Divorce is referred to as the “D” word around our house, and when it even comes up it is usually because we’re concerned about someone we know. We never use the “D” word in the context of our relationship because IT IS NOT AN OPTION.
Most marriages go through a period of time, usually in the first year, where it is imperative to learn how to discuss differences, give constructive feedback without being condemning or demanding, and eventually it really helps to learn to speak each others primary love language. Then even when there are negative feelings between spouses they can make the choice to love in the right languages and prevent anger from turning in to hate which eventually leads to the “D” word.
In The Five Love Languages Dr. Chapman tells a story of a woman on the brink of divorce who asks him a loaded question: “Is it possible to love someone whom you hate?” The answer is basically YES. But you know I’m not going to leave it at that. There is more to say about it.
This passage might sound familiar from the bible:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” love those who love them.
I think in the marriage context “your enemies” would be your spouse and Jesus himself is commanding us to love your enemies. Is it really possible though to love a spouse who might be expressing hate toward you or mistreating you??
This passage might also sound familiar:
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Is there a guarantee that principle will work to turn your relationship around? No, but generally speaking when we are kind and loving toward someone they will be kind and loving toward us. Manipulation doesn’t work, but God does. How big is your God? Are you torn between your religious belief that doing the “D” word would be wrong, and your emotional pain which is telling you the only thing to do is get out? To stay or to leave?? Both options will bring a great deal of pain.
Dr. Chapman did an experiment with the lady who asked him that tough question about love/hate. His hypothesis was that if her husbands deep emotional need for love was being met he would respond positively to her. All the initiative was in her hands – to find his love language and show him love even though she wasn’t feeling loved herself. In their case her husband wasn’t trying to save the marriage. She was, so she had to take the initiative. It could be the husband taking initiative in your case.
To shorten the story the experiment succeeded and the couple’s marriage was reborn. The husband responded just as they hypothesized and got on board with the 5LL principles. They told everyone they knew that Dr. Chapman is a miracle worker.
There were several specific examples in the story of things the lady had to do that would be helpful for you to read for yourself – chapter 12. But I’m going to simply share Dr. Chapman’s summary of the experiment so you can start trying it right away if you need to:
“Tell your spouse that you have been thinking about your marriage and have decided that you would like to do a better job of meeting his/her needs. Ask for suggestions on how you could improve. His suggestions will be a clue to his primary love language. If he makes no suggestions, guess his love languages based on the things he has complained about over the years. Then, for six months, focus your attention on that love language. At the end of each month, ask your spouse for feedback on how you are doing and for further suggestions.
Whenever your spouse indicates that he is seeing improvement, wait one week and then make a specific request. The reqeust should be something you really want him to do for you. If he chooses to do it, you will know that he is responding to your needs. If he does not honor your request, continue to love him. Maybe next month he will respond positively. If your spouse starts speaking your love language by responding to your requests, your positive emotions toward him will return, and in time your marriage will be reborn. I cannot guarantee results. But scores of people whom I have counseled have experienced the miracle of love.”
Sometimes I daydream about being as good as Dr. Chapman. Seriously, this information has made a huge difference in my own marriage, but I can’t get out of my mind that this information might have saved the marriage of someone close to me several years ago – if only they would have had the information.
You’ve read enough now to at least have enough information to work on it. So go love your spouse and get over some problems. At least try. It sure as heck beats the “D” word.