The Gift of
One of the things I’ve learned in our almost 32 years of marriage is the importance of clear and ongoing communication.<= Click to Tweet
So much can derail the best of intentions – the demands of work, raising children, Bible study, volunteer commitments, writing (or trying to), the house, the meals. We all get it, right? Life is busy!
Chris and I learned one of the most effective tools for communicating during one of our church’s options for marriage preparation, a weekend called Engaged Encounter. That weekend investment reaped a harvest for us. We learned the concept of Love is a Decision, which was new to me and a little hard to believe in light of how star struck I was with my husband at the time. It wasn’t completely blind love, but it was close. Would I ever really have to “decide” to love this man who I felt totally in love with? We’ll talk more about that later…
The tool we learned that weekend (and relearned during a Marriage Encounter Weekend) that we still use to this day is called dialoguing. It’s a bit of a misnomer, as the definition of the verb dialogue that we’re all familiar with is: to take part in a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem. Conversation is part of this method of communicating, but the first part of dialoguing is actually in the form of a written letter to one another. This allows you to stop and think carefully through your answer on paper before you speak. It allows for more a response than a reaction.
Dialoguing can be used for:
- Resolving a problem when you’re at an impasse and just can’t seem to resolve through conversation.
- Connecting when you and your spouse’s lives have gotten so busy, you feel like ships passing in the night.
- Deepening mutual understanding on an issue where there is a misunderstanding.
- Rather than describe this any further, here are the steps to dialoguing:
1. Set a specific date and time you will set aside to dialogue for about 45 minutes. You will need about 10-15 minutes for writing. And then 30 minutes to actually exchange what you’ve written and talk about it.
2. Determine a question you would like to use to dialogue on. Some examples to consider*:
a. We seem disconnected. How can we be more intentional about communicating regularly and How Does This Make You Feel?
b. We don’t seem to agree on the best way to deal with our teenage daughter’s rebelliousness. How would I like to deal with this…and How Does This Situation Make Me Feel?
c. What am I struggling with right now and what is something I am having success with right now? How Does This Make Me Feel?
3. Grab a journal or notebook you will keep specifically for dialoguing.
4. Share the question with one another. Then set a timer for 10 minutes and write an answer to the mutually agreed upon question. Sometimes it helps to be in separate rooms.
5. Reconvene when the timer goes off. Exchange notebooks/journals and take 10 minutes to read your partner’s letter. Then read your partner’s letter out loud. This enhances understanding.
6. Once you’ve both read your letters, take an additional 20 minutes to talk about what you’ve read. Use this time to further understand one another. Ask questions for clarification. Try to listen carefully.
1. Use “I” statements, especially regarding your feelings, rather than “you” statements. <= Click to Tweet This helps guard against defensiveness, offensiveness, accusations, finger-pointing. For example, “I feel hurt by your comment regarding the time I spend on writing” versus “You make me feel guilty about the time I spend on my writing.” Or “I feel overlooked when you leave the house without saying goodbye” versus “You never say goodbye when you leave the house.”
2. Discuss feelings. It’s important to write out your answer and equally if not more important to understand one another’s feelings. That’s why you want to include a “feeling” question as part of your overall dialogue question, such as “How does this make me feel?” or “How does my answer make me feel?”
3. Use a letter format that includes:
a. A loving salutation – Dear (Name), Dear Beloved – This gets you off to a welcoming opening no matter what your feelings might be.
b. Affirmation – Again, no matter how you’re feeling, find something affirming to say about your spouse. For example, “Today I really appreciated it when you got the kids breakfast and let me sleep a few extra minutes.” Or “You are a very kind person and I saw this in the way you greeted our neighbor yesterday.”
c. A few sentences in response the dialogue question.
d. A reflection on how your answer makes you feel.
e. A loving sign off, such as, “I am your devoted wife forever” or “You are my true beloved,” and there have been times when I have even signed off with something like, “Though I am feeling angry, I am still your loving wife.”
4. Materials Needed
a. A calendar to set up a time to dialogue
b. A journal or notebook and pen/pencil to dedicate to dialoguing.
c. A timer – It is important to stick to the time suggested. If you allow this time to go beyond the limits you’ve set, the time may become overwhelming and prohibitive.
* Note: You can tweak dialoguing to make it your own. My husband and I are grateful to Engaged Encounter and Worldwide Marriage Encounter, where we learned to use this tool. More information can be found at http://www.wwme.org/ and http://www.engagedencounter.org/.
Let's Chat! Please leave a comment