And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.(Genesis 2:25 NKJV)
In the beginning, the first couple in the Garden of Eden were naked. This nudity symbolises transparency, an intimate knowledge of the other, of their thoughts, dreams and deep aspirations. Satan succeeded in breaking the beauty of innocence in the Garden of Eden, and I believe Jesus appeared to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). His work still makes possible today a deep engagement and intimacy as a couple.
The time of confinement of COVID-19 may not only be a time of conflict between spouses who are not used to spending so much time together, but also an opportunity to deepen communication and knowledge of each other. I invite you to choose the second option. Organise in stress free moments of the day, in a peaceful atmosphere, a time for discussion outside of any crisis.
Many couples only have these discussions in times of conflict and therefore spend much time fighting and reconciling. Talking in peacetime is what you need because it allows you to defuse time bombs and to communicate better apart from any negative emotions, to get to know each other better and to unite.
Times for couple discussions are not moments of settling scores or resolving conflicts. These are times of sharing and building, heart to heart. So encourage each member of the couple to open up and freely share their heart and avoid judging but rather value the point of view of the other and take it into account.
To make listening easier, choose a witness object that passes from one hand to another depending on who is speaking.
To avoid outbursts or tantrums, maintain eye and body contact (hold hands, or sit so that you touch each other). Avoid accusing yourself and using the ‘you have…’ but use the ‘I’.
Express your feelings without making the other feel guilty. If there is a misunderstanding, take a break for a set time and then come back to continue the discussion. Set the length of the pause time before the discussion begins.
I offer 40 simple questions to fuel a constructive discussion in your relationship.
Take the time to explore them and write down the discoveries you have made. Remember to pray and watch over each other to implement your resolutions. Good discussion.
A. FAMILY WORSHIP AND SPIRITUAL LIFE AS A COUPLE AND FAMILY
- What do you think is the state of our family worship? How do we restore it?
- What is the level of our couple prayer life? How do we improve it? How much time can we devote to prayer, as a couple, in a week? On what day can we schedule it?
- What is the level of our Bible study as a couple? How can we improve it? How much time can we devote to meditating on the Word of God, as a couple, in a week? On what day can we schedule it?
- Do our children see us living our faith? When? How can we impact them more through our everyday lifestyle?
- Can we set up a Bible reading time each day together with the children? What time do you think is the best time?
B. JOINT VISION, TEAMWORK, GIFTS AND TALENT
- Do you think we work well together as a team? If not, what do you think is the biggest obstacle preventing us from doing it? How can we function better as a team?
- Tell me what your vision is, what do you think the Lord is calling you to?
- What are your priorities in life?
- Do we have a common vision? What is the intersecting point of our callings? How else can we find one? Can we write down our vision, our family’s mission? If so, write it down, then come home and post it.
- Do you know your position in our common vision? What do you think my position should be?
- What gifts do you think I have?
- Write down on a sheet the strengths and qualities of your spouse. How can we function as a team taking into account each other’s points?
- To what extent are we sources of blessing not only as individuals but also in terms of a couple and as a family?
C. FRIENDSHIP & COMMUNICATION IN THE COUPLE
- Share with me how you give love and how you love to receive it.
- Where is our heart to heart? Do we have any? Is it deep? Do you feel free to share everything with me? If not, why not?
- How is our communication? Do you think I communicate well? What are my positive points? What should I change/ improve?
- How creative are we in our married life? How to break the monotony? What can we change?
- Share with me your fears, your weaknesses and your experiences.
- In which of the following things are you most comfortable speaking with me: the facts, my opinions, my emotions or my deep aspirations?
- Do you think you have enough space to flourish in our relationship as a couple?
- How were you trained in the following areas within your family of origin: conflict management, integrity, deep sharing, listening, decision-making, encouragement, service? Are we doing better than our parents with our children? What do we pass on to them in these areas?
D. CHILDREN’S EDUCATION
- Do you think we have ceded responsibility for the spiritual training of our children to the Church? if so, how can we reverse the trend and take our place in the education of our children? What should we do concretely?
- How can we better manage our time to better play our role as parents?
- How can we stimulate sharing of deeper conversations with our children?
- What are the most common topics of conversation? How can we integrate God in a non-religious and non-moralistic way?
- Do our children feel involved in our family?
- How can we affirm and value each of our children?
- What do you think of our education system, its strengths and weaknesses?
E. FUNDAMENTALS OF COUPLE LIFE
- The couple constitutes the foundation of the family. Did you know this?
- Why do you think it should be like this?
- What will we have to change to live this reality?
- What do you think are the characteristics of a temple? What can this imply for us as a couple?
- Is there a difference between the image we portray in public and who we are in private? How can we resolve the difference, if there is any?
- To what extent do you think we, as a couple, reflect the image of God? What do we have to put in place together to reach this level?
- Do you think I have left my father’s house according to Genesis 2:24? What remains to be done on each side to finalise this process?
F. SEXUAL INTIMACY
- Are you satisfied with our sex life? How can we improve it?
- What would make you really happy?
- Are you satisfied with the rhythm of our sexual acts? What rhythm would you have wished for? What consensus can we find on the frequency of our sexual intercourse?
- Do we need to seek advice to find solutions to our challenges in this area or seek medical advice?
- Are there spiritual or emotional blockages for us in this area?
Dr Jean Paul DANSOU is ICMDA Regional Representative for Francophone West Africa