We took our family to the Oregon Coast this Summer, for our yearly trip to the beach. There’s just something about the raw power of the ocean, and the crisp salt air, that makes us look forward to coming back every year.
As I do every year, I helped the kiddos build a giant sand castle, complete with walls, and a gate, and a moat – all designed to “beat the ocean” and keep the sand castle from melting into the sand again. When the water would come in, we’d build the walls bigger again – knowing it was futile, but wanting to “save the castle!”.
Why am I telling you this? Well, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about walls. Now in the example of the sand castle, keeping the walls UP is a good thing. In my marriage, the goal is to keep them down.
It’s a strange concept though. Keeping your walls down. We’re trained from childhood that we need to “protect ourselves”, and “if you put yourself out there, you’ll get stomped on”. Then we get into marriage – a relationship that is supposed to be the most intimate relationship you will ever have on earth – and we still try to be “just vulnerable enough”, so that we feel connected, but also protected enough, that if our spouse does something to hurt us, we can pull back into our walls and tell ourselves “see, that’s why I need to keep them up”.
But how do we ever truly “know” our spouse, if we refuse to become vulnerable? For example, say your wife makes a comment that could be taken wrong, like “you want sex again!?” Or “You never spend time with me.” At that point we have two options. We can put a few bricks on the wall that will eventually separate us, or was can look past the cut of the words, to what is probably causing it, and respond in love.
It can even be little things that we pick up during the day. The things that are so trivial, it’s hard to believe we even register them, but are mentally adding bricks to the wall between us. Brick, by brick, by brick. And we wonder why, after about a week of this (or longer), that we feel disconnected. Huh, maybe it’s that 6 foot high wall between you. Yeah, the one that we refuse to look at because “well, it’s mostly her fault anyway”. Yeah. Sure it is.
So I’ve been making it my mission lately to be a “wall watcher” in my marriage. To be on the lookout for little things that if left alone, will hinder the intimacy between my wife and I.
If a remark is made, and I feel my “what did she mean by that?!” reaction come up, instead of clunking another brick on the pile, I say “hey hon, I don’t think I took that like you meant it. Is there something you need, that I’m not doing? If so, I want to hear about it.” Don’t jump right to being on the defensive.
Walls can be a good thing, or a bad thing. You want to build a wall AROUND your marriage, NOT in BETWEEN the two people in it.