Monday, February 01, 2010

soul food: truly, madly, deeply stuck (communication)

Charlie and I have been going to church religiously (?) consistently for the past several months and for the most part, we get a lot out of each service.

I think it's because we're at a point where we are trying to figure out what this whole "life thing" is all about, while providing the best structure for our children that we can, while also doing our best to keep ourselves on the right track. And say, not crashing headlong in to the trees that line the road of existence.

Let's face it: life can be tough sometimes.

Especially when you've got small people that you are trying to raise in to compassionate and conscientious human beings. The whole parenting gig sounds a lot easier than it actually is. And for us, church provides a road map that we didn't really have before. And, it has the added benefit of strengthening our marriage in ways that I never expected.

Last week, I wrote about the importance of commitment in a marriage.

This week, I'll be writing about the church service we attended this weekend, where the importance of communication in a marriage was discussed.

Although, it's important to point out, this isn't just about communication between a husband and wife - it's about communication with anyone.

Regardless of who you are communicating with - if communication is tense, communication stalls. And if you lack communication, you get isolation and hopelessness.
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Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. Ephesians 4:2-3 (NLT)
Relationships get stuck in patterns. Relationships "form" and then "storm" but often, before they get to the "norm" or "perform" stage, they get stuck.

From Wikipedia:

"In the first stages of team building, the forming of the team takes place. The individual's behavior is driven by a desire to be accepted by the others, and avoid controversy or conflict.

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Every group will then enter the storming stage in which different ideas compete for consideration. The team addresses issues such as what problems they are really supposed to solve, how they will function independently and together and what leadership model they will accept.

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At some point, the team may enter the norming stage. Team members adjust their behavior to each other as they develop work habits that make teamwork seem more natural and fluid. As team members get to know each other better, their views of each other begin to change. The team feels a sense of achievement for getting so far, however some members can begin to feel threatened by the amount of responsibility they have been given. They would try to resist the pressure and revert to storming again.

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Some teams will reach the performing stage. These high-performing teams are able to function as a unit as they find ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or the need for external supervision."

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A few years ago, when we had four children under the age of three, Charlie and I were going through a difficult patch and we picked up the book, "The 5 Love Languages" and it was such an eye opener for the both of us.

What we hadn't realized up until that point, is that we each have our own preferred method of receiving love. And we need to be multilingual in the various love languages in order for the love between us to work. Or at least, work well.

Each of us has a love bank to which our spouse makes deposits and withdrawals. If something good is done - that constitutes a deposit. If something hurtful happens, that is a withdrawal.

In any relationship, it's best if you are in the black and not overdrawn on your love bank. If you aren't fluent in someone's love language - you could be missing opportunities for filling their love bank.

Which is why you could be in the same room with someone, but miles away emotionally.

The 5 Love Languages, as defined by Gary Chapman are:

1) WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21 (NLT)
The minister spoke of when he was a fourth grader and couldn't read. Although none of his peers knew, his teacher was well aware of the secret he had tried so well to disguise. But instead of calling him out and embarrassing him in front of the class, when the children would head out to recess each day, the teacher called to him and asked if he would stay after to help her with a special project. It was during that time, she would work with him on phonics. He says that the most pivotal moment for him was when she encouraged him by saying, "You are so smart and you'll be reading in no time!"

Sure enough, he was.

Because she believed in him, he believed in himself.

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...Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
2) QUALITY TIME

The biggest distraction to intimacy is busyness.
...Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." Mark 6:31 (NIV)
The minister shared a story of two women who were discussing how they spend quality time with their spouses. One of the women said that she and her husband shared a pot of coffee each day. The other wife went home and told her husband, "WHY don't WE share a pot of coffee EACH DAY?!" The husband responded, "Well, I suppose we could. Why don't we make a pot of coffee?" So they did. And once the pot of coffee was on the table, they sat and stared at each other unsure of what to do next. Finally the husband said, "Maybe you should call your friend and ask her what she and her husband talk about?"

On a daily basis, you should start out talking about the facts, and then - you should get down to talking about what's on your heart.

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This is one of my love languages because I absolutely crave spending quality time with my husband. But what I have learned is that you have to carve out quality time because it's not something that you can catch on the fly.

Although, Charlie and I have considered placing two toilets in our bathroom because some days, it seems like that is the only time we have to connect.

3) GIVING/RECEIVING GIFTS

Some people express love by giving - or receiving gifts.

Lucky for Charlie, this is definitely NOT one of my love languages. If Charlie misses my birthday - or our anniversary - it's not a problem for me, in the least. While I do appreciate gifts that are received, I just don't place that much importance on them. But, what I have discovered since reading Chapman's book - is that there are some people who do not feel love unless you recognize them by giving them gifts.
... a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor..."
Mark 14:3-5 (NIV)
How do people want to receive love?

Well, how do they express it?

If you know someone that showers you with gifts, chances are good that giving and receiving is one of their love languages. And if you want to successfully communicate with them - you better get on board. And start saving.

4) ACTS OF SERVICE

Acts of Service? Now, this IS my love language.

If you love me, DO SOMETHING WITHOUT ME ASKING TEN TIMES.

If you love me, PICK UP YOUR SOCKS.
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should was one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:14-15 (NIV)
If you love me, MAKE SURE THE DIAPER BAG HAS DIAPERS IN IT. Preferably, before we go out. And are more than 30 minutes from home.

Ah, but the trick here is that you need to ask and not demand that someone does something. And then (this is the really tough part for me) let it go undone. As in, don't bring it up again and again and again and nag about it, incessantly. How difficult is it to remember to pack diapers in a DIAPER BAG? Seems pretty self explanatory to me. Diaper Bag = Diapers. It's not rocket science. Or maybe it is and I'm BRILLIANT.

(Don't do that. Don't even think it.)

My husband knows that if he tidies up the garage, and picks up his stuff and cleans the bathrooms for no reason at all, he'll have an Irish love tiger on his hands.

Roar!

5) PHYSICAL TOUCH


This isn't about sex. That post comes next week.

This has to do with the simple healing power of touch.

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There are studies that have shown people who have not been hugged as children, have an increased tendency to be violent and aggressive relative to those people who have been hugged frequently as children.

Michael Rayel wrote, "A touch provides comfort in a freezing night. It makes us feel secure because it unites us with an affectionate, loving, and feeling human being. The warmth it brings is better than the warmth a fireplace can provide. A touch shields us from the worries of today because of the confidence it brings. Like internet, it allows high-speed access to another soul."
When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately, he was cured of his leprosy. Matthew 8:1-3 (NIV)
Do you know when your spouse is upset with you?

Do they look at you? Do they reach out and touch you? Or do they answer questions in one word, "Yep." "Nope." And recoil if your foot so much as touches them in bed at night?

Remember this: Your words will not penetrate their heart, if you can't take the simple step of reaching across the chasm (or table) and holding their hand.

Studies have also shown that women speak two to three times more than a man each day. And undoubtedly WRITE two to three hundred times more (Good Lord this is a long post is anyone still with me?), but that doesn't mean that the people in your life know what your needs are, unless you explicitly state them.

So as I conclude this post, I'm leaving you with a homework assignment.

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Sit down with your spouse and ask them to complete the following sentences:

I feel loved when you __________________.

I feel loved when you __________________.

I feel loved when you __________________.

I feel loved when you __________________.

I feel loved when you __________________.

I feel loved when you __________________.

I feel loved when you __________________.

Seven times they need to write down what it takes for them to feel loved. And then, you write down seven times what it takes for you to feel loved. And then, trade your notes and do your best to implement at least two to three of those things, THIS WEEK.

Don't make your spouse read your mind and don't try to read theirs.

SAY what you want and ASK for what you need.

Charlie and I tried this exercise and it went something like this:

Charlie, to me: I feel loved when you ... encourage me to go out and get involved in triathlons.

Me to Charlie: I feel loved when you ... bake me chocolate chip cookies.

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This is why my husband is a rock hard stud and I'm turning in to something squishy.

Because we clearly love each other.

A LOT.

11 comments:

  1. Last night, I said to my husband, "I really appreciated it when you took the time to notice that I'd made your hot-water-with-lemon-and-honey the temperature you like."

    To most, that's a totally ridiculous thing to say. However, actually SAYING it when notice the little things has (and I say this without melodrama) saved our marriage.

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  2. An "Irish Love Tiger"?? Dang, this is getting good! I'm going to sit right here until your post on sex comes out. LOL
    Seriously, excellent post Jen....truly inspiring.

    XOXO AM

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  3. Nice Post and I agree. In my home as a child, we were not allowed to show affection or touch and I know that left me feeling sad. I guess there were so many of us --we had lots of church ---but not much tenderness shown. I am glad that you are learning these skills.
    Elizabeth is sketching on the run.
    I think she will be as talented as her Grandmother.
    MOM

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  4. Thank you for this thoughtful post. I love how the pictures are interspersed so well (your children are lucky you have so much energy!). I am looking forward to next week's post about sex - but now I am going to wake up my husband and ask him if he wants to go have breakfast at the beach.

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  5. I love these posts. This is so interesting, the concept of love languages. I can sort of already see a few of mine and my husbands different languages, but I'm going to have to get that book!

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  6. In the Army, sometimes units will sponsor a "couples retreat". Last March we were fortunate enough to get to attend one, about an hour from where we were living, at St. Simons Island, GA. It was a 3 day seminar, and it was put on by Gary Chapman, and I truly believe it changed our marriage for the better. We went in a struggling married couple still healing from his latest deployment, and somehow cam out whole. We have a few of his books, they may sound sort of cheesy, but the skills taught can be the glue for your marriage.

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  7. Gary Chapman also wrote a follow-up book, "The Five Love Languages of Children" with a friend of his who is a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry. I own both books and they are great! I'm working on figuring out my kids right now, so when baby #3 shows up, I can keep "speaking" their specific love language even though my time is going to be eaten up by a newborn. I don't want them to feel any less loved just because their new baby brother shows up.

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  8. AUNT GRACE2/1/10, 4:51 PM

    tHAT WAS A VERY NICE POST. i KNOW i AM CONSIDERED TO BE THE EXPERT ON HAPPY MARRIAGES, AND TRULY i DID HAVE ONE. i FEEL IT COMES FROM THE TOUCHING THAT YOU MENTIONED, bILL ALWAYS HELD ME, TOUCHED MY HAND ARM AROUND MY SHOULDER, IT WAS SUCH A COMFORTING GESTURE. GOD I MISS HIM.

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  9. Wonderful post. I have a very good marriage, but I'm interested in picking up that book. I think we'd both think it would be fun to heed the advice. I've been enjoying your marriage posts.

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  10. I am truly enjoying these posts and look forward to each new one. As a military spouse, it seems very hard (in my mind anyway) to find couples' time or know what your partner needs when one of you is frequently gone. I feel more hopeful as I get great ideas for opening up communication from your posts.

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  11. Thank you for your post. We did your "homework" assignment. The interesting thing was what was not on my husband's list. For years, I have made it a priority to always make him nice lunches to eat at work. I was sure that would be on his list, but it was not. I will continue to do it, but now knowing it is more important to me than him.
    It seems like once a couple has children, it is very easy to neglect a marriage. We have not done so, but posts like this give us inspiration to continue to focus and grow our relationship. Thank you for the wonderful post.
    Amy

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