“We just don’t seem to connect. We’re nice to each other. We talk about the day, the kids, our work. We do projects around the house, go out with friends and attend church. But when it comes to really getting each other—I don’t think we connect.”
Have you ever felt like this in your marriage? Where life is good, and yet you are yearning for deeper understanding with your spouse? It’s not uncommon for us to have conversations like this with one or both spouses in a marriage. One of the keys to connection is wrapped up in the simple and profound learning of empathy and putting it into practice.
Empathy doesn’t just feel badly or sorry for what your spouse is experiencing. Empathy goes deeper and tries to identify with them; it says, “You’re not alone. We’re in this together.” (see video below)
In the history of the couples with whom we’ve worked, and in our own marriage, the health and vitality of the marital relationship rises and falls on how central this one perspective is in a couple’s marriage. It comes from the book of Proverbs in the Bible. In fact, it’s really the overarching theme of the entire book on wisdom. Here’s the verse that we believe carries the key to what matters most in marriage:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge….” (Proverbs 1:7a)
Stick with us for a moment. “Fear” in this context doesn’t mean cowering and afraid. In the original language (Hebrew) it can also mean a reverential awe and respect.
Let’s take that verse and contextualize it for marriage: “When the two of you live with a reverent awe of God and align your relationship under His complete leadership, you will have insight into your relationship, wisdom in your priorities, and unity in your values.” Quite simply, staying centered means keeping your relationship with Christ actively central in your marriage.
A runner focuses ahead in a race, anticipating the finish line. A golfer anticipates where the ball is going. Businesses have plans by which they operate for the future. But what about marriages? As you look ahead, how are you living now to ensure you finish strong? What does it mean to have the long view, “To have and to hold until death do us part?”
This afternoon I (Brad) went to a nursing home to visit a woman in our church. I made my way through the maze of hallways with men and women scattered throughout in their wheelchairs or walkers. Some with their heads bent downward biding time, others alert and waiting for someone to notice that they continue to exist. Rooms with TV’s or radios blaring shows or music that they couldn’t have possibly chosen.
This isn’t a pleasant topic to write about, but if each of us addresses this with a focused, dogged commitment it can transform our marriages. Whether your marriage is strong and healthy or on the brink of collapse this message is one that every married person needs to read and use as an ongoing self-assessment and correction.