Category: Conflict

Victims of Our Environment

The commonly held view is that we are victims of our environment. If I grew up in a dysfunctional family, then I am destined to failure in relationships. If I am married to an alcoholic, I will live a miserable life. This approach to life renders one helpless. The reality is that while our environment certainly affects us, it does not control us. Because we are made in God’s image, we have the capacity to choose our attitudes. We can curse the darkness, or we can light a candle. Your past and your present situation may be discouraging, but it need not destroy your marriage or your life. Reach out to God and ask: “What can I do that would be redemptive in my present situation?” That is a prayer God will answer.

Q&A: Hot Tempered Husband

Q:  “My husband is quick to anger and curses and yells when we fight. I feel like it borders on abuse. What can I do?”

Gary Chapman: This sort of thing should not be accepted as normal. The best thing you can do in this situation is to is apply tough love. Say something like this to your husband, “I don’t know if you love me or not, but it certainly doesn’t feel loving when you get angry and you curse at me. I love you too much to continue to sit here and let you do that. I’m going to move in with my mother and when you are willing to deal with this issue, then I am willing to engage with you in marriage counseling. I am not abandoning you—I am loving you. However, this type of behavior is not acceptable. I think you know that as well as I.” Then, you proceed to follow through with that tough love. This is probably the most powerful thing you can do for your husband.

Q&A: Not Interested

Q: “I feel drained in my marriage. My wife no longer seems interested in me or willing to put effort into making things work?”

Gary Chapman: The most powerful thing you can do is to love her unconditionally. Learn and speak her primary love language, regardless of how she treats you. She needs love—we all do. Therefore, when you communicate love in the way she desires most—her love language—you trigger something inside her that will draw her to you. We can’t control the behavior of a spouse, but we can greatly influence them by the way we treat them. How? Look back on the areas you feel you may have failed, make a genuine confession, and let her know that with God’s help you are going to be the husband she desires. This is one of the greatest things you can do to influence her to reciprocate.

Arguments Reveal the Heart

Arguments reveal the heart. Almost always, arguments grow out of unmet emotional needs. One wife said, “Little things like getting the old newspapers out to the garage for recycling is not a big deal to him, but it is to me because I hate clutter. It’s kind of a visual thing.” What is she saying? One of her emotional needs is to have order in the house. Clutter is emotionally upsetting to her. The wise husband and wife will look for the emotional need behind the argument. Why is my spouse so upset over what seems trivial to me? The answer to that question will help you understand your spouse. Meeting emotional needs, is one way to create a positive climate for communication.

Navigating Conflict without Arguing

Communication is easy until you have a disagreement. So, how do we process conflicts without arguing? As I was writing my book, The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted, one of the great discoveries I made was the awesome power of listening. Most of us are far better at “making our point” than in “getting the point” of the other person. Listening has to do with trying to look at the world through the eyes of your spouse. It’s not that difficult if you try. Once you can truthfully say, “I think I understand what you are saying and it makes a lot of sense.” Then you can say, “Let me tell you what I’m thinking, and see if it makes sense to you.” Two people who listen long enough to “affirm” each other, can then find a win-win solution.

Q&A: Family Before Spouse?

Q: “I’m wondering about the concept of “leaving and cleaving. I’m engaged and members of my family are saying that family comes before my husband. What is your take on this?”

Gary Chapman: The scriptures are very clear that when we get married we are to leave our parents and cleave to our spouse. That doesn’t mean we desert our parents. We must certainly honor them after we get married, but our main allegiance is to our husband or to our wife. Failure to reconcile with this and to clarify this before you get married will cause problems after you get married. If you and your fiancé don’t agree on this, it would be good for you both to sit down with a counselor or pastor to help clarify this Biblical teaching of leaving and cleaving. If you don’t, it will likely raise it’s head again after you get married. Far better to deal it it and clarify it before you tie the knot, then to try to deal with the consequences afterwards.

Emotional Communication

Why do so many couples have difficulty with communication? Often, the answer lies in emotions. Before marriage we had one over-powering emotion—love. But now, the emotions of hurt, anger, disappointment, and fear often dominate. These emotions do not encourage us to communicate. Or, if we communicate it is likely to be negative or critical. We speak out of our anger and create even more negative feelings. The key is in learning how to share emotions without condemnation. You might begin by saying, “I feel hurt and when you have time, I need your help.” Identifying your feelings and choosing to share them is step one. Step two is accepting the feelings of your mate and asking: “What can I do to help?”

Partner or Child?

When I wrote my book: Profit Sharing: The Chapman Guide to Making Money an Asset to Your Marriage, I discovered that one of the most common problems is that couples do not feel like partners. Often, the husband so controls the money that the wife feels like a child on an allowance. Or, the wife will control the money and the husband feels ‘left out’. Obviously, someone must balance the checkbook, and keep the bills paid, but this does not mean that they control the money. We are a team, and must work together. The Bible says, “Two are better than one.” That is certainly true in money management. If you keep the books, you might ask your spouse: “Do you feel like a partner, or a child?” Take their answer seriously, and make adjustments as needed.

Difficulty in Communication

Why do so many couples have difficulty with communication? Often, the answer lies in emotions. Before marriage we had one over-powering emotion – love. But now, the emotions of hurt, anger, disappointment, and fear often dominate. These emotions do not encourage us to communicate. Or, if we communicate it is likely to be negative or critical. We speak out of our anger and create even more negative feelings. The Key is in learning how to share emotions without condemnation. You might begin by saying, “I feel hurt and when you have time, I need your help.” Identifying your feelings and choosing to share them is step one. Step two is accepting the feelings of your mate and asking: “What can I do to help?”

Working Together on Finances

When I wrote my book: Profit Sharing: The Chapman Guide to Making Money an Asset to Your Marriage, I discovered that one of the most common problems is that couples do not feel like partners. Often, the husband so controls the money that the wife feels like a child on an allowance. Or, the wife will control the money and the husband feels ‘left out’. Obviously, someone must balance the checkbook, and keep the bills paid, but this does not mean that they control the money. We are a team, and must work together. The Bible says, “Two are better than one.” That is certainly true in money management. If you keep the books, you might ask your spouse: “Do you feel like a partner, or a child?” Take their answer seriously, and make adjustments as needed.

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