Many of us have hit ruts in our marriage. We live together. We chauffeur children together. We manage paychecks, and bills, and grocery lists, and karate lessons, and our parents’ doctors appointments. But we don’t seem to have FUN. We often feel mildly put out. He’ll be at work all day, and when he gets home, he collapses in a chair, turns on the TV, and ignores the kids. Come to think of it, he ignores us, too. And then, at the end of the day, guess what he wants? One more thing on the to-do list.
Don’t let your marriage hit a rut! There is a way out, and it’s actually relatively simple. It just takes a mental shift. Often when we are upset in our marriages it is because we focus on the marriage’s areas of weakness. We don’t communicate well. He doesn’t do enough of the housework. He leaves all the childcare to me. All he thinks about is sex. Etc. Etc.
Yet the marriages that tend to last tend to be the ones where people focus on their strengths. So let’s say that you’re in a marriage where you really don’t seem to communicate well. It’s hard to raise something that’s an issue to you. He never shares his feelings. You now have two choices: you can pound away at the communication issue, trying to get him to open up, and get frustrated in the process, or you can let it go for a while. If you pound away, he’s likely to get annoyed, and retreat, and you’re likely to get even more bitter.
Focus on your strengths
Another strategy is to ask, “what do we do well together?” Maybe he doesn’t open up well, but maybe he really enjoys doing active things together as a family. Maybe you talk a lot when you take drives in the country. Maybe he gets excited when you look at the stock market together and plan your financial savings strategy. Or maybe you need to think back a little further.
When’s the last time you really laughed together? Had fun together? Relaxed together? What were you doing? Maybe a few years ago you pulled out a puzzle, and realized he really liked doing puzzles, and you liked it, too, but you haven’t pulled one out since. Maybe you’re awesome at playing Monopoly together.
What are your strengths as a couple? Are you sporty together? Can you lead a great Bible study together? Are you good youth leaders at church? Are you both musical? Are you good at painting a room together or fixing up the house? Figure out what you can do together that makes you feel energized, and that touches your interests and/or gifts and then do more of it!
So often we squeeze out the stuff that we do well together because “more important” things come along. The kids have hockey. They have homework. I have to clean the house. But it is just as important to function well as a couple and to feel competent and capable together. In fact, perhaps it’s more important.
Make time to play together
When you have children, your marriage is now more important, not less, because other people are counting on you! If there was something you once enjoyed doing together, and you’ve cut it out of your life, bring it back–especially if you’re having problems. If you can spend some time in this area of strength, it can refocus your marriage. You start to look forward to being together again. It reinforces the reasons that you’re a good couple. As you do that, the areas of weakness tend to fade.
We stop noticing them and giving them so much importance. But perhaps more importantly, when we build our friendship and our identity as a couple, we tend to build a good foundation for the rest of the relationship. Work on companionship, and sex tends to improve. Work on fun, and communication tends to improve. Don’t push these things, of course; but you’ll likely find that you both are better able to function in all areas of your relationship when you start focusing on your strengths, instead of your weaknesses.
So today, whether your marriage is a good one or not, ask yourself: what do we do well together? Ski? Camp? Play games? Plan? Hike? Drive? And whatever it is, make a point of doing it together at least once a week. You just may find that your attitude, and his, takes a dramatic turn!