1. REALLY listen and pay attention to what your spouse is saying
Hun and I have both been guilty of not doing this, though, one of us is more guilty than the other…. Hun, I will not name names. Earlier on in our marriage and only until recently, this used to frustrate me to no end. During disagreements, when it was my turn to speak, Hun would be ‘assembling his line of defense’ in his mind and would barely hear a thing I said.
Well, the truth is even when paying full attention, conversations often get misinterpreted. And the disagreement evolves from the original issue to what was said or how wrong the other person understood it. Recently, we learnt an important tool that is really helping us with this; we call it ‘I heard you say’, where the recipient repeats what s/he heard the spouse say, and the initiator either agrees or corrects it if not accurate. We actually think this tool is powerful enough to bring about World Peace.
2. Keep communicating no matter the season your marriage is at
Never give the devil a chance to whisper lies to you putting walls between you, through silent treatment. Hun and I have really tried to make this a culture and as a result we have benefited from it much. We usually never stop talking through things, no matter how difficult the issue is. At worst we can go for a day with yes/ no type of conversation. Sometimes we usually begin talking about an issue and the conversation goes south so quickly our heads are left spinning so we abandon it. When this happens, we take some minutes/ hours breather and continue with our normal routine and cordial conversations. HOWEVER, we usually still take the matter up again, say the next day and usually find this time it can take a record 2.5 minutes before heading south once again. And a week or sometimes longer can go on like that until we find by the end of it, we actually tackle the conversation to the end. Depending on how aggrieved we feel about the situation, sometimes we call in Refs, and we are blessed to have special couple friends in our lives who we can be free with, whom we share common values and we know would remain objective. Every married couple needs such.
3. Be truly vulnerable with each other, naked and unashamed
Until you can learn to be completely open and honest with your spouse, only then can you attain real intimacy. Does your spouse know your fears, your vulnerabilities, your not-so-rosy past? The Society we are living in has erroneously focused so much on sex as the yardstick of intimacy, and this could never be farther from the truth. Fulfilling sex between a married couple is a byproduct of spiritual and emotional intimacy, otherwise no matter how good the sex is, it leaves one feeling empty. Learning all the sexual gymnastics in the world while failing to work on the spiritual and emotional intimacy is putting the cart before the horse. That is why, in my opinion, in spite all the ‘great’ sex advice brides-to-be are given during bridal showers, marriages continue to ail… because sex alone does not constitute a relationship.
4. Commit to use positive and respectful language that does not belittle your spouse even during disagreement; to learn to attack the issue and not the person
In his book, Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas gives a very interesting perspective on the purpose of marriage. That what if marriage was a refining tool, for God to teach us to love like Christ. That if we are unable to love our spouses, whom most often we have chosen for ourselves, how can we possibly love a dirty homeless stranger? Indeed marriage does test our ability to love beyond the warm fuzzy butterfly feeling. When love graduates from a feeling to a daily renewal of commitment. You commit to always view your spouse as an intimate friend and as such to respect them no matter how angry they have made us. To not be verbally or physically abusive or put each other down.
5. Purpose to continuously affirm and appreciate one another