Category: Q&A

Q&A: Dealing with a Secretive Teen

Q: Gary, my teenager is somewhat secretive. How do I monitor their activity without violating trust?

Gary Chapman: I think teenagers being secretive often has to do with their whole move toward independence. This is a good shift because we want them to be independent by the time they’re 18 and moving on to college or joining the military. At the same time, if they’re being secretive about things that are detrimental to them, that’s a different matter. Even at the expense of their thinking you are violating their space, if you think something very negative is going on, you should violate their space. You should find out and confront them with it because you don’t want to let it get established as a habit in their lives.

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.

Q&A: A wife struggling to recover from her husband’s emotional affair

Q: Gary, I discovered emails between my husband and someone from his past. They have been in touch throughout our marriage. He met her for dinner on a business trip out of town 5 years ago. He ended the contact; we did counseling. But, I’m still angry and so hurt.

Gary Chapman: It’s understandable that one would be hurt and experience the emotion of anger when a spouse has stepped out of line. What is fortunate is that, in this case, your spouse ended that relationship, the two of you went for counseling, and, I’m assuming, you processed that rather thoroughly.

I would suggest that even though the hurt and the anger may come back you take these emotions to God. Say, “Lord, you know what I am remembering. You know what I am feeling again. But, in spite of this, I thank you that my husband repented and I’ve forgiven him. Now help me to do something good today.”

Don’t allow the emotions that come from the past memory destroy today.

Q&A: Living With Someone Who Has Wronged You

Q: Gary, I just read your blog about releasing anger and giving it to God.  I totally get that, but how do you continue to live with that person?

Gary Chapman: Don’t overlook the steps that need to be taken before you release the person to God. The Bible says if you’ve been hurt or offended—which is usually what stimulates anger—you should go to the person who has wronged you and confront them. The hope is that they will acknowledge their failure and it’s at this point that you can forgive them. However, if you do this and they still are not willing to apologize or admit their wrong, then release your anger and that person to God. Consequently, the relationship will not be a close one because you can’t be close to someone you feel has wronged you but unwilling to deal with it, but at least you’re not perpetually living with the anger.

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.

Q&A: City Girl Living in a Small Town

Q: I’m recently married and have moved to my husband’s small town. I’m a city girl and I’m going crazy here and CAN’T live here my whole life. Any advice?

Gary: I think you try to make the most of where you are. Get to know the people there. There are good people that live in small towns. From time to time you and your husband leave the small town and go to the city,  go to the symphony, or whatever you like about the city. Make the most of where you are. Don’t make it miserable for yourself and your husband. Perhaps in the future there will be city life for you again. But right now make the most of where you are.

Q&A: iPods for Christmas

Q: We are considering buying ipods for our kids for Christmas, but my husband says they are “time-wasters”. What do you think?

Gary: I think it all depends on the age of your child. The American Pediatric Association suggests no screens at all for children two years and under,  and after that only two hours a day on any kind of device. If you think they’re old enough, you need to have guidelines that you’re going to give them— in terms of the amount of time, in terms of what programs they get involved in, and you need to monitor those things. Otherwise, they will become time-wasters. They have to be monitored if it’s going to be positive. For more on this topic: Growing Up Social by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane

Q&A: I’m The Disciplinarian

Q: As the mom, I have the reputation as the disciplinarian toward the kids while my husband is looked at as the “fun one” who stays out of conflict. What steps can we take to balance this out?

Gary: You and your husband need to talk. I think that one of the key issues is learning how to make rules together and decide on consequences together. So that no matter who is at home the same consequence for the same crime is going to be dished out. You’ll find a lot of help in the book, The 5 Love Languages of Children, where we deal with making rules and consequences. I suggest you discuss that chapter together.

Q&A: Boundaries for an Ex Spouse

Q: What should be the boundaries for an ex-spouse who is still in the family picture?

Gary: This is one of the difficult things about second marriages. Whenever divorce takes place, that person isn’t dead, they’re still there. Chances are they’ll be at the wedding of the children and they may be there when the children are sick. And just a lot of other interactions that you cannot avoid. We have to accept that as reality, they’re going to be in the picture, they are part of the family even though the divorce is final. They are still the parent of your children and they’re still your ex spouse. As long as it is not destructive behavior when you are together, you need to make the most of it, you need to accept each other where you are, and you need to ask God to help both of you.

Q&A: Husband Kissed Other Woman While Engaged

Q: I have been married for 7 years and recently my husband revealed that he kissed another woman while we were engaged. He insists that nothing else happened, but just wanted to be honest with me about it, but I am still heart-broken.

Gary: You were engaged and not married, and there’s a difference between the two. If I were you I would thank him for sharing this with you even though you find it painful. Because, he’s trying to build an authentic relationship with you; he’s trying to be totally honest with you. So I would thank him for sharing that— let him know it hurts you deeply—but let him also know that you choose to forgive him because you love him and you’re not going to allow one event in the past to mess up your future.