This article is part three of the Marriage in a Fishbowl series, focused on encouragement and helpful marriage tips for ministers. It is written by Cory and Amy Brand, a ministry couple serving in Corsicana. Click here to read part one and part two.
“Never close your lips to those whom you have already opened your heart.” - Charles Dickens
A church member dies. Someone feels forgotten. A family falls apart. Another financial need arises. A cancer diagnosis. The phone rings…again. Is anybody else exhausted?
As ministers, we are constantly battered by the pain in this world, by the fallout from sinful choices, and from the attacks of the enemy. We long for a place of refuge, where we can be known and can fully know another. We have to learn to create a place of security and of peace in our homes, or we ultimately will be tempted to seek it out elsewhere. So how do we foster that type of environment within our marriages? It begins with effective communication.
We cannot not communicate. Even silence is a form of communication. It’s not whether we will communicate, but how we will communicate. In ministry, we communicate with people all of the time, don’t we? In fact, we do it so much that it’s all too easy to catch ourselves in the trap of talking at people, or listening with the intent to fix the problem so that we can move on to the next thing. Healthy communication, however, takes thoughtfulness, intentionality and determination. When we are committed to loving our spouse, putting the effort into building a bridge of understanding is not a chore, but a privilege.
How do we foster that type of understanding inside our marriage? How do we move beyond the “‘how was your day”’ or “‘what’s for dinner”’ conversations into deep, meaningful connections with our spouse?
Save some conversational energy for your spouse. We spend incredible amounts of time and energy pouring into others. When we expend every emotional resource that we have on everyone else, however, our spouse may be left feeling insignificant and undervalued. Resentment and bitterness can easily flourish when we consistently offer our spouse our leftovers. Make time together a priority. Share your dreams and your burdens. You may not be up for more than the “daily update”’ conversation when you walk in the door, but make sure that your spouse knows that you value your time together. Set a time later in the evening to spend together, and keep your commitment!
Make your conversations safe. When we are attacked or ridiculed for sharing honestly, we naturally begin to build walls to protect ourselves. Your spouse has to know that being vulnerable with you is the safest thing in the world. We may not like or agree with what we hear, but we have to learn to encourage full disclosure or we risk conveying that keeping secrets is better. Does that mean that we can’t share when we disagree or are hurt by something said or done? Absolutely not! The main focus, though, should always be understanding and reconciliation, not winning. “‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”’ (Proverbs 15:1). Truly building intimacy includes both being totally open and honest with your spouse, and loving them when they are totally open and honest with you.
Don’t underestimate the value of non-verbal communication. Tone matters. Body language matters. Touch matters. Often, just our focused attention (hint, hint…put the phone down and turn off the TV), a gentle touch of our hand, and turning our body toward our spouse communicates more than anything we could ever speak. These things may seem small and insignificant, but using non-verbal communication that is affirming can change the entire temperature of any conversation.
Remember, we cannot not communicate. So, what are you saying?