Are you having difficulties in your marriage? Is your first impulse to withdraw or flee from the negative situation?

The journey toward becoming a positive change agent in your marriage begins by saying no to the commonly held myths of happiness.

Myths:

  • My state of mind is determined by my environment - and my spouse.

  • People cannot change.

  • When you are in a bad marriage, there are only two options - resign yourself to a life of misery or get out.

  • Some situations are hopeless.

Realities:

  • Reality: You are responsible for your own attitude. Attitude has to do with the way you choose to think about things. You can choose to believe that there has got to be a way to turn this marriage in a positive direction.

  • Reality: Attitude affects your actions. If you have a pessimistic, defeatist, negative attitude, it will be expressed in negative words and behavior. You may not be able to control your environment, but you can control the way you think about your environment. That attitude will affect your behavior for better or worse.

  • Reality: You cannot change others, but you can influence others. Because we are relational creatures, we all are influenced by the words and behavior of those around us. You cannot force your spouse to change what you consider to be undesirable behavior, but by your words and behavior you can influence him/her in a positive direction.

  • Reality: Your actions are not controlled by your emotions. Emotions are the spontaneous feelings you experience as you encounter life. However, people are more than emotions. Emotions stimulate you to take action, but your emotions must be tempered by your thoughts and your desires. An example: I am angry about my spouse's behavior but I have a desire to build an intimate marriage. I will first ask, What motivated my spouse to the behavior that made me angry? What is going on inside of him/her, and what would be my most productive response to this behavior?

  • Reality: Admitting your imperfections does not mean you are a failure. Often, the first step in becoming a positive change agent is to acknowledge that your own behavior in the past has been inappropriate. Acknowledging this to yourself - and your spouse - may prepare the way for a more positive approach in the future. This is a step of maturity - not failure.

  • Reality: Love is the most powerful weapon for good in the world. Meeting your spouse's emotional need for love has the greatest potential for stimulating positive change in his/her behavior. Be loving - in your words and behavior. Love is an attitude that says, I choose to look out for your interests. How may I help you?

From Loving Solutions by Gary Chapman, copyright (c) 1998. Used by permission of Northfield Publishing, an imprint of Moody Press, Chicago, Ill., 1-800-678-6928.

Gary Chapman, Ph.D., directs marriage seminars throughout the country and is host of the nationally syndicated radio broadcast A Growing Marriage. He is the author of The Five Love Languages and The Five Love Languages of Children, as well as Five Signs of a Functional Family, Toward a Growing Marriage, and Hope for the Separated. He and his wife, Karolyn, have been married more than 35 years and have two children.