Question: Is it possible to love someone and not feel it?

Dr. Dobson: It certainly is - because love is more than a feeling. It is primarily a decision. Married couples who misunderstand this point will have serious problems when the feeling of love disappears for a time.

Couples who genuinely love each other will experience times of closeness, times when they feel apathetic, and times when they are irritated and cranky. That's just the way emotions operate. What then will hold them steady as their feelings bounce all over the landscape? The source of constancy is a commitment of the will. You simply make up your mind not to be blown off the limb by fluctuating and unreliable emotions.

Question: When it comes to raising teenagers, you have said that parents should pick and choose what is worth fighting for, and settle for something less than perfection on issues that don't really matter. I think I understand what you're recommending. You're not suggesting that my husband and I let our kid run wild. Instead, we should choose our battles carefully and not push her into further rebellion by trying to make her something she can't be right now.

Dr. Dobson: That's it. The philosophy we applied with our teenagers (and you might try with yours) can be called "loosen and tighten." By this I mean we tried to loosen our grip on everything that had no lasting significance, and tighten down on everything that did. We said "yes" whenever we possibly could, to give support to the occasional "no." And most important, we tried never to get too far away from our kids emotionally.

It is simply not prudent to write off a son or daughter, no matter how foolish, irritating, selfish or insane a child may seem to be. You need to be there, not only while their canoe is bouncing precariously, but after the river runs smooth again. You have the remainder of your life to reconstruct the relationship that is now in jeopardy. Don't let anger fester for too long. Make the first move toward reconciliation. And try hard not to hassle your kids. They hate to be nagged. If you follow them around with one complaint after another, they are almost forced to protect themselves by appearing deaf.

And finally, continue to treat them with re-spect, even when punishment or restrictions are necessary. Then wait for the placid water in your relationship during their early 20s.

Question: When my husband and I were dating, we could talk for hours about anything and everything. Now that we're married, we go out to dinner and have nothing to say to each other. What has gone wrong? Richard just keeps his thoughts to himself.

Dr. Dobson: Millions of couples experience that transformation. They talked endlessly before marriage, but find themselves with little to say a few years after. When the courtship is over, some people find it very difficult to express their feelings openly and honestly.

As a general rule, this is more true of men than women. Research makes it clear that little girls are blessed with greater linguistic ability than little boys, and it remains a lifelong talent. Simply stated, she talks more than he. As an adult, she typically expresses her feelings and thoughts far better than her husband and is often irritated by his reticence.

God may have given her 50,000 words per day and her husband only 25,000. He comes home from work with 24,975 used up and merely grunts his way through the evening. He may descend into Monday Night Football while his wife is dying to expend her remaining 25,000 words.

Every knowledgeable marriage counselor knows that the inability or unwillingness of husbands to reveal their inner thoughts to their wives is one of the common complaints of women. A wife wants to know what her husband is thinking and what happened at his office, and how he sees the children, and especially how he feels about her. The husband, by contrast, finds some things better left unsaid. It is a classic struggle.

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