Question: I don't usually care for labels, but I think it would be fair to call my husband a "workaholic." He works constantly and spends very little time with our children and me. When I approach him about it, he simply says, "Things will be better soon." Do you have any suggestions?
Jim: Men are generally wired to be protectors and providers. But too many of us skew that by defining our identity and personal worth in terms of what we do for a living and how well we do it -- rather than in terms of who we are and how we're connected to God, our families and other people.
Here's an approach you might want to try. Plan a dinner out with your husband on a weekend. Get a babysitter if necessary and go out to a nice restaurant. Put aside your resentment and frustration and tell him how much you love him and appreciate his diligence, work ethic and dedication to his role as family provider. At the same time, be honest with him and let him know that his job seems to be taking precedence over his family. Tell him you value his input and involvement as a father. Then ask him if he'd be willing to examine his schedule and make some changes.
If you can deliver this message in a spirit of love and concern rather than bitterness and anger, you may be surprised at how positively your husband responds. If, on the other hand, he reacts defensively and denies there's a problem, it may be time to seek professional assistance.
Question: Greg, I've heard relationship experts like you hammer on the idea that "healthy communication is vital to a strong marriage." It sounds so involved. My wife and I talk all the time; what's the big deal?
Dr. Greg Smalley: Communication is a big deal because it's the primary way to achieve intimacy and have a healthy marriage. There are five basic levels and each one is important:
Level 1 = Clichés. These are exchanges like "How are you doing?" This common courtesy can help maintain a positive interactive tone.
Level 2 = Exchanging facts and information. This is absolutely necessary for effective everyday function of family life.
Level 3 = Sharing Opinions. This is where we start to discover what another person thinks -- and where conflict can occur. When we express our thoughts, we make ourselves more vulnerable.
Level 4 = Sharing Feelings. Sharing feelings creates opportunities to be heard and understood and offers a glimpse into our true identities.
Level 5 = Sharing Needs. This is the deepest level of communication, requiring the most vulnerability and trust.
(Content sponsored by First Baptist Church.)