I really like this quote from Simone Signoret, a French actress: “Chains do not hold marriages together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.”
This quote expresses a great truth. First, “chains do not hold marriages together.” Marriages are not supported and given life through demands and obligations. And yes, there are many demands and obligations that enchain our marriages.
Our identity as a couple enchains us. As our relationship grows (even before we are married) our friends begin to think of us as a “couple.” When one is absent from the “couple,” our friends ask about the “missing piece.” Our identity as a “couple” binds us together. To separate means breaking the chains of our identity as a couple.
Shared possessions. Buying a house together. Renting under both our names. Getting a pet together. Purchasing a car in both our names. These shared possessions and others like them become chains that bind us together. They make separating more costly as well as more complex and difficult.
Having a child together binds us to one another. When a couple has a child, they share the responsibility, the joys, and the struggles of raising a new life. They both feel love for their child. And the love each of them feels for their child makes separating much more complex and difficult.
As you can see, these chains are not necessarily negative. An identity as a couple, owning possessions together, and having a child are wonderful, joyous experiences. But they also make ending the relationship more costly, more complex, and more difficult. In that sense, they bind us together. They represent the “chains” that hold our marriages together.
But chains, in and of themselves, are not enough to create a healthy, lifelong marriage. In fact, these “chains” can either nurture a stronger marriage or further weaken a struggling marriage. We need something more. We need “threads, hundreds of tiny threads,” to sew us together into a healthy, lifelong marriage. What are those threads?
Admiration and adoration. Healthy marriages grow stronger when each person voices their admiration and adoration of the other on a daily basis. Healthy couples express their admiration through words of encouragement, compliments, praises, and more. Each time you recognize and comment on your wife’s beauty, your husband’s work ethic, your wife’s unending work, or your spouse’s contribution to the house becomes a thread sewing us more tightly together. Each compliment and praise, each recognition of a task completed, and each vocalization of admiration for your spouse’s character or appearance will become a thread that sew us together into a healthy, lifelong marriage. (Here’s a math equation you love to help you do this on a daily basis.)
Gratitude. Every expression of gratitude becomes another thread sewing a marriage together for a lifetime. Daily expressions of gratitude for cooking, cleaning, working, mowing lawns, picking up groceries, passing the salt, taking out the garbage…the list goes on… become tiny threads sewing us together into a healthy marriage.
Acts of service become threads sewing us together. Service does not have to be extravagant. Simply pouring your spouse a drink, running the bathwater, completing a chore to make their day easier, warming up the car…they all become the tiny threads of a strong intimacy.
Responding. Each time our spouse speaks offers us an opportunity to sew another tiny thread in place to strengthen our marital bond. Simply responding in awareness and love, being responsive, sews our marriages together. To sew the thread of responsiveness demands sewing another thread, the thread of listening.
Physical affection. I’m not talking about sexual affection, just simple nonsexual physical affection. Holding hands, walking arm in arm, a loving hug goodnight, a gentle caress of the back, a little kiss goodbye for the day…they all become tiny threads holding our marriages together.
Apologies. Every couple will experience disagreements and misunderstandings. Every person will do something they wish they hadn’t done in their marriage. Mistakes will be made. However, the thread of apology will repair the breach created by that misunderstanding or mistake. The thread of apology will strengthen your marriage.
As you can see, the tiny threads that sew us together in a healthy marriage are the daily actions of love. They are often small but, taking together, they sew together a bond that will last a lifetime.
It seems as though disrespect is rampant in our world today. We see it every day. But I believe that if we intentionally open our eyes and look, we also find respect alive and well in our world. And we want to keep respect alive and well… growing more prominent in our world. To make that happen, we teach our children to show respect. We encourage them to add their own respectful actions and words into our world.
Fortunately, teaching our children respect is not the world’s duty. The world displays too much disrespect to make it a good teacher. No, teaching respect to our children is our duty; and the lessons begins at home through the creation of a respectful home environment. How do we build an environment of respect in our homes? Here are 6 ways to get you started.
Speak politely. Say “thank you” and “please.” Use a polite tone of voice, even when you want to request that another person change their behavior or when you want to voice a complaint about some inappropriate behavior. An environment of respect is filled with expressions gratitude and appreciation, compliments and encouragements. Building a home environment of respect involves speaking politely.
Listen respectfully. Listening is an act of great respect…and it involves more than just responding. So don’t interrupt. Listen carefully. Allow family members to complete their thoughts before responding. Listen attentively to understand and make sure you understand before you respond.
Make requests respectfully. It’s easy to shout across the room to make a request or demand some change of behavior. But that does not show respect. And it’s ineffective. To sit at the table and yell across the room demanding our children quit arguing is disrespectful. So is yelling from our seat in front of the TV for our spouse to get us a drink. It is much more respectful to get up and approach our family member, asking them for what we want in a calm voice.
Allow autonomy whenever possible. Let your children dress themselves, even if they like wearing pants that don’t match their shirt. Allow your spouse to have an opinion different than yours …and appreciate their opinion enough to learn about it and allow it to influence you. Approach the differences with love, knowing that differences of opinion and taste do not represent a personal affront. They represent our unique perspectives and personalities. Allowing differences and autonomy reveals respect for our individual differences of opinions and tastes. It helps establish an environment of respect.
When you see a family member acting disrespectfully, correct their behavior… respectfully. Begin by identifying the underlying contributors to their disrespectful behavior. Were they emotionally hurt? Did they feel treated unfairly? Were they acting impulsively? Were they asserting their will? Have they started a habit of disrespect? Knowing the underlying contributors to their behavior allows you to respond in a more respectful and effective way. Take a moment to teach them how to meet the need that undergirded the disrespect. Teach them the impact of disrespect on their relationships and importance of respect for healthy relationships. Do it respectfully.
Most importantly, realize that our children will “catch respect” more readily than they will be “taught respect.” Set the example of respect. Let them see you treating them and others with respect. Let the respectful environment begin with you.
I’m sure you can think of more ways to teach your children to act respectfully. Write your tips in the comment section below. We can all benefit from one another’s knowledge.
Marriage can provide us with a taste of heaven on earth…or leave us living in hell on earth. Unfortunately, we don’t generally receive training in how to make our marriages a happy, fulfilling experience. I know you can’t learn everything you need to know about a wonderful marriage in a blog but let me give some tips to offer a good start. Here are 6 tips for making your marriage a taste of heaven on earth.
Practice radical generosity.Radical generosity means giving your whole life to your spouse. Give your best energy to your spouse. Give service to your spouse…with joy. Give affection to your spouse on a daily basis. Give your spouse compliments. Give your strength and effort in keeping a home. Give your time by doing an extra chore. Give your time by engaging your spouse in conversation and togetherness. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt, even when they hurt you. Give all of this and more with radical generosity.
Be the first. Of course, be the first to apologize when you make a mistake. Be the first to apologize when an argument arises or when you have a disagreement, even when it isn’t your fault. Be the first to volunteer to do a chore around the house. Be the first to offer your services to your spouse. Be the first to offer genuine forgiveness. Be the first to sacrifice for the good of your spouse and your marriage. Be the first.
Don’t complain, adore instead. We often find it easier to complain and nag than to adore and compliment. Make an intentional effort to look for the positive in your spouse and your marriage and then acknowledge those positives verbally. In fact, set a goal to say nine positive things to and about your spouse for every one negative. That’s a 9-positive to 1-negative rule. Verbally appreciate or adore your spouse multiple times every day. Focus on the joy and the beauty your spouse adds to your life and verbalize your appreciation of it on a daily basis. Doing so will change your marriage.
Have fun. Make it a point to laugh with your spouse. Find activities you can engage in together just for fun. You might enjoy bike riding, reading a book together, sampling restaurants, hiking, going for walks, listening to music, going to plays…. The list is endless. Make it a habit to enjoy at least one fun conversation daily and at least one fun activity weekly. Have fun together. Laugh. Celebrate your love.
Listen deeply. Listen with respect to hear their wisdom. Listen to understand their intent. Listen to understand their emotions. Listen to understand their desires. Listen so you can understand their view of the world. Listen so you can respond lovingly to what you hear. Yes, listen deeply—for by listening deeply you come to know your spouse better; and in knowing your spouse better you come to love them more.
Accept completely. When we live with someone we begin to see their flaws (just as they see our flaws). But you can’t change your spouse. Don’t even try. Accept them in all their uniqueness instead. Take time to remember all those aspects you love about your spouse. Focus on the aspects you admire and adore about (return to #3 on this list). When their “little traits and idiosyncrasies” begin to irritate, remember how those same “traits and idiosyncrasies” made you love them when your first met. Accept them completely.
Once again, this list is far from exhaustive. What have you done to help create a marriage that gives you a little taste of heaven on earth? What would you add to this list to help others have a heavenly marriage?
Adolescents have a job in our society. Their job receives no monetary reward; and many parents struggle with letting their adolescent do their job. The job is to become their own person, to prepare themselves emotionally and mentally to leave home. To complete this job, our teens often withdraw some from the parent-child relationship. They spend more time with their peers and disclose less to their parents. However, a study involving 1,001 13-to 16-years-old teens suggests a way in which parents can encourage better communication with their teen during this time and, as a result, promote more teen disclosure even while their teen does their job of becoming independent. The researchers had teens watch a parent and teen converse about difficult situations. The teens then rated the conversations and the parent-teen relationship they witnessed. What did the researchers discover? What did the teens say in their interpretation of the conversations?
When a parent was genuinely engaged with their teen in conversation, teens felt more authentic and connected to their parent.
When a parent was visibly attentive, the teen was more likely to “open up” and engage in more self-disclosure.
That’s all well and good. But what exactly does “genuinely engaged” and “visibly attentive” look like? According to the researchers of this study, these skills involve at least 4 factors.
Maintaining good eye contact.
Engaging in nonverbal communication such as head nodding.
Engaging in verbal acknowledgment and gratitude to the teen for “opening up.”
Verbally and openly appreciating the teen’s honesty as well as their effort in sharing.
I would also add factors five through eight as factors involved in being “genuinely engaged” and “visibly attentive:”
Verbal validation of their struggle to “make the right choice” or “do the right thing.”
Asking nonjudgmental questions to clarify the situation and assure you understand. A curiosity about your teen’s thoughts and emotions about the situation. A genuine interest in how they view the situation and how it impacts them.
These skills add up to “attentive listening” and “genuine engagement” with your teen. “Attentive listening” and “genuine engagement” with your teen results in greater intimacy and better parent-teen communication…and that’s a beautiful thing.
Well, Terry and Jim Jones did it again. They organized another fantastic Family Camp Weekend at Camp Christian. We all laughed and cried as the speaker, Tim Hartman, taught timeless principles from God’s word. I appreciated not only his humor but his vulnerability in the memorable examples he used to support the lessons. I wanted to share a couple thoughts I found especially meaningful.
Our families, especially our children, need us to share our faith stories with them. They need to hear how God is working in our lives. That means we have to open our own eyes to recognize God’s working. So, what is your faith story today? How is God working in your life and the life of your family this week? Let your family know. (This sounds like a great dinner conversation, by the way.)
God doesn’t need our anger. He doesn’t need us to make things work His way. He’s got it under control. In fact, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” What does God want from us? He wants our faithful obedience…and that is challenging enough. Faithful obedience will bear witness to our families and our communities of God’s love. It will help build a loving community within our families and communities.
To practice a faithful obedience, we must learn to listen. Listening takes humility. Listening takes courage. Listening is an act of love and patience. I wonder what would happen if we all took even just one day a week and humbly silenced our need to be heard and listened instead, really listened to those around us? What would happen if we spent more time listening to our spouse then trying to justify our actions? What would happen if we spent more time listening to our children than in telling them what to do and lecturing them for their “mistakes”? Or, as the Tim implied, what might we accomplish if we listened intently to God and faithfully obeyed?
Finally, we are a tool…in the hand of God. We have a purpose. As we listen and faithfully obey, we become a tool under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Hopefully we will be as tenacious in that purpose as “Bowser the Rabbit Terror,” although I hope our purpose will be more lifegiving than the tenacious Bowser’s purpose was.
Family camp is more than just the formal times of worship and teaching though. It’s a wonderful time of fellowship and sharing. I especially love to see families engaged in activities with their children and other families. This year I was even allowed the opportunity to help build a dam with the teens and children present. I experienced the joy of following their direction as they constructed a stone dam, create a small, refreshing pool we could sit in and play. I thank them for allowing me to participate in this work with them.
All in all, we had a wonderful time of fellowship, fun, and learning. Thanks Terry and Jim putting it all together. Thanks for all who led in singing, prepared meals, served the food, cleaned, and gave devotions. Thanks for allowing us to enjoy the time together. Looking forward to another great one next year.
Schools continue to struggle to determine exactly how to start this school year. Parents and school districts struggle to determine how to balance safety, economic needs, and educational needs during this time. Sports remain an issue of debate. Will school sports’ teams compete or wait until the pandemic is resolved to enjoy competition? While all these decisions remain unresolved, life has become unpredictable for our families and our children. A lack of predictability will create a sense of insecurity in our children; and, insecurity contributes to negative behaviors and even health issues in our children’s lives. So, we need to find ways to help our children feel safe and secure even during the unpredictable nature of our world right now. How can parents do this? Here are 5 things you can do every day to get you started.
Listen. Give your children the opportunity to be heard. Get curious about their emotions, challenges, grievances, and fears. Strive to understand what lies under their misbehaviors (Read Misbehavior: A Call for Love? to learn more) rather than lecture and reprimand. As we listen and understand, our children will feel more secure. They will become calmer and more able to problem-solve as well.
Establish daily rituals. Rituals help to build daily predictability that will contribute to our children’s sense of security. They also provide opportunities to talk and build deeper, more intimate relationships (Is Your Family Like a Scene from RV? Try Rituals). Rituals don’t have to be complicated. You can build them into your daily life. For instance, rituals might include eating a meal together, reading together at bedtime, establishing a 20-minute conversation time each day, having a puzzle you work on each day.
Invest in your relationship with your children’s other parent. A strong, healthy marriage contributes to a child’s sense of security. Let your children bear witness to your love for one another.
Spend time with your children. Children spell love “T.I.M.E.” Time is the currency of love and security for your children. When they know you will put down your cell phone, postpone a job for a moment to talk, or make time to engage with them, your children learn you value them and care enough to keep them safe. Make time for your children. (How to Spend Quality Time with Your Children.)
Share healthy physical affection. Give a hug. Put your arm around your children. Wrestle. Healthy physical affection increases our sense of connection and an increased sense of connection makes us feel secure. Give your children a hug! (Six Reasons to Hug Your Family.)
I’m sure there are more ways to help your children feel secure during this time of unpredictability. But, these five will give a great start. What ways would you add?
Anger…. There is a lot to be angry about today. I don’t need to list it all for you. You know what arouses the anger of so many people today. Just watch the news and you will see angry people. Scroll through social media and you will find angry people. Have a conversation and you might experience angry people. You might even be angry yourself. I know I am. An article recently published in the American Journal of Health Promotion discusses how news media has become “increasingly negative and polarizing” between 1979 and 2010. (Just imagine how much greater the media polarization has become since 2010.) The article focuses on the impact this has had on public health and offers a solution that calls, in part, for a commitment from those reporting the news to report at least one positive story for every three negative stories and a commitment from viewers to support those news venues that do offer those positive stories. But that is not really what I want to address. My focus is family…and anger is toxic in the family.
The polarization and anger witnessed in our society has crept into many homes. Ironically, it isn’t even that people are angry with their family. They are just angry and that anger bleeds into their home. And, as I said earlier, anger is toxic for families. Anger traps families in their pain. It undermines fun by intruding with constant debate and clarification. It erects walls of guardedness that diminish intimacy as well as opportunities to develop intimacy. It blinds us to the things we admire about our family members as well as their perspectives and simple endearing qualities. We end up arguing and debating, agitated, when all we really want is intimacy and connection with our family members.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for anger and a beneficial way to express anger. But when it sneaks into the family, it becomes an undercurrent of toxic emotion, it is not beneficial. It is toxic. So, what can we do? Here are some tips to help us rise above the anger and build love and connection in our families.
Ask yourself a few key questions. Do you love your family? Is it more important that you “convince them” of your point of view or that you show them you love them? How do you want them to remember you? How do you want your family to think of you, as an agitated person or a loving person? A person of self-control or a person prone to angry outbursts? Do you want to be remembered as a person who remained calm and shared love or a person who got lost in emotion and snapped out at even the little things?
Ask other family members questions…AND listen. In these times we really want to understand one another. Take the time to ask question but take more time to listen. Ask them what it is like for them during these times? How are they managing the stress of the day? Ask what you can do to help them. If they want to discuss issues of the day, ask how you might discuss these issues without it becoming an argument and arousing anger. Let them know you love them no matter what.
Give no advice. Simply practice awareness. Too often we give unsolicited advice (I know I do). Giving unsolicited advice sends an implicit message that they aren’t good enough or smart enough to figure things out on their own. Instead of being helpful, our unsolicited advice become rocks thrown at a person’s head. They don’t build relationship. They promote defensiveness. They even hurt. So, rather than give unsolicited advice, practice awareness. Become aware of your family members’ emotions, intent, and perspective. Learn about their priorities and their fears. Become aware of how they express themselves, what irritates them, and what soothes them.
Play. Play relieves stress. Play pulls people together. Play builds intimacy. Play washes away the troubles of the day…at least for the moment. Play helps us gain perspective. Engage your family in play.
Create “issue free” and “positive news only” zones. You and your family will benefit from creating times or spaces in which the “issues” of the day are not discussed. In these times you can talk about other things like things you have enjoyed during the day, future family activities, or positive news you have heard. You can talk about a story you are reading, a song you enjoy, or things for which you are grateful. The possibilities are endless. Just enjoy a time of conversation that can bring joy and connection into your family.
Yes, anger is real. Anger can be legitimate. It can motivate us to create change in positive ways. However, anger can also take over the family. It can be toxic. It can destroy your family. Don’t let anger pull your family apart. Practice these tips and enjoy a loving family.
Have you ever thought about the #1 goal of marital arguments? At first glance, you may think the goal is “to win. To make my spouse understand or see it my way.” But that is NOT the most important goal, the one we desire most. Let me ask the question differently. Do you want to make your spouse “see it your way” if it means damaging (or worse yet, destroying) your marriage? For most disagreements (at least 99% of them), the answer is “no.” We don’t want “to win” an argument with our spouse at the expense of our relationship. You may have had an experience like this in your marriage though. You disagree with your spouse and, after exchanging a few heated words, you “prove your point.” Your spouse concedes. They give in. They say you are right. You walk away knowing you “won the argument,” but feeling dissatisfied, disconnected from the one you love. In fact, you’re probably thinking about how to repair the relationship, how to reconnect and feel close again. No, we do not want to win at any cost.
If the #1 goal of any marital argument is not to win, what is it? The #1 goal of any marital argument is to connect in a way that makes both people feel safe and secure. You have probably had this experience too. You and your spouse have the same disagreement mentioned above. You even exchange a few heated words about it. But, somehow, when all is said and done, you feel closer, more connected. You’re not really sure who “won,” but you know you understand your spouse better than you did before the argument and your spouse understands you better as well. You feel connected…and as though you have both “won.”
How do you achieve this #1 goal of any marital argument?
First, see your spouse. Look at them. Don’t just look at the issue, the frustration or the anger of the moment. Look at your spouse. Soften your gaze. Recognize your spouse. We all long to be seen. Give your spouse the gift of being seen by you.
Pay attention to your spouse’s emotions. Do they look and sound angry, frustrated, hopeless, happy, passionate…. Accept their emotion. When your spouse reveals their emotions, they are opening themselves up like a book for you to learn about them and their priorities. Read this precious book carefully, lovingly. Do not just glance at the book. Get curious and read between the lines. Look deeply to find the priority behind the emotion. It may have little to do with the disagreement you are having and more to do with their sense of security and safety.
Accept that your spouse may have a valid point of view. Many issues have more than one valid perspective. Much like the group of blind men trying to describe the elephant, you and your spouse may both have valid perspectives, even though they differ. See your spouse as the intelligent, loving person you married and accept that they may have something important to add to the issue, something important for you to hear and know.
Graciously delay voicing your own point of view until you understand your spouse’s point of view. Lovingly defer your desire to be proven correct until you can understand how your spouse’s perspective seems right to them. This takes patience…a patient delay of your own right to be heard. Such patience is an act of love for “love is patient” (Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:4).
Listen. Listen carefully. Listen intently. Listen sincerely. Listen completely. Listen until you understand your spouse’s perspective and they know you understand their perspective. Listen.
As you practice these 5 actions, you will find a growing emotional connection with your spouse. You will also find arguments resolve more easily and more quickly. Hmmmm, a more intimate connection with the added bonus of a quicker resolution? Now that is a great goal for marital arguments!
Are you tired of all the infighting we see in the world around us? The divisive comments and constant accusations? The incivility and contempt we witness in the news, on social media, and even in the public square? I know I am…and it frightens me a little bit. After all, “civility, politeness, it’s like cement in a society: binds it together. And when we lose it, then I think we all feel lesser and slightly dirty because of it” (Jeremy Irons). I do “feel lesser and slightly dirty” as I witness rudeness, disrespect, and coarseness in the world around me. At times, I fear the cement of our civility is weakening and beginning to crack rather than holding us together. I worry that if we do nothing, civility will remain a mere tool in the hand of those who attempt to manipulate us…an illusion without true substance. And “when civility is illusory, war is inevitable” (Steve Maraboli).
However, I also have hope. I am optimistic that we can make a change…and it begins with each of us and our families. It begins when we value civility and practice it in our own lives and in the lives of our families. With that in mind, let me offer some practical ways you can practice civility in your life and in your family life and so begin a swell of civility in our society.
Practice politeness with gusto. Practicing politeness includes saying small phrases like “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” and “I’m sorry” with all sincerity. Politeness involves “looking out for the other guy.” Polite people ask other people what they can do to help, how they can serve, and then they follow through by doing what is requested. A polite person holds the door open for “the other guy” and shares the last of the goodies with “the other guy.” Politeness compels us to think about other people. It urges us to let people know we respect them through our words and actions. Practice politeness with gusto in your home with family and outside your home with everyone you meet. Let you children witness your politeness.
Celebrate your differences. Each of your family members are unique. They have unique tastes, abilities, weaknesses, and fears. Those differences add to the beauty of our families. They help us achieve more. They provide opportunities to practice grace and so grow as individuals. They allow us to practice humility as we accept one another’s strengths. Honor the differences within your family. Celebrate those differences. It’s a practice of civility and love.
Practice radical kindness. Kindness is a warrior. It takes great strength to truly practice kindness. It begins by replacing any negative thoughts about those in your life (directly in your life or indirectly influencing your life) with thoughts of kindness. Next, do something kind for those people in your life, those in your family and those outside your family. When you truly need address some difference of opinion or inappropriate behaviors, do so with kindness. Kindness is contagious as well. As you practice kindness, those around you will catch it as well. Practice kindness…and watch others pass it forward.
Listen. Listen intently and sincerely. Listen to understand what the other person intends. Listen to learn the background and the context of what the other is saying. Listen. No name calling. No quick rebuttal. No proving them wrong. No counterargument. Just listen. Bear witness to their world. Understand them deeply. Then, when you understand them, respond with radical kindness…especially when you disagree or believe them wrong.
As we practice these skills in our homes and teach our families to practice these skills outside our home, we will build a groundswell of civility. We need that in our society today for “civility isn’t just some optional value in a multicultural, multistate democratic republic. Civility is the key to civilization” (Van Jones). So, I’m going to work at practicing civility in my house and in my world. I hope you will join me. But, if not, “as for me and my house….”
The corona virus pandemic has led to a call for “social distancing.” But, don’t let the current pandemic or the call for “social distancing” exacerbate any marital issues that might already exist in your home. In fact, if you already experience “social” or “emotional distance” in your marriage, you’re probably struggling even more to navigate these stressful times. Fortunately, there is no better time than now to correct any emotional distance in your marriage and start to practice emotional connection. Here are six great ways to start building emotional connection in your marriage.
Talk with one another. Take time every day to sit down over a cup of coffee and have a conversation. Talk about your experiences of the current crisis, fears of anxieties you might be experiencing. Talk about how you will work together to navigate the current crisis. Enjoy simple small talk as well. Talk like you did when you were dating. Joke a little. Read a book together and talk about it. Talk about your plans for the coming years. Talk your hopes and dreams for the future. Each of these will move you toward a deeper emotional connection with your spouse. (This might be a great time to take A 30-Day Marriage Challenge.)
Listen to your spouse. While you converse with your spouse, intentionally and sincerely listen. Listen to hear the intent of their message, the meaning beneath the words. Listen to understand their perspective and emotions. Ask questions to clarify what they mean. In so doing, you will learn more about your spouse and their emotions. (Learn more about The Art of Listening here.)
As you listen and talk, look at your spouse. I don’t mean glance at their face now and again. Really look at them. Notice their eye color and the twinkle in their eye. Notice the shape and features of their face. Pay attention to their facial expressions and their gestures. Look deeply into their eyes to notice the emotions they feel as they talk. There is power in seeing and being seen by one another.
Tell your spouse “I love you.” Tell them with words and actions. Whisper it in their ear. Let them see it in your eyes when you look at them. Say it by remembering what they like and don’t like. Show it in your actions by doing a chore they dislike. Love them by expressing gratitude and remaining polite.
Give one another a good night hug and kiss (as long as neither is sick, of course). Don’t just give a quick hug. Dwell in the hug. Make it an “oxytocin hug.” Give a generous kiss goodnight, not just a simple peck on the cheek.
Recall your story. Talk about the time you first met, your favorite dates, and your vacations. Remember the struggles you have overcome together—whether they be as simple as putting up a tent in the rain or dealing with the death of a loved one. The “story of us” is a great emotional connection. (And your children will love it, too.)
These six practices will help you build emotional connection. No matter what is going on in the world around you, keep practicing them and enjoy a growing emotional connection in your marriage.