Have You Learned Anything New About Your Spouse Lately?

122/365 days of blogging.

I found this article intriguing.  It comes from the Sept/Oct issue of Thriving Family.

Your school days may be long behind you, but you never need to stop learning.  Careers, hobbies, parenting– life is full of opportunities to grow and gain new knowledge.  Unfortunately, there is one subject that far too many adults stop learning about:  the person they married.

During the dating period, most couples engage in an intoxicating process of “drinking in” the other person.  Conversations have the air of “Tell me more; I’m all ears,” and “I’ve got nowhere else to go.”  Each person feels heard, acknowledged and affirmed, and the result is intimacy — the deeply satisfying sense of knowing and being known by another person.

When a couple gets married and settles into everyday life, however, the responsibilities of work, housekeeping, child care, family finances and other commitments often move those “I’m all ears” conversations to the back burner.  There’s just not time.  Husbands and wives are routinely exhausted, and their conversations become, at best, mere business discussions — “Who’s picking up the dry cleaning?” or “Hey, we’re out of milk.”  At worst they’re disagreements that can flare up into full-blown fights.

For these and other reasons, the natural drift in a marital relationship is to stop learning about the other person and to lose track of his or her thoughts and feelings.

After a few years (or decades) or this, a husband or wife may experience a very rude awakening:

  • One night, in bed, she can’t sleep while he snores and an ominous train of thought pulls into her mental station:  I don’t know this person in my  bed anymore, and I’m not sure I want to.
  • The wife that he thought was so compatible with his beliefs and future dreams makes a jolting announcement:  “I don’t believe in God anymore” or “I’ve decided to move out.”
  • The last child leaves the nest, and a couple realizes that they have nothing to talk about.
  • The need for these “tell me more” conversations that haven’t happened at home for months or years is fulfilled by someone else, and this verbal intimacy leads to physical intimacy.

People who took their wedding vows with the utmost sincerity, who have been staunchly committed to faith and family, fall into trouble when they don’t grow and change with their spouse throughout their marriage.  We need to continually “update” our knowledge about our spouse.

That is why it is so important that you and your spouse continue to learn about each other throughout your marriage.  Lifelong learning about your spouse requires time, communication, persistence, imagination, patience and ….did we mention time?  Unless you create some space in your schedules to have these conversations, they won’t happen.

Each week set aside an hour or so to “check-in” with your spouse — not for the business of running your home, but to find out what the other person is thinking and feeling.  For these conversations to be productive, keep the following in mind:

  • Timing is important.  You can’t share your heart with each other when you’re rushed or exhausted.
  • Distractions should be minimized.  The TV should be off, phones out of reach, computers on sleep mode and kids engaged elsewhere or put to bed.
  • Listening to the other person is critical.  Rebuttals, watch checking and eye rolling all deliver intimacy-withering messages:  “what you’re saying is stupid” or “You shouldn’t feel that way.”
  • Open-ended questions keep the communication flowing smoothly.  “What do you think about _____?”  “What most concerns you about _____?”  “Can you help me understand.”
  • Husbands, don’t assume you need to help your wife “fix” something that’s bothering her, unless she specifically asks you to.
  • Wives, it’s OK to let your husband know whether you’re looking for a solution or merely a listening ear and a comforting hug.
  • Don’t be discouraged by misfires.  Your best effort to draw the other person out could be interrupted by a crying child or might unintentionally open a wound or provoke an argument.  Nothing works perfectly every time, so regroup and try again later.

The benefits of regular checking-in routine can’t be overestimated.  For one thing, you are far less likely to be caught off guard by something that hs been brewing in your spouse’s mind and heart.  Better yet, you have the opportunity to help your spouse sort through concerns that may be difficult to put into words.  Walking together through this process creates both trust and closeness.  When a couple makes this a regular habit, their bond is virtually unbreakable – and their marriage immensely satisfying.

I am so blessed to have a husband who makes sure that we set apart time to spend together.  Being a Pastor, he is already prone to being burnt out and he makes time for us to spend together on a daily basis.  Even if it is a few minutes before we go to sleep at night.  Being the church secretary, I can go to his office anytime I want to spend time with him during the day.  Albeit he has people stopping by all hours of the day that prevents that, he is really good about telling me when a counseling session is over and we can steal a few minutes to just chat about what is going on in our lives.  We also try to steal away at least one weekend a month (well Friday evening to Saturday night).

Something new I have learned about my spouse:  When he was a kid, his favorite TV show was “The 3 Stooges.”  Blech!  I can’t stand The 3 Stooges.  Well I guess I have an idea for a birthday or Christmas present.  🙂

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