Category: Emotional Health

The Power Of Positive Influence

When in a bad marriage, people often think they have only two options: resign themselves to a life of misery or get out. This limits one’s horizons to two equally devastating alternatives. In my book, Desperate Marriages, I talk about how to be a positive change agent in a difficult marriage. It is true that you cannot make your spouse change, but you can influence your spouse. One husband said, “I used to have rage in my heart toward my wife, but now, I realize what a wonderful wife I have.” Her positive actions stimulated positive emotions in him. With warm emotions his behavior also changed. Learning the power of positive influence could radically change your marriage. You need not be miserable forever.

Q&A: He Doesn’t Say “I Love You”

Q: “My boyfriend and I have been dating for 16 months. I have told him that I love him but he won’t say it to me and it bothers me. Does this indicate a problem?”

Gary Chapman: If he is not willing to say he loves you, it means either he is not attracted to you emotionally or he is not willing to commit himself to your well-being. The foundation stone of marriage is a commitment to love each other. I’m not talking about feelings—I’m talking about a commitment to seeking the well-being of the other person. That is what marriage is made of. At this point you may want to reconsider your relationship in light of this. However, if you want to continue the relationship to see if he warms up, or if he is willing to make positive steps in that direction, then my suggestion would be to begin to work through one of my books together entitled Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married. The discussion that will come out of it will help you make a wise decision moving forward.

Can They Change?

One of the commonly held myths of our day is that “people cannot change.” If my spouse has been unfaithful, then they will certainly do it again, no matter what they promise. If they have miss-managed our money for 5 years, they will continue to do so. Accepting this myth leads to feelings of hopelessness. This myth fails to reckon with the reality of human freedom and the power of God. Libraries are filled with accounts of people who have made radical changes in their behavior. St. Augustine, who once lived for pleasure and thought his lusts were inescapable, radically changed and became a great leader in the church. People can and do change, and often the changes are dramatic. Don’t give up on the person you love.

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.

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.

Q&A: My Fiancé has an STD

Q: “I just discovered that my fiancé tested positive for an STD from a past relationship. I feel hurt and disgusted and don’t know how to deal with it. Can you help?”

Gary Chapman: I think the answer is that you need to discuss this openly and freely. Discuss the nature of the sexually transmitted disease—is it treatable, and how will it affect your relationship from a medical perceptive? Then, you’ll need to wrestle with whether this is something you would like to constinue with given the reality of the situation. We cannot erase our past. . . and some of us have past experiences that aren’t good. If you are  not willing to live with that, accept that, and forgive that, then it could potentially be a deal breaker. I encourage couples to share their previous sexual expereince so that they enter marriage aware of what they are dealing with. If you find you can’t deal with it, solve it, or reconcile it before marriage, it will certainly be a problem after.

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?”

Q&A: Scoring Equally on the Love Language Profile

Q:  “After taking the Love Language Profile on your website I discovered that I scored equally on all of them. My fiance says I’m needy. Am I crazy?”

Gary Chapman:  People who score evenly on all the 5 Love Languages typically fall into one of two categories. First is the person who has felt loved all their life. Consequently, they are not sure which love language makes them feel loved—they like and are able to receive all of them. I trust that would be your case. On the other hand, there are those who have never felt loved, and consequently, all of the love languages sound good to them and equally so because they’ve never experienced any of them in a healthy way. That is a person who is indeed needy.

I would suggest that you look back in your life to your relationship with your parents and ask:

  • “Was it healthy?”
  • “Did I feel loved in that relationship?”
  • “Have I always felt loved? “

If you can answer positively to each of these questions, then you are in a good position.

Q&A: Betrayal and Pain in Past

Q: “Do love languages work on someone who equates “love” with betrayal and pain? The woman I love is afraid of loving and being loved because of two failed marriages? “

Gary Chapman: Anyone who has come through two failed marriages is going to come to a new relationship with a lot of hurt, pain, and likely lack of trust in the person she is now dating. What she needs, in my opinion, is some individual counseling where she works through some of the pain and hurt from her past before she gets involved in another relationship. To simply go from one relationship to another—carrying with us the baggage of the past—sets us up for failure in the new relationship. I would suggest that you highly encourage her to get some help working through these issues before you go very far in your relationship.