What can you do if your spouse is abusive … or depressed … or addicted? How do you live with someone who won’t communicate?
In his latest book, Dr. Gary Chapman tackles all of these difficult situations, and more. As he addresses each challenge, he offers strong encouragement and practical instruction.
This new release comes with a long title, Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away, as well as a long subtitle: Real Help for Desperate Hearts in Difficult Marriages. That’s okay, though, because the book is also long on encouragement. Its delivery is as good as its promise.
The core of this encouragement is the confidence “that there is hope for the hardest of marriages.” For spouses in struggling marriages, hope must be the starting place, as well as the refrain: “in every troubled marriage, one or both partners can take positive steps that have the potential for changing the emotional climate in a marriage” (17).
Reasons for Hope
Hope in a desperate marriage comes from four bedrock truths. When people accept these truths as reality, they become people of hope, and their marriages gain a platform for change, even transformation. Here are the four truths:
- You are not a victim of your circumstances. “Your environment may influence you, but it need not dictate or destroy your marriage and your life” (19).
- “People can and do change” (20).
- Misery or divorce are not the only options in difficult marriages (20).
- No marriage is completely “beyond hope” (21).
Dr. Chapman’s goal in Loving Your Spouse is to encourage husbands and wives to embrace “the positive actions that one individual can take to stimulate constructive change in a relationship” (24). Years ago, a friend shared this illustration with me:
Suppose that a husband and wife are back-to-back in conflict. We know that if both of them will turn around, then they can be face-to-face again. But what if only one is willing to move? Well, what if that one will walk around the other so that the two are again face-to-face?
One person can make the difference!
Dr. Chapman does not use that illustration, but he argues for that principle: “One person must always take the initiative. Perhaps that person will be you.” (38)
Realities to Live By
Dr. Chapman is careful to point out that we cannot change or control our spouses. However, we can choose our own attitudes, and each of us can influence others. Loving Your Spouse outlines six realities which form the basis of a plan-of-action for every marriage. The final principle of “reality living” is this:
Love is the most powerful weapon for good in the world. Meeting your spouse’s emotional need for love has the greatest potential for stimulating positive change in his or her behavior. Since love is our deepest emotional need, the person who meets that need will have the greatest influence on our lives. (231)
In the first part of Loving Your Spouse, Dr. Chapman discusses the reasons for hope, the basis for change, and the motivations that underlie misbehavior. He then identifies ten difficult situations and addresses each one specifically in a separate chapter:
- the irresponsible spouse
- the workaholic spouse
- the depressed spouse
- the controlling spouse
- the verbally abusive spouse
- the physically abusive spouse
- the sexually abused or sexually abusive spouse
- the uncommunicative spouse
- the unfaithful spouse
- the alcoholic or drug-abusing spouse
In each of these focused chapters, Dr. Chapman shares real-life situations, gives specific counsel, and lists resources for further help. Loving Your Spouse is full of both encouragement and practical advice. Not only will this book be helpful to you as you apply the principles of “reality living” to your own situation, but it will also be helpful as you encourage others who are struggling with some of these specific marital challenges.
A giveaway: Moody Publishers is providing a complimentary copy of Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away. If you would like to enter the drawing to win this book, simply leave a comment below no later than April 17. I will notify the winner on April 18, and you will receive a paperback copy in the mail.
A webinar: You are invited to attend a webinar this Thursday evening, April 12, as Dr. Jessica McCleese and I discuss three terrific tools for building marriage. There is no charge, but to attend the live discussion, you will need to register at befullywell.com. I will share the replay with you next week, God willing.
A prayer: You have a standing invitation to join us each week as we pray for marriages and families. You can join us by phone or online every Thursday at 12:30 (Eastern), or you can always listen to the archives online. Let me know if you would like us to pray for you by name.
Blessings to you!