A Sit Down with Gary Chapman: Advice for Two Common Marriage Struggles

I recently got to talk to marriage expert Gary Chapman, author of the bestselling book The Five Love Languages. Dr. Chapman defines the 5 love languages as quality time; words of affirmation; gifts; physical touch; and acts of service. iMOM Founder Susan Merrill recently wrote about the importance of Dr. Chapman’s love languages for couples in her new book Lists to Love By in List #24. In our conversation, Dr. Chapman shared two new pieces of marriage advice that most couples struggle with: how to express our needs to each other and how to have real quality time together.

How can we in marriage express our wants and needs to our partner without making them seem like demands?

Dr. Chapman: I think this is really important because none of us like demands. I think one way is to ask your partner the question: “If something is bothering me, would you want to hear it?” Of course, you know they will say yes because we all want to hear it. They may say “not right now” because they may be watching a football game or doing something else, but when you ask that question they get a chance to think about it, come back and say,  “Ok now tell me, what is bothering you?”

Then you ask them, “are you sure this is a good time to share it?” Once you have their attention, you can say something like, “I’m not sharing this as a put down; I’m sharing this because I want us to have a close relationship.” Then you share it with them. By doing it this way you’re getting them ready to receive it, rather than hitting them broadside.

Don’t just walk in and say “I don’t know how you feel, but I feel like we aren’t spending enough time together; sometimes I just feel like a widow.” Since you approached it like that, now he’s on the defense; you just shot him broadside and that’s never going to go anywhere positive. So now he feels condemned like you are putting him down and demanding that he change. Not many people are going to change that way. However, if you take a different approach, then they will hear what you say and are more than likely to make a change.

In terms of the definition of Quality Time, what adds the “quality” to time spent together?

Dr. Chapman: Quality time means the other person has your undivided attention. {Tweet This} This means you’re not watching TV, looking at a screen; you’re not on your phone or your Ipad. But you’re actually looking at them, talking to them, interacting and answering questions or discussing something. It doesn’t always have to be sitting on the couch talking; you could be taking a walk together. But the reason you are walking is because you want to be together. You could be planting flowers together but the purpose is not to be planting flowers but to be doing it together.

We are doing something that one of us wants to do and the other is willing to do it so that we can be together in this project. So what makes it quality is that the focus of whatever you’re doing is being together, being with that other person not just getting the job done.

However, if acts of service is their love language, then getting the job done is what’s important. For example, if you’re cleaning out the garage together, then what’s important is not being together; it’s getting the job done that makes them feel loved. So with acts of service, getting the job done is important but with quality time what you’re doing isn’t the issue, it’s being together so that the two of you are really sharing life with each other.

Readers, which of these two scenarios do you most relate to and why?

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