By Erin Smalley
I’ve found that communicating with my husband, Greg, can be challenging for many reasons — especially with our current pace of life. There is one speed in our home the majority of the time, and it’s FAST. With four kids, two jobs, several team sports, travel, church involvement and occasional social activities, the intentional attempts to love my husband through my words frequently get lost in the mix.
Then I remembered having read that the average American married couple spends less than four minutes per day talking at a deep heart level. This definitely described my experience, and although it was personally validating, it was also heartbreaking. I want to connect with my husband more than four minutes a day.
So, recently I attempted to crack the code to increasing the amount of time we spend connecting with each other. I’m also being more intentional about speaking Greg’s love language so we connect more deeply.
What I’m finding is that because I am typically the taskmaster in our house, that taskmaster tone is what comes out of my mouth with Greg, as well. For example: “Hey, Greg, on your way home from work, pick up Garrison at basketball and then stop at the grocery store and get hamburger buns.” Whatever happened to “Hey, honey, how was your day?” And when someone, especially Greg, hasn’t completed the task at hand, I notice!
Many women tend to be more attentive to what their husband has not done rather than what he has done. I’m no different. If something was missed on Greg’s task list, I would simply remind him — sometimes repeatedly. (Some people call this nagging.) However, in my pursuit of communicating more effectively, I am trying to step away from task-oriented communication and lean more into the heart of communication. Practically speaking, this has meant noticing more about who Greg is instead of what he has or has not done. Simple, right?
Over the past several months and amid our typical fast pace, there have been two communication efforts I have focused on when it comes to connecting with my husband:
I have tried to offer words of encouragement more intentionally. Hebrews 3:13 (NIV) says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today.” Twice in Scripture we are called to do something daily — to take up our cross and to encourage one another. At least once a day, I set the task list aside and offer Greg words of encouragement. It may be as simple as, “You did a great job with the kids last night.” In essence I am saying, “I saw you and I care enough to let you know.” Who doesn’t love to be noticed for what they do?
I want to do for Greg what God did for Gideon in Judges 6:12, “When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.'” Although Gideon believed he was weak, the angel of the Lord called out what was true about him: He was a mighty warrior. Now, Greg might not be a mighty warrior, but I want to call out what is true about him. So I’ve been more intentional in offering Greg positive feedback about who he is, about his character and who I see him becoming. It may be as simple as, “When you took time to share with me last night before bed, it meant the world to me. You are such a caring man.” Not hard, but so difficult to do when I am rushing through our daily life.
As I have intentionally applied these two concepts in my marriage, I have received much more of what I wanted all along. I’ve experienced more heart connection, enjoyed more affection and, yes, I’ve even seen more tasks accomplished.
I challenge you to do the same in your marriage. Before criticizing or noticing what your husband hasn’t done, make sure you encourage him and take notice of who he is and what he has done. You may be surprised at the results!
Erin Smalley is the co-author of The Wholehearted Wife and serves in the Marriage and Family Formation department at Focus on the Family.