Category: Emotional Health

Memory and Forgiveness

What would you say to the wife who says, “I have forgiven him, but I am deeply pained when I remember what he did.”? Would you quote Hebrews 10:17 where God says, “And their sins I will remember no more.”? Would you tell her that if she has not forgotten, then she has not forgiven? I hope not. Forgiveness does not destroy our memory. Our brain records every event we experience. Memory may bring back the feeling of hurt. But forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a promise. Forgiveness says, “I will no longer hold that against you.” When the memory comes back and the pain returns, take it to God and say, “Father, thank You, that is forgiven.” Don’t allow the memory of the past to destroy your day.

Q&A: Marriage and Deployment

Q: I’m in the military and I’m about to be deployed. How can my wife and I prepare?

Gary Chapman: I think the first thing that you need to do is acknowledge that you’re going to have to work together to find a new way to relate to each other. This is where I think the five love languages can be very, very helpful to you. For example, if you know each other’s primary love language in those early days you are going to want to speak volumes of that language. If you and your spouse feel loved it’s much easier to negotiate other factors. While preparing for that, I think you would find a new book we’ve just released to be helpful. It’s called The 5 Love Languages Military Edition. It provides a lot of practical help on reintegration.

Q&A: Military Couples in the Church

Q: As a pastor, what can my congregation and I do to help military couples in our church?

Gary Chapman: I wish more pastors were asking that question because churches are often not aware of the needs military couples have. They face challenges that civilian couples do not, and as a result suffer a higher divorce rate. My suggestion would be to give the military couples in your church a time to talk to each other—such as a small group. Identify someone who’s a veteran, who has the ability to lead and let the setting and structure be conducive for conversation. A good book to use as a guide in such a framework would be The 5 Love Languages Military Edition. When military couples start talking to each other about the challenges they face and the practical solutions they read about in the book, they will feel encouraged that they’re not alone and hopeful for the future. It’d also be a great way for your congregation to say, “We care about you.”

Forgiveness is not Always Acceptance

There is a difference between forgiveness and acceptance. You may accept many things about your spouse that you do not particularly like. In fact, such acceptance is necessary in healthy marriages. But forgiveness presupposes that you have been wronged, treated unfairly. In the Bible, such action is called sin and sin cannot be accepted. There are two responses to sin; we can confess our wrongdoing and seek forgiveness or we can continue in our sin. The one who continues in sin will not be forgiven. In fact, God will bring discipline to the Christian who continues in sin. His desire is that we turn from our sin so that we can experience His forgiveness, and have warm fellowship again. In a healthy marriage, this will also be our desire.

War and Peace

One of the barriers to communication is uncontrolled anger. When you are lashing out at your spouse, you are declaring war. If they respond with angry words, you may have a full scale battle. The good news is that we have the ability to control anger rather than being controlled by anger. Call a ‘time out’ and give yourself time to cool off. Then, come back with your emotions under control and share your concerns in a soft voice. Does it sound impossible? It’s not. In fact, it’s biblical. The scriptures say, “being angry sin not, don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” It is not sinful to feel angry. Anger indicates that something is wrong. You need to talk about it, but in a constructive manner. Learning to control anger fosters good communication.

Enhancing Sexual Intimacy

Why is sexual intimacy so illusive for many couples? I believe it is because we have separated it from intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual intimacy. Intimacy is that sense of closeness that comes when we share life deeply with each other. But it cannot be limited to the sharing of our bodies. When we are critical, demanding, and verbally abusive, and then try to have sex we will not experience intimacy.

Sexual intimacy flows naturally from a loving marital relationship. If you want greater sexual intimacy then focus on building closeness in the other areas of life. Spend time together, give affirming words, pray together, apologize for your failures. This is the road to sexual intimacy.

Keys to Deeper Spiritual Intimacy

One of the most common complaints I hear from Christian wives is that they want to have a deeper level of ‘spiritual intimacy’ with their husbands. I believe there are two ways to build spiritual intimacy. One is by shared experience. Attending worship together and holding hands while the minister prays. Making time to pray together daily – even if it is silent prayer; or attending a couple’s bible study. Another approach is to discuss with each other some of your thoughts about spiritual realities. It may be as simple as sharing what you read in your quiet time this morning, while your spouse listens attentively and affirms your insights. Spiritual intimacy is an important part of marriage. In fact, it is the most important aspect of marriage and will greatly affect all other areas.

Q&A: How can I improve communication skills?

Q: “What would be some good suggestions on how to work on communication skills in marriage?”

Gary Chapman: One suggestion I would make to an individual desiring to work on his/her communication skills in marriage would be to simply read a book on communication. I’m thinking of a book I wrote some time ago called: Now You’re Speaking My Language. It has nothing to do with the love languages. It’s a book on communication and intimacy—how to build positive communication patterns and build intimacy in marriage emotionally, spiritually, socially, physically, and intellectually. Reading a book like that together—talking it through as you go chapter by chapter—is an easy and organized way to learn some new skills in communication.

Grow Closer by Sharing Your Feelings

We often hear couples talk about emotional intimacy; but what does that mean? Essentially, it is the sharing of emotions in an accepting atmosphere. All day long, life is filled with feelings. You put your dollar in the drink machine and receive no drink (and no change). You have feelings. You are informed that the company is going to ‘downsize.’ You have feelings. Emotional intimacy is that sense of closeness that comes when you choose to share your emotions with each other in an effort to know each other more deeply. For this to happen, we must create an atmosphere of acceptance. “I can see how you might feel hurt by that. Is there anything I can do to help?” Such a response encourages emotional intimacy.

Intimacy and the Healthy Marriage

Intimacy between the husband and wife is one of the characteristics of a healthy marriage. The problem is that we have different ideas as to what it means to have intimacy. For some husbands ‘intimacy’ means ‘sex’. For most wives ‘intimacy’ is something far more emotional and relational. In fact, without emotional closeness, sex may be meaningless. What is intimacy? It is that sense of closeness that comes when we share our lives deeply with each other. We spend time together. We share our opinions, desires, and feelings. We do things together socially. We let each other in on our spiritual journey. We pray together. And yes, we have sex together. Intimacy involves sharing all of life. That is what marriage is all about.

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