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Well, let’s find out together as Christopher D. Connors, an expert on Emotional Intelligence, sits down for a conversation with I Do Part Two to discuss what an emotionally intelligent marriage looks like in 2020.

Christopher D. Connors is the bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence for the Modern Leader and The Value of You. He is a keynote speaker, executive coach and business consultant that works with leaders at Fortune 500 companies, sports organizations, schools and universities. His writing has appeared in CNBC, Quartz, World Economic Forum, Virgin Media, Thrive Global and Medium. Christopher is happily married to his beautiful wife and is the proud father of three amazing, rambunctious baseball-loving boys. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina. Visit him: http://chrisdconnors.com

Mr. Connors references a talk that Brené Brown presented on “empathy.” Brené Brown, Ph. D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She is known world-wide for her work on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She is also a gifted story-teller. There are numerous versions of her talk on empathy available online and due to copyright laws, I Do Part Two encourages you to search for them on Youtube or on Brené Brown‘s website.

I so hope you enjoy I Do Part Two’s conversation with Christopher D. Connors,

3 Minute Read

I sat there on the couch, my counselor across the coffee table from me. Her “office” didn’t feel like one. It felt more like my great aunt’s living room. Relaxed and inviting, warmly lit and messy. Imperfect

“Solace?” She trailed off…. she took a breath, a big one. I could see her shoulders lift heavily upward, as she prepared for her next words.

She was going to ask me what I knew the conversation had been leading up to, the question I’d been dodging and moving away from.

“Solace, do you love your husband?”

Boom. 

She knows me, I thought to myself. She knows everything. I’ve told her all of my struggles, in life, relationships: the thoughts deep within my soul.  I’d convinced myself over the years, that if anyone knew all she knew, I’d surely be unlovable. Like this room I sat in, I was messy and imperfect. I hated knowing that about myself.

I chuckled, “Of course!” 

“Why?”, she asked.

“He’s a great dad and provider. We share similar values and our faith. We have the same life goals. We’ve built a life together that’s remarkable!!” 

She wasn’t going to let me dodge any longer.

“Okay”, she said slowly, “you just outlined why you are compatible. You just told me you like the life you’ve built. But, do you love him?

_________________________________

Mr. Solace travels two out of four weeks, on average, each month. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. But, he travels… a lot. 

During this same conversation, my counselor asked me if I miss him when he travels. Of course I did, I said emphatically. I miss his help: I carry the load alone when he is away. 

Again, she pegged me: but do you miss him. Did I still feel that ache I once felt early in our relationship, did I miss his presence, spending time with him: being around him?

I wasn’t sure. 

Did I? Or did I just miss his help at bath time, with the dishes, and taking the trash cans to the curb? Did I miss him and love him or did I just miss his help?

I struggled with these questions for a number of weeks. I wrestled with them. I wanted my heart to feel that tug again. 

__________________________________

Through the process of being mindful within our marriage, we’ve also become intentional about our time as a family and the core relationships of our unit of four.

We’ve started saying “no” a lot more. As a result, we’ve made space within our family for relationships and activities that feed us, sharpen us and rebuild our foundation.

We are getting to know each other again. 

When Mr. Solace left recently for a two-week trip he said, “This last week has been remarkable. I’ve enjoyed you, the boys, our time together…

We’ve all been mentally and emotionally present and available. I think our work within ourselves individually is really starting to show…

By rebuilding our individual foundations and our marriage, I can see the fruits in our family relationships and our life.”

This was earth shattering. I was speechless, and my heart seemed to freeze in that moment, unable to beat. What Mr. Solace shared in this moment of vulnerability, from his heart, floored me. 

He was right. We were both more present and intentional. Mindful in our interactions. Protective of our time and the priority of our family. We stopped worrying about expectations of outside influences and instead started to focus inward.

_______________________________

Weeks later, there I sat again, in the same warmly lit room. 

My counselor, in her chair, sipping hot tea. She asked the same question she always did, “So, what’s been going on with you?”

“Mr. Solace is traveling again; he left last Friday. So, you know, just the normal day to day routine, now.

Nothing major….”, I answered. “Well, actually….there was this one thing that happened.”

“Okay? Tell me about it…”

“Well, I went for a run on Saturday. Since Mr. Solace is traveling it was just me running and pushing the stroller. You know, zoning out.

Before Mr. Solace left we’d had a really amazing week as a family; we both agreed it felt rich and full. It was entirely about being together and enjoying each other.

I was just thinking about the week as I ran, and then I passed this couple pushing a stroller together.  They were talking, I think they were drinking coffee and just clearly taking the Saturday morning slowly, together. And…”

I trailed off. I knew it was coming. An unfamiliar feeling washed over me, tears welled up, my heart beat a little quicker, and my voice trembled.

“And….I missed him. I wished in that moment more than anything in the world that he had been there. With me. I missed him.” 

I cried. And as those hot tears rolled down my cheeks, my heart in a moment of pure joy, leapt.

I missed him. I loved him. I felt joy again….I felt the tug.

________________________________________


Friends, marriage is work and it is ongoing. The process of rediscovering the love I have for my husband isn’t something I could calendar out, it’s not something that I add to a to-do list, or put on a timer. 

It’s happened as I’ve chosen to make my husband and our marriage a priority, a mindful and intentional priority.

I’ve decided to keep up the fight, to continue to persevere through the good and bad days. Remembering to stop and recognize the joy I feel in loving my spouse, and I can finally say it aloud.

I love you deeply Mr. Solace. Thank you for sticking with me.

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Photo by Arthur Ogleznev from Pexels

It’s taken time to understand and recognize, perhaps years if I really think about it, but something amazing happens when you get “shoulder to shoulder” with a loved one.  

In my case, it’s been with either my wife of 25 years or one of our 20-something daughters.  

Conversation and communication unfold with a depth and authenticity that doesn’t happen any other way.  

Living in a house full of lovely women, there’s rarely a lack of conversation. As a mild introvert, I haven’t always been central to the conversation; I was never excluded but neither did I always include myself. Fortunately, that’s changed in a monumental way.

When our daughters became teenagers, my wife and I discovered an openness and honesty our girls conveyed only during our “shoulder to shoulder” runs.  

Something changed as our gaze looked ahead and our breathing became more and more distressed.  

Real stuff started coming out of their mouths, stuff neither of us had heard from them before.  Stuff that mattered: hopes, dreams, fears, concern, you name it, it came out on those runs and they volunteered it!  

I loved, and still do love those runs. I would learn more about my daughter(s) in 30-60 minutes, than in a month’s worth of everyday interactions.  

What was going on, how they felt about it, what should they do: questions they sincerely wanted mom or dad’s advice and opinion on.  It was the opening for real conversation that every teenage parent hopes for. 

Could the same principle hold true when it came to conversations with my wife?  

Without making any direct efforts to apply it, I discovered this to be absolutely true. Evenings spent walking our dog around the neighborhood, have turned into significantly important connection time.  

Over the course of our well-worn route, amazing conversations take place.  All the stuff married couples MUST talk about: kids, jobs, plans, money, and schedules.

We’ve found that we are able to talk and connect at a deep and focused level.  For me, it’s being able to really listen without any household, device or family distraction.  

Just my wife’s words, her tone, her inflection without the eye-to-eye contact.  It enables me to talk, and my wife to listen and respond openly and honestly.

It’s my experience, being “shoulder to shoulder” creates a very safe environment to converse with a loved one.  

In our marriage, intimacy and trust already exist, so gazing forward together has empowered us to be vulnerable, while avoiding the eye contact that might make us feel hesitant to share what’s really on our mind. Eye contact that has, at times, been unintentionally passed and received as judgmental.  

Certainly, I am not saying we don’t or shouldn’t look each other in the eye- that’s critically important.  What I am saying is that walking with your spouse, maybe hand-in-hand, allows a level of authenticity that we might be uncomfortable with when we are face-to-face.

Sometimes the walks are impromptu or one of us will say, “Let’s walk the dog tonight.” Planned or unplanned they have become an amazing way for our family to connect in the deepest and most meaningful way.

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