Over the last few months, I’ve been privileged to hear people’s stories, questions, and struggles in their marriage. And I’ve noticed something – there’s a common denominator in all of the hard stuff of marriage.
I know it sounds so simple – learn to communicate! I’m certainly not suggesting that learning to communicate better will make your marriage perfect. Our marriage certainly isn’t and we’ve actually come a loooong way in terms of communication.
What am I saying is that it is definitely worth the effort to improve communication with your spouse, and that it’s going to take a lot more than just reading books and/or seeking counseling (but both are good things that I definitely recommend!).
It’s going to take being vulnerable with each other.
You can read allll the of the marriage books in the world and meet with a counselor together every single week, but if you’re not being vulnerable with each other? Sharing everything with each other? You’re going to have a hard time.
I’m the biggest introvert of all introverts…which means I don’t like to talk. I live in my head a lot. I’d rather journal about my feelings than talk about them. My natural instinct is to just keep everything to myself and not share them with my spouse.
Our marriage really struggled for years because of that.
How was my husband supposed to know I was struggling with everything on my plate – kids, housework, volunteer responsibilities, etc – if I didn’t share that with him? How was my husband supposed to know I felt disrespected in certain relationships if I didn’t tell him? Why did I expect my husband to read my mind and know what I was thinking at every moment?
He didn’t know. He had no way to know. Because I didn’t tell him. I kept it to myself, or thought that it was silly to share some of those things with him. The mind of an introvert can be crazy, after all. But it goes both ways…
How was I supposed to know my husband felt like he wasn’t providing enough for our family? How was I supposed to know my husband felt stuck when it came to his job situation if he didn’t tell me?
I didn’t know. I had no way to know. Because he didn’t tell me. He thought I was disappointed in him or that I’d assume he was unhappy with our current situation.
Keeping things to yourself tends to lead to bitterness and resentment and a heck of a lot of misunderstanding. Which leads to your spouse withdrawing. With leads to two very unhappy people.
But if you’re sharing everything with each other? Your good moments, your struggles, and everything in between? That’s the kind of marriage we wanted. That’s the kind of marriage we’ve started to have.
If you’re starting to feel resentful about the fact that your spouse doesn’t pull his/her weight around the house, tell them that! (Gently, please.)
If you need encouragement from your spouse to apply for a new job, start a business, or [insert scenario here], tell them that!
If your needs aren’t being met in the bedroom, tell your spouse that! (Oh, but please, please first tell your spouse how wonderful they are and how much you love being intimate with him/her. Build up your spouse first, then say: “I would like to work on XYZ though. Can we talk about that?”)
You can’t complain about not getting something if you haven’t asked for it. And you can’t expect your spouse to read your mind.
On the flip side, if one spouse is being vulnerable and opening up about something, the other spouse needs to listen. No belittling, no mocking, none of that. The listening spouse needs to be vulnerable too by offering unconditional love and support! It can be hard, especially if a big issue is brought up, and especially if it might be painful to hear. But you can’t grow in your marriage without addressing the hard stuff. (Marriage requires a heck of a lot of humility, too.)
Sometimes I wonder now if we share too much. Did he really need to know during the World Cup that I thought Russia’s goalie was extremely handsome? Did he really need to share his, um, trip to the bathroom in extreme detail?
Perhaps that’s going to be different in everyone’s marriage. But for us, sharing absolutely everything has been a game-changer. We know what each other is thinking now because we actually say it. We know how to support each other. We know that being vulnerable with each other is exactly why we’ve grown in intimacy and in love for each other.
We know that vulnerability in our marriage is how we will get each other to Heaven.
I hate to say this but feel it is necessary: if you suspect your spouse is emotionally abusive, this post is not for you. Please seek the help of a counselor or spiritual director!