Replacing Lies With the Truth
About the Guest
All couples have a story. Whether that story is a fairy tale or tale of horror is up to you. Authors and marriage specialists Terry Hargrave and Shawn Stoever explain how a couple can move from the pain cycle to the peace cycle during a marriage intensive by looking at their lives, and relationship, honestly, and identifying those coping mechanisms each spouse puts in place to protect themselves.
All couples have a story. Whether that story is a fairy tale or tale of horror is up to you.
Bob: When Shawn Stoever and his wife were confronted with some of the recurring sin patterns in their relationship, they realized, “That in order for their relationship to be what God intends for it to be, they had to become the people God made them to be.”
Shawn: God didn’t create me to be a controlling, analytical, judgmental person; but when my pain gets triggered, that’s exactly the way I react to protect myself. God didn’t create my wife to be an escalating angry person, either; but when her pain gets triggered, that’s how she reacts.
So, the first day is about helping people see two things: One—“What is that pain that you specifically feel?” and then, Two—“How to you cope or behave to protect yourself?”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, February 23rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Shawn Stoever and Terry Hargrave join us today to show us how your marriage can never be what God intended for it to be when pain and fear are in control. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’ve been talking this week about the whole idea of marriage intensives, and I don’t guess Mary Ann and I have ever had one—although we’ve had some intensive moments in our marriage. (Laughter) That’s not exactly what we’re talking about though; is it?
Dennis: Honestly, though, Bob, I feel like some days when I go home, I’ve had an intensive here in the studio as we’ve interviewed guests who bring the truth of Scripture to my life and the Holy Spirit finishes the job. He’s—
Bob: We’ve been well-discipled, both of us. The only thing is our wives haven’t been here to say, “Now, let me point out one other thing to you that you might want to pay attention to.” (Laughter)
Dennis: Well, we have a couple of guys here who know how to disciple and how to do a marriage intensive. Dr. Terry Hargrave and Dr. Shawn Stoever join us again on FamilyLife Today. Shawn, Terry, welcome back.
Terry: Thanks. Good to be back.
Dennis: They’ve worked together—a couple of therapists have worked together to come up with a new book, along with a DVD series for small groups, entitled 5 Days to a New Marriage.
You guys, together, have how many years of counseling, and therapy, and intensives—how many years?
Terry: Well, probably, we have 40 plus years, combined, in terms of counseling and therapy; and then, probably—Shawn’s been at this longer than I have—so, probably, somewhere around 15 to 20 years of experience with intensives.
Dennis: So, that ought to qualify you to lead five days for couples in a marriage intensive.
Bob: Well, the workbook and DVDs are really an attempt to take some of the content that happens in your week-long intensives as you get together with three or four couples for a secluded week, sequestered environment—bring some of that content so that a small group, in a couple of hours a week, can start to taste what that experience would be like.
I’m really curious what the week feels like. If you and your wife get away for one of these intensives, I’m just imagining showing up with my suitcase off at some lodge somewhere with a lot of apprehension about what I’ve just headed into. I’m just imagining some anxiety. I’m thinking a lot of men would show up going, “What have I gotten myself into, and how quickly can I get out of here?” (Laughter)
Terry: That’s a very, very common experience of folks that first come in because there is nothing but anxiety. They don’t know these people, they don’t know these therapists, they don’t even know this place, and “What in the heck have I done to myself?”
Bob: So, where do you start with them?
Terry: Well, on that first day, what we’re really trying to do is unpack people’s story, because whether we like it or not—and a lot of people don’t like it—we’re not into blaming people, but we had a lot of experience that predated our spouse. All of our problems in life did not begin with our spouse.
We find that a lot of the families that we grew up in shaped us. A lot of the mentors, or experiences, or peers that we had have shaped us. A lot of life experience—traumatic life events have shaped us in dramatic ways. Those types of stories have to come out so that you understand people’s basic reactions, and what they brought into the marriage, and how they shaped themselves before they ever got there.
Usually, marriage just brings out whatever was already there in a much deeper and painful way. So, Day One is about telling those stories and about getting that pain out so a therapist can help you understand, “What is that central process that goes on with you as an individual?” I guarantee you, after that first day where you hear people’s stories, it’s a tough day; but you feel bonded to those people because you know their stories.
Dennis: I know the answer to this, but what percentage of people have painful stories?
Terry: I think everybody has a part of their story that’s painful because when you think about the way that we make sense, the way that God strung us together, is basically two issues. We make sense around who we are, and we make sense of whether we are safe in relationships. That’s basically the story that always it’s about.
Even though many of us grew up in good families, we almost always have questions about who we are—our identity. A lot of us have questions about whether things were safe.
Dennis: I think the Devil of Hell’s strategy is to come to people and convince them that they are the only one who has ever had a painful background—
Dennis: —or have a painful story to deal with. So, in isolation, they are left to simmer in their pain.
Shawn: Yes, I would have answered your question, Dennis, and say, “Everybody, living in a fallen world, has had a painful experience.” We all live in that fallen world. My wife grew up with two amazing parents. She went to church every Sunday, every Sunday night, every Wednesday; but her dad was an amazing college athlete—drafted into the pros. He had two daughters.
My wife was the youngest of the two—no sons. So, she became his athlete. She played great. She was an all-state basketball player—fantastic. He loved her, but she still had some pain growing up in that amazing home because the way he encouraged her was always to tell her she could do better.
So, she’d have a fantastic game but maybe miss a free-throw. Then, she’d hear, “Games are won or lost at the free-throw line.” He’d have her out there shooting free-throws; or maybe she’d turn the ball over dribbling with her left hand, and he’d say, “Let’s get home tonight, and let’s practice dribbling with your left hand for awhile.”
Again, I love this man to death, but he just—the way he loved his daughter created this pain inside her—this fear that, “I’ll never measure up. I’ll never be good enough.” So, even in that great home environment, she experienced some pain.
Mine was much more obvious. I mean, I grew up in a home where my mom died when I was nine years old. That’s a trauma that we could point to and say, “Oh, well, he must’ve experienced some pain.”
Really, it was no different. I just developed some fears and some pain around the loss of my mom. Even though, I had a fantastic dad and a great step-mom, who came into the picture. The reality is we all experience things growing up. Then, the Enemy takes those life experiences; and he creates these fears and this pain inside of us because that’s what he wants to do. He wants to get us off track.
Bob: Terry, you started this whole Day One experience by saying, “We don’t want to get into blaming people;” and yet, it sounds like a day where you tell stories is going to be a day where you identify bad moms, and bad dads, and bad step-parents, or bad aunts and uncles. What were you saying when you say, “We don’t want to blame people,” and why does telling the story make sense here?
Terry: I had a history teacher in high school that said, “Those who don’t learn from the past are destined to repeat it.” I was in high school—so, I just thought we’d have to take the class again if we didn’t study. (Laughter) Turns out it’s a much deeper statement than that.
You can really do this—you can tell a story without—my belief is that people do the best they can with what they know. I believe that’s just how parents are operating, but the Enemy is greater than parents operating. He’s going to take life experiences and twist them.
So, we try to help people early-on to see, “Okay, your history and your life experience is a problem; but your parents weren’t the enemy. There is an Enemy out there that wants to see you fail, and your life fail, and you distant from the Lord”—
Terry: —“and your marriage fail.”
Terry: So, we kind of help people to realize the Enemy is over there. It’s not your parents; it’s not blaming them. It’s just the reality that you’ve been impacted.
Shawn: Exactly. The idea of not blaming is understanding, “They grew up in the same fallen world that we’re growing up in.” So, as a result, they make mistakes; and guess what?—the four of us sitting around this table, also, have made mistakes. In spite of our best intentions, the Enemy is at work; and he’ll use what we do—even things that we thought we were doing right sometimes go wildly awry.
Terry: It helps me to keep from judging, Bob, when I remember that I’ve got kids that are going to be in therapy someday, despite my best efforts to do a great job with them. The reality is the Enemy is going to take my parenting, or my lack of parenting, and my shortages and shortcomings, and he’s going to use it against our kids. That’s his job description.
Dennis: You are exactly right. I mean, I don’t care how good you are; you are not going to erase the sin of the Garden that is in your heart. There is an Enemy—the Devil of Hell does exist. Jesus spoke of him. He is out to destroy individual lives, marriages, and families because, when you destroy a family, you don’t just destroy one generation, you destroy generations of human beings for the future.
Bob: Okay; so, if you start this process by having everybody tell their story, what’s Day Two look like?
Shawn: You finish Day One, not only with an understanding of what’s motivated you—what fears, or pain, are in your life—so, for Christina, maybe it was not being good enough; for me, it was a fear of being helpless or out of control. We identify those underlying fears and pain words that Terry was describing, and the violations of how we were loved, and how we felt safe in the world.
We identify those; but secondly, again, on the first day, we’re still also trying to help couples to figure out, “When you feel that way, what do you do to cope or protect yourself?”
So, by nature, God didn’t create me to be a controlling, analytical, judgmental person; but when my pain gets triggered, that’s exactly the way I react to protect myself. God didn’t create my wife to be an escalating, angry person, either; but when her pain gets triggered, that’s how she reacts.
So, the first day is about helping people see two things: One—“What does that pain that you specifically feel?” and then, Two—“How do you cope or behave to protect yourself?” Understanding comes in that process because, all of a sudden, people look across and say, “Yes. I see her acting like that all the time. You mean, she’s acting like that because something deeper inside her got triggered? I never knew that. I just thought she was acting that way because she was mean or she didn’t love me anymore.”
This level of—the richest, smartest man who ever lived said in the Bible, “If it costs you everything you have, get understanding.” 1 Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, so as to not hinder your prayer life.” There is something powerful about gaining understanding.
So, Day One is just about helping couples understand two things. One—“What happens—what’s the pain that gets triggered in your life—the old pain that you brought into the marriage?” Then, secondly, “How do you tend to cope to protect yourself around that?”
As they get that understanding, and understand that there is a cycle that happens—because when my pain gets triggered, I cope to protect myself. As soon as I get analytical, and start withdrawing and shutting down, it triggers the pain inside my wife because, all of a sudden, she starts feeling like she’s not good enough, which causes her to cope to protect herself. So, she starts escalating and getting angry.
Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever been around escalating, angry woman before—but all of a sudden, my pain and feeling helpless just gets all tapped. My PhD in people- manipulation can’t stop her, and we’re trapped in a cycle. So, Day One is about helping every couple to understand that they have a cycle, where old pain triggers coping behavior; and that sets their spouse off, and we’re stuck.
Dennis: What you want to do, ultimately, is bring them to an understanding of The Pain Cycle; but, then, begin to equip them with, what you call, The Peace Cycle; is that right?
Shawn: Absolutely. If we ended on Day One, we’d have a lot of insight and a lot of frustrated people. It’d be like going to the doctor and getting a diagnosis of something significant going on in your life—and them saying, “Okay, my work is done; head on out,” because, really, Day One is just diagnosing the problem.
Day Two is about, “Let’s give you an alternative, a solution.”
Bob: Walk us through what a Day Two would look like, Terry.
Terry: Yes, psychology is famous. Shawn and my business is famous for finding out what the problem is and say, “Okay, good, there, stop that. Don’t do that anymore.”
One of my colleagues, Sandra Perkins, said to us, “We’ve got a lot of models in trying to help couples understand this idea of The Pain Cycle. Is there a corresponding Non-Pain Cycle?” We just said, “Absolutely.” This is a map for what couples need to get in touch with. We went to work on that for several, several months, in terms of figuring out, “What is the corresponding truth?”
Of course, we went straight to Scripture and started understanding that the idea of who we are and whether relationships are safe have been built into us; and we simply did not question that. The trick is that we have to start questioning it.
Day Two is about helping a couple start working into what we call The Peace Cycle, which is confronting their old lies of things that they carried on, “I was unloved. I was unwanted. I’m not worthy,” or, “This situation is unsafe. I’m out of control. I’m being controlled. I’ll never be able to deal with the betrayal that I feel,”—and start confronting the truth.
We typically say there are three sources of the truth that we’ve got to get in touch with. One is, of course, the truth that God speaks into our lives. We really want to richly surround people—we want people to get into Ephesians 1 and really understand what it’s like to be adopted and loved by God. We, also, point to others—mentors and people that are important in speaking into your life.
In our work, we’ve really found that the most important element of truth has to be accepted by you. You have to be willing to speak that truth into yourself; or people, typically, reject what God says or what others say about them.
Dennis: Yes, but—
Terry: They have to be able to get into it.
Dennis: I don’t want us to miss what you just said, “You’ve got to know what the truth is from the Scripture to begin having that personal conversation of reminding yourself of the truth. Bob, do you know your favorite quote, or one of your favorite quotes that you passed on to me?
Bob: That’s a quote—and I’ll paraphrase it here—from Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said, “We do too much listening to ourselves and not enough speaking to ourselves.” That we spend far too much time trying to ask ourselves, “Why do I feel this way?” or, “What am I thinking?” instead of counseling ourselves, and speaking to ourselves, and telling ourselves what is true. Of course, that’s where we have to begin, “Do we know what is true?”—
Bob: —“Do we have an objective sense of what’s true? Is what God says is true more true than how I feel about my own circumstance? Then, how can I have my mind renewed in that process?”
Shawn: Yes, and you have it exactly, Bob. It is a powerful process on Day Two when individuals start realizing, “Oh my gosh, I have really bought into this idea that I wasn’t worth anything,” “Oh, my gosh, I really see that I’ve over-responded to somebody being controlling in my life,” “What’s the truth I’m going to claim when the chips are down?”
Then, we start opening up this Peace Cycle. “If you’re able to live in that truth,”—you know, get some imagination about it—“what would you be able to do instead of this crazy coping that you do? What would you be able to do in that Peace Cycle?”
Typically, we find people that say, “Well, if I was able to get in touch with that ‘Really, things weren’t out of control;’ then, I would really be able to intimately connect without being fearful all the time.”
“If I were really able to know that I didn’t have to be in control, and that I was empowered and not alone, instead of letting this fear run me into controlling everything, maybe—maybe just maybe—I could enter into a relationship where I could let the other person be who they are and let me be just responsible for what I need to be responsible for—draw appropriate boundaries. I don’t have to shame myself any longer. I don’t have to blame others.”
We create that cognitive map so that they can do the hard work of reckoning with the truth on Day Two.
Dennis: One of the things I think we have to uncover is the lies that we’ve embraced about God. You listed a bunch of lies. I think we think wrongly about Him; and so, as a result, when it comes to believing the Scripture, we really have—we don’t have a solid belief that the Bible really is true because God is trustworthy—because we may not trust Him because we believe a lie about Him.
Jesus made this statement in John, Chapter 14. I’m going to read you the context to get to the key statement about peace. He said, “These things I have spoken to you while I’m still with you, but the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace, I leave with you. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
Terry: We were very intentional about calling this The Peace Cycle because we are not talking about happiness. We’re not talking about joyful satisfaction. What we are talking about—peace in the truest sense of the word—shalom— is fulfilled, satisfied. It’s no mistake that when Jesus was resurrected, the first thing that He said to people was not “Hey!” or “Aren’t you glad to see Me alive?” He looked at them and said, “Peace,” or, “Peace be with you.” He was granting—says, “Here’s the fulfillment, right here.”
Shawn: You read it there, Dennis. The beauty of that passage is that it clearly lays out that that peace comes from that relationship with the Holy Spirit, where you are reminded of those truths. So, whenever I start feeling rejected, or helpless, or somebody we’re working with gets those lies tapped into, we have to take them back and say, “What does the Holy Spirit say?”—get alone, get quiet, and listen.
As Terry mentioned, as you get the freedom from hearing the truth like John 8:32 says, “You shall know the truth, and it will set you free,” that, then, frees you to react and act differently in your marriage.
I don’t have to be withdrawing, and shutting down, and avoiding my wife anymore when I’m operating in the truth. Instead, I can stay in there and be a good listener. She doesn’t have to escalate, and get excited and angry anymore when she’s walking in the truth of who she is. Instead, she can be a patient, encouraging, affirming cheerleader because that’s who she’s meant to be.
The truth of who we are unleashes the blessings of the gifts of how we were meant to interact with each other, and it just creates a whole different cycle in a marriage.
Dennis: This isn’t a “happily ever after” story, again. Again, it’s talking about two selfish, sinful people, living in this close, intimate relationship of marriage but who have both learned the power of yielding to Christ, allowing the Holy Spirit to teach, instruct, and bring peace so that your hearts will not be troubled and so that you won’t be afraid.
Because there are a lot of marriages—I think they retreat, out of their hearts’ being troubled, and being fearful, and they don’t know how to get out of the cycle. It’s really why they would really benefit, I think, from getting in a small group with your material, 5 Days to a New Marriage, and finding some other couples who will get in there with them and decide, “You know what? We’re going to do some heavy lifting and some hard work, but we’re going to address the issues.”
Bob: Being intentional about your marriage—that’s what you’re talking about—whether it’s in a small group setting, a five-day intensive, a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. It’s being proactive and recognizing that marriages are going to take work, and help, and time in order for them to be what God meant them to be.
If you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, our website, we’ve got resources listed there. We’ve got Terry and Shawn’s book, 5 Days to a New Marriage. We’ve got information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaways that are going on all around the country, every weekend right now. We’ve got information about the Art of Marriage® video event, that a lot of you are hosting this spring, in cities all across the country. If you’d like to attend one or if you’d like to host one in your community, there’s information there about how you can do that.
We’re committed, here at FamilyLife, to providing you with tools and resources to help you strengthen your own marriage and help you help others strengthen their marriages, as well. So, again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about these resources. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
From time to time, you will hear us mention, here on FamilyLife Today, that we are listener-supported and that we need donations to help keep this program on the air. We do appreciate those of you who help support this ministry. I want to make sure you understand that we believe that, when it comes to giving, your priority ought to be your local church. That should be the first place that you give. We wouldn’t want to do anything that takes away from your support of your local church.
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So, we appreciate your generosity; and this week, if you can make a donation to help support us, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a CD, a message from our friends, Tim and Joy Downs, who spoke at a FamilyLife event about a year ago about differences in the area of marital intimacy. It is a humorous message; but I think it’s also helpful, practical. We’d love to send you that CD as a thank-you gift when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Make your donation at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I Care”. When you fill out the donation form, we’ll send you the CD automatically; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. When you make a donation, be sure to ask for a copy of the CD from Tim and Joy Downs. Again, we’re happy to send it out to you; and we really do appreciate your partnership with this ministry.
We want to encourage you to join us back again tomorrow. Shawn Stoever and Terry Hargrave are going to be here again. We’re going to continue talking with them about how they interact with couples during these marital intensives they host. Hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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