Marriage is said to be a three-stranded cord, a covenant between us, our spouse and God. The funny thing is God is the only strand that’s sure to remain the same. When we said those wedding vows, we promised to love each other well, even as we constantly change and grow. That’s why maintaining an attitude and practice of discovery is essential for a thriving marriage. Today, I’d like to offer just a bit of what my husband and I have learned over these past 12 years of imperfect, but thriving marriage. Here are five practices that have helped us stay in discovery mode with each other as we navigate marriage from season to season.
Daily Debrief –Okay, debrief sounds kind of stuffy, but this is about as informal as it gets for us. We enjoy this practice every evening to wind down and it’s truly become refreshing to us both. This is where we discuss anything and everything that’s on our mind and hearts that day. We talk about what we did, something beautiful we saw, something funny the kids said or a song on the radio that made us cry. Anything is fair game. The goal is to simply cultivate a habit of sharing in life together.
It’s also a space where we touch base about anything from our schedule, budget or decisions that need to be made. Covering those seemingly minor details can go a long way to minimize miscommunication, preventing a snowball of stress and frustration. Truly, practice makes progress with this habit. It may take some diligence (and forgiveness), but is so worth the effort.
Open-Ended Questions – Open-ended questions are a wonderful way to intentionally foster a sense of discovery in our marriages. Open-ended questions tend to provoke more fulfilling exchange than “Did you have a good day?” or “Did you get that project done at work like you hoped?” For us, our conversation went to new places when we learned to say, “Tell me about your day.” Or “What are your hopes for our weekend?”
“Double-clicking” – I first heard this term in a business training many years ago. It stuck with me and is essentially asking a question based on answers. It’s active listening at it best. Consider this example.
Me: Hey honey, tell me about your day.
Him: It was good. I had those two meetings this morning and then I was extremely busy, but productive the rest of the day. I still need to prepare for my meeting with management on Tuesday.
Me: What would you like to see come about as a result of that meeting? Best case scenario? (This is double-clicking. Let’s take it a little farther.)
Him: Well, I’d like to …
Me: That makes a lot of sense. How can I best pray for you and empower you as you prepare for this important meeting?
At the heart of it, double-clicking can be a powerful way to say, “I’m interested in what you’re saying. You’re important to me. I want to learn more about you and all that pertains to you, because I am your #1 partner in life.”
Shared Language– This is something that my husband and I have slowly adopted conversation by conversation. When caring curiosity drives conversation, you’ll find yourself learning things that you never thought you’d know, all so that you can have a deeper understanding of your spouse and all that affects their daily life.
I have learned just enough about my husband’s business so that as he shares with me, I can more clearly grasp his professional goals, challenges and victories and encourage him in those things. He has done the same thing for me by learning about homeschooling or whatever I’m nerding out about at the time. Our conversations can go a lot farther and are a lot more satisfying because we’re willing to take interest in each other’s passions, hobbies and work.
Go first. You’ve expressed interest in your husband, initiated some open-ended conversation and you’ve given him opportunity to share. What’s on your heart that you could share with him about you? If you start inviting him into the dreams of your heart, you give him permission and encouragement to do the same. Going first means taking risk. It’s gently modeling the exchange you would like to grow in your marriage.
I’d love you to share in the comments below how practices like this work for you and your husband. As always, I’d be honored if you’d share this article with anyone you think it would encourage.