Keep Love Alive When the Going Gets Tough

While giving one of his seminars, Gary says a woman approached him.  “When are you going to write a book for me?” she asked.  Gary asked what she meant.  The woman had been married for 17 years and neither she nor her husband believed in divorce.  But their marriage was miserable.  They fought all the time and couldn’t resolve their problems.  They went to counseling for a few sessions, but it didn’t seem to help.  After Gary found out the woman was married to an alcoholic who was irresponsible in his work patterns, he decided to write about this topic.  “These are problems that have lingered for years and whose roots run deep; problems that, if not solved, can and do destroy many marriages,” he says.

All marriages endure ups and downs.  Gary recalls the early years in his own marriage.  “I remember the pain that followed months of trying to do what I thought was right, yet to no avail,” he says.  There were answers and eventually Gary and Karolyn found them.  “If God can come through and give us a good marriage, then He can do that for anyone.”  There was no magic wand that changed their lives, but they stayed with each other until attitudes changed.  “Books, conferences, friends and God all worked together to help us see that much of our destructive behavior grew out of our own insecurities,” he says.  They decided to understand their own personalities; they started listening to each other instead of talking; asking instead of demanding; seeking to understand rather than seeking to get their own ways.  “We came to see ourselves as friends,” says Gary.

They have been married for more than 50 years and Gary says they have come to experience an intimacy he never dreamed possible. Through the years in his counseling profession, Gary has seen people who have dealt with abuse, the unfaithfulness of a spouse, a controlling personality and those who have had to deal with a painful past including child abuse, and who made decisions to improve their relationships.  “Obviously I cannot guarantee you success, but I can guarantee you the satisfaction of knowing that you have given your marriage your best effort.”

Gary says there are 6 realities that can pull couples out of the “no way out” sense of hopelessness:

  1. I am responsible for my own attitude.  Negative thinking begets negative thinking.  
  2. My attitude affects my actions.  If we are negative, it comes out in our actions.  
  3. I cannot change others, but I can influence them.  We can’t change a spouse, but we can and do influence them.
  4. My emotions do not control my actions.  Acknowledge negative emotions but do not follow them.
  5. Admitting my imperfections does not mean that I am a failure.  In order to demolish the walls which are built up over the years, admit past failures and ask for forgiveness.
  6. Love is the most important powerful weapon for good in the world.  Love is not an emotion; it is an attitude demonstrated with appropriate behavior.
  7. Some need more than a “tune up” or a weekend away from the kids.  Gary says marriages that need saving will need a call to action.  “People need to know their marriage is worth fighting for,” he says. “There is no simple formula or medication to fix a diseased marriage.”

Gary addresses keeping love alive during the Alzheimer’s journey in his book, Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade.  The disease slowly unravels the beautiful tapestry woven into long-lasting marriages.  “It is in the commitment to love by choice that empowers us to find appropriate ways to express that decision in the relationally challenging context of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Gary.

Mentioned in the Video

Guest Info


Author of NY Times best-selling 5 Love Languages series which sold more than11 million copies

His latest: Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away, Moody Publishing 2018

Director, Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc.

Travels the world presenting seminars

Radio programs air on more than 400 stations

Married, Karolyn, 57 years

2 adult children

2 grandchildren


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