Successful Marriage Installment #3
5 Things you can do to make your Good Marriage, Great!
In the last installment of Successful Marriage, 5 things you can do to Make your Good Marriage, Great! you learned about the power of sharing appreciations and how that infuses continual positive energy into your relationship.
In this installment of Successful Marriage, we will discuss the 3rd thing you can do to Make your Good Marriage, Great! and it is: Caring behaviors.
Some of my clients have shared with me a book by Dr. Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages. Dr Chapman posits that we each have a primary way of expressing and interpreting love and they usually fall into the following five categories: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Of course, you are usually attracted to someone who has a different love language, setting you up for inevitable conflict. Couples come in all the time wondering why their spouse doesn’t recognize their love for them despite the fact they show it. Often times they are speaking a different love language.
So for example, I had a husband who was very verbal, always telling his wife how great she was and how much he loved her and she still complained that she didn’t feel loved. He also shared that he was unsure of her love despite all of the delicious meals she prepared for him. Understanding their different love languages made all the difference and helped them to create a more successful marriage. His love language was words of affirmation. He shared his love through his words and he wanted that reciprocated. No matter how much his wife would do for him, he wouldn’t truly feel loved until she actually said, “I love you.” The wife, on the other hand, expressed her love through acts of service or receiving gifts. All she wanted was a few chocolates and she would know he cared. All of the mushy talk was not convincing for her.
Caring behaviors is a perfect exercise that will enable those who need to be shown love through action to feel great about their relationship and successful marriage.
While appreciations might work for some, others need to see what you have done for the relationship.
Caring behaviors are specific behaviors that are done unconditionally to make your partner feel loved and cared for. During engagement or in the beginning of marriage, most couples freely exchange caring behaviors with each other. It is when challenges start to arise in the relationship or habit kicks in that we become a bit less generous. Perhaps we don’t give them at all, or we keep score and only give when we feel our spouse has “earned” it. As a result, couples can find their interactions not to be very caring or loving. To return to having positive feelings, we need to extend to our spouse the behaviors that used to make him/her feel cared for and loved. Here’s how you can show you care:
Each one of you will need three pieces of paper. Write on the top of the first page: “I feel loved and cared about when you . . .” Draw a line underneath this statement and then proceed to complete this sentence with as many caring behaviors as you can think of that your partner is already doing for you. Remember to be specific and phrase it positively. (Be sure to leave room on the side for two additional columns which will be explained later)
On the second page do the same thing, except this time write: “I used to feel loved and cared about when you….”. These are the behaviors that your spouse has done for you in the past and is no longer doing. Finally, on the third page, change the statement to read: “I would feel loved and cared about if you …” These are behaviors that you think would help you feel loved and cared for that you have yet to experience and have not previously asked for. Remember, the more specific the better.
Now that you have written down all of the behaviors, it is time to rate them on a scale of importance, with 1 being very important and five being not so important. Draw a column to the left of your statements and indicate how important each of these behaviors is to you. Next, exchange your worksheets with your spouse and read each other’s lists. In a third column, next to the “importance” column, put an X next to any behaviors you are not willing to do at this time. There is no need to discuss why at this point. With the remaining behaviors, pick at least one behavior that your spouse has marked as a 1, meaning that is very important, and gift him/her with that behavior today. Pick something that is doable.
This exercise will help you know what makes your husband or wife feel loved or cared for and that’s key in a successful marriage. What works for you might not work for them.
It also assists you in articulating what you need. Even in the most successful marriage, a lot of frustrations can arise when we expect our partner to be proficient in mind reading. We think he/she already knows what we want and then we expect him/her to do it. When it is not we become angry and resentful. In a mature and successful marriage, we articulate and specify our wants and needs. Articulating caring behaviors gives our spouse a clear picture of the road ahead.
While you can give as many caring behaviors as you want, try doing three behaviors a day for a week and rejoice in your successful marriage! Once you commit to do a prescribed number a day, they must be done regardless of how you are feeling toward your spouse. This prevents you from entering the power struggle and enables you to put your energy into a positive place for the sake of building the relationship.
To recap what you learned in this installment of Successful Marriage – 5 things you can do to Make your Good Marriage, Great!
– The importance of the caring behaviors in increasing feelings of being loved.
– Each spouse has a different love language so what works for you probably won’t work as well for your spouse
– Don’t try to read your spouse’s mind. Share with each other the behaviors you like.
Looking forward to sending you the next installment of this course. As always, if you have any questions about any of what you read in our Successful Marriage Course please Contact me here or at 443-570-7598.