Wifey Wednesday: Getting to Deeper Levels of Communication

Getting to Deeper Levels of Commnication with Your Husband--#marriage

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today I want to talk about how to really get to know each other and stay close–even once you’re married. And it all starts with intentionally getting to deeper levels of communication.

Recently a reader from New Zealand sent me this question:

We have only been married just over a year and really loving it. I’ve noticed in some of your recent posts you’ve been covering when she doesn’t wanna and when he doesn’t wanna. This isn’t really applicable to us thanks to a great start to marriage (through God’s grace). But it’s making me wonder if all couples go through a season/period of distance with one another? If it is inevitable I’d really like some pointers from how to approach it from our end, from the beginning. How to spot it, when to have those conversations, when to get help, any prevention strategies etc. Because I’d like to continue having an awesome marriage and although I know we will (and have) face ups and downs, I’d like to have the best go at it that we possibly can.

Great question!

First, Yes, every couple will go through seasons of distance–seasons when you don’t feel as close because of work schedules, the pressure of illness, busy-ness that can’t be avoided, etc.

It is NOT inevitable, though, that you will fall out of love or lose your libido. And much of it rests on being proactive, looking for key tips, like this reader is.

But it also comes from recognizing how to feel close. And that stems from understanding the different levels of communication.

Gary Smalley, in his book The Secrets of Lasting Love, says that there are five levels of communication:

  • Cliches
  • Facts
  • Opinions
  • Feelings
  • Needs

Intimacy increases with each level.

When you hold the door open for someone, you tend to talk in CLICHES: “nice day, isn’t it?”

Many couples spend most of their time communicating at the level of FACTS: “Johnny has band practice tomorrow at 3 and someone has to pick him up at 4:30. Can  you do that on the way home from work?”

OPINIONS isn’t that scary, either: “I just think that my new supervisor is out to get me. She never smiles and nothing I do is right!”

But it’s really in the FEELINGS and NEEDS that we become vulnerable.

“I’m scared that my boss is going to think that the supervisor is right. What if no one recognizes what I’m doing? I just feel so drained when I go to work now, and I’m not sure how much longer I can take this.”

Or NEEDS:

“I want to feel like what I’m doing makes a difference. Lately it’s been so hard to get out of bed because I don’t know if anyone even notices my contributions. What if God is disappointed in me, too? I need to know that someone smiles over me.”

Now, think about how a marriage will be if all of the communication is at the FACTS level. The couple may talk a lot–but they don’t really know each other any better.

And sometimes we think that by sharing opinions we’re really opening up. But we’re not. Opinions are safe–it’s feelings that are vulnerable. It’s feelings that reveal what’s really going on inside of you.

Kiss Me AgainThe problem is that many couples never really learned how to live comfortably at levels 4 and 5. In fact, in the book Kiss Me Again, Barbara Wilson talks about how the level of emotional intimacy we’ve reached when we start to become sexually involved tends to be the level we’re stuck at–unless we take specific steps to overcome that. So couples who have sex early in their relationship end up substituting physical intimacy for emotional intimacy, and have a hard time progressing now into emotional vulnerability because they’ve done things backwards.

That’s one of the reasons that God wants us to wait for marriage to make love!

So some couples may never reach levels 4 and 5 to begin with, and others may have been there, but then seasons of busy-ness come and they start staying at facts and opinions. They don’t have time to become vulnerable.

It’s that sharing of vulnerability, though, that will help you feel close, and here’s why: there are very few people that we actually get down to communication levels 4 and 5 with.

And we tend to bond with those individuals. So you want to make sure that one of those people is your husband! If you’re not sharing at these levels with your husband, then it’s all too easy to get caught up in an emotional affair with someone else. Being vulnerable makes us feel close and increases intimacy–whether within marriage or outside of it. So make sure it’s within marriage!

I know, though, that many of you struggle with this.

You’d like to get to deeper levels of communication, but how do you just begin the conversation?

Hermann Kuschke developed an app called Dare2Share which can help guide you through the different levels of communication. He sent me some codes so that my assistant Tammy could try it with her husband and I could try it with mine, and I was really impressed. In the app there are over 200 conversation prompts that help you learn more about your spouse. (It’s also available for Android, but I’m a Mac person and don’t know where to find that link. But if you search for Dare2Share you’ll find it!)

He suggests beginning each conversation by getting a cup of coffee and sitting together–but you can go for a walk, too. Here are pics from the iPad version:

Getting to Deeper Levels of Communication: Dare2Share app

Then the conversation starts. Each “conversation” has 5 screens, or 5 parts to the question,  that you talk to your spouse about. Everyday you share your day–so you do “card 1″ everyday–and then you add more cards each time.

Card 1 starts with telling you to share, and then explains how:

Share Day

IMG_1781

IMG_1782

What to share as you communicate

Offering to Help: The last part of sharing your day as you enhance communication
It’s such a SIMPLE thing, sharing your day. But how many of us do it well? I think having specific conversation prompts can help us do that!

Now at this point we’re only sharing our day, and chances are you’re still at the “facts” level. But as you get better, when you share your high point and your low point hopefully you’ll start to share feelings as well.

Then you move on to the next conversation prompts. These usually start with a personal experience from the app couple who wrote it, to set the stage, and then progress to the questions.

IMG_1786

At the beginning of the app the questions are pretty basic–they’re focused on sharing facts and opinions, and they’re not that vulnerable.

But as you progress through the pages, you’ll be sharing more and more personal things, and you’ll find that you progress through the levels of communication so that you know each other even better. They even explain the levels of communication, too:

Levels of communication

My assistant Tammy has been married to her husband Steeve for 23 years. He works in a counseling role, so he’s quite used to things like emotional intimacy. But they both found this challenging and enhancing anyway!

Write your Life for your spouse

 

I think this is an excellent model. If you aren’t in the habit of really opening up, going straight to deeply personal questions about fears and dreams can feel fake–because it is. You can’t just jump to level 5. You have to do the work on earlier levels first, so that you have that foundation.

Sometimes we just don’t ask the right questions, and we just don’t know our spouses as well as we could.

I really believe that if we were more intentional about communicating at some of these deeper levels that even when the inevitable seasons of distance come, our marriages could withstand them. We’d still feel intimate and vulnerable with each other. But if all we’re doing is communicating facts and opinions–well, you can do that with anyone. And then what is going to make you want to be with your husband especially? What makes him stand out? Nothing.

So talk to your husband about trying the Dare2Share app, or something like it. Learn more about him–like what he wanted to be when he was 8; what was his worst nightmare; what happened after his first crush. Find out what his dreams and passions are; what things God has put on his heart. And share with him what God has put on yours. Feel close again–and then that’s sure to ignite the sexual side of your marriage, too!

In fact, that’s what Hermann suggests. Some of the exercises AFTER the conversations, as you get more vulnerable, are more sexual! But isn’t that what marriage and intimacy are all about?

Find out more about Dare2Share, or

Dare2Share iPhone

 Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Have something to share with us about marriage? Leave the URL in the linky below, and then be sure to link back here so that others can read these great posts, too!

 



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Wifey Wednesday: Why is it So Hard to Connect?

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?

hard to build connection in your marriage

The Connection Principle in Marriage--part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle
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.

So true!

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!)

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Do you have any marriage advice for us today? Enter the link to your marriage post in the linky below! And be sure to link back here so other people can see these awesome posts!



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Reader Question of the Week: My Husband Won't Help at all Around the House

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

A reader wrote in recently quoting on of my posts:

“We tend to clean the house when we see what needs doing. Men don’t work the same way. So if you ask him for a specific task, he’s more likely to do it.”

She then added, What about when you give him something specific (like “take out the trash” or “unload the dishes”) and it doesn’t get done until it gets out of hand (and then you end up doing it because you can’t stand stepping over the trash anymore, or having the dishes pile up in the sink)?

I think this is a connundrum many women have, and I’d love if we could discuss how to help! Now one warning: Often when I throw out questions like this, someone will say, “you need to recognize how much he DOES do, how hard he works outside the home, or how much yard work he does, etc. etc.” I completely agree. Many men do a ton of work that isn’t housework, and do contribute a ton of hours to the household.

But let’s assume for a minute that she does, too. And what she is saying is, “I don’t want the house to be 100% my responsibility. I think a person can clean up after themselves, or can contribute a little bit when we all live in the same house.”

Then what?  Any thoughts?

Wifey Wednesday: Understanding the Higher Drive Spouse: Bread or Tomatoes?

Understanding the Spouse with the Higher Sex Drive--it's like the difference between bread and tomatoes in sandwiches...
It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can comment or link up your own post below.

Today’s Wifey Wednesday is a Guest Post is from The Mrs. over at Spice and Love, who writes from the perspective of a higher-sex-drive wife. I thought some of  you may appreciate her perspective on understanding the spouse with the higher sex drive!

A few nights ago my husband I were lying in bed falling asleep when he suddenly said, “You know, sex in marriage, for me, is like tomatoes on sandwiches.”

My mouth literally fell open there in the dark.

See, here is the thing. I consider myself a sort of amateur foodie. I like to eat it, I like to make it, I like to read about it, I like to savor it. I will almost always go the extra step in making my food go from just okay to amazing. My husband enjoys good food too, but not enough to go out of his way to make something amazing. Like tomatoes, for instance. He really, really enjoys them on his sandwich. But not enough to do the work of getting them out of the fridge and slicing them to put on his sandwich. If they are sitting there sliced he will always get them. Or if I am making a sandwich and ask him if he wants tomatoes, he will always say yes. But if there are no tomatoes on his sandwich, he is okay. He can still enjoy it.

As I lay in bed I felt like a huge lightbulb had gone off.

I finally understood exactly how he approaches our marriage bed. I began to laugh.

“Babe”, I said, “Sex for me is like the bread. Without the bread, it’s not a sandwich.”


Photo Credit: http://runka.com

I am pretty sure his mouth fell open then.

Because here is the deal. I think he thought that sex was like tomatoes to me, too. I like them enough to always want them on my sandwich, and I will always do the work to get them and slice them. I don’t understand how he can eat a sandwich without them if they are available. But the truth is that sex to me is NOT like a tomato.

Because a sandwich without a tomato is still a sandwich. But marriage without sex? Not marriage.

It was such a helpful conversation. I realized that he does enjoy sex when it is offered and available, but feels like our marriage can still be acceptable without it (not completely without it, but just not as often as me). He realized that sex for me, as the spouse with the higher sex drive, is crucial to our marriage – as in, if we aren’t having it often, I struggle to feel married.

Being a “spicy wife” in a culture that screams out I am abnormal is so challenging. And it’s challenging for my husband too. But, thank God, we are learning after almost seven years of marriage how to finally start communicating about it. So what about you? How do you see sex?

Praying today that God gives you and yours the perfect way to communicate, so you can see through each other’s eyes.

Annabel has been married to the love of her life since 2006. She blogs about love, marriage and sex from the perspective of a higher-drive wife at http://spiceandlove.wordpress.com. Annabel loves all warm drinks, well-written books, and being a foodie. 

Christian Marriage Advice

Do you have any marriage thoughts to share with us today? Like up the URL of your own marriage post in the Linky below!

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Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.



Catch and Release

'Another Blue Baseball Glove' photo (c) 2009, Timothy Takemoto - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here’s this week’s!

Communication has much in common with the game of catch. Both have two parts: one person has to throw, and one person has to receive. If you throw at the same time, and no one tries to catch, you both end up whacked.

There’s been a lot of whacking lately in our home. We’ve all been so busy that we’ve been shouting orders and schedules back and forth faster than teenage boys move when food’s around. But we haven’t necessarily been listening.

This became apparent a while back when I was preparing for a week long speaking road trip in the Maritimes. Air Canada graciously allows its passengers two bags of fifty pounds each, and since I had to transport books to sell, I wanted to make maximum use of those fifty pounds. I was aiming to make each bag 49.5 on the dot, and such a feat is not accomplished quickly. Thus, a week before I left I had those suitcases on my bedroom floor, where I would throw things and stuff things and move things before I weighed things.

The day before I left I wrote out a long note to Keith of all the things he had to do while I was gone—grocery shop, get the kids to piano, help Katie with her Science assignment. He looked at me perplexed.

“Why can’t you do it?”

“Because I won’t be here,” I snapped. He looked surprised when I explained that I was leaving for a week. “But what did you think those suitcases were for?” I asked. He had been tripping over them all week, but their significance had obviously eluded him.

No real communication had taken place.

When families fall into survival mode, where we’re just trying to manage the busy-ness, we often miss basic clues of what’s going on in other people’s lives, because we’re worrying too much about what’s going on in ours. It’s time to learn to catch, and not just to throw. We’ve got to listen.

When I was a teen, my mother devised this brilliant strategy of keeping track of everything. She put a datebook next to the phone, my work schedule, my social life, and my school events all went on that calendar. Today our family uses Google calendar, and last week I hit the “Share” button so that my husband can see my calendar, too. It’s just part of being a good wife.

But I’m not satisfied with only communicating logistics. About 80% of conversation in a family has to do with just these things: who is going to do what, when they’re going to do it, and who has to clean up the mess afterwards. Most couples, for instance, only spend five minutes of conversation a day about non-logistical things. Even when we do talk, we tend to be sharing information, not hearts.

The busy nature of our lives often conspires to rob us of time just to share what’s on our minds. Expecting all the chaos to stop so we can have a face to face conversation with our kids or significant other can be wishful thinking. Besides, in my experience, men and teens both like to communicate side by side, rather than face to face anyway. Instead of sitting across the table chatting, they’d rather be doing something and chatting.

So perhaps, in these chaotic days as the year starts up again, I’ll just try to find ways to share my chaos, side by side, so that I let others in to what’s going on. I’ll share more about my schedule, so that Keith figures out what those suitcases are for. But I’ll also spend more time learning to share hearts, too, so that after all the chaos, I’ll always have somewhere to come home to.

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Marriage VLog: Should You Change to Make Your Marriage Better?

I’m trying to record more little video marriage tips, and here’s today’s! See what you think. And ignore the hair. It was a bad hair day.

My question today: if you change to make your marriage better, are you still being true to yourself?