“I don’t feel close to you this week.” These were the words my wife spoke to me while we were lying in bed the other morning. These words stabbed and seem to slice a major artery. Though she probably didn’t mean it this way, it felt like she was accusing me of causing the present distance in our relationship. This was surprising to me because we had been talking all week long. So, what was she talking about that she didn’t feel close and connected to me? What else could I do to connect with my wife?
At first, I became internally defensive, and in my mind, I began to minimize her feelings. “You’re just being dramatic or overly sensitive,” I thought to myself. Yeah, I thought it, but wouldn’t dare say it. I’m smarter than that. We both had been busy, taxiing children from one sporting event to the next sporting event. She was busy going to class and doing homework, we were both busy trying to sell our home in Grand Rapids, and I had an extremely busy week doing my job as a pastor. I couldn’t believe she was accusing me of being the main culprit of creating relational distance in our relationship. Where is the justice in the world? I swallowed my pride and, instead seething over the accusation, I started thinking about what I needed to do to bridge the relational gap. Here are a few simple but powerful ways I used to connect with my wife after she told me she didn’t feel close to me.
Listen to and honor her feelings – My wife simply wanted me to listen to and not minimize her feelings. I can’t tell her how to feel, but I can acknowledge that her feelings are genuine and deserve my attention. More than anything, she wanted to be heard. So, I listened.
Refuse to become defensive or justify the distance – The worst thing I could do was to become defensive and begin to justify my failure to be emotionally present. I could have started listing all the justifiable reasons for the relational distance, but it would have added to the distance. I think what my wife wanted was for me to acknowledge the distance and my part in the causing the distance.
Clear my calendar – Instead of attempting to justify the distance, spend time trying to fix the problem. One of the ways to fix the problem is to clear my calendar for her. I needed to have a bias for action and make our relationship a priority. Creating relational time in my calendar is the most significant way to prioritize her. Going on a date, taking a walk, spending time just talking were some ways to clear my calendar and prioritize our relationship and bridge the relational gap.
Laugh together – Laughter is good medicine to the soul, and it is one of the best remedies for relational distance and conflict. Laughter is often linked with genuine joy and delight. When Tonia and I are laughing together, disconnectedness disappears. Distance cannot coexist with laughter and fun.
Call or text her in the middle of the day – Texting or calling her in the middle of the day let her know that I was thinking about her, thereby creating intimacy and closing the emotional distance. Tonia and I will usually text or call each other throughout the day. On a snowy or icy morning, I will text her to see if she made to work safely. If I am having a particularly busy day, she will text me to let me know she’s praying for me. These small gestures have a big impact in closing the relational gap.
Disconnect from technology – I have to admit, this is probably the number one cause for relational disconnection. I am typically the culprit. Technology (my computer) can be the mistress in our home, and cause distance. So, I have to force myself to disconnect so I can spend quality time with Tonia.
Speak her love language – Peter says for husbands to live with our spouses according to knowledge. This means that we should get to know what makes our spouses tick and what ticks them off. According to Gary Smalley, each person has a primary love language. When we speak this language, it fills the emotional and relational tank and we feel close to one another. One of Tonia’s love languages is acts of service. She feels close to me when I load the dishwasher, fold clothes, cook dinner, clean the bathroom, and go grocery shopping. So, the more I do these things, the less disconnected she feels.
Pray for her – One of the most important things I could do to bridge the emotional and relational gap was to pray with my wife. One of the questions I ask Tonia is: “How can I pray for you today?” Her answers reveal the depths of her heart. Knowing that I am carrying some of her greatest concerns in my heart throughout the day goes a long way in building intimacy. So, prayer is one of the most intimate exercises in which couples can engage because they spill their true desires out to the God of the universe before one another. I can’t explain the mystery of it, but there is a deep, emotional, and intimate connection that occurs when you hear someone else praying for you, especially your spouse.
Connecting with the one you love will not happen accidentally; it must be intentional and practical. Each day we should ask God for the power to do all the good things that our faith prompts us to do for our spouses.
Turn Your Minutes into Moments
What are some things that cause relational distance between you and your spouse or your boyfriend/girlfriends?
What are some best practices that maintain intimacy in your relationship?