They were good people. They made it known that divorce was not an option for them. Yet here they were, going their separate ways and leaving a path of confusion and chaos as they did.
There was no love affair to blame, no hidden abuse. Just a slow erosion, a drifting apart, a building of resentments until one felt there was nothing left. Broken hearts. Broken people. Broken home.
Divorce certainly is an option these days. The courts are filled with those who once never expected it could happen to them. The resulting damage in lives, children, extended family, in finances, and in self-esteem is creating havoc in our culture.
Maybe you have entertained the “D” word yourself… or even said it out loud when angry and hurt. Yet before you set your foot on such a costly path, consider another “D” word that is probably at work right now in your relationship. “DRIFT.” Paying attention to it can help you move back from the brink of destruction that divorce will undoubtedly bring.
Busyness and the demands of work and family can leave a couple, once deeply in love, passing like roommates in the hall, drifting away from one another. But steps can be taken to ward off drift or pull the relationship back when drift begins to take its toll.
Have you and your spouse drifted apart? There are ways to anchor your marriage securely and to soften hardening hearts so your marriage can be full of joy again. Naming drift when you see it is the first step. Choosing to do something about it is the next.
The intertwining of two lives will always cause tension. Things are messy and complicated. But the important thing is to recognize that drift is happening and that you can overcome it. Here are five steps to rebuilding connection and countering drift.
1) Do things Together
“History together is built one event at a time.”
Make time together — In order to grow together you must spend time together. If your schedules are taking you in different directions with little time to experience life together, then stop! Make togetherness a new priority. Run errands together, go for lunch, plan a date night.
Eat together — Have at least one meal together daily. Get up 15 minutes early to have coffee/prepare dinner together. Plan it. It won’t just happen. Don’t eat all your meals together in front of the TV.
Limit Technology — When you do have an evening at home together, set a time to turn off all electronics and visit. Make tea, have a glass of wine, and just be together.
2) Romance One Another
Choose to Be in Love — Remember that this is the person you chose to spend the rest of your life with. Choose to love this person deeply. Choose to be in love. Just as you can choose to focus on the negative you can also choose to focus on the positive. Let lovingkindness be a daily goal. It’s your choice.
Make love-making a priority — The sexual bond is much more than just a physical connection. It is a bonding of two souls. It’s glue in a good marriage. It is meant to be fun, fulfilling, and frequent. Planned intimacy can be just as fulfilling as spontaneous intimacy. If this is an area of tension in your marriage, then seek help. Past sexual experiences, including those of abuse or promiscuity, will bring their own baggage into your marriage. If pornography is hurting your marriage, get help today.
Follow the best sex advice — The greatest sex advice I’ve ever heard is to make it a priority to give your partner genuine attention, affection, and appreciation. You will be amazed at how these three things will impact what happens in and outside of the bedroom.
Touch — Give lots of non-sexual touching too. When a relationship becomes strained, all touching often stops. A hand on the arm, a quiet taking of the other’s hand, or a kiss on the forehead can help melt tension and show you care.
3) Invest in One Another
Get away together — Whether it’s for an evening, a weekend, or a holiday, save time and resources to make getaways a reality. Give yourselves the gift of couple-time to focus on each other in a special way that day-to-day life doesn’t allow.
Pursue each other — Keep dating each other. If the pursuit of each other’s heart has long gone by the wayside, begin again to find small, creative ways to say, “I want to be with you.” Recall things from your dating days: go for a picnic, even start with an evening walk. Pursue the one who once captured your heart. Celebrate one another. Be your partner’s biggest fan and cheerleader. Celebrate small victories. Intentionally show that you support him/her.
Make bedtime count — As often as possible, make bedtime the same for both of you. Lots of things can get in the way of this, but make sure it happens often. One of the best things about marriage is going to bed together at the end of the day. This is a connecting time that should not be overlooked.
4) Fight Right
Differences of opinions are a healthy thing. Don’t be afraid of them. Choose how you will deal with them. Remind one another that you are on the same team. When issues develop, choose a time when the heat has subsided. Each one gets the floor to express his or her thoughts on the issue. Flexibility and cooperation are the foundation stones to move forward.
Grow a heart of gratitude — Don’t let the daily irritations rob you of seeing all the good. Take note of the things your partner does for you, for the family, and for the upkeep of your home. Say “thank you” not just for their actions, but for great things you’re rediscovering about your partner. Show your partner how much you value him/her.
Be a safe place — Assess your own attitude. Are you nagging, being critical, or treating your partner like a child? You can begin to change the atmosphere in your home. Make it a safe place for your partner to share and be, without fear of criticism. You can start to change negative patterns of behaviour.
Accept your partner — Neither of you is perfect. Find some good in your partner every day and be thankful for it. Pray about the challenges. Plan a time to thoughtfully approach concerns with caring solutions in mind. Be open-minded to change. Be willing to be adaptable. Guard against a disapproving attitude. The subtle attitude of disapproval is deadly to your marriage.
Pray together — There is infinite wisdom in the advice to pray with and for your spouse. Going to God together with the complexities of life and sincerely and humbly inviting His power in to influence your home is life changing. If you can’t pray together yet, pray for your spouse daily. This will help to keep your own heart soft and depending on God for help.
Share thoughts and ideas. Share interesting things from your day or from your reading. Share your reactions to the things in your day because this is a way to share feelings too. Encourage your partner when he/she shares. Ask questions but don’t “interrogate.”
Listen — If one of you is not feeling “heard,” then communication will eventually shut down and resentment can filter in. Listen and don’t try to fix. Be interested. Be intentional about building communication that counters drift. There may be unresolved hurts that have caused you to both “drift” into your corners. Listen with ears that hear and eyes that meet.
If communication has all but stopped, be patient and do your part to begin sharing and listening again.
In a Nutshell
Face the drift that may be happening in your marriage and don’t let divorce become your option. Put these steps into practice. Become the change you want to see in your marriage and you will keep drift away and divorce a non-issue.
My wise husband says this article could be summed up by a one-liner:
“Run to each other and not from each other in the challenges of life.”