In this article I describe the things that can cause a newly married couple with great expectations to drift apart resulting in a marriage relationship that is no more than another job. I also describe how to prevent this from happening and how to recover from it if your marriage is already in the separation state. Instead of being a fulfilling journey that you share and experience with your spouse, marriage relegates to a list of responsibilities, duties, and activities devoid of intimacy, togetherness, friendship, fulfillment, and even love. After many years of marriage, a couple may discover that they have drifted apart with regards to intimacy and have formed a union that I call, Household, Inc.
My goal in this article is to make married couples and soon to be married couples aware of the pitfalls that jeopardize the journey to a happy marriage. These things affect the marriage in such small amounts that you may become unaware of their effects until years have gone by. So, I hope to make you aware of the threats to your happy marriage and what to do about it.
Drifting To Separate Lives
There are no more dates as there were before you were married. There are very few intimate moments where the two of you just relax together and enjoy the “now” with each other. To make matters worse, there is very little sex, and many find themselves in a sexless marriage. This alone indicates how far the couple have grown apart. Even if there is sex, it is a mechanical endeavor as, “you do me and I do you and we go to sleep.” There is no more excitement and adventure as there was before the wedding day.
Life has become process of going to work, taking care of the children, taking care of the house and bills, and other such responsibilities. We hardly spend time for ourselves, to say nothing about spending time with our spouse. I don’t mean sitting in front of the television vegetating on a sitcom. I’m talking about being engaged with each other even if the TV is on. The is no more true marriage, but instead a household business. This whole situation is made worse if the husband or the wife is attempting to bring things back to the way they were, i.e., bringing back the intimacy that they once had.
If only one in the relationship is trying to engage and establish (or re-establish) an intimate and true marriage relationship, and his or her spouse is still stuck in the Matrix, so to speak, then the trying one will eventually become frustrated, making restoring the relationship that much harder. Their separate lives in Household, Inc. is finalized. They are officially a locally separated married couple, i.e., they live in the same house, but are not together as a married couple.
Let me now present some things that can gradually separate a couple in their marriage. They may remain married (legally married), but their hearts are far from the intimate state that a married couple should be experiencing.
Life becomes more about raising the kids (in some cases, appeasing the kids), making a living, making money, and taking care of the house. Raising children is an area that things really can fall apart in a marriage. The couple may get so focused on the children that their remembrance of each other is a long way in the past. Another area of separation is the job or business. The husband, wife, or both may get so focused on their careers, that they neglect their spouse. This causes the couple to drift apart morphing their intimate relationship to a business arrangement. I call this moving from soul mates to cell mates (or roommates).
There are three major stages to a marriage after the wedding day.
- Honeymoon phase – This is the novelty phase of the marriage. You hold hands in public, kiss often, have sex regularly, spend time holding each other, etc.
- Disillusionment phase – This is the phase where you start seeing your spouse as a real person. The shiny armor has come off, so to speak or your queen has disrobed. Little things that you overlooked, or thought was cute are now annoying. This is the beginning of the end for many marriages if they are not aware of what is going on and don’t educate themselves appropriately.
- Resolution phase – This is the phase where you resolve to accept your spouse as he or she is. You aren’t going to try to change him or her and you are not going to allow their idiosyncrasies to bother you. After all, no one is perfect. This is what long-term marriages are made of. However, resolution doesn’t necessarily mean intimacy. A couple may resolve to accept each other in the realm of Household, Inc. and not pursue an intimate relationship. Not only do they accept each other as is, they also accept their marriage as it has become.
A couple may slowly drift apart because of life’s circumstances as they move through the phases listed above. Many couples are unaware that they are going through phases and may not realize how far they have grown apart until many years (decades) have gone by. It is even worse when one person in the relationship realizes what is happening and begins to do something about it, but with no response from their spouse. This adds to the frustration of growing apart.
Then there is the job or business. You get up early and go to work. You may work long hours or not, but when you get home, you’re tired. Romance is the last thing on your mind. You want to go to sleep or at least sit down and relax. But wait! You have to cook, help the kids with homework, do something with your side hustle, exercise, or any number of other things except relax. Now your spouse comes along, and either is doing the same thing you are, i.e., more work, or worse. He or she wants attention and desires to spend some time with his wife (or wife with her husband), for example. You can’t spend some quality time together because there is more work to do.
Evening comes and go, and now it is bedtime. If you’re lucky, the two of you will go to bed at the same time and have enough energy to relax with each other without falling to sleep. If you are really lucky (no pun intended), then you’ll get intimate, frisky, and have sex. Making love and having sex are very rare these days. The two of you are so far apart, so busy, and so tired, that you don’t have the time or energy for sex.
In general, anything that the husband and wife do regularly at the expense of their relationship will cause them to drift apart. This may include church activities, after-school activities, pursuit of higher education (e.g., B.S. or master’s degree), business pursuits, etc. Anything that a couple does individually at the expense of ensuring they are spending time together and nurturing their relationship will result in them drifting apart. The unfortunate thing here is that they may not realize how far they have drifted apart until many years, even decades later.
A marriage in this state is in a dangerous state, especially if there are children. The husband and/or the wife can become increasingly frustrated with the marriage leading to resentment. Bad things can start to happen when resentment grows, i.e., unforgiveness is allowed to thrive. The husband and/or wife may begin to look elsewhere for the happiness and fulfillment that they thought would come from their spouse. Infidelity can spawn in this state as the couple slowly drifts apart.
The consequences of allowing the marriage to be just another job is separation, whether that results in a divorce or not. As separation grows, due to the lack of forgiveness and subsequently reconciliation, the couple becomes less committed to each other and the marriage. They may or may not seek divorce, but the fact is that they will be apart. Ultimately, the consequence of a marriage like this is destruction of the union.
Healing, recovery, and prevention
How did a couple who started off with marital bliss and great hope for the future, end up separated in the same house? How did happy ever after come to work ever after? Is all hope lost to each other? Is there any way that a couple in this situation can restore the marriage? How can newlyweds keep life from destroying their relationship and morphing their union from fulfilment to just full (of stuff)?
Is your marriage just another job where you can leave if you want or distance yourself from? Do you feel that you and your spouse live separate lives while living in the same house? Do you even love your spouse any longer? Are you still committed to the marriage? If you aren’t married yet, then there are things that you can do to help prevent your marriage from morphing into just another job and subsequently separation.
I would like to present some things that you can do to help recover from a bad marriage where husband and wife are separate, but still remain responsible. These things or tips can also be done by newlyweds to help their marriage stay on track so that it is always a fulfilling and happy one where husband and wife are together emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
Decide That Your Marriage is a Priority
Husband and wife should come to an agreement that their relationship is a priority whether they are just starting out as newlyweds or have been married for a while and have drifted apart. Their relationship should trump all else except their relationship with God. If the marriage relationship isn’t a priority, then life will sneak in and slowly dismantle it.
This requires commitment and dedication to the marriage relationship because it will not happen on its own. Too many people take their marriage relationship for granted and do not work to make it strong as they do other things that they have given a higher priority to. So, stay committed and work at your marriage by first making it a priority and sticking to it.
Keep Watch Over The Marriage
Deciding to make the marriage a priority is one thing, but actually watching over it to ensure that it stays a priority is another. Basically, you must monitor your marriage relationship to determine if it is on track or not. There are many things that may happen that will shift the focus from the relationship to something else. There are things that can cause your priorities to slowly shift without your knowledge unless you actively keep watch over your marriage. For example, children may cause the husband and/or wife to focus their attention on the children at the expense of the marriage relationship. Not even your children should take precedence over the marriage relationship because your children will be affected by a bad marriage just as they may enjoy the benefits of a good one.
Have regular discussions about your marriage. Take note of how often you and your spouse spent time together since the last “meeting.” What has been taking up your time? There will always be instances of emergencies and the like that take up your time and become a short-term priority due to urgency. However, come back together as soon as possible and resume the nurturing of the relationship. Do not allow long stretches of time to pass without actively nurturing and monitoring your relationship.
This is my soapbox so to speak. A couple that is not together is a couple that is not really married regardless of the marriage certificate. If a husband and wife who are legally bound are not together in the relationship, then they are just fellow employees in Household, Inc., so to speak. What does being together mean? That means that you see your relationship as a union, as the Bible depicts marriage. You talk to each other, you make decisions together, you are intimate with each other, you help each other, etc. Your lives are intertwined even in the household duties and the like.
Without togetherness, the husband and wife become two people in the household that may or may not have conflicting agendas. The husband will do his thing and the wife will do her thing, and at the end of the day, they may sleep in the same bed. The only thing that they’ll have in common is that they share the same house…or should I say, corporate headquarters.
Work on ways to be together and at the same time respect each other’s desire to have some alone-time. Take walks together. Exercise together. Have deep conversations together. Turn off the TV and talk to each other. Eat meals together and talk to each other instead of reading the newspaper at the table or watching TV at the table. Take advantage of any opportunity or make opportunities to bind with your spouse emotionally, intellectually, sexually, and spiritually. I believe that togetherness is critical to a marriage.
Use Opportunities To Bind
A married couple should take advantage of opportunities to come together for sex, couples’ activities, or just to be together when they happen. For example, if the kids are going to be away for a few hours for camping, party, or whatever, then that is a time that the husband and wife can come together romantically or even go someplace or do something together and enjoy themselves.
This is very important because if these opportunities typically go by with no effort to come together, or worse, if one spouse makes no effort to come together even after the advances of the other, then that sends the message that being together is not important and therefore, the marriage relationship is not important. This is even more exacerbated if the husband or wife typically will find time or make time to spend with other things, e.g., the child or children. This says, not only that the marriage relationship is not important, but that the children are even more important. That is a very bad message to send when the spouse is trying to come together and is repeatedly rejected.
So, take advantage of opportunities that arise to come together, especially for sex. Even better, schedule time to come together for sex or couples’ activities. This send the message that your marriage is important to you, or even better, that your spouse is important to you.
Study the Bible Together
Reading and studying the Bible together will help ensure that the husband and wife are on the same page, so to speak, with regards to spiritual and subsequently life issues. This will also help the couple from being lopsided on spiritual issues if one pursues God through Bible study and the spouse does not. This will cause an incompatibility to develop between the two, which could cause separation. Therefore, be sure to spend time studying the Bible together or simply to discuss Biblical topics from your own personal studies.
There are some topics that lend themselves nicely to joint Bible studies. Those are finances and health. You could study the Bible to see how God provides prosperity and divine health/healing to His children. Be sure to practice or do the biblical principles that you learn.
Pray Together and For Each Other
It is said that a couple that prays together, stays together. There is a lot of truth in that. Praying together helps bind the couple closer together. You can pray about the things that you learn from Bible study that affect your lives directly. You can confess scripture together, i.e., agree upon scripture-based affirmations to speak.
Praying for each other is also very important and it demonstrates a level of care that mere words cannot express. It is easy to say you care about someone or love someone, but it is another thing to actually express it. The Bible says that faith without works is dead, and likewise talk is cheap. If you love your spouse and you truly value and understand the power of prayer, then you will pray for your spouse openly as Jesus taught us. Saying that you pray for your spouse is one thing, but actually stopping what you’re doing to lay hands on your spouse and pray like Jesus prayed is another. So, actively pray for your spouse with your spouse, as opposed to your secret closet, so to speak.
Be Quick To Forgive
Unforgiveness has the power to destroy any relationship, and marriage is no exception. Unforgiveness means that you are holding resentment towards your spouse for something he or she has done to you in the past. This is especially dangerous and damaging if you do not tell your spouse that you were hurt or offended by whatever it is he or she did. Unforgiveness is to hold a grudge. Unfortunately, it is like drinking poison thinking that the other person will die. The unforgiveness that you hold in your heart towards your spouse will slowly corrode your marriage and you may not know why.
Always, if necessary, express to your spouse when he or she hurt your feelings, or you didn’t like something. Don’t knit pick but be sure that your spouse understands that something he or she did offended you or makes you feel unappreciated, disrespected, or whatever. Don’t hold things in. Be respectful but be sure to tell your spouse when you are offended and then get rid of the resentment. Ideally, you should get to a point where you don’t resent at all. So, be quick to express the offense and then to forgive.
Educate Yourself About Relationships
This is where lots of people fail miserably. Think about it for a moment. If you’ve never been married, then you have no clue what it takes to make a marriage a good one. Yet people get married all the time and do not learn anything about man/woman relationships, especially the marriage relationships. There are a plethora of books and other resources on how to have a happy and fulfilling marriage. All you have to do is consume that information and then practice it in your marriage—together.
Purchase a book such as, “His Needs, Her Needs: How to Affair Proof Your Marriage” and talk about it together. Practice the principles that you learn from it and other resource in your marriage. Women should learn about the psyche of men and vice versa. It is sad sometimes when I hear women speak about men in general or their husbands because they show very clearly that they know very little about men. I believe that men know much more about women then women of men. This is because of our society. Men learn early that they have to remember birthdays, anniversaries, flowers, what it means when she does this or that, etc. However, very rarely do I see society expressing the man’s perspective.
So, educate yourself about marriage and man/woman relationships so that you would be better equipped to understand some of the things that your spouse does in your relationship. This will allow you the opportunity to respond appropriately.
Have Fun and Enjoy Life Together
Let’s not make marriage another job. Instead, have fun and experience life’s journey together. There will be bad times and there will be good times. However, through it all, be together and do all you can to take the good even out of the bad and move on with your lives. Be open with each other and communicate. Don’t hold things from your spouse, but instead be honest and understanding. This will help set the stage for a happy and fulfilling marriage and one that is not just a list of responsibilities to keep.
Go on date nights and date days. Take mini vacations just the two of you. Find someone to keep your children for a weekend or as long as possible so that you can spend some quality time with each other. Keep the fire burning in your relationship so that your marriage does not become a business of raising the kids, paying the bills, and caring for the home. Laugh together and enjoy yourselves. Work on your marriage so that it can grow and become the happy marriage that you desire.