In the interest of Homeland Security, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Forces has developed the DEFCON System. It prescribes five graduated levels of alert and combat-readiness ranging from DEFCON 5, which is the least severe, to DEFCON 1, which is the most severe.
How long has it been since you and your spouse dated? In the early days we worked very hard to put our best foot forward. We groomed ourselves meticulously, and we kept our bodies trim so we would be attractive to our spouse. We engaged them in conversation to get to know them better. We listened carefully to discover the things they liked and disliked, and then we’d surprise them with something special to win their heart.
I noticed an interesting phenomenon a few months after we got married. My shirts didn’t fit as well as they had before, and my belt was getting a bit tight. People would say “It looks like marriage has been good to you.” They were referring to those bulges just above the waist that are playfully called “Love handles”. (They are a kissing cousin to the “Freshman Fifteen”.) They’re an obvious indication that we have relaxed and settled into married life. Since we are no longer pursuing our spouse, we slack off from the attentiveness we once employed to be our best for them.
I noticed this tendency in myself. When Andee would speak to me, I would hear her talking but I was not always listening to what she said. I would give her about ten percent of my attention and the rest to the TV program or the article I was reading. Then it would suddenly get very quiet. I have never experienced a nuclear explosion, but I can imagine that one minute before it detonates, everything seems very normal. I say that in jest because Andee is not the type who explodes. She is even more dangerous. If I stop listening, she’ll simply stop talking to me until I am ready to listen. But what if I am never ready? What if I develop a habit of “tuning her out” whenever she speaks? God said It is not good for man to be alone. Well, right about that time I began to feel very alone; and it was my own neglect that got me there.
James 1:19 says: So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…
“Love handles” is a great name for a growing waistline. But in my mind, love handles are up a little higher. I know I can be dense. I also know that I can get preoccupied with my own thoughts and plans. It is never in my heart to exclude my wife. But the truth of the matter is that I can be unattentive to her and I never want to be. So I have resolved that whenever she is speaking to me, I try to stop what I’m doing and give her my full attention. I try to look her in the eyes and turn my body toward her. If I’m in the middle of a project that can’t be stopped, I tell her, “Give me 3 minutes to finish this, then I’m all yours.” But what about those times that I’m preoccupied and I don’t “get it”? Is there a remedy for that? Yes, that is where Love Handles come in. True Love Handles are those two little flaps of fabric just under either side of my jaw. Sometimes they are referred to as a collar. I know the importance of communication, and I know that I am not always as attentive as I want to be. So early on in our marriage I told my wife, If you’re ever trying to communicate something to me and I’m just not “getting it”…grab me by the collar until my face is about 2 inches from your face and say: THIS IS IMPORTANT! Then I guarantee I’ll “get it”.
If there is a war brewing in my own home, I don’t want to be that last to know. And I certainly don’t want it to escalate to DEFCON 1, nuclear war, especially if it is due to my neglect or inattentiveness.
There are two parts to communication. One speaks; the other listens. Then the other speaks and the one listens. Communication has not occurred until the message is received and understood.
The Amplified bible says it this way: Let every man be quick to be a ready listener, slow to speak and slow to take offense. James 1: 19
That’s good counsel for marriage.
Listen well…and you’ll love being married.