As a therapist, I’ve seen marriages crumble. Certainly, some of those relationships started out rocky from the beginning, but many began with good foundations. How does a good relationship fall apart?
It usually doesn’t happen overnight.
Just like a boat drifts away from the dock if it isn’t anchored, so do we drift apart from each other. The current of our busy lives will put distance between you and your spouse faster than you realize.
Anna and Carl are an example of such drift. Married nine years with 2 darling kids ages 6 and 4, they suddenly faced a crisis in their relationship. Earlier in the month, Anna noticed some texts coming in on Carl’s phone which happened to be laying on the table next to her. She hadn’t been snooping, but when she saw the name of one of his female co-workers on the screen, she picked up the phone and read the text. It was about a project at work, but there was no mistaking the flirty comments and personal tone. When she asked him about it, they got into a huge fight that had lasted nearly three weeks, and now they sat in my office.
As I heard their story, I felt their fear.
Carl was shocked at his own behavior. He’d told himself that his more personal conversations and sometimes flirty remarks were innocent and meant nothing. But as he saw them through his wife’s eyes, he could see the risk he’d posed to the fidelity of their relationship.
Even though there’d not been any physical infidelity, Anna was hurt. She’d missed her husband during the long hours he was away at work and she’d often felt like they were living separate lives. Their sex life was seriously neglected and they’d stopped doing the fun things that had originally brought them together when they were dating.
They both seemed bewildered since their early years of marriage were solid. Then the babies came and though they felt happy as a family unit, the marriage took a back seat. All their time poured into Carl’s career, getting into a home, establishing family traditions and taking care of their kids.
As we recounted all of those positive things about their family, they were mystified at how out of touch they’d come to feel with each other. They felt helpless and afraid.
That’s when I explained drift.
When you don’t focus on keeping your marriage the priority, it falls into the current of busy life and partners get swept away from each other.
Did you know that the most common cause of affairs is not sexual?
Yes, I know that infidelity is usually defined by the sexual attraction and involvement of another person outside the marriage. But that’s more a result rather than the cause.
The root cause of most affairs is losing the solid connection with your spouse.
That happens when we drift.
I meet with couples who have drifted so far apart that they no longer know each other’s thoughts and dreams. They have hopes and expectations that don’t get filled and soon they feel worlds apart in their views.
Though this happens to a lot of couples- it’s vitally important to know that marital drift and the subsequent suffering that comes from it doesn’t have to be permanent! In fact, couples can reverse drift and even prevent it, by refocusing on their marriage.
Chris and I have had seasons in our 31-year marriage where we too, have felt that panicky distance from one another. But early on, we made a commitment to put the health of our marriage at the top of our priority list.
I won’t lie and say it’s been easy. So many times, we struggled to balance the demands of our work and the needs of our big family. There was never extra time to take care of our marriage. We had to be intentional and sometimes even demanding in order to nurture our relationship.
Here are 4 things that we do in our marriage to keep from drifting apart
- Spend time together.
There is no shortcut to spending time together. It literally has to happen or you will drift apart. The good news is that you don’t need crazy amounts of time to make a difference. Think daily, weekly, quarterly:
Daily talk time, Weekly planning/date night and Quarterly “get away”.
- Find out what matters most to your spouse and do it.
How you won their heart in the first place was through the little things.
It’s called “courting”, which is an old-fashioned word that means paying attention to someone in order to get them to want to marry you!
This is what Carl’s female work associate in the example above, ignited when she lingered to talk to him, asked him questions about his thoughts, laughed at his jokes and smiled at him.
When was the last time you smiled full heart, shining eyes at your husband?
When was the last time you made him his favorite breakfast or played his favorite sport with him? When was the last time he did those things for you? We all have to work to keep the romance alive. It’s like a living plant. Without attention, it dies.
Check out this article for some ideas on keeping your romance alive.
- Speak highly of your spouse to others, ESPECIALLY to your children.
“This is what I love about your dad…” “I love your mom because…”
Don’t be afraid to have your spouse overhear you. Your whole family will be lifted up as you speak well of each other. When you’re upset with each other, protect your relationship by speaking directly to your spouse. It’s respectful and vital in keeping trust between you.
- Pray to have God strengthen the understanding and love you have for each other.
In this world of negativity and heavy pressure, we need divine help keeping our vision clear in regards to our marriages. Try praying together for each other. As you do, you will find a deep and tender feeling come into your marriage as you ask for what your spouse needs.
These may seem like small things, but that’s what makes them so powerful. Whenever I feel like I’ve drifted from Chris, these are the things that I do to make my way back to him. It isn’t always overnight, but with time, attention to the little things, respect and prayer, we have been successful in holding on to each other and keeping our marriage strong.
This formula happily worked for Anna and Carl too!
So, turn off the TV tonight and talk about your day with your husband. Plan a fun date for this weekend and smile at him. And hopefully, he will do the same. Courting is contagious!
Remember- you chose each other once. You can choose each other each and every day!
I’d love to hear what you do to protect your marriage! Please share your comments so we can learn from each other how to better care for our families.