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how to love your spouseLast week I introduced you to a newly married couple struggling to figure out how to make this whole married thing work.  They have been married for a few months and the activity and excitement of the wedding has simmered down into the daily grind of trying to communicate, build a life, and (hopefully) still like each other at the end of the day.  

I also introduced you to one of my favorite communication tools for couples – the Marriage Meeting.  Let’s see how our newlyweds are doing putting this technique to work in their relationship:

It was really hard to start doing this in the beginning.  I think we both felt kind of anxious about what the other might have put in the box.  And we had to really work at being open and not just getting defensive.  But we stuck with it and I’m so glad we did!  We’ve gotten a lot better about talking things through as they happen, before they turn into a big issue. We’ve also worked through most of the small annoyances and fundamental differences now, thanks to the comment box.  

So, hurdle number one for this couple was learning how to express feelings openly; how to talk to each other about issues before they festered and turned ugly.  After a few weeks of spending focused, quality time working on that through the Marriage Meeting, they are now ready to move on two their second hurdle: how to express love. Most people seem to think that this should come naturally.  I hear things like “I just want him to do whatever his heart leads him to do” and “She should know that I want her to (fill in the blank here).”  Well, I’m heer to tell you that showing love in a way that your partner can receive it does NOT come naturally.  

We all have our own unique “love language” – those actions, words, touches that speak love to  us.  And yours is probably NOT the same as your partner’s (or your children’s for that matter).  And yet, it is vitally important to a marriage that both parties feel that their need for love and affection is being met.  How can we make sure that happens?  We eliminate the need for guesswork.  We TELL them what we want.  I often ask couples to write down two things their partner could do for them in the coming week to show a little extra love.  They aren’t things that have to be done. They’re more like ideas for surprises down the road. And here’s what the newlyweds had to say about the assignment:

 It’s helped take the guess-work out of little gestures and how to most effectively make the other person feel loved. We’re three weeks into the process and my husband has given me a total of 6 suggestions. Not a single one was something I would have thought of on my own! The suggestions I’ve put in range from bringing home pastries from my favorite  bakery to offering to play a game with me in the evenings. His have been things like meeting him at the door when he gets home to hug him and calling him on his work phone instead of his cell phone so he can pleasantly surprised that someone other than his boss is on the other line. They’re little things, but they allow us to see glimpses of what makes the other feel loved. 

So, here’s YOUR homework assignment for the week: Slip a couple of ideas for loving gestures into your comment box before your weekly marriage meeting (you have started having a weekly meeting, right?)  and start the process of teaching your partner your love language. Oh, and here are a couple of other resources you might like on that subject as well:  

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts:  This is THE classic when it comes to teaching couples how to express love effectively.  I think it should be required reading for every engaged couple!  You can take this online quiz from the book to pinpoint your own (and your partner’s) love language – fun and informative!

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love: A newer offering in the world of couples communication, this book provides a wonderful framework for deep conversation.  

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