Something central to a first responder or military marriage is that the service person stays focused and many times that can create a hard shell that keeps their spouse out, and the pain of what they’ve experienced in.
When that hard shell is there a number of things can occur:
It doesn’t allow you to grow because you’re spending so much emotional energy “stuffing” your experiences.
It diminishes the connection with your spouse and the opportunity for your spouse to help you carry the load.
It breaks down connecting emotionally, sexually and spiritually.
It leads to independence instead of interdependence.
To break open that shell can be risky. It leaves you exposed, but it also gives you the opportunity to express your needs to your mate. That means you have to strengthen the wall protecting you both as a couple, so you can put down the wall between you – then you can connect.
In your connection with each other, you build the interdependence that is foundational in a healthy marriage. We call this TWO-getherness.
We’ve learned that one of the best strategies we can offer couples id the modeling of not only finding time but also space for their marital communication that gives a sense of both predictability and expectations that can be met.
Let’s start with timing. The rhythm of every family and even the same family during different seasons of life can have a major impact on when they communicate. Of course, we communicate all the time with both words and facial expressions – but often we lack the intentionality or purposing to share and invest in our marital relationship.
Take your temperature. Ask each other, “How am I doing? What do you need more of? Less of? What should I keep doing?”
The first 90 seconds of when you connect at the end of the day is critically important. Make sure you are being intentional. Turn off all technology and focus on each other. Make eye contact and add touch!
Share where and when you’re going to communicate. Talk with each other and decide where you’ll be together to talk and when that is going to happen. Identify a time that works for both of you. Be flexible when you need to deviate from that time, but make certain you’re clear that if you can’t talk now, when you will talk.
And what about the space? For the two of us, we have always had two chairs where we sit down together for intentional communication. These are not chairs where we watch tv, or eat or pay bills – but two chairs that are specifically just for us to be together and connect. You may have two chairs or a spot on the back porch or a place in the basement. The location itself doesn’t matter as much as finding a spot that is set aside for intentional communication – a spot for just the two of you.
Each time you come together in your spot, take at least 20 minutes to be together there. That gives you time for each of you to share and catch up, to listen and respond and hopefully to move beyond information sharing and go deeper.
*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!