I recently heard from a wife who told me that she and her husband were living much differently than they did when they were first married. She said they used to always be together, laughing, loving, and experiencing. But now, they saw each other over the breakfast table without really seeing the other person anymore, nodded in passing, and suffered awkward but commonplace silences. The wife summed it up by saying “my husband and I are pretty much living as roommates and I’m not sure that I can take this anymore. I deserve to be happy and loved, so I’m not sure if I want to stay in this marriage and continue to live in this way.”
She wanted my advice as to what she should do. When I asked her what she and her husband were doing to address this distance, she sort of looked at me blankly. I asked her if their outings and dates ended badly or if they involved some sort of attempts at closeness. Again, I got a blank stare. The wife had to admit that they very rarely spent much time together anymore. It seemed that both of them felt that this was either a waste of time or potentially so awkward that they wanted to avoid it altogether.
Determining Why The Roommate Situation Between Spouses Situation Was Happening: I actually hear about this scenario quite a bit. There are various reasons for it. Sometimes, there is an issue, misunderstanding, or unfortunate theme that is running through the marriage and yet no one wants to say anything about it or to address it. So, each person sort of down casts their eyes as the distance spreads more and more until it becomes so awkward that it’s almost unbearable. And still, the central problem never gets addressed so it too worsens.
Other times, there is no particular reason for this and there’s no anger involved, (although a great deal of frustration and sadness can be the result.) What’s happened in this case is that both parties may feel that one of both may have “changed” or that the spark is gone. And, while things may well feel like they are evolving, you can often look at the change in the relationship and also pinpoint a change in circumstances and / or priorities.
Often, when I ask people to compare the time that they spent on the relationship today with the quality time that was spent in the past, they greatly resist this. They will say things like, “yes, but that was before we had kids or obligations and before we got so comfortable with each other.” Or, they will deny that one thing has anything to do with the other. In this case, I will often her things like “well, what should I have to do? Give him my undivided attention all day? This is unrealistic and isn’t going to help anyway.”
Admittedly, thinking that you could put the time and effort of the past into the relationship today is a bit unrealistic. Very few of us enjoy the carefree life style that we had then. But, if you think about it objectively, you can usually at least consider that the time that you put in is going to directly reflect the feelings that come out. You can’t neglect anything – a garden, a marriage, or a spouse and expect that they are going to yield the results that they used to give you when you gave them more time and more attention. (And, he can’t or shouldn’t do this either.)
But what happens when you finally realize that you should rearrange your priorities and how you spend your time, but you worry that you have let this go on so long that there is really nothing left of the relationship? And, while you don’t dislike or hate your spouse, you have to wonder if you really love them anymore. You look at them and you just feel nothing. So you can’t help but wondering if you’ve waited too long.
How Do You Get Started When You Want To Bring Back The Spark In Your Marriage: Unfortunately, many people will allow the fear of being vulnerable to influence their being reluctant to make changes. So, they will just sit there and be frustrated and know that they are sinking deeper and deeper. Yes, making changes may well feel awkward. Your husband may well not respond in the way that you want for him to at first. This situation did not occur overnight and likely won’t be transformed over night.
But, you can start by giving what you wish to get. The wife made it very clear that she felt that she deserved to be loved. She could start by showing her husband this love and by exhibiting the behaviors that she wanted to receive. In a sense, we have to teach people how to treat us by the way that we treat them. We show them that we want more of their time and attention by giving them more of ours.
Sure, at first, they might well look at your like you’ve lost it or temporarily gone off the rails. That’s not the end of the world. Eventually, they will see that you are serious about making lasting changes and, so long as they are getting positive feedback, they will likely follow suit.
The wife was missing the fact that the husband probably wanted to return the closeness every bit as much as she did. Every human being wants to experience love and to feel valued. Her husband was no different. Since they both wanted the same thing and knew that they were compatible but had only lost their way, there was no reason why they could not change their daily interactions and apathy and eventually obtain an entirely different, and better, result.