Category: Communication

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.

Deadlock vs Wedlock

Most counselors agree that one of the greatest problems in marriage is decision making. Visions of democracy dance in the minds of many young couples, but when there are only two voting members, democracy often results in deadlock.

How does a couple move beyond deadlock? The answer is found in one word—love. Love always asks the question, “What is best for you?” Love does not demand it’s own way. Love seeks to bring pleasure to the one loved. We are called to be lovers. When I love my wife, I will not seek to force my will upon her for selfish purposes.

This Won’t Work in Marriage

What’s so bad about arguing? First, let me clarify what I mean by the word argue. It is a legal term. In a court of law attorneys make arguments designed to show the guilt or innocence of their client. They present the ‘facts’ with the attitude, “Any reasonable person would agree with my argument.” What works fairly well in the court room, works poorly in a marriage, because there is no judge available to determine when your spouse is ‘out of order’. Arguments become charged with emotion and you end up yelling, screaming, or crying. Each feels the other is unreasonable.

What’s so bad about arguing? It turns spouses into enemies who have feelings of hurt, anger, and resentment.

Q&A: Trust Issues

Q: I have serious trust issues from a past relationship. How can I keep it from creeping into my new relationship? 

Gary: This is a very common problem. We often reach back and bring the fears of that past relationship into the new relationship. Acknowledge the reality that this is very common–that these thoughts and feelings come back to you. But, you choose not to let those thoughts and feelings control your behavior. And you say to this new person, “Here’s what I’m feeling, here’s what I’m fearing. I don’t want to bring that into our relationship and put that between us. I’m choosing to trust you.” Obviously, if they are untrustworthy, you will be hurt again. But you choose to trust, it’s a choice we make in every relationship.

Meaningful Dialogue

One of the things that motivated me to write the book: Love As a Way of Life is what I see on television day after day. Watch any talk show and you will see that we have lost the art of meaningful dialogue. We have little respect for those who disagree with us. Politicians and religious leaders seem to be in an attack mode most of the time. Someone recently asked me, “Do you really think that love has a chance in today’s world?” I believe that love is our only chance. If we come to respect all people as persons for whom Christ died and we treat them as potential brothers and sisters, we have a chance of bringing them to Christ. He is their only hope.

Q&A: Fighting Fair

Q: Fighting in my marriage has really affected me. How can I be more patient and tolerant?

Gary: Fighting in a marriage is never healthy, unless we fight fairly. And most of us have never learned how to fight fairly. So we lash out at each other, we say harsh and mean things to each other, and consequently it creates a barrier between the two of us. I think we should always be willing to confess our failures and reach out and ask for forgiveness. Then, we have to learn new patterns of relating to each other. One of those patterns is to call a time-out. When you realize you’re about to get into a fight, simply call time-out and say, “I’ve got to take a walk, we’ll talk about this later.” If you do that, you’re more likely when you come back to have a civil conversation rather than a fight.

My Husband Is a Daddy’s Boy

Q: My husband is a Daddy’s boy and confides in him more than me, what can I do?” 

Gary: There’s nothing wrong with having a good relationship with your father. Often, if you’ve had a good relationship with your father,  you will often turn to your father for advice in your marriage. There is nothing unhealthy about that. But what I do hear this wife saying is, “I feel like he’s not open to my opinion; he’s not asking me for my input; he’s relying more on his father than he’s relying on me.” That of course is not a healthy thing in a relationship. First verbalize it to him, let him know how you’re feeling. But also affirm him, that he’s man enough to reach out for advice and not try to make decisions simply with his own wisdom.

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.