By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
Could your marriage use a tune-up about now? Maybe there is a widening gap between you and your spouse due to lack of communication or just lack of time together.
That gap, which can leave you and your spouse feeling isolated from one another is more serious than you may realize.
The number one cause for divorce today is lack of communication. Just a decade ago it was adultery, but today failing to communicate, communicating poorly, or just letting the emotional gap widen between a husband and wife can be fatal to marriages.
Don’t let it happen to yours. By being deliberate and intentional to narrow the gap and reconnect with your spouse, you are investing in your future together, honoring your vows, and helping the one you committed yourself to enjoy their life with you even more, as well.
No matter how emotionally distant the two of you might feel from each other right now, you can narrow the gap and connect with each other once again. Here are 7 ways to reconnect with your spouse:
1. Use Healing Words
Do you remember how you talked to your spouse when the two of you first fell in love? Instead of waiting for him or her to talk to you that way again, be the initiator and re-start that loving habit. You have the ability to light up your spouse more than anyone else.
Your compliments and praise can go further than anyone else’s. Your pride in him is far more important to him than his mother’s or even his children’s. She truly wants to know what you think of her and loves to hear you bragging to others about how hot (or kind, or talented or wise) she is.
When you talk up your spouse, you are building up and lighting up your spouse. You may also be healing some parts in his or her heart that have started to close off. Practice Ephesians 4:29 daily and “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (NLT).
2. Acknowledge and Be Tender toward Each Other’s Wounds
Because of the differences between you and your husband – your differing personalities, different upbringings, and different ways you approach life--you have enough of a gap between you to start with. But when one of you goes into your emotional cave instead of communicating and leaves the other to deal with the feeling of being shut out, that gap widens even more.
Whether it’s you who retreats emotionally or your spouse (or worse yet, both of you), adopt a healthy alternative to emotional withdrawal by recognizing what words or situations trigger the deeper core wounds in you (or your spouse) that seem to be driving the argument or fight.
Once you recognize your own wounds or that of your spouse, you can resist the urge to be defensive, accusative, or angry with one another and start rejecting the lies that get you or your spouse off course. You can then receive the truth of who you are in Christ--You are His beloved, you are bought with a price, you are worth dying for.
When you know who you are in God’s eyes, you can see your spouse not as your enemy, but as your brother or sister in Christ and teammate in this world in which the enemy is trying to wreak havoc on our lives and marriages.
John 8:32 tells us: “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” In this case, the truth will also help you close the emotional gap between the two of you.
3. Help Each Other Out
Every man wants a teammate, a helper, a sense of support. My husband says it this way: “Husbands want wife support just like someone who is having difficulty breathing needs life support.”
And every wife wants her husband’s help, too. Not necessarily to solve her dilemma, but to listen to her talk it through and provide emotional support and acknowledge her feelings. Sometimes she just wants help with the kids or help around the house, especially if she’s working as many hours as her husband.
Ask your spouse how you can be of help and then pray about what you can do daily to be as supportive and helpful as possible. Not all “reconnecting” happens with long conversations or quality time. Sometimes, depending on your spouse’s love language, it happens when you offer a helping hand, a supportive shoulder, or encouraging words.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/monkeybusinessimages
4, Seek to Know More About Your Spouse
The more we know about one another, the more we can connect and reach our spouse’s heart. In marriage, however, we can tend to think we know all about our spouse, and we stop investigating.
Be curious. Ask your spouse what they’re thinking, what their bucket list is, how their dreams and goals have changed in the past few years or even the past few months. Ask about their childhood or memories of their parents or grandparents. The more you know about your spouse the more the two of you can experience the Bible’s admonition of “being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:3, ESV).
5. Be a Peacemaker
Our past wounds can affect how we respond and relate to our spouse, especially years into the marriage. We forget their intentions are not the same as the person who may have wounded us years ago. Certain words or tone of voice can trigger us into believing our spouse is on the attack when nothing could be further from the truth.
Scripture says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Strive to be a peacemaker, keeping in mind that your spouse is not your enemy, but your teammate. Together, you can get through whatever is causing pain to one of you.
Scripture also says, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
That includes your spouse. Making the effort to be a peacemaker, regardless of how personal or offensive something might sound to you, sends the message to your spouse that you want to reconnect in love.
6. Go Back to the Beginning
Jesus’ words centuries ago to His bride (the church) can serve as a challenge to us to find our way back to intimacy with our spouse. Even though Jesus was speaking of the church’s complacency toward Him, His advice is applicable to our attitudes today toward our spouses: “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:5).
Think back to the day you fell in love with your spouse. What was it about him or her that stole your heart? Was it their smile, their sense of humor, the way they made you think or laugh or stand up for yourself? And have you forsaken that love you had at first because you are no longer looking for those traits in your spouse?
Now think back to what you used to do to connect with your husband or wife. Did you prioritize your spouse over your work, your parents, your social life, your ambitions? Humble yourself and “repent and do the things you did at first.” When you do, you just might rediscover and connect with that love you had at first.
7. Extend Grace
After 32 years of marriage, and about 20 years counseling married couples, my husband and I are convinced “grace is the glue that holds the two of you together.”
Aren’t you glad we have a God who doesn’t dump us when we blow it? That’s because He’s a God of grace…a God of second, third, and a million chances. Does your spouse know that you have canceled the contingencies when it comes to making your forever stick?
This world pours into us the thinking that marriage is for our own happiness and if we are not being fulfilled we need to get out and find someone else who will fulfill us. But as God works in you and me to make us more like His Son, and we have a stick-with-it mentality--for better or worse, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part--He can turn our marital troubles and communication gaps into a glory story not only for us, but to help transform the lives and marriages of others for years to come.
I realize in some cases, a spouse is unwilling to help improve the marriage or allow God to work. But if yours is willing, can you have a stick-with-it mentality and extend grace? I challenge you to stick it out by practicing 1 Corinthians 13:7 and be one who “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (NASB) for the glory of God and the sake of restoration.
Your promise as you do this is that “love never fails” (verse 8). Let your spouse know that as long as they are willing to try, along with you, and live with you in an understanding way, you intend to stick with your vows. That is what it means to love your spouse as God loves you.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Jared Sluyter
Cindi McMenamin is a pastor’s wife, award-winning writer, national speaker, and the author of several books to help women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and one another. She and her husband, Hugh, co-authored the book When Couples Walk Together: 31 Days to a Closer Connection. Some of her books to help you combat fear and strengthen your trust in God include When Women Walk Alone (more than 145,000 copies sold), Women on the Edge, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You and When Women Long for Rest. You can find out more about her ministry, books, and free resources at www.StrengthForTheSoul.com .