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The 31 Day Marriage Help Program: How to Reconnect With Your Spouse

p.

&How to Have a Happy and Fulfilling Marriage &

By William Perez

Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved

[* *]

Table of contents

~ DAY 1 ~

Introduction: Why should you complete this program?

~ DAY 2 ~

How to Create a Lasting Connection

~ DAY 3 ~

How to Create an Environment of Acceptance

~ DAY 4 ~

The Relationship Account

~ DAY 5 ~

What Expectations Do We Bring into Marriage

~ DAY 6 ~

The Stressors That Can Emerge in a New Marriage

~ DAY 7 ~

How the Busyness of Life Affects Marriage

~ DAY 8 ~

The Danger of Parallel Lives

~ DAY 9 ~

How a Marriage Can Fade and Die

~ DAY 10 ~

How to Create a Happy Marriage

~ DAY 11 ~

Your Beliefs and How They Affect the Quality of Your Marriage

~ DAY 12 ~

Why Creating a Positive Mood Builds a Happier Marriage

~ DAY 13 ~

How to Effectively Communicate Our Feelings and Thoughts

~ DAY 14 ~

How to Effectively Communicate Our Feelings and Thoughts

~ DAY 15 ~

How to Manage Conflict Effectively

~DAY 16 ~

How to Manage Conflict Effectively

~DAY 17 ~

How do we get a handle on Money?

~ DAY 18 ~

How Husbands Can Meet Their Wives’ Need to Feel Loved, Beautiful and Desired

Day 19

How Wives Can Meet Their Husbands’ Needs to Feel Respected and Capable

~ Day 20 ~

Why Husbands and Wives Are So Different

~ Day 21 ~

How Wives Can Meet Their Husbands’ Needs for Friendship and a Relaxing Home

~ Day 22 ~

Why a Wife Needs to Be Heard and Understood

~ DAY 23 ~

The Importance of Meeting His Sexual Needs

~ Day 24 ~

How Husbands Can Help Their Wives Feel Safe, Secure and Cared for

~ Day 25 ~

How to Make Our Spouse Feel Appreciated and Admired

~ DAY 26 ~

How to Positively Persuade and Influence Your Spouse

~ DAY 27 ~

How to Genuinely Forgive Your Partner

~ DAY 28 ~

How to Give the Gift of Lasting, Unconditional Love

~ Day 29 ~

How to Create Passion in Your Marriage by Dreaming Together

~Day 30 ~

How Spiritual Intimacy Can Strengthen a Marriage

Day 31[+ ~+]

How Do We Recommit And Renew Our Marriage?

 

~ DAY 1 ~

Introduction: Why should you complete this program?

Even though it was over ten years ago, I still remember it like it was yesterday. I had no idea how I had gotten there—standing in my living room, the house packed in boxes, unsigned divorce papers in my hand. I remember holding a small child’s toy in my hand—a plastic knight from a toy castle that reminded me of my playful five year old. I remember not being able to look at the pictures of my kids with their beaming, playful, innocent smiles. It killed me inside to feel the sheer pain of loss as it finally hit me that I had reached the end of my marriage.

Where did I go wrong? How could I go from marrying my high school sweetheart, who I couldn’t imagine my life without, to living with a stranger? From the carefree conversations where I would talk about anything to walking on eggshells? From being so sure of our future to not even knowing what the next day would bring?

I had felt the distance between us growing wider, but I thought the next big promotion would fix it all. We would then have the money to solve our financial problems. So I focused totally on work, but when I finally looked back up, our marriage was dying.

Even when I knew we were in trouble, I didn’t really know how to deal with it. At first, I tried to rekindle the spark, but in the end, we each said, “I’m just not in love with you anymore.”

I remember going through the roller coaster of feelings—thrilled and excited when things seemed to be working out and then frustrated when I felt us falling apart. Things got so bad that I even wondered if it was worth it to continue trying. I felt the situation was completely out of my control. I remember family and friends telling me that “these things just happen,” “I picked the wrong one,” and “I should cut my losses, divorce, and move on.”

There was just one voice that encouraged me to find a way through the storm. I decided to follow that one voice, and after a year of hard work on both sides, my wife and I found restoration and renewal.

We fell in love even more deeply. We remarried, each other, symbolizing a new marriage—different from the first, choosing each other all over again. That was over ten years ago, and our second marriage is stronger and more fulfilling than I ever thought it could be!

When I think of how very different my family’s lives would have been had we stayed apart, I get shivers. We would have missed out on so much joy.

Like too many people, I didn’t take action early and energetically enough. I almost lost everything I had, and my life fell completely apart. It wasn’t until the end, when the marriage was in a coma, that it slowly came back to life.

That is what has driven me to develop this program. I want couples to have the tools they need to have a happy and fulfilling marriage. Like a kid whose mom died of cancer and pours over all the science desperately searching for a cure, I have researched all the top resources on marriage, focusing on those that have really made a difference, to try to find a cure for the destructive disease of divorce that is spreading wildly from family to family.

Just as our ancestors could not see the invisible threat of bacteria, though they knew something was making them sick, there is an invisible threat that is destroying marriages. It is my sincere hope that after completing this program, you will be able to see the common warning signs that begin to creep up in many marriages, enabling you to become immune to the threats that lead to divorce. You will be equipped to create and maintain a happy and fulfilling marriage.

If you don’t have a happy and fulfilling marriage today, you are not alone. Drs. Willard Harley, Laura Schlessinger and Terrance Real all report divorce rates of over 50%.

According to author David Cole, a couple who married in 1990 has an estimated up to a 67% chance of getting a divorce. And according to Dr. John Gottman “The chance of a first marriage ending in divorce over a forty-year period is 67 percent.”

That means that couples married today probably have less than a 50% chance of staying married! If you lived in a neighborhood where there was a 50 to 67 percent chance of being physically attacked, wouldn’t you try to improve the odds in your favor by equipping yourself? The time to prepare is not when the storm occurs. The time is now.

This is why I have worked so hard to bring you everything you need to know to have a strong marriage. When I think of all that my family and I would have lost had I given up—all the shared memories and dreams—I am so grateful that we were able to develop the tools we needed to create a happy marriage.

I’ve analyzed and extensively reviewed thousands of pages of research. I’ve also included my own personal insight into the fading and dying of a marriage and then its subsequent and amazing rebirth. I am truly passionate about helping those struggling with their marriage, as I once did.

During the next month, you will be equipped with new insights, understanding and skills to beat the increasing chances of divorce.

According to the authors of [Fighting for Your Marriage _](Howard Markman, Scott Stanley, and Susan Blumberg), marriage programs like PREP (Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program) and training that is similar to the program you are about to begin has been found to lower rates of premarital breakup and post marital divorce. In a large-scale study in Denver, couples were one-third less likely to break up as the couples who _*did not* receive PREP training, up through five years following the program. Marital training programs like this one can make a significant impact by strengthening marriage the marriage, and reducing the chances of divorce.

The GPS unit is an amazing invention because I can go anywhere without ever getting lost. Even when I make a wrong turn, it redirects me in a calm voice. The day-by-day program found in this program is meant to be your personal GPS, guiding you back to reconnection with your spouse. Each day will address a new topic, like a new turn in your journey, and at the end of this program, you will arrive at a happy and fulfilling marriage.

I completely agree with motivational speaker Anthony Robbins when he says that we can do anything if we have a big enough “Why.” This program may seem daunting, and it requires a lot of time, because anything worth having doesn’t come easy. There will be challenges. However, according to author Zig Ziglar, a happy marriage is the one thing most of us value and want above even fortune and fame. Yet, we spend little time learning how to have a successful one. If one doesn’t have a big enough “Why,” he won’t be able stay the course.

Let’s work on finding some “Why’s” that might help encourage you to complete this program and apply the principles you will learn:

  • If unequipped, the chance of divorce is between 50% and 67% with 50% of marriages ending in the first 7 years. If you equip yourself, you significantly increase the odds that your marriage will survive
  • Walking out on your marriage to find someone else does not improve your chances. Divorce rates actually increase for second, third, and forth marriages. One who didn’t learn how to create and maintain a happy first marriage is often no wiser in subsequent marriages. It’s like the person who can’t maintain their car and just gets a new car that has no issues and works, but over time, they end up in the same situation. If it really was about whom you married, our odds would get better in subsequent marriages—but they don’t.
  • According to the Justice Department, they determine how many prisons to build by looking at two factors: the first is the reading comprehension level of the child, and the second is the presence or absence of the child’s father. That is just how important having a strong marriage with mom and dad in the home is to your kids.
  • According to Dr. Scott Haltzman “compared to children living apart from their fathers, children living with two married biological parents are, on average, less likely to be suspended or expelled from school, less likely to engage in delinquent activities, less likely to experience depression and anxiety, and less likely to report behavioral problems.

It’s the “why” that creates the motivation and drive for your actions that will push you forward to do the work needed to create a strong marriage.

Even when you have the “Why” down—the motivation and drive—you still need to know what to do. Even if you had a gun to your head, if you were never trained to fly a stealth bomber, you wouldn’t be able to hop in and take off. And while our country spends plenty of time training our military to fulfill their roles so that they will succeed, we spend little time preparing for marriage. Then, we are surprised to learn that so many marriages are unable to succeed and end in failure.

Marriage starts off deceptively simple and easy, but anyone that’s been married for a few years with kids will tell you this: It gets complicated and can become difficult quickly. You need a foundation of knowledge and skills if you’re going to be able to see your marriage take off and maintain its successful course.

I remember being frustrated feeling I had tried everything I knew to do, but nothing worked. This book is something new, designed to walk you step by step, like a GPS, toward your final destination: connection with your spouse. I hope you find the next month to be a time of excitement, renewal and rekindling of hope.

Each day is designed to build on the next, and it’s meant to show you how the typical couple starts out feeling close and in love and how they can over time grow apart, with clear insight into providing actionable steps towards reconnection and creating a happy and fulfilling marriage.

Not only will you benefit, but so will your family and children. There are a few things I am willing to do for myself, but I’d give up anything, including my life, for my children. Remind yourself of the “Why” you are doing this. You can have the marriage you always wanted. I can tell you from firsthand experience: It’s never too late to turn, reconnect, and have the happy and fulfilling marriage you have always wanted.

[*Let’s start at the beginning… *]

Falling in Love

Is it new love or real love?

As human beings, whether we like to admit it or not, our whole lives we look around for that missing piece—that special person who makes you feel whole and complete. When we find him or her, naturally we try our best to impress. We get dressed up, talk sweetly, try to keep the conversation interesting and lively, and make phenomenal eye contact. We begin to connect, soul to soul.

Mike can still remember courting his future wife. They met in high school, where he wrote her love letters during class. He told her how beautiful she was and how crazy in love he was with her. He walked her home, holding her hand and carrying her books and talking all the way. He would surprise her with small gifts—maybe a rose, a porcelain figure, or a love letter. They talked deeply every day, and he couldn’t wait to see her after they parted. Just being with her was the highlight of his day. He never felt so alive until he met her. They were definitely on cloud nine.

When we court, we share our hearts and minds. We talk about our past, present, and future hopes, dreams and fears. We talk about everything that went right and wrong in our lives.

In the beginning, as we talk, we change from strangers to an interconnected couple that can’t possibly imagine being separated. Finally, we find acceptance—something that maybe we never felt before from anyone.

During courtship, men and women continually woo each other. They give gifts, send notes, are kind and loving, and spend every free moment together, holding hands and trying to make each other happy. Every day they show each other their love.

They feel an emotional high, thinking about each other from dawn to dusk. According to Barbara Bartlein author of Why Did I Marry You Anyway?, the latest research suggests that neurotransmitters in the brain release serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine—all of which contribute to the way we feel. Our brain chemistry pushes us to enjoy being together with a very strong feeling of contentment. This works to make love feel effortless.* *Behind-the-scenes, hormones are influencing us to feel that all is wonderful. Most researchers agree that after six to twenty-four months, the good-feeling hormones and that initial “high” begin to fade.

During courtship, we are excited, as finally our own epic romance begins. The typical romantic chick flick follows the same pattern: Sparks fly when they meet. They share and get close and seem inseparable. In the middle of the movie, there is some misunderstanding and the two break up. In the end, he realizes he can’t live without her, or she realizes she can’t live without him, and they run to the airport, tell each other they can’t live without each other, and live happily ever after.

I’ve lost count of the number of movies that retell this story again and again. After a while, we may come to believe that true love is something that is found, and that it’s just about meeting the right one. We expect this euphoric effortless first love feeling to last forever. When others try to tell us that marriage takes work, we laugh.

How many movies show true, mature love? Not very many.

When you are experiencing this initial effortless love, it’s like the two of you are in a speed boat. Things are moving fast, and you only see each other as the world blurs around you. Friends, family and work fade away. It’s new and exciting, feeling the pull of the engine as you race along! Then, the motor begins to die down, and then, it shuts down. You then continue to move forward on inertia, and you enjoy it even though you’re not moving as fast. Things that were a blur, like friends, family and work come back into focus. Now, to move forward, you have to work together, take to the oars, and row.

This is the part the movies don’t cover. There will be a time when we can no longer ride on the momentum of the initial romantic love. Many couples in the boat are surprised, and they become confused as to what they should do.

  • Some don’t know how to row, so they don’t do anything.
  • Some may want the other to try harder and row, but the lopsided effort only spins the boat in circles.
  • Some say the magic is gone, and they want to get into someone else’s boat with a motor. Unfortunately, that motor eventually dies down too.

But you can learn to work together, pick up speed, and have excitement again! This time it will last, and you will both become stronger in the process.

Many of the things that you may have done naturally and easily during courtship now take effort, but the key idea here is that you need to continue to do these things for each other throughout your marriage.

If you’ve lost that feeling, as I once did, know you can get it back,[_ _]stronger than ever! If you thought that first love was exciting, your second in-love experience will be even more rewarding, because you’ll know that it can be sustained for a lifetime.

You will know the difference between the fleeting new love and the timeless, sacrificial, beautiful true love.

Consider: As you reflect back and think of when you and your spouse first fell in love, do you remember it all being easier? Was it new love or mature love?

[+:+] Take a moment to find you own “why”. What would success from this program mean to you? To your family? Knowing all the statistics, what would the pain of divorce feel like? What would it feel like to fall in love all over again? To have confidence and certainty in your marriage? *]

Think about and write down three “Whys” for completing this program. For each “Why,” write down how you will feel if you achieve it and how you will feel if you don’t.

[* *]

~ DAY 2 ~

How to Create a Lasting Connection

Welcome to Day 2! What did you think about when you and your spouse first fell in love? Did you write down the three “Whys” for completing this program? If you didn’t, please do so before continuing.

Thanks so much for reading and for your dedication to improving your marriage. It’s tough to set aside time each day but remember your own personal “Whys” for doing this.

Today, we are going to cover connection.

Mike can still remember when they first met like it was yesterday. They were teenagers in high school and talked on the phone for hours. It was so easy to talk to each other. They talked about their families and what they liked and didn’t like. He shared funny stories just to hear her laugh. Right away they had so many things in common, and shared so many of the same opinions and ideas, that it felt as if he had always known her.

After the endless conversation, laughter, comfort and encouragement, he felt he had met his soul mate. She made him feel so good about himself, gave him a sense of purpose, and for the first time he really wanted to put someone else before himself. He knew she made him a better man. He couldn’t imagine a life without her. For the first time in his life he felt someone truly understood and cared for him. He felt connected.

As we fall in love we find connection. As we share our thoughts and feelings, fears and hopes and dreams, we grow closer and closer together, until we become emotionally and physically connected. We don’t fall in love talking about things like laundry and the weather; it’s when we talk about what’s really on our hearts and minds that we feel connected. It’s when we are connected that we feel we can speak without fear about the things that really matter to us.

Why is connection key?

Connection is the key to having a strong marriage. Without it many marriages are ended as one spouse complains they’ve grown apart and lost the connection they once had.

The loss of a sense of connection between couples is often the first thing to go in the marriage. We often can’t see when it happens but we can sense that something has changed.

If we could see connection, it might look like beautiful, silver glowing threads tying one person to another. The more threads we see, the stronger the connection. Unfortunately, connection can’t be so obviously identified, but instead we rely on our feelings to sense it. I remember losing my connection to my own wife, with only a few thin faded threads still joining us at one point.

[*Where does this need for connection come from? *]

Imagine a mother holding her small newborn baby girl, arms so tiny and frail, small hands grabbing her pinky finger. Her blue sparkling eyes look into her mother’s eyes. The small baby weighing only 8 pounds and completely helpless begins to coo in her small voice. The mother instinctively hums and gently pats the baby reassuringly. Baby and mommy go back and forth. With each coo the baby asks, “Mommy, are you still there?” and with each loving pat, the mother replies “Yes, I’m here.” Back and forth they go into the night, the baby asking the mother for reassurance and the mother reassuring.

This is how the small, fragile and helpless baby ensures she is connected to her mother who is the key to her survival. According to David Code, author of To Raise Happy Kids Put Your Marriage First, all of this happens instinctively, without conscious thought, through a process called attunement.

Attunement is a strong survival mechanism. For example, in a herd of sheep, the first sheep that becomes frightened because it sees the wolf will, through this instinctual connection, pass on a fearful signal that will quickly spread to all the other sheep. So the whole herd can then respond quickly to the wolf, even though only one actually saw the wolf helping them survive the danger.

How do connection and emotional attunement play out in marriage?

How we use our tone of voice, body language and facial expressions affects the tone and mood within our family. If parents are fearful or worried, attunement unknowingly spreads similar feelings to their children and those they interact with. Instinctively, family members tune in to the same emotions that others are feeling. Being aware of attunement is important because it’s a critical component of connection.

Dr. John Gottman has been studying married couples for years. Through his extensive research he has been able to predict, with 95% accuracy, whether or not a couple will divorce after only observing them for a few minutes.

How did he gather his information from which he was able to develop such effective predictive theories?

He invites couples to stay a few days at what appears to be an ordinary apartment. It has cameras to monitor them as they speak to each other and is, in fact, a research facility. His team has captured hours of conversation, and conducted the detailed analysis to allow them to develop the model that makes highly accurate predictions.

As Gottman studied couples, he looked to see how they connected. In his book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” he remarks how initially he expected to find couples who had really deep conversation would have deeper and better marriages. What he found though, was that what connected people had less to do with these big, deep, long conversations, and more to do with all the little interactions that occurred throughout the day. The couples’ ability to be attuned to each other was key.

Just as babies instinctively coo and reach out to connect, adults continue to reach out to connect with others. As adults we continue to instinctively reach out to connect by asking questions like “How are you?” We reach out with a look, a touch or a comment to another.

Gottman has found that once we reach out to connect, the other person responds in one of three ways, either:

  1. Positive acknowledgment,
  2. Neutral ignoring or avoidance, or
  3. Negative rejection.

For example, if my wife asks what I think about going to Hawaii,

  1. I can, in a positive tone, acknowledge her and say, “That sounds great. I can use a break too!”
  2. I can, in a neutral or dismissive tone, avoid her and say, “I need to wrap something up. I’ll get back to you.”
  3. I can, in a negative tone, reject her and say, “Are you kidding? With what money do you expect us to go to Hawaii?”

In the day of the life of a marriage, we are constantly interacting and connecting with our spouse in one of these three ways.

Of these three ways, it was found that couples who consistently ignored each other or turned away found their connection to be weak and the marriage vulnerable to divorce. Marriages where couples consistently and positively acknowledged each other throughout the day were much more connected and closer than those that turned away.

Many times we think it’s the big things that cause a loss of connection, but as we can see it’s really the little things we do throughout the day.

Remember to constantly positively accept your spouse as he or she reaches out to you with words, a look, or a touch. Each time you pull away or ignore her in some way you weaken the connections that bind you together. If you continue to ignore or turn away, over time you will no longer be attuned with each other and no longer feel connected.

Mike remembers a time when he and his wife were so close they could finish each other’s sentences. She was the first and last thing on his mind throughout the day. There was a connection that he felt that she was on his side and knew him as well as he knew himself.

Mary knew his past, his present and dreams and whenever they were together he felt complete. He’s not sure when he noticed there was a chasm between them and she felt so far away from him. It was like he could see her, but they were separated he couldn’t figure out why. Even when they were in the same room together, he felt all alone. Things just weren’t the same.

How do we break the connection with our spouse over time?

When we are critical to each other and turn away from each other it is impossible to connect.

By saying something like, “What a dumb idea!” you are severing a connection. And once you feel disconnected, it is even harder to talk or work anything out. Instead, it’s easier to let some time pass, then reach out nonverbally with a hug, inviting glance or some other gesture like a cup of coffee before speaking again. Without connection, it’s like serving dinner when someone has lost their appetite; it will be forced and won’t be well received.

Aside from turning away, lack of opportunities also causes lack of connection. Remember, as you are spending time with your spouse you should connect by going back and forth, acknowledging each other.

She asks him instinctively: “Do you still love me?”

He asks her: “Do you still see me as your hero?”

Each time you accept, acknowledge, and strengthen your connection. But if you are not in the same room together, or do not make time to talk, then you are not able to strengthen your connection.

During courtship, we became best friends able to talk about anything, but somewhere in our marriage, we find that our conversation is often about problems and concerns that we have. The enjoyable conversation where we just laughed and had fun with each other is set aside to talk about “important” stuff.

What we often don’t realize is that the fun times, where we share and enjoy each other’s company, is the important stuff and that’s why we married in the first place. We need to spend time just having fun, relaxing, conversing, looking each other in the eyes, holding and touching each other, and just connecting.

Another obstacle to connecting is connecting with someone other than our spouse. While at first you may not notice it, as the need for you to connect is being met by someone else, you begin to feel the distance between you and your spouse. Be careful to avoid connecting to others at the expense of connecting to your spouse.

So how do we build and maintain a strong connection with our spouse?

It is so important to build and maintain a connection with your spouse. Many of the things we did instinctively in courtship we now need to do deliberately to maintain our connection with our spouse. Talking together as friends, spending time looking at pictures or doing something fun, and learning to set aside any problems for a later time will allow you to reconnect and build intimacy and security.

Another key component is to call each other throughout the day even if just for a few minutes. We may think a short five or ten minute call in the morning, and another in the afternoon before coming home from work, may not mean or matter much. However, I can tell you from firsthand experience they help you to feel and stay connected with each other throughout the day. Remember, Gottman’s findings were that it’s the consistent daily little interactions that really add up.

Some husbands make the mistake of speaking coldly, or ignoring their wife during their day, and do not see when they get home how they severed another thread in their connection.

Each time a spouse calls, they are reaching out and asking: “Are you there for me?” When you pick up, and talk in an inviting positive tone, even for five minutes, you are positively acknowledging them saying “Yes, I’m here for you.”

As you make time to connect each day you show your spouse that you are there for them.

Just as we did when we were courting, we need to spend time hanging out, listening to each other and being there for each other.

If I hear my wife say she feels she is not doing a good enough job, instinctively I want to protect her from her feelings, reassure her, and tell her what an amazing wife and mother she is. Most husbands look to be the emotional protector of their wives. It’s by tapping his desire to protect that a wife can encourage him to connect.

“You never come home anymore. You are always working so late! I feel like I’m single!” Mary complained bitterly.

”Do you think I like this? Do you think [*I LOVE *]my job so much? Do you get that I do this for you? I can’t just quit my job, we’ve got bills to pay, a lot of folks don’t even have a job, and you just complain about mine all day. Maybe soon I won’t have one either, then you’ll really be happy!”

Around and around they went, feeling more and more disconnected. We need to be careful that we don’t turn against and away from each other, even through tone or facial expression. We need to turn toward each other.

It’s easy to see that they need to learn to express their disappointment that he works such long hours in a loving way. All she really wanted to hear is that he too feels the strain of being apart and wants to connect and be with her.

It’s not about who’s right or wrong about an issue. What’s important is whether they are able to maintain and strengthen their connection even as they face challenges together.

Consider: Think about when you first met. Of the three typical responses, did you usually move toward, ignore, or reject your partner? What about now? How do you typically respond to your partner when he or she reaches out with an idea or feeling?

Action: Come up with times to call and connect with your spouse for 5 to 10 minutes, twice every day before you come together at the end of the day.

 

~ DAY 3 ~

How to Create an Environment of Acceptance

Today we are going to cover acceptance.

I remember watching a classic Twilight Zone episode. It starts with a woman’s face wrapped in bandages, as she lies recovering from radical facial surgery. As the woman lies there, she describes times when children saw her face and ran away. She was so heartbroken she often ran away in tears, and felt like a monster. Doctors and nurses in the background quietly discussed her state, and how they felt so bad for her, and hoped that the procedure had worked. When the time comes to slowly peel away the bandages, we see a very beautiful woman. I remember thinking, “Wow! [_The new surgery had worked! What a miracle!” _]

The doctors and nurses gasp, and sadly shake their heads and they contend that the surgery was a complete failure. For the first time in the show, we see that the doctors and nurses all have pig-like faces, very different from our own. We are shocked, as in our minds we would never want to have a pig-like face in our world that would be viewed as ugly and not beautiful. The woman wanted to be beautiful by everyone else’s standard of beauty. She was willing to go to great lengths, endure painful surgery, time and time again. But why? Did she want to be beautiful? Remember, she already was. Or is it because she wanted to feel beautiful? It is because she didn’t want people to run away from her and reject her. She went through all the surgeries, and all the physical pain, to avoid the deeper emotional pain of rejection, that can only be relieved by feeling accepted.

Do we really need acceptance?

One of our greatest needs throughout our life is acceptance. Each of us needs acceptance at different levels, and we receive it in different ways and levels as we grow up. Many of us are not truly aware of this need, like most other needs, unless it’s unmet. Looking back at the woman in the story, it was not until a little girl ran away in horror that she deeply felt rejection and the ultimate pain of a lack of acceptance and not being wanted.

To avoid rejection some of us are willing to go to great lengths, even surgery and exercise to become more attractive. Others at times may hide their true feelings and thoughts, agreeing with others in conversation, looking to avoid disapproval, looking for acceptance.

What does acceptance look like?

During the initial stages of our relationships as we fall in love, we put our best foot forward, ensuring we look our best and are on our best behavior. We try our very best to win the other over as we progress from strangers to soul mates.

During this time he constantly tells her how beautiful and special she is, and she tells him how wonderful and capable he is. In effect they say: “I love and accept you just the way you are.”

Deep inside, we want to hear that someone we hold in high regard accepts us. It’s this desire that drives us to find acceptance and avoid rejection. This need continues to exist throughout our marriage.

  • We want to know that our partner would marry us all over again for who we are and that love is not something that we have to earn. Even if we lost what we have, we would still be accepted:
  • If she were in a terrible car accident and badly burned, her face scared and patches of hair missing, that he would still see her beauty and accept her.
  • That if he were in a similar accident and lost his ability to work and his savings to medical expenses, she would still see him as capable, and accept him.
  • That no matter what happened—if you found out you could never have kids, or have a terminal illness—you will find acceptance.

Underneath it all, acceptance is tied to what most of us truly long for: complete and unconditional love.

After finally finding that unconditional love and acceptance Mary had always wanted, she felt it slipping away. At first her husband began comparing her to his mother, commenting how his mother always seemed to have things under control. Mary tried to fight it, but inside she burned with anger at being compared.

“Those were different times, and she’s different from me,” she thought.

When Mary told Mike how she felt or about her ideas, he’d laugh at her and say they weren’t practical. She knew he wasn’t trying to be mean, but he was hurting her and tearing her up on the inside. Slowly, she began to feel she needed to be “careful” about what she said. That pure acceptance she once felt had become a distant memory. She found herself getting short with him, and hurt turned into anger, as he constantly compared her to others, rather than just accepting and loving her for who she was.

[*So now that we are reminded of how important acceptance is to us, what happens when we no longer have acceptance in our marriage? *]

We begin to cover up our true thoughts and feelings and we don’t share our real feelings and thoughts. When we do this, we begin to disconnect from each other. Words that need to be said go unsaid; feelings that were meant to be expressed are never discussed. We stop being our true selves with each other, until we no longer truly know each other.

When we begin to fear rejection and being hurt, we begin to ask for what we want indirectly. Instead of asking directly for more time with our partner we drop subtle, vague hints. We are no longer in a place where we can ask for anything, held back by the fear of rejection.

Without feeling truly accepted in our lives we eventually become cold, bitter, angry, frightened, disappointed and unresponsive.

We begin to feel that we are only loved and cared for because of something we did or have. We feel our partner wants us to be someone that we are not and do not approve of what we do and who we are. We no longer feel unconditional love and acceptance.

So how is acceptance in marriage lost over time?

Imagine you were perfectly and unconditionally loved by a perfect person, who wore a special ring bestowing this power. It didn’t matter what you did; you could do no wrong. You could arrive late and still be told, in a loving and patient voice, with a look that still said “I love you” that your spouse had merely been worried about you. You were never spoken to harshly. You also tried to be perfect, but you still made mistakes of course.

One day, that perfect person somehow lost the special ring, and as a result became imperfect. Again, as you sometimes do, you make a mistake: You meant to call to say you were late, but your cell phone died. This time the loving look and connection is replaced with anger. You are criticized in a loud harsh voice and told you always mess things up; that you are irresponsible, and then compared to someone else that is supposedly “never late.” Inside you can feel the threads of connection being cut.

Despite a later apology and explanation, you feel that something has changed and been lost. You feel rejection and a loss of acceptance.

How is acceptance destroyed?

  1. When we criticize one another we reject each other and destroy our acceptance of each other. We can handle that maybe what we did was a mistake (after all no one’s perfect), but it’s when someone tells us something is wrong with us, as a person that makes us feel rejected and unaccepted.

2. When we are constantly corrected in our conversations, we become discouraged and come to a place where we don’t even feel like speaking because the other person will constantly correct and contradict us.

3. When we are told we shouldn’t feel the way we do, and our feelings are minimized or belittled, we no longer feel accepted.

4. When we feel ignored and unheard, that the other person doesn’t know our real self, we don’t feel accepted.

5. When we withdraw our approving looks and smiles, we are saying that we no longer accept our partner; that our approval and acceptance must be earned.

The once carefree conversation that you enjoyed is now replaced with anxiety and fear that you might say the wrong thing, or they might say the wrong thing. In this state of anxiety, intimacy begins to fade. It’s when we are in a place where there is a lack of connection, a lack of acceptance that we get angry. We overreact to seemingly small things as the aura of connection and acceptance fades. We push each other away, feeling even less accepted by our partner.

Imagine you are in a room, with a small group of kind, warm and inviting people. They greet you warmly, speak to you politely, and offer you a warm beverage and snacks. They begin to include you in casual conversation talking about their own struggles in their marriage. Some laugh at themselves as they recount humorous personal stories about married life. You meet with them week after week, and everyone shares a bit more until you’re comfortable sharing your struggles. As you speak, you see the genuine interest in their eyes, and hear in their voices that they have begun to truly care about you. You can speak what is on your heart and mind; you can admit your imperfections and struggles, and no one ever ridicules you, minimizes what you say or becomes angry. Instead they open up and recount similar struggles in an understanding way. As time passes, you begin to feel safe and the more time you spend with them the more you feel accepted.

How do we bring back feelings of acceptance in our marriage?

We feel acceptance when we are able to open up and share our true deepest feelings, imperfections and struggles without fear of rejection by harsh words, tones or looks.

Many of us are hard on ourselves and self critical, pushing ourselves to be better. Sometimes we take the same approach with our spouses, trying to motivate them to become a better person, especially when we’ve seen glimpses of their great potential. As difficult as it may be though, we must learn to overlook these shortcomings and imperfections to create feelings of acceptance.

To start, acceptance is a decision. At some point we decide to accept someone or reject them. During our courtship, we connected and enjoyed the state of bliss that euphoric new love brings, and we decided that we loved this person unconditionally. Now that time has passed, and we know our partners more fully, not just their good side, but their bad side, and all the sides they tried to hide as they worked to win us over, again we must decide.

We need to accept our spouse for who he or she is, and see the unique beauty and strengths which complement our own. Often where we are weak, our partner is strong. We need to look at our spouse again with approving eyes, and in a tone that conveys that we care for them deeply just as they are.

It’s when we show our approval and acceptance of who they are as a person that we encourage our spouse to want to improve and be the best they can be.

While you may not always be happy with what they choose to do, you can always choose to be understanding and accepting. Imagine if you had a gross imperfection on your face—would you really want to be reminded of it every five minutes? Wouldn’t you probably already have noticed it yourself? Everyone has imperfections, and no one really wants to be reminded about them each day. Instead what we need to hear is that, despite our imperfections, we are accepted and loved.

We do this by validating our partner’s feelings. When we convey that we understand their feelings, and take the time to listen in an accepting way, we remove the fears of rejection that limit us from having a great marriage.

Fears of rejection may prevent your partner from fully opening up to you, which is vital to having a deeply fulfilling marriage. Often when someone finally feels accepted, they will no longer pull away, and will instead begin to reach out to you.

Consider: As you think about your own marriage, do you feel as accepted as you would like to feel? How do you think you might be able to make your partner feel completely accepted by you?

Action: List three ways you may be unknowingly destroying the feeling of acceptance in your marriage, then look to replace these with three ways you can build it.

 

[*~ DAY 4 ~ *]

The Relationship Account

What is this relationship account?

In Dr. Willard F. Harley’s classic marriage book His Needs, Her Needs, he discusses a critical concept he terms the “Love Bank,” where couples in their relationship do things to either build or diminish their love. In Dr. Gary Chapman’s powerful book The Five Love Languages, he seconds this model, referring to these interactions as “tanks” that are filled or emptied by spouses.

Just as most of us have a personal bank account where we make deposits and withdrawals each day, we all instinctively have a relationship account. Whenever we meet someone new, and decide to begin to invest in that person, we set up an emotional account. Just as our real personal financial accounts drive and limit what we can do, so does our relationship accounts we have with others. One can buy a BMW without money if one’s credit is good, but you can’t just kiss the person if you don’t have any Relationship Credits (RCs).

Most of us instinctively know that we cannot immediately fully trust everyone we meet, and that trust must be developed over a period of time. We are often not conscious of several processes that occur inside of us, like the automatic, consistent beating of our hearts, the firing of neurons or the automatic relationship account that we instinctively set up.

Some of our relationship accounts are strong and positive. For example, lifelong friends who we care deeply for, and feel very close to, usually have large relationship account balances. We may also know others whose accounts are “in the red.” We do not care to be around them, and in fact we try to avoid them. Interestingly enough, you feel emotionally drained if you associate with them and after awhile, you may dread your next encounter.

When our relationship account is in good standing then we find it easier to talk to that person about anything. Over time it’s the steady deposits (credits) and withdrawals (debits) into and out of your relationship accounts that lead to an overall standing or impression of that person. If your interactions are constantly positive then you will over time automatically begin to see him more favorably. But if most interactions feel like a withdrawal, then over time you will come to see this person in a very negative light. Even their attempts to show kindness and add positive deposits may not help much.

A while back, my wife and I were watching a documentary called Super Size Me. It’s about a guy named Morgan Spurlock who decided to eat nothing but food from McDonald’s for thirty days. Experts had been debating the effects of such a diet, so he decided to document exactly what would happen. Morgan wanted to prove his personal theory that eating fast food was one of the primary reasons for the increasing spread of obesity throughout U.S. society, which the Surgeon General has declared “epidemic.”

Before he started his experiment he was checked and tested by three doctors—a general practitioner, a cardiologist and a gastroenterologist—who pronounced his general health to be outstanding. They also monitored him over the thirty days to ensure that he was not irreparably damaging his health. Morgan also consulted with a dietitian and an exercise physiologist, who agreed his health was excellent.

Each day he committed to eat only three meals a day, and go through the entire McDonald's menu, trying something new on the menu each day. As the days progressed, you could see his health gradually decline. Each medical examination and report confirmed that his health was deteriorating. The doctors were continuously warning him that whatever he was doing was dangerous and that he should stop. At the end of the thirty days, Morgan gained 24½ pounds, added 13% of body mass increase and increased his cholesterol level to 230. Had he not changed his course, he might have eventually had a heart attack.

Normally, fast food does not cause this deterioration to occur as quickly; instead of thirty days, it may happen over several years. And while it took him one month to do extensive damage to his body, it took him fourteen times as long (420 days) to lose the weight.

So how does the bank/tank get filled and emptied?

Thinking back during the period of my own personal struggle in our marriage, our accounts were in the red. What I was experiencing was the pain of the gradual steady withdrawal from our relationship accounts and a lack of deposits, until we no longer felt as we did earlier in our relationship.

You don’t always notice because it happens slowly. If Morgan had McDonald’s meals only twice a week, it would have taken him almost two years to see the effects from eating at McDonald’s, and he would not have been able to clearly attribute the increased weight gain, cholesterol and body mass to the fast food. But the cause and the affect would have been the same.

The same is true with our relationship accounts. It’s the gradual withdrawals and lack of deposits that set the stage for a relationship heart attack, which threatens the health and vibrancy and finally the very life of the marriage.

What are some examples of relationship credits (RCs)?

As Dr. Willard F. Harley has found, when we were first courting our spouse, we made several deposits with our spouse. We do this in the form of the following:

  1. Kind words and compliments, understanding and acceptance

2. Spending time

3. Sharing gifts

4. Small acts of kindness

5. Sexual intimacy

6. Compliments and admiration

7. Professions of attraction and loyalty

8. Constantly connecting and reaching out to each other

9. Meeting each other’s needs

When we overlook each other’s faults and mistakes, and are accepting, we add RCs to the account. When we spend time together and walked away feeling happy, thinking “That was so much fun,” and “I really enjoyed that,” a deposit was made in our account. When your partner smiled and expressed the same enjoyment, you entered a deposit in his or her relationship account.

It’s the daily deposits that cause us to reach a high enough balance in our relationship account and continue falling in love.

What are some examples of Relationship Debits (RDs)?

Relationship Debits are made when we do something negative to our spouse. It can be either an omission or failure to meet a need, or an action that causes harm.

Some examples are the following:

  1. Forgetting birthdays and special events

2. Being critical

3. Getting loud

4. Making ugly faces

5. Being disrespectful

6. Ignoring our spouse

7. Not really listening

8. Not caring or trying

9. Not being there when you’re really needed

Withdrawing your approval, support, intimate conversation and physical touch all harm the relationship. This is because we all have an expectation that our partner will make a certain amount of deposits each day to meet our needs. If she expects to talk with him each day and feel cherished, any day that he does not fulfill those needs his account will be incur several withdrawals. So not meeting needs then leads to automatic withdrawals.

He might get mad, and say or think, “Hey I didn’t do anything.”

And she may think to herself, “That is exactly the problem! He didn’t do anything.”

To maintain our relationship accounts we need to ensure that daily we are looking to make deposits and avoid withdrawals. Else we risk gradually depleting our accounts until we wonder what we are doing in the relationship. We lose the feeling of being in love.

A relationship account with a negative balance leads to feeling not invested in the relationship. One feels taken for granted and even loses the desire to try to make deposits.

How much are Relationship Credits (RCs) worth?

I have a digital frame that scrolls through several pictures of our children. In one scene they are playing in the park, having fun in a giant sandbox making castles, smiling and laughing. In another one they are climbing a tree and waving. Every time I look at them it takes me back to that day. While it didn’t cost a lot to take the pictures, to me they are very valuable because of what they mean to me.

Just as we value things in different ways, we value relationship transactions and experiences differently too. We have some needs that are more important to us than others. Where a man who makes love with his wife may get 500 credits deposited into his account, she may only deposit 100 credits in her own account for the same transaction. A woman who shares her day and feels understood, connected with and accepted, may get 500 credits deposited in her account while the husband who listened to her may deposit 100 credits in his. At the end of the day they may both have 600 credits and be content; how they get there is quite different. While both may understand they are in a good place, it is often not clear to either how different they really are and how certain experiences have a different affect on them than others.

However, this understanding is crucial. If we understand that these different transactions have different values, then we can see how it’s in our best interest to know what actions our partners value the most. We can then effectively make the greatest deposits in each other’s accounts, avoid withdrawals, and over time restore and maintain our relationship.

I remember working very hard for a big promotion at work. I would get up early and study, work late to exceed all the expectations of my supervisors, and go to college at night to work on my degree. I had a “plan.” I was going to get the promotion; and it was going to significantly increase our income; and this extra income was going to take care of all our problems. In my mind, I thought that while I wasn’t making as many deposits as I used to in my marriage, once I got the promotion, my wife would be so happy that I would get 1,000,000 credits in my wife’s account!

It was this type of thinking that contributed to the serious marital turmoil I would find myself in later. In my research, I have found that many husbands get caught up in the “big bang” mindset. We think that if we give her the “big promotion or income,” the “big house,” the “big vacation” and the “New Car;” that we will deposit so many credits that she will be happy and in love with us again—just like when we first met.

My research and my personal life have taught me that it actually doesn’t work this way. When a husband gets paid, he may say to himself, “Hey I paid all these bills, the mortgage, electricity, food, etc.” On some level he says to himself, “Man that’s got to be worth 10,000 credits at least.” He thinks he’s met his “minimum relationship quota” and concentrates on the 1,000,000 credit plan he is working toward.

But what he often doesn’t see is that she only gives him 1,000 credits for the paycheck. When she is expecting at least 5,000 credits and over time she only gets 1,000, his account with her begins to dwindle. Each time she expects 5,000 credits and he only puts in 1,000 credits, in her mind he is down by 4,000. He doesn’t realize that the only thing that is keeping him in positive territory and in the black are all the deposits they made when they were first together.

Though she really isn’t getting all her needs met, she tries to be understanding and often sacrificially pushes aside her own needs in the relationship. With each passing day her husband’s relationship account balance continues to decline. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get a “Relationship Account Statement” showing him his current balance in black and white in the mail to tell him where he currently stands; he just knows things are beginning to feel different.

When he finally gets the big promotion, instead of getting the 1,000,000 credits he only gets 100,000 credits. If he was already in the red, by say 200,000 credits, he will still be in the red in her relationship account by 100,000 credits. He may then conclude, “I can ever make her happy” and she may feel the same. However he can make her very happy, he just needs to develop a new approach.

My latest research and personal experience has shown me that a wife views the little things in life like, kind gestures with a greater credit value than a husband. Kind gestures like:

  1. A ten minute phone call during the day just to see how she is doing

2. An unexpected gift or card

3. A sincere compliment

4. A loving arm around her

5. A corny joke to make her smile

All may be worth much more to her than he realizes. All of these small kind gestures may be valued much more in her relationship account than his. It’s the smaller day to day actions, or inactions that affect the relationship account over time.

What else affects how much Relationship Credits (RCs) are worth?

How we do things also affects how much is deposited.

If we reluctantly agree to give a gift, go on a date, talk or do something the other wants us to do, we won’t get the full credits for it. It’s like trying to get full value for a fake product. Even though a knock off Armani suit may look exactly the same as the real deal, a smart shopper knows the difference. Our actions need to be genuine and meaningful if we expect them to be fully valued.

On the other hand, the harsher the criticism, the remark or the gesture, the larger the withdrawal will be. While it takes a long time to earn money paycheck after paycheck, using a credit card can quickly get us into such debt that it will be ages before we can ever pay off the debt. A terrible argument that ends badly may withdraw 10,000 credits, where several deposits made during the week may not even equal as much, leaving us in the red for that week. Just like fast food can destroy our physical health, over time conflicts eat away at so much of our account’s balance that we can find ourselves in an overall negative status, leaving both spouses vulnerable to affairs and divorce.

It’s important to be aware of the differences we all have in our relationship accounts. We need to remember that sometimes it’s the smaller daily giving that really has the greatest impact on our relationship accounts.

That summer they had spent nearly every day together; each day, Mike was more and more enraptured by her. They talked everyday for hours and hours, covering every topic they could think of. With each passing moment, he fell more in love with her. She would give him the sweetest smile and a look that made him feel like he was “King of the World;” no one had ever given him “the look” before. They would hold hands, and she would tell him how safe she felt around him, how strong he was, and how he was so creative, intelligent and funny. She would cook candle light dinners for him, looking at him with attentive eyes, hoping he would like what she made; and of course each meal was ridiculously delicious. He read love letters from her that said how happy she was to have finally found love in her life, and that he made her happy. With each compliment and laugh, he was more and more head over heels in love with her. He finally reached a point where he decided he could not possibly live without her and he never wanted to be apart from her. He felt so alive and wonderful; he was completely in love.

How does being at different relationship account levels affect our marriage?

During that first date we might have given each other 1000 relationship credits, based on how good that person made us feel. The more deeply our needs were met, the more credits we were likely to give. If he makes her feel beautiful, special and accepted she might give him 1,000 RCs. If she makes him feel capable, smart and funny he might give her 1,000 RCs.

In the course of that new relationship a person may have deposited 200,000 credits in our account. Making deposits seems effortless at this point, as we normally have Mother Nature helping us acquire credits during the initial love stage. For every 100 credits we put in, we might get a bonus 100 credits, helping us along in this new relationship. If we have never had a relationship that accumulated so many relationship credits, at this 200,000 credit level, we may conclude that we are now “In Love”.

According to Dr Willard Harley, it’s after both of us have hit this “In Love” threshold that we decide to marry. Once we are married, for many of us, things begin to change. As the bonus credit program ends and we no longer receive “extra” deposits the way we did during our initial love period, our partner’s account may decrease to 150,000 in one year and the down to 75,000 by the next year. You still care for them, but things aren’t quite the same. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but by the time it hits zero, we feel we have lost our “In love” feeling. After we fall below zero, we enter negative numbers. We might say at -50,000 credits we may come to dislike our spouse, and at a hypothetical -200,000 we can cross a threshold into hate.

It’s when our relationship account balances are low that we are at the greatest risk for having an affair. Countless marriage counseling stories attest to the fact that many extramarital affairs start the same way – a couple has low relationship accounts because their needs haven’t consistently been met. Then one or the other spouse meets someone, begins to have a relationship and opens up an account with someone else… They may start off with only 500 credits, but before long as they interact and begin getting the automatic bonus points that any new relationship offers, it may not be long before they find themselves feeling in love with the new person, and their marriage and family falls to pieces.

It’s our small daily actions over the years that accumulate to where we are today in our relationship with our spouse.

And while most of us get that saying or doing something unkind might make a withdrawal, what many of us missing, is that NOT doing something kind, or meeting an expectation or need also results in a withdrawal.

By the end of this Program you will have a firm grasp of exactly how to make the largest deposits that really matter the most to your spouse. You’ll also learn how to protect your relationship from common withdrawals that occur by unknowingly ignoring their deepest needs.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. Think about your relationship account with your spouse. Do you try to make deposits daily?
  2. Are you careful to avoid withdrawals?
  3. Are there things you should be doing, but aren’t, that may be making withdrawals from your partner’s relationship account?*]_]

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Write down two ways you can consistently make deposits into your partner’s relationship account. *]_]

[*2. Write down two ways you can avoid making withdrawals from your partner’s relationship account. *]

3. Write down two things you should be doing, but aren’t, that may be making withdrawals from your partner’s relationship account. Try your ideas for the next 30 days.

[* *]

[*~ DAY 5 ~ *]

What Expectations Do We Bring into Marriage

*Today we are going to cover expectations. *

Mary expected things* ]to work out naturally[ ]after marriage[. *Mike had been so attentive and hung on her every word during courtship. She knew back then that she had his undivided attention. Lately though, he seemed distracted as if there was something else on his mind. She had received his compliments and praise so often during their courtship that when they began to fade she missed them. She expected to talk intimately with Mike every night, but ever since he got that new position he seemed to arrive home later and later, with less energy, and their talks were shorter and more repetitive.

One night when he got home she was so excited to see him, she started telling him about her day.

He said, “Please honey, not now. I’ve had a long day.”

“Really?” she thought “Not now? Like it’s some kind of burden to talk to me now?” It felt like an unexpected punch in the stomach and it hurt. “What’s so wrong with expecting a little company or a little conversation? It’s not like I haven’t had a long day too!” she thought.

Mary thought that maybe it would get better later on. She remembers thinking that she had met the perfect guy and that they had been so happy together. Now things weren’t working out as expected, and she didn’t know what to expect anymore.

What do we expect when we first marry?

After courtship, finding acceptance, connecting and arriving at a certain place with our spouse, we decide to marry. At the altar, we not only bring our smiles and excitement for the future, we also bring unspoken expectations. Based on our pre-marriage relationship, we have found that our partner is able to meet many of our expectations. We believe that these expectations will continue to be met after we are married. We reason, if our expectations were met before marriage, why wouldn’t they be met afterwards?

We are excited that we have found someone that can love us and make us happy. This is one of the main reasons why we say “I do.” As important as expectations are, most couples never talk about them. Instead they bank on the hope that their spouse will continue to meet expectations without being told directly what they are. Often we don’t realize what our expectations are until they are not being met, and even then we may have a tough time articulating them.

When we first marry, many of us don’t expect to have to work at keeping our love for each other alive. It was pretty easy for us to fall in love; so why would it take any effort to stay in love? We often equate love with ease and fun. We may even think that because the easy initial love has faded that so has the love itself.

If we thought that initial love was true love then we may not expect it to take any work which will affect our view and thoughts of love in our marriage.

If we expect that there is an effortless initial stage to love that is meant to prime us to enter a subsequent lasting stage of true love that does take effort that will also affect our view on love and thoughts in our marriage.

Earlier in this program when we covered the initial love period, we found that we had a bit of biological help to push and help us along at first. But once this push fades, we need to work to build up our momentum again.

How do our expectations affect how satisfied we are with our marriages?

Our expectations greatly affect how satisfied we are with our marriages. If we believe that our expectations are being met, then quite often we are happy. However, if we do not believe they are being met we often find ourselves unhappy and may believe we married the wrong person. At that point, we may want to find someone who [*can *]meet our expectations the way our spouses did in the beginning of the relationship.

I can spend extra time at work trying to move up the ladder while making extra money for my family. But if my wife expects to spend a certain amount of time with me and I can’t spend that time with her because of all the time I am spending at work, I won’t be meeting my wife’s key expectations. The chances of being happily married begin to dwindle.

Mary continued to try to be understanding. She didn’t want to share with her husband how disappointed she was. She didn’t even understand all of the expectations and hopes that she had. She only knew when she felt disappointed and angry that she must have had some type of expectation that was being missed. She became more aware of all of the things that weren’t happening in her life, that she somehow thought would have happened by now. Instead of directly sharing her expectations, she kept them to herself. When she had talked to him about this in the past it resulted in blowups and meltdowns. Her less direct approach, dropping subtle hints had gone unnoticed. She began to think he would never be able to make her happy again. To avoid the pain of disappointment, she began to expect less and less from him until she started to feel that she really didn’t need him like she once had. She thought this would make him happy, but he appeared to be more confused and as for Mary, she ended up just feeling alone. And for her, being married, and feeling alone was a terrible place to be….

So we come into marriage with several expectations that are very important to our overall marital happiness, but what expectations do we bring?

One common expectation is that “after we are married, things will get better”. However after the glow of courtship fades and the business of life emerge, we often find that this is not the case. Another expectation that we bring is that “our partner expects the same things we do”. We expect that if our partner really loves us, they will show us love the way we want to be shown love.

One common expectation is that husbands and wives expect the same things from each other. However, because men and women think, feel and act very differently this expectation can often set us up for failure. Our gender is a major influence that affects what expectations we develop.

Husbands may expect to have time to unwind and receive a warm welcome when they get home, to be appreciated and respected, and to be seen as strong dependable leader and protector of the family. He may expect her to be his best friend which may mean to him just hanging out and doing something fun and just having her near. He may expect her to spend time with him sexually as she did during their courtship. He may also expect that she will be a loving and committed wife and mother.

Wives may expect to be heard, cherished and to feel good and beautiful, to have quality time alone with their husbands, and to find financial security, commitment and support in their husbands.

She may expect that he has the same emotional need for affection. That he also needs to talk with her and listen to her thoughts and feelings to really feel close. She may expect him to make her feel loved, cherished and beautiful like he did during courtship. She may also expect him to be a responsible, loving and committed husband and father.

As we will explore in further detail, while there is some overlap in needs, men and women also have very different needs and expectations from each other.

Another twist to expectations is how differently we define the same thing. For example, one husband’s definition of a clean kitchen may be that dishes are done and everything is put away. His wife may decide it’s not clean until it’s also swept. So if he says the kitchen is clean and didn’t sweep it, she might be disappointed thinking it’s not really clean yet.

Mike remembered how his mom always had the home in order when he was a kid; everything was always in its place. As they straightened up she would tell him how important it was to have a clean and orderly home, and that every good home was clean and orderly. She would smile when he complimented her, or when dad would tell them how lucky he was to come home to a good, clean home at the end of the day. Growing up in his home, everyone would have a good meal together after cleaning the house, share about their day and relax in front of the TV, playing with toys or just goofing around. Though he didn’t say it, Mike figured his wife would clean the home like his mother did and then they would relax together, only that’s not exactly what happened.

[*By understanding our expectations and our spouse’s expectations we can learn to avoid the conflict and challenges that not understanding them brings. *]

So where do our expectations come from?

The main drivers for our expectations are our family upbringing, previous relationships, our goals, lifestyles and the current social norms. As we grow up, we understand our world based on our observations of what happens around us. It’s more about what we see in our families and in our upbringing, than what we are told. If we see our mom is keeping a clean home and making meals, we are likely to expect our wife to do the same thing. If we see our dad working and spending time with his family, we come to expect this from our husband. We can also adopt unspoken roles, like being the peacemaker in the family, if we played that role in our own childhood families.

We also create and collect expectations from previous relationships. If we were lied to or betrayed before, we may be less trusting and may expect to be let down. Other aspects of our relationships, such as expectations about money and intimacy, are all affected and shaped by our prior relationships.

Society is also constantly shaping and affecting our expectations. With billions spent on advertising every year we are told we need certain products and services. We “deserve” that vacation, bigger house, new car, etc. The constant stream of media images often shapes what our expectations and personal goals are. If we see our neighbor being a super mom, this can put pressure on us to be a super mom too. The “Joneses” can affect our expectations by fronting an ideal lifestyle that we also begin to expect to enjoy.

Ultimately, it’s what we do with all of this input from our family, relationships and society that creates our own personal expectations. Each of us has developed dreams and goals that we want to achieve. It’s the gap between what we expect and where we believe we are that often defines how happy we are.

If I expect my wife to spend time with me from 9 pm to 11 pm (after the kids are asleep), because that aligns with my goal of having a strong marriage, I might be concerned if she was wrapped up in taking care of the home, children and schoolwork during that time every night.

If my wife expects me to spend Saturday afternoons with the family because it aligns with her goal of having a strong father figure in the home, her expectations won’t be met if I spend every Saturday playing golf, or in some other activity with friends outside the home.

This is how our goals and dreams affect our expectations and ultimately our happiness. If we begin to feel that our spouse cannot meet our expectations as they did earlier in the relationship, we become unhappy with the relationship.

If you’re like most people, you rarely think about all of your expectations and often don’t share them before the wedding. Often we think that marriage will be an extension of our lives together when we were dating, but this does not prepare us for all of the expectations we bring into our marriages.

Sadly some couples go, through their entire marriage never hearing the words, “I love you.” because they never talk about their expectation and need to hear these words. What a difference sharing our expectations can make in our marriage!

So how do expectations affect us?

Our expectations affect us greatly because they can cause us to feel neglected, frustrated or angry when they are not met. It’s when our expectations do not line up with reality that we usually feel disappointed. This feeling of disappointment can be an indication that there is an expectation that we have that is not being met. If our expectation is to feel loved, and the way we feel love is by spending quality time talking with our partner, we will feel anger and neglect if our partner doesn’t make time to talk to us much. Here, our partner would constantly be making withdrawals from our relationship account each time an expectation is not met. This is often compounded when we [*know *]that we are also failing to meet our partner’s expectations. We can come to no longer feel as good about ourselves in the relationship as we did before.

After a certain number of withdrawals made by not meeting expectations and needs we can reach a point where we cross a threshold where we no longer feel we are in love with our spouse. This is why it’s so important to understand what we expect from our spouse and what our spouse expects from us.

According to Dr. Scott M. Stanley,”[* *]A Lasting Promise: A Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage” several studies have shown that our expectations affect how we see our partner’s behavior over time. Even if our partner is truly trying to change, expecting the worst and doubting that our partner will change can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If we think that our partner is angry at us, then we will interpret conversations through that lens and they will sound angry to us. We need to be aware of how our expectations affect our perceptions and can lead us to being trapped in a cycle that goes round and round, preventing us from moving our relationship to the next level. Once negative expectations become the norm, divorce commonly follows.

What happens when our gifts are expected?

Imagine someone unexpectedly comes offers you a gift, something that really means a lot to you. You are so grateful and want to somehow repay them, but the person insists that it is a gift for you. Afterwards you think about your good fortune as you enjoy the gift. The next day at around the same time, you receive another gift, and the next day another, and another. Then one day no one comes. Now you feel a sense of loss and disappointment.

When we expect that our spouse will do things or give things to us, it’s not a gift because they have just met our expectation. If you expect your wife to cook for you everyday, care for your children, make your house a home and give you companionship, it’s no longer received by you as a gift but rather a checklist of things for her to do. And when she starts to expect the flowers, your help around the house or time to talk with you, it may also not be seen as a gift to her. We need to be careful not to expect so much from our spouses that even when they [*do *]something kind for us, although it may be the same thing over and over again, that we forget to see these things as gifts to us.

What are some unrealistic promises we have made?

Often we expect our partners to make us happy because at some time they promised to take away the hurt, to love us and to make us happy.

Some believe, if your current partner can’t make you happy, then it’s time to find someone else who can. But, couples in happy marriages often know that neither their spouse nor any other person can really make them happy. Pleasures like a new car, new wardrobe or new partner cannot automatically bring happiness to us. Lasting happiness does not come from other people or things; we make up our minds to be happy. As tempting as it may be at times we cannot hold others responsible for our happiness.

What are some unrealistic expectations that we have?

To expect that our spouse will meet every single need [*all *]the time is another unrealistic expectation. Expecting that your partner will do everything right and be “perfect,” thinking and feeling the way you do, is another unrealistic expectation. While everyone is on their best behavior during courtship, no one is always going to see and do things the way you believe they should. To expect this is to expect perfection. Instead, we need to expect perpetual growth and learning together. We need to be able to discern our unrealistic expectations from our realistic expectations, and work to remove expectations that are unrealistic and cannot be met.

How do unmet expectations affect us?

When our expectations are not met, whether we are aware of it or not, we automatically make withdrawals from our relationship account, further weakening our relationship. This leads to disappointment and frustration. According to Dr. Willard Harley, one of the most common reasons cited for why people divorce is because they have “grown apart.” It’s often the result constantly not meeting each other’s expectations and needs over time that leads the couple to arriving to a threshold or place where they no longer feel “in love” and to a place of having “grown apart”.

This is why it is so important that our often hidden and varying expectations be understood before they lead to misunderstandings, conflict and disappointment, limiting our marital happiness.

Mike came home late again at 10pm. He opened the door quietly in case Mary was sleeping. He found her lying in bed and he could see that she had been crying. He hated to see her cry and always felt that somehow it was his fault. He began by apologizing for being late, and how he had to stay late because of the tight deadlines. He told her that he had no choice and that “soon” things would get back to normal.

Mary had heard it all before. “I just don’t know what to expect from you anymore,” she said in a tone that said she’d given up. “I thought things would be different,” she continued.

“Like I’d be around more?” Mike asked

“Yes,” she said, “I expected to see you more. I expected to share my life with you and spend time talking with you, and being with you like when we first met. Even when you’re here, your mind is somewhere else.”

“But that’s not realistic,” he said. “I’ve got this new job, and there are hundreds of guys out there who would love to have my job.”

“Look..” he hesitated, as we watched him expectedly, “Just…tell me what you’ve been expecting that just hasn’t been happening…” Mike asked

“Okay, I expect to at least be able to talk to you each day,” Mary said.

“We already talk every day.”

“No, really talk,” she insisted.

“Ok,” he said resisting his urge to say something…, “keep going….”

They ended up talking for a while. In the end they didn’t have it all figured out, and it wasn’t even perfectly understood, but it was a start, and at least they were moving in the right direction. Mike even voiced a few expectations that he had. Afterwards they felt closer and began to think of ways they could do a better job meeting each other’s expectations.

How do we manage expectations?

According to Dr. John Gottman, studies have shown that having high expectations leads to happy and fulfilling marriages, and that bringing out hidden and unspoken expectations early will save a great deal of wear and tear on the marriage. To manage these expectations:

  1. First, we identify any unrealistic expectations that we might have and reevaluate them.

2. Next, we identify our realistic expectations and share them with our partner in the form of a clear request (versus a demand)

3. Lastly, ask your spouse what they expect of us.

Often we think we know the answer to this, but we may be surprised. By finding out exactly what they expect, we can avoid unknowingly making withdrawals from the relationship account and we can find new ways to make deposits to make our relationships stronger.

It’s only after our partner is aware of our expectation and has agreed to our request that it makes sense to expect that this request or need will be met. Though it may be difficult to share expectations, it is a necessary and important step. We simply cannot afford to continue to unknowingly make withdrawals from our relationship accounts.

As we become more aware of our partner’s expectations, we will become closer as we stop making withdrawals that comes from not meeting unspoken expectations and needs.

Once these expectations are out in the open and being managed, we will no longer carry the burden of unspoken and unmet expectations. Fears of not being accepted by our spouse, for not meeting their expectations can then melt away over time, leading to greater feelings of acceptance and connection –key components of a happy and fulfilling marriage.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. Think about the expectations you have of your own relationship. What did you expect marriage to bring? *]_]

2. Think about what expectations are not being met now.

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Write out your expectations; then decide which ones may be unrealistic. *]_]

*2. Spend time sharing what you learned about expectations and some of the expectations that you have with your spouse. *

*3. Then ask if there are any expectations that your spouse would like to share with you. *

 

~ DAY 6 ~

The Stressors That Can Emerge in a New Marriage

Mike did a good job of appearing calm and collected, especially at work. No matter what they threw at him on the job he would confidently take care of it. Mike knew that the tough part about first joining the workforce was that you had to prove yourself, and there was always so much to learn, stuff that all the other guys seemed to already know. At the same time, he was taking classes at night to finish his degree; something he thought would allow him a path to promotion and greater earning power.

Gradually everything seemed to be piling up on him. “It’s like I can do it all… but it’s really a lot,” he told his brother. “Mary has been really great and supportive too; I just feel a little tense and burnt out, like I need a vacation to get away, but I just don’t have time for that between tests and papers in school, deadlines at work, then the family events that Mary schedules for us on the weekend.” He told his older brother Will, “I just feel like it’s too much. I can’t wait until things slow down again.”

At the same time, Mary was beginning to feel the pinch too. She confided to her friend, “I know he’s trying to do so much and it’s all for us; it’s just that I feel like I barely see him anymore, and when he is around, I can tell he’s thinking about other things, like he’s preoccupied. I’m grateful that he’s doing so much for us… It’s just been getting really crazy around here; when he’s not home to help I end up doing more work. I know he tries not to bring his work home, but sometimes I can tell he’s just stressed. It’s getting to be a little harder than I thought it would be.” “Welcome to marriage,” her friend said. “Sounds like the honeymoon is over.”

Soon after we marry life’s stressors begin to emerge as we begin to deal with our careers, new in-laws, and having children and other stressors in our new life together.

So what are some of the common stressors that we deal with early in our marriages?

For many of us our in-laws can cause a great deal of strain on the relationship. Unfortunately, many couples dread the holidays because of the conflicting demands on our time, and the pressure we may feel from requests made by our parents, in-laws and other family members during the busy holiday season.

Aside from the typical involvement of in-laws during the holidays, some parents try to extend their influence throughout the year by using money to control their children instead of letting them live their own lives and make their own decisions. In these new marriages, not only do couples try to get their own needs and desires met, they struggle to meet the requests of their parents and in-laws.

Some parents are not as extreme as others but still try to exert influence on the couple long after the wedding vows.

So what is the impact of common stressors on new marriages?

The impact is that it makes it difficult for newlyweds to connect deeply with each other and the couple may feel divided and torn. In some severe cases the in-laws will put the other spouse down, causing an even greater disconnect between the couple. How does that husband or wife feel if their in-law insults them, and their spouse does not rise to their defense?

Should this happen, if we do not stand up to our parents, then these negative comments that were so easily ignored during the high of intial love become seeds of doubt that later on will crack the foundation of the marriage during the eventual storms that many marriages face. Early in a marriage, it is easy for some couples to feel like they are in a lose-lose situation, torn between parents and their spouse.

What causes in-laws to become over-involved?

At the heart of these situations is a parent unable to let go, struggling desperately for attention and affection from their adult child. Often these over-involved parents do not have a healthy and fulfilling marriage themselves and have an unhealthy overly involved relationship with their adult child. Instead of trying to have their needs for significance, attention, affection, etc. met from their own spouse, they look toward their adult children to meet these needs.

Ironically often those that allow their parents to be overly involved after their marriage often end up in the same cycle, modeling their over involved parents by becoming over involvement in their own kids and getting their needs met their at the expense of neglecting their own marriage and then later on, becoming the over involved parent of an adult child versus having a strong marriage from which their needs are met.

Some of us, at some point, are placed in a position where we have to choose between our parents and our spouse. Once the honeymoon is over and we begin to see our partner’s faults and weaknesses, it may be tempting to complain to our parents causing divisiveness. We need to be careful not to talk about our spouse’s shortcomings and instead insist that our parents treat our partners with respect. This builds a sense of oneness with our partner which is critical to having a strong relationship. At the end of the day, our partner wants to know that they are still number one on our list and nothing and no one else is, including our parents.

Mary tried to prepare for their first baby as best she could, reading the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” talking to her mom and friends that were moms, reading articles online, but none of it prepared her for the real thing. Holding their first child in her arms that moment when he first arrived brought her to tears of joy. All that she had been through and the pain she felt to get to this moment of holding her first child was worth it, as she felt the love, inner peace and joy that the tiny baby gave her. She knew that her life was forever changed from that moment on.

Three months later as she lay in bed, she heard the loud shrill cry as the baby screamed out into the night. Her iPhone told her it was 4 am…she had gotten up three times already that night. She looked at Mike who appeared unconscious, “How can he sleep through this?” she thought. Her head felt numb, her eyes tired. “Every night is the same,” she thought. “I can’t keep doing this, I need sleep and rest.”

The baby began to settle as she rocked him gently. “It’s ok,” she said reassuringly as she patted his little back. Then she felt a thick warm liquid on her and realized that the baby had thrown up on her nightgown and the bed.

“Mike, can you get up and help me a little?” The baby just threw up on me.”

Mike slowly came to, “What?” He looked at the clock displaying 4:10 am. “I have a presentation I need to give in the morning. How do you expect me to do my job without sleep?”

“How can he be so selfish?” she thought. “You know what, just forget it!” she yelled.

“I’m already up now, thanks,” he said sarcastically. He got up and started helping her change the sheets. At 4:30 am, he lay there trying to calm himself so that he could sleep a little more but he was wide awake. “Wow, this is crazy…” he thought.

Little did he know that Mary was thinking the very same thing.

How does having children affect a marriage?

Another common stressor that we face early in our marriage, one that is even more profound and life changing is the introduction of children.

Many newlyweds expect that having children will make their marriages stronger as they create a family. According to Dr. John Gottman, research on marriage tells us a different story. The year after a couple has their first child is the second most likely year that a couple will divorce. Note, the most likely year that a couple will divorce is the first year of marriage as some are not able to deal with the other stressors. And why does the divorce rate spike the year after the first child is born? It’s because of the 70% decline in marital happiness and satisfaction reported by couples three years after the birth of a child.

Just when the new love hormonal-driven glow begins to wear off, children and other new responsibilities emerge and life and marriage begins to get complicated fast.

Children bring with them many changes to the marriage. New routines, responsibilities and expectations begin to emerge while our in-love glow is fading. Much of what a young couple experiences they are simply not prepared for. The exhaustion of sleep deprivation from getting up through the night; giving up intimate dinners for Chucky Cheese, and all the extra work that being a parent adds, creates a great deal of stress for a young marriage.

According to Dr. Scott Haltzman in the last generation (1976), less than a third of mothers returned to the workforce after having a child. This is much less when compared to this generation of families where most mothers are now often expected to return to work quickly to maintain their dual income.

Even though today’s mothers are often expected to go to work full time, they remain the primary caregiver of the children and household manager. It’s no surprise to learn that Dr. Haltzman has also found that working mothers often report they are more likely to be unhappy with their workload in the home.

“Dude, can I ask you something?” Mike asked his older brother. “What’s up?” “Did things change when you started having kids?”

His brother laughed, “What didn’t change would be the shorter list; what’s on your mind?”

“It’s just that ever since we had Brandon, it’s like she’s in another world, you know? She is holding him all day, and I get that you know. But it’s like we have no “alone time” together. As soon as the baby is asleep and we finally start to get in a good place, the baby starts crying and she has to run to him. She’s a great mom; she’s awesome. I try to hold him and he freaks out, then she just smiles at him and the kid’s a quiet little angel. It just feels like everything’s about the baby. “The baby did this”, and “I want to do that for the baby”, and “I need to take care of the baby”, it’s like, what happened to us? I guess I shouldn’t complain because I have been gone myself all day working and school at night, so sometimes I’m glad she has him, but when I am around she’s not around. It feels like she’s in her own little world with Brandon. It’s like now that she’s a mom, being a wife just isn’t important to her anymore. I love Brandon, but sometimes I miss the way it was before… maybe we should have waited a little longer.”

What is the impact of kids on our marriages?

When a new wife becomes a mother, often there is less time available for her husband as she begins to naturally focus on raising the child. As less time, focus and attention is spent on the husband, his needs will often no longer be met as they were once met before the baby arrived. From the mandatory reprieve from sex for 6 weeks after having the baby to the countless nights of meeting the needs and demands of a new baby, the impact of having kids are immediate and far reaching. Not wanting to seem selfish or unloving to their new child and rather than letting their wives know about their dissatisfaction, many husbands find themselves quietly drifting apart from their wives.

A common mistake that many couples make after a child is born is to focus on their new baby at the expense of the marriage. After children enter the mix, many wives don’t focus on meeting their husband’s needs as they did early in the relationship. Sexual intimacy drops, and for many, it never picks up again. Many new mothers believe they have no time to be good wives as they focus on being good mothers. They reason that they only have time to take care of the children, and that their husbands should understand. This puts husbands in the awkward position of being glad that their child has a great attentive mom and saddened that they no longer get the attention they once received before from their wife.

Husbands can begin to feel isolated and unvalued as their wives no longer focus on meeting their needs. This may contribute to the end of many marriages. Unfortunately in marriages that become child centered, over time the relationship often weakens, leaving husbands vulnerable to an affair with someone who promises to meet their unmet needs.

What other challenges do kids bring into a marriage?

With mothers usually nominated as the best qualified and knowledgeable on how to raise children, fathers instinctively seek their wife’s advice on childrearing matters. Sometimes unintentionally, mothers will begin to expand their provision of guidance beyond childrearing into other areas. They may go from dressing little Timmy to dressing Daddy too. This can over time lead to a gradual loss of respect for her husband, and he for her, as she begins to treat him as one of the children.

Another conclusion that some young wives make is that raising kids is something that husbands just don’t, and won’t, understand and be able to do well. These wives believe that they should shoulder the responsibility of raising children alone and push away their husbands support creating distance in the marriage.

Having kids creates a possible area for conflicting views in parenting styles. One spouse may be more or less strict than the other. Some believe that parents should befriend their children and are not authoritarian. Others believe parenting should center around instilling obedience and respect for authority in children. It’s easy for couples that are struggling in other areas of their marriage to find new sources of conflict after the children are born, especially young couples trying to figure out the best approach to raising kids.

This can lead to divided parenting with each parent doing their own thing. Children learn to go to the parent that is more likely to give them what they want; and this can cause conflicts. When one parent acts as a friend instead of a parent, the problems and issues will spill into the rest of the marriage and create conflict.

Challenges that children bring as babies change can become more complicated as they become teenagers. Here teenagers that push back on rules and boundaries can find themselves making poor choices, and parents can find themselves blaming each other and taking sides if their relationship is not strong.

Additionally, from a financial perspective, children cost more today than ever before. According to author Barbara Bartlein the cost to raise a child has increase 13 percent from 1960 to 2000 and today the average family will spend over $250,000 to raise a child to adulthood. This impact is compounded with the more children a couple has with studies showing that additional children often lead to additional stress.

The impact of children on a young marriage is far-reaching. While you may have felt a difference in your marriage after children began arriving, perhaps you never really spent time thinking about it. After kids come into the marriage, we often use a great deal of time and energy on the extra workload related to being a parent.

These disagreements surrounding childrearing can cause the couple to grow apart and consider themselves be no longer compatible. It’s good to know that many of us go through the same challenges that raising kids bring.

By understanding these stressors and developing an agreed parenting style we can actively and positively manage stressors form this front.

How can loving our children get in the way of loving our spouse?

Having children is an amazing experience as they enter the world loving, needing and looking up to us. Lacking affection from their spouse, some parents may begin to redirect where they get their primary affection and love from. Instead of getting it primarily from their spouse, over time they look to their children to provide it. They enjoy their children and their children enjoy them; it is natural and expected to love our children.

It’s when the primary childrearer begins to constantly meet the needs of their children over the needs of the spouse that the partners begin to fall out of love with each other.

Some wives may begin to put less energy and effort into their marriages as they redirect their energy to caring for the new child. It is in this state of neglect, when we are tired and unfocused on our spouse that we may begin to withdraw from the relationship. This may lead the spouse who feels neglected vulnerable to someone else who is willing meet their needs leading to an extramarital affair.

One reality show that my wife and I enjoy watching is Super Nanny. On this show families who have kids that are “out of control” give the Super Nanny a call and she comes over to their house, observes them for a day, then sits down with the parents and shares what she observed and how she thinks she can help them. Episodes where the child will not go to bed and where the parents no longer have time for each other and the marriage is strained is common.

Family after family, Super Nanny turns to the parents and shows them how to improve—whether it’s creating a schedule, giving children consistent consequences, or more play time between parent and child - she always turns to the parent. Though I’ve waited for it, she’s never once said in her 100+ episodes that the parents had really bad kids and there was nothing they could do to fix it.

One common issue she finds is parents that have conflicting parenting styles. When the parents do not have the same beliefs and do things differently from each other, it sends conflicting messages to the kids and causes conflict between the parents as well. Often after these parents take Super Nanny’s advice to discuss and agree on the rules they want to enforce and the consequences, and schedule for meeting their children’s needs the family appears much happier often strengthening the marriage.

How can she be a good wife and a good mom?

Having kids can evoke many feelings. At times a husband may feel that all his wife really wanted was to be a mother. He may no longer feel that he is the center of attention. She often feels torn between being a full-time stay-at-home mother and returning to the workplace to contribute to the family’s finances. Conflicting feelings arise as we try to balance it all by being good partners and good parents, all adding complexity of marriage.

How do we successfully adjust to having kids in marriage?

According to Dr. John Gottman, most couples, 67% of couples report struggling once kids arrive. Couples simply no longer have the time and energy to maintain the same schedules that they had prior to having kids. The constant juggling and racing around causes the stress and fatigue that destroys young marriages. The minority that finds happiness are those that realize that they must learn to adapt to the changes of parenthood together.

They realize that even though dads may spend time with their children by doing activities that are messy or unconventional, that it’s important for dads to spend quality time with their kids.

Some mothers struggle to see that Dad’s spend their time connecting differently with their children and have a tough time appreciating how Dad’s parent in their own unique way…

He is going to throw them in the air and give them three times as much space as mom, and probably get messier, but so what? Kids need both parents and styles. Mom’s to hold them close and care for them and Dad’s to let them go and go for it!

If dad is criticized for how he’s interacting with the kids, he’ll begin to “back off” and leave the kids with mom so he doesn’t “do any harm.” He may spend more time at work, with his hobbies or friends. Sadly, this will only serve to harm his relationship with his children if they are not able to build memories and develop a tight relationship by spending time together.

Not only should dads be engaged in building relationships with their children, but they should have an equal voice in the parental decisions that are made. Not only is this better for the marriage, but the according to the authors of Fighting for Your Marriage, children will benefit from lower stress, anxiety and depression when parental conflicts are kept to a minimum.

How do we make time to be husband and wife again?

This begins with spending time together as husband and wife, not just mom and dad. Bringing in a babysitter is often resisted at first by new mothers, but this time away from the children is important as a needed break from the demanding and stressful roles of being a new parent. It gives the couple time to center and refocus on each other. Whether it’s a parent, friend you can swap time with or a trusted babysitter, consistently taking the time out together (ideally once a week) will greatly lessen the stress of having children.

What are other areas of stress for new marriages?

While in-laws and having children are primary sources of stress for young marriages, stress does emerge from other areas such as the workplace and when one or both spouses are juggling school and a job. Stress can often cause anxiety. Anxiety, defined as the anticipation of a potential threat, comes from the pressure we feel as we face life’s demands. Trying to get everything done on our checklists everyday creates this pressure.

Added pressure can come from life occurrences such as getting ready for the holidays, making our spouse and family happy, and keeping up with the Joneses as we pursue a higher standard of living than we have now. How we learn to handle the pressures of life and whether or not we allow the pressure to turn into anxiety is key to whether this stress ultimately hurts our marriages.

Why do we feel anxiety?

Anxiety is meant to protect us from harm by making us hypersensitive to perceived threats. When we are anxious our body pumps more blood and adrenalin, and our minds are more focused to be ready to deal with a serious threat to life. As more and more pressures are added to our lives, we begin to cross different threshold levels from of stress. When we allow our stress to exceed normal levels, we become anxious and that can throw our lives and marriages out of balance.

[*What happens when we feel anxious? *]

Once we are in a highly-stressed state we are prone to become short-fused and may respond to things in a reactive/knee jerk way. Not only are we quick to react, we tend to over react, saying or doing things we don’t mean. This can lead to a vicious cycle of even more anxiety, stress, fear and anger. It is when we are in this high-stressed and vulnerable place that many marital crises may loom larger than life, and become too much to handle. Children are often caught in the mix of stress as they pick up on their parent’s anxiety and inability to handle stress. Sometimes partners who are looking for a way to escape stress that they cannot handle may become vulnerable to an extramarital affair or divorce.

How do we handle stress?

In the classic television show The Incredible Hulk. David Banner, the mild-mannered doctor, would warn those that were making him angry to stop. Invariably they would press on until he would become so angry that he would transform into an angry green giant doing a great deal of damage. Afterwards, he could barely recall what he had done, but knew something awful had happened. Clearly he was unable to handle stressors well…

Many of us handle stress by engaging in distractions that allow us to turn our focus for a while on other things. Some of us watch TV, surf the internet, play videogames, exercise or play sports, or talk to others about our day. While these activities can help us lower our stress levels and gets us out of a reactive state, this approach deals with stress after the fact. The ideal approach is to be preventive by being intentional and deliberate about how we respond to stress ‘in the moment.’ Learning ways to keep yourself from internalizing stress or ruining your day with an angry reaction to a stressful situation is the best solution and are concepts covered later on in this program.

One of the best approaches to handling the stressors that show up in life is developing an understanding and awareness that we all go through difficulties and struggles.

We should work to use this understanding to manage our stress and avoid getting to a place where we are now so stressed out, that we are unable to handle the inevitable unforeseeable challenges that life brings us.

If we don’t handle stressors when they are small, and we ignore them they are likely to grow until they become so large that we must deal with them, and by then instead of handling them well… like Dr. David Banner we may not handle them well allowing the stress to transform us into someone else. This is covered more deeply later on in “Conflict Management”.

Not only is having the right perspective important, but where possible, saying “No” to commitments that add stress to your life is necessary. We cannot do all things that are asked of us. Because of the limited resources of time and energy that young parents and newlyweds have, they must learn to push back on things that they simply do not have the bandwidth for. This will help them to avoid becoming overstressed, burned out, and ultimately hurting their marriage.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. What kind of challenges did in-laws and/or children bring early in your marriage? *]_]

2. Are any of these common challenges still affecting your marriage?

3. Consider ways you can better handle stress which can lower anxiety in the home and make your marriage stronger.

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Write down 3 things that bring you stress, how you handle them now, and how you can handle them more effectively in the future. Spend some time sharing with your spouse how you can increase the amount of time and energy you give to each other. Try your ideas for the next 30 days.*]_]

[* *]

~ DAY 7 ~

How the Busyness of Life Affects Marriage

So how does the fast pace and busyness of life affect our marriage?

Today we are going to look at the effect that today’s unprecedented busyness is having on our marriages. With so much to do, we are often rushing from one task to the next. I’d like to share with you an interesting Harvard Study which shows the impact that this has on us.

All of the participants in this study were in seminary, preparing to go into church ministry. In this experiment, half of the folks were asked to go to a room to talk about seminary jobs and the other half were to tell the Bible story of the Good Samaritan in which a person helps another in need.

The only other difference between the groups was that participants were told that they either had plenty of time, they had little time, or they had no time to get their story told.

On the way to the room where they were going to give their presentation, there was a person in need of help very visible to all.

What researchers found was that the task of whether they were going to speak on seminary jobs or the good Samaritan did little to predict whether they would try to help the person in need. Instead, it was how much time they thought they had that predicted whether they would help.

63% of the people who thought that they had plenty of time helped. Forty-five percent of the people who thought that they had a little time helped; and [* only 10% ]of those who *thought they had no time helped. As a matter of fact, many of them stepped over the person clearly in need of help as they went in to talk about the Good Samaritan, a story about someone who stopped to help someone in need.

This study clearly shows us the effect that busyness and being in a constant state of rushing has on us. Where we would otherwise take the time to help others, listen to our spouses, or try to work to make things better, when we are in a constant state of rushing from one task to the next we don’t slow down to do any of it. It’s as if this busyness clouds our ability to be caring, a core aspect of any strong marriage.

Why the big rush?

Many of us rush, in part, because of an instant gratification mindset. We are used to quick internet connections, fast food, and instant credit. We are often so pressed for time, we “don’t have time for conflict and drama.” We either avoid these like the plague, or rush to solutions that are not ideal. We can even rush to apologize for something without fully understanding where we went wrong. This busyness can give us a place to hide as we go from one task to the next. Too busy to talk about anything too deep or that might cause a potential conflict, we promise to talk about “it” later.

We even race to pursue the American dream. I remember thinking, “If I could just get to the next level,” “The quicker I can get ahead, the sooner everything in our lives will be easier.” So what do many of us do? We choose to focus on our work, with waterfall mentality. If things are better at the job and financially, then this will flow down to our marriage and that will get better… too often it doesn’t happen that way.

What’s the impact of all the busyness on our marriage?

In today’s workplace, with the never-ending, ever-growing demands, we are at risk of giving everything we’ve got to the job, and coming home with nothing left for our spouse. Even when you finally are at home, you could get calls on your cell phone, you feel the need to check your email, someone texts you, and you have a seemingly unending workday. The line between work time and family time blurs. And everything, of course, needs to be done “now”- and you wonder why you are feeling rushed and stressed? As we mentioned earlier, children, in-laws and other responsibilities are also standing in line for precious time from you. Is it any wonder why you are unable to be as caring to your spouse as you were when you were first together? When you arrive home exhausted at the end of the work day, it’s easy to slip into a routine where you just sit in front of the TV and don’t put any real effort into making any conversation or a connection. Many of us just don’t have the energy it takes. Unfortunately, a routine like this will weaken our relationship, making us more prone to an extramarital affair or divorce.

When we focus on our “bank account” ahead of our “relationship account” we can find ourselves no longer making deposits to our marriage relationship. If our job/career prevents us from putting in the time needed for a solid relationship, it will eventually cause us to fall out of love with each other. Being able to make time for each other is an essential aspect of any happy and fulfilling marriage.

Mike came home late again from work. As soon as he had taken care of one emergency project at work, two more came up. It seemed that everyone needed something from him that day. He had worked so hard to get into that position; now he constantly felt the pressure to prove himself and it took 110% of his focus. Some had commented he wasn’t ready, but he sought to prove them wrong. Mary tried calling him once or twice, but he was so busy he couldn’t take her calls and never got a chance to call her back. With the new place they had moved into and the baby, they needed the money. He couldn’t let them down. He felt he was doing the right thing by working so hard to take care of them. By the time he got home he was exhausted.

Mary was excited to see him and Brandon was finally sleeping. Maybe they could, at least, have a late dinner together. Just then Mike got a call from his boss wanting to review the proposal he had worked on; the clients had requested a few changes. As Mary saw him disappear into the study to take the call, she went to the dining room table with the surprise dinner she had set for the two of them and asked herself, “What’s the point?” and began to play catch up on her own to-do list.

With all of this technology, why isn’t life easier?

While technology has automated and eliminated much traditional work, it has also created new work in our lives. As a matter of fact, according to the authors of How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, studies show that today we work longer hours than serfs did back in the Dark Ages. Compared to other countries like Germany and Japan, U.S. workers work longer hours. They contend that the effect of this overwork, for some, has been “karoshi,” the Japanese word which means to “drop dead from overwork”. The point here is that we are working harder than ever and the dual income marriage is making it even more challenging. With Dad now working more hours than ever, and more Mom than ever now working outside the home and carrying a disproportionate share of housework too, it’s no wonder that when husband and wife look up from their work they can find that they have drifted apart Downtime to rest, gather ourselves and connect has become something of a luxury. It’s my view that this overwork is part of the reason we are seeing increases in divorce rates in the America today.

How much time do we dedicate to our spouse?

While we often work hard, pushing ourselves from morning to night at our jobs for our spouse and family, we can easily give so much that there is nothing left for them when we come home. When we finally do get home, we just want to relax and de-stress from the day. We may feel like we can’t deal with anything else until we relax a little. It’s easy to think to ourselves that between work, the house and kids, there is nothing left and that we are simply too busy to do more than we are already doing. Sadly, many marriages seem to get only the “leftover” time and energy, which often isn’t enough to create a happy and fulfilling marriage.

During the initial falling in love stage, we try to see each other as much as possible and spend as much time as possible together. But somewhere during the marriage, between time spent at work, on dinner, kids, laundry, etc., the quantity and quality of the time spent together dwindles.

Mike was feeling the crunch; there was no break for him. At first the pressure was mostly at work but now even at home he felt like he was falling behind. He felt himself going from extremes of feeling wide-eyed, stressed, tense, and on edge to being tired and totally exhausted. “At least this has an end,” he reassured himself. “Just a few more months and I should be able to get a better handle at work. Mary has to know how much I love her; she’s the reason behind everything I do.”

“I know it might be tough now but it’s for the better.” He continued to push toward achieving his goals. He felt the distancing from Mary but reassured himself that it was normal and that it happens to everyone after the honeymoon. “We’ll catch up later, once we’re in a better place” he reasoned.

How does this increased busyness affect our marriage?

This increased busyness has a profound effect on our marriages, as we move from a period of growth during our initial falling-in-love period to the post-honeymoon part of marriage. As we work hard in our jobs and often new roles as mom and dad, we may begin to focus more on advancing our career, often at the expense of our marriage. If we are putting more and more time into our work, that time is coming from somewhere, and it’s often coming from the time that we once spent with our spouses.

Interestingly, author Barbara Bartlein reported that even though we are consuming about twice as many material goods and products as we did back in 1957, Americans have not also reported an increase in happiness, which reminds us that happiness really does not come from having more stuff despite what marketers would have us believe.

This continual busyness leads to less and less time together, and more and more separation. Even when we are together, many couples report feeling drained and exhausted. This affects the quality of their conversation, ability to play together, level of intimacy and their sex drive. Time set aside to just talk and hang out as friends dwindles. Couples end up talking less and less as friends enjoying their relationship, and end up having more focused talks on urgent matters or specific tasks that need to get done between them. Usually, at first one partner begins to complain about their job and the time apart, and then the complaining fades as the couple begins to distance from each other and fall out of love.

Along with a lack of depth, another effect of busyness is added stress on the couple which makes them more susceptible to conflict. Author Barbara Bartlein cites research that one effect of exhausted dual-income families is a divorce rate which is higher than the national average.

Mary began to feel more and more alone and disconnected. Mike would be gone all day, never picking up her calls, or rushing her off the phone when he did answer. At night when he got home, he had more work or seemed distracted, or just tired. She missed how it was in the beginning when she had all his attention. They had such great conversations and spent time together - just being together. His focus seemed to be 100% on his work, and he didn’t seem to notice anything else - the house or her. She felt like she was the last thing on his to-do list. She felt horribly neglected and didn’t get how this could happen to her. She felt conflicted, appreciating all he did for her and the family, but at the same time feeling like he wasn’t doing enough, and it killed her because she knew how hard he was trying. He seemed so busy, so she quietly hoped this season would pass quickly waiting for things to get better. Only they got worse…

What kind of emotions can a high-tempo, busy lifestyle bring to a marriage?

Busyness can lead couples to feel a myriad of emotions. They can feel stressed and on edge from all that must be done in their lives; at the same time they can encounter a high by living “the fast life”. While in the fast lane, we can experience an adrenaline-based temporary high similar to what athletes might experience during a “big game”. Another aspect of busyness that appeals to us, although somewhat unconsciously, is that it allows us to forget our problems. As we are so engrossed in whatever we have added to our checklist, we are too busy to feel bad about our marriage or anything else. Busyness can become a source of distraction and escape.

We may feel abandoned or neglected by a spouse who seems to be constantly too busy for us. At the heart of it is the feeling that our spouse would rather do something else than be with us. To a certain degree we feel rejected. Even with the extra money that more work hours may bring, the feelings of neglect and hurt can lead to increased distance as the hurt spouse seeks to distance themselves from the relationship that has now become a source of pain.

How does the amount of time spent with our spouse affect our marital happiness?

Marriage research tells us that the busyness of life directly affects the satisfaction of our marriage and the likelihood that a couple will divorce. According to the authors of A Lasting Promise , studies show that the more time couples spend together, the higher the overall happiness of the couple, which makes perfect sense. It’s like saying that the more time you spend at the gym, the stronger and more fit you will be. The couples, who despite the odds have remained happy, have been able to protect their quality time together by pushing back as the world around them continued to make demands on their time. In a survey cited by Dr. Stinnett, and mentioned by author Zig Ziglar, 90% of those couples who reported having a happy marriage, which they described as being strong and close, also reported “spending a great deal of time together.” The solution here is to combat the damaging effect of busyness on our marriage by making and protecting personal time with our spouse.

How can we make and protect personal time with our spouse?

This begins with a re-evaluation of our earlier decisions that may have led to having a very busy schedule. We may need to create greater balance in the time spent between our work, children, spouse and time we spend on ourselves. It is important to our marriage that we avoid over-scheduling our days so such a degree that we have little or no time or energy to give to our spouse.

In the beginning, before life gets complicated, this quality time between a couple can just happen. Later on though, as marriage gets more complicated, and as the stressors of life emerge, unless you are deliberate and decisive about creating this quality time together, it just won’t happen.

Just as we actively pursued our spouse in courtship, we need to continue to do this in marriage. Deep meaningful conversations and heart to heart laughter, doing fun thing together, cherished moments and memories that lead to greater connection will not just happen on scraps of “spare time“ that just doesn’t exist in today’s marriages.

When we were younger we could rely on our youthfulness to keep us healthy, strong and energetic. Over time though we find that we need to start exercising to recapture our vitality and strength. Likewise, early in our relationship we could rely on initial attraction and falling in love to motivate us to spend time together, but later on we need to deliberately spend time together whether we “feel like it” or not. If we only worked out when we felt like it, we wouldn’t be in the best of shape, and that same principle can be applied to our marriages. Just like it’s hard to find the energy to work out after work, it’s easy to get lazy and complacent in our marriage and take for granted that things are fine.

I still have the clear memories of my children’s faces as my wife and I struggled through our marriage. This served to motivate me to not allow this complacency to creep my own marriage and it reminded me to continue work hard to create a truly happy and fulfilling marriage.

This personal time with your spouse should be your time to have fun together doing something you both enjoy, to talk and connect, to share emotionally and intimately, and should be time reserved just for the two of you. Just as you needed this time in the beginning to fall in love, you continue to need time to stay in love.

[*So how much quality time should we spend each day with my spouse? *]

It appears to be a general consensus, after researching several of the top marriage relationship experts’ perspectives and my own experience, that on a daily basis you need at least two hours dedicated to spending quality time with your spouse. How you spend that time can vary based on your preferences and this can be time spent:

  • Talking about your day, ideas, feelings and dreams;
  • Being affectionate, holding hands and kissing,
  • Doing something together you both enjoy doing like going for a walk, playing a game, or sharing a meal or
  • Being sexually intimate together

We will look more closely later on at how to best spend this time, based on you and your spouse’s preferences. For now though, just know that you need to spend this time together daily to maintain a happy and fulfilling marriage. This is time that you deliberately schedule into your day to do the fun things that both of you enjoyed during the initial falling in love stage, when you both tried to win each other over.

We need to continue to pursue our spouse and try our best to show them that we love them each day. These two hours also includes staying connected to your spouse throughout the day. Remember, by spending just five or ten minutes on short calls during the morning or in the afternoon, you can maintain your connection with your spouse by reminding them you are thinking about them and letting them know that you care. This helps incredibly as it keeps you in the loop of what is happening at home when you return at the end of the day, and keeps you connected with your spouse. Along with short calls, remember to show your spouse affection giving your spouse hugs, kisses and warm smiles whenever you are with them during the day.

Along with the time spent together daily, time dedicated on a weekly basis is just as important. Taking a few hours during the weekend to go on a date, getting out of the house and doing something new and fun gives you something to look forward to. Wives who are homemakers especially find it difficult to fully relax at home where they work, and so getting out of the house is important to them.

A common obstacle to spending this much time together is that once we have children, mothers often have a great reluctance to leaving their children. However, one of the best things we can give our children is a happy and strong family that is built upon a happy and strong marriage. View this as a priority and schedule in this together-time weekly, for example every Saturday night from 5pm to 9pm, so you don’t have to plan and think about it.

In time, you and your spouse will begin to create and share many new memories that will further strengthen your marriage. If you are unable to find or fund a good and reliable babysitter, consider bringing the children to family members or taking turns swapping babysitting with trusted friends.

Along with daily and weekly time that we spend together, ideally we should get away once a year for a few days with our spouse. It will greatly benefit the marriage to be able to leave the roles of mommy and daddy behind, along with every other role we play from worker, to student, to son, to daughter, etc. to focus on being soul mates. This time away will help you reconnect and refocus on each other, allowing you to rediscover your love for each other and strengthen your connection. The vacation together doesn’t need to be expensive; it just needs to give you a chance to focus on each other, and enjoy being together. So many of us wait for when we retire to “really live,” and we miss life along the way. Let’s steal the chances now when we can “really live” today.

I once had a car that I never got a chance to do any maintenance on. I was always too busy going to school, working long hours, racing home to spend a little time with the family. One day I turned the key and it didn’t start anymore. When I asked the mechanic what the damage was, it ended up costing me hundreds of dollars to fix. I had to borrow a friend’s car for a while. Had I just spent a little time and money to keep it in good repair, I could have saved myself a lot of money, time and pain.

It’s the same with marriage. To avoid the pain of a broken marriage, we need to consistently spend the time and energy to maintain it.

Many cars, after twenty years, look beat up and in sad shape compared to when they were first purchased. What about those beautiful classic cars that have been around fifty years or longer and look like new? What’s the difference between the two? The difference is time and effort that has been spent keeping the classic car in excellent shape. That is what makes them so rare. Anyone can just buy a new car, but how many can keep it looking and running like new for many years?

It’s this same approach we need to use to maintain a strong marriage. Anyone can have a shiny new relationship and enjoy initial love, but how many can build a relationship and create a true and enduring love that will last a lifetime, and feel as good or better than when they first fell in love? That is at the very heart of this Program.

When we set aside quality time on a daily basis, where we are showing our love for each other by meeting each other’s needs for affection, connection, conversation and intimacy, we will create a rich relationship account balance bringing our marriage to a better place.

If your career or job is preventing you from meeting your spouse’s needs, you may need to look for another position which will allow you greater control over your personal schedule so you can develop and maintain a happy and fulfilling marriage.

After my own marriage fell apart, and during our time apart, I had time to contemplate what went wrong. Sadly, it was then that I clearly saw that what I had been doing wasn’t working and it was only then I was motivated to really work on my marriage. I began to see how little by little over the years we began to spend less and less time together. I remembered how the pressures of a new demanding job, going to college and having children had created a perpetual busyness in our lives that left almost nothing for our marriage.

Though in the back of my mind I had told myself that it was all for the family and it was temporary, months turned into years of not spending any real quality time with each other. After this experience I realized I had to set aside time daily as I once did when we first met. We began to set aside two hours of undivided attention to each other everyday, and over time we began to feel our love for each other return and grow. Setting aside and spending this special time together has been a key component in creating the truly happy and fulfilling marriage we both enjoy.

[*Consider: Think about your own marriage, has busyness slowly crept in and left you with less time together during the course of your marriage? *]

Action: Find someone reliable that can watch the kids and try to go out on a date once a week. Schedule at least 2 hours of time each day, perhaps when the children go to bed, when you can be alone and begin spending time together daily. Try this for the next 30 days.

[* *]

~ DAY 8 ~

The Danger of Parallel Lives

Today we are going to look at how our priorities can shift and blur, with all of the busyness in our lives, and we can begin to live parallel lives. Frequently, this busyness forces us to choose, prioritize and focus on things that can cause us to neglect our spouse and may result in the downfall of our marriage.

Mike was shocked to hear that he only had a few weeks left; the cancer had spread too far and rapidly, and there was nothing they could do. The doctor continued to speak but Mike couldn’t hear the words. He felt a cold numbness of disbelief cover him. He hadn’t even begun to start living; how could this be? What was he going to tell Mary? Everything that seemed so important to him suddenly didn’t matter anymore; he just wanted to hold her and be by her side. He could see by her face that the doctors had told her. Seeing her so upset broke him and he felt the hot tears streaming down his face.

Mary asked him if he was okay, and she listened as he told her his dream, and for the first time in a while, looking into her beautiful eyes in the soft light, he remembered what it was really all about…what really matters….

What really matters?

I remember one pastor at church telling us how often it is, only at the end of our lives, that we realize what is truly important to us. He had visited many people during their last moments on earth. Each time the story repeated itself, regardless of the age or the gender of the person at death’s door, it was always the same. The person that was slipping away doesn’t ask to see their checkbook account, or a picture of their luxury car or the college degrees that they had earned. At that point none of that seems to matter. They always cry out “Bring me my wife, or my husband and my children. I just want to be near my family.” At the end of the day it’s our relationships with the ones we love that really matter the most to us.

What happens if we don’t put our spouses first?

If we don’t make a conscious decision to put our spouse first we get wrapped up in the daily busyness of life. We find ourselves flowing along the rapids; hanging on as best we can but not really controlling where we are headed.

What can gradually begin to happen is that we put our spouse’s needs and requests below our own “to do” list, which drives our priorities. The more “stuff” we add to our growing list, and as many of these things become urgent to us, the more likely we are to put our spouse’s requests and priorities further down on our list. Add in the dual income families, the 200% many of us put into our jobs, and long work hours to “pay our dues” to move up the ladder. If we also have children who take a lot of our time, energy and attention, we have little left over to dedicate to our marriages.

It’s easy to argue that the reason you are going to work or keeping up the home is[* *]for your spouse and family, but if you are not meeting their needs or if they are not feeling like they are the number one priority in your life, they just won’t feel loved by you.

When you take a step back and think about it, can we really expect that if we put our spouse after the kids, the new job, your sister, and a friend who is going through a lot right now, that your spouse will be happy? We tell ourselves that things will get back on track later and that this is “temporary.” After this project or ordeal is over, then we will focus again on our spouse. But for many, later never comes.

Many of us are raised to think that spending money on weekend breaks or vacations is wasteful. So many couples work hard, but they never make the time to go out and do things that they enjoy. They often tell themselves it’s not practical. However, not making each other a priority or spending time together leads to the death of a marriage. They may end up spending thousands of dollars on divorce, custody hearings and child support down the road. It’s unlikely that 60% of couples that get married plan on coming to this end, but if they don’t plan, schedule and prioritize to put their marriage first - then failure to plan is the same as planning to fail.

Are we really spending quality time in our marriage?

We often try to meet important emotional needs—affection, conversation, recreational companionship, and sexual fulfillment—when we have “extra time.” However, there is rarely any “extra time.” When we finally have time at the end of our busy day of working long hours, shuttling children around, and running errands, many couples end up trying to distract themselves from the daily struggles with the least amount of thought and effort possible—which is often by watching TV together. We tell ourselves that we “spent time” but we can feel somewhere in our hearts that things are not quite the same.

Not only do we not spend time on our spouse, but we rarely take any time for ourselves. This causes us to feel drained, and like we have nothing left to give to our spouse or even the kids.

“He’s never around anymore; it’s like I’m single,” Mary told her sister. “I don’t bother calling because he never answers his phone at work, and by the time he gets home, so much has happened.”

Her sister sighed.

“I feel like I’m the last thing on his mind; he is so preoccupied with everything else. When I finally get to talk to him, I can tell he checks out after a while… then he tells me how its “temporary” and it will all be like it was before, and better than before, but day after day it’s the same thing. Does he not see this? I don’t even know why I bother telling him what I’m doing; he’s never around anyway. He’s always got some new project or something going on at work, and that “He” is the only person that can do it, he can’t take off or come home early. I have no break for myself from the baby. I’m really just feeling worn out and unappreciated and lonely. It’s like he doesn’t even notice me anymore. How do you go from calling me every five minutes and showering me with affection when we first met to completely forgetting to call me once an entire day? Did he ever really love me? Or was that his way to win me over and then forget about me? Am I asking too much? Is this what happens after marriage?”

What happens when we don’t treat our spouse like they are number one?

For many, marriage has taken a back seat position, coming after our obligations at work and our kids. Without the proper priority of God, marriage, children and work, our spouse will feel unloved and unmotivated to love us fully as we grow apart.

If we don’t make our spouse the priority, chances are we won’t be their first priority either. With this emotional void in a marriage, someone else may eventually try to fill the void by making your spouse a priority and beginning to meet their needs. This makes them highly vulnerable to an extramarital affair as we all have a strong desire to be Number One in the eyes of someone we care about.

When we don’t make our spouse Number One, we usually tell them we don’t have time to talk or to make love. Instead we explain how we have to do something else or are simply too tired. This creates continual distance and a withdrawal from each other’s relationship account, as a couple moves away from each other and begins to lose that “in love” feeling. You may be doing lots of other tasks on your to-do list, but if you are not doing things that will strengthen your love for each other, you will feel an emptiness and void deep inside despite the busyness.

Often, your spouse unconsciously measures the amount of time and focus you spend on them, and if you are always too busy or tired, your spouse will feel unloved by you. Too often it’s easy to take our spouse for granted, and sadly, it often takes an emergency or major fallout to make us realize that we need to put our spouse first. By then, incredible pain and hardship might have been presented in the marriage and suffered by the kids. We nearly lost our own marriage, in part due to a continual lack of time and putting each other first in our lives and we suffered greatly for it.

When we don’t put our spouse first, we start doing our own thing – what we want to do. Once we feel our spouse is not putting us first, we often begin to put ourselves first, and start doing our own thing and leading parallel lives.

We can go back to living as if we were still single, as our spouse falls from the #1 priority spot. When this happens we no longer focus on meeting our spouse’s needs the same way and we don’t make deposits the way we once did. Instead we quietly make withdrawals. We begin making decisions without discussing them with our spouse, making our spouse feel unimportant. This can lead to feelings of disrespect, anger, sadness and neglect.

Sadly many couples that claimed they had no time for their spouse were able to find time for a brand new relationship with someone else in an affair. Instead of spending time focusing on their spouse and renewing their love for each other, they spend it with someone else in a destructive extramarital affair.

Often it’s when we have a “relationship heart attack” of sorts that, as a result of the destructive and painful consequences of our inaction, we realize we need to make life changes. During my own period of deep marital struggle, in this painful period of separation and reflection, I realized that I had lost sight of my priorities and that somehow my wife was no longer Number One. I began to see how I had gradually put things like work, the kids, and what I wanted to do in front of her. As a result she didn’t feel special or loved. Naturally she did the same and returned the favor, and I fell from the top of her priority list leading, in part, to an eventual separation. Once I decided to make my wife Number One again, telling her I didn’t care if I didn’t get the promotion, or about what I would lose if I didn’t have her and that she always was and will be Number One… over time…I could see that she began putting me first again and this was one of the key stepping stones towards rebuilding our marriage and falling in love again.

How do we decide to make our spouse and marriage Number One again?

Before you develop a workout routine and decide on what exercise you do, even before you develop the goal of a target weight, or to be able to lift a certain amount, you start out with a decision. You decide that it’s more painful to live without exercise and to be unfit, than to work out each day and get physically fit. You hit a point where you say, “I’m tired of the way it’s been, it’s not going to be easy, but I know I have to do this,” and you make the decision to make working out a priority.

Perhaps you’ve hit rock bottom and you are tired of having a “typical” marriage, just going through the motions, waiting for things to get better, all the while knowing that things are not getting better. We can see how we are responsible for what we do, but we often miss is that we are also responsible for what we don’t do. If we truly want to have a happy and fulfilling marriage we need to make a decision, once and for all, to make our spouse our Number One priority in our lives. When we come to the end of our lives, it’s our wives and families who are really the most important priorities in our lives. So save yourself a lot of trouble and make them your Number One priority early on!

It can’t be your mom, the kids, your sister or best friend. It has to be your spouse. To have a successful, happy and fulfilling marriage, all other relationships and commitments need to come after your spouse’s needs. We need to put our “better half” ahead of friends and relatives, and then when there is a conflict of interests we need to put our marriage first. For the sake of our marriage, and for the sake of our children, we need to put our spouse first.

How do we show our spouse that they are Number One in our lives?

Where you spend your time and effort shows what your priority is. In the beginning of the relationship there was no question where your priority was; you spent all of your free time with your future spouse. For you or your spouse to continue feeling loved we need to hear the words, “You mean more to me than anything and anyone else in the world. You make a difference in my life and I will do all I can to meet your needs. You are the most important thing in the world to me.”

The most important thing you can give to your spouse is yourself – your time and energy. While we can argue that keeping up with the home and running errands are all important, these can be done by someone else if we have the resources. But it’s the truly intimate needs of your spouse that can only be met by you – the need for connection, closeness, intimacy and true enjoyment should be met by you.

What’s the impact of putting our spouse first in our marriage?

The effect of making a conscious decision to put your spouse first is incredible. It will move you away from the “What’s in it for me” mentality to “What can I do for my spouse?” Once you make the transition to making your spouse a priority, you begin to learn their needs all over again and recommit to meeting them. What happens instinctively is that your spouse will begin to work towards meeting yours too. Over time, you’ll go from struggling to get any appreciation or affection or anything you were lacking in your relationship, to a place where you are both happy and content.

After I decided to make my wife my Number One priority I began making time just for her. I had let work and school dominate most of my time and didn’t plan any time for her, thinking we would just “touch base later.” But “later” rarely happened and when it did I was so tired the conversation wasn’t energetic or engaging. I just did the minimum and that’s what I got back from her. I decided to set aside two hours each day dedicated to my wife. We would talk about our day, the kids, how we felt, then we would spend time doing something we both enjoyed. On Saturdays nights we go out for a few hours just the two of us, and we get away from being mommy and daddy and we talk and spend time together. Prioritizing each other and making time for each other has given us the time to make new memories and opportunities for us to fall in love all over again.

How do we make time for our spouse?

Think of time as a bucket. Everyone has the same size bucket, which is the number of hours in a day. In this bucket we have big rocks, small rocks and sand which represent everything we are trying to accomplish in our day. Most of us are constantly trying to squeeze more and more into our buckets, trying to carry as much as we can. When someone asks us to “do more” with our time, like “work on our marriage” we look at our already heavy/full buckets and say we have no room, no time, nothing we can squeeze in.

The big rocks are things that we schedule in, are committed to, such as going to work, or perhaps working out, hobbies and other commitments, and are rarely moved. The small rocks are the unplanned things that come up on short notice and the pockets of space are our unscheduled free time. It’s in these little pockets of space in our bucket that we often try to fit time for our partner.

Instead of trying to find time for our partner, in this unscheduled time, we to look at the rocks in our bucket that are taking up most of our time, and look to remove some, to add a new rock in our bucket “personal time with our spouse”. Once we put that rock in our bucket we then need to protect that time [_before your bucket is filled _]with other things that come up. By the end of this program, you will know exactly what makes sense to do during that time to strengthen your marriage, but for now just look to set this time aside.

Once you decide to make your spouse the priority in your life you must continue to demonstrate it each day. Start by reexamining all that’s on your plate. So many couples become overwhelmed and they burn out trying to do it all. They may end up going to counseling, taking antidepressants, even divorcing and remarrying to find happiness that they never end up finding. Because goals cannot be accomplished unless time is set aside to achieve them, take the time to plan. Just by showing your spouse that they now are the highest priority and that meeting their needs is your top goal, you will be showing your spouse that you deeply care for them and they are likely to reciprocate.

When priority is given to our spouse’s needs above everyone else, we remind them of our love for them each day as we look to meet their needs. We may decide to set aside time to talk just as friends (without bringing up issues), going for walks and talking and holding hands. We intentionally carve out time to be together or slow dance together or do something else that we enjoy doing.

For example, after some reflection one husband looked at the priorities in his marriage and realized that although he enjoyed golf very much, he cared for his wife even more. He decided to give up playing golf to spend time with her, and that contributed to the creation of a beautiful marriage.

As we develop our priorities we need to constantly strive for balance between God, marriage, family, friends, career, health, fun and work. Not only should we make time for our spouse, but we should also take time each day for ourselves. When you are refreshed from taking a break and relaxing or doing something enjoyable you can be a better spouse and a better parent.

One tool to help you prioritize activities is to rate how important certain things are to you. Instead of assuming that going to a mutual friend’s house for dinner is a 10 to your spouse, ask your spouse, “From 1 to 10, with 10 being the most important, how important is going to this event to you?” Then share how important it is to you. You might find out it’s something that you both don’t think is that important after all or decide that something else is actually more important to both of you.

Part of having a successful marriage is letting go of a single mindset that we may have adopted. In a strong marriage, priorities change once we get married as we put the needs of someone else before our own. To avoid doing our own thing and engaging in independent behavior, we should agree with our spouse that one of us will not make major decisions without the other’s involvement. We should also agree on what “major’ means to each of us.

By involving your spouse in your decisions, seeking their feedback and allowing them to influence you, while keeping each other thoughts and feelings in mind you move away from living parallel lives as you share your ideas and thoughts and begin to reconnect and experience deeper intimacy. While this may be difficult at first, this is better than quietly making independent decisions, gradually drifting apart and one day discovering the marriage is over.

Consider: As you think back on your relationship, has your spouse fallen from the Number One position on your list of priorities?

Action: Decide to make your spouse Number One again, and make and protect a specific time for the two of you to connect on a daily and weekly basis. Try this for the next 30 days.

 

~ DAY 9 ~

How a Marriage Can Fade and Die

Today we look at how the love in our marriage can begin to fade and die.

There’s an old story called “How to Cook a Frog.” It goes like this. If we were to drop a frog into a pot of very hot water it would quickly reflexively jump out of the pot. However, if we were to very gradually raise the temperature of the water in the pot, the frog’s reflexive triggers would never be activated. Instead, the frog would seem to relax and enjoy itself in the warmth of a hot bath as very, very slowly the temperature was raised until the frog was boiled and cooked alive. This story reminds me of how very slow and gradual changes occur that ultimately lead to the death of our marriages. Here we will look at the dials of the knob, as couples in fading marriages, can move from “being in love” to a place where they can “no longer stand each other”.

How can a marriage begin to Fade and Die?

How do many couples, despite their best efforts, become like their parents “never talking” anymore? Why can a wife who has beautiful children and a husband who comes home with a paycheck that provides the roof over her head, still feel like something’s missing? How does intimacy and romance become replaced with anger and disappointment? As we will see, it’s often the gradual fading of our love in marriage, as a result of no longer meeting each other’s needs as we first did early in our marriages.

How does where we are in our marriage affect us?

Where we are in our marriage drives how we feel and our attitude towards our spouse. When we are in the initial falling in love phase and are completely enamored, our future spouse seemed to do no wrong and we completely overlooked small offenses. As most of us intuitively know in our relationships, we go through “phases”. The phase of love we are currently in drives how we see and feel about things.

When we have a bad fight or argument we can begin to quickly erode our relationship accounts and move from “being in love” to different levels that bring with them different attitudes and mindsets. While many couples don’t expect fighting and arguments to affect their love since they promised to love each other forever no matter what… the truth of the matter is that these terrible arguments and other types of withdrawals do, over time, affect how we feel about each other.

What often happens (even if we aren’t completely aware of it) is that after these major arguments, if we’ve been hurt in some way, we become afraid to fully share ourselves and open up causing us to feel disconnected and alone. As our love begins to fade we go through a broad range of emotions ranging from feelings of worry, to coldness to sadness to disappointment, mistrust and anger. Gradually we find our marriages moving through five different “phases” from “In Love” to “Can’t Stand You.”

The first phase, which is the “In Love” state, happens when we fall in love. Here we both feel the other can “do no wrong” as you slowly progress from this state to a second stage, the “Like” phase. It’s still hard to do wrong in the “Like” phase. In the third phase, the “I Don’t Care,” phase, it becomes relatively easy to do wrong. The next phase, the “Dislike” state, it’s hard to do right, and the fifth and final phase of a fading marriage is where the spouses cannot stand each other it feels like “You can never do anything right.”

[*Fast-Forward Two Years into the Marriage *]

“Sounds like the honeymoon is over,” Mary’s sister replied.

“Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a great guy; it’s just things aren’t the same compared to when we first met.” Mary continued. “Tell me about it,” Sarah said. “It’s like they sweep you off your feet, get you to marry them, then they say mission accomplished and are off!” “Exactly! I guess that happens to all of us,” Mary said. “I could barely get a minute to myself when we were dating, now I can barely get a minute with him! I remember the anticipation of making our plans, I was so excited and now, it’s just not as alive and passionate. I don’t mean to complain, but I can’t remember when I last got flowers! I used to get flowers or a card every week! I mean things are still pretty good, though I have to admit when we get to hang out it’s great. I just wish I had more of him, guess I’m kind of greedy. I guess it’s not realistic to expect the passion to last,” she said. Inside though, she couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of disappointment.

Mike thought about his marriage on the way to work that Monday. Sunday night was great. They had finally connected; he thought how much harder it seemed to connect with her lately. “I know I’m not putting in the time with her like I should be. I’m so glad she’s not like these other wives and she lets me focus on my work,” he thought gratefully. It was two weeks since we were last together; we used to have sex almost every day and now it’s down to maybe once a week. I think we just need to get away and spend some time together; that’s what worked last night. I love her; I can’t wait until I get this promotion I’ll really be able to take care of her and make things up to her.” Then his mind focused back on his job.

[*What does Phase 2, the “Like” stage in a fading marriage, look like? *]

The “Like” stage in a fading marriage is the movement from being deeply in love to liking each other. One of the things that is interesting here is that many people move to this phase somewhat comfortably. They reason to themselves it’s not “realistic” to really expect to be deeply in love with each other, and while they don’t still feel the magic, they figure things aren’t really that bad. They still enjoy spending time together but things have just “toned down” a bit.

What do we experience when we move to the “Like” phase?

The “In Love” feeling and sparkle in each other’s eyes appears much less frequently. Romance usually begins to fade as the flowers, cards, letters and romantic gestures from the husband begin to slow down. As we get caught up in demanding jobs and the busyness of life, we go from constantly giving each other attention to paying less and less attention. After marriage, men often focus more and more on their work, believing that they are helping their wives by being better providers, by providing more money and security with their dedication to work. The more time and energy he spends at work, the more proficient and confident he is, the more he can provide for his wife and new family. He focuses on new priorities, goals and dreams now that he has found the girl with which he looks to build his kingdom. He reasons that while they must sacrifice now, this will give them an edge in the future. However, this often results in less time for his wife, making her feel unnoticed and uncared for. They feel a decline in the amount of excitement, anticipation, hopefulness and openness in their relationship.

Spouses also begin to notice flaws that they didn’t see before. Once she begins to feel unnoticed she begins to fall out of love. Her man goes from being “the one” to being the one that leaves dirty laundry on the floor.

In this phase, spouses often begin to neglect the parts of life that brought them together. They have fun less often and go out less frequently. There seems not to be much time to just sit down together or take walks to talk as friends. Slowly they begin to have less time to be lovers, and when children come into play she can spend more time being a mother with less energy for the relationship.

When the courtship/first falling in love phase wears off they often begin to feel a slight void and emptiness, however it can be filled quickly by the excitement and challenges of the new job or new baby.

During this stage, we begin to do the bare minimum in our marriage, throwing in a bit of romance or conversation or sex. We fall into the path of least resistance – doing the easier things and using the least amount of energy. This can be the result of being exhausted after a long day. We can begin to recycle the same questions like, “How was your day?” Then we reply with short answers like, “Good,” and check off in our minds that we have spoken. This also affects your sex life with less sexual energy after the busyness of life has drained you. Gradually the excitement, passion and romance fade.

Wives may try to get their need to talk and connect met without fulfilling his need for sex and doing something fun together. Husbands may try to get their need for sex met without satisfying her need for conversation and affection with mixed results. He also can become uncooperative with her; having less sex makes him feel farther away from her.

What is the impact of having our marriage in the “Like” phase?

A loss of connection between spouses begins to lead to a fading marriage and a loss of the feeling of closeness and warmth. It’s not uncommon for wives to become concerned about the relationship first, trying to raise this to their husbands. Often, however, he feels there is nothing to discuss and that it is a waste of time and energy to talk about it. He assures her he loves her, he’s doing it all for her, and that it’s only for a short time until his goal is reached. They both feel at some level that things are not quite right and experience some discomfort in their marriage, but they also believe this may be normal once you are married. Though he may not want to discuss it, he also has some concern that his needs aren’t being met either. Things certainly have died down since courtship, but he knows he hasn’t been there to the same extent that he was before, and figures he can catch up or make it up to her later after his big promotion.

During this phase any negative words from extended family or friends may begin to carry more weight in your mind, where before you would completely ignore them. There is some vulnerability to an extramarital affair if someone is highly attractive and romantic toward one of you.

Here the two married frogs might feel the water begin to warm, but because it’s a subtle change overall, no alarms are flaring, nothing too hot has happened like an affair or the packing of bags. Many don’t react and respond to these changes, setting them up to move to the next stage.

[*Fast-Forward Four Years into the Marriage *]

After Mike cancels lunch because something came up at his work, Mary finds herself standing in her kitchen as she begins to make lunch and thinks, “You know what? I’m just really tired of waiting to be number one again. It’s his stupid job, it’s like he’s married to it, and it’s driving me crazy. If I keep waiting for him before I can enjoy my life, I’ll be an old woman before I can do anything. So you know what? He can just keep doing what he’s doing; it’s fine with me. I’ll have my own schedule, and he can have his. As long as we don’t step on each other’s toes we should be fine. I’m just tired of getting my hopes up, only to be disappointed again and again, I just don’t care anymore.”

Three year old Brandon sees the tears of disappointment and gives her a hug, and Mary’s heart is filled with his love and concern as she wipes away her tears.

It’s another Monday and Mike is on his way to work. During the few minutes he gets to think these days, he recalls how last night did not go well. She made it clear that she was not happy with him. Where was the woman he fell in love with? “Man” he thought, “I can’t get a break anywhere I go. I go to work; I get killed with deadlines. Now at home, it seems I’m not doing my share.” He replayed what happened in his mind, and in the end, somehow she had made him and his ideas appear weak and foolish. That’s fine, next time she asks me for my opinion about something, she can forget it. I don’t care anymore. She wants me to open up, but then she goes ahead and later throws it in my face. Really? I don’t have time to get wrapped up in any drama, see if I ever let her close enough to hurt me again. You can catch me off guard once, but not again.”

[*What does Phase 3, the “I Don’t Care” stage in a fading marriage look like? *]

After Phase 2, we move from still liking each other to a place where you feel neutral and not caring. It’s not that you dislike each other; it’s just that you don’t really feel connected anymore. You continue to go on family vacations, see the kids in plays and go through the motions. You’re together physically but not emotionally.

Some who looked to marriage for happiness and completeness begin to realize it’s just not there. Work and children continue to take up more and more time, and often money pressures mount. Somehow we go from doing everything together to doing almost nothing together, with one or both often saying they are too tired or busy, etc. We get weighed down with so many activities, that we have little time or energy for meaningful conversation, fun, romance or sex, and become a bit more self-centered, focusing more on our own goals and priorities rather than our spouse’s.

During this stage, we begin to experience hurt feelings, a lack of praise, unmet needs, and negative feedback increasing our fear of pain and rejection. Husbands often become quieter, offering fewer ideas and suggestions because they begin to feel that what they say doesn’t matter, or may lead to an argument making them feel less confident and respected in the marriage.

By the “I Don’t Care” stage, often she feels she has given and given, and believes he never gives in return. By this point when she does ask for help, she begins to ask in a demanding, resentful, disrespectful and nagging way. In her mind, she has given him endless clues and hints that she needs help and she is now tired of waiting for him to do his part. Both often feel underappreciated for their efforts, and at this point one may try to turn the marriage around by getting the other to make changes that will, somehow, fix the problems they are having.

What is the impact of the “I Don’t Care” Phase on our marriage?

Many often begin to protect their feelings by retreating and withdrawing They begin spending too much time at work, on children’s activities, shopping or whatever will give them a momentary pleasure or break. Underneath, the feelings of distancing between couples increases. What often results is a loss of real intimacy between each other, as they begin to go other places to meet their needs.

After one particularly bad argument or fight we make quiet promises to ourselves like, “I’ll never let her hurt me again.” Conflicts and arguments can become more frequent and more intense as life gets busier. One approach that couples quietly take is to stop talking to each other to avoid conflict. Couples begin to distance themselves to minimize pain. We don’t offer our hand to be held by the other and we avoid closeness. We don’t talk to our spouse openly and deeply anymore, not letting them inside our hearts, as we are no longer able to share personal deep feelings or thoughts. This hurts us, but the slow gradual pain of separation, we reason, is less painful than a quick unexpected emotional slap in the face. We often decide “not to bother” as we stop investing in our marriage and things change as we move into a “You do your thing, I’ll do mine” mindset.

She stops looking at him intently and lovingly. She doesn’t seem interested in meeting his need for sexual intimacy. He stops caring and forgets even the basic special occasions like birthdays, Valentine’s Day or anniversaries. The long conversations which once drew them together become a distant memory. There is an overall feeling of uncertainty that begins to crop up.

Depending on their beliefs, some couples will stay married, settling on being roommates. They figure that at least they have a good job and the kids, and they can always work on their marriage later or that somehow things will improve later on. This often leads to two lonely people living in the same house.

At this point, dedication may begin to waver, and some begin to wonder if they married the right person. It’s common for many to spend several years in this stage hoping for things to improve somehow. After a couple has begun to emotionally vacate the relationship and take each other for granted, each becomes vulnerable to an extramarital affair if someone comes around to offer to meet a need that their spouse has not been meeting. Some may use the thought that they married the wrong person to justify beginning a new relationship with a new person, ”the right one”.

Feelings of uncertainty, confusion, apathy, and not caring any more leads many couples in this phase to feel detached and distant.

If you don’t have kids, you may start considering divorce after awhile. Couples with kids or circumstances that bind them together such as financial, etc., may hang in a bit longer.

The two married frogs feel the water beginning to get hot, but again it’s a subtle change from warm to hot. Many don’t react and respond to these changes, telling themselves that every marriage has its ups and downs, setting them up to move to the next stage.

[*Fast-Forward Six Years into the Marriage *]

“And you said you would put up the lights and the decorations; it’s been three weeks! Christmas is going to be here in less than two weeks! When are you going to do that?” Mary asked in a clearly irritated tone.

Mike thought, “Wow! I’m not even going to say anything; all I ever hear from her is – ‘When is this going to be done and why did you forget that?’ And when I do get things done she still complains saying, ‘It’s about time!’ So this is marriage,” he thought as he stormed off to another room. “Everything’s about the house, and chores, and kids; I’m last on the list along with our relationship. I think the last time we had sex was a few months ago, and she acted like she was just doing me a favor. I can’t even remember why I married her anyway,” he thought to himself angrily.

“So how’s it going?” Mary’s sister asked.

“Great!” Mary said sarcastically. “Actually, the kids are doing great. Brandon is in kindergarten, and Julie is doing really good. It’s just that Mike is driving me crazy. He’s worse than the kids. I always have to pick up after him, and getting him to do anything is like pulling teeth. And can you believe he forgot our Anniversary?[* *]Really, you can’t add that to your iPhone to remind you or write it down, or something? I try to get him to see his shortcomings, to get him to change, but he just walks away, storming off… I just don’t know what to do. If it weren’t for the kids and the bills, I hate to say this, but sometimes I feel like it would be better if I just leave. I can’t take this anymore. I married him thinking we’d be happy, and it’s just not happening anymore.”

Sarah sighed as she listened to Mary’s disappointment, hurt and frustration.

[*What does Phase 4, the “Dislike” stage in a fading marriage look like? *]

In Phase 4, we move from being neutral in our relationship and not caring, to dislike. Here conflict begins to occur as couples struggle to try to make each other happy. At this point, one or both gets mad and angry easily. To him, she has become very nagging, hostile, bitter and blaming toward him while rarely meeting his need of sexual intimacy. To her, he has stopped trying to make her happy, stopped showing affection and love, and doesn’t make her feel beautiful and special. Their need for praise, appreciation, attention and sex go unmet.

In this stage there is often a coldness, a harshness and a bitterness surrounding the couple. Overall, there are feelings of frustration, tension, distrust and criticism as they begin to feel burned out. Conversation has come down to the bare minimum where we talk about what we need to do and where we are going. Conversations about hopes and dreams, fears and joys have stopped. How we feel and think is absent from the conversation. Both often blame each other. Misery, feelings of hurt, anger, disappointment and hopelessness at being trapped in their marriage emerges. Some couples believe that an unrelated change would improve the marriage, for instance, if they had no credit card bills things would improve.

As praise is replaced with nagging, with impatient corrections and constant criticism, we begin to feel our relationship weaken. Often the wife will try even harder to get her husband to change for the better, but this is often met with short lived success if there is any effort to improve at all. Instead of feeling good, confident, attractive and energized around each other we feel anxious, and lack confidence as we become unsure how to relate to each other. One or both partners begin to associate their spouse with pain and stress, rather than with excitement and pleasure, as there is[* ]a[ ]great deal of[ *]pain and fear felt as they sense that the marriage is failing.

What is the impact of having our marriage in the “Dislike” Phase?

In this phase, couples often have difficulty managing the inevitable challenges and conflicts that come their way, becoming more confrontational, reactive and explosive in their arguments. They get louder and more disrespectful in clear and obvious annoyance with each other. Some couples now begin to vent their marital frustrations to friends and family about their marriage, further weakening their union.

When love is gone, we tend to get caught up in a cycle of blame for our unhappiness and can get trapped in the “blame game” mentality trying to get our spouse to change. Some couples may even begin to think the other is purposefully out to get them, leading to even more emotional distance.

It’s common for couples in this stage of their marriage to begin to wonder if they are wasting their time, asking themselves, “Why did I marry you anyway?” Their courtship ‘falling in love’ days seem like a distant memory and like some elaborate marriage trap. Both are likely to be[* very *]vulnerable to an extramarital affair with someone that will meet their needs and will “comfort them” during this “difficult time.” Even couples with kids may start to consider divorce, and even threaten it as they argue.

The two married frogs now feel the water is hot, and one may try to react and respond to these changes. But they may be unable to see how they can get out of the situation, as what is happening to them is becoming very clear. A paralyzing fear may take over, making them unable to figure out how to get out of the situation and setting them up to move to the next stage.

[*Fast-Forward Eight Years into the Marriage *]

“I’m through trying to get him to change, to get him to be the man he needs to be for his family,” Mary told her pastor. “All there is between us is complaining and arguing all the time. I have put up with so much for so long; I’ve sacrificed and given so much for him and the family. I just can’t do it anymore. Marriage shouldn’t be this hard, what’s the point of marriage if you can’t make each other happy, if you can’t even stand each other anymore?”

At this point, Mike had completely withdrawn from the relationship. “How ironic,” he thought, “I did all this originally for her and now I don’t even know her anymore. All she does is nag and criticize.” In his wallet was a faded picture of them when they first met in high school. They had taken a picture in one of those picture-taking booths in the mall; she had the sweetest and warmest smile and they looked at each other so intently and in love. He couldn’t remember the last time she looked at him that way. It pained him to look at the picture now, where did this girl go?” He wondered to himself whether he could ever get her back.

[*What does the fifth and final “Can’t Stand You” stage in a fading marriage look like? *]

In Phase 5 we move from “Dislike” to a place where we “Can’t Stand Each Other” anymore.

Living year after year with constant withdrawals from your relationship account, things can get to a dark place. There is constant criticism of each other in this phase, with couples now purposefully trying to “get back” at the other. At this point, couples may be lying to each other and calling each other disrespectful names. This constant fighting becomes the norm and at this point both check out or withdraw from the relationship. Some couples will even put each other down in front of friends and family, talking negatively about each other.

In this stage, negativity, sarcasm, accusations, anger and distance may set the tone for the relationship. In his mind, he may come to believe he married an ungrateful nag who is never satisfied or happy, and she may come to believe she married an insensitive, uncaring, lazy and unhelpful man. Couples begin to think the other is purposefully out to get them and are now completely mistrustful, leading to resentment. Often couples in this phase ask themselves, “What was I thinking when I married you?”

What is the impact of having our marriage in the “Can’t Stand You” phase?

Couples are often devastated and angry that the happiness they had hoped for is not in their lives. Full-blown feelings of anger, resentment, rejection and hopelessness are often felt by this stage. Even with kids and financial constraints, divorce begins to feel like the only option and many couples pursue this avenue. At this point most couples will easily have an affair with anyone that shows an interest and ability to meet their needs.

By this point the two frogs are no more…

Looking back, I remember in my own marriage how things had begun to slowly fade until we got to where we didn’t know each other, where we didn’t even like or trust each other anymore. There were slow and gradual changes, silent agreements, as the distance between us grew and our marriage began to fade and die, until something happened – a final straw that broke the camel’s back that led to separation and a near divorce.

These phases are not meant to be exact, but only to serve as a general guide to make you aware of the subtle changes as they occur so that you respond sooner than later to gradual changes in your marriage because the later stage you are in often the more damage that has been done, and the more effort it is to fall in love.

Progression through each phase is unique for everyone. In terms of what each couple experiences and how long they take to get to a phase they all follow their own unique path.

As we continue to neglect our partner’s needs making withdrawals from our relationship accounts we will see the steady, but certain, downward spiral over time as we move from Phase 1- being completely in love and connected - to Phase 5 where we cannot stand each other and feel completely disconnected.

Instinctively, we know that if we continue to ignore our body’s needs for food and warmth, we get sick over time. The same is true for relationships. And so just as the key to good health is meeting our body’s needs by making the time for diet and exercise, so too the key to a healthy marriage is making the time to meet each other’s needs.

If you believe your marriage is in one of the stages of decline, the good news is that you are not alone. Many others including myself have been in these stages and there are clear steps you can take to move back to the “In Love” stage. You can enjoy a stronger, greater, happier and more fulfilling marriage over time, which is the focus of this Program.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. Think about how the 5 phases relate to your marriage. *]_]

[*2. Can you see how you may have gradually moved away from the “In Love” phase? *]

3. Was there a point where you vowed to never get hurt again in your relationship?

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Write a letter to your spouse (you don’t have to give it to them) explaining how you think you got to the stage you are in and expressing your desire to fall in love again (or stay in love if that’s where you currently are). *]_]

 

~ DAY 10 ~

How to Create a Happy Marriage

Mary was excited when they first moved into their new home; it was a great improvement from the apartment they were living in. Each kid had their own room and it was a quiet neighborhood, something she had wanted for so long. But five years later it no longer brought her the same joy. She thought once they moved in, everything would be different and she would find her happiness in suburbia and she was happy and grateful. But for some reason she didn’t feel the happiness she thought she would find. “Maybe once we pay off this mortgage,” she thought, but in the back of her mind she knew she’d need something else, but wasn’t exactly sure what that would be.

Is the American Dream going to give you all the happiness you’re hoping for?

Many of us are working towards the American Dream; expecting that our lives will be happier once we realize it. Once we have the big house, the car, the stuff, the financial security, we will be happier. We hear over and over from relentless commercials and ads how we need to have this or do that to be happy. We are constantly working to earn money to buy the latest car or fashions. For those that love to shop, once they make their purchases they feel that excitement or contentment of getting something new. What happens is that we often get pleasure from shopping and other activities, at the expense of our long term happiness. If you enjoyed the new purchases in the short term but bought them on a high interest credit card, chances are you will cringe when you see the high credit card balance later on. That shopping that gave you a short term thrill may have actually moved you further away from your long term target of reducing your debt level, and hurt your overall financial situation. Like eating a delicious but high fat meal and enjoying it in the short term, but regretting it later on when you gain another unwanted pound.

Why is it hard to work for what we can’t see?

It’s easier for us to focus on a short term pleasure because it is something that we can see and experience. If I buy my favorite ice cream or give my wife a kiss, I experience it and know why I feel that pleasure. But happiness is deeper; we can’t always put our finger on it. You might be tempted to think that if you keep getting enough pleasure, it will somehow build up into happiness, but it doesn’t. It’s like saying that eating enough candy will make a good and filling meal. While a meal may never taste as sweet as a Hershey chocolate bar, we instinctively know that in the long term it’s that good wholesome meal with the right mix of potatoes, turkey, gravy, and biscuits, that makes a much more fulfilling meal. Having the fulfilling meal first, and perhaps later the chocolate bar, is the better approach.

Some of us get happiness from others, because of what others tell us or do for us. Some consider happiness something we earn, as a reward, for doing something great. Others try to get their happiness from the things they buy or the physical beauty that they possess. It’s easy to focus our lives on these tangible things that we can see and experience. All of these sources of happiness can be lost – our friends, our ability to perform, our possessions or beauty. If we base how we feel about ourselves and our happiness on these things that are out of our control, we can lose our happiness, our love for ourselves and confidence in ourselves over time.

Some may look to extramarital affairs or to acquiring more possessions to try to be happy, but this happiness is fleeting. We need a deeper happiness and peace, while pleasure is often temporary and unfulfilling on its own. It’s the deeper happiness in our lives that is lasting.

Mike got in touch with someone he had grown up with who had been in a car accident a few months before. He had suffered third degree burns on his face and his body. It was a shock to see his friend like that, and Mike felt a great sorrow for him. But as they spoke he saw how genuinely happy his friend Alex was with his life. Alex had started his own business and was soon to be married and seemed to have so much going for him. Mike admitted he wasn’t sure how he would handle being in a serious accident like the one Alex had survived. Alex told Mike that he had decided to choose to be happy and make the most of his life, and to not give up. Mike reflected on his own life and began to think of all the good things he had been blessed with. He felt a peace and happiness he hadn’t felt in a while, and decided that even though his life wasn’t perfect he was going to choose to be happy.

Is happiness something we should be looking for or working to create?

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” In other words, happiness is a decision that we all need to make. It all starts with being strong enough to chart your own path in life. Your happiness, joy and strength shouldn’t come from others who can and will, at times, let you down. It’s like only being able to get food from the grocery store. We need to learn to grow our own happiness. We are better off if we plant the seeds of hope, joy, peace and happiness and then rejoice in the harvest. It takes longer and more work to grow your own food, but you’re stronger for it, and if the grocery store closed down you wouldn’t go hungry.

We need to be aware of our intrinsic value and worth as a person. Our significance and happiness is not in our spouse’s hands or anybody else’s, it’s in our own. This knowledge gives us the confidence we need to weather the various storms that will come our way during our lives. When we receive constructive criticism about a shortcoming that we might have, we can listen without the fear that somehow this makes us less of a person or not worth loving. Though we are all imperfect, we are all intrinsically priceless; we are all worthy of love and happiness. We all want the same love we received as a child (or should have received), where we were allowed to fail, to mess up, and we’d hear, in a reassuring voice, “That’s okay.”

What has to happen for us to feel happy?

Many of us wait until things outside of our control are in order and right in our lives before we let ourselves be happy. Instead of realizing that we are in control and can choose to be happy regardless of what’s happening around us. We adopt an ‘if only’ mindset where we tell ourselves we’d be happy ‘if only’ we had _________________ (fill in the blank). We chase happiness instead of creating it. We push the responsibility for how we feel and our happiness onto others. We may believe that it is our spouse’s responsibility to “make us happy;” we reason that they did it during the early days of our relationship, why can’t they do it again.

By taking responsibility for our own happiness, not only are we able to increase our own happiness but we free our spouse from being held responsible for our happiness, which is something beyond their direct control. At the same time, we can free ourselves from any blame we might feel for our spouse’s unhappiness, at that is not in our direct control. This is especially important for husbands who often instinctively feel responsible for their wife’s happiness.

Additional topics we will spend time on later include, understanding what shapes our beliefs and attitudes and how they affect our marriage. We’ll see that it’s not only what happens, but how we view and handle things, that matters. We can work to create our own happiness by focusing on actively shaping our thoughts, and re-evaluating and reshaping our beliefs that affect how we feel, and what we say and do.

[*How can we create happiness? *]

In deciding to create our own happiness, we start by what we have control over – ourselves. Are we taking care of ourselves physically getting enough rest and exercise? Are we patient, caring and understanding? Are we vibrant and confident? Are we positive and optimistic about the future, with dreams and goals for a better tomorrow? Are we happy and grateful for what we have? Are we bringing that into the marriage? There is a lot that we can bring into our marriage, but this must first be created in ourselves.

Mary hated feeling short-tempered with the kids, but lately it was getting harder and harder. Everyday was Ground Hog’s Day, and even though she was busy all the time, she felt a mixture of boredom and sadness. With Mike being at work all day and coming home late, Mary had no break. “Mommy,” Brandon asked “can I have some friends come over?” Mary laughed – “No not today.” “When mommy?” “Later” she said. That night Mike suggested that she take the weekend off with her best friend and take a break from everything; he was trying to make up for his busy schedule lately. After some convincing, she felt guilty about leaving but she went away for the weekend with her girlfriend and took a break from being mommy. She went shopping, tried some new restaurants and even went to a day spa with her girlfriend. She felt relaxed and refreshed when she got home. “I didn’t realize how much I needed to get away to recharge and refocus,” she thought; and she decided to surprise Brandon by inviting some of his friends over to play.

[*How does our personal happiness affect the happiness of our marriage? *]

According to Norval Glenn, a sociologist at the University of Texas, only 24% of married couples are happily married until death, 76% are not. We want to not only avoid divorce, but we want to be in that 24% that are happily married. You may not see it all the time, but your own happiness does influence the level of happiness in your marriage. If you are constantly in a negative state, worrying or in the wake of your own personal sadness and depression, chances are you will not feel happiness as a couple.

We can’t give to others what we don’t have or feel. I can’t give you a million dollars if I don’t have a million dollars myself. Nor can I give you love, peace or hope if I have none myself. What you can give then is limited by what you have.

If your capacity for happiness is represented by a cup, and that cup is filled with a blue sparkling liquid that represents your happiness, but you have very little left in that cup, how willing are you to pour the liquid into someone else’s cup? How much can you actually give them? If you are spent and burnt out then what do you have left to give?

Whenever we hear the airline attendant’s safety announcement they remind us, “If there is an emergency, put your oxygen mask on first before you help those around you.” They go on to say that if you pass out trying to help your child, then you’ve helped no one, because now who’s going to help you and your child?

We need to fill our own cup and from there, replenish our marriage. Like Mary, we need to realize the importance of being able to refill our own cup of happiness so that we can nourish others.

While it is important to pursue our own happiness, we must balance our individual pursuit of happiness with the happiness of our marriage. As some of us have learned the hard way, pursuing our own happiness at the expense of our marriage can destroy it over time. Pursuing that promotion at work at the expense of our marriage, or keeping up with the Joneses by having our kids in too many activities at the expense of the marriage.

Many spouses, especially men, admit that when their spouse is not happy they simply do not find them to be fun and attractive. There is a special beauty that can only be seen in her happy smile. Left unchecked, her unhappiness can be a source of what pushes him away.

[*What are some of the words you would use to describe your marriage? *]

  1. Are you in love? Are you are excited and looking forward to creating a life with each other? Do you enjoy closeness and hope that you will have a happy marriage?

2. Would you say you feel uncertain and unsure of your relationship? Are you feeling disconnected, tired and disappointed?

3. Or is there a deep feeling of not caring anymore, being angry, having given up and nothing is left to give, feeling hopeless and indifferent?

We want to be able to describe our marriage as the 24% of those that are happy and use words like “in love” and “close”. Most of us want to have feelings of trust and security, and deep love and commitment where we feel connected, and are able to enjoy each other’s company without fear of uncontrollable angry, conflict or cold withdrawal. Where our affection and love for our spouse continues to grow, where we are able to forgive and love deeply.

Happiness is often found by being able to maintain proper expectations and a positive attitude despite tough times. The ability to manage conflict without allowing differences to damage the relationship and see each other’s point of view is extremely important. When we focus on pursuing a happy marriage versus our own personal happiness, martial activities like date nights become a priority over any individual activities we might normally have.

So how we can create happiness in our marriage by developing the right skills?

Dr. Laura Schlessinger in her book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage tells a story of[* *]one husband was deeply hurt that he could not seem to make his wife happy; to him it seemed that all she could do was find fault in what he did. It killed him because they appeared or pretended to be happy out in public, but behind closed doors she seemed very unhappy all of the time. He told her that their lives were too short and that although it would hurt him, he couldn’t bear to see her unhappy anymore. Since he seemed to be the source of her pain, he offered to leave the marriage. As he was packing he began to tell her how she needed to handle the finances now. She started to cry and asked him not to leave. Over time they learned to create happiness in their marriage and avoided divorce.

According to Dr Steven Stosny, over 70% of divorces are initiated by women who think their husbands don't care about how they feel. He goes on to say that this is really sad since most men do care about their wives; they just struggle to express it clearly and consistently in a way their wives understand. Both spouses need to develop skills to meet their partner’s needs so that they feel loved and cared for in marriage. Husbands need a better strategy than hoping and waiting for things to get better. Many men think that maybe things will get better when they get that pay raise, or when the kids are older. This is like waiting to apply for a job when the economy improves, instead of developing the skill set that will make you more marketable now. In reality, most things left unattended will only get worse.

Wives usually have greater relationship-building skills than their husbands because they have practiced these skills from a much earlier age. While boys are tackling each other in competitive physical activity, girls are forming relationships (social interaction), engaged in role-playing games like “house” and much stronger at expressing feelings. Men are often less able to read emotions and facial expressions, which puts them at a disadvantage sometimes in their marriage. Though husbands may have a late start in developing skills that enable them to emotionally connect to others, they can learn the relationship skills needed to have a great marriage. Wives can also learn a great deal by developing new insights into their husband’s perspective that will also help them to communicate even more effectively.

If our marriage is not where we want it to be today, we have the power to change this over time. By increasing our awareness of ourselves each other and our needs and working to develop the right skills we can equip ourselves to create a strong healthy marriage.

By being engaged in this program, day by day, you are already taking steps to directly improve yourself.

Each day, as you pick up another concept and idea and you make it your own, from seeing what it is your spouse needs and why they need it, to understanding the common marital challenges we all face like managing conflict and money, you will find your awareness and capability growing as you become greater equipped to have a successful marriage.

As we learn something new each day, we also need to put into practice what we learn. It’s when we begin to put what we learn into practice, such as showing our appreciation, having meaningful conversations and other marriage-building activities, that we are turning toward our spouse and we are creating a happy marriage that will enrich our family’s lives. By developing a strong sense of who we are, we can decide for ourselves what we can and cannot do. Even if everyone tells you they don’t think you can do it or that it won’t work out, have the strength and faith to believe that, by the end of this program, you will have the tools needed to have the marriage you’ve always wanted. Don’t buy into the idea that you are what others say you are, or that you can only do and achieve what someone else says you can do. Only you know your true potential.

[*Would you leave your career to luck, hoping things will improve? Or do you actively shape and create results? Why wouldn’t you do the same in your marriage? *]

We need to be deliberate in creating marital success. We need to invest time in developing the skills to have a great marriage, but many don’t continuously work to improve after the wedding vows. We should continue to meet our spouse’s needs and learn to communicate and show love in a way that our spouse understands and values. We also need to effectively manage conflict by dealing with it when conflicts are small and to talk things over with our spouse in a positive way that doesn’t weaken the relationship.

We need to bring our work skills into the marriage, and develop the right tools and be informed to make the best decisions to have a successful marriage. Having the skills to create a happy marriage makes a huge difference.

According to the authors of Fighting for Your Marriage (Howard Markman, Scott Stanley, and Susan Blumberg), marriage programs like PREP (Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program) and training that is similar to the program you are about to begin has been found to lower rates of premarital breakup and post marital divorce. In a large-scale study (which measured the effectiveness of PREP) in Denver, couples were one-third less likely to break up as the couples who did not receive PREP training, up through five years following the program. Marital training programs like this one can make a significant impact by strengthening marriage the marriage, and reducing the chances of divorce.

Most of us have not been shown exactly how to have and create a strong relationship or marriage. We learn pieces here and there, but there is no definitive approach that we are shown. Unfortunately, too many get their information on how to have a successful marriage from other people who may be struggling in their own marriage, and magazines or tabloids near the checkout stand at the store. With the right approach though, you will be able to actively work with your spouse to create the marriage you are looking for. This may be difficult or awkward at first, like learning how to speak in public. It will be scary for some, but with continuous effort and both of you working together on this common goal, you’ll be able to have a marriage like you never thought possible.[* *]

How do we develop the skills to have a strong marriage?

I can practice dancing by myself in front of the mirror without any instruction as much as I want, but until I have someone take me by the hand and show me step by step, walking me through what I need to do and how to do it, I might never be able to learn to dance completely on my own. That’s why having a model and example, to copy and follow is so important to learning everything from complex math equations, to developing a strong marriage.

Everything that is new for us seems uncomfortable when we first do it, and it’s only by repetition – doing the same thing over and over – perhaps saying thank you, saying I love you etc. that it becomes natural, and you become comfortable doing it. At first it may seem artificial or awkward but as you try again and again, things will become more natural and fluid over time. Nothing worth having comes easy and underneath whatever rewarding accomplishments we have in life we often find lots of hard work and effort and a few risks and leaps of faith along the way.

To give up on our marriage prior to learning and developing the skills is like throwing out your ice skates because you keep falling. Expect falls; take it slow, you’ll get it. Many couples remarry after they see where they went wrong and work on having a stronger marriage. Giving up on your marriage without learning the right skills is like giving up on anything else that we find difficult and challenging at first. We all struggle at first whether it’s dancing, playing a sport, or public speaking or anything new. What throws many of us off is that we think marriage, is not anything new, that it’s just an extension of initial easy love, or dating but it’s not it really is something that is new and different that we all need to work at to get to where we want to be.

The ingredients to success in whatever we do from achieving our goals are all the same, passion, time, focus and skills/techniques and commitment to realize them. The same can be applied to marriage.

How can we create lasting happiness in our marriage by figuring out what to do and then consistently doing it?

Mike watched as flooding had taken out the small bridge he had made that crossed from one end of the stream to the other. Pieces of his bridge washed down the stream along with other branches and debris; he could see that his neighbor’s bridge a few yards away had held up just fine. Mike had been too busy to repair the bridge even though he knew it wasn’t as strong as it used to be. As he listened to the rush of water, he realized that he would now need to build the bridge from scratch all over again which would cost him even more time and money. He felt drained. He hated seeing how he could have avoided problems and then seeing it was too late. His thoughts shifted to his marriage and how he’d been doing the same thing, dreading the inevitable storm, unsure of how they would hold up when it came.

Some of us get wrapped up in trying to change our spouse’s thinking – “if they would just do these things then we could get back to where we were at the beginning”. It may seem clear to us that they have stopped doing certain things for us, and treating us differently and as a result we no longer feel the same, but what is often harder for us to see is that *we *may not be doing what we once did, which can also be affecting what they feel and do.

First we need to identify your spouse’s needs so that we can consistently build our relationship account, and at the same time, learn to manage/avoid those events that destroy and cause the marriage to fade and die. Interestingly enough, if we try to focus on getting our needs met and fulfilled we will often be unsuccessful, as others naturally push back when they feel pushed. But if we focus on meeting our spouse’s needs, over time we will often find that they will want to return the favor and begin working toward fulfilling our needs.

We need to keep in mind that we need to be prepared to meet the needs of our spouse, which may be very different from what we feel we need. When we understand our needs and our spouse’s, we are better able to see how something we do or don’t do affects us in the areas that we care most about. Once we start or stop doing these things we are able to strengthen our marriage

Once we identify their needs, by meeting what our spouse values the most, we are able to build up our relationship more quickly than meeting needs that are not as important to them. We need to begin to redirect time and energy back into the relationship, taking care of it and rebuilding it.

We can then purposefully create activities that we can do together that we enjoy and that will draw us more closely together, while avoiding those that create distance. Even doing something as boring as household chores together can become a fun and bonding experience.

How can we sustain the passion and momentum in our marriage?

We need to be willing to do what we did at the beginning of the relationship. Anyone can start the race strong, but the real test is being able to create and sustain the momentum. To get there, what’s needed is a comprehensive, consistent systematic approach towards a healthier and happier marriage.

Our marriage is always moving, day by day, in a certain direction like an aircraft that is in flight. We are either moving in the right direction towards each other or further away from each other. We start by deciding to move towards each other day by day. Daily we should be talking with our spouse, and looking meeting their needs, looking to put their needs first.

As many who have tried the countless easy weight loss programs will tell you, a diet that requires very little change and effort from us that we try for just a month won’t work. At the end of the day, what is [*really *]needed is a more comprehensive and committed change in our diet and exercise lifestyles.

If we take the right steps to living a healthy lifestyle – eating right, exercising with weights, cardio – over time the result will be a healthy body. Not doing any of this, eating whatever we want and not exercising will over time lead to an unhealthy body. By taking the right steps, over time, we are able create a healthy and strong marriage. It’s providing a roadmap of “the right steps” that is a cornerstone of this Program.

Steps like, calling each other during the day, taking a break from the TV and other distractions, focusing on each other’s needs, agreeing to spend at least two hours daily talking and being close together (focused conversation, intimacy, etc.). Steps like showing each other appreciation and praising our partner when they try to meet our needs (even when it’s not perfect).

The focus of the rest of this Program is to enable you to take control of your own happiness, developing your marriage skills and using these skills to effectively and consistently meet our spouse’s needs for happiness.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. Is the American Dream able to give you all the happiness you’re hoping for? What has to happen for us to feel happy? *]_]

2. How can we create happiness in our marriage?

3. How does our own personal happiness affect our marriage?

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Write down your own rules for happiness. Are they easy to achieve? *]_]

[*2. Are you happy with your rules? *]

*3. Write down any changes you want to make. *

[*4. Write down how you think your own personal happiness affects your overall marital happiness, and how you think your partner’s happiness might affect your personal happiness and marital happiness. *]

[* *]

~ DAY 11 ~

Your Beliefs and How They Affect the Quality of Your Marriage

*Today we are going to look at how limiting beliefs can hurt our marriage. *

According to motivational speaker and author, Anthony Robbins in one study, medical students were told that a new drug was being introduced. They were told that taking the [red *]pill would give them energy and[ stimulate*] them; and that taking the [blue *]one would sedate them and *tranquilize them. What these students didn’t realize was that the actual effects had been switched.

The same red pill that they were told would stimulate them, actually had barbiturates that should have put them down, while the blue pill that they were told would tranquilize them, was actually packed with amphetamines that should have kept them pumped up.

Surprisingly half of the students experienced that opposite results after taking the pill, with [*their beliefs *]overpowering about what the pill was supposed to do, and overpowering the pharmaceutical’s powerful affects. Students experienced incredible energy when they shouldn’t have, or were tired when they were taking a stimulant.

This and similar studies serve to remind us of just how powerful our beliefs are.

If we really believe something to be true, these beliefs can be strong enough overcome anything, shape what we feel, and experience, even if it goes against what our environment or physical reality tells us.

[*So what are beliefs? *]

Every time we experience something for the first time, we create a new mental representation of the experience and what it means to us. Similar to how we might digitally record actual sound on a device that we can play back later.

Small children look at the world with newness, experiencing things for the first time (for instance, cotton candy), and they store the taste, how it looks and the smell, under the mental representation of “cotton candy”. In the future, hearing this word, will call up a mental representation that “cotton candy” has a distinct smell, taste and look. We now have a simple belief or definition about what “cotton candy” is that we can now call up in our mind.

While the ear takes in sounds about what is happening around us, it’s our minds that take the sounds and translate them into words.

Our mind is constantly looking to automatically integrate new words and ideas into our mental representation and thinking. Unconsciously our mind asks us,

How does this (new idea) fit into my mental representation? My beliefs/rules? Is this new and do I need to create a new rule?

If I was born before the Wright Brothers built the first airplane, I might have a rule that says it’s not possible to create flying machines. However, a few years later if I were to see a plane in the air, I would need to change my belief because I could see that flying machines exist. Note that in the Wright Brothers’ mental representation, they likely always held the belief that flying machines could exist even though they had not yet happened.

Beliefs are the rules that we have defined within our own mental representations of life, and are behind every decision and action we ever take because we only try to do what we believe is possible. It’s our view of how we see and perceive the world.

At first our beliefs and rules take effort as they are initially formed. When we are driving somewhere new, we pay extra attention to where we are going. But when we go somewhere we’ve been a hundred times, we no longer need to think about how to get there, we’re on autopilot. Operating on our beliefs is pretty much the same way. We usually just believe and do what we normally do working on auto-pilot.

We also have rules that our minds have created to help us with our day to day decisions.

A wife on some level may have a rule that says:

If my husband asks me how my day was; and

enjoys talking to me; and

never raises his voice and holds me often,

then he loves me.

Once she begins to experience these things, she will begin to experience and feel love because the rules in her mind have been met. If he does other things, brings home flowers and cooks for her, things let’s say that are outside her rules for showing love, or if he raises his voice, because these actions don’t fit her beliefs and rules about what love is, she won’t be able to feel his love for her. In this example, he is likely cooking for her an bringing her flowers, because, in his rules and beliefs about love, you do things like cook for each other or bring gifts like flowers to show and feel love.

In another example, A husband may have a rule that says:

If my wife often spends time with me having fun; and

wants to be intimate often; and

admires me,

then she loves me.

Once he begins to experience these specific things, he will begin to experience and feel love because the rules in his own mind have been satisfied.

How do beliefs build on each other?

Another key concept is that beliefs build on each other. A husband may have a rule that says if my wife is loving and attentive to our kids, she is a good mom. If she is a good mom and a good wife then she is a good partner. Here the belief and rule that she is a good mom feeds into his belief that she’s a good partner. Thought often not at the forefront of our mind, we have beliefs and rules about almost everything – whether we are a good mom or dad, son or daughter, the list goes on and on.

We even have rules and beliefs about who we are, if we are brave, smart, funny, etc. which influence what we are willing to try and do. If you don’t think you’re smart, you might not try to solve a problem. If you don’t think you’re funny, why try telling a joke?

As author Anthony Robbins has mentioned studies have confirmed, for example, that if a student is told that he scored extremely high on an intelligence test, the child will actually show a higher level of intelligence because of the new belief and mental representation they have of themselves. We have rules and beliefs about life, people, money, etc. which affect everything we do.

If you think about it, a video game is a digital representation and very similar to our mental representation of the world. Just like the classic Mario Bros game, where we are in control of a plumber who can jump, go through pipes and shoot fire balls, in a world created by programmers, we often operate in a world created by ourselves.

In our own mental representation “video game” we get to control ourselves, pursuing our own goals for our lives, and of course we often encounter challenges along the way. Just as we are rewarded in a game with points or clearing a level, we reward ourselves when we allow ourselves to feel we have achieved a goal—whether it’s graduating, finding our soul mate, or holding our child for the first time. Some of us also punish ourselves when we believe we failed to achieve something. Exactly how we set up these mental representations and beliefs greatly impacts how we feel about ourselves and our marriage.

Our mental representations allow us to handle the complexity of the world. Just like video games hide all the complexity and code underneath them and try to give us a simple interface to work with, our minds instinctively create a simple mental representation/interface that hides much of the complexity of life to enable us to make decisions more quickly. We understand a door will open or close. We don’t approach each door wondering how it works because we already have a mental representation that we have created which has already told us how it works and we just apply that rule when we approach the door. This allows us to drive a car to a common destination with very little effort, as our rules for driving take over and free us up to have a conversation, etc. as we drive.

As author Anthony Robbins has observed, each rule that we have for a belief is like the legs of a table, and becomes stronger with each rule or leg. If you believe that your spouse loves you, you will have many reasons or rules that support that belief. The more reasons you have, the stronger that belief will be. It’s when we are able to live up to the beliefs and rules that we’ve set up for our lives that we are able to feel fulfilled.

It’s when our mental representations and beliefs limit us… perhaps telling us that a door to a happy and fulfilling marriage will never open when in fact it can, that we need to revisit just exactly what our beliefs are.

Where do we get our beliefs anyway?

It was amazing to watch the elephants in the circus with Brandon; his eyes were wide with excitement. The trainer explained that elephants were very strong and capable of knocking down trees in the wild. Brandon noticed that the only thing that held the elephant was a rope tied to a stake in the ground. He asked why the elephant doesn’t just pull the stake out of the ground. The trainer then explained that as a baby, the elephant’s leg is tied to a very heavy anchor that at the time really was impossible for him to move, and it grows it creates the belief that it cannot go further than the rope. So even though today, it really can break free it never does, simply because it still believes it’s just not possible.

Just like that baby elephant, we are all tied to beliefs by how we have internalized the words and actions of those around us. Parents often try to instill the values that they hold close by rewarding and punishing. When we were being good, we were acting the way our parents or teachers wanted. We formed beliefs about what was right and what was wrong – the right way to communicate, the right way to show love and affection. Even kids punish and reward, each other praising the kids that did cool things and punishing those that didn’t.

We also picked up our own beliefs about love. For some love was defined as:

  • If you buy or make me a gift and tell me you love me, then you love me.
  • If you hold me, put your arm around me, tell me how much you care and value me, then you love me.
  • If you protect me, defend me and are willing to put yourself in harm’s way, willing to sacrifice for me, then you love me.

How we were shown love will affect how, or if, we even try to show love later on.

We get our beliefs on how to communicate, whether it’s appropriate to get angry and lose control, whether we believe we can speak with conviction and certainty, from this childhood upbringing. Many of our presidents and successful leaders point back to their parents or role models instilling empowering beliefs in them that enabled them to have their breakthroughs.

Beyond our childhood we continue to create beliefs as we enter relationships. Beliefs about what love means, what makes a good partner, etc. In our marriage our beliefs about our spouse might change. We thought they were one person, but later on we may find that we no longer believe they are who we thought they were. We may change what we believe after a heated argument or after they do things that make us think they will just hurt us in the end.

Society also influences our beliefs; shaping what we believe is possible and right. As we see more and more divorces happen, we see a greater tolerance and acceptance that divorce is okay. It’s okay to start over versus working to make your marriage successful. Just as the elephants never saw other elephants breaking free from their ropes; it can be difficult to work against the norm when so many others seem to share the same limiting beliefs.

[*Do any of our beliefs limit us and lead to personal struggles? *]

For centuries people believed that it was impossible for someone to run a mile in less than four minutes. Everyone that ran wanted to break through this invisible wall, but couldn’t. The wall, they all reasoned, was a physical limitation a physical reality. In 1954, someone had a breakthrough. Roger Bannister did what all others believed was impossible. Once he broke that first wall over the next year, over 300 others were able to jump over that wall (limiting belief) too. There’s something about seeing just one person breaking through shows that we can have a breakthrough by losing the limiting belief too.

Even though the elephant is as powerful as it is, it has a limiting belief that prevents it from going where it wants to go. The belief in his mind is hundreds of times stronger than the rope around his ankle. The first step is to see that we all have limiting beliefs about what we can and cannot do. Know this – if someone else can do it, so can you. If someone else can have a happy and fulfilling marriage, so can you. You just need to know the rules and beliefs that a couple that has a happy and fulfilling marriage believe. Learn them and make them your own.

Some of us hold limiting beliefs about who we are. We tell ourselves and believe that we just aren’t good communicators, good lovers, good at “____”, because we were not successful when we were younger. The memories which created the limiting beliefs are still there and they hurt. If someone said you were a poor communicator and that no one could ever understand you, you may have bought into that and believed it. That memory would hurt. The look the person gave you, how it made you feel. And now anytime someone comments about how you spoke, you might overreact to it because deep inside there is a deep hurt, like a broken bone that screams out in pain at the slightest touch. This would affect where we decided to work, (probably wouldn’t try to be a lawyer or go into public relations) and our marriage, perhaps never really talking about certain subjects, unsure of how you might come across. Every time you communicate and are misunderstood, you take this as further support for the belief that you can’t communicate well. A limiting belief may develop over time from believing your communication isn’t great. These beliefs can often become a self-fulfilling prophecy affecting your ability to communicate because you don’t try, you don’t practice and so you don’t improve. It’s in this way that beliefs can drive who we believe we are and what we believe we are capable of.

How can we identify our limiting beliefs?

Just becoming more aware of our own beliefs is a key component to identifying them. Often the same repetitive conflicts that we have are the reflection of clashes in our beliefs. Your belief and rules about what a clean kitchen looks like may be different from mine, causing conflict. Once we are aware that we may have some limiting beliefs, the best approach to find them is by asking ourselves questions that can bring them to the front of our mind so we can evaluate them.

For example if you said, “I’m a great partner,” you could ask yourself “How do I know I’m a great partner?” “What are the rules that make me think that I am a great partner?” “If my rule is, if I do A, B, and C’ I’m a great partner.” “Am I doing A, B and C?” Taking this a step further we can ask ourselves what needs to happen to feel that we are loved? If I experience or feel A, B and C then I feel loved. In this way we can uncover our own rules and beliefs about what needs to happen to feel love. It’s this self inquiry that helps us to evaluate our beliefs and rules so that we are more aware of the beliefs that drive our decisions and actions each day.

Usually limiting beliefs do nothing to help us move forward. Beliefs like, “I’ll never be able to do it,” or “figure it out, or “why even try,” that we are “worthless” or “incapable” are devastating limiting beliefs.

“Why even try?” is the same belief that limits the elephant.

Beliefs that blame us for being unable to do something or that start with “Never” or “Always” and are negative, are typically beliefs that are limiting us from our true potential. These sound like – “I’ll never be happy. Things will never get better.” According to Anthony Robbins, studies show that high achievers rarely see a problem or challenge as permanent which is a key belief that helps them succeed. Often many of us set up so many rules that need to happen before we give ourselves permission to feel happy, then we wonder why it’s so hard for us to feel happy. Perhaps kids need fewer rules to be happy than us adults and it’s so much easier for them to smile and laugh and just be happy. When beliefs and rules that we have created are impossible for us to meet, and when meeting them is out of our control, we have a limiting belief.

Another key concept from the same study shows that high achievers don’t see themselves as being the problem, but see themselves as having a problem. This belief prevents them from being overwhelmed and allows them to consistently navigate through life’s challenges.

The following questions are meant to help you identify potential limiting rules and beliefs that you may have developed. For each, consider whether these are helping or hurting your marriage and whether you want to make any changes:

What needs to happen for you to feel?

  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Responsible
  • Blamed
  • Attractive
  • Loved
  • Respected
  • Appreciated
  • Grateful
  • Peace
  • Connected to your spouse
  • Connected to God

Limiting beliefs will often hinder our performance in certain areas of our marriage. Consider what you’d like to improve on and beliefs that you might have in that area.

How do beliefs affect how we feel?

The teacher looked at her excited students. “No talking please,” she said loudly. The children were silent with somber, serious faces. “You can still smile, you know,” she said lightly. One by one their faces lit up in smiles. Somehow, she realized she had just given them permission to smile and to feel happiness.

Our beliefs drive how we feel about the things we experience in life. If Christmas was a great time for us growing up and we had enjoyable experiences and developed positive beliefs about it, we might find ourselves feeling happier around this time. At the same time, if there was a great tragedy that happened on Christmas, you may not have the same feelings during this holiday. This is because of how tightly our beliefs are aligned with the meaning of what happens in our lives and this is tied to our emotions. Even though Christmas is just another day on the calendar, it’s what it means to us that makes it special, and affects how we feel about it.

The key distinction that many of us miss at first is that it’s our interpretations and beliefs that drive how we feel. We often mistake our reaction to things as being without thought, and we think that we just feel what we feel. Underneath we have formed beliefs about how we should respond and feel about certain situations. It’s easy to think that someone made us angry. Certainly others can influence us, but as far as making us feel angry, feel love or any other feeling, however it is ultimately a choice that we make based on the situation and our beliefs. Over time, we can learn to have greater control of our emotions and how we feel and respond to the things that come up in our lives. It’s the realization and belief that we can control how we feel by understanding our beliefs, which empowers us to make more effective decisions.

If we believe that we must be perfect to be loved, then we are limiting the amount of love we will allow ourselves to experience in our lives. If we believe others must agree with us in all of our viewpoints or we will be angry or hurt, then we will experience anger and hurt in our lives because very few people will always agree with our every view. Some of us set ourselves up for failure by denying ourselves the feelings of love and happiness. We have set up so many conditions that must first be met before we can experience them, when in fact we can probably experience more love and happiness today if we just take the time to re-evaluate all of the rules and conditions that we have accumulated throughout the years.

It’s with our beliefs and rules in our own mental representations that we allow ourselves to experience feelings like love. It may be time to re-evaluate our most important beliefs and rules. When we experience love, see if your beliefs enable you to experience the feelings that you are looking to experience or if they are limiting you. This gives us incredible control over our emotional lives, and moves us from feeling reactive and out of control to feeling decisive and in control of our lives.

It also gives us great insight into conflict because conflict is often the result of anger when someone breaks an unspoken rule or belief. Once we see that we are reacting to our internal rules, we can work to share our rules and beliefs around the conflict with the other person. Much of this Program is centered on clarifying common rules and beliefs husbands and wives have about marriage, to allow for an understanding that will facilitate a happy marriage.

[*How can we take control of our beliefs? *]

The first step to taking control of our beliefs is to become more aware of them (as discussed earlier) which allows us to have greater control of our thoughts by understanding the rules and beliefs that drive how we respond to the world around us. Once we realize that we have created our own beliefs and rules, we are empowered to be able to change them. We can be more decisive on how we respond to what happens, and much less reactive giving us a greater degree of control in our lives.

Many have beliefs that base their happiness and feelings completely on situations that are beyond their control. As a result their happiness fluctuates based on the events happening around them, leaving them to feel powerless. Others have beliefs that base their happiness on what is within their control; they feel empowered because they decide how they will feel and respond,

When we are able to maintain our happiness and sense of control, we take back our personal power and responsibility for our lives. We no longer blame others and events for our happiness or unhappiness. The good news here is that because we have responsibility and control, we see that we are able to overcome any challenge. Instead of feeling powerless in an unhappy marriage, we are emboldened and able to take decisive choices to bring about the changes we want to see in our lives.

The best way to take control of our beliefs is to be able to deliberately change those that are limiting you.

If your spouse says harsh things, perhaps you believe that they were mad [at you and were trying to hurt you. *]Now let’s say your spouse says harsh things but *you believe that they were hurting and broken inside, and their anger was a result of their hurt. While in both situation they were harsh, it’s what you believe that will ultimately affect how you feel and respond.

Once we identify these limiting beliefs we need to re-evaluate and question them. Where and who did we get this belief from? Were they role models in this area? What effect is this limiting belief having on my marriage? What pain will I ultimately feel if I continue to hold this limiting belief?

We can’t stop at just removing the limiting belief; we then need to replace the limiting belief with one that empowers us. If the old belief is that we couldn’t do something or feel a certain way, the new belief should affirms that we can. If the old belief was that you’ll never be able to have a happy and fulfilling marriage, the new one tells you that you can.

We need to identify and remove the beliefs and rules that limit and take away our personal power.

We need change them from limiting to empowering beliefs. Allow yourself to feel the pain that your limiting beliefs have caused you in the past and will likely cause in the future, taking away your ability to create a happy and fulfilling marriage. Realize the impact that holding on to disempowering beliefs are having on your life. Only by changing your beliefs will you stop looking for signs that your spouse doesn’t really love you. By adopting the belief that you are in control of your emotions, you can choose to decide how to feel, to be happy and enjoy life despite things that may or may not happen that are beyond your control.

[*What beliefs would empower us to effectively respond to any challenges that come our way? *]

The best way to answer this is to find role models that are already getting the results that you are looking for, and then try to understand and adopt the beliefs that enable them to do so. If you were looking for financial results, you would want to understand a millionaire’s beliefs and thought process that allowed him to achieve financial success. Similarly, much of this Program is centered on providing the beliefs and thought processes of those that have happy and fulfilling marriages.

Once we have found new role models and beliefs we can continue to strengthen them by finding new examples that support the belief. If you are trying to strengthen the belief that it is possible to build a strong and fulfilling marriage, listen to stories and testimonies of marriages where the couple felt disconnected and alone and were able to fall in love again and reconnect. A lack of successful marriages to model makes it difficult to see the beliefs and rules that successful marriages follow, and this may likely have led to increasing divorce rates today.

What are some examples of limiting beliefs?

Consider these beliefs that someone may have and how they may affect a marriage:

  • I’m not good at making big changes.
  • I can’t be happy with my life until A, B and C happens.
  • The best way to handle conflict is to keep pushing, escalate the argument, or shut down if necessary.
  • My spouse doesn’t really care about me. He or she is just trying to cause me pain by pushing my buttons.
  • A wife needs to work fulltime, take care of the home, kids, husband, errands, and be a supermom to be successful.
  • A husband needs to make enough money to immediately provide whatever his family asks for to be a good provider.
  • My spouse needs to earn and deserve love and respect.
  • I don’t deserve my spouse’s love and affection.
  • I’ll never stop loving you… as long as you never hurt me.
  • My spouse will leave me anyway, so it’s best if I never care for them or need them too deeply.
  • This marriage will never get better, and I can never have a happy and fulfilling marriage.
  • This marriage is not worth it, and it’s just too late. I’m just wasting my time.
  • It’s okay to blame others 100% for how we feel, and then leave the relationship to start over with someone else.
  • I just married the wrong person.
  • I can’t help myself.
  • I’ll never get it right.

These disempowering beliefs and others can discourage us from making needed changes, from allowing ourselves have a positive mindset, and will impede our ability to act. Why work on a marriage if you believe you just married the wrong person? It’s that rope that limits you from even trying. There was a time when that elephant tried and tried to pull the stake out, but couldn’t, and now that they have matured to their full potential and strength, now they can but won’t. By the end of this Program my hope is that you will be able to break through any limiting beliefs and adopt new and empowering beliefs that will enable you to have a happy and fulfilling marriage.

Consider: Write down five limiting beliefs you have about your marriage using the approach discussed here.

Action: For each, write down the negative impact and pain these beliefs are having and provide a new empowering belief for each.

 

~ DAY 12 ~

Why Creating a Positive Mood Builds a Happier Marriage

[*How does our attitude and mood affect our marriage? *]

According to Dr. Steven Stosny, when one person in a marriage has a depressed and negative outlook on life, the divorce rate for that couple goes up by 9 times. This is powerful evidence that if we tend to see things negatively, it is very unlikely that we will be able to create a strong and happy marriage.

If we are unhappy ourselves how can we expect to have a happy marriage? Clearly our perspectives and outlook on life is an important element to having a strong and happy marriage.

While many of us understand that our attitude is important, we may often be unable to see its true impact on our life and marriage.

When we first get married, we usually have a very hopeful and positive attitude which allows us to overlook the minor setbacks and day to day annoyances. “Yeah they forgot to do something, so what? I’m so lucky to have them.” That “in love” and light attitude spills into all we do, and it’s tough for our partner to do wrong.

Fast forward seven years, and now different “I’ve had it” attitude may now spill over into all we do. Now it seems our spouse can’t do anything right.

For some of us it may be the stress from work that results in us coming home in a bad mood. It’s when we’re in a bad mood that it’s tough for us to love, or have fun and relax. Instead it’s much easier to see our spouse’s shortcomings more quickly and to find ourselves in an angry or sad state. There’s some truth behind the saying goes, “If mamma’s not happy, nobody’s happy!”

We may think it’s okay to get loud and talk negatively about our job, the kids, neighbors and others when we are in a bad mood. When we do this though, we may be influencing those around us to feel uncomfortable and unknowingly creating a negative environment.

What we often miss is that people treat us differently because of how we are acting; our bad mood often motivates others to treat us in a negative way.

When we feel nothing but negativity we can feel that no matter what we do, it will never be good enough. Some of us stop trying. If it seems like our spouse will always have a negative attitude no matter what we do, we often think, “Why bother?”

Other unhelpful attitudes are those of reluctance, “I guess I’ll try and be more affectionate.” A mechanical and artificial ‘going through the motions.’ One that says, “I’ll try this for you, but I won’t do it in a cheerful or loving way,” drains a marriage. Without a genuinely positive attitude, many of us just slowly begin to give up on our marriage. Instead of trying to find solutions or trying new things, we view the situation negatively and that only increases the likelihood of divorce.

“He just makes me so mad!” Mary vented to her sister. “Does *your husband *do the same thing????” “Yeah” her sister laughed, “only thing is I don’t let it get to me anymore.”

Are we really able to control our moods?

Many of us go through life unaware of how to control how we feel – whether we are feeling happy or sad.

If things are going well in life we tend to be happy, and if things aren’t going well, we may feel sad. Like sailboats being pushed here and there by the events and winds of life, we can find our emotions pulling us to places of happiness or places of depression.

One of the most powerful realizations that we can arrive at in life is that, although at times it doesn’t feel like it, the moods that we experience [*are *]under our control. We can take down the sails and use its motor to go anywhere we want to be.

Author Terrence Real writes, “How the same kiss that we received on one day and which “made us” feel wonderful can “make us” feel completely different on another day.” If we think about it further, we see it’s the [same *]kiss and that the real distinction is *how we chose to feel about it *that is the difference[_. *_]

Emotions that we are unable to control, are like having little children who are out of control. We are still responsible for them and we need to learn to control them. Some parents have better control over their kids than others; and some of us have better control than others over their moods and emotions. Ultimately, though we are responsible for managing our moods and it’s in our interest to learn to control them.

Why do we want to be able to control our mood?

Dr. Allen Parducci’s research has found that the factor that really determines a couple’s happiness is not their money, beauty, or intelligence as some might expect but, their ability to “adjust to things beyond their control”.

Without being able to control our mood we are left to feel and react to whatever is happening around us. We experience sadness or anger depending on what is going on around us. Before we had the development of air conditioning and heating systems, we would be at the mercy of the weather outside. If it was summer and 100 degrees, you would be hot in your home.

Now that the technology for air-conditioning arrived, it can be 100 degrees outside and you can still remain cool. That’s the same concept here, keeping your cool no matter how hot it’s getting around you. Being able to master how we respond and react to things by controlling and managing our mood gives us new strength and confidence to deal with the inevitable changes in weather and the storms of life that we will experience.

Instead of experiencing the feeling of being out of control that comes with reacting to things that come our way, most of us want to know how to control and decisively respond to what happens. This empowers us and makes us more confident. We want to be able to be a positive influence on our spouse and family, but this will be undermined if we are unable to remain positive despite negative events that might transpire around us.

Many of us are trying to find happiness but we actually need to create it for ourselves. A key to creating our own happiness is knowing how to control and manage our mood.

Mike hated feeling worried and tried his best to dismiss problems from his mind, but they continued to come up again and again. “There is nothing to be worried about,” he assured himself; “everything between Mary and me is fine. Things will get back on track soon.” While he was able to quiet the voice for tonight, so he could finally get some sleep, he knew it would return in the morning.

How can we control our mood by understanding what our emotions are trying to tell us?

While we can clearly see how our eyes and ears help us, but many of us don’t see how emotions are also designed to help us. For many of us they can be annoying feelings that we try to ignore or suppress which we don’t see as helpful. According to the author Anthony Robbins, feelings are what he’s coined “action signals” that have a call to action for us to act on. For example, feeling worried is a call for us to prepare for a current or upcoming challenge. If we heard that a hurricane was coming our way and our emotion of worry motivated us to prepare, and ultimately saved our life, then ‘worry’ was very helpful to us. Many of us go through life not entirely sure of what our emotions are trying to tell us to do. Once we understand that emotions are calls to action, we can take a step back, understand our emotion and take steps to address the emotion which will help us control our mood. Just by acknowledging our emotions and their messages, is often enough to control our mood.

  1. Emotions of worry are usually calls to action to prepare for a current or upcoming challenging situation.

2. Emotions of general unhappiness are often calls to action telling you that you aren’t working towards fulfilling your goals and dreams.

3. Emotions like depression and frustration are calls to action to get you to change your perspective and approach about a situation and compel you to regain control of your thoughts which will drive your mood.

4. Emotions of disappointment are calls to action to identify what we expected someone else to do for us and then let them know how our expectations were not met.

5. Emotions of anger are calls to action to identify what important rule or value of ours was broken by someone else and then let them know about how that rule/value was broken.

6. Emotions of shame are calls to action to identify what important rule or value of ours was broken by ourselves and then reaffirm our resolve to not break our rule in the future.

7. Emotions of being stressed out are calls to action to reduce our commitments and activity level, to step back, re-evaluate what is really important and do what is critical toward realizing our dreams.

8. Emotions of feeling like a failure are calls to action to motivate us to improve our level of competency in an area and then work to improve ourselves by modeling someone that has achieved the results we are after.

If we experience emotions and don’t see the call to action and don’t act, we can remain stuck in the negative emotions and moods. But as we come to understand them and how they work we can begin to take control of them.

How can directing our focus enable us to change our current mood?

Author Anthony Robbins also has observed that one of the most powerful and direct ways to control your mood is to control what you focus on. For example, if we decide to focus on a time when something went wrong in our life for the next few minutes, we would find ourselves back in that place at the moment when we were hurt or angry.

After a while, that might affect how we are feeling; just thinking about that negative situation from the past can put us in a negative mood right now. Even thinking about negative things and situations that haven’t come to pass yet can pull us toward a negative mood. You can actually begin to feel the sorrow, hurt, and disappointment or whatever the negative feelings were all over again.

Many of us already use this approach to change our current mood. If we are feeling down or out of sorts, we may watch a show, read the paper or play a game to change our focus from our own problems to something else. Comedy shows can be a successful diversion because at the end of the day folks are looking for a distraction that will change their mood from stressed and worried to relaxed and happy. It’s what we might do when one of our children cries and we give them a toy or try to get them to focus on something else to help get them out of their negative mood.

Whatever we focus on we will tend to find. When we buy a new car, we begin to see our type of car on the road. All that has changed is our focus; those cars were always there on the road; we just filtered them out before. Just as we are able to focus on the negative thoughts and experiences we can decide to focus on positive thoughts and experiences.

We can focus on everything we have to be grateful for – from our health, being able to walk and see, to being free. We can focus on positive events from our past and positive hopes and dreams in our future. What we focus our thoughts on will drive our current mood, whether we focus on things that bring us joy and hope or focus on things that bring pain and sorrow. The first step to being able to control our focus is to be able to control our thoughts. The most powerful way to do this is by knowing the questions to ask ourselves.

How can asking ourselves the right questions direct our focus and enable us to change our current mood?

Asking the right questions can enable us to change our current mood because questions drive what we focus on which leads to our current mood. For example, if we ask ourselves the following disempowering questions, they can lead to being in a negative and unresourceful mood:

  1. Why can I never catch a break?

2. Why do things never go my way?

3. What’s the point?

4. What if I married the wrong person?

5. What if my spouse leaves me?

6. How do I always manage to mess things up?

7. How come I can’t ever figure anything out?

The person that constantly asks questions like these will find themselves constantly focused on the negative, which will lead them to negative moods like sadness and depression, which leads to actions that usually reinforce these moods later on.

Regardless of the question we ask ourselves, our minds will come up with an answer.

Think of it this way. When we ask ourselves a question, it’s like typing a question into the Google search engine box. When we hit “search” we are thinking. Just as Google searches for everything that is out there related to what we typed into the search engine box and might return 10,000 results, our mind will return results called “thoughts” tied to the “question” we have asked ourselves.

If we are asking ourselves negative questions like “How come I can’t figure anything out?” Our minds, like a Google search engine, will obediently return results for everything you couldn’t figure out, which will only put us in a negative and unresourceful mood.

It’s interesting how some people can find any information on Google while some aren’t able to. What’s the key difference? It’s that some enter better questions or phrases into the search engine box to get better results. The same is true for us. Those who are successful at being in a positive mood are able to ask themselves better questions than the person who is constantly in a negative mood.

The key is for us to consistently ask ourselves the right questions to get the results we are after. We already ask ourselves questions each day – “What time do I need to be at work?” “Why did that person do that?” Just as being physically healthy requires avoiding food that is bad for us and eating what is good for us, being mentally healthy and positive requires avoiding asking ourselves negative questions, and instead asking ourselves positive and empowering questions.

Many empowering questions start with, “How can I?”

For example, asking yourself:

  1. How can I have a happy and fulfilling marriage?

2. How can I create a healthier/stronger me?

3. How can I create an exciting life?

4. How can I get us out of debt and into financial freedom?

Other empowering questions focus around how blessed we are, and being able to concentrate on the positive aspects of our lives.

  1. What am I grateful for in life?
  1. To be born in a free country
  2. To have God in my life
  3. To be able to hear and see
  4. To have people that care for me

By being aware of our current negative questions and creating new empowering ones, we can positively change our focus and our mood.

How can actively selecting the words we consistently use in our “thought life” and with others create a more positive perspective?

Just as the questions we ask ourselves or enter into a search engine are key, so are the words we use to create these questions. The Bible says that “In the beginning was the Word.” It’s through our words that we can convey our thoughts and feelings to ourselves and others. Of the thousands of words out there, most of us only use a small percentage, those that we picked up from friends, family, school and television. As we pick up words, we find ourselves consistently using the same ones in our “thought life.”

Just as a positive person is more likely to ask positive and empowering questions, they are also more likely to use positive and inspiring words; words that will embolden them and encourage them to action. Perhaps they came from a good book, parent or leader, but they heard words that inspired them to be and do more.

Just like we avoid food that is bad for us in favor of food that is good for us, we need to avoid “bad words” that can allow us to slip into a negative mood. Words that tell us we will “always have some negative situation in our life” or that we will “never have some positive situation in our life.” Words that describe and invite awful and destructive feelings, like “depression,” “failure,” “enraged,” “helpless,” “trapped” and others will lead you to dark and negative thoughts and moods.

Just as we know that if we type into a Google search engine certain inappropriate words, we will get inappropriate results, the same is true for our own mind. We just shouldn’t use certain words. Being caught up in dark places often causes us to have dark feelings. This is because our words represent and capture the feelings that we experience. Just as reading one book, with one set of words, can create one set of feelings and emotions within us, another book with different words can create different feelings within us. This is because the words we consistently use create the emotions that we feel and experience.

So if we want to experience different moods and different feelings in our lives, we need to begin using different words within ourselves and with others. We should use words that empower us, encourage us, inspire us and drive us. Words that encourage us and get us to a positive place from which we can chart a course for a positive mindset, and words that will enable us to achieve positive results in our lives.

Because of the power of our words have in shaping our thought life, we should re-evaluate the words we currently use in our lives; words like “hate” can become softer like “dislike.” We should remove destructive words like “hopeless” from our vocabulary and pick up and use new words like, “incredible,” “faith,” “inspired,” “blessed,” “emboldened,” “loving,” “capable,” “grateful,” and words that inspire us to remain in a strong and positive mood.

Mary’s mother-in-law was coming over for dinner. She never understood how that woman could get inside her head. She could be in a really good place, and then [*she *]came, with her “helpful” suggestions and ideas. It seemed like the message she always got and heard was “Mary’s just not good enough.” For a while she hoped they could be close, but now all she felt was dread and anxiety whenever she came over. She was “his mother” so she was stuck with her. She took a deep breath as she opened the door and put on her hostess smile.

How can knowing what triggers our anxiety help us to manage our mood so that we can maintain a happier marriage?

It is critical to be aware of the things that push our buttons and create stress and anxiety or put us in a negative mood. For some of us, talking to a particular person whether it is an in-law, parent, spouse, supervisor, even one of our own children, can seem to end up with us feeling emotionally anxious or drained. According to author David Cole, when someone around us is anxious or angry, our own blood pressure and heart rate tends to automatically increase and gradually the room can begin to feel hotter. From this place, it’s very difficult to think clearly and it becomes more and more difficult to stay in a good and positive mood.

When we see that we are going to deal with someone that has, in the past, pushed our buttons or gotten us angry, we need to be ready to put on our “mental air conditioning” to keep our cool. While we can’t control the temperature and the weather on the outside, we can learn to control the temperature on the inside.

At first we might think it’s what the person is saying that is [causing *]our discomfort. We reason, “We were fine before *they got here.” We may find ourselves getting uncomfortable and hot. It’s easy at first glance to conclude that they[* *]are making us upset.

Regardless of what that person is saying, how excited they are getting, whatever mood they are in, it’s how we respond that is key. While most of us instinctively react and get angry or defensive, (our blood pressure and heart rate automatically may go up prompting us to this state) we are able to remain in a positive mood by remaining calm, positive and in control. As a matter of fact, over time you will find that you are able to influence others to be happier and more relaxed just by being around you.

Can controlling our body enable us to control our mood?

Just as we use words form bridges and connections between our thought life to reality, non verbal gestures are also connected to our thought life.

For example, non verbal gestures like laughing and smiling are often connected and associated with being in a good mood. If we are already smiling and laughing, it is much easier for us to stay in a more positive mood because of the strong connections between positive thoughts, and positive non verbal gestures like smiling.

On the other hand, if we showing negative non verbal gestures for example, if we are carrying ourselves in a depressed way, shoulders deflated, with the low dull voice, the faded eyes, it’s going to be tougher to transition into a good mood.

If we can get ourselves to do something physically which will get our bodies into a more active state like working out or more positive state like laughing by watching or thinking of something funny this can help us to get back to a more positive mood.

Meditation techniques that are centered around taking deep and controlled breaths can also help us to be in a better mood. Exercising our bodies with weights, running, anything where we push ourselves, will allow us to release pent up physiological stress that we might have experienced also makes us more resilient and able to maintain a positive mood.

By being aware of the connection between body and mind, we can use our body to help us remain in a positive mood.

Mike was tired of the rollercoaster of emotions he was on. When things were working out in his marriage, he felt great, hopeful and excited about life. After a big argument with Mary he felt disappointed and saddened. Though he tried his best, he felt he couldn’t “make her happy” which only made him feel worse. He felt trapped in a vicious merry-go-round that went nowhere. It wasn’t until he heard a message from his pastor on how everyone was responsible for creating their own happiness, that he took a step off the ride and began to try something else. “If I can’t even make myself happy, how am I supposed to make her happy?” he thought.

How can we maintain a positive perspective on life by deciding what kind of mood we want to be in?

When you’re trying to lose weight, knowing what food to avoid is helpful but isn’t enough. At the same time we need to know what foods we should eat to get to our desired goal. If we don’t find new enjoyable foods that are better for us, we’ll revert back to eating as we always have.

So that we are not just reactive to things, we need to decide, in advance, how to spend our time on different activities throughout the day to effectively manage our time. Similarly, we need to decide on the mood we want to be in throughout the day. It’s being in a positive and resourceful mood that often brings out the best in us.

Whether we are patient, kind and loving, or we are able to overcome some challenge as any successful athlete or performer will tell you, state of mind is directly tied to our performance. It becomes easier to overlook the little things that might typically upset us and we become more of a pleasure to be around, the type of person many of us want to be. Once we are in a positive mood we end up doing more positive things, being more caring, forgiving and understanding. It’s no surprise that feelings of warmth and love often follow as a result.

When we wake up, instead of waking up in a default mood that might be whatever is going on that morning, look to be passionate about life.

How do we get there? We get there by using questions, to help us keep a positive focus. By asking questions like – what am I excited and passionate about today? Continue to ask positive and empowering questions until you can feel passion flowing through your veins. Using the same approach we can decide to be in a joyful and positive mood, showing others around us our joy by our smile and tone of voice. A joy that come from having a rich thought life, and an attitude that is grateful, passionate, positive and ultimately inspiring to those around you based on a renewed more positive focus and perspective.

As we go through our day, we will have challenges that arise, and again we need to decide what mood we will work from. Will we allow ourselves to be frustrated and overwhelmed? Or will we decide to work from a place of fearless confidence and strength?

In the[* evening*], we may decide that it’s a good time to be in an appreciative and grateful mood, asking ourselves questions about what we are thankful for and blessed with. Ultimately we want to consistently be in a loving and caring mood from which our marriage can deepen and grow.

By being in control of our mood, we can create a happier and more fulfilling marriage.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. What kinds of questions do you ask yourself throughout the day and are they helping you to be in a positive mood?*]_]

2. Are there any negative words that you consistently use that might be keeping you in a bad mood?

3. Are there any emotions that you have been ignoring? What could they be calling you to do?

[*4. Do you know who or what triggers anxiety in you? *]

Action[* (write these down the answers to the following): *]
[_[*

  1. What kinds of negative questions do you need to stop asking? What words do you need to stop using? *]_]

[*2. What kinds of positive questions do you need to ask yourself to get in the mood you want to be in? *]

*3. Decide how you can address any emotions that you have been ignoring. *

*4. Decide what kind of moods you want to consistently be in throughout the day. *

*Try these actions for 30 Days. *

 

~ DAY 13 ~

How to Effectively Communicate Our Feelings and Thoughts

Part 1

[*How can we strengthen communication in our marriage? *]Communication is a critical component to any strong and happy marriage.

According to the authors of _How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, _ over 70% of divorce is initiated by women who think their husbands don't care about how they feel. They go on to say how really sad that is because they have met very few men who did not care a great deal about how their wives felt. Most men want to show and communicate that they care; they just need help in learning to communicate better.

Do husbands and wives instinctively communicate differently?

According to Dr. Laura Schlessinger studies show that differences between how males and females communicate are present as early as one year after birth. In one study, where one-year old boys were separated from their mothers by a barrier, they were more likely to knock down the physical barrier but the one-year old girls would escalate verbally until their mothers came. Study after study shows the same result, biological (her ability to use both sides of the brain, logic and emotion), environmental, and social differences all lead to the development of wives that are instinctively stronger and better communicators than their husbands.

According to the authors of Secrets of Happily Married Men, husbands use communication to convey information and solve problems or to achieve their goal. Wives are better able to use both sides of the brain to intermingle thoughts and feelings. For husbands, logical thought and emotion do not overlap.

A wife who has had a long, tiring day finds relief in being able to communicate with her husband. She feels more relaxed afterwards if she is able to feel heard and understood. Conversely, a husband who’s had a long day would rather not talk about it and distracts himself with something that will take his mind off of it.

When a wife starts off a conversation she often asks questions that reflect a different focus and will lead to a different type of conversation than her husband would have. While she asks questions about her relationships with others and how she is feeling, he will ask what’s happening and what’s going on, which will result in talking about a list of what has happened and what will likely happen. She is more at ease talking about her feelings; he’s likely more reserved about talking about them. Where she is comfortable talking from topic to topic, he’s more comfortable with a linear straightforward approach to communicating. She’s usually much more detailed, and he prefers the summary and highlights. For her, communication is more about building a relationship, for him it’s often to help him achieve a goal. The point is that being aware of and accepting these differences can go a long way towards helping your communication.

Once we see that husbands and wives do communicate differently and that wives are often stronger communicators than their husbands, we can see how important she is in making this area of marriage work. It really does matter how a wife communicates with her husband, and by communicating with these differences in mind we can greatly strengthen our marriage.

So how can a wife increase the level and quality of communication in their marriage?

First, make sure your husband is approachable and ready to communicate. If he’s wrapped up in something, make sure he’s able to detangle himself from whatever it is he’s doing to give you his focused attention. Don’t assume he’s able to switch gears to what you are talking about. Once you’ve got his attention and see that he is ready to listen, start talking to him. When you’ve got his attention, start the conversation by telling him what you’re going to talk about and what you’re hoping to get out of the conversation. You might want to say – “I want to talk about our son’s math grade in school and how we can improve it.” He’ll usually need to process and digest what you’re saying before he is ready to communicate his thoughts. Help him to stay in a resourceful state by keeping the pressure off and letting him take the time he needs to think things through. If you rush him or press him in an aggravated, short tone, he will likely slow down or shut down.

Husbands often need more time to process and talk about their feelings and emotions. If they feel that they have been or will be disrespected, they are even more reluctant to share how they feel.

Going back to the conversation that the wife is trying to have about their son’s math grade, it’s okay to offer the husband options on some of the things you would like him to do, for example, take an hour out on the weekend to tutor him or sign him up for tutoring after school, etc. Throughout the conversation, maintain a warm tone in your voice, make eye contact and hold his hand while communicating with him in a clear, simple and specific way. By not flooding him with details you greatly help him to understand whatever it is you are trying to communicate to him. Remember you’re different and that dropping him hints of what you’d like from him only sets him up for failure. Just tell him clearly what you’re after, even if you feel you shouldn’t have to. Set him up to succeed; make sure there aren’t any distractions that will prevent him from giving you his focused attention.

To get him to talk more often and openly make the conversation less of the focus by doing something else while talking, like a dinner or going for a stroll. As you talk to him, if he begins to open up and show interest in a particular topic, remember to ask him to tell you more about it.

In conversation, avoid using the word “but” as it instantly negates any praise you were looking to provide. If you say “I appreciate that you took out the trash, [*but *]you didn’t close the door.” It’s likely that all he will hear is, “You didn’t close the door.” The words “always,” “never,” and “why” can also be communication stumbling blocks.

“Why do you always do that?” and ”Where are you when I need you?” are rhetorical questions that can’t be answered, instead, we need to ask more specific non-personal and helpful questions about the situation like, “When you are home, and you leave all the dishes on the table, I feel you don’t care about me because I feel I have to do it all by myself.”

Know that he has a tendency to identify problems and then formulate logical solutions, even when none are required. Know that when he hears that his wife is unhappy, he naturally thinks to himself “How can I fix this and make it better?”

Keep in mind that while he may not be as verbose as his wife or communicate his feelings to the same degree, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy talking. He just has a different style and approach to communication overall. Husbands are constantly pushing aside their feelings throughout the day, and usually have been all their lives; it’s tough for many to feel relaxed enough to communicate intimately. With time and practice and through understanding each other’s differences in communication styles, husbands and wives can learn to communicate in a way that helps them feel connected and on the same page.

How does body language and tone play out when we communicate emotion?

Actors have a skill of self-mastery that lets them get into states that enable them to portray and show emotion. If they are in a love story and when they “get into character” you can see that they are in love with each other. The way they look at each other, talk to each other, the smiling, the twinkle in their eye, tells us that they care for each other. What they are masters of is non- verbal communication. How important is non-verbal communication? According to a now classic study by Eastman Kodak, 55% of what is being communicated is done by our non verbal communication, 30% of what is being communicated is driven by the tone, with only about 7% of the communication being about the words we choose.

Many of us spend most of our time and energy struggling to find the right words to say, when it’s really about [*how effectively *]we communicate our thoughts and feelings within us that really matters. With the words we choose making up a small part of the overall communication to our partner.

Let’s start with tone, which we just said is 400 times more important than the words we use. Tone is about [*how *]we say the words, and what we emphasize which gives words color and dimension.

Think about the most powerful words in a relationship, I love you, and how many ways can we say the same three words?

  • I love you? Unsure
  • I love you…(I love you but)
  • I love you (Silly goose/playful love)
  • I love you (Please don’t go)
  • I love you (It’s you that I love)
  • I love you (I can’t imagine life without you)
  • I love you (Bedroom voice)

While computerized reading software can currently read words to us, it still can’t really project tone, feeling and emotion. Whether it’s reading words about something funny or scary it uses the same monotone voice.

It’s through our tone that we can communicate feelings of being in love and really caring for our spouse. On the opposite end, it’s through our tone that we can communicate our annoyance, our anger, and our frustration. We use our voice, changing pitch (highness and lowness of sound), rate and emphasis on certain words and volume (the degree of loudness and softness) to create tone in our words.

We can use our tone of voice to communicate our love or dislike for our spouse. This is why timing is important; if you really are not in a good mood and you try to communicate, your tone will be communicating your negative feelings. It’s better to wait until you are in a better frame of mind before trying to communicate so that you’re able to do so in a more caring and loving way.

Let’s talk about the nonverbal gestures we make. This is how we use our faces and bodies to communicate. Hollywood actors are excellent communicators. When you see the actor in an action movie going after the bad guy, you see the intensity and the focus in his eyes, the confidence in his movements. You also feel that in the nonverbal gestures he’s projecting. According to Dr. John Gottman, we have 33 muscle groups in the face that allow us to project certain emotions and feelings, from anger, sadness and fear, to surprise and happiness.

While wives are better at reading and projecting these nonverbal feelings, husbands can also feel when things are off. This explains the confusion when we hear everything is “ok” and we say those words, but[* how*] we say it – the tone, the nonverbal gestures all communicate that things really are not okay. When we tell our spouse everything’s fine, but read our nonverbal cues and hear that our tone is communicating something else, now they may wonder what’s really going on. “Why do I feel distant?” “What’s really going on in their head?” What some call women’s intuition is her excellent ability to read nonverbal gestures and tones. Let’s suppose her husband lost his job.

He hasn’t told her yet because he is waiting for the right time; she can read him and sense something’s off although she doesn’t know exactly why. Once they communicate later on and he tells her how he just lost his job, she will then feel at ease because his words now agree with what his body language and tone have been telling her.

It’s critical to keep in mind that how we say things is much more impactful and telling than what we actually say.

How do we communicate in the most effective way?

First we need to make sure we are in a good mood to communicate, as this will come out in our tone and gestures. If we skip over this step we risk the chance of sounding aggravated, or have some other negative tone in our voice that will hurt communication. Next we should be purposeful in the tone we want to set, most often we should try to sound caring and loving. We know how to sound polite, professional, caring but we may often default to a distracted unfocused communication that really doesn’t convey any real feeling. Being able to consistently communicate feelings of love to each other by our tone and our gestures is key to helping each other feel and experience love. Many couples stop communicating like they did in the beginning, in a caring, kind and loving way. Couples should set aside at least an hour to focus in on each other to allow each other to have deep and caring talks as they once did which is why setting aside time for each other to communicate daily is so important. It’s tough to really have a really meaningful conversation in the scraps of extra time you might have. By doing communicating often in a deep and caring way again you can bring back some of the romance and passion that you both enjoyed and caused you to fall in love in the first place.

Just as we need to be deliberate about our tone, we need to look at each other and approach each other in a loving way. Again timing is important, if for example we are aggravated, this may not be the best time to communicate, as we may be tempted to roll our eyes, to sigh, to make faces none of which will help communication.

Instead a husband needs to remind himself of how lucky he is to have his wife and get into character acting as if his wife were the most beautiful woman in the world as he did in the beginning of the relationship, and that anyone looking at them from afar would say to themselves, “Clearly he is in love with that woman,” just as the professional actors do in the movies.

This is why personal ‘alone time’ with your spouse is so important. It’s important that when we communicate our words match our tone and body language. When we say “I love you” our spouse should not only hear what we say but also feel this in how we say it. It’s best to communicate by nodding our heads in approval, making good eye contact and having a posture that says “It’s okay to talk and I’m really interested in hearing what you have to say.”

How do we communicate emotion?

The ability to communicate emotions to our partner is so important. We covered how we already do this in the tone of voice, our facial expressions and body language. Husbands and wives need to be very careful with how they choose to communicate with the opposite sex. If we communicate giving and receiving emotion and feelings to someone other than our spouse, we set the stage for creating an emotional affair, having someone else meeting needs that our spouse should meet. Falling in love after inappropriate emotional connections are made can lead to inappropriate physical connections, leading ultimately to massive pain and destruction in the marriage. It’s up to us to keep the communication of our emotions and feelings exclusively to our spouse. Neglecting to do this only sets up our marriage for failure and a spouse who may look elsewhere for emotional connection.

Being able to communicate emotion is not something that comes easily, especially to husbands. What is a husband to do, who didn’t have a good example of what this looks like growing up? If he was made fun of for showing his emotions as a kid, is discouraged from showing his emotions at work to appear professional, and biologically is wired in such a way that it makes it more difficult (compared to his wife) to express his emotions, then how does he overcome this?

Husbands need to be able to read between the lines of what our wives are communicating, remembering that their words represent feelings about a situation and not just the facts. According to Dr. Scott Haltzman; while wives can process both feelings and facts at the same time, husbands are usually more limited to processing facts at first and need time to digest and process emotions later on. This can leads to his greater focus on the facts at the expense of not seeing or validating emotions.

Like everything else in life, a husband, seeing that conveying emotion may be a gap in the marriage that he needs to improve, once he’s aware of it he can begin to work on improving this weakness. Just like working out muscles through consistent effort will, over time, lead to greater strength, so will working on being able to convey emotion. I’m sure great actors need to practice getting into character so they’ll get it just right and so that they project exactly the emotion they want to.

Every day during a husband’s focused time with his wife, is his opportunity to practice. Sure it may be awkward in the beginning but it will get easier as he will get better and better until he can clearly communicate rich emotion and feeling in your own style, which will help her to feel his love creating a greater intimacy in the marriage.

Wives can demonstrate, by example, how to communicate and speak to what’s on their heart. Of course husbands will have their own unique style and approach as they learn to talk about how they feel. Don’t worry about finding the right words; remember that’s only 7% of it. It’s more about just being there for her and talking to her in a loving tone, with a relaxed and inviting body language.

What she wants to hear, and more importantly feel each day, is that she is number one in his life; that he would pick her all over again over any other woman in the world; that she fills a deep void and emptiness within him; that she helps to give his life purpose and meaning; that she is his first thought in the morning and last thought at night; that she completes him, that she is the love of his life. He needs to tell her in a way she can feel, over and over; she never tires of hearing this just as he never tires of being sexually intimate with his wife.

When a husband is able to really communicate how he feels for his wife and that he loves her going beyond the words, this can rekindle her love and desire for him, and bring back passion and love into the marriage. Wives should encourage their husbands as they may be trying something new that may not be natural for them.

With practice we can learn to see when our partner is upset by their facial expression, posture, and tone. This can help us to approach them at the right time, (during your daily private time with them perhaps) and ask them about what is upsetting them, communicating that we care.

Don’t be afraid to ask, “Have I done something to hurt you or do I come across as unloving or disrespectful?” When we talk about negative emotions and feelings, we need to be able to do so in a way that doesn’t blame or require a solution, or someone to change. We put the listener at ease when we say this up front, and then talk about how we feel about a particular situation. Again, don’t worry about finding the right words or answers; just find the right mindset and heart to enable you to communicate in a loving posture and tone.

As author and therapist Terrence Real observes, as we discuss our feelings and emotions it’s important that we refrain from using the word “you” as this instinctively creates feelings of defensiveness, blame and shame in the listener. When we use “I” we are taking responsibility for how we feel and diffuse tension and defensiveness which can make listening to us difficult.

One tool to help communicate how we feel is the XYZ method coined by Dr. John Gottman. With the XYZ method we essentially communicate three things,

“When you do X in situation Y, I feel Z.

For example, instead of saying, “I can’t believe you are so irresponsible, I’m so upset!” Instead say: “When you forget to pick up the kids, (When you do X) at school (in situation Y), I feel angry and alone (Z).”

By doing this, you are allowing the listener to clearly trace back how you arrive at the feeling you are describing. You are communicating an action and situation that can be changed and improved on in the future. Here we empower the listener, by giving them something they can work with instead of a general criticism (you’re always irresponsible) which they are unable to do anything about.

Another great tool is the feedback wheel, mentioned in Terrence Real’s book The New Rules to Marriage. Again this helps to keep the speaker focused on what happened, how they feel, and what they are hoping for. In this four step process, the speaker, first explains what they observed/heard from a situation, second, what they believe that meant, third, how that makes them feel, and fourth, what you’d like to have happen in the future. Using this approach, we’d say “I heard you didn’t pick up the kids. I believed that meant you didn’t really care about them, or helping me. I felt hurt and angry. I am hoping in the future you will call me if you can’t make it and/or be more available.

Tools like the X,Y,Z and the feedback wheel are great to use when you are finding yourself perhaps taking things personal and tempted to make generalizations and let you focus in on what did or didn’t happen, how you feel about it, and what you’re wanting to happen in the future.

What do we do when we hear our spouse’s emotions and feelings?

When we’re able to talk about our emotions and feelings, we add a greater depth to the conversation. When we’re able to do this, we’ve moved well beyond communicating about the day to day surface – “How was the weather?” to “How is your heart?” It’s through these conversations that we’ll forge our deepest connections. When we are able to see things from our spouse’s view, and feel their pain and their joy, there is a deep level of connection, and the day to day stuff seems less important. That someone forgot to wash the dishes seems less important when that someone has told you that they understand how you feel, that they hurt too and want to be there for you, when they are able to connect to you on that level.

We need to validate our spouse’s feelings. The way men support each other is often normally by minimizing each other’s problem. If one raises a concern about possibly getting fired, another guy would minimize the problem to comfort their friend saying, “Don’t worry there are plenty of good jobs out there or other business opportunities,” which works well guy to guy. In marriage though, when a wife comes to her husband with a problem and when he tries to comfort her by minimizing the problem, she often feels that her husband is minimizing her feelings, and doesn’t think the problem is that important and she finds that hurtful.

Another reason husbands tend to minimize their wives’ feelings is that they instinctively feel responsible for their wives’ feelings. Realizing that they are not responsible can help them to relax and focus on being supportive, and to view themselves as protectors of their wife’s heart.

What hurts even more is when a wife shares her feelings and emotions, and the husband tries to minimize her feelings by listing reasons why she should be happy. In his mind, it’s his way of comforting her, but what she sees and feels is that he is minimizing and invalidating her feelings. For example, she’s saying she’s sad and he’s saying she should be happy, which can make her feel wrong somehow for feeling sad and makes her feel misunderstood. How she wants to be comforted is to hear instead that he understands how she feels, that it’s okay to feel how she feels, that he hurts for her and that he is there for her.

Author John Grey of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, talks about how a wealthy woman needs to go to a wealthy psychiatrist to get permission to feel sad or unhappy. The common supposition is that if you’re rich, then what do you have to be sad about? You have everything, you should be happy. The point is that just because someone is wealthy, doesn’t mean they are not entitled to feeling unhappy at times, and should be able to share their feelings, to be heard, to be understood and comforted.

It’s this invalidation of feelings and emotions by husbands and wives that, according to the authors of A Lasting Promise: A Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage is one of the very best predictors of future problems and divorce.

When we validate our spouse’s feelings, we don’t have to agree that how they are feeling is how we would feel in that situation. We are saying that we can understand how they could feel that way, we know where they are coming from, we don’t judge or criticize their feelings, and we listen and are there for them to lean on and to hear them out. We validate their feelings by communicating with the right tone and posture that we understand and cherish our spouse’s feelings and that they have every right to feel how they feel and that their feelings are not wrong. In this way our spouse will not feel alone in their feelings or reluctant to share their feelings.

When your spouse comes to you upset because they feel they are working too hard or too many hours, and are now unhappy with their job, they don’t want to hear “At least you have a job,” or “Just get another job.”

Hear what they are really communicating in their body language and tone, the words are only a guide, hear them say, “I feel unappreciated, and taken for granted, I’m afraid I made a mistake in taking this job, I’m tired and unhappy.”

Then we are able to speak to their feelings , we can validate their feelings, and say things like, “I can understand how you feel; things have changed at the job and you just don’t feel the same, and now something that was exciting to you seems to be draining you, and what brought you happiness and excitement appears to be now burning you out. No matter what, I’m proud of you and they are so lucky to have you, they don’t know what they’ve got. Just know I’m here for you, and I’m behind you 110% no matter what you decide.”

If you’ve said it earnestly, affirming their feelings, showing you get it and how you care, they’ll walk away feeling better, feeling supported, feeling loved. Remember, even if [*you *]wouldn’t feel the same way, or can’t really understand why your partner feels the way they feel, don’t invalidate their feelings and make them feel wrong for how they feel.

Think about it, when someone is coming to you and doesn’t feel happy or great, isn’t that when they need you the most? As they are walking away after you’ve validated their feelings and been there for them, that’s when they’re likely thinking, “I’m so glad I married someone so understanding, that’s always there for me.” Sadly, many go to counseling paying someone, not for this great advice and wisdom, but often to just find someone that will really take the time to listen to how they feel, and to feel understood and accepted.

Even if the words escape you, instead of saying anything to invalidate their feelings, just quietly put your arm around them and let them feel your support and that you are there for them.

We should be the person that is always there ready to cherish and be there for our spouses for the rest of their lives. That’s why making time daily is so important.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. Do you consistently take the time out to communicate fully, so both you and your spouse feel understood and that you’re both on the same page? *]_]

2. Do you ever invalidate your partner’s feelings?

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Husbands, start talking to your wife daily, even if you need to start off with only 5 minutes a day, and build this up by 5 minute increments until you are talking an hour a day. Try this for 30 days.*]_]

*2. Practice talking to your spouse in a way that helps them feel cared for by using your body language, tone, and words each day. *

3. For difficult and sensitive situations practice using the X,Y,Z the feedback wheel or an approach that helps you clearly express how you feel

4. Avoid minimizing your partner’s feelings, and practice to validating how they feel

[* *]

~ DAY 14 ~

How to Effectively Communicate Our Feelings and Thoughts

Part 2

What percentage of marriage fail due to deficient communication?

Today we will continue looking at communication, which is critical to the survival and happiness of our marriage. According to Dr Gary Chapman, when asked in a survey, of divorced "Why did your marriage fail?" 87% percent said, "Deficient communication."

He goes on to say that is likely that these marriages could have been saved and restored had they learned more positive communication patterns.

Wherein the last chapter we looked at understanding communication differences between husbands and wives, how timing is important, and how non-verbal communication and the tone of our voice can convey emotion, validation and acceptance key aspects of communication, today we will look at some techniques to further strengthen communication in your marriage.

When communication breaks down and we stop communicating and talking to each other, this creates distancing from our spouse, which often times ultimately leads to divorce

What’s the first step to strong communication?

Learning to listen is a key first step in communication. According to Zig Ziglar’s book Courtship After Marriage, it’s not listening that many marriage counselors indicate is the number one problem in families today. Ziglar goes on to say that according to one survey, 98% of the women surveyed wished for more "verbal closeness" with their male partners, and the most frequently cited cause of women's anger was "He doesn't listen."

Sadly, the same survey reported that 71% of the women surveyed said they had given up and no longer even tried to draw their husbands out.

Survey after survey, listening comes up as the number one expectation for woman. Her number one complaint? He doesn’t listen.

So how do we listen? So she feels heard?

As we mentioned in Part 1 of Communication, we need to provide focused attention and receptive facial expressions and body language during listening, showing you are receiving the message.

It’s helpful if the speaker tells the listener when they aren’t looking for a logical solution and just want to have their feelings be heard. This small reminder can put the listener at ease as they now know what to expect helping them to relax and listen more effectively.

Again, we need to be ready to listen, if we are angry or not in a good place then we won’t be able to hear our spouse, nor will we be able to communicate acceptance and understanding and encourage our spouse to communicate deeply with us.

When we really listen we refrain from injecting our own thoughts and opinions, our similar troubles or solutions, as tempting as it might be until we are confident that the speaker has finished speaking.

Too often both are quickly and impatiently trying to get their point across, as we interject with our own ideas and thoughts, and we forget to take the time to listen and in the end no one feels heard. The problem here is that both are trying to “be the speaker” but no one is “being the listener”. We start to repeat ourselves over and over, because we feel we aren’t being heard. When we are really listening we need to pay attention, to focus in on our partner which is often exactly what they need.

Mike was pressed for time again, but Mary really needed to talk to him about everything that was going on. Mike sat on the couch looking exhausted at the end of the day. He gave her the look that told her to “get to the point”. Every conversation now seemed to be about things that needed to be done around the house, the kids, events that were coming up. Mike looked bored nodding his acknowledgements every now and then a she spoke; he was already eyeing the remote ready to veg out in front of the TV and seemed to having something else on his mind. She told him with her words that all was well, but deep inside she was feeling sad and felt alone, that even if she did share what she felt, that he wouldn’t get it anyway.

As Dr. John Gottman observes, another obstacle to effective listening is that many of us instinctively want to jump into solution mode before really understanding or listening. It’s like wanting to put something together with bothering to read the manual. When we jump in and cut off our spouse we short circuit this process. We need to be able and willing to read our spouses tone, body language, and facial expression, and words to understand where they are coming from and how they feel. We can’t communicate we “get it”, unless we’ve fully heard our partners and so we need to wait.

[*How to we show we’re listening? *]

As Dr. John Gottman recommends, when we listen when we should encourage the speaker, by making verbal acknowledgments, say, “Uh-huh,” or commenting on what they are saying, such as, “That must have been awesome!” along with heading nodding and good eye contact all tell the speaker that your engaged in the conversation. Acknowledge not only the facts but the feelings that are being shared.

As we listen, we should focus on helping our spouse to feel heard and accepted and cared for. When we listen, we are saying we’re not trying to figure out what to say next, correcting, judging or trying to be right. Here we are just trying to understand and to know our spouse’s heart and mind.

Dr. Scott Haltzman recommends that as we listen, that we repeat back the key things we are hearing back to the speaker. If they say, “I’m upset you forgot to pick up the kids,” just respond, “I hear you saying your upset I forgot to pick up the kids.” Even though this is incredibly simple, it’s also incredibly effective in that it does a few things. One, it forces you to pay attention to the speaker, how can you repeat if you aren’t paying attention, thinking about something else, planning to say something else, etc. The second thing it does is that it reassures them that their words are being heard and understood—a chief complaint of many wives. Lastly, you greatly reduce the chance of having a conflict about something that was not heard or said or some other misunderstanding, because you are validating what is being said and heard as you speak.

As we mentioned earlier, often the speaker is looking for empathy, and compassion. When a husband injects solutions, or suggestions, it’s not that his wife is rejecting his solutions because they are bad or not good enough, they might be really great solutions, but she’s rejecting them because it’s not a solution that she wants, it’s his understanding and compassion that she is after. It’s when she receives that, even if the problem is still there, that she often feels better, supported and loved.

Kindly asking the speaker if they are done speaking is a simple way (but often not done) to make sure the speaker has finished getting their point across.

How do we show we get how they feel?

Beyond mirroring, Dr. Scott Haltzman describes how we can take listening to the next level. As you listen, while repeating what is being said greatly helps the speaker feel heard, he explains that when we paraphrase and we put what is being said in our own words, this takes listening to another level. Here we are saying, “We understand overall how you feel.” When we say this, “What I hear you say overall…” all we are showing the speaker is our desire to really understand. As we listen, we may paraphrase and say, “I hear you saying I forgot to pick up the kids, and you were really frustrated and disappointed, and you feel saddened because you feel like you can’t count on me, like I’m not there for you and your alone in this.” Here the focus is on trying to understand beyond the fact that the kids weren’t picked up, but how the speaker felt about this. In this way, we validate the speaker’s feelings, even if we don’t agree, and we might have felt differently, we say we acknowledge and understand how they felt.

This helps to avoid conflicts that arise out of not having our feeling validated or understood while helping the speaker to feel validated. This approach has been found to be more effective than understanding only the words or the facts, which only making up 7% of communication and seeks to convey and understand what is being communicated overall.

If she looks disappointed and you raise and acknowledge this, then you’re showing that you understand how she thinks and feels instinctively making you both feel closer to each other. So at the end of the day, it’s about being able to understand how your partner is really feeling helping them to feel connected to you. (This doesn’t require you to agree, it just means that you get it.)

As you look to rephrase, be open to further explanation. If the listener believes you understand most of it, except for 1 or 2 aspects, allow the speaker to clarify, then take another shot at paraphrasing the verbal and nonverbal communication that you are picking up. Avoid trying to correct the speaker, in any way just listen.

How do we show we get them?

While being able to repeat what the speaker says is a good start, and paraphrasing and conveying to the speaker the emotion and nonverbal communication is even better, being able to articulate the speaker’s real concern and where they are going in a conversation is the strongest way we can show we are listening.

To borrow from Dr. Greg Baer, say someone says, 1, 2, 3, if you say 1, 2, 3, that’s good (shows you were listening), but if you say, 4, you show that you get what they have been talking about and where they are going with it. You are conveying you get the overall pattern (reading between the lines) that’s at the heart of what’s being said. You’re saying, I get that the overall pattern here ( that each number is up by one). When you are able to get that and communicate that, this shows the speaker that you really get their message and this can help them to feel what they are saying is completely understood, and that you get it. Finding someone that really understands and get’s us, is what led many of us to fall in love with our spouse in the beginning.

It is also helpful to appreciate and thank the listener for taking the time out to listen, and express how helpful and important it is to feel heard. Some husbands feel that they are not doing anything if they are just listening, this helps to remind them that listening and being heard really is something important to us.

It’s only when we truly feel that our own thoughts and feelings are really understood that we look to begin to really share our own thoughts and feelings.

How can we effectively make requests from our spouse?

Another key aspect of communication is to know how to effectively ask for what we want. Because of where we are in a relationship, or past unsuccessful attempts where we might have asked for something and it did not go well, perhaps turning into an argument many have given up asking. They’ve given up altogether making requests from their partner, but making request is critical to effectively communicating what we need from our partner. So, how can we effectively meet each other’s needs to have a happy and fulfilling marriage unless we can communicate these needs, by effectively making requests from our spouse?

[*So how do we make requests? *]

Like all communication timing, tone, and nonverbal communication is key, and here as John Gray suggests, we should strive to communicate in a non-demanding, patient and understanding tone. What is critical is that we provide clarity when making a request.

Instead of saying, “I wish you would be more responsible,” at which the listener may feel overwhelmed not knowing what this means or where to begin, or if they ever succeeded, or worse put them on the defensive.

Another key concept that John mentions in his classic Men Are From Mars, Woman Are From Venus is the concept that husbands do not want to be asked if they “could” do things, because in their mind they think of course I could fulfill the request, the real question is this: Will we? So could becomes, would. Would we make that choice? He recommends wives replacing “could” with the word “would” when making a request. He goes on to say how often when a husband is met with a request, there is a period where we are grumbling, (for example saying we’re tired), we’re he’s processing the request, and that that is a good sign because this mean the request is being considered.

He observes how what often happens is that a wife will prematurely see this as a no, and begin to press him, justify her request, etc., which can often work against her, while all she really needs to do is wait until he finally switches gears and his attention to meeting her request. In the end, once he agrees to the request, he often feels better that he accomplished his new goal of meeting her request. I’ve often found this to occur at times in my own marriage.

A key aspect is to show appreciation once the request is met, even if not perfectly, to encourage and motivate the acceptance of future requests.

I agree with John’s view that the decision to meet a request should be seen as a gift and that it shouldn’t be seen as something that is expected and that we should be prepared for our partner to decline our request. If our partner declines our request, we should have another less taxing request ready to submit. We should be ready to give our partner another way to agree to our request and to meet our need or perhaps offer an alternative way to meet the request (i.e., paying a repairman vs. fixing yourself, doing on Sunday vs. Saturday, etc.) It’s important to not read into the decline as saying the respondent doesn’t love or care for the requestor after declining,

How Do We Make Our Requests Clear?

In his book, The New Rules of Marriage therapist Terrence Real does an excellent job explaining how to make clear requests, as well as how to structure them so that they are effective and their importance.

Clearly, and directly breaking the requests down, while keeping the request brief and direct sets the listener up for success. Saying, “It would be great if you would text or call me whenever you are running late so that I can know when to expect you instead of waiting around until you show up” is much clearer.

If a contractor agrees to do a job for us and we decided to draft a contract or job specification/statement of work, we wouldn’t just type “work will be done” and have the contractor sign it, agreeing to do the work. Instead, we would clearly define the work we expect to be done, perhaps listing out tasks, what the end product or service will look like, etc. We’d break it down to exactly what needs to be done to ensure the contractor delivered what the client expected. Yet we often expect our partners at times to know what we want without providing clear details around what it is we want when we make our requests. Taking the time to make a direct and clear request works best.

Writing or texting these requests and adding a date when we’d like our request met adds further clarity and increases the likelihood of the request being successfully met.

If the request is to clean up kitchen, in the husband’s mind, just doing the dishes and wiping down counters might means “the kitchen is clean”. However, to the wife, this may mean doing the dishes, counters, taking out the trash, and sweeping the floor. While the husband might think he has met the request, his wife might say he didn’t or only met it halfway. By breaking down the request, to be very clear, say, “Please, will you clean the kitchen, which means these four things: dishes, counters, taking out the trash, and sweeping the floor,” there is very little room for miscommunication. While it may take an extra minute up front to define what is needed up front, it will save a great deal of time and effort later on in conflict over unmet expectations.

How can we make our request more specific?

Instead of saying, “I’d love it if you were more supportive,” try, “If you would pick up the kids, at 4pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, that would really help. Would you be willing to do that?”

Instead of saying, “I’d love it if you were more romantic,” try, “If you were to schedule date nights from 6pm to 9pm on Saturdays, along with a babysitter so that we can have date nights to reconnect, I think that would really help rekindle some romance in our marriage. Would you be willing to do that?”

Instead of saying, “I wish you were there for me,” say clearly, “I would love to be able to talk to you an hour each day from 9 to 10 pm each night, without distractions, would you be willing to do that for us?”

These new specific requests are achievable. By requesting that a husband be more romantic without any details, he has no way of really knowing if he achieved that. However, he does know if he’s achieved setting up a weekly date and met and satisfied a more specific request. These and many other aspects to romance can be met by specifically asking and requesting these things.

It’s through these clear requests that we are able to communicate our needs to your partner so that you can meet them.

We should strive to meet our spouse’s requests as often as we can, and work with them and letting them know if there are aspects of their requests we are willing to meet, or if we are willing to meet the request in some other way.

How should we meet their request?

Again, our nonverbal communication and tone is key. If we reluctantly agree to satisfy the request, that won’t be received well. If we respond in a way that conveys excitement acceptance and love, that will communicate that not only am I willing to do this, but I’d love to do this for you, because I love you and you’re number one in my life.

Imagine a child reluctantly giving you a hug, after making a request, how does that make you feel versus your child being excited and running up to hug you? In both instances, the request was fulfilled, but in one it was met in a way that was much more meaningful.

If we are not able to meet the request, we should try to explain why we aren’t able to meet it in a caring and loving way.

What are some things we should avoid when communicating with our partner?

While understanding how husbands and wives talk differently is critical to improving marital communication and what wives should do and avoid when talking to their husbands, it’s also good to know avoid in general. So what are some things we should avoid when communicating with our partner?

Avoid just communicating about issues and problems, like the kids or things that need to be worked on in the house, and ensure you are communicating about how much you care for each other, are thankful for each other, what you admire, and respect and love about each other, what you’re excited about. By constantly focusing on problems now or in the past we invite conflict instead of inviting growth and closeness.

We should also avoid constantly correcting our spouse about details when communicating, saying, “Well, actually, it happened on Sunday versus Saturday,” which can come across as condescending and annoying. Similarly we need to allow our spouse to have and express and different views from what we might have and avoid demanding or expecting that they see things eye to eye.

Remember even if you are* right ]about something, if you communicate in a way that is loud, disrespectful, and uncaring, you’ve communicated the[ wrong* way.

  • Avoid communicating whenever you are angry or hurt and speaking in a demanding way.
  • Avoid venting and expecting that you can just communicate to your spouse whatever you want without regard or respect for their feelings or who they are as a person.
  • Bashing your spouse and letting them know how imperfect they are, that they don’t care, never will care, and never did care is never a good idea. Communicating about things that we cannot do anything about, that happened in the past, or some personality or character flaw sets our spouse up for failure and only leads to distancing between the couple as they feel there is nothing they can do to change the situation. To tell them hurtful and uncaring things is never an effective way to communicate. Instead, choose to communicate on specific things within their control.
  • Avoid bad timing. This is key in communication. We need to make sure that we are ready to talk, and our partner is ready to listen. We’re not ready if we’re not in a good place, if we are angry, in a rush, feel nervous, annoyed, tired or afraid, disappointed.

Chances are this will be seen in our tone, facial expression, and word choice, and it will be tough to communicate in a caring effective way. Once we take a few minutes to get in more resourceful and positive state and place that’s when were ready to communicate. Our partner may not be ready to communicate if they are in an un-resourceful state themselves, or distracted.

Bringing up sensitive topics in front of family and friends or in public is also bad timing and should be avoided. If we’re trying to talk to our spouse when our partner is not ready or willing to communicate our words will fall on deaf ears. This is why setting aside private time each day to talk is important, because you can communicate at a time when you both are ready to.

So how do we put these concepts together so that we can effectively communicate our needs to our spouse?

One way is to use the widely used Speaker/Listener approach used by the authors of A Lasting Promise: A Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage and others. This technique may feel like extra work, but it worth it especially when this has become a weak area in the marriage.

Taking this approach for more difficult topics actually saves time in that you’ll actually have a chance to be heard and likely avoid escalation and conflict. This is more effective than the impact of a misunderstanding or escalation that can arise when talking about serious topics. It directly address a key issue in communication where both are trying to communicate, but no one is really being heard, and misunderstandings which just causes further disconnect and frustration.

This approach works because it sets up a fair structure for the conversation, with just a simple few rules to follow which will greatly reduce the chance for conflict. Again, timing is key, for a serious conversation or topic it makes sense to let you partner you want to talk about something, say Saturday night, about a topic that’s really important to you. In this way, they won’t feel surprised and have time to think things over. This will help you to ensure the timing is right. Of course, effective communication can only really occur when both partners are not angry.

As you talk agree that each will get the same amount of time as to speak and to listen, use a stop watch on your iPhone or other device to keep you honed. If for example your wife starts off as the speaker, she should agree ahead of time to time box it to 20 minutes, and the husband will listen for 20 minutes. Here the listener chooses to listen effectively to the nonverbal communication, not trying to solve the problem only trying to understanding, making good eye contact, paying attention, acknowledging what is being said, and rephrasing and paraphrasing throughout.

Here the listener should seek to communicate their interest, understanding and validation of what is being felt, while suspending judgment. Sometimes, the speaker is really asking to be loved and understood. Just by executing the listener role effectively, you can effectively meet that need. As the listener, remember to convey your interest in your body language and tone, and speak in a way that is accepting and caring. Remember, you’ll get a chance to speak about what you think and how you feel when it’s your turn.

As the speaker, it is key that you speak about only one topic or challenge at a time, or else you risk overwhelming the listener. Toward the end, speak in smaller pieces, pausing about every 3 minutes to give the listener a chance to rephrase and show you that they understand. There is nothing stopping you from talking about another topic later on at a later time.

As you do speak, be careful to speak in a loving way so as to diffuse any tension and fear that might stand in the way of real communication. Remember to phrase things using ”I” (like “I feel”) and avoiding “you” and “always” phrases.

After your 20 minutes are up being the speaker or listener, you both switch roles. Now, the listener follows the speaker’s roles, and the listener takes on the speaker’s role. Here is where the former listener can now explain how they feel and what they think about the topic, both following the structure above. After both have been able to speak, there should be a better understanding of how you both feel about the topic, and you can begin discussing problem solving if you are both ready. Feel free to discuss problem solving at a later time, coming up with possible solutions and figuring out what works best for both of you.

While it may seem a bit mechanical at first, this structure is very effective to use when communicating about sensitive and difficult topics. Over time, you may find yourself using similar lighter version of this approach on other conversations later on.

So what makes a good conversation anyway?

Questions are key to any good communication, as they drive the focus and the feel of the communication. Asking questions that help you discover their hopes, dreams, feelings and who they are, as you may have in the beginning of the marriage creates interesting conversation. Asking your spouse what they think and feel about your ideas, and what’s happening around you as you walk through life together creates a sense of connectedness.

Ask questions that help you discover what excites your partner; it’s much easier for them to talk about what’s exciting to them and motivates them. Ask questions that help you discover things you might enjoy doing together and have in common. Ask about what they have learned and experienced; allowing them to share how they’ve grown.

Practicing great communication is the basis for every great marriage. Regularly and effectively communicating your thoughts and feelings in an accepting way will help you to feel connected to your spouse.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. Do you really listen when my spouse speaks?*]_]

[*2. Have you been making requests or demands? *]

3. What kind of things might you be doing that might be hurting your communication with your spouse?

[*4. Do you practice great communication with my spouse? *]

5. What concepts can you use to strengthen my communication with my spouse?

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Come up with 7 new and interesting questions to ask your spouse about. *]_]

*2. Practice really listening, reflecting what your spouse says, and trying to get how they feel. *

3. Practice making 3 clear and specific requests (start with 3)

4. Pick a difficult topic that has been something you’ve been wanting to talk to your partner with and practice using the Listener/Speaker approach.

[* *]

~ DAY 15 ~

How to Manage Conflict Effectively

Part 1

What is the number one factor that determines the likelihood of divorce?

Of all the areas in marriage, how a couple handles conflict is the number one predictor of divorce. As a matter of fact, by just observing how a couple argues alone, Psychologist John Gottman is able to predict divorce with 90% to 95% accuracy just by listening to a single conversation between newlyweds. How can this be? The answer is that he has developed a deep understanding of how conflict affects marriage.

Other psychologists, Howard Markman and Scott Stanley, were also able to predict with 80% accuracy who would be divorced within seven years after marrying by observing how they argued. So it’s in the best interest of married couples to understand conflict and how to handle it when it arises

Not only can the way we handle conflict hurt us and our marriage, but children have been known to suffer in the wake of mishandled conflict adding to our motivation to understand and manage conflict.

I like the story author John Eldredge tells of a couple that was going wild water rafting; they were pretty excited having never done anything like this before. The husband and wife entered the raft with the guide and saw the large amounts of water entering the raft and became alarmed. He asked if everything was okay considering all the water that was entering the raft, to which the guide replied that it was perfectly normal, and that just as the water would enter the raft, the water would also exit the raft, and they would be fine.

Should we expect conflict in a strong marriage?

It’s a good story because it shows how we are often afraid of what will happen when conflict spills into our marriage. When we marry, many of us don’t really expect to have conflict in our marriage; so when it comes we fear it. However, when we come to realize that conflicts and disagreements are a normal part of marriage, and it does not mean the end to our happiness, we can feel more at ease as we handle it.

Although earlier on in the relationship conflict is usually kept to a minimum, especially with mother nature helping initially with two people from different backgrounds, perspectives, beliefs and genders there are bound to be conflicting opinions no matter how much you care about each other. The more time you spend together and the more that you do together, and the more complicated life gets, the more likely we are to experience conflict. While the topics of the conflict change, from differences in areas of money, childrearing, etc., a common denominator which is able to predict whether or not your marriage will succeed or fail is how successful you are at handling conflict when it arises. It’s not about how often or little you fight or argue; it’s about how well you can fight or argue.

Mary still smiled a lot around Mike but inside she wasn’t as happy as when they had first met. One of the things that attracted her to him at first was the feeling that she could tell him anything and feel his acceptance and understanding. He seemed to want her every happiness, even the smallest things that made her unhappy made Mike unhappy, but now there were certain topics that she stayed clear of. Talking about his parents had somehow become off limits when she told him she felt insulted by his mother’s comments, and lately money was becoming a touchy topic. Every time she tried to confront him about it, he said he didn’t have time and that he would deal with it later, but later never came. They finally had some alone time when the kids went down after a long day, and she didn’t feel like getting into an argument, so she told herself not to bother mentioning it and they would deal with it later. She laughed knowing later would never come.

What happens when we handle conflict by avoiding it?

Because many of us initially view conflict as something that happy couples do not experience in marriage and perhaps because we have had experiences where conflict did not go well, so we avoid it. For many of us conflict means pain, the possibility of things going badly. Who wants to talk about negative things that may bring us pain? So when conflict arises that we don’t know exactly how to handle, or exactly what the outcome will be in the end, we avoid it.

And while, according to Dr. John Gottman, 40% of couples do divorce over frequent mishandled conflict, [*even more *]marriages fade slowly as partners emotionally disconnect as they begin to avoid sensitive topics and ultimately each other. Rather than walking into what they see as a house riddled with landmines, men avoid coming home to avoid conflict, and while they may avoid short term pain, this only leads to the inevitable long term pain that separation brings. Another way we avoid conflict is by spending more time with our children, while both may even seem to be helpful leading us to being better providers and mothers; it can also lead us into separation and distance.

What often happens is because we are dreading talking about a particular issue, let’s say money for example, we choose to ignore it for fear of stirring the pot. When a credit card is declined for insufficient funds, this becomes the spark that leads to a major blow up. When we can no longer avoid the issue, we then deal with the conflict, often at the wrong time and in the wrong way, causing greater damage to the marriage. Many new couples that are unhappy about the lack of attention, time or lack of needs being met early on in the marriage will “continue to smile and appear happy” to their spouse while underneath they are becoming unhappier, but neither mention their unhappiness, to their spouse to avoid dealing with their fear of conflict.

As a matter of fact, according to the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, the number one reason for divorce is “the habitual avoidance of conflict.” Not only that but research also shows that couples who habitually keep quiet about issues to avoid an argument “are less happy over the long-term than `conflict-engaging’ couples.” I can personally attest that, though it’s tempting and appears to work in the short term by avoiding short term pain, the long term pain of a shattered and broken family is far more painful. We cannot continue to only avoid conflict but we need to understand it and then learn to handle it well.

How does our inability to handle conflict affect our marriage?

We often fear what we don’t know, that sound in the middle of the night may worry us until we understand where it came from. Conflict is also something we often fear because we just don’t understand it or know how to handle it. Imagine two guys—one has never had a fight in his life, the other is a championship boxer who was trained to box as a small child, they both find themselves getting into a physical conflict, which one do you think has the advantage? Which can anticipate the other’s moves and use this to dodge blows? Who can likely hit harder? Who psychologically knows how to respond to their accelerated heart rate? Is it any wonder why most states have laws against professional boxers using their hands to assault someone out of a boxing ring, referring to a boxer’s hands as “lethal or deadly weapons?” The professional boxer isn’t even allowed to hit him. They have studied the art and science of physical conflict to such a degree they are extremely dangerous in any physical conflict.

Let’s look at verbal conflict, and see what’s happening underneath when we experience conflict.

As a kid one of my favorite shows growing up was The Incredible Hulk series. In it Scientist Bruce Banner exposes himself to gamma radiation, which he had learned through his research seemed to be the key to unlocking incredible strength during life or death situations. It was the kind of strength that allowed a mother to lift a car that was crushing her child. While he was able to unlock this incredible strength it came with terrible side effects, as he would transform into the powerful Incredible Hulk. In this state while he would be able to throw cars around and was almost unstoppable, Bruce Banner had no control over once he had become the Hulk, and often he caused terrible damage.

What’s more is that afterwards, he would not even remember what happened or what he had done. Over time he discovered that he was the Incredible Hulk. He came to realize that [*pain, fear *]of danger and [*anger *]would trigger the transformation, and he would try to avoid them. As attackers would approach him and threaten him, David would warn them while he still had control of himself to stop, that they didn’t know what they were doing, predictably they would ignore him and he would transform and by then it was too late.

Who typically raises issues in marriage?

Dr. Gottman further asserts that in 80% of marriages, wives are the ones who constantly look to break the conflict avoidance cycle by being the first to raise issues to their husbands. One of the main drivers for this is that they are better equipped to handle verbal conflict than their husbands. For one, compared to men they are more verbally adept having been practiced in speaking to others, reading verbal and nonverbal cues from others for much longer than their husbands. Secondly, conflict normally does not trigger a strong physiological response as it does in their husbands. Rather than experiencing a testosterone-induced fight or flight response to stress, they experience an estrogen-induced “tend or befriend” response to stress. This results in the same stressful situation of conflict being experienced very differently by husbands and wives.

Why is the wife usually the one raising the issues?

Wives are able to reach out to their husbands and use their stronger verbal skills to put in words how they feel about the conflict; and because they do not experience higher blood pressure to cloud their thought process, they are able to more clearly share what they think. This approach to conflict works well with other woman as they share and look to get to a place where both are able to talk about what each might have mistakenly done to create the conflict, and both apologize, feel connected again and put the situation behind them and move on. While she is often successful in resolving conflict with her girlfriends, this same approach with her husband often does not work leading to great confusion and frustration. Her “tend or befriend” instincts make her more likely to avoid conflict and hide her true unhappiness for the sake of the relationship, which may only make things worse in the long term. It can also influence her to allow herself to become responsible for conflicts and to preserve relationships at the expense of her own happiness. Wives should guard against stepping into either of these ineffective responses.

What’s going on inside a husband when he’s under stress during conflict?

While on the outside, he appears to be calm, emotionless and very quiet in a conflict, like an airplane which has taken a direct hit in one of its engines, the pilot begins to go through an internal checklist trying to remain level headed, focused and composed, looking for a safe place to land. When a husband is confronted with conflict his “flight or fight” response automatically kicks off testosterone and stress hormones increasing his blood pressure and heart rate, which instinctively makes him feel like he physically needs to do something—fight or flight—but there is nothing to do physically in a verbal conflict.

According to Dr. Gottman, hindering verbal communication even more is the fact that once this fight or flight response is triggered pushing his heart rate to 100 beats per minute, his verbal communication and mental focus goes out of commission, leaving him less capable to handle the conflict. Under these conditions, it is impossible to have an intelligent conversation about anything. This is similar to how someone might blank out during a big speech or presentation due to anxiety. Just as failing to deliver an important speech may be embarrassing and painful, and deter a person from wanting to give a presentation in the future, conflict can have the same effect on a husband.

As a result of the intense flight or fight driven physical reactions to conflict, many husbands check out and look to withdraw from conflict and conversation, or to attack/fight in the hope that this will quiet her and temporarily end the conflict; letting him land his plane to safety so all his internal alarms will be quieted, and allowing his blood pressure and heart rate to normalize, unclouding his mind so he can think and speak clearly once more.

Not only is it easier for husbands to spin up and get excited more easily, affecting how well they can handle conflict, but Dr. Gottman cites studies that have shown it takes them longer for their blood pressure to come down than their wives. No wonder why wives bring up 80% of the conflict in their marriages, it’s because they are better equipped to deal with them.

What happens when you constantly experience pain in the presence of your spouse?

It’s important to note that constantly experiencing pain in the presence of your spouse will cause you to eventually associate pain with them. Author David Cole found that in one study, where they had two mice and they felt pain, they began to attack each other. Although they were clearly not even responsible for each other’s pain, (the experimenter pressing the button that caused the pain), they attacked each other as if the other were responsible, their brains automatically associated the other as the cause of their pain and in effect, causing them to blame each other. It was this pain and blame that caused them to attack each other.

Even though they were not the ones that started out hurting one another in the end they were. It’s in the wake of all the conflict, pain and stress hormones and the physiological changes mentioned above, which sets the stage for us to feel and experience anger.

Why do some of us embrace and turn to anger in conflict?

Some people embrace anger and use it to make them feel more confident and emboldened. At some point they unconsciously learned that when they speak in anger, others around them respond more quickly and as they have less time to do things, and feel more pressure, they may begin to speak in anger more.

Whether it’s to motivate their spouse to clean up or get their children to behave; often they tell themselves, that others just ignore them when they speak kindly and that the “only way” others will listen is to speak like this. They “make me lose my temper” is a common complaint. Those that use anger tell themselves that because they feel it they should be able to show it and or that someone else has pushed their buttons to make them angry.

How does stress make us prone to anger?

Anger and aggression are instinctive ways that respond to conflict after we are physically primed with stress hormones in our bloodstream triggered by conflict. The more easily a person’s stress hormones are activated, the more quickly and often a person is likely to find themselves in an angry and aggressive state.

If a husband is constantly in a state of anger, his wife will likely be in an anxious state as well, making it almost impossible for her to feel relaxed and safe which is what she needs to be able to experience her husband’s love and affection for her.

It’s the very basis of anger management to understand what causes anger and then diffuse it to break away from reacting to conflict and stress with anger and aggression and to bring about greater peace and happiness in our marriage. It’s when we are in this state of anger and aggression, where our thinking is clouded and suspended as our blood stream is primed with stressors, that we find ourselves making angry outbursts and saying things that later on we might not even remember and likely regret.

How does anger affect our ability to handle conflict?

Conflict often continues to escalate after we are angry, preventing us from thinking calmly and clearly about the real issue that is causing us pain and conflict, and like the mouse in the experiment, we begin to focus on the person in front of us.

Instead of raising a clear specific complaint like, “Can you please clean up the dining room table after you eat?” In anger, we may say, “You’re such a slob, you know?” And ask rhetorical questions like, “What’s the matter with you?”

Just as the mice began to attack each other simply because they see each other, and blame each other, we can end up doing the same thing, attacking each other versus the problem. This just leads to a back and forth grade school behavior which includes name calling, eye rolling, blaming, sarcasm, yelling and making fun of each other—only there is no grownup around to break it up.

It’s easy to see how it’s wrong when you are relaxed and not in the middle of a conflict, but when you are in it and feeling those emotions that the stress hormones release in your body, which clouds your thinking, it’s not as clear.

[*So what causes us to criticize each other? *]

It’s unlikely when couples were first together they criticized each other and treated each other this way. Usually, when a spouse becomes critical it’s because they have been ignored. When they first tried to speak about the issue, but after being ignored again and again we may allow this to trigger our internal stress alarms allowing us to enter an angry aggressive state where we begin to attack our spouse to get them to listen to us.

However even if a partner does comply in the short term for fear of another angry outburst, in the long term the relationship is being destroyed as fear and anger do not fit well with peace and happiness. While it’s tempting to use anger to get others to do what you want because it may seem to be easier and quicker or because that’s the only approach we really know how to use, we are selling our intimacy and our long term happiness for the price of short term compliance. Both partners need to yell louder and louder to be heard, because they are getting further and further away.

Mike was in complete shock. Mary had just jumped down his throat with a torrent of yelling and complaining. He could feel and see her anger at him as she began her verbal onslaught. He felt his face get hot as he saw her transform before him, he felt embarrassment, anger and sadness. He couldn’t believe how she was using everything he said against him. She seemed angry but she had no problem getting across her ideas, which right now seemed to be that to her he was a selfish idiot, while he stood there feeling very idiotic indeed.

Not wanting the situation to escalate further, he tried walking away to another room, but she followed him, telling him he needed to finish what he started. He finally just drove off to the gym to workout, ignoring all her calls; he felt his tension and stress ease. As he worked out, he came to the realization that he had to keep his guard up around her, and hoped that things would somehow get better.

How do husbands often respond to conflict?

As a result of a husband’s physiological response to conflict, which often includes heightened blood pressure, heart rate and the trigger of cortisol stress hormones can all work together to contribute to feelings of frustration, flooding and clouded thinking,. As a result, according to author David Cole, husbands are five times more likely than their wives to ignore a conflict or problem, and 85% of them are likely to “check out” during a conflict.

It’s similar to how a possum will play dead when under stress; a husband will appear emotionally dead, showing no signs of emotional life, devoid of expression, eye contact and acknowledgment. Their body may be there, but mentally and emotionally, they are gone.

He’s may be frustrated because he does have ideas and feelings about the situation but because of his current state, he just can’t find and access the right words. In his mind, it’s like losing your car keys somewhere in the house; just when you need them, you can’t seem to find them.

So why do husbands often respond to conflict by checking out?

Underneath this, normally, are a husband’s good intentions. In his mind, he gets that he’s probably not making things better, but he thinks that if he “doesn’t do or say anything” he won’t be making things worse by saying or doing something he will later regret when he comes back to his normal state. Inside he often feels responsible and embarrassed that in some way he has hurt her, which in some way triggers his response. He may have had a prior experience where he allowed his anger or has seen others in anger create pain so he checks out, desperately trying to regain his composure and self-control on the inside and tries to diffuse the internal stress alarms that push him to be aggressive. He stops translating the sounds of her voice to words with meaning, doesn’t allow the words to form questions, he’s somewhere else in his mind leaving the shell of his body behind and paying no attention to her.

Inside most men truly do not want to experience conflict or have a verbal fight with their wives; they want to protect them, but what do you do when the one you are meant to protect, the one you would lay your life down for, [*comes after you? *]For many they just check out. He may think to himself, “At least I’m not getting angry and hurting her,” but he [*is *]unknowingly hurting her by emotionally leaving her alone. Most often he’s only looking for her to be quiet and give him a few minutes to regain his composure so he is no longer feeling discomfort from the stress hormones and he can begin to think clearly again.

How does she interpret his silences and checking out during conflict?

But according to Dr. Steven Stosny the message she often gets is that he no longer is there for her and no longer loves her or cares about the marriage. A wife uses silence and withdrawal to convey she no longer trusts or cares for someone and the relationship is over, and thinks to herself he may mean the same thing. To reassure herself that this is not the case, she may try to move toward him to make amends, but fearing additional criticism that he might say or do the wrong thing leading to more escalation he often moves away from her and so this cycle of her moving toward him and him moving away begins.

While a husband can more easily take a problem and cast it aside and come back to it later according to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, wives often struggle to do the same and are not at peace until they can have peace restored in their marriage and become reconnected. It’s important to see that she is not trying to just “pick a fight” or is “out to get him.” Who wants to do that?

From her point of view, it’s more like trying to take care of a wound in the relationship so that it won’t spread and kill it, so there can be healing, but often he’s not completely seeing what she is trying to do for the relationship, and every time she touches the splinter he feels the pain. It’s helpful to know that she really does want the same thing he wants, a happy and fulfilling marriage.

She is often afraid of the separation and withdrawal, and she seems to know instinctively that the marriage will die if certain issues are not dealt with. It’s as if she already instinctively knows what studies have proven, that the number one cause of the death for a marriage is “the habitual avoidance of conflict”. As the stronger communicator, she is often to one raising and trying to addresses these issues fighting to keep the marriage alive and well.

Does she enjoy bringing up issues? Why doesn’t she just leave it alone?

Just as a doctor gets no pleasure from the pain and anguish of cleaning out a wound to prevent a deadly infection, nor does the person trying to address the conflict. At times, a patient may resist treatment and help because it may be very painful, or even avoid going to the doctor at all, but the longer we avoid getting the antibiotics, the quicker the wound becomes an infection and spreads. We can’t just leave it alone and hope it get better, we have to act and it will hurt. You have to ask yourself, if your child or someone you love was hurt and the choice were a painful surgery, but you knew in few weeks they would be better, would you act and ensure they get the surgery they need, or let them die?

Husbands cannot continue to withdraw and check out from their wives, and couples cannot continue to avoid issues and conflict entirely, hoping that over time the wounds will heal on their own, and things will just get better, they usually won’t. Most of the time we avoid and withdraw from things that we don’t know how to handle well, which is why handling conflict well is the focus of tomorrow’s message.

[+ +]
[_[*

  1. Why do you think how we handle conflict is the biggest driver for divorce?*]_]

2. How do you think differences between how husbands and wives are wired affects how they view conflict?

3. Do you find yourself often feeling stressed and more prone to anger?

4. Do you ever find yourself criticizing your spouse?

5. What about how your partner’s responds to conflict makes more sense to you more now and how can this help you in the future?

[+ +]
[_[*

  1. If you find yourself criticizing your spouse, write down 5 ways you are doing this, and then write down 5 ways to rephrase your criticism so it’s focused more on what they are doing versus who they are.*]_]

*2. Talk to your spouse about the differences in how Husbands and wives handle conflict and this often affects how conflict plays out in marriage. *

3. Come up with a list of 3 topics you might have been avoiding that need to be taken care we’ll look at how to address them in the next message.

 

~DAY 16 ~

How to Manage Conflict Effectively

Part 2

When couples are asked what causes their conflict they usually list money, kids, sex and division of chores to be the top areas. If money is at the top of the list, we might believe that winning the lotto or getting that big promotion would be what enables us to solve that problem. However, we often find that even when this happens and we get more money, we find ourselves still arguing about money, except instead of arguing over where hundreds of dollars are spent, perhaps we find ourselves arguing over how thousands of dollars are spent.

So what is the motivation and cause of all this conflict anyway?

It’s what hurts us emotionally and causes us pain, that usually triggers off our stress hormones which can cause us to become angry and left unchecked may even lead us lose control.

Causing this pain may the idea than an expectation that we hoped would be met is not being fulfilled. It may even be someone doing something or saying something that seems to completely disregard one of our closely held personal core values.

The source of many of these stressors like what others say and do are often things that are outside our control. Whether the pain and disappointment turns to anger or sadness depends on how we decide to respond.

Do we respond by, blaming the person for not meeting our need again? Ignoring us yet again? Wasting what little time we have again?

An angry and yelling spouse [can *]influence you the wrong way, but just as they can’t [*make *]you happy if you made up your mind not to be, they can’t *make you get angry—only [*you *]can allow them to influence you into an angry state.

For some “winning” the fight becomes the most important thing. To win bragging rights that they were “right” (yet again) which they may feel gives them permission to the blame the person that “lost” for the situation. Conflict can feel like two people taking turns cross examining each other in a courtroom completely bent on “winning”. But if we have already are yelling, making faces, ignoring each other, criticizing, blaming each other all of which make [*huge *]withdrawals from our partner’s relationship account… we have [*already *]lost.

According to Dr. Steven Stosny, underneath the conflict is often her fear of isolation and being unloved and his embarrassment that somehow he has failed. We get so wrapped up in trying to be right about the conflict and issue that we completely forget that it’s not what comes along our way in life, it’s all about how we handle it. You can be right about something, for example, like needing a vacation, but handle and manage it the wrong way, like by arguing or being eerily silent the entire time you are together.

It’s then when we have given and given until we feel so burnt out that there is nothing left. Whether it’s the incessant demands of our jobs, the constant cries for attention from our children, or we have barely taken any time out for ourselves to do whatever it is we enjoy. When we feel empty inside, and we don’t feel loved because our partners, that we believed in once upon a time, stopped making us the center of their world, stopped making time for us and making us feel loved and cared for, that we can so easily fall into anger in conflict. When you are in the dessert with little water, something that normally wouldn’t be a big deal becomes something you would fight for, because you need it to survive.

Now, when we see a chance to finally feel loved, say for her it’s an anniversary and she expects him to at least then show her affection and attention, to give her some water, but he forgets, she is deeply hurt and that makes it easy for her to slip into anger. If she had not been intimate with him in weeks, and on the anniversary, he is met not with water, but with only rejection, he too will likely be deeply hurt, making it easy for him to slip into anger.

However, if both were already meeting each other’s needs daily, or if there was plenty of water, then it would not be so easy for both to fall into anger.

In our rush to do so much, at first we avoid our conflict until it grows and becomes a ticking time bomb in our marriage. When we do choose to finally address the issue, we may rush through our “conflict negotiation” quickly providing too few clear details on the agreements or follow-ups, and then we wonder why we talk about the same issues again and again. Handling conflicts with just a few hurried and shallow talks isn’t enough.

And so just by not allowing ourselves getting angry and lose control, meeting each other’s needs, taking some time for ourselves and addressing conflict when it’s small are huge steps in preventing conflict. However, how do we go about handling the inevitable differences that come our way?

Is there really ever a good or better time to handle conflict?

Timing in when we do things from proposing to our wives to asking for that promotion or raise is critical. So often we are setting ourselves up for failure by bringing up a topic at the wrong time, we wait until something triggers the issue like an overdue payment notice to arrive and when the issue is now unavoidable we deal with the conflict.

When we realize that we are going down a slippery slope emotionally, and we begin to feel that anger or that shut down, and that we are not in a good place, that is not the time to have a conversation about the conflict. Once you are caught up in anger, it will be impossible for you to talk in a controlled, relaxed way which is needed to effectively handle conflict. The person that is not ready to talk should tell their partner “Hey right now I’m not in a good place to talk, I want to be but I’m not, if you give me 30 minutes to get in a good place we can talk again then.”

Dr. Scott M. Stanley and others recommend a “timeout” period to manage conflict escalation. During that time it’s good to maybe go for a run, read a book or something that you find relaxing, replaying the conflict in your mind or holding on to negative thoughts for 30 minutes won’t lead you to getting to a better place or state. Instead try focusing on how you have been blessed in your life asking yourself empowering and positive questions. After you have come to a better place you can then try talking to your spouse without the anxiety and clouded thinking you experienced before. This is different from just running away without a word in that you are explaining why you are momentarily leaving and when you are coming back.

You may come back to your spouse in 30 minutes and say, “Hey, I know we just got this overdue payment in the mail and I think it’s time we talk about money, but I’m not ready right now to talk about it today. Can we talk about it Saturday afternoon? I’ll get my sister to watch the kids and we can talk from 1 to 3 without interruption.” There truly are times when it really isn’t a good time to have an important conversation, like when he’s at work and is distracted or has no privacy on his end of the call, or when you are both about to head out the door and there is no time to talk through it fully, or when one of you is angry or “checked out”.

According to Drs. Scott Haltzman and John Grey and Laura Schlessinger all agree that husbands need time to process their thoughts and feelings. Setting up a future time to talk especially helps husbands have time to process and figure out in their own mind what they would like to do about the situation and come up with some points of their own, and it gives wives a very clear date and time to look forward to addressing the issue.

Although this may be harder for wives as according to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, they don’t compartmentalize and “set things aside” as easily as their husbands, and it may seem unnecessary to them, it is needed to have your husband’s attention and engagement to resolve them. Also both sides benefit by not having to walk around wondering how or when the topic will come up again because this has already been agreed. Setting aside and agreeing on a date in time, and being prepared and ready to talk is the first step to managing conflict well.

Does how we start our conversations with our spouse really matter?

Once we have set a time to handle the conflict the next most important piece is how we begin the discussion. According to Dr. John Gottman, “96 percent of the time he can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first three minutes of the fifteen-minute interaction!” He further asserts that “A harsh startup simply dooms you to failure. So if you begin a discussion that way, you might as well pull the plug, take a breather, and start over.”

If we begin the conversation aggressively, attacking your partner, almost 100% of the time the conversation will not go well, and we will have accomplished nothing more than move further apart.

Where you may have once started out with, “you’re such a slob, I’m just tired of cleaning up after you” don’t move to attack the other person, instead clearly describe the[* problem*] and how it makes you feel. For example say, “When I come down stairs and I see all the dishes on the table after cooking dinner, instead of you cleaning them up, I feel that you just expect me to do everything and don’t care about me or my happiness.” Using techniques like the X,Y,Z and feedback wheel methods we covered earlier can help.

Talking about money, when you both have different views is hard. It can trigger the same feelings of anxiety that an inexperienced speaker getting up in front of that podium might feel; but we must face it if we are going to be able to handle conflict with anyone. With this in mind, when we are both in a calm state, where we both have good self-control, is the time to begin the conversation. A respectful, non-aggressive and non-blaming attitude is best; if for some reason you cannot start this way, it’s best to take 30 minutes and try again, or it will only end badly. By starting out with a positive and accepting tone and attitude, you will greatly increase the odds that the conversation will also end well.

Is handling conflict something most of us struggle with?

Managing conflict is something we all struggle with, like learning how to take the podium to give a speech in front of hundreds of people. To get up and debate someone on a sensitive topic is even harder.

It’s easy for us to talk about what restaurant you want to eat at, or what the kids did today. When it’s a sensitive difficult topic that means a lot to us, that perhaps we’ve had huge nasty arguments over the conversation can move from easy and carefree to one laced in fear. It’s that fear that triggers our anxiety, our heart rat our blood pressure. If we had a magic pill that instantly took away our fear how much more effective would we be? No more clouded thoughts, no more feeling your heart rate and blood pressure going up. Just as there is no magic pull that will double you strength over night, our make you a world class speaker able to confidently get up and deliver speeches fearlessly.

When should you stop trying to learn to handle conflict well?

Anthony Robbins asks the question, “How long would you give your baby to learn how to walk?” You see them try to take a few steps, they fall, and sometimes they even get hurt…. How long would you give them, 6 months?, 9 months? A year? Someone answers back, “as long as it takes…” Tony acknowledges that, this is the right answer, that we need to continue to get up even after we have fallen, again and again, until we can walk in that area of life.

We may be afraid of falling in the area of handling conflict, hey; it’s the number one leading indicator to predicting divorce. Instinctively we seem to know how important this topic is. We just can’t around learning to deal with conflict well, the very life of our marriage depends on just how well we can do this.

If we want to learn to handle this critical area of marriage, not only do we need to get the knowledge from programs like this one, but we need to overcome our fear of failure. It can be difficult as all new things that can cause us pain are at first but once you commit yourself and overcome the fear of falling, you will get better and better.

I can tell you first hand that today, topics that I would have avoided by a mile, and would have triggered stress and anxiety today simply don’t. Like learning to ride a bike, once you stop worrying about falling, you can begin to master it for life.

What’s the difference if I use “you” or “I” when we talk anyway?

Avoid using the word “you” and stick to “I.” Work on making sure that your partner really understands the problem. If you’re the wife in the example here, you might ask him to repeat what he heard in his own words. This goes back to rephrasing which we covered earlier in communication. He might say, “I hear what you’re saying. You think I should help you more and you think when I don’t it’s like I don’t care.”

“Wow,” she might think maybe he does “get it”. When we phrase things starting with “I” we steer clear from criticizing each other and stay focused on the matter at hand. When we feel our partner understands us, which rephrasing does, you’ll find that you both become more understanding and open to the other’s point of view.

According Dr. John Gottman, the more wives complain and criticize, the more husbands withdraw and checkout; the more husbands withdraw and checkout, the more wives complain and criticize.

Although, it can be hard to be less critical, it is key to helping your partner not feel attacked or disrespected, which would otherwise trigger his anger or checking out, and breaking the cycle. In addition to staying focused on the issue being raised, it is critical that we don’t resort to being disrespectful to our partner during a conflict, which often causes husbands to “check out”.

According to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs as a matter of fact, 81.5% of men in one study indicated that in the middle of the argument, what they felt was not a lack of love, but a lack of * respect*. Being disrespectful to your spouse will not motivate them to work with you to resolve the conflict or even listen, but only send them into anger or withdrawal, whereas showing respect and courtesy throughout the conversation will greatly help you toward resolving the conflict.

How does how we make requests affect our relationships?

In addition to how we begin our conversation, how we ask for what we are hoping for from our spouse is very important. Drs. Greg Baer, Willard Harley, and Terrence Real submit that we need to be careful that our requests have not turned into demands. If we come across as demanding by saying, “You better cleanup the table after dinner from now on.” We are being forceful in what we want, and letting them know that if they don’t do this, we will be either angry with them or disappointed.

If however, we asked in the form of a request instead of a demand and said, “Can I ask that you would clear the table after dinner, it would mean a lot to me.” Then if we did not hold the expectation that it “had to be done” then we could be delighted if our spouse decided to do this for us.

On the other hand, if we only quietly expected this without our spouse’s agreement then we would only be disappointed. Knowing that we can make clear requests of our spouses often is better than keeping these to ourselves and being disappointed or coming across as explosive in a demanding way. Where clear complaints and requests can improve a marriage, angry criticism can only destroy a marriage as each makes a hefty withdrawal from a couple’s relationship account moving them over time from in love, to like, to neutral, to dislike and can’t stand.

It’s tempting to think to yourself that you’re saving time by being more direct or blunt, and that it’s a waste of time to describe what you see and feel as both may be obvious to you.

You may feel it’s much quicker and easier to just talk as you have always done which may be direct without choosing your words and tone to consider your partner’s feelings.

Remember when we talked about the Good Samaritan? When people were told they had no time, they basically stepped over a hurt person to rush to their meeting, often not focusing or caring about the person that was right in front of them.

It’s tempting to let feelings of having “no time” push us to quickly “step over” and ignore the hurt of our partner’s heart and feelings.

But in order to prevent the other person from “checking out” we need to take the extra time to speak respectfully and clearly. It will actually save us time and pain in the long term by short-circuiting escalation caused by apathy and disrespect.

How is Dr. Gottman able to tell if a couple will be divorced in a few years?

Taking a step back, remember how Dr Gottman was able to just by listening to a couple’s conversation for a few minutes with a 90% accuracy if they will be divorced in a few years? How was he able to make these predictions anyway? He listened for any of the following signs that often led to divorce, things like:

  • did they start talking to each other by attacking each other?
  • are the criticizing each other or talking about the issue?
  • are they talking out of anger or in contempt?
  • are they being defensive not acknowledging their shortcomings?
  • has any of them “checked out” of the conversation?
  • have they been respectful to each other throughout?

Note, topics, like money or sex are not the real issue, or even what he is looking for. See, what they have discovered and in many ways proven is that if we do or don’t do certain things when we handle conflict, that this will result in constant large withdrawals from our relationship accounts that will eventually lead to an emotional and ultimately legal separation.

Is it really about the conflict or how we handle the conflict that matters?

During the discussion it’s important to remember that our partner more than likely is not trying to hurt us. According to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs often husbands are hurt because they feel their wives are not being respectful and wives are hurt because they feel their husband is not being loving.

It’s important to begin by speaking in a relaxed tone and to agree to handle the issue well, and that handling and talking about the issue right where both feel heard, respected and loved throughout is more important than the issue itself. It’s rarely the topics of the issues that cause the divorce in the long term; it’s the constant mishandling of the issue and conflict that leads to divorce.

What couples did or didn’t do as they tried to handle their conflict, not what the conflict was even about, indicated with 90% certainly if their marriage was going to last. Start by reminding yourself that it’s not just what we resolve but how we resolve that is important. In his book, “Love & Respect”, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs recommends that couples try to uncover how they may have been unloving or disrespectful. He recommends that when things are getting difficult, a husband can say something like: “I love you, and I know when you become angry and disrespectful it’s because I have been unloving to you. Can you please help me see how I was unloving?” Having this understanding that often love and respect is at the heart of many conflicts is incredibly helpful in managing it.

Dr. Emerson’s observations are helpful in that it reminds us why we get angry or check out, which is because a husband feels disrespected by his wife, or a wife feels unloved or uncared for by her husband. That’s often the real reason for the anger; it’s that we feel the situation is not being handled well. We are angry because our wives disrespected us, we are angry because our husband is unloving to us, once we address this by not turning to anger, or apologizing for our lack of respect or love then we can talk about the actual situation. Even if the other person becomes angry and disrespectful, we need to remember to keep both in check.

How can else can we handle conflict well?

Another way to try to de-escalate things if you sense your partner is getting tense, is to try to come up with something to laugh about or smile about. You’ve seen it before at work or in movies where someone breaks the tension with a funny comment or laugh, it’s very helpful to de-escalate the situation and put the other person at ease. John Gottman has found that in successful marriages that don’t end in divorce couples often instinctively do this to help them manage tension as they talk. Of course where you are in the relationship account spectrum, from “In love,” “Neutral” to “Can’t stand,” is going to affect how well this will work, where if you are in love, a simple smile will likely be quickly and well received as opposed to if you are in a place where you can’t stand each other where that same smile might not be as well received.

At times we may have our words misunderstood, with our partner reminding us of what we said, which may be very different from what we meant to say. So in this instance you can just say, “hey, I don’t remember exactly what I said, but this is what I meant to say”, to help stay on track. Remember once you’re in an angry state, you begin to lose self control and will need to take a 30 minute break and come back if you’re going to be effective

As she raises the issue, as 80% of wives do, make sure you give her your full attention without distraction, hold her hand and make sure the eye contact is there and that you are constantly rephrasing what she said in your own words, as this will show her that you are listening to what she is saying, and that you really understand what she is trying to say. If either should start feeling angry, slow down and soften your speaking to help diffuse any anger. Along with watching out for anger and disrespect, we should also avoid bringing up the past issues that have already been dealt with that cannot be changed, nor should we threaten divorce as this tears at the relationship.

Brendan hid his small hand from Mary, she had tracked him down to his room. “Honey, let mommy see”, Mary tried to get his hand from him. Brendan looked at this mom, not trusting her, feeling sharp throbbing pain in his hand from a splinter that had broken off deep inside and was stuck in his hand. He remembered the last time his mom pulled out a splinter it was painful. Honey, let me take it out Mary pressed, she had the alcohol and tweezers to pull it out. “NOO!” he yelled, angry at the pain he felt, and the pain he felt his mom was now threatening him with. She tried forcing him, and he fought her. She didn’t want to hurt him, by just snatching him, Brendan would have to give him his hand so she could help him get it out.[* *]Mary realized the only way this was going to work is if she explained herself.

“Honey, she began, do you trust mommy and know mommy loves you?” she asked. Brendan thought, of all the times his mom did stuff for him, and beyond that, he just felt, she loved him, “Yeah”, he said quietly. “It hurts mommy to see you in pain, I want to remove what’s causing the pain.” she continued. “But if we don’t get it out it can turn to an infection and cause you even more pain, and the pain will last even longer, days or weeks of pain, or a few minutes or hours of pain… and I want you to have as little pain as possible…” Brendan thought about it, he trusted her and what she said, he held out his hand to her, and though it hurt, she allowed him to begin to repair his hand…

[*What do husbands need to remember as wives raise issues and concerns? *]

It’s easy for a husband to checkout once he is feeling the conflict-induced stress hormones, but he needs to remember that she wants to reconnect with him, to repair any damage in the relationship, just as she often takes the lead to tending to the children’s needs, she often takes the lead in tending to the needs of the relationship, because she cares about it, and her husband. Her intuition allows her to see there is something not right that is killing the relationship, and she’s trying to discuss it so you can work to resolve it, so it can stop draining the life out of the relationship. She can see that splinter in the relationship, and even though it might be painful and uncomfortable wants them to work on removing any challenges they might have. She wants to get to a place where you are deeply reconnected again, free of pain. Instead of running, let her tell you what’s on her heart.

She should be able to come to her husband and say, “I’m not happy about this, this is why.” And he should find the courage to listen, so he can protect her heart, instead of running or becoming angry and be her rock, letting her express how she feels and not judging her feelings.

This doesn’t require having a solution or knowing what to say; its saying, “Because I love you, I hurt when you hurt. I’m here for you, let me hold you and be there for you.” Feelings can never be wrong, and though it’s instinctual remember you are not responsible for her feelings, but you are responsible to show her you are there for her. Really try to understand where she is coming from. Husbands also need to remember that though guys comfort each other by minimizing problems and saying “Things could have been worse.” this only makes a wife feel like you don’t really think the problem is a big deal when really, you’re just trying to comfort.

So when a wealthy beautiful wife is feeling unhappy and her husband tries to minimize her problems by saying at least you don’t have to work, or says you should be happy, how many woman are as blessed as you? This only says to her that he is rejecting how she feels; he needs to accept that is how she feels and just be there for her, accepting her and her feelings. She certainly won’t want to share additional feelings and thoughts after you have shot down the first. At that moment all she really wants is to be heard, known, accepted, and to know that you are there with her in that moment, so she doesn’t have to continue to feel alone in her feelings. Husbands don’t need to feel burdened to find a solution, just help her feel that you’re there by holding her, and acknowledging her as she speaks and showing her you understand how she feels and accepting of her feelings. Even though you may feel like leaving you need to stay, being there for her through the storms, protecting her heart.

When does is make sense to start talking about a possible solution?

Once you both have had a chance to understand what the issue is and how it’s hurting the other person and how they feel, we can then look to find a solution. For example, we might say, “Every week, I do 10 different chores that take me 8 hours to do and you only do 1 chore that takes you 2 hours to do, that seems a little unfair to me.” Here we are clearly describing what we see, and what we want to see to happen. Once we understand the situation we are able to come up with on a solution that works for both.

How should we approach finding a solution that works for both?

The key to being able to find a solution that you are both happy with is to not rush finding one. Often we make quick hurried agreements that are not well thought out and come back to haunt us later on. When coming up with our solution, it’s also important to say, “Hey, let’s do this as a trial run for a month and we can come back to follow up and see if it’s working and tweak and adjust the solution if needed.”

With this in mind, begin making suggestions on things you can do to address the problem. The solution you come up with should be something that you are both happy with and will be adding to each other’s relationship accounts which will improve your relationship over time, moving you from neutral, to like to back in love over time.

When coming up with the solution, allow yourself to be open minded to your partner’s input as you both come up with ways you can potentially resolve the issue.

Both should agree to do their part to address the issue. They can give it a shot for a month then come back and check whether or not it’s working. If it’s not, they take a similar approach and try again. Remember to work on one challenge at a time, and start with the least difficult challenges first as you get familiar using this approach to conflict management, and then address progressively more difficult challenges as you become more comfortable handling conflict.

At the heart of conflict management, is that fact that it’s not what the issue is but [*how *]we handle it that really matters. It is what determines whether the issues that we all will face, will push us away, or draw us closer together and greatly predict whether or not our marriage will survive.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. What do you think might be underneath some of the conflict that you might be experiencing? Fear? Anger? Disappointment? *]_]

[*2. Do you set aside time to talk about difficult situations? *]

[*3. Do you struggle with conflict fearful of the pain it can cause and have you given up on handling conflict well? *]

[*4. Where are you in the cycle wives chasing their husbands around trying to get them to talk about a painful issue? *]

5. Does knowing there is a cycle help?

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Write down what you think might be at the heart of some of any conflict you may be experiencing*]_]

*2. Write down how you feel about a difficult situation, and how you would like it to be resolved in a clear uncritical way. When you are comfortable share it with your spouse. *

3. Be intentional about how you speak, avoiding the word “You” and moving to “I”, and careful to not start conversations in a critical and blaming way for the next 30 days.

4. Pick the least difficult challenge on your list from yesterday and then setup an hour or two to meet with your spouse within the next week to discuss this using the approach above.

 

~DAY 17 ~

How do we get a handle on Money?

How can financial struggles strain our marriage?

According to the New York Times , finance-related tensions — however you define them — raise the risk of divorce. A study, by Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University, attempts to quantify that risk. His finding: Couples who reported disagreeing about finance once a week were over 30% more likely to divorce than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times a month. Professor Dew looked at responses from about 2,800 couples surveyed in 1987 by the National Survey of Families and Households. In this survey, both husbands and wives were asked, separately, about how often they disagreed with their spouse over chores, in-laws, spending time together, sex and money. These same respondents were then contacted again five years later, in 1992, and asked if they were still married.

What is the number one area where couples struggle?

Marriage researchers at the University of Denver have found that the number one[* area*] where most couples struggle in their marriage, is not sex or enough time with each other, it’s money . It’s estimated that about 60% of marriages have conflicts around money. Across many other studies its pops up again and again as one of the top issues that couples find themselves arguing about. According to the New York Times, of all these common things couples fight about, money disputes were the best indicators of divorce.

This isn’t surprising when we consider that according to author and financial guru, Howard Dayton, the average college senior now graduates with $20,000 in student loans, and that the average family has more than $9,300 in credit card bills. In addition to student loans and credit card debt, 70% of all vehicles are financed and most of us always carry that debt.

Focusing on, and being able to handle the number one issue of money, can go a long way towards having a happy and fulfilling marriage.

Thinking back at the time when our marriage was about to end, one of the biggest strains was our financial situation. We had some serious debt, and there seemed to be no way out and though we didn’t see it at the time, it really affected the overall happiness of our marriage. I didn’t realize how much it was straining our marriage until the day we finally were out of debt, it felt like a heavy burden had been lifted and we could both breathe a little easier. Once we were able to confront and deal with our financial situation and free ourselves from the financial strain we were under, we felt much happier within our marriage.

[*How does money become a big deal? *]

When money is tight it suddenly becomes a big deal where every dollar goes. Today if you spilled some water it wouldn’t be a big deal, but if somehow most of the water of the world was undrinkable, and clean water was very expensive and you had one gallon for the week that cost you a quarter of your daily income, if you spilled some of your water, chances are it would be a bigger deal than it is today. When something becomes rare and in short supply that’s when it often becomes valuable. It’s when money is in short supply that every dollar spent can seem to become a big deal.

How honest are most couples with each other when it comes to money?

As a result of many of living under financial strain, studies indicate that between 40% and 55% of couples hide money and/or purchases from each other. Almost half of all couples don’t tell each how much they really spend on what they buy. While it may not seem like a big deal this slowly eats away at the marriage as partners are no longer completely honest with each other and leads toward living separate and parallel lives.

Of all the statistics out there on money and marriage, the ones that are most telling are the ones that show that by continuing to avoid addressing financial issues, they eventually grow into bigger challenges that can rob us of a happy marriage. Although talking about money is tough, we need to have a good handle on this important area of our marriage to have a strong marriage.

[*Why is money the number one area couples experience conflict in? *]

An anonymous survey done by Bloomberg tells us how much money really means to some of us. The survey revealed that 65% of respondents were willing to live on a deserted island for one million dollars. It showed that some would be willing to go to jail for one million for something they didn’t do. Up the amount offered to ten million and what people are willing to do escalates even further, with some willing to commit murder.

Clearly, money for some of us is a very strong motivator in what we are willing to do for it, to earn it, save it or spend it. But why? What does it mean to us?

What it means to us is wrapped up in what we believe about money, and what money can do for us. For some of us, we have rules in our mind that tell us that if we have a million dollars it means we are successful, that we have arrived, for others it means we now have peace and security, to others it means freedom from the routine of going to work and an ability to choose our own path and giving us a sense of control.

Many believe money is the way to empowerment, peace, security, worth, and freedom. We may carry the thought that if we were able to make twice as much as we make now, it would solve all our problems. We would be living the good life. According to author, Barbara Bartlein, marriage researchers have looked at marriages where they make $100k together, $200k together and $400k together, and regardless of their income, they all seem to have the same view, if only they had twice as much, then they would find happiness. Some think that all their conflicts would melt away, with all the extra money. Unfortunately though if we are unable to effectively manage a 50 thousand dollar budget, we probably won’t be able to manage a 100 thousand dollar budget.

Often, couples at one income level will argue about how they should spend thousands of dollars, whereas another couple will argue about where they should spend hundreds of dollars. Either way, the conflict over money doesn’t go away just because there is more. We come back to needing to learn to manage money effectively.

At the end of the day, money alone cannot give us peace, security, self worth, freedom and happiness.

[*Where do we get many of our beliefs about money? *]

Many come from the media, friends and upbringing. Billions are spent on advertising each year to compel us to buy. We are relentlessly pounded with messages that tell us that if we have this, or do that, we will find happiness there. Whether it’s a vacation advertisement with a beautiful couple smiling on some beach or a racy car commercial showcasing how well their vehicle performs, the messages are all the same, you should have this now and you’ll find ____________ (fill in the blank), which will lead to happiness. We should just do it, buy it, charge it, etc.

Taking a step back and looking at money, and understanding what it means to us and our partner is the first step towards taking control of this area in our marriage.

Mike hated paying the bills; it was a constant reminder of how broke they were. Just when they thought there might be some extra money left, something unexpected always popped up. He thought his last raise would get them to a better place, but by the time he got the raise, somehow he had extra expenses and the extra money was nowhere to be found. He would at times try to get their finances together, try to keep costs down by reducing their spending and saying no to buying, and then he’d feel bad and they’d splurge at the store, but then he would dread next month’s bill. He felt that he was rarely on the same page with Mary when it came to money, and that somehow their finances had gotten out of control. Lately just talking about money made him anxious and it seemed that they were constantly having arguments about money at every turn. To Mike it was one more area that was falling apart in their marriage

So how do we end up with these financials struggles?

Often the most common way we end up in tough financial situations is in our beliefs around what we should have and what we shouldn’t have. If we take a step back it’s the keeping up with the Joneses mentality that often drives us to make many of our financial decisions. When we buy that house that is just a bit larger, or newer that’s more than what we can really afford, or that new car that is a bit out of our price bracket right now, or the amount spent on clothing or dining, etc. that is more than we can pay for. So often we try to quickly get to the same level of our parents and others, we see their houses nicely furnished and their lifestyle and we want that, forgetting that we are looking at what took years to acquire, and is often outside of our current income level—forgetting that the Joneses themselves are likely in debt, and under the financial stress that contributes to the creation of unhappy marriages.

How do these financials struggles strain and drain our marriage?

As our debt slowly grows, it gradually begins to weigh the marriage down.

When one spouse doesn’t let the other know about their purchases beforehand, and doesn’t think about how their partner might feel about the purchase, this only moves the couple further away. While in the short-term we might get some pleasure from the purchase, in the long term we hurt our marriage by making financial decisions without our partner’s agreement. On the other side, while saving money is also important, not coming to a place where both partners can spend some money freely can also hurt the marriage, as they can feel they are unable to make financial decisions about money.

Some couples that decide to keep their finances separate to avoid the hard conversations about money. Over time they may begin to separate more than their money. The separation fosters a parallel lives mindset, that can lead to a separation of time, activities, goals and everything else, which may lead the couple to grow apart and eventually divorce.

Even though many families have dual incomes, husbands often feel that they are the ones that are ultimately responsible for the financial situation. The strain caused by debt and a poor financial situation in many cases hurts him at the core of who he is. In his mind the role of protector and provider are key to who he is as a person, his inability to provide enough financially affects his self-esteem, confidence and self-worth as a husband and father. The more he can provide, the better husband and father he believes he is, explaining why many men work so hard to be better providers for their families. According to Dr. Scott Haltzman while husbands feel most of the responsibility, 75% of the finances and 80% of all purchases are normally made by the wife. If she were to spend more than he makes, he would continue to feel greater stress from the financial situation and that will hurt the marriage more. When a husband hears "there is not enough money", this can cause feelings of doubt about who he is as a man or as a provider, making money a tough topic to talk about. Realizing this will help us handle money more effectively.

Many times the reason why we end up with financial challenges is that we never develop a workable budget within our income means and stick to it. We’re afraid of what this new plan or budget might look like, what we might have to give up, to have the conversation, and so some never manage to come up with one.

[*How can we breakout of these financial struggles and ease the strain on our marriage? *]

I still remember how financial struggles contributed to our near divorce. It was like our future no longer seemed bright and promising as when we first met. Every month the debt balance grew like the blob from a horror movie that could not be stopped; its impact began to spread everywhere. It began to affect how much spending money we had as more and more went to credit cards payments.

I remember telling my wife I didn’t want to go shopping with her. What I didn’t tell her was that it was because I didn’t want her to buy anything because I didn’t want the debt to go up. What I learned later was that she thought I just didn’t want to spend time with her, I didn’t tell her how concerned I was and how bad I really felt that we didn’t have more. Then we had a few emergencies where we used the cards some more, and then we told ourselves we were already in debt this much what’s a little bit more debt? The financial strain directly affected the marriage, it clouded our once hopeful future, and it was something that was just weighing us down like a backpack full of heavy rocks that we carried with us everywhere we went affecting everything we did.

That was years ago and today having a marriage without those financial struggles have made an incredible difference in our marriage. After almost losing our marriage, we appreciated giving each other a second chance and we began to constructively deal with money, as well as many other areas to rebuild our marriage.

The first step we made was to remove our limiting beliefs about money, that somehow we needed to live up to the Joneses or anyone else’s expectations. We realized that the happiness of our marriage was ultimately more important than the purchases we made for ourselves.

We could no longer afford to continue to buy what we wanted, we told ourselves we needed to buy only what was within what our income allowed.

When we thought about the short term pleasure of what we were buying against the long term pain of stress and hopelessness we were experiencing, we decided it just wasn’t worth it. We stopped talking about the big raise or bonus that would one day solve all our problems and began working with what we had right now.

We stopped caring about what the neighbors and family thought, or even what we wanted for ourselves, and began to come up with a financial plan that was in the best interest of our marriage. Once we were able to agree on a plan to breakout of financial debt, we immediately began to feel our marriage strengthen as we worked together. We need to see how much financial debt hurts our marriage and come to a place where we decide to focus on this area. Financial debt leads to the frequent conflict about money, which often leads to divorce making this step so important.

What happens when we are on the same page with our spouse about money?

Once we reach a place with our spouse where we are on the same page about money, we will begin to see the benefits in our overall happiness in our marriage. We’ll be saying to our spouse each time we do something to help the financial situation, “I love you. Sure I’d love to buy this for myself, but I love you more, and I value our marriage more. I value your peace of mind more.” It becomes another way to say “I love you” to each other.

As you work together to develop a financial plan, you may learn new things about your spouse, like whether they are a saver or a spender, and how to find a middle ground and develop a financial plan that provides a balance.

[*So how do we get out of debt? *]

I remember a time when I would eat whatever I wanted; I didn’t really think about it, I was hungry or had the urge to eat something and I ate it, pretty simple. Gradually I began to notice that I was putting on a little weight, and ignored it, I thought I could always get back into shape whenever I wanted. I just needed to diet and exercise a bit and I could lose the pounds.

One day, I looked into the mirror. I was about 40 pounds overweight and it was starting to affect me physically. I felt tired all the time and my self confidence was not what it had been. I wasn’t feeling good about myself and it was affecting my marriage. I had not really looked at myself because I didn’t want to face my issue, but when I did look I was shocked that I had let things get to where they were. I made a choice right then and there to lose the extra weight. Putting on the weight had been much easier and took much less time to do compared to losing the weight. Losing the weight was harder and took longer than I thought it would, but now it’s been well over twelve years and the excess weight is still gone. Today I realize I simply can’t eat whatever I want whenever I want; to be where I want to be physically I need to think before I eat. Over time I learned to apply the same principle to our finances.

There was a time I didn’t really think about what I bought, but after personally living a life under the immense weight and financial strain of credit card debt I now have a financial diet and regimen that I follow to keep our spending away from using credit. Any enjoyment from the credit card purchases quickly evaporated when we got the bill and we were reminded how much we owed, we saw how little was going to the principle and we thought we’d never payoff all the excess debt.

To have a happy marriage, we need to deal with any financial debt. Here’s how.

Let’s first look at a major source of debt – credit card debt. According to author Barbara Bartlein, one survey indicates that only 9 % of Americans do not have credit card debt, and most of us have eight to ten credit cards with about $9,300 in debt.

He also recommends that if you have been ignoring creditors, begin to engage them. Many are able to work up some kind of repayment plan, sometimes at a lower interest rate. Howard Dayton asserts that Credit card companies know that we spend 33% more when we are using a credit card than cash, that’s why many stores encourage you to buy with a credit card in the first place, offering you a small percentage off while knowing we will likely spend 33% more.

We need to first see all that debt is robbing us of in terms of true happiness, security and freedom, and come to a place where we avoid all the pain it brings by avoiding its use in the future.

The first step then is to move away from using credit cards and unearned money to cash and debt cards only, which will force you to limit your purchases to only what you can afford, and ultimately work towards creating the peace of mind and happiness you will feel later on. You will begin to see with greater clarity exactly where your money is going. Next see if you are able to switch to lower interest rates. While many are able to do this, bank surveys have indicated that 30% never switch to lower interest, which can really help us towards knocking out debt.

Before reading about the Snowball approach in Howard Dayton’s book, I applied the following approach and found it to work well towards getting out of debt. With this approach we start working on the card with the smallest amount of debt and once that one is paid, you are then able to take the money that was going toward the lowest card and apply it towards the second lowest card, and so on. We repeat this process until one by one each card is paid in full, rewarding each other as you move closer to becoming debt free. Author Barbara Bartlein observes that studies show that those who consolidate their cards, and don’t close their credit card accounts often continue to live in debt.

The second major source of debt that many of us carry is on the financing of our vehicles. According to author Howard Dayton when we buy a new vehicle for $30,000 it goes from being worth $30,000 to $18,000 in the very first year. That’s a loss of $12,000 dollars; it’s like paying a bill of $1,000 dollars each month and getting nothing in return. When buying a vehicle then, a low mileage vehicle that’s only two or three years old is a much better value; and you don’t lose 40% of the vehicle’s value when you drive it off the lot. Howard also recommends instead of expecting to always have a car payment, plan to keep your vehicle for an extra three years or so, putting the payment money aside for when you purchase your next vehicle. In this way you can position yourself to move away from having the heavy burden of a large car payment helping us to manage financial debt.

The third major source of debt comes from home equity loans, according to the New York Times, Americans owe a staggering $1.1 trillion on home equity loans.

Originally known as second mortgages, which has a negative connotation, According to author Barbara Bartlein they were renamed to home equity loans to provide a more positive spin on the financial product. Equity sounds a lot better than a second mortgage but though the name has been changed essentially that's what this is a second mortgage. These are lines of credit and additional debt which uses our homes as collateral. These increase the financial stress in that now we risk losing our homes as a result of our debt. While it may seem more attractive in that the rates may be lower than those of credit cards, the risks and stress of potentially losing your home negates any perceived benefits here. Not only is the second mortgage a financial strain, the primary mortgage is as well. While many cite the tax benefit, which is about 25% depending on your tax bracket. If you paid $24,000 in interest while you may get back $6,000, but 75% or $18,000 is still lost, money which could have been used towards investment or enjoyment today. The elimination of both types of mortgage debt will provide you with even greater financial freedom and lower your financial burden, in turn benefiting the marriage overall.

[*How do we plan and save, and remove the financial strain from our marriage? *]

After Mike’s company asked him to review the monthly expenses for his area. He began to ask himself, if major companies do this to remain competitive, why don’t I do this for my family? After thinking about his words carefully, he approached Mary. “We need to talk about the finances,” he said. “I don’t feel like we have a good handle on it, we keep running into the same issues, and our debt seems to be growing and growing, and its feels like this area of our life has just gotten out of control. I want this to be one area where we are on the same page.”

As he began to share his ideas on a monthly spending plan, Mary felt relieved that they were working on a plan that would help them both know what was going on with the finances and that would take them to a more financially secure place.

To get to a place where we can remove the financial strain that burdens our marriage, we need a clear plan on getting out of debt and becoming financially independent, which will greatly strengthen our marriage. I have taken and recommend the following approach towards achieving this. Author Howard Dayton also recommends a similar clear step by step program to achieve financial strength and security. Here they are:

First develop and use a monthly spending plan that you both agree on;

Next, eliminate all credit card debt (starting with the smallest first);

Then, eliminate the next smallest debt for example eliminating all student loan debt (we achieve this by applying money previously going to credit cards to student loans)

We repeat this cycle continuously applying freed up money to eliminate our list of debt one by one until we eliminate all of our debt. Often the largest debt is our home mortgages; which is the last debt we settle and is a major milestone on our journey toward financial freedom and strength.

Once we are free from debt, we then work to investment (using the money previously spent on debt) in something that will later on generate income and allow you to no longer be dependent on an employer for the income you currently receive (real estate rental income, profits from investment portfolios, or business ventures, etc.).

Like all goals setting up realistic timeframes for when you are looking to achieve each step and milestone is key. I’ve seen firsthand the journey of getting out of debt and while it’s tough and takes time and effort, as you go from one step to the next there is an excitement and hopefulness that builds as you begin to realize that you can control you finances; that you can get from struggling to pay the minimum balances to being in a position to attain true financial freedom.

How do we get started on the first step, agreeing to a spending plan?

The first step of building and agreeing on a monthly spending plan is key. To get started, first start taking note and inventory of where money is going now for a month. How much is going to food? How much in entertainment? How much to bills or to clothes? How much to the Car payment and student loans, etc.? Or Commuting to work? At the end of the month you’ll have an idea of where your money is going now and what your current state is. Check out the example monthly budget in this section. This might look like this:

$3,000 a month income

$1,200 housing / rent/mortgage

$600 to food

$200 to utilities

$300 to credit cards

$200 to a car loan

$100 student loan

$400 spending

Once you have done this, you will have an idea of the categories that reflect where your money is going now. From here, you can begin to come up with a plan on what you want to spend where. Once you know how much is being spent on food, for example, say on average of $600 a month, you can begin to set that aside, as a target. In each category, you can begin to allocate money, i.e., $1,200 for housing, etc. This is all done in advance, and then when you get paid, you already have a good idea where the money will be spent and how much is really left for free spending and saving.

Also, remember to take an annual perspective on expenses, while you may only spend 2 dollars on a coffee, over 52 weeks, you may be spending over $500 a year on coffee alone. You may want to consider limiting costs that are have a significant annual cost associated with them which can help you achieve your financial goals.

What can we do to stick to our spending budget for each category?

One approach we have taken is to setup multiple checking accounts for each major category, for example an account for clothing, and an account for spending. This makes it much easier to see where we are going over our budget in certain areas. If you have only $50 left for food it’s easy to see we need to cut down in that area to avoid going over our spending target in this area.

Alternatively, author Howard Dayton reports that some couples have found that separating their cash, by using envelops (an envelope for food etc.) or other similar systems help them to see if they are on track with spending what they planned across spending categories.

How do spending budgets reduce conflict?

As you review how much you are spending in various categories, you may want to spend less in some areas, and more in others. Taking this approach will preempt and diffuse many potential conflicts and surprises about money as these are agreed upon upfront as you work toward your joint financial goals.

As you continue to revise your financial budget, you will eventually come up with one that makes sense for both of you and helps you both stay on the same page when it comes to money.

Once you have your monthly budget in place, it’s also a good idea to annually review your spending plan after a pay raise or any change in income and see where you can make improvements.

Remember that it’s financial debt that often fuels marital conflict and that having an agreed financial plan for getting out of debt and achieving financial strength is the key towards handling this area in marriage.

[+ +]
[_[*

  1. Why do you think money is the number one areas most couples struggle with?*]_]

[*2. Has money become a big deal or strain on your own marriage? *]

3. Have you avoided telling your partner about certain purchase?

4. What are some of your own beliefs about money, are you a saver or a spender?

5. How do you think getting on the same page about money can help a couple reduce conflict?

Action:
[_[*

  1. Share some of your beliefs about money with your spouse*]_]

2. Share some of the concerns you might have about how money can create conflict in your own marriage.

3. Work on coming up with a spending plan you both agree on following the approach covered in this chapter

4. Come up with a system that works to help you stay on track with your spending plan

5. Write out your debts and work on plan to eliminate each debt until you are debt free.

[* *]

~ DAY 18 ~

How Husbands Can Meet Their Wives’ Need to Feel Loved, Beautiful and Desired

How many wives divorce their husbands each year?

According to Dr. Scott Haltzman, over 1 million American men each year are divorced by their wives because they are not happy with their marriages—with wives initiating more than two-thirds of all divorces. For a wife to have a happy and fulfilling marriage, she needs to feel affection and attention on a daily basis from her husband.

Many husbands believe their wife should already know that they love their wife. They feel they already showed their great love for their wife while winning her over during courtship. In their view they have already captured their wife’s heart once and for all. What many husbands don’t know is that they need recapture their wife’s heart each day. Each day she expects him to prove his love for her and capture her heart in some small way.

It’s like working out and weight training for a year gradually building up our strength, and then one day just stopping and expecting to somehow keep our strength; unless we do the work, we’ll get weaker with each passing day. In our marriage, the relationship is either getting weaker, or getting stronger, which way it’s going is driven by what we do or don’t do.

Imagine a wife telling her husband, “We already had sex remember, back when we were falling in love?” Would that work? For him it’s not just a onetime deal, he usually wants to be able to have sex often throughout their marriage. Likewise, she wants to feel her husband’s love for her throughout their marriage.

Husbands need to show their love on a daily basis by showing her affection and attention. In this way she can experience his love and feel connected to him. In marriage, affection in the home is key, as it provides the constant reassurance of your love for each other. It’s the presence of affection that enables wives to develop and enjoy sexual desire and intimacy with her husband.

Does he still show her the same affection and attention like he once did?

So often husbands lament that their wives no longer have the same sexual desire for them as they did in the beginning. What they often don’t realize is that gradually they have stopped showing their wives the affection they once did. This approach doesn’t work, because there needs to be affection in the marriage overall.

Husbands often think to themselves “She already knows I love her, that’s why I go to work, etc.”, but husbands need to show wives their love her by showing her affection, in a way she can feel and experience. He needs to show her day after day that he cares for her, and he needs to realize that this is not a one time or one season thing, that she needs to experience this every day, as he reassures her day after day that he loves her and cares for her.

Sadly, the gradual lack of affection will often lead to a wife withdrawing sexually from her husband; the lack of sexual intimacy will often lead him to withdraw his affection from her. This can create a cycle that is very painful for both and pushes husbands and wife apart.

This cycle leaves a husband vulnerable to an affair with a woman that will meet his need for sexual intimacy, and a wife vulnerable to an affair with a man who will meet her need for affection. At the heart of many complaints from wives is a cry for affection and attention.

So how do we make her feel loved?

As we will discuss in detail later on the most important way to show a wife that she is loved is to talk to her daily. While this may be her favorite, there are other ways by which she feels loved and cared for by her husband. By simply being held by her husband, many wives feel their husbands love for them.

According to Dr. Ellen Kreidman during World War II, babies were dying in American orphanages. At first no one understood why. Why did babies that were in clean and sanitary orphanages die while babies that were in dirty unsanitary orphanages thrive? Was it some unseen virus or bacteria that caused a once lively baby to one day stop breathing, moving and living? No. After investigation it was found that what caused these babies to die, was not that something harmful was being introduced, but that something vital and essential to their survival was missing, not milk, not clean diapers, but to be held, to be touched. Without this, they emotionally and then physically died.

Babies in the American orphanages were being fed by propped up bottle feeders, and the only time they were touched was when they were changed, while babies in Mexican orphanages were assigned a care provider who constantly held the baby. That one change, being held and touched, made a huge difference in their lives.

Other studies show how destructive a lack of touch is, not only as infants but throughout our lives. At first glance, it may not seem to be a very powerful and important need but it is. Dr. Kreidman observed another study showing how powerful touch is to us. It showed that if someone asks us directions without touching us, we barely remembered if it had been a man or a woman speaking to us, but if they [*touched *]us even briefly on the shoulder, we remembered much more. There is an undeniable connection and impact that occurs when someone touches us.

There is power in our touch, affecting what we remember, if a baby will keep its will to live. It’s the power of a husband’s touch that can bring healing, and comfort to their wife. It’s why she wants her husband to be there for her when she is going through hardships. Whether it’s dealing with a grave situation like illness or death in the family, or just having a hard day, touching and holding your wife, allowing her to feel your arms around her, will satisfy a deep and important need in her, and will help you both feel connected on a much deeper level. The power of a husband’s touch can make her feel deeply loved and cared for.

What happens when our need to be held is not met?

While we may think that only infants need to be held, wives continue to have this need to be held and touched lovingly throughout their lives too. In the beginning of the marriage it is common for husbands to make time to meet this need. This is a strong contributor to the wife falling in love with her husband. While they are falling in love, couples often hold hands all the time, and touch and hug each other throughout the day. Once the busyness of life kicks in they may begin to feel they have less time. Between work and kids, one of the first things to be neglected is meeting the need for physical touch.

Just as over time the babies weakened and died without the love and physical affection they needed to stay alive, so too does a wife’s love for her husband begin die, in the absence of his love and physical affection. For many wives, holding them and touching them in a loving way speaks volumes of how deeply their husbands love them. When a couple is in the midst of a conflict, instinctively they will avoid touching each other creating a distance between them.

While husbands may be tempted to try to kill two birds with one stone, thinking they can meet her physical need while he meets his need for sexual intimacy, he is mistaken. She needs to feel this physical affection throughout the day, and in a way that does not lead to sexual intimacy, meeting her need to be touched. It’s about showing her that you are there and that you care deeply for her by letting her feel you hold her close to you.

[*So how do we meet this need in our wives? *]

Now that we see how important physical affection is to our wives being able to feel and experience their love, husbands should make it a priority to show their wives physical affection whenever they can. Just like talking to your wife or anything else we are trying to improve, we should consistently show our wives physical affection throughout the day at least five times a day which may only take five minutes, but can really go far in showing your wife how much you care for her. Each time you meet this need you are reaching out to her and showing her you care.

Whenever you first see each other, whether its waking up in the morning or coming home from work, going to her and holding her close tells her more than a thousand words can, how you missed her, are glad that she’s there and that you love her. Meeting her deep need for physical affection is something a husband agrees to when he marries his wife. If you don’t meet this need who will? Aside from hugs there are several other opportunities throughout the day that you have to meet her need for affection. The following are a few ideas some adapted from Dr. Greg Baer who writes about the importance of showing physical affection in his book Real Love in Marriage:

  • Hold her hands when walking somewhere or sitting together driving
  • Run your fingers through her hair
  • A warm and gentle kiss
  • Gently caressing her face
  • Cuddling and holding her close
  • Putting your arm around her while watching a show
  • Massaging her neck and/or back
  • Putting your arm around her waist
  • Gently Squeezing her leg or knee
  • Before falling asleep squeeze her hand and hold her close again
  • Each time you do this, she will feel and experience your affection for her.

Many romance novels tell the same story in different times, different places, and with different names, but the story is the same. The heroine meets someone who is able to meet all her needs. To her, these are the “good parts” in the novel where the character in story enjoys being held and shown affection, where she feels a sense of connection, love and deep intimacy. To make her love story come true, husbands need to continue to play the part after the honeymoon, and continue to show their wives physical affection for the rest of their lives.

It’s important that when we show our affection to our wives, that we do so in a loving way. While we may still kiss our wives or hug them now and then, often because we are rushing these only last a second or two.

Dr. Ellen Kreidman for example recommends a 10 second kiss when greeting each other at the end of the day. Making a subtle change, such as giving her a one to ten second kiss, makes a huge difference allowing her to more fully feel and experience it. The same applies to hugs and other displays of affection. These should all last at least ten seconds which really isn’t a long time. Sometimes when we just haven’t found the words yet, to say “I’m sorry,” or “I love you,” showing her affection can tell her just how much you care for her. Just like those infants that needed to be held and shown love each day, don’t forget she needs you to hold her and show her love too.

According to Dr. Scott Haltzman, the simple of act of showing physical affection has been shown to reduce stress hormones and blood pressure, resulting in a calming and peaceful effect. Once you get in the habit of showing each other affection daily, you’ll find that you’re constantly having this positive affect on each other, strengthening each other, your relationship and marriage.

How can we meet our wife’s need for emotional affection?

Aside from physical affection a wife needs emotional affection. Many husbands have trained themselves to put their emotions aside to focus on their work. We usually don’t see marines that are crying before a battle, or a surgeon that is shaking with nerves. All day husbands are putting their emotions aside trying to be professional, in the corporate world he doesn’t escalate his voice in tough meetings and tries to avoid feelings that might “cloud his judgment.” While this might make them great soldiers, doctors and businessmen, pushing aside and not letting their wives know their feelings and emotions in marriage will result in not meeting their wife’s needs.

Some husbands that were affectionate in the beginning of the relationship, need to begin to show their wives affection again. Other husbands may have never learned how to be affectionate not having a good model growing up. For them, not only do they need to learn how to show affection (which is what we are covering here), they need to overcome fear and the initial awkwardness of doing something new, they need to be courageous enough to answer the call to protect and care for their wife’s heart.

He needs to be able to tell his wife how much he cares for her, how much he needs her in his life, how she drives him to do all that he does. Instead of giving her a list of reasons why she should be happy, he needs to be able to be there for her.

Both Dr. Ellen Kreidman and Dr. John Grey agree that, when she’s hurting he needs to hold her in his arms and be there for her. Often she will feel better simply by being in his presence and receiving his affection. It’s telling and showing her you’re there for to care for her and keep her safe, no matter what challenges you face in life, you won’t have to go through them alone. It’s when a wife can hear her husband’s heart and emotions, when her husband makes the time to talk past the day-to-day issues, and talk about his dreams and hopes, disappointments and fears, that she can really feel his love for her and feel connected to him.

Meeting a wife’s needs for affection is something that spreads, its starts with deliberately giving hugs and holding hands, it’s the tone in your voice that says you really care. It’s that look you give her that says you’re the one that I want. It’s treating her and showing her that to you she’s the most important and wonderful person in the world.

[_Mary fumed, she was trying to talk to Mike about something that was really bothering her. That’s when it happened, right in the middle of their conversation, right when she was about to tell him, the phone rang, and to her surprise, he picked up! Upset and hurt, she walked away no longer interested in talking to him, she felt he really wasn’t interested in what she had to say after all. _]

How is focused attention important to meeting her needs?

Many couples somehow end up spending time with each other, in their “spare” time. Once kids come along, we may get used to the idea of not having alone time together, and our private time goes out the window. Weekends can be easily filled with soccer games, family gatherings, projects around the house, work, you fill in the blank, but many times private, and undivided focused quality time is not in the picture. This is time when the kids are in bed or not around, and it’s just husband and wife.

During this time there should be no television, or iPods, iPads, no phone calls answered, laptops or any other distractions. It’s during this protected and set aside time that we look to meet her needs for conversation, affection and focused attention.

There is a difference when you give each other your undivided attention, you can pay attention to how beautiful she is, you can see how interested he is, how much he cares You can get to a deeper level of connection that is not possible with the everyday distractions of life. Anyone that has small kids knows it’s difficult to take them to a restaurant and have a meaningful conversation, you really can’t. As much as we love them, they’re a huge distraction, and they prevent us from giving each other the focused attention our wife needs.

We need to create and schedule time to be able to meet this critical need. Throughout the week we should look to spend 14 hours a week of focused time with our spouse. Whether it’s two hours a day or some other arrangement, to build and protect our marriage, we need to spend 14 hours a week of focused time with our partners.

It’s well worth the investment in time to strengthen the marriage and reduce the risk of a painful divorce that currently experience by more than a million men each year as they are divorced by their wives that are not happy with their marriage. It’s just too important to not do. This can be time after the kids are asleep, set aside for just the two of you to talk, or it can be time on a date on a Saturday night. By investing this time you are directly fighting one of the major drivers of divorce, the gradual neglect of her emotional needs.

How does focused attention meet her needs?

Focused time, is similar to what Dr Gary Chapman has called Quality Time, in his writings and he observes that for some people this is the only way they are able to experience and feel love. It’s during this focused time that we build our marriage and can recreate our love again, as we court each other and minster to each other’s needs. This is when we look to meet her emotional needs for affection, attention, encouragement, openness and intimate conversation; to help her feel beautiful, special and loved. We spend time enjoying each other’s company, trying to make her laugh, just to see her smile.

Without this focused attention, marriages will tend to fade as a result of our needs not being met as it takes constant deposits over time to strengthen our relationship account. This is when we make eye contact, hold her hand, listen and talk to her, encourage her, spend time with her and reconnect with her. It’s when we look in her eyes that she knows we are paying attention to her heart, and when we carve out this time we are telling her right here, right now, we don’t care about anything or anyone else just her. You don’t leave her to do something else, you don’t think about work or what you have to do. You just stay in the moment and her focus on her. As we listen and validate her feelings, and are there for her each day, you’ll feel closer to each other as your recreate your love for one another again.

Some couples at first push back when they hear the amount of focused time they need to dedicate, saying they don’t have the time, but after some thought it becomes clear that you really can’t build the happy and fulfilling marriage on less time during the week. As we covered earlier, this means at times we need to prioritize and give up some things that we are currently doing, by changing what we are doing and making our marriage a priority, we can change the results we are getting

In addition to daily and weekly focused attention, time spent away together for a few days every now and then is a great way to reconnect. Getting away from life’s day to day distractions can make it much easier to give each other focused attention and affection we need.

[*How do we make her feel beautiful by praising her? *]

In addition to being shown physical and emotional affection and focused attention, as Dr. Ellen Kreidman has observed wives need positive attention and praise from their husbands that makes them feel noticed, wanted, desired and beautiful. Wives’ often spend a great deal of effort to look beautiful, especially as they get older. They need even more encouragement and reassurance that they look just as, or even more beautiful to you than when you first met. Look at any girl-meets-boy movie, and you’ll see the guy that makes her feel beautiful, wanted and good about herself gets the girl. What they don’t show you is that he needs to continue to make her feel beautiful, wanted and good about herself to keep the romance and love alive. It’s telling her and showing her she’s special. Dr. Ellen Kreidman recommends the use of affectionate terms of endearment to help couples feel special, beautiful and loved. Some common terms of endearment that husbands use for their wife, include Beautiful, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, Gorgeous, etc. As Dr. Kreidman keenly observes, when a woman falls in love she says to herself, “I feel more beautiful, smart, capable and happier since I’ve met him, when he’s around.” The challenge then is for husbands to encourage and create these feelings when their wives are around them, helping to make her feel beautiful and good about herself and creating a love to last a lifetime.

[*How does he help her feel good about herself when she is around him? *]

When he is attentive to her and when he lavishes her with his time and praise, telling her constantly what a joy she is to him. When he tells her how he is so grateful to have her in his life, how she is the best thing that ever happened to him and that, today, and every other day he would still choose her over all the women in the world to be his wife now and forever. That she is the most important person in this world to him.

It’s not by just asking her, “When will dinner will be ready?” She needs a bit more….

Whenever husbands can, they should pour out positive attention on their wife. Tell her how beautiful she is every day; tell her what you admire about her. If she’s working on improving herself by taking classes, tell her you admire her. Whatever she is working toward, encourage her and build her up. Tell her you love her, she needs to hear it every day, at least three times a day. It never gets old as matter of fact it’s her husband’s constant reassurance of his love for her that she needs. It’s not that husbands stop loving their wives, but they often get wrapped up in the day-to-day and forget to tell her. They need to take the five seconds its takes to say those three little words, “I love you” again and again. Don’t assume she already knows. Leave no doubt in her mind that you want her, that you love her, that to you she is the most beautiful creation that God has ever made. Tell her how much she means to you and how much you need her.

Pick out a card that shows how you feel, or better yet get a blank card and write how much she means to you. This way she can feel cherished each time she reads it. It’s when we tell her how amazing she looks in her new dress and we notice and praise her efforts to look beautiful, that she feels recognized and beautiful. To withhold your praise and attention due to busyness or any other reason will cause her to feel unloved, unnoticed and uncared for.

This is why making time for focused attention with our wives is so important. It’s the time to create the romance so she can feel special and loved.

How can giving gifts meet her need for attention and to feel valued?

When your wife knows that you have thought of her while you’re apart, this speaks volumes to her about how you feel. For some wives especially, when a husband takes the time to spontaneously get her a special gift, it shows her how much he values her and is a way to shower her with attention. According to Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, gifts are a universal way to show love in every culture, across the world and to some it’s the main way they feel and experience love.

These can be something simple like flowers, her favorite candy, stuffed animals, an overnight stay somewhere nice, a day out somewhere, dinner, art, pictures of you together, a card, a cake, a coffee, something she’s had her eye on or whatever she is into. Getting her a gift is just one of hundreds of little ways to reassure her of your love and commitment to her. When picking something out, though it may be tempting for some husbands, focus less on function and more on what would get her excited or feel cherished. In other words, don’t buy her a vacuum.

It’s easy to think that maybe this is only something you do when you’re first dating and trying to win her heart, but again, we need to win her heart each day, each week, and as Dr Chapman points out, “If we’re not telling her we love her in a language that she understands, she’s not hearing I love you, she’s not feeling loved and cared for.” We need to have that same drive and motivation to win her heart, again and again.

If at some point you made a mistake and got the wrong gift for your wife, and you’re afraid of getting it wrong again, we might be tempted to get a gift card or something generic, but here we are not meeting her need because we haven’t put thought behind the gift. Getting good gifts can take a bit of practice but she’ll likely appreciate the effort, and you’re apt to get better at it over time.

Again, consistency is the key. If you see how excited she gets by your thoughtful gifts, week after week get something, make something, give something that she can hold and experience that says “he loves me,” in a way that she can really appreciate. Here it’s the thoughtfulness and effort to get the gift that really counts. If you find out her favorite band is in town, and you work your magic to surprise her with two tickets, you’ll see her love grow as she feels more cared for with each passing week that she is showered with attention and gifts. If this is done consistently then this will help her to feel cherished and loved.

How does doing something thoughtful for her make her feel loved?

Another way of showering her with attention is to do something thoughtful for her. Some feel and experience love, according to Dr. Chapman, through acts of service, which is basically where a husband looks to do something kind and loving for his wife. For a wife who understands love this way, she feels and experiences love whenever her husband does something for her. When he says, “Honey, I’ll do the dishes.” She thinks, “Wow, he really cares.” And she feels his love for her. When he brings her a cup of coffee, or goes and fills up her car with gas when she’s running low, again, it’s that he thought about her, and wanted to do something. She reasons, he must be doing this because he loves me, and he believes I’m worth all the trouble. Again, it’s all about consistency; figure out what you can do to show her how you thought of her throughout the week, by doing something thoughtful for her.

As a side note, though this has been centered on wives, many of these same needs can also be found in varying degrees in husbands.

What does showing her affection look like?

Affection is how we express our love to our partner. We may not think that how we express our love matters, but it does. It is an essential connection, like an invisible thread that joins husband and wife together in strong marriages, keeping them feel connected, and that once cut makes you feel very alone. For our wives to feel their husbands love and affection for them, we need to make time to know their heart and speak with them, we need to show them physical affection—holding them close. We need to shower them with positive attention, praising them and helping them to feel beautiful and capable. We need to connect with them emotionally by saying, “I’m here for you.” We need to take the time to give them gifts that speak to their heart. Over time you will see which needs are most important to her, and you will be able to develop an approach to meet her needs daily.

As we consistently meet her needs, we build up our partner’s relationship account. Over time we create a loving environment where she is constantly feeling her husband’s love and that will enable us to have a happy and fulfilling marriage.

Consider:
[_[*

  1. Do you still show her the same affection and attention like you once did? *]_]

[*2. How do you make her feel loved today? *]

[*3. Do you give your wife focused attention each day? *]

4. How important to you think touch is in your own marriage?

Action:[* Try the following for the next 30 days:*]
[_[*

  1. Be deliberate about showing her affection throughout the day, holding her often at least three times a day. *]_]

2. Surprise your wife with thoughtful gifts and kind acts of service throughout the week

3. Be sure to set aside focused quality time where you make her feel beautiful, good about herself and cared for.

 

Day 19

How Wives Can Meet Their Husbands’ Needs to Feel Respected and Capable

[*So what does respect really mean to a husband? *]

According to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, in one survey, men were asked the following: If they were forced to choose one of the following, which would they prefer to endure? a) to be left alone and unloved in the world; or b) to feel inadequate and disrespected by everyone. Seventy-four percent of these men said that if they were forced to choose, they would prefer being alone and unloved in the world.

What this tells us is that, though many husbands may not be aware of it, respect is often their number one need. While love is also important to a husband, respect is even more important. As much as a wife values being loved, a man values being respected. On the job he may not care if his colleagues love him, but what is critical to him is that they respect him. Just as it means a great deal to him at work, it means even more to him at home.

When a woman learns that her husband’s most important need is respect, then she is able to greatly influence his and the marriage’s happiness. Although many wives are able to verbalize that they don’t feel loved anymore, many men struggle to verbalize that they no longer feel respected anymore. It’s a wife’s withdrawal of respect that can hurt him the most.

The respect husbands are after is the basic good manners, that most of us use when trying to be polite to a guest we have invited into our home. In some homes, respect has become something reserved for guests and is only shown in a public setting; while behind closed doors, couples no longer show each other respect. Just as a wife looks for a husband to treat her lovingly, even when he may not think she deserves it, he looks for a wife that will continue to treat him respectfully, even if she thinks he does not deserve to be treated respectfully. To unconditionally treat each other with love and respect, no matter what we feel or think, is what Drs. John Gottman and Emerson Eggerichs have found enables couples to turn around a fading marriage.

Is love without respect enough?

Think about it, say your own child were to say to you, “I love you but I just don’t respect you. I’m going to talk to you however I want, get loud or short at times, but deep inside I love you.” How would you feel? Now imagine the opposite, they say, “I respect you, but I just don’t love you. I won’t get loud or ever show you disrespect, but deep inside I just don’t care for you.” We need both. Just because we love someone doesn’t mean we respect them, and vice versa. We need both love and respect.

To a husband that hears that deep inside his wife may love him but doesn’t respect him, it is like a wife hearing that deep inside he respects her but he doesn’t love her. To a wife, his love is the basic most important foundation of the marriage, to a husband it’s respect. Of course just as a husband does need his wife’s love, a wife also needs her husband’s respect.

[*When wives withhold respect do husbands withhold love? *]

In Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’s ground breaking book Love and Respect, he shares with us a very simple but profound concept: when a husband feels disrespected, he instinctively withdraws his love, and when a wife feels unloved she instinctively withdraws her respect. He goes on to say how it’s even more difficult for a husband to be loving with his wife when she has been disrespectful, and that it’s much harder for a wife to be respectful when her husband is unloving. Often conflict occurs when a husband appears to be uncaring and unloving, and a wife responds with harsh criticism and disrespect.

What makes this especially difficult is that for wives their primary need is to feel loved, and for husbands to be respected. While many husbands are tempted to wait until their wives are more respectful to be more loving, and many wives are tempted to wait until their husbands are more loving before being more respectful, both should endeavor to always treat each other with love and respect. As Emerson observes, many times at the heart of a conflict, what a wife may really be trying to get from her husband is his love and what he is trying to get is her respect. Once he begins to actively show her unconditional love and she begins to show him unconditional respect, the marriage becomes stronger and happier over time.

So how are husbands disrespected by the media?

On television, you’ll see them, commercials which have actors portraying husbands as immature and completely clueless and dumb. Maybe you have seen some of these, the AT&T commercials show him as calling his wife apologizing that he lost their life savings at Las Vegas, and explaining to her that he didn’t realize the chips were real. Or the Polysporin commercial where a guy tries to fit in with his kids when he dashes head-first down the Slip-n-Slide, and finds himself crashing into a heap. There’s the Sonic commercial where the husband is afraid to drink the hot fudge ice-cream shake because he thinks it will burn him and his wife has to explain to him that it’s okay for him to have it now. In one commercial, advertising an iRobot Roomba floor cleaner, a wife describes her kids as pigs, and her husband as a jackass. As she talks actual pigs and a jackass run around destroying the house, and at the end she says the floor cleaner will let her spend more time with her “best friend” as she is petting the jackass.

The commercials and the sitcoms all portraying husbands as clueless idiots today are widespread, and they all communicate the same message that husbands are clueless and do not deserve respect. While we may not realize it, being exposed again and again to the same message constantly reinforces these ideas in our minds and marriages.

So how are husbands disrespected by their wives?

Husbands are also disrespected by their wives over time, which is very painful, and would feel similar to a man becoming unloving over time. Here is a list of ways wives may commonly disrespect their husbands. Working to eliminate any of the below triggers will go a long way towards meeting his need for respect and towards a happier marriage.

Talking down to him in a condescending way

Criticizing him especially in front of others

Talking in a harsh tone

Eye rolling

Calling him names and insulting him

Ridiculing or minimizing what he does for a living

Telling him how to do things when he hasn’t asked

Completely ignoring his advice

Constantly ignoring his asks and requests

Correcting what he says

These are just a few things that can bring about various feelings of disrespect in a husband.

So what happens when a husband is not shown respect?

Mary began dreading going out with her son Brandon, he was getting more and more out of control. She knew Brandon loved her, but why wouldn’t he listen to her? She tried putting him in the corner when he acted up, took away his favorite toys and shows, gave him “the look” when he wouldn’t listen, but nothing seemed to work. It seemed like the other moms had their kids in line, kids the same age as her son were smiling at their moms and being good, listening. Now Brandon seemed to be acting out at home. She sat on the couch looking at Brandon, who had finally fallen asleep and wondered why doesn’t he listen to me? I just need a break from him she thought, maybe I need to put him in childcare, but we don’t have money for that. Her mind looked for ways she could get a break from him. She felt drained and tired, even though she loved him she had come to a place where, because of all the fighting between them, she was not enjoying her time with him the way she thought she would and it broke her heart.

Once kids come into play, many husbands defer to their wives for their expertise in handling the children, what can happen in some marriages is that a wife may begin to advise husbands on how to do other things like the laundry, etc. If she finds herself constantly explaining, or correcting her husband, then she may begin to slowly lose respect for him, seeing him as someone she has to always provide instruction to. Some husbands respond by doing less and less, figuring if they can’t make their wives happy why try? Some feel incompetent, so much so that they prefer to stay longer and longer at work and try to avoid being home.

When a husband feels disrespected he instinctively withdraws and begins to do his own thing. Instead of offering to serve or to help his wife, he basically comes to a place where he gives up. Without her respect he won’t be motivated and have the courage to show her the love she needs.

He may think to himself, “I know she no longer respects me but I just don’t know how to get it back.” He may even try to find a way to earn it back; maybe by working to get a pay raise or some other way. It’s like a wife trying to earn back love, how can she really earn it? What can she do to earn his love? Instead both love and respect have to be a gift to the other, not earned or deserved, but an important and special gift.

When she doesn’t treat him in a way that makes him feel that he’s capable and important to her, it’s the same as him not treating her in a way that make her feel beautiful and cared for. Respect is the cornerstone of the relationship, and when that weakens the relationship begins to weaken as well.

According to Dr Eggerichs, when a husband feels his wife’s respect for him beginning to fade, he can become uncooperative and unloving; and he begins to find that his affection and love for her is fading. When the wife who is feeling unloved reacts instinctively in anger, by being harsh and critical, it triggers feelings of being disrespected which he often struggles to put words to. If a wife cannot speak respectfully, a husband cannot even begin to focus on what she is saying, he’s distracted by the fact that she is not speaking in a respectful way and so her words often cannot be heard by him. Often as a result of a lack of respect, he withdraws from the conversation. This can cause what Dr Eggerichs calls the crazy cycle, where husbands respond without love and wives respond without respect, with this crazy cycle going around and around.

Many husbands struggle to put into words how they feel when they are not respected. They wonder if respect needs to be earned, and how to best earn it. They ask themselves, “How am I supposed to both love her unconditionally and earn her respect, which is conditional if it’s earned?” So they often give up and check out. But if he can focus on being able to love her unconditionally, and she can focus on respecting him unconditionally, both will in time find happiness as their deepest needs are being met. At the heart of the matter, is the key concept that, when a husband feels that he’s not respected, *he feels that he is not cared for. *

Many wives are not getting their needs met as a result of having a husband who no longer feels respected and cared for by their wives, and feel their wives treat strangers better than themselves. Just as a wife has a threshold on how long she can go in a loveless marriage, husbands also have a threshold on how long they can go on in a marriage without respect. Put simply, without respect and love, a marriage will not be a happy and fulfilling one.

What happens when a husband is shown respect?

In Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’s book,[* ]he shares a story of one wife who tried showing her husband respect, taking him aside and telling him how much she really respected what he did for the family and appreciated him[, he was immediately touched.] Because she had honored him and respected him, he felt compelled to do something for her *to show his love and asked if he could take her out to dinner. In that moment he felt valued, and loved by her.

When a woman begins to show her husband respect, he naturally begins to fall in love with her again. So much of his inability to show his love is tied to not feeling respected, and over time once this obstacle falls away he will be able to better connect to her.

Over time, he will once again be able to share his thoughts and feelings knowing that she will continue to respect him. He will want to share instinctively, as she begins to consciously show him respect in ways that are meaningful to him, he will begin feeling a deep attraction and passion toward her as she has now once again begun to meet one of his core needs. He won’t be tempted to go anywhere, or to anyone else, to have this need met. When a husband feels respected at home he feels cared for and loved, the way to rekindling his love and the marriage, is by giving him the gift of unconditional respect.

So how can a wife meet their husband’s need for respect?

Mike saw how hurt Mary was by Brandon’s acting out, and waited for her to ask him what he thought. Brandon was like a different kid when Mike was around. As Mike rolled the matchbox car across the hardwood floors into Brandon’s small hands he thought to himself that Brandon needed to learn to respect his mom, Mary, the same way he respected his dad. If Brandon would begin to show his mom both love and respect, he thought their relationship would change into something better. Mike imagined in his mind Brandon saying “Please” and “Thank you” to his mom, for his lunch and then putting his little dishes and cup in the sink to help her. In his mind, the battles would become little skirmishes as Brandon chose to respect his mom, meeting her need for her son’s respect.

It’s hard for many wives to take the step of showing their husbands “unconditional respect”. Most of us have all heard of “unconditional love”, a love that is always there that we feel we should all experience and have, but “unconditional respect” for some of us may be a new idea.

By avoiding the common ways that disrespect is shown goes a long way toward building respect and the relationship. Just like the idea of a relationship account, we want to avoid being disrespectful, which will hurt the relationship overtime. Here a wife who uses a softer tone rather than a harsh one, a kinder facial expression rather than a harsh one, is doing a great deal to meet her husband’s need for respect. Dr. Eggerichs suggests that a good question for a wife to ask herself, especially when a wife is upset, is will what I’m going to say sound disrespectful?

When she takes the time to tell him how important he is to her, when she tells him how she respects what he does for a living, and how hard he works to provide and how much she needs him in her life, it’s like him writing a love letter to her only in his language. As he begins to feel that she trusts him and has faith in him, and accepts and respects him for who he is, she will be meeting his deep need for respect.

A husband needs to make time to tell his wife why he loves her, so she can feel his love. He might say, “I love what a wonderful mother you are,” or “I love how beautiful you look tonight,” or “I love your smile,” or “I love your company and conversation.” A wife who makes time to tell her husband what she respects about him might say, “I respect how you get up every day to provide for us,” “I respect how you are taking college courses to better our lives,” “I respect how you are always willing to do whatever it takes to protect our family.” This is whispering words of love in [*his *]language.

Remember, just because he might feel it, if a husband never tells his wife how much he loves her, she may begin to think he really doesn’t, even if he does, and if a wife never tells her husband what she respects about him, he might not feel how she really cares for him even if she does.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. Do you think the negative portrayal of husbands as clueless in the media can affect a marriage?*]_]

2. Do you think husbands value respect the way wives value love?

3. Do you think that the more he feels respected, the more encouraged he is to show love?

[*4. Have you ever withheld love to get respect? Or withheld respect to get love? *]

5. Have you ever shown disrespect in any of the common ways mentioned earlier?

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Talk about the cycle of love and respect with your spouse, and a time it might have played out in your marriage. *]_]

*2. Talk about the idea of unconditional love and respect with your spouse. *

*3. Write down 3 things you might do that is disrespectful to your spouse and then avoid these for the next 30 days. *

*4. Write a list of 3 things you respect about your spouse and share them with them *

*5. Continue to tell your spouse one new or important thing you respect about them on a daily basis for the next 30 days. *

 

~ Day 20 ~

Why Husbands and Wives Are So Different

Why do husbands and wives all around the world have similar complaints about their spouse?

When husbands and wives are asked in marriage improvement courses and counseling sessions all over the world “What are the top complaints you currently have with their spouse?”, regardless of geography, race or age, many of the same replies come back again and again. The following are just a few common ones.

Wives often list the following complaints when they think of their husbands:

  • He can be too cold, distant and insensitive.
  • He doesn’t want to just hold me anymore.
  • He doesn’t really listen or talk anymore.
  • He doesn’t do enough around the home.
  • He doesn’t shower her with attention like he did at first.
  • He doesn’t seem to care about anything.

Husbands often list the following complaints, when they think of their wives:

  • She can be too emotional and irrational.
  • She doesn’t want or need to have sex anymore.
  • She’s too talkative or chatty.
  • She just doesn’t get how hard it is to provide.
  • She doesn’t look up to me like she once did.
  • She lets everything get to her.

Why do we get similar results and complaints if we were to randomly ask couples, anywhere in the world, what their top marital challengers are? While it may seem like the problem is just our spouse, if that is true, how can so many other married couples be struggling with the same and similar challenges in their marriage? While each marriage is unique, many of the challenges that we currently deal with can be traced to a lack of awareness of just how differently husbands and wives are biologically wired and environmentally shaped.

It’s no wonder that divorce rates only increase in subsequent marriages—the source of the same fundamental gender differences that existed in the first marriage continues to exist in subsequent marriage. The gender differences eventually need to be understood and accepted and not ignored or fled from.

Underneath it all there are very real biological and environmental reasons for these complaints. Reasons that explain why she believes he should see and value things one way, while he believes she should see and value things another way.

It’s not an amazing coincidence that so many husbands and their wives are dealing with the same challenges.

Like many phenomena that at first seem mysterious and unexplainable, like how so many couples could be dealing with the same exact problems worldwide…eventually science is able to enter to provide a few answers.

“I swear sometimes I feel like I married a robot,” Mary complained to her sister. “He just goes off into this zone or other world, I don’t even know where he is and it just drives me crazy. The things he says, it’s like he sounds like that ‘Data’ robot guy from Star Trek.” She laughed at her own joke, “I just don’t get him sometimes.”

What are some of the biological differences that contribute to common marital complaints?

Why can he seem so cold?

There are a few biological aspects that make husbands unique and reveal a great deal about why their wives all over the world log similar complaints. Let’s look at one that might explain a universal complaint: “He can be too cold, distant, and insensitive.” According to Dr. Scott Haltzman, there is a part of the brain called the amygdala, which governs our emotional connection and responses to what happens in various situations. It acts like a guard, constantly assessing potential threats, and if there is one, sounding the alarm and getting our bodies ready for fight or flight as needed. Here husbands have an advantage over their wives. They have a distinct physiological advantage that can allow them to control this internal switch to their emotions. If they choose to they just like closing their eyes, they can choose to turn off their emotions. This biological design can help in a situation where a bear is about to attack him, or if he is in a military combat situation. It enables him to focus more completely on addressing the threat at hand.

Not only can they turn their emotions off, MRI scans show that husbands are wired in a way so that dangerous and fearful situations and thoughts simply do not trigger the same feelings of fear in a husband the way they do in a wife.

It gives him the ability to project fearlessness and confidence in fearful, dangerous, and risky situations, for example apprehending a criminal if he was a police officer. It can be a catch 22 for him, as wives cite “confidence” as what they find most attractive about a man, at the same time they also appreciate one that can express their emotions.

Here husbands may wonder why their wives can’t more easily just flip the switch on their emotions to the on or off position like they can. The answer is, they’re just not designed that way. As a matter a fact they are designed to pick up on everyone else’s emotion, making them incredibly perceptive and often knowing how others are feeling.

Why can she seem so emotional?

As a quick recap, the left side of our brains governs logic (thing left – logic to remember) while the right side of our brains governs emotions. Wives unlike their husbands are wired to be able to use both sides of the brain interchangeably. By biological design, her emotions constantly affect and touch everything that she does.

Just as the seasons change from winter to summer, the moods and emotions of a wife may shift season, without a particular logical explanation. Even if she were wealthy and healthy, she would at times still experience the season of winter and sadness at times. She does not live only on the left logical side of her brain, but somewhere deeper and more interconnected. Because husbands are not able to easily access their right emotional side at times, they may get stuck trying to logically search for an explanation for her emotions where there is none to be found.

When she’s feeling down, it’s often not her husband’s left side solution-based thinking that will comfort her; it’s his own emotional side that gives him access to be the loving and caring person she fell in love with to hold her close and comfort her. While he gets that she may have negative emotions like sadness, when there are logical reasons, his left brain logical side often struggles to understand her sadness without a clear reason. This is when he needs to trust her that her feelings are still real and still valid. Just as she needs to understand and accept his need for space to process emotions, he needs to understand and accept her need to experience and express her emotions.

From husbands’ view, wives should just be able to turn off their emotions like they can. Wives, on the other hand, are baffled that he can “just” turn off his emotions, and decide to not feel anything. How can what worries and frightens her seem to not worry or frighten him? Because they don’t naturally have this tendency, they are at times shocked and wonder, “How can he be so cold?”

According to Dr. Scott Haltzman another key difference is that in husbands, the connection between the left logical side of the brain and the right emotional side of the brain is not as strong. His brain also has less connective processing gray matter, and he is unable to make connections as quickly as his often more intuitive wife. This often results in husbands being unable to pick up on their wife’s emotions and communicate their feelings as easily as their wives.

Dr. Haltzman reports the inability to read emotions in husbands being seen in studies of young men that found they were simply unable to recognize and read the expression of fear in others.

“Honey, can we just focus on what’s happening now?” Mike asked

“Are you kidding?” Mary asked, “You think you can come home, ignore me when I try to approach you, [_then when you’re ready _]you can just come over and want to talk to me and hang out with me… when it’s convenient for you? Why couldn’t we hang out earlier? Why does it have to be the dumb TV, paper, computer or whatever first and then me?” Mary asked harshly.

“I just thought, never mind…” Mike hesitated. ‘Well tonight’s another loss. once she’s aggravated about something, all is lost…’ he thought to himself.

Why she seems to let everything get to her?

The left logical side of the brain, where husbands think, is sequential, with one thing happening after another. Like a train making stops, he may think of work, then he may think of kids, then he may think of housework. Not only does his biology draw him to remain logical, his upbringing also encourages him to avoid showing emotions, as many were told big boys don’t cry or show emotion. As a matter of fact, According to Dr Steven Stosny, boys are often punished and teased for crying, while girls are rewarded with comfort for sharing their emotion. This linear thinking is part of why husbands like schedules with dates and routine, and while his resume may say he’s great at multi-tasking, he’s often really not. It’s why he is able to focus on one thing at a time, without distraction, and able to still think about sex even if their marriage or everything is falling apart.

The emotional right side of the brain, however, is often NOT sequential or orderly. When we laugh and playfully joke, it’s often because some logical rule or something does not follow an expected order. Like the guy that was supposed to walk through the door but somehow ends up crashing into I, causing us to laugh.

Art and music and feelings are often not sequential neatly moving from one to the next. Instead, emotions touch multiple things at one time. If we are experiencing happy feelings that will often touch how we work, our family and our kids. Instead of the one-to-one sequential impact that the logical left side gives us, the emotional right side gives us a new one-to-many impact. Put simply, emotion touches everything.

While husbands can be logical and sequential in their thinking most of the time, wives are often not because of how they are wired.

His thoughts and feeling are more sequential and compartmentalized than hers, while hers are more emotionally integrated, which means that what happens to her will have a greater impact in all she does.

Where a disagreement at work to a husband might stay at work and not interfere with how he feels later on, as he can more easily forgets negative feelings and emotions, the same situation would be harder for her to forget and would likely affect her more broadly.

This helps explain why a husband can later still want to have sex, while his wife, who is still upset because of an earlier disagreement, does not. To her, the earlier disagreement touches everything, including sex. To him, the earlier disagreement touches only money, and does not include sex.

It’s often because her emotions affect everything that she chases her husband for closure and peace when they argue so she can feel at ease and at peace in all the she does.

Does he really think she needs answers or is it that they’re all he has to give?

If a wife corners her husband as soon as he gets back from a long day at work before he’s had time to unwind and process so he can access his emotional side, and she starts talking to him, he might still be stuck in his logical work/problem solving mode. As she talks, he may begin to provide her with all he is able to give her at the time, logical answers and replies. Unfortunately for him, she is usually not looking for logical answers from his left brain; instead, she is hoping for some emotion and feeling from his right brain, which he is unable to access yet. She may be confused because she knows he has been able to give this to her in the past, and now it seems like he just won’t. She knows he can be funny, has a great smile, and can be warm and inviting, but she may not see that it takes him a while to get to that place.

Her thinking that “he just won’t” show emotion, versus the fact that he momentarily “can’t” comes from the fact that she always has access to her emotions. If she gets frustrated, because he momentarily can’t give her what she needs, she may push him away like Mary did to Mike, making it even harder for him to get his emotions.

Just as she can’t jump into a state of sexual intimacy without feeling closeness, he can’t jump into a state of emotional intimacy without him first having some time to unwind.

How can biology explain why they may seem too cold or emotional at times?

The biology which allows him to turn off his emotions, and fears, and gets in the way of accessing his emotions; explains why wives often report husbands as being too cold and uncaring.

The biology which prevents her from to turn off her emotions, makes her more sensitive to fears, and gives her constant access to her emotions, explains why husbands report their wives as being too emotional.

“How do you feel about it?” Mary asked. Mike hesitated, feeling taken a bit off guard; he hadn’t quite thought about it before. Mary looked at him, her eyes widening, expecting his response. “Mike?” she prodded. “How do you feel?” “I’m not sure,” he said, “Can I use a lifeline?” he joked, trying to break the tension he felt rising. “How do you not know how you feel?” Mary asked him in disbelief. Mike felt she was talking down to him, and tried to keep himself relaxed but failed, “I think it’s fine,” he said quickly, so they could move on to something else.

Do wives have the advantage when it comes to communication?

These differences in brain structure also greatly impact verbal communication. Again, Dr. Scott Haltzman provides valuable insights, noting that several studies confirm what many couples instinctively know, which is that when husbands and wives are compared for verbal communication skills, wives consistently outperform their husbands. As Dr. Kevin Leman has noted, as a result of their brain’s greater neural connections, wives on average use 20,000 words, and other verbal cues, compared to their husbands’ 7,000—almost three times the level of communication.

Interestingly, though, according to Dr. Steven Stosny, just one shot of testosterone to a pregnant mother in the last trimester causes her daughter to lose her distinct verbal advantage.

Clearly wives often have the advantage when it comes to communication in the marriage.

What can get in the way of husbands expressing how they feel?

Husbands, because of the way their minds are hardwired, may find it difficult to go from talking, which is driven by the left hemisphere, to talking about how they feel, on the right side as the connection between the two is not as strong. While she can seem to do both in parallel, talking while she feels, he often thinks and processes his feelings separately. As a matter of fact, talking often help her uncover her own feeling, part of why it’s so important to her.

As a result, husbands may at times just seem to shut down when their wives ask a question about how they feel. You can almost see the “thinking” or “processing icon” flashing over his head. He may hesitate after she asks the question, and there is a pause. She may wonder, “What is taking so long? Why can’t he just answer me already? This is an easy question, I could answer it,” or she may think, “Even my girlfriend could answer this more quickly.”

Behind the scenes, though, especially if she asks him how he feels about something, he is moving data and information from the left language side of his brain to the right side of his brain, which will allow him to process and attach his own feelings to what has been said. If she rolls her eyes or becomes impatient, she may inadvertently cause this process to lock up, and he will simply be unable to get to his right side or his emotions.

What many wives don’t know is that their husbands are very sensitive to anything threatening. According to Dr. Steven Stosny, studies show that male infants are startled five times more often than female infants, which triggers cortisol, a hormone we release when we experience negative emotions, to motivate us into action. This means something that was said or done, that might not have startled or upset her, might still have startled or upset her husband, blocking his access to his emotions. He literally cannot genuinely be loving and caring when aggressively confronted. It’s like hopefully expecting the light to somehow go on while in the “off” position.

When he gets a question about his feelings from his wife it’s like getting an email on the left side of his brain. This side can understand the words, repeat the words back and come up with a logical answer to her question.

For anything to do with feelings and emotions, he has to then email it to the right/emotional side of his brain to be able to attach his feelings and emotions to the question.

This process can take a few seconds to translate. How relaxed he is affects how quickly he gets a reply back. If he’s upset, startled or stressed out, he may get a bounce back notification telling him he just doesn’t have access and to try back later.

Now, when she gets her messages, she doesn’t need to send it anywhere. She can translate the entire message from logic to emotion, converting it in real time, with almost no delay or processing time.

This is why pressuring a husband to speak only makes it more difficult for him to talk about his emotions, and why at times he just needs time to process things and think things through.

It’s the same reason why a male writer who is stressing over a deadline may not be able to access their creativity, which is on the right side of their brain, and experiences writer’s block.

It may be hard for him to articulate, but his silence isn’t a sign that he doesn’t care, or doesn’t want to talk, all it means is that because of his wiring, he processes things differently and needs more time than she does to come up with how he really feels and thinks about things. This is why when a husband first comes home from work he needs time to unwind and process his thoughts about his day before he talks to his wife, and why she on the other end can’t wait to easily hand readily tell him all about her day. It’s not because she’s last on his list, it’s that instinctively he seems to know, that to “be himself” to be able to access his emotions for her, he needs to first unwind.

Why does he need all this “space?”

Mike felt torn; he felt he needed that downtime when he got off work, but if he went straight home, he knew Mary would be waiting for him, ready to pounce. He was crazy about Mary, it’s just he felt he had no space. It was different before, he’d come home from classes, do some homework, he’d play some video games, read or hang out playing ball, then later on he’d see her and they’d spend time together. He missed having his “me” time torn between on some level feeling he needed it, to feeling guilty for wanting it, to being frustrated that it seemed that she just couldn’t seem give him any.

The need for some space and time to process daily is instinctive. It’s likely he’s been so busy talking and getting things done, all left side activities, that *he ]doesn’t even know how he really feels yet about his day.[ *All he instinctively feels is a need for some space and time alone, which he needs to process and collect his thoughts. Along with needing time to process his feelings, remember studies show that stress blocks his ability and access to his emotions. Unlike his wife, who always seems to have access to this side of her. If he’s had a stressful day, he needs to do something to release this stress if he’s ever going to be able to access his emotions. This is why husbands look to watch a game, a movie, news, workout or some distraction—he is looking to focus on something else other than his work or problems to reduce the level of stress he is feeling so he can become relaxed and be in a place where he can access his emotions again.

His emotional side is the key to his fun side, his warm side, his loving side. Without being able to have some down time to relax, he is literally unable to really access his emotions, something he needs to be a loving husband and father. He needs to be allowed to have space and downtime to be able to be a balanced person capable of fully loving his wife.

Why don’t husbands just talk to their wives if they are upset?

Another aspect some wives are not aware of is why their husbands don’t just talk to them if they are upset. This is because, according to Dr. Steven Stosny, wives get comfort and strength from their relationships by making emotional bonds in an approach called “tend and befriend.” This makes sense, as they are more sensitive to isolation, or the lack of relationship. While little boys are often competing in sports, or fighting in online video games honing their natural fight or flight response pretending to be heroes, little girls are playing tea and playhouse, pretending to be mommy, where they practice their tend and befriend skills. Because of his upbringing, a husband is not set up to see relationships as a source of comfort; he will often not look to his marriage for comfort, especially if in his mind it is part of the problem. Instead, he will seek to step away and look internally and when he is done processing he will often return ready to discuss the relationship.

So along with biological advantages, wives also have greater practice and motivation in managing relationships, which is how she usually ends up managing their social calendar.

And this is why many husbands feel a bit overwhelmed when they are asked to provide a safe, engaging, fun, and wonderful relationship for their wives to enjoy…maybe he should have played house with sister instead of having GI Joe kidnap her Barbie dolls and feed them to his dinosaurs after all.

Why do wives often get upset when husbands leave them alone?

What husbands don’t know is that their wives are biologically wired to not be alone, which means if all she sees is that he is choosing to leave her alone, alarms go off inside her. According to Dr Steven Stosny, baby girls from the onset are much more sensitive to isolation and a lack of contact. This explains why studies showed that baby girls that were left alone for the same amount of time would complain and fuss before a baby boy. This carries on to when they become wives, as they are more sensitive to withdrawal and silence, having a deep need to stay connected in their relationships.

Again, a wife that isn’t aware of his need for space might be hurt by what she may see as a disinterest in her day, a greater interest in something other than her…while in reality he[* is*] interested in her but just needs a bit of down time to access his emotions and be able to connect with her again. Once he’s had a window to process and wind down, say 30 minutes or an hour, he’ll be much more ready to engage his wife and talk about his day.

What might his silence mean to her?

What husbands often miss is that wives tend to only be quiet around those they don’t care for or trust, and while husbands may think they aren’t communicating anything (they haven’t actually said anything), their wives may think they are communicating that they don’t really care or trust them. When actually, it’s just the way he is setup, he needs space from her to be close to her. It’s just one more way most husbands are different from their wives.

What does home mean to him?

In his mind, when they have arrived to a place called home it’s a place where he can finally relax from the threats and stresses outside, just being near his wife without any conversation is relaxing and calming to him. It’s a place where he can finally unwind and leave his work mindset, and be himself by being in a relaxing place where he can access his emotions and have some fun again.

What does home mean to her?

In her mind, home is where she can find protection from isolation, and can find the peace and safety she gets from interacting with her spouse. Just as he gets refreshed from not talking and relaxing with downtime, she finds relaxation by being able to share her feelings and thoughts with her husband. It’s his acknowledgement and listening to her as she speaks, and engagement that helps her feel connected and close to him as she shares how she feels and about her day. By the end of the conversation, if she may feels more accepted and understood and find herself in a good place again.

“Daddy, I got you something, open it!” Brandon was so excited handing his Dad his gift. Mike took the gift with feigned excitement. “I wonder what it is.” Mike asked playfully. He unwrapped a small Lego toy. “Isn’t it [great dad?” *]Little Brandon asked.[ “*]Wow, how did you know? It’s just what I wanted,” Mike said smiling.

Why do we give at times but don’t feel appreciated?

We often give what[* we*] would want instead of what our partner really needs and values. They can both say, “I miss how it was when we first fell in love.” When she looks back at when they fell in love, she remembers the connection, the talking, the closeness, her feelings being heard, he remembers the excitement, the passion, the sexual intimacy. They are both talking about love, but because they are wired differently, they view this same word differently.

Most of us have a tendency to give what it is we really want. As a result, we may get to a place where we give and give, only it’s not fully appreciated because we are not giving based on what our partner really wants, but on what we want. She may end up giving him wives might want or he might give her what husbands want, but not give what [*they *]really want. As we can see, husbands and wives are wired very differently, which means at times what they value, want, and need to feel loved are very different. It’s often the lack of giving each other what we really want, because both believe that our spouse has the same and similar needs, which over time leads to the frustration, anger, and disappointment that leads to divorce.

[*How can understanding gender differences help us to better connect and avoid conflict? *]

Without understanding the basic biological differences between husbands and wives, it’s easy for us to be confused. ‘Why does he not want to talk to me?’ she wonders when he first gets home and insists on doing something else. ‘Why does he suddenly get quiet?’ ‘Why doesn’t she want to give me any space? Why does she always want to talk?’ he wonders. What’s interesting is if she gives him some time alone, and he gives her some time to talk daily, many of these frustrations that arise from a lack of awareness of each others’ needs melt way.

Once we see that there are fundamental differences between husbands and wives, in the way they are wired which creates differences in the way they think and perceive the world, we are able to see that this also creates significances differences in what they need. It’s seeing these differences in the way husbands and wives are wired which drives much of the misunderstanding that lead to stress, frustration, anger, disappointment, and even the death of a marriage. When we expect them to do one thing, or say one thing because that’s how we would do it, so we think it’s the right way, we can become disappointed or angry.

At the heart of many couples’ complaints is the idea that the other just, “doesn’t get it.” That they don’t really get how their spouse thinks or feels. Because of their differences in wiring, these differences in thinking and views and needs aren’t likely going to change soon. With this greater understanding of just how different husbands and wives really are, we can make changes and adjustments to not take these differences personally, to help our partner by being understanding and accepting to what they need. Instead of expecting to be more like them, it’s trying to understand the world through their heart and mind. As we make changes to our thinking in light of this research, we make changes on how to more fully consider our spouses often different views and needs.

Even with all these differences, husbands and wives that are happily married are usually on some level aware of and accepting of these differences. At the end of the day, they come to see how each others’ strengths complement each other and allow them be a truly powerful team. It’s a major step toward being able to find a way to marital happiness…

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. Think about the fundamental differences between how husbands and wives are wired.*]_]

2. Can you see how biology may cause your partner to seem too emotional or cold at times?

3. Can you see why husbands need space at the end of their day, and wives need to share about their day?

*4. Think about how stress can prevent him from accessing his emotions and how that affects how he is able to communicate is emotions. *

5. How do you think biological differences lead to differences in needs and wants?

Action:* Now that you are aware of the differences,*
[_[*

  1. Talk to your spouse about what coming home means to you*]_]

2. Talk about how can you adjust your daily routine so that he has time to unwind, and she has time to connect.

[*3. Write down three ways you can approach your spouse which is more accepting and understanding of your spouse’s differences and needs. *]

4. Write down three ways you can approach your spouse when it comes to communicating in a way that is accepting and understanding of your spouse’s differences.

[* *]

~ Day 21 ~

How Wives Can Meet Their Husbands’ Needs for Friendship and a Relaxing Home

[*Why does he need her to turn their house into a home? *]

Most husbands do not easily having access to their creative, emotional right sides, and are often not sure how to create a warm, inviting, and comfortable home. Before marriage, their space is usually just left-sided: functional and logical without anything inviting. The wife is often the one best able to create an environment beyond function, a place that creates a feeling of safety and warmth. Husbands need a place they can call home—a place that in their mind is safe from the competitive outside world, a place to recharge and ready themselves for the challenges that the world brings them. In his ideal world, it’s a place where he can relax from all the stresses of the world, where he can feel welcomed and relaxed. If he believes the home is being well managed, he feels he’s able to relax.

Husbands aren’t alone in their desire for this type of home. With so many wives working today, they also look for rest and peace by having a peaceful home.

For both of them, ideally the home is a place which is clean, organized, and managed in such a way that everyone’s needs are best met. Basic needs and chores like dinner, dishes, housecleaning and the like are taken care of in a balanced, organized, and loving way. Early on in marriage, this is often not even raised as an important need.

At first, it seems they can pull this off pretty easily, and then something happens…

How does this need for domestic support sneak up on us?

It’s easy to think we have this whole domestic support or “managing a household” aspect down at first. We have only two bowls in the sink and two forks—heck it’s easy to be generous and do the dishes when there’s only two. Laundry? You can do “everyone’s laundry and folding in maybe one or two loads.” Cleaning up? Why that’s not so bad, maybe a few books are out of place, or a few things taken out of place.

Then we have kids…

Suddenly, there are hundreds of baby bottles in the sink, and sippy cups. Laundry becomes something of a project trying to match socks, and put everything away. Cleaning? Everything that can possibly be taken out is. Then there are the constant requests for help. They need help getting dressed, getting a drink, getting their homework done…. Even when they don’t need something specifically, they still need to be watched to ensure they are kept safe.

It’s when we start our families and start having children that the real impact of domestic support is felt. No wonder, with all the work that is generated from having children, many wives want the ability to be able to stay home during these challenging years.

And if she is not able to or does not want to stay at home, she needs his help more than ever.

Many couples are simply unprepared to manage all the new domestic demands that bringing children into the world entails. The words of our parents that “children are a great responsibility” really meant, “take a lot of work and energy.”

To have a happy marriage, couples need to be able to create a home where domestic support is met and given by both partners.

“Would you mind making the iced tea?” Mike asked; “Why do I need to do it?” Mary asked defensively—she was having one of those days. “You don’t need to [do *]anything, it’s just, it would be nice…if once in a while you took care of me.” “[*Why *]do I need to take care of you too?” Mary asked—she already felt stressed from everything else she had going on, now it felt like he was trying to tell her what to do.[ ]Once Mike was upset, he couldn’t quite find the words to tell her that, when she offered to do little things for him, and took care of him, he felt loved.[ *]

Where does this need come from?

While both share this need, it’s especially important to husbands to feel taken care of by their wives. In their dreams, when they return home, tired and weary from their long day, their perfect wife takes care of them. Like an injured soldier falling in love with the nurse who takes care of him and nurses him back to health, something about that process of her healing him and taking care of him draws her closer to him and helps him fall in love with her. Similarly, if he risks his life to save her from pain and harm, she will feel drawn to him.

There’s a part of him that’s a little boy inside, who misses when his mother would take care of him, patch him up when he skinned his knee, or make him some cookies just to see the joy in his eyes. It’s that type of love, in the form of being cared for and nurtured by his wife that drives this need. In this way, when she takes the time to make dinner for him and take care of him, he can feel deeply cared for and loved.

Just like she has a need to be protected and kept safe deep inside, he instinctively has a need to be taken care of and to have a peaceful and happy home.

This is also related to a way in which love is shown through acts of service. According to Dr. Gary Chapman, acts of service are basically where a spouse looks to do something kind and loving for their spouse. When a wife offers to do something like make his favorite meal, he feels loved. This is similar to when it’s someone’s birthday, and we may get the gifts, but we also may do something for them, like take them somewhere special or make them a special meal or maybe give a back rub to help make them feel special and loved.

The spouse who feels and experiences love this way feels more and more loved when they get the support they need, while they feel the opposite—uncared for and unloved—when they are not supported.

Wives can also feel loved by their husband when he performs acts of service like doing the dishes, or taking the kids to the park for a bit to give her a break. A wife who feels like she does not have the support she expected can also feel neglected and unloved if her husband is not helping her around the house and with the kids.

Like all kinds of love, this support and love cannot be shown only once in a while, but it needs to be shown daily. In this way deposits can continuously be made into the relationship account and withdrawals avoided to keep the relationship at an ‘in love’ level. We will cover how he can meet her need for domestic support to help her create a relaxed and comfortable home later on.

Why does he want her to look her best?

Mike could still remember their wedding day. Everyone tried to keep him busy and distracted so he wouldn’t see her. When the veil was lifted, and he saw her beautiful green eyes looking intently into his, when he saw how incredibly beautiful she looked, like a real life princess, he was taken off guard, and had to take a deep breath to take her all in—in his eyes, she was absolutely stunning. It was at that moment he fell in love all over again, seeing and realizing what an incredibly beautiful woman he was getting to have and to hold that day.

How important is maintaining an attractive physical appearance?

For some partners, maintaining an attractive physical appearance is very important. According to Dr. Willard Harley, many couples believe that physical appearance is only important in the beginning of the relationship; however, his observations are that this remains an important need for the duration of the marriage.

What seems to happen is that, as we get caught up in the business of life, many no longer focus on this aspect as they did in the beginning. Nevertheless, having a partner who continues to look their best for their mate is a powerful way to add to their relationship account. Every time she looks her best, he receives it as a gift. When she’s trying to look good for her man, he’s feels good just being around her, he feels that she went out of her way to make herself look attractive to him, and this can makes large deposits into their relationship account.

So, what affects physical attractiveness?

While we might say that what we find to be attractive is a personal view, Dr. Harley has identified a few basic aspects. Generally, being in excellent physical condition/shape, being within a healthy weight ratio/range, having a fashionable/contemporary wardrobe, wearing appropriate makeup, having flattering hairstyles, and wearing inviting perfumes are all aspects that enhance our physical appearance.

According to a study by Neil Chetik, he found that “changes in their wife’s body size did affect husbands and it’s not that they were not looking for their wives to stay or become perfect 10’s forever, however they also didn’t expect their wives to stop taking care of themselves. Just as wives need husbands to continue to pursue them with displays of affection and attention after marriage, husbands need wives to continue to entice them with displays of physical attraction.

Why does she want him to look his best too?

Husbands aren’t the only ones that value physical attractiveness. While less visually stimulated than their husbands, women do enjoy having a husband who makes an effort to take care of himself, works out, is physically fit, and keeps himself well groomed and dressed. Again, while husbands early on may have dressed to impress, it’s so easy after kids to get complacent and think it isn’t really that important—but it is. If a husband expects his wife to look her best for him, why wouldn’t he have to put in the same effort for her? It’s the same idea of winning her over day after day: making an effort to look good and have a clean and well groomed look is very important to keeping the romance and passion alive.

What happens when we only go through the trouble to look good for others?

Being home, it’s natural to want to be able to relax and leave our hair down, and so we may find ourselves only getting dressed up and putting an effort when company is visiting, etc. When we don’t put effort into how we look for our partner, probably often unintentionally, we may unknowingly communicate that the folks that we work with are worth getting dressed up for and looking our best for, but our partner is not. Our partner may interpret our lack of effort as a lack of caring how we look to them.

Somehow we can go from getting all dressed up for dates, to her wearing a beautiful wedding dress and him an stylish suit and trying to look our best, to not trying at all. It’s tough for him tell her how beautiful he finds her and it’s tough for her tell him how handsome she finds him, if we make no effort at all.

“You look beautiful…” Mike began to tell Mary. “No I don’t,” she said, standing in her closet, “It’s been six months since we had Brandon, and half these clothes, *still *do not fit me…” “Mary you look great, you need to cut yourself some slack… it’s okay.” Mary looked at her old wardrobe in frustration, wondering if she’d ever get back into her old clothes again.

Why is it hard for him to ask her to look her best?

It’s difficult for a husband to broach this topic to his wife because it is often a very sensitive topic. How she feels about herself—her beauty and looks—is often something she finds to be important in defining who she is, and for some wives even their value, significance, and self-worth are tied to their perceived beauty. After having her first child, most husbands find that their wife is often unhappy about being unable to fit into their “right size” which for many is the size they were at before they gave birth. This can make this topic even more sensitive and difficult to discuss.

Now that they are no longer pregnant, wives may feel unhappy with how they look and may not feel good about themselves. During this time, a husband needs to be reassuring of his wife’s beauty. He doesn’t expect her to instantly lose all the weight, and genuinely does find her attractive. What is not attractive to him is when she seems to no longer care and puts not effort into looking her best for him.

Because he knows how sensitive this topic can be for her, he may find it difficult to even talk about how important it is for her to look her best to him. But even if he finds the courage to raise this subject to her, he might hear her say: “If you [*really *]loved me, my looks wouldn’t matter…”

[*If you really loved me, it wouldn’t matter how I look, right? *]

Just as some husbands who talked to their wives at length when they first met, focusing in on them and giving them lots of attention, later on do not see the value in spending “so much time talking” intimately to their wife, to woo their wife, and believe that their wife should not demand any extra effort from them to meet this need, some wives no longer believe they should have to put the same effort that they once did into maintaining their physical appearance.

Both can become complacent with their relationship and adopt a “they’re stuck with me anyway” mindset. They can take each other for granted, minimizing each others’ needs and deciding not to meet them. He can say she shouldn’t need to talk so much or she can say it shouldn’t matter how she looks. At the end of the day, though, the level of effort does matter, and it’s often the lack of effort, the taking for granted of our partner, that lulls us into complacency. We fell in love with someone who showed us they could meet our needs, that was part of how we came to say “I do.” Many couples would no longer be able to say “I do” again, because in their view their spouse is no longer putting in the effort to meet needs that they see as very important.

To minimize his need for a physically attractive partner, and tell him what he really needs is the emotional connection, is to expect her own needs to be his.

If a woman were going to try to capture a man’s attention and heart, wouldn’t she try to look her best and as attractive as she could? To no longer try is to suggest you are no longer working to capture his heart. Just as he needs to reassure her of her beauty daily, she needs to work to capture his attention and heart daily.

What happens when she goes out of her way to look her best for him?

When a wife decides to look her best for her husband, she is making herself incredibly appealing to him. He sees her as telling him that she values him and wants to please him and make him happy by making herself desirable to him. Being married to an attractive and sexy wife will likely put him on cloud 9, making it much easier for him to lavish her with complements to make her feel beautiful. Even if at the time she doesn’t feel as beautiful as she would like, perhaps she’s not at her goal weight or whatever ideal criteria she has set for herself, she can still look her best right now, wherever she’s at, and he’ll more than likely be thrilled with her effort to look her best. She’s saying “I’m not just mommy, or homemaker, I’m still that beautiful attractive wife that you married who still wants to be beautiful for you.”

How do we work to look our best for each other?

Just as in the beginning she spent time making sure she looked her best for him, to wow him and “knock his socks off,” and he looked in the mirror making facial expressions of confidence or practiced his smile, and showered and dressed up so that he could “wow” and impress her, we need to continuously work to look our best. From working out, to eating right, to taking care of ourselves, we show our partner we care about how we look, and that we want to look our best for them. It’s easy to get complacent and forget that one reason why we fell in love in the beginning was that we met this important need.

[*What does he mean when he says he just wants to hang out and have fun? *]

Why do we need to have fun?

We all want to have fun. However what we mean when we say we want to have fun is often different for husbands and wives. For husbands, it usually means doing something together side by side. As Dr. Emerson Eggerichs observes, a husband can drag his wife on a hunting trip, sit there and not say a word for hours, and emerge completely enthralled at the “awesome” time and experience they had, while she might not consider that activity to be quite as exciting. It is a need for variety, excitement, and uncertainty, a break from the day-to-day predictable routines in life to have some refreshing adventure and fun.

When a wife initiates spending fun time with her husband, she’s wordlessly telling him that she really does enjoy his company, and thinks he’s a fun person to be around. She also often ends up giving him a means to more easily meet her own deep need for conversation. When we don’t make time for fun in marriage, and focus only on our work, we risk missing out on many fun opportunities and experiences that serve to gel and cement our relationships together. Left unmet, we may inadvertently also open the door to allow someone else to meet this important need.

“Another toy?” Mary asked, watching Brandon opening his new action figure. “How much was that?” she asked skeptically.

Mike sat quietly on the other side of the table. “Thirty dollars,” he said at last.

“For that? Why does he need that toy?” she asked doubtfully; Brandon, finally freeing his new action figure from the box, began to explain, as an adult might, “You see, Mom, Dad can’t reach me,” Brandon explained, showing how far his dad was from him, “but…” he held out his toy toward his dad, who grabbed a piece, “You see, Mom, it’s with this toy that he can reach me, that we can connect…” Mary shook her head. “Wow, that was good. You can keep the toy,” she said with a smile.

Mike smiled. “I couldn’t have said it better myself,” he thought.

How does he need to have fun and connect?

According to Dr Emerson Eggerichs to husbands, it’s doing something together side by side that enables him to connect. Just wordlessly doing something together side by side, going cycling together, or hiking together, watching a show, or playing a fun game together can meet this important need.

Just as she probably was his best friend going on adventures and exploring life together before they were married with children, he longs for her to be his best friend again. There is something about competing, and growth, and challenge, adventure and physical action, that he’s drawn to and longs to share with his wife. While wives often feel connected by talking about how they feel and think about situations in their lives, husbands feel connected by sharing and doing things directly with their wives. Just having her near him as he shares these experiences binds her to him—each shared event to him is like another kind word to her, drawing them closer together.

As Dr Kevin Lehman has observed, most husbands to not have a great number of friends, and when his best friend, his wife, decides to start having fun with him by doing things with him that he finds enjoyable and fun, she makes herself incredibly attractive in his eyes. It’s during and through this fun side-by-side time spent that their friendship deepens to a place where he cannot begin to imagine a life without her by his side, sharing his life with her.

Didn’t we just have fun before?

In the beginning, when couples are in their initial love, they work to spend as much time as possible together. Their hormones help draw them together and they end up doing everything together. Talking for hours, and going to events together. Even games she probably couldn’t care less to go to, she went to because “he” was going to be there, and she just wanted to be with him. At the same time, he’s probably watched chick flicks when he would have preferred to see the latest action flick, just to be with her, or even bravely venture to a busy shopping mall, somewhere he’d probably wish he didn’t have to be, just to be with her. Once the initial love ebbs down and children enter the mix, we often find that this is just one more thing that we “had to give up” now that we are married.

[*Do we really have to give up what drew us so close together before? *]

We might come to believe that it’s unrealistic to spend time just having fun with each other. It’s this mindset which causes us to push our needs aside, and causes our feelings for each other to gradually fade away. It’s important that husbands are able to have fun with their wives, by engaging in enjoyable activities, which helps them to feel close to their wives.

“Come on…come with me, I’ll be quick,” Mary asked Mike playfully. “Going to the mall is never quick,” Mike said, “Why don’t you just go with Julie? This way I can finish my project and you get to get out of the house.” Mary thought it sounded better than going by herself. “I guess we can catch up,” Mary said. “Sound great!” Mike replied, thrilled that he had freed up some time to get caught up. While Mike worked on the project in his own world, Mary ended up having a great time with Julie. As a matter of fact, Mary didn’t even ask Mike if she wanted to go with her the next time, she just ended up going with her friend Julie.

Why not just have fun with the guys or girls?

It’s funny, when we are falling in love, all our friends seem to disappear as we get wrapped up in our future spouse. Later on in marriage, we might think we can outsource some of the needs our spouse used to meet, to our friends. “Oh, honey, why don’t you go to the mall with your girlfriends,” we might suggest, or “Go play ball with the guys,” that frees us up to do whatever we might want to do, whether it’s working extra hours at the job, classes, or relaxing. At first it seems like no big deal, a “win win” and everyone’s happy. However, we need to be very careful about allowing others to meet the needs that we should be fulfilling. Whether it’s needs for conversation, to feel beautiful, or recreational companionship, we should work to be the one that is constantly building and strengthening our marriage. In this case, we should work to be the one to meet our partner’s deep need for fun.

How important is spending recreational time with his wife to a husband?

According to Dr. Willard Harley, among a typical husband’s top five needs, spending recreational time with his wife is second only to sex.[* That’s*] how important meetings his need for recreational, fun time is with his wife. Just as a wife highly values her husband’s company and conversation, he highly values her companionship. In today’s stressful environment it’s even more important to be able to be able to have fun and unwind together.

How does having a good sense of humor bring out the fun in marriage?

Not only does spending time doing fun things draw a couple closer, but so does having a good sense of humor. We are naturally attracted to fun-loving, enjoyable people. As a matter of fact, according to Dr. Ellen Kreidman, to wives, a sense of humor is the second most important characteristic that they value in their husbands, trumped only by “confidence,” which was their number one characteristic. Here, tasteful humor and being able to see what’s funny in many of life’s stressful situations is an invaluable characteristic in many happy marriages.

What do you do if your activities have little in common?

It may seem at first that we have little in common compared to when we first fell in love with our spouse. However, if we take the time to each make a list of things that we truly enjoy doing and what our partner truly enjoys doing, you will likely find that some overlap.

With Americans working more than ever, they may struggle to remember what they enjoy doing for fun, let alone know what their partner enjoys. By writing a list of the top 20 things you enjoy, and getting a similar list from your partner, you may find that you do enjoy doing some of the same things together. From watching a comedy to bike riding, or exploring new places together. You might learn that she really enjoys going dancing, so just take her out so she can have fun, or that he really likes playing tennis, maybe play a round with him, who knows you might have more fun than you expected. Once we are able to identify these overlaps, it’s then important to begin to make time to do these things together.

Too often we pay attention to the fire drills, the things that “have to be done,” and we leave “having fun” to be done at a later point. To build a strong and happy marriage, we need to be aware of each others’ need for variety, fun, and excitement, and work to meet those needs together, or risk having this need met elsewhere. Ultimately, it’s doing these fun, shared activities that is the bedrock for friendship and deepens the relationship, especially from a husband’s perspective.

[*How do we meet the need for recreational fun? *]

We start meeting this need by making and scheduling time for it to happen. It starts by understanding just how important this need is and then setting up weekly dates with your spouse to do fun things together that you might enjoy, like playing miniature golf, or just going to the beach together to watch the sunset while you have ice cream on the pier, or walking in a garden path; all of these work to meet this important need. Maybe it’s taking out a deck of cards or a board game, maybe it’s playing a game like “Virtual Bowling” on the Nintendo Wii or the Xbox; it’s just doing something fun together.

Like other areas, after marriage we may take shortcuts like watching the same shows every night as our “fun time” and stop doing other things we once enjoyed. We may stop thinking of new creative fun things to do together because they do take more time and effort, especially when we begin to have kids and growing responsibilities and we simply have less time and energy than perhaps we had earlier on in the relationship. However, these things are still, if not even more, important to do to keep a couple in the “in love state” of marriage.

We may think we are doing our marriage a favor by skipping out on fun, and working harder and doing more, but in reality, we’re often hurting our marriage by not creating as many happy and wonderful marriage-strengthening experiences and memories that we could be creating. Each time, we find something else that we both find fun and enjoyable to do, we find yet another way to draw closer together and more in love.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. How can a husband’s desire to be taken care of come across the wrong way?*]_]

[*2. Is the idea of being physically attractive a sensitive subject in your marriage? *]

[*3. Do you think you and your spouse have enough recreational fun? *]

[*4. Has the business of increased housework snuck up on you after kids? *]

5. How has this impacted your home life and how relaxed you feel at home?

Action:
[_[*

  1. Write down three ways you can help create a relaxed home for your spouse.*]_]

[*2. Write down three ways you can meet your partner’s needs for physical attractiveness by looking your best for your partner. *]

3. Make a list of what you enjoy doing for fun and what your partner enjoys doing for fun. Then try to find some overlap and something that maybe you wouldn’t have tried before but are willing to try.

*4. Set up some time to have fun each day, and each week. *

*5. Ask your spouse if they think managing the housework has gotten more difficult *

 

~ Day 22 ~

Why a Wife Needs to Be Heard and Understood

“Hey dad” Mike said, “What do you want?” his father asked in an aggravated tone. “I just wanted to…”, “Just get it out would you?, you never just call just because or to see how we are, last time you needed help with some bills, the other time you needed help with the kids so you could go away on business, so what’s it you need this time?” After the call Mike began to think long and hard, his dad was right, he was so busy he only called when things got bad, he didn’t realize how much he was hurting his dad, and reminded himself he should call more often.

What is a Wife’s Need to be heard and to be known?

As we covered earlier there are some fundamental differences between husbands and wives that lead to differences in their needs. It’s easy for us to take for granted that what’s important to us is just as important to our spouse, or should be anyway. However, some needs are much more important to a wife than to a husband and vice versa. One of a wife’s most important needs is to be heard and to be known.

Marriage experts agree that in most marriages, men rarely complain their wives are not talking to them. I can tell you from firsthand experience of having 3 boys and 3 girls that from the time they are little, little girls are talking much more engaged in role playing pretending to be mommy and daddy where boys are less talkative and more physically active shooting each other with Nerf guns etc. Women are also much better speakers and listeners than men, speaking more clearly than men and according to author Zig Ziglar; using on average 25,000 words versus men’s 10,000 words. For most wives to be heard and to be known is her most important need.

How do Husbands and Wives talk differently?

According to linguistics expert Deborah Tannen men and woman often take two distinct approaches in speaking. She submits that husbands are more comfortable with “report-talk” talking about tasks and things they have to do while wives prefer “rapport-talk” which is focused on building relationships with others. Note that the talking about tasks is left sided logical conversation, while building relationships is more right sided emotional based conversation.

Men are much more comfortable in talking about tasks and what needs to be done, while woman can more easily engage to build relationships. Talking then goes into deeper levels, from communicating what needs to be done or has been done, to sharing how we feel and believe by relationship building

Another difference is a husband’s motivation to talk. Husbands have no problem talking when there is a goal or a point in mind, however many struggle without this. If his job calls for him to win over a new client he will have no problem engaging in conversation, seeking out shared interests and beliefs, looking for alignment and building rapport to allow him to close the deal. Husbands see conversation a being used for a practical purpose with a goal in mind and usually do not instinctively discuss details like how they felt etc.

Dr. John Grey, has observed that another difference is that many men feel responsible for a woman’s happiness and problems when their wives talk to them and they can at times get caught up in trying to make their wives happy by finding solutions for their problems.

How can a husband’s natural goal-orientated talking work against him?

While being focused and having goal orientated conversation at work can be a strong skill, it can work against a husband in his marriage. While he may enjoy talking once the conversation is going, husbands often do not have a strong need or desire to “just talk” especially without a clear purpose. Without a strong need, he may often not initiate talking with his wife.

According to Dr Willard Harley husbands often find it easier and are more motivated to talk to their wives, during the initial “falling in love” stage as they often talked to accomplish the goal of winning over their wife’s heart. To do this he had to learn all about her, her likes, dislikes etc, his need of having a goal and purpose to his conversation was met, while her need to talk and to be known was being met.

Often later on in the marriage some husbands don’t talk to their wives until right before wanting to have sex with their wives. They may be constantly busy and preoccupied with their personal or work goals and then they decide to be romantic or turn on the charm talking to her and spending some time and then hoping it will lead to something more. Here again, there is a “goal” in mind. The problem here is that this approach makes her feel used. Just like Mike’s dad who was frustrated and used because his son only reached out to call him when he wanted money or some other favor.

If someone only calls you when they are in a jam and need your help, if the only time they ever called you or spoke to you was when they needed a favor from you, how would you feel?

But now what if no matter what, if every day that same person called you and then one day that person asked for a favor how would you feel then? Imagine the situation and try to feel how that feels.

That in some small way is how a wife feels when the only time her husband makes a real effort to talk to her is when he wants to be sexual intimate with her. Instead, if he met her need every day, regardless if they had sex or not, it would feel very different to her.

Not only that, but by going from not having a goal when speaking to his wife, to creating a “new goal” of winning her heart every day of her life, by talking to her, making her feel beautiful and cared for over time will make talking to her as easy as it was in the beginning. A wife needs to be pursued, and wanted, to have her husband reassure her of his love for her every day. To be won over again and again.

By creating a new goal and then setting aside time to talk to her daily so that she can feel and experience his love, will create a huge positive shift in the relationship.

After the romantic movie, she watched with Mike, Mary lied in bed thinking. It was hard to just fall asleep once a thought came into her mind. She thought about all the endless conversations they had together in the beginning. They would talk for hours and he would listen and hang on her every word, his eyes were always on hers and she could feel how interested he was in what she had to say. It made her feel so good and alive to have someone that could understand her and know her so completely, to really “get her”. What the heck happened to us? Does he still “get me?” She wondered, she began to replay old conversations in her mind, something happened after they married, something changed but exactly what it was and when it happened was still a mystery to her…

What the heck happened? He used to talk all the time

Sadly many out of love couple never talk anymore like their parents so what the heck happened? During the falling in love stage, men have a purpose they are trying to find “the one”, and when they believe they have found her they are on a mission, to win the girl and get her to say “I do” so she will be his forever. With this goal in mind he pursues her heart.

He is also motivated by the fact that because she is not his wife, he can “lose her” easily to any man so he ensures perhaps even unconsciously that he puts talking to her as a priority to build the relationship investing hours into her in conversation to win her over.

It’s during the initial stages of falling in love, he feels an overpowering need to discover her, explore her and know her which he finds exciting and adventurous. He talks as they fall in love purposefully to figure her out, what makes her tick so he can figure her out and best meet her needs and win her over. He knows that woman like to talk and so he’s happy to do so while at the same time he is highly motivated to understand her likes and dislikes, how to make her smile and laugh and make her happy. Finally after much time and investment they get to a place where they are both in love, and then there is the wedding day, he feels he has successfully won her heart and now begins to focus on enhancing his ability to provide for her and the children.

It’s like someone who finally hits the goal of benching 300 pounds and then doesn’t lift weights again over time they will weaken. Husbands often assume that once he has won her over, he will not lose her, that he has her heart forever no matter what. However just as our strength would fade over time, so can our marriage fade over time.

He may feel that because of all that is going on at work and at home, that she should understand. That she should realize that he doesn’t have the same amount of time anymore. That she should know he loves her and that “there is nothing to talk about” and he is happy just being near her. But while just being near her may be enough for him, it’s not enough to meet her deepest needs.

She on the other hand is often disappointed when the fun and intimate conversation they shared in the beginning disappears. Just as a flower that is not watered daily loses its softness and beauty she can begin to lose hers.

Did she first have sex with her husband and then you talked and felt connected?

Husbands, what was the sequence of events in your relationship?

  • Was she first sexually intimate with you and then you talked and felt connected? or
  • Did you [first talk *]with her *only once and then she was sexually intimate with you? or
  • Did you [first talk *]with *often, you both felt close and connected and then she was sexually intimate with you?

While we get that for most of us the sequence of events was that you [first talked *]with each other *often, you both felt close and connected and then she was sexually intimate with you, somehow many of us expect this to change when we are married.

Is being married enough?

In today’s marriage, “just being married” is not enough, just look at the divorce rate, that’s not the way it should be but that’s the way it is. There is nothing magical about the marriage certificate or our wedding rings, that will guarantee us that if somehow we just keep our ring on, we’ll stay happily married. Unfortunately for countless couples, married today, over 50% of them will one day remove their wedding ring which represents a promise to be by each other’s side forever. Like everything else worth having, we need to put in the time and effort to create the marriage that we want and not assume that our certificates and rings are enough to make our marriage last.

Husbands need to establish a new goal to create and sustain a truly happy and fulfilling marriage, starting by setting aside time to have your wife be heard and known daily.

How do we help our wife be heard and known daily?

Husbands need to make time to talk and to rediscover her as she grows and shares life with you, as the kids come, and friends change, and the world around us continues to change, take her by the hand and talk to her and share this life together through your words.

Zig Ziglar tells a moving story of a husband who lost his wife after 25 years of marriage. Sadly, it was only then that he began to really appreciate and see what she had really meant to him. It killed him to have read a great book but to have no one to share it with, or have an exciting new idea but no one close to tell. The hardest thing about not having her, was not seeing her laugh at his corny jokes and not having the person that he had shared his whole life with and knew him so deeply by his side to share his heart, mind and life with. Sadly he never even realized how deeply he needed her to share his life with until she was gone.

Why does she need to talk anyway?

She wants to talk so that someone else, in the context of marriage namely her husband to can know and share her life with her. She needs to be able to share her story her life, someone to tell it to and someone to listen. It’s through talking to others that she is able to say, this is who I am, this is what I feel, this is what matters to me, here are my dreams, my likes and fears and after I’ve said all this, and you know who I am then tell me, do you love who I am? Do you love me for me?

For a woman talking is a way for her to be known, loved and appreciated for who she is and to receive validation and acceptance of her feelings and encouragement when she needs it to help her feel his love an acceptance. She finds daily conversation about her day to be important and looks forward to sharing with her husband and arriving at a good warm place, where her deep emotional needs can be met.

Talking about her feelings allows her to feel and experience them, like being sexually intimate for a man lets him experience her. It says I care about what you think, how you feel what you are going through, you are not alone, I’m right here listening to you sharing this with you.

It’s through talking that wives create intimacy, explore their own feelings, to feel better more relax and to get information. When a woman feels the pressures and stressors in life she instinctively has a desire to talk and vent to allow herself to experience the feelings, acknowledge them and move forward. As she shares, by having her husband there to talk to her and be there for her reassuringly, she beings to feel less stressed and more relaxed.

When he also opens up to her and shares his heart and mind with her, this also lets her know he is interested in her and that he deeply loves her.

How does he unknowingly communicate he doesn’t care about her?

It’s when he’s trying to talk to his wife quickly, because he’s preoccupied and wants to rush it, she interprets his short responses to mean that he doesn’t really care about her enough to talk about deep things. That he really isn’t interested in her, in knowing her, knowing about her day, and sharing life together. To a wife, one of the worst feelings she can experience is to feel alone and uncared for when she feels she isn’t able to be heard. It’s the equivalent of her telling she is just not interested in him sexually.

For him to have the mindset that he, “already knows her story” and “they had lots of conversation in the beginning” so he doesn’t need to really talk to her often to know her, is for her to have the mindset that she, “already had sex with him” and “they had lots of sex in the beginning” and doesn’t really need to have sex with him often.

To continue to really feel connected to him throughout marriage she needs to talk daily him. Remember, according to Dr Gary Chapman, when asked in a survey, of divorced "Why did your marriage fail?" 87% percent said, "Deficient communication." While the authors of How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, found that over 70% of divorce is initiated by women who think their husbands don't care about how they feel.

I remember watching an episode of a sci-fi show called the Outer Limits; it was similar to the Twilight Zone. This one episode occurs in the future where they have advanced robotics. One husband is very busy at work and his wife complains to him about everything that is not getting done around the house, he’s not helping with the chores or the kids etc. So he decides to buy a human looking robot to do all the things he is not doing, and the robot does a really good job. As a matter of fact, the wife and children begin to care for the robot. The husband begins to get jealous and tries to get rid of it, but despite his best efforts cannot, the robot tells the husband that the next time he will destroy the husband instead.

At the end of the episode, it’s the robot that is at the head of the table, the husband no longer at the head of the table. The narrator comments thoughtfully, that we should be careful about what we let others do for us because we may be giving up more than we think. Here the husband gave up opportunities to be there for his family and show how much he cared, and as a result, he no longer was the provider of his own family in many ways.

Why does it need to be her husband that she talks to?

Where sex is a very intimate need only met by our partner, the need to talk and share is something that can often be met outside of your marriage. It may be tempting to let your wife’s need for conversation and to talk and share to be largely met by others.

She may prefer talking to her girlfriends who may be showing a greater interest in talking and that they genuinely care about what she has to say. She may be tempted to call up a girlfriend or someone else to meet this deep need that she has.

If you’re a husband you might reason, hey now she’s happy in a good mood she got to talk, I can work on something else or relax but you should not outsource what you should be satisfying and meeting to others no matter how tempting it might be. Just like the husband that tried to get a robot to do his chores, husbands should not encourage their wife to get what’s often their most important need me by others.

[Husbands *]should be their wives best friends and each other’s priority and need to be the ones that their wives share who that are with each day and making depositing in your wife’s relationship account else you risk losing a key opportunity to know her, and for her to feel loved which will cause a slow and gradual fading of your love for each other, as she gradually grows closer and closer to others. I can tell you from firsthand experience this is a very slippery slope. *Husbands need to be the ones their wives can come to talk, be heard and be known.

Mike and Mary sat next to each other exhausted on their comfortable couch at 9 pm finally the kids had gone to bed, and there was some quiet in the house. They turned on their HD Television and watched their favorite shows together which part of their daily routine was. They talked a bit during commercials or got up to grab a snack or drink. Around 10:30, they headed upstairs to their room. “I love you sweetie,” Mike told Mary, “love you too,” she replied. They each read quietly for a few minutes before falling asleep.

How often does a husband need to intimately talk to his wife?

We are living in a time where we work more than ever before often leaving us with less time and energy to create interesting conversations. Often the voices on television are heard more strongly and more often than the voices of husbands and wives expressing what they think and how they feel. The stories of the lives we watch can become more familiar and seem more interesting than our own.

According to Dr. Ellen Kreidman, one study found that while the average American family spends 49 hours a week watching television they only spend only 20 min. a week or 3 min. a day talking. Think of your own job, what could you get accomplished at work in a rushed 5 minutes? Doesn’t it take time to put anything that’s important together? The same is true in our marriage. Too often we try to get by on a quick “checklist” conversations; like “Did you pick up the kids?” and then we check off that we “talked to our spouse”. This does not satisfy her need talk intimately with her husband daily.

Also remember timing is everything; most men need some time to unwind before they can access their emotions and get into a good conversation after work.

In our own marriage, we’ve found in our family that once the kids are all in bed that is the best time to talk, there is no television unless we have spoken for at least an hour, whenever I’m tempted to just watch a show or relax first or instead, I remember standing in the middle of packed boxes and I remember just how important it really is that we talk and I always end up enjoying the conversation.

How can a husband meet his wife’s need to be known and heard?

When talking its always important to ask how her day was, giving her a chance to share her thoughts and feelings about the day. This also helps her to release any stress she may be feeling. It’s good to talk about what is going on, the kids, work, or whatever is important to both of you. Another key question to ask is, how are you feeling? Try to spend the time to just connect emotionally just as we covered during Communication. Remember to look to show that you get her, and you know and understand how she feels. Ask questions that help you rediscover your partners, desires, fears, dream beliefs and past as when you first met.

You might think you already know these, but you might have forgotten some, and like any good movie its worth hearing again and again perhaps like the story of when you first met. Look to rediscover the intimate details about each other. Explore each other’s needs, want and dreams again, make time to really get to know each other and to fall in love with each other again and again. We need to always be working to know each other, likes and dislikes, thoughts and beliefs, what was recently learned etc, favorite meals, colors, places to eat, songs, movies, childhood memories, get away fantasies, if you won a million bucks where would you go? If you could meet anyone who would it be?

Deeply, knowing your spouse will help you understand how they came to become who they are today and you can avoid the pain of gradually falling out of love, and of one day no longer knowing each other. Study after study shows that the couples that do well in marriage share the details of their lives together.

As you talk about your day, feelings, challenges, dreams, make sure there are no distractions and you make good eye contact. Being able to talk about other relationships with friends, co-works and family can help the conversation be more interesting. Be careful to speak in a loving tone with her and to never sound judgmental. And remember while guys comfort each other by trying to minimize each other’s problems by saying things like, “It’s no big deal you will get through it.” Don’t minimize or try to offer solutions just listen allowing her to be heard and feel your acceptance and understanding by validating her feeling. Allow her to feel like she can talk as much as she wants without feeling rushed and be sure to respond to her with great interest. If she says she had a hard day at and had too much work tell her how lucky they are to have her, and how it isn’t fair that she does all the work, if she’s concerned about something hold her and reassure her.

Go for walks holding hands and talking about old times when you fell in love. Asking questions, focusing on your spouse all tells her, I want to know you, I want to share my life with you by knowing what’s on your heart and mind because I love you and care for you. All this help her to meet her need to be heard and to be known in life. Over time husbands will see the benefit of their investment over time, as you allow her to share her heart she will continue to draw closer to you and once again feel reconnected.

In the animated movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Flint is this incredible inventor who lost his mom and has a difficult relationship with his dad. Every time Flint tries to tell his dad about a new invention, his dad begin to say in a “hard to understand” accent, “You know son, it’s like when you go to the stern and you need to draw the mast and the tide is…” Flint is always confused and frustrated not getting what his father is talking about, and often walks away feeling rejected and alone from his father.

At the end of the movie, in typical Hollywood fashion Flint finds away to save the world from certain total destruction. His father begins to tell him, “Flint… oh. When you… when you cast your line… if it’s not straight… you, umm…” Father and son stand there awkwardly. Then someone takes one of Flint’s inventions “a thought translator” and puts it on his dad. Then clearly, and confidently the translator device shares his father’s true thoughts and the device, finds and says the right words and in the right tone to express his dad’s heart and mind clearly, lovingly and confidently says, “I’m proud of you, Flint. I’m amazed that someone as ordinary as me could be the father of someone as extraordinary as you. You’re talented. You’re a total original, and your lab is breathtaking. Your mom, she always knew you were going to be special, and if she were alive today, she’d tell us both, ‘I told you so.’ Now, look, when I take this thing off and you hear me make another fishing metaphor, just know that fishing metaphor means… ‘I love you my son’.”

How can husbands more clearly tell their wives how they feel?

It’s not that Flint’s dad’s feelings ever changed and that he never felt these things, what did change was that for the first time he was able to express his feelings to his son, in a way that was understood.

Many men do not realize just how important being able to touch their wife’s heart with their words is to them. Remember to her it’s the words of a romance novel that can touch her heart and soul. Even when they do realize how important this is, they may struggle to put into words what they think and feel in a way that touches their wife’s heart.

This section is focused on husband’s becoming aware and acknowledging that a woman’s number one need is to be heard and known and then work to make the time and effort to meet it. Like everything we focus on and try our best at we will over time get better and better at being able to meet this need.Just like there is no substitute for him, there is no substitute for her; she needs her husband’s words to feel heard and to be known.

Remember a husband, was able to talk to her well enough to get her to say “Yes”, and so with enough motivation, drive and interest you can do it again. He just needs to remember, that winning her heart, is not a onetime event, and that her heart must be won over again and again.

What if a husband struggles to find the right words?

Remember words only account for 7% of the overall message while the tone of voice accounts for 38% and body Language accounts for 55% of the overall message so don’t get hung up on the words and what to say just talk to her in a caring tone in a relaxed way.

Often the problem is not a husband’s inability to speak or not using the right words but more around his lack of motivation or interest, which she feels and hurts her. Just as you would work out daily whether you feel like it or not to stay healthy, you need to spend time meeting her needs even if you don’t feel like it. Just like going to the gym is harder when you’re tired, or you feel overworked you need to spend time meeting her need no matter what.

How can a husband start meeting his wife’s need to be heard and known today?

If an hour seems like to talk each day, maybe start out with 15 minutes a day, then the next week do 20 minutes, then next 25 minutes, looking to get to an hour daily. You can do it, and like everything else we do habitually it will become a natural part of your routine. Once you increase the duration, you can then work to increase intensity from easier everyday conversations, to the more difficult and sensitive conversations.

Remember that we are responsible in life for not just what we do, but for what we don’t do. If we don’t exercise, if we don’t educate ourselves if we don’t spend time each day with our wives there is a consequence, likewise doing these things will also help us to bring about the positive benefits of our investments in the form of a happy and fulfilling marriage.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. How do you think a husband’s way of report talking and goal orientated talking prevent him from meeting his wife’s need to be known and heard?*]_]

2. Did you talk a lot more earlier in your marriage? If so what do you think happened?

3. Do you think a wife’s heart needs to be won over daily?

[*4. Think about your partner’s need to be heard and known, have you been meeting that need? *]

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. If you’re a husband create and write down a goal or purpose for talking to your wife daily. *]_]

2. Create a time daily when you and your partner will talk for an hour daily, if needed start with only 15 minutes a day and work your way up. (Try this for 30 days)

3. Write down three questions or topics that you can bring up later on that will help you know your spouse more deeply.

4. Write down three words that the describe the tone you want to convey to your wife as you speak to here. For example, loving, caring and understanding. Then try to bring that tone into the conversation.

[* *]

~ DAY 23 ~

The Importance of Meeting His Sexual Needs

It made no sense to her, when they were first married she was very interested and enjoyed having sex with Mike. He was the strong silent type and during their courtship she had found herself thinking about him often, and whenever he made his move she was ready for him.

Now, it no longer felt the same to her, now it felt like some chore she had to do. She hated that she felt that way and wished that she had the same desire for him that he clearly had for her most of thel the time, but she just didn’t. She had begun to try to avoid him indirectly with easier let downs, but he seemed to get more and more frustrated; she could see it in his eyes. She went from feeling annoyed at times because of his persistence, to feeling guilty, to feelng obligated, and rarely did she enjoy it. She didn’t know how she got here but what was killing her inside and becoming clear to her that now was that when it came to sex, even though he wanted her to enjoy herself sexually she was constantly feeling something that she had never felt before with Mike. Somehow she went from enjoying sexual intimacy with Mike, to somehow feeling used when they were together.

How does sex become something that can now makes some wives feel used?

So many married woman feel like Mary, somehow something they once enjoyed with their partner becomes something that makes them feel used. Why is that? Often a few years into the marriage couples do not have sex as often as they did at the beginning of the marriage.

Like Mary, as her passion and love for him in her relationship account began to change from Love to Like to not caring, she did not tell Mike. For a woman like Mary, sex is something they only want to do when they feel loved and cared for and so now having sex which was once effortless now seems like a chore when she feels unloved. How does a wife who may herself struggle to understand these feelings find the courage to tell her husband how she really feels about a topic which is so important to him? How will he take it? She might wonder. It’s easy to see how a wife like Mary may choose to not talk to him about these feelings fearing an argument might arise that could push them further apart.

Now sex had become something that she no longer enjoyed but did only after he had continued to ask and now seemed to be centered all around his enjoyment. Because sex now brought about painful feelings for her of being used, she now avoided it, to avoid feeling unloved and used. She just doesn’t understand how he can go from an argument on minute to ready to having sex the next.

What are some changes in the relationship that can lead to these feelings?

While in the falling in love stage, talking, sharing, doing thing for each other, gifts, hand holding, hugs and caresses which lead to her emotional needs being met come often; later on in marriage many couples try to routinely “skip” this and try to “ jump” into having sex. They reason to themselves, “hey we are already married” but this thought is dangerous in that it assumes we no longer need to take the time out to make each other feel special and create the emotional closeness that often leads to a mutual desire for sexual intimacy and that “marital obligation” is enough. It’s this “let’s do it” approach that will ultimately often lead to less and less intimacy and greater distance.

As a result of meeting her needs making her feel beautiful, special, safe, valued, heard, cared for being there for her she will often likely find her sexual desire for her husband. Remember while he is more visual, for her it’s the romance novel where the girl’s needs are being met that she finds gets her thinking about romance and sexual intimacy.

As we covered earlier thinking back to the seminary students when we are rushed we often don’t take the time to show we care even when we do, we just walk right past the person who is hurting focused on our goal. Because of the time pressures we talked about earlier on, many couples may quickly jump into having sex rather than taking the longer approach of expressing each other’s love by first meeting their emotional needs and then enjoying sexual intimacy later on.

What do wives need to be able to enjoy sex?

Most women need a feeling of closeness and connection to be able to be responsive intimately. She needs to know every day, that you love her and care about her deeply before sex. Unconsciously she is looking for signs that day that you cared that you did something special for her. Did you call her at one point during the day to touch base? Did you kiss her and hold her when you got home? Perhaps you tried to do something nice for her like the dishes? Did you hold her close and touch her lovingly without any expectations for something more? Maybe a small gift? What did you do to win her heart again today?

If there was significant conflict during the day, it will be even harder for her to feel connected and sexually interested. If there husband is disappointed or angry with them, or has distanced himself from her, the last thing she will want to be is intimate with them.

Why does showing her affection only before having sex hurt her?

Some men view sex as a way to kill two birds with one stone, he may figure, “Hey, I can shower her with affection spending some time, showing affection, and then we can have sex, and we will both be happy.” While this may work earlier on, husbands overtime become frustrated when this approach no longer seems to work with their wives.

Many begin to reason that it must be that she no longer enjoys sex and he wonders if she is bored with him. Maybe he didn’t perform well. He wonders how he can increase his sexual performance, maybe trying different moves in the bedroom. However the real issue as we will see is that this approach doesn’t allow for her to just feel affection and closeness and instead often leads to her feeling used. It’s what’s happening outside of the bedroom that drives how she feels toward him sexually.

How does what happens outside of the bedroom affect her desire for sexual intimacy?

On a daily basis husbands need to show their wives affection by talking to them in a loving way letting them know they are loved, holding them, caressing them, doing and giving little things that show her that you love her. To ignore your wife all day and then later shower your wife with affection and then trying to lead her to the bedroom suggests to her that you are only being affectionate because of a selfish motive, because you want your sexual need to be met. Even if you feel love toward her all day, if you don’t show her throughout the day how you love her in different ways, this is how it will come across and feel to her. She can’t know her husband’s heart throughout the day; she needs a way to be reassured of his love and affection for her daily. To hold her and show her affection then move to something else, tells her you are being affectionate because you love her.

Similar to how the dad of the son who only calls when he needs something, that’s how a wife begins to feel when the only time she is spoken to, shown affection and seems to have her husband’s attention is when he wants to have sex. A wife who does not feel cared for throughout the day and is only shown affection and attention before sex may eventually come to a place where she feels used. She needs to be shown that her husband cares for her every single day.

According to Dr. Greg Baer, when affairs begin (for approximately 25%-40% of wives) it starts with the neglected wife first being given time, attention and affection, which eventually leads to sexual intimacy. When marriages that are on the verge of divorce are rekindled, it begins with the husband once again giving his bride time, attention and affection which eventually leads to sexual intimacy.

How can we have a great sex life?

A great sex life is a result of a good marriage. If I were a boxer and I was focused on my boxing skills and I get in the ring, but I did not run daily, I did not strength train daily, I did not eat right daily, how well will I really be able to fight, if my punches lack power, if I begin breathing heavy 1 minute into the fight? To be an excellent fighter you need to put in the time to be in excellent physical condition as a starting point. If you think about it, what happens outside the boxing ring has a great deal of impact on how well a boxer will perform in the ring. If he’s been working out hard, putting in the time and the effort in the gym, when it comes to perform in the ring on fight night, he’ll do well.

Likewise we cannot just focus on sex in the bedroom. We need to put in the time and effort to create a strong close relationship as a starting point. An excellent sex life is built on more than just skill in the bedroom. It’s built on the strength and stamina of the relationship which grows as we work to meet her needs for affection, conversation and connection that make her feel cared for.

A boxer who thinks that he will perform well in the ring, without putting in any serious time and effort outside of the ring, is in for a wakeup call when the fight night comes.

Likewise, the husband who thinks he will perform well in the bedroom without putting serious time and effort into the marriage, outside the bedroom, will also find himself in for a wakeup call later on the bedroom.

How do husbands and wives see and experience sex differently?

Sex works very differently for a woman. Just ask the team of researchers at Pfizer, who the New York Times said gave up testing Viagra on women after 8 years and 3,000 women. While researchers were able to get women with low sexual desire to physically respond, unlike men this was not enough to affect a woman’s desire to have sex because there is a deep connection between the physical and the psychological.

According to Mitra Boolel, leader of Pfizer’s Sex Research Team commented, “Men consistently get erections in the presence of naked women and want to have sex. With women, things depend on a myriad of factors.”

So husbands, the message here is that what works for you in regards to sex, clearly does not work for your wife. Where a man is more reactive, a woman is better able to choose and decide whether or not* she will allow herself *of get sexually aroused by her husband. If she believes they are both in a good place in the relationship it will be easy for her to allow herself to be aroused but if she does not feel her husband’s care for her, and warmth towards her it will be almost impossible for her to desire her husband.

So for a woman clearly it’s about her heart and mind, to having a relationship account where she feels in love and having felt her husband’s love for her throughout the day.

Another distinction is that sex is just not as important to a woman as it is to a man; according to Dr. Kevin Leman, some studies have shown it to be [*14th *]on some lists! Clearly then it would be much easier for a woman to go for longer periods without sex as it’s not as great a need, just as a man can usually go for longer periods without conversation.

As a result, many wives often try to get their husbands to meet their needs for affection, attention and conversation without meeting their husband’s need for sexual intimacy; while men try to get their wives to meet their sexual needs without meeting their emotional needs. Where top researchers have failed husbands can succeed, by first understanding the differences that exists and then by learning what to do next.

Mary looked at Mike in disbelief they had been arguing about their trip to his parents, they had spent way more time and money than they had planned to but still he was giving her “the look”. They were both getting hit from every angle, from finances to in-laws, even the kids had seemed to push their buttons today sex was the last thing on her mind. Mike looked at Mary and noticed how attractive she looked, and instantly all his problems faded and he saw only her. The kids were finally down, and they would finally have some time alone. It had been a few days now and he could not wait to be with her.

How can he possibly want to have sex now?

While men wonder how a woman can list sex as 14 in their list of priorities, women wonder how men can go from having a disagreement to wanting to be intimate. She thinks to herself, “How could he want to have sex with me we didn’t talk or really connect today?” As the researchers at Pfizer have proven men and woman are very different in this regard. While Viagra researchers were not successful in increasing desire in a woman, they were highly successful in increasing desire in a man.

Why were they able to succeed with men? According to Dr. Scott Haltzman a key difference is that men are wired differently than woman in that a man focuses on one thing at a time, and is able to compartmentalize.

Today men are still wired to be able to focus on one thing and put things in mental compartments. He might have a compartment for work, another for kids, and another for sex. He is able to have a terrible day at work and several problems that are unresolved, but he is able to put these all out of his mind when it comes to sex. In his mind, he just needs the opportunity and he’s good. He might reason if he had to wait until “all the stars aligned” and all was perfect in his life, he might never have sex again!

Dr. Haltzman also reports that not only do men compartmentalize so they can more easily focus and enjoy having sex but men also have a 77% higher sex drive due to higher testosterone in their bodies, helping to put sex as the number one priority for many men.

Why do husbands want to have sex?

According to Dr Steven Stosny, when men are asked why they have sex, they responded for the sexual enjoyment and stress release. He contends they are describing are the affects of the release of oxytocin which is released when they have an orgasm. This hormone causes men to feel calm and relaxed and allows them to feel closer and more connected to their partner. Afterwards he often feels a sense of being wanted, loved and accepted by being with her.

Just as many men do not get that woman need to be cherished and shown affection daily, and expect that their wives can be happy without this, woman may at times not get that for men being cherished or shown affection daily alone will not fully meet their needs. Boys are by nature are very physical where girls are very verbal. So where a woman’s ears take in and enjoy the sound of her husband’s praises and affection for her, a man’s body takes in and enjoys the feel of his wife’s body like nothing else in this world. For many, it is the one place where he forgets his troubles, and can feel and receives his wife’s love for him and allows him to feel closer and closer to his wife naturally motivating him to show his love for her. Nowhere else can he find that level of connection physically, emotionally, spiritually and oneness than having her in his arms feeling and physically experiencing each other’s love and passion for each other.

Why do wives want to have sex?

According to Dr Steven Stosny, when asked why woman have sex, they answered, “to share emotions and love”, and so even if a wife agrees to shortcuts in the beginning and to having sex without having him show his affection for her throughout the day, she will enjoy it less and less, and as a result he will also begin to enjoy it less and less.

Just as she needs him to want to be emotionally intimate with her, he needs her to want him to be sexually intimate with him. He wants to feel that she deeply desires him to really fully enjoy their sexual intimacy together.

When a husband takes the time day after day to show his wife his love for her, so she can experience it and feel it and then makes love to his wife it moves from just having “sex” to something indescribably more beautiful, enjoyable and meaningful.

Mike laid there next to her in anger; again she had turned him down and rejected her own husband. Though he tried, to hold them back, dark thoughts began, to enter his mind… Wow I have screwed up, I married a woman that does not even want to be with me. What happened? Did she ever find be attractive? Did she ever really enjoy being with me or was she just playing along so I would marry her? She never initiates she never reaches out to me it’s always me reaching out to her. I’m trying so hard to be a good husband and a good dad but when the lights go out and the woman that I do it all for doesn’t even want me, it’s the most embarrassing, frustrating anguishing experience I have ever endured… Its 1am and there she is fast asleep… she could care less about how I am feeling right now. I never knew it was going to turn out this way. I don’t need a lot of things… but this? Why can’t she want me the way I want her? The new girl at work seems more interested in me than my own wife… I love the kids, and who she used to be to me, but I just can’t continue to live a life of rejection from my own partner…

How does being sexually rejected affect a husband?

When a man is sexually rejected and or ignored by his wife it is absolutely devastating to his self esteem and confidence whether he shows it or not. He often begins to think to himself, she doesn’t care about me, my needs are not important to her. After the initial shock, he may get the courage to ask again, this time maybe asking less directly or waiting longer to ask.

The rejection to him is baffling as it’s his number one need. Often he doesn’t get how if she does not feel connected to him throughout the day, sex rarely even crosses her mind. This often happens in the context of where many men and woman get caught up in the busyness of life which seems to leave little or no time or energy for romance or sex. While woman often do not feel or experience any discomfort from a lack of sex and can easily put it out of her mind a man actually feels a building physical discomfort when he is not able to experience a sexual release making rejection even more painful and confusing to him that she would withhold sex.

At this point a husband who has been rejected may begin to see that perhaps he needs to give her some more attention, but because he may be inconsistent she may feel he is showing her more affection not just because he loves her but because of what he wants from her.

After he goes out of his way to set the stage for romance and she rejects this as well, or rejects or ignores him after his romantic overtures he may feel completely at a loss and can become angry and confused. Harsher rejections from the wife such as sounding irritated or making “not again” faces after asking pains the husband even more.

Even the most attractive woman in the world who constantly ignores or rejects her husband’s sexual advances will become unattractive to him over time as her face will only remind him of painful rejection and beauty he can never enjoy, while someone with average looks who is highly responsive and inviting sexually will become the most attractive woman in the world to him.

Every time a wife tells her husband she is too tired, too busy or just not interested he hears that she just doesn’t care about his needs or happiness. Over time this rejection can be so painful that is leads to rapid withdrawals in their relationship account as they move from in love to neutral to dislike.

A husband may finally get to a place where he can no longer endure the rejection and will likely leave the relationship in search of a woman who will be beautiful in his eyes by finding him sexually attractive, helping to restore his self esteem, confidence and passion for life.

It’s the rejection that makes sex so difficult to talk about, he’s afraid to say he needs her every day, how will she respond? What if she says no? So few husbands find the courage to talk to their wives about how important sex is to them and their marital happiness.

Other men may try to convince themselves that sex is not an important need and that they can have a happy and fulfilling marriage without it, but as we have seen its is key to a man’s ability to feel cared for and loved, and something that causes them pain if not experienced. A wife who is no longer regularly having sex with her husband in his mind has become nothing more than a roommate, and despite the close proximately he will likely feel alone. In unhappy marriages, sex is always a source of conflict in a cycle of less and less sex and more and more distance and conflict. This certainly is not the path to a having a happy and fulfilling marriage.

After constant rejection the husband will often stop asking, just as the woman will usually stop asking for attention, and conversation and he may be tempted to meet his sexual needs in some other way where he no longer depends on his wife. He may reason, if he doesn’t need her to take care of him, he can avoid the physical discomfort and avoid or lesson the sting of rejection from his wife. Once he realize she will no longer meet his deepest needs, while his core value and convictions may make him feel obligated to stay in the marriage many will look elsewhere to meet this need. This is why according to Dr. Ellen Kreidman, 60% of married have an affair and up to 70% of the time a man will divorce after meeting someone else in the workplace.

Mary saw the room was a complete mess, and her mind had just added one more thing to do on her mental checklist when she saw a letter on Mike’s spot on the bed.

Dear Mary,

[_I’m sorry I haven’t taken the time to write you a letter so long. I used to write you letters and cards all the time when we were dating, but there never seems to be enough time anymore. After going to Ted’s funeral yesterday, I couldn’t stop thinking about my own life and my own marriage. This is very hard for me to say, but I can’t take not being intimate with you anymore. I was made to want to be with you, and each time you push me away it kills me inside. I really love you and the kids so much, but it’s not fair to me or to you if we are in a marriage where we are not making each other happy. _]

[_As Ted’s death reminds me we really don’t know how much time we have left, and I want your happiness for you. You look and act lately like you have no desire for me at all, I’ve tried to lie to myself telling myself maybe I can do without being with you, but I can’t live and be truly happy without having the love of a woman that really wants me and needs me and desires me. I used to be the happiest man in the world, having you by my side, but now I feel total and completely alone, and I can see in your eyes that so do you. _]

[_So don’t worry, I’ll stop asking you to want me, to give me your love, and I’ll stop feeling foolish for asking for it. _]

Love,

Mike

Mary felt the tears sliding down her face as she felt Mike’s pain. It hurt her to hear how she deeply she had been hurting him.

If she told him I’ll marry you but don’t expect to have passionate sex regularly with me after marriage do you think he would he have said “I do?”

If the groom did not believe that his wife would continue to meet his sexual needs after marriage, would he still want to marry her? To borrow from Dr. Steven Stosny, if she told him I’ll marry you but don’t expect to have passionate sex regularly with me after marriage do you think he would he have said “I do?”

One the main drivers for a man to get married is the promise that this very important and exclusive need is regularly met by his wife. This helps him to meet his vow to remain sexually faithful to her. To keep his promise to be true to his wife in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love her and honor her all the days of his life. He marries his wife, limiting where he can have this important need fulfilled to only his wife in whom he has put his complete trust in believing that because of her deep love for him that she will always want his happiness, she will always meet his deepest need for the rest of her life, just as she expects him to meet her deepest emotional needs for the rest of her life.

To a husband it’s amazing that on one hand they are expected to be faithful and monogamous, while their wife does not expect to regularly meet his sexual needs. This is clearly setting up a man for inevitable failure making him a very easy target for any other woman who promises to meet his most important need which is how he feels most deeply loved and cared for.

Without the commitment and willingness of a wife to meet her husband’s need to be cared for he would have never married his wife, and if he stays married under an arrangement of infrequent/uninterested sex in his mind they have become just roommates.

To him her being sexually intimate with him speaks love to him in his language, just as intimate conversation, and affection can speak love to her in her language. Just as a wife will feel less and less in love with her husband if he consistently neglects her emotional needs, a husband will feel less and less in love with his wife if she consistently neglects his need for sexual intimacy.

[*How often should wives’ meet their husband’s most important need? *]

Imagine if a husband were to not talk to his wife at all for an entire day, or a week, perhaps a month, or three months? A wife might ask herself if you weren’t going to be talking anymore why did we even get married? And while most men do talk to their wives at least a little, some husbands will go a days without having a really good and interesting conversation, they might just say their day was good, and mentally check that they have “talked” and met her need for the day while they haven’t.

If a wife has a great conversation with her husband and is feeling reconnected and close to him again last night, does that mean that today will she no longer want to spend time with him, or connect and feel close? Of course not. She’ll want and look forward to that same feeling of closeness again, and again day after day.

Just as we discussed earlier, husbands must make the time and schedule in time to meet their wife’s need to be known and to talk and connect every day, to give her a set time and a place that she can look forward to, to know no matter how tired you are or what’s going on you will be there for her to listen, and to show her she is cared for. At the same time, wives need to make time and a place to meet their husband’s need to feel wanted and deeply loved.

Just as a husband should be meeting his wife’s emotional needs and showing her his love consistently whether he feels like it or not, because it is vital to the overall health of the marriage, so too should a wife consistently meet her husband’s most important needs.

By consistently meeting a husband’s need for sexual intimacy the fear, anxiety, guilt and shame of rejection that is constantly draining the relationship account can instead be replaced with large deposits which help him over time into being “in love” with his wife and motivates him to show her his love for her.

When a wife recognizes, accepts, and meets her husband’s need for sexual intimacy even if they are not her own he feels deeply loved and cared for by her as it wordlessly speaks of her deep love for him in his language.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. If a wife’s emotional needs are not being met, how can that lead her to feel used?*]_]

2. How do you think only showing affection before sex hurt your spouse?

3. How do you think sexual rejecting your spouse hurts them?

4. What does the research by the makers of Viagra tell you?

[*5. How does meeting this need strengthen and protect your marriage? *]

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Talk your spouse about some of the concepts covered here*]_]

2. Wives let your spouse know how important meeting you emotional needs daily help you feel close and connected to your spouse.

*3. Husbands let your spouse know how important sex is to feeling close and connected to your spouse. *

*4. Set aside a time daily when you and your partner can be alone together without distractions to be able to meet this important need *

[* *]

~ Day 24 ~

How Husbands Can Help Their Wives Feel Safe, Secure and Cared for

Mary could feel her heart racing, as he walked out the door. She knew underneath it all he was really mad, she fought her instinct to run after him to try to get them to a good place. Inside she felt a deep dread and fear as she felt him slip away. Would it be for another prettier, woman? Or someone fresh and new? She remembered a friend talking about how she should have seen the signs before their divorce. She worried about the kids, what she could do, but felt paralyzed by fear, not knowing what to do without making things worse so she did nothing.

So what do husbands fear?

As Drs. Greg Baer and Steven Stosny, and other marriage experts have found, in marriage husbands and wives may have deep often unspoken fears. Fears of being rejected ridiculed or laughed at for our imperfections and shortcomings. It’s these fears that can lead to hiding who we truly are from each other. To be able to work through any fears that might be hindering our marriage, we first need to be able to identify them.

The following are a few common fears that husbands might have:

  • Being unable to make their wife happy
  • Being seen as a failure
  • Being disrespected
  • A loss of sexual intimacy and warmth
  • Not being looked at as their hero,
  • Being taken for granted
  • Losing their wife to another man
  • Being used and taken advantage of
  • Being embarrassed by having private matters being shared
  • Waking up one day next to a nagging critical wife

Why don’t husbands get a wife’s fear?

According to the authors of How to Improve Your Marriage without Talking About It, men “don’t get women’s fear. They just don’t know what it really feels like. Girls and women both experience and express far more fear, as measured in social contexts and in laboratory experiments that induce fear.”

[*So what do wives fear? *]

The following are a few common fears that wives might have:

  • Their husband will no longer find them attractive
  • Not being a good mother
  • Being controlled and being treated like a doormat
  • Losing who they are while trying to make their husbands happy
  • Physical, emotional or psychological abuse
  • Being unable to meet their husbands sexual needs
  • Finding out their husband has an issue with pornography
  • Being unloved
  • Not living out their dream marriage
  • And according to Dr. Laura Schlessinger over 95% of the women in one survey feared being rejected and abandoned (isolation)

How Women Deal with Fear vs. Men

These lists are only meant to provide some examples, there may be other unique fears that we may be holding that limit our happiness in marriage. One key concept is to understand how woman and men deal with fear differently. As the authors of How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It have asserted wives manage fear by building close friendships and relationships which provide them with comfort called the “tend and befriend,” while husbands manage fear by fight or flight responses. This explains the fundamental difference between how they handle threatening situations, with the typical wife often chasing after her husband to restore the relationship, while he tries to avoid her as he responds with flight. While wives want to talk about fears to feel better and soother their fear of being abandoned, husbands often resist as it often reminds of how they have failed in some way.

For a husband at the heart of his fear, is that he is incompetent in some way. Whether it’s at work, or in the bedroom it’s the fear of inadequacy and loss of respect that is deeply ingrained in him. Often as a part of coming into manhood husbands learn to conquer their fears, to accomplish and succeed just as some tribes send young men on rites of passage to become men. While many husbands do learn to overcome fear according to Dr. Steven Stosny they are much more vulnerable to shame and disrespect.

Mike saw the pain and fear in her eyes, how could they have come to this? He thought to himself. There was a time they were always laughing and he felt that he could do no wrong. Now he felt he couldn’t anything right. She looked at him doubtful and unsure. Was she unsure that he could make her happy that he was the right one? It was embarrassing to him that he couldn’t feel confident around him. The more fearful she looked to more embarrassed he felt.

What is The Fear & Shame Cycle?

The authors of How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It have provided an insightful concept. Here they describe a fear and shame cycle, where wives fall in love by having their fears relieved and husband fall in love by having their shame relived and that this concept is often secretly working in most marriages. Here the thought is that wives fall in love when their husbands make them feel safe, by providing for them and not hurting them, while husbands fall in love when their wives make them feel competent and successful by being pleased and admiring their efforts.

These authors trace back the origins of this cycle to childhood where boys which are instinctively more resistant to fear are often told they are being bad using shame to discourage them while girls are often told they are going to get hurt, using fear to discourage them.

A classic example they point to is how thousands of men took their lives after the stock market crash of 1929 as a result of the shame they felt after losing their ability to provide a certain lifestyle, and how only a handful of wives did the same, even though they lost just as much money and status as their husbands. What might drive her to such an extreme would be if she felt completely unloved, abandoned and isolated.

In the fear-shame cycle, a wife’s fear; shows a lack of confidence in her husband’s ability to provide and protect, which may cause him to fight or flight, which will increase her fear of isolation. Husbands generally feel their wife’s happiness is something they are responsible, further intensifying his feelings of shame.

The authors make another key distinction, around how fear and shame affects the thought processes of husbands and wives differently. To avoid shame, husbands often do not allow themselves to consider shame, and he purposefully avoids these thought appearing at time insensitive. For wives on the other hand fear brings fearful thoughts into the thought process and causes us to focus and dwell on them. Understandably a husband constantly avoiding while a wife constantly dwells on a situation can cause conflict in the marriage. This fear/shame dynamic motivates a wife to get her husband to do what she wants to help reduce her fear and anxiety, while motivating husbands to get their wives to do what they want to reduce his shame and embarrassment.

While husbands can often easily see how their larger size and stronger voice can evoke feelings of fear in their wife, what is often missed is how wives can use their superior communication skills to verbally cut their husbands down to size to create feelings of embarrassment and shame in their husbands.

With this knowledge, husbands should then constantly help their wives overcome their fears and she should constantly help him overcome his shame.

What motivates a wife to develop a strong relationship with her husband?

Wives are motivated to develop strong relationship as they minimize fear brought about by comfort from a lack of isolation. They want to talk about relationships because underlying the anger or irritation is a deep fear that makes her feel uneasy, fearful, and isolated.

Husbands are not equally motivated because relationships (especially a marriage on the rocks) in their view may be another source of shame. If his marriage is not going well the last place he might want to go to for support is his marriage, because it would likely only remind him of his shortcomings. The reason why husbands are often reluctant to talk about their relationship is because talking about unhappiness with the relationship for which he feels responsible, often makes him feel unsuccessful and shameful.

Mike used to tell his wife everything on his mind, but as the years have passed he’s learned he can’t just be himself and say the first thing that comes to his mind, else he might find himself in the dog house. He’s afraid how he’s react when he says we’re spending more than we make. He’s afraid how she will react if he tells her he’s not happy with her in bed. He’s afraid how she’ll react if he says he feels she schedules his free time so completely that he often feels completely burnt out. So when she asks him how he’s doing, he says “Great.” And he leaves it at that.

So what is the Impact of fear?

Fear gets in the way of our ability to be completely open and known to our spouse which is a prerequisite for having intimacy in marriage. Fear discourages us from talking about how we really feel about things, and being able to express our thoughts and wants. According to Dr. Greg Baer, as we express how we feel, if we pick up our spouse’s disproval or disagrees with what we are expressing, we may stop talking or say something that we know our spouse will agree with hiding our real feeling for fear of disapproval or rejection. We need to be able to overcome this fear if we are ever going to have meaningful conversation, even if we use the right form and technique but are afraid to speak openly and honestly. Without being able to share our true thoughts, desires and who we really are we cannot feel truly loved and cared for. It’s this fear that prevents us from telling our partner that our needs aren’t being met, that we really do need them to work toward creating a happy marriage.

  • Fear of rejection causes husbands to give up trying to be romantic.
  • Fear of rejection causes us to indirectly ask for what we want, instead of directly asking for what we want.
  • Fear of conflict causes us to never raise and discuss important topics.
  • Fear to acknowledge that our marriage isn’t where we want it to be prevents us from moving in the right direction.
  • Fear of failure causes husbands to give up trying to make her happy and to stop give up and stop caring.

Ultimately it’s fear that can cause us to continue to distance ourselves so we are not hurt by our spouse, which leads to a fading marriage and eventual divorce.

Mary looked at the clock at work, it was 5pm and she still had an hour left before she could leave to get home by 7. The phones rang, and emails flooded her inbox, by the time she got home, it was 7:30.

Little Brandon was already in bed; he’d been feeling under the weather and turned in early. I know we agreed that it would be best for us financially if I went to work, but I feel like I am missing out, like I can’t be there for the kids. She thought quietly. She didn’t know whether to blame Mike for not making more money, or if it was just that things were so expensive today, or that maybe they just didn’t need so much stuff.

As she saw his chest rise and fall as he quietly slept, she imagined to herself being able to stay home with the children, and not having to feel torn and divided between work and home. She missed the kids like crazy and each time she came home and the child care provider excitedly shared how Brandon had hit a milestone, like his first steps, and first words, it hurt her inside.

Part of her was reluctant and afraid to completely depend on Mike, but she decided to choose to depend on him not because she had to but because she wanted to. In that moment, she felt the weight of a ton of bricks falling off her back She made up her mind to tell Mike how she felt that night.

Even though she can take care of herself, deep inside does she want him to take care of her financially?

According to Dr. Laura Schlessinger, current research shows that woman still prefer and are more attracted to men who are breadwinners and who can physically protect them. Instinctively most look for a husband that is able to earn enough to allow her to stay home with the children. While most husbands don’t mind if their wives, stay at home, most wives dislike having to go to work they want the ability to choose whether or now whether they work or not.

One fear that some have is that they can’t completely rely on their husbands and depend on their husbands and so they are reluctant to give up their careers can choose to stay at home. With working wives unable to focus 100% on the home and family, they often find themselves exhausted and unhappy. They want to rely on their husbands and focus on the home and children, even if only for a season while they are young, but fear and mounting financial debts can get in the way.

Many couples unknowingly create a lifestyle which requires a dual income; instead of maintaining a more modest lifestyle which he may be able to support. Later on when the kids arrive, they may find that they cannot afford for her to stop working, and as a result a very basic and key need goes unmet.

If a wife expected to be able to stay home with her children if she wanted before marriage now finds herself feeling she has to work, this may be causing a deep strain in the marriage, as one of her key needs for financial support is not being met. Every day that she goes to work, and is away from her children on some level may lead to hurt from being away from her home and children.

This often unspoken need is one of the key ways a husband can show his love for his wife, by working hard and with a greater purpose and passion shouldering the financial responsibility for the family. He constantly works to enhance his skills, education, and marketability, and uses his creativity and other gifts to meet this important need. The husband that is able to recognize this need and work to meet it will be enable his wife to experience a great freedom and fulfillment by giving her the gift of choice. The wife who chooses to accept this gift and is able to rely on her husband’s strength and support will also find her love for him has grown.

By being able to rely on husbands to be the primary breadwinner and entrusting them to care for their wives, wives are telling their husbands I believe in you and it allows them to show their love for their wives. They get a chance to say “I love you and I’m here for you” by providing for them. The wife that does not allow her husband to care for her does not allow him to fully show his love for her.

[*What does a wife find attractive about her husband? *]

Along with being able have her need for financial support met by her husband, she also has a need for him to be confident and decisive. According to Dr. Ellen Kreidman the number one characteristic that a woman finds attractive in her husband is confidence. On the opposite end of the spectrum insecurity shown by a husband (for example if he shows a fear that his wife will leave him) is seen as a turn-off by most wives.

A wife doesn’t want a husband who appears weak and insecure; she has a deep need for him to carry himself confidently and with strength. I agree with Ellen’s view who says, if a husband is afraid to be assertive, strong and confident because he’s afraid of losing her, and she sees her husband as weak, predictable, dependent and needy that for her the romance has ended. Husbands must continue to be fearless, strong and confident to continue to be attractive to their wives. For husbands that might have allowed this to happen over time, they need rediscover their courage and confidence, for the betterment of their marriage.

[*How does she need him to protect her? *]

Wives also have deep need for their husbands to protect them both emotionally and physically. Especially when she is going through a difficult time, for example perhaps the loss of someone close, or if she or someone close to her is in the hospital, this creates an even deeper need for her to feel that husband is there for her.

Unlike husbands who would rather have space to sort through feelings and thoughts, wives want to feel their husband’s presence. It’s when her life is a mess and some disaster has struck and she doesn’t have it all together, that she needs her husband to stand next to her and be there for her in the moment.

If she’s hurting and upset and she doesn’t know at the moment what she needs or is going to do, a husband who does not run out of fear of not knowing what to do but stands by her side is protecting her heart. To hold her hand and hold her close so she could feel his support, his strength and confidence that he will carry her if he needs to, and that they will get through the hard times together.

She needs to feel that he will protect her heart know that he will to lay down his own life for her.

There was something about the way that Mary looked at him that was different now. He couldn’t quiet put his finger on it at first but now, he realized what it was. The day when he fell in love with her wasn’t the day she said “I love you.” It was the day, he stood by her, and she looked up at him with those adoring eyes, like he could do no wrong, and she looked at him like he was her hero.

He had never felt so alive and he felt that as they drew closer to each other, and discovered each other, that that was an adventure. It seemed like a lifetime ago since she gave him that look that said, “I believe in you, I know there’s nothing you can’t do, you’re my hero.” He stumbled upon an old picture someone took when they weren’t paying attention. He keeps its folded in his wallet and stares at it sometimes, reminding himself how it felt when he had won heart and she had quietly declared him her champion. How he longed to one day be her hero again, and feel the same hopefulness and excitement that he once felt. A part of him wondered if she would every look at him that way again…

How does her need for domestic support show up?

After having children, wives often find themselves with a brand new demanding role that creates new stress and challenges in their life. According to Dr. John Grey, she may not ask for his help early on, and only ask when she’s already in a place where she is frustrated and feeling overwhelmed. At first she may be indirect, expecting it to be obvious to him where and how she needs help, as she has the gift of intuition. But without clearly begin asked, he simply doesn’t ask or offer.

To complicate things, husbands may think because they might be offended if asked if they needed help (they’d often say they have it all under control) that their wives also might also view asking for help the same way. Wives may also become critical of how their husbands help, expecting things to be done exactly the way they would do it or start trying to communicate to them in a motherly way, both strategies which de-motivate husbands and make them not want to provide any domestic support. Not because they don’t want to help, but because of the way they are being asked, which might sound like a disrespectful critical demand versus a loving request.

What happens when he doesn’t help her around the house?

While husbands enjoy coming home to a comfortable and relaxing home, wives also enjoy this as well. This is what makes today’s dual income family model so difficult to support. A generation or two ago, wives would often make managing a home their primary role and responsibility because there is so much work involved.

As a matter of fact, Reuters, a top research company, in 2006, published the findings of an extensive study to measure and value all of the work that a stay at home mom performs. When they added it all up, they found that in 2006, her income for managing the home would be $134,121; today, six years later, that value is likely to be even greater, at around $146,653. The point here is that it takes a lot of work to manage a home, and the effort here is very valuable.

If she is working two jobs between one outside the home and managing the home, without his help on the home front, she can feel overwhelmed and feel the situation is unfair. As a result over time feelings of anger, resentment, and bitterness that “she gets stuck with everything.” can emerge. It’s tough for a wife to feel relaxed in a home where she herself constantly feels like she’s always behind. This can be a source of tension and anxiety, as frustrated wives may begin to nag and complain to their husbands that they are not getting the help and support they need. Often this only leads to more withdrawals from each others’ relationship accounts.

While husbands may not be naturally motivated to do chores or help, their love for their wives should motivate them to want to help. When she does not feel her husband is helping, she feels uncared for and unsupported. Instead of feeling like their hero is there to save them from the terrible two year olds, they feel abandoned. Instead of feeling like a princess or queen, they can end up feeling like Cinderella.

If a wife is working outside the home… and managing a home is also a great deal of work, she will need her husband’s help and they will need to be able to work together as a team. Ideally a wife should be able to decide if she wants to work on managing the home and raising the children, or if she wants to do both. Both want a comfortable and relaxing home to enjoy, and both will need to work together to be able to create it.

Why help her out with the house?

According to research by Dr. John Gottman, husbands that helped their wives manage the home enjoyed a much better sex life than those who didn’t. When wives feel that they are being supported in the home, and are receiving acts of service from their husband, this all works to help them to feel more valued and loved. When she feels more loved and cared for, her desire for sexual intimacy is often a natural result.

Many wives often report that a major reason they do not have sex as often is because they simply lack the energy they once did because of the increased workload and demands that running a household brings.

Dr. Gottman indicated that it’s not necessarily the additional chores which accounted for the more frequent and better sex life reported; instead, it was really the whole partnership, of her feeling that he is there to support her that leads to a greater emotional and then sexual intimacy.

“What are you doing?” Mary asked, poking her head out from the kitchen.

“Watching the game, you know, just trying to relax…” Mike answer cautiously.

Mary continued unloading the bags of groceries; Brandon was trying to “help” when the breaking of glass was heard throughout the house as the bottle of grape juice spread all over the floor under the sink—little Brandon looked up shocked. Mary tried to grab Brandon before he stepped on a shard of broken glass, but it was too late, now he was really screaming. All this happened in a window of about ten seconds.

“Mike! A little help!” Mary yelled.

Mike had just shown up. “Is everything okay…?” he asked.

“Maybe if I had ‘a little help,’ but I have no help Mike. I am ALL BY myself. You leave me do everything…”

“Why didn’t you just ask…?” Mike started to say.

“Ask?! It’s common sense!” she said, keeping pressure on Brandon’s bleeding foot as she carefully carried him to the bathroom.

Mike quietly began picking up pieces of glass and wondering why he felt bad for something he didn’t even do…

How do we meet the need for household support?

Everyone wants to relax, and needs to relax and recharge from a busy day. For him to be able to enjoy a comfortable and relaxed home, and for her to feel supported, both need to get on the same page and have a routine that meets both of these needs. If one spouse is relaxing while another spouse is working on chores, this is usually an indication of some imbalance. Ideally, everyone should work together and then relax together.

The way we avoid wasting time on the same issues day after day is to spend a little time planning, and discussing how to manage household efforts together to try to make the workload as equitable as possible.

The first step is to define and list out everything that needs to be done. For each task we should include:

  1. Name

2. Description

3. Date, time, and frequency

4. Requestor (who wants it done)

5. Owner (who’s currently responsible)

6. Priority (high, medium, and low)

This list should include making meals, cleaning various rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms, laundry, shopping for food, going to appointments, picking up kids, homework, etc. It may take some upfront effort, but this is a necessary step to meeting these critical needs. Often this will result in a view of exactly why a couple may feel so stressed now versus when they first met, and before kids arrived on the scene, and we can see why the valuation of all this work is assessed at around $146,000.

Here, Dr. Willard Harley recommends that a couple reviews this list of chores and creates two lists, one which lists the wife’s tasks and chores, and one that lists the husband’s tasks and chores, suggesting that where possible, the person that may enjoy a particular task continue to be responsible for these, while the chores that are least desirable be done by the spouse that wants the chore to be done most.

Couples should work to keep the work overall as balanced as possible. If a husband is working 50 hours a week, and say there are 34 hours’ worth of work managing the home, and his wife stays at home managing the home, to expect him to do half—or 17 hours—of work in addition to his 50 hour a week job would be unbalanced. On the other hand, if she goes to work 40 hour a week, and he’s at work 40 hours a week, to expect her to do most of the chores—or 30 hours of chores while he does 4 hours—is also unbalanced.

Balancing is not only about trying to balance the amount of time, but balancing the difficulty of the work. If he just mowed the lawn for an hour on a hot day, that might be more intense than putting a load of laundry in. At the end of the day, both couples need to work out and agree to what seems to be a fair and balanced. It doesn’t need to be a perfect balance in terms of hours and effort, but it should feel balanced, with both striving to be able to be done with chores together.

If you have the financial resources, having someone come in to help with chores can also be a great way to help towards meeting this need.

Remember, this is a great opportunity to meet each others’ need to show and receive love for each other by serving each other and caring for each other.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. What are some of the fears or shame that you might have that might be hurting your own marriage? *]_]

2. How do you think husbands and wives handle fear and shame differently?

[*3. If you’re a husband do you think your wife would want to stay at home if you have small children at home? *]

[*4. If you’re a wife would want to stay at home if you have small children at home? *]

5. Have you been meeting your spouse’s need for domestic support?

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Talk about fear and shame with your spouse, and how it may be hurting your marriage, and how you can work to overcome this. *]_]

2. Husbands write down 3 ways you can increase your confidence

[*3. If you’re a wife that wants to stay at home talk about this with your husband *]

[*4. If you don’t already have a clear outline of chores and responsibilities, take the approach cited above to develop one with your partner. *]

*5. Husbands the next time your wife needs you, be her rock and show her you are there for her. *

 

~ Day 25 ~

[+How to Make Our Spouse Feel Appreciated and Admired +]

Do most unhappily married couples feel appreciated?

Deep inside, some husbands and wives feel unappreciated. Husbands may feel their wives do not really appreciate their dedication and efforts as they go to work to provide, and wives may feel unappreciated whether they work inside or outside the home leading them ultimately to feel burnt out and asking themselves, “what’s the point? No one appreciates what I do anyway.”

According to John Gottman’s, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work , 80% of divorced men and women said their marriage broke up because they gradually grew apart and lost a sense of closeness, or because they did not feel loved and appreciated. Dr. Scott Haltzman found that the top three reasons cited by women who initiate divorce are:
[_

  1. Gradual growing apart, losing a sense of closeness;_]

[_2. Serious differences in lifestyle and/or values; and _]

3. Not feeling loved or appreciated by their husbands.

Again and again we see that the common missing ingredient that leads to divorce is a lack of appreciation. Underscoring how important it is in any happy and fulfilling marriage.

Why do many of us never feel appreciated?

Despite its significance, in many marriages couples do not feel appreciated. While one person may truly appreciate what the other has done, if it’s never genuinely communicated and understood then it will never be felt.

If we are never directly told how much we are appreciated for all that we do how can we feel it? Just like hearing the words, “I love you” can help us feel someone’s love for us, hearing the words, “I appreciate all you do” can help us feel someone’s appreciation for us.

We need to feel appreciated, valued and cherished to have a deep sense of intimacy in marriage. Unfortunately, for some of us, it’s not until we lose our spouse to divorce or illness and we realize how much they meant and did for us. Words unsaid, like I love you, and I appreciate all you have done can haunt us.

Even when we say, “you don’t have to thank me”, secretly most of us love being thanked and appreciated it makes us feel good about who we are and what we are doing. While, we might say, “Stop your too kind” our hearts are often saying, “tell me more!”

Why don’t we tell our spouse how much we appreciate them?

Unfortunately when we are pressed for time often we often only talk about the issues, or things that need to get done. After a while it may seem like that is all we are talking about. This is why we need to make time to talk to each other so that we have enough time to talk about more than just the day to day, or pressing matters, and we can take the time to show our appreciation for each other.

What is at the core of many struggling marriages?

At the heart of couples in struggling marriages is a deep feeling of being unappreciated, while at the heart of strong and happy marriages both deeply appreciate and value each other.

In many broken marriages couples no longer feel appreciated and valued by their spouse for all that are and do. Sadly their efforts seem to go unnoticed. Husbands for example may become less motivated as a result and begin to do less and less because of a lack of appreciation, while their wives become more and more upset that less and less is getting done.

Often what happens is that we move from making requests, and being truly grateful when the person chooses to meet the request, to expecting and demanding that things happen. Here even if it’s done, appreciation may not given because it is expected, and what’s worse the person making the demand can become angry or disappointed when their demand is not met.

What happens when this need for appreciation is not met?

Who wants to race home from work, from a job which may be giving you some appreciation to a place where appreciation just doesn’t exist?

Dr Willard Harley observes that, when one wife for example is constantly only reminding her husband of what he hasn’t done, and didn’t do, and doesn’t appreciate him when he does do it, and has a “don’t expect me to thank you for doing your job” attitude, and another woman is constantly a appreciative for everything he does, meeting a very important core and basic need, this opens the door of a husband’s heart to another woman that is able to kindly make requests and then shower him with appreciation for all his effort.

According to Dr Scott Haltzman sadly it’s very common for husbands to leave their wives for their secretaries or coworkers that constantly praise them and treat them with admiration and appreciation.

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs gives an excellent example of a how destructive a lack of appreciation is. In his book, he describes a husband who came home to announce some good news. However, she was preoccupied and not really paying attention and gave him a generic, “that’s nice dear response” which inside crushed him and led him to avoid sharing things that really mattered to him in the future. Emerson goes on to say that a woman would be able to empathize if she announced that she is pregnant and her husband responded with, a distracted disinterested “That’s nice, dear.”

Likewise a wife who has spent hours working on a nice meal for her husband craves to hear how much he appreciates her effort and her meal. When he just eats and says a low, quick “Thanks”, she may not feel appreciate. But if he just takes an extra 30 seconds to say, “You know, I could smell this cooking from upstairs, and I couldn’t wait to eat, wow, this is really, good , just look at the how tender the meat is, and perfect potatoes, thanks so much for this, it’s really delicious, I’m so lucky to have you.

Wow, what a difference adding another 30 seconds to his thanks can make, he’s taken a step to show her he really appreciates what she has done; it makes a big difference and guess what? Often the kids will chime in, and try to top dad in complementing mom, and how does mom feel? She might not say too much, but on the inside it will likely lead her to feeling valued, loved, and appreciated!

What gives us the drive to push forward?

It’s appreciation that gives us the drive and energy to push forward.

Especially for husbands, appreciation, praise and approval from their wife for their accomplishments and effort means everything to them, it’s what makes them feel like a hero. Wives also have a deep need to have their efforts be recognized and appreciated. Couples want to hear the words, to get the look that says, that’s says “Wow I am so lucky to have you, your great, I couldn’t possibly do it all alone, I am so grateful for you. “

It’s appreciation and praise that often motivates us to change, and to grow and to do more, while the opposite criticism and harsh complaints only de-motivates us from even trying next time.

Life is challenging, and it’ often our partners encouragement, praise and appreciation that can make a huge difference in our lives. Appreciation though perhaps not often talked about, is a very important need. Remember that a lack of appreciation is one of the top three reasons wives offered when asked why they were divorcing their spouse.

So then being able to show our spouse our appreciation is important to being able to create a happy and fulfilling marriage.

So how do we show Appreciation?

The first step towards being able to show appreciation is by adopting an appreciative mindset. By moving from a “why should I thank you for doing your job” mindset to one that says, “I’m so glad and grateful you choose to do this for me”.

I agree with Dr Greg Baer’s perspective, which is that if we expect our partner to do what they do, then we can’t receive what is done for us as a gift, and really appreciate it. We often really appreciate gifts, something given to us, time, money, and affection, things we feel that we didn’t earn or was really expected but we got anyway. We say wow thanks!

But say our kid gets spoiled after we continue to give and give, and doesn’t thank us anymore, and says, “is that all?”, “it’s about time”, “I didn’t even want this, I wanted something else”, would that motivate us to continue to give gifts?

Along with having an appreciative mindset, being able to put aside what may be our natural critical tendency and replacing our focus from finding fault or imperfection, and responding with criticism to instead focusing on the positive and responding with appreciation and praise is key.

It starts first with deciding to choose our focus within ourselves and then talking about it with our partner and letting them know that we are working to be more appreciative and then being deliberate about letting our spouse know that we appreciate them every single day. Each day we should find something that our partner does or represents that we can appreciate. Whether it’s how good she is with the kids, or how beautiful she looks, or how hard he works or how confident he is, to just tell each other once a day is to water the seeds of appreciation and love in our marriage.

[*What do we need to hear to feel appreciated? *]

Remember, if we think it but never say it, our spouse will never feel it. The words need to be spoken and heard to truly feel appreciated. Husbands and wives need to hear and feel they are appreciated each day.

We need to hear our spouse tell us:

  • I am so grateful for all the work that you do for our family
  • I am so thankful that you are always here by my side quietly protecting me ready to defend me
  • I am so appreciative of having you in my life to talk to , to share our time and lives together
  • Thanks for being there and listening to be before, it really meant a lot to me.
  • I am so grateful for, you fill in the blank…

In John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work he does an excellent job of breaking down a list of 61 characteristics that we all have from being loving, committed, generous, funny and thoughtful to being intelligent brave and sexy and then encourages us to find, some of these characteristic that we appreciate that are in our spouse. Next he advises us to tell our how much we appreciate that part of them.

It’s important that each day we pick at least one positive characteristic about our spouse, or one positive thing that they have done that day and share this with our partner. This will enable them to feel that we appreciate and love who they are. Showing our love and appreciation verbally in the right tone and then showing them affection with a kiss and a hug will work wonders to strengthen our marriage.

Many husbands work hard for that big promotion or to give their wife that one big thing that he believes she will really appreciate. Remember thought it’s often really all the little things that he does for her each day. Little things which include making sure she feels appreciated; that make her feel cared for and loved. This will often put her in a place in the relationship where she can find herself more easily appreciating all that he does for her.

Does he need her to be proud of him and to admire him?

When husbands were little boys, they wanted their mom and dad to be proud of them and admire them and would have a glow about them every time they were praised. As men, husbands still have that deep need to feel proud and admired, this time from their wives. His dream wife, makes him feel like a hero appreciating all that he does for her making him feel wanted and needed, motivating and driving him to do his very best in all he does. Just as some wives believe they need to be beautiful to be worthy of love, husband often feel they need to achieve and save the day in order to be worthy of love from their wives.

When a husband tells his wife constantly how beautiful she is, she feels worthy of his love, when a wife tells him how much she admires him, he feels worthy of her love. When he tells her she doesn’t need to worry about makeup because she is already more beautiful than any other woman could hope to be in his eyes, and when she tells him he doesn’t need to worry about accomplishment because he is already more accomplished than any other man in her eyes, we enable each other to experience each other’s deep love for each other.

Being genuinely appreciated and praised is at the core of every man’s deepest need. When he can constantly rely on this from his wife, he grows and is able to love her move fully and more deeply, just as her having him meet her needs enables her to more easily admire him and look up to him. When a husband is treated with admiration and like a hero for what he does for his wife, he is greatly motivated to do more and more for his wife, to get his deepest needs for appreciation met.

So what’s the impact of not admiring him?

When one of our deepest needs is not met, we open the door to have this need met by someone else. There are countless stories where someone outside the marriage was able to convince a husband or a wife that they are so incredible and capable and that they can’t believe how their partner doesn’t appreciate them and all that they do. This is an especially strong lure for men who instinctively have a strong need to be the hero and save the damsel in distress to be worth of her love and affection. Having another woman that admires him and makes him feel good about himself, strong, intelligent capable, sexy, good looking, when his wife at home does not; time and time again leads to an affair which would have been more easily resisted had this vulnerably not existed through neglect over time. Instead of having another woman seduce him, by offering to meet his needs, a wife should work to meet his needs daily.

When she helps him feel good about himself, by praising him for what he has done, whether it’s trying to make her laugh, find a solution for a problem, his work, helping our around the house, or some positive characteristic that he is showing. Even if it feels unnatural or difficult at first it will eventually become easier and easier until it becomes second nature. This is one of the greatest gifts she can give o her husband. To be able to through her eyes, and words enable him to see his strength, and value which will ultimately bring him to a place once again where he simply cannot live without her.

Deep inside husband’s have a deep need for their wife’s approval, appreciation, admiration and praise.

So how can she praise and admire him?

She shows him she admires him, by not being critical and pointing out and his every shortcoming. ? When she tells him:

  • How attractive he is to her
  • How helpful he is to her
  • How sexy and desirable he is
  • How strong or good looking he is
  • How she feels lucky to have him all to herself, that he is her man
  • How safe she feels around him
  • How impressed she is with what he has accomplished
  • How romantic and loving he is
  • What a good listener he his
  • How smart he is

…right there an arrow is shot into his heart. She is meeting his powerful need for admiration and praise and to feel like her hero.

Does he want to be her hero protecting her from all harm?

Husbands are hardwired to meet this need. As the authors of How to Improve Your Marriage without Talking About It mention, husbands have a strong desire to protect and connect. Deep inside he has an overpowering need to protect and care for his wife and family, a wife’s appreciation for this strengthens and emboldens him and meets an important need within him. Inside every man is a knight, a hero who needs to be needed and relied on to single handedly save his beautiful wife from any danger, and any fears and hurts that might come her way. Just the sight of her giving him “the look” inspires him drives him. Why do they have cheerleaders in football? Because it emboldens and strengthens the players, they give it their all inspire to the danger, pressure and pain and they are able to perform at another level. She has the key to unlocking the hero inside of him.

How does his desire to be her hero and protect her play out in marriage?

As University of Chicago psychologists have discovered we feel happier, stronger, more creative, and more satisfied when engaged in activities involving challenge and skill.

He lives for adventure. He’s drawn to incredible stories of adventure like “Gladiator”, “Cinderella Man”, and “Rocky” where he takes a risk, overcomes his fears and fights for what he believes in despite the odds, just as a wife is drawn to romantic stories.

Just as she tires of the monotony of the every day, and craves spontaneous romance, deep inside he’s looking for an adventure to live out.

As mentioned by John Eldredge’s In Love and War, one of the greatest things we can do is design a life together where we create an exciting and passionate adventure together where it’s ”the two of us against the world.”

When we decide to embark together on a mission, that goes beyond the day to day, like mowing the lawn or doing laundry and we stretch ourselves and have to rely on each other, it’s in these situations that we fall more deeply in love.

John Eldredge recounts a time when he and his wife counseled a suicidal girl and got through to her that her life was worth living. It was when they realized what a profound difference that the two of them together had made on some else’s life that they experienced a sheer thrill and excitement of feeling truly alive.

It’s that kind of shared adventure and excitement that is missing from many marriages, that we are longing to experience.

How does a joint sense of adventure and purpose strengthen our marriage?

It puts our day to day life and challenges into perspective. Suddenly that someone forgot to take out the trash is not as big of a deal.

In our adventure, we get to say, “I’m by your side on this”, “Stay close to me”. When you’re fighting for something bigger than you, that is bigger than any one of you can handle alone, fighting side by side together strengthens your connection like nothing else. Whether its deciding to open a business together, working to help others to save their marriage, or fighting the battle of cancer, to really reach out to those who are really struggling with poverty…whatever your shared dream is; working towards it side by side will meet his need to share in adventure and challenge.

This adventure needs to be created and cultivated; we can create memories and adventure by being intentional and breaking out of our routines. If we don’t plan to do something spontaneous and adventurous with our spouse, it’s likely to never happen. It’s the unexpected that is most memorable.

[*What is a hero? *]

The classic example is that of a soldier willing to sacrifice his life in battle. True selfless sacrifice is the mark of a hero. Any good husband would instinctively be willing to lay his life down for his wife’s protection. While maybe not as striking but equally important, husbands need to be willing to sacrifice their time, their focus, and their energy that they put toward individual desires and goals toward meeting the needs of their wives every day.

How does he see himself as a hero?

He is born for this adventure. Little boys watch Power Rangers, He-Man, story after story, there is a danger and he needs to put aside his doubts and his fear and overcome it. He needs to save the world or save the girl from imminent danger. And just because he’s grown up doesn’t mean that the little boy inside him doesn’t want to save his wife or help her, that’s what it’s all about for him. When he goes off to work, in his mind he’s “slaying dragons” to care for his family, he’s doing it for her.

At the same time she dreams of being beautiful and worthy enough to fight for. Is she really worth his willing to fight for? Be hurt for? To die for? To him, it’s yes.

How can he be her hero every day?

So if husbands are willing to die for her to protect her physically, then husbands should be prepared to take that same position emotionally, and protect her heart. Husbands can refuse to talk in anger, and only speak in kindness and in love to her always protecting and defending her heart, even if it means their own is hurt in the process. Husbands find the courage to stand firm and protect her heart out of their love.

When a husband decides to protect her from her fear and help her to feel safe and secure, he meets one of her strongest needs to feel safe, while at the same time meeting his own irresistible need to protect. When he hears his wife is hurting, instinctively he wants to run to her rescue and keep her safe.

He imagines that she will cry out “My hero!” after he saves her and that he will feel her love and adoration. At that moment he will feel like the hero he was meant to be.

Many times if he fails to protect her, and hurts her he does not realize it. He may think that giving her space will help her as it helps him, but when he learns that it hurts her, he will often rise to the occasion and stand guard and protect her heart. This is one reason why a husband may be hurt or angry when his wife is afraid or worried, because he feels responsible for her safety.

How does she inspire him to be her hero?

Something about a beautiful girl inspires a man to be her hero. It’s like when you see your first born child and you just want to hold them close, to protect and love them, it’s the same when he sees her. Finally he’s found someone to protect, to love and care for as he feels his need to be her hero being met. At the same time she’s able to be the beauty in the story that is worth fighting for; she’s found her knight to keep her safe to protect her and cherish her.

It’s through his role as hero, and protector that he finds purpose, strength and motivation to love her through any weather. Through her love for him he feels invincible and able now to put his own needs aside as he strives to make her happy. As Dr. John Grey has observed, it when she allows him to help her, when she allows herself to need him and to be her hero again, he feels empowered, trusted, accepted, appreciated and encouraged greatly strengthening the marriage by having this key need met.

So what does he need from her to feel like her hero?

To be that hero husbands needs their wives to believe in them and need them. They want to know as they stand before their dragons, that they have their wife’s full support in their corner. That she has no doubt that he is strong enough, smart enough capable enough to accomplish anything he sets him mind and heart to. That she has complete trust and belief in him, it’s through this kind of faith and that a wife shows her husband that unlocks the hero that lies within every husband. This need to be believed in runs so deep that most husbands will feel unloved and disrespected if their wives fail to show their husbands that they believe in them and can lead him to spend more time at work, if he can have his need, to be believed in, trusted and needed met there. He’ll be the hero at the job, if he has to be, but truth be told he’d rather be her hero.

Beyond being believed in husbands need to be needed. One of the reasons why they are quick to offer solutions to problems is because they are looking to protect and help their wife. They see the problem and situation as a dragon to be dealt with, and they search for the solution to slay it.

When his wife shoots down all his ideas, because perhaps she doesn’t quite feel understood yet, it discourages him and he begins to feel that he is not needed. How can you feel like a hero, when feel like you’re not wanted, and not needed? When a wife begins to trust her husband; believing in him he becomes more confident and is more willing and more motivated to show her how cares for her each day.

Why do some wives push away the very help they need?

Dr. John Grey makes a key distinction when he explains that often when a wife is afraid of not being supported, she pushes away the support she needs from her husband causing him to feel rejected.

Dr. Grey keenly observes that while husbands are driven and motivated by being needed that they are turned off by neediness. It’s this subtle yet critical distinction between being needy and being needed that Dr. Grey does an excellent job of defining. He tells us that when husbands feel needed, they sense that their wives believe that they are capable of meeting their needs, and that a husband only needs to choose to meet them.

On the other hand, neediness is requesting that needs are met, but without the belief, confidence and trust that their husband is capable of meeting these needs. It’s this neediness and this doubt of his ability to meet her needs that discourages him whereas her believing in him and needing him empowers and motivates him to care for her and protect her.

Just as a wife wants her husband to make her feel beautiful and loved each day, a husband wants his wife to make him feel capable and respected each day. Over time she inspires him and motivates him with her words to become the man of her dreams.

When she holds him close and gives him that look, like he’s the one, he’s her hero, and tells him I’m so glad you’re my man, she pierces his heart with an arrow, and he’s falling in love all over again.

As she does this, day after day she builds up her relationship account over time leading him to fall even more deeply in love with her. Once he feels she truly admires and appreciates him and is happy with him he is more confidentially able to cherish and adore her. From this place of being more deeply in love he will be motivated to show his wife how much he cares for her, working to make her feel cherished and loved each day.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. Why do you think not being appreciated is one of the top 3 reasons for divorce?*]_]

2. Do you show your own spouse how much you really appreciate them?

3. Do you show you spouse how much you admire them?

4. Do you see how a husband needs to be hero to his wife?

5. Have you let your husband be your hero? Or have you been a hero to your wife?

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Talk to your spouse about how a husband has a need to be a hero, and how he wants to be her hero every day. *]_]

2. Talk to your spouse about how a joint sense of adventure can create passion in your marriage

[*For the next 30 days: *]

3. Tell your partner at least one thing that you appreciate about them each day.

4. Tell your partner at least one thing that you admire about them each day.

[*5. Practice being more descriptive when your thankful, (like the husband who just said “thanks” for the meal, instead of just saying “thanks” take another 30 seconds to describe why you are thankful in a thankful and positive tone. *]

[* *]

~ DAY 26 ~

How to Positively Persuade and Influence Your Spouse

What is influence and how do we influence each other?

Some couples wish they could press a few buttons, and program their spouse to do exactly what they want. We can ask directly, we can leave hints, but ultimately the reality is that we can’t make our partner do what we want. At first glance we may then come to the conclusion that there is nothing we can * do and that we only have control over ourselves. While it is true that we only have 100% control of what we do, we do have the power to *influence our partner.

[*So what is influence? *]

We see the power of influence most pervasively in the advertising and marketing industries, where companies spend billions on advertising trying to get us to purchase their products and services. Why do they spend billions on advertising and commercials? Because it works; the more they advertise, the more they are able to influence and persuade more people to make purchases, in turn increasing their sales. They constantly show images of, say, beautiful happy people in a vacation setting, and encourage us to think we will also find happiness if we could just buy those tickets and get to that place.

Just as advertisers do not make us buy their products and instead influence us, we cannot make our spouse do anything; however, we can over time influence them.

Whenever we interact with our partner, we are exerting some influence on our spouse, just like each time we might watch a commercial. If we come across to our spouse as positive and loving, sharing something interesting or funny that happened in our day, putting our arm around them, we will likely influence them in a positive way—perhaps not “making them happy,” but pulling them more in that direction.

Coming to them in anger over something that happened, talking loudly in an upset tone, and using negative words and a harsh tone will also influence our partner—we can’t make them angry or upset, but we can pull them in that direction.

Each time we interact with our partner, we are creating a link between them and how we feel.

If they appear constantly negative and angry, then we will associate these feelings with our partner; on an emotional level we will just begin to feel this way when we are around them.

If each time they are laughing and positive and loving, we will link these feelings to being around them. This is why it’s so difficult at times to turn things around; if things are going badly in a relationship, at a certain point just being near each other can be draining. To counteract that, we consistently need to positively interact with our spouse to be able to have the influence we are looking for.

Either way, we are influencing our spouse by interacting positively, negatively, or ignoring them—we are constantly influencing our partner.

While we might not realize it, we usually have the greatest amount influence on our spouse than anyone else.

Where does the power of influence come from?

A wife has influence over husband in that she can decide to meet his needs. She can praise him and admire him if she wants, she can pursue him for sexual intimacy, she can treat him with respect and make him feel capable, she can spend time with him doing something fun that he enjoys and give him a warm encouraging smile. Because he may want these things and only she can give him these things, she has influence over him. Just as if he were bitten by a deadly venomous snake and only she had the cure, he would depend on and need her for the cure. The same goes for his needs being met; only she can meet his important needs, which gives her a great deal of influence over him.

A husband also has influence over his wife, and he can decide to meet her needs or not. He can make the time to talk to her deeply so she feels heard, understood, and valued, he can hold her close, and make her feel safe when she’s around him, he can make her feel beautiful, special and desired, with a warm strong voice and arms around her. He may withdraw and move away from her and become distant and unloving. Because she may want these things and only he can give her these things, he too has influence over her.

We may try to weaken our spouse’s influence, he may try to get admiration from work, and she may try to get her needs met by friends, and both can try to “outsource their other needs being met” to others, but in order to have a truly happy and fulfilling marriage, only our spouse can be fully meeting our needs.

The power of influence comes from the fact that each of us has needs that only our partner can decide to meet; some are more aware of the power of influence than others.

Why do some wives use their influence to take control from their husbands?

According to Dr. Julianna Slattery, some wives take the leadership position in the family because their husbands have shown that they are unable to effectively lead. They are hindered by some kind of abuse, or make immoral, reckless decisions that can cause serious harm to the family. Serious problems like gambling or drinking, deep psychological problems, etc. make it impossible for a wife to follow her husband. How can their husband lead, if they cannot effectively lead themselves? In these situations it is easy to see why wives take control from their husbands, for the very safety of their families.

However, most wives are not in such detrimental situations, and some still find themselves taking control from their husband. So why then do they move to take control from their husbands, and risk losing the strong, capable, and confident version of the man they first married? Dr. Slattery submits it’s the same reason why wives take control in legitimately dangerous situations: the reason is fear. While men are more resistant to feelings of fear, woman are much more sensitive to fear, which means that fear will have a much greater impact on her than on him.

She’s afraid he will make mistakes, and, as a young man lacking in experience, he will make many mistakes—in the relationship, in finances, etc.—from which she can gradually begin to lose trust and confidence in him. What’s worse to her is that he may seem okay with making mistakes, showing less fear and feelings of pain and often more willing to try again. This may cause her to be horrified.

She may wonder, “Why did he make that mistake? Now we have to deal with the painful consequences?” These feelings of pain and sadness are very real, and she may come to conclude that she is experiencing them because of his decisions. She decides then that while “he might be okay” with making mistakes, she isn’t, and she is more able to make better and safer decisions. She may also decide that he is not able to make decisions that really meet her own needs, and support her dreams and goals—meanwhile, she decides that her decisions would be able to do that.

Wives may also try directly to partner with their husbands to talk about challenges, and share their ideas, only to find their husbands never wanting to talk about them. Husbands may also make decisions without consulting their wife, and considering her wants, thoughts, and feelings. Wives can then become frustrated with their husband’s dodging of difficult conversations, and not having a clear time and place to discuss how they feel, and what they believe should happen in a particular situation, and so wives may decide to start making the decisions themselves. Now, instead of the husband making decisions and avoiding the wife, the wife simply begins making the decisions.

She may also come to a place where she decides he needs her to make all the decisions for him, and that she is helping him and doing him a favor by shouldering all the responsibility and making all the decisions. She may find, now that she is making more and more decisions, she is feeling more in control and, as a result, less anxious and fearful. At the end of the day, it’s her fear that usually motivates her to take control.

How do some wives use their influence to take complete control from their husbands?

As wives are much stronger communicators than their husbands and usually have a higher emotional intelligence, they are more likely aware of their influence and how to use it on some level than their husbands.

At the beginning of many marriages, wives are happy to follow their charming and wonderful husbands anywhere they want to go. As time progresses, though, she may decide that she isn’t happy with where they are going, that he isn’t capable, and she may ultimately lose trust in his leadership and decide to take over making the decisions and directing the marriage. According to Dr. Julianna Slattery, wives decide to “violently or subtly, declare their own personal coup d’etat, hoping to restore peace and order as the new leader of the home.” As a result of a lack of trust in him, which for husbands is a critical need, to have her trust, accordingly the Dr. Slattery, the wife looks to take over in [*three *]general ways and sometimes she is not even fully aware that she has done this.

The first approach is where a wife uses her influence to directly take over. Here, a wife simply begins directly making all the decisions in the marriage without consulting her husband. When her husband does try and make decisions, she is quick to disapprove and point out why it is the wrong decision. She often reasons, it’s not that she wants to make the decision, it’s just that he can’t make good ones, so she has to make them. He’s no longer “her man” that she looks up in awe at—he’s now “one of the kids.”

The second approach is less direct: here, she uses her influence to indirectly take over by challenging his authority by being disrespectful. While she may not directly make all the decisions in this scenario, she communicates clearly that she does not have confidence in his leadership, and that she feels he is not capable of leading the family. Whether it’s through telling her husband directly that she thinks he just isn’t capable to make certain decisions or do things, or she makes fun of his ideas and suggestions, the message is the same: I don’t have confidence in you so don’t expect me to follow you.

Dr. Slattery also observes a third approach, in which a wife uses her influence in a way that discourages him from making decisions. If he makes a mistake (and husbands will do this), she will punish him afterwards by highlighting his shortcomings and mistakes. She can also express that somehow his decision has hurt her; whether she is unhappy with the small gift he got her or unhappy with where he decided would be the best place to live right now. Once she shows her unhappiness, her husband instinctively wants to make her happy, putting aside his own ideas and preferences in order to make her happy. Gradually she erodes his confidence to such a point that he begins to avoid making decisions all together so he doesn’t have to hear her wrath later on. If he’s no longer making the decisions, then there’s only one other person left to make them…her.

Her message is always the same: I’m more capable than you are, and if you want to decide something other than what I want, you’re on your own, and if you fail, I’ll makes sure you never hear the end of it, reminding you what would have happened if you had just went with my decision. She discourages him, and he gradually loses courage. Over time his confidence and sense of direction, key components to being a good leader, begin to erode, which may cause him to quietly give up on his need to be the leader of his home.

Using her influence, she can withhold meeting his needs for praise, admiration, sexual intimacy, respect, fun, warmth, and respect until he gradually agrees to allow her to make more and more decisions until he’s relatively disengaged from the decision-making process all together. The whole process might even go unnoticed as it happens so gradually—just a lingering feeling like something’s different now.

He makes a decision, she’s not happy with it, there is an argument, she uses her influence by refusing to meet his needs.

In time, the couple can find themselves in a place where she is now the leader and making the decisions.

So what happens when she takes complete control?

Because she instinctively finds him being the leader attractive, and needs him to be the leader to continue to find him attractive and in order for him to be her rock, when she takes control she no longer sees him as that strong and attractive protector. While she may feel safer by having more control over the decisions in her life, she often feels something is missing.

Instead of using her influence to build and strengthen her man, to become the leader he was meant to be, she may have instead used her influence, out of her fear and need for safety, to weaken him to such a state where he is no longer the man he once was when she first married him. The strong independent man that she had fallen in love with, that was her rock, that she found daring, dashing, and attractive, and whom she admired, has been reduced over time to a weak, unsure, unconfident husband who is afraid and unsure of how to lead her and how to make her feel safe. How can he lead her to be her rock and strength that she needs in her life if she refuses to follow? He simply can’t.

While he becomes less of a man in her eyes, and she loses respect and confidence in him over time, he also finds her less and less attractive, as she no longer admires and respects him, nor does she see him as strong and capable, as she once did. Without her meeting these needs, she becomes less and less beautiful in his eyes, and any other woman that decides to offer him this becomes incredibly attractive to him.

Ultimately, the husband needs to be able to lead the family in a fair and balanced way that takes everyone’s welfare into account. Because he is often designed to and is willing to lay down his own life for his wife, and because of his deep need for respect and to lead, and her need to feel safe and taken care of, the husband then should generally have 51% of the say on decisions that are made in the family. This means that both should fully discuss all decisions, and work to come up with a solution where both are happy, which should be possible most of the time—but in those few circumstances where an urgent pressing decision should be made, after fully hearing his wife out and deeply considering her counsel, he should shoulder the responsibility and consequences for making the decision, protecting his wife.

That being said, if the husband is putting the family in danger by making foolish, immoral, or reckless decisions, or extreme situations of abuse, she will need to override his decisions for her own safety and protection and take over the leadership role as needed.

To achieve a certain level of intimacy and attraction, she instinctively needs to find him to be confident, capable, strong, and able to protect and lead her. To be drawn to his wife deeply, he has to feel that she trusts, respects, and admires him, that she believes in his ability to do what’s best for her and to lead. Without this dynamic in place, the couple will always feel something is not right in the relationship, and feel that their relationship is not where it could be.

She is then drawn to another man, one who has not yet made mistakes, who can lead her and meet a deep need that she is not allowing her present husband to meet. Likewise, he is drawn to another woman who readily trusts him, and believes in him like his wife once did when they fell in love. Of course, over time another man will make mistakes, and again, she may find herself taking control, and find herself in the same situation, only with someone else.

By taking the leadership role, she inadvertently makes it impossible for her needs and his needs to be met, to have a happy and fulfilling marriage.

[*Why does a wife need to use her influence to strengthen the marriage? *]

Whether a wife is aware or not, she influences her husband daily. Just as there are shortfalls to a wife completely taking over, a wife cannot sit by idly while she watches her husband make poor decisions. Here, not exerting any influence can be just as damaging. Instead, she needs to be highly engaged in every decision that is made. It’s with her feedback and insight that the most informed and best decisions can be made.

Just as she should not move to reduce him to a child, and make all the decisions, she should not quietly allow him to become a powerful dictator who makes all of the decisions without consulting her and does whatever he wants, instead of looking to make decisions that are in the best interest of the family. By having an attitude of, “just let him make all the decisions,” she sets him up for failure. How can he know if he’s making the right decision, one that is best for both of them, if he doesn’t have his wife’s feedback and input?

The wife that says, “He can’t do it alone” is right, he can’t. He absolutely needs her input, her feedback, her counsel, her instincts, gifts, and ability to make informed, balanced, and intelligent decisions. His wife complements and completes him; wherever he is weak, she is usually strong and vice versa. When husbands and wives come to decisions together, they set themselves up for success. He needs her to help him make responsible decisions, to help him be accountable for his decisions by being his partner through it all. Not using her influence and engaging her husband in the decisions that are made can be just as harmful as trying to make them all by herself. Instead, a balance needs to be achieved.

Wives need to recognize their ability to influence their husbands for better or worse, and work to positively influence their husbands.

How does a wife use her influence to build her marriage?

Somewhere between a husband making all the decisions with his wife saying “you figure it out,” and a wife quietly making all the decisions with a disengaged husband going along for the ride, there is a more balanced approach. One in which she can feel safe in his arms, and have him leading her to wherever she dreams of going in life, and he can feel confident and capable of getting her there.

It’s a place where he is able to talk about difficult topics, where she has a very different opinion and he is able to patiently and intently listen to her feelings and thoughts and to allow himself to be influenced by her. Where she can explain herself and feel heard and see that what she is saying is influencing decisions, and where couples are making balanced decisions together.

Just as she can use her influence to completely destroy her husband’s confidence over time, a wife can encourage him to do and accomplish anything from becoming a fair and good leader to a warm and supportive father. She can use her beauty, intelligence, admiration, warmth, and words to influence him, to gradually build him up, and support and encourage him to become the man she wants and knows he can be: a strong, fair, and confident leader that she can believe in and find safety and strength in.

How can a wife help her husband become a better leader?

As a husband expresses his thoughts and ideas, he opens himself to being very vulnerable to her feedback. In his mind, it is a risk to make a decision and reach out, and potentially deal with the negative consequences of a decision. To be supportive, she needs to be sensitive to this and encouraging when he looks to discuss decisions. When she believes in him, she assures him that together there is nothing they can’t do. He protects her; he assures her he wants her to feel safe and cared for.

She is right, he can’t do it alone and he needs her help if they are going to make the best decisions for the family together. Remember, most good-willed husbands are willing to lay their life down for their wife’s protection and safety, and he wants to keep her safe, and he wants to make the best decisions for the family, and to do that he needs his wife’s invaluable recommendations and feedback.

He needs her to provide her insights in a positive and encouraging way that helps him to feel confident and capable. By moving to a model where neither he nor she has all the control, and instead both share balanced control, where both share and discuss their ideas, propose solutions, create goals, and dreams together, she can feel safer with the decisions and he can feel more capable and confident.

They move away from my decision or your decision to our decision, making the most balanced and intelligent decisions possible, while sharing the responsibility and the impact of the decisions.

Mike’s boss called him in. “I have to say, your work has been pretty solid, you were able to get the documentation done, we are now clear on what needs to happen and by when, we now have a strong business case, and you have secured the appropriate funding, [*but *]we still don’t have full stakeholder agreement.” After the meeting all Mike didn’t remember about all the good things his boss had mentioned, all he heard was what hadn’t happened, that they needed to secure stakeholder agreement.

Why doesn’t nagging influence husbands to change their behavior?

Nagging doesn’t influence husbands to change their behavior for a few reasons. As a matter of fact, according to Dr. John Gottman, it is “estimated that only [one *]negative complaint can wipe out the effects of [*five *]or even[ twenty positive praises*].”

If you say, “Thanks for helping load the dishes and clearing the table, but you forgot to clear the counter.” That one “but” will wipe out all the positives you started with. In this way, nagging wipes away many of the complements, and discourages the other person from trying harder in the future. After a while, a wife that uses nagging to try to influence her husband will find that he will often get to a point where he simply stops trying to make her happy, which saddens him, because most husbands do want to help their wives be happy.

It’s tough not to nag, if that’s what was observed growing up—to constantly repeat yourself and become more and more irritated and disrespectful, but there are much more effective ways to approach him. Imagine trying to get what you want, like a pay raise or promotion, by nagging. It just wouldn’t work.

While a wife may reason that “this is basic stuff he should be doing, and I have a right to be upset, and should be able to nag if I want to,” that’s great, but if we’re not getting the results we are after and if we are damaging the relationship and making withdrawals from our relationship account, and putting ourselves in a negative unresourceful mood, why use an ineffective approach that simply doesn’t work?

From getting him to take out the trash, help out around the house, to spending time with her, to being more loving and meeting her needs, she can find herself nagging him continuously. Even when he does do what she wants after she nags him, she often doesn’t enjoy it as a gift, because she feels he only did it because she nagged him about it. When she nags him and becomes disrespectful, he may purposefully avoid doing what she is asking because he feels she approached him in a critical, nagging way.

Whatever she asked for in this way, he intentionally avoids doing, as he is trying to discourage her from nagging in the future. “If I do what she wants after she nags me,” he may reason, “I’m only inviting her to nag me even more in the future, which I definitely do not want to happen.” Maybe if she pushes his buttons hard enough, he will comply to her nagging, to get her to be quiet, but she won’t enjoy it, and he’ll likely be upset with himself that he let her nag him into submission. He may be doing what she asks, but there is no true and genuine joy in his heart as he does it. Often, he plays along temporarily and then goes back to his old ways, and she “has to” nag him again, she tells herself. He’s not the only one who doesn’t like the nagging, she often is upset with him for making her have to nag him! She may come to place where she feels that’s the only way she can motivate him to take any action.

We can also nag about things that have already passed, complaining that if we had only had this one need met, or thing done, we would be happy. This type of nagging is also ineffective, because at this point there is little a husband can do but to apologize, because there is now nothing he can do about the situation.

The couple rarely feels closer when they are meeting each other’s needs after having to nag each other about it. “Fine, let’s just talk already,” he tells her; “fine, let’s just have sex already,” “fine, I’ll just take out the trash already,” he says, “fine let’s go watch the game together,” she tells him. It’s not what either wants; this does not work to meet our needs, because what we really want is for our partner to want to meet our needs. She [wants *]him to *want to talk to her, not go through the motions, he wants her to want him sexually, she [*wants *]him to really [*want *]to help her around the house. No one really wants to nag…

[*We want them to want to meet our needs, so how do we do that? *]

First, we need them to know what our needs are. If we never take the time to clearly define and request what we need from our spouse, then it’s impossible for our partner to know how to ever meet our needs. We will cover the most common needs in this Program, but each couple will also need to discover their own unique needs together. By the end of this Program you will be able to identify, communicate and develop an approach to meet these needs together. Once we have taken the time to clearly define and request what we need from our spouse we can move on to the next step.

Instead of the constant nagging and reminders…quietly wait, remember you’ve already clearly told him what you need. He wants to be able to give you a gift, but if you are always nagging, he’ll only feel that you’ll think he did it just because his wife nagged, and not out of his love for her. A day or so may pass, but wait for him to try to meet your need. Maybe he does the dishes to help out, and maybe he forgot to wipe the counter. Just tell him, with a warm smile, and maybe a hug, how much you appreciate it. Take 10 whole seconds to [praise *]him afterwards, versus *hours of nagging, which only lead to poor results.

How do they get dolphins to do amazing flips in the air in synch with other dolphins?

To borrow loosely from Dr. Kevin Lehman, dolphins that would normally just swim around, doing what dolphins do, hanging out, enjoying the water, looking for fish can learn to do incredible feats.

How do they learn to this? First, expert trainers use the dolphin’s natural needs, to motivate them to action. The trainers help them out. “Hey, you want a fish? You don’t need to go swimming around looking for fish; I’ve already got a bucket of fish right here.”

Now, on the first day of training, that dolphin isn’t going to be doing flips in synch with the others, it’s just not a realistic expectation… But each time the dolphin makes a little progress, they get a fish, they get a reward. Do you think that dolphin would be doing flips if the trainer nagged? If the trainer tried to take away his fish he’d lose interest and the dolphin would just go back to doing his own thing, and get his fish and needs met elsewhere.

A wife already has all the motivation and influence a husband will ever need. He will fight for her, take care of her, and love her, but if she does not use her influence to motivate him and meet his needs over time he will look elsewhere.

If she decides to motivate him by using her influence to meet his needs and to praise and recognize his efforts, not only when he succeeds, but when he tries his best, he will continue to turn to her to have his needs met and will continue to try his best.

Whether it’s trying to get dolphins to do flips, getting kids to take an interest is school, or motivating husbands to take actions taking this approach, over nagging, will be much more effective and take less time and effort and can lead to major improvements over time.

It’s through her positive use of influence and constant praise that over time she inspires him to do more and be more than he ever imagined possible.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. What kind of influence do feel you have on your partner? *]_]

[*2. Do you currently use your influence in a positive way? *]

[*3. Do you fear not making all the decisions? *]

[*4. Do you find yourself nagging? *]

Action: (Write these down)
[_[*

  1. How can you use your influence to strengthen your marriage? *]_]

[*2. List 3 ways you can use your influence to improve your marriage? *]

[*3. If there is imbalance in decision making, how can you work to create a greater balance in the marriage? *]

4. If you find yourself nagging, what are some approaches you can take in place of nagging? (Try your ideas for the next 30 days.)

[* *]

~ DAY 27 ~

How to Genuinely Forgive Your Partner

Mary looked at a picture of Mike 10 years ago; he looked so much younger, so different. It was a time before he had ever really hurt her, when she thought he was perfect. Now that untainted picture of him only lived in a creased photo between the pages of her high school yearbook. Her idealized picture of him was gone forever.

What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is when we decide to take a large debt that is owed us, say someone owes us $100, and to decide to no longer require payment. In our relationship account, debts may be incurred all the time. Smaller debts could be forgetting to call ahead that we’d be late, or larger debts could perhaps be forgetting a birthday or a bad argument where some unkind words were said. Some debts are incredibly large, like an affair, where we might find it incredibly difficult to forgive.

It’s often expected that debt may be paid for by incurring varying levels of negative consequences as a result, perhaps anger or withdrawal for smaller debts, and intense conflict, bitterness, and possible divorce for incredibly large debts.

Regardless of the size or impact, as Dr. Scott Stanley asserts forgiveness is reaching a place where the injured spouse no longer continues to demand payment for the debt their partner has incurred. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we have forgotten or no longer feel pain from the hurt and the debt.

It means that despite it being well within our right to continue to hold our spouse liable, we decide to cancel our partner’s debt that is negatively affecting their relationship account.

Some partners do not choose forgiveness, and instead maintain their un-forgiveness.

How does being expected to just forgive get in the way of genuine forgiveness?

When we think of forgiveness, we may think of messages to simply forgive the person that hurt us no matter what it is they have done, even if they haven’t asked for it. According to Dr. Janis Spring, what often happens is that we feel obligated to have to forgive even though we may not want to. So many couples, instead of giving and receiving true forgiveness, give each other imitation forgiveness out of obligation.

Mike was frustrated with Mary; the conversation was not going well. “Mary, I already told you I’m sorry, what do you want from me? To write it in blood?”

Mary shook her head, thinking to herself, “He just doesn’t get it, he doesn’t really mean it, and he’s just saying he’s sorry to move on.”

Mike was equally baffled. He had already gotten the courage to say he was sorry, and instead, it seemed like according to her, his apology just wasn’t good enough, making him feel incompetent and angry. He felt like he was caught in a “double bind” and that whatever he did would lead to her disapproval.

What is imitation forgiveness?

Imitation forgiveness is where we forgive quickly, maybe even without asking for anything in return, with a desire to quickly move on and try to preserve the relationship.

Often motivated by fear of loss or a lack of confidence in knowing how to handle conflict, an “I forgive you” is spoken, without a genuine apology or any real work or effort made by either partner, acting as if all is well.

Though the words are spoken, and we act like all is well, deep inside without true forgiveness, the pain, anger, and bitterness remain.

While in the short term, imitation forgiveness may make us feel better with ourselves for having forgiven the person and “keeping the relationship intact”, it’s only a quick fix; it’s like putting a band aid on a broken leg when you really need a cast—ultimately the brokenness is still inside and the healing is unable to begin. What’s worse, if the person does not know they injured you, they may reinjure you again, or elsewhere.

Just as pain in our body tells us to stop touching the stove so you move your hand away from the fire to avoid further severe damage, we need to be able to quickly communicate the same to others that are hurting us to avoid further injury in our relationship.

Without doing the work of seeking a genuine apology and giving genuine forgiveness, we are left with a damaged and broken relationship, without strong legs to stand on.

[*How does unforgiveness affect our marriage? *]

When there is unforgiveness in our marriage, it often brings an unspoken hurt, anger, and bitterness that affects everything we do, creating a tense and negative environment. Like a twisted ankle or broken leg that might limit us, un-forgiveness limits the joy and happiness that we can experience in our marriage. Whether large or small injuries, they affect how close we feel to each other, and how “in love” we feel.

If we believe that what they have done has created a huge debt in their relationship account, we may even no longer feel in love with them, as this debt has drained their account. From this place, small things upset us and it’s easy for the marriage to be trapped in negativity and continue to fade and die. In some cases, the injury can cause infection and spread and ultimately lead to the death of marriage unless properly treated.

Why do we need to genuinely apologize and forgive?

Dr. Gottman’s research has found that couples who are not able to apologize and forgive had a divorce rate of 90%. Those couples able to, as he says, “patch things up,” increased their chances of staying happily married to 84%. Being able to genuinely apologize and forgive our partner is critical to the survival and happiness of our marriage. It’s because we are imperfect that we will all hurt each other in different ways, and we will all fall down, and will need to know how to heal each other so we can be whole again and experience the joy, passion, and happiness that we knew before the injury.

[*What do we apologize for and forgive? *]

While it may seem obvious that we can hurt our spouse directly at times, for example, if we say something unkind to our spouse; what we may not easily see is how we way may have been hurting our spouse by not meeting needs that are important to them.

  • Perhaps we have not made our spouse a priority, giving them the time and focus they need.
  • Maybe important conversations where she could share who she was were never had, or she constantly rejected his need for sexual intimacy.
  • Perhaps we hurt her instead of helping her feel safe, or disrespected him instead of helping him feel capable.
  • Conflict or money might have been mishandled.

There might be things that we weren’t even aware of that we were or weren’t doing that during this program you realized were not being met. And because we are only human, even when we do know what we should be doing to have a strong marriage, we don’t—we at times make mistakes and hurt those we love. It’s not meeting each others’ needs, and not handling things well that we often find ourselves needing healing and restoration.

Why do you need to forgive yourself?

Many of us are very critical of ourselves, sometimes even yelling at ourselves inside for, say, getting to work late, or for coming up short. When it comes to hurting others, we can be even more critical on ourselves.

We may beat ourselves up asking, “How we could have been so cold?” “What were we thinking?” Basically, we criticize ourselves for not handling the situation well. We may get to a place where we are so defeated and beaten that we are not in a place of confidence to reach out to ask for forgiveness to allow healing to begin. As Dr. Janis Spring, observes to get to this place, we need to be able to forgive ourselves first for the hurt we’ve cause or allowed to happen.

We need to:

  • See that what we have done has caused pain and hurt
  • Understand how we hurt them.
  • Imagine how their pain felt.
  • Discover why we hurt them
  • Decide to turn away from hurting them and towards making things right as best we can in the future.
  • Decide to forgive ourselves for what we did in the unchangeable past.

Once we have dealt with the situation ourselves, we are strengthened and able to reach out to begin the work of true forgiveness with the one we hurt.

What are some stumbling blocks preventing us from asking for forgiveness?

Some of us have stumbling blocks that make it difficult for us to ask for forgiveness, which makes genuine forgiveness impossible for us to ever know and receive.

Some common reasons why we never ask for forgiveness include believing:

  • This means we are accepting 100% of the blame for the situation
  • This means we are less of a person if we admit we are imperfect
  • We want them to ask forgiveness they have caused us first
  • We don’t know how to ask for forgiveness, beyond saying “I’m sorry.”
  • We’re afraid this apology will just be thrown in our face later on
  • We’re waiting until we are “ready” to ask for forgiveness
  • We won’t ever be forgiven anyway

What are some stumbling blocks preventing us from giving true forgiveness?

At the same time, some of us struggle to give true forgiveness. For some, they benefit from being able to blame the entire situation on someone else, enabling them to avoid looking at how they may have contributed to the situation. In their anger, they may be motivated to withhold their forgiveness as they seek to punish and hurt the person that hurt them, weighing them down with the heavy burden of un-forgiveness that they force them to carry.

Their current pain, anger, and bitterness are explained by simply saying it was caused by someone else, and events outside of their control. Deciding to genuinely allow the work of forgiveness that will restore control and balance in their lives, however, is within their control…

[*Why is it easier for her to say I’m sorry, but harder for him? *]

Husbands seem to struggle more than their wives when it comes to saying I’m sorry. Here, husbands are afraid that saying sorry and asking for forgiveness will cause them to be viewed as less of a person and that as a result they will lose respect. To protect themselves from being disrespected, some husbands are very reluctant to apologize for anything. According to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs from a wife’s perspective, she often sees saying sorry as a way to say she cares and loves her husband. She’s saying ‘I’m sorry that I somehow caused you to feel this way, for any pain I might have caused.’ Her natural inclination to reach out, and restore relationships makes this easier for her to apologize.

Later on, Mike approached Mary again. He was nervous, his last conversation didn’t go well and somehow he knew the marriage was hanging on a thread. How he had gotten here was beyond his understanding, but he was here now. Holding his letter in his hand, he saw her sitting across from him, giving him a doubtful and skeptical look that has somehow become the norm. He waited until the kids were asleep, and then walked over to her.

Taking a deep breath, looking into her hard green eyes, he began his apology.

[_I’m sorry, for letting my work get in the way of our marriage, for not putting you first and treating you like the beautiful woman that you are… I could have made different choices, I could have just said no to projects at work, and the extra hours, but I didn’t. _]

I choose other things, like my job and my hobbies over you. I was wrong…I didn’t fully see it before but now I do. I didn’t see that I was missing the point and that I had broken a promise I had made a long time ago in my life, a promise to always put you first. From now I will always choose you, over anyone or anything in this world. I’m so sorry I broke that promise.

After he read the letter, he hesitated, not really wanting to ask her, but knowing that he must… he asked her to describe for him, how what he had done to hurt her made her feel…He braced himself, not knowing quite what to expect. Anger?.. Tears?

After a moment of silence, Mary began explaining how alone she had felt all these years, how her dream to have the marriage she had always wanted had slowly died. At her core, she explained how she felt unwanted, second best and unloved living in a world all by herself. That he really didn’t care about her, that all the love he showed her in the beginning of the relationship was all a lie, a trick for her to marry him, that his work had become his passion and his love, instead of her….

As he listened intently, he paused to collect himself, fighting back the tears that were threatening to spill from his eyes, “I’m so sorry I hurt you. It kills me that I caused you so much pain and anguish. I don’t even have the words to begin to tell you how sorry I am… I didn’t mean it. I would take it all back if I could, but I can’t. I can only tell you how sorry I am, and that from now on, I promise to keep you first in my life.” He continued….“I didn’t see how deeply I was hurting you; I never want the love of my life to feel unloved and abandoned again.”

He squeezed her hand, and whispered lovingly and confidently, “I choose you…” After a long pause he asked, “Will you forgive me?”

Mary felt a tear stream down her face; she also felt something she hadn’t felt in a long time: a feeling of hope…

How do we apologize and ask for forgiveness?

Like everything else in life, unless we are shown, it’s tough to know how to figure out how to do it, from computer programming to raising kids. Knowing how to genuinely apologize is tough unless we’ve been shown how it’s done; fortunately, forgiveness experts like Dr. Janis Spring have provided us with valuable models that we can use.

As kids, many of us are told to say “we’re sorry”, and that those two words are enough. Just like there is much more to showing our love for each other than just saying “I love you”, there is much more to genuinely apologizing to our partner. As with every important conversation, timing is critical and both should be in a good place where you can take your time to have a conversation like this.

Beyond saying we are sorry, we need to: clearly say what we are sorry for, whether it’s for losing our composure in an argument and saying hurtful things in anger, apologizing for turning to someone else to meet our needs in an affair, or simply not meeting an important need throughout the years.

It’s taking responsibility as we apologize for our part, even if we feel or know they contributed, and focusing in on where [*we *]went wrong. We assure them that they in no way deserved to feel the pain that they went through. As Dr. Spring asserts, it’s full responsibility, not half-truths or half-admissions; It’s whole and complete and everything we are aware of. It’s admitting that we were wrong, we crossed a line in our marriage and our morals, and we broke an important rule—whether to not lie, to not treat each other disrespectfully and to be able to acknowledge that we should have never crossed that line which led to hurt and pain.

It’s going beyond a quick, expressionless “I’m sorry”, to a conversation where we look the person in the eyes, allow ourselves to feel their pain, to convey not just the words, which mean only 7%, but the feelings behind the words, that *really *communicate that we are sorry.[_ _]We communicate not only what we did, but how we feel about what we did and the pain that we caused as best as we can, showing our regret.

It’s honestly explaining “why” we crossed the line and caused the pain, whether to meet our own self-centered needs over our partner’s, or whatever other insight we might have, we share the motivation behind what we did, or didn’t do.

It’s having the courage to ask them how they felt when they were hurt, and then compassionately and empathetically listening to their thoughts, showing you understand, acknowledge, and care about their feelings as they trust you with their inner hurt and anguish.

It’s humbly explaining “why” we won’t cross this line again, whether we see now how deeply we are hurting someone we love where maybe we didn’t before and we share the motivation behind our renewed commitment to not hurt our partner again.

It’s then deciding to commit to not crossing lines and breaking rules and sincerely promising them and assuring them we will work to not hurt them again. It’s only then that we finally, humbly but[* courageously*] ask, at the risk of hearing “no,” “Will you forgive me?” Once we have genuinely apologized, we open the door to be genuinely forgiven.

Mary knew Mike wasn’t the same person she met 10 years ago. He was in a different place now, so was she… They had moved past the crazy “in love” phase long ago. She knew everything about him now, the good and the bad and the ugly. She realized now that the picture of him being perfect only existed in her mind and was never who he really was… he always was and always would be imperfect. She knew she was imperfect as well… Somehow being able to see him for who he really was, hearing how much it had hurt him that he had hurt her, and how deeply he loved her, and somehow finding the courage to trust her heart to him again, made her renewed love for him seem more genuine than it had ever been before….

What are some stumbling blocks preventing us from forgiving?

Some stumbling blocks that get in the way of us forgiving include the thought that forgiving is a sign of weakness and that forgiving makes it likely that we will only be hurt again.

While this might be true of if we offer forgiveness after receiving an insincere apology, when we receive a genuine apology…we should be able to give genuine forgiveness which shows strength and courage.

According to Dr. Scott Stanley, other stumbling blocks include the notion of score keeping, where we say we can’t possibly just erase your debt and forgive you, to do so would be unfair. Why should we just absolve you of a debt you clearly owe? Where is the consequence? How is that fair? Instead, we insist that they work off a debt that they might never be able to pay. These beliefs can prevent us from opening the door to healing and restoration in our marriage.

Why is it harder for her to “let it go”?

According to Dr. Scott Haltzman husbands usually seem to have an advantage over their wives, who seem to be adept at remembering every shortcoming and offense, when it comes to forgiving and letting go.

Dr. Haltzman reports that a wife’s higher levels of estrogen causes her to feel the hurt of an argument more deeply than husbands do. This is because estrogen activates a larger field of neurons in wives in an upsetting situation, causing them to experience the stress more intensely and recall and think about the pain and conflict for a longer time. Her wiring makes it harder for her to forget and let go of pain and resentment. Biologically, this means it is harder for a wife to be able to let go and to forgive than it is for her husband. This explains why husbands struggle to understand why it is often so hard for their wives to forgive.

If her husband is only offering her a superficial apology, instead of seeking genuine forgiveness where appropriate, this will not help enable her to give him genuine forgiveness and truly let it go and move on.

Being aware that it’s harder for him to apologize and harder for her to let things go is helpful in understanding why finding forgiveness in marriage can be difficult at times. This is why being able to genuinely apologize is so important as it enables her to genuinely forgive him and move forward.

The Bible tells the story of a woman who is caught in the act of adultery and then brought to Jesus; those in charge of enforcing the rules ask Jesus if they should stone her to death as the law required for breaking the rules and laws that were in place. Jesus answered, “Let anyone of you who hasn’t ever broken a rule or law throw the first stone.” One by one, as each searched their hearts, they began to walk away…starting with the oldest…until there was no one left to condemn her.

How do we genuinely forgive?

Being able to genuinely forgive begins with remembering our own imperfections, and that we all at one point will break the rules that lead to someone else’s hurt and pain, and that fuels anger and sorrow. To be able to genuinely forgive, we really need to have the person that hurt us; offer us a genuine apology. According to Dr. Spring to be able to genuinely forgive we need to be able to do the following:

  • Be willing to hear the apology even though it may be difficult
  • Express how we feel and our pain so that we can feel genuinely understood and able to forgive and move forward.
  • Make the effort to try to understand their shortcomings and why they hurt us from their perspective.
  • Be able to understand why they hurt us
  • Be able to hear that they sincerely regret hurting us and have decided to turn away from hurting us in the future.
  • Come to see how we may have contributed to their hurtful action, and work to help them to succeed in the future.
  • Be willing to tell the person what we need to hear in their apology to be able to get closure.
  • Be able to do the work to get to a place where we can relieve our partner and ourselves of the burden of pain, guilt, bitterness, and resentment that un-forgiveness carries.
  • Be able to no longer focus on the painful memories and emotions, and allowing them to cloud the every day and getting to a place where we can focus on the joy and happiness.

We get to a place where we can once again trust our partner to protect our heart and emotions, a place where we can genuinely say, “I know you really regret what you have done to hurt me. I release you from any debt, punishment, withdrawal, anger, blame, or resentment I’ve been holding against you, for hurting me… I forgive you.”

How do we apologize and forgive in small ways daily to prevent escalation?

Apologizing and forgiving is not only critical in larger more difficult situations like handling an affair, but in smaller everyday situations as well. As we talk to our partner, we may say something unkind for example, and should look to apologize while it is small to prevent it from becoming a bigger and more difficult situation.

By constantly being mindful of each others’ rules and boundaries, and apologizing early on if we see we have crossed a line, we can avoid sowing seeds that later grow into bitterness and resentment.

While it’s best to avoid being critical and harsh, and saying things that are simply unhelpful; when we do, we can help each other get back to a better place. We can help break the tension of negativity by saying something positive in an encouraging way.

Whether it’s by offering a warm smile, trying to come up with an uplifting and playful joke to get our partner to laugh, bringing them a peace offering of sorts like a cup of coffee, we’re saying I’m sorry and with their laughter and acceptance they reassure us we’re still on the same page. It’s the ability to apologize and forgive each other in small ways that can be found in most happily married couples.

How do we apologize and forgive to start over?

Un-forgiveness is a barrier that prevents many marriages from becoming as happy and fulfilling as they can be. The Bible tells us to turn away from our wrongs, and to once again do the things we did first. (Revelations) In some ways forgiveness can be a call to once again do what we once did in the beginning of our relationship.

To forgive and to love as easily as we once did, it’s a decision to move together in the right direction. Genuine forgiveness can be a gift of hope in a marriage, where one feels they are being crushed under the massive weight of guilt, and the other feels a darkening under the poison of bitterness and resentment.

Though, like anything worth having, it will take time, effort and faith; forgiveness, and renewed trust; followed by a renewed commitment is possible.

With continual encouragement and genuine forgiveness, it’s possible to renew your love and your marriage again.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. Have there been times when you have quickly apologized or forgiven just to move on? *]_]

2. Have you seen in your own marriage that it’s often harder for him to apologize, and harder for her to forgive or forget?

3. Have you encountered any stumbling blocks that prevent you from genuinely apologizing?

4. Have you encountered any stumbling blocks that prevent you from genuinely forgiving?

[*5. How do you think unforgiveness can prevent you from having a happy and fulfilling marriage? *]

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Make a list of at least 3 stumbling blocks that prevent you from genuinely apologizing and decide how you can overcome them*]_]

2. Make a list of at least 3 stumbling blocks that prevent you from genuinely forgiving and decide how you can overcome them

*3. Talk to your spouse about how genuine unforgiveness can over time cause marriages to fade and die. *

4. For the next 30 days, apologize and forgive each other in small ways daily to prevent escalation

[*5. Make a list of the top 3 needs we haven’t quite met, or situations we haven’t handled well, and using the approach provided on how to genuinely apologize write a letter to your spouse genuinely apologizing. Feel free to share the letter or talk to your spouse about it. *]

 

~ DAY 28 ~

How to Give the Gift of Lasting, Unconditional Love

Mary felt the emptiness inside; somehow she thought things would be different with Mike, but her marriage felt like another job she had to do. They just didn’t see each other the same way…the magic had faded and she felt like they had somehow become business partners, always making deals and promises to each other. She couldn’t quite find the words to express the notion that she didn’t feel the love she once felt, and it terrified her to think that it might never come back—or worse, that it was never really there…

How does our perception of our spouse change over time?

Often when we first meet our spouse we view them in the best light.

At first we may see her as: energetic, talkative, interesting, organized, caring and compassionate.

At first we may see him as: confident, assertive, a visionary, positive, and a good listener.

As Dr. Ellen Kreidman observes often, years later into the marriage, we can find those same traits which attracted us to our partner being the very traits we no longer seem to like about them. Now he may see her as antsy, unable to relax, too chatty, too emotional and inflexible, and she may see him as conceited, controlling, a dreamer, unrealistic, and too quiet.

Taking a step back though—fundamentally, often their character or the trait hasn’t changed, but how we see the trait has changed.

We now see these same traits in a negative light.

  • Confidence is now seen as conceitedness
  • Organization is now seen as inflexibility
  • Assertiveness is now seen as controlling
  • Playfulness is now seen as laziness
  • Being caring & compassionate is now seen as being overly emotional

It may not be so much that their traits have changed, but it’s how we see each others’ traits that has changed over time.

When couples say that “things have changed”, this is often a part of what has changed. They no longer feel the same way—not because it’s their spouse that has changed so much, but how they see their spouse has changed from a positive and favorable light, to a negative one.

How do we create our perceptions?

Our perceptions of our spouse are driven by where we are in the relationship.

Over time, if our partner is adding to our relationship account by meeting our needs, and protecting our relationship account by avoiding withdrawals made by not handling conflict well, then we will be at an “In Love” level in our relationship.

It’s through connecting, accepting, meeting each others’ needs, communicating, and handling conflict well, that we fall more deeply in love over time.

It’s not an overnight thing, just like working out for a few days will not really change how strong you are or how far you can run. In a few weeks though, a few months of continued effort doing the right routine on a daily basis, you will enjoy greater strength and endurance.

It’s from a perspective that is built over time that our perception of our spouse is developed. We can begin to see a transformation the other way around as we fall back in love with each other.

  • Conceitedness is now seen as confidence
  • Inflexibility is now seen again as organization
  • Controlling is now seen as assertiveness
  • Laziness is now seen as playfulness
  • Being overly emotional is now seen as being caring & compassionate

Whether or not we are receiving what we need from the relationship, often shapes our view of whether or not we have an overall positive perspective of our partner.

Our expectations can influence whether or not we believe we are getting enough from our partner. If a wife is watching a soap opera, she may start thinking her husband is not giving her enough, if she compares her own world with a perfect world created by a Hollywood writer.

A husband may start thinking his wife is not giving him enough, if he compares her to idealized stories he hears from his buddies at work.

Feelings of not getting enough from the relationship may be based on the fact that perhaps needs are no longer being met as they were at first, because of the busyness of life and other reasons we covered.

When we begin to develop a negative perception about our spouse, it’s often because we feel that our partner has stopped giving to the relationship the way they once did.

What can affect your perception of your spouse?

It’s where we are in the relationship that drives what we focus on, whether it is the negative or the positive making it harder to initially fall out of love or later on fall back into love. It’s the focus on the negative, and not providing any attention to the positive, that allows us to “stay mad” or “angry” as our fear motivates us to try to protect ourselves from falling in love again and the vulnerability and pain that doing so will bring. However, there is little hope for this or any other relationship if we decide not to allow ourselves to be courageous enough to begin to focus on the good attributes and deeds of another.

How does how we see our spouse affect our marriage?

Even when our partner may try to give to us again as they once did, there may be a cloud of resentment, doubt, mistrust, and negativity that negates any good our partner may be trying to do. We may think, “Oh great, now he wants to be nice or help me, well it’s too late for that…” We disqualify their efforts as “too little”, “too late” and “insincere”, because they are only trying because they were asked.

In short we think whatever they are doing to try to meet our needs is “just not good enough”. This negative perception can discourage our partners from continuing to try and be a stumbling block in our journey towards reconnection.

Our perception affects not only how we see their efforts, but how we see our spouse, whether it’s: [positively *]as confident, or *negatively as conceited.

As a matter of fact, according to author and Clinical Psychotherapist Barbara Bartlein, one study reported that spouses in a happy marriages saw any wrong their spouse had done, from a positive perspective. These couples gave their partner the benefit of the doubt, suggesting that “their spouse was likely just not feeling well” and other favorable explanations. These explanations showed that their behavior was “out of character”. This positive perception greatly helped to keep the marriage in positive territory.

Spouses in unhappy marriages, on the other hand, viewed things from a negative perspective. Here, they explained that their partners wrongs were a result of flaws in their character. They said things like, “She is always like that.”

This shows that a husband or a wife can be doing the same exact thing, and in one relationship be seen as “having a bad day” and in another relationship be seen as “always being that way”.

The difference between the happy couple and unhappy couple, is that for the happy couple, they still see their partner in a positive light, while the unhappy couple no longer does.

How can negative perceptions affect our marriage?

Negative perceptions can be developed over time if we feel our needs have not been met, leading to and feeling of neglect, bitterness and resentment.

This can change our perception in the beginning which may have been “ I’m glad to be with someone that’s so wonderful’ and every kind word or act that they do being magnified, to ‘how horrible my partner is.’ With every kind word or act being minimized.

Instead of being able to see our partner’s strengths and helping them to feel accepted and loved for who they are we can get to a place where we can’t see who they really are under all the negatively that may have built up over time.

Now every negative situation seems to be magnified, reinforcing a negative perception that “they can never change” and that, “this is who they are”.

This negative perception can create a negative and frustrating cycle from which any negative situations that arises will be magnified and be explained by a negative perspective of who our spouse is versus what they did.

Studies have shown, and common sense tells us, that having this negative perspective makes creating marital happiness nearly impossible.

What happens when we constantly begin to see our spouse negatively?

As time passes, if we constantly begin to see things that our spouse does as negative, even if they try to change, we often still do not see it. This is because of what the authors of Fighting for your Marriage refer to as “confirmation bias.” The idea here is that we constantly look to confirm and reinforce whatever it is we already believe. If we believe our spouse is wonderful early on, then we constantly look for things that reinforce this belief.

While this may serve to help us in the beginning during the initial falling in love period, if our relationship has come to a place where we think they no longer love us, then we will constantly look for signs that reinforce this belief.

If every time we see our spouse they seem to be angry we may eventually come to associate them with feelings of anger. The more often and longer we see them as angry, the stronger that association becomes and the harder it is to break. Through this constant association, we go from seeing our spouse as someone who gets angry to being an angry person. This new perception of our spouse as being an angry person, leads us to come to expect them to be angry.

The problem with confirmation bias and theses strong associations is that they can cause us to not be able to clearly see when our partner really may be trying to be more positive and to meet our needs.

How can we take control of how we perceive our spouse?

While we may find our wife to be too emotional, there is someone else out there who finds their wife to be too cold and uncaring, and wishes they would show more warmth…

Taking control of our perspective is about being able to find the good in our spouse for who they are again and not wishing for them to be someone that they never were and may never be, which will lead our partner to feel accepted and good about who they are when they are with us. It’s appreciating them for their assertiveness, caring spirit, confidence, energy, thoughtfulness, playfulness… It’s appreciating and accepting them for who they are.

It’s deciding to not entertain negative thoughts and words to reinforce any negative perceptions, and start focusing on the positive aspects of our partner. It’s moving away from a critical perspective, where we ask ourselves, “What is wrong or missing here?” to a positive and appreciative one, where we ask ourselves, “What is right or good here?” It’s easy to find imperfections in imperfect people, but can you help them to find and see the good in themselves?

It’s about being able to focus on what they did right, and how they tried, and giving them the benefit of the doubt again.

To be able to set aside our negative perceptions and bias so we are able to see and appreciate that, while they are imperfect, they really do care and are trying.

It’s creating a list of all our partner’s good qualities and focusing on them throughout the day.

And remembering when they forget to do something, say something, or stumble in some way, that we don’t take it as another sign that they don’t love us, we see it as another sign that they are only human…

[*How does expecting our partner to be able to read our minds affect our perception of our spouse? *]

We may have taken to mind reading because at one point we just didn’t make time to communicate, or perhaps it became difficult to communicate. In the absence of words, we may have resorted to reading each others’ minds.

As Dr. Ellen Kreidman observes, expecting our partner to read our minds and know what it is that we want can hurt our relationship. Over time, mindreading can negatively affect our perception of our partner.

If we believe that our partner already knows what we want, then when we don’t get it, we may reason that it’s because they decided to deliberately not give it to us. A wife who tells her husband, “It doesn’t matter if your partner goes away on his wife’s birthday on a business trip,” and is then enraged because he should have known not to leave her alone on her birthday, is only setting him up for failure. Because she did not clearly tell him how she really felt, he has unintentionally made a large withdrawal from her relationship account affecting how she sees him.

When we mind read, we believe we already know what our partner is “really thinking.” If a wife gets flowers, and thinks she is getting them because he’s thinking about how much he loves her, it will be received differently than if she thinks he is trying to apologize for something.

Dr. Scott Stanley has also found that mind reading can weaken our marriage by causing us to form negative interpretations and perceptions of our spouse over time.

Why do wives often think their husbands should already know what they want?

According to Dr. Scott Haltzman, many wives share an unspoken belief that if their husbands really loved them and were in touch and in synch with who they were, they would know what they want. As a matter of fact, if they have to tell their husband exactly what they want, they feel that it’s just not as romantic. So, many wives wait, dropping hints and suggestions, waiting hopefully that he will remember, put the pieces together, and surprise her with her heart’s desire. The only thing is that husbands are often not as intuitive and wired the same way, to be able to pick up on all the non-verbal cues and hints, and he often ends up not giving her what she wants.

Wives often assume that their innate ability to know how to give their child and others exactly what they want, is a strength that their husband also has, but he doesn’t. He has other strengths, but the ability to instinctively know what his wife and children want is not there.

It’s not because he doesn’t care or doesn’t love her, it’s just that he’s set up differently and needs to be clearly told exactly what she wants so he can give her exactly what she needs. It’s this unspoken rule that “if he really loved me he would know exactly what to give me” that can be a major stumbling block and can cause a great deal of confusion, frustration, and heartache.

How can we move away from mind reading?

We can move away from mind reading by no longer expecting our partner to know what is on our minds or assuming that we already know what is on theirs.

We replace mind reading with clear communication of what we are thinking, feeling, and wanting. Instead of leaving vague and subtle hints we directly tell them what we want and why.

  • When we want to go on that vacation, , we say, “I’m so burnt out and need a break, let’s go to Hawaii this summer!”.
  • When we want to talk, we could say, “It would really help me clear my mind and feel closer to you if we could talk a while,”
  • If we want affection, we can say, “I’d feel so much better if I could spend some time in your arms,”
  • If we need some help around the house, we could say, “Would you be my hero and take care of this chore? I feel like I’m being overrun!”

At the same time, just as our spouse can’t read our mind, we can’t read theirs. We shouldn’t assume our partner has negative thoughts like “they just don’t love us” or “they’re purposefully out to get us”.

When we replace these thoughts by assuming our partner wants the best for us we put hope back into the marriage. By adopting a helpful and empowering belief that our spouse is trying their best we set each other up to succeed.

[*How does our desire to give and receive change in marriage? *]

How we see our spouse is shaped by how giving we them as. If we believe they are giving and meeting our needs, over time, they meet our “In Love” threshold in our relationship account and we have a positive perspective of our partner.

Early in the relationship, our partner fills our relationship account by continual giving. The giving of: gifts, time, affection, sexual intimacy, attention, compliments, respect, admiration, etc. Early on, we are in a place where we have a very high desire and motivation to give.

As Dr. John Gray observes, as time passes, a wife may continue to give and give while not directly asking for anything in return, but hoping and expecting that he will also give her what she needs. Again, because she can intuitively pick up on his needs she often believes he can do the same and that he is choosing to withhold his support and to neglect her needs.

However… he simply cannot read her mind or pickup on her subtle hints…

Over time, as she continues to give and give, as her relationship account and happiness with the marriage slowly depletes, she may come to a place where she has nothing left to give. She gets so wrapped up in caring for everyone else she can forget to take care of herself.

He often does not realize this is even happening .

She may want to be a good wife, thinking this means she should not burden or trouble him with her needs directly. She may try to be kind and loving, by telling him that all is well and that she is happy, even if she is not.

She tells him she is still happy despite the gradual falling out of love.

She may expect that he will be able to eventually see that in her heart that she really isn’t happy, but he often never picks up on this… until it’s too late.

By the time she tries to begin directly asking for his help by this point, she may be in a place where she sees him negatively, and instead of her requests being made lovingly, they can take the form of angry frustrated demands, as she is dumbfounded that she has to even ask him directly for what seems so obvious to her.

It’s for this reason that often later on in the relationship of an unhappy marriage the focus moves from [giving *]early on, to *receiving and getting.

  • In the beginning the focus is often “How can I give to my partner?”
  • In time it can be, “What should I be able to receive from my partner?”
  • Until our focus becomes, “What can I get from my partner?”

When we give and give, and feel we have not received what we put into the marriage, we can get to a place where we feel empty, angry, and resentful.

We can feel that we are being taken advantage a very different feeling from when we first fell in love.

Why don’t we give?

Many don’t give simply because we aren’t asked in clear, kind and loving way. Even when the request is made this way, we may struggle to give out of fear of not being able to meet the need or request.

To protect his sense of competency and view that he is capable, a husband may be reluctant to meet a need or request.

Say his wife asks him to spend more time talking to her, he may think to himself, “What if I say the wrong thing? What if it comes out wrong? What if I run out of things to say? What if she’s bored by what I say, or disagrees?”

In short, his fear of appearing incapable and incompetent can prevent him from working to give her what she needs.

A wife may not give because she feels empty and feels she has nothing left to give. Here we may feel like we’ve given enough and now it is our partner’s turn to give.

[*What do we give? *]

What we give is what we usually gave at the beginning of the relationship that allowed us to fall in love. We give the benefit of the doubt, acceptance, connection, time, priority, attention, gifts, affection, good conversation, sexual intimacy, respect, admiration, appreciation, protection, support, adoration, our hopes and dreams, our forgiveness. We give all of ourselves each day, throughout the day and our lives as we work to meet our partner’s needs.

[*How can we give? *]

In the beginning, many couples give even at the expense of their own happiness, without telling their partners what it is costing them to give.

According to Dr. John Gray many couples try to keep score of who did what for each other and may allow that to affect whether and how they give. The down side with that approach is that we are biased towards seeing all that we have given without ever fully seeing or knowing what we were given. When couples start comparing who did more or less for each other, this can often prevent us from giving like we once did.

We move from “giving because we love them”, to some sort of business relationship where we exchange favors with each other, adopting a “what’s in it for me” mindset. We can get to a place where we say,”I’ll give you this, because you gave me that.” Or “I won’t give you this until you give me that.”

We can courageously give even when we are unsure of exactly how to meet our partner’s needs, knowing that we will get more and more capable the more and more we give. Even if we stumble as long as we are trying our best we haven’t failed, we’ve succeeded in trying our best.

[*Why don’t we receive? *]

Some may refuse gifts, feeling unworthy. For example when a husband, compliments her beauty, and she may tell him she really doesn’t look good now, pushing his compliments of trying to make her feel beautiful away. Her refusal of his compliment may unknowingly discourage him from giving in the future.

We may be afraid to accept gifts and efforts allowing our partner to meet our needs because to rely on them again, opens us up to be disappointed and hurt again. This is when we need genuine forgiveness to occur to allow us to receive again.

[*How do we receive? *]

Fear of rejection and pain keeps some of us from[* asking*] for what we really want. It can be difficult to[* give*] because we may be afraid that what we give will be rejected or not seen as good enough. This is why when we receive, a gift it is important to be supportive and reassuring even if our gift is not perfect.

Even if it’s not perfect, praising and appreciating the part they got right, and their effort given will go a long way towards motivating our spouse to try again and again. Reluctantly, critically, and unappreciatively receiving or refusing gifts and efforts only discourages our partner from giving in the future.

Receiving warmth and appreciation motivates others to continue to give and meet our needs.

[*How do we give to ourselves to enable us to be able to give to others? *]

It’s hard for us to give when we are empty inside. It’s easy to get so caught up taking care of everyone else that we can forget to take care of ourselves. It’s as if we were to spend, spend, spend, and then be surprised when we see our checking account down to almost nothing.

We spend our time and energy on our work, the house, marriage, kids, in-laws, and an endless list of activities that each requires more of our time and energy. Then we may be surprised when one day we wake up feeling empty and exhausted, asking ourselves what are we doing with our lives? Where is our happiness?

We often push aside our own needs, the things that we used to enjoy, whether it was reading, painting, video games, sports, whatever it was that we considered to be fun, things that used to pour into us and refresh us, trying to give to everyone else. The problem here is that we can only give what we have, and if we don’t have joy and happiness ourselves, how will we be able to give to others? And so to be able to continue to give our best to others, we need to also be able to make time to give to ourselves.

Whether it’s taking a few minutes each day to do something you truly enjoy or every now and then, taking a getaway and doing something new and invigorating we need to ensure we make time to give to ourselves so we can give to others.

What are the three phases of how deeply we love our partner?

The three stages of how deeply we love our partner are a self-centered love, conditional love, and unconditional love. Let’s start with phase one, self-centered love.

What does Phase 1 look like?

In Phase 1, self-centered love, the focus is often on what we can get out of the relationship. That initial attraction, whether she’s incredibly beautiful or intelligent, or whether he’s incredibly wealthy or handsome, there’s an initial attraction where we see how that person can meet our own needs. We may even get married with the hopes of having someone to meet our needs and give us happiness. Today’s culture, with generation “Me,” has helped create a view that marriage is about making us happy.

One unspoken belief is often that our marriage and our spouse should focus on helping us with my happiness, my career, my family, and my goals.

This level of love is unsustainable because eventually our partner will feel uncared for if we ignore their needs to pursue our own, and likely decide to stop meeting our needs. As soon as our needs are no longer being met, or we can no longer have our way, we exit the relationship looking for someone else who is willing to promise us that they can. Here it’s always my happiness, instead of our happiness.

What does Phase 2 look like?

In Phase 2, conditional love, we are willing to meet our partner’s needs, and we don’t insist that we always get our way, a step up from self-centered love. Here we agree to exchange and meet each other’s needs if certain conditions are met. If he meets her needs for attention, affection, conversation, support, she’ll meet his needs for fun, praise, respect, and sexual intimacy. At this level we try to track who is giving what, trying to ensure we are getting back what we are investing into the relationship. If over time we believe the exchange is unfair, we often stop giving and leave the relationship maybe looking for a “better deal” with someone else.

Here, we don’t give freely, giving only when we feel we have received enough. The gap here is that we don’t feel genuinely loved, because this love feels earned, and feels like it can be lost if we don’t hold up our end of the “deal.”

What does Phase 3 look like?

In Phase 3, unconditional love, we show our love not by being self-seeking or self-centered, but by putting the needs of our spouse ahead of our own. Here we are focused not on getting what we want or need, but on trying to meet the needs of our spouse.

It’s wanting to meet your partner’s needs for their happiness without expecting anything in return, and knowing deep inside that no matter what, they will be by your side, even when you have nothing left to give. It’s saying even if you lost everything, your income, your looks, your health, your memory, I will still be here loving you…not under the condition that you to do something for me, or get something out of it, but because I love you unconditionally.

It’s when you would gladly give… even the ultimate precious gift of your very life… so that your spouse might live, without the possibility of ever getting anything back in return—that you show your unconditional love.

[*Why go for unconditional love or true love? *]

According to author Barbara Bartlein, one study found couples that were in conditional Phase 2 love, only showing an attitude of kindness when the other was nice, broke up within a few years. Phase 2 conditional love simply isn’t strong enough to last the storms of life. It’s the difference between building your marriage out of hay, sticks, and bricks. If we want out marriage to really last, we need to build it out of the bricks of unconditional love.

Often it’s a lack of unconditional love and acceptance in our lives that is underneath the pain and anger that we can experience in our relationships.

When we are in Phase 2, conditional love, when our partner doesn’t meet our need, we may feel anger and disappointment. When we are in Phase 3, unconditional love, because we are constantly putting our partner’s needs above our own, situations where we are crushed because we didn’t get what we want rarely occur because what we want is not for our happiness but for their happiness. Interestingly, over time as we put their wants and needs ahead of our own, we find that they gladly return the favor, putting our needs ahead of their own.

Having unconditional love, is like lying in a hospital, disfigured, crippled, and unable to provide after a terrible car accident, and knowing that your spouse will be there, loving you unconditionally. It’s knowing that your marriage will be strong enough to last not just another five years, but a lifetime.

There is simply no greater love than true unconditional love that never fails.

How does the level of love you are at tie to giving and receiving?

The Phase of love we are in ties directly to how we give to our spouse; in:

  • Self-centered love, we are focused on what we are receiving and give little, in
  • Conditional love, we keep track of what we give and receive, only giving what we think is a fair and even exchange, in
  • Unconditional love, we give everything we have without expecting to receive anything in return

[*How do we move to unconditional love? *]

When we first meet, we hope to capture our partner’s heart with our charm, humor, beauty, strength, and other strong characteristics. Then it’s often our unspoken hope that somewhere along the way this love becomes real and unconditional.

Many of us aren’t aware of everything going on in marriage…our partner’s frustrations of unmet expectations and needs. As we’ve described in this program, marriage does get complicated—fast. Moving towards unconditional love starts with understanding what our partner needs from us…. from affection and acceptance to attention and forgiveness…. and then deciding to give to them everything we have without expecting anything in return.

Consider:
[_[*

  1. Are some of the things that you once enjoyed and admired about your spouse now seen in a negative light? *]_]

[*2. Is it really their character, or where they are in the relationship that affects how we see their character? *]

[*3. Do you sometimes expect your partner to be able to read your mind? *]

4. Has that caused any misunderstanding in your marriage?

5. Which Phase do you believe you are in? Is that consistent with how you give today and receive today?

Action:
[_[*

  1. Write down 5 things about your spouse’s character you admire.*]_]

*2. Instead of focusing on the negative, for the next 30 days focus in on the positive and be encouraging. *

3. Decide to give up reading your partner’s mind and expecting them to read yours for the next 30 days.

*4. If you have not been asking for help or support from your partner, and time to recharge for yourself so you can give more, then bring it up to your spouse. *

[*5. Take steps to put your partner’s needs first, and giving as much as you can as you work towards unconditional love. *]

[* *]

~ Day 29 ~

How to Create Passion in Your Marriage by Dreaming Together

Mike missed being able to talk to Mary about all his plans and ideas when they first met. They were going to take the world by storm! Now the excitement and passion was all but a distant memory.

Early in marriage we often show our confidence our partner’s ability to achieve their dreams. As time passes in our marriage, we may stop encouraging our partner and stop giving them the message that we believe in them…

Who needs dreams anyway?

Author Anthony Robbins reminds us that many that are near the end of their lives hold on just a little longer during the holidays. That hope and goal of seeing friends and family energizes and empowers them to hold on to this world just a little longer. After the holidays have passed many let go of this world. It’s a reminder that deep inside we all need hopes and dreams… something to look forward to keep us moving forwards.

Regardless of where we are in life, or what our age we all need a powerful and inspiring dream to create passion and excitement in our lives. This need is especially powerful for husbands who have an innate desire to embark on an exciting and challenging adventure where he can achieve, and realize his potential and dreams. A central part of a husband’s identity is often around what he does. For many, what they do, often defines the very fabric of who they are.

Are you living your dream?

Many of us are working just to pay the bills. We have to pay the house, and car payments and for food. We set aside our own personal hopes and dreams for our partner, or for the kids. In this new complicated and specialized workforce, many times we never even see how our piece of the puzzle even fits with the bigger picture. Where perhaps we may have once hoped to be helping others, and making the world a better place we may find ourselves stuck in endless meetings or doing other tasks. Today we may feel that we never really accomplished what we had originally hoped for or set out to do.

Often, we don’t find the satisfaction, meaning and fulfillment in our jobs and careers as we may have hoped for early on. At one point we may quietly set aside our personal hopes and dreams. As we get older, we may see our dreams begin to fade away. Careers and opportunities never pursued, business ideas cast aside, personal goals becoming a distant memory.

Many of get so wrapped up in the day to day, reacting to life, instead of planning and creating the life we really want. We *need *to have exciting dreams and goals beyond just being able to pay the bills, if we want to create energy, passion and the drive in our lives and in our marriage.

So what kind of dreams or goals do we often have?

As Anthony Robbins observes, we have several kinds of dreams that we have in our lives, from personal development to relationship goals.

  • Personal development goals, where we want to improve who we are, whether it’s getting in great physical shape or getting a degree.
  • Occupational/career goals where we are spending our time in an ideal role, whether it’s being a stay at home mom or owning your own business,
  • Financial goals where we want to get to a certain financial level like getting out of debt or making a million dollars,
  • Purchasing goals, things we wanted to own, like owning a home, or a BMW
  • Relationship goals, where we get to a good place in our marriage, and or our kids, perhaps “no more yelling” or “feeling close to others.”
  • Needs goals where we have our needs met for example for our needs intimacy, for affection, attention, romance, respect, and safety.
  • Travel goals, which are the things we always wanted do and explore in our lives, like travelling to Rome or jumping out of a plane
  • Contribution/legacy goals where we strive to make a difference in the world, with the hope of one day leaving it better that we found it, like finding the cure for cancer
  • Spiritual goals, where we strive to come closer to our creator, like feeling God’s presence in our lives and having spiritual peace

As we get older, our dreams may change and grow but underneath there is the underlying hope, to realize our full potential, have financial strength, have fun and excitement while giving back in some meaningful way.

One of my favorite movies is Jerry Maguire. Here, Tom Cruise plays a Sport Agent who has a dream, of making it big, of finding an athlete with talent and helping them to get the best sports contract opportunity. After much struggle and hard work, Jerry finally sees his dream come true with his star player making a stunning play on the football field. There are cheers people are going crazy, Jerry had finally achieved his goal, it should have been the happiest day in his life. It was day that all that hard work had been for. He looks, for his estranged wife, and she’s not there…

He races back to his estranged wife and says, “On what was supposed to be the happiest night of my business life, it [wasn’t _]complete, wasn’t _nearly close to being in the same vicinity as complete, because I couldn’t share it with you…”

He needed her to be there to share in seeing his dream coming true. Husbands are looking for their wives, to be there to share in their dreams if they are ever to really feel complete.

So how do our dreams affect our marriage?

I agree with John Eldredge’s view that we need to have power dreams to have an exciting marriage. Marriage without passionate and exciting dreams, often leads to a lifeless and boring marriage. How often can we really get excited and have an engaging exciting conversation about the everyday routines? Often what really gives us a sense of passion and excitement are the dreams that are in our heart we are longing to live out.

It’s often at the beginning of our marriage, that we have not only a shared love, but shared dreams. We’re going to take the world by storm, the two of us against the world. In a young marriage we see and feel like anything is ours and the world is ours for the taking, if we just put our mind to it.

Over time, if a husband’s dreams are no longer shared by his wife and are seen as foolish or unrealistic, he will feel hurt from her lack of approval and faith that he can achieve his dream.

If a wife feels like time and time again her dreams have to be put aside or on hold or worse lost because of her spouse is holding her back, a quiet anger and resentment can build inside. The loss of broken dreams whether spoken or unspoken, can lead to blame, anger, pain and distance.

A lack of support for each other’s dreams may go hidden for some time but will resurface time and time again, becoming the source of conflict, anger and hurt until they are made known, shared and acknowledged. Broken, empty dreams are the slow drain of passion and energy in a couple’s marriage.

When we feel we are unable to share our dreams, and that we can’t let a key part of us be known by our spouse we often end up feeling unknown, distant and alone.

Dr. John Gottman encourages couples to have shared dreams for their life. Both husbands and wives need to have dreams that they can share, to help them to recapture and recreate the passion and energy that young marriages often have. Having a deep, purposeful shared dream that you can work on realizing together can bring a deep intimacy and create growth in marriage as we show a genuine interest in knowing our spouse more deeply and then expressing our love for them as we work to help them achieve their goals.

It’s when we are in a place where we can feel we can talk about our dreams without fear of being ridiculed and find acceptance and support that we can truly have a happy marriage. By validating and accepting each other’s dreams, we are speaking words of encouragement into our partner’s spirit and heart. Few experiences are more powerful than undergoing the process of working together to realize an exciting and important dream together.

Some husbands may struggle to talk to their wives as much as their wives would like them to, but talk to husbands in an interested and accepting way about discovering, pursuing and sharing their goals, and dreams and he will find the conversation easy to have.

Instinctively husbands enjoy the challenge of pursuing their dreams, and if they sense they can dream with their wife about creating a new and exciting life, it may be difficult to get him to stop talking!

To share in your excitement that the new possibilities that your dreams can create, and to comfort each other and encourage each other as you navigate towards your final destination is an incredible an rewarding experience that can add a great measure of fulfillment into your marriage.

As promotions and business opportunities slipped by Mike found himself expecting less and less. He had tried to pursue some of his dreams early on, but with the demands of his job, and kids, and all the busyness of life he rarely even had time to think of them. Once upon a time, he couldn’t wait to tell Mary his business ideas, but now he felt she just didn’t believe in him. “Don’t quit your day job.” She’d joke. Nowadays he found himself just going through the motions…

Why do we need to support our partner’s dreams?

According to Dr. John Gottman, it is important to support our partner’s dream. It is important that they can see you not as the person that has quietly held them back, but as the person that has helped them every step of the way. If you’re not with them, they may feel you’re against them. Some partners flat out laugh, and ridicule their partner’s dream. The husband that finally gets the courage to share his new business idea and is laughed at for it immediately feels a deep sense of loss. At that moment, their shared dream is lost, and she is no longer a part of his dream. Though he often won’t say it, feeling disrespected, he’s saddened that he no longer feels he can share something with his wife; that he cares very much about.

As time passes, and his dreams die, his passion will often fade inside him and that will show up in how passionate and excited he is about his life, and his marriage. If he feels he hasn’t reached his dreams because she held him back, this only breads bitterness and anger. We are naturally drawn to those that encourage us to achieve our vision and dreams and are turned off by those that tell us our dreams are dumb, impossible or unrealistic. Even if we don’t support our partner’s exact dream we can support the spirit of their dream and can work on a shared dream that accomplishes the spirit of the dream together. If his dream is for wealth, perhaps it means security to him, significance, or freedom and we can find it easier to support that aspect of their dream.

Think about it, do you really want to be married to someone without a dream, no drive?

A husband that does the same routine each day, just getting by? Someone who’s satisfied watching others live out their dreams on reality shows, while their own are a distant memory? Or do you really want to have a partner that shows confidence in the face of uncertainly, someone that is always trying to make their family’s world a better place? When we think about it most of us want to have a partner with a deeper dream and vision for their lives that inspires us, and leads to energizing our marriage.

What’s the benefit of having a dream?

According to the authors of “Fighting for Your Marriage” studies have shown that couples that often spoken about the future together and were able to create a shared vision and dream benefited by having happier marriages. They found that instead of quibbling about who did the dishes last, these larger dreams put their life in perspective, and allowed them to focus in on the dreams that they held that really mattered, and the small stuff seemed to fade away. These findings are consistent with what we would expect to hear in the life of a couple that has and exciting and passionate dream that they share together.

Along with the greater level of marital happiness that dreams give us, they also provide a greater sense of fulfillment in that through our shared goals, we find a shared passion, dream, and purpose.

We can be busy getting things done …but if what we are doing doesn’t align with our dream, vision and purpose then at the end of the day we will feel unfulfilled. Our dreams directly benefit our marriages by making them happier and more fulfilling.

“What would you do if you won a million dollars?” Mike asked. Mary hadn’t thought about her dreams for so long, she forgot what they were. “I’d open up a shelter to help troubled teens”, she said “and maybe travel, to Italy” “Really?”, asked Mike, he dimly remember a conversation about he wanted to start a shelter long ago. “That’s interesting”, Mike said, “What part of Italy?” “Tuscany” Mary said, describing for Mike what she had seen on the Travel Channel. They ended up talking about their dreams in a carefree way for a while, and it was felt so refreshing to her. It seemed that somehow life had become about everyone else but her, but somehow just talking about her dreams again had inspired her again.

So how do we find and rediscover our dreams anyway?

First look at the different types of dreams we touched on earlier. Author Anthony Robbins encourages us to not worry about being “realistic” at first when looking to rediscover our dreams. He encourages us to go back to a mindset that many of us had as children, that we can do and have anything in life. If you found a magic lamp, that gave you whatever you wished for if you only asked, what would you wish for? Think back to the types of dreams most of us have. From relationships, to needs, to places we want to explore. Later on you can write down or, 2 or 3 wishes from each category that really get you excited. Remember it’s a magic lamp, so it can be anything. Once we have a sense for what our own dreams are we can then begin to look at how we can move towards living them out.

So how can we help our partner find their dreams?

The following are questions that we can ask in a very supportive and encouraging way that can help us uncover our spouse’s dream:

  • If you could do anything for a living what would it be?
  • What do you really enjoy doing for others that you don’t even consider to be work, but some people actually get paid to do?
  • If you won a million dollars what would you buy?
  • What do your relationships look like in a perfect world?
  • If you were told you only had 30 days to live, how would you spend that time?
  • How are your needs perfectly met in your dreams? (Needs for affection, sexual intimacy, safety, respect, have fun, to talk)
  • If you could live or travel anywhere in the world where would it be?
  • If you could achieve any spiritual goal what would it be?
  • If there were a new technology breakthrough that could enable you to permanently enhance yourself what would you choose to enhance?
  • When your children tell stories of you when you are gone, how do you want to be remembered?

You’ll notice that these questions are designed to help uncover different types of dreams mentioned earlier. It is extremely important that you are very sensitive, supportive and encouraging as your partner shares their dreams as these often mean a great deal to them. Many couples may find it hard to be fully open and honest for fear of being made fun of. Constant encouragement, and support through non verbal communication will help them to want to answer these questions, and other dream related questions, that will let us share and connect with our partner about their deepest dreams. Not only can these questions help you discover your partner’s dreams but they may also help you to rediscover some of your own.

How do we get enough drive to achieve our dreams?

Once we discover our dreams, we need to find a big enough why and strong reasons for accomplishing our dreams. I whole heartedly agree with author Anthony Robbin’s perspective that, 80% of accomplishing our dreams is having a big enough why to see us through, the 20% of it is how to do it. Once you have a strong enough why, we can work towards how we set up goals that will lead us the live out our dreams.

To help with this process, Anthony recommends that we imagine what living out our dreams would feel like. How would it create passion in our life if these dreams were met? How would it drain us if we quietly gave up on our dreams and surrendered to the day to day?

We need to look deeply and find the real reasons for accomplishing our dreams, finding and creating stronger and stronger reasons until we feel absolutely committed to realizing our dreams.

It’s important that for each dream we uncover, that we jot down a few lines, why each dream means so much to us, take the time to picture and jot down a bit what a day in the life of living out your dream would look like. Anthony recommends having this so that when challenges do come up, and they will, that we remember and we know what we are walking towards.

How can creating goals enable us to live out our dreams?

As Napoleon Hill one of the early authors of personal success wrote, a goal is a dream with a deadline. It’s when we dare to say:

  • In 1 year, I want to have built a strong relationship with my spouse.
  • In 2 years, I want to be at this weight.
  • In 3 years, I want to have gone to Hawaii.
  • In 4 years, I want to have finished this degree.
  • In 5 years, I want to be holding a baby in my arms.
  • In ten years, you fill in the blank…

Dreams add purpose and focus and direction. Instead of talking about “someday” or “one day” we are saying in 2 years this is where I want to be, which can bring new excitement in our lives. As we discussed earlier, it often fear of failure that discourages us from daring to dream, but if we are not perusing our deepest dreams, we may only feel that we are not really living and alive inside, but that we are only existing.

When we create plans, and goals we are taking the first steps to living out the life we really want.

Mike wasn’t sure how it happened, but they had begun to rediscover some excitement in their marriage again. He felt for the first time in a while that he was doing something that would have some lasting meaning. He wasn’t the only one with a new glow about him, he could see Mary’s smile from where he sat as she gave him a knowing look. They had come up with a shared plan for their lives, they had stopped going through motions living with renewed excitement in their lives.

How do we create goals to realize our dreams?

The first step is to make the time to rediscover our own dreams and our partner’s dreams again. Often we are so busy just trying to get by through the day; we never get to talk in a way to rediscover our dreams. Whether it’s a getaway; a date night, or during our daily alone time with our partner, making the time is key.

With you get to a place when you have a sense for what your dreams are, write them out as they come to you, picking at least one from each category, (i.e. personal or Financial) Once you have your lists, look to put at a high level the number of years in which would you would like to be able to achieve your dreams, just put 1, 2, 3’s next to your list. After you have created your list, of dreams, begin to think about your dreams throughout the week, and how they would lead to a new life.

Begin thinking about some of the steps you would need to take.

  • If your goal is to lose 10 pounds, in a year, figure out how much you would need to lose each month, and how many calories would you need to take in each day to lose, what you want each month, and get to you 1 year goal.
  • If it were being debt free in 3 years, initial goals might be paying off the smallest card debit in a year, with several other goals for paying each card off by a certain date until you are debt free.
  • Strengthening relationship, often start off with identifying what the other person needs, and then working to meet those needs consistently.

The approach is the same with each dream, it’s about setting the date for when you want to live out your dreams and then working backwards to finding the steps you need to take to get there as you consistently work with your partner to take them, as each step takes you close and closer to your dream. As you work through goals, you may find you need to refine them. On a monthly basis reassess them, change dates, add or remove goals and allow yourself to be flexible. Some goals may need to be removed and replaced and or added.

If we don’t know the steps to take, Anthony Robbins recommends someone that has already achieved a dream that we have and see how they achieved it.

For example if our dream was to create a happy marriage, we can find someone that was able to create it, and see how they did it, then take what they did and adopt the pieces that resonate with us and apply it in our life. Whether our goal is lose weight, have greater financial strength, a stronger walk with God; or something else we are after; finding a person that has already achieved the results in their lives that we are after can be critical to saving time and effort in discovering the distinct steps we need to take to achieve our dreams.

How do we create daily routines that move us toward our goals and dreams?

Coming up with agreed daily routines is critical to us being able to move towards our goals and dreams.

If our dream is having a clean home that is in order, we need to define what does that mean. For example we may look to have chores done by a certain time for example, by a specific person and time.

By listing out who will be doing what by when, we eliminate confusion around who was expected to do a chore/task, and we remind each other of what needs to be done. Without a clear view of what needs to be done, we may find ourselves having the same conflicts over and over.

Having an agreed upon and list of tasks to be done will ensure we are able to support each other with our goals and dreams.

  • If our financial dream is to be debt free we need to agree on a daily spending plan
  • If our dream is to have a happy and fulfilling marriage, we need work toward meeting each other’s needs daily.
  • If our dream is to get a college degree, we need to agree on a daily studying plan
  • If our dream is to have a healthy body we need to agree on a daily diet and exercise program

Again and again, we see that we achieve our dreams by taking steps towards them on a daily basis.

Routines are especially helpful to husbands as it helps them ensure everything is done. Even when something unexpected comes up that might normally throw him off, having a list, and routine will enable him to stay on track without missing a beat.

What daily routines can move us toward our dreams of a happy marriage?

If our dream is to have a happy and fulfilling marriage, there may be several things we may want to do each day:

Did you call her in the morning and afternoon? Did you hold her close and show her affection? Did you tell her she’s beautiful? Did you find something that you appreciate about them and tell them? Did you tell her you love her? Did she have time to talk to you to share with you to be known? Did you make time to just have fun together? Did you make time for sexual intimacy? Did you….”you fill in the blank”.

Creating new daily routines are necessary to be able to one day live out our dreams.

Living out shared dreams with our spouse is not just about accomplishing a goal. There is a deeper meaning, purpose and dream that we are working towards. Now each day we are steadily moving toward living out our own inspiring and incredible dreams.

What’s the difference between appreciation and encouragement?

Things are often be easier in the beginning we start off strong. In time there are often setbacks that we will encounter. We get a bad grade, we don’t lose the weight we were hoping for that week, there was an argument, someone overspent, a chore was forgotten…. we aren’t perfect.

It’s during the times when we have setbacks that we need continue to encourage each other. As author, Barbara Bartlein has so eloquently written, “A minute of encouragement during a failure is worth more than hours of praise after a success.” She goes on to say how it’s this encouragement that will enable couples to create a more positive mindset that will motivate them achieve their goals and reach their dreams. When we encourage each other, we can literally “inspire courage” within them to overcome setbacks, and to reach their goals and dreams.

How do we support and encourage our partner to live out their dreams?

We support our partners by:

  • Sharing our interest in their dreams by asking to know what they are.
  • Supporting their dreams by helping them achieve it.
  • Sharing in their dream by becoming a part of it and wanting to experience it with them in some way.

In life we are often told we can’t do it, if not directly indirectly. We need to be the voice our partner hears that says, “I know you can do this! I believe in you.” We need to continuously be that voice telling them that there is nothing they can’t do; reminding them that we are there for them.

Even when…every other voice, (and maybe at times even their own) says they can’t reach their dreams, we need to continue to inspire courage, by believing in them. In this way they will feel loved even more deeply.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. Do you remember your early dreams?*]_]

2. How do you think dreams create passion in marriage?

3. Do you feel you are encouraged to achieve your dreams

4. Are you and your spouse creating a life together where you are living out your dreams?

5. What do you think would really drive you to achieve your dreams?

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Write down and rediscover your dreams write down as list of dreams that inspire you*]_]

2. Use the questions mentioned earlier, to discover help you discover your partner’s dreams.

3. Talk about how dreams can create passion and unity in marriage with your spouse

4. Work with your spouse to create some goals and milestones to reaching your dreams

5. Work with your spouse to create some routines that will help you to live out your dreams

[* *]

~Day 30 ~

How Spiritual Intimacy Can Strengthen a Marriage

“The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books—a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects.” ~ Albert Einstein

Brandon looked up from his video game, “But, Dad, if we don’t see God how do we know he’s real?” Brandon asked.

Mike replied, “Just because we can’t see God doesn’t mean he isn’t real. You can’t see the Wi-Fi you’re using to connect to the internet, but it’s there.

“So…,” Brandon pressed, “…He can see us… but we can’t see Him?” he asked doubtfully.

Mike looked at the TV screen, in it Brandon was a soldier, jumping into tanks, and talking to other soldiers and shooting bad guys. The graphics engine and physics modeling made it look incredibly lifelike. Think of it this way, Mike explained, “Can the soldier in this video game, turn around and see you?”

Brandon hesitated, “You mean “see me” her on the couch through the TV screen?”

“Yeah”, Mike said.

“Of course not,” Brandon replied laughing.

“Well, what can he see?” Mike asked.

“Well, he can see everything that’s in the game, tanks, buildings other soldiers…” Brandon replied.

“So that soldier, can only see what’s in the game, even though you and I are both right here and exist,” Mike said. “And if we are smart enough to make these virtual worlds in a video game that can look so real, think of the worlds that can be created by a Creator that has existed much longer than us?… Do you see how it’s possible that a God you can’t see can still see you?”

Brandon gave his look of understanding, and said, “Yeah, I think I do…”

What is spiritual intimacy?

Spiritual intimacy is being able to connect to a higher purpose greater than ourselves. It’s being able to draw upon something much stronger than us that empowers us and strengthens us when we are unable to move forward on our own strength. It’s this connection to a higher power that can enable us to bring our marriage to another level. As we are able to draw closer to God, we often end up drawing closer to each other.

[*How does spiritual intimacy change everything? *]

Spiritual intimacy can give us a deeper connection and resolve in our marriage. Marriage can become more than what a husband or wife needs as they deepen their faith, and spiritual intimacy together as a couple.

It can be the start of a new marriage where husband and wife are not only connected to each other through by how they feel, but through a connection that is immeasurably stronger.

If we could hear directly from God about our marriage, what would He tell us?

Mike and Mary were both going through a difficult time and decided to meet with their pastor. Their pastor had each given them what he called “A Letter from God” to speak to them about their marriage. He said people often asked him what would God say about their marriage so one day, he decided to write a letter based on Bible verses… This is what it said:

Listen to My words on how you are not alone…

You may not know me but I know you. Psalm 139[+ ]It is by my design that you come to know me not by sight or sound, but by faith. [+Romans 1:17]I have been watching you from the time you were being woven in your mother’s womb… Genesis 2:18I gave you marriage, in the beginning, because without her by his side he was not good, and incomplete.

Genesis 2 – 3 When they were first together, when they were first falling in love, they were so very happy, they had complete trust in each other knowing no shame…

They shared plans to rule the world together. All was well, until the day they broke the one rule I had laid down for them. It doesn’t matter who broke the rule, first but they both did. And at once they had knowledge, of each other’s imperfections, at once they began to hide, from each other and distance from each other.

They began to blame each other, instead of taking responsibility for what they had done. Not knowing what to do, and handle what had come to pass, they felt fear and shame. She never saw him the same again, as her perfect man, and he never saw her as he did at first, so beautiful to him was she that he could scarcely speak.

Not seeing her beauty he stopped telling her how beautiful she was, and not seeing his strength she stopped seeing him and treating him that way.

Sadly, after that moment, I had them leave their paradise, and set a guard to prevent them from returning. No longer would they be able to “easily find love” as they did in the beginning. The moment they were separated from Me, they were separated from each other.

I’ve seen this same situation. play out again and again, there is a sweet first and easy love, being in their own little world or garden, all is seemingly perfect until a line is crossed, and then they see each other for who they really are, two imperfect people, trying to hide their imperfections, cast out from their perfect happiness, fearful that it is lost forever….From the bronze age to the digital age I have seen the same story unfold in countless lives again and again…

After that day of separation, no longer could they simply enjoy the easiness of the garden, they would have to now work hard together to sustain themselves and to meet each other’s needs.

So how can you come to find happiness and peace in your marriage after the easy first love has faded, and you are no longer in the perfect garden of your first love, before, the breaking of rules the blame, the shame? Before it took any real work to know and experience happiness?

Listen to My words on how to treat each other…

Husbands, be faithful to your wives, for I will not even accept your prayers if you are not first faithful to her. Proverbs 21:19 Remember that your wife is a blessing from me… Proverbs 19:14 Be sure to show your wife the affection they deserve. I Corinthians 7:3

Wives, do not stir up an arguments by nagging and be constantly anxious or worried as this only pushes him away. Proverbs 21:19 Be careful not use your influence to tear down your own house, and instead use it to work towards building it… Proverbs 14:1

A Wife who brings her husband shame, is like sickness that destroys him at the core of who he is, down to the bones. Proverbs 12:4

Husbands, because you tend to withhold love, when you are upset, always show her your love even when it’s hard, and wives because you tend to withhold respect when you are upset, always show him respect even when it’s hard. Colossians 3:18-19

Husbands and wives, you must really separate and leave the influence of their parents, and to cling to each other and to become one. Genesis 2:24

Do not lose track of what is important, chasing things like money that can only keep you content for a short while instead focus on what is truly important and lasting. Hebrews 13:5

Husbands, she wants you to pursue her and reach out to her each day, declaring her beauty, and exploring the beauty of this world with her. Wives, he wants to be able to enjoy your beauty and hear, you speak kindly to him, and look at him lovingly. Solomon 2

Do not be quick to point out all the imperfections you see in your partner, when you yourself are imperfect, instead focus on removing imperfections from your own life. Then from being in a better place yourself, you will be able to help your partner. Matthew 7:1

To find the happiness and fulfillment you are looking for accept each other despite, each other’s imperfections… Romans 15:7

Always do your best, encouraging each other even when you fall short of each other’s expectations. Always work together to get on the same page, which will bring you peace. II Corinthians 13:11

[*When it comes to communicating… *]

All good communication considers timing. Proverbs 15:3 Remember, harsh words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing… Proverbs 12:18 Be sure to really listen before you speak, as speaking before really listening and understanding each other ,causes much of the craziness and pain you experience. Proverbs 18:13

Quickly racing to come up with solutions without really understanding, is not good as it will cause you to lose your way. Proverbs 19:2

Remember, just as there are times you need to speak up, there are times when you should just be silent. Ecclesiastes 3 It is those who carefully choose their words that are wise Proverbs 10:19

On conflict management, you should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for your anger does not bring about the good life that I desire for you. James 1:19-20

In the area of money avoid spending everything that you have. Proverbs 21:20 Instead work to be debt free, less you become enslaved by it. Instead you should strive to leave an inheritance for your children’s children. Proverbs 13:22 You can do this with slow but consistent saving that will eventually lead you to prosperity. Proverbs 21:5

In sexual intimacy, husbands and wives work to meet each other’s needs as this will enable you to avoid the lure of an affair, saving you from much pain. I Corinthians 7:3

On forgiveness, remember that none of you are perfect… and that all of you have broken rules that have hurt others. Romans 3:23 And that you should not hold things against each other. Mark 11:25 It’s by being loving and forgiving to others that you will find forgiveness for your own shortcomings… Luke 7:47

On dreams, as husband and wife, work together, to pursue the dreams that are within each of you. James 4:1-3 +]Hold on to them and encourage them because without a dream or a vision, you will come to fade and die inside [+Proverbs 29:18

Remember to show acts of kindness for each other and work to stir each other to feel each other’s love. Hebrews 10:24

Listen to My words on how to love each other…

In a world that has so many definitions of love, let me describe it for you, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” I Corinthians 13:4-7

Note, it is patient, not going off on your spouse at the slightest imperfection. It does not envy, wishing for what others have, or boasting or thinking we are better than our spouse. It is not rude, rolling our eyes, treating each other with disrespect as we talk. It is not self seeking putting our own needs first, ahead of our spouse, but putting their needs before our own, It is not easily angered thinking the worst, instead thinking the best, It doesn’t keep a record of every time they let you down, throwing it in each others faces, Love doesn’t not delight in evil or in each other’s pain, but feels each others hurts, It always protects her heart, and his value, it trusts each other to love deeply, it always hopes for the best in each other. And it always perseveres, and is not short and fleeting but ever lasting.

Matthew 19:4-6 Know also that divorce is not a part of what I ever wanted for you, because once you become one you break each other if you every try to become separated, do not allow yourselves to break what I have joined together.

Malachi 2:16 Know that I hate divorce so work to protect your marriage and do not be unfaithful.

Proverbs 31 Husbands should love your wife as you love yourself. Ephesians 5:28 and wives should work to bring him good, not harm all the days of her life. Proverbs 31

[*Listen to my words on how I can care for you: *]

I have loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) and have compassion and care for you (Psalm 103). I will not reject you, (1 Samuel 12:22) and as I look beyond your appearance and deeply into your heart (+][+1 Samuel 16:7)+], I can satisfy your deepest desires so that you will feel renewed and rejuvenated, and feel like you are soaring like an eagle ([+Psalm 103:5). I am ready to forgive you so completely that your every transgression will be as far from the east as it is from the west ( Psalm 103:12), and I want to offer you a perfect love will drive out any fear that is stopping you (1 John 4:18) Don’t worry that your needs will not be met, as worrying will not add a single hour to your life. I will take care of you (Matthew 6:25)

Yes, I know all about your hard circumstances. I’ve heard your every cry for help (1 Samuel 9:15-16). I am close to the brokenhearted and am able to save those who have had their spirit crushed (Psalm 34). Through your prayers, you can call out to me and I can save you from trouble (Philippians 1:19).

In times of trouble, I can be your strength, and place of refuge, your fortress that will stand against all that comes against you (Psalm 59:16) I can strengthen you where you are weak, and give you guidance (Job 4:3) So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be troubled. I will strengthen you and help you; I will hold up you with my own hands (Isaiah 41:10). I will build up your house, and bless you (Psalm 127:1–2).

If give me your heart I will strengthen you. I can rescue and save you (Psalm 18:48). If you turn toward me, I can give you peace (Numbers 6:26).

Mike and Mary, didn’t know over 60 verses made up the letter. They [_did _]know that the words had touched their hearts.

Mike decided that maybe he wasn’t able to trust Mary after she had hurt him, but he began to find a way to trust God and that gave him the strength he needed.

How can God meet our need to feel valued and safe?

Dr. Larry Crabb offers some excellent insights on how God can meet our need to be valued and safe.

God strengthens our marriage, by meeting our needs when our own partner is unable. Instead of working to earn value by chasing only things of this world, like money, status, beauty or depending completely on our spouse to make us feel significant, important and special; God can meet these needs.

While money and status come and go, and our partner’s ability to meet this need may falter, God meets this need perfectly. He already loves us just as we are. He assures us that He is interested in us, watches over us, and we are greatly valued and cared for by Him the Creator of all things—to know and feel that we really matter can make us feel complete and whole.

When we first fall in love, one of the most immediate and key needs that we often meet for each other is the need to be significant and important to someone else. A key reason why she married was so that he could rescue her from her loneliness, her emptiness, her fear… And when he failed her, because he is imperfect, she can feel rejected abandoned and afraid once again, while he can feel ashamed that he has in some way failed her or, worse, that he hurt the very one he meant to protect. Having failed, he may no longer believe he deserves to feel the significance and love that he needs.

If we believe that we must depend on our partner for significance and confidence, this can create a fear that our spouse will no longer meet this need. Out of fear of rejection we may distance ourselves, to avoid pain.

But if instead of withdrawing from our partner because they cannot meet our need, or worse turning to someone else, our jobs, or something else we can turn to God to meet this need. If our need to be valued and safe is already met by God, we can then be secure enough to love our spouse unconditionally—no longer concerned and focused on how our spouse can meet our own needs, no longer threatened by the fear of not having our deepest needs met.

But if we consider that God values us and cares for us, we can be filled with enough confidence and love to overcome any fear and emptiness that we might have once felt. This confidence and love can enable us reach out to our partner to begin to meet their needs and strengthen the marriage.

How does God meeting our need, enable to meet our spouse’s needs?

Dr. Julianna Slattery, describes it well when she says, “As long as a wife depends upon her husband to meet her deepest needs for significance and security, her marriage is on tenuous ground. The moment her prince fails her, which he will, her commitment wavers. The strength and resolve of a godly wife comes through one thing: She depends on her Heavenly Father to meet her deepest needs.”

While wives may be hesitant to trust their husband’s to make decisions, they can completely trust that God will see them through. Like a safety net under two trapeze artists flying through the air as you both try your best to catch each other, He is there in case you slip through each other’s fingers and fall. It’s knowing there is a net, a safety that will catch you, that will embolden you to dare to love each other as fully and deeply as you need to, to have a truly fulfilling marriage. “Underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27).

The solution then is not greater confidence that our spouse will catch us or will meet our needs, but its great confidence that God will catch us and meet our needs—that He values you, and cares for you and is there to keep you safe. It’s His perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). Trusting God to catch us, we can help us to trust our spouse.

Fear can holds us back from completely and deeply loving our partner as we once did. It’s His perfect love that drives out fear…

If your spouse rejects you at times or even if you just don’t feel valued or cared for, take a moment to remember that there is a God that does love and care for you, and you are incredibly valuable and precious to Him. Let Him be your rock and strength, to enable you to be able to love unconditionally. He knows our imperfections and our failures, and He still loves us and values us greatly.

This is how a wife is able to continue being respectful even though her husband may come across as unloving; this is how a husband is able to continue to be loving even though his wife may come across as disrespectful.

By drawing on God’s strength and God’s example on how to love, we can learn to love each other unconditionally. It’s when we no longer completely depend on our spouse to meet our needs, to feel valued, significant, and loved that we are able to fully invest into our marriage.

Dr. Larry Crab shares the following story about significance in his book The Marriage Builder. Imagine someone living in a small house who does not believe their wealthy or significant finding out that their house and land is on top of a rich oil field.

That person always owned the oil that could bring them wealth, they just weren’t aware of it, likewise we are already greatly valued and treasured, we may just not be aware of it. We already have access to a God who has an endless supply of love for us.

We cannot give what we don’t have. Whether its 10 million dollars, or its unconditional love. Through a relationship with God, we have access to an unconditional love that we can share with our spouse.

Though we will still encounter challenges and pain in life, we can take comfort in know there is someone greater and stronger than us that will always be there for us. That when the storms come in marriage or in an area of life, and fear generating questions like, “What if it doesn’t work out? What will happen to the kids?” come against us, we can stand having a peace and confidence that only God can give us.

[*Is there a timeless story at the heart of every marriage? *]

I agree with author John Eldredge’s view that there is a timeless story at the heart of every marriage. He writes that “God is telling a love story, and the setting is war and that in the midst of this terrible war, like all the great fairy tales, the kingdom hangs in the balance; and evil is advancing upon the land. “ He goes on to say that the love and war story between Good and Evil continues to rage on as there is a “great and terrible clash between the kingdom of God and darkness continues.”

This is why we are drawn to movies where there is love and war, because they remind us of our own story in some way. Somewhere inside our spirit reawakens, and we remember a deeper purpose from another life another world…

And what exactly are they fighting for? Is it land? Oil? Money? No, John asserts that the battle is for the human heart. What will we love? Who will we love? What will we believe in? When God says, “Love will never fail” the enemy laughs at us. It’s a battle that has been raging from the beginning and continues to rage today.

Through marriage, we are given our greatest ally. Genetically designed to complement each other perfectly, where she is gifted with intuition he is gifted with courage, where one is weak the other is strong… none better than the other, both balancing and needing each other to survive.

He is designed to protect her, to sacrifice his life for her; she is designed to instinctively know his heart, even if he is unable to put his incredible love for her to words…

When he falls; she can pick him up and vice versa…

Husband and wife can write their own love and war story together a story that they can pass on from generation to generation.

With so many marriages one by one falling prey to one or more divorces, many are not able to tell their children of a love/war story where there were struggles, and hardships, where they almost gave it all up, where almost all was lost, but in the end, with God’s help they were able to pull through.

What’s really at the heart of many marital struggles?

Isn’t it interesting that so many couples hear the same words of doubt from time to time? Whispers like, “Maybe I married the wrong one?” “They don’t really love you.” Where do these destructive whispers come from? Whispers that can form the doubt that breaks the foundation of our marriage?

Interestingly, God warns us of an enemy he calls the father of lies… (John 8:44)

When we can see that our spouse is not the enemy, we are able to draw together and build a strong marriage. We go to something much deeper and fulfilling than just trying to make each other happy, to helping each other carry out a deeper purpose. We can focus on writing our own timeless story, and leaving a legacy that will outlast us long after we are gone.

How do we draw on spiritual strength by praying together?

Prayer can be a very deep and intimate experience when couples decide to go before God in prayer. At first it can feel awkward and uncomfortable, because to have a really intimate prayer it means we need to really let our guard down. To be able to really open up and pray to God about what is really on our heart, what we are really afraid of and know our spouse is right there, hearing our innermost thoughts, and hopes and feelings can be a terribly, frightening and beautiful thing.

Just as Adam and Eve hid in the garden and cover themselves up from God and each other, today many of us continue to keep our hearts covered up and hidden. But it’s through this special intimate kind of prayer, shared by just the two of you that a truly deep intimacy can be created.

Even if you are not ready to perfectly put everything into words, you can always just pray for comfort from how your feeling.

Whether it’s feeling unloved, anger, ashamed, unloving, unforgiving, or to pray to feel peace.

To hear your partner pray for you can be something that really helps you to see how much they care for you. As we pray to God for his wisdom, insight, and strength we draw closer to Him, we are also at the same time drawn closer to each other, which is why praying daily is so important.

It’s this deep level of intimacy that prayer creates, which may explain why Sociologist Andrew Greeley findings. His research found that the happiest couples were those who prayed together, as they reported ongoing feelings of romance. Couples that prayed together also reported a 90 percent higher satisfaction rate with their sex life compared to couples that did not pray.

[*How do we begin to build a relationship with our Creator? *]

For some couples just like so many other things that fall to the wayside, from not working out, to not spending enough time with our spouse, we may not be making time to have a relationship with our creator. Developing a strong relationship with God is a cornerstone to having a fulfilling marriage. According to the authors of Fighting for Your Marriage, “Couples who actively practiced their faith together—and who tended to view marriage as having a transcendent meaning—tended to be happier, to have less conflict, to work more as a team, and to engage in less of what we have called the danger signs. This latter group of couples was the least likely to divorce.”

Speaking, personally, it was God, who gave us the strength, wisdom, security, love and guidance that we needed to pull ourselves from the terrible marital storm we found ourselves over 10 years ago. I can tell you from firsthand experience, that having a marriage without God, which I experienced for the first seven years, and a marriage with God, was night and day. After we married each other again, this time really inviting God into our marriage all the insecurities and uncertainties melted away, and so many things just fell into place. We fell in love more deeply and have experienced a much more fulfilling marriage as a result.

Building a relationship with our Creator starts by finding a local church that you can connect with where you really feel welcome and a part of.

If you’re not sure how to start, two pastors that I believe are excellent in being able to communicate God’s heart to us are Joel Osteen and Jentzen Franklin. Aside from having large physical churches, both also have website with an online presence, where you can listen to their messages, on the web as well as podcasts that you can also listen to.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. Was there a time in the beginning of your marriage when all was perfect and then something happened that seemed to forever change things from how they once were? *]_]

2. Do you think God’s words on how to treat each other and love each other agree with what we covered in this program and can be applied in your marrage?

3. How can fear holds you back from completely and deeply loving our partner as we once did.

[*4. How can a God that can meet your need to be valued and cared for embolden you strengthen your marriage? *]

5. How do you think your marriage can benefit from spiritual intimacy?

[+ +]
[_[*

  1. Talk to your spouse about how spiritual intimacy can strengthen your marriage. *]_]

2. Talk to your partner about the timeless love and war story of your own marriage

3. Write down 3 destructive lies that have gotten in the way of building a strong marriage. (for example your spouse doesn’t really love you etc.)

4. If you are not already in a relationship with God, work on finding a going to a church or a place where you can be consistently encouraged and strengthened.

*5. When you are ready, work towards developing a prayer life together with your spouse, which will draw you closer together and strengthen your marriage. *

 

[*~Day 31 ~ *]

How Do We Recommit And Renew Our Marriage?

Mike thought about Mary as he lied beside her in the dark. When they were getting married he seemed so sure that she was “the one”. Sure she had some imperfections like everyone else, hey he knew he was far from perfect, but at the time he had glossed over them. She was crazy about him and he was crazy about her but that was a long time ago. He knew that just as their kids where changing ever so slightly each day that so had she, and their relationship. The Mary that lied by his side now wasn’t the same Mary that he had fallen in love with and had gotten down on one knee for…

She no longer looked at him with hopeful beaming eyes or treated him with the same kindness and warmth. He didn’t know where she went but he missed her. He began to wonder if he married the wrong person.

The old Mary had captured his heart with her adoring eyes, sweet words and loving caresses. The Mary laying beside him seemed like none of these things to him and was a stranger to him now…

As he began to consider that maybe he had made a mistake in who he picked to be with for the rest of his life, he began to feel a hopelessness.

If she was the “wrong one”, he either had to endure his marriage for the kids sake or hope to one day find the “right person,”. In his heart though none of those options felt right. He didn’t want to endure, or to find anyone…..what he really wanted… but now seemed like an impossible dream…was to find his old Mary again…and hold her close just one more time….

Did we marry the right one?

If we have tried to work on our marriage but feel like we just can’t get back to where we once were in the relationship we may feel as sense of hopeless. Over time, we may come to believe that we married the wrong person as helpful friends and family might suggest if they see us in marital turmoil.

We might think to ourselves had we waited or met the “right one” our life would be very different. That now we would have a happy marriage, instead of a distant and loveless marriage. This troubling thought is wrestled with by many unhappy couples.

Some couples believe the answer is to find the “right” one.

These couples may walk away from their first marriage and while they are still in the initial stage of easy new love with someone new. They walk down the aisle a second time in marriage once again happily smiling off to a new start. “This time” they think, with “the right one”.

Is the problem really that I’ve married the wrong person?

If the problem was that we just needed to find the “right” person, then we should see our marriage rates go up the second time around.

We should have a much, much better chance with the new “right” person.

We would expect the odds then for the second marriage to be in our favor and even higher. Perhaps instead of a 50% success rate, they would be at a 90% success rate or better now that you have the “right” person in your life.

Looking at marriage objectively though, and not through the eyes of an “initial falling in love” emotional high that second marriage is even more likely to end in divorce than the first.

Once again the initial falling in love high will fade, along with our idealized views and we will find ourselves again with a person that no longer “meets our needs”, also known as the “wrong person”.

What is 100% certain is that [*everyone *]will hurt… from parents to the children.

What are the odds that we will actually find happiness promised by a second marriage? It’s not higher at all; in fact it’s even less likely than the first with our odds going from 50% down to 40%.... and for the third marriage? It’s less than 27%.!... and so on…. So, your very best chance then to find happiness and fulfillment for yourself and your children then is in your current marriage.

Won’t starting over with someone else wipe away all our existing problems?

When we put all the blame for the unhappiness of a marriage on someone else and take no responsibility for anything we might have done, or should have done, we don’t learn and grow from our experience.

While we may enter the second marriage with the initial glow of love underneath it all, we are fundamentally the same. We bring the same weaknesses, the same issues into a new relationship.

If we never learned to communicate in the first marriage, how will we fair in the second? If we never learned to manage money in the first, how will this be different in the second? We may mistakenly believe that the glow of the new, in love high, will “fix it all”.

Remember these initial new love hormones can cause friends and problems to fade away at first, but once that easy new love phase fades away, all those challenges come back again. It’s like someone taking a drink to forget their troubles… even if they have forgotten them, the troubles are still there and will only go away when they are dealt with.

As a matter of fact, according to author Barbara Bartlein the top things couples fight about with the “right” partner in their second marriage include: money, sex, childrearing and the division of housework.

Eventually couples in their second marriage often end up fighting about all the same things…

This time it’s often even more complicated as step-parents and step-siblings enter the mix.

[*So why the increase in divorce the second time around? *]

Because in addition to the typical stressors that all marriages go through, even more stressors often exist in second marriages.

Alimony, custody, and child support battles can now arise as new stressors creating new additional conflict that was absent from the first marriage. No wonder it’s our first marriage that statistics tells us is our best bet.

To borrow from Jentzen Franklin, the grass really isn’t greener on the other side, we just need to learn to water own grass…

If starting over with someone else doesn’t work, what does?

The easy part is when we are in our own Eden, before anyone has been really hurt, during the easy initial love stage. The hard part is once we are married and we have to handle the challenges of life that will come our way. It’s even harder if we get to a place where we feel we are with someone that we no longer care for or no longer cares for us.

We need to learn how to create real love with our partner, to love them more deeply and completely, not just when we are in the easy new love stages but through it all. We won’t learn that from running from one relationship to the next.

Sadly, according to author, Barbara Bartlein, 67% of couples that stayed in their existing marriages, trying to work it out... found themselves to be happy again in their marriages just five years later while only 50% that divorced were happy again, reminding us that our best shot is with the one we’re already with.

Mike was baffled. When they first got their house 7 years ago everything was brand new, for the first few years, he barely had to do anything to maintain it. His maintenance costs and effort was limited to changing a light bulb.

Now everything seemed to be falling apart. Every year something else needed repair. The air conditioning unit died then the dishwasher, the washer and dryer, even the hot water tank had to be replaced. Then Mary insisted the carpets needed to be replaced with hardwood floors because they were worn and the kids had allergies. It was only now, after time had passed did he see how much time, money and energy owning a home really cost…

Why do we need to put in the effort to maintain our marriage?

We often miss how much effort it takes to maintain a strong relationship because in the beginning it often doesn’t take much effort; just as a brand new house often does not require much work in the beginning.

It’s over time that we come to a place where we see that we need to put in the effort to exercise to maintain our health, car, house, or anything else worth having. Our marriages are the same way…

Mary remembered back when she first made the plunge and had committed herself to Mike, she ignored all the advice to wait and see and decided to follow her heart which felt so certain and right. At the time she felt he was a good guy and wanted to get him before someone else did.

She thought about it now and decided that she had wanted the security of having him as her husband, so that in that security they could then start their own family. In exchange she agreed to commit to him…

What was once something she wanted to do somehow had turned into something she now felt she[* had *]to do.

If she had the money, if they didn’t have the kids, if she wasn’t trying to prove to her mother she was right in marrying him, if she didn’t have that ring around her finger would she still be there? Would she still be committed to him?

If she was honest with herself, she didn’t think so. It was only the thought that the fear of the pain of divorce would outweigh the current pain she felt that kept her from leaving. Somehow she came to feel trapped in a marriage where she no longer was in love with him and she doubted his love for her. The attentive, affectionate, ambitious, confident and romantic young man that she had fallen head over heels for, now only lived in her dreams and in a faded past.

How is our commitment created?

According to Dr. Scott M. Stanley, our commitment is created and grows as we grow closer and closer together and become more involved as we enjoy our time together.

In fact we don’t want someone else to steal our partner’s heart so we commit at first to see only each other and as we fall more and more in love we commit even more deeply through marriage that no one else can have our spouse for life.

When we decide to commit through marriage as we announce to everyone we know we have chosen someone that we are going to spend the rest of our lives with, we have stopped searching and found one person who can make us happy and feel alive, that can meet our needs and enable us to feel complete and we marry to protect that, to make it harder for that person to just walk away, and it’s in that safety and after we have committed to each other through marriage, that we often decide to start a family.

This mutual commitment provides relief from the fear of abandonment that suddenly one day you might lose each other to someone else providing safety in the relationship.

How is our commitment sustained?

Commitment is similar to the relationship account with deposits increasing the levels and thresholds of commitment from no commitment, to little commitment, to some commitment, to highly committed. Our level of commitment is often tied to where we are in the relationship.

If we are in the first stage, “in love”, we are usually highly committed, and willing to do almost anything to make the relationship work. If we are in the third stage, “I don’t care”, we are usually only somewhat committed, and willing to do and try only some things to make the relationship work. Like love, the more committed our partner seems to us, the more inclined we are to commit to them and vice versa.

And as the authors of Fighting for Your Marriage observe, while commitment may start off as something you both have, it can change from being something you [*wanted *]to do, to something that you now feel you [*have *]to do. When we are in a relationship because leaving is more painful than staying it’s a commitment not based on love or a strong mutual desire as it was in the beginning.

Instead, it can become a commitment based on fear; fear of being alone, or hurting our children through divorce, or having to pay child support and alimony, or failing a moral obligation. In this obligated and forced type of commitment we may stay “committed” to our spouse until the children leave, or someone who we think can meet our needs appears.

But this kind of commitment is not the full true commitment that brings out the best in us, it only gets the minimum out of us. We need to be fully committed if we are to get the results we are after and to realize our vision of a happy and fulfilling marriage; to get to a place where we would choose to marry our partner all over again. It is commitment that is one of the most critical ingredients to the success of any long term endeavor, especially a lifelong marriage.

So what is commitment?

Zig Ziglar tells a story of a young couple looking at engagement rings, as they look he pauses and tells, her “Let’s get a small one, its only our first marriage after all.” He mentions another cartoon where the couple commented that, ”They certainly agreed that marriage was a big commitment, noting that about 7 or 8 years was a long time.” Shows like the “Starter Wife” or terms like “Starter Marriage” also imply that commitment marriage is “not really” a life time commitment. Stories, shows, and terms like this really bring home how some our views of commitment in marriage may have changed from a lifetime one to one that may not last past a few years.

Commitment doesn’t change just because we had a bad day, it’s an enduring promise. It keeps us focused on what we are trying to achieve and that one decision should be the basis for every other decision, from making time for each other to coming up with a balanced spending plan.

Commitment is that perseverance that is the ingredient to success. Just look at one the greatest accomplishments ever made, the invention of the light bulb, did Edison try 100 times? a 1000 times? 5,000 times? Before he invented the light-bulb? No, it was after more than 9,000 times of trying and failing and refining that he finally succeeded. That is the kind of commitment that when brought into our marriages will allow us to be successful. Had he given up, on his commitment he would not have seen the light, and neither will we unless we continue to try and try again.

It’s that kind of commitment and perseverance; to continue to love and meet our spouse’s needs every day; even when we get it wrong and fall down that is at the heart of every successful, happy and fulfilling marriage.

Without commitment, when things get hard after trying, maybe after a hundred times, we may give up. We may never have the happy marriage we could have had, had we only tried, a hundred an one times…

Commitment is about what are we willing to do or sacrifice for our marriage and ties strongly to our priorities, with committed spouses putting the needs of their marriage above their own individual needs.

Commitment is doing whatever it takes for our marriage, loving our spouse, not only when we don’t feel like it, but even if at first they are not reciprocating – it’s loving unconditionally.

So what do we need to commit to?

We need to commit to be loyal to our partner, knowing that there is no “right” or “perfect” person to find, and not giving up on our marriage even when things aren’t going our way.

We need to commit to making our marriage a priority, to putting the needs of our marriage ahead of our own needs, desires, work and goals. To commit to never leave and abandon our spouse through all of life’s challenges, committing to be the very best marriage partner we can be.

We need to commit to meet our spouses needs even when we may not feel like it or they don’t seem to be working toward meeting our needs.

To continuously meet their need to be and feel:

  • Accepted and connected
  • known through conversation,
  • shown affection and attention,
  • appreciated and encouraged,
  • safe and supported
  • admired and respected,
  • beautiful and wanted
  • desired sexually
  • that we’re fun to be with
  • that we’re by their side

in a word, to be and feel, “loved”.

To be able to give your commitment to your spouse in and of itself is a beautiful and rare gift that in time will become the cornerstone of your marriage and the secret to your own happy and fulfilling marriage.

Her husband and kids always remarked how great it was that Mary could always seem to remember every detail of everything that ever happened.

It wasn’t always so great she thought, thinking of a day in her past. In her mind she could see herself as a child as she had waited by the window for her dad, excited to tell him about her day. He always asked and would laugh at almost everything she would say.

He’d let her pick a game to play, like “Go Fish”, Checkers, maybe even hide and seek or she’d have him make up a story where she was always the main character and something interesting would happen like she would find herself in some magical forest or other journey.

Mary could remember as if she was still there, she could still feel the excitement. She had made a Thanksgiving card in class and had made one saying I’m Thankful for my Dad (“he’s a real turkey”) she drew a picture of her dad with a turkey’s chin, it was silly but she knew her dad would laugh and hoped he would like it.

When she showed her mom her card, she started to cry, and then Mary had started to cry as she found out that day her dad wasn’t ever coming home again… It was like he died that day…

Ever since her dad walked out on her, even though she’s tried not to be afraid, in her heart she’s been afraid that one day Mike will get up and leave her too…

That once again she will feel completely and crushed and abandoned.

More than anything, she wants to know, with 100% certainty that he will never leave her. If somehow she could just know, she thinks somehow her heart might begin to know peace again…

[* What happens when we aren’t 100% committed? *]

Not being fully committed is like “holding back” in a fight or in a big game. If we are holding back, we can’t compete with person putting in 110%. They are give everything they’ve got, and if we are holding back because of fear, or something else, we simply won’t be able to perform at our best. Being 110% committed is key to getting through the difficult challenges that all couples face in their marital journey.

If we are not committed, we may go through life looking for the next best thing, or holding out for someone who makes more money, is more beautiful, more attentive, more…. you fill in the blank. It’s this kind of mindset that can lead to conditional love. Imagine if you heard your bank was going to likely close in the next few months, would you keep all your money in that bank and continue to invest? Of course not!

When we mention or threaten divorce to our partner, we are telling them, we are not really committed and they shouldn’t continue to invest in the marriage.

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott report that three doctors who studied six thousand marriages and three thousand divorces concluded that the most important factor that determined whether a marriage continues was the commitment of the couple. Without commitment our marriage doesn’t have a chance.

As author Barbara Bartlein has observed, some couples “say” they are committed, but when asked if they would do anything, for their marriage, anything to make it work, they hesitate. They push back on trying some things explaining why it won’t work; they have already decided in their minds what they are willing and unwilling to do. Their mindset is that they will “try”.

This is very different compared to a couple that will try to do anything for their marriage, whateve r it takes to make it work, and are 100% committed. For the latter couple it’s only a matter of time before they will succeed...

Couples without true full commitment in their marriage may try a few things, make a few half hearted attempts, and expect results.

To see serious change we can’t just work out when we feel like it with what feel comfortable, we need to push ourselves, through the discomfort and stay committed to our goal.

We need to choose our pain,

  • the discomfort of exercising daily or the pain of a future medical crisis,
  • the discomfort of going to work daily or the pain of financial ruin,
  • the discomfort of working on your marriage daily, or the pain of divorce

We must be fully committed to our marriage to build the happy and fulfilling marriage we are after.

How does commitment strengthen our marriage?

Commitment besides giving us the focus and energy to make it through tough times, allows us to give our partner safety and peace of mind in the relationship.

According to the authors of Fighting for Your Marriage, it’s when a wife feels that her husband is committed that studies have found the marriage is more likely to strengthen improve. It’s easy to love each other when it’s easy, when he’s got a great job, when she’s one top of the world, but what about when things get tough?

It’s easy when everything is shiny and new, but it’s during the tough times that we need to hang on to our word, our commitment our promise that we made to our spouse. When the storm is over, and they see that we stood by them and we worked through it with them, they will see that our love for them is the real thing and not a childish selfish love that is only there as long as things are working out our way. That our love and our commitment to them and our marriage is there for life.

In a world uncertainty, where everything is changing, our unyielding commitment to our partner and marriage more valuable than ever.

It says it may rain, the wind may rage, and the ground may shake around us, but I am right here for you, don’t worry I’ll never leave you”.

Nothing meaningful in life can be achieved without that decision and follow through to fully commit. When you fully commit it gives you the ability to once again rebuild your relationship and the strength to maintain it for a lifetime.

Mike’s marriage hadn’t been perfect as a matter of fact, he’d even thought of just giving up. He’d managed have the talks he had once dreaded. It was hard at first, but it got easier with time. After a few deep talks both got everything on the table. One of the hardest talks was the one where they admitted to each other that they both were no longer in love with each other….like they had been when they first met…

They began to see how they had gotten caught up with their careers, and stopped focusing on meeting each other’s needs, which led them to quietly drift further apart. That they had needed to learn how to talk about difficult topics and not just avoid them hoping somehow they would go away, they learned a lot these last few weeks as they picked up some tips from friend that had been exactly where they were, not so long ago…

Mike began putting his wife ahead of himself again and he found she was returning the favor, and that he was falling in love with her all over again. However, this time it was different, it was deeper. She knew him and all his shortcomings, and he knew hers, but they loved each other still.

Mike thought he understood now why people often got a divorce. It was because they weren’t getting their needs met that made them feel loved. They were then tempted to start over with someone who they thought could meet their needs, someone new that could easily stir up the feelings of being in love.

He remembered how Mary had been abandoned at such a young age and how that had left a gaping hole in her heart. He decided, to start over with Mary. Maybe in their first marriage they had fallen out of love, but he now felt that he knew where they had went wrong, and now with God’s help they would be able to have the marriage they had both wanted for so long.

On a date night he took her to a nice place with an outdoor terrace; it was a beautiful night with the stars and a bright moon overhead. After talking and laughing he just looked into her eyes, and she was giving him that look that he had missed for so long, the look that said she was crazy about him. He fell to one knee and holding a box with a beautiful ring looking deeply into her eyes he told her, “I am so in love with you again. I was so blind to see that I already had everything I have ever wanted and needed in you. I want to meet your needs and help you be as happy as you can be, I know it won’t be easy, but I know now that we can build happy marriage. I know when your dad left how much it hurt you and I’m so sorry. I can’t say I’ll always know the right thing to say, but I do know that I can make a vow to commit the rest of my life to being right there beside you no matter what. I will never leave you, no matter how hard the storms may rage and blow all around us. I will be with you until the end, when I take my last breath in old age, I want to be holding [*your *]hand—the one that I shared it all with, the one that I experienced life with, raised children with felt joy with, endured sorry with I want no one else but you, and if you give me your hand this time, I promise I will never let it go. Will you marry me?”

She cried in his arms feeling a peace she had not known in a while, she felt they had both changed somehow and that this new marriage would be different, and she whispered in his ear, “Yes…”

[*How do we recommit? *]

We start by deciding that we will finish what we start.

Right after New Year’s we see the gyms are packed and then in the later months around March the gyms begin to empty again. Those that stay, realize that even though they may not see big changes quickly they know they are getting healthier and stronger as a result of their effort. Just as couples in happy marriages know that their marriage is getting stronger as a result of their efforts.

Take time to think of when you were first together, and when you first fell in love. Remember the closeness that you had, and what you did for each other to meet each other’s needs when you were committed to the goal of winning each other over.

We can influence our spouse; and make changes to become a better partner in life. Over time we can change the course of our marriage. We need to have faith that despite the uncertainties that events and people bring that we can succeed in your marriage.

Over the course of a flight a pilot constantly has to readjust his direction as weather conditions continue to affect the aircraft, he doesn’t get upset as he already expects this. He uses the tools at his finger tips and his destination, as his guide to know exactly what adjustments he needs to make, to make it through.

Decide where you want to go with your marriage, decide and commit that you want to live out a happy and fulfilling marriage. Now that you have the approach to get there by using the tools we’ve covered it’s up to you decide to use them to realize your marriage’s potential.

When my wife and I once again found our love for each other months after a near divorce, I asked her to marry me again. We decided to remarry and our second marriage has been infinitely better than the first. We renewed our vows and our commitment to each other; promising to put each other first, and began meeting each other’s needs again. It was our renewed commitment, from that day forward, that enabled us to renew our marriage…

At our website, HowtohaveaHappy&Fullfilingmarriage.com under our resources section we have listed additional Resources that you can use to further strengthen your marriage and have been referenced throughout this program. We have also provided an example set of renewed vows based on the concepts in this program. Feel free to edit them so they express what’s on your heart, and what you want to commit to. I pray that based on what you have learned and the renewed vows and commitment that you make that you will create your own happy and fulfilling marriage.

[*Consider: *]
[_[*

  1. Why do you think people in struggling marriages wonder if they married the wrong person?*]_]

[*2. Why do you think the divorce rate is higher the second time around? *]

3. Have you ever felt your commitment change from wanting to commit to feeling obligated to commit?

[*4. Why do you think full 100% commitment is important in marriage? *]

5. Do you think marriage takes more effort over time than in the beginning?

[*Action: *]
[_[*

  1. Talk to your spouse about the importance of commitment to you.*]_]

2. Talk to your partner about how you can sustain commitment in your marriage.

[*3. Write down 3 things that might be holding you back from committing 110% and work to overcome these. *]

4. Write down 5 things you want to recommit to. (feel free to use and edit the vows provided at our website in our resources section)

*5. Decide to recommit to your spouse and renew your marriage by making new vows to your spouse. *


The 31 Day Marriage Help Program: How to Reconnect With Your Spouse

Driven to create a resource to help those struggling in marriage, after nearly losing his own over 12 years ago, Will has developed a comprehensive program to help couples avoid divorce and how to be happy in marriage. Even though it was over twelve years ago, I still remember it like it was yesterday. I had no idea how I had gotten there—standing in my living room, the house packed in boxes, unsigned divorce papers in my hand. I remember not being able to look at the pictures of my kids with their beaming, playful, innocent smiles. It killed me inside to feel the sheer pain of loss as it finally hit me that I had reached the end of my marriage. After a year of hard work on both sides, my wife and I found restoration and renewal and we fell in love even more deeply. I shudder when I think of how very different my family's lives would have been had we stayed apart. That is what has driven me to develop a program to both show couples how to save a marriage and how to be happy in marriage. Providing a path back to renewal and starting over is one of the purposes of this marriage program. About The 31 Day Marriage Help Program Many married couples search for a way to get back to where they once were. To rediscover the connection and the intimacy that seemed so natural early on in their relationship. Back to a place of feeling understood, accepted, wanted, connected and loved. This program is a path towards reconnection leading couples towards finding each other again. This program answers many questions, providing the listener with the tools to create a stronger and lasting marriage. Questions That Are Answered Include: -Why marriage seems easy at first -How and why over time, our love for our partner can fade -How why many couples often find themselves living parallel lives -How to effectively communicate and manage conflict -Why money is the number one source of conflict -Why and how she needs to feel cherished daily -Why feeling respected is more important to him than feeling loved -How husbands and wives see the world differently, and its affect on marriage. -Why and how she needs to feel understood -What intimacy really means to him -Why appreciation is so important in marriage -How to genuinely give and receive forgiveness -How to create passion supporting each other’s dreams, -How spiritual intimacy can strengthen a marriage About the Author Will holds three Graduate degrees and is married to his high school sweetheart who he fell in love with over 22 years ago. Together they raise seven wonderful children together. He enjoys developing programs designed to improve the quality of people’s lives.

  • Author: Will Taylor
  • Published: 2015-10-10 15:05:21
  • Words: 139603
The 31 Day Marriage Help Program: How to Reconnect With Your Spouse The 31 Day Marriage Help Program: How to Reconnect With Your Spouse