Cynthia: Our focus this month is on marriage. As we had discussed earlier, my parents would have been married 71 years in August. Last week, we talked about ways to strengthen your marriage. This week we’re going to have a little different focus and we’ll be talking about the ‘what ifs.’ How can you maintain a strong marriage if you face unexpected grief?
The traditional marriage vows say for better or for worse. Well, what if the worst happens? My guests today are Todd and Kristen Evans, and they are both authors and massively well educated. Todd has a master’s degree in Christian education and a PhD in mechanical engineering, and Kristen is a mental health counselor and has a master’s degree in social work.
After they got married, they had a disabled child. We’re going to just talk about how that impacted their marriage and how they maintained their strong marriage. So welcome, Todd and Kristen.
Todd: Thank you so much, Cynthia.
Cynthia: So just so that we can kind of get a background of what happened, tell me a little bit about what your story is with your disabled child. What exactly happened?
Todd: Why don’t you start, Kristen?
Kristin: Well, we had been married almost five years and our son was born healthy, and very quickly became very ill. He began having seizures and lots of medical just baffling doctors, they couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
Long story short we finally found out that he was the 14th case in the world with an extremely rare metabolic disorder. And so that began our journey to save him medically and developmentally. Then three years later, we became pregnant with our daughter, Bethany Grace. And very early on in the pregnancy, we knew something just was not right.
And after a traumatic couple of months, we learned that she has a severe, different rare genetic disorder that is a chromosomal deletion called 5P minus or Creedy Shaw syndrome. And we were told she wouldn’t survive. If she did, by a miracle, survive, she would never walk, or talk, and be severely intellectually disabled.
And we do have a miracle. She did survive. And after three months in the NICU and several surgeries came home and that really began our marriage journey for better, for worse.
Todd: Yeah, the first child was an adjustment for everyone.
We had the extra medical things and, and we managed to get through those and, working together was a challenge. Our marriage had some challenges at that point and a good bit of traditional arguing. But we did manage to get through it. But yeah, that new challenge of our daughter then is what put us to the test and challenged all of our concepts of marriage and what it meant to love and to be together and to support one another.
Kristin: Because you committed through anything, right?
Cynthia: Yeah, I can understand. I have a disabled child, but he is my 5th child. So, tell me a little bit about how this changed your marriage.
Todd: We couldn’t logistically get everything done. We were both working at the time. So, we kind of talked through and looked at it. I was full time. Kristen was part time and just had to say, “We can’t do it. We’ve got to make a change.”
So that was one of the first big changes was Kristen decided to step down from her job. That way she could focus on therapies and helping with the children and all the medical things that were involved. What that took away was the financial piece of being able to have a stable income.
So, it went from a very meager, but adequate income to really struggling. We pushed the envelope every month, trying to figure out how to make ends meet. That just adds more strain on the marriage at that point. So, I think that’s where we saw the biggest issues come about. It was time, money, emotional stress. It’s three of the big areas that really hit us hard.
Kristin: And then we didn’t have time to care for one another. It became a partnership of just trying to keep our daughter alive. Literally, she was on four machines in and out of the hospital. Our conversations consisted of who’s the nurse today? What time is she coming? What appointments do the kids have?
Todd: Do you need me for today? What do I have to do? What’s on my list? It went from enjoying life, watching shows together, going out biking and hiking and, kind of adventure of young marriage and young love to a business partnership. If we don’t nail down the details nothing’s going to happen. And that became the crux of our marriage. And all the rest got pushed aside. Which you can imagine did not lead to good things.
Cynthia: You said that one of the things that you tried to do was to foster forgiveness and trust. What kind of things did you do to foster that?
Kristin: One of the first things was just trying to survive. We were in crisis survival mode. Our emotional connection completely severed. We can talk about it and joke about it now, which we do in the book, but Todd completely just separated from emotions.
In the meantime, I was drowning emotionally from the trauma of the pregnancy. I went into severe depression. We now know from researching from the book, we were experiencing chronic sorrow. I did not have his support processing the daily grind of the medical situation and the chronic sorrow.
One of the first pieces was, I went to therapy. And learned I needed validation. I needed emotional validation. And so that began our journey.
Todd: And I didn’t have time for emotional validation. You can guess that didn’t go over. For me, it was, let’s take care of the business needs of the family. Let’s make sure kids are getting therapy. Let’s take care of our finances. And that’s all I got time for. I don’t have time for emotions.
So, I caused a lot of pain and hurt unintentionally in my trying to care for our family and our marriage and that way and neglecting the other parts.
And that’s where you’re talking about the forgiveness aspect. There was a lot of need of forgiveness for not validating, Kristin.
Kristin: We both did our birds. So, I learned to ask for that validation. And then it was a very slow process. We hurt each other a lot. Very, very painful time and just being willing to begin to communicate.
And say, “you hurt me, I need an apology.”
And I begin to teach him. This is where I need you to say, “That sounds hard. I’m sorry. You’ve had a hard day.”
Todd: So I learned to say, “That sounds really hard. Tell me more.”
Cynthia: Right. Rather than trying to fix it. Right. Isn’t that what a guy would say?
Todd: Exactly. Exactly. Yep. Yes.
Kristin: Then we just learned basically for better for worse. We literally had to recommit to our wedding vows, saying this is what we’ve done to hurt each other. This is how our marriage has almost been torn apart.
Let’s think about our vows: through feeding tubes and ER visits, through OT and PT, through richer or poorer, almost on bankruptcy. We committed to our vows, knowing what the specifics looked like for us.
Todd: And you make some of those commitments and vows and in kind of a dreamy state of this is whatever happens.
It kind of had a crystallizing effect of this is what happened. We had dreams and those dreams weren’t going to come true. A lot of our dreams were tied up and doing things together and being together.
Those were all off the table. Can we exist and love one another still and recommit to this, even if the things that we cherish the most and dreamed about, were taken away?
Cynthia: How do you process stress Todd?
Todd: Well, I had to learn a lot of ways. One of the biggest for me is finding some kind of outlet. So, I got into running. I hated running my entire life. There’s no reason to run unless you have to. I did sports and things. I ran for that, but I just took up running and just said, “I want to run a marathon.”
So, I just went out and ran a mile that day and just slowly built up, It became a goal and an outlet. It was something I could see tangible results in which I couldn’t always see in my family. And it lets stress out and produces endorphins.
For me, that’s one of the biggest things that helped me through some of the worst of it was just having an outlet like that.
Cynthia: And how did you process your stress, Kristen?
Kristin: At first, not very well, as I said, just spiraled when Bethany Grace was young. I’ve learned to practice deep breathing. And I also started exercising.
I was like, well, he can do it. I can do it. And I always hated running. So that’s one of my outlets now too. But just being present in the moment, doing a lot of mindfulness-based stress reduction. You relax your muscles, which calms your nervous system down.
We go get massages. That’s what I get for Christmas, Mother’s Day, and my birthday—gift cards for massages. That is a huge stress outlet. And we’ve learned, which we’re wanting to teach couples to do, it’s incredibly important to de-stress together.
Cynthia: you mentioned mindfulness, stress reduction. Can you give me a little bit more on that? Because that sounds interesting.
Kristin: Yes, the research. I’m a research nerd, and it’s just phenomenal. The mental health and physical benefits that are really coming to light now. So, it’s basically being just fully present in your moment and in your body is the important thing.
And if you go to YouTube. You can type in mindfulness-based stress reduction. You can type in progressive muscle relaxation exercise, and it’ll guide you through basically tensing and relaxing your muscles. It helps calm down that chronic stress response in your body, which causes all sorts of problems.
Tells your brain and central nervous system, you’re not in an emergency, which calms down your emotions. So, if you’re having trouble sleeping, a lot of disability parents experience anxiety and trouble sleeping. I do that. It sort of originates from Eastern religion, but not really if you look back in Scripture.
Cynthia: I can see how tensing your muscles would help you realize this is a tense muscle. This is what it feels like when it’s relaxed. And that’s good to know because you may be tensing and not realizing it.
Is this also part of keeping your marriage strong? So how did y’all do it together?
Todd: We found a way to get away whether it was for one hour as we were able to get support from other family. And we told them how important this was. They helped us to get away from our house and our stressful environment a little bit just for a night or a couple nights.
Kristin: Even five miles away.
Todd: We take a lot of in-town trips. Not a lot, but just one night away or close enough for medical emergencies. But we got to connect. We try to do something special. Like she mentioned, doing a massage together, a couple’s massage at a place or separately going to a spa together.
We neglected our marriage when we’re at our home oftentimes because there are so many demands there. As I’m sure everybody in marriage feels to a large degree it’s very similar in that sense. Just because there’s more burdens there and things to be done.
Getting away and just committing to that time was the biggest thing for us.
Kristin: And it must be getting out of the house. It is very difficult for a lot of special needs parents to get out of the house. But you just can’t relax. Even if you’re in your bedroom watching a movie because you’re still under that stress. Especially women, women have a hard time.
Cynthia: Did you have a hard time finding someone to act as a caregiver?
Kristin: We’re very blessed.
Todd: Yeah, we’re very blessed with our family. My dad and her parents have both been very supportive. Early on, we had someone from our church who volunteered to come over to let us get out for a couple of hours. That was the first time. She was a skilled nurse. We could feel safe enough just to go out and have dinner together.
There’s been other times it’s been difficult to find help and people that feel okay keeping our kids while we get away.
Cynthia: You talk about finding joy together, which is a big part of keeping your marriage strong. How did you do that?
Kristin: We got married to go into ministry together. That’s where our joy would be from, and from being able to go out and hike and bike.
We’ve learned to find joy in the little moments, even the moments that are difficult. So, there may be a really challenging situation with our daughter that we could easily just melt down and cry. And we’ve learned to just embrace the little moments and find ways to make special memories. It’s not about big dreams anymore.
It’s more about just being grateful. Just grateful for the moments and the times that we do have. And then we try to make special memories. But they’re not like huge dreams. It’s just finding joy in, in our life, how our life is right now.
Todd: Yeah. I kind of think of it in two parts. I call them things that, that steal your joy, anger and frustration and jealousy are, are a few of them. She’s talking about the dream aspect. I can’t think about that future. That will never be. I’ve got to give that up and accept that it is or it’s going to keep eating away at my joy and steal it.
If I, keep wanting that thing, I can never have and just give it up, accept it and then replace it with something else. And that’s kind of what she’s referring to is replacing it with joyful things throughout the day. Just having a celebration dance. That’s when, when, when she does something good. Just, just saying, “hey, let’s have fun. Let’s celebrate the little things. Let’s go to bed and have a story together. And let’s just have a good time with it.”
So it’s really about getting rid of things that steal joy and then replacing them with, with positive things here and there.
Cynthia: Yeah, we learned to celebrate the small things because sometimes there’s not big things to celebrate, but we’d celebrate this moment.
You mentioned expressing gratitude. Can you talk about how that helps you to build mental health?
Kristin: Gratitude is powerful, even in strengthening your marriage. And just one little thing a day. Whether it’s just thinking it, saying it out loud, journaling it just writing a little sticky note to each other, saying thank you for, or I really appreciate, it just sparks that positive emotion, and it helps change your perspective.
It’s important to process grief and pain and sorrow, but when we get stuck in that and we think about that all the time, and we don’t turn our focus to, hey both kids are home from the hospital. We’re all here together. I’m grateful for that. Or I’m just grateful for this morning.
I’m grateful that Todd is such an amazing husband. When we focus on gratitude, it shifts our perspective. It makes us more optimistic, especially when we pray prayers of gratitude for God to God for, for what we’re grateful for. It changes emotions. It creates positive emotions, which spurs stronger mental health.
Todd: And it brings us out of ourselves. When you’re grateful for something, your focus turns away from you towards others or God. And just taking that shift away from you oftentimes is enough to just help put things in a good direction for yourself too.
Cynthia: I know you managed to keep your marriage strong. You’ve talked about your broken dreams of what you wanted in your children and for your marriage or ministry.
Have you thought at this point about what you’re going to do together? Because I noticed you have a website. You have books that you’ve published. If you thought about what the future might look like with your 2 children?
Todd: We thought about the future and with children some, but covid made a unique experience for us. She had to quit her job because of medical reasons for our daughter. She couldn’t be out in the jails and ERs. She was a crisis counselor working there. So, she had to come home and, and I decided I want to use my time to help people. So, as you started the website and the blog and said, I want to help moms that are struggling with raising their child with disability.
And God’s kind of grown that, and she was able to devote a lot of time to that at home, and I’ve been able to come in and join, jump in with her and it’s kind of coming full circle back around to our original dreams of being able to be in ministry.
Kristin: Not how we imagined, though.
Todd: Yeah, not how we imagined, but helping people and doing this together. It’s become a new shared thing for us. And just seeing God’s provision. We’ve kind of given up a lot in our lives and just said “if it happens, we’ll be Grateful for it. If it ever comes that we can do something together.”
But it’s not going to be our focus. We’re going to live today. We’re going to do the best life we can today. In the process of that, I have changed careers 5 times. You saw my degrees that I did. I had to adjust because our kids had different needs at different times and different locations. It’s not about me. I’m going to give up those things and do what’s best. And it’s fun to kind of see God coming full circle now, starting to bring opportunities to do things together again.
Kristin: As opportunities come up with speaking, we are getting to minister together again. We originally started out when we got married, both wanting to go into retreat and camping ministry. And that’s where we started out in grad school. Our dream, I think ultimately still is to be able to do retreats for married couples for couples to get away and who have children with special needs to help them.
Cynthia: And see, that’s a wonderful ministry because there are so many couples out there with the same problem and they need the wisdom that you have come around to. So, you’re going to have an open door there. God has a way of using those hard things, while keeping your marriage strong.
Is there anything else you want to add before we close?
Kristin: We just want to encourage other parents who have children with any type of disability, whether that’s medical, mental health, or physical disabilities. One, you’re not alone. There are other parents who are desperately wanting to connect, and we have some resources on our website for how to find support groups in your area.
Two, for couples one of of our goals is to debunk the myth that there’s an 80% divorce rate for parents who have children with autism or disabilities. You can keep your marriage strong. That is totally unfounded. We thought our marriage was doomed, but we just want to say your marriage is not doomed.
In fact, a lot of couples grow stronger and grow closer through having children with disabilities. So, we just want to encourage you to reach out, find support and we’d love to hear from you if we can answer any questions or do anything to help.
Cynthia: Thank you. I appreciate that. Where can I send people to you?
To learn about keeping romance in your marriage, listen here
Make the Romance Last in Your Marriage
Cynthia: Popular media today seldom depicts enduring love and marriage. Most people seem to be on a quest to find that special someone who will fulfill their dreams and make them happy, and many decide never to marry at all.
In contrast to that, we have Ephesians 5 where God reveals to us that marriage is a picture of Christ in the church. More than that, God issues that very unpopular command that the wife submit to her husband in addition He commands the man to love his wife in a sacrificial way, just like Jesus gave his life for the church.
Greg and Julie Gorman are here today with me to discuss how marriage can be all that God designed it to be. Surrender is a key word. Welcome, Greg and Julie.
Julie: Hi, Cynthia. Great to be here. Thanks for having us.
Greg: Good to see you and great to be here.
Cynthia: You know, it’s always, it always gives a little extra, ump for a guy to be here. So welcome, especially Greg. I know that you think a little differently and I will never quite understand. It’s always good to have that male perspective.
Let’s talk a little bit with you guys about surrender. And how that fits in because you have that theme in your book. So, how does surrender work in trying to blend the life of both of you?
Julie: O, I’ll start with it, and then Greg, you can pop in any thoughts that you might have. Sure. For me, Cynthia, it really began one evening when Greg and I, the first couple of years of our marriage.
We loved each other passionately, but we fought just as passionately. And it came to an evening when he sped off in the SUV. And honestly, I wasn’t sure that he was going to come back. And I felt prostrate before the Lord that evening. And in that time of prayer, after all the sobbing and the, you know, just absolute come apart, the Holy Spirit spoke to my soul and just said, quit being his Holy Spirit.
And really what that, that whole thought that went through my mind and just permeated every part of me, what God was calling me to do was not, was to surrender to Him. My own need as well as to surrender Greg to him and not try to come into his life to try to change him or fix him or make him be what I needed and needed him to be.
It was a matter of trust that God was inviting me to. There’s been a lot of different thoughts on surrender and what that looks like. And what I’ve really come to realize is that was the beginning. of my surrender, but surrender is a lifelong process. It’s something that God continues to invite us to.
And I don’t think that will ever change. It really is a lifelong pursuit of trusting him and leaving the results of what needs to be changed in Greg’s heart to him. And what God was wanting me to do is allow him to change in me the things that needed to be changed.
Greg: Likewise, I think all of us can relate to the idea of surrender and, I think at one point in our lives, we probably all thought that might be an event, something that we just did.
We’re going to surrender, right? Or I have surrendered. Uh, yet each morning when we wake up, we find that, uh, I don’t know if anybody else is like me, but I find I’ve got all this stuff I’m carrying again, right? So, it’s a daily process of surrender. What was interesting is when Julie had this real revelation, an encounter with God. He really began to change her heart, in not trying to control me, but in surrendering, not only herself but surrendering me to Christ. Immediately, it paved the way for me to reciprocate and it was really when we started the process of really operating in harmony together, to have a Christlike marriage, at least it be in the pursuit and the true pursuit of that.
Cynthia: Greg, as a man. What kind of reaction do you have to the whole idea of a woman controlling you?
Greg: Well, isn’t that interesting? You know, I have pretty much the same reaction if anybody tries to control me And I think that it’s you know, you know, I think it’s really not just men I think any one of us as human beings generally resent being controlled And in the book, What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Marriage, we talk about the, one of the definitions that we ran across for surrender.
And it says to surrender means to give up in favor of another. I thought that was an interesting definition, to give up in favor of another. And the other thing when it comes to surrendering and not trying to control things, right, is that it, we really leave room. for God to do what God does rather than the illusion of control that we generally try to have anyway.
Cynthia: You know, the interesting thing this last year or so, my husband and I have been doing ballroom dancing. And if you know anything about dancing, you know that the man is supposed to lead, which means I must not lead. That has been a huge lesson for me. Plus, I noticed him light up as I put my arm in his and let go.
Greg: Things really get messed up when you get two people trying to lead the same thing, don’t they?
Greg: Start stepping on toes, and all those uncomfortable things that all of us are familiar with, aren’t we?
Julie: You know, and that was the neat part of surrender to me is because of the experiences I’d had in my past.
It was difficult for me to, as much as I told Greg I trusted him; when it came right down to it, I felt this need to protect myself, and that’s where a lot of that desire for control was. I was trying to create this bubble-wrapped universe where no man could ever hurt me again, and so, I felt it my job to make sure that, you know, every T was crossed and every I was dotted, and what God was really showing me was it was in my pursuit of Him.
In my pursuit of surrender to him, it’s like, who do I really trust? And that promise that night, there was almost this, this, um, it wasn’t spoken or anything, but there was just this knowing within me that I would release Greg. To God, that God would be my defender, that God would be the one that I could trust.
And so there are times when we were first starting out, Greg didn’t necessarily deserve my respect or deserve my respect. But what God was calling me to do was to love him unconditionally, like he had loved me. And in that, there was this beautiful bond that came about, and it would have only come about.
In that release a feeling like I needed to take care of myself. God was big enough to do that. And even more importantly, he wanted to do that because he could see my heart, he could see Greg’s heart, better than we could even see our own hearts.
Cynthia: Sometimes we get a little carried away with that bubble wrap, and even bubble wrap the guy, and, and they don’t like that.
And so, it’s a real act of trust.
Julie: Oh, and it’s so beautiful when God he says, if anyone lacks wisdom, come to me, right? And he’ll give to all men liberally. That’s what he says in James. And there were times when I didn’t know how to communicate with Greg and vice versa. Greg didn’t know how to get through all the junk that we were working through from my past.
But as we simply listened and obeyed, God paved the way for trust to be created between us that he is absolutely my best friend. God is and both Greg is, right? And only he could do that. And I, I think that that’s the thing that so many couples, man when we start out, you know, there’s this figuring one another out.
But God’s the one who can speak into those areas, give us the wisdom and the insight to know what the other person needs, and to love selflessly. In that way, as Greg said, it began to allow him to love me in the ways that I could feel. The love he was already giving me, but I couldn’t receive it because I was trying to have that bubble-wrapped universe.
Greg: And we found a lot of couples struggle with the same thing. We hear it so often. In fact, it’s almost cliché. Everything was fine until we put that ring on. And then once we put the ring on, golly, everything broke loose and none of it was good, right?
Julie and I were recently having a conversation with another couple about this, but Julie said all of a sudden the stakes were so high because now she was in a situation where I could hurt her.
She was depending on me in, in a sense. And so there were a couple of different dynamics going on. But one is I had to learn how to love her. I needed to learn how to love her the way that she needed to be loved. Right. And that meant that there were some things that I needed to change.
Julie: Oh, yeah. I remember one thought that came to mind when Greg had planned this getaway weekend. I was so wounded that I thought, well, he’s only doing this because he went all night fishing, and he feels guilty about something. When he was trying to demonstrate love, there was this cross-examination of, well, did you do that you feel guilty?
And that’s just so horrible. I didn’t believe the best about him. And after a while, I can only imagine how exhausting that was. A lot of those things didn’t even surface until we said ‘I do.’ And then I thought, ‘Oh, no, what have I done?’ Because now I was vulnerable. I had allowed someone to enter an arena of my life, and his decisions affected my decisions.
His decisions also affected my emotions and my life. And it was hard to know that balance. And I’m so grateful that God redeemed our marriage At one point, it really felt as if we weren’t going to make it.
Greg: we couldn’t feel it.
Julie: Yeah, it was, it was hard.
Cynthia: That’s what I wanted to ask you next is that you obviously figured out you were loving her. So how did you let her know? And vice versa, how did you let her know?
Julie: So, for me, it was a conscious decision. It was blessing him. It was keeping my mouth shut. Even if I was having an internal battle, I took those internal battles to God to allow God to fix them instead of feeling like I had to be God’s mouthpiece. I had to stop being the fixer.
I released him from that obligation. So, I think for me, as I did that, God helped to heal some areas that needed to be healed so that I could even begin to receive what he did.
Greg: I think for me it was… In the willingness to have my paradigm to be shifted. And all too often in so many different marriages that we work with, couples that we work with today, we see the same dynamic.
And it’s easy. To come into a marriage expecting the other person to complete you and to meet your needs. And in essence, we do complete each other, of course, right? But to come into a marriage expecting Julie to meet my needs or vice versa is absolutely a recipe for a massive train wreck, right?
It became less about me having my needs met and more about me making sure that I was meeting hers. I also had to learn to hold my tongue. I needed to learn to listen. I needed to fix a whole lot less. Right? Because so many times she didn’t really want me to fix it. I didn’t understand it for so many years. I would think, well, why would we listen if we didn’t try to fix it? What’s the point? It’s the difference in the way I think the male and female psyche and in the way that we think. I learned just to listen and help her understand that I could relate to where she was coming from.
And when I began to do that, then she began able to be able to receive me as well, right? It became a good two-way street.
Julie: One of the things, too, I think that was essential for me is, you can’t change the way you feel, so you must change the way you think.
And that was the key part for me. It was like, it was a mental battle constantly taking every thought to the cross. What that really played out to be because we know that verse about taking up your cross. But it was living that out.
Greg: Put your money where your mouth is.
Julie: Yeah, and loving Greg like God had loved me. That was a big change in paradigm.
That means I love him unconditionally, regardless of his actions. And that doesn’t mean we don’t have healthy boundaries.
Greg: So, I know, but it’s easy to love me, right?
Julie: Oh yeah. I chose to begin to believe the best. And as I began to believe the best and when I captured those thoughts that were so counterintuitive to maybe what I had learned from my childhood.
When I really put them in the position. God changed my heart and put a place in me where I could begin to see that he wasn’t the bad guy, right? He was really working. And sometimes we express things differently, but it produced an environment where actions weren’t judged just by the actions themselves, it began to look to the intent and the love that was demonstrated behind those actions.
Cynthia: I’m noticing something in your language, and I’m going to ask about that. Because when you spoke about love, you talked about completing me. Now, you didn’t use that terminology. Have you ever used that terminology?
Julie: Oh, I think I entered into the relationship that he would complete me. I thought that he would fulfill the needs.
Cynthia: That’s the term that I hear most women use. You wanted to be fulfilled and he wanted to be completed. I think it’s interesting that we’re using different terminologies. I think that kind of goes to the kind of a core. We want the same thing, but we’re saying it a little bit different.
Julie: Nice. Yeah.
Greg: And how often does that happen? Great observation. I mean, really, from a communication standpoint, how many books or seminars have been taught on, you know, communication in marriage?
A lot of times we’re speaking the same thing, just different ways, huh?
Cynthia: We’re looking at it a slightly different way.
Julie: Absolutely. Yeah. Brilliant insight.
That’s great. Absolutely. Yeah.
Cynthia: I think it’s, I always tell people, it’s like that the male and the female are two halves of the whole and you screw them together and then the ball rolls, you know, they’re opposite.
You talked about forgiveness. Explain how forgiveness can be a huge key in moving past a really hard spot.
Greg: You know, one of the one of the checkpoints that Julie and I began to implement consciously in our interactions with one another was asking ourselves what’s the desired outcome? Because so often in these exchanges or interchanges, it can be really easy to fall into a pattern of sort of winning the argument or coming out ahead.
Julie and I had a conversation about this. Do I want to win the argument, or do I want to have a nice evening? Do I want to, do I want to come out ahead and chalk one up for me? Or do I want to bless the person that I vowed before God and man to love for the rest of my life? And why on earth would I be treating this person this way? Why would I want to cut her down to size? That makes no sense whatsoever. Yet. I’m ashamed to admit for many years in our marriage, particularly in the early years, that’s what I did all too often is, I made sure she understood just how wrong she was.
Julie: It’s not a matter of whether we are ever going to be faced with the opportunity to forgive. It’s whether we’re going to or not we will forgive, Marriage will test mold, and shape us like no other. God has always used marriage as a foundation to demonstrate his love.
It’s the analogy of the bride and the church. If I am not forgiving him in a sense that just continues to culminate in my own life, and I began to get bitter. It begins to tear me down.
I had a friend challenge me on forgiveness and said the chapter really was almost too simplistic. She said there are times when people can’t forgive. I get that. But it’s not a matter of willpower. Or mustering up or just saying the words. It’s that place again of surrender and dependency upon the Holy Spirit to allow us to release the offenses.
But as Christians, we’re called to love one another as Christ has loved us. And again, it comes back to, it’s not me that’s going to be strong enough to do that. There are going to be times when I tick Greg off. And there’s going to be times when he disappoints or makes me angry.
And in those moments, I can hold on to that offense, I can mull it over and make every argument as to why he was wrong. And the only thing that does is serve to tear me down. But when I come to God, the Father, and I remember what Jesus did on the cross and I release that, then there’s a freedom of I’m not big enough to forgive this offense.
God, would you help me? And in there, there’s a healing that takes place, an invitation. Where God comes in and does what we’re incapable of doing.
Cynthia: Yeah, I think about that passage in, in 1 Corinthians 13, where it talks about love. And it says not to consider a wrong suffered. Now, how is that different than boundaries and how could that play into your marriage?
Julie: I want to be very careful because I know there are situations that take place, right? That it is healthy for the person to get some separation or get some boundary there. But I think it’s a matter of the heart.There may be things that are intolerable that are not.
It doesn’t mean that we allow somebody to hurt us or physically abuse us. But what it does is it means I release and the only way I think maybe the best way for me to illustrate this is the time that I stood by my father’s casket. We had every abuse present in my upbringing. And, but as I stood at his casket, Cynthia, I immediately saw a picture of my son’s face and it was probably one of the last layers of real healing that took place in me because when I saw my son’s face and again, it wasn’t visual, but just in my mind’s eye, just a clear picture. What I realized in that one instant with the Holy Spirit did is he showed me that when my dad was young, I’m sure he had higher aspirations than to become an alcoholic, an abuser, one who physically or sexually assaulted his daughters. He never wanted to cause us to have such a skewed paradigm of men.
And what I realized who the true enemy was. And in that last little moment of just standing by my father’s casket and realizing he had higher aspirations. But somewhere some brokenness spilled out on him. And then that brokenness spilled out on my life. And by the grace of God, I’m praying that that, you know, there’s no more brokenness that has to get spilled out onto anyone else.
That doesn’t mean that my dad wasn’t in close proximity to me, but it does mean I release him from the offense in a way that I forgive him, and I recognize who the true enemy really was behind it all. And in that I gain mercy, and the hope that I’ll get to see my father in heaven that in those last moments of his life, God revealed himself.
Cynthia: What do you think about that?
Greg: I think with all the disclosures that Julie laid out already, which is, you know, a truly dangerous situation. One of the things that has really helped us is just beginning to understand and see each other through the lens of another human being who’s just trying to figure it all out.
I mean, that’s really what we’re all doing. This even helps me relate to my kids. Or the guy on the street corner that’s panhandling. What’s their story? What’s brought them here? Julie does something, for instance, that may be offensive to me, albeit not very often. Every now and then she has these moments though. What I try to, what I try to think of when I’m in my right mind is, wow, you know, what’s going on in her world? And so rather than me wanting to retaliate, what I’m drawn to do at that point is to maybe kind of pan back and observe for a second. See what I can do to serve her. She does the same for me. And so when we do that, we will be able to operate in harmony and in unity.
Marriage is being attacked from all angles today. Up, down, sideways, I mean everywhere. It is vital that we as couples understand really what’s at stake here and swallow some pride and look at that other person that we vowed to love and cherish for the rest of our life. If there’s one person on this planet that I should be able to offer some grace on a tough day, then it should be her.
Cynthia: I hear you saying that you’re going to begin with the end in mind. If she’s having a bad day, you could say. “Julie, I know you didn’t mean to hurt my feelings. You must be just tired or something. But you know, when you did this, it really made me feel bad.”
Greg: yeah. Yeah. And so many times really that there are times, Cynthia, absolutely times when we need to “hit the nail on the head,” as graciously as possible.
I mean, honest to goodness, one, pick your battles. Two, offer grace. Three, sometimes what she really needs is she just needs me to come and wrap my arms around her.
Coming up and just embracing her and saying, “How can I serve you, baby doll? How are you doing today? Are you okay? Is there anything that I can do to help you? What’s on your mind?”
See, that’s not me focused, is it? That’s focused on her. And it’s amazing the difference.
Julie: I always felt the need to let Greg know what I was feeling. And I had a boss who was very cantankerous, always took credit for things, but I lived to make him look great. I didn’t feel the need to let him know every time he offended me. And I remember one day in particular, this boss had taken credit for something I had worked hard for. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t. And it was so awesome because the Holy Spirit challenged me. If I could give that man respect and hold my tongue, how much more should I do that for Greg?
Now here’s where I think the balance comes in. If I can’t freely release it from my heart, that’s when I need to talk to Greg about it. We have kind of a checkpoint. And for me, it’s, will this offense matter five minutes from now? Will it matter five days from now? Will it matter five years from now? And what I’ve learned to do is to only address the things that are really going to surpass the present. That has helped me to be able to have difficult discussions and to say to him. Babe, I’m trying to believe the best about you right now, but I could use a little help.
Greg: We’ve also learned to laugh and not take ourselves so seriously as well. You know, it’s amazing how many times just a small little code word. Hey, we’re getting ready to go down a road we don’t want to go down.
We just crack a little bit of a joke that we both understand and it just kind of puts things in check. So there’s a lot to be said about not taking yourself too seriously too, right? Yep.
Cynthia: we Had one of those discussions one time after I’d had one of my children, it was a while before my cycle started back. When it did, I started getting wound up and Ray said, “Oh, good you haven’t had hormones in a while. I’m going to look forward to this.”
We both started laughing. I couldn’t blow up. And I started learning. I would even pray beforehand. “Lord. It’s on its way. It’s another week from now. Let’s work on trying to make sure that I don’t lose my cool during that time.”
My husband had brain damage after his illness in 2008. His emotions were much more intense. And so there were a few times when I could very gently say, “Sweetheart, now you have some idea what hormones feel like.:
Let’s talk a little bit about romance. We, ladies, read our romance novels, and we expect the rest of our lives to be like that. Can you address that?
Greg: Well, I would say that again, it goes back to one of the initial things that we talked about. Meeting the other person’s needs. And listen, ladies. Or guys, whoever’s listening. This is for both. It really is important. I believe that as we are romancing and as we are in the bedroom and otherwise, the object of the game is to honor one another.
I believe we’ve learned over the years that it requires some uncomfortable conversation sometimes. It’s not only God-ordained. But, our coming together as a couple is incredibly, incredibly important for connecting with one another emotionally.
I need that time with her, that communion with her. Even though maybe we’re spending lots of good quality time together, there is just a different kind of connection that takes place when we’re able to come together and serve one another in that way.
Julie: Yeah. I’m going to get vulnerable, tactfully, but there was a point in our marriage where Greg kept saying, “Julie, I just want you to want me.”
And I remember about the third time because I’m trying to just be there. I’m shaking my head and trying to be supportive. And in the back of my mind, I’m getting madder and more angry and angrier. And about the third time he said, “Julie, I just want you to want me.”
I lost it. I said, “Greg, what more do you possibly want from me? I’ve never said no to you.”
Out of my fear. I would have never said no to him in a sexual intimacy way. The act itself, because fear told me if I did, he may go find elsewhere. It was this roadblock. There was a part of me that I gave to him physically that I never tied in the emotion to it.
I don’t know if other women listeners can relate to that, but there was this season where it was like a checklist. Okay. You know, fed the dogs, had sex with my husband. Check. Check.
When he said, “I just want you to want me.”
I lost it.
And I said, “Greg, I’ve never said no to you.”
And he responded to me, “Julie, you may have never said no, but you’ve never said yes.”
And the way that he said it, there was no anger, there was hurt. And I thought, “Oh, no, it’s me again. God, there’s still more that I have to allow.”
And what I realized is the enemy had robbed. And what I hear from women is we, we go through this season where we really want to be romanced. And then I think there’s this season where it does become this spiritual duty checklist. And what I found is I must make room. For the invitation, I must make room for the initiation and the intimacy to take place.
He could be wining me and dining me, and I’m thinking at all he wants is sex. There’s this drudgery. Open it up and flirt with him. Wink at him, say, I can’t wait to be with you this evening. Making that invitation is another mental way I can take charge.
It is a service to one another. It’s honoring each other. Paul talks about it. My body is no longer my own. Yes. And Greg’s body is no longer his own. And that isn’t just the physical body, it’s the spiritual aspect. It’s the emotional aspect of that union of two coming together as one that God’s so ordained since the beginning of all time.
Cynthia: I think you are talking about emotional surrender.
Greg: That’s, that’s exactly right. There’s different levels of connection, right? And there’s different levels of connection in the bedroom when we come together.
Yes. There, there is, I’m trying to, I want to make sure that I say this the right way and that it’s appropriate. There is a coming together for the release. Yes. Right. Then there’s coming together for the emotional connection. Yes. And, and they can, Hey, I’m a guy, you know what I mean? Yeah. Okay. It took us a lot of years and conversations to have that break through.
I’ll tell you what, it’s, it’s been a journey, hasn’t it?
Julie: It really has. And it’s been a lot of allowing God to highlight. I guess there were so many ways that I just thought I was right, and he was wrong.
And God had to show me where the enemy had come in and had stolen. I didn’t even realize had been robbed. And so it’s been a lifelong journey with an amazing man to help me to reclaim what I believe God has for every married couple.
Cynthia: Because you didn’t need to protect yourself from him emotionally. And that’s a huge thing for you to come to as someone who was abused.
Greg: Yeah, let’s face it. This is something that is perverted everywhere you look. I think the other thing too, rather than pointing blame to the other person if we’re not coming together.
It’s that same process of understanding that we’re all just trying to figure it out. Nobody’s trying to hurt the other person, you know. And we must understand the battle that we’re in. And listen, we’re in a battle.
Cynthia: There’s a war. Yeah. There’s a war.
Greg: If we really see it as anything other than that, we leave ourselves vulnerable to an attack. If we’re standing in line at the, At the grocery store my son, several years back said, “why is that lady in her underwear?”
I said, “Well, we’re going to have to talk about that.”
Cynthia: We’ve got some things to discuss.
Greg: Money. That’s why I want to get down to it. But nonetheless, it’s been perverted, I think that as couples, we really have to fight for it. It is really, really worth fighting for.
Cynthia: Absolutely. Well, I just want to thank you for being out there and being willing to be vulnerable, to be able to share with people so that they can have their marriages healed.
Greg: We thank you for the opportunity to be vulnerable.
Cynthia: You can find Greg and Julie at https://marriedforapurpose.com/