Now you’re talking – How to open up for better marital connection
by Dr. Dave Currie
To overcome misunderstandings and increase healthy interaction in marriage takes work for all of us. But listen, though we know intuitively that to create better connection we need to risk going deeper in our day-to-day conversations, it’s easier said than done. I’d still argue that the central truth to marital connection is rather simple. It is sharing yourself more often and more open. Read it again and let it sink in – more often and more open. You increase both the amount of interaction and the level of disclosure.
Since we all want to communicate at a more meaningful level in our marriages, we need to take steps to reveal ourselves in growing measure – remember, talking more often and more open. I have observed that there are five levels of marital communication. Each one has its place. To be consistent in sharing at the easier levels, you will grow in your freedom when you get to the more demanding ones. It’s the old “prime the pump” mentality and it works. Try these out.
SMALL TALK: This is the sharing of common life observations. Traffic, weather, today’s news and the like are the safest. We just have to start talking. These general observations of life are non-threatening and non-committal. It’s what you might share in the elevator with a stranger so it shouldn’t be hard with your spouse. When we communicate in these clichés, we really aren’t sharing anything of ourselves yet. It’s all on the surface, like “Nice day, isn’t it?” or “How’d you sleep?” or “How about those Canucks!” We have to start here to set the talk baseline with our mate. It’s easy to communicate at this level because there’s little risk involved. Do it. It’s your warm-up.
SCHEDULE TALK: This involves negotiating life’s details. This is pretty straightforward – it’s interacting to master your day-to-day routines as seamlessly as possible. It’s mostly about time and place. It’s clarifying responsibilities. Who’s doing what and when? To communicate clearly about pick-ups, plans and appointments, especially if you have a vanload of children, it is essential for a healthy flow between you. It’s amazing how a 10-minute discussion on Sunday night about the following week’s events lessens the tension between you. Take a minute to review what you thought your schedule agreement was, to make sure that you are really on the same page. Got it? Plan together.
SHARING TALK: This is giving our opinion about life. It’s the first step of vulnerability when you move beyond facts and schedules to share what you think. The level of openness increases a bit. You give your viewpoint. There’s risk here as your spouse may disagree or have a different perspective. When dealing in facts, we share what we know and observe. We stick to surface details without passing judgment on them. Now you offer your commentary about what’s going on in life. In so doing, you begin sharing YOU. That’s good.
SOCIAL TALK: This is focused interaction about your relationship. You choose to express warmth, interest and fun when with your mate. It’s the banter of teasing, the draw of flirting and the giving of praise. It’s building on all that went on between you when you were dating. We all know love involves risk. It’s sometimes scary to extend our love for fear of rejection. This socializing puts your interest out there for your spouse to embrace and appreciate – and we hope they do. But as the risk of the interchange increases, so does the emotional connection as we allow them a glimpse at what is going on inside us and what we feel about them. Be positive. Be engaging. Be committed. Share your love verbally.
SOUL TALK: Full transparency is the deepest level of communication. It’s here that your heart is laid bare for your spouse to see. You share life’s impact on you. You move from facts, schedules and opinions to reveal how you feel about things. You begin disclosing something of yourself. This is the inner you – your hopes, dreams, fears and frustrations. You share your insecurities, your passions and your faith. You talk about what matters most. We often fear sharing at this depth and don’t do it often. But we must start. This is where the richest love grows. It is uncomfortable because there’s a chance of rejection when your spouse sees you for who you really are. But, this disclosure allows you to love at the deepest level. Risk. Share. Love. Grow.
The deeper you are willing to go in your talking, the more intimate the relationship becomes. Higher levels of communication create better connection. Remember: talk more often and more open. A good marriage can move through all levels with comfort and security. Seek to understand your spouse right to their core. Don’t grow complacent or take them for granted. Put in the effort to get to their heart as you share yours. As you do, you’ll grow in your desire to be with them. So keep “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) as you open up for better marital connection. I’d love to hear from you.
May closeness, passion, and faithfulness continue to grow between you and your spouse! We’d love to hear from you and what you are learning or struggling with in this area. Go to www.DoingFamilyRight.com to share it with us.