Everyone’s heard the statistic that over 50% of marriages end in divorce. Those odds take my breath away. Regardless of what you may think, no one is immune to divorce. I know that for sure. And it’s scary because I can see how easily divorce can happen.
I can relate to the desire to give up. I can understand where the breakdowns in a marriage lie and how your relationship can be weakened and fragile at times. It’s sobering. It reminds me of how precious our commitments are, how important it is to protect our union and why we should constantly be aware of our marriage health.
There are seasons of life that can be hard on your relationship. Some situations constantly test the strength of even the healthiest marriages so if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that your marriage must always be protected, first and foremost. Many times our relationships are put on a back burner, we take advantage of our partner without realizing it and we assume that our bond will uphold after long periods of neglect. Even a marriage rut can turn into an unhealthy relationship quick.
The Water Man and I are in the throes of littles. Literally, the water babies have taken over our lives. Between taking care of our them and our home, working, running a business and logistics for our family, we barely have time for each other. The list of obligations is ongoing.
If the endless to-do list isn’t enough, the perpetual parent worry should really have a category of its own. Whether you call it worrying or not, there’s a voice in all of our heads, especially the mamas, that is always concerned about our children. It’s constant. And it’s exhausting. Speaking of exhaustion, parenthood defines it. So it doesn’t take much to get into a marriage rut, a funk and ignore your partner and their needs.
In our marriage, we know what connection feels like. We know how our relationship functions when we’re connected, making time for each other, nourishing one another’s needs and being truly present together.We also know what it feels like to be distant, annoyed and neglectful. I know what it’s like to be the only one putting forth the effort and I know what it’s like to be the jerk making everything worse. We know how miserable life can be. We know how susceptible our relationship is to a breakdown when we aren’t contributing to it.
This is not to say that we don’t have weeks where we only talk “shop”. We put the kids first, sit in separate rooms each night and go to bed separately, even sleep separately, thank you tiny humans. But we’ve learned this can’t go on for long. Sometimes one of needs a little space, but sooner rather than later, we have to get back on track. These are four of my best tips for fighting the marriage funk no matter what season of life you’re in.
STOP & THINK ABOUT YOUR SPOUSE
Seems simple enough, right? But here’s the thing, my kindergartner has strep, I have a raging sinus infection and it hurts to open my eyes. I haven’t slept in about 4 days and I’m potty-training the sassiest two-year-old that has ever lived. What I really want at the end of the day is silence, wine, and no one to speak to me.
Don’t I sound like a bundle of fun? I know, but that’s what life looks like sometimes. Just like The Water Man has been on a deadline for the last six weeks and has worked nearly around the clock, so I’m not sure what he looks like anymore. Again, that’s life. We’re trying to make the best of it.
The thing is, both of us are pausing to think about each other. We are making conscious efforts to find time for the other person. The Water Man is trying to be more present when he is home and is helping around the house. It’s a small thing, but knowing how busy he is and how he had to stop to think about me and make special time to help, means the world. Even the simplest acts can strengthen your relationship. Put your spouse back at the top of the list. Think about them, their point of view, their needs and their experience from your actions.
Once you’ve evaluated where your marriage is and what your partner might need, do something about it. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Thinking about your partner’s needs without taking action means very little. Lip service won’t get you very far in any relationship. But especially in your marriage, you are going to have to do something.
Initiate intimacy, take off the evening of work to snuggle on the couch together and watch a movie. Schedule a date night, an over-night, leave them a love note, make out, send a sweet text, do the dishes, or simply spend some time listening to them. Foot rubs and conversation go a very long way.
DON’T KEEP SCORE
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but 1 Corinthians has it right; love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. This is important. If you keep track of who’s putting forth the most effort (or any at all), who’s in a bad mood, how many times you are trying when the other person isn’t, it is very easy to lose sight of what’s important. What is important is to stay on track in your marriage and to get back on track when you lose your way. Although it’s hard to make progress with only one person trying, it’s impossible to make progress if no one is.
And usually, if one person is setting a good example, the other one will follow suit. There are always ebbs and flows in a relationship; it’s a balance of both partner’s contributions, but sometimes you have to lend support, extend grace and make the deposits for you both. Instead of thinking of it like you are the only one trying, think of it as though you are fighting for you both, for your marriage.
DO IT ANYWAY
And finally, do it anyway. When your spouse is driving you crazy and everything they do is annoying, do it anyway. Make that special contribution to your marriage, that act of kindness, the extra effort, showing consideration, do it even when you don’t feel like it. Do it when they are grouchy and distant and not interested. Do it when they’re busy, sick, and you’re tired. Do it even when you don’t want to, you and your marriage will reap the rewards no matter what your intention is. So even if you have to force the generosity, do it anyway.
At some point, you will find your marriage in a rut, you may be in one right now. Life gets busy, maybe you’re going in different directions, maybe you are in a season that isn’t conducive to your relationship or your daily routines are mundane and you’re bored. Whatever has your marriage in a funk can eat away at your bond if you’re not careful. I challenge you to follow these four basic tips to change the course of your relationship and always have a path to renew your marriage health.