I often get emails from folks who tell me that they’re experiencing some disconnect in their marriage. Common phrases that might be used to describe this are things like: “I feel like we’re just going through the motions in our marriage;” or “I feel like we’re drifting apart;” or “I just don’t feel the same way about my spouse anymore;” or “the spark or chemistry is no longer there.”
Believe it or not, all of these feelings or perceptions stem from one thing and one thing alone – a lack of or a lessening intimacy. And I promise you, this can be fixed because this is often caused by a lack of effort or time. It may sound cliche to say that you get out of something what you put into it, but in the case of marriage, few statements are as true as this one. I’ll explain this more in the following article.
A Startling Contrast: Often when I tell people that the lack of intimacy that they are experiencing is most probably due to neglect, they’ll sigh and I’m often pretty sure that this isn’t what they wanted to hear. Because on some level, they already know this, but they thought or hoped that their problem was unique or could be resolved with a quick fix. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.
For just a second, stop for a minute and think about the two of you and your relationship when you were first dating. How much time would you say that you spent together then? How creative were you in finding things that the two of you could do that were fun and would bring you closer together? How willing were you to schedule around other obligations to spend more time with the person that you loved?
Now, how reluctant were you to show the person that you loved any flaws? How often did you put your best foot forward, careful to show them only the best, most agreeable, most fun loving, and most attractive version of yourself? How often did you do nice things for them to show them that you’d been paying careful attention and to show them that their happiness was important to you?
Few people can deny that they put in a lot more time and effort in the beginning. This is the point where you’re trying to reel your spouse in and to become an important person in their life. This is the point in time where you find that magic sweet spot where you see them enough to be intimate, but not enough that it ever seems like too much. In short, you leave both of you with wanting more.
Now, contrast this with how things are today? How often do you put in the time and effort so that when you are together, you do fun things or experience meaningful conversation that brings you closer together? If you can come up with a number (and few people can) try to contrast this with the number that could be compared when you were first dating. I know this is difficult. Few people have the perspective to actually be able to do this, but I’ll give you an example. Let’s say when you were dating, you spent roughly ten hours per week together bonding and creating intimacy. And, this time and effort made you feel like you were “deeply in love.” This was a wonderful feeling that you wanted more of, so it seemed to be not that great of a sacrifice to put other things on the back burner so that you had this kind of flexibility and pay off.
Now, let’s say that right now, because of children, jobs, and other obligations, you’re able to squeeze in say, two hours per week bonding and being alone with your spouse. That’s what, 1/5 of what you were spending before? And how “present” are you at that time? Because most of us just watch TV side by side with our spouse and hope that this counts for quality time. So, if we follow this logic, you’re spending 1/5 of the time that you used to spend with your spouse, but you’re expecting to feel 100% of the intimacy that you felt? And it’s also likely that you’re also only putting in 1/5 of the effort that you used to?
I know that this seems like a silly example, but stop and think about it for just a second. I don’t tell you this to make you feel at all guilty because you are the norm. Most people are having the exact same experience that you are having right now. We are all so busy with our jobs, our children, and trying to stay afloat in this awful economy that by the time that we can squeeze in a few hours of couple time, we’re too exhausted to give or to receive it in a meaningful and enthusiastic way. How can we change this? By changing our priorities.
Making Marital Intimacy And Closeness A High Priority: Hopefully, I’ve made very clear that it is my experience and that I firmly believe that there is a direct correlation between how much time you put into your marriage with how intimate you feel in it. You simply can not expect to feel the feelings if you are not sharing the experiences. Yet, we all let this slide under the rug. And, this is the first behavior that must change.
A close and fulfilling marriage is one of the greatest gifts that you can give yourself and your children. It is your shelter against life’s turbulence and it is better than anything that money, status, or time can buy. So, you must put it at the top of your to do list. It may seem selfish. It may seem impossible at first. But, you must do it.
And sure, in the beginning, it may well seemed forced and awkward. There may be some silent pauses or some stumbles over your words. You may feel quite vulnerable and resent having to work so hard, but it gets so much easier in time and when the pay off begins to come (which it will) you will see that it is worth it and can continue on until you make it a habit. If you can do this, I guarantee that in a few months time, you will no longer be just going through the motions in your marriage.