Around New Year’s resolution time it occurred to me that we, and I suspect all, married couples have some low spots in their marriage and still do, occasionally. I’m not talking about major crises that threaten a marriage, but the little things where one or both of the spouses are annoyed with the other and the annoyance is taking some of the fun out of your relationship. In the early years of our marriage, we tended to let things simmer for quite a while and we would live with some strain. Sometimes the dissatisfaction was one-sided, one of us unhappy and the other unaware or sensing something, but not knowing what it was about. At times this would result in an animated conversation and speaking each of our points of view and we could come to a new understanding and the issue would be resolved. Sometimes we could go to bed and make love and the situation would fade away. It was the tenderness and shared intimacy that made little differences unimportant.
In later years, we gained more confidence in the strength of our relationship and discovered that, instead of letting an issue simmer for a long time, we could confront it and have our fight and move on. Our “fights” have never been physical or involved yelling and screaming, but we have some very intense discussions. I think we have become better listeners and have learned that we can say “I love you.” in the middle of a fight and sometimes through our tears. One of the advantages of many years together is that we have developed a confidence that this particular disagreement will be over and we will still be together and will still enjoy being with each other.
We learned that many of our disagreements aren’t even real, but result from different perceptions of a situation or that we are actually talking about different things. We have learned a couple of techniques that make a large difference in our daily interactions. We now make a point of alerting the other when we are changing the topic. We will say something like, “This is changing the subject.” or “I want to go back to (the topic) we were discussing a few minutes ago.” This actually makes our conversations more productive and avoids a lot of tension. Another technique is useful when the one of us hears the other say something that doesn’t seem to make sense. After a couple of attempts to make the other see our point of view and the discussion starts to become animated, one of us will suggest that we stop and review what we are discussing – each of us has a chance to talk while the other listens. It helps us to know what the subject is and allows each of us to understand the other’s opinion, whether or not we agree with it. We also respect each other and differences are usually not contentious and don’t necessarily have to be resolved.
As I reflected on this subject, I found myself very grateful for the relationship tools we have learned, especially the verbal communication techniques that help to keep our interactions interesting and often intense, but also filled with humor and opportunities to learn from each other.
Please share with us some of the techniques you have learned that help to keep your relationship alive and vibrant.
Today’s scripture readings, reflection and prayer:
Living Together in the Word
Bob & Rita’s book: Forever and Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage That Lasts a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com or by contacting us. Also available for Kindle and Nook. Make a retreat with your spouse, at home, on your time. Readings, relationship tips, questions for discussion.