Does Every Marriage Need Help?

Is there a marriage that doesn’t need help? I find that even couples with good marriages recognize that there‘s room for growth. And couples with troubled marriages are desperate for improvement. I’m convinced that you can have a better marriage. I’m also convinced that the key to improving your marriage is you. Oh, but you don’t understand, some of you are thinking. I live with an alcoholic. My wife is depressed. My husband is abusive. Others of you are thinking, “Well, my marriage is not that bad.” The question is, Do you want to have a better marriage? My response is, You Can. And it begins with you. Jesus said: “Why do you keep talking about your spouses’ faults and spend so little time thinking about you own? Don’t you know that if you will begin by cleaning up your own act, you will have a greater influence on your spouse? First let’s deal with your own failures, then you can expect to see change in your spouse!” That’s Matt. 7:1-5 loosely paraphrased and applied to marriage. But don’t forget, the first step is yours.

Early Marital Adjustments

Question: Gary, we are a newlywed couple. My husband jokes about good-looking women, in front of me. I am offended. He says, “it doesn’t mean anything.” I’m having serious jealousy issues.

Answer: You may both be right. It may not ‘mean anything’ to him. But, you are hurt and jealous. Those would be normal feelings. Many men make comments about ‘good looking women’. When a man is single, these comments are most often made to other men. However, not many women want to hear such comments from their husbands. In fact, I don’t know any women that welcome such comments. So, tell him that you find that offensive. Remind him that he is married and that you are not ‘one of the boys’. Give him a little slack. It takes a while to break old habits. But whatever you do, don’t accept these comments as appropriate. You are newly married and this is the time to ‘set the record straight’ that such comments are not acceptable. Also, be open to his requests for changes in your speech or behavior. This is a normal part of early marital adjustments.

Misbehavior Comes From An Empty Love Tank

When I wrote my book: The Five Love Languages of Teenagers, I was surprised to learn how many teens feel unloved by their parents. It’s not that the parents don’t love them. The problem is that the teen does not feel loved. When teenagers feel unloved, they are far more likely to become sexually active, start using drugs and get involved in trouble with the law. The answer? Learn to speak the love language of your teenager. What are the five love languages? Words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Out of these five, your teen has a primary love language. If you speak it, your teen will feel loved, if you don’t the love tank will be empty. Much of the teen’s misbehavior comes from an empty love tank.

Talking Softly With Your Teen

The most significant influence on the life of a teenager comes from parents. It may surprise you, but it’s true. Oh, teens are influenced by their peers, but they are far more influenced by their parents. That is why we must be certain that we are having a positive influence. One teen said, “My father yells and screams at me; telling me to stop yelling and screaming at him.” Do you understand what the teen is saying? The father’s model is far more important than the father’s words. If you want teens to stop yelling and screaming, then stop yelling and screaming at them. The Scriptures say, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” Learn to talk softly with your teen and your teen will learn to speak softly to you.

A Strong Marriage Can Endure Times of Separation

Question: Gary, my husband is a long haul truck driver and only home a short time. How can you have a growing marriage when you only see each other about 36 hours per week?

Answer: First of all, think about our military couples who don’t see each other at all for 12 months. Marriage is not about proximity. Marriage is about two hearts beating together for each other. Together or apart, we are seeking each other’s well-being. We are praying for them, doing what we can to help them, and keeping in touch via phone, e-mail, or texting. I would encourage you to make the most of the 36 hours you have together each week. Be kind, thoughtful, and loving. Speak each other’s love language. If you have issues, talk with a pastor or counselor, or read a book. When your time together is pleasant, then your time apart can also be pleasant. Of course, if you argue when you are together, then there is no comfort while you are apart. A strong marriage can endure times of separation.

Ask God For Relationship Wisdom

Question: My girlfriend and I have been dating for 18 long hard months. She says that God told her I was to be her husband. But God has not told me. I don’t believe we are compatible. Should I give it more time or get out now.

Answer: Eighteen months is a long time. If you have not been able to work through your issues and grow closer, then it is probably time to be realistic and back away from the relationship. I sense that you are a very sensitive person and don’t want to hurt her. Will a breakup be painful for her? Yes. Will it be good for her? Yes. We often grow most through life’s painful experiences. Love does not continue in a relationship that you believe to be unhealthy. How you break up is very important. You should ask God for wisdom. Don’t communicate that she is a bad person, and don’t question her relationship with God. However, let her know that marriage requires mutual commitment and that you cannot sincerely make that commitment. Let her know that you want the best for her and will pray for her. Don’t treat her like an enemy, but like a friend from whom you must withdraw. Easy? No! But it’s always better than doing the wrong thing.

Apologizing To Your Teen Opens Doors

I think it is safe to say that in no generation has the task of parenting teenagers been more perplexing than at the present time. Teenage violence is no longer limited to the fictional world of movies. Many of the parents I meet are in the panic mode. Especially if their own teen is sexually active or using drugs. So what’s a parent to do? It may surprise you, but I think you should start by apologizing to your teenager for your own failures. None of us are perfect. We have all failed to be kind, loving, and encouraging to our teens from time to time. When you apologize, you open the door to the possibility of building a better relationship with your teen. It’s the place to start.

The Most Important Spiritual Discipline

I know of no spiritual discipline more important than a daily quiet time with God – reading the scriptures with an open heart to hear the voice of God and responding with my questions, my praise, my thanks, and my requests. As a marriage counselor, I know of no marital discipline more important than a daily sharing time with your spouse – sharing the highs and lows of your day; your victories and your struggles; thanking each other and making requests. A time to listen and talk with God; and a time to listen and talk with your spouse – what could be more important? God is always ready, and your spouse may be, if you ask.

Looking for Solutions Draws a Couple Together

Question: We are newly married; second marriage for my husband, third for me. I feel like he should add me to his checking. However, he has never mentioned it. I feel like a child who has to ask for an allowance. What should I do?

Answer: Talk about it. The fact that you are newly married is an asset. This is the best time to talk about such things. It’s normal for couples to have issues of adjustment when they get married. I suggest that each week you have a ‘family conference’ in which each of you brings up one thing that is bothering you and the two of you look for an answer. This gives each of you a time to get things on the table. If it is done on a regular basis, you will process the normal conflicts in a positive way. If you don’t have a set time to talk, you will likely hold things inside until the pressure gets so strong that you explode and end up in an argument. Explosive arguments never enhance a marriage. On the other hand, sharing concerns and looking for solutions draws a couple together. Love is always willing to listen and open to change.

The Stages of Love

Question: I am in a dating relationship which has moved out of the “tingly” love stage. How do I know that I am still in love with this person as we transition into the love languages stage?

Answer: Actually, you are far more likely to make a wise decision about marriage if you have dated long enough for the “tingles” to subside. When we are in the euphoric state of love, we see everything through rose-colored glasses. The person seems to be perfect in every way. When we come down off the emotional high we can see each other more realistically. Now you are ready
to ask the questions: What do we like about each other? What do we find irritating? How can we solve the irritations? Learning to speak each others’ love language keeps emotional warmth in the relationship while you discuss these issues. You will not return to the euphoric state, but your love is now much more intentional. The ‘tingles’ are temporary. True love is open to discussion and negotiation. A successful marriage is based on ‘true love’, not on the ‘tingles’.