Margie and Bill faced each other in two living room chairs. Four couples observed as this husband and wife demonstrated a process they share with each other every Saturday morning.
This particular evening was part of a six-week lesson and discussion with our church home fellowship group on building intimacy in marriage.
I glanced at the three-by-five card in my hand. Bill had passed out one to each person. "This is a personal exercise," he announced. "Each partner is responsible for his or her part." The headline read: "Three Questions to Ask Each Other Every Week."
- Is there anything that I need to apologize for? (i.e. Did I do anything that hurt you?)
- Is there anything you need from me that you're not getting?
- How can I be a better spouse?
I noticed my heart rate increase. There might be more here than I bargained for. Sure, I was open to a few tips. Charles and I had just celebrated 26 years of marriage and we could always use a refresher. Even so, a feeling of dread came over me. My husband and I were not the best at communicating about our own relationship. We were much better at evaluating other people's marriages!
I squirmed in my seat as I listened to Margie question Bill and then Bill ask the same of Margie. They were so honest. Not that I expected them to lie. Of course not. But could we do the same?
To Ask or Not to Ask
On the way home I asked Charles what he thought of the evening. "I don't think we need this process," he said. "We're talkers. We pretty much cover everything on a day-to-day basis."
I nodded, relieved not to wade in any deeper than we were already. And yet, I wanted to try—to see what would come up. My husband has a quick temper and I have a tendency to back off when things get hot so I couldn't predict how these questions would work for us.
And so we let it go, week after week after week. Then one day on a drive to the city, I suggested we test the process. We were in a good place emotionally and it seemed we could "practice" without the risk of a meltdown. He agreed. I started. "Is there anything that I need to apologize for?" I asked.
Charles paused. "I get frustrated by our lack of understanding each other, but it's not usually anything specific you've done."
Whew! I got by easy on that one.
Next question. "Is there anything you need from me that you're not getting?" I sensed the answer before it came.
"I'd like more sexual intimacy. I know it's not like it used to be between us (before his prostate cancer), but I'd like to at least be playful with each other."