It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today I want to talk about the heart of marriage: connection. We get married because we want to feel this deep connection to someone, and yet too often, years go by and we feel like we’re just drifting. What happened?
Pastor and life coach Chuck Taylor has written a fun and easy-to-follow book called The Connection Principle, which outlines three communication tools for getting what you want in your marriage.
I talk a lot about how to be giving in marriage on this blog: How to love your husband, think about his needs, and do the right thing.
But let’s be honest: sometimes focusing on what he needs feels really lonely. It just does. And what if you’re feeling more and more distant?
That’s where reality hits, and Chuck really gets it. It’s not wrong to want to feel close to your husband. It’s not wrong to want to feel as if he loves and values you.
But what IS wrong is often how we go about trying to get those feelings. And too often we don’t understand that sometimes all it takes is a little tweak in our communication patterns to bring a whole new dynamic to a marriage.
As Shaunti Feldhahn reminded us earlier this year in her book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages (our April selection!), in over 90% of marriages your husband wants the best for you. He really does. So if you’re feeling unloved, chances are it’s not that he doesn’t love you. It’s simply that you’re not communicating well.
Here’s how Chuck explains the Communications Gap:
The communication gap in marriage happens when we fail to communicate our intentions or expectations and instead assume the other person just somehow automatically understands fully what we want them to know…
The gap feels like the moment that you want your husband to talk to you after a long day at work, but he instead retreats to the TV and you are left feeling neglected. Or maybe your wife stays up all night checking in on everyone on Facebook world while you are left wondering if she even finds you attractive anymore.
The communication gap is the poison that slowly kills marriages.
So how do you bridge it?
Three steps: Confirm the Information; Connect Value with the Individual; and Convey Your Thoughts.
The first step is listening well–your spouse wants something or says something, and you want to make sure both that you understood what they were saying, and that they KNOW you understood it. Simple things that can feel “fake” actually make a huge difference here–repeating what they said; rewording what they said; etc.
And conveying your thoughts–the last one–also feels “funny”, but it really works! It’s about asking in a way that the other person hears–and checking in throughout the conversation to ensure that they “got it”.
We tend not to like these because they make conversations seem mechanical. Where’s the flow? Where’s the spontanaeity? Where’s feeling as if he’s reading my mind and we’re in sync with each other?
But as Chuck says,
I will ask the woman, “Do you want a marriage that is full of exciting mystery or do you want a good marriage that is free of conflict?” It is incredibly difficult to have both simultaneously.
But it’s the middle step I really want to talk about today, because it’s the one we have the most problems with.
Whenever you are talking, make sure you convey to your husband that you think he’s valuable.
Let him see what you appreciate! Again, one of the best habits to develop is to learn to say “thank you”. To a guy, that has the same emotional punch as “I love you” to a woman.
But let’s take it one step further. And to do that, I want to share the story Chuck told about Jerome and Alicia:
Jerome and Alicia came to me to improve their moderately successful marriage by defining their family values with cooperative expectations. As we discussed the areas they wanted to improve, Alicia expressed that she wanted Jerome to just do things around the house without being told what to do and how to do it. I asked her to give me an example of what that might look like.
“Well, the dishes are a great example. It’s not like he can’t see the dishes sitting in the sink. He has to look at them or even move them out of the way to fix his food or get a drink. Why can’t he just stop and put them in the dishwasher?” she shrieked.
“Does he know how to clean to your specifications?” I asked.
“Yes. When I tell him to.” Alicia replied.
“And what do you say when he does do the dishes?” I asked.
“Well, I say thank you.” Assuming I expected her to respond with more than that, she continued, “What? I’ve gotta say something more than that?” Alicia looked frustrated.
So to make my point I asked,
“Alicia, picture an evening when Jerome has just finished the dishes to your satisfaction. Now, tell me which of these statements sounds better to you? ‘Thank you Jerome’ or ‘Wow, now that looks like a great kitchen! I am so glad to have a husband that is willing to help around the house. I am so grateful to have a man like you with me. Thank you, babe.’”
At this point Jerome was grinning from ear to ear. Clearly I had discovered the message he had been looking to hear for a long time.
“I need to say that every time he does something around the house?” Alicia shrieked again.
“No. But you came in here with the goal of having a great marriage. Do you really want a great marriage or do you just want a good marriage?” I asked.
“No. No. You are right. I want a great marriage,” she replied.
I have to admit: I don’t do this enough. I guess part of me, like Alicia, assumes Keith should just “know”.
But what would happen if we did? What would happen if we started heaping real praise onto our husbands? Would that change the whole communication dynamic? I think it would.
And so I’m going to try to be far more intentional about what I say to Keith.
Yes, we want communication to be “natural”. But maybe we’re valuing the natural too much? What if quality communication is something that has to be learned–and practiced?
How can you intentionally go about communicating value to your husband today?
In The Connection Principle, Chuck has tons of discussion questions and challenges for couples, so this is a great book to read WITH your husband. Lots of tips for him, too, on how to communicate better with you!
I think this is a great resource. And if the only thing you get out of it is this short, easy to read book you can work through with your hubby (or read on your own), it’s well worth it! Your marriage will thank you (and so will your hubby!)
Read a few pages. Do what it says. Have incredible fun!
Learn to talk more, flirt more, and even explore more! You'll work on how to connect emotionally, spiritually, AND physically. And the ebook version is only $4.99!