Marriage Q&A with Dr. Doug Weiss
There are many questions every husband thinks about, but may never ask. Christian counselor Dr. Doug Weiss is here with answers and solutions to some of the serious hurdles facing marriages today.
What are some key things a husband can do to make a marriage last?
DW: Forsaking all others is critical to make a marriage last and for a woman to feel safe. Practically this would mean no secret texting or e-mailing other women, not having a separate Facebook or other social media account and having clear boundaries with the opposite sex. If you are vigilant, your wife feels you are mature and will protect her from the biggest perceived threat to your marriage.
Bring her to the Father. A man who prays daily with his wife is acknowledging that their marriage is not only between a man and a woman but rather between God, man and woman. Staying in the Word and being consistent in church participation is also an intentional way to make the marriage last.
Get educated on marriage. There are great books on the subject of marriage. Read some of them with your wife. Initiating growth in a marriage says to your wife that the marriage is important.
Sharing your feelings and hearing her on this long journey called marriage is really important. In the book Intimacy: A 100 Day Guide to Lasting Relationships, I tell couples to share two feelings daily with each other.
Praising your wife daily is also important. If you are an expert on your wife’s strengths and verbalize them daily, you will see her as amazing. If you focus and communicate only about her weakness, you will be hurting your marriage and your wife significantly.
Dating your wife regularly is also important. Let her know regularly that she alone is important. Don’t let busyness or money keep you from dating your wife. Dating is how you got her to marry you and dating can help keep you married.
What kind of little things can husbands do everyday to show their wives they really love them?
DW: There are little things you can do to let your wife know you love her. Firstly, never lie to your wife. When you lie to a woman, you are saying to her that you don’t trust her with the truth. This can damage day-to-day trust.
Follow through. If you say you will do something, do it. I tell my clients “boys make excuses, men make plans.” If you commit to doing something, do it. This is even more important if it is a household thing to do. If to-do list is growing, acknowledge your laziness and get about to whatever needs to be done.
Daily listen to your wife. Ask her about what she did today, and how she felt about that. Letting her talk about her day means a lot to most women. Your wife deserves to be listened to on a daily basis.
When you come home from work, give your wife the first hour, this can help the whole night to go well. Ask her what she needs done until the hour is up. My experience is that she will run out of things [for you] to do before an hour is up and then your “relaxing” doesn’t seem insensitive.
Housework is man’s work. Unless you have in writing that she has committed to do 100 per cent of the housework, she expects some help.
Commit to do some housework everyday. Don’t wait to be told about dishes, garbage, clean up, or laundry. You know it needs to be done. This allows your wife to feel supported and that she is married to a man and not that she has another child.
Putting the children to bed with some regularity is great for everyone. You get to connect and speak into your children’s lives and she gets a break on a regular basis. This helps you respect her needs for some down time as well.
Giving her a night out with some regularity may seem little but it is so important. She can have a consistent escape from the role of being a mom. You feed the children, play games, get homework done, and by the time she comes home, she is more the woman you married than the overwhelmed person you see throughout the week.
How do you get along with a difficult father-in-law? How do you earn his respect and build a good relationship?
DW: Difficult father-in-laws are generally just difficult people unless you have been mistreating their daughter. You are 100 per cent powerless to make someone respect and love you, period. Some men use withholding (respect, praise, love) to control others and this person won’t give up this perceived power because it makes them feel vulnerable.
On a positive note, you can initiate one-on-one time doing something you know he already likes. Men with poor relationship skills are more likely to come out in settings where they have some skill or experience.
You could also ask him to help you solve a problem or help you with a project in which he has greater skill than you. Then praise him for his help in front of his wife and his children.
Asking him to tell you his stories of successes in his life can get him to talk. Listening to someone is a way you can show honour. Over time, if you’re genuine, he may feel your attempt ask relationship and move toward you.
As a man of God, the approach we need and already have is from our Father-in-law, God. If you are secure in the fact that you are loved and a friend of God, you may like the approval of this man. “Needing” approval gives power to a difficult or poorly skilled man that he should never have.
Be responsible in your dealings so you don’t have any shame. Be authentic in your life and service toward your wife and you can be confident. Integrity within yourself allows you to love the difficult but not be controlled by them. This alone can bring respect into a relationship. Remember a bully never respects someone who doesn’t respect himself.
My wife is so invested in our kids; sometimes it feels like she has forgotten I exist. What do I do?
DW: Most men have the feeling that their wife has left them after having children. This feeling is legitimate. Your wife feels a God-given responsibility to meet the needs of those that are dependent on her.
Intentionally or not, she puts you on the adult list, [knowing you] can take care of yourself. She is focused on the children like you would be on the biggest project of your life. Many women feel this lostness in marriage due to how a man is over-focused on his job.
The trick here is to be able to help her with the children considerably so she doesn’t feel alone in this ominous task. This assistance will give you a place of respect, which is necessary to have a conversation about your needs in the marriage without sounding “needy.”
Talking about keeping the marriage strong so the children will have a great example is a good angle. Talk about having date nights, sharing about your day, sex, money, etc. The important thing is that you have these conversations. If you can, join a cell group or Sunday school class on marriage so she is getting reinforcement from others that being a wife is a part of being a good mother.
The trick is to get better at managing time and resources instead of getting bitter at your wife when you are in pain about this. Never talk to her to get sympathy. Talk to experts, other Christian men, who know about feeling rejected, sidelined, and who have had to die to themselves in marriage. They alone can support you as you are being stretched into being less selfish and more caring about the needs of the team (your family).
My wife is addicted to Pinterest and Facebook. I’m not perfect either, but how do I let her know I would like her to cut back?
DW: Technology is becoming a growing concern for more and more Christian marriages. Facebook, Pinterest, e-mail, and needless web searches can consume many hours of a person’s time in a marriage.
Since you are also struggling, don’t make the issue hers. Make it ‘yours’ or ‘ours’. One tactic is for you to create two budgets in your marriage.
The first budget is for media usage like television, movies and electronic games. The second budget would be technology, web-related activities, e-mail, social media, etc.
Sit down and ask each other as a family how much time does the family need for media or technology that is not homework related. The budget can be daily or weekly.
If someone is addicted to what I call “the other world” this can be challenging. However, set a budget, let’s say three hours each a week (three media, three technology). Then each person establishes a consequence for himself or herself if he or she go over his or her budgeted time.
If you can’t get a budget then you are limited to setting an agreed upon boundary for technology behaviour, such as all cell phones stay in the car. No electronics after a certain hour can be a boundary. Cell phones and devices go in a kitchen drawer from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. while at home.
Technology can be a blessing if managed well but in the wrong hands it can be used to avoid real relationships. This will be a sensitive issue especially when consequences are set for boundaries or budgets but this will be necessary to benefit from technology in a marriage today.
How can we approach the issue of money without ending up in a fight?
DW: Solving problems of any kind is different than fighting regardless of the subject. Fighting usually resolves things on both sides then bludgeons each other until the most persistent person wins the battle. You can win with the worst idea on the matter and I hardly call that a win.
Solving a problem involves asking both spouses to come up with as many solutions as possible, sharing feelings on these solutions and then voting on the various options. This creates the most likelihood that more ideas will be discussed and a better idea will prevail.
Let me digress a moment on avoiding financial problems. As a psychologist, I see couples that come for three or five-day marriage intensives. I always ask if they fight about money. One hundred per cent of couples who fight about money do not tithe. My advice is to tithe. This helps your heart on money as well as helping you manage money in a much less emotional manner and moves couples in a principle manner.
You can attempt to create a budget and hold yourself accountable to a person in your church or an accountant to stay honest about staying on course.
Save money now for your next stage of life. Every stage of life requires saving to be successful for your future.
Couples who don’t save are generally emotional spenders as well. This lack of financial maturity creates a lot more fighting than solving problems.
I find honesty and accountability over a year or more moves a couple from financial immaturity to maturity. Doing this problem solving together during each stage of marriage helps bond couples throughout the stages of marriage.