I am embarking on another experience in the Respect Dare – supporting an Army of Women as we work on fine-tuning our respect skills and holding each other up in prayer through life’s ups and downs.
While I am not at liberty to share specifics about the first dare we were extended (it is from a to-be-published book), I can tell you that the gist was to be silent – learn to listen, learn when to speak, learn how to speak – but mostly learn to listen so that replies can be full of value instead of just talk.
When I did the Respect Dare for the first time 2 years ago, there was a dare about being silent. At the time, I remember thinking that it would easily be the hardest thing I ever did. I am a talker. And my husband is not. So I tended to fill the silence with more talk. I always LOVED that he was such a good listener. But what I realized is I never even gave him a chance.
So I started to be silent. I learned to ask questions. There were days when I asked the right thing and I could get him for an hour or more just going and all of the sudden, I felt like I was actually a good listener.
There must be something to this silence thing, I thought.
I also learned that if I am going to listen to Heavenly Father, sometimes I need to shut up and listen. If I’m always filling my life with noise including my continuous talking, then I can’t hear the answers to my prayers, that still, small voice.
Silence isn’t just a tool in my marriage, but also in my love affair with the Lord. So I need to learn how to listen.
What I have learned while being silent is that I also need to wait in my responses. Hubs has often asked me over the course of our relationship to come to him about a problem when I’m not emotional and after I’ve had time to process. I never got why this mattered – until I tried it.
I certainly can’t tell you how it happened. It was gradual and took a lot of time and practice. But I can tell you what I have come to realize.
I can’t “fix” my husband. This has been a hard realization for me. But here’s the thing – he’s not broken. He’s different than me. And that’s wonderful, because God made him that way. That doesn’t mean I love every single little thing about him – what fun would that be?
(And Hubs, if you’re still reading this, remember how I told you that one day, you would have to stop reading my blog? This might be it but that’s your call…)
So in my increased silence, God has taught me to be patient and respectful and to let Him do the molding, instead of me.
How has this played out in my marriage? Well the example that comes to mind so quickly is Hubs sleeping habits. When I worked full time, Hubs ran a business at home and kept Lemonade at home with him. I got up and breastfed her in the morning but it was hard then to get ready and make breakfast for me with a baby in hand and under foot. And Hubs does not rise quickly in the morning and there were many mornings where I had to wake him up so I could walk out the door. I would be angry, but I tried not to say anything. More importantly, I tried not to be angry. And when I did get angry (I’m only human!) I would call and apologize. He knew what I wanted and what I needed and God was working on him in his own time.
Now, his work schedule is such that the time he gets to spend with us as a family is in the morning. But he also still runs his business and likes to sleep. Some mornings I have a hard time knowing what to tell Lemonade when she asks for her Dada . But I also know that he is struggling with balancing all of the things he has to do. So I have decided to try to be silent about this.
I know that there are people who don’t agree with silence in marriage – because marriage is a team, an equal partnership, a 50/50, and so on. I know it’s a stretch in our culture but I do know that Proverbs has a lot to say about talking and listening and I’m trying to learn to be better.
And lastly, by being silent, I am allowing my husband to learn and grow in his own way, at his own pace. I am not NOT telling him what I need, I’m just not doing it immediately when I’m on an emotional high. I wait, I listen, and then I present as respectfully as possible.
This has not been an easy skill for me. It was our first dare in our support group and it was for all of week 1 and we’re well into week 2 and it’s still on my mind all the time. This is something I need to work on. It’s not easy for me. I’m still learning to find better ways to voice what I need him to know. All while learning to be silent and knowing when to listen.
And for the skeptics out there – I have gained so much from this silence. About a month ago, one Sunday morning, our little girl woke us up and then quieted right down and we were able to just lay in bed and talk. And that morning I chose to listen. Hubs told me things from his teenage years that I had never heard before. I saw a side of him I rarely get to see. It was WONDERFUL and if I had never learned to shut up and listen. I was overflowing for days afterwards. Just the other day, he thanked me for valuing his time with our daughter and modeling that I value it without nagging him. I am seeing benefits too.
I wrote this to share with my sisters in the group. But I hope that for my other wife or wanna-be-wife friends that this teaches you something or gives you an idea of something to try.
(PS I have also learned that any communication technique that I can apply to my marriage can be applied to any other relationship in my life…something else to think about.)