Is My Marriage Going to Make It? with Danny and Stephanie Leigh Gutierrez

Jul 11, 2024

 

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Whether your marriage is on the breaking point or just in need of some fresh ideas and perspective, we’ve got you covered. In this episode with Danny and Stephanie Leigh Gutierrez (guest hosted by Amy Young), we talk very honestly about what to do if your missionary marriage is in crisis. We also look at how couples can get back on the same page if they find themselves growing apart, and we give practical steps they can take to find each other again.

 

Resources

  • FREE Marriage Video Series: All Terrain Marriage is an 8-week interactive video series filled with practical tools and exercises any couple can put into practice. These videos can be done as a couple or a small group and include PDF discussion guides. ATM sessions are released every Monday for 8 weeks here.

  • FREE Counseling for Overseas Missionaries: Russell Semon, LPC
  • FREE Book: Intercultural Interplay: Following Jesus Within Cultures (an update and expansion of H. Richard Niebuhr’s book, Christ and Culture)

  • Course: Write Interesting Newsletters Course for missionaries from Global Trellis. Do you spend more time thinking about newsletters than actually writing them? This self-paced course is for you!

  • FREE Counseling Initial Assessment: Secure online counseling and psychiatry from Valeo. Free assessment for those who begin and complete their intake process between now and the end of July 2024. Find out more here.

  • Global Trellis Survey Results for GOERS: What We Wish Senders Knew (FREE Workshop)

 

Ways to Connect With Danny & Stephanie

 

Last Week’s Episode

Do I Need a Sabbatical? with Jeff Simons

Transcript From the Episode

[00:00:00] Amy Young: Welcome to the Modern Day Mission Podcast. I’m your host, Amy Young. Yes, that might’ve caught you by surprise. I’m Amy and Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez is here, but instead of being the interviewer, she is in the hot seat with her husband, Danny. Stephanie and Danny, welcome.

[00:00:16] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Hey, Amy, how fun is this to be on the other side? I’m excited to be here.

[00:00:23] Amy Young: I love it. And we’re talking about one of my favorite topics, marriage. I don’t know if people know this about you, but you two really are very passionate about marriage.

[00:00:34] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: we are. We’ve been working in marriage ministry. Oh my goodness. Since the very beginning, like within the first year of our marriage, we got pulled into it in a small group and, and, uh, yeah, it’s been probably before we should have, but hey.

[00:00:48] Amy Young: Isn’t that true for most of us who have been in cross cultural work that we got pulled in earlier than maybe we should have? And yet God uses it and God pays it forward. Yay. Well, let me read a little bit about your bio because people might not know this about you. They know Stephanie, the host, but let’s hear a little bit about Stephanie, the host.

Other side of you. So Danny and Stephanie have served in marriage ministry for the last 20 years as conference speakers, retreat leaders, and pastors over marriage ministries in local churches. They served as missionaries for 12 years based in Lima, Peru, and were pastors for nearly two decades. Danny and Stephanie now serve pastors and missionaries globally through their non profit foot rock.

Additionally, Danny is currently studying to become a marriage and family therapist, and Stephanie is a life and leadership coach and oversees missionary care resources for Modern Day. I can’t imagine a better team to talk to about marriage than the two of you,

[00:01:49] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Well, thank you. And I think most importantly, we just like talking about it too. It’s something that we were really passionate about.

[00:01:57] Amy Young: Which kind of begs the question, why are you passionate about it? A lot of married people value marriage, but they might not use the word like I’m passionate about marriages. What makes you guys so passionate?

[00:02:08] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Well, I would say it’s, it’s one of our sources of, of energy. I mean, so much good comes out of our relationship when things are going well, when things are working. And it’s hard to separate that from all the stuff that we get to do in ministry. It’s like, if, if this is not going well, Everything else kind of lags.

And when this is going really well, I mean, it impacts our children and impacts the people that we serve. It’s so much passion comes out of the passion that we invest in here that it’s just fun. It’s just fun to talk about. It’s fun to encourage other couples in and we see a lot of couples really struggling in their marriage.

And get it. I mean, I know it looks like we’re always having fun 24/7. We have a lot of fun. It’s the truth. We have a lot of fun, but we put a lot of hard work into our marriage. We have really since the beginning, I would say we kicked it off that way and it never has changed. So we’ve, hit a lot of bumps along the way.

So we understand what it feels like to. have an unstable relationship sometimes or have stressors coming at you. Um, but our hope is that couples will be able to put in the hard work. And we know it’s a lot more than that. Sometimes there’s one spouse putting in a lot of hard work and they’re hoping the other one will reciprocate, but we, we want to inspire couples practically and in a fun way with things they can both do to invest in their marriage so that it is giving them energy instead of sucking energy from them. And we also find that a little bit of conversation, just a couple ideas, empathizing with others, just being there with them, goes a really long way. We love hearing the stories come back to us of going like, Hey, that dinner conversation or that workshop that you guys did, or the conference that you guys led really helped us out.

So I think that also stokes our passion that something can happen in conversation and podcasts like this, or just moments that we’re getting intentional about talking about things.

One idea from the Lord…I really think just have one revelation from him in one area to really start things on a new track. And that’s our hope that everybody listening today hears one thing they can put into practice to set them on a new course.

[00:04:16] Amy Young: I love that because if you hear too many things, you leave actually overwhelmed and not sure where to start. But if you leave with just one thing, then you’re like, okay, I can do that one thing.

[00:04:25] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Right. Yes.

[00:04:27] Amy Young: And the reason I wanted to talk with you guys about marriage today is at Global Trellis, we recently did this survey, which has been referenced on other podcasts.

So you can look in the show notes and see a link to that conversation. But that survey was asking missionaries, what is something that could jeopardize you being on the field? Or if, if supporters knew about this, or senders actually, they would. Not be happy to hear about it just for many, many reasons.

And one of the top 3 things that came out of the survey results was people talking about their marriages, missionaries, talking about their marriages. We had 11 different areas. So when I say the top 3, you might be thinking, well, were there only 4? No, there were 11 areas. And so for marriage to be 1 of the top 3, I think to many people listening to this, it doesn’t surprise you, but it does sadden us.

It does sadden us. And, um, so as you guys heard, heard that report, what were things that resonated that you saw reflected in that survey and made you even more passionate to help people on the field with marriages?

[00:05:32] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Right. Hey, Amy, before I answer that question, can I just say, thank you behalf of all the missionaries that were processing that and getting it out. And it was, it was eyeopening for us.

I just want to say thank you. Thank you. And I would say that the things that that you heard are very reflective of the things that we’ve seen. in one sense, it felt surprising. In another sense, it felt. Um, I don’t know if the word’s affirming, but it felt like, yes, that’s absolutely what’s going on.

One thing that I think was really eye opening, Amy, is seeing it kind of, you Next to some of the responses to some of those other 11 areas and how, and I, and I noticed that your team even picked up on it, that the way that things were verbalized or written, just sounded different and was a lot shorter. It was almost as if. Um, you would have given the option of like, don’t tell me about the marriage situation, but, but hit the record button and tell me, you may have gotten, uh, people just kind of going, like, it’s like, I don’t know how to tell you other than my marriage is just not working. It’s unstable and, and basically the lack of words or vocabulary or, like, I don’t even know where to begin where some of these other topics I can kind of like put my finger right on the nerve that hurts or, or describe the dynamic that’s frustrating me or, or tripping me up.

But when it comes to this marriage, it almost feels like this giant jellyfish of like, I don’t even know how to hold it. It just doesn’t, it just doesn’t feel right, and I don’t even know where to begin. And so those were the things that were standing out. I think if I were to wrap it up in a word, Amy, it would be weariness.

Like I read the responses and I just felt the weariness in the responses. I add to that loneliness. These were people that sounded lonely in their marriage. Um, and like you said, Danny, I think sometimes it was general things, like the stress of life. I mean, some people were overworked, and they didn’t know how to stop.

Other people were underworked. They’re like, you know, our supporters think we’re doing things, and we aren’t actually doing something, because we don’t actually know what’s going on here. So there was both sides of that, so sometimes it was, you know, general things. Sometimes it was very specific things like, we’re having a really hard time making love because the walls are really thin. Or the AC, we don’t have AC. We have no AC and we’re sweaty. We have been there all the time. And we were like, yes. Oh my gosh, yes. Whoever wrote that. Yes,

[00:08:10] Amy Young: is the truth. That is the truth. When you’re like, I am so hot. Do not touch me.

[00:08:14] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: yes. Get away. Oh, literally the AC unit becomes a, a tool for marriage enrichment. Like, this is not a luxury. This is like, we’re doing this to save our marriage. Like not, that’s not even a joke. I remember after our first year or two, we’d been through like the two summers we were so hot and we are from Minnesota. So like, you know, Northern or cold thick blood, I guess. So we got there and like, our girls would be sleeping on this on the concrete floor, concrete floors, they would sleep out on it. So it’d be cooler. We would, you’d sleep like spread eagle. The bed’s too small, but you’re trying to not even like have your fingers touch each other.

Yeah, so don’t look at me because you’re breathing on me sort of thing. And you love each other, but like it’s… We saved and scrimped and put our money together. And at first we got like an air conditioning unit where you put ice cubes in it. but it was hard to get the ice cubes. And so it lasted us for a while. And then we got our regular air conditioning unit. Oh my gosh. Oh boy. It was like a honeymoon all over again.

[00:09:17] Amy Young: I believe it. And I love that. It’s so practical. Like, what are the things it isn’t? the spiritual things where the practical is spiritual. I think that’s where we kind of separate things and we think, Oh, AC doesn’t feel very spiritual. If I’m asking for more Bibles or, you know, this outreach to poor kids, which yes, we want Bibles.

We want outreach to poor kids, but God also loves the practical side. And I think we’re the ones that kind of separate and say, well, this isn’t that spiritual, but people listening to this. Is there something practical that you could invest in that would help your relationship? Maybe that is babysitters. Maybe it is AC. Maybe you live in a really cold place. And so you need heaters or something like, what is something practical that helps you to be able to connect?

[00:10:08] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: yes. And it’s not using the lack of them as an excuse. Like, well, I’m sorry, we’re not making love because we don’t have a fan or air conditioning. And so I’m sorry, there’s showers. Like there’s things that you can do. You can get creative!

Without getting explicit, haha, we also want to be real. There are creative things that you can do. So don’t let the lack of those stop you. but also don’t let the lack of money or guilt keep you from doing something practical that really could make a difference. Because like you said, Amy, we are holistic beings. And sometimes we try and treat, um, issues from only one realm, spiritual, you know, got spiritual, we got mental, emotional, and we’ve got physical. And we forget that there are things that we can do like getting enough sleep. Um, you know, a whole bunch of different things, eating correctly, that can really make a difference. Big difference. I think in our marriage relationship. So agree with you on that

[00:11:00] Amy Young: Absolutely. I love that.

[00:11:03] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: If I can, if I can add it in, um, there was this one comment that one of the couples made in the, or one of the people may be in that survey. And they were talking about how they feel like their marriage is part of their job. Like, Oh, I feel like we need to re we have to have a good marriage. We can’t be bad because it’s a part of our job. And I remember talking to Danny about that and I went, well, God, it kind of is, kind of is. so that feels heavy, but it is if you’re in ministry, whether you are, In your home country, or whether you are a missionary, relationship is a critical part of what you do, because if this is not good, It’ll make or break it.

Yep. It’s going to make or this is not going to be good. You’re not going to be able to effectively minister. You will for a while. You’ll be able to hold together for a while until everything falls apart. And so, taking this really seriously is a big deal. So that was just another thing that stood out.

[00:12:07] Amy Young: Another thing that stood out, it may be related to that one, Stephanie, was where the participant said, I feel like I have to choose between being a good teammate or being a good spouse and that sometimes what, what is a good teammate isn’t helping the marriage and sometimes what’s helping the marriage isn’t helping being the teammate isn’t helping the work.

So what kind of experience did you guys have with balancing that tension of maybe being coworkers and also marriage partners?

[00:12:40] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: I think it’s constant recalibration, because I think sometimes things are, are, are aligned and they’re working and then the season of ministry or something comes up where it kind of shifts or it kind of deviates a little bit in that constant recalibrating. Because what I hear in the, in the response is there are priorities, but sometimes the priorities get out of order and it’s not that if they’re not important, it’s just that which is the most important.

Where’s the starting point? For us, it was, uh, even before getting to the mission field, uh, because we knew how to be married in the States for, but what was that about 10 years that we were. Yeah, before we moved down. So we’ve been married 10 years, 10 solid years before we moved to the mission field. We didn’t know what that was going to look like, but what we did know is we want to stay married. So this is going to be the number one priority. And so I remember the conversation giving you kind of the eject button.

We had this really serious conversation. It, we weren’t being symbolic. We weren’t, it was like, Stephanie, here’s the deal. I don’t know what I don’t know until we get there. And I don’t know how I’m going to respond to the pressures and the opportunities, the harvest times and the desert seasons. And so I need you as my friend to always let me know where you’re at. And so I’m entrusting you with the only eject button we have. what that means is if, if at any point things get too difficult, wherever we’re at. You push that and it’s no questions asked. It’s like a, a, a solid stop. we hug everyone. We say, man, it’s been a great ride and we go back to where we can make this happen.

Um, and it, it happened with joy and I’ll go work. I remember how I would always tell you, I’ll go work for Target because we’re from Minnesota and Target’s from around here. I’ll go work for Target and Target will become my mission field because I don’t want to get to heaven going like, Oh, look at all this ministry stuff. And I’m not there with the person that got, you’re my first ministry and hopefully I’m yours and, and, and our family is.

And so, um, yeah, I, I would say there’s always this recalibration. Cause we’ve gone through those seasons as well, where things seemed on the outside to be going really well. And we would say to each other, we make a good team, we make a good team and we’d keep doing this. And then we’d be like, wait a minute. good. But can we make good lovers too? Can we make good friends?

Can we, like, can, can that be also very important? So when we started saying that too often, when we started hearing the team language too much, we were It was our cue. Because I think that want to have the, we make a good team. You want to have the, I like you. And you want to have the, I love you, and all of those things have to be

[00:15:31] Amy Young: Mm mm-Hmm.

[00:15:32] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Not every couple needs same degree of teamwork that maybe a missionary couple or a couple in ministry needs. We all need good teamwork in marriage, but there’s a whole nother dynamic when you are working together. So you need though, we make a good team, but you need the, I like you, I like you. You are my friend. I want to have fun with you. I enjoy being with you. That’s essential.

And then you need the, I love you. I’m crazy about you. I am attracted to you. You are hot. Yeah, like let’s turn the AC on. And so I think for couples it’s going all right in our marriage right now. What is maybe one of those that’s missing is my husband or my wife not respecting me and not pulling me in as a teammate.

Do I feel left in the dust? Are you missing the team piece? you missing the fun piece or are you missing the love, the romance, that piece? They’re all essential. So getting back to the way that they’re opposing that, that situation is like, yeah, if there’s competing values there, or there’s, there’s a competition, then something’s got to win.

And, and I think for us, it was, it was always doing our best to communicate. If there is a competition, you already won. Like you don’t, you don’t have to compete for that. You won. And if you needed to get us off the field or off the course or out of, you know, off the playing field, won, I’ll give you the trophy.

And I kind of think the person who has the highest tendency towards workaholism has to give the button to the other person. That’s just the reality. And it can go either way in a couple. But I felt so. safe and loved when, when Danny said that to me, cause I knew he meant it. And because I felt safe and loved, I did not use that to threaten him. I didn’t pull it out. Never going, Oh, you know, well, I’m, you know, I don’t like how you don’t, then I’ll

Yeah. I didn’t use it as a threat. There were two times I almost had to pull it. I remember, um, one was a, A moment of extreme burnout. Danny was working, um, three full time jobs in one and I, I don’t say that to exaggerate.

That was literally what he was doing, and three titles under his job. I have no idea how he was even alive. And on top of that, this was not part of his job, he traveled 16 times internationally that year to do church consulting. And it was out of control. My eyes are starting to twitch as you’re saying it again.

[00:18:02] Amy Young: I believe it. But I bet people listening to this, others are resonating. ’cause unfortunately, that’s not a totally unusual story for cross-cultural workers. It’s not. It should be, but it’s not.

[00:18:14] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: and you don’t realize it until you’re in the thick of it. And you’re like, how on earth did we get here? And this is good because it’s kingdom. It’s growing. There’s fruitfulness. And still, where is my spouse? And how is she doing? But in that moment, I did a lesser version of the button and I said, I’m calling.

I need to let you know. because I was, I was falling apart because I had stuff that I was doing as well. I, you know, I’m going to be calling our pastor and having a conversation with him because this can’t go on this way. And I’m going to let him know that you guys need to talk.

And I said it with love, like not as a threat saw him starting to fall apart too. So this is what we need.

[00:18:51] Amy Young: Yeah.

[00:18:52] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez:He said, okay.

Well, because it felt like in, in what we were living, there was a cry for help that I didn’t even realize. crying and here my best friend and the person that knows me best heard it.

And I remember the way that you’d phrased those two moments. I’ll never forget. It was never, “Danny, you need to go get help or you need to, know, have this conversation.” It was always like, “We’re going to get you help”, or “We need to get you to have that conversation.” You were always present with me, but helping me see like, Hey, it’s, we’re out of whack. There’s, this is not sustainable,

[00:19:36] Amy Young: Yeah.

[00:19:37] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: For a lot of different reasons, but it’s, it’s not sustainable for our marriage. No. And so I appreciate that you responded in those, in those moments, but yeah, I mean, crises happen on the field. Yeah.

[00:19:49] Amy Young: You guys have touched on an interesting situation. I don’t know if this happened to you, but I know of other couples where whatever location they were in was a really good fit for one of the spouses and a not good fit for the other spouse, and so the person for whom it wasn’t a good fit felt guilty that that maybe they were holding their husband or their wife back. And, and it is a real wrestle. When, when do you leave the field? When is it okay that it’s not the best fit for one person when it is such a great fit for another person? I don’t know. Did you have that kind of situation and what, how have you helped other couples navigate that?

[00:20:36] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: It was a not quite like that for us. But I would say it was too big for you when we got there and you needed to grow into it.

That’s a great way of saying it.

Whereas I’m, excuse me, I’m a missionary kid. as an MK, I’d already had the cross cultural, you know, I spoke Spanish, I’m a third culture kid, and it was in the same country. And so, in some respects, it was for me, it was for me, like, coming home, and I kind of knew a little bit of the common sense there, and how to, how to, you know, maneuver and get around. Um, And so it, it felt like a perfect fit for me immediately. then for you, it was, you had like the language, you knew some Spanish, but not enough to really have a heart conversation. so, um, there were, there’s a tension there. There’s a tension of like, we’re here. Let’s run. Peruvian people are the best. What’s your problem. You know what I mean?

And I was like, Hey, I didn’t, I didn’t grow up here. Like all of this is brand new to me. And the Spanish I learned is not quite the Spanish that’s spoken here.

I would say it was about like what, four years, four or five years before you really hit your sweet spot. Um, so maybe that’s one way of looking at it for some couples. might be a growing into and, uh, the person who feels like it’s a good fit or who maybe, you know, clicks into the culture, extending a lot of grace to the other one and letting them feel their feels and letting them. feel the frustrations and doing their best to help. For some couples that might be the situation. For some, like kind of like you mentioned, it might be a deal breaker or it might be something that’s a really, really, really big deal. And I think those kinds of decisions have to be made as a couple.

And sometimes it’s really helpful to bring in an outside voice. Yeah. Um, I would encourage a couple like that to process it through with someone who doesn’t have a dog in the fight. Find a neutral person who can ask the right questions, who can help you process that through. And I mean, when we lived in Peru, knew nothing about debriefers and missionary counselors and all the resources there are available.

It’s out of control how much stuff is available. Like it makes me so happy. There are things that you can do. There’s, um, a counselor. His name is Russell Seemon. free counseling for missionaries, and so we’ll put a link to to him in there. There’s also a amazing counseling place called Valeo. They do psychiatry as well and all kinds of specialized counseling, so that’s a great place. There’s alongside in Michigan where they can do brief debriefs. There’s CIT. There’s, um, team and train. And there’s so much out there that I just think if people can avail themselves of some resources like that and process it through and think it through.

So having the outside person. It’s also having conversations and normalizing it. Right. I think Amy, you, you’ve lived overseas too. I mean, there’s, there’s always going to be days. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in country where you’re like today. I absolutely don’t fit, nor do I want to fit. I am a square peg and this place is a round hole. And I just like, there there’s going to be those moments. And I think giving it time and not being kind of knee jerk with it. And going like, I just don’t fit and making that decision after a couple of weeks or a couple of months or, or, or on certain days where, you know, you’re just down, I think it’s giving it time.

I think it was patience. That’s why I brought up the four to five years, because it took a while

[00:24:15] Amy Young: It wasn’t four weeks.

[00:24:16] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: No. And not minimizing your spouse’s experience if that’s what they’re going through. Because sometimes you’ve got a positive person. I’m positive. You’re naturally wired that way.

And so sometimes you’ll go to the positive person and they’ll tell them all their difficult feelings and the positive person’s like, it’s okay because God is with us. He will give you strength. I know he will. And this cheerleader response comes out. That’s not appropriate for the moment. And so as a spouse, if you are the one who is adapting better, how can I hold space?

I used to tell my family, I have a cup inside of me and my cup can only hold so many negative emotions and then I just get really stressed out. So, um, I had to ask the Lord to help expand my cup so I could hold more feelings and, Honestly, like, if that’s difficult for you to hear those hard things, ask the Lord to help expand that capacity. On the flip side, if you are the person who needs to vent, sometimes maybe find somebody else to vent to other than just your spouse. There’s a lot of ministries and communities out there where you can connect with other missionaries and share some of those difficult feelings. And you’ve got a community there at Global Trellis. I know there are groups, I think, with Thrive Ministry where you can go and talk about those feelings so that they’re not all going to one person into your marriage. Because if that’s all your marriage is, is processing life and difficulty, that is an energy drainer.

[00:25:38] Amy Young: That’s not fun. Yeah. Then, then we’re, we’re too much on the team, not enough on the, I like you and certainly not on the, I love you. Let’s turn the AC up.

[00:25:48] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Yeah. And if it honestly, if it gets to be too hard, let’s say that they’ve been there, you know, a couple of years and things are not getting better. And that person’s like, get me out of here. They’re trying to push that eject button. The other one’s like, I won’t leave. This is God’s call on my life. sorry, we’ve all read some of those missionary stories about the spouse that dragged the other one back then. It was always the guy dragging the

[00:26:09] Amy Young: yeah.

[00:26:09] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: and how they blew up their marriages for the sake of the gospel and God still use them in his grace because God is graceful, but he is not calling us to blow up our marriages as well.

And so even if you end up going back to save your marriage and that person just feels distraught, it’s like. My calling was there. I know couples like this. My, I’ve talked to one recently. My calling is there and I know I need to be here. Well, trust, like you said, priorities out of order. Yes, but my calling is first and foremost to you. It has to be, you are the number one calling I have. And if we’ve got to relocate to get that back recalibrated, right. And get that back in the right priority, so be it. We don’t say that lightly. We know how heart wrenching that is for the person who might have to leave. And that’s where maybe counseling can be a good intermediate step before it gets to that point.

[00:27:04] Amy Young: And for the person who feels like I’m the one that is taking you away from your dream. Like it’s hard for both, but I love what you said, Stephanie and Danny, both of you touched on this. And we touched on this earlier that the marriage is a thing, but there’s also two individuals in the marriage. And it does also come back to identity.

Who are we in Christ? Has Christ called you to this marriage first and foremost, or to this location first and foremost? And maybe you do truly love a location, which is wonderful. We want wherever you’re living to be a good fit. We want you to love it, to love the culture, love the language, love the food, love the heat, love the cold, whatever it is.

But do you love that more than you love your spouse? And even sometimes, I know this, we’re focusing on marriage, but also kids. And sometimes maybe a kid is not thriving in a location and that’s part of marriage too, and part of family. Slightly outside of our purview, but just, there’s a lot of players and it is helpful to go back to Christ and to be like, okay, help my identity of the Lord to be in you and to have my priorities

[00:28:12] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Yeah.

[00:28:13] Amy Young: Um, what is something though a couple could do to begin to strengthen their relationship?

[00:28:18] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: This is one of my favorite things to talk about because we love, we love, love, love the word curiosity. Yes. And it’s not just, it’s intentional curiosity.

Yes. I think one of the, you know, to avoid Amy in the space, like getting into prescriptions giving people like, Hey, go buy them roses or buy bath bombs or, you know, like all these kinds of like cliche things that are said over and over in the marriage space. That for missionaries makes us feel completely unseen. You have no idea where we live.

It’s descriptions. What gets us back interested? What gets us back to that place of excitement? Like, like the curiosity, that’s not judgment. Um, but that’s like, I’m, I’m interested to hear and to understand how you’re experiencing this season that we’re living on the mission field.

Yeah. Because when we move to the field. are a certain person. We all grow and change in life, no matter where we are, but holy smokes, do you change on the mission field? And so if we get there and we go into straight up team mode and work, work, work, work, work, in the meantime we’re changing, changing, changing, changing, changing, but we’re not doing work, work, work here. Suddenly we look and go, Oh, Hi! Hi, are, who are you? What, what happened here? And that lack of curiosity and assuming Oh, I know him, assuming I know him. I knew Minnesota Danny but who is Peru Danny?

[00:29:53] Amy Young: right? Mm

[00:29:55] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Curiosity brings in fun. It brings in interest. It helps us rediscover who they are because we change in good ways and sometimes in not good ways.

So it’s, it’s critical, not only so we have fun together, but it’s critical that we see where our spouse is growing. So an analogy we love to use is a trellis. So my dad’s a master gardener. Yeah. you look at a trellis, you’ll see sometimes there’s plants planted at the bottom and they just, these vines kind of just grow up and they just grow and they grow all over the place, unless the gardener takes them and threads them through in a specific direction. So if you think of marriage like two plants at the bottom of a trellis, The task of marriage is to continue to thread in a similar direction. We are individuals and we are together. But if we, we don’t attend to our marriage and don’t put work into it, of a sudden we can grow in these crazy different directions and suddenly we’re like, I don’t know who my spouse is.

You hear people say that. I don’t know who you are anymore. Well, yeah, that happens if there isn’t that intentional cure, intentional curiosity between the two of you on a consistent basis. And sometimes it’s, it’s not just even that they’re, they’re growing. One of them is like withering and the other one’s thriving and one is like, I’m dying here and you’re living your best life on the mission field. And so I guess, Amy, if we were to flip the script and to look at it, not intentionally, which I think is what happens a lot when you have couples that go into autopilot because they crave familiarity. I mean, when you get to a new place and like, it smells different, it sounds different. I mean, like everything tastes different. I don’t have the same reference points. I don’t know how to do marriage with you here. Like what does date night look like here? I have no idea. So because we crave familiarity, we convince ourselves that like, okay, I, if there’s one thing I know it’s Stephanie, and now I’m going to use all my energy to figure out the rest of life and banking and going to the grocery store and why do they ask me two questions when they take my card… all these things that drain you. And so then you, you go on autopilot in your marriage instead of being intentional.

Like, I remember that when we first moved, it was within the first three months and we were in that guest bedroom and then we were on that bed that had like eggshell mattress that was about this big.

It was so uncomfortable. It was so, it was horrible. And so I, I took it upon me and like, I’m not sleeping one more night on that bed. I need something that can, that can hold us. Amy, it took me all day long to get a mattress. So I as a man, am feeling like a failure. Like, why is it taking me an entire day to get a mattress?

Why am I signing so many papers to buy a mattress? And here’s what happened. I buy the mattress and it was the wrong size ’cause I bought it at a grocery store, and I couldn’t see it. And so I, I even asked a guy if I could throw it on the ground. And so I’m trying to measure this mattress between, and you’re like, is it a queen?

I’m like, it’s is a queen. He’s said it’s a queen. Of course. Is it a queen? Yes. It’s a queen. And I’m like, well, between like the egg aisle and the, and the, and the cereal aisle, so. And I had to like strap it on top of a taxi and just get home.

And I felt like, man, it was the end of the day. I’m like, we did it. We’ve got a new mattress. Tonight’s going to be glorious. And I lay it down on the frame and it was the wrong size. Our sheets doesn’t, don’t fit it. And Danny’s a wild sleeper.

I about lost it. I didn’t about, I did lose it that night. It was one of those nights where I’m like, I cannot believe how much energy goes into something as simple as that. And so when that’s just one story, but when so much of life at the beginning is like that, I just need you to be you and stable and not change. I need you to be because I don’t have, I don’t have the energy or the bandwidth for you also to be changing. have to rediscover and know that like, can you just be you?

And I think that’s sometimes where we miss it, where that becomes the default, is like we’re on autopilot. And, um, and intentional, I believe, is what, new conversations come up, being curious about what you’re going through. Like all those things I think really do help what, to your question, help us grow, help us continue on that trellis grow together.

I think something that can help with that is learning to ask good questions. And then also growing in your capacity to listen. we oftentimes don’t feel like we have space or time to listen like you said, Danny, because there’s just so many other things and we’re listening to people at church or in our ministry or teammates. And I don’t have time for that. Can you just be easy? Can you just be easy, please? Don’t be needy because everyone else is

[00:34:47] Amy Young: Yeah.

[00:34:48] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Yeah, and that’s not a great approach. So learning to ask questions, open ended questions, not, not like, let’s move beyond how was your day, please, like, please move beyond how was your day. And it can be something as simple as like what our family has always done is, what are your highs and lows and lupines?

We say lupine because there’s this book called Miss Rumphius who plants flowers and her great question in life is, how can I make the world a more beautiful place? So lupine to us means, how did you make the world a more beautiful

So which are high, which are low? How’d you make the world a more beautiful place? And that’s just a good starting place, but you can do that as a family. You can do that as the two of you, but then move beyond that. So that don’t have a yes or no answer and then sit with them and notice how your spouse is responding. And if they, when they’re saying something, if they kind of go. And they do a little pause. Notice that! Hey, I noticed when you said that, like, you made a little face. were you thinking when you, when you asked that? And avoiding the why, like use all the what, when, where, how, try to not say why, because why feels like such a judgmental question sometimes.

So that’s just a few little practical things you can do, um, enrich that space of conversation. And if you’re somebody who like, I can’t sit and do that for an hour, I’m going to lose my mind. Okay. Start with 15 minutes. Or if you can’t sit and you have ADHD and you need to move your body, go for a little walk.

I mean, again, if we use excuses to keep us from doing these things, then we won’t do them and our marriages will fail. So if that’s why we don’t like to give a lot of prescriptive things because people are quick to say, well, I can’t do that. Well, I can’t do that. Okay, but what can you do?

[00:36:28] Amy Young: What works for you? Your relationship, your location? Yeah.

[00:36:32] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Yeah, I just had this thought. It’s an analogy and it just happened today. Our daughter’s homesick today. And so I got to hang with her a little bit and was trying to distract her mind from just the icky feelings that she was feeling. So we pulled out mandalas, those like coloring sheets, and the mandalas were exactly the same ones.

So I just printed two of the exact same ones. We put on some music and we start coloring these mandalas. here’s the same mandalas, same room, same music playing. And yet the final products are completely different. I mean, they don’t even look the same because of the coloring and, and the patterns that she emphasized and the patterns that I emphasized.

And so, um, now that I’m in this conversation, I’m thinking about how, how many times is that the conversation to have in marriage going, like we just live that season together. We just managed that ministry event together. We just managed to survive that mission team that was here together. Whatever that might look like, it’s the same exact thing, but they’re going to look very different. depending on where I’m at. And so at the end of it, I was like, man, these, these were the exact same when, when we started. Now they look completely different. Madeline, tell me a little bit. Why did you choose that color? And she just started talking to me about it. I think that’s the kind of conversation that I think would be brilliant in marriage is just holding onto this and word like that, that, that ministry moment was “brutiful.” It was beautiful and it was brutal.

[00:38:00] Amy Young: I love that. And tying back to the curiosity, because so often I assume everyone experienced something the way I did, so I don’t need to ask

[00:38:08] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: exactly, exactly.

[00:38:11] Amy Young: Oh, that’s right. We had the same experience, but we also didn’t. What were your highlights? What was the most frustrating? What was a meaningful interaction?

Yes. And getting curious and, and assuming, reminding myself, not everyone sees the world the way I do. Yeah.

[00:38:27] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: We’d come home from something and be like, Oh my gosh, that was the best. And the other person would be like, that was so hard—every minute of it. I talked to all of the really difficult people tonight. Yeah, it was. So if we’re going to ask the questions and we’re going to realize everyone gets to have their own experience, let them have it, and what can we change the next time we do that? What did we learn from it?

And for those who tend towards positivity or those who tend toward negativity and it’s hard for them, there’s some couples like that. They’re just wired very differently in their personalities. I think for the people who are positive, like we mentioned, it’s learning to hold space. It’s learning to just sit with some of those heavy feelings and go, it’s okay. They can have their experience. They can have it and I don’t need to internalize what they’re feeling or take that on. Um, and then for the person that is maybe a little bit more negative or they, they struggle more, it’s incorporating moments of gratitude and being like, I don’t have to vent every negative thing to my spouse. I can vent it to the Lord. I can vent it to a friend and also I can incorporate gratitude into my life as well because, yeah, God calls us to celebrate what it is that we’re doing too.

There is, uh, good things to celebrate. So, with your personalities, if you’re finding yourself clashing really hard, um, I believe God can help you still find common space between the two of you.

[00:39:56] Amy Young: I’m picturing some people listening to this going, that all sounds great for you, Danny and Stephanie. Um, you built into your marriage before it got to a crisis point. And, you know, if we could rewind the clock, we would rewind the last five years, 10 years, 20 years, but we’re now in crisis. So what, what advice or, and not even advice, what, what do you say to someone who is in crisis in their marriage?

[00:40:20] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: You say get help immediately and that is, I, I know that seems so easy and I know what it costs you. I don’t say that lightly. I know that could cost you being on the field. I know it could cost you your reputation. It could cost you what looks like everything. it can’t be. If it saves this though, it’s so it.

And there are ways that you can do it again before you have to escalate it to the point of maybe telling your sending church. There are, there are counselors, like we mentioned earlier, there are retreats, there are places that you can go or Aoom calls that you can make where you can get help. So start there, but if it does not get better and it keeps getting worse, reach out and get the help that you need, because. If you blow it all apart, um, I got, God always redeems it. If things fall apart, God will still be there for you, but you don’t want to lose this gift that he’s given you.

So that’s when I’d say also, we’ve been through some really difficult seasons as well. We could share here what it was like at the beginning of our marriage, being the parents of a child with special needs and significant special needs and what, what raising a child with special needs on the mission field looks like and the strain it puts on a marriage. Um, I think it’s one of the highest demographics for divorce, our parents of children with special needs.

And so we also have the cross cultural dynamic. I know a lot of listeners, may be in a marriage with Um, somebody who’s of a different culture, like Danny, even though he was born in the States, he, he grew up living in, in Peru and his parents are Peruvian. So he brought another culture in and I brought another culture in. The clashes that happened with that are, are, are huge as well. And some of those came after we’d been married. And so, um, I would say to answer the question, Amy is like today, like take advantage of it. Thank you.

And what was very helpful for us were some pre decisions.Like we pre decided that if this, then that there are certain things that we will fight tooth and nail to, to keep our priorities in place. Well, those decisions can be made today, whether you’re in crisis or not, is sitting down and having the difficult conversation or, or the curious conversation of like, where are you at? Where are we at and what decisions are we going to make today that align with our values and it’s going to keep us moving in the right direction together? And can we make some pre decisions today based upon that? I think it’s, it’s, it’s a good start. Yeah.

But find out where you’re at. I mean, sometimes we don’t want to go to the doctor because we don’t want to hear what they have to say. Ask the hard question. If we were to rate our marriage on a scale of one to 10, what number would you rate it? And then, you know, something we talk a lot about in the marriage curriculum that we just produced for missionary marriages is we call it all terrain marriage because it’s looking at the terrain of life that you find yourselves on.

That’s the whole premise in it. And so, um, and for people who are interested in it, we provide a completely free through Modern Day. So you can just go to www.mdmpodcast.org and you can sign up for our weekly newsletter where you get a free copy. Notification each when a new one comes out each week or you can go to YouTube and just look up Modern Day Missions and you’ll find the series there, but it’s called All Terrain Marriage because we want to build a marriage that can not just, uh, thrive or survive, but thrive on any terrain we find ourselves in, whether it’s a desert season or a mountain season or a beach season or a crazy jungle season. But in all of that, where we begin in the series is finding out where you’re at because you’re not always on the same terrain. Like we talked about earlier, you might be in your mountaintop high and I might be in my valley down low. unless we pause and figure out where I am, where you are, and where we are.

Yeah. think that really is the information that we need to take that next step.

[00:44:20] Amy Young: Well, I’m so glad you mentioned that resource, because I was gonna get to it. I’m very excited because whether you’re in crisis or not, we don’t want you to get to crisis. And one way. So if you’re in crisis. Reach out. If you’re not in crisis, invest in your marriage now, and as Stephanie and Danny have said, they’ve created this whole marriage curriculum that’s free.

It comes with handouts. You could do it yourself in your marriage. If you’re looking for something, how many weeks is it? Is the series?

[00:44:48] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Eight weeks.

[00:44:49] Amy Young: So if you’re looking for something for an eight week period, like what are we going to do on date night? What are we going to do on our afternoon? Finding time, actually putting it on your schedule.

I would encourage everyone who’s married listening to this, find time to block off an hour a week to go through this material. There are handouts. There’s a short, there are short videos each week and a way to invest in your marriage and it’s a great way to touch base on where are we now.

And then how can we invest in our marriage? It’s also something you could do if you’re at a local church with other couples in your church It’s a way to bring some marriage ministry to a local church if you’ve been looking for free resources It’s something you can do on your team with teammates or other people in your organization to build into the marriages in your organization it’s a fantastic resource.

And so, Stephanie, again, where is it located? So people, but now they’re like, wait, get out your pen, get it, write it down. Where, where can they get this?

[00:45:47] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: So they can find it just by going to YouTube and searching in there. Modern Day Missions. And then within the playlists that we have there, there’s a playlist called All Terrain Marriage, or they can search All Terrain Marriage. they can also sign up for the weekly newsletter that we send out each week and that will have a link to the latest video.

And that’s www.mdmpodcast.org. Uh, but yeah, it’s fun. We, we based it off of a lot of marriage conferences that we have done for couples and for missionaries. And so we’ve talked to couples who began doing the videos, some individually, some in their small group, and we’re. It’s fun to hear because our desire and our hope with it is not to really teach people anything. It’s to, it’s to generate conversation. There is, but I think that the heart behind it is not like, Hey, let me give you a list of prescriptions. It’s almost to stir the pot a little bit. like, it’s to realize, Hey, there’s a lot of, data that, that may be going over my head. There’s a lot of stuff that I might not be aware of.

That’s happening inside of my spouse or happening inside of me. And what if we got curious about it? And so our hope is with all of these, that it generates a bunch of conversations that you could actually take on date night. So if you’re like at a date night, you’re like, what are you going to talk about?

We’re going to talk about the ministry. You’re going to talk about the kids. We’re going to talk about what happened this week. And so, yeah, it is. It’s really interactive. And so as you go through it, I mean, we’ll even have places where you can pause the video and pull out a sheet of paper and jot something down or look at some images on the screen. So we make it fun. Um, it could be, if I’m to be totally honest, I actually do have ADHD. It’s a real thing. And I have a hard time sitting. We were not going to make it hour long sessions or even 30 minute sessions. So they’re like 15 minutes to like the longest one is like 23. so they’re short, they have pauses in them and there are things for you to do so that like Danny says, you don’t just sit and just like, we’re taking information. And the things that we have, we have you do the, the exercises are not difficult. We make them super easy and super accessible and they will lend towards great conversations that will hopefully spark that curiosity like we’ve talked about and let you begin to know your spouse again.

[00:47:58] Amy Young: I love that. So again, it’s not a barrier being on the field. This is bringing a marriage retreat, marriage resources, just marriage conversations. What we’ve talked on earlier, being intentional. And sometimes you’re like, okay, I really want to be intentional. And then we just look at each other because, right, how, and so this is actually, it’s kind of like getting the recipe and now you guys, you out, you listeners out on the field, you go cook the meal, you get to add a little bit more salt or a little bit more of this.

It’s the recipe to get you some guidance, to have the conversations that are going to deepen your connection in your marriage. And that’s, that’s just,

[00:48:35] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Great analogy.

[00:48:36] Amy Young: that is so great. Well, I enjoyed watching the videos myself and I was like, Oh, I should get out a piece of paper and take some notes as a single person.

It’s still good to touch base on what is the terrain that I’m on? Where am I? all of that. I really think they could be great. So I’m hoping member care people are flagging this, marking this as resources to send out to people in your organization for marriage. You could even facilitate. I have so many ideas of how you could use this, but Danny and

[00:49:02] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: You are the idea queen.

[00:49:04] Amy Young: idea queen. I am. I’m like, Oh my gosh, this is such, it’s such a fun resource. And you guys even, I loved in the very first video, Danny, you made a sex joke and I was like, yes. Yes, this, but I’m like, okay, we’re, this is real life. I loved it. I loved it. Absolutely. I was like, okay, this isn’t just polite tea time. Yes, I loved it.

It made me happy. I was like, People are going to enjoy these videos. So Danny and Stephanie, thank you so much for your time today for investing in marriages, literally all over the world. And for sharing some of the parts of your story that were probably not the highlight reel at all of your marriage, but they’re the real life reel.

And they have helped you get to where you are so that you can say, it is worth it to invest in my partner. It is worth it to invest in this marriage. And at the end of the day, I want to still be able to say, it You’re my teammate. I like you and I love you. So thanks for being here.

[00:50:02] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Yes. And thank you for being our very first guest host and killing it

[00:50:07] Amy Young: Oh, well, thanks. I love talking about things.

[00:50:10] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: Amy, thank you. Thank you for giving us place for missionaries to open up their heart, to be vulnerable and real, to get conversations like this that are so important started. So thank you as well.

And I’ll just say too, if you want to hear, uh, read about some of those or learn about some of the things that we talked about in the survey at the beginning of what Global Travel has put together, um, Amy, tell them how they can find the survey.

[00:50:30] Amy Young: It is at www.globaltrellis.com Look under the resources and you’ll find it.

[00:50:35] Danny & Stephanie Gutierrez: There we go. a fun time.

[00:50:38] Amy Young: Thanks. Thanks guys.