“I Do” Need to Talk


My wife Jane and I were on a walk together when we began discussing our plans for the day, and it didn’t take long for the two of us to figure out that not only were our plans different from each other, they were also at odds. As we got further into the conversation, it became obvious to Jane and me that we’d both missed opportunities to connect and get on the same page—that amid our individual preparations we could have taken some time to talk, to keep things from turning out so individual. But in all of my planning and all of hers, neither of us had stopped to clear anything with the other person. We’d each thought about it, but we’d never actually sat down and said, Hey babe, here’s what I’m thinking…

Instead, the two of us had plunged ahead separately and had gotten attached to our own different ideas. By the time we talked, Jane was on a beeline going one direction and I was on a beeline heading the other way. Right there on the sidewalk, we had a collision. Since we hadn’t applied a couple-mentality to our plans for the day, it should come as no surprise that we didn’t have a couple-mentality in our arguing about them either. Both of us insisted that our own plan was the best, then we each took turns picking apart our spouse’s points. Then we got stuck on wondering, “Why does it have to be your way instead of mine?”

We were still arguing about things when we got home from the walk, which seemed like a fitting end to the mess we’d made. This kind of failure to communicate doesn’t happen only in marriage, but you could argue that married couples are more prone to it than other people are. Marriage, after all, is by definition the making of one life out of two, which is something that requires constant interacting. Consistent talking.

And when you stop—when you slip back into two lives for a week or a day or sometimes even just an hour, it’s amazing how disconnected you can be. How far from one you can feel, simply because at some point you started moving in different directions without checking in enough to realize it. So, how do you avoid getting into a fix like this? Or how do you fix a fix like this? How do you get yourselves on the same page again?

You start talking again—lovingly, attentively, carefully. And when you listen, listen well. Then, together you talk and listen your way backward, backing up until you find the place where the split first happened. Then you do what you can to find common ground there, knowing that if you can budge an inch toward each other in the beginning, maybe you won’t be a mile away when you’ve traveled down the road a stretch.