Jill says: Last week I was chatting with an event photographer who told me, “I shoot a lot of engagement sessions and weddings. Sometimes I get the opportunity to do a photo shoot of a couple celebrating a longtime wedding anniversary. I find it interesting that it’s the couples who are married the longest that seem to have the most trouble being comfortable with holding eye contact with one another.”
Mark says: That’s amazing to me. Surprising for sure. I would have expected it to be the other way around.
Jill says: Me too. However, as Mark and I talked about it we began to think about how much we do side by side and how little we do face to face.
Mark says: When we ride in the car together, we’re side by side.
Jill says: When we watch TV, we’re side by side.
Mark says: When we go to a movie, we’re side by side.
Jill says: When we cook together (IF we cook together!), we’re side by side.
Mark says: Even if we go to the ocean together, we’re sitting side by side on the beach.
Jill says: Add to that our addiction to smartphone, computer, and video game screens, face to face communication most likely will not happen unless we become intentional.
Mark says: Communication in and of itself is a skill. Just because you’re human doesn’t mean you know how to communicate. You have to learn communication skills and constantly be improving them throughout life. Eye contact is a communication skill.
Jill says: Eye contact is also intimacy. It’s a form of vulnerability.
Mark says: And many of us are afraid of real intimacy…even after being married for years. We’re experts at building walls instead of opening ourselves up to our life partner.
Jill says: So what do we do with our lack of eye contact? We increase it intentionally. Here are six ways to do that:
1) Sit down for dinner. At least a few times a week, sit down to dinner as a couple or as a family. Make sure the dinner table is a no-screen zone—no television and no phones. Look at your spouse as you ask questions and talk about your day.
2) Play a game. Instead of sitting down and watching television every evening, a couple times a week keep the TV off and pull out a deck of cards to play a game of double solitaire. If you’d prefer a board game, pull out Yahtzee or another favorite. Laugh, tease, and enjoy some face to face time.
3) Greet. When your spouse arrives home after you do, resist the urge to yell, “I’m upstairs,” and instead stop what you’re doing and go greet them face to face.
4) Look. When you’re talking to your spouse, look at them directly. If they’re not looking at you, say something nice like “I love your eyes. Let me see them.”
5) Evaluate. Are you fearful of emotional intimacy? Does being vulnerable scare you? If so, you’re not experiencing all that God designed marriage for. Challenge yourself to tear down walls you’ve constructed. If you feel you need help, make an appointment with a Christian counselor to dig into why you keep your spouse at arm’s length.
6) Open your eyes. One of the most powerful places to pursue eye contact is during sex. Yet according to one survey we’ve read, 65% of us keep our eyes closed during sex. Open your eyes and look at your spouse when you’re making love. If you’re not in the habit of doing this it will likely feel uncomfortable at first. However, the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll become, and the more connected you’ll feel to your spouse.
Mark says: Marriage is too important to fall into side by side habits. Commit today to increase your face time and deepen your intimacy.
What about you? Do you have any ideas you’d suggest for increasing eye contact in your marriage?