I still have the email. Received nearly 17 years ago. Sent from one side of the country to the other. The one where he told me he loved me.
With joy I received those words from the one who’d already so completely stolen my heart.
But in the same email he shared his fears. He referred to an Oscar Wilde play, “Our House.” In the play the husband and wife of many years stop talking to each, not because they are angry, but simply because they have run out of things to say. If he and I continued to pursue this relationship, if we eventually committed to a life spent together, would we too someday run out of things to say?Now after nearly 15 years of marriage, we communicate a lot. Words, conversation, they are a huge part of our relationship, our family, who we are. We talk about everything, the details of what each of us are doing at work, what’s going on with our kids, our families, politics, our friends, activities we enjoy, plans we are working on, what we heard on the radio.
A lot of this stems from our personalities, because really, if this was something he was concerned about, it probably means conversation is really important to him. But it’s also a habit we developed early in our marriage. Most evenings by about 9:00 you won’t find us sitting in front of a television, reading a book or magazine, or busy with separate tasks. Instead, we’ll be sitting side by side on the living room couch talking.
And yet, will we some day run out of things to say?
There have definitely been days and even seasons where the words are harder to find. When I’m tired of talking of the logistics and work of raising a family. When I’m bored or dissatisfied enough with where I’m at in life that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to hear about it. When my focus on myself makes me lose interest in what he wants to share.
So what do we do to keep the conversation going? To keep it vibrant and fun, the very highlight of my day?
First, we make it a priority to spend even more time together.
This might seem backwards, but it works. Probably one of the best pieces of marriage advice I have ever received came from my dad. One day several years ago, I was venting (possibly complaining) to him that Steve and I seemed to be perpetually at odds with each other at that time. His words: Sounds like you need to spend some time together.
Dad was right. Within the next few days Steve and I made time to get out on a date. Not to talk about our conflict, just to be together. And somehow all the little conflicts no longer mattered.
Through babies, toddlers and now nearly middle-schoolers, we’ve stayed committed to our habitual late evening talks. The talks may start later than they used to, but they still start. And a few years ago we also started having lunch together once a week. Another time out of our busy schedules just to talk.
And of course, whenever we possibly can, however infrequently that may be, we play together. For us that usually means something active like cycling or going on a walk, but sometimes its shopping (he actually likes it too) or trying a new restaurant or playing a board game – shared experiences that not only give us a chance to talk, they give us something to talk about.
I’ll confess that even this last week, life seemed to be getting to us. A little more often than usual the words I said to him were sharp rather than conversational. But near the end of a Saturday afternoon work-out at the gym, we tried a few new activities together, kind of just messing around. Maybe 20 minutes together, headphones off, nothing else that needed our attention. It was fun. It was enough to help restart the conversation.
Second, we study God’s Word together.
For the first dozen years of our marriage, I might have told you about the value of spending time together, but I would have completely blown off this second point if it was recommended to me. So if you’re tempted to do that right now, just bear with me a little longer.
Like I did, you might think something like, sure, studying God’s Word is good. I know we are supposed to do it. We can each keep working on that as disciplines in own lives, but it’s not something we need to do together. If we try to force ourselves to study the Bible together, couldn’t that kind of even get in the way of my own quiet time with God?
And although some of that may be true, and I can almost agree that a shared study of God’s word isn’t a necessity to a strong marriage, I can say that it has transformed ours.
For nearly four years now, Steve and I have both been committed to an in-depth Bible study. Each week studying the same passages, the same truths. We don’t sit down and work through this together, it’s still a part of our own personal time with God, but throughout the week we are studying the same things.
What this gives us is a common language for what’s really going on in our hearts. I can mention a few words in the middle of a chapter that were really meaningful to me or the theme I’m seeing over the last few weeks, and he’s right there with me, understanding the reference and building off it with his own experience in the same passages.
What do we talk about now late into the night on our living room couch or at lunch on a Thursday? We talk about what we are learning about God’s character and what that means for the way we interact with our kids. We talk about our questions as we struggle with a difficult passage or truth. We talk about how we live out the truths God is revealing to us this week in our service to others. Or we simply marvel together at the greatness of our God.
Our conversations are deeper, more real, more transparent.
Now I know, in the scheme of things, we haven’t been married all that long. We’ve been through some trials, but there’s plenty still to come. There will be plenty more days when we don’t feel like talking or there isn’t even enough time to take a breath, let alone sit side by side. But we’ve built a foundation that I am confident will see us through.
And so far, we definitely are not running out of things to say.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts… Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:6 & 7