by Dr. Gary Chapman
5 Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage While Living with Stress was first posted on GreatFamilies.net on June 1, 2020.
The present situation finds many couples trying to adapt to a new lifestyle. Such efforts can create stress on the marital relationship. I have recently written an e-book on how to strengthen your marriage during these trying times. In this blog, I want to give you a brief summary of the ideas I shared.
1. Call a truce on throwing word bombs.
Everything we say is either a bomb or a balm. Your words either encourage or discourage your spouse. Under stress we often release large or small verbal bombs, which explode in the heart of our spouse. Such explosions always diminish our relationship. Why not sit down and see if you can agree to call a truce on word bombs for the next week. Chances are you will create a climate in which you might even be able to sign a ‘peace treaty’.
2. Tear down emotional walls.
Many couples have allowed past failures to build an emotional wall between the two of them. It is hard to talk through a wall or over a wall. Walls come down through apology and forgiveness. Why not ask God to show you where you have failed your spouse in the past. Get your pencil ready, because He will answer that prayer. Then confess those failures to God and accept His forgiveness. Then go to your spouse and say, “I’ve been thinking about us, and I know that I have failed you in many ways. I asked God to remind me of my failures and I have asked Him to forgive me, and if you will allow me, I would like to share these with you, and ask you to forgive me.”
They may not forgive you immediately, but they will walk away thinking, “That is different. All I have heard for weeks is condemnation and blaming me. Now, they are apologizing.” God can use your apology to open their heart.
3. Discover and speak each other’s love language.
Once walls are demolished, then love can flow freely. Speaking love in a language that is meaningful to your spouse will touch them deeply. Our deepest emotional need is the need to feel loved by the significant people in our lives. If you are married, the person you would most like to love you is your spouse.
4. Learn the value of teamwork.
Certainly we are different in many ways, but differences need not divide. In fact, they can be assets. Look for the personality traits in your spouse that have irritated you in the past. Now ask God to show you how these may be an asset. Ask Him to help you to not only accept your spouse, but to appreciate the things that formally irritated you.
5. Have a daily ‘sit down and listen’ time.
We normally say, “sit down and talk.” But what most of us need to do is “sit down and listen.” This means that instead of responding immediately with our ideas, we ask questions to make sure we truly understand what our spouse is saying and how they feel. The psychologist call this ‘empathetic listening’. It is trying to put yourself in the shoes of your spouse and see the world through their eyes. Then verbally affirm their ideas and feelings. When they feel affirmed, then they are more likely to hear your perspective.
For more information on these five approaches to strengthening your marriage you may want to read my newest book: 5 Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage . . . When You’re Stuck at Home Together. Available on Amazon as e-book June 2 or pre-order print book to be released June 16.
Dr. Gary Chapman is an author, speaker, and counselor and has a passion for people and for helping them form lasting relationships. He is the bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages® series and the Director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. Dr Chapman is also a Senior Associate Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC.