Marriage Forecasting

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“I’m bullish on Tim Muehlhoff. He’s authentic. He’s anchored in truth. He’s passionate about helping and equipping people. And he is a brilliant communicator. He doesn’t just grab your attention, his pithy writing will transform your life and marriage. Buy this book. Read and apply it. In the months that follow, the climate in your marriage will improve!”

Dr . Dennis Rainey, president, FamilyLife, and host, FamilyLife Today

“Effective communication—speaking the truth in love to one another—is an essential skill for a strong, healthy marriage. Dr. Muehlhoff understands much more than principles for effective communication. He understands how the gospel fundamentally reorders our relationships and changes how we relate to each other. That’s what makes this book so helpful for couples who are committed to a God-glorifying marriage.”

Bob  Lepine, cohost, FamilyLife Today

“Every time Tim Muehlhoff gets up to speak, he commands the audience’s attention from start to finish. I am among his biggest fans, adjusting my schedule to hear his always creative, poignant, funny and God-honoring words. His gift of communication in an auditorium is not outdone by his gift of communication in a book. In his new book, Marriage Forecasting, Tim is refreshingly transparent and honest as he lays out an antidote to the miscommunications that get in the way of so many of us married types. What makes this book even more important to me is that I know Tim, a regular guy who wrestles like the rest of us with how to make a marriage work well and long. Once again through these pages, I marvel at Tim’s remarkable ability to communicate biblical truth in real-world ways.”

Barry H. Corey, Ph.D., president, Biola University

“Every marriage has a climate, and we don’t know a better weather forecaster than Tim Muehlhoff. In every relationship there are either fair skies or storm clouds gathering overhead; Tim will show you how to end the rain and bring back the sunny skies you’ve been missing. Tim is a masterful communi- cator who makes his points with humor and compassion—this is an excellent book.”

Tim and Joy Downs, authors of Fight Fair and One of Us Must Be Crazy

“Dr. Tim Muehlhoff has written a thought-provoking book that is a masterful blend of insight, humor and experience. It is rich with up-to-date, relevant and hopeful advice concerning relationships and marriage. If your desire is to make your friendships better, to navigate (and even thrive!) during the inevitable storms of marriage, or simply to reference a trusted source on communication and conflict, this is your book. It is practical, compelling and a thoroughly enjoyable read that shows you how to improve and strengthen your marriage climate.”

Christopher  Grace, Ph.D., vice president and professor of psychology, Biola University


You and your spouse sit down to have a talk. Both of you are dreading what may follow. It’s the finances again. Each of you has different ideas when it comes to saving and spending, and every time the credit card bill comes, attitudes start to sour. You warn yourself not to get defensive, but as soon as the conversation starts, you are angry. “This is my fault?” you blurt out. Voices rise, the temperature in the room chills, and a storm starts to roll in.

Consider another storm.

In the movie The Perfect Storm, George Clooney’s character, Billy, and his crew make the gutsy decision to sail through the North Atlantic to search for swordfish. They strike it rich. The belly of the Andrea Gail is filled to capacity. This catch alone will earn them more money than they made in the previous two seasons. Debts can be paid and families compensated for time spent away.

There’s only one problem—the weather. The crew receives reports from shore that three massive storms, including a hurricane, are coming together to form a one-of-a-kind nor’easter. Wanting to cash in on their one-of-a-kind catch, Billy disregards the reports and pushes through the storm. They encounter the perfect storm: waves ten stories high and winds exceeding 120 miles per hour.

What do finances and Atlantic storms have to do with each other? The Andrea Gail faced a climate filled with driving rain, hurricane winds and ten-story waves. That’s what you and your spouse face too. Attempts to discuss money put you and your spouse in the middle of a turbulent climate. You faced a communication climate filled with anger, discouragement and waves of defensiveness pounding in on the health of your marriage. And, like the owner of the Andrea Gail, you decided not to wait it out. Desiring to resolve your conflict, you tried to push through the anger and defensiveness. It didn’t work.

My wife, Noreen, and I repeat the same mistakes. When faced with an issue that must be resolved—finances, conflicting schedules, differing priorities—we grit our teeth and force our- selves to discuss it again. Like the crew of the Andrea Gail, we batten down the hatches, stow the sails and try to push through the storm. We mistakenly think that what’s needed is more communication. “Solving marital problems can be like freeing one- self from quicksand,” writes one author. “The harder you try to make things better, the less things change.”  Ironically, what may be needed is not more communication but an assessment of the environment in which communication happens.

Marriage Forecasting is based on the simple idea that marriages are a lot like the weather. Some marriages have a stable climate, while others have an unpredictable one. For some of you, the climate of your marriage is like that in Southern California—bright sunshine and wonderful predictability. For others, marriage is a lot like living in the Midwest, where they say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a five minutes and it’ll change.” More than likely, you are somewhere in between: seasons of turbulence, seasons of calm.

Ignoring the climate of our marriage carries severe consequences. It greatly reduces the effectiveness of our communication with each other. Couples ought to place a “Weather Permitting” sign over every conversation before it begins. Just as a runner checks the heat index and plans his or her run accordingly, marriage partners should attempt to discuss potentially volatile issues only when the climate in the marriage is conducive to positive communication. Sometimes the wisest thing a couple can do in a marriage is postpone talking about key issues and instead work on improving the general climate within the marriage.

Marriage Forecasting equips you to make a climate reading of your marriage and to develop communication strategies to improve it. The good news: communication climates are not exactly like the weather. While the weather outside is out of our control, the communication climate within our home is largely our responsibility.

If your current marital climate is cold and lacks intimacy, it can be improved by using some simple communication strategies. Marriage Forecasting applies research in the area of marital communication, listening skills, empathy and conflict resolution. While teaching on marriage for over twenty years and navigating the storms of my own marriage, I’ve collected some valuable strategies on adjusting the climate of a marriage.

The communication principles in this book are rooted in the wisdom of the Scriptures. You may be surprised how much the Bible has to say about conflict, forgiveness, empathy, marriage, sexual intimacy, balancing schedules, priorities and the power of words. While they do not refer to communication climates directly, the Scriptures describe the enormous influence timing and setting play in our communication. The book of Proverbs states that a word spoken in the right circumstances at the right time is “like apples of gold in settings of silver” (25:11). The conditions in which you choose to speak, suggest these wise conversationalists, are just as important as what you say.

How This Book is Organized

“Don’t knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while,” quips humorist Ken Hubbard. In this book we won’t just talk about marital climates. We’ll focus on how to change the climate of your marriage by considering three vital skills. First, we’ll look at the four key components that make up every communication climate: acknowledgment, expectations, commitment and trust. Second, you’ll learn how to take an accurate climate reading of your marriage. (Is the atmosphere of my marriage supportive or defensive? Do I feel valued? When we discuss sensitive issues, what do I expect to happen—debate or dialogue?) Third, you’ll come to understand how to steadily improve the relational climate of your marriage. Chapter four introduces you to the key idea of relational investments that can over time strengthen a couple’s sense of commitment.

Specifically, this book will help you do the following:

  • Recognize how the cultural climate surrounding you influences your marital climate.
  • Identify words and actions that foster a positive communication climate.
  • Invest thirty seconds a day to keep a positive climate strong.
  • Understand what causes a poor communication climate to develop.
  • Stop negative communication from spiraling out of control.
  • Effectively assess conflict.
  • Understand the role gender plays in creating positive or negative climates.
  • Rebuild trust in your relationship if trust has been severed.
  • Call a truce in your marriage.
  • Understand how your relationship with God deeply influences your marriage.

Mountain climbers have a saying: “You can’t schedule a summit. You can only hope for one.” The climate surrounding a mountain will dictate what you can or can’t do on any given day. In the history of Mt. Everest, more than 120 climbers have died trying to climb it. Many of these experienced climbers perished because they, like the crew of the Andrea Gail, worked against the climate, not with it. Success was within the grasp of each of these climbers. All they needed to do was be patient and wait for bad weather to break. The good news about communication climates is that we don’t have to helplessly wait for them to improve. We can make the change happen.