My wife, Melissa, is a fabulous dancer. In describing what I do on the dance floor, she probably wouldn’t use that same adjective. But we have fun.
I liken the emotional life of a married couple to a “dance” — ideally with a husband leading his wife, moving in unison around the floor. When it’s done right, it’s a captivating sight to anyone in the vicinity.
In life, seemingly endless possibilities of events can trigger feelings, causing a dancer to break an embrace, and step back from his or her partner: Music suddenly stops; toes get stepped on; cell phones interrupt; careless whispers are heard; others cut in; and dancers bump other couples. In “It’s A Wonderful Life”, George and Mary even fell into a pool while doing the Charleston!
Likewise, in the privacy of a home, something triggers an issue that a couple has never really worked through. Feelings resurface. Then a familiar but potentially dangerous old dance kicks in.
Some emotion-focused therapists say that the degree to which a couple disconnects at key moments of need says more about whether their marriage will end in divorce than any other single factor.
If this is true, then a troubled relationship isn’t mostly about a stressed budget, a disagreement on how to discipline the children, or poor communication.
It’s more about whether a husband and wife make a habit of turning toward each other, or choose to turn away from each other in the critical moments of life — when genuine feelings need to be expressed.
I anticipate some husbands thinking, “Now, why on earth would I ever want to turn toward my wife and connect emotionally with her? She’s the emotional one, I’m the logical one. I like the way I am!”
Be careful not to confuse who you are with what you do. It’s true — I don’t need to be like Melissa, but I do need to learn how to connect with her, and be emotionally available whenever she needs it.
God’s word commands husbands to love their wives no matter what. So if your wife is telling you she needs more of you emotionally, then that’s what you need to deliver. It’s an act of love.
… if one sees his marital partner as a separate being with needs and wants separate from his own, he will give to his spouse only grudgingly, and with resentment. He must, instead, identify so completely with her that he perceives her good as his good, her needs as his own, as if the two were actually one.Michael Kaufman
In the privacy of the counseling office, husbands and wives admit that they want the same basic things from a marriage relationship: to be understood, to be valued, to be accepted, and to have their feelings received and affirmed (rather than questioned or critiqued) with patience and tenderness.
As an added incentive, I’ve been told by a very, very reliable source that for women, honest and open sexual intimacy needs to be preceded well in advance by genuine emotional intimacy. That reality should be all the motivation any husband needs to learn some new dance steps! Maybe even the Tango!
… the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.Genesis 2:25
For those who appreciate a bottom line, here it is: Marriage, the way it was designed, requires husbands and wives to reveal themselves to each other, gradually, honestly and gently. So, we need to strive for that, and be open to trying to find better ways of relating that will build oneness.
Okay, so how can I tell if my spouse and I need to improve in this area?
You probably already know.
Emotionally disconnected couples are amazingly good at accomplishing the practical tasks of life: shopping, paying bills, decorating the house, servicing the cars. But, at the end of the day, something significant is missing.
One of the most frequent complaints I hear, particularly from wives, is that they feel lonely in their marriage. One or both spouses feel more like roommates than soul mates. Or, as authors Paul and Sandy Coughlin cleverly titled it, a husband and his wife are “Married but Not Engaged”.
Another clue is how far apart each of you feel emotionally after a disagreement. Did healthy conflict draw you closer together and result in better understanding, or did unhealthy conflict leave you feeling more alone and disconnected than ever?
Couples were never meant to go through life alone.Hart & Morris
Could it be time for some dance lessons?
Not every couple has the opportunity to take dancing lessons, but every couple can learn how to strengthen their marital bond by connecting emotionally.
Two things to keep in mind …
1. Husbands — You are the key to the emotional climate in your homes. Just as you lead on the dance floor, start today taking steps to lead in this category.
2. Husbands and wives — Sharing your heart, even if you’ve been wounded in the past, is not only a risk worth taking, but a requirement in a God-honouring marriage.
Three things to think about and discuss …
1. What feelings or emotions were openly expressed in your home when you were growing up?
2. What’s the emotional climate of your home like today? Is it an emotionally-safe haven for both of you to open up, or do you prefer to just sweep the most important feelings under the dance floor?
3. What does your dance look like? We all have one. When you and your mate have a disagreement, who does what? Awareness is a great first step.
Blessings on your home,
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