answers

What part does faith play in “A New Way to Love?”

Faith in God’s grace for creating marriage as a human context in which his love can be experienced is essential. Faith is essential to trust that God is at work in the deepest conflict, the darkest night, and trusting the process that God has created will lead eventually to experience the light of his love.

Do Christian couples have extra tools to help them in times of distress?

Yes. Christian couples have at their disposal their faith, and they have the guidance and promises of scripture that essentially God is love and that they that love dwell in Him and He in them.

One in two marriages will end in divorce…what are the top factors contributing to this trend? How can this trend be reversed?

Most couples do not know how to create and sustain connection. They tend to focus on personal needs rather than relationship needs. Divorce occurs when the relationship does not meet their needs. The major cure for divorce is to make the relationship top priority rather than each other’s needs.

What are the attitudes and skills needed to help improve a troubled marriage?

The major attitude is openness to new awareness and information and to mutually take responsibility for the difficulties in the marriage. Couples co-create their difficulties, and they need to know they can co-create improvement. The major skill is to learn how to have a conversation that is safe so they can relax their defenses and be vulnerable with each other.

What kind of specific communication problems do you see couples experiencing?

The specific communication problem most couples experience is being negative with each other—put downs, criticism, shaming and blaming. Each partner tends to want the other to see things their way and each has difficulty accepting that there are always two realities.

How great of an impact does childhood have on the marital relationship?

The impact is great. From my perspective, the drama in marriage is a replay of the trauma of childhood. God’s purpose in marriage is help partners help each other finish childhood. That is non-negotiable.

Can conflict be used to strengthen a marriage? 

Yes, conflict is growth trying to happen. Each partner uses conflict to try to get something done that can only be done in another way.

How?

Every frustration that produces conflict is a wish in disguise. To strengthen marriage, partners need to translate the frustration into the embedded wish, communicate the wish direction by asking for what they want instead of complaining about what they do not have, and then each has to stretch into giving this to each other unconditionally.

Doesn’t human nature make it difficult to embrace one another’s differences?

No. The difficulty of embracing each other’s differences is a result of being emotionally wounded in childhood. Emotional pain creates self absorption and destroys the child’s proto-empathy. This creates so much anxiety that it is hard to listen to others and embrace difference.

Is there a “secret” to a happy marriage?

Absolutely. The secret to a happy marriage is to learn how to talk in a new way—replacing parallel monologues with horizontal dialogues, embrace difference, ending all negativity in all forms and on all occasions and replace conflict with curiosity, acceptance and affirmation.

Is there a process to follow that partners may become more fulfilled (satisfied) in their relationships?

There is a paradox that when you meet the needs of your partner, your own needs are met by that same act. When that is mutual, then each partner receives the gift they give as well as the one they receive.

Quite a few therapists suggest “date night” as the cure for marital woes.  Is it really that simple?

No.  But date night is useful if it is a part of other rituals of safety.

Is it possible to save a marriage without the help of professional therapy?

Yes, thousands of couples do that every day. But they need some new information—a book or lecture—and a new skill.

Which marriage is more toxic, the one in which couples argue on a daily basis, or, the one in which the partners have become emotionally detached from one another?

Both are toxic in different ways.

What are the first steps a couple should take when they recognize their marriage is failing?

Acquire some information that will help them change their patterns—an education course, therapy, etc.