Category: Communication

Handling Your Anger

Do you have a plan for handling anger in your marriage? Let’s begin by admitting that all of us experience anger. Your spouse treats you unfairly, or they fail to do something that you expected them to do, so you feel angry. In a healthy marriage, the couple has an agreement: that when you feel angry, I want you to tell me. I can’t help you with your anger until I know what you are angry about. And yet, this is a new idea for many people. One wife said, “You mean I’m supposed to tell my husband that I am angry that he washed his car and did not wash mine.” “That’s right,” I said, “unless you want to have a dirty car the rest of your life.” Sharing your anger is the only way to process your anger in a positive way.

Marriage Makes Me Angry

I don’t ever remember getting angry until I got married. Maybe I have a faulty memory, but one thing is certain: six months after the wedding, I found myself angry with my wife. Why? Because she did not live up to my expectations. Incidentally, she was angry with me for the same reason. In those days, if you had asked me, “Are you angry?” I would have said, “No, I’m just disappointed. I’m hurt.” I had been taught all my life that anger was sinful. I didn’t want to sin, so I gave my anger a different name. The first step in learning to process anger is to admit: “I’m feeling angry.” You can’t deal with it, until you are honest enough to admit that you have it.

Q+A: Is this Ordained?

Q: Gary, my girlfriend just told me that God spoke to her and said that I was to be her husband. I’m not feeling the same thing. What do I do?

Gary: Well maybe God spoke to her, or maybe she just had pizza for dinner last night. But I think if it’s God’s plan, both of you will know that. Another factor may be timing. Right now you’re not sure that she is the person God has for you. But if you continue developing the relationship, 6 months from now, you may also agree that God is leading you into this relationship. So give it time. Don’t make a snap decision, and don’t condemn her for the sense she has that God has led her to you.

Forgiveness is Always the Christian Response

So, your spouse has failed you. But now, they have confessed their wrong and are seeking to change their behavior. What are you to do? In the Scriptures, forgiveness is always the Christian response to confession and repentance. Remember, forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a decision to lift the penalty and declare the person pardoned. Forgiveness means that you will no longer hold that failure against your spouse. Human forgiveness is based on God’s forgiveness. Christ paid the penalty for our sins. When we confess and repent, God forgives us. The same principle applies in human relationships. There are no healthy marriages without confession, repentance, and forgiveness.

Becoming the Person Your Spouse Deserves

You don’t have to be perfect to have a good marriage. But, you do need to deal effectively with your failures. Otherwise they sit as barriers to a growing marriage. How do you get rid of past failures? First, you identify them – write them down. Second, you confess them as wrong – to God and to your spouse. Third, you repent – change your behavior. To confess this week, and then repeat the same behavior next week, does not remove barriers. It makes things worse. God is in the business of changing lives. Why not sign up for God’s rehabilitation program. Let Him give you the power to break old habits and replace them with acts of kindness and love. You can become the person, your spouse deserves.

Q+A: Are We Ready For Marriage?

Q: Gary, how long would you recommend dating before considering marriage?

Gary: Typically you don’t continue dating very long unless you have some idea that this might be the person you want to marry. I do think you need to give it significant time, however. I can’t set an arbitrary time, one year two years, I can’t really say that. But I do think you need to give it significant time. What you do in that time is far more important than how long it is. Are you reading a book on marriage that is looking at the different aspects of marriage that you ought to be looking at? Are you being honest with each other about your background? Are you working through the struggles that might be there with your family and extended family? I wrote a book called Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married. I think you might find it helpful.

Starting Over

Would you like to put the past behind you and start over? I’m talking about in your marriage. Many couples have so much pain from past failures that they have a hard time moving ahead. Time alone, will not heal hurts. Healing comes when we are willing to confess our failures and change our behavior. Some of us would like to leave out the confession part and just focus on being different in the future. However, confession is essential to the healing process. Even God requires confession before He forgives. I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” Confession means that we admit to our spouse that what we did is wrong. We accept responsibility for our failure and request forgiveness.

The Difference Between Recognition and Appreciation

Do you know the difference between recognition and appreciation? Most companies focus on recognition and think people feel appreciated. However recognition puts the emphasis on performance and uses “words of affirmation” or “tangible gifts” as their methods. This misses half of their employees. Recognition is also “top-down” and often becomes routine. Appreciation, on the other hand, focuses on the person. They may not be performing at their peak, for many reasons, but when you express interest in them as a person, they are motivated to become more involved. It is the difference between treating people as machines who crank out the work and people who have feelings, frustrations, desires, and dreams. When people feel appreciated, they want to be a part of the team.

Q+A: Am I Still in Love?

Q: Gary, if 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?

Gary: When you come down off the high of the in-love experience often we feel like “I’ve lost it. I just don’t have it. It must not be the right person.” So we often break off the relationship rather than speaking each other’s love language. I would suggest reading through my book The 5 Love Languages, discussing the whole concept of love languages. Because that will keep emotional warmth alive in the relationship. It’s not the high of the in love experience, but it is emotional love. Then you can look at all the other aspects of life and ask, are we really compatible? Do we have what it takes to have a life-long relationship? Then you can make a wise decision, really a better decision, now that you’ve come down off that high.

Q+A: Sexual Temptation During Engagement

Q: Gary, do you have any suggestions for dealing with sexual attraction and temptation during our engagement?

Gary: All of us are sexually motivated and in a dating relationship we’re dating because we have an attraction to each other. The sexual part of life is just that, a part of life, so it’s very natural that you would have a sexual attraction. I just think the key is setting boundaries. You decide on the things you feel like are going beyond the realm of where you should go in this juncture of your relationship. And you talk about these boundaries and set them with each other and you don’t press the other person to go beyond these boundaries. That is the safest way, I believe, to keep the relationship focused on other aspects of development so that you can make a wise decision about whether this relationship will lead to marriage.

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