Remember I wrote that I yelled at James, "I am not going to play (Blokus) with you!" when he kept on blocking my moves?
Instead of walking away (like he used to do in our earlier days) to avoid conflict, he actually sat there and listened to my feelings, thoughts and needs. When I calmed down, I said sorry but I thought we might never play that game again.
So I was surprised the next day when James asked, "Hey, can we play a game of Blokus?" and added, "I promise I will not think too much." I said yes, giving him the benefit of the doubt.
When we started playing, I noticed how deliberate he was trying to match my pace. It was not easy for him, but I could tell he consciously stopped himself from thinking too far ahead. With him speeding up and I slowing down, we were able to play that game every day. We had fun, but I grew curious how he still kept on winning. When I asked, he patiently explained the tricks of the game. I was amazed by his insight and how gentle he was to avoid overwhelming me with too many details. As soon as I got it, our games were different—now, sometimes I paused to think instead of just using my intuition. Imagine my joy the first time I won. Both of us were satisfied. As the saying goes, "When my wife is happy, I am happy!" This time, I remembered to thank him for teaching me.
Do you yearn for communication and connection with people you love? Try listening so that they will talk, and talking so that they will listen. Take a risk to share from your heart instead of putting on a facade to protect yourself. Starting here and now, try these Things to Say Before It's Too Late.
Too often, communication between long-term couples can devolve into the logistics of life: Can you pick up the dry cleaning? Did you take out the trash? Loving relationships need -- and deserve -- so much more.
"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Deeper communication may require an intentional shift or willingness to expose vulnerability. But isn't your happiness -- and your relationship -- worth the risk? Here are ways to begin:
Thank you for... Everyone likes to be acknowledged and appreciated for what they do. Thank your partner for more than just what you asked him/her to do. For example, you might thank him or her for being a great parent, for always making time for the children.
Would you please... Expecting your partner to read your mind is expecting the impossible. Say what you want and need. When you articulate your wishes clearly, resentments don't have time to build up, and you can also work together to find win-win solutions.
How do you feel about... Ask, and then listen to your partner's response, withholding judgment or any need to change or fix the feelings.
I feel... State your feelings and tell the truth. Notice the difference between "I think" and "I feel" statements. Learn to use different feeling words (e.g. disappointed, hurt, frustrated, worried, appreciative, excited, etc.).
I'm sorry... Admit your mistakes and apologize for them. You may feel vulnerable, but your honesty is likely to inspire the same in your partner and open the door for closer connection.
I forgive you... Accepting apologies for mistakes your partner makes is a way of letting go of resentments, and that frees you both.
I appreciate your... Shine the light on your partner's qualities. You'll create an arena of goodwill that shines back on you.
What I hear you saying... Listen, really listen, and let your partner know he/she has been heard.
I agree with you because... Validating your partner's point of view and perspective helps him/her feel heard and understood.
What are you reading? Open up communication on an intellectual level and you may feel the warmth of common views -- or sparks of difference—that drew you together in the first place.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Listen to your partner's vision, and then share your own. The question may inspire a new, shared plan or uncover the need to build a bridge between your dreams.
I love you... Find your own variations on the words; you can't say them too often. Don't be shy or afraid to express your love!
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)
A few days after playing the game, it suddenly dawned on me that just like it was hard for me not to feel, it was very difficult for James not to think. I shared that insight with him, and we were amazed and appreciative of how God has designed us differently yet joined us together.
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications