VIDEO: This Well-Known Christian Couple Almost Divorced Until…


Dr. Greg Smalley, son of popular author and speaker Dr. Gary Smalley, serves as Focus’ Vice President of Family Ministries.  Greg’s office is just steps from mine, and I enjoy our regular interactions. Not only is he a marriage expert and popular author with a doctorate in psychology, but he also has a great sense of humor. He’s a fun guy to be around. Greg and his wife, Erin, have been married for 21 years and have four children.

But would it surprise you to learn that the Smalley’s marriage was in dire straits just two years into it?

  It’s true.

Today, I want to share the story – and what ultimately saved their marriage.

Greg and Erin will tell you they weren’t very good at managing the conflicts and pressures that beset most young couples in graduate school.  That’s embarrassing when you’re the son of a famed marriage-and-family expert and a candidate for a Master’s degree in counseling.  So Greg and Erin, in shame and confusion, swept their marital problems under the rug.

Luckily for them, they weren’t able to fool everyone.  Greg’s supervisor, Dr. Gary Oliver, sensed that something was wrong.  And Dr. Oliver’s wife, Carrie, a fellow student of Greg’s and a special friend to Erin, shared her husband’s misgivings.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much the Olivers could do – not while Greg and Erin chose to keep up their painful masquerade.

Things might have gone on this way for a long time if it weren’t for a fateful phone call.

Erin happened to be out running errands when Greg, tired and frazzled at the end of a hectic day, picked up the receiver and heard Carrie’s voice on the other end of the line.

“Sorry,” he said dully when she asked to speak to his wife.  “Erin’s gone.”

Gone?” responded Carrie.  “Oh, dear!  Gary and I were afraid it would come to this!”

Greg had only meant that Erin was gone for a bit, but Carrie’s reaction revealed her assumption that Erin was gone for good. While the miscommunication was initially funny, it gave way to a frightening realization. Suddenly it dawned on him:  the cat’s out of the bag!  The Olivers are on to us!  Greg didn’t know whether to cry or breathe a sigh of relief.

“Greg,” said the voice after a long pause, “I have a feeling we need to talk.  Would you and Erin like to come over for a while?”

To make a long story short, that’s exactly what they did.  When Erin got home, the two of them went straight to the Olivers’, where they spent the evening not in a formal counseling session but in prayer, discussion, confession, and honest reflection.  Greg remembers it as a turning point, a watershed moment in the development of their marriage.  It was more than just a lesson in understanding his wife at a deeper level:  it was the beginning of a long-term relationship with an older, wiser, more experienced couple – a communal connection that would prove to be a source of indispensable guidance, solace, encouragement, and reassurance for the next fifteen years.

It was a relational revolution.

Can you relate to Greg and Erin’s story in benefiting from another couple’s investment?  Or have you felt compelled to reach out to another married couple and offer a helping hand?

On tomorrow and Friday’s broadcast, “How Mentoring Saved Our Marriage,” you’ll hear the moving story of Tom and Sandy Ralya, a couple who, not unlike Greg and Erin, found themselves on the brink of divorce – until a small number of friends and mentors challenged them to face their troubles and turn to God to restore their broken marriage.

I hope you’ll tune in. In the meantime, I want to ask you a pointed but related question:

Would you like to be a part of someone’s relational revolution?  Can you and your spouse see yourselves, like the Olivers, coming alongside a younger, less seasoned couple and helping them normalize the rough spots in their marriage?  Can you picture yourselves sharing some of your own struggles and revealing a few of the secrets that have helped you maintain your commitment to one another through the years?  If so, we’d love for you to consider becoming a Focus Marriage Mentor.

You can find out more by visiting the Focus Marriage Mentors website or by reading my blog post, “What Every Marriage Needs.”

But let me turn this to you: have you found yourself on the verge of divorce and ready to throw in the towel, only to have another person or couple pull you back from the edge? What turned the tide?

I hope you might consider using this space to share some of your story and in the process, perhaps encourage those who might be struggling through a difficult spot in their marriage.

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Leave a Comment

Randall Allen More than 1 year ago

--1) My wife and I have been on the brink of divorce once. What turned the tide was talking to a church couple who actually had no understanding of what we were going through and simply had trite and pat answers for our issue. So, my wife and I decided that we could figure out ourselves. We did and decided that we would never consult that couple again. 2) I'm convinced that a young married couple would NOT want to be mentored by us, mainly because I would tell the husband to put Ephesians 5:25 into practice--and I would be committing the same faux pax as did the couple that tried to talk to us; the mistake of giving trite pat answers. I guess I'm too simple-minded....

Sam Curcio More than 1 year ago

--I have been married for over 42 years... I and Kathy have participated in an excellent Marriage restoration classes named High Octane Marriage ... by Danny and Amy DeWALT...  provides healing in marriages thru realignment with GOD's original design for marriage to Glorify HIM.

Rubi Colling More than 1 year ago

--Hi my name is Rubi. In answer to your question "have you found yourself on the verge of divorce and ready to throw in the towel, only to have another person or couple pull you back from the edge?"yes... we were in the verge of a divorce, and had a lot of people family, church friends & friends rooting for me to get a divorce, using so many scriptures & my past to justify that our marriage should've been dissolved. But I had a feeling "The Holy Spirit" tugging on my heart to not give up on my marriage & despite how terrible & hopeless the situation seemed like, to be faithful & trust in God's promises. But to be honest it was the Holy Spirit but people around me were not in agreeance.

"What turned the tide?", I moved to a different state & was completely separated from my husbad we were both living in different states living our own lives, though I was still barely hanging on to the promises of God when it comes to marriage. When I moved to NC I started going to an awesome church called "The Bridge Church". One day after a couple of months of refusing to go to the altar & ask for prayer I finally got the courage to go. I spoke with the Pastor & told him that I was thorn between standing for my marriage or just quitting it (everyone was telling me that it was ok & that the Bible was backing me up) but this pastor prayed for guidance of the Holy Spirit in my life & put me in contact with an awesome couple called Scott & Sherry Jennings.

So the first thing I did when I got home was to email the pastor to have him email me Sherry's email. So i introduce myself & wrote to her briefly letting her know what my marriage situation was & she replied back the same day, she prayed for me in the email & gave me a link to the story of their marriage redemption..... WOW!! They were God sent, I listen to their story over & over & over again on my iPhone. She out me in touch with another wonderful woman that changed my life. I thought that my husband needed to change to make our marriage work, but what God had under his sleeve was unexpected to me. Through this whole separation I saw how I was Idolizing my husband & putting God on second place in my life. So I started leaning on God & working on my first love I was walking in the clouds inlove with my Creator again.

My husband came back home at a time when I did not think that I was ready for it, but God knew my heart & as many of us already know God's timing is not necessarily one that we always agree on. We are working on our marriage, my husband came back because he saw the light in me. He used to make fun of my faith & he has come to respect it. We have so much growing to do, but if it wasn't for a couple that saw God's hand in their lives & they allowed God to be their #1. I don't know that I would be writtin got you about this redemption story today. Sorry for the long story but i really hope that this will encourage someone else to believe in God 100% & in his promises.

With Love,

Rubi Colling