Drs. David and Jan Stoop discuss the concept of emotional intelligence – the ability to understand your emotions, as well as your spouse's. The Stoops explain how bettering that understanding can help you improve and strengthen your marriage. (Part 2 of 2)
Dr. David Stoop:
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John Fuller: That’s Dr. David Stoop and you’ll be hearing more from him and his wife Jan on today’s Focus on the Family. They’ve been married 60 years and they’re gonna help you connect better in every area of your relationships by better understanding your emotions. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, last time we started a great conversation about how God wired us emotionally and how by understanding what our guests call the B-E-P - the BEP - that’s our basic emotional posture when faced with stress. And that could be anger. It could be shame. You got to get the copy of what we covered last time. You can get it through downloading the app on the smartphone or we’ll get you a CD. Whatever you need to do, just get a hold of Focus here and we’ll get that to you. One thing I found fascinating and continue to find fascinating is the Bible is full of emotion and emotional people, right?
David: Oh, my, yes.
Jim: That is the key. And the Bible shows us and encourages us - God himself encourages us - to show self-control. And I think he not only is talking about over sin, but he’s talking about over our tongue, over our emotions so that we don’t sin. And today we want to help you, specifically in your marriage. And I can’t imagine not one of you, (laughter) maybe all of us in the audience here, we’ve said something we regret to our spouse. Is that fair? Everybody - everybody on radio, listening on your iPhone, whatever, yes? I’ve done it. Have you done it, John?
John: Well, I had to take that little SMART Love Assessment, remember? We mentioned that last time. And that was one of the questions. You know, have you said anything that you regret? And it’s, like, every day I do that, yeah.
Jim: (Laughter) That’s not good.
John: No. That’s why I scored lower than you.
Jim: But we want to equip you to have that trigger to know OK, this isn’t high EQ. It’s not high emotional intelligence here to really speak to my spouse that way, and do it from a biblical perspective. So today we’re going to continue that discussion with our guests Dr. David Stoop and Dr. Jan Stoop, their book
John: Yeah. And you can get the book. And, really, the assessment is very enlightening, very fun, frankly, to take and to find out about yourself and for your spouse to do that. So do that assessment. Get the book and a CD or download, as Jim mentioned, at focusonthefamily.com/radio. And the Stoop’s counsel couples, they lead marriage retreats. They’re on the radio. And they’re authors of that book
Jim: Welcome back to the program.
David: Hey, great to be back.
Jim: The thing we mentioned last time we got to say again, your proof in your own pudding, you’ve been married 60 years. So you’ve got to pat yourselves on the back and say OK, we’ve done it. And uh...
Dr. Jan Stoop: And you know that everybody’s kind of calculate.
Jim: Yeah, right.
David: We’re old. We’re still doing it.
Jim: But you know, here’s the thing, it’s such a great way for us to honor you because you have the experience. And I hope young couples who are listening tune into that and tap into that, to say what can we learn from you? You’ve had the fights. You’ve had the disagreements. You’ve learned this stuff. And you filled this bookwith great examples of your own failures. And that’s helpful to us.
David: Well, and I think that’s probably one of the most important books we’ve done and - because it brings hope and there’s all kinds of tools to be used in terms of developing the skills. And the skills can be developed, which is full of hope.
Jim: Right. Last time we talked about the SMART acronym. You mentioned these emotions, the BEP that we briefly talked about. Let’s recap for folks, very quickly, the SMART acronym and your BEP.
David: Well, the S stands for Self-aware of my own emotions. And I’ve got to be aware of what I’m feeling, at least after the fact as a beginning point, and then in the midst of it so that I can grab hold of it and begin to manage it. And the M...
Jim: I was going to say OK, ladies, so you’re all saying - how many of you are saying that’s my husband. He doesn’t understand. He’s got no self-awareness (laughter).
Jan: Self-awareness is the key.
David: Don’t - don’t be...
Jim: (Laughter) They’re sticking with us the rest of the way, I guarantee it.
David: ...Don’t be so quick to point your finger at him because there’s three others pointing back at yourself.
Jim: So that’s the S of SMART, then M.
David: M is to Manage my emotions. And I don’t want to be controlled by them. I want to be able to control my emotions in a healthy way. A is Accountability. I’m being accountable to myself. I’m being accountable to my spouse. And I’m being accountable to other couples. And I think that’s extremely important that we have other couples in our lives that know us and pray for us and share with us and care for us.
Jim: It’s a good thing to do. OK. So we got SMA. What’s R?
David: And R is Reading the other person - reading your spouse’s emotions, which is empathy.
Jim: I’m resonating with this one. I think this might be my weak link. I think sometimes I’m driving so hard I’m not very (unintelligible).
David: Was it a low - low point in your chart?
Jim: I’ll have to go back to my test.
John: Oh, no. We have Jean on the line right now.
Jim: Yeah, right. No we don’t (laughter).
Jim: Hang up. Hang up. Hang up. But uh, so that’s reading your spouse, understanding your spouse...
Jan: Their emotions...
Jim: Their emotions. OK, guys, come on. You got to be there with me. I mean, this is not something that happens naturally.
Jan: Well, the other word there is to build empathy, so I can understand what they’re feeling is a good thing.
David: Neither the R or the T are easy to do, but they become easier as you develop the skills of the S and the M.
Jim: OK. So it kind of flows together like a river, gains a little more momentum. So what’s the T?
David: The T is Together in the land of emotions. We’re comfortable with each other emotionally.
Jan: Enough to be in that world together.
Jim: So let’s get to the Manage, the M of SMART, managing your emotions. Why is this war going on in our brains between the emotional part of us and the rational part of us? Because if you think about it, who doesn’t want that? Better marriage? Maybe not perfectmarriage but all the attributes you just talked about - it would be rational for us to aim for that. So we wouldn’t use anger toward our spouse or shame or whatever it might be.
David: But our rational brain is often - is subject to the emotional brain.
Jim: Yeah, that’s scary, isn’t it?
David: And that’s scary...
David: ...Because we haven’t - and managing my emotions means I’ve got to develop my rational side of my brain. When we’ve been wounded as kids, when we’ve been - we’ve adopted a - a basic emotional posture of anger or fear or shame or sadness, uh, the - that’s giving precedence to the emotional brain.
Jim: You give power to that.
David: You give power to it. And you depower the rational brain. So you’ve got to activate the rational brain. So there’s - there’s a language for each of those four negative emotions. The language of anger is ‘I should’, ‘you should’ or ‘you shouldn’t’ or ‘you should’ or ‘I shouldn’t’. The demand that I make on a situation, it’s like somebody cuts you off on the freeway, and we - we get angry because they shouldn’t have done that. Well, they already did it. So it’s irrational. So I want to...
Jim: Gosh, you’re just going right at my weak spot. What are you doing?
David: So I...
Jim: Are we in a session here? Do I have to pay you money?
Jim: That’s good. I mean, that’s exactly right.
Jim: What else can be done? Pray for the guy.
David: So yeah.
David: And then there’s sometimes somebody cuts you off and you don’t even notice it because your mind is somewhere else, and you’re thinking of something else, and you just automatically tap the brake and go on.
Jim: And it’s like whatever.
David: Yeah, uh, the language of fear is ‘what if’ and ‘what if this happened’, ‘what if that happens’? And I always say, if you’re going to ‘what if’ the negative, you have to ‘what if’ the positive because only God controls the future. You can’t control the future by ‘what if-ing’ (ph) it. So you’re talking about the possibility of the deal falling through. Well, you’ve got to say, well, but ‘what if’ the deal stays together and succeeds, you know.
Jim: Yeah, and...
David: You’ve got to what if both sides.
David: And then they - the, uh, language of shame and sadness is the same as ‘if only’ - ‘if only this hadn’t happened’...
Jan: The regret.
David: ...And the living in the regrets.
Jim: Constantly, though...
Jim: ...Like a vicious circle, right? It just keeps going.
David: So if you can identify the language of the emotion, you can begin to manage the language, like that woman who was so angry that charred the - my door frame as she walked in the office, you know. I gave her an assignment to make a list of all the things she was angry about. I said, get an eight and a half by 11 sheet and make three columns. In the first column, lists all the things you’re angry about. Well, she - she came up with 27 pages.
Jim: Twenty-seven pages??
John: Twenty-seven pages?? Oh, my...
David: ...Of things she’s angry about. I felt sorry for the guy.
Jim: No wonder she scorched the sign walking in your door.
David: And I said, now, in the middle, when you’ve got to get all - what are the demands you’re making? And that’s the language she uses, you know. So she says, well, when I come - when you come home from work - and he had a pretty high-level job - and you see the table’s set, the candles are lit, the kids are in bed, you ‘should’ know I want some time with you. Instead, you get up from the dinner and say thanks and go to the office and continue working.
Jim: So that’s the ‘should have’?
David: That’s the ‘should’ - then I said, third column, you’ve got to restate it as a desire, as a wish, as a want. I want you to spend some time with me. And he’s over here making notes. He said, well, I’ll remember that next time.
Jan: (Laughter) He probably never thought of it ever.
David: Never thought of it.
Jim: Well, Jan, I want to pull you into that because, again, the language between male and female can be as different as Chinese is from English.
Jan: That’s right.
Jim: So how does - how do you teach young women and women of all ages to better communicate with their husbands that don’t speak their language?
Jan: Yeah, but that thing of changing the language to the wants or desires - it’s a mind blower about how - that’s heard by your mate. But, you know, a big part of what the women really, really struggle with is criticism. So we - we have that thing that we can turn anything into a critical statement.
Jim: Well, and that’s the shame part, correct?
David: And women do it more than men.
Jim: What does that language of shame sound like in the marriage? Just role-play a little bit for us. What does that sound like between - in a couple?
Jan: Of shame?
David: Oh, wow.
Jan: You should have worn that shirt.
Jim: You should’ve worn the other shirt (laughter)?
Jan: No, anything I say that - that can be critical can, uh - can put...
David: I can take it as shame. So - so you say to me sometimes, I come downstairs, are you going to wear that shirt?
Jan: And - and...
David: And I think, well, I wouldn’t have put it on if I wasn’t going to wear it.
Jim: Pretty straightforward.
David: And then...
John: I have a friend who was in that situation.
David: Then she may even remind me, well, you told me to tell you when things didn’t match, you know. And but what she - criticism is always an indirect way to ask for something.
David: And if she had said to me, you shouldn’t wear that shirt with those pants. They don’t go together. I say, oh, OK because that was a clear statement.
Jan: Mmm hmm.
David: So there’s a shaming in it, and there’s a trigger point for anger for the - the statement are you going to wear that shirt?
Jan: That’s anything critical, yeah.
David: Because I’m thinking, you think I’m stupid. I don’t know how to put a shirt on.
Jim: Well, and what’s sad is these little paper cuts...
Jan: Mmm hmm.
Jim: ...Is what derails a marriage.
David: Oh, yeah.
Jan: That’s right.
Jim: It’s not necessarily the big thing, whatever that might be. But it’s this kind of stuff, constantly.
David: Mmm hmm.
Jan: And many of them are - are critical remarks that we’ve made to each other.
Jim: Right, and it goes both ways.
Jan: Yeah, oh, it does.
David: Men do it, too.
Jim: I want to stand up for the ladies, too...
Jan: Oh, we have - hmm.
Jim: ...Because men can have critical and sharp and cutting and dismissive.
David: Oh, yeah.
Jan: Many women in the seminar will say, (laughter) he’s the one that does that criticism because I can’t live up to his demands.
John: And that’s Dr. Jan Stoop, along with Dr. David Stoop. They’re our guests on Focus on the Family today. Your host is Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And, we’re going to direct you to our website focusonthefamily.com/radio or to call 1-800-232-6459 and ask for their bookAnd then be courageous and go online and take that assessment.
John: We mentioned it last time. It bears repeating. It’s really...
Jim: Oh, the score, you mean?
John: Not the score - no, just...
Jim: Eighty-six? Is that...
John: I think 86 and a half, maybe.
Jim: I thought that was pretty strong.
John: Well, yeah. Anyway, take the assessment and find out.
David: It’s not bad.
John: Find out where you might have some room to improve in your own emotional intelligence.
David: That’s - that’s the point of it.
John: That’s the point of it, isn’t it?
Jim: (Laughter) Sorry, you seemed a little uncomfortable.
John: Uh, well, that’s because you scored better than me.
Jim: Oh, yeah, slightly.
John: You have a better relationship than me.
Jim: So let’s just - let’s just - no, no. This is EQ stuff. We’ve covered the S and the M. And now we’ve get to get to the A of smart. A is Accountability.
Jim: So what does accountability look like?
Jan: Can I say a word there? That we - over the years, we were part of a group of couples. Mostly, they lived in the Bay area far from where we are. And - but we got together twice a year. But they were our prayer group. T
Jim: ‘The 10 of us’. That was creative.
Jan: ...’De 10 of us’. But - but to be accountable to other couples is a magnificent way to work out this, too.
David: We’d get together for a long weekend, someplace unique.
Jan: Each time.
David: We were in the Sierras. And we were in the beach and different places. But always on the weekend there was a time of sharing. And the guys dreaded it, you know, but we did it. (Laughter) And so it’d be our turn to share with the other four couples. And we would talk about what was going on in our life, what was going on in our kids. They prayed our son into sobriety and prayed us through that time. And it was just a time of accountability with each other. And then the next day somebody else would share and we’d pray for them.
Jim: We do that through a book club, Jean and I. We have five couples that are in a little book club.
Jan: That’s great.
Jim: And we - we, really, the books have become less significant than being together.
Jim: And we do exactly that. An update about everybody’s life.
David: Every couple’s got to have that kind of context. As Christian couples, we need that kind of support. And that’s accountable. But being accountable to each other and being an open book to each other - there’s a lot of men in our area that their wives don’t know the slightest idea how they stand financially. And the man wants it that way. And that’s counterproductive. That’s being unaccountable.
Jim: So it’s a lack of trust.
David: It’s a lack of trust. It leads to a lack of trust.
David: But it’s a failure at accountability. And accountability maybe has some negative feelings to it from how you grew up. But the only way you’re going to have a solid marriage that lasts into old age is to be accountable to each other and in love.
Jim: And, of course, we’re talking to a couple who has been married 60 years. So you know what you’re talking about.
David: And there’s something great about growing old together.
David: There really is.
Jim: Oh, I - yeah, I totally agree with that. Jan, I do want, though, in this accountability area for ladies, I think, um, wives struggle here because accountability can be wrapped in fear.
Jan: Mmm hmm, very much so.
Jim: You know, that fear that I don’t know what my husband’s thinking. I don’t know what my husband’s really doing. How does a woman who’s feeling that way - I’m not connected with my - my husband - this accountability area...
Jim: ...But not to come across with the assumptions that you’re doing something wrong or that you’ve done something wrong and you come at that accountability in a way that’s not constructive?
Jan: Yeah, well, I would - I would think, I don’t know if someone worried about that has a - a girlfriend or whatever. But - but to begin to trust whether the trust really feels like real. But I am going to trust you. I am going to, um, ask you things, and I expect you to answer. Um, but in the midst of it, the thing that keeps coming to my mind is the praying together. If there’s even a smidgeon of hope that that...
Jim: That’ll help.
Jan: ...Husband, uh, is willing to even listen to you pray and then you hold hands or something like that. But praying together for Dave and I, since we began - what, 50 years ago?
Jan: Huh, 40?
David: Yeah, 50 years ago.
Jan: But anyway, we’ve never missed a day, even when he’s traveling. For Youth with a Mission, he used to travel into some really strange countries - not strange but wonderful countries...
Jim: (Laughter) Different.
Jan: ...Wonderful countries. And he would get a phone somehow. And we always touch base. And so this starts to build the trust that we’re talking about here. But...
Jim: Yeah, oh, that’s good.
Jan: But, you know, they may not be able to get their husband on - on that level.
David: We did a book years ago on when couples pray together. And it’s out of print, unfortunately. But we did a survey of the couples who had agreed to do it because we get a commitment from them to do it for six weeks. You know, AA says if you do something for four weeks, it becomes a habit. We figured with spiritual warfare, we ought to make it six weeks.
David: But one lady wrote back and she said, my husband won’t pray with me. He’s not a believer. But he’s - he said, I’ll let you hold me, and you pray.
David: And so she was - they would hug each other, and she would pray for them as a couple. And I always have thought that that was the beginning of something that’s - was going to - God was going to use in a powerful way.
Jim: No, I like that. I think that that’s...
David: Accountability - there’s something in praying together that is a gentle accountability that keeps you on course with each other. And we’ve had a fight in the evening, and we pray at night when we go to bed. And she might come into bed and say, are you going to pray? And I say, nope because I’m still mad. She said, well, I am. And she never - you never pray your partner into shame. She would pray. By the time she was done praying, my heart had softened, and I prayed, you know? And so there was that gentle accountability that regardless of what was going on, if we couldn’t pray together we still tried and we still did usually.
Jim: OK, we’ve got the S and the M and the A. And now we’re going to R. And this - we need a little bit of time here because I think this could be one of the world’s greatest deficits, and that’s Reading your spouses or the other person’s emotions. (Laughter)
David: Well, like we’ve said before, it requires my being aware of my own emotions and being able to manage my emotions because now I’m not threatened by your emotions. And so I can speculate. And a lot of it begins by speculating. And there’s some action plans in there like looking for emotions in media and talking together about general emotions and getting to understand how you can you can read what the other person is feeling by things that you’ve talked about that were neutral.
Jim: What is an example where you struggled with reading one another accurately or with deference or - do you have an example in your 60 years of marriage?
Jan: I’m sure there are many, but...
Jan: But let’s see - a lot over the kids. A lot of...
Jim: Now you’re speaking my language. OK, come on. Give it to me.
Jan: Oh, we have different opinions of how much we should interfere, or should we not?
Jan: That’s very difficult.
Jan: And it is it’s hard to come up with - you know, I know better. I was there. I saw it (laughter). But to understand that all this has to do with howare on it. And so we try to get together on at least one point of what we’re talking about.
David: When we were dealing with our son’s addiction, one of us would be kind and manipulable. The other would be firm and trying to draw the line. And he could - every kid in that situation can play you against each other...
Jim: Yeah. That’s exactly right.
David: ...Walks away with whatever he wants. And what we had to learn to - was how to read each other’s natural tendency but to have talked it through enough that we knew that we had to stay on the same page. We had to be kind and firm at the same time.
David: Couldn’t divide that.
Jim: Now, let me ask you this in the context of marriage, though, where you have the husband who doesn’t display a lot of emotion, and you have the wife trying to discern, trying to read her mate’s cuing...
David: Well, you know...
Jim: ...And you’re lost in that because he’s not given you a lot of signals.
David: Well then - one of the things I tell the wives is oftentimes I define the man as being afraid.
Jim: So he’s hiding.
David: He’s hiding. He’s fearful. And instead of him rejecting you, he’s really afraid of what he’s experiencing, and he’s hiding from you. So if you can operate on that principle that he’s being motivated by fear not by rejection, it can change the whole dynamic between you. And that’s...
Jan: That’s important.
David: So sometimes you have to help somebody...
David: ...do some empathy.
Jim: So let’s not leave people there. Let’s say some of the audience just said, yeah, that’s the relationship I’m in, whether you’re the husband or the wife. How do they unwind that? How do they start tonight? How do they say, OK?
David: You sit down after dinner, and say, let’s let the dishes go for 10 or 15 minutes and talk a minute. I heard this thing on the radio today that kind of suggested a lot of times you don’t talk to me because you’re hiding. You’re afraid. And it goes back to what you learned from - as a kid from your mom and the way she disciplined you. Talk to me about what that was like when you were a kid. And if I can get him to talk about what he experienced as a kid - Jan knows almost everything that happened to me as a kid. And I know almost everything that happened to her as a kid. We’ve, over the years, talked about it because it’s affected our here and now. It wasn’t locked into the past. It was still operating in the present.
Jim: It can be hard to have that appetite as the wife to say I’m going to really listen and understand this. Can it be hard? I would think it could be difficult, especially if you’re upset.
Jim: OK, blame it on your childhood - heard that before. I’m just roleplaying with you because I want to really help people.
David: Well, it’s not just blaming it on my childhood. It’s trying to understand the pattern of behavior that I get caught in without even thinking. And you need to - I need your help to pull me out of that. And then we’ve got to talk about some ways that I can experience your helping me pull me out of it so you can keep me talking.
Jim: Well, those are the solutions you have in your book. And that’s why we can’t cover it all on the radio. If you’re saying, this is us! This is where I am at in my marriage right now! Get a hold of us. Get a copy of the book. That’s why we’re here. You can talk to a counselor. We’ve got to at least touch on T so we don’t end with SMAR. (Laughter) Let’s end with SMART. But we don’t have a lot of time, so just one minute Together in the land of emotions - the T, Together.
David: Yeah, it’s Together. How comfortable are we together in dealing with our emotions? And the goal is to become comfortable with a whole range of emotions.
David: That’ll be result of doing S-M-A-R, so SMAR. If I do SMAR well, I will do - I will be SMART.
Jim: You get the T.
Jan: And that’s going to be a safe place, a safe place for both.
Jim: So it all builds on itself.
John: Oh, I like that. That’s good.
Jim: Not only that, but scripturally - and that’s a great place to end this discussion. Scripturally, that’s what you want. I think the scriptural version of this is called becoming one flesh, right? Togetherness - that’s what that’s saying.
David: Becoming one emotionally.
Jim: One emotionally - so you really are complementing each other and I think putting a smile on the face of God - when His design is being made in His image, male and female, is actually functioning because you are one. And that is a beautiful picture of where I would want to be if you ask me the five-year goal - hopefully, maybe that could be done in six months. I don’t know. But create that plan. The book even has an outline on how to create that plan, where you want to be together. Your spouse has to participate. Don’t create the plan without your spouse.
Jan: That’s true.
Jim: That’ll be a disaster.
David: And love is the end result. And love is never in the list of emotions because love is a different emotion. It’s designed to come and stay and grow whereas anger, fear, sadness and shame, designed to come and alert you to something and then go away.
Jim: It’s a symptom.
David: It’s a symptom. And love is more than a symptom. Love is a way of life. And that’s our goal, is to increase love.
Jim: Wow. That is a great place to end. I’m sorry we have to. Dr. David Stoop and Dr. Jan Stoop - their book- go online, get the book. That’s the point. There’s so many good resources. The assessment in there - I scored 98.
John: Can we move on, please?
Jim: I bet - it’s out of 120, so I feel like I failed. I’m already shaming myself here.
Jan: You’re right under there.
Jim: Man, I always want to get an A. But it’s just great tools to provide a pathway for you. And I want to thank both of you for being here, making the trip to Colorado. Sorry, you had to leave sunny California (laughter).
David: It was not a bad move.
Jim: OK, good.
David: Good trip.
Jan: We’re delighted to be here - very, very special for us.
John: We really are grateful for the modeling that you have shown us and for your visit today and as a listener, I hope you’ve picked up some nuggets to apply to your relationships. As Jim said, we have caring Christian counselors here who can have an initial, brief consultation with you on the phone and then they’ll put you in the right direction for some long-term goals and they’ll offer some resources as well.
Learn more about our counseling team and get a copy of the Stoops’ book SMART Love, request a CD or download of our program as well. All of this available at focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 1-800-A-FAMILY.
When you get in touch, please give the gift of family and make a year-end donation to this ministry. Last year alone, Focus on the Family was instrumental in God’s hands in saving 170,000 marriages! These are marriages that were in crisis, on the brink of separation or divorce. So when you donate, you’re a part of the effort that we have to save and strengthen marriages and we’re getting results. So please, make a generous contribution today. When you do, a gift of any amount, we’ll send a complimentary copy of SMART Love as our way of saying thank you and right now, because of a limited time match, your support will go twice as far. Donate today and give that gift of family.
Well, next time, we’ll have a powerful conversation with Peter and Carol Chin. They’re going to describe an incredible journey through suffering.
Carol Chin: And that’s when it clicked-- and I said, is it something bad? And he explained that it was cancer and that was the only thing ringing through my head after that point. Cancer. I have cancer?
End of Teaser
John: Well on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in today. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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