Shout out to all my parent friends out there. Have you ever had that day where you desperately needed to connect with you spouse, but the kids keep yelling louder? One child has an emotional meltdown and claims that: ‘No one in this family loves me! I wish I had a different family!’ (yeah, I know, I’m not the only one) To top it all off your teenager has chosen this exact moment to open up and talk and you feel the pressure to be attentive because who knows when that will happen again? So instead of talking to your spouse, you decide to put out all the little fires and suppress your discussion until later. Only to reach 10 o’clock and you find you have mentally and emotionally flat lined, and all you can manage is to crawl in bed and pray that sleep will help you function better tomorrow.
I think I feel my loneliest in scenarios like this. I know that having a connection with someone who understands that I’m stretched to my max, trying to live and have my best life, is what I need most. Yet, it seems like so much work to “connect”.
Let me tell you a secret I’ve learned...Ready?
If you’ve had a good connection with your spouse, it doesn’t take too much to establish that connection again. Starting over is what is hard. Yes, there are times when getting on the same page with your spouse feels like starting over because there’s been so much distance lately. However, it’s actually as simple as turning toward your spouse on a consistent basis. Even if it’s small bursts of information that you get out – go for it!
1. Say what’s on your mind. Lead off with setting your expectation and then ask your spouse for when they think they can listen best (turn toward). I often launch into a conversation and look up 20 seconds in and see my spouse reading something on the computer. I know instantly that he hasn’t heard me, so I’ll either call out and claim his attention politely or walk over to the computer and touch his shoulder and ask for attention when he’s ready. This saves me a lot of headaches and frustration when I know I have his attention from the beginning of the conversation instead of repeating myself.
2. Connection is not always convenient, but makes life together convenient. I would rather listen and turn towards my spouse to have that connection than to continually wait for my listening convenience and then become disengaged. You’ve heard, “Nothing prepares you for having kids like having kids!” Same concept here. Having and experiencing connection prepares you for more. Find what you started off with and then watch it grow. Consistency is better and creates more intimacy.
3. Look for your ‘Sliding Door’ moment. Dr. John Gottman calls opportunities to connect and build trust 'sliding doors'. He recalls being towards the end of a thrilling novel and seeing his wife enter the room from the corner of his eye with a distraught look on her face. In that moment, he was faced with the opportunity to finish his book or the opportunity to connect with his wife. He chose his wife. Look for your opportunity. Brené Brown writes in her book “Daring Greatly” that “ the sliding door moment is when we come face to face with a choice.”
Notice when you say no and when you say yes to a sliding door moment.
What is a moment you are going to say yes to this week?