It’s a standard requisite for a good marriage – and pretty obvious, most of us would say: talking to each other. But don’t be too quick to dismiss those four words in relation to your own relationship. Take just a minute or two to read on and explore this with me a little.
Leonard Zuin said, “The two most important periods in a marriage relationship are the first four minutes in the morning and the last four at night.” I believe there is much truth in that. The way we react to each other on waking, and the atmosphere that surrounds us as we go to sleep, are important. Somebody once asked the wife of a friend of mine, “In the morning, do you wake up grumpy?” “No,” she replied, “he normally comes around himself!”
Whatever you make of Zuin’s comment, there’s no doubt that good communication can take place in relatively short periods of time – if we are prepared to make time to talk. For example, we may be on a car journey together and instead of immediately reaching for the radio button, we wait a bit to at least give conversation a chance.
Most times like these won’t be outstandingly romantic – we could be changing a nappy or washing up, but don’t look down on them. The truth is that many marriages would be revolutionised by ten minutes of meaningful conversation a day.
A warning, though! Be sensitive to when your partner is physically exhausted and actually needs resuscitation, not conversation! For most mums with small children, the period between four and six will not be the time when they are at their most relaxed!
Although much of our communication will be while we do other things, we’ll also benefit from having more relaxed times when we can talk in depth. These will normally need a little planning, but the aim is that we won’t be absolutely shattered and we’ll be able to focus solely on each other.
Of course, the second we agree to have that time together, it will be as if the whole world conspires to make it impossible. We’ll find that somebody has altered the date of a social or other event and “everyone else can make it on that night”. At this point, it’s vital to realise that this is a battle and that we’ll need commitment to win. We must have the courage to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t make it then – I already have an appointment.” You may think that selfish and say, “I suppose we could arrange another night.” You could, but you probably never will.
But finally the evening comes and inevitably other things will arise that are likely to sabotage it. It may be the children – they demand our time. The way in which we deal with this will, of course, depend on their age, but the ground rules are best laid when they are very small. The basic principle is this: “Mum and Dad love you so much, and being with you is more important to us than with anybody else on the face of the earth, but we also need time with each other that will help our love grow strong.”
I am committed to encouraging parents to spend time with their children, but not at the expense of their own relationship. We usually do the children no favours by this, and we lose the resolve to sort out the heart of the problem.
The second challenge to our time together will, ironically, be likely to come from the world of communication – phones, emails, texts, social media etc. If we are going to have some quality time together, there must be some protection from these things. They are the rudest of all interrupters and oh so compelling. It was the same years ago, too. The story goes that the British Ambassador in Washington went to see President Roosevelt, but Roosevelt kept taking telephone calls. Finally, the ambassador stalked out, rang Roosevelt and had an hour and a half uninterrupted on the telephone! We must decide how we fight this battle – but fight it we must.
So as I close, let’s consider for a minute how well we talk together as a couple. Good communication may not always be easy, but it’s too important in marriage to dismiss without considering it for just a minute. Our talking time together – whether in short or longer bursts – is precious. Let’s do all we can to protect it.
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