If you've been following this blog, you'll know we have been discussing the idea of fighting...for your Marriage! I have shared with you several ideas from Dr. Gottman such as Love maps and intentional questions to get re-connect with your spouse, as well as sharing Scripture that supports the need to have a healthy and loving relationship. Today, I am going to talk to you about the idea of "Turning Towards your Spouse." What does that really mean? Well...do you do the little things, often, that shows your spouse you're connected and emotionally available?
Last week I actually took a week off from writing a blog for this series because our family spent the weekend in Cannon Beach, Oregon, celebrating our youngest son turning 10 years old! On the way home, my husband informed me he was so happy and full of love and that it really had been a perfect weekend. I thought about that for several days. I mean, yes, it was absolutely true, the weekend was incredibly perfect. We all came home refreshed and happy. But as I thought more about it, I thought about how simple it all was. Josh and I spent the weekend recounting the day Lane was born. We turned towards one another by doing simple little things, such as walking across the street to a little whole foods grocery store and enjoying talking about what to make the boys for dinner (as we had a full kitchen in the hotel room). As we walked on the beach, we smiled together as we watched our boys run and play. We hugged. We held hands. We kissed as the sun set.
Dr. Gottman explains that "when one partner makes a bid for connection the other partner has the opportunity to turn towards, turn away, or turn against them." A bid is simply a form of a positive connection. It can be affection, support, a conversation...basically any way to make a connection.
Sometimes couples miss out on a bid, or connection, because of one of two things happen.
1. You're angry or feeling some other negative emotion.
Don't let your negativity ruin a good moment to connect. Okay, I've got to be honest with you all right now. This is me. I do this. I "nag", as my husband lovingly tells me. I use a negative tone in my voice and say things in a manner that make him defensive, thus causing hurt feelings, probably a bit of a fight, and in the end, silence rather than the time spent together that I was seeking. For example, I am someone who speaking the physical touch and words of affirmation Love Language, and I can admit, there are many times that I say, "Why don't you tell me I look pretty?", "Do you want to kiss me? Never-mind, you never do!", or "Is it really that hard to be intimate with me? Geez!" while I storm off. Yeah, totally sweet and romantic, right?! SO, instead, I could say, "I love kissing you honey, you still give me butterflies!", "Josh, today I am feeling not quite myself. I need to hear something positive about me. Could you help me?", or I could simply do something simple like reach out and hold his hand, just because.
2. Get off the dang phone!!!!
Cell Phone that is! Or iPad. Or computer. Or anything related to technology. I'm going to be honest again...I HATE how much time Josh spends looking at his phone. A while back, we had a heated conversation regarding how much time he spent looking at his phone instead of turning towards me. Yes, the conversation was emotionally charged and as a marriage
coach, I knew better than to get so angry. In the end, after discussing our feelings and what we need from one another, Josh no longer has his phone in his hands when I want to talk with him, and I now give him a grace period of needing "zone out time". Yet, how many people do you know that look at their phone while you are talking to them...or worse, YOU do that when someone is trying to connect with you! And then what about time with your kids? Do they see mommy and daddy on technology all the time??? So, just put down the technology. Limit you time to the wired world and purposefully put yourself into you present world with you spouse and family.
What are some ways you can work on "turning towards" your spouse?
1. Create Emotional Bank Accounts
An emotional back account is a strategy to help identify to amount of time each spouse shows turning towards, or making a connection. You could simply keep a tally sheet, or journal, or a ledger. This is not meant as a competition. And it's not meant to be irritating! Even I have found myself getting irritated when Josh proclaims, "I just help your hand without being asked! Write that down!" because I start feeling like he just wants to prove a point. And while he may just be doing that, the point really is that he wants me to account for the fact that he added to the emotional bank account. And some of us simply need that accountability. I no longer get irritated because once I actually started a tally throughout the day of when Josh turned towards me, or make a connection, I realize that in the past, I was underestimating how much he truly made a bid for my affection. It truly helps a couple not take for granted all the times you do connect throughout the day.
2. Have a "Stress-Reducing" Conversation
Make time each day to have a conversation about your day. Be an active listener. (Here is a great blog to read regarding how to be an active listener! Click HERE to read more!)
First, take turns talking about your day. COMPLAIN about the parts of the day that stressed you out! Take 15 minutes each to do this.
Second, show genuine interest in what your spouse is saying. Make eye contact.
Third, don't give unsolicited advice. Meaning, there are many times I just want Josh to LISTEN. I don't want him to try to fix anything. I simply want him to listen to me whine so I can get it off my chest!
Fourth, show you understand. Sometimes, I use the phrases, "wow, that sounds like a bummer" or "yes, I can understand why you're angry. That would make me angry too."
Fifth, take your partners side! Support your spouse, even if you think your spouse is being unreasonable at the moment. I can not tell you how many times my husband has taken my side, just giving me that emotional support.
Sixth, show your spouse that "Us vs. them" solidarity. Let them know you two are a team.
Seventh, Show affection. Give a hug to your spouse, tell them you love them.
And lastly, validate their emotions. Allow your spouse to feel they make sense.
Guess what? Going through a conversation using this strategy does this: creates a stronger foundation between you and your spouse. Why? Because you worked on being a team, trusting one another, validating how the other feels. And by doing this, you're adding to that Emotional bank account. It makes you a stronger couple. AND, by the way, once you are able to basically complain and let it go, chances are you actually will LET IT GO and you'll no longer be bother by whatever it was, OR, it allows for you and your spouse to connect even further now, turning towards the other, to now figure out how to solve the issue. WIN-WIN!
You see, none of this really is rocket science. It's a lot of simple little things. But when you do simple little things, over and over again, it makes a BIG difference!
Philippians 4:14 says,
"Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles"
The Scripture line immediately before this is Philippians 4:13 which states,
"I can do all this through Him who gives me strength."
Let's reflect on that a moment..
Paul was thanking the people who shared hardships with him. Even though God gives us the strength we need, God also gives us the people in our lives that share in our lives. I know Josh was placed in my life by God.
Lord God, I praise You for the man you have placed in my life, for he has shared with me my hardships, my desires, my victories. Thank-you, God, for the moments of connection you give my husband and I, and thank-you for having our hearts open to receive one another's love, just as we are able to receive YOUR love. Lord, I pray you continue to provide opportunities to turn towards my spouse. In your precious name, Amen.
What are some ways you can create an Emotional Bank Account with you spouse this week? Perhaps make a grocery list and show together? Go for a walk together? Call or text your spouse to tell them you're thinking of them? Why not think of 3-5 things you can do this week and follow through with your spouse! And please feel free to leave a comment and share with me! I'd love to know what you're doing to create connections!
Stacie Stoney has a Master's Degree in Christian Counseling and Life Coaching from Liberty University, and has been trained as a Leader for the Gottman Institutue "Making Marriage Work". She has also been a middle school PE teacher for the past 18 years. Stacie is really great at helping others find their Light, Passion, and Purpose. She specializes in Marriage and Family Coaching, teaching how better communication skills creates more love and understanding. But mostly, Stacie is MOM and WIFE, and believes her number one job in this world is to raise her amazing, Christ-centered young men and serve her husband with encouragement and patience. God is good all the time, all the time, God is good!
Contact StacieStoneyCoaching today for your marriage, family, or life coaching needs. Or perhaps you just want to enjoy a great conversation and make a new friend, because that's very special indeed!