Making Marriage Work: It doesn’t have to feel like a chore

By Gary Chapman

Your emotional love language and the language of your spouse may be as different as Chinese from English. No matter how hard you try to express love in “English”, if your spouse understands only “Chinese”, you will never understand how to love each other.

Being sincere is not enough. We must be willing to learn our spouse’s primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love.

My conclusion after thirty years of marriage counseling is that there are basically five emotional love languages—five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. However, there may be numerous dialects. The important thing is to speak the love language of your spouse.

Communicating love isn’t as easy as feeling “in love,” because it’s quite a different thing. Falling in love is not an act of the will or a conscious choice. It’s effortless. One who is “in love” is not genuinely interested in fostering the personal growth of the other person. If the euphoric pleasure of being “in love” never ended, we might never experience true love and meaningful communication.

Love is something you do for someone else, not something you do for yourself. Most of us do many things each day that do not come “naturally” for us. For some of us, that is getting out of bed in the morning. We go against our feelings and get out of bed because we believe there is something worthwhile to do that day. And normally, before the day is over, we feel good about having gotten up. Our actions preceded our emotions.

The same is true with love. We discover the primary love language of our spouse, and we choose to speak it whether or not it is natural for us. You might not love the language itself, but speaking it will clearly communicate love to your spouse.

Love is a choice. And either partner can start the process today.
Getting Started: Six First steps to a new beginning (from newlyweds to empty-nesters)

So what is the issue in your marriage you’d like to address? Our first inclination is usually to find fault with our spouse, but you’ll have much more success tending to your own shortcomings first. Those are the issues you have direct control over. So why not take a personal inventory of your own imperfections and ask God to forgive you for those sins. Now, you’re ready to take these six steps to improving your marriage.

  1. Having confessed your failures and accepted God’s forgiveness, ask your partner to forgive you. Then ask God to let you be His agent for loving your partner. Ask Him to fill you with His Spirit and His love.
  2. Forget about your feelings. You do not have to feel anything to love your spouse. Feelings may change because of your actions, but feelings should not dictate your actions. Choose to love your mate, no matter how you feel.
  3. Express love to your mate by word or action once each day for the next month. Perhaps you could begin with a compliment each day for the next week.
  4. Do not allow your mate’s reaction to stifle your love. Nothing your mate does can stop your love as long as you choose to love. Why stop when love is your greatest weapon for good and growth?
  5. Consider the possibility of accepting in your mate some imperfection that has irritated you for years. If you decide to accept it, be sure to tell your mate. Such acceptance can be a positive step in your own emotional growth.
  6. Few individuals can resist genuine, unconditional love for more than a year. Why not start today? Make this the greatest year of your marriage. Many have found that in less than a month, love has begotten love, and their whole marriage has been turned around.

Conflict Resolution: Finding Hope in Anger’s Clothing

We can process our anger in a productive manner. Here are five steps for moving from anger to positive, loving action.

  1. Consciously acknowledge to yourself that you are angry. Say the words out loud. “I am angry about this! Now what am I going to do?” Such a statement makes you aware of your own anger and also helps you recognize both your anger and the action you are going to take. You have set the stage for applying reason to your anger.
  2. Restrain your immediate response. Avoid the common but destructive responses: verbal or physical venting, or their opposite, withdrawal and silence.
  3. Locate the focus of your anger. What words or actions by the other person have made you experience anger? Whatever the cause of your anger, locate it. If the person has truly wronged you, identify the person’s sin. How has he or she wronged you? Then determine the seriousness of the offense. Some wrongs are minor and some are major. Knowing its seriousness should affect your response.
  4. Analyze your options. The response should be positive and loving. The two most constructive options are to lovingly confront the person or to consciously decide to overlook the matter.
  5. Take constructive action.If you choose to “let the offense go,” then express this decision to God. Confess your anger and your willingness to turn the person over to the righteous and just God. Then release your anger to Him. If you choose to lovingly confront the person who has wronged you, do so gently. Listen to any explanation; it can give you a different perspective on the person’s actions and intentions. If the person admits that what he or she did was wrong and asks you to forgive

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