Marriage Advice 101
On the internet, people type in “marriage advice.” As they type in those words, they hope a simple remedy will appear. They think, “Maybe someone will provide a quick insight to help us with our marriage problems.”
I think I do have a piece of advice that can revolutionize your relationship. Some consider me a marriage expert, having sold 1.6 million copies of a book called Love & Respect. Since 1999, my wife Sarah and I have traveled the world communicating a simple message that provides two pieces of advice that have helped such couples.
What is our marriage advice 101?
All of us have marital problems because of sex issues, financial burdens, childbearing frustrations, in-law troubles, ill-health fears, communication breakdown, or whatever else we wish to add.
Here’s the good news. These problems do not ruin the marriage.
Research reveals that two basic things harm the marriage:
- An unloving attitude
- A disrespectful demeanor
The problems are not the root problem. The root problem is an unloving and disrespectful reaction when dealing with these problems.
THE ROOT ISSUE
For instance, when discussing money problems, if both react in ways that feel hostile and contemptuous this will undermine the friendship and intimacy in the marriage. Sadly, some fixate on the money as the culprit. “If we didn’t have these money problems we’d have a great marriage.”
Actually, the absence of money problems does not cause a great marriage. Love and Respect cause a great marriage, and the absence of Love and Respect cause a bad marriage.
The culprit is our hostile, contemptuous attitude toward each other while arguing about the money. If both feel unloved and disrespected, the marriage relationship weakens.
Money does not cause the problem, money reveals the problem.
Too many couples miss the foundational need to appear loving and respectful when upset over some problem.
Successful couples avoid the appearance of hostility and contempt. They may have more problems than most, but they maintain a loving and respectful attitude toward the spirit of the person, even if mad at the situation. They guard with every ounce of strength they have to not step over a line and give habitual looks of hostility and contempt.
Those looks kill the marriage.
During heated moments discussing the various problems, can you sense 10 minutes into the interaction that your spouse is saying, “I do not feel you love and respect me because every time we argue about this problem, I feel unloved and disrespected”?
If so, please take my advice. Your negative appearance must be avoided like the plague. Your appearance during the problem, not the appearance of the problem, is the culprit!
Another clue that your spouse feels unloved and disrespected is when s/he withdraws from you or escalates the criticisms of you. Do you find this commonly happening? If so, in all probability you appear harsh and rude. Of course, their stonewalling and disapproval of you feels unloving and disrespectful to you, and this triggers an endless cycle.
I call it the Crazy Cycle.
Though we all need love and respect equally, there is a gender difference.
We asked 7000 people this question, “When you have a conflict with your spouse do you feel unloved at that moment or disrespected?” 83% of the husbands felt disrespected and 72% of the wives felt unloved.
When these various problems arise, if the husband addresses these issues with his wife in a way that feels unloving and hostile, he damages the relationship.
She is vulnerable.
Though he addresses the money problems in a way that he thinks are responsible and respectful about the need to budget wisely, if he raises his voice in anger and attacks her intelligence, he is apt to hear her say, “How can you say you love me and talk to me this way?”
If the wife confronts these tensions with her husband in a way that feels disrespectful and contemptuous, she injures the marriage.
He is vulnerable.
Though she talks about the money problems in a way she feels is responsible and loving, if she conveys her message in a way that he feels is belittling and disrespectful of his provider role, she is apt to hear him say, “I cannot believe how disrespectful you are of me and my efforts. You couldn’t hurt a guy more than by saying the things you say.”
HERE’S THE KEY PIECE OF MARRIAGE ADVICE
The key to a successful marriage is not the absence of marital problems, though we all know the absence of problems is easier!
The key marital advice is: Always ask yourself, “Is that which I am about to say going to sound loving to my wife or respectful to my husband?”
Will you try to ask this simple question when you confront a problem with your spouse this week?
Apply Marital Advice 101 and you’ll be ok in your marriage even though many problems remain.