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Dying to Live in a Loving Relationship By Marriage Coaches Jeff and Jill Williams

Sep 3rd, 2010 | By | Category: Family Coaching Center

Skills taught in Marriage Coaching are simple, but not easy.  “This is really hard, even though it’s simple”, the husband said after being prompted for the fifth time during our marriage coaching session to reflect what his wife wanted him to hear.  Indeed, loving listening is a simple skill, but it isn’t easy to do.  Why? It’s difficult because dying to self is required.  In order to truly ‘get’ your partner and what they really want in relationship with you, YOU MUST DIE!

The opposite of dying is selfish indulgence exhibited in lengthy and emotional diatribes of complaints and resentments sometimes followed by a death blow to hope in a declaration that, “You’ll NEVER change!”

Devastating Diatribes

We timed one such tirade at 12 minutes in one of our sessions.  It would have gone longer had we not pleaded for it to stop.[1] Even though we’d taught the wife to share her honest thoughts, feelings and desires in 3-5 sentence chunks so that her husband could absorb and reflect her meaning, she repeatedly ran past our stop signs, determined to everything she wanted to say.  Big Mistake!  The effect, as it usually is, was disastrous.  His spirit and will visibly withered as a result of the assault.  Understandably, he refused to respond except to say, “See how she is?”

Dying to SELF for Marriage to Live

Ask any couple that’s been married for decades about the key to their longevity and they mention some variation of the dying principle:

  • You can’t make it all about you.
  • Compromise. You both get a little bit of what you want.
  • Put his/her needs ahead of your own.

The good news is that in a healthy relationship you will take turns dying. Neither of you will always be on the cross, but someone always needs to be on the cross.  We’ve found it good practice for each of us to always be ready to go first.

Death in Action

What does death look like in a conversation?

  • Good eye contact with your partner
  • Voluntary freedom from distraction (i.e., no Blackberry, laptop, newspaper, etc.)
  • Facial expressions that match what is being shared (i.e., empathic expressions to the content your partner is sharing).

What does death sound like?

  • “Go ahead, I want to hear what you have to say/what you want/how you feel.”
  • “Can I ask you to pause so that I can reflect what I’m hearing?  I want to make sure I understand what you said.”

What does death feel like?

  • Frustrating, because I wonder when I’m going to get my turn, or
  • Joyful, because there is no joy like that of setting yourself aside for your partner.

When was the last time you died so that your marriage might live?  Or is your most recent memory about asserting for your SELF?

Dying to go first

“It just takes one of you to take one step”, Jill said. She is qualified to issue this challenge because she practices what she preaches. “Be the first one to truly listen to what your partner is saying.  It only takes one of you to take a step toward your relationship.  Show your partner that you are willing to say no to yourself in order to say yes to your marriage.”

The Irony of Dying

Isn’t it ironic that life comes from death; that sacrificing one’s “right” to be heard is the prerequisite to another being heard, understood and cared about?

Recently Jill, Laura and I have been grieving the departure of our daughter and two-year old granddaughter who has lived with us since birth. We all have been experiencing deep sadness and loss about this. I asked Jill what she needs to get through it. “Just listen to me.  Let me talk.” Guess what? This is a great chance to die to myself by setting aside what I want to say about the situation to give Jill ample time and space to share what’s in her heart.

What life circumstances are you experiencing that your partner would love to share about?  Are they sharing? Do they trust you to die to yourself when they do?

Ultimately, we see this as a spiritual decision; to choose to identify with Christ in his death; to set ourselves aside that others might live.

How might you die today?

Jeff and Jill Williams write and speak about Marriage Coaching.  Together they privately coach couples and train groups of couples that want to coach marriages through a series of tele-classes that are accessible for any couple (globally) with a phone and internet connection.  Write to or call 937-717-5591, or visit, for more information.

Copyright 2010 Jeffrey J. Williams | Grace & Truth Relationship Education | Springfield| OH | 45503

[1] In our experience, even well meaning, mostly self-controlled couples can “lose it” when their emotional brains hijack their rational brains.  At such point we ask whether coaching can work, or if counseling is indicated.  Sometimes, a couple can be coached back into a rational discussion.

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