Whether it’s family induced trauma, abuse and victimization, the effects of a dysfunctional lifestyle of your family of origin, poor decisions early in adulthood, or simply growing up under parents who were nice but also emotionally unavailable or disconnected, the results are difficult to recognize while we are still single. However, get a few years of marriage under your belt and the impact becomes all too apparent in the relationship.
Meaningful conversation is at the heart of meaningful relationship. Not perfunctory communication, that’s not conversation, that’s transfer of information which does nothing for a relationship. That should be reserved for exchanges at a drive-up window. Communication is an exchange of what you think, and what you want and why you want it, not what you know. These exchanges don’t have to be full of emotion, but they do have to reflect how you feel about issues. If you can’t or won’t tell your spouse what you need in your relationship, they can’t give it to you.
Meaningful conversation can be very raw and potentially destructive, if you allow it to be. Men who have not been able to converse deeply have seldom spent any time processing their thoughts out loud. Consequently, some of it may come out sounding harsh and condemning. If you are the stifled male, then you are going to have to realize that unprocessed thoughts and emotions may not be received well as you learn how to open up. If you are the female then you are going to have to realize that for a time this will be awkward and even hurtful at times, because they felt they had no power or voice in the past and that always breeds anger. That dynamic often makes people feel that they should quit, for God only knows what else is buried down there, or you choose to try to fix them by becoming their counselor. Neither of these is going to yield what you are looking for.
Two of the biggest problems relationships have today are the invasion of social media through smart-phones, and the pervasive belief that all my time has to be productive. These two have conspired to rob us of the opportunity of time for deep one-on-one personal interaction. You may need to plan a media fast and consider taking an hour walk with each other two or three times a week.
Then there is the tendency to be busy all the time, which is usually the case with emotionally disconnected people. If you are busy all the time then you don’t have time to think about all the painful stuff that needs to be sorted out in your life. We presume that being busy (productive) is the most highly valued thing in our society. It has also served to become our distraction from thinking about prickly personal issues. Productivity is certainly king in the work environment, but once you are home you need to pick up the things that are productive relationally, and being busy doing chores doesn’t fit into that values set; hence embracing the exercise of walking and talking.
For the last 17 years my wife and I have made it a habit of going to receive ministry every year to 18 months. My most recent ministry trip was for a session in Nashville, TN. During the session I had the image in my mind’s eye of Jesus standing to my right tossing some small keys up and catching them, like so much small change. I asked Him what they were. He said, “They’re keys to parts of your heart that you have reserved for yourself.” Curious, I asked, “What is the largest of the keys to?” Immediately I had a memory. The memory that came up was from about 20 or 25 years ago, in which my wife would periodically say to me, “You have to protect me! Why won’t you protect me?” I could never figure out who, or what was attacking her, because nothing was that I could see. Eventually I asked her, “From what?” Instantly I now understood why she felt and said what she did. Due to what I have obviously felt was a crappy childhood, I apparently locked up a portion of my heart to protect it against feeling any more pain. The result was that although Pat couldn’t articulate what she felt, she knew that there was a part of me that she couldn’t have, and that made her feel unsafe. I needed to know this 25 or more years ago. But if you don't ask, you don't get and answer. If you don't seek, you won't find.
Folks, we always have a reason for the way we conduct our relationships. Unfortunately, we are totally unaware of them, or how many of our actions impact our spouse. King David said in Psalms 139, “Search me and know me. See if there be any wicked way in me.” I think that what he was saying to God was, “Look, you know I’ve been faithful to deal with the stuff you’ve shown me, but I can’t resolve the things I can’t see. Show me the hidden motivations of my heart.”
Intentionally attempting deep conversation is often the doorway that begins to deal with the hidden motivations of our heart that have caused us to be emotionally unavailable or disconnected from those we love.
It’s time for your walk now.