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What to Say When… You’ve Invested More In Your Career Than Your Marriage

Dr. Gary Chapman

Scenario:

Bob had neglected his marriage and it had grown stale. He had thrown himself into his successful career and he enjoyed the praise he got there. Among his colleagues, Bob was highly respected and his work was applauded. At home, it was just the  opposite. Bob worked far too many nights and weekends. He tried to make up for this by giving hugs and gifts to his wife but she continually pulled away from him. Her coldness saddened and frustrated him and so he poured even more effort into his work. The turning point came in February when Bob gave Jill a dozen roses. She accepted them but later that day, he found the flowers in the back bedroom. When he asked Jill why she had hidden the flowers, she said through clenched teeth, “I want your time… not gifts you buy just to look like a loving husband!” After years of workaholism, Bob realized that he was in danger or losing his marriage. He wanted to change his priorities and win her back, so he wrote this letter and read it to his wife.

What to Say:

Bob: I am sorry that I have been going all the time, pushing, neglecting, not listening, not respecting, not showing interest, and not supporting your life. I am sorry that I have tried to succeed at work at the expense of our home life. I was wrong and I accept the responsibility of working towards a solution. I have created hurts, emotional strains, anxiety on us and stress in many areas. I believe that time will help me make things right with you. I know there are years of hurts I’ve created. They say that repentance is a change of mind that produces a change of direction. If you will accept my apology, I am more than willing to work on changing. I request your forgiveness. 

Jill: I hear what you are saying. I appreciate it, really. I’ve been lonely and I’ve learned to live my life without depending on you. Part of me is willing to work on things with you but part of me just feels numb.

Bob: I know. I’ve poured energy into my work and we’ve both focused so much on our kids. Let’s take some time for ourselves. Could we go away on a trip together like we did years ago?

Jill: Maybe so… if you’ll leave your I Pad and business journals at home.

Why This Works:

It’s helpful to surprise others with your humility. Jill might be like so many women who think they will never hear their spouses utter an unqualified apology. Bob was wise to use several different languages of apology. He said he was sorry. He said he was wrong. He expressed a desire to make things right. Finally, he requested her forgiveness.

Why This Might Not Work Instantly:

Marriage problems can take nearly as long to fix as they took to create. Bob might have said these words before and failed to follow through. In my 18 years as a marriage therapist, I’ve seen many couples whose marriages are DOA (Dead on Arrival). They have waited so long to get expert help that one of them is no longer willing to work on the marriage. In order for his apology to help his marriage, Bob must change in ways that pleasantly startle his wife. She may be thinking, “talk is cheap” and waiting to see if he will really work to fill up her “love tank.”

Try This Activity:

Read Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages and take the free online assessment here: www.5lovelanguages.com/profile.

To learn how to balance both your career and marriage, contact Dr. Susie at 954.294.7036.