I’ll never forget the time my son gave our family a good laugh while we were house shopping. He wanted a closer look into an empty house we were interested in. So he stepped a bit closer toward the front door to peek into the embedded window, not realizing there was a full-glass outer door that stood between him and the front door. SMACK!!!! He hit his face on the outer glass and staggered away in total shock from the impact. He wasn’t injured in any way, but one thing was certain: the invisible made itself visible!
While we can freely laugh at the silly things we do like this, it is definitely not as funny when it comes to the invisible walls that can so easily establish themselves between a husband and wife in a marriage relationship. In fact, I want to share four “walls” that can very subtly work their way into even the best of marriages. Then we will close with six conversation pieces to help begin the process of tearing those walls down if you discover that one or more of these may be trying to sneak their way into your most sacred human relationship.
Wall #1 – Resentment
Resentment is like a small splinter that we are convinced will eventually go away with time, only to find that it’s power over us grows stronger the longer we let it remain. A million things can cause this in a marriage. A word spoken insensitively. A promise broken. A spouse always having to be right. The withholding of sexual intimacy becoming the norm. Lack of attention being given during conversations. The husband feeling as though his wife isn’t willing to follow his leadership. The wife feeling as though her perspective doesn’t matter. Feeling as if you are carrying the load while your spouse seemingly could care less.
Wall #2 – The Absence of Oneness
God made us all different, and our differences are most likely what attract us to each other. But individuality at the expense of oneness can lead to disaster. Who I am describing are couples who continue living separate lives, other than the fact that they live in the same house and have a marriage license with their signatures on it. They are not on the same page financially (typically both are operating out of separate accounts with little or no communication about whose money should go where). They are so busy building their own careers or raising the kids that there is no time spent investing in the marriage, and coincidentally, no time celebrating one another’s successes or sharing the burden of struggles. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and the battle for survival doesn’t seem to end at the front door of the home where there’s no oneness.
Wall #3 Greener Grass Syndrome
The illusion that someone else would be better than the person you committed to at the altar is just that -an illusion. While it may not be acted out, the greener grass syndrome often surfaces in ones thoughts, feelings, and desires without their spouse knowing anything about it. Greener grass tends to grow in places like the work environment, social gatherings, and believe it or not – the kid’s ball games and recitals.
Wall #4 “Everything is fine”
Why fix or tend to something that isn’t broken? This is how we often approach our marriages. Unfortunately, intentionality in building the marriage relationship is often not a priority until something breaks. An affair is confessed. Dishonesty with how money is being spent reveals itself in the ledger. The reality, however, is that in marriage, what is not being intentionally nourished will die, including friendship within the marriage, sexual intimacy, fun times and laughter, to name a few. Instead of facing and acknowledging the distance we often feel in our marriage, we find it easier to bury our heads in the sand like an ostrich and hope everything turns out ok.
I hope none of these describe your marriage as the reader. But if they do, I want to share some ideas of how to get rid of these walls and move toward a healthier relationship with your spouse. This general approach has not only helped my wife and me expose existing walls, but also to strengthen our awareness of when walls are trying to sneak in.
Here are the six “starters” to get your thoughts and conversation going:
1. Take a minute to share one or two specific things you truly appreciate about your spouse.
2. Ask: What do you need from me right now? How can I support you?
3. Ask: What changes can I work toward to improve our marriage?
4. Ask: Can I share with you something troubling me?
5. Ask: What do I need to keep doing that makes you feel loved and appreciated?
6. Ask: When is our next date night going to be?
Drop the fig leaves. This is a time to be very real, humble, and honest with your spouse. Focus on your own shortcomings first without attacking those of your spouse. Then grow together through this, and commit to never allow walls to remain between the two of you. Life is just too short for that.
If you find these conversation pieces helpful, don’t feel like you have to keep them to yourself. Take a minute and share this with those you love and care about, because you never know. You might just help save a marriage!