In Part 3 of this series, uncover the final two steps to having meaningful communication with your spouse.
Step 5: Transparency and Vulnerability
As you have slowly and safely allowed your spouse to feel, and feel safe, you have opened their heart to be able to share some of their deepest wounds and scars.
We all have a story and who we are today is made from those experiences. I’m sure many of you have wondered why your spouse has a strong reaction to things you do or things that just happen to them. It most likely comes from an experience they have had.
As we walked into this level of communication, we wanted to know everything about each other and what had made us who we are today. The way we walked into this was simply by asking each other, “tell me one of your scars in life.” When someone asks you that question, you know immediately what one of your scars is. The fear of sharing it dwindled by watching your mate react to it with empathy and compassion, not judgment and ridicule.
Each day brought us closer to understanding the unknowns in our mate and taking on the pain of what each other had been through in life. It could range from something very traumatic or as simple as some negative words or neglect from a parent. The safer we felt, the more we shared. The connection between us grew incredibly. Our heart toward one another became one of protector and defender.
Love grows here. You become so much more understanding and connected. At this point, we chose to file away the experiences we heard and vowed to never let them happen again. For the first time, we had each other’s back in life. It’s like the more you know, the more you love. We went a step further in our love for each other. With what we had heard, we were determined to help heal hurts in each other that we did not cause.
Our scars were not from each other, they were from previous relationships. That’s a choice to love like that. We looked at marriage as an opportunity to help be the hands and feet of Jesus to heal the wounds our spouse carried. When healing happens, you no longer have a wall of protection around you. You are free to be you and to be loved as you! What amazed me most is that when we got to this level, we both realized how deeply we were loved by God. Marriage, when you can love well, is truly a picture of the gospel to this world.
Step 6: Grace and Forgiveness
The work is done and now you can reap the rewards. Please understand that it takes much time and intention to walk through the steps. This is not an easy task, it’s choosing to put down defenses, put yourselves in each other’s shoes and go deep in your honesty and vulnerability. Once this becomes comfortable and your new normal. Step five is a natural progression of showing grace and forgiveness.
When you’re married and just engaging in small talk and facts, any little offense between the two of you can be held onto and against each other for years. Unforgiveness over time builds deep roots of resentment. Many couples cannot move past previous wounds because they never worked through them. Slowly, we build walls to protect ourselves from the very person we love. It’s a slow fade and one day we wake up with hardened hearts towards each other.
Grace is undeserved love. It is a choice to give grace or not. Once you have resolved conflict and realized your spouse is not your enemy, but your defender and protector, you just naturally choose to give grace to one another. Does this mean we will never hurt each other again? No! However, you will realize it’s not purposeful, it’s our human nature. We love so much stronger and begin to forgive so much deeper.
Our life is a journey to know and grasp God’s incredible love for us. When you choose to walk through these steps as a husband and wife, you come out on the other side with a deeper, more appreciative understanding of God’s love for us. To understand the grace that has been extended to you, how can we not want to do the same for others? It’s the sweetest opportunity to show your spouse a deeper love than most couples ever experience.
Andy Stanley once described forgiveness as, “unblocking the blessing in our life and aligning our hearts to the one who can care for it most effectively.” God has so many blessings to shower on us. How sad that we control those blessings by withholding forgiveness from others. Forgive each other and allow God to bless you a hundredfold. Unforgiveness is not trusting God with our heart. We begin to feel that we have to protect our hearts. I don’t want to live a day without my heart being aligned to HIM! I want to trust HIM to care for my heart like no other.
Walking through these steps of communication connects our hearts more deeply and emotionally to one another and to God. I believe God created marriage so that we could learn to work and persevere to really love deeply and to walk out our faith in our lives with each other. It takes work, but oh how the work is worth it when we come through with a richer understanding of what love truly is!
Steve & Debbie Wilson
Steve and Debbie Wilson are the founders of Marriage Matters Now, a non-profit marriage ministry that has reached couples for over 25 years. Their 43 years of marriage coupled with passion and a heart to see marriages healed and healthy has driven this ministry all over the nation as they speak at numerous conferences, have spent hours counseling couples, and have written two books.