I needed to stay home to rest. This morning, James and I exchanged "Happy Valentine's Day!" at breakfast before he left all for an all day meeting. He asked me to take a good rest and I said I would.
I was surprised when he came back into the house in just a few minutes.
"Remember what you said about the blinkers?" he asked. "I couldn't start the car. Could you give me a ride to the carpool?"
Last night when he got home, I warned him I had left the blinkers on for a few hours by mistake and wondered whether the car could start today. So I wasn't surprised. But I told him, "How about you just take the van? I will be here all day anyway."
"But I don't want you to be without the van."
"Just in case I need to go somewhere?"
You have to watch our body language and listen to our tone of voice to understand how much we care for each other. I know James cares about me, and that's what counts.
"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)
Too often, communication between long-term couples can become just parceling out 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.
Deeper communication may require an intentional shift or willingness to expose vulnerability. But isn't your happiness -- and your relationship -- worth the risk? After all, your spouse is your lifelong partner, you are in it together. Here are some 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!
James and I believe one of the best ways to accomplish all the above is to be able to read the Bible together everyday and share life around the message from the Word of God.
"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).
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications