The Other Lean In—Bridging the Eight Inch Gap

During church several weeks ago, I sat behind a husband and wife who never looked at each other during the entire ninety minute service. They seemed to be straining to prevent their bodies from touching. While I certainly can’t claim to understand what was going on for them, I know that space.

On more than one occasion as I’ve occupied the seat next to my husband, I also did not want our bodies to touch. The memory of the previous night’s harsh words formed an electric fence between us. I knew that if our shoulders brushed, we would instantly move from hostility to reconciliation.

Of course I know that moving toward, versus away from, your spouse is indeed a good thing. However, there were days in the early years of our marriage when I nurtured my hurt and allowed my pride to prolong our disagreements, widening the chasm between us in the process. Often, even as I made the choice to stiffen, I knew that I was being obstinate and foolish. Yet I persisted, perhaps simply to avoid the humility that reconciliation demands.

We’ve been married for twenty-three years now and I’m much less likely to prolong our arguments or increase the distance between us. I’ve seen too many husbands and wives wait so long that their hearts have permanently hardened toward their spouse. They literally cannot lean in toward one another and thus begin the process of looking for a way out.

In truth, the only way out of marital conflict* is by regularly choosing to recommit. When I feel unable to vocalize that commitment, sometimes, a simple, gentle touch communicates my love. During the first year of our marriage, we had a blow-out fight. I cannot remember what provoked it. I do remember how we extricated ourselves from the barbed wire and glass shards. My husband courageously and tenderly took my hand and did not let go. We sat in silence for a long time. That small gesture became a conduit allowing our love to flow.

Now, any time we’re close enough to lean in, we do. It doesn’t matter if it’s in church, at our son’s athletic events, or when we’re standing in line to pay for groceries.

Closing the distance between us serves a subtle reminder that we must intentionally choose to love—however, and whenever possible.
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* In some situations, simply leaning in is not enough. If violence, abuse, or long-standing conflicts are part of the equation, please seek help.

Photo Copyright: goodluz / 123RF Stock Photo


Dorothy Littell Greco spends her days writing about faith, encouraging others as they pursue Jesus, making photographs of beautiful things, and trying to love her family well. You can find more of her Words & Images on her website, or by following her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Dorothy's first book Making Marriage Beautiful is now available.

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