How to Get the Most out of This Workbook
Whether it’s a doctor’s accurate diagnosis or a sudden revelation about a knotty problem, insight usually offers immediate comfort, but don’t stop there. The important insight offered in How We Love
, for instance, is merely head knowledge about the ways the experiences of our early years influence our adult relationships. And while the influences of our past can definitely help explain the difficulties we encounter in marriage, unless we’re willing to commit to changing the areas of our lives that most need it, the information alone changes nothing.
Put differently, genuine change requires a commitment to growth. It means we will feel awkward, inadequate, and uncomfortable. It means we will have to work hard. It means we will have to fight against our resistance to change. The alternative, though, is to remain stuck right where we are in our relationships. And, folks, that is painful too. Either way, we’ll experience discomfort and distress. Why not choose constructive discomfort? That’s what we’re offering in this workbook: the experience of constructive, beneficial discomfort! The trade-off of current uneasiness for the awkward pain of growth is the promise of future relief. In fact, in this book you will find hope for new levels of emerging security, trust, and intimacy in your marriage as well as healing from your injured love style. This love style, or imprint of intimacy, which was learned in your family of origin, has been controlling you for many years, and for most of us, it has adversely affected our capacity to successfully give and receive love.
The instruction in this workbook is all about improving your primary human relationship, your connection to your spouse. Although you’d certainly benefit from using this workbook on your own, we’ve intentionally designed it to be most useful for couples. There are also specific exercises for a group setting. Applying these insights in relationship is the only way to truly change how you love. Groups not only help you feel less alone in your struggles, they also provide encouragement and support as you hear other people’s similar—and contrasting—experiences. Some questions may be distressing, so having your small group’s support throughout this process will help you feel less overwhelmed. A small group can also encourage you to process your feelings and thoughts as you grow and change. The added bonus of accountability is that someone will know whether you complete the assignments and can help you persevere on the path of change.
You may find this workbook a bit different from others. Some pages—even some questions—will require more than a week to cover. That’s okay! Give yourself the time you need to thoughtfully consider your answers. The time you spend reflecting on and evaluating your personal imprint, the core pattern of your marriage, and your progress toward change, is time well spent. Whether you work through this book with your spouse, a small group, or even alone, you will only grow and change according to the time and effort you put into answering the questions. There is much to discover about how you love, so be patient and know that real growth takes time. This workbook will be a good guide, but you are responsible for your own growth. We’ve intended for you to use this workbook along with a journal to record your thoughts and feelings as you interact with the questions. You may also find that you have different and surprising answers after you’ve gone through the exercises several times. That’s a sign of growth!
If you are currently single, consider holding off on a new relationship until you can complete the exercises and develop the new habits in this workbook. Not only will you gain insights into your ability to choose an emotionally healthy mate, you will also acquire new levels of awareness that will help you become a better mate.
If your spouse is resistant to going through the material with you, forge ahead alone. In time, your new understanding and skills will have an effect upon your core pattern and will likely begin to gain your spouse’s attention. Change yourself and see what happens.
Christian leaders take heart. Estimates show that one in three Christian leaders finishes well, yet the courage that brought you where you are right now will help as you invest in these tools and learn to resist the gradual erosion of your marriage as you serve the Lord.
As you look intently at your past and present relationships, you may experience uncomfortable levels of emotional distress. If you feel overwhelmed and find yourself struggling to know how to handle your feelings, it is important that you call a professional therapist. As that person walks alongside you for a season, he or she will be familiar with the questions and personal reflection we have suggested in this book and will bring a measure of security to you and your spouse. There is also low-cost help available through local county programs, churches, and nonprofit organizations. Our sincere hope and prayer is that you’ll stay motivated to continually dig deeper into your past as you begin to see positive changes from your efforts. This book and workbook are our personal journey. Believe us, the work is worth it! Make the investment in yourself and your marriage so you can indeed finish well. God bless you on your journey! Why Every Marriage Gets Stuck
In chapter 1 we talked about nagging problems that grab our attention and keep us from getting to the roots of problems. Perhaps you are like us and have made symptoms the focal point of your efforts to improve your marriage. Describe some of the chronic irritations and patterns that remain unresolved.
We shared two truths in chapter 1. The first was that the close proximity of your partner triggers old feelings because you look to your spouse to meet some of the same needs your parents were supposed to meet. That means your marriage problems did not start in your marriage. What bothers you most about your spouse is undoubtedly related to painful experiences from his or her childhood or to the lack of training that would have prepared your mate and you to face the challenges of marriage. Without accusing or blaming, write down which of your spouse’s attitudes or behaviors bothers you most.
What is your spouse’s biggest complaint about you? Ask him or her if you’re not sure.
The second truth in chapter 1 is this: You will never truly know yourself or your mate until you understand how each of you was shaped by your childhood experiences. Write about and discuss some key memories (especially relational hurts) that might relate to or have been the cause of the irritating traits you just wrote about.
Now take some time to write your answers to the following questions. These answers may help you better determine what is at the root of your marriage problems.
Do you fight about the same old subject over and over? Identify the topic and describe the usual fight. What are each partner’s behaviors and beliefs?
Jot down any insights about how childhood wounds may be at the root of the behaviors and beliefs that fuel repetitive problems. (If this is too challenging, don’t worry, as there is help ahead.)
A great starting place for our journey is the prayer Jesus prayed for you in John 17. Look at verses 20–23. What does Jesus pray for you? Now list the three or four most important relationships in your life today. Evaluate each of these relationships in light of this prayer.
Read Psalm 139:23–24. “Wicked way in me” (KJV), “offensive way in me” (NIV), and “hurtful way in me” (NASB) is literally in the Hebrew, according to the NASB notes, “way of pain.” This workbook will help you identify specific ways of pain that hinder the expression of love and unity in your relationships. What ways of pain do you see in yourself and those you are in relationship with (the people you listed in question 7)?
God is capable of using far more than this workbook to help you experience and manifest His love in your relationships. Consider writing a personal prayer based on the ideas expressed in these verses, asking God to reveal new insights about the ways in which you give and receive love.
To follow are some statements that will help you evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in your marriage. Both you and your mate can respond by writing after each sentence a Y
or an NI
for Needs Improvement.
Then use the inventory as a springboard for discussion. Acceptance
My mate knows my strengths and weaknesses, and I am fully accepted in spite of my shortcomings.
______ I know my mate’s strengths and weaknesses and fully accept him/her in spite of the shortcomings.
When I make a mistake, my mate forgives me.
When my mate makes a mistake, I forgive him/her. Safety and Communication
I feel safe to discuss any subject with my mate.
I feel safe to share my deepest feelings, even my negative emotions.
I am honest with my mate.
My mate and I discuss sexual problems as they arise in our relationship.
I can effectively communicate with my spouse about areas of disagreement and conflict.
We usually reach resolution or compromise when we disagree about a problem.
I am aware of my feelings and needs, and I communicate them.
I try to understand the feelings and needs of my spouse and then respond to the feelings and meet the needs.
My spouse and I pray together. Support and Respect
I feel that my mate sees, values, supports, and respects my uniqueness as a person.
My mate knows my gifts and talents and encourages me to use them.
I know my mate’s gifts and talents, and I encourage him/her to use them. Nurture and Comfort
I receive comfort from my spouse when I need it.
My spouse is able to receive comfort from me.
We show affection and touch each other without the closeness necessarily becoming sexual. Individuality and Space
I have interests, hobbies, and friends apart from my mate.
______ My mate has friends, hobbies, and interests outside our relationship.
______ My spouse supports my participation in these pursuits and sees them as a healthy complement to couple/family time.
______ I support my spouse’s participation in these pursuits and see them as a healthy complement to couple/family time. Fun and Play
I have fun with my mate.
We have regular time alone without kids or business distractions.
We enjoy at least one recreational activity together.
We laugh together.
Most of the time we have an enjoyable sex life together.
Most of us have endured an annual review at work, that sometimes nerve-racking conversation during which our performance for the year is evaluated and ideas for improvement are discussed. A review can often spark important change, yet rarely do we take the time to do an annual review of the most important area of our life: our marriage. But you’ve just reviewed your marriage as you’ve thought about many aspects of your relationship. Perhaps your list of items that need improvement is overwhelmingly long. If that’s true, don’t be discouraged before you even begin. Creating a healthy, satisfying marriage is worth the effort, and every step of growth moves you toward that goal.
One of the most important aspects of marriage—and a good habit to develop—is to have fun together as a couple. A mutual agreement to schedule date nights with the following guide-lines can bring renewal and hope to a tired or taxed relationship. GUIDELINES FOR FUN AND RENEWAL
At the beginning of each month, schedule two date nights and put them on the calendar.
Each partner is responsible for planning one of the dates. Decide when you mark your calendar who will plan the first date and who will plan the second. Date nights are for fun and enjoyment. No problems will be discussed.
Use date-night conversations for praise, compliments, words of appreciation, and the sharing of good memories.
So get your calendars out now. Even if it’s the middle of the month, plan a date—or even two.
Copyright © 2017 by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.