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“I want you to listen, really listen to me.”I want to be heard.

“You shouldn’t feel that way.”I want to be validated.

“You never support me in front of your friends”I want to be protected.

One of the most common messages we receive at I Do Part Two is the desire to feel validated. If you have ever felt this way, you are not alone. Validation is one of the most important tools of communication in marriage. It allows you to support your spouse, even when you disagree. 

A good example of validating your spouse’s feelings would be to put away your device when they’re talking—listen to understand what they are saying from their point-of-view.

A friend was sharing with her husband about a disagreement she had with a co-worker and he replied, “What did you do to set her off?” This would be an example of not validating your partner’s feelings.

Our feelings are like a personal alert system—they aren’t right or wrong. They reflect our thoughts, experiences, and perceptions. They help us to understand how we are feeling about a conversation or an interaction with our partner. The Gottman Institute, a highly regarded licensed counseling group, points out that when our partner ignores or dismisses our feelings, “it is a form of relational trauma which, over time, harms the brain and nervous system.”

Where does this lack of empathy come from? For many of us, it’s just not in our natural wiring. And it may go way back—possible before our earliest tangible memory. As children, we may have also learned to not “talk back” to our elders, not to make too much noise, or not to bother anyone while they’re reading, cooking, or working on a project. 

Maybe you watched as one parent berated the other parent or an older sibling, and the message formed loud and clear in your growing brain, “Don’t speak up, stay small, and by all means—don’t share your feelings.”

How would you know how to show empathy and validate others’ feelings if it was never modeled for you?

Awareness: Simply recognizing that this is an issue for you and acknowledging your willingness to work on it is the first step. Experts recommend individual and couples counseling, reading books on the topic, and working on listening to understand from your partner’s perspective. Also, I would add, let them know you love and care about them, and you do not want them to feel invalidated anymore.

The Gottman Institute recommends three steps toward healing: (but friends, this will take some time.)

  1. Atone: Apologizing and asking for forgiveness is crucial; it is a practice that heals ourselves and others—again and again.
  2. Attune: This means listening, perhaps for the very first time and seeing the situation “through their eyes.” When we are really listening for understanding, we’re able to share someone else’s story from their perspective. 
  3. Attachment: If your partner is there for you and has your back, you will feel secure in your attachment to them. The closeness creates a deeper bond where trust and commitment can flourish. 

The Gottman Institute (and I paraphrase), recommends committing to repeatedly working to Atone, Attune and Attach on an ongoing basis. In other words:

  • Apologize when you are in the wrong
  • Listen to your partner and understand from their point-of-view
  • Validate your partner’s concerns, they will feel more secure.

If this story resonated with you, it’s either because you have felt “unheard” or realize you have some work to do. Friends, it’s never too late to work on your relationship skills and say you are sorry. Learning how to empathize and validate another’s feelings is probably one of the most powerful relationship skills most of us were never taught. By Lisa Reinhart-Speers

*Please note: Where a licensed expert is not credited, I share from my own experience gained from 28 years of marriage, reading loads of marriage articles and books, and working with numerous licensed marriage counselors myself over the years—much of which was sought pro-actively with my husband, so we could learn new skills as we hit road bumps or new phases in life, like empty-nesting. It is a never-ending process but well worth it—By Lisa Reinhart-Speers @I Do Part Two

Jennifer Thompson, writer, with her husband

I will never forget something our pastor said to us when we were going through premarital counseling many years ago.

“A marriage isn’t two people each giving 50%,” he said. “It’s two people each giving 100%.”

This hit me. Hard.

I had always thought of relationships as 50/50 propositions. You each give. And you each take. You try to make it as equal as possible. Right?

Wrong.

It is give. And it is take. That is correct.

But it isn’t giving half of yourself.

It’s giving all of yourself. It’s two people giving everything they can to each other. It’s two people trying their best to love each other well, each and every day.

Will it be perfect?

No way.

Marriage is two imperfect people coming together. There is absolutely no such thing as a perfect marriage.

Does the give and take always look equal? No.

There are some seasons when it is more give. And more take. I may need more from my spouse right now than he does from me. And vice a versa.

But it all balances out. It’s a beautiful dance.

You may hear this 100% giving of yourself and think, that sounds nice in theory, but do you know how exhausted I am? After caring for the kids. And my house. And my job. And all of the things. I am lucky to give 5%.

It may feel that way.

But giving 100% doesn’t mean you are giving perfection. It simply means you are trying your best. Just like we tell our kids when they get a lower grade than they wanted on a test. Did you try your best? Did you give it your all? That’s all we ever ask.

Marriage is two imperfect people loving each other. Supporting each other. Listening to each other. Accepting each other. Giving each other grace. Lots. And lots. And lots of grace.

It’s picking up the slack when the other person needs it most. It’s letting go of past mistakes. And not holding grudges.

It’s living in the moment. And addressing concerns as they arise.

It’s owning your mistakes. And saying I’m sorry.

And forgiving. Just as you long to be forgiven.What I give every day isn’t based on what my husband is giving to me. And that is the most beautiful part of the dance. I give 100% because of the love I have for him. And he gives 100% because of the love he has for me.

And back and forth and back and forth it goes.

If in the dark we lose sight of love, hold my hand, and have no fear cause I will be here.”-Steven Curtis Chapman

When we stood at the altar over 27 years ago and my friend Marcy sang those haunting words, I had no idea in my 25-year-old head how true they would ring this many years later.  I didn’t know we were embarking on a journey of Three Marriages (and that’s so far…who knows how many more we have in us).Read more of Esther’s story that inspired our interview: The Tale of Our Three Marriages

All About Esther—

Esther is a wife to one and a mom to four grown children (ages 20-28).  She was born a missionary kid in war-torn Ethiopia, but has become a potato chip-eating, football-loving American, Christian wife and mom who has a fierce passion for marriage and family. She’s a little snarky, a little sappy, a little strong and hopefully more than a little Spirit-led.  She’s been driven to her knees in prayer and to raise her hands in praise.  She’s speaks words of hope and wisdom where the heart meets the home and faith touches the family. You can read more of Esther’s beautiful writings at the following: The Dolly Mama Blog, Instagram: Moms of Bigs, Instagram: The Dolly Mama, Facebook: Moms of Bigs, Facebook: The Dolly Mama

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By Jenni Brennan of Changing Perspectives

Remember the early days of your relationship with your spouse?

  • Butterflies
  • Romantic dates
  • Flirty messages
  • Anticipation around next steps
  • Long conversations as you got to know each other
  • Excitement over your potential future

Today, if you are like me, you and your partner are mere versions of your younger selves, focused now on things like:

  • Raising your children
  • Meeting financial goals
  • Addressing health needs
  • Tackling career aspirations
  • Cultivating friendships
  • Taking care of household tasks like laundry, cooking, and cleaning
  • Trying to complete those never ending “to do” lists

The reason so many couples find themselves feeling distanced from each other at this stage of life is simple—We all have a tendency to put our romantic relationship on the back burner after marriage because we think all of the other needs and responsibilities are more pressing. 

The kids need you. Work needs you. Your aging parents need you. The youth sports teams need you. Your friends need you. Your house needs you.

After all, this is the person you are spending the rest of your life with, so they will always be there beside you. It’s okay to put your relationship on the back burner right now. How exciting will it be to spend your golden years of retirement with them?

What if you never get to enjoy those years? What if you make it to retirement but after spending decades focusing on others, you realize that you no longer know your partner. Worse yet, what if you realize that you no longer like each other? What if something terrible happens and you don’t get to make it to retirement age?


Sure, putting things on the proverbial back burner can work for a little bit. But, what happens if you leave something on the actual back burner? Eventually it dries out, maybe burns, and becomes a failure.

Marriages are the same.

It’s time to take your relationship off the back burner and start nurturing it now, before it’s too late.

Here are 9 ways to reconnect with your spouse and put the focus back on your relationship without compromising your other responsibilities:

1. Date your partner
I cannot stress enough the value of dating your partner. While you may not be able to afford to hire a babysitter for at least one night each month, you can certainly find a way to creatively date your partner.

Maybe it means taking a day off from work during the day while kids are at school or at grandmas house so you can be alone. Maybe it means working out together at the gym while the kids are in the child care room. Maybe it means simply shutting off the tv, ignoring the dishes, and having a date at home after the kids go to bed. Maybe it means using your money to pay for a sitter and then having an inexpensive date while you walk around Target together.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, romantic, or cost money. You just need to make time for the two of you.

2. Hold staff meetings
You and your partner are essentially running a business. You’re managing a household and that inevitably means there are things like bills, repairs, and maintenance that need to be addressed. If you have children and/or pets, then you also have medical appointments and logistical considerations for others. Let’s not forget about things like laundry, meal prep, shopping, and cleaning.

Would you ever expect a company to run effectively without having some type of formal and consistent check in? 

Marriages are the same. Schedule 30-minutes each week to check in with each other on the business aspects of your relationship. This can be a great time to compare calendars, identify breakdowns in communication, plan for next steps, and highlight accomplishments and sources of pride. You can also combine this with a date night — just make sure it’s only a portion of the date!

3. Don’t expect mind reading
So often we fall into the trap of expecting our partner to know us so well that they know what we are thinking and what we need. That’s not fair to your partner or to you.

Communicate your needs with your partner. If you come home expecting your partner to have started dinner but you never asked for that to happen, it’s not fair to then be angry or hurt that it didn’t happen.

Don’t let missed opportunities for communicating your needs lead to built up resentment.

4. Learn your love language
So often members of a couple feel as though their partner is not showing them love. In reality, though, they aren’t speaking their partner’s love language.

My partner may bring me flowers and little gifts, thinking that I know it means he loves me. But, we have learned that Gift Giving is not one of my love languages. Instead, Acts of Service (things like unloading the dishwasher or making a doctor’s appointment for the kids or taking out the trash) make me feel loved.

Get on the same page with each other by reading Dr. Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts so you not only know how to recognize your partner’s expression of love for you but so that you can also more effectively show love to your partner.

5. Take a couple’s vacations
Once you’ve been able to make date nights or date days a priority, the next step is to find a way to take vacations together. This could be a big vacation like a few nights in the Caribbean or traveling through Europe or it could mean you rent an AirBnb or cheap hotel room the next town over for one night.

The location doesn’t matter; what matters is that you have the opportunity to step out of your everyday life just the two of you and reconnect away from the normal routines.

6. Try new things together
Remember what it was like going through all the firsts in your relationship? There is something exciting about experiencing something new with your partner and we lose that spark the longer we’ve been together.

Consider taking up new hobbies or trying new things together. The options are limitless- golfing, dance lessons, hiking, reading a new book together, trying a new restaurant together.

The actual thing you do doesn’t matter. The key is for it to be something new for both of you.

7. Do things that your partner enjoys
It’s very rare that two members of a partnership enjoy all of the same things. Is there something that your partner enjoys that you find extremely boring? Find a way to try to do some of those things with your partner.

Learn that video game they love to play. Go to the concert of the band they really like. Go to that Indian restaurant even though you don’t like that type of cuisine.

Make them feel valued by showing an interest in the things that make them happy.

8. Physical connections
Don’t wait for there to be a natural physical spark between the two of you. With kids and work and responsibilities and pressures and competing schedules, it’s very likely that by the time the two of you reach your bed at the end of the day, the last thing you have the energy for is sex. Those are exactly the times when you need to make a priority though.

What would happen if the next time you found yourself with a fleeting thought of physical connection, you actually pursued it and put sleep or that pile of laundry off for a little bit longer? 

What kind of impact would it have on your relationship if your put physical connection a bit higher up on your list of priorities?

9. Lean into each other, not away
When things get hard many couples lean away from each other. They complain and vent to their friends when their partner does something hurtful or irritating. They ignore opportunities to communicate directly with each other about concerns, instead leaving their relationship open to built up feelings of resentment and anger.

Lean into each other during those difficult times. Have those challenging and uncomfortable conversations with each other.

It’s what we do in almost all other aspects of our life, right? We have difficult conversations with our children, our friends, our coworkers, other parents on the sidelines at our kids games, and even strangers on social media. So, why won’t we do it with our partners? Is it maybe because we are leaving our relationship on the back burner, assuming we’ll have time to address it in the future?

The time to strengthen your marriage is now and you can find ways to reconnect meaningfully with your partner without taking your attention away from the other important relationships in your life.

Wouldn’t those younger versions of yourselves want you to make your marriage a priority now? 

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