Conflict is a natural element of any marriage. It’s not a matter of if conflict arises, it’s when. Dr. Greg Smalley says that being able to persevere in marriage is all about being able to learn from conflict and not be defeated by it.

“The key to grit is looking at those tough situations as growth opportunities. Are we willing to take any conflict we go through and say, okay God, we assume, we are expecting that you are going to teach us something and that we are going to grow better as couples and as individuals because we went through this.”

God doesn’t want us to waste conflict, and we don’t have too, but that requires perseverance on our part.

“Perseverance is expecting God will always show up, He is always pursuing, always working for our good in these situations.”

Greg says one way he stays growth focused is by being willing to accept his wife’s influence. One way Greg said he often won’t allow Erin to influence him in a healthy way is by getting defensive when Erin expresses concern about distance in their marriage.

“One of the things that Erin has been teaching me is that when she comes to me and says she’s feeling disconnected, it’s not an attack. I usually resist that, I instantly become defensive, and I talk about all the good things that I see as evidence that we’re okay. Yet, what I’m learning is that Erin has such an amazing intuition and she almost has a relational radar.”

If Greg is able to put aside his defensiveness and allow Erin to influence him as an individual and consequently their marriage, then they both can grow.


Dr. Greg Smalley serves as executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family.  In this role, he develops and oversees initiatives that prepare individuals for marriage, strengthen and nurture existing marriages and help couples in marital crises. He also serves as a media spokesperson on these matters.

Key Scripture: 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1

Featured Songs: Same Power – Jeremy Camp; No Longer Slaves – Bethel Music; Love Broke Through – Toby Mac

Grit in marriage

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