Q: I want to do something special for my wife for Valentine's Day beyond the usual dinner and flowers, but I'm at a loss. Do you have any ideas?
Jim: Don't underestimate the power of dinner and flowers! Many wives would love to be shown that much attention on Valentine's Day. Just be sure that she knows your gift comes from the heart, and is not just a holiday obligation.
You also might consider turning a Valentine's Day date into the gift that keeps on giving. Focus on the Family's resident marriage expert, Dr. Greg Smalley (a frequent contributor to this column), has cited a wealth of research showing that married couples who engage in regular date nights enjoy a stronger bond. Maybe this year, Valentine's Day could signal the start of a commitment to begin intentionally dating your wife on a regular basis.
Certainly, with careers, kids and other obligations, it can be tough to find the time for regular date nights. But the benefits of making it happen are well documented. Many couples have committed to going on a date at least once a month for a year. I'm guessing a commitment of this nature is a present your wife would appreciate even more than chocolates or flowers. For more information, go to www.focusonthefamily.com/datenight.
Q: My husband and I both used drugs before we were married. We were able to conquer our habit together several years ago. Recently, he confessed that he has been using recreational drugs on occasion to deal with stress and depression. Because he has kept this from me and because he is using again, it has put a huge strain on our marriage. I am becoming very angry and don't know how to help my husband or deal with my emotions. What should we do?
Dr. Greg Smalley, executive director of Marriage and Family Formation: We're sorry to learn of your husband's relapse. Obviously, there are two critical factors to consider here: 1) the drug use itself and 2) the damage his behavior has done to your marital relationship.
When it comes to the drug use, your husband needs to enroll in a treatment program immediately. I take it as a good sign that he confessed his behavior to you, rather than you "catching him in the act." This suggests that he feels remorse for his decisions and, hopefully, wants to seek help. We would recommend a comprehensive treatment program called Thriving: Recover Your Life (www.thrivingrecovery.org).
It's also critical that you and your husband work together to address the fallout in your marriage as a result of broken trust. All too often, once a problem is exposed and the negative activity has been brought to a halt - whether it be drug use, adultery, gambling or something else - many people tell themselves that all is well. But in reality, very little healing can occur unless the root issues behind your husband's drug use are found and treated. A paradigm shift has to take place at the heart of your marriage. Without that shift, you can become hopelessly trapped in an ongoing pattern of grief, anger or depression.
Here again, it's important that you and your husband enlist outside help. You need to find a qualified marriage counselor who can help you both work together to build trust. Seeking counseling isn't an admission of defeat; rather, it's a bold proclamation that you're both willing to do whatever it takes to heal and to help your marriage thrive. Contact Focus on the Family for a free consultation with a counselor, as well as a referral to qualified professionals in your area.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.