The other day, I received an email from a wife who said that she could feel her husband drifting away from her. No one had yet mentioned the words divorce, splitting up, or separating. But, she felt these things may have been on the horizon if she didn’t address the issues at hand. She really wanted to return the marriage to a place where both she and her husband loved each other and were committed to the marriage equally, but she had no idea where to begin. She asked me: “how do I even begin to work on my marriage when he’s not all that interested? And, should you have to work this hard on your marriage anyway, if you’re compatible and committed?” I’ll answer these questions in the following article.
Whether You Love Each Other Passionately Or Not, Marriage Takes Continued Effort: I don’t like to use the term “work” when I talk about a marriage. This phrase has such negative connotations. Often when you tell your husband or spouse that it’s time to “work on the marriage,” you likely won’t get a very favorable response. This implies that you’re asking them to do or participate in something that they would rather not. It implies that this process isn’t going to be at all pleasurable. And, it implies deep problems in your marriage or flaws that are going to be difficult to overcome. In short, the connotations build on the negative rather than on the positive. It’s much better to say that you want to improve your intimacy and closeness and find ways to have more fun together. This phrasing makes the process more appealing so that both parties won’t drag their feet to the table.
Make no mistake. If you neglect your marriage for long enough, the cracks will start to show soon after. So many people wonder why they no longer feel as close to their spouse and wonder why there are more disagreements and issues, and yet they never stop to contrast what is different between life as it is now and life when you were deeply “in love” and everything was moving along splendidly. Because if there is a difference in your feelings, then there is most certainly a difference in the circumstances and in the effort.
Most people will assume the difference is merely the passage of time. In other words, when people have been together for a while, the spark cools, other things take center stage, and it’s normal that you’re no longer all over each other anymore. Sure, relationships evolve over time, but a distance between you and the beginning of a lack of intimacy and connectedness is never, ever, a good thing.
For a marriage to retain the deep feelings of affection, empathy, connectedness, a feeling of unity, and a deep bond, you must put in the time and effort to keep everything humming along. It doesn’t make sense to cut the time and effort that you show your spouse into 1/2 or even 1/4 of what it used to be when you were “falling in love” and yet still expect to feel the same intensity and closeness when you are not giving nearly as much. It just does not work that way. Neglect is going to negatively affect everything and every relationship whether you are talking about your children, your friends, or your spouse. All relationships need maintenance and this is especially true of your marriage.
Things You Can Do To Work On Your Marriage: First off, as I’ve alluded to before, don’t describe it or approach it like work. This process needs to be fun and fulfilling so that you and your spouse will be willing participants. Think back to what you enjoyed doing together when you were first dating. Often, we now have the money and the means to do the things that we would’ve loved to do back then but were just starting out and could not afford it. And yet, when we have the ability to travel and do the things we dreamed of doing, we’ll convince ourselves that we don’t have the time or that we couldn’t be so “selfish.” It’s not selfish to nurture your marriage. It’s self serving for everyone involved. Your fulfillment and happiness will lighten your load in all of the other areas of your life.
Many people will use the kids or being parents as an excuse to neglect their marriage. This too misses the mark. The best gift that you can give your children is a happy family and an example of a happy and fulfilling marriage that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. Never buy into the fact that taking time away from your kids to nurture your marriage is harmful to your kids. It’s actually just the opposite.
I’ll often have people tell me that it’s hard to get into the mind set of having fun with their husband or wife again. I often hear things like “we’re not kids anymore. What are we supposed to do, party like we used to?” Of course not, if that no longer appeals to you. What you want to do is to once again redefine your definition of fun and excitement and follow that lead wherever it takes you. I’m not asking you to do the exact same things if those things are no longer appealing. I’m just saying to have an open mind toward what would bring you closer together.
You may have noticed that not once have I asked you to “work through” your problems. That’s because I don’t believe that you should try this until you are regularly reconnecting with your spouse. I believe that people who try to “work” on their marriage by bringing up all that what’s wrong before focusing on what’s right have it backwards. You will have a much easier time of negotiating issues and problems if you are first reconnected with your partner again. Because once you reach this place then both of you are likely going to be much more willing to bend some to work things out.
There was a time that I thought my marriage was truly at it’s end. My husband had totally checked out, had made clear that he no longer felt connected to me, and wan’t interested in “working on the marriage.” Thankfully, even though I had doubts, I decided to try one last thing and approach it from another angle and this eventually worked. You can read my very personal story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com/.