Ten years after Ellen and I got married, we were invited to our first Marriage Seminar. From my perspective, we were doing pretty good. We still loved each other and things were pretty peaceful. I had no idea the impact this event would have on our marriage.
I learned that there are different levels of intimacy (or closeness) in relationships. Most marriages rarely move beyond the first three levels of intimacy.
“How was your day?” “How did the kids do in their classes today?” “I think it would be good to meet with the teacher, and talk to her about . . . ” Conversations like that involve sharing information and sometimes ideas and opinions.
Those conversations are important, but intimacy doesn’t begin until we begin to share some of our feelings and what’s really important to us. Our deepest times of closeness come when we take a risk to share things that normally we are too afraid to share. There is an amazing closeness that comes from being understood at this deepest level by a loving spouse. This was a whole new concept for me.
I was challenged to be alert and listen for Ellen’s feelings and needs, to acknowledge them and express my care for her.
That’s when I discovered that my tendency had been to listen just enough to decide what I thought the problem was, and then to give my advice on how she should fix the problem. Ellen made it clear, “No more Mr. Fix-it!” Mostly she just wanted me to take the time to listen, and understand, and care.
As if that wasn’t enough, then they challenged me to learn how to share MY feelings. How else could she feel close to me? “What? How am I supposed to do that?” I had pretty much spent my whole life ignoring my feelings. The only feelings I was aware of were the ones I tried to avoid, like anger or frustration.
Needless to say I am still learning how to recognize some of my feelings and deal with them in a healthy way before they come out in the wrong way.
How about you?
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WENT BEYOND SHARING FACTS AND INFORMATION, OR IDEAS AND OPINIONS IN YOUR MARRIAGE?
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS THAT YOU HAVE LEARNED TO LISTEN AND CARE ABOUT YOUR SPOUSE’S FEELINGS?