Conflict can be helpful to spouses who learn how to use it a tool to strengthen their marriage. Picture: Pixabay

Marriage experts Greg and Erin Smalley are on their way to SA for a series of seminars. Marchelle Abrahams finds out how couples can benefit from their advice.

The dictionary definition for the word conflict is “a serious disagreement or argument”. For many couples who experience conflict in their marriage, it’s a sign that their relationship is in trouble.

Quite the contrary. Conflict can be helpful to spouses who learn how to use it as a tool to strengthen their marriage. This is according to marriage experts Dr Greg and Erin Smalley.

The couple, who have been married for 25 years and authored more than 25 books together, have decades of experience behind them.

And now they are bringing their brand of relationship counselling to South Africa.

Titled Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage, they will present a series of seminars in Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban at the end of May.

Based in Colorado in the US, the Smalleys are no strangers to relationship struggles. Erin admitted that during the first two years of their marriage, it was like living in the middle of a war.

“One particular Saturday morning, I was heading out to work as a labour and delivery nurse and Greg was going to be home all day watching football, and I asked him to do the laundry. After exchanging several harsh words, I set the boundary - ‘Greg, let’s just stop! I’m going to go to work - and let’s work this out when I get home in 13 hours!’

“So, I proceeded to gather my stuff for work, headed over to the door, took one step out, and thought it was the perfect opportunity to pop my head back into the door and make one more smart comment, and off I went.”

Greg serves as vice president of Family Ministries at Focus on the Family, while Erin speaks at women’s conferences. Picture: Supplied

Greg acknowledged part of the pressure put on them was because he was the son of the famous marriage guru, Dr Gary Smalley.

“I just assumed since we were in love, it would all work out,” he openly confessed.

He then disclosed that three years into their marriage he thought they were one big argument away from Erin leaving.

“It had gotten to the point where we were horrible at trying to work through conflict. We were both pretty shut down and hurt.”

For this reason they caution couples in the first years of marriage to lean on others for support, especially friends and family.

When it comes to children, you’d best heed their advice - they have four of their own.

Greg and Erin have a rule: make your children understand that after 8pm it’s mommy and daddy’s time. “You need to make them see that us spending time together is in their best interest,” Greg said.

The couple have legions of fans, probably because they’ve taken their own marriage as the blueprint for their enrichment seminars, which help navigate relationship roadblocks, improve communication and rebuild romance.

But it also serves as a refresher for those seeking to improve their relationships. What they’ve also done is root their message in spiritual and Biblical teachings.

Just last year, they launched their marriage survey via Focus On The Family - an SA-based NPO focusing on helping families thrive.

The marriage assessment is designed to evaluate the strength of 12 essential traits in your relationship. So essentially, the Smalleys created the questionnaire based on their extensive research, and it evaluates areas such as communication, conflict and commitment.

Their best-seller Ready to Wed is on sale on loot.co.za

The assessment is free and takes about 10 minutes to complete.

Take the free marriage assessment: www.safamily.co.za/marriage-assessment/

Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage seminar:

All tickets on sale from Computicket at R50 each

Visit: www.safamily.co.za for more info

Pretoria

May 31 - June 1

Cape Town

June 4 - June 5

Durban

June 7 - June 8