At Christmas, we remember how Jesus came to Earth, stepping into the divide between us and God.
We all have those times when there seems to be a disconnect in our marriage. Even in the best marriages, a divide can grow between husband and wife. Whether it’s from disagreements, stress, fear or misunderstanding, when it happens we face a choice.
One is easy. One is harder. Doing the hard thing is the only way to close the gap between you.
Shouting Across the Divide
The easy choice is for you both to stand your ground, remain focused on yourselves, and shout across the divide toward each other. It may not be literal shouting – my wife and I don’t shout at each other – but it might as well be.
Shouting (or talking) across the divide happens when you make little or no effort to understand your spouse’s position and feelings. A cycle of blaming and defending develops to the point where neither of you can hear the other. You hear the words, but as you do, your thoughts are already building your defense against them. Rather than listening and empathizing to gain understanding, you are listening in order to prove yourself right, to get what you think you deserve, or to assert your rights.
When you shout across the divide nothing changes. In fact, the separation only tends to deepen.
Stepping Into the Gap
The harder choice, and the only way for you to reconnect with each other, is for one of you to step into the gap.
Choosing to step into the gap between you requires self-sacrifice. It requires you to lay down your agenda and your need to be right. It requires that you listen with empathy in a genuine attempt to gain an understanding of the other’s perspective and feelings. It means you stop defending and blaming.
Stepping into the gap is making a deliberate choice to care more about maintaining your connection than about whether or not your spouse behaves the way you want him or her to.
Stepping into the gap can come in the form of gentle, non-sexual physical touch such as an embrace or holding hands, even when it seems that’s the last thing your partner deserves and the last thing you desire.
In many situations where disconnection occurs, one or both parties don’t feel understood but long to be. Because intimacy is about being fully known and yet completely loved, when either of you doesn’t feel heard, it blocks intimacy. Likewise, when either of you feels rejected or judged in the midst of the conflict, it inhibits your ability to be transparent, further preventing true connection.
Someone Has to Go First
When you are stuck shouting toward each other across the divide, or when it has devolved into stony silence, someone has to be first to step into the gap.
At Christmas, it was Jesus who went first. He chose to step out of the perfection of heaven and humbly enter into our existence. His whole mission was to bridge the gap between God and the people he loves and longs to connect in an intimate way.
The next time you and your spouse suffer a disconnect, don’t get stuck talking at each other across the divide. Remember what Christ did for us on that cold Christmas night so long ago. Go first. Step toward your spouse. Make understanding and connection the priority instead of being right. Then watch the miracle of intimacy unfold.