By Dr. Harold Sala

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  1 Corinthians 13:1

A young wife was pouring out her heart to her mother, describing how her husband had forgotten her birthday. Annoyed, she said, “Men are good for just one thing!”  “Yes,” said her mother, adding, “And thank goodness we don’t have to parallel park very often.”

I’ve never quite figured out why, but its true:  It’s men—not women—who usually end up in the dog house.  Interested in knowing how to get out of the dog house?  Today’s advice can save you from big trouble.

Key #1:  Make it a habit to remember. Make a list of birthdays, anniversaries, important days and put them in your calendar. It may not be important to you. It is to the woman in your life. “Do you know what today is?” a wife asked her husband.  “Oh, yes!” he exclaimed, not wanting to admit he didn’t know. All day long he wracked his brain. “What is today?” He asked his secretary. He even called his mother. Nobody knew what was special. To be on the safe side, he bought flowers from the florist and took her out for dinner. Still not sure what they were celebrating, as they climbed into bed, he asked, “Well, did today live up to your expectations?” “What do you mean?” she asked.  “Well, remember, you asked me this morning if I knew what day this was?” “Oh that!” she exclaimed, adding, “I just couldn’t remember the date—that’s all!”

Key #2:  Get out of the dog house by demonstrating your love—not just saying it. Talk is cheap. Diamonds are not. But flowers are affordable. They make a statement that you remembered and went out of your way to say, “I love you.” And, please, don’t be like the young man who remonstrated, “Why buy flowers—they just die!” In his book, Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman contends that different people have  different love languages. He believes there are five basic ways people express their love: 1) By saying it. 2) Through gifts. 3) By touching someone physically. 4) By acts of service: fix the dripping faucet, take out the garbage, put up the light in the sewing closet. Do something without being asked. 5) Express love by spending quality time together.

Love is a decision, a commitment to care, and demonstrating that goes far beyond a Valentine’s card or a box of candy.

Key #3: Get out of the dog house by doing something special. Like what? Try breakfast in bed. Volunteer to baby sit while your wife goes shopping. Arrange to go to the dentist with her instead of saying, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.  That little shot won’t hurt much, and then you can’t feel it when he takes out your tooth.”  Try asking her what she would like to watch on TV, even if it means you don’t see the game you wanted to watch.  Recognize she is a person with feelings and emotions.

Key #4:  Get out of the dog house by admitting your mistakes and failures. “Before we married my husband was ‘Mr. Right,’” said one girl. “Then after we married, he was ‘Mr. Always Right!’” Let’s face it, men. You know more about mechanical things than your wife. You understand what makes computers work. But  balance that against what she knows that you don’t know. Saying, “I was wrong. Please forgive me!” with sincerity and genuineness will open the dog house door.

Key #5: Try to understand, listen, and then communicate. Men, never close your lips to the one to whom you have opened your heart. Being open and vulnerable melts the ice and helps dissipate misunderstanding.

Key #6: Lead the way spiritually. Praying together, going to church together, and just having fun together builds strong relationships. Frankly, there are a lot more ways of getting into the dog house than getting out of it; but believe me, nothing succeeds like sincerity, honesty, openness and being vulnerable. And don’t forget your wife’s birthday or your anniversary.

Resource reading: 1 Corinthians 13.