Marriage. It’s an incredible blessing but at times, it can be frustrating and confusing. We go into marriage usually at a young age when all seems right with the world and nothing could throw a wrench in our rhythm. Sonny and Cher told us if “I got you babe”, then everything else is merely on the periphery and there’s no need to worry. But if you’ve spent more than about a month married (that “honeymoon” period), you know that’s just not the case. We look to our spouse to complement us, support us, encourage us, love us, cheer us on, and be the lifetime partner we said we wanted at the altar but truth be told, sometimes we just don’t understand them and we wonder who it is that we married. So how do we learn to understand them intimately, deeply, and fully to make that rich relationship we dreamed about when we were young a reality? One of the best ways is to just ask. Really. It seems too simple but if we truly want to know who our spouse is on the inside, asking is one of the best ways to get there.
You might be thinking that asking your spouse what makes them tick or what’s meaningful to them is silly and that you already know the answer. But do you really? Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, says most couples speak different love languages and we usually try to relate to others in the way we want to be related to. But if you speak one language and your spouse speaks another, then communicating in your native language isn’t going to be all that helpful. You need to learn their language so you can understand and speak it fluently. So if the answer to knowing our spouse and their language better is asking, what are some practical steps we can take to learn our spouse’s language? Here are a few things to try:
- Find out what your spouse’s love language is. Gary Chapman’s site, 5lovelanguages.com, has a free assessment tool you can use. Take the assessment yourself and ask your spouse to take it, then schedule some time to talk together and discuss the results.
- Date your spouse. Setup regular times to be together, just the two of you, and do the things they enjoy. Ask them what they’d like to do and then go along and have fun.
- Communicate regularly. Not just “surface talk” but real communication. Set aside dedicated time and ask good, probing questions that lead to deep conversation. Here are a few suggestions:
- Do we communicate in a way that’s meaningful to you?
- Do you find it difficult to share your feelings with me? If so, how can I make it easier?
- Do you feel I’m a good listener?
- Do you feel like we have different ideas about how to solve our disagreements? If so, what would make that better for you?
- Are you satisfied with the activities and interests we do together? If not, how could we improve that for you?
- Do you feel like we spend too much time together? Too much time apart?
- Are you comfortable with the amount of affection you receive from me? What does “affection” mean to you?
- What’s the most meaningful thing I could do for you today (or this week)?
Understanding our spouse is a long term process, indeed a lifetime process. But the joy and depth of relationship that come with knowing your spouse more intimately every day, every week, every month, every year is worth the effort.