And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
This simple statement gives us God's ideal for every marriage: trust and transparency.
Trust is the foundation for transparency. If I don't trust my spouse, I don't feel safe and I won't open my heart. I won't be transparent or vulnerable. I won't take the fig leaf off my soul and will never experience the incredible intimacy and oneness that God intends for marriage.
In marriage we long for the freedom to say what's on our heart. We long for the freedom to unburden our soul, to talk about our fears, to share our dreams and know we'll be understood, to be honest and know we'll be accepted. We long for transparency.
Transparency is largely a matter of trust. Build trust and transparency follows. However, here are three suggestions to nurture open communication in marriage.
1. Stretch yourself to tell your spouse what's really going on inside.
I say "stretch yourself" because this is not so easy for some of us. It is not natural.
Even if it's not natural we must open up. It's the price of intimacy. Here are some issues to talk about: What's bothering me? What are my dreams? What are my struggles at work? How do I feel about our marriage? How do I feel about our sex life? What are my fears? What am I excited about?
For me, there are a lot of times when I don't know what's going on inside. But if I try to tell Gayle about my feelings, it forces me to get in touch with what's going on inside.
2. Be an incredible listener.
Give your spouse all your attention when you listen. Look deeply into your spouse's eyes.
Don't interrupt! Don't condemn! Don't offer solutions!
So many wives feel their husbands don't really listen. A wife will not feel close to her husband if she does not feel he listens to her.
Conversely, so many husbands feel their wife is forever criticizing, forever trying to change them. Husbands long to be a knight in shining armor. We don't admit this or speak of it, but it's true! Trust me! If a wife is always criticizing her husband, he doesn't feel much like Lancelot. Something inside him dies. Husbands flourish when their wife expresses confidence and admiration for them.
3. Carve out regular times for in-depth talking.
Life is full. If you don't plan for these conversations they probably won't happen as often as they need to happen.
Gayle and I often walk in the evenings. It may not be a long walk but it's a splendid opportunity to have uninterrupted time together. These walks help us feel connected.
For you, it might be a weekly date night or a breakfast together or Saturday afternoons at Starbucks. Find what works for you.
If you have young kids, get them to bed early enough so that you have some time to focus on each other.
If one of you travels a lot, talk every day on the phone if at all possible. And when you are at home, schedule even more conversation time in your lives.
When a couple regularly has heart-to-heart conversations, when each one tells the other what is really going on inside and each one listens to the other, then the couple experiences a deep sense of closeness to one another. They experience a glimpse of Eden's nakedness.