By Ashley McIlwain
I know that many of you have been married for a while and are finding yourselves and your marriage in a place where you’re maybe rethinking things. You don’t feel in love any more. You and your spouse have changed so much, and you’re looking at each other wondering who this person is. Things just aren’t the way they were when you started this adventure together, and you’re wondering, what now?
Many studies have shown that there are periods of time in a marriage where the couple experiences a drop or lull in their satisfaction levels. Often times the lowest point occurs just before the children fly the coop. I tell you this as a means of encouragement. You aren’t alone and facing diminishing warm and fuzzy feelings is bound to happen. The good news is that couples who stick it out beyond the satisfaction dark days also report that they then experience their highest levels of fulfillment. In fact, satisfaction levels were most often reported to reach an all-time high much later in the life of the marriage than you might expect.
Encouraging, huh? That while things may get tough, good things come to those who wait … and work at it.
It always saddens me deeply when I find out that a marriage falls apart, but especially one that has been around for ten or more years. It just boggles my mind that a couple who has already been through so much and begun a life together just throws it away. All of the history and hard work just tossed aside like an abandoned construction site. Everything in me wants to scream, “Stop! You’re making a huge mistake!”
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not minimizing your problems or issues. Trust me, I know that there are real obstacles that you and your spouse may need to overcome. What I’m saying though is, “Make the leap!” It’s possible. It’s worth it.
Starting over is a myth
Something commonly heard from people in a struggling marriage is their desire to just start over. Usually this is in reference to turning the page on their current spouse and family in search of a new one. Starting over is a myth though. It’s one that has devastated more lives than we can imagine.
The truth is that once you’ve been united with your spouse as one flesh, there’s no turning back. You’ve created a bond that will never just go away. When you walk away from your marriage, you leave behind huge portions of yourself and take with you pieces of your spouse. There’s no greater evidence of this than children – a product of that union.
It reminds me of this time I was super gluing two pieces of this small lid back together. I accidently got some excess glue on my fingertips which then happened to touch one another. The ensuing predicament entailed chunks of my skin left on the wrong finger tips. That’s a simple, yet tangible, example of what happens when we try to pull our marriage a part – you’re left with two tattered and torn people.
If you want to truly start over, then try starting over with your spouse. It’s your best option.
It’s Time to Refuel
Pressures at work. Running the kids around. Church Activities. Volunteering. Errands. Family visits. Is it any wonder why we feel worn out mentally, physically, spiritually, and relationally? We’re running in a hundred direction at a thousand miles per hour, and our marriages suffer because of it. Because let’s be honest, our spouse usually gets the fumes left in the tank once we’ve fulfilled all other obligations.
Your marriage can’t run on fumes. You need to refuel.
Part of keeping your marriage running smoothly and happily is to maintain it. Much like a car needs regular oil changes, fuel stops, and maintenance checks, so does your marriage. In realistic terms, that means clearing the schedule for your spouse. That means date nights, quality conversations, and having some fun together. It means checking in with your spouse on how they’re doing and if there’s anything you can do to help them. It also means saying, “I love you!” “You’re beautiful!” and “I appreciate you!” It means being romantic, creative, and sensitive. You have to make the time and the effort to keep your marriage fueled up, not running on fumes.
Take A Stroll
It’s easy to say things aren’t like they used to be, but go a step further. Ask yourself and your spouse … Why? Why are things different, and how are they different? What changed? What were things really like, and how are things now? And most importantly, what can you do to get back some of what once was?
Take a stroll down memory lane. Go back to those old pictures and videos from when you were dating, got married, and the early years. Try to hearken those memories, and remember what made you fall in love with one another to begin with. What made you say, “I choose YOU … forever!”? And what did you do to win the heart of your spouse? The answer to that question is the key to moving forward.
When we step back and look at how things have changed over the years, one thing we often neglect to recollect is how we used to woo and work to capture the attention of this person we loved. We forget how we turned a blind eye to their faults and failures because we just loved them so much that those things didn’t matter. Now, here you are ten, twenty, thirty years down the road, and most likely, you don’t do a lot of those sweet, romantic, and thoughtful gestures anymore. You probably focus on those negative things about your spouse instead of thinking they are cute or just insignificant compared to all of their wonderful qualities. If ever there were a reason to work some magic to win the heart of your spouse, it’s now. If ever there were a time to let some of those missteps and imperfections slide, it’s now.
Take a stroll down memory lane, and take a page out of your own book – if you won their heart before, you can do it again!
There’s no denying that marriage can get tough. Sometimes it’s anything but butterflies and rainbows. But, I want to encourage you that there are brighter days ahead. If you are willing to hunker down, and fight for your spouse and your marriage, I believe that’s a decision you will never regret. No storm lasts forever, but every marriage has to weather some storms.