Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Power of a Great Response in Marriage

Bill came home one evening and said to his wife Marcy, "Hey, how about we go on a date this weekend? It's been awhile and I miss it just being the two of us." Marcy, feeling overwhelmed with a five-year-old and and a two-year-old, not to mention trying to work part-time, blurts back, "Oh sure, I can hardly think about how to get through tonight much less get ready for a date. That takes baby sitters and the ability to stay awake past nine o'clock."

Bill knows he might as well not continue the discussion or push for going out so he just heads for the television and drops the idea.

What was Bill's goal?  To make an emotional connection with his wife and show her some love and attention. Maybe his timing wasn't the best and perhaps this coming weekend wouldn't work well. But what if Marcy had simply said, "Wow, thanks for thinking of me and us. I'd love that. I'm just feeling pretty overwhelmed right now. Could we talk about another time in a day or two for a special date?"

So many discussions and even healthy arguments get shut down when the first type of response is made. When the spouse either turns away or turns against the other's attempt to connect (John Gottman's terms) the chances of future connection are diminished dramatically.

The reality is that when we get good at making a good first response that in some way turns toward the other person our chances for getting closer to each other are enhanced. As my second example showed, turning toward your mate doesn't mean agreeing or giving in or accepting the implications of the other's comments.  It simply suggests that we attempt our part of the connection by acknowledging their comments, listening in some way and responding.

Lisa says to Tom, "How 'bout we watch a video tonight while the kids are at their practices?" Many guys might ignore her request, pretend they didn't hear or say something like, "You know I don't like those sappy movies you always want to watch."  What will Lisa think the next time she wants to watch a video?  I'm not trying that again!

Instead, a thoughtful and caring response from Tom like, "Hey, we haven't done that for awhile. Is it your turn to pick one or mine?" could set the stage for a talk about movie preferences without pushing Lisa away.

So, if it seems like your attempts to connect with your spouse or vice versa are usually pretty rocky, take a shot at a better first response. It can make all the difference in the world.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

No comments:

Post a Comment