After I wrote the “Three Legged Stool” post the other day, I sent it to a trusted friend asking for feedback. I figured that she would tell me great job and that would be the end of it. But she didn’t, and I am glad. In case you didn’t read the post, I compared marriage to a 3 legged stool – how we need to be connected with our husbands body, mind and spirit for our marriages to be as effective as possible. My friend told me that while the post had a good concept, I needed to provide examples on how to be more connected, especially in mind and spirit.
Whoa – do what? I felt incredibly inadequate to meet that challenge. I am not an expert at this by any stretch of the imagination. My husband and my conversations lately have revolved around which different car we should purchase since my husband’s car collapsed – he feels the pressure of finding one soon – I want to put off the purchase. Not exactly connected with our minds. But maybe this is why I need to share my thoughts – I am right along the journey with you. Some days my marriage relationship feels in sync – we are connected in all areas. But most days, we are more on the shaky side – we know the direction that we want to go, but getting there is a different story. As I reflect on times where we have been more steady, there are some things that we have done that have seemed to help us be more connected in mind and spirit.
(But before we get to that – one note of importance. I learned from experience and e-mailed the draft to my friend Tami before posting this. Again, I was glad that I asked for input because she gave me some other examples that have more credence coming from her as she has been married twice as long as I have (sorry – couldn’t resist, as this is the only year this is true! 🙂 Anyway, her insights will be in italics – they were too good not to share. Hopefully all of these further thoughts will be encouraging and enlivening to you!)
1) Be intentional about connecting every day, even if it is only for 5 minutes. Lorri made a comment the other day on the importance of this.
One thing that Scott and I put into place when our kids were little was “couch time” for mommy & daddy, which takes place as soon as possible after your husband arrives home from the day. 10 or 15 minutes of time for you two to connect about your day, take care of minor issues or just sit and relax together without distractions. We would even set a timer sometimes, and the kids knew we were off limits during that time (unless there was blood!). We would sometimes get out of the habit of couch time for awhile, one of us would reinstate it and we would commit to it again. This one commitment that we made has made a world of difference in our communication and in our overall quality of marriage. We’ve come to see our “couch time” as an almost sacred time as we continue seeking consistent connection. By default we can so easily become ships passing through the night as husband and wife, focusing on our busy schedules, our needy children and becoming slaves to the responsibilities before us. Make connecting with your spouse a priority, in the 3 ways Gretchen talks about above. It will be worth the effort. Our adult sons have both said that our “couch time”, even in its inconsistency, has made an impact on them in building security and preparing them for their futures.
A couple from my church who have also been married 25+ years practiced this.
Sadly we have not started this yet, and this is a new goal of mine. But I have been convicted lately that I have a new starting point – I need to make a point of welcoming my husband home during the first five minutes he arrives. My husband usually gets home about the same time, and I have been very guilty of being absorbed in other things lately that for some reason I have not been willing to interrupt. Finishing homeschooling. Catching up on the computer. Laziness. All of these have been my recent excuse. I know that if I take the time to really greet him, it WILL have a positive impact on our evening, as well as our relationship.
Here is a thought from my friend on connecting … We need time to hear what the other is thinking about that day. That’s how we connect mentally. I like to ask people their high and low for the day. You get a good idea what they’ve been thinking and how they feel about it in an easy to answer question.
2) Read or listen to a book together. There are so many great titles available and quite a few are even at the library. Pick a topic that you need to discuss more. Or if you need to laugh, find a book by a Christian comedian. Or read a fiction book together. If you would rather have quiet, get 2 copies of the same book, then discuss at the end of the chapter. We have also read fiction together – I liked being caught up in the same story with my husband. We were reading a book together recently and only made it through chapter three before the book was due back. Hopefully we will eventually get back to that, but at least we did have the opportunity to discuss some of it.
3) Go back to what you used to do. What did you used to enjoy doing when you were dating? For my husband and I, one of our strongest connections is music. When we merged our lives together, we had to get rid of quite a few duplicate cds. We have always enjoyed going to concerts together and have managed to keep that up – sometimes with our kids, sometimes without. We sometimes manage to enjoy actually listening to music at home together too (although this one is harder to do!) What did you and your husband used to enjoy doing together? Sometimes it is easy to push aside those previous pleasures due to time constraints, but then we should not be surprised when some of the joy in each other’s company is diminished.
4) Find a new hobby to do together, preferably one that doesn’t have to involve children. If you used to previously jet off to scuba dive in exotic locations, that may not be feasible now. But joining the local kayak club might be a possibility. Take a cooking class together. Take up golf – outdoors, walking and lots of time – all a good combination.
5) Play a game together. I have not convinced my husbands of the merits of this one yet – maybe I need to try again. Anytime that you can spend time interacting with each other is a positive thing, as opposed to only watching television together without talking (although sometimes that can be a okay too!)
6) Working together on a project can help you connect your minds too. You’re trying to figure out a solution TOGETHER. It might be a home improvement project, a project for your church or a service organization. My husband and I easily connect our minds and spirits while working on our church programs. And that leads easily into the next area …
1) Go to church together. Consistently. This is one of the best things to do as a a couple. Setting aside one morning a week to refocus on faith. This can be a challenging area though if you and your husband grew up in different denominations. There are enough Bible believing churches in the area that you should be able to find a place where you both feel comfortable. First Free is a great place to start.
2) Pray together. I know some couples who manage to do this every day (and more than “bless this food.”) To be honest, we are not one of those couples, but when we do take the time to pray, we are the ones who receive the blessing.
3) Taking that a step further – identify key verse(s) to be praying together. Maybe one for your marriage and one for each of your kids. Long ago, I was challenged by a godly woman’s example (aka Barb Barber) to pray Scripture verses for my family. I know that praying those verses over my loved ones made a positive impact on me and had to have impacted those I prayed for as well. I have done this several times through the years, but have easily gotten out of the habit. Again and again, I start the habit and stop. I want to renew that focus, and I think it would be even better if my husband was praying those same verses.
4 Do a Bible study together. There are ones available that are so many varying topics. Some having to do with marriage but others just having to do with life. Pick a topic that interests both of you and strive forward. For me right now, it is difficult to get away from home to do a study – doing a study at home is a lot more feasible. Maybe your husband needs to meet Beth Moore – he would probably enjoy her studies just as much as you do (although he may not get the hair jokes 🙂 .
5) Listen to sermons together. So many churches have sermons online now. Radio programs are also easy to get via podcast. Pick a series that sounds interesting and forgo television for a few nights a week. I missed several sermons lately because of teaching Sunday School, and my husband listened to a few of them with me. While it took a bit of time, when we were done, I felt so uplifted.
6) One thing that has helped our whole family to connect spiritually is to freely talk about what God is teaching us separately. It might be something from Bible study or personal devotions or even an encounter with another person. God’s teaching us at every turn. In the family I grew up in we didn’t talk about those things freely, but in mine now we do and it connects us to know the lessons the others are learning. Plus, it’s easy to do at the dinner table or traveling somewhere in the van.
One of my friend’s final thoughts: The key component to all this is making time to share ourselves and what we’re thinking and feeling and learning.
Anyway, all of this seems like it should be easy to accomplish. But life does not always go along with a playbook. Sometimes distance can feel difficult to breach across. This leads to the next question that is probably one some of you are asking.
What if my husband does not seem to want to be connected in these areas?
1) Pray and wait. God can change your husband’s heart, but even more easily He can change yours when you are open to Him. He can help you respond in a more pleasing manner to improve the situation, rather than frustrate it.
2) Be patient. Notice a theme here? Connection takes time. If you have been struggling with togetherness, expecting that to happen magically will put a lot of strain on your relationship.
3) Grow yourself. Take time to read the Bible yourself. God’s words cannot help but change your life. In addition to this, read positive books on marriage and listen to Christian radio programs. I am training to run the half marathon in May, and I get bored listening to just music for that long. So I have been listening to Family Life today. I can make it through about 2 episodes on my runs so far. As I add mileage, I will be able to listen to three (maybe the only time it pays to be a slower runner!) I have so benefited from the wise counsel that has been presented. When you listen to words that are true, they tend to change your life.
Sometimes we will be more steady and other times we will be shaky, but the more we invest in being connected with our husbands in mind and spirit, the more our relationships will grow and progress. The effort will be worth it! And ss for being connected in body, if you missed our last MOPs, we have extra handouts/quizzes to send home with you at the next meeting. 🙂
P.S. Thanks, Tami, for continuing to be a blessing even after many years!