By Dr. David B. Hawkins, Crosswalk.com
“I don’t feel close to my husband,” Jane said to me, her husband sitting right next to her. She had shared this in response to me asking what she and her husband wanted out of their Marriage Intensive.
“Why is that?” I asked, wondering why she would say something like this, given she and her husband, Darren had been married for over 10 years.
“He works 10 hours a day, has an hour commute, and I and the kids get an exhausted man when he gets home.”
Darren stiffened at her words.
“The first thing I do,” he said defensively, “is come and greet you. I don’t know what more you want from me.”
“I want a lot more,” she said softly. “I want companionship. I want to know what is going on inside you. I want to feel closely connected to you. That’s why we are at this Intensive.”
“I tell you about my workday,” he continued. “That’s what’s going on inside me. I tell you the problems I’m having in the office. That’s all I have inside me.”
Darren appeared to be getting very defensive and agitated.
“She says this to me all the time,” he said, clearly exasperated. “I just don’t know what else she wants and it makes me mad.”
“Can you tell him?” she asked, looking to me. “I’ve shared it all before. He’s heard me rant about needing vulnerability from him. Can you tell him?”
“Maybe,” I said. “But, I’m betting you can share more. Why don’t you turn to him and tell him the perfect evening? What would you like to have happen and let’s see if he is able to connect with you?”
“Connection,” she said quickly. “That’s the word. I want connection. I want vulnerability. I want to know what you are feeling, what you want out of life.”
“Okay,” I said. “Tell him what the perfect evening would look like. How would it feel? What exactly would happen?”
Jane launched into complaints about the way the evening typically unfolded, with Darren arriving home, turning on the television, or checking his emails. She noted how he busied himself with tasks needing his attention around the home.
“I’d still like you to tell him the perfect evening,” I said.
She shared the following:
“Okay. I’d like you to come in the door ready to relate with me. I’d like you to turn off your cell phone, sit down with me and the kids for a nice dinner and then help me get the kids to bed. Then, after the kids are down, I’d like us to sit and talk about our lives. I’d like us to dream together—where we want to go on vacation, whether we want to downsize our house, how involved we want to be in church, ways for us to develop more friends together. I want you to take an interest in me, asking me about my dreams and hopes. I want you to share those same things with me. I want us to share our feelings with each other.”
“Wow,” Darren said. “I don’t do feelings and I don’t do a lot of dreaming. I’m busy taking care of problems at work and at home.”
“Yes,” Jane said. “I know. But, I want us to be vulnerable with each other. That’s the way I really feel close to you. I want you to be as excited and interested in me as you are in your work.”
Having this conversation with me was a critical turning point for Darren and Jane and many others who find themselves drifting emotionally. While many couples spend time together, it is often filled with distraction, exhaustion, and tension. Marriage cannot thrive in such an atmosphere.
Couples often drift apart. It rarely happens in an instance, but rather a slow disintegration over time.
In a display of vulnerability, much like what is needed in marriage, the Apostle Paul says these words to the church in Corinth:
“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affections from you, but you are withholding yours from us… open wide your hearts also.” (2 Corinthians 6: 11-13)
Let’s discuss how this couple and others can work together on this critical issue of vulnerable communication:
First, be honest with each other about your current connection. While it may be painful, share with each other how you feel about your connection. Be honest. Discuss such topics of emotional connection, how you spend your time, whether you are having fun in your marriage and enjoying physical intimacy. Share personally and vulnerably.
Second, share with each other what real connection looks like to you. Don’t get stuck talking only about what is not happening in your marriage. Talk about what you’d like to see happen. Be specific, sharing exactly how you’d like to spend your time and what would make your marriage more exciting and connected. Take an active interest in your mate, rediscovering them again. What dreams do you have? What dreams would you like to have?
Third, make plans for developing intimacy, connection, and vulnerability. Intimacy and vulnerability will not simply happen. You must develop a plan for how this will occur. How will you create an atmosphere for closeness to develop? Don’t be impatient. If you have not experienced closeness for some time, cultivating closeness will take time and effort. Even small bits of time spent intentionally and focused on each other, can help in achieving closeness.
Fourth, enjoy your new connection. Notice what works and what doesn’t as you change your lifestyle. Notice how you feel as you spend time together. Be adventuresome. Try new experiences. Share openly and candidly with each other and enjoy each other’s company.
Finally, hold each other accountable for following through with your plan. Again, change won’t just happen. Be intentional as you spend more time with each other. Take special care to carve out moments of time even when blocks of time are not available. Do find blocks of time, however, when you can really enjoy each other’s company.
God designed us for relationship and you will feel neglected if you are not attending to this in your marriage. Marriage can also be a wonderful place where we reflect God to the world. Make rebuilding your marriage a priority.
Do you need to reconnect with your mate? If you would like further help, we are here for you. Please send responses to me at [email protected] and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives.
Photo courtesy: ©Unsplash/Osman Rana
Publication date: January 10, 2017