By Leslie Cane
I get a lot of emails from wives (and sometimes from husbands too) who indicate that the marriage is no longer a close one or that both parties no longer feel as close to one another as they once did. I’ll often hear things like: “we used to talk for hours but now we can’t carry a conversation;” or “I used to feel so close to him but now he feels like a stranger to me;” or “I feel like we’re both going through the motions and don’t really care one way or another.”
These statements have one very important thing in common. They all stem from a lack of intimacy which has become increasingly common in modern marriages. People sometimes mistakenly think that they’ve “fallen out of love,” or that they no longer have any “chemistry.” This really isn’t often the case. Instead, what has happened is that the effort hasn’t been there and so the intimacy isn’t there either, although this isn’t necessarily any one’s fault. Changing this dynamic is very much within your control though. I’ll discuss this more in the following article.
Is Your Marriage (Or Your Spouse) On The Back Burner?: In order to fix this problem, you must be honest with yourself. Often, I will ask people how much time they devote to just being with and bonding with their spouse. They’ll often replay with something like: “well, as much as I can.” I will then ask them to describe what kinds of activities that they enjoy together and how often these take place, and I’ll often get silence or a blank stare.
The truth is, most of us reach a point where we no longer make our marriage our top priority. And, there are many legitimate reasons for this. We are completely overwhelmed with work, children, and staying afloat in this economy and we become “comfortable” after a while and assume that we can sort of coast. We assume that our spouse knows how much we love them and where our commitment and our heart is.
And in all likelihood, they do know this. However, just like anything else, you’re going to get from this relationship what you put into it. If you neglect it, it’s going to no doubt suffer. You must prioritize shared experiences that you both enjoy and you must not think for a second that if you don’t do anything to fuel the intimacy that it is going to remain.
Getting Back On Track: Most people completely understand with what I’ve just said. However, when it comes to actually doing something concrete to restore the intimacy and closeness, they hesitate. The thought of opening themselves up or of doing something in a new way or of changing the status quo can almost be crippling. It can seem easier to just try to deal with things as they are rather than to change them.
But, don’t you and your spouse both deserve to be as happy, close, and fulfilled as you can be? Don’t your children deserve to grow up in a house filled with laughter and love? Isn’t it worth stepping out of your comfort zone if the rewards are so great? Of course it is. But sometimes, taking the first step is the hardest part.
To that end, I don’t want you to put a lot of pressure onto this process. Don’t expect to make drastic or awkward changes overnight. Don’t become discouraged if these seem forced or awkward at first. The key here is to make small and repetitive changes that become a habit over time. You don’t have to do anything that makes you horribly uncomfortable. But, you should be able to find a comfortable middle that allows you to keep moving forward.
Start small. At first, just set aside 15 minutes to spend together in a light hearted way. Make this a daily thing. Turn off the phone. Turn of the TV. Take a walk together. Vow to not talk about problems or kids or issues that are nothing more than small talk. Ask about your spouse’s experiences that day and really listen. Respond in the way that you would want for him (or her) to respond to you.
I often tell people that, over time, their goal should be to become the spouse that they want. Sure, this may seem backward. But, if you’re telling yourself that you don’t really know what to do here, I must tell you that this just isn’t true. You and your spouse were once deeply in love and very strongly connected. You know what it takes to accomplish this. And, you know what makes this relationship work. Now, I know that you may be saying “yes, but things are so different now. There are so many other things to focus on.” This is no doubt true and valid. But you just can’t expect to put 1/4 or less of the time that you used to in the relationship and have it be 100% of what it was. This is just an equation that is never going to add up properly.
That doesn’t mean that you should make drastic changes that are going to come off as fake or insincere. But, even small changes or increased time and effort can yield noticeable differences. Once this happens, build on your small successes until you are back to where you want to be.
Unfortunately for me, I ignored a lot of these signs and the lack of intimacy until it was almost too late. This almost cost me my marriage. Luckily, over time (and taking calculated baby steps), I was able to reestablish intimacy and bring back his love. You can read my very personal story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com