Dr. Chapman reveals insights about his latest book, "5 Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage... When You're Stuck
at Home Together."
 

   The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it much uncertainty and loss, and that combined with outcries against social injustice, has left many feeling enraged and misunderstood. That same insecurity and fear provoked by current events also play out on a personal level when couples see each other's faults amplified during stay-at-home protocols and social distancing.

  Renowned marriage counselor and #1 best selling author Dr. Gary Chapman calls on couples to consider "stop throwing bombs" at one another and find constructive ways to speak to the heart and work as a team. Dr. Chapman wrote this simple guide titled, "5 Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage... When You're Stuck at Home Together," to help couples navigate through this unique time in our history.

  In this conversation with the "Fight for Good" podcast team, Dr. Chapman reveals insights about this new book.

You took the time to write something very appropriate to help people, especially people in marriages, during the COVID-19 crisis.
Why did you write this book?

   This time has been super different. It changes the whole playing field for couples, and I knew that a lot of them were struggling because they were in a routine, and that routine has shifted. I wanted to give practical ideas on how couples could positively use this time. I was fully aware that many couples were coming into this pandemic already with a fractured relationship. That is, they were not doing well beforehand. This heightened everything and the pressure and stress was causing them to say and do very destructive things.
   But then I knew other couples had a fairly good marriage. They read my book on love languages and they were loving each other, and I thought that they are going to be okay, but it can still be enhanced. Marriages are either growing or regressing - they never stand still. I was trying to help couples grow during this time.

What trends have come out of the COVID-19 experience? Are the predictors true? Are marriages shattering or do you see a strengthening occurring?

  I think it depends on what the couple does during this time. Couples who take action and try to do things differently can have a healing time for their marriage. I have said to couples, "If your marriage was already fractured and now you are together and you find yourself seeing the worst in each other and often expressing those words, why not call a truce on throwing verbal bombs at each other?" That is what happens in a troubled marriage because each of them thinks the other person is the problem.

  I had a lady last week on the phone say to me, "My husband told me that I was lazy because I did not put the plastic bag back in the trash can when I took the trash out." I'm thinking to myself, what is wrong with this guy? She took the trash out. When you throw a bomb like that, it explodes in the heart of the other person. This lady was mortified.
   Maybe for those couples, the place to start is to sign a truce and say, "Honey, here we are at home. We do not know how long this is going to go on. Let's have a truce to not throw any more bombs at each other."
  At least that creates a better atmosphere. Then if you can do that for a week and say, "What about next week? Now that we are not throwing bombs, what if we try to give a compliment to each other every other day this week?" You are replacing the criticism with compliments. You start doing that, and you create a very positive atmosphere between the two of you. You have to start where you are. I know some couples are already in a combat mode, and I am just trying to say, let's sign a truce and not throw bombs. Maybe in a week or two, we can sign a peace treaty. It will be moving in a positive direction.

Loneliness is at epidemic proportions in our society, and this period is certainly exacerbating loneliness for some. In your book, you point out how couples can seize the opportunity in this unique time to build up their life together.
While under stress, we are prone to
react to things emotionally. What advice would you give about handling our emotions?

   I think so. We are emotional creatures and I think it is a reflection of the nature of God because God has emotions. The Bible says God is angry every day with the wicked, but often in our culture, we have exalted emotions. We say I must be true to my feelings although you do not have to follow them. We have both negative and positive feelings and they are determined by the circumstances around us. You can love your spouse and choose to love them even if you have negative feelings toward them. After all, God loves us, even on our worst days. The scripture says the love of God is poured in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, but we can have outside help.

  While speaking to one woman, I was encouraging her to give her husband some positive comments. She said, "Well Dr. Chapman, I would love to do that, but to be honest, I can't think of anything good to say about the man." I replied, "Well, does he ever take a shower?" And she said "Well, yes." I said, "How often?" She said, "Every day." And I said, "Well if I were you, I would start there. 'Honey, thank you for taking a shower.'"

  The thing is, if you speak the other person's love language, even if you have negative feelings, and you do it consistently over time, something happens inside that person because you are touching them at a very deep emotional level. When they feel that you sincerely love them, they are far more likely to reciprocate. It is just like the Bible says, we love God because God first loved us. We just responded to His love.
  The same principle works in human relationships. If one person in the marriage takes the initiative with God's help to speak the other person's love language consistently for six months, I can't guarantee you that they are going to reciprocate, but I can tell you there is a pretty good chance they will because love stimulates love.

Often in relationships, the hurt runs so deep that one or both dig in their heels and refuse to change because they think it is undeserved. What can one do in those situations?

  Let's face it. It might well be undeserved, but that is what grace is all about. We are following the example of God. We did not deserve what He did for us, and what Christ did for us on the cross is undeserved. So, you think that you have a spouse that does not deserve to be loved, but you are God's agent. Let God pour His love into your heart, you be His agent for expressing love to your spouse. And if you do it in a meaningful way - which is where the love languages help - you are going to stimulate something inside of them and you are going to feel better about yourself. Anytime you extend grace to your spouse, you feel good about yourself because you are doing a godly thing.

You point out our basic need is to be loved and appreciated. That seems so simple and sincere. Why do we have such trouble
making this a priority?

  Because by nature we are all self-centered. If we have a disagreement in a marriage, each of us thinks the other person is the problem. If the marriage is troubled, maybe the place to start would be for you to sit down with God and say to God, "Lord, you know my marriage and you know my spouse, but I know that I am not perfect. So, what I want to know is where am I failing in my marriage? What have I done wrong through the years?"
  That is a prayer God will answer. You get your pencil ready and start writing them down. He will answer that prayer. Then you ask God to forgive you and He always will. Then you go to your spouse and say, "Honey, I have been thinking about us, since we have been here together in the house. I know we have had a rough journey, and I know that I blamed you so many times, but I have asked God to show me where I have been failing you, and He gave me a pretty good list. If you have a minute, I would like to share these with you and ask if you can forgive me for all these failures."
  I cannot tell you they will forgive you automatically, but I can tell you this, they are going to walk away and think, "Wow! This is different. All I have heard for years is criticism. Now they are apologizing to me."