Tag Archives: love

Last Time: “I love you!”

goodbyeWhen our kids would ask why my wife and I would always say “I love you” every time we parted, we would tell them: “One day, there will be a last time to say, “I love you.”  Only God knows when that last time will be; so, we still hedge our bets, making sure the final words we say affirm our eternal love for one another.  How comforting it is to know that “The last time I saw him, he said, “I love you! ‘”

This haunting phrase becomes so important to us when we lose a loved one.  Sometimes, recalling someone’s final words brings a smile and a quiet sense of assurance.  Of course, this is how most of want to be finally remembered when our time comes.

However, sometimes those words are filled with pain and heartache.  In a heated argument words of parting can bring pain years later when neither party seeks reconciliation or attempts to affirm the positive aspects to a relationship.  Many times people say hurtful things without restraint due to alcohol or drugs that end up being the last word spoken.  While they may not remember what they said, the scars left on the recipient can be a source of pain that outlives the one who did not filter their words or seek forgiveness.

Discussing the concept of developing a mission statement, Steven Covey recommended beginning with the end in mind.  To illustrate the principle of “Beginning with the End in Mind,” he suggests that we imagine being in a dream, walking into a funeral home where we recognize the people in the funeralchairs as they quietly wait for the service to begin.  Meanwhile, a line of people stand behind the podium, waiting for their opportunity to speak a word about the person in the open casket at the front of the room.  As you walk to view the person there to pay your respects, you suddenly realize that the person in the casket is you!  Now you have an opportunity to hear what the people who knew you have to say about you.  No doubt someone will say, “The last time we met, he/she said these words to me….”

The question is, what will they have to say?  The answer is to proactively start working, now, on helping shape their message by your own words and behavior based upon your own principles, values and sensibilities.



Pre-Marital Counseling

There are many tools available to the Marriage and Family Therapist to help a couple prepare for marriage.  Pre-Marital Counseling holds great potential as the perfect wedding gift that keeps on giving for years afterwards.

First is the simple intake interview.  During this time the therapist interviews each partner one-on-one to learn about their family history, their own life experiences and the challenges they have faced.  Counselors ask questions in order to understand more of the personality of each person: their preferences, their fears and their concerns.

Second is testing which can range from the standard personality inventories to detect any psychological or emotional challenges to assessments that highlight personal preferences and  styles.  Other inventories are specifically designed to help couples evaluate their compatibilities and points of potential conflict.  As the therapist gets to know the couple better he or she is better able to determine which evaluations would be most helpful.

Third is the family genogram which is a time of discovery for the couple to explore their own family histories.  Insights are gained by interviewing family members along their family tree to discover more about each other’s heritage and background.  Some take it so far as to interview distant relatives that they may not have had a relationship with before.  Others will actually visit old homesteads, cemeteries and family landmarks.

Other aspects often covered in the counseling process include religious, financial and occupational issues.  Sometimes other professionals are consulted when potential challenges are detected from health issues to legal matters.  Pre-marital counseling can focus on specific concerns that the therapist uncovers and need specialized attention such as communication training, parenting expectations, living arrangements and housekeeping assumptions.

Counseling is particularly helpful when families blend.  With children of each partner involved in the merging process the ability to address both the marital and the family issues that will arise can be invaluable.  With its emphasis upon the interactional and relational patterns within  each family, Marriage and Family Therapy can be effective prevention for helping couples avoid many of the hazards that often cripple families early in their marriage and in step-parenting.

The key is that the Marriage and Family Therapist is focused upon the dynamics of the family system and helping the couple explore as many aspects of their relationship as possible before they tie the knot.   With all of the time and energy that goes into a wedding and honeymoon that will last from a few hours to a few weeks, it just makes sense to take the time to look at those aspects of their marriage that will carry them through each day for the rest of their lives.


Language of Love & Marriage and Family Therapy

Gary Chapman authored a book entitled The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.  Originally published in 1992, the book’s relevance to enhancing relationships is timeless.  Marriage and Family Therapists are specially trained to help couples and families learn how to speak to one another.

When being “in love” moves from becoming a temporary emotional high to a longstanding, enduring commitment the rules change.  When we are ‘in love’ our partner can do no wrong and our desire is to make the relationship last forever.

As we come to know each other over time, however, being in love becomes more of a choice–a decision–than a state of being.  A key ingredient to lasting love is the decision to learn what pleases the other as well as one’s self.

Chapman identifies five languages of love that can be helpful for building and maintaining enduring relationships.  They are:

  • Love Language #1: Words of Affirmation
  • Love Language #2: Quality Time
  • Love Language #3: Receiving Gifts
  • Love Language #4: Acts of Service
  • Love Language #5: Physical Touch

What is needed is for each person to know the expressions of love according to (1) their own preferred language and (2) their partner’s own preferences. Over time many couples learn these languages without enumerating them as we have done here.  For others of us it is an important aid to shorten the learning time needed and to help relationships get off to a good start.

When we don’t know each other’s language we begin the process of elimination that can be rather painful at times.  For example, Sam loves to get gifts for his birthday more than anything else.  His wife, Mary, on the other hand loves to have people do works of service for her.  Over the years Sam keeps giving Mary more and more expensive gifts but he never gets the response from her that he was anticipating.  At the same time Sam never remembers to pick up his socks off of the bedroom floor, forgets to take out the garbage and never helps with the housework.

Conversely, Mary loves helping Sam with various projects such as painting a room or changing the oil of the car.  She always wonders why Sam–who prefers to work alone–always seems short tempered and agitated when she helps.  She thinks she is showing him her enduring love by giving him the gift that she appreciates the most; yet, he repays her with ingratitude.

The key for the couple is to understand that they are speaking the wrong languages to each other.  Assuming that Sam really wants to please Mary, he would expend more energy in picking up after himself, helping with chores without being asked and join Mary when she engages in housecleaning projects.  Sam would benefit with a double benefit.  First, he would be giving Mary exactly what says “I love you!” to her and, second, he would save a lot of money by giving more modest gifts.

Conversely, how differently Sam might respond if Mary would listen carefully and take notes when Sam ‘accidentally’ shares with her his desire for a special tool or accessory while walking through the mall.  Sam might respond very differently to her acts of love when what he merely mentioned 8 months ago suddenly shows up on the kitchen counter for his birthday, set next to his favorite chocolate cake and surrounded by his closest friends.

Outside of our romantic relationships, imagine how listening for each other’s languages could help in relationships in general.  The possibilities are endless.

For more information check out Gary Chapman’s book and surprise your mate as you observe his or her preferences, ask questions that pique their interest and you suddenly start wowing them with unsolicited behaviors that speak directly to their language of love.  To help each of you in your marriage there is a workbook that goes with the material as well that can re-set the love meter in your life as you start speaking each other’s language.