Category: Marriage help

Learning Love Languages

Recently a wife said to me, I’m sending all of my friends to your marriage seminar.” “Really, why?” I asked. “Before the seminar, Bob never helped me with anything. We both had our careers, but it was always my job to do all the house work. After the seminar he started asking me, ‘What can I do to help you this evening?’ I’ll have to admit that at first there were trying and humorous times. The first time he did the laundry, he used bleach instead of detergent. Our blue towels came out white polka dotted. But eventually he learned. It’s wonderful. And it’s been going on for three years now.” Why was this wife so happy? Because her husband learned to speak her love language.

Knowing How to Love Your Spouse

If your spouse often criticizes you for not “helping them”, they may be telling you that ‘acts of service’ is their love language. People tend to criticize their spouse most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need. Their criticism is an ineffective way of pleading for love. If you understand this, you might respond more positively to their criticism. You might say, “It sounds like that is really important to you. Could you explain why it is so crucial?” Initiating such a conversation may eventually turn the criticism into a request rather than a demand. When you hear criticism, it’s time to listen. Your spouse is giving you valuable information about what would make them feel loved.

Coercing Love

One of the five love languages is “acts of service.” For some people, this is their primary love language. However, people sometimes make the mistake of demanding acts of service from their loved ones: “If you loved me you would help me around the house.” true love, however, is a choice and cannot be coerced. Criticism and demands tend to drive wedges. With enough criticism your spouse may do what you want, but it will not be an expression of love. You can give guidance to love by making requests: “Would you please mow the grass?” But you cannot create the will to love. Each of us must decide daily to love or not to love. If acts of service is the primary love language of your spouse, then mowing the grass will be loves loudest voice.

Recognizing Fault

In all of my counseling, I have never met a perfect husband or a perfect wife. Yet, when there is a problem, we tend to blame the other person. I have often given individuals a sheet of paper and asked them to list the faults of their spouse. They make long and impressive lists. Then I ask them to list their own faults. Seldom has anyone come back with more than four. What does this tell us? That the spouse really is the problem? Hardly, for each spouse has a grand list of the other’s faults. It tells us that we have become accustomed to our faults, and they don’t seem so big.

Remember the words of Jesus, before you try to get the speck out of your mate’s eye—behold the beam in your own eye. Personal confession is the first step in improving a marriage.

Hope for Your Marriage

Bob and Janice have been separated for three months. The only contact they have had is when they met briefly with a lawyer to discuss the terms of legal separation. Is there hope for their marriage? Not until someone seeks to penetrate the silence. But let me remind you that one person can break the silence. It takes both to communicate, but only one to initiate the process.

Have you been standing off, refusing to give in and call, waiting for your spouse to make the first move? Jesus said, that if your brother sins, you are to confront him in private and seek to be reconciled. You can’t make him reconcile, but you can seek reconciliation. If your spouse refuses, you have lost nothing. It is worth the effort.

Q&A: A husband trying to come together with his wife on choosing a church.

Q: Gary, my wife and I attend separate churches because of our differing opinions of what a “good” church is. It feels awkward sometime, but I just don’t know how to come together on this.

Gary: I have known couples that have gone to separate churches for over thirty years. I don’t, however, think it is the healthiest thing. Sometimes, one individual is so “married” to a particular church that they are unwilling to budge at all and this becomes inevitable.

It’s much healthier for your marriage to find a place you can go together. My suggestion is to challenge your spouse to visit another church with you, at least once every month or two—not her church, not your church. By doing this you open the possibility of finding a church you both feel good about.

The Four Seasons of Marriage

Some time ago, I wrote a book entitled, The Four Seasons of Marriage. It’s not the idea that you get married in Spring and when you are old you end up in Winter. Rather, I use the seasons to describe the quality of the marriage. It has nothing to do with how long you’ve been married. So people go from Spring to Winter on the honeymoon. Yes, Spring marriages are exciting. We have plans, we are optimistic. We love each other. Most people get married in Spring. On the other hand, a Winter marriage is cold, harsh, and bitter. We’ve stopped talking because we don’t like to argue. If you would like to move from winter to spring, you need to confess past failures, and give love a second chance.

Unhealthy Patterns of Communication

Unhealthy patterns of communication can destroy a marriage. However, you can’t correct them until you identify them. Here are four common negative patterns: (1) The Blamer, “It’s your fault.” No matter what it is, you blame your spouse. (2) The Peacemaker, “Whatever you want is fine with me.” Even if you have opinions you don’t share them, because you don’t want to start an argument. (3) The Professor, “Let’s be reasonable.” You see yourself as a person of logic. You explain it as you would to a child. And, that’s exactly what your spouse feels. (4) The Statue. You don’t talk. “Ignore her and she will go away” is your philosophy. Want some help? The book is entitled: Now You’re Speaking My Language.

Q&A: Dealing with Depression

Q: Depression has been an issue in our marriage for a long time. What can we do?

Gary: Depression that extends over a period of time can be difficult to deal with for both of you. However, there is hope for those who are depressed. The most successful treatment involves both counseling and medication. I know that some Christians want to stay away from medication but the reality is that often there is a chemical basis for the depression. Successful treatment then requires medication. I also know that you may have tried medication and it has not helped. Different medications help different people. Don’t give up, talk with your doctor and try another medication. However, don’t omit the counseling. Many times the depression is fed by relational issues. This is where a counselor can be very helpful.

Q&A: Affair on The Internet

Q: I suspect my husband of cheating on me on the internet and he gets upset when I ask to see his account. How do I deal with this?

Gary: It’s difficult to deal with that, but you cannot accept a husband who is hiding part of his life from you. I think you have to tell him very lovingly that you love him too much to let him block off a part of his life from you. Does he want an intimate marriage with you or does he want to live with the internet? I think when you push him to make that kind of choice you will discover the truth, then you can deal with the truth. I also suggest you need someone to walk with you through this journey. I suggest you see a Christian counselor or pastor.

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