Category: Marriage

Becoming Friends with Your Feelings

I often hear people ask, “How are you feeling today?” The common answer is, “Fine.” It was a good question, but not a good answer. Why do we ignore our feelings, or camouflage them with such words as “fine” or “not so well”? Feelings are a part of who we are. We have emotions because we are made in the image of God.

How dull life would be if we had no feelings. Imagine watching a sunset, a ball game, or the ocean and feeling no emotion. Feelings are a gift from God to help us enjoy life and process life and pain. Certainly at times we feel lonely, disappointed, and frustrated, but these emotions push us to take constructive action. Pause and thank God for whatever emotion you are presently feeling. Ask Him to guide your actions.

Some Christians are critical of their emotions. They will say, “Don’t trust your emotions. Faith, not feelings, is the road to spiritual growth.” Why are we so critical of our emotions? In Mark chapter 3, Jesus felt anger and sorrow. Is that bad? I don’t think any of us would condemn Jesus for having emotions. Then why do we condemn ourselves.

God gave us emotions for growth, maturity, fulfillment, and enjoyment. Feelings were made to be our friends. If it is a negative emotion, it means something needs attention. It is like the red light that appears on the dash when the car needs oil. We don’t curse the light; we give attention to the problem. Why not do the same with your emotions? If you take constructive action, emotions have served their purpose.

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What’s so difficult about communication?

Why does communication  break down after marriage?  Often, the answer lies in emotions.  Before marriage we felt 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 critical.

We speak out of our anger and create even more negative feelings.  The key is in learning how to share emotions without condemnation.  “I’m feeling 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?”

Why is communication so important in a relationship?  Because we are not mind readers. The apostle Paul recognized this reality when he asked the question, “Who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?  So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” The reason we know what God is like is because God has chosen to reveal Himself.  If we listen and reciprocate, we can have a love relationship with God.

Likewise, when we reveal ourselves to another person, and they listen and reciprocate, we can build an intimate relationship with that person.  Communication is to a relationship what breathing is to the body.  Don’t stop talking and don’t stop listening.

Adapted from The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted by Dr. Gary Chapman.

Helping Your Husband Grow

Wives can’t change their husbands, but wives can and do have a tremendous influence on their husbands.  How can you make that influence positive?

1.   Men respond positively to praise.

One of the most common complaints men make in my office is: “Dr. Chapman, in my work I am respected.  People come to me for advice.  But at home, all I get is criticism.”  What she considers suggestions, he reads as criticism.  Her efforts to stimulate growth have backfired.

Give him praise.  The fastest way to influence a husband is to give him praise.  Praise him for effort, not perfection.  You may be asking, But if I praise him for mediocrity, will it not stifle growth?  The answer is a resounding “No”.  Your praise urges him on to greater accomplishments.

My challenge is to look for things your husband is doing right and praise him.  Praise him in private, praise him in front of the children, praise him in front of your parents and his parents, praise him in front of his peers.  Then stand back and watch him go for the gold.

2.    Requests are more productive than demands.

None of us like to be controlled, and demands are efforts at controlling.  “If you don’t mow the grass this afternoon, then I’m going to mow it.”  I wouldn’t make that demand unless you want to be the permanent lawn mower.  It is far more effective to say, “Do you know what would really make me happy?”  Wait until he asks, “What?” Then say, “If you could find time this afternoon to mow the grass.  You always do such a great job.”

Let me illustrate by applying the principle to you.  How do you feel when your husband says “I haven’t had an apple pie since the baby was born.  I don’t guess I’m going to get any more apple pies for eighteen years”?  Now, doesn’t that motivate you?    But what if he says, “You know what I’d really like to have?  One of your apple pies.  You make the best apple pies in the world.  Sometime when you get a chance, I’d really love one of your apple pies.  Chances are he’ll have an apple pie before the week is over.  Requests are more productive than demands.

3. Love is a two way street.

If a wife wants to enhance her husband’s ability to give her emotional love, perhaps her greatest influence will be in loving him.  In my book, The Five Love Languages, I talk about the importance of discovering your husband’s primary love language – the thing that really makes him feel loved: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, physical touch, or acts of service.  Once you discover it, pour it on.  Husbands are drawn to wives who are meeting their emotional need for love.

Can you do it, even if he is not loving you.  God did.  He loved us when we were unlovely.  But that’s God.  I’m me.  I know, but you are God’s child and He can empower you to love an unlovely spouse.  I’ve seen it many times.  A wife chooses to speak her husband’s love language, even though she doesn’t feel loved by him.  He warms up and in time begins expressing her love language.  Can emotional love be re-born in a marriage? You bet.  But someone must begin the process.  Why not you?

4. Defensiveness reveals the inner self.

A wife says, “Why does my husband get so defensive?  All I have to do is mention that the grass needs mowing and he goes ballistic.”

This husband is revealing his self-esteem hot spot.  Some experience in his past has tied his sense of self worth to mowing the grass.  Your mention of the grass translates “She thinks I’m not doing my job.  I work like crazy, and now she is on my case about the grass.”  He sees it as a negative statement about his worth.

I know you didn’t mean it that way.  That’s why I suggesting you observe his defensiveness, so that you can learn what is going on inside of him.  We don’t know these emotional hot spots until we touch one.  It would be a good idea to make a list of all your husband’s defensive reactions.  Note what you said and did and how he responded.  This insight will help you discover another way to discuss the topic that will be less threatening to his self-esteem.

Both husbands and wives hold a tremendous influence on their spouse. However, it is up to you whether your influence is positive.

Living with a Workaholic?

Many wives ask me, “Dr. Chapman, how do you live with a workaholic husband?” They will talk about a husband who spends long hours at work and short hours at home. He sees his children only when they are asleep, and his wife sees him only when he is exhausted. The workaholic doesn’t understand why his wife is not happy with his accomplishments and all the material things that he provides. She, on the other hand, is dying for a relationship. This week we will explore the possibility of bringing balance into the life of the workaholic.

1. Praise and Criticism
The workaholic is usually well respected in the community, and he often receives accolades from his employer. On the other hand, his wife is likely critical of him because he invests so little in their relationship. Her criticism is part of the problem. Oh, I understand why she is critical. But when she criticizes him, or his job, she is criticizing the one thing in life that brings him recognition. Her criticism strikes at the heart of his self esteem.
Let me suggest a better approach. Stop being critical of his work. Praise him when he receives awards at work. Then request that he do something with you and the children. When he does, and he will, then give him praise. Praise him for little and you will get more.

2. Deep Roots
Many workaholics are suffering from a deep sense of inferiority. Work is an effort to overcome these feelings of inferiority. Many workaholics also feel unloved. Understanding this should help a spouse know how to minister to the workaholic. He certainly does not need condemnation, but rather praise.

3. Return to Intimacy
If you want to pull the workaholic away from his job, let him know that you admire his success. Tell him that you realize that you have been negative toward his work, because your own needs have not been met, not because he is a bad husband. Tell him that you believe he can both meet your needs and be successful in his vocation. Now you are on his team and will likely find intimacy returning to the marriage.

Adapted from Loving Solutions: Overcoming Barriers in Your Marriage by Dr. Gary Chapman. To find out more about Dr. Chapman’s resources, visit www.fivelovelanguages.com.

Parenting Together?

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Two Approaches to Parenting?

Is it possible for two parents who have very different approaches to child-rearing to find a meeting of the minds? The answer is an unqualified “yes.” In my marriage we discovered that I tended to be the quiet, calm, “let’s talk about it” parent, while my wife Karolyn tended to be a “take action now” kind of parent. It took us a while to realize what was happening, analyze our patterns, and admit to each other our basic tendencies. When this was done, we began to concentrate on the question: “What is best for our children?”

Using Love, Words, & Actions

No pattern of teaching and training will be highly effective if the child does not feel loved by the parents. Love really does cover a multitude of sins.

The two wheels upon which the chariot of parenting rolls are teaching and training–using words and actions to communicate to the child. It is not uncommon that one parent will emphasize words and the other actions. One will want to talk the child into obedience, while the other will simply make the child obey. When taken to the extreme, this can lead to verbal abuse on the part of one and physical abuse on the part of the other.

The better approach is to bring words and actions together. Tell the child exactly what is expected and what the results will be if they disobey. Then if they do not obey, kindly but firmly apply the consequences. When you are consistent, your child will learn obedience. Of course, all of this works best when the child feels loved by both parents. Parenting is a team sport.


Agreeing on Principles of Discipline

Mature parents are always seeking to learn. Administering discipline is a point where many couples have disagreement. Talking about and agreeing upon some principles for discipline can be helpful. For example, how about agreeing that all discipline should be done in love, and the word love should always be used while administering the discipline. Love and consistent discipline, accompanied with information, is the road to responsible parenting and a growing marriage. You owe it to yourselves to be teammates in parenting.

I want to conclude our week with two principles of discipline. The first is that positive discipline must always seek to explain. Tongue lashing does not correct behavior.

The second principle is that we deal only with the matter at hand. Don’t bring up past failures. Make room for your child’s humanity. Agree on the principles and you can be teammates in parenting.

Solutions for the Silent Treatment

desperateMarriagesWhen your spouse gives you the “silent treatment” there are always reasons; usually a historical reason, an emotional reason and a contemporary reason. The contemporary reason is that something has just happened that the spouse finds objectionable. For Mike, it was Jill’s announcement that she was going to spend the weekend at the beach with her girl friends.

The emotional reason was that Mike did not feel secure in Jill’s love. He reasoned, “If she loved me she would want to be with me.”

The historical reason was that Mike had learned the “silent treatment” in his childhood. His parents would not allow him to argue with them, so when he felt hurt or angry, he learned to be silent.

If you have been given the “silent treatment” by your spouse, here are the three questions you need to answer:

1. What have I done or failed to do that my spouse might have found objectionable?

2. Have I been speaking my spouse’s love language lately?

3. What do I know about my spouse’s childhood that might help me understand his silence?

Time for a Game Plan!

If you entered marriage believing that you could merge lives

effortlessly, the first thing you need to do is change your expectations. The truth is, living together requires many adjustments.

Remember this is not like trying to put up with a college roommate or the person splitting the rent in your apartment, where you can choose to ignore minor irritations or strange habits until the end of the lease. This is your life partner, the one you vowed to stay with until death. And not just stay together, but build an intimate relationship. This week we’ll talk about bringing two lives together in harmony.

You found out he snores like a lumberjack. She squeezes the toothpaste in the middle. He thinks Burger King and laser tag are the ingredients of a romantic evening. She sings the wrong lyrics to every song on the radio.

The key to working through such irritations is to keep them in their proper perspective. Don’t turn molehills into mountains. There is so much about each other that made you fall in love with each other, focus on these things when the little annoyances seem to become big annoyances.

Too many couples view marriage as the finish line of their relationship. They work and work to make it to their wedding day, then sit back and wait for “happily ever after” to begin. If you didn’t enter marriage with a strategy for keeping the relationship alive then you’re in trouble. The wedding is the first step, not the final one. To make your relationship work over the long haul, you need to put the same kind of time, energy, and effort into it after the wedding that you did when you were dating.

How did you act when you were dating? Did you give gifts? Did you always make sure that you had quality time for each other? What are some ways that you can keep that love for each other alive beyond the “in love” feelings?

Time for a Game Plan!

If you entered marriage believing that you could merge lives

effortlessly, the first thing you need to do is change your expectations. The truth is, living together requires many adjustments.

Remember this is not like trying to put up with a college roommate or the person splitting the rent in your apartment, where you can choose to ignore minor irritations or strange habits until the end of the lease. This is your life partner, the one you vowed to stay with until death. And not just stay together, but build an intimate relationship. This week we’ll talk about bringing two lives together in harmony.

You found out he snores like a lumberjack. She squeezes the toothpaste in the middle. He thinks Burger King and laser tag are the ingredients of a romantic evening. She sings the wrong lyrics to every song on the radio.

The key to working through such irritations is to keep them in their proper perspective. Don’t turn molehills into mountains. There is so much about each other that made you fall in love with each other, focus on these things when the little annoyances seem to become big annoyances.

Too many couples view marriage as the finish line of their relationship. They work and work to make it to their wedding day, then sit back and wait for “happily ever after” to begin. If you didn’t enter marriage with a strategy for keeping the relationship alive then you’re in trouble. The wedding is the first step, not the final one. To make your relationship work over the long haul, you need to put the same kind of time, energy, and effort into it after the wedding that you did when you were dating.

How did you act when you were dating? Did you give gifts? Did you always make sure that you had quality time for each other? What are some ways that you can keep that love for each other alive beyond the “in love” feelings?

What’s in it for me?

Unconditional love means that we love, and thus seek the best for the other person, regardless of their response to us. We receive this kind of love all the time. God always bestows

His love on us unconditionally and His challenge to us in marriage is to love each other like He loves us. This kind of love focuses on meeting the needs of the other person. It is the greatest gift you can give your spouse. It is not based on their behavior, but on your desire to love them as Christ loved you.

In a healthy marriage, we will actually give unconditional love before we realize we’re receiving it. Far too many people are waiting for their spouse to make the first move. Someone has got to take the lead. Why not you?

Let me give you a suggestion. Say to your spouse, “I’ve been thinking about our marriage, and I realize that I have loved you conditionally. I think love should do better than that, and I want to make a fresh commitment to our marriage. I am going to ask you to give me one suggestion each week on what I can do to make your life better. Whatever you suggest, I’m going to do my best to do it.”

Still want to understand love better? Read 1 Corinthians 13, slowly, carefully and out loud.


What's in it for me?

Unconditional love means that we love, and thus seek the best for the other person, regardless of their response to us. We receive this kind of love all the time. God always bestows

His love on us unconditionally and His challenge to us in marriage is to love each other like He loves us. This kind of love focuses on meeting the needs of the other person. It is the greatest gift you can give your spouse. It is not based on their behavior, but on your desire to love them as Christ loved you.

In a healthy marriage, we will actually give unconditional love before we realize we’re receiving it. Far too many people are waiting for their spouse to make the first move. Someone has got to take the lead. Why not you?

Let me give you a suggestion. Say to your spouse, “I’ve been thinking about our marriage, and I realize that I have loved you conditionally. I think love should do better than that, and I want to make a fresh commitment to our marriage. I am going to ask you to give me one suggestion each week on what I can do to make your life better. Whatever you suggest, I’m going to do my best to do it.”

Still want to understand love better? Read 1 Corinthians 13, slowly, carefully and out loud.