This week and gave a speech on healthy marriages at a local business. I was very impressed that the leader of this organization was investing in his employees by offering helpful information on how to be healthy in all parts of their lives. They have heard talks about finances, wills and physical health and I was now addressing relational health.
If one area of our lives is out of whack it negatively impacts the other parts of our lives even though we think we can compartmentalize each area of our lives. When our marriage is hurting, it impacts our emotional state and increases the amount of stress we feel on a daily basis. That stress impacts our work performance, our parenting skills and our ability to focus and make good decisions.
Marriage is difficult because this is the closest we get to another human being, which brings out all the ugly stuff inside us. We all bring our picture of marriage to the table. What we have learned about marriage from our parents, television, movies and friends. Most of it is not accurate and sets us up for disappointment and failure. These are the 5 steps I shared with that group that I believe are vital to having a healthy marriage.
- Understand & Speak the Right Love Language – We each have a love account, like a bank account that needs to to have regular deposits in it to avoid being overdrawn. If more is taken out of the account than put in we soon feel empty, hurt and unhappy. The 5 Love Languages are how we make those deposits. They are all important, but 1 or 2 are usually more important than others to each person. We often project our love language on the other person instead of discovering which one is most important to them. When you understand which language speaks love to your spouse and then work at speaking it through actions the marriage relationship grows stronger and healthier.
- Words of Affirmation – The way in which we speak to each other either builds up or destroys. If this is a primary love language words hurt or help even more.
- Acts Of Service – Actively serving the other person by noticing things that need to be done and doing them before being asked.
- Receiving Gifts – If this is a primary love language receiving a gift like flowers or even a small token make the person feel like they are valuable and special.
- Quality Time – Planning time together and where we can focus on just on another. This communicates to the other person that they are the most important person on the schedule.
- Physical Touch – Hugs, kisses, holding hands, a touch on the shoulder and sex are some of the ways to speak love to a person with this love language.
The way to identify which ones are most important to you is to ask yourself which ones can I do without and which ones can’t I do without. If you have not been speaking your spouses love language for a while it will be difficult in the beginning because it will feel somewhat fake. However the more you do it the better you will become and the more likely your spouse will reciprocate.
2. Understand & Stop the Fear Dance – The fear dance is the cycle we go through when we have conflict. I get hurt, I want things to be different or change, I feel my emotions like anger, frustration coming up (Core Fear is touched), I respond usually in an unhealthy way and the same cycle happens with my spouse. We all have core fears like fear of failure, fear of being inadequate, incompetent, unheard, abandon etc. When we can understand which core fears we have we can better stop the fear dance and resolve conflict in a healthy way. To learn more about the fear dance read the book “The DNA Of Relationships” by Gary Smalley.
3. Understand & Nurture the 3 kinds of Intimacy
- Emotional Intimacy – This is friendship, we should be best friends with our spouse. Doing fun things together, sharing what is going on in our lives, being completely open and honest with each other.
- Spiritual Intimacy – This is connecting on a spiritual level by being in agreement on our beliefs and then doing things together that reinforce those beliefs like going to church together, praying together, reading together, talking about spiritual things together and with others that are like minded.
- Physical Intimacy – This is when we share our bodies with each other and submit to each other physically. Knowing how to please the other person. This is usually where we start in a relationship, but the other two need to come first for this to be healthy.
4. Understand & Change the Way We Communicate – Communication is vital to a healthy marriage, but communication is not just talking. Here are a few communication ideas to help improve communication.
- Really Listen – Most of us don’t really listen. We make attempts at it, but don’t consistently listen well. Listening is the most important part of communication, because when we listen well we can avoid misunderstandings and we let the other person know that they are valuable and important to us. By simply listening, we can improve the health of our marriage instantly.
- Speaker/Listener technique – This is a simple way to communicate through conflict. When someone has an issue they want to talk about they have the floor or the microphone. Using a pen as the microphone the person explains what the issue is. The other person can only ask clarifying questions and repeat back what the other person said. When the person with the floor feels heard they turn over the microphone and the other person can share their side.
- Be interested, not Interesting – This means that instead of sharing everything about yourself and your day and what you accomplished, you are more interested in what your spouse did and how their day went. By asking some simple questions and then shutting up and listening you communicate that your spouse is important.
- Know Your Filter – Men see and hear things much differently than women. Therefore we always need to make sure that we don’t assume this is what the other person meant. We also have all had different experiences and circumstances in our lives that cause us to filter things in different ways. Again, don’t jump to conclusions without asking questions like help me to understand what just happened.
5. Understand & Practice Forgiveness – No relationship will last very long without practicing forgiveness. Being quick to admit when we are wrong and humbling ourselves will build a healthy marriage. Forgiveness is not forgetting, but it is the first step toward forgetting. When we are healed we tend to forget the previous hurts and don’t keep bringing them back up. Forgiveness does not mean we don’t have boundaries either. Sometimes we need boundaries until the other person can show a change in behavior, even though we have forgiven them.
These are some things that have helped my marriage over the last 22 years. Practice them and I am sure things will begin to improve and become more healthy. Sometimes we need some help getting started and that is when counseling or mentoring can help. Meeting with a mentor couple or a counselor or both can help you get on track and start reconciliation. We offer marriage mentoring at NewPointe Community Church for couples that want to restore and rebuild their marriage. For more information you can check out this website – Marriage 911.