Conversations that Create Emotional Bonds

Sherry is the author of I Don’t Get You. She and her husband, Jeff, are on staff with Collegiate Navs. They currently serve at the U.S. headquarters. In addition, Sherry homeschools their three sons.

Conversations that Create Emotional Bonds: A Conversation with Sherry Graf

Q: What are some practical ideas for sharing our faith stories?

I think it’s a good idea to have thought through a few different versions of your faith story so you are ready to share when the moment comes up. Depending on who I am talking to determines what I share. If I know we have something from our pasts in common, I try to weave that in. I also like to have memorized a few verses about God’s love and forgiveness to share.

Q: In your book you discuss emotional bonds that come from deep conversation. Why is it helpful for us to think about how much we are sharing in a conversation?

Conversations that delve into topics related to our feelings naturally lead to emotional bonds. There is nothing wrong with this, it’s how God designed our hearts! But particularly with male/female conversations, it’s important to understand the dynamics of how these bonds can develop. This is especially important in the context of a casual friendship. If one person is sharing deep hurts, fears, and dreams, they are naturally opening themselves up to more intimate connection than they may intend.

I encourage people to consider both the context of the conversation and the content of the conversation in order to make good boundaries and maintain emotional purity. Also, issues that are shared in a one-to-one context are naturally more prone to intimacy and emotion than similar content shared in a group setting.

Q: How can we prevent over-sharing?

College students have often asked me for a definite boundary. While it is difficult to draw a line, I share this principle: The level of intimacy should be equal to the level of commitment in a relationship. This is a helpful emotional boundary for all ages and relationships—in churches, small groups, workplaces, and neighborhoods.

Q: You’ve talked about the negative consequences of this principle, how can conversation categories move us toward better relationships—in a marriage or other committed friendship?

In a marriage, if we are just talking about facts, schedules, daily chores—and don’t take time to share at the feeling level, our relationship will be shallow. Jeff (my husband) and I try to evaluate how many conversations we have had lately that are just data-oriented. Then we make intentional time to go deeper, which is essential in a marriage!

These conversation categories can also be a tool for a small group. If you have been together in a small group for a year and never gotten past the surface, then it is time to invite deeper conversation—see the sidebar for ideas.

Questions that Nurture Intimacy

As you delve into more personal topics in the following categories, you are developing intimacy and emotional attachment. Use these questions when you want to be intentional about developing a deeper relationship.

1. Bio-data: Facts about a person

What pets did you have growing up? Where did your family go on vacation? Would you rather read a book or take a hike?

2. Testimony, faith story, or spiritual journey

When and how did you become a Christian? Why did you choose Christianity? When and how did this decision to follow Christ start making a real difference in your life?

3. Dreams

What do you dream about doing someday? When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? Do you still want to pursue that? Why or why not?

4. Fears

What keeps you awake at night worrying? Why? How do you handle your fears?

5. Deepest hurts

What do you most regret? What are the biggest wounds from your past? Have you ever had counseling for that wound? How has God brought healing to these areas? Is there anyone from your past who hurt you that you still need to forgive?

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