Read an Excerpt
The DNA of Relationships
By Gary Smalley
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2004 Smalley Publishing Group LLC
All right reserved.
ContentsAcknowledgments.......................................................xi PART ONE: THE FIRST STEP 1. A Relationship Revolution..........................................3 2. The DNA of Relationships...........................................17 3. The Dance That Destroys Relationships..............................39 PART TWO: NEW DANCE STEPS 4. The Power of One: Take Personal Responsibility.....................63 5. Safety: Create a Safe Environment..................................89 6. Self-Care: Keep Your Battery Charged...............................111 7. Emotional Communication: Listen with the Heart.....................131 8. Teamwork: Adopt a No-Losers Policy.................................153 PART THREE: THE NEXT STEP 9. What We Can Change.................................................173 10. You Can Make a Difference.........................................185 Appendix A: How to Have a Relationship with God.......................193 Appendix B: Identify Your Core Fear...................................197 Appendix C: Relationship Resources....................................205 Notes.................................................................207 About the Smalley Relationship Center.................................211About the Smalley Marriage Institute..................................213 About the Authors.....................................................215
Chapter OneA RELATIONSHIP REVOLUTION
LIFE I S RELATIONSHIPS; THE REST I S JUST DETAILS.
THIS I S THE GREATEST TRUTH.
EVERYTHING IN LIFE THAT TRULY MATTERS CAN BE BOILED DOWN TO RELATIONSHIPS.
Almost everything we do touches a relationship in some way. Just think about your day. Whether you're at home or at work, driving your car, playing, exercising, shopping, vacationing, worshipping at church, or doing any one of the many activities you and I do everyday, we are constantly involved with people. We even interact with people in our sleep. There is no escaping relationships.
That is why for the past thirty-five years, I have felt passionate about helping couples, families, and individuals to strengthen, deepen, and enrich their most important relationships. That is what God has called me to do.
In this quest to improve relationships, I am always searching for what works and identifying what doesn't work. I love to take relationship theories, apply them to my own relationships, and see if they work for me personally. It makes no difference to me if I make the discovery on my own or if the new relationship idea comes from someone else. I'm always hunting.
So for three and a half decades I have traveled all over the world, delivering my message about how to improve relationships. Everywhere I go, I meet people who tell me that one of my conferences or one of my videos or books has helped save their marriage or improve their friendships or reconnect with family members. I feel deeply humbled and grateful for each of these encouraging reports.
Yet I also frequently hear something not quite so thrilling. Many people take me aside to say, "I watched your videos-but I lost my marriage." Or, "I read your book-but my wife still left me." Or, "I tried your material-but things just didn't work out." Whenever I hear stories like these, a deep sadness fills my heart. I know my message has helped a lot of people, but I also know it hasn't helped everyone. That's why I'm constantly on the lookout for anything that really works for the vast majority of people I meet.
A Revolutionary Discovery
Two years ago, while searching for information to improve relationships, I made what I now believe is the greatest discovery of my lifetime. Interestingly, it happened right under my nose, in my own backyard. It came from my son Greg's marriage counseling and research center, now called the Smalley Marriage Institute.
Soon after Greg earned his doctorate in psychology, he began assembling a team of professional counselors, including Bob Paul, Dr. Scott Sticksel, Dr. Peter Larson, Dr. Robert Burbee, Dr. Shawn Stoever, and Dr. Brett Sparks. Almost immediately they started hearing reports, both encouraging and challenging, about my ministry. People told them that they loved the books and videos and conferences I had done-but many said they needed more. They needed someone to come alongside them, to get "life-on-life" with them, and to help them put our material into practice.
Greg, Bob, and their highly trained relationship experts began doing what they call "marriage intensives," where couples on the brink of divorce come for two or four days of intensive work on their relationships. While I wholeheartedly endorsed the efforts of Greg, Bob and the team, at that point I didn't get deeply involved. I left them alone to do their good work.
But when their research team recently finished its first five-year study of the couples who came for the intensives, the results were staggering. The team found that 93 percent of the couples are still together-and thriving in solid, healthy relationships! Take a moment to digest that amazing number: That's a success rate of better than nine in ten! When highly distressed couples learned and applied the material you're about to read, 93 percent of them not only managed to keep their marriages intact but also have reported much higher satisfaction with their relationships!
After hearing such glowing accounts, I finally decided that I had to find out for myself what was going on. The team penciled me in to take part in both a four-day intensive and a two-day intensive. What I saw was amazing. I haven't been the same since.
As the intensives began, I observed angry couples who couldn't even stand to look at each other. They refused to hold hands. Many clearly didn't even want to be there. Tears flowed freely from both the men and the women. I heard wrenching details of illicit affairs and habitual cheating, of serious financial problems, of fierce arguments and violent shouting matches.
Let me share the story of one couple to illustrate what I mean. Jim and Mary had already decided to give up on their marriage. After fifteen years together and three children, the couple came to the marriage intensive as a final attempt to salvage their marriage. I heard Jim say that if the marriage intensive didn't change things, he was going to file for divorce the following week. He thought that this week would be a total waste of his time.
To me their situation seemed impossible. I wondered if they had any chance at all. They sat glaring at each other, hostility and tension written all over them.
The first years of their marriage had been reasonably good, but as Jim became increasingly involved in work and Mary became focused on the kids, their relationship began to spiral into worsening emotional distance, combined with periodic angry outbursts toward one another. Mary felt Jim abandoned her, and she did everything she could to get him to talk about their problems and to work with her to make their marriage and family better. In response to Mary's pursuit, Jim grew cold, and at the time they entered the intensive, he admitted that he had lost all feelings of love toward Mary. He talked about being so tired of her trying to control his every movement and to manipulate him to do the marriage her way. Over the years they had sought help from several marriage counselors and a pastor, but nothing seemed to make any lasting difference.
The final straw was when Mary discovered that Jim was having an affair with a coworker. Mary felt completely devastated and deeply betrayed. The pain of losing her husband to another woman felt like the death of a loved one. She felt totally alone. But most of all, she felt helpless to keep Jim from this other woman. Mary had seriously considered ending the marriage, but her faith in God and her concern for her children caused her to look for an alternative. She was unsure if she could ever forgive Jim and wondered if she could ever trust him again.
Jim felt just as confused and distraught. His love for his wife was such a distant memory that he seriously doubted whether he could ever love her again. Worst of all, he questioned whether he even wanted to try. The only reason he came to the intensive was concern for his children and a desire to be able to say that he had tried "everything" to save the marriage. Neither Jim nor Mary was overly motivated to make things work.
Before they left for the intensive, their thirteen-year-old daughter, Sandra, had left a note for them:
Dear Mom and Dad, I don't know how God will solve this, but I just can't imagine my parents divorcing and our family breaking apart. Thank you for trying. Yet, I feel like a young puppy left outside in the cold with no shelter. It feels like it's getting colder and colder each night, and winter will soon be here. The other dogs tell me that I won't believe how cold it will get. I know the snow is coming, and I feel so helpless to find a way to keep warm. I'm so scared that I'll freeze to death before it's over. It's such a terrible feeling to be alone and to feel like no one understands what I'm going through. My friends have explained the pain I'll feel once you divorce, and it scares me. I feel so helpless, like I'm just sitting in my room waiting for the ice storm to hit. Each day is longer and longer, and it feels darker and darker. I'm sick inside all of the time. Please keep trying! Sandra
Before the intensive begins, the team asks each couple, "Do you believe that God could do a miracle in your marriage and provide a way for you not only to stay together but actually to fall back in love the way you once were?" During the four-day intensive, both Jim and Mary had a series of miraculous encounters that totally surprised them. They began to understand the powerful truths I will unpack for you throughout this book. As they worked through the various steps I'll share with you, they felt a deep sense of compassion and care for the other. They hadn't felt this way toward one another for a long time. They also became aware of several significant beliefs that had led to frustration and failure. At one point Jim said, "No wonder our marriage has felt impossible for so long." And Mary asked with exasperation, "Why hasn't anyone ever told us about this before?"
By the end of the four days, they both recognized they had a challenging road ahead, but they each felt tremendous hope for the future of their marriage and their family. Jim's heart began opening to his wife, and he was overwhelmed with gratitude toward God. Mary was thrilled with a new understanding of herself, and of Jim and their marriage. She felt the new knowledge and key skills were exactly what they needed to create a satisfying and safe marriage that both could be thrilled with. Like most couples who attend one of these intensives, after the third day, Jim and Mary were seen holding hands on the way to dinner.
When Jim and Mary arrived home, they sat down with their children. Jim began, "Kids, we have good news and some bad news. The bad news is that your mom and I will need more prayer and help with our relationship. The good news is that we are staying together. We believe with God's help and the things we learned in the intensive that we can make it. We want this for us and for you. We love you and want to stay together as a family."
Instantly, Sandra jumped into their arms. With tears running down her checks, her words were powerful, "Thanks for getting me out of the cold and letting me back into the warm house. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!"
The astounding turnaround just floored me. I'm in my early sixties, and this new discovery not only has changed me but also has taken me to a whole new level of understanding how to enjoy my important relationships. What Greg's team has taught me these past few years has empowered me to determine how happy I am with each relationship, no matter what others are doing. I get to choose how fulfilled I am and that other people can't rob me of my being full. When you finish this book, you'll understand why I'm so excited about this new way of living.
Can you imagine my joy as I saw dozens of couples stabilize their relationships? And it made me wonder: What is the secret to these miraculous turnarounds?
A Definable Pattern
As Greg, Bob, and the team began to chronicle and analyze their experience with the intensives, an unexpected fact surprised everyone: The negative behavior that hurt the relationship of every couple resulted from an easy-to-identify, recurring pattern. None of these men and women realized that their spouses had been doing and saying things that prompted this vicious cycle to kick in, but whenever it happened, they stepped right into their own place in the pattern, injuring the relationship. Every time this hurtful pattern of behavior went into motion, it did so in consistent, predictable ways-ways that could be graphically charted out on a whiteboard.
It seemed almost as if these men and women were saying, "My spouse is making me feel disrespected or belittled. I feel like I'm a failure, or I feel abnormal. Since I don't like these feelings, I have to do something to get my partner to stop." So what did they do? They immediately fell into the well-worn ruts of their hurtful pattern, triggering round after round of the same sad cycle. Without even realizing what was happening, these sparring partners would begin a destructive dance.
Learning New Dance Steps
After the team helped these distressed couples understand how their destructive dance was destroying their marriages, they helped them to break the rhythm of that dance and learn new dance steps that would restore their relationships and renew their love for one another. Sounds like a tall order, doesn't it? Yet the team consistently filled that order.
How? What on earth did they do to manage such a tremendous feat? They taught these men and women three things:
the DNA of relationships the pattern of their unique relationship dance five effective dance steps for building healthy relationships
By committing themselves to learning and practicing these principles and steps, these couples not only rediscovered their passion for one another but also learned how to build a fulfilling relationship, which had seemed frustratingly out of reach before.
Now, let's get real honest. Does it sound doubtful to you that couples even on the brink of divorce could, in a matter of days, do a 180- degree turnaround and start enjoying the marriage they always wanted? Does it seem far-fetched that by understanding and applying a few key concepts, sour relationships can turn sweet and anger can give way to joy? I used to think so. But then I saw with my own eyes what can happen when God steps in and lends his infinite power to the remarkable plan for relationship success that we want to share with you. Let me share another "impossible" story that proves miracles really can-and do-happen!
Bob Paul, one of the main creators of this new material, is married to Jenni. Both of them would tell you that the first several years of their marriage were anything but satisfying. Bob's constant demands and insensitive instructions about how she ought to meet his needs led to almost daily fights. She grew to hate him. In total disgust she shut him out of her emotional, spiritual, and physical life and once even told him, "The thought of ever making love to you again makes me feel like I'm going to vomit." If any relationship seemed impossible to save, this was it. However, many of the insights described in this book are a result of Bob's long journey as he allowed God to change him and completely transform his marriage. The process has dramatically influenced the way he works with people. Bob and Jenni have now passed their twenty-third anniversary, and they've reached that milestone as a happy, contented couple, delighted to be together and thrilled with their marriage.
Sound impossible? It's really not. We're going to show you how to become part of this relationship revolution. This book will open the door to miracles in your own relationships. It fascinated me to hear Bob say to the couples that visited our counseling center, "I don't know how God is going to do this, but I've experienced a miracle in my own marriage and get to witness miracles occurring in other marriages almost every week of my life. A miracle really can take place in your relationship."
We're going to show you in this book how to experience that kind of miracle. In fact, let me offer you a guarantee: The powerful principles and techniques that you're about to learn can help to revolutionize your relationships and turn them into something deeply satisfying and even thrilling.
And you know what? It's easier than you think.
A Pattern for All Relationships
The exciting concepts and methods hammered out in our marriage intensives apply to all relationships, not merely to marriage. I made this discovery for myself as I saw major improvements taking place in my own home and with friends.
After seeing the results of the patterns that Greg and Bob's team had discovered, I started thinking, Wait a minute! If this material has so effectively helped me to handle my conflicts with Norma, maybe it can also help to explain why I lost some key friendships back in the seventies and eighties. I was closer than a brother to several men, and yet we fell out of fellowship and into terrible disharmony.
Dreadful memories flooded my mind, painful memories full of sadness and regret and grief. I thought of two men in particular, once dear and close friends, but from whom I had so totally disconnected that we no longer even spoke with one another. Here I was, a respected marriage and family "expert," and yet I couldn't even get along with men whom I once counted as my closest friends! The thought deeply embarrassed and troubled me.
Excerpted from The DNA of Relationships by Gary Smalley Copyright © 2004 by Smalley Publishing Group LLC. Excerpted by permission.
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