By Deb DeArmond
“My day was fine. And yup, dog is all squared away,” he responded. “Did you check on whether we can change seats to sit together on the outbound flight?”
“No, I forgot. I’ll do it as soon as we hang up. Any mail today?”
It’s what often passes for communication when one of us is traveling. It’s necessary, I guess, but hardly the fascinating conversation of a couple still in love.
It happens at the end of long days, full schedules, and juggling priorities. We’re often really exhausted when we finally connect, usually just before bedtime.
It’s what I’ve begun to think of as transactional conversation. Essential to running our lives, but not really covenantal connection kind of stuff.
What does that mean?
Life requires us to accomplish tasks, run businesses and households, pay bills, get the kids enrolled in hockey, etc. They are the transactions that keep our lives operating smoothly. When those transactions don’t take place or don’t take place in a timely manner, life can be stressful. So it’s a good thing to support one another in getting this stuff done.
But to create connection that keeps a marriage vibrant, healthy and alive, we need so much more. When you research synonyms (similar words) for the word intimacy, you discover descriptors like closeness, understanding, confidence, caring, tenderness, affection and relationship. That’s marriage at it’s very best—it’s difficult to achieve, and even more challenging to sustain over the lifetime of your love. And checking up on the mail and the dog is not going to get us there. We yearn for genuine intimacy from one another.
Intimacy is a result of connection, and it’s not limited to sexual connection. But sexual connection without intimacy is simply one more transaction. Check it off the list. Done.
So how do we move from transactional to covenantal?
One of the greatest challenges in our marriage came at a period when God was really blessing my business and Ron’s ministry. It also meant we were apart 2-3 weeks every month. Weekends were filled with to-do lists that had to be accomplished when we were really tired. We were both aware our connection was fading in and out like a bad FM station.
As we discussed this problem, one small idea grew into a really good plan. We decided to select a book together and read it on the road. We spent Monday (often on an airplane or the evening of arrival) reading the agreed upon chapter. Each night after that, we talked about our discoveries, our surprises, and the things that really impacted us from the chapter at hand. We didn’t hurry through a section. If there had been a lot to discuss, we might let it run into the weekend or the following week.
We chose books on subjects we were both interested in, mostly topics to support marriage, parenting, life in Christ, and so on. It was enlightening, and fun, and it strengthened our connection. For a couple who spent their first date talking for nearly 8 hours straight, it shouldn’t have surprised us, but it did.
I’d never plan a business activity or conference call without giving some thought to what I wanted to accomplish in that interaction. If you just show up and say, “So, what’s up?” you are likely to be disappointed with the outcome. Because we’re both traveling less often these days, the transactional communication is easier. It occurs throughout the day as we go about our lives. But we recently realized the covenantal connection was slipping; we found ourselves disappointed in the outcomes of our life together – and intimacy was suffering.
Talking about it was not easy, but necessary. You see, God asks us to cleave (stick like glue) to one another. We are most satisfied and most able to honor Him in our marriage when we manage the transactions and celebrate the covenant.
So, we’re returning to that really great former plan. We’ve committed to a shared devotional several times a week, which always creates a great discussion about our life together in Christ, our relationship, and our hopes and dreams for the next 39 years. We’re planning our free time on purpose, for a purpose – covenantal connection.
For you and your spouse, it may be planning something you both really love to do – a hike together, camping in the mountains, coffee while the kids stay with grandma or a great concert in the park. Be intentional. Talk about the stuff that lasts a lifetime: hopes, goals, dreams, and more.
Wouldn’t it be nice to experience intimacy as more than a transaction? Go covenantal – you’ll never go back!