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A Deeper Love: The Dynamics of a Flourishing Marriage

Speaker: Rev Dr Chuck DeGroat

Do you long for a deeper love? Most do, but the reality is harsh. Half of all marriages fail. This tragedy is magnified by the reality that many couples stay together but enjoy little intimacy, friendship, and happiness. Amidst our busy lives, few couples have the time or energy to devote to growing their marriage. And few have any sense of vision or tools for a flourishing marriage. Together, we’ll explore the dynamics of a flourishing marriage. We’ll explore how connection, even more than communication, fosters flourishing marriages. We’ll see how difficulty and disagreements actually provide our best opportunities for growth and depth. And we’ll explore practical ways of fostering deeper connection for lasting love.

Our (deepest) addiction is to our own ego, and through this addiction our relationship to everything else is ruined.

— Wendy Farley

  • Death of Marriage, i.e. Dying to Live
  • Deep transformation comes from (a bit of) dying
  • Dying in smaller vision of marriage, in self-centerness, when there are two agendas at work
  • Thriving, or merely surviving
  • Quality of marriage is directly related to the capacity of navigating in many deaths
  • Leaving the life before
  • Smaller dreams and visions have to die first
  • Avoidance or ignorance of deaths in marriage is the enemy, not the death itself
  • The “dance” you learn from your parents
  • 3 Demons Dialogues (or Dances), from Dr Sue Johnson
    • Find the bad guy
    • Protest Polka
    • Freeze and Flee – resignation
  • Questions for Couples
  • Do you want more? As Jesus often asks, what do you want? what do you long for?
  • What are you willing to sacrifice? Small things like habits, bigger things like being in control, being the righteous one
  • Who do you want to become? Who do you want your partner to become?
  • To be mature, accept to be transformed
  • Just trying to survive, or willing to die and be transformed
  • Private Meditation and Journaling:
  • What emotions are stirring in you as you reflect on Chuck’s talk? Do you feel shame? Anger? Disappointment? Confusion? Hopefulness? Elaborate.
  • How did you want your spouse to think best of you when you were dating? What “best self” did you project? Was it successful?
  • Where might your “ego” or “false self” be an obstacle to intimacy in your marriage?
  • If you imagined your marriage as a journey from youthful idealism to mature wisdom, what would your marriage look like in its most mature phase?
  • Couples Debrief:
  • Share your reflections from the time of private journaling
  • How honest do you think you were when you were dating? Did you, as a couple, do any kind of false “dance” with each other, as Chuck talked about? How?
  • What smaller dreams of marriage need to die? Do you have a sense that you’ve been honest about the need for those smaller dreams to die?
  • Do you have a recurring fight? In what way does this represent your attachment to a smaller dream of marriage? An attachment to your own false self or ego?
  • Talk about your level of investment in the “death of your marriage” for the sake of its flourishing. How hopeful are you? Be honest, even if the answer is “hopeless.” This might be the best hope for your marriage

What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are… because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier… for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own…

— Frederick Buechner in Telling Secrets

  • There are couples who would settle, like being roommates, or tolerate with each other, or being in cold wars
  • Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, by Robert Putnam
  • Most people live in a community of two
  • But we are made for connections
  • Genesis 2: Man looking for kindred spirit
  • Tabula Rasa – Children start with blank slate
  • John Bowlby: Attachment Theory, Relational Orientation
    • Anxious-resistant insecure attachment
    • Anxious-avoidant insecure attachment (distant)
    • Disorganized – dismissing feelings
  • Listen and own their own baggage
  • Open to new experience
  • Physically more healthy
  • Higher self-esteem
  • More highly resilient
  • Lots of communication strategies and tools
  • Lots of personality tests and tools to help understanding
  • But below the surface, deeper questions:
  • “Do you respect me?”
  • “Are we gonna be ok?”
  • “Am I enough?”
  • “Can I depend on you?”
  • “Are you gonna be there fore me?”
  • “Do you notice me?”
  • Often result in rejection, withdrawn
  • we might be stuck with our patterns, our dances
  • But we are not just trying to change our patterns or dances
  • Primal Panics
  • Our brains respond and react automatically, quickly
  • Emotional responsiveness to our partner
  • with Empathy
  • move towards your partner
  • After the questions of What do you want? What are you willing to sacrifice? Who do you want to become?
    • See the larger patterns: Repeating the same fight, the same dance
    • Name the Emotion – get in touch with your emotion, be aware of your feeling, like anger, confused
      • Ask yourself what’s underneath the Primal Panic? By going deeper, we become less reactive
      • Turn toward your partner, away your own self (but also be aware of the risk of rejection)
      • Ask if you can share your feelings at that moment with your partner
      • If your partner is willing to hear, share your heart, not your critiques
      • Partner listens, connects
      • Both talk how it feels to be connected
    • Cultivate positive connection, safety in connection
  • 5 Love Languages – pathway to quality connections
  • But when we don’t have connection, what’s our substitute for the intimacy? Substance abuse, pornography?
  • To have extraordinary patience
  • Be gentle, for each person is fighting a great battle
  • Have hope, don’t settle with “Just OK”
  • Move towards connection with one another
  • Private Meditation and Journaling:
  • What emotions are stirring in you as you reflect on Chuck’s talk? Do you feel shame? Anger? Disappointment? Confusion? Hopefulness? Elaborate.
  • How did you experience “connection” in your family growing up? Was your family disconnected? Over-connected? Did you keep a distance from the feelings of others? Did you feel responsible for the feelings of others?
  • How do your family connection patterns play out in your marriage today? Is there a place where you get “stuck” that feels familiar?
  • What has happened in your marriage that hurts connection? Maybe you’ve experienced broken trust, a betrayal, or simply absence?
  • What do you need from your spouse? How would you describe your longing for connection
  • Couples Debrief:
  • Share your reflections from the time of private journaling
  • Talk about your relational patterns. How do you connect as a couple? Are there ways that you sabotage connection?
  • What did you long for around connection when you were dating that you have not experienced satisfaction in through marriage?
  • When have you felt like you’ve experienced the beautiful “dance” Chuck talked about? Is there a time, a place, or a moment that you can recall? What did it feel like? What happened to make it possible?
  • Finish this sentence: I have a dream that one day we’d be able to connect and flourish in a way that looks like…
  • Q/A
  • Pursue yourself, pursue God, pursue your partner
  • without pursuing yourself, it’s unlikely that you will pursue God
  • Share your pain and fear with your partner
  • Be vulnerable, to allow bonding
  • Biblical reference, Genesis 3 “Where are you?” Pursuing yourself, God, your partner
  • Marriage is hard work
  • More about the intentionality
  • Avoid being asleep in relationship, or going auto-pilot
  • It’s more exhausting to numb out of relationship
  • It should be more restful when you focus on relationship

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