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Gary Smalley: ‘LUV’ talk is key to marital success

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)–Learning to “LUV” is critical to the success of any marriage, Gary Smalley said during the annual “Preaching for Life Change” conference at Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

Just as James 1:19 says believers should be quick to listen, Smalley noted that LUV language means they should listen, understand and validate their mate’s feelings and needs.

Smalley, a popular marriage conference leader and author of 16 books on relationships, said this simple method of communication has revolutionized his own marriage.

Comparing LUV talk to placing an order in a fast-food drive-through lane, Smalley said — when faced with conflict — you should listen carefully to what your mate says about his or her feelings and needs. Then, just like a fast-food worker, repeat back what you hear. This not only helps clarify that you understand, but it also validates and values your mate. Smalley says you don’t necessarily need to agree with your mate’s conclusions in order to understand his or her feelings and needs.

Once both spouses have expressed their feelings and needs, then they can work as a team to determine solutions to any problems in the marriage, Smalley said. One of the biggest problems he sees within marriages, he noted, is that one or both of the partners live as if they’re single when, in fact, they are now a blended unit, and that’s why they need to solve marital problems together.

Learning to honor one’s mate is critical to the success of marriage, Smalley added. “There are treasures in your mate that you have never seen because you’re not looking for them,” he said. Spouses should purpose that their mate is of great value, he said, and then begin making a list of all the things to be treasured in the mate.

This list, along with LUV talk, will immunize one’s marriage against the four relational “germs” that can destroy any marriage, Smalley said.

Those “germs” are:

— Withdrawing from an argument. Every conflict with your mate is a doorway to deeper intimacy, but withdrawing from a healthy discussion of conflict will lead to greater difficulties and anger, Smalley said.

— Escalation. You need five positive encounters for every one negative encounter, he said, recounting that he and his wife plan certain events — such as a day at the park — that are escalation-free, argument-free zones.

— Belittling. This is when one mate acts as if he or she is superior to the other. In effect, you begin parenting your mate and that devalues, Smalley said.

— Believing negative things about your mate without finding out the truth, when you start assuming things about your mate without ever confirming whether it is true. For instance, you decide your mate will think a certain way or act a certain way.

An added benefit to good marital relationships, Smalley also noted, is that it leads to a healthier, longer life.

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  • Jon Walker