Josh’s work ethic impressed Nancy. A trait she very much admired about him was his ability to focus and complete tasks with excellence. While she still admired this aspect of Josh, she began to feel like he really never focused on their relationship. It seemed to her that he approached his time with her and the kids as another task to perform, rather than an experience to enjoy. She longed for deeper connection to him — to feel a part of his life.
Nancy had that social, spontaneous spirit about her that Josh loved. She never met a stranger, and everyone seemed to feel at ease around her. Nancy loved conversation, and Josh felt completely at ease sharing his feelings with her. Through the years, however, Josh began to feel that Nancy wanted more of him than he could give. As he sensed her frustration with him, Josh became increasingly frustrated with Nancy in this regard. Every previous attempt to address this tension left them both feeling more disconnected.
Listening for the Music
All couples, like Josh and Nancy, have certain issues that threaten intimacy. And, often our attempts to address them end up hurting each other, rather than healing the relationship. From the biblical material alluded to in the previous articles, here are some suggestions to help ease relational tension and nurture deeper intimacy:
- God is the source of authentic love. Though in marriage we pledge to love one another through the fluctuations of life, selfishness is our natural tendency. We tend to pull into ourselves and stand in critical judgment of others, especially our spouse. Attempting to find true love — a love that never fails — within our human selves is futile. However, God has called husbands and wives to serve as unique vessels of His love for the other. Once we begin to realize that it is God’s infinite, authentic love poured through us into the other, an amazing shift occurs. As we receive God’s love poured into our hearts, then that love — a love that never fails — overflows into others around us, especially our spouse.
- Embrace differences. The differences between husband and wife are intended by God to bring unique blessings into the other’s life. The first step in reducing tension brought on by our peculiar personality traits, then, is to accept them as a gift from God. By first expressing genuine appreciation for the other’s uniqueness, we can then speak to the issues brought on by them.
- Personality strengths can become weaknesses. When tensions arise within marriage, each spouse tends to blame the other. They point out the shortcomings of the other and rarely consider their own contributions to the problems. However, since we live in a broken world, our own sense of self is equally broken. Our strengths can morph into weaknesses. The ability to focus and complete tasks with excellence, for example, can lead one to become myopic, seeing people as a means to an end rather than as human beings with whom to relate. Likewise, the social ability to interact freely with others, without proper balance, can create a sense of superficiality in relationships, or the seeking of life, meaning and purpose from others — something humans ultimately cannot provide. The first place to start while addressing relational issues is ourself, not the other.
- Commit time to the relationship. We live in a frenetic world. Increased technology, rather than providing more free time, actually encroaches on opportunity to “disengage.” Cellphones, tablets and laptops all lure us away from meaningful time with one another. Additionally, our culture tends to place value on people who are “busy.” Particularly in our technologically saturated and performance-based culture, we must create space for our relationships. Time spent genuinely connecting with our spouse actually pays dividends even at work as it can reduce relational stress. Regularly schedule time for a walk, a meal together or time simply to talk without distractions. Time spent together in meaningful conversation helps bridge gaps in our relationships.
- Enjoy the dance. Reimagine marriage with a relational, rather than an institutional, metaphor. Take the “dance,” for example. Before any dance occurs, tasks must be performed. Lights must be hung, wires must be run, and instruments must be tuned. These tasks, roles and responsibilities are not an end in themselves; they serve a larger purpose. The reason behind these crucial tasks is to enjoy the dance. All roles and responsibilities in marriage are essential. But, they are not the end in themselves. Their purpose is to facilitate an intimate connection between husband and wife, to enjoy the sacred dance of marriage.