Editor's note: This article was originally published on Doug Hunt's blog. It has been republished here with permission.

We have never had a bad year

That is the truth. There have been moments that were hard or stressful but there has never been a time when we have fought a lot. She gets the credit for that. I have given her plenty of reasons for us to have bad years!

There was one time when I made Shelley cry at Cheesecake Factory in downtown Boston. We had been married five years and Emily, our first born, was about 4 months old. About eight months earlier we had moved from Little Rock, AR. to Boston, MA. to start a church. Life was crazy and fast. Everything was different.

So, we were out on a date one night at Cheesecake Factory and I asked Shelley, "How are you doing?" I wasn't necessarily trying to start a deep conversation but almost instantly she began to weep right into her cashew chicken. Uh Oh.

The conversation that took place at that moment changed our marriage forever

As we talked, I realized that through the stress of life, though everything was basically OK, I had done a poor job of really knowing what was going on in Shelley's heart. I wasn't loving her well. I was pretty much clueless.

One would think that I would have the sense enough to know that the move, pregnancy, being a mom for the first time, starting a church in our house, and living 1,000 miles away from the nearest family would have a HUGE effect on Shelley's heart. You would think that I would have a clue that I would need to pay better attention to her. That says a lot about me!

That moment taught me a huge lesson about being a husband. As life changes we change. As we change we need to learn to love differently. We should never believe that we are done learning to love our spouse.

It was time for me to learn how to be a better husband by learning to listen better to her life. So we started having an intentional conversation every month that has been amazing for our marriage. At first it was hard but over time has grown into sweet moments of intimacy for us.

To make it work we had to come up with rules for the talk. We wanted it to be a healthy conversation and not an argument. Here are the rules we set.

  1. Each of us got a turn to talk.

  2. We had to be honest (of course) and specific.

  3. We had to listen and NOT defend ourselves if we heard something we didn't like.

  4. We had to commit to doing better and helping each other along the way.

Then we would ask each other questions like these

  1. Is there anything that you need from me that you are not receiving?

  2. Am I doing or saying anything to you that you do not like?

  3. Am I giving you the attention you need?

  4. Is there anything going on with you that I need to know about so that I can love you better?

At first these conversations could be a little scary but over time they became amazing times of encouragement and love. Now, we don't have to schedule those conversations. They just happen along the way of life.

Even though that moment in Cheesecake Factory was hard, I am extremely thankful that it happened. That changed our marriage more than any other conversation we have ever had.

These conversations have shown me over and over what a loving wife I have. She listens. She encourages. She speaks truth. She loves me well even when I am clueless.

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