Keys to Listening Well – Creating&Maintaining Intimacy

Our next two blogs focus will be on Improving Communication skills which will help with both emotional and physical intimacy.  Communication consists of two jobs, listening and talking.  For good communication that leads to deeper intimacy we need to do both well.

Even in the quietest homes there is constant communication going on.  Most of our communication is non-verbal, in the form of

  1. facial expressions,
  2. tone/volume of voice
  3. body language

So what do we do to improve our communication with one another?  It’s 2 fold, Listening Well and Talking Well – both of which require mindfulness of yourself and your partner.

Here are 5 Keys to Listening Well:

(Remember the non-verbals!)

  1. Make eye contact – this is one of the best ways to show someone you are listening to them as they talk.  If you are looking
  2. Direct your body to your partner – rather than facing the tv, turn toward the person talking, it shows them you are interested in hearing them
  3. Nod your head to express understanding and interest – rather than a zombie stare, nodding shows you are following them
  4. Don’t interrupt – don’t worry about trying to figure out your response, you will get a chance to speak too but your job is to listen now
  5. Reflect – Reflection requires your interpretation:  Imagine the conversation as a mirror.  Once they have finished their statement you reflect back to them what you just heard.  This is not PAROTING…Polly want a cracker.  No this is repeating their statement with a mixture of empathy and validation.

Remember that you want to be in tune with your partner and show them that you care what they are saying and you want to hear them.  After all, if I don’t show Michael that I care about him by listening well then we are

Good communication can prevent misunderstandings, hurt feelings and conflict.

more likely to experience misunderstandings, hurt feelings and conflict.

Now, it’s hard to listen if no one is talking…yeah, like that’s ever a problem?!  Right?!  Well stay tuned, next time we’ll be discussing the keys of talking well.

Safety Saboteurs – Creating&Maintaining Intimacy

Last week we emphasized how our individual differences impact intimacy in our marriage and the need for open communication to come to common ground.  That’s all great when you’re talking about the small stuff, where should we eat tonight or how do we fold the towels.

But, then there’s the stuff in life and marriage you don’t plan for or expect such as financial hardships, loss of a loved one, challenging children.  It’s hard to remain intimate when you realize you aren’t going to be able to provide financially the way you anticipated, you are grieving or you disagree on how to parent your headstrong child.  What about the other stuff in life that happens and no one really talks about?  The stuff that isn’t discussed until after it happens, such as: fertility issues, depression, severe illness, in-laws moving in, etc.

How do you invite intimacy into feelings of brokenness, hopelessness, etc.

Continually providing safety within your marriage is the key to intimacy.  When you are dating, you are trusting pieces of yourself as the relationship grows and intimacy develops.  Now that you are married, you’ve likely revealed almost everything about yourself.  Safety is everything at this point, because we are trusting that our spouse can handle everything you have revealed over the years as opposed to small pieces of you at a time, in addition to life as it happens to you as a couple.

We have identified some safety and trust saboteurs.

Safety saboteurs

  • Unspoken Expectations – read here for more on this topic
  • Secrets
    • anything that makes you experience that twinge in your gut when you may think “what if my spouse finds out?”
  • Poor communication skills – this invites circular arguments that are left unresolved and increased defensiveness for both parties
  • High levels of stress (lack of self-care) – unbalanced life and priorities will lead to burnout and allow for very limited time to emotionally and physically connect with your spouse.

Creating that safe environment

Engagement Table
Dating your spouse increases intimacy.

Think back to the beginning of your relationship.  What helped create that sense of safety between you and your spouse?  (DATING, INTENTIONALLY SPENDING TIME TOGETHER, etc.)

We want to challenge you to sit down with your spouse this week and reminisce about your favorite dates, list activities you both already enjoy doing together as well as activities you’d like to try out together.  But hey, let’s not stop there!  Get out your calendars and begin to plan out dates.  Think through the different commitment levels each will take, time, financial and energy.  Then enjoy dating your spouse again.  Who knows date night might be better than when you were dating!

Great Expectations

expectation quote

 

 

 

 

 

Now I don’t know that Shakespeare actually said this but I do agree with sentiment.

A common statement I’ve heard about divorce is that it is based on disagreements over either sex or money.  I disagree with this.  I believe the ends of many relationships are due to unmet expectations and a failure to clearly communicate with one another.

When my husband and I were first dating I was not a touchy feely girlfriend, at all.  When we would have disagreements I wanted to be left alone and given space.  Once we were married, however, something changed.  I wanted Michael to hold me rather than leave me alone.  When we had disagreements I wanted him to reassure me by hugging me.  I did a complete turn around and expected him to know this and change his responses toward me.  For two years of dating I expressed my need for distance and all of a sudden I no longer wanted that.  When this expectation went unmet I would feel hurt and insecure and Michael was left feeling confused and frustrated.  I wanted him to just know what I needed without me telling him.  Thankfully, I had a good friend remind me “he won’t know what you need if you don’t tell him.”  Duh!!  He’s very intuitive but not a mind reader.

Openly talking about our expectations, needs and struggles can feel vulnerable which can also be really hard and scary.  What if they don’t meet them, what if nothing changes?  Often past hurts will influence how we behave in our current relationships.  We hold back in an effort to protect ourselves but end up damaging our current relationship as a result.  I had to realize things would not get better if I didn’t open up to my husband and clearly communicate with him what I needed.  Knowing your expectations, being willing to talk through them and being open to adjusting them not only gives you more freedom, but allows others a chance to respond to your expectations.

So, live for today!  Fight against the fear of past hurts and potential heartache that can get in the way of what could be an authentic relationship.  An expectation that is never shared is an expectation that will likely never be met.