There’s a strange kind of wall. Literal walls need carpenters or bricklayers. But this one builds itself, if we let it.
I’m talking about the wall that can separate spouses. Husband and wife drift from each other. They feel like soulmates on the wedding day. Then years later, one wakes up and wonders who’s the stranger lying next to him or her.
The good news is that we don’t need sledgehammers or dynamite to break down this wall. Actually, prevention is much more effective than the cure. Here are some ideas to make sure you and your beloved stay connected to each other.
Yakapsul. Kispirin. These are my and Lucy’s favorite maintenance pills. If you see us strolling around a mall, chances are you will see my arm draped on her shoulder. I am delighted if we were told “Awwww. How sweet.” But I would be puzzled if someone says, “Ang sweet pa ninyo” (notice the pa), as if the longer one is married, the less affection is shown.
I know, I know; touch may not be your love language. But do you know there is this thing called skin hunger? It’s the need for physical human contact. Consider this all-too-real scenario. Lonely mother misses her husband’s caresses. So she satisfies her skin hunger by cradling her baby or hugging her kids. Result: she attaches herself more to the kids, but becomes more aloof from the husband.
When you and your spouse were still courting, I bet you were conscious about where you put your hands, lest you get carried away by fleshly temptations. But now you are married, you’re free to cuddle, snuggle, and smooch. As one American missionary once told me, “I’ve been in the field away from my wife for so long, I can’t wait to be home and squeeze her eyes out.” A boa constrictor came to my mind, but you get his point.
There was a time when Lucy and I take our Sunday breakfast with the menu being sunny-side up, daing na bangus… and newspapers. Yes, we used to eat in silence as we poured through opinion columns. Later, I realized how our meal became a dead spot, so we both agreed to set the newspapers aside and chat as we ate. We would talk about how a dear friend is doing, an insight from our quiet times, plans for the upcoming week, and so on. Once, Lucy asked me “I wonder what’s on the news today?” I quipped, “You’re not missing anything. Duterte is still president.” We had a good laugh from this.
Part of being married is wanting to know what’s going on in our spouse’s inner world. Conversation makes it possible. When we share facts, feelings, opinions, dreams and fears, we go closer. It’s the next best thing to a Vulcan mind meld (if you’re not a Star Trek fan, look that up).
Don’t forget to adorn your talk with endearment. For example, do you use pet names? Maybe it’s Babe, Boo, Pooh Bear, or Snoogie Woogens. Me, I’m happy with calling Lucy “love” and she calls me “hon.” I would end my texts to her with “lov u” and she with emoticons. The moment a spouse calls the other hoy!, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know something is wrong.
When a couple has kids, I don’t recommend the husband calling the wife “Mama” and the wife calling the husband “Daddy.” It may be a Filipino thing, but I still remember the wry expression on my mentor’s face when he told me, “How can you make love to a Mama?”
Want to hear my guilty secret? Lucy and I are so low-tech! It’s only this year that we decided to have a website that would promote my books and services. So we hired a very competent website developer who then tutored us how to manage the content. Just a few nights ago, Lucy and I fumbled our way as we dragged, copy-pasted and edited. Would you believe it took us a half-hour to post a 250-word blog? But after seeing the piece published on the live page, we burst into laughter and traded high fives.
Sure, a spouse can have his or her own thing. Lucy relaxes by gardening while I unwind with DC Comics. But there should be joint projects to deepen the bond. It’s a matter of balance. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t share your spouse’s interest and beg off. Lucy loves movies with wizards and dragons; me, I would rather see Bruce Willis kick behinds. But we don’t resent each other’s choice of genre.
An important task together is prayer and ministry. On mornings when I drive Lucy and myself to our respective offices, we would pray together inside the car. We beseech our Heavenly Father for our families, friends, and projects. At home, when an in-law would text us a prayer request about her business, a friend is scheduled for a court hearing, a beloved pastor had to undergo surgery, we pause to pray.
Prayer is a revealing barometer. Whenever Lucy and I had a spat, we find it next to impossible to pray. We feel like hypocrites approaching the Throne of Grace and yet we cannot dispense grace to each other. That’s why it’s important to nurture the vertical relationship aside from the horizontal.
Ministry is another. Lucy may be more of the supportive type, but her help is indispensable when I would preach at our home church, conduct a workshop, or organize a book launch. I bet that when God distributes His rewards in heaven, Lucy will receive a larger haul of crowns than I. I won’t get jealous, because then we will have the unspeakable delight of laying our crowns before Him and fall down before Him in worship.
So there you have it, the T’s it takes to grow closer: touch, talk and tasks together. They encompass the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. Do them intentionally and you won’t even be thinking of walls. You will be thinking of highways and bridges.
But that’s material for another article.
Nelson T. Dy is an author and speaker on career, relationships and spirituality issues. He has written ten books to date, including How to Mend a Broken Heart, The Honeymoon Never Ends, and How Do I Know “The One”? For more of his insights, visit his website www.nelsontdy.com.
He and his wife, the wonderful Lucy Cheng Dy, have been married for 15 years.