From “The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted” by Dr. Chapman:
“Jill walked into my office with a slight smile on her face…Soon we were discussing her marriage. ‘Some days I feel like giving up. I just don’t feel Bob is willing to meet me halfway. He gives me little help with the children and does almost nothing around the house. He says his job takes all his energy, but I work all day too. On Saturday, he says he needs to play golf so he can recuperate from the week. Well maybe I need something too, but I don’t get it. Someone has to take care of the kids and the house.’”
“Two weeks later I get to talk to Bob… ‘She is so demanding. I thought when I got married I was leaving my mother but she is worse than my mother. I can’t ever do enough for her. If I vacuum the floors, she wants to know why I did not fold the clothes. According to her, I am a ‘no good husband’, so I have almost quit trying.”
These passages are all too familiar in marriages.
The reason I open with them is that this marriage obviously needs to change. In real life, other family relationships need to change, friendship relationships need to change and even work relationships need to change.
For the better…
But how do we start?
First of all, don’t find fault in another. If you ask Jill, she would say that Bob is 95% of the problem. Ask Bob and the 95% would go Jill’s way. The fact of the matter is, the problems are created by both of these people and percentages really don’t matter.
I have gone through this.
Where did I start?
I do need to find fault but it is not with my spouse, it is with me. It is not my business to change my spouse. It is my business to change me if I can. Matthew 7 says “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” This is the famous part of the Bible where Matthew describes the speck and the plank. Both Jill and Bob see the speck in their own eyes and planks in their partner’s. Who is in charge of real change? I am in charge of real change for me and I can do it.
I do need to make a list of faults but it is a list of my faults, not my spouse’s. If I am bossy, I need to stop doing that. If I am a very indirect communicator, I need to be kind and direct. If I am a poor listener, I need to start paying attention. If I interrupt my spouse, I need to value her comments and stop interrupting her in mid thought. It can be a daunting list but it needs to be honest and I need to do triage with it. Some problems are more major than others and the most serious need the most immediate attention.
Ask forgiveness of God and ask forgiveness from your spouse. To be honest, asking forgiveness from God is the easiest part. At least, God is not physically present and looking right at you. That makes it easier but also that makes it one of those situations where you can take the act of forgiveness less seriously. You can go through the motions with God but I wouldn’t. God knows your heart. The forgiveness from your spouse is harder. You have to admit that you have done wrong. You will have to commit to doing something differently and you can’t worry about the other person admitting wrong. That is up to them.
You need to begin to tear down the wall between you and your spouse. I know this is hard to comprehend but that’s what Dr. Chapman has been trying to do all the way through his book.
He wants you to take the love language profile and become aware of your needs for love language. He wants you to realize your love language preferences are what you are probably expressing to your loved one, even though he/she may not have the same profile. Find some way to get your loved one to take the profile and maybe “buy into” the need to have mutual accommodation. Success with Dr. Chapman’s book comes from people believing in the need to fill the others’ love tank. What happens then? Possibly more mutual happiness.
His whole book is designed to make you aware and to get you to change.
Change [as I have said so many times in this blog] is HARD!
But that does not mean that the effort is not worth it. It is.
Remember the opening lines of Chapter 9.
“Real love includes discipline. If we love we will correct.”