Turn towards - Turn away ….
What happens when a distance grows between us?

How did we get to this place?

Every marriage has times when we feel a distance between us.
Those times can be momentary. When the distance goes on for extended times, a red flag is waving!

As they say in the U.K., “Mind the gap!”

One or both partners withdraw for many reasons.

For example:
  • My spouse said something that hurt my feelings. 
  • I decide to punish my spouse for their words or behavior. 
  • I don’t feel safe, afraid of criticism or being ridiculed. 
  • I don’t feel my spouse cares about me. 
  • I don’t think my spouse values what I have to say, so I won’t try to talk to him/her. 
  • I don’t think my spouse is interested in what I have to say. 
  • My spouse shuts me down when I try to have a conversation. 
When any of these occur, I have to decide what to do …. my decision can close or widen the gap.

Am I going to turn towards my spouse or turn away?

It takes compassion, courage, forgiveness, and God’s love to turn towards your spouse to close the gap between you. [See more below]

God Talk ……
When love is felt,
the message is heard.
Jim Vaus

Small cracks in communication create gaps in our relationships.

God gives us much guidance on healthy communication. These skills are crucial to every successful relationship - with family, friends, and in business. And they can be learned!

Approach the conversation in humility. Show that you value the other person. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  Philippians 2:3-4 

Listen to the heart of the other person. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  James 1:19 

Strengthen others with your word, rather than attacking. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Ephesians 4:29

Good Turn ….
Let’s close the gap!

Instead of turning away - here are some ideas to turn towards each other.

The little things count big time! In every day conversation, I have multiple chances to turn towards my spouse. It can be something as small as one saying, “It’s a beautiful day outside.” They haven’t asked for a response. But a response shows I am listening and I care. I can ignore it (worse than turning away). I can disagree (at least they know I am listening). Best of all, I can affirm what they say - turn towards.

When one person withdraws because of hurt feelings or anger, I can give them space but pursue reconciliation. I can ask if we can discuss it later, after we both have had time to process what happened.

It’s critical that the withdrawer agree to a later conversation. If they don’t, that usually indicates a desire to punish, not reconcile.

Another aspect of closing the gap is making sure that there is a sense of safety in their communication. That safety comes from a commitment not to ridicule, criticize, curse, name-call, or degrade each other.

Turning towards each other means, that when my partner speaks, I LISTEN. Either I stop what I am doing and look at my spouse, or I say, “I would really like to listen to what you are saying, can you hold that thought just a minute, while I finish up this ….?”

When I do listen, it’s important to listen to the heart, not just the words. If my spouse says, “I don’t want to go out tonight,” what is on their mind? I may be offended and assume that they don’t want to spend time with me. But if I listen with my heart, I ask a follow up questions. It may be that my spouse is concerned about finances or is too tired or is worried about something at work.

I listen with compassion, not defensiveness. I am willing to listen, not argue with their perspective. I can turn towards them, even in disagreement.

The Cycle ….
Regardless of the reason for one person to withdraw, a common cycle is for the other one to pursue when the first one withdraws.

That pursuit causes more withdrawal . . . . . and more pursuit.

Someone has to end the cycle! The pursuer can ask for the matter to be discussed at a time that is mutually agreeable.

Or the withdrawer can ask for some time to process what happened and agree on a time to re-visit the matter.

Avoid two destructive solutions -
1) continue the cycle or
2) both withdraw.

To continue the cycle will bring anger and resentment. To mutually withdraw brings a widening gap.