One of the practices that Devra (my wife of 29 years) and I do almost every day to connect at the heart level is to “check in” with each other. Checking in with each other is a way to talk about all the things that are going on “out there” so that we can create “We-ness” together. It also is a way for us to be clear about our own emotions and not cloud them with issues with our spouse.
When I return from work and have a scowl on my face, what you do think Devra thinks about what is going on? Usually, she thinks that I am upset with her in some way. And I might be, but most of the time that assumption is wrong. One of the good things that happens when we check in with each other is that she learns what that emotion is really about. And usually, it is not about her. I’ve also returned home after a very bad day at work and when Devra asked about my day, I barked at her. That is something that happens with all couples. Anger or hurt about things at work get transferred and communicated unintentionally toward your spouse. I end up hurting the very person whom God put in my life to help me.
The Daily Check In is a way I can become aware of and communicate what is going on in my head and heart in a way that Devra can support me and understand me. And vice versa.
Check In With Yourself First
1. Become Aware – One of the most important things you can do is to begin to become more aware of how you are moving away from your spouse, intentionally or unintentionally. Your awareness is strengthened as you learn to check in with yourself and check in with your spouse.
We believe emotions are a gift from God. They are a part of how God made us. When we don’t identify and express emotions clearly and directly, we call it “stuffing” our emotions. The do not go away, rather simply become more intense over time as we choose to not be aware of them. Eventually they come out, sometimes in explosive episodes of emotional outbursts that we feel like we cannot control, sometimes we turn them toward ourselves and “beat” ourselves up internally, while other times they come out sideways and causing collateral damage to innocent bystanders.
Some people self medicate their emotions in an attempt to make them go away. Eating, workaholism, alcohol abuse, sexual acting out, over exercising, prescription or illicit drug use, frequent significant sleeping periods, and other things that keep you from experiencing your feelings are some of the many ways that you might be self medicating your emotions.
2. Assess Your Emotions – One of the best ways to discover how you are feeling at any given moment is to check in with what your body is telling you. Emotions show up in different places in our bodies. Closing your eyes and taking several deep, slow breaths will help you begin to notice if you feel any tightness, tingling, burning or other sensations anywhere in your body.
- Do you notice it in your abdomen or stomach ? – Perhaps you are feeling some form of fear. Might there be something that you are worried or scared about in this moment?
- Do you notice it in your chest or throat? – Perhaps you are feeling some form of sadness. Is there anywhere in your consciousness where you have experienced the loss of a job, dream, friend, hobby, etc. that you might be carrying sadness for?
- Do you notice anything in your shoulders, jaw, back of neck, or extremities? Perhaps you are feeling some form of anger. Is there something that is blocking you from achieving a goal and you are frustrated or angry about it?
- Notice All Emotions – You can be simultaneously feeling sad, angry, scared and happy at the same time. Most of the time these emotions are about different things but sometimes they are about the same thing. For instance, you might say, “I just found out we are pregnant. I’m so happy to bring a new baby into the world. I’m scared to death because I don’t know if I’m ready to be a parent. I’m angry because I thought we would have more time as a couple before we actually got pregnant. I notice some sadness and scare because I’m not sure how it will impact our financial and career plans and what we will do about the future we had planned out so well.”
3. Name Your Emotions – Knowing and owning your emotions has been shown to improve physical and mental health. Healthy people know what they are feeling. There is actually a term for people who can’t name their emotions. Alexithymia is an unhealthy condition which literally means an inability to identify and name your emotions. Here is a way to become more emotionally intelligent. Name your emotions with these core emotions definitions:
- Sad – A feeling of loss of connection to some one, career, dream, hobby, etc.
- Angry – A feeling of being blocked in some way from something that you want.
- Scared – A response to some kind of real or perceived threat or danger.
- Happy – A feeling of joy and gladness. A sense of wellbeing.
- Excited – A feeling of eagerness, anticipation, expectancy, and hopefulness about the future.
- Tender – Feeling one of the other emotions with someone else. Caring and connectedness with others. Compassion for another.
The more aware you are of your emotions the more you will be aware of the ways you are interacting with your spouse.
Take Turns Sharing Your Emotions With Your Spouse
The Daily Check In creates “We-ness” and develops to deeper emotional connection, which is a necessary element to increased passion in your marriage.
- Offer to go first. Share your emotions and why you think you are feeling the emotions you are feeling.
- Ask your spouse to check in. Accept their right to their feelings. Offer support for how they are feeling.
- Do not try to fix your spouse’s issue. Just listen and let your spouse know you are getting what they are expressing about how they feel.
What do you have to say?
By Roy Wooten
Roy completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2009 and has been the longtime leader of The Crucible Project community in Houston. Roy and his wife Devra have led over 175 of their Life Together Forever Couples Weekends and are the authors of The Secret to Lifetime Love: Speaking and Hearing Truth. He also authored Full Throttle Into Fatherhood and is the Executive Director of Shield Bearer Counseling Centers in Houston, Texas. Follow Roy at LifeTogetherForever.com.
Photo Credit: DaveBloggs007 via Creative Commons