By the end of the week, millions of Valentine cards will be bought and sold to express our love and care for people in our sphere of relationships, especially our spouses. For married couples, there is something that has better impact on intimacy than a Valentine card or a pre-paid Master Card.
We learn this activity from the Lord Jesus. When Jesus interacts with people, what does He do to peel back the veneer and get to the heart of an issue or the depth of personal persona? He asks questions. Then He authentically listens.
The art of asking questions to learn the heart of a person is one of the best relational activities we can do to deepen the level of intimacy in a marriage and other relationships. Asking questions must be followed by authentic listening. Many of us learned as children, “Stop, look and listen!” Perhaps we need to pick up the practice again. Just listen, even when it is uncomfortable.
The longevity of a relationship is built on trust, respect and communications. Communications is vital for rebuilding a relationship broken by bad behavior (we all act badly at some level, because we are “flesh” and continually need God’s amazing grace and forgiveness). Even healthy relationships flourishing for decades benefit from serving one another by asking questions and listening.
How many couples will go on a Valentine date without their cell phones and not have anything to talk about? Lack of communication can signal significant marital challenges. Can you carry on a conversation about “us” without bringing up work, kids, or even church? There is plenty to talk about; we just have to ask the right questions and listen.
How about some sample questions that facilitate intimacy? Even if you only have time to ask one or two questions, experiencing an authentic conversation can have positive results for a lasting marriage.
1. When you were a child and felt anxious, where did you go and why did you go there?
2. What is your favorite childhood memory?
3. When we were dating (courting), what is one of your best memories?
4. If you could have a perfect date with me, what would it include?
5. What would describe the most significant spiritual landmarks in your life?
6. Do you have one or two favorite Scripture verses that are like “true north” for you? Why?
7. What has God allowed in your life to break your heart?
8. What are the five most important things on your personal bucket list?
9. What are three things you are most thankful for right now?
10. What is the one thing you wish I understood more about you?
Make up your own questions. Just make sure they are not questions with a one-word answer. As you can tell, these are just conversation starters. However, to have a “conversation,” you must serve one another by listening to the heart of the person sitting across from you.
“Gentlemen,” yes, I am addressing you! I know we are not as relationally hard-wired like our brides. I also know we tend to spend our lives going from project to project, from what is on the schedule to what is next on the schedule. Suggestions—“What do you do for a Valentine date?”
1. Plan ahead—just a few moments of prior thought often yields a better outcome. More than anything else, plan an environment for a great conversation.
2. Purpose to listen—She has something important to share with you about her inner life but you have to listen. If you ask questions and listen, really listen, she feels secure to share her deepest needs.
3. Peer into her eyes when she is talking like you cherish her. Refuse to chase after the “squirrel” that darts in the background. She knows you are like most males—most of us have the attention span measured in nanoseconds and not minutes. But try to look past her words and into her heart when she talks.
4. Park your “fragile” ego—She may say something that hurts your feelings. Man up and take it without becoming defensive. Honest conversation is sometimes brutal but not as hard as the consequences of a broken relationship.
5. Pray for her.
“Ladies,” this is Sharon. “What do you do for a Valentine date?”
1. Prepare your mind—with all that we do simultaneously, quality conversation requires our focus on being engaged in the time he has planned for conversation with you—a date.
2. Purpose to look at him like you respect him—There is nothing a man cherishes like the look of respect you give to him when he is talking.
3. Preaching at him may make you feel right but it won’t build a healthy relationship. Sure, he has done some things that may have wounded you, but what man hasn’t? Let the Lord deal with his failings. You can’t fix him, but the Lord can. Don’t get in the Lord’s way.
4. Put your pretty on—Doesn’t matter if you are a newly-wed or a multi-decade bride, you stole his heart with your radiance and he still thinks you are his special beautiful one.
5. Pray for him.
Disclaimer—While this column may speak to only 85 percent of Pathway readers, the principles of questions and authentic listening can have positive results in building all kinds of healthy relationships.