do this in a way that allows room for both of us in the marriage? There has to be space for both of our strengths, our growth areas, our personalities. You know, have some great conversations around that. You know, have a mentor couple that can step in and really get to know you and watch what is going well and what suggestions they have for you. I know Greg and I had that. Two years into our marriage, someone stepped in. We were miserable. We were struggling. And to have another couple of step in and say, we can tell you guys are miserable, that didn’t feel so good, but it really - just their advice and their love and them walking with us through those difficult years made all the difference.
Jim: That is good.
Eva: And I think also, one thing that fits for any personality type for pretty much any married woman I know is it means a lot when your husband just sees what needs to be done and just does it without having to tell him to do something like, could you help set the table, or could you do this with the kids? When - when you just take the initiative - my husband is really good at this. Take the initiative to say, hey, what needs to be done that could be helpful? And just - and just do what you think needs to be done, even if you don’t do it the right way according to your wife’s standards, it’s still gonna make a difference that you made the effort.
Erin: And I would even consider that, you know, a husband coming home after a long day and emptying the dishwasher or, you know, just doing whatever needs to be done. I would - I would consider that part of him leading in your home. That he comes home and he jumps in, and he, you know, helps out and, you know, just is your teammate. So it’s - it’s not - I think so often couples get set in, that’s his job, you know, and this is my job. But when you’re a team, you step up and do what needs to be done to really help each other and to assist each other and to make each of you your very best.
Jim: Mhm, Let’s go to the next question.
Megan: Hi, uh, my name is Megan, and my husband and I have been married 25 years. And I would say he is a strong spiritual leader. Um, he, um, just - he is always in God’s word. He just loves the Lord. He’s very passionate. Um, and I would say that we’re sort of equally, you know, together in that.Um, however, um, when I first became a Christian and kinda was around other marriages, I really kinda developed this ideal as to what a Christian wife was supposed to be. And unfortunately, a lot of my own baggage from, um, growing up and feeling very much like I didn’t have a voice, um - I kind of spiritualized that and made that into,um - I guess my question is, um, you know, how, um, can we encourage younger wives who have sort of this ideal to kind of understand that it’s not really a Christian thing to not bring up what you’re really feeling and thinking - that that’s not really pulling you towards intimacy with your husband?
Jim: Yeah, and that’s a great question.
Erin: That is so good. You know, I think one of the cultural beliefs that we have developed within the Christian faith is that submission is being silent. And that is just so far from the truth. You know, God brought me with my uniquenesses and my personality, and I do have lots of thoughts and opinions. And he brought me together with Greg. And us coming together then, it’s not me being silent - him leading doesn’t mean that he, you know, he makes all the decisions and that it’s all about his ideas. It’s coming - a good leader pulls on his resources. And a good helpmate is offering her strength...
Jim: Perspective, yeah.
Erin: Yeah, and her perspective. And what’s great about - about Megan’s question is that she recognizes that she carried some of this into their relationship. And that is - that’s why we start with Chapter 1 - being a healthy wife. That we have to be willing to look at what are we bringing? What part of this is mine? And often, we want to talk about what part is our husbands. And, you know, we can go in, get counseling, talk to a mentor and really seek out what is it that I brought? What wounds did I bring in? And what, you know, difficulties did I bring in?
Erin: And challenges. And get - get help and get healing.
Jim: All right, let’s go to the next question.
Renee: Hi, my name’s Renee, and I have a question about today’s culture and masculinity - that women are strong and that we both have talked - both women about them being strong and their husbands being softer. How do we encourage our men to be masculine, uh, and to be the leaders of their family?
Erin: That’s such a good question, Renee. I would say that first and foremost, because being aware that I am a stronger woman - and, Eva, you said the same - that we need to step back and recognize, are we allowing them to lead? And often, I wasn’t. I was stepping in and doing it. If he wasn’t doing it or if he was slower to do it, I would just take over and do it myself. And honestly, what I’ve learned is to step back and submit to the Lord. And really, it’s a state of my heart. It’s a softness of my heart to see that I want to encourage him to be that strong man and to point out the things I see him doing as he’s - he’s learning to lead 25 years later. We are both still in the growth process and learning how do we do this thing called marriage? And how do we do it well?
Jim: And I think you’re picking up the baton from a mom. What I mean by that is when you get married, that man - that husband should be somewhat already oriented toward leading in those kinds of things. And moms have a powerful role in the culture to, um, encourage their boys to become men as well.
Let’s end on the right high note. Um, in your book, you also mention how to rebuild that friendship with your spouse, with your husband. Touch on things that you need to be mindful of to rebuild and have a more joyful relationship with your spouse.
Erin: Well, you think about a marriage is built, typically - unless it’s an arranged marriage and you don’t know this man - typically, you’re friends at some point. You know, you start with a friendship. And often, through the busyness and the chaos - I know, Eva, you would agree with this -
Eva: It’s hard to be spontaneous and fun and playful when there’s a lot of stress.
Erin: Yeah. And we’re - we’re spread so thin that often we have the friendship fade. And, you know, then, the friendship kind of takes the back seat. And - but I wanted to encourage women - rebuild that friendship with your husband. You know, and what that means is making sure that you’re not over-committed, that you leave time for spontaneity and leave time to go on a walk with - even with the kids - or watch a movie or watch a football game, you know, whatever it is that you used to do.
Jim: (chuckle) Now we’re talking.
Erin: Return to the things you used to do. And, you know, one of the things that gets in the way of that is technology. And that our eyes are always down on our phones - set the phone aside. I am so guilty of this, but set the phone aside and give that time - give your first fruits to your husband.
Jim: Erin and Eva, this has been so good. It’s been playful, but it’s also been full of great nuggets. Those questions were wonderful. I think your answers were equally wonderful. Um, I’m just proud of both of you. Thank you for being here today and helping women better understand how to improve their relationship with their husband. I, uh, think this is long overdue. And I do commit - at some point, we will address the other end of this equation, ‘cause I know some women are saying, listen, I’m doing it right. We’ll get to that. Uh, maybe we’ll have Greg come in and defend men.
Eva: He needs to write his own book.
Erin: Yes, he does.
Jim: Exactly. But we can do that because there’s lots of things that we need to do as well. So we’ll come back to that at some time in the future.
John: Well in the meantime, get a copy of Erin’s book,10 Things A Husband Needs From His Wife, we have that and some additional helps for your relationship including a CD of this conversation. That’ll have some additional questions from our audience members and online you’ll find a special interview with Erin about sexuality in marriage and a list of 44 ways to encourage your husband. The starting point is focusonthefamily.com/radio or give us a call and we’ll tell you more-- 800-A-FAMILY.
Jim: Hey, John, also, with Erin’s book,10 Things A Husband Needs From His Wife, we know that there are some people who can’t afford it-- just contact us. We’ll get a book into your hands. If you can give a gift, our way of saying thank you will be to send you a complimentary copy of Erin’s book so that you can start the process of thinking maybe a little differently about how to have a healthier, more joyful marriage. That’s the goal here, so please just get in contact with us, and we’ll provide that resource for you.
John: Well again, our number-- 800-A-FAMILY. Join us next time as we have Shannon Guerra with us to offer some insights about attachment challenges in adoptive families.
Shannon Guerra: An adopted child or foster child, a child who’s grown up in trauma, whose brain is literally wired differently, they don’t understand this stuff and it’s going to take a long time to re-wire that, if we ever can. And they need to understand that this adult who’s coming in, who hands you a piece of candy, they’re not gonna provide for you for life. And they don’t understand the difference.
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