“We’ve been married for 15 years, and I’ve never felt connected to my husband. It’s like he’s in his own world,” a woman sitting in my office shared with tears in her eyes.
“When I ask, ‘Why can’t we talk?’ he says, ‘We do talk.’ If I share something with him that’s happened in my life, he listens but has no response. I ask myself, Where did my words go? Did they strike nothing inside of him?”
Many wives can identify with this kind of emotional distance. Marriage was designed by God to be an intimate relationship in which husbands and wives share life with each other. When spouses live in isolation, disappointment becomes a constant companion. This wife was essentially asking, “What can I do to connect with my husband?”
The foundation for creating connection in a marital relationship involves two things: self-revelation and empathetic listening. The process of self-revelation involves sharing thoughts, feelings, and desires. Empathetic listening is a conscious effort to hear the thoughts, emotions, and desires of your spouse while expressing interest and affirmation. But how do you start building a deeper connection with your spouse?
I believe the first step is to ask more questions. Don’t bombard your spouse with questions; rather, ask a few thoughtful questions each day, such as:
- “Did anything happen today that you really enjoyed?”
- “Was anything really hard for you today?”
- “If you could relive today, what would you do differently?”
Your spouse may not answer all of your questions, but at least you’re beginning to create a climate of self-revelation. If your spouse objects to your questions, then back off for a day or two, but don’t give up. When your spouse answers your questions, respond with an affirmative answer, such as, “That sounds exciting,” or “I can understand why that would be very difficult.” Whatever you do, don’t contradict what your mate says, don’t make fun, and don’t start an argument. Creating a safe place in which to talk is the first step to enhancing communication.
A second suggestion is that you share some of the things you’ve experienced and felt throughout the day, even if your spouse isn’t asking you questions. By so doing, you’re taking the initiative in self-revelation. This is exactly what God did for us. We would’ve never known anything about God if He hadn’t chosen to reveal Himself to us. He reveals Himself through the Bible and supremely through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Because of His revelation and our response to His revelation, we can have an intimate relationship with God. The same principle is true in marriage. You must take the initiative in self-revelation and give your spouse a chance to reciprocate.
In learning the art of self-revelation, one practical tip is to use “I” statements rather than “You” statements, such as “I accept responsibility” instead of “It’s your fault.” When you focus on your reaction, you reveal your own emotions. Focusing on the other person’s reaction places blame. “You” statements encourage arguments; “I” statements encourage communication. God is extremely interested in how you build closeness with your spouse. Here’s a prayer you may wish to pray: Father, help me remember that revealing more of myself is the first step toward greater intimacy with the one I love. Thank You for revealing Yourself to us, and please give me the courage to share myself with my spouse.
Some people ask why sharing feelings with your mate is important. The truth is, if you don’t openly share your feelings, they’ll likely show up in your behavior. However, your spouse will have no idea why you’re behaving as you are. That’s when you’re more likely to get the proverbial question, “Is something wrong?” Your spouse can tell something is wrong but doesn’t know what.
The ultimate goal is to have a daily sharing time with your spouse. Couples who have an intentional, “sit down, look at me, let’s talk,” time each day have a higher level of intimacy than those couples who haphazardly talk “whenever and wherever.” Asking thoughtful questions, listening without condemning, and taking the initiative to share your own thoughts, feelings, and desires are all steps in the right direction. Taking positive steps is far better than simply waiting and hoping that things will get better. Passing time doesn’t build closeness, but efforts to improve communication will.