15 Minutes That Can Save Your Marriage
- Joshua Straub
- 2016 3 Mar
My wife, Christi, has a knack for being painfully honest. I came home one day from work and started telling Christi about my day: who I talked to, what I did, and quite a bit about the projects I had cooking. Visibly irritated and nearly in tears after a hard day of temper tantrums and feeling as though she was slowly losing her identity, Christi looked at me and was, well, painfully honest.
“Why don’t you ask about me?” she asked. “I feel like it’s always about you. You never ask about what’s on my heart.”
Not long after this lovely interaction with my wife, I attended an Ultimate Leadership Summit held by my friends and mentors Henry Cloud and John Townsend. In a nutshell, at these meetings you learn about how your own character issues are helping or hindering you from being a great leader. Or in this case, from being a great spouse.
One of my takeaways from the event was how the most effective and balanced leaders are able to engage both sides of their brain in conversation. I realized that when I process my day with Christi, it is usually content-based (that is, what I did, who I talked to, and so on) rather than process-based (that is, what I felt about what I did or who I talked to).
Translation: I needed to be more in touch with my feelings, especially with Christi.
I know for guys this may sound mushy, but it’s what makes us great husbands, fathers, and leaders. The more in touch I am with my feelings, the more mindful I am to what’s going on in Christi’s heart.
So I came home from this leadership event with a plan, and it’s one I challenge you to follow to foster an emotionally safe marriage. Christi and I found it’s too easy to go into a mindless zone after the kids are down, either drowning our sorrows in our favorite television shows or numbing our brains and feelings on social media. The former we justify by saying we’re spending time together; the latter we justify as connecting with others. In reality, we’re slowly disengaging from our spouse.
Instead of numbing yourself with a heartless device that cares nothing about your relationships, carve out 15 minutes of your evening with your spouse and do two things:
1. Inquire about your spouse’s heart. Ask “What’s on your heart today?” and “How are you feeling?” But here’s the kicker: make it a priority to not fix anything! Just sit with your spouse, with no condemnation, and listen to his or her most prevalent feelings from the day. Don’t try to fix it; just validate it.
2. Then share your heart with your spouse. Use feeling words to describe your day. “I felt sad when...” or “I felt angry at...” Simply using feeling words engages both sides of the brain and strengthens our bond with others.
Practice this for 15 minutes even if it’s just a few times a week. The investment is worth it, both for you and your kids. When Christi and I are in survival mode and find ourselves becoming insensitive toward one another, these are the steps we use to reunite. Practice them, especially during heated exchanges.
When we practice with our spouse the emotion-coaching skills we learned for connecting with our kids in emotionally charged moments—acknowledging our spouse’s feelings, showing empathy, and problem solving together—research shows we experience more marital satisfaction over time and grow a deeper connection that our kids will learn to imitate.
Joshua Straub, Ph.D., is the author of Safe House: How Emotional Safety Is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well as well as a speaker and family advocate. He has served as the senior director of professional development for the American Association of Christian Counselors. Joshua is cofounder and president of The Connextion Group, assistant professor at Liberty University Online and serves on the teaching team at Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri. Joshua and his wife Christi live in Tennessee with their two children. Visit him at joshuastraub.com.
Publication date: March 3, 2016
Read more about what the Bible says about marriage in our Marriage Guide that walks through many hot topics surrounding marriage today in light of God's Word.