About the Cards
about the cards | the short story
Tons of research exists on the deep human need for meaningful connection in relationships. Numerous influences have reinforced this truth for me – personal relationships and life experiences, clinical training in the field of counseling, and the stories of hundreds of others.
The idea for STRONGER connection|cards came about due to the following:
1. I noticed that my husband and I were exceptional communicators about our children, our work, and most things practical and pertinent to the functioning of our home – but lacked the stronger connection that results from meaningful conversations that matter.
2. This is not only our challenge; it is also a challenge for countless others. Many individuals, couples, and families talk about loneliness and isolation, disconnection, a need for meaningful conversations and their desire for stronger connection. I find that most people desire stronger connection; very few know how to get it or grow it.
3. I looked online for something to help facilitate these meaningful and positive conversations. I didn’t want to have to read another book. I didn’t want vague or empty questions. I didn’t want something created in the 1970’s. I also wanted something that even encouraged us to talk about sex, and I didn’t want offensive garbage.
4. I couldn’t find what I wanted. Reading Brene’ Brown’s book Daring Greatly inspired me to create it.
about the cards | the longer story
We need meaningful connection. (And we don’t always know how to get that.)
Intimacy Ignited (Dillow, Dillow, Pintus, & Pintus, 2004) offers a great little marriage test. We took it a few years ago – very much in a loving marriage – and we scored a whopping zero. Ha! Sad, but true.
The instructions were to add up the total number of minutes spent doing the following activities during the past seven days:
- Talking with your spouse when no one else is around. (Hahahaha. Now that’s funny.)
- Discussing things related to just the two of you, excluding the kids, your parents, work, money, friends, or daily activities. (I’m sorry; whatintheworld is left?!)
- Spending time just looking at each other. (Mmhmm, sure… Does a baffled or angry/speechless stare count?)
- Having fun together, alone, in a mutually enjoyable activity. (Hmm. Yardwork? Oh, "mutually enjoyable." Nope. Playing with the kids? Oh, “alone”… nope.)
- Making love, kissing, hugging, or touching each other. (Awe, that’d be great!)
- Talking about the future of your marriage, not about retirement funds, retirement homes, and insurance plans. (Welllll. I think we did that about 3 years ago.)
- Discussing world events, politics, or issues of the day. This means two-way talking and listening. (Issues of the day? Wait – you mean beyond the potty-training disaster, refereeing sibling rivalries, the meltdown in the grocery store, and what happened at work today?)
- Just sitting together doing the same thing or something different, such as reading, listening to music, sewing, and so on. (Oh great! Finally!) Do not include television watching or computer time. (Well that makes sense...and now we’ll just put zero for this one, too.)
- Eating together without interruptions (no kids, no phones). (We had a dinner date. A couple months ago...)
- Spending time in prayer, Bible reading, devotional reading, or worship (Yay, I did that!) together (Oh, right. Well. I guess at least we went to church together.). Do not include religious services. (Mmm. Bummer.)
Our complete failure on the Marriage Minutes test only confirmed what we already knew. We were missing out on meaningful time together. (No big shocker there.) The thing I found fascinating was that even when we were able to arrange for a sitter and get out of the house for a date night, that didn’t always necessarily result in “quality” time. Although it was a welcome break from the typical routine and it was pleasant and enjoyable and never quite long enough… There were many times that I still felt like our dinner conversations came up short. And despite how hard I tried to come up with questions that would evoke a compelling conversation, I was often disappointed by the end result.
So, I set out to find some cards with questions written out.
We need to celebrate one another. Relationships, perspectives, and behaviors are changed when we do that.
One Sunday afternoon, I sat at our dining room table working on something… and our then-4-year-old son came bounding in to interrupt me… umm, I mean, to share something of great importance to him.
“Mom, look at how fast this race car goes! Vrrrrrrooom!”“Yeah, mmhmm, that’s awesome”… (Please, for the love, just let me have a moment of peace and get this finished while your sister is napping.)
“Yeah, mmhmm, that’s awesome”… (Please, for the love, just let me have a moment of peace and get this finished while your sister is napping.)
But I surprised even myself and instead said, “You wanna know a secret?”
His head snapped up from looking at his race cars and his eyes got big. He waited, expectantly.
“I really like the way you play so hard and you’re so creative with those cars.”
“Really?! Thanks!” And he went back to playing (thoughtfully) with his cars. Then,
“Mom! Can you tell me another secret?!” he said, eyes smiling and hopeful.
“Sure... I like the way you share with your sister, even when it’s hard to do that sometimes.” He smiled and let that sink in… thoughtful again for a moment. Then he offered: “I can tell you a secret, too: I like it when you read to me and play cars with me!"
“Awe, thanks!” (It was around this time that whatever I had been working on became a little less critical. And my heart melted just a little bit when I was reminded of what a sweet kid he is.)
“Can you tell me another secret, Mom?”
“Mmhmm… I like how much you love going to school. You love learning and you try so hard to earn your ‘frogs’.” He beamed and said, “Well, I like it when you fix me food.” (Fascinating, since I happen to like preparing meals only slightly more than I like cleaning toilets.)
I completely stopped being "productive" and instead we went back and forth for a while like that. Then he ran off, happily, to drive his race car elsewhere. And I was mildly shocked by how our chat impacted me. It’s not that he was a different kid after the conversation – he wasn’t perfect all of a sudden – but I had been reminded of all the things I valued and appreciated about him. Rather than focusing energy on all he does wrong (and all my failures), we paused to celebrate one another and to listen. In addition to transforming my view of him, I also learned a lot about how he experiences (and appreciates) me, and it encouraged me to invest all-the-more in those areas that I now knew really mattered to him. I wanted to read more books to him; I wanted to take more time to race cars with him; I wanted to not seem so annoyed when I’m fixing food for him… because he notices and he is thankful.
That afternoon interchange reflects the conversations and the connection these questions might inspire for couples and families. I'm excited to share this resource because of its potential to create a STRONGER connection through moments of being heard, known, appreciated and loved.