Category: Listening

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: Not Interested

Q: “I feel drained in my marriage. My wife no longer seems interested in me or willing to put effort into making things work?”

Gary Chapman: The most powerful thing you can do is to love her unconditionally. Learn and speak her primary love language, regardless of how she treats you. She needs love—we all do. Therefore, when you communicate love in the way she desires most—her love language—you trigger something inside her that will draw her to you. We can’t control the behavior of a spouse, but we can greatly influence them by the way we treat them. How? Look back on the areas you feel you may have failed, make a genuine confession, and let her know that with God’s help you are going to be the husband she desires. This is one of the greatest things you can do to influence her to reciprocate.

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.

Navigating Conflict without Arguing

Communication is easy until you have a disagreement. So, how do we process conflicts without arguing? As I was writing my book, The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted, one of the great discoveries I made was the awesome power of listening. Most of us are far better at “making our point” than in “getting the point” of the other person. Listening has to do with trying to look at the world through the eyes of your spouse. It’s not that difficult if you try. Once you can truthfully say, “I think I understand what you are saying and it makes a lot of sense.” Then you can say, “Let me tell you what I’m thinking, and see if it makes sense to you.” Two people who listen long enough to “affirm” each other, can then find a win-win solution.

Difficulty in 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: My Wife is not a Talker

Q: “My wife is not a talker, but I really want to open up to her.  She just doesn’t seem there most of the time.  How can I change this?”

Gary Chapman: It is possible to grow significantly in learning how to talk, but she will need your help. Be aware when talking to her that you don’t just make statements—things like, “I wish you’d talk more,” or “It’s a beautiful day.”  One of best things you can do is to ask her specific questions. It is easier for a “dead sea” (non-talker) to talk if you ask specific questions. So once you’ve asked a question, leave some silence. Don’t answer for her. Give her a chance to enter into the conversation. Additionally, it’s a good idea to phrase questions in a way that require thoughtful response as opposed to one word answers (yes or no). Be satisfied with short answers at first because it will take a while for her to begin to talk more. Try to have different questions you can ask her everyday and before long you will notice a change.

Q&A: Hope for the Separated

Q:  Gary. My husband and I recently separated and he is unwilling to listen to my reasoning.  Is there hope for our marriage?

Gary Chapman: Until your husband is remarried, there is hope for your marriage. Don’t ever give up until he marries someone else. Now having said that, I recognize that you cannot control your husband. There’s nothing you can do that is going to make him return. You or friends can put helpful books in his hands—like my book Hope for the Separated: Wounded Marriages Can Be Healed which has helped many people come to a different perspective on their marriage. If they respond and come back to reinvest in the marriage, then I would encourage you to get counseling. Don’t just move back together.

Yes, your marriage can be restored. Trust God to work in his heart and allow him be free because God also allows him to be free.

Q&A: My Wife’s Talks About Her Crushes

Q: Gary my wife is always joking around about different “crushes” she has, both with guys on T.V. and those we know. She says it’s joking around, but it bugs me.

A:  First of all, you’re not alone. We all have emotional hot spots and there are many other souses—male and female—that feel the same you do. Working through the issue starts with finding better ways of saying things that don’t hurt the other person. To say he’s “good looking” may not hurt as bad, but to use the word “crush” communicates to you that she has some sort of desire to be with that person. Share with her how hurtful that is to you. Have an open conversation with her. If you find you two can’t work it out one-on-one, then I would encourage you both to sit down with a counselor or pastor and let someone else help through it.

I Just Don’t Love Her Anymore

“I don’t love her anymore.” How many times have I heard that in my office! What is that supposed to mean? Usually, it means that he has lost the euphoric feelings he had for her when they got married. And that their differences have emerged and ended in arguments. The fact is, everyone loses the euphoric feelings. They usually last for only two years. Then, we must learn to love. We must choose to treat each other with respect. We must listen to differences of opinion and try to find a solution. We must learn to work together as a team; using our differences for the benefit of the team. This attitude is commanded by God. To say, “I don’t love her anymore,” is admitting that you are breaking God’s command.

Q&A: I’m Emotionally Unstable. Help!

Q: “Gary, I fear that I am very emotionally unstable.  I tend to always take things people say the wrong way and blow situations up.  Help!”

Gary Chapman: People talk about physical health a lot, but we don’t often talk about emotional health. Some of us grew up in homes where we didn’t have a whole lot of love and care—resulting in a lot of internal struggles. Now you’re an adult and you are recognizing this. Reach out to a counselor—someone who is trained to help people start where they are and move towards a healthier state. We are growing and we’re in process. Wherever you are in your journey of emotional health, it can get better. My encouragement: Let God use someone who has been trained in this area to help move you in a positive direction.