I had just walked out of Lowes Home Improvement store and wasn’t paying much attention to the car sitting idle outside the door. I stepped in front of it heading towards my car when the driver put the car in gear. How did I know? I could hear the sound of the engine, and I recognized when it shifted from “park” to “drive”. I immediately quickened my pace so as to avoid being in the way as the car moved forward.
I realized in that moment how important it is to listen to our surroundings. I wasn’t paying attention at all. But my senses alerted me like a personal alarm saying, “Debi, wake up! You need to notice something!”
When we were young, we needed an adult to hold our hand when crossing the road for our protection. But as adults we know how to do so without paying much attention. We know how to look and listen for oncoming traffic. We know when it’s safe to cross and when it isn’t.
In our marriages we have a similar alarm system, but we may or may not use it to our advantage.
How many times has your spouse walked in the door after a long day and you know without them saying a word that they haven’t shifted gears from work to home? They’re still revving their work engine and haven’t parked yet.
A wise spouse will do like I did in the parking lot and get out of the way allowing them the time they need to “park at home,” so to speak. You can help them by fixing their favorite drink and snack, lead them to a quiet place and let them unwind alone for 15 minutes.
Or maybe when you come home you find your spouse harried after a long day. You expected to find dinner ready and what you see is total mayhem. The wise spouse will shift gears quickly and offer to help in whatever way is needed.
This system also works well when you’re trying to discuss a touchy subject, like finances for example. There are times when the conversation changes gears and you know it by the tone of voice or by your spouse’s facial expressions. The wise spouse in this situation will pause and give them time to calm down. Be aware of the hot topics and do what you can to avoid them when the time isn’t right. But know that there are times when the topic must be addressed. When this happens you need all your senses engaged–listen intently, look in their eyes, notice what they’re not saying and don’t assume because the engine is idling that they aren’t overheating.
Our marriage relationship can become as attuned to one another as we are to the sounds of cars and traffic on the road. We know what to listen for, what is dangerous and what is safe.
The next time you notice your spouse shift gears, listen to your internal alarm system, be wise in your response, be fully engaged, and see how the conversation makes the transition from drive to park or vice versa without incidence.
This is using our internal alarm system for the good of our marriage.