Speak the Language of Love and Respect
- Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. David Clarke with William G. Clarke's book, I Don't Want a Divorce: A 90-Day Guide to Saving Your Marriage, (Fleming H. Revell, 2009).
Is your wife disrespectful? She needs love from you. Is your husband unloving? He needs respect from you.
The more you and your spouse start giving each other what you need, the more your efforts will motivate each other to keep giving, creating a cycle that constantly energizes your marriage. But to get the cycle going, you've each got to learn how to speak the language of love and respect to each other. Here's how:
Approach your differences as assets, not liabilities. Just because you and your spouse are different doesn't mean that either one of you is wrong. Ask God to help you accept and appreciate the differences between you, while also learning how to use them to complement each other well. Remember that, in God's eyes, you're both equal and valuable.
See your spouse as a person of good will. Like all human beings in our fallen world, your spouse will have moments of nasty or selfish behavior. However, it's crucial to trust that your spouse still has good intentions toward you despite those times of failing to love and respect you. Remember that, deep down, your spouse cares for you and isn't trying to hurt you. Ask God to help you view your spouse from His perspective.
Watch your words. Your words reveal what's inside your heart. So pray for God to fill your heart with love and respect each day, and ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind so your thoughts will be good ones that will lead you to speak good words. Be aware of what you're each saying to each other and how you're each reacting to what is said. Then avoid using hot-button words that you know irritate or anger your spouse. Pray for the strength you need to speak carefully and peacefully. Listen before you answer, and think before you speak. Also make sure you're communicating with the right tone of voice and facial expression. Aim to speak words that are truthful, uplifting, forgiving, thankful, and scriptural.
Decode each other's messages. Men and women have such different styles of communicating that it's like they speak to each other in code. Learn how to crack the code of your messages to each other. Resist making assumptions about your spouse's meanings and expectations. Instead, clarify by listening attentively and asking questions to make sure you truly understand. Remember that the misunderstandings between you and your spouse don't mean that your marriage isn't working. Misunderstandings are normal in every marriage due to male/female communication differences; they just need to be overcome.
Don't step on each other's air hoses. When your spouse starts to act upset in response to something you've said, it's a sign that you've stepped on his or her air hose, deflating your spouse's inner spirit. Try to find out what's wrong. Rather than getting defensive, ask your spouse to explain why he or she is upset. When your spouse asks you why you're upset, share your feelings honestly, humbly, and non-defensively. In the future, think before you speak to try to avoid stepping on your spouse's air hose. Ask: "Is what I'm about to do or say going to feel unloving to her or disrespectful to him?".
Forgive. Rely on God's help to forgive your spouse every time he or she offends you. Sympathize with your spouse, relinquish the offense to God, and anticipate God's help to heal and reconcile. Listen for the basic need your spouse was trying to communicate in the wrong way through the offense, and give him or her some grace. Let your gratitude for how God has forgiven you motivate you to answer His call to forgive your spouse.
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