Dr. Kimberling and his wife Nancy and have been married over forty years and they say they still work on it every day. Their hope was that they would work awhile at marriage, get it “right”, and then coast for fifty years or so. They realized that this hope was not reality. “7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage” is about purposefully closing the gap each day between where your marriage is and where God wants it to be. Dr. Kimberling‘s passion is helping people have Awesome Marriages and wherever your marriage is today, he believes God has even greater things… It’s a grace to welcome Dr. Kimberling to the farm’s front porch today…
If you’ve had any exposure whatsoever to marriage resources, you know what experts say is essential over and over again: communication.
Of the couples I see in counseling, the ones who really communicate well and set aside time to do so seem to consistently also have good marriages.
But in all this hype about communication, here’s what is often missed:
Communication does not simply mean the talking kind. It means connection in a special way.
Most couples communicate pretty well before marriage. I have seen surveys that usually put that number at around three hours a day.
On the other hand there are surveys that say those same couples a few years into marriage will spend an average of five minutes a day communicating.
The reasons may vary from couple to couple, but the bottom line is that we quit making it a priority. We lose sight of God’s design.
In the early days of our marriage, I often chose to spend my time on work, TV, tennis, and hanging out with friends.
None were bad in and of themselves, but Nancy no longer felt she was important. She was not always my number two (after my relationship with God).
Nancy’s schedule was different from mine. She was finishing college and had a lot of free time. She was now a married student who went to class and then came home. She was bored, missed her college friends, and was not as happy as she thought she would be.
In her evaluation, it was my fault.
At that point, we should have turned to each other and said let’s get back on track.
We could have worked together to figure this early marriage thing out. We could have, but we did not.
Instead of embracing our differences and dealing with them, we embraced the distractions and slowly stepped away from each other.
Our communication that was so good before marriage got worse and worse. We were morphing into the thirty-five-minutes-a-week communication statistic. Things needed to change, or this marriage would end in disaster.
How connected are you today with your spouse?
Are you more connected than ever, or are you becoming strangers? Think about a typical day and the things that you do. How do you spend your time? How much time do you set aside to connect with your spouse?
I can sit in the same room or on the same couch with Nancy and not be connected. Just being in each other’s presence does not connect us.
Sure, it helps. The opportunity is there, but to connect, someone has to initiate.
That initiation may be a conversation, or it could be a hug or a kiss.
Connection happens when one initiates and the other one responds. So you have to make a choice in how to spend your time together.
Most nights during the workweek, I get home around 6:30 p.m. My days are long. I start at 5:30 a.m. by rolling (often literally) out of bed and having some time with God. Then I head to the gym to work out, come back home to get ready, and head to the office. By the time I walk in the house in the evening, I can be pretty tired.
Now this is where I have some choices.
Let’s look at two options.
I can sit down to relax. After all, I have worked all day and I deserve this time to myself. Watching TV or listening to music helps me unwind and distracts me from the pressures of the day. Usually by 7:00 p.m. or so, we have dinner.
It is nice to have a quiet dinner or maybe continue watching a show I have gotten interested in.
After dinner, we usually watch something together. By nine thirty or ten, I am ready to head to bed. Nancy usually follows me pretty soon after, but sometimes I am asleep before she gets to the bedroom.
The next day and the next and the next can all be repeats.
Same pattern. Same unconnected time together, and eventually we realize that we are just coexisting. We are not fighting, but we sure are not connecting.
We are unconnected.
And unconnected couples can become strangers.
I come in the house at 6:30 p.m. and the first thing I do is find my wife.
This is not a Lewis and Clark thing. I can usually find her in the kitchen, her office, or the back part of our house.
Then I do one of my favorite things.
I hug her and give her a kiss, and you know what? That hug and kiss energize me. They usually do much more for me than watching TV or listening to music. Someone told me years ago that the first five minutes a couple is together in the evening sets the tone for the night.
Taking time to connect makes a difference.
We then usually spend time talking and catching up on each other’s day. We always have dinner together and like watching something together we both want to see.
I have no problem with a couple watching a show or movie together. We are experiencing the same thing and can interact on it. Then we can get each other’s take on what we have both seen.
Usually I am the first to head to the bedroom, but I wait for Nancy so we can pray together.
Then even as we go to sleep, we are always touching. It may be our feet or our hands or cuddling.
Two options, and a number of choices. If we consistently choose option two, we stay connected.
We are both initiating and both responding.
Something else I find interesting: When I choose option one, I am often still tired the next morning.
When I choose option two, I usually wake refreshed and energized.
I believe it is the connection.
God designed us for relationships — a relationship with Him and a relationship with others.
When we connect in marriage with our spouse, we are fulfilling God’s design for our lives; and it makes a difference.
How about setting aside some time with your spouse to talk about connecting?
Tell each other when you feel the most connected.
Share how connected you feel in your marriage today.
Is this where you want to be? If it is, great. Keep on doing what you are doing.
If not, what will you do today to connect?
Dr. Kimberling has been a professional counselor for over thirty years. He holds a PhD and Doctor of Ministry in Christian Counseling. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Christian Ministry and Theological Studies, and he is the founder and leader of the Awesome Marriage Movement, connecting people globally who want to have awesome marriages. Dr. Kimberling has been married to his wife, Nancy, for forty-four years and they have two grown married children and five incredible grandchildren.
Maybe this is the gift to give each other this summer — 7 Secrets to An Awesome Marriage: Strengthen Your Most Intimate Relationship.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership of today’s devotion ]