Friday, November 17, 2006

One of the things my wife and I have really failed at over the last few years of "busy-ness" with jobs and three children has been real conversation. And, to say it in a very vernacular way, that is some serious scary. Imagine, this is my marriage, the person with whom God has created a spiritual union. The person I've pledged to love and encourage over all others. But, the reality of life, as I was ordering it, put that person way down the list of communication, time, and effort.

I see it throughout our society, too. Not only is there a high divorce rate, including among Christian couples, but in marriages that have stayed together, most people don't know how to communicate. Have you ever watched a couple at dinner in a restaurant? They have little to nothing to say. More communication goes on at their table when the server is present than at any other time during the entire "ordeal." And, this is supposed to be fun? What about how many couples just let their children's lives absorb their own? Again, they don't communicate about their own feelings, jobs or lives; instead, their communication is either to or through their kids or about their kids.

This is way more scary than Halloween!!!

Here is something Tara and I have recently implemented in our daily lives. It's a simple "sharing exercise." And, the first time we did it we were scared to death that we simply couldn't do it. In fact, we thought the times prescribed sounded like days rather than minutes. Here's the gist, and I challenge you to try it with your spouse or, if single, with your best friend.

1. One person is the sharer and one is the listener.
2. When listening you are not to let your mind wander or think about how you might respond. Listen with your eyes and ears.
3. Your goal is not to agree - rather it is simply to communicate your own thoughts, feelings, attitudes and opinions.
4. Do not criticize, respond, defend, or apologize. Listen only to understand. Do not look for flaws. Simply try to understand.
5. Listen and limit responses to the sharer's message to either "I understand" or "I don't understand," and perhaps a question to ask what the sharer means by his or her words.
6. Use "I" sentences and not "you" sentences.
7. the MINIMUM amount of time for such sharing is 20 minutes! Find a place where you won't be interrupted and turn off phones.

We have, with practice, begun to see that 20 minutes flies by and quickly becomes 30, 45 and even 60 minutes. We also have realized that if our priorities make such times impossible to have that we need to reorder our priorities. God tells us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and that then all the rest will be added unto us, but all too often we just chase after the rest and forget His priorities. We are going to endeavor never to do that again.


GuyMuse said...

Making time to converse is a real challenge for us too. I admire the choice you are making to make this a priority in your marriage. The "Seven Rules" are good ones. They remind me of the "rules" we were given several years back when we went for couples counseling. What we learned then is that open, clear communication is one of the most important parts of maintaining a healthy relationship. Thanks for the reminder!

Bryan Riley said...

Many things have led me to opening my ears to be able to hear what God is teaching me in this area, but one of the first steps in the right direction came to me from a dad and son duo, Paul and Wade Burleson, and I should have given them credit in the post. When I called them about advice with regard to making the plunge into ministry and missions, one of their foremost concerns was my wife, Tara. They counseled me not to take the step unless and until she was in complete agreement. I had never really believed that I needed that agreement for discerning God's will for me and my family, but through that counsel God began to open up some things in my heart about how I had trouble with intimacy and relationships. I was having a hard time trusting that Jesus really was my friend and that lack of trust poured over into my marriage and friendships.

Paul Burleson said...


I'm amazed, not just that something I might have said helped, but that something I might have said was even remembered. :)

I'll tell you this...whatever was said you've taken and improved on. This is good stuff and, with your permission, I'd like to use this as a model with pastors I teach periodically. Good post.

Paul B.

Bryan Riley said...

It's God's word, not mine, Paul, so I have no ownership of it and pray that it can be edifying to many. Please use it to His glory and the edification of the Body.