“I want to take more walks with you, Jeff,” Jill said. We were giving a demonstration of communication during one of our Marriage Coach training classes. Her desire was sincere. (We aim to be transparent and authentic during demonstrations.)
“I’m curious about you wanting to take more walks,” I replied.
She was happy to share. “It seems that when we walk, we have some of our best talks. There are fewer possibilities of interruption, and it’s when I get your most focused attention. It helps me feel closer to you,” she said.
It seemed like a good time to reflect upon what I’d heard. “What I hear from you is that you like having my undivided attention, and that you feel closer and more cared about when you get that on a regular basis.”
She nodded that I was getting it. “Yes, that’s what I want you to hear,” she confirmed.
Hmm … what began as a demo had developed into a significant marriage moment with a little bit of embarrassment. The “expert” coach-trainer was being asked in front of the class to improve his listening. The observers were quiet. They realized that this was sacred territory.
We seized the teachable moment for the class and our marriage by continuing the conversation through a process of exploration that concluded with a shared goal to increase the quality of our conversations by increasing the frequency and duration of our walks; a minimum of three times for 30 minutes during the week, and two hour-long walks on the weekend. In addition, we’ve promised to be intentional about using effective asking and listening skills. Last week we met the goal, and it had the desired effect. We both feel closer.
When I began coach-training, I received a promise from my trainers that I would learn how to facilitate transformational conversations. That was a bit hard to grasp, but the following explanation made it clearer:
The conversation is the relationship, and the relationship is the conversation.
Do you agree? Think about your closest and best relationships. Now, think about the quality, frequency, and depth of your conversations. Do you see a correlation? Are your best relationships with people you talk to most frequently and most openly?
Now, let’s face the brutal facts. What is the quality of conversations you have with your spouse? Obviously, prior to asking Jill what she wanted during the training demo, I would have rated them higher than she would have. (It’s common for us guys to overestimate ourselves in marriage.)
I’ll admit that when Jill said why she wanted more walking time, it hurt. I was chagrined because I pride myself on making time to talk at home. But, if she has a problem, then I have a problem, because it’s a problem for our marriage. Her identification of a desire and willingness to share it was her gift to our marriage. My willingness to respond to her request is my gift to our marriage. Thankfully, we’ve learned a set of skills that are helpful to coach our own marriage.
Our shared goal to establish the habit of regular walking time is one way we have put our marriage in a position to grow stronger. But it will be the way that we steward those conversations that makes it more than physical exercise. We will need to be intentional about asking and listening with heart and skill, and willing to serve each other by sacrificing to work together on other shared goals that flow from the conversations. In effect, we will be coaching our own marriage, much as if another couple trained in marriage coaching were to coach us by facilitating us to ask, to listen, and to set goals, in order to honor the desires of our hearts.
Pause and Reflect:
- What are you thinking about right now? Could (or does) walking work for you? Or maybe you put your marriage in position for quality conversations some other way…
- What are some other ideas to position your marriage for quality conversation? Make a list and begin to implement it.
The point is that great relationships are built one conversation at a time. The bad news might be that we have some blind spots regarding the time we make or the skills we use. The good news is that we can choose to set goals to make the time and we can learn or renew skills to make the time count.
Got to go … Guess where? It’s time for a walk with my wife!
© Jeff and Jill Williams. All rights reserved. Used with permission.