Category: Marriage help

Q&A: Teaching Children How to Choose a Good Spouse

Q: What are some things I can teach my son about how to choose a good wife?

Gary Chapman: I wrote a book entitled Things I Wished I’d Known Before We Got Married that deals with this topic. In the book I deal with such things as personality differences, religious differences, and learning how to negotiate and solve conflicts. Because people grow up in different homes they develop different ideas. Therefore, I talk about the influence of parents. There are many other topics I also address. I think if you take the time to read this book you will find it a helpful and useful tool in guiding your adult child towards choosing a good spouse.

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.

Q&A: Disagreement with Church Styles

Q: “My husband is from a very traditional church background and I enjoy the more modern, contemporary style. Are there ways we could come together on this?”

Gary Chapman: If you have a room full of people, it’s likely that there will be a great diversity in their preferences for food. Some will prefer Mexican, while others might prefer a good burger. It doesn’t mean that any type of food is actually better than the other, but rather our preferences simply differ. This is common in many areas of life—including the way we prefer to worship. Therefore, it is helpful to give each other the freedom to have their own preferences. What you don’t want to do is let your preferences be divisive in the relationship. Most larger churches will host both a contemporary worship service as well as a more conservative one. One solution might be to agree to go back and forth between the two services every other week.  Other solutions are waiting to be discovered, you simply need an open heart and honest communication to find an agreeable solution when preferences collide.

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.

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.

Q&A: My wife thinks I’m boring

Q: “My wife says that she doesn’t really love me because I’m not charismatic enough. I agree that I’m pretty bland, but how am I improve things?”

Gary Chapman: Short answer—learn her love language and speak it on a regular basis. If you speak her love language she will feel loved by you. She is using the word charismatic, but really what she is asking for in my opinion is emotional love. She wants this sense that you are excited about her, that you care about her, and that you want to communicate love to her. So if you haven’t read The 5 Love Languages, I would suggest you read the Men’s Edition which includes some additional ideas specifically for the men. Learn to speak her love language and I think you’ll see her whole attitude towards you change.

Q&A: Pre-Nuptual Agreement after Divorce

Q: “My fiancé just came out of a bad divorce and wants me to sign a pre-nup. What is your opinion of them?”

Gary Chapman: If he has just come out of a bad divorce, I would say it is not time to get married yet. Research says it takes two years after a divorce for people to get back on level ground emotionally. And the most common mistake people make is that they get married too soon after a divorce. So I would suggest you slow the process down. Give him a chance to work through all the things he has been through in the past divorce. The very fact that he is asking you to sign a prenuptial agreement means that he is not over what happened to him. You might even consider asking him to see a counselor so that he can work through some things and not bring any baggage into your future marriage.

Requirement for Authentic Relationships

Authentic relationships require honesty. Bill said to his wife Martha, “I have felt for a long time that you don’t love me. I have felt that you demand many things from me, but give me little of your affection. So, I feel angry and cold toward you. I pray that we can learn to be open and work through our problems. I do not want to be controlled by my negative feelings.” Was this painful for Martha to hear? Absolutely, but Bill is giving her valuable information. If she wants to restore the marriage she will choose to listen and seek to understand his feelings. If she allows her own defensive feelings to control her, they will simply have another fight. Listening leads to understanding.

When Your Spouse Disappoints

What do you do when your spouse disappoints you? Guideline # 1—Guard your attitude and behavior. Martha suspected her husband Bill was having an affair. So, she said, “Bill I feel very angry and hurt when I think that you are seeing someone else. You say it is untrue. I want to believe you, but based on the past, I have a hard time believing.

At any rate, you know we cannot continue our marriage if you are having an affair. You will have to make that decision. In the meantime, I don’t want to be controlled by my anger. You know that I love you. With God’s help I will not spend my time attacking you.” Martha is choosing the high road and is not allowing her emotions to control her behavior. This is the road to reconciliation.

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