The Communication Date
When marriages are in trouble, they often go through the same pattern. One partner doesn’t feel that their needs are being met. This causes pain. They start to think, “If he really loved me, he would…”
The hurt partner starts to protect themselves. They become more insistent about their needs. They start to demand or nag. When that doesn’t work, resentment builds up. Eventually, they disconnect and withdraw. Walls are built.
This creates hopelessness and despair. The conclusion is often, “This is never going to change. My partner just doesn’t care about me. I don’t love them anymore.”
The good news is that connection can be reestablished. I have personally seen hundreds of couples rebuild their marriage bond and feel that connection again.
I’ll admit, it’s going to take some work. I recommend this great tool to help.
The Communication Date
I suggest that couples go on a communication date. This means setting aside thirty minutes to sit down and talk through a few specific topics.
The goal is to have a positive interaction. This isn’t the time to bring up complaints or criticisms. Rather, this is the time to focus on positive things.
Here’s the rules for the date:
- Pick the same time of day & same day of week to meet. Guard that time dearly.
- You and your spouse can take turns going first.
- DO NOT explicitly or implicitly make reference to your spouse in ANY negative way.
- The date should last 30-35 minutes and only go longer if both parties agree.
- As the routine of this becomes more familiar, plan on having these dates more spontaneously.
During the date, you share three topics.
Topic 1: Feelings of Love
The first topic is about feelings of love or appreciation that you experienced recently.
You say, “I felt your love for me this week when…”
Often, couples don’t recognize when something is good. I have met many people that would have a hard time identifying something positive. When resentment grows, many people start looking for the negative. Guess what? When you are looking for it, you’ll find it.
We want couples to start looking for the positive. It may be something really small. Maybe it’s just doing a household chore. It could be setting aside time to try to reconnect.
It’s important to recognize the good behavior. When my wife recognizes my good behavior, it makes me feel good. I’m more likely to do that behavior again. That’s the positive spiral we are trying to create.
Topic 2: Life Change
The second topic addresses how you are changing this week. Is there a positive change that you want to work on?
Have you experienced God changing your life this last week? Perhaps there was a verse, a prayer, or a conversation that impacted you.
This is meant to be something positive. For some couples, it’s better to talk about something outside of the relationship. It might be a relationship problem at work or at church. Perhaps it’s about your relationship with God.
You say, “Please pray for me to grow this week by…”
How has God convicted you to change? How have you changed?
Notice that this is about the speaker. It’s not about what changes you want your spouse to do. It’s only about you.
The change part is really important. This dispels the myth that my partner will never change. It demonstrates that you are changing. It gives hope that you are not stuck.
Topic 3: Pray Together
The third topic is to pray together. We have heard from many couples how important God was in their marriage restoration. When they invite God into their relationship, He begins to enable change.
Start with praising God for the way that you have been able to show love toward one another the past week and ask Him to reveal ways you can bless your spouse in the coming week.
Then, thank God for providing the changes in your life over the last week. Maybe this is thanking Him for showing you what to work on.
Finally, ask for God’s help for those areas you’ve identified that need to change.
This simple outline can help couples to recognize positive interactions, restore connection and invite God into their relationship!
Tips for Marriage Mentors:
- Help the couple find something that shows love – For some couples, this is going to be difficult. Especially if resentment has built up. Talk through something that is very simple. Later, they can start to recognize other changes.
- Remind them of positive reinforcement – People are more likely to change through positive reinforcement than criticism. Be sure to recognize when your spouse does something well!
- Own your own change – Remind couples that the change that they talk about is only what they are personally working on. This is not the time to ask for change in their spouse. This is the time to work on yourself.
Adapted from Friend’s First Responders Copyright 2013, George Kenworthy, D.Min and Amanda Boyed, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Used by permission.