Stress in Marriage
There are common stressors in marriage that need to be worked through regularly. Crawford Loritts tells about a time he and his wife, Karen, experienced three of the top 10 marriage stressors simultaneously. Emerson Eggerichs, Laura Taggart, and Paul David Tripp coach couples on how to walk through stress in marriage in such a way that it strengthens your relationship.
About the Guest
- Crawford and Karen Loritts remind listeners that all marriages have storms, but those storms don’t have to be the end of hope to those who are anchored in Christ. (3 day series, 25 min. each) https://www.familylife.com/podcast/familylife-today/the-common-ground-of-the-cross/
- Check out all that's available on the FamilyLife Podcast Network. https://www.familylife.com/familylife-podcast-network/
- Learn more about becoming a Legacy Partner, a monthly supporter of FamilyLife. https://www.familylife.com/legacy
moremorePaul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. This vision has led Paul to write 17 books on Christian living, produce 14 teaching series and travel aroun...more
Crawford and Karen Loritts, Emerson Eggerichs, Laura Taggart, and Paul David Tripp coach couples on how to walk through stress in marriage in a way that strengthens your relationship.
Michelle: Men, you tend to have a “jump in” attitude; a “get ‘er done” mentality. But have you noticed your woman may need—well, she may need—you to put the brakes on a little bit? For Karen Loritts, she needed to explain this to her husband, Crawford. Here’s Karen:
Karen: He wanted to pray with me; he wanted to touch me; he wanted to give me flowers. I didn’t want any flowers; I didn’t want him touching me; I didn’t want him praying for me. I know that sounds unspiritual, but that was the deal!
Crawford: That was a very confusing time, let’s just say. [Laughter]
Karen: Yes, yes. You know, I just wanted to work it out myself. My husband wanted to fix it, and there were some things that he couldn’t fix.
Michelle: God created men and women differently, and how we react to stress is also different. So today, we’re going to take a look at how to communicate through stressful times in our marriages, on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. Do you remember Leave it to Beaver? That awesome TV show from the ‘50s? You know, when I was a kid, I remember watching re-runs of Leave it to Beaver. You know, the Beav, and Wally, and everybody. Well, Ward, the dad, always gets home from work on time, and he’s in this great mood. Then June, the mom, always cleans the house in heels, and has the meal that is never late to the table. The Beav and Wally—well, they’re always learning something good in just 30 minutes!
Ahhh, those were the good ol’ days, when life was care-free; stress-free. Of course, we know that that’s the fantasy that never really existed.
You know, stressors in life come at us every day. It could be the simple traffic jam or the bank account that was overdrawn because the commission check wasn’t deposited on time; or your sleep is being disturbed. It could go on and on—big ones and small ones.
We’re going to talk about that today; but first, there’s a couple that are good friends with us here at FamilyLife. They’ve been married for many years; in fact, almost five decades. They’ve had their share of stressors just like everyone else on the planet. They are Crawford and Karen Loritts. One thing you’ll notice, as we hear them talking about life with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine, is that they’re remembering the younger years from a place of (now) maturity. Here’s Crawford, talking about the early stressors in marriage:
Crawford: I think there’ve been times of great challenge that we had to walk through, where we were bewildered. There was a two-year time—a season of our lives—where we were in Dallas. We had just come off of losing a baby—our daughter who died at, I think, and hour and a half (wasn’t it, honey?) after birth.
Karen: Something like that.
Crawford: Something like that, yes. Then we moved to Dallas, and we were helping to plant a church. Just a number of dynamics were going on there. That was probably, in the 47 years we’ve been married, I think we both would say that was the hardest two years. It wasn’t so much that we personally had conflict with each other, so much as it was just hard. Karen was not as gung-ho about what was going on. Probably in my youth and idiocy, I was leaning more toward, you know, compartmentalization; the vision. You know, “let’s just make this thing happen!”
I think that there were moments during that two-year stretch where I should have just stepped way back and just hung in there and identified where she was coming from and moved forward. You know, you can look back with 20/20 vision and see that.
I would not call that a dark period in our marriage so much as challenging, maybe, in
navigating the stress of it; because we never—there was never a thought of us leaving one another or giving up on the relationship, or even a lessening of our loving commitment to one another. We were just at different places.
Bob: What could he have done during that season that would have served you better? Was there anything?
Karen: Well, with me, he wanted to pray with me; he wanted to touch me; he wanted to give me flowers. I didn’t want any flowers; I didn’t want him touching me; I didn’t want him praying for me. I know that sounds unspiritual, but that was the deal!
Crawford: That was a very confusing time, let’s just say. [Laughter]
Karen: Yes, yes.
You know, I just wanted to work it out myself. My husband wanted to fix it, and there were some things that he couldn’t fix. I had to walk through that. He was very patient. He prayed for me; lots of prayers for me. That was a dark time for me, personally, as I had to walk through this menopausal stuff; this empty nest. That was kind of hard.
Bob: Did you feel like he was your ally?
Karen: Yes, but I wanted him to remain in the shadows, because I needed a—he just couldn’t fix it!
Karen: What was he going to do?
Crawford: Yes, which was, given my personality, a very difficult thing to do. What I learned was that it’s more important, during these times when our spouse is going through something, for us to understand them than it is for us to demand that they change.
Crawford: You’ve just got to give that time. So, you know, I’m not saying—I had fits and starts and this kind of thing, because I still wanted to fix it. It’s frustrating when you see your spouse hurting in some kind of way. You want to take care of that. “Let’s just get on to the next thing, man!” But it was important for me to show patience, which is not necessarily buried deeply in my DNA.
Karen: I appreciated you giving me that time, but, on my side, too, I should have stopped having a lot of pride about it, too, and humbled myself and just share and allow you to minister to me in whatever way that you thought I needed.
[End Audio Recording]
Michelle: What a beautiful reflection from Karen Loritts. That comes from almost fifty years of being married and continuing to work through those stressors. So, if you’re in a new marriage right now, and you’re thinking you’re never going to make it, just look to Crawford and Karen. Yes, you can!
Did you catch the stressors in there? Did you hear that, in the span of less than a year, they lost their baby shortly after birth, he had a new ministry, and they had a new city? Think through the heaviness of that. In fact, they hit three of the top ten stressors all at once. But did you hear all of that? God ushered them through the pain. He got them through, because they leaned into Him.
You know, maybe your stress is different; maybe your stress could be terminal illness; work stress that is coming home; or maybe it’s the loss of a job, a special needs child, or a natural disaster. Stress comes at us from the outside. Stress happening outside the home—well, it usually makes its way inside. Many times, that’s what starts those cracks that can cause conflict.
Laura Taggert knows first-hand how to deal with that kind of conflict. First, because she’s a therapist and really understands interpersonal communication; but also because she’s had to practice what she teaches. I want you to hear how Laura learned how to communicate with her husband, Gary. Here’s Laura:
Laura: Gary and I got in this tiff one day, and as we broke it down afterward, I was needing something from him (to bring a chair in), and he was frustrated because he’d been helping me and he didn’t think I was being appreciative by asking him for one more thing. His trigger went off, which is, “My voice isn’t heard.”
He grew up in a family where his voice—he had a lot of siblings—wasn’t heard. My little voice—I grew up in a family where there was one right way to do things. My dad was in the Navy, and there was one right way. I wanted it my way, and he wasn’t feeling his voice was heard. When we finally got over it—we didn’t talk the rest of the night, but when were finally able to come to it the next day—we saw that my young wound was, “I need to get it right,” and his young wound was, “I need to have a voice.”
I could have compassion for his; he could have compassion for mine. It helped to diffuse the problem. So, sometimes, we’re ashamed to go to what the wound is. We don’t like to think we have a wound; we like to think whatever our anger is in the moment is justified.
Laura: But when we can slow down and begin to look at that wound, we can have compassion for ourselves. It wasn’t our fault; we grew up in this situation, and this is the adaptation we made. So I can begin to have compassion for myself. When I can begin to do that, I can begin to have compassion for the other. It totally shifts.
Bob: What you’re describing, when we identify those triggers or those patterns or those things that are true about us—
Bob: We’re not dismissing or excusing sin and saying, “Well, that’s just who I am.”
Bob: We can deal with them differently if we’re dealing with them from a position of understanding that God loves us and God has accepted us than if we’re living in fear, right?
Laura: Exactly, and when we can say, “This is my identity. My identity is in Christ. I’m a loved child. I’ve got these ways of being that came onboard a long time ago, and I can begin to look at them now. I have the freedom now, because I’m so solid in my lovability, [to] look at these parts of me that take me out. I can begin to notice it and get curious about it.” Because you’re in Christ, you can begin to have, maybe, an open-hearted look at the way that you’ve harmed people or hurt people and own it, and not justify it anymore.
To be able to do conflict well, you have to have some self-awareness. It’s not just about a skill set; it’s about really having a deep level of self-awareness, so that you can begin to be honest with yourself about the way it is that you’re feeling. You know, a lot of us are kind of cut off from our feelings. We don’t really pay much attention to what we feel; we just act out. If you can pay attention to what you feel, and learn to articulate what you feel in a non-accusing, non-blaming way, now you’re opening the door to some vulnerability in your relationships, some transparency, that will create that deep level of intimacy.
I love, again, Proverbs 25 that says, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws it out.” So taking time to draw it out: “What is it that goes on inside of me? What are my feelings? What is my reactivity? What’s that all about?” If we can do that self-exploration, our capacity to do conflict well is greatly increased.
[End Audio Recording]
Michelle: Laura Taggert with some great advice on how to handle conflict and stress in our lives. She says step back; take time to explore and search yourself. You know the stress that you’re dealing with, or maybe it’s him who’s dealing with it and it’s affecting you? Well, it becomes our stress, and we need to learn how to communicate through that stress well.
Perhaps, as Laura suggested, read King David’s words from Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts, and see if there’s any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Our first stop should always be God.
Hey, we need to take a break, but, when we come back, we’re going to hear from Emerson Eggerichs and the four things you need to know and to keep in mind as you communicate with a loved one (or maybe it’s a co-worker or friend). Stay tuned! We’ll be back.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. Today we’re talking about stress, and how that stress—well, it can weigh on a marriage. You know, one of the communication tools that I’ve heard is, “Be honest.” Honesty is the best policy, right? I like to be honest and transparent, but sometimes my honesty can sort of be almost like a bull in a china shop! You know what I’m talking about?
Michelle: See? See, even our sound engineer and Executive Producer, Keith Lynch, knows exactly what I’m talking about.
We know that there are right ways to communicate, and there are wrong ways to communicate. That’s why, next, we’re going to hear from Emerson Eggerichs. He’s the guy who coined the phrase that men need respect, but women need love. He’s all about communication. He sat in the studio with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine a while back, and he talked about four aspects of communication that are critical, honesty being one of them. There are four. Here’s Emerson talking about those four:
Emerson: Back when I was like 20 years of age, I began to try to figure out, “If I’m going to say something, what would be a quick checklist for me to go through?” For me personally; I didn’t think about ever writing a book on this, it was just that I wanted to keep myself out of trouble, you know? So, before you speak, Socrates, who was accredited with this, said you need to ask yourself: “Is it True? Is it Kind? Is it Necessary?” But then I added a fourth: “Is it clear?”
You know, we all quote, “Speak the truth in love.” There are two of them right there; the first two: truth and kindness. So, “speak the truth in love.” Everybody—they don’t know the reference on that, but they know we’re to speak the truth in love. We kind of know it.
The other side—someone read the book and said, “I thought you were telling us not to speak, but I got through the book and I realized, you’re telling us to speak.” He said, “I thought you were telling us to shut up, and you were actually telling us to speak up.” Yes! We need the courage, then—and this is where most of us are—we lack the courage when we should say what’s true, say it in a kind way; say what’s necessary, say it clearly; and, if all those align, we need to communicate it.
Bob: Of the four areas—Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it clear? those four questions—is there one that is more routinely violated than another? I know we’re different personalities (different people), and we may have our own blind spot in any of those areas; but, in general in our communication, do we tend to be less true, less kind, less necessary, or less clear in how we communicate, do you think?
Emerson: Well, that’s an excellent question. No one has really asked that of me. As I’ve pointed out, they’re distinct and they’re all vital. I think the key is truthfulness. I mean, to what extent are people lying and being untruthful? That sets off a domino effect.
Emerson: I mean, what difference does it make if I’m kind and I’m lying to you? You know, I’m telling you a lie.
Bob: I think you made a significant point here. The baseline in all of this is, we’ve got to be truthful. We’ve got to be honest with one another. Now the question is, in our honesty, are we kind? Are we clear? Is it necessary? But you have to start with that, because you can get the other three down exactly right—
Bob: —and if the honesty’s not there—
Emerson: That’s right.
Bob: —we’ve got a real problem!
Emerson: Well, then I go even deeper. Most of us don’t get up in the morning thinking of ways we’re going to lie. You know? So I unpack 20 reasons why we, as believers, might hedge a little bit on the truth. It’s not always a wicked reason. For instance, there are peacemakers out there.
Emerson: Peacemakers do not like conflict. So they don’t intend to lie. They just don’t want the conflict. So their hearts are in the right place! You want to click your heels and salute them. “I am so appreciative of your peacemaking tendencies! I just applaud that. But at risk here is that you’re compromising the truth in this.”
So I unpack 20 reasons why we might hedge on that truthfulness. In fact, there are 81 different reasons why we would compromise in those four areas.
Dennis: What did you say?!
Emerson: 81. [Laughter]
Well, there are 20 under each. In other words, I unpack, “Why would I not be kind? Why would I not be necessary in what I’m saying? Why would I not say what’s clear?” And as I thought about it, I just kept adding from my own life, you know? Well, here might be a peacemaker idea, you know? He’s not a bad person!
Emerson: But this would be a thing that could set it all off. Then, in the short-term, you’ve got peace, but, long-term, they’re going to come back and say, “Wait a minute! You weren’t truthful with me!” There’s a price to pay, then, when we compromise these. But most of us compromise them because, short-term, it works. I mean, why would a person be a bully? Why would they be unkind? Because it works!
Emerson: So there is a pragmatic perspective that we bring. I was talking to my son, and he said, “Dad, everybody lies. Everybody’s lying today. People lie when they don’t even need to lie.” So there is a challenge for all of us in, “Why do we do that?” Because somehow we fear the truth. We fear, “If I’m just truthful, it’s going to lead to, you know, some kind of consequence to me.”
“Why don’t I say it kindly? Because I think if I say it kindly, they’re going to take advantage of me. If I’m nice to the clerk behind the counter, they’re not going to listen to me, because Joe over here is screaming at them and he’s getting his product replaced.” So we begin to convince ourselves that compromising these four things are to our benefit.
[End Audio Recording]
Michelle: Ooh! And we need to know that they’re not to our benefit when we compromise those four things, as Emerson Eggerichs helps us understand the right way and the wrong way to communicate and what needs to be involved. It needs to be true; it needs to be kind; and it needs to be necessary. And then, what Emerson added was, there needs to be clarity to it.
So as you’re communicating, through stressors from work or through stressors from life, to your wife or your husband, be mindful of how you talk through things. Be kind. Be clear. Be necessary. And also be truthful.
Now, I know that’s a tall order! It’s like, “Okay, we need a little bit of application, maybe, in understanding how this really will play out.” For that, I’m going to turn to Paul Tripp. Now, many of you know Paul Tripp. He’s a pastor and an event speaker; he’s an author of more than 30 books and video series; he’s kind of a big deal in the Christian community, right? I mean, he’s lived this fine legacy.
For Paul Tripp, those stressors came out as an anger problem, and it was something that he and Luella danced around for many years, until one night. Here’s Paul:
Paul: I went home that night, and all I could think about was I wanted to talk with Luella. I came in the house rather seriously and asked if we could sit down and talk. I said to her, “I know for many years, you’ve tried to talk to me about my anger, and I’ve been unwilling to listen. I’ve been unwilling to hear. I can honestly say tonight, I want to hear what you have to say to me.”
Luella teared up a little bit, and then she told me she loved me, which I thought was an act of amazing grace after what I had put her through. Then she talked for two hours. In those two hours, God began the process of a radical undoing and rebuilding of the heart of this man. The operative word there is “process.” I wasn’t zapped by lightning, but I had open eyes, open ears, and, by God’s grace, an open heart. I saw that anger everywhere I looked for the next few months.
It was very painful! There were times where I felt like I couldn’t breathe. But I want you to hear this: that pain was the pain of grace. God was making that anger like vomit in my mouth, so I would never go back there again. Praise Him for His grace!
Now I have come to understand, as I tell my story, that I’m not the only angry person in the room. There are angry men and women in this room. Reflect on how much conflict there is in our marriage. Reflect on how many days you’re able to go through without some kind of conflict interrupting the unity and the understanding love that is God’s purpose for you. Reflect on how little things become big things because it doesn’t take much for us to become irritated and angry, and go places we should not go. Reflect on the fact that no one in this room has ever had a marriage that hasn’t disappointed them in some way!
I want to tell you something that you may have never thought of. My anger was about kingdoms. You say, “What in the world are you talking about?! What sense does that make?” Well, hear what I’m about to say: Marriage is war! What I’m talking about is all that tension, all that nastiness, all those awkward, uncomfortable moments are really the fruit of a deeper war.
It’s only when you understand and gain ground in that deeper war that you’ll ever gain ground in all of those things that hurt and disappoint us all. That deeper war is not fought between you and your husband or you and your wife. That deeper war—hear what I’m about to say—is fought on the turf of your heart. It’s fought for control of your soul. Listen carefully: marriage, this side of eternity, is always a war between the kingdom of self and the kingdom of God.
It breaks my heart that so much of what is written about marriage is just a bunch of “how-to’s”; just a bunch of rules. It never gets down at heart level! My problem is not that I don’t know the rules! My problem is I don’t care about the rules, because there’s something else I want more! You know that’s true.
If you’re a man in this room, and you’ve had those moments where you’re up in your wife’s face, so close that she can feel your breath, and you’re saying nasty things to her, you’re not doing that because you’re ignorant of the fact that that’s wrong. You’re doing that because, at that moment, you don’t give a rip what is wrong. There’s something that you want, and you’re going to get it! That’s kingdom stuff!
I need something deeper than that! I need rescue that’s deeper than that! I need wisdom that’s deeper than that. I’ve got to say this: if rules were all we needed, Jesus would never have had to come.
Michelle: All it takes is a few minutes with Paul Tripp, and I feel like the dagger’s just been pushed into my heart, you know? Remembering that it’s not about me, as much as I would like to think life is, it’s not about me. It’s about Christ, and what He has done to set me free. I’m reminded about something that Crawford said about marriage—that marriage is not about happiness; it’s not about living that stress-free life that we’ve been talking about today. Marriage is about mission!
If you would like to hear more from Crawford and Karen, go to our website. We have a link to their full interview about marriage and stress and how to build a marriage that lasts and goes the distance. That’s on our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com. That’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
You know, it’s during the stressful times that we really need to fight for peace; for God’s peace. Remember, first stop and take that time with God. Don’t let the stressors of life steal more joy from you or your marriage or the people around you.
Next week, we’re going to talk about lies that we tend to believe about ourselves. There will be some time of introspection; maybe some time of some, you know, self-awareness. Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth will help us see ourselves and our sins differently. I hope you can join us for that. It’s going to be a great show!
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Michelle: Yes, Keith?
Keith: Turn your headphones down a little. You’re kind of stressing me out! [Laughter]
Michelle: What do you mean I’m stressing you out?! You’re stressing me out!
Keith: I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time, and it’s just really bothering me. I mean, I feel really tense.
Michelle: Did you go back to Emerson’s four ways to communicate?
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