Q. We have a good marriage but we don't seem to be connecting heart-to-heart like we did earlier in our marriage. Got any coaching for strengthening our emotional connection?
Do you remember those days when you first met your spouse? You would make eye contact and your heart would skip a beat? You may have had butterflies in your stomach when he held your hand or she looked into your eyes with that look. You know the look! But then often, after the ring goes on couples have told us that they begin to sense the fire of the connection, long nights of "just talking," longing to just "be with each other" begin to give way to diapers, housework, jobs, bills and the stress of living life. And don't even start with parenting your kids through their teen years.
We believe that although you have to "work at it," you can recapture heart-to-heart connection and it can be more meaningful than when you were dating—but it takes desire, commitment, and discipline. Yes, discipline (ugh).
Let's start with desire. You likely know the romance described in the biblical book of Song of Songs. "I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me." Some of you just got flushed in the cheeks with that description. And a bit of blushing is good for any marriage. In this passage we know that Solomon was describing two lovers. And we want that verse to describe all of our marriages, don't we? It starts with desire! The desire for your spouse. To connect. To want. To long for. To make it priority. To desire to put down our own selfish needs (even though they likely can be defended) and put the needs of connecting with our one-and-only on a regular basis. It means to put aside time, save energy, express our desire to connect heart to heart, and to be teachable when you capture those great moments. To ask questions, to listen, to encourage and to validate our spouse's experiences and heart. Our book 40 Unforgettable Dates offers hundreds of questions at five different levels of transparency to get you started and to maintain a steady pacing of connection. But questions between lovers expressing desire start with simple “above the waterline” queries to going “below the waterline” expressing deep longings, encouraging words and tender thoughts.
Once the desire is set, it takes moving toward commitment. We know you are committed to your marriage. You have stepped into the covenant of marriage and deeply desire to be found faithful and to finish the race with your spouse. But it takes commitment to put down your walls of self-protection and not only start well, but continue to run the race of connection. We have learned from my (Gary's) parent's modeling of daily communication. They were committed to putting aside time at the end of their work day to connect. We have followed suit. Barb knows when we sit in our chairs by the fireplace it is "connection time." We don't talk about bills, kids (at least most of the time), episodes of anger or conflict. We have one purpose: to show our commitment to the process of connection. We walk away reminded of why we married in the first place...because we were best friends and lovers and have continued to light those fires.
And then ultimately, it takes discipline. Even when you don't feel like it. Even when you have a good reason to skip the "chair time." Even when you would rather "bark" at each other than look into each other's eyes and souls for a time of connection. Just like the Nike commercial: "just do it." Step up and into loving connection with your spouse. It may be awkward at first but will grow as you grow in oneness. When Peter writes "husbands in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives..." he is giving us the framework for connection. Consideration and understanding represent an "other-centered" approach to heart to heart communication. Not only wanting to be "heard" but seeking to understand and listen.
Can you do it? Yes! How? Start somewhere. Start here! Start today and know we are cheering you on!