Getting Inside the Song
Bob Dylan recently released a CD of cover tunes from the 40’s and 50’s—many were originally sung by Frank Sinatra. In a recent interview, Bob was asked what he thought of Sinatra and he said, “Frank had the ability to get inside of the song in a conversational way. Frank sang to you, not at you.” You know, I thought what Bob said was true. When you listen to him sing, it’s as if he is conversing with you about something, whether it was his view of life or the ups and downs of his love life. The “getting inside the song in a conversational way” is what is often lost over time in a marriage relationship.
Like the dating relationship, marriage usually starts out as a conversation. You cherish every thought your spouse has, and because you do, you are intent on listening intimately. The capacity to understand each other is at its highest in those early days. But routine and friction soon wear the edges off romance like water over river stones. Now the concern is being heard rather than hearing—what’s on our spouses’ heart that is. The emotional shift leads to erecting defense mechanisms rather than putting up an antenna for a better signal. This naturally is where quarrels and other opportunistic forces begin to drive a wedge in the relationship. But not too many people reflect on why they’re quarreling—that’s not the conversation they began. There may be some obvious things like the emergence of an unpleasant character trait in a spouse that gets routinely criticized by the other, yet the critique is not always met with a willingness to change. Yet change is a necessity for a fruitful life and by extension, marriage.
Dialog or Monolog?
Love in marriage grows through mutual understanding, (the dialog, or conversation) but love is stunted through a lack of mutual understanding (the monolog). One or both parties want to be heard, but no one is really hearing the other one. Perhaps one party does get it and the other doesn’t. Have you ever heard your spouse telling a story but you weren’t listening, and you had to find a way to reply in such a way that they wouldn’t know you weren’t listening? Our natural tendency is to be preoccupied with our own thoughts. If we don’t consciously break through that self-centered barrier, we effectively shut communication down and bigger problems arise. So if the love of your life shares a thought or desire it should never be taken as insignificant. Because behind it all is a heart where that thought or desire lives. If what is important or meaningful to them gets shrugged off, he or she will think you don’t care about them.
Enlarging Each Others’ World
If you’ve lost that loving two-way conversation where you’re talking at your spouse rather than to them and with them, how do you get it back? We’ve seen in our marriage that problems have a way of resolving themselves when we transfer our mind and affections to the other person. That means, a purposeful movement to fulfill the other person in every way—like we said in our vows—rather than seeking fulfillment for ourselves. Our new book, “The Music of Marriage” goes into detail about fulfillment. When we decide to see life through another’s eyes, instead of just our own, we step inside the immense beauty of another’s world, which enlarges the small confines of our own. A new appreciation for the gifts, the uniqueness, and the contribution your spouse makes to your life emerges. It becomes apparent when the focus is shifted to the other person that you both embrace and enlarge each other’s world. That doesn’t mean you’ve solved all your problems; it does mean that you’ve already gone half the distance toward solving them. Once thoughtful, loving communication is established, you can solve anything and accept each other for who you both are.
William Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet said, “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.”
A Never Ending Conversation
Within Christian marriage, you have the added dimension of the lordship of Christ—who makes you one in marriage—bringing even greater significance and scope to your unity. To get to the point where we see the complete dimension of being ‘one’ with our spouse as we are one in Christ takes an ongoing understanding of both. This is why it takes a lifetime to develop a never ending conversation.
Co-Author of The Music of Marriage