"Husband: Sorry, did you say something?"
"Wife: That was yesterday."
Marriage. It's no joke, but often funny enough with its mishaps, misunderstandings, challenges, good times, romance -lack thereof, children, bills, neighbors, bosses, family, friends, vacations, and your pet Rufus. Amid all said chaos, two people are committed to love and cherish one another till death does their part. Perhaps that is you. You began like most, dreamy-eyed, hopeful that you would both make life worth wild. Then life takes over, and years later, you may turn away from your once savior of a spouse and prefer to focus your attention elsewhere, such as on Television, Tik Toc, YouTube, kids, work, gardening, shopping (most likely online), Rufus and so on.
Whatever happened to the apple of your eye?
The following are tips to regain that spirited desire to communicate, share, and turn toward your honey.
Put the t.v. Remote/cell phone down. Readjusting your focus to your spouse's darling face takes a few seconds. Go ahead, try it. When we give another our visual focus, we invite said person to feel important. Doing so makes you feel important, having been responsible for providing a moment of human contact simply by looking their way. They have your visual attention; now what?
Moderate your breathing. Normalizing our breathing while being attentive and listening informs your spouse that your attention is sincere. Your spouse, in turn, will be inspired to normalize their breathing, relax their facial muscles, and be more pleasing to look at. You got your stare, breathing down; what next?
Listen. Remember that old SNL skit, Hear Me Now, Listen to me later? Well, as silly as it sounded back then, it has merit. For one or two seconds, I can hear a train approaching or a car horn. But listening requires ongoing attention. I can hear my spouse's voice coming from the other room, but listening to what is being said means I stop a task just enough to hear the words. Do they need something? Are they hurt? Has breaking news occurred? Did a pipe burst? Is the chicken burning? All good reasons to stop and listen, yes? So, your spouse has visual attention, moderated breathing, and listening skills. Let's bring on words.
How often do your words match what is being communicated by your spouse? A fine example is the cartoon strip quoted at the beginning of this blog. The wife spoke, but the husband did not listen. He heard her voice and asked if she had told him, but he did not listen. His words indicated that fact. How do your words match what your spouse is saying? After years of marriage accumulate many factors come into play, including criticism, defensiveness, resentment, boredom, staleness, predictability, etc. These things can influence us to assume our response to our spouse. Therefore, as your spouse communicates, take the time to quietly notice how you feel about being the listener, not the speaker. If you feel restless, then some of the anger, defensiveness, etc., needs your attention during a moment to yourself. You have now taken time to reflect and become aware enough of your inner dialogue to add to your arsenal of turning toward tools. What more can there be?
Validate! We all have at least one friendship in which you and your friend feel validated -which has strengthened. If our friend is sad, angry, or happy, we validate their experience. We laugh with them, share a tear, celebrate, and agree that the person who did them wrong is a jerk. That's what it means to validate. It means acknowledging that life has ups and downs and that we are willing to stand by our friend's friends side in providing that emotional support they need. Our spouse needs our validation because how they perceive what is happening to them is as important as your side. You've climbed the mountain and are almost at its peak.
Empathize. Let's return to the friend example. It's usually easy for us to empathize with a friend in need. Because usually, the friend in need is responding to a personal issue with another person. That leaves us feeling safe from being accused or targeted. So, we keep our guard down and gently stroke our friend's back or shoulder to let them know we get it. In marriage, it often feels like the empathy our spouse needs is related to something we may have done or not done. So our defenses go up. Imagine that when turning towards your spouse, you can be present without a shield and empathize with your partner's hurt or concern. I promise you it is all coming together; hang in there; you are in the home stretch! Mix all these ingredients and top it off with, last but not least…
Sharing. Share with your spouse your thoughts and feelings about (quite possibly) not having been aware of what they were going through. Share any remorse, sadness, understanding, gratitude, or challenges this conversation has provided you with, and allow yourself to be vulnerable, just as your spouse took the opportunity to do so. If you feel this ability between you and your spouse has diminished throughout the years, it may be because one or both have started to turn away from one another rather than toward others.
You have reached the peak of the mountain. As you stand firm, armed with workable tools to motivate you to turn, you may realize that turning towards tools, when applied by both you and your spouse, leaves little room for interpretation. It creates endless opportunities for you and your honey to feel important, cared for, validated, joined with, understood, encouraged, and deeply loved. Share this blog with your sweetie, and let the magic begin!
For more tips, please check out our other tips here: https://www.plantationcounseling.com/blog. You can always find us at 954-903-1676 for counseling services.