How to Love Your Partner at their Worst

How to Love Your Partner at their Worst

Contributed by
Dr. Charlie and Elizabeth Woehr

There is an old Western movie starring Clint Eastwood, titled: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Well, we humans can be like that. In fact, within every person, even you and your partner, there is the potential to at one time or another exhibit actions or attitudes that could be classified as good, bad, and even ugly!

It is easy to love a partner who is showing their good side. It is a bit harder to love a partner who is showing their bad side. It is much, much harder to love a partner who is showing their ugly side—at their worst.

To be able to LOVE your partner when they’re at their worst, you must develop, from the beginning of your relationship, a solid foundation. Here are the four elements you must integrate into that foundation, that will prepare you to LOVE in all kinds of situations:

 

L – Laugh often with your partner. Laughter has been called “the best medicine,” and there is a reason for that. Laughing together means sharing fun times, silly times, creating this way memories that will be the glue for when the tempests of trouble hit your relationship, helping to keep things from collapsing around you.

O – Open your hearts to each other; share your inner thoughts and feelings. Talk about the dreams you each have for your relationship. By opening your hearts to each other you are trusting each other with your deeply valuable thoughts and feelings. Being comfortable with each other is a prerequisite to wanting to support each other in those more difficult moments, when things are not as you would like them to be. If you have learned to open your hearts at times of vulnerability, this will create both a desire and need to get closer to your partner in difficult times, which will counter the natural tendency to move away from each other when things get tough.

V – Value the strengths each of you have and learn to expect those to be brought into play when things are not going so well. Is one of you a forgiving person? That will be brought into play when things are not going well. Is one of you a deep thinker? Value the analysis that will bring to reflection about where things have gone wrong. Your strengths will need to be known and brought to bear in difficult times.

E –  Expect to recover from difficult times you will face. Avoid generalizing by thinking to yourself that this “always” happens, or that this “will last a long time” or that “this will never end.” Rather think of positive outcomes and expect that your partner will react and come around, will ask forgiveness, and seek to restore any painful times caused by their worst moments. Expect that when the years go by these difficult moments will have made your relationship stronger. Expect is really to exercise FAITH: believing in the ultimate healing and restoration that will come, after the valley of pain or misunderstanding.

 

Want to love your partner at their worst? Start loving them at their best and put the L.O.V.E to work for you, as you prepare to weather the most challenging storms that inevitably come on the sea of life as a couple. Down the road of life, as you look back on these difficult times, you’ll be very glad you did!

How have you and your partner gotten through tough times in your relationship? Share with us in the comments area below.

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Resolving Conflict

Resolving Conflict

By Bill Ferrell

Where are you in your marriage/significant relationship? How are you at resolving conflict? Do you move towards one another in a healthy way in order to address issues, or do you avoid conflict?

I picked my wife up from the airport as I did every Thursday night. She travels for her job and this was part of our weekly ritual. This reunion was always a highlight for both of us.

As we drove through Chicago to our home, we reconnected. She told me about her day and I told her about mine. I described a conversation I had with the neighbor. It involved a rabbit and a rotten oversized tomato. She laughed. I laughed. We felt connected. Ah – life is good.

Once we got home she went to the pantry to get some Trader Joe’s biscotti. She loves their biscotti. She swung the doors open, looked in and suddenly a perplexed expression crossed her face. She looked at me and asked, “Did you buy the biscotti this week?” “No,” I said.

She looked back into the pantry and stood there for a minute. Silently. As quickly as we had connected earlier – it felt like we were suddenly disconnected. Without saying another word, she walked up the stairs and to our bedroom.

I was confused. What happened? Why the sudden shift? I may be a little slow but I have been married long enough to know that something was not quite right. I traced back the order of events since I had picked her up. We had hugged, talked about our kids, discussed the weekend ahead, I told her the rabbit and tomato story, we came in, she looked into the pantry, and then that’s when it happened.

The sound of silence.

That was my first clue. Actually, it was my only clue. But that was enough. No biscotti. I know she loves her biscotti, but it couldn’t be that. Or could it?

I stood in the kitchen and looked at the clock. It was 10:30 p.m. I had a decision to make. Do I go upstairs and try to work this out with her tonight – whatever “this” is? I know from experience that it will take time and work.Or do I follow her lead, keep quiet, shut off the lights, and go to sleep? I knew the answer before I even seriously contemplated the question.

I went upstairs and waded in. It took a few questions to get to the core issue of her upset. And it wasn’t the lack of biscotti. No real surprise there. That was just a “trigger” for feelings she had experienced in our marriage for years – feeling neglected and unloved.

So I sat on the bed and listened. I worked at not being defensive or critical. The end result was that she felt loved and valued and we re-established the connection we had before. But it was actually even stronger.

Previously, I had spent too many years of our marriage avoiding conflict, which had damaged our relationship. I had been fearful of what might happen if I had addressed difficult issues head on. So I had chosen the path of least resistance. The result was a marriage that lacked true intimacy.

One day while reading the Bible, God spoke to me about how I had been in my marriage from this Scripture passage:

Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

God was encouraging Joshua to be the leader He had created him to be – and not to fear. There was no need to be afraid because God was with him.

This is not your typical marriage verse. And yet it was exactly what I needed to hear. I needed to be strong and courageous in order to be the husband God had called me to be. I needed to reject passivity and take the initiative to resolve conflict.

In the last six years we have worked hard on our marriage. It has required trusting God through some very honest and difficult discussions. There has been a lot of pain – but it has been pain with a purpose.

Along the way I have constantly been encouraged to be strong and courageous because God is with us. The result is a marriage that is far greater than anything we ever could have imagined.

About Bill and Leslie Ferrell

Bill and Leslie have been married for 31 years, have 2 children and 2 adorable grandchildren: ages 1 and 3. Bill has been in vocational ministry his entire adult career and is currently the Executive Director of Pinnacle Forum – a ministry to marketplace leaders. Leslie is the CEO of Big Idea, Inc., the makers of Veggie Tales. And she does love her biscotti!

Bill and Leslie Ferell

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