September 12, 2015

One Simple Question Can Make Your Spouse Feel Much Closer to You

Gary Thomas — 

One Simple Question Can Make Your Spouse

In Sacred Marriage I tell an old rabbinical story, but as I reworked the book for the new edition, I realized I may have originally missed one of the main points. Let me re-tell it with that point made more clearly.

There’s an old rabbinical story about how the spot was chosen for God’s holy temple. Two brothers worked a common field and a common mill. Each night they divided whatever grain they had produced and each took his portion home.

One brother was single and one was married with a large family. The single brother decided that his married brother, with all those kids, certainly needed more grain than he did, so at night he secretly crept over to his brother’s granary and gave him an extra portion. The married brother realized that his single brother didn’t have any children to care for him in his old age. Concerned about his brother’s future, he got up each night and secretly deposited some grain in his single brother’s granary.

One night they met halfway between the two granaries, and each brother realized what the other was doing. They embraced, and as the story goes, God witnessed what happened and said, “This is a holy place—a place of love—and it is here that my temple shall be built.” The holy place is that spot where God is made known to his people, “the place where human beings discover each other in love.”

Marriage can be that holy place. The site of a relationship that proclaims God’s love to this world…

Notice what makes this story so moving, two individuals who had greater empathy for the difficulties the other faced rather than their own. Selfish marriage is the opposite: each partner feels their own pain more intensely and are either unaware or calloused in regards to their spouse’s pain.

What if you asked your spouse this simple question: “What makes your life most difficult?” Or perhaps, to start things off, you could imagine what must be difficult about their life and then bring it up: “I bet it must be really difficult for you to….”Small Sacred Marriage Image - Cropped

As they respond, your sole aim is to truly understand the challenges your spouse faces on a regular basis. For the purpose of this exercise, don’t try to solve the problems. Avoid counseling your spouse as well. Certainly, do not try to convince them that whatever is bothering them shouldn’t—as if they are over-reacting or being unreasonable.

Just listen and try to understand.

This single question may sound too simple and too small to have any impact, but it can generate more feelings of intimacy than you might imagine making your spouse feel much closer to you.

Just try it, and you’ll see.

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8 responses to One Simple Question Can Make Your Spouse Feel Much Closer to You

  1. Anytime I attempt to talk to my spouse he says that he doesn’t want to talk. Whenever I attempt to do something nice and or actually do something he gets frustrated and says that he wishes that I would stop doing things because he doesn’t deserve them. I try to talk to him further and he just clams up. :/

  2. Gary,
    I am thinking that time would play a big part as to how a husband or wife would respond to this question.
    I haven’t asked my husband yet I’m waiting for that time when conversation it’s so causal. If it’s to causal he might not really think about what he’s saying.
    I don’t see my husband getting defensive but it is hard getting him to open up about things. With him timing is everything.
    What do I do if he says its me, how do I respond back to that with out creating an argument?

    • If you’re not in a counseling session just ask him to be more specific:”what one thing do I do that makes your life more difficult?” If he says something like “everything” then it’s time to punt on the conversation and bring in a counselor

      • Thank you for your post. Such conviction that stirs my heart to “understand my husband” as my mission to work on. My husband and I just had an argument 3 hrs. ago regarding this issue. I tell him he should not be anxious and let go of his past mistakes whereas, after reading your post, I just needed to understand the burden he is carrying in the past. Such a good reminder. I read your book 9 years ago when I was single. I should read it again with a different lense this time. Thank you.

  3. “This is a holy place—a place of love—and it is here that my temple shall be built.” The holy place is that spot where God is made known to his people, “the place where human beings discover each other in love.” Great illustration Gary!

    May God see this place in my marriage and be pleased with the way I am loving his son, my husband…

    Brad and I have learned over the years that we can trust one another with our deepest concerns…our fears lose their power when shared with someone who cares. In the beginning though, I prayed before I approached him with these questions. I asked God to soften his heart toward me. I had to earn his trust so he would not be afraid that I would take what he shared and mock him or use it against him later. I make sure to check my own intentions, are they pure? Am I wanting something for myself? Will this conversation help our marriage, will it glorify God? Is it necessary to talk now, or should I wait until later? I want so much to create a safe environment for my family. I didn’t have that growing up, and it is extremely important to me, so I try to make sure my words and actions lead to that goal.

  4. well I did it…I asked….and wasn’t expecting the response I got! from the paranoia of why I wanted to know, to how he only worries about sin…overcoming etc….

    didn’t work for me Gary, it just caused weirdness

  5. Gary, Why’ll reading this I was thinking, “what would my husband say”. I could guess but instead I’ll just ask I might be surprised. Where you come up with all you write about only God knows. But thank you for sharing it with us.