Have you ever compared your marriage to someone else’s and wondered if your marriage was in trouble?
Or, you come home from work and things are pleasant enough between the two of you, but you just don’t seem to have that connection you used to have? Maybe the laughter doesn’t come as easily. Or perhaps there isn’t much to talk about or you don’t seem to have a lot in common.
It may even seem that your relationship feels like you are just going through the motions and you actually entertain the idea that your marriage might be in the danger zone.
Sex? What’s that? I mean, who has time and energy for that with kids around? Plus, lately your spouse just doesn’t seem that attractive to you. Thoughts of discontentment are more frequent. This little voice deep inside you believes trouble might be on the horizon.
If you’ve ever had these thoughts, you aren’t alone. And, your marriage may be in trouble, but not necessarily. It might just need some tuning up.
Before we dig into the why and all that, I want to be clear that if you are dealing with infidelity, abuse of any kind, or addiction, these are red flags blowing in the wind. They are signifying that your marriage is in trouble—and you need to seek help from trained professionals who can help you navigate through these waters.
Is My Marriage in Trouble?
The truth is, every marriage experiences times of trouble. Some of those periods of time last longer than others. It’s what you do when you believe your marriage is in the danger zone that will determine what happens next.
Not that marriage is exactly like a car, but cars aren’t exactly inexpensive or easy to replace so we’ll roll with this because marriages aren’t either. When our car is running rough or the check engine light comes on, we will sometimes wait a couple of days to see if it straightens itself out. If it doesn’t, we usually see if a mechanic can diagnose the problem. It typically doesn’t cross our minds to just dump the car and go get a new one. I mean, who can afford that? Once you know what you are dealing with your car, you set about trying to get it fixed.
★ Here’s the thing: It would be highly unusual for you not to run into troubled times in your marriage. Think about it: Two people raised in two different homes with different rules, vibes, communication styles and expectations when it comes to handling conflict. You bring those two people together, they say “I do” and then we tell them to have a happy life. Nobody tells you it’s gonna be a little complicated trying to work out the kinks.
If you think your marriage might be in trouble, here are some things you might consider trying to get your marriage back on solid ground:
How much time do you spend intentionally trying to connect with each other without the kids and not talking about work or the bills?
I’m talking about “us” time where you do something fun together. Happy, stable couples have hundreds of ways they connect throughout the day. It’s the way they look at each other. And the way they listen and consider the other person’s feelings creates opportunities for intentional connection. It’s that connection that feeds the relationship. And, believe it or not, they had to be creative in figuring out those connection points.
Think of it as a game. Even if you are in a hard place now, intentionality can help you move from disconnected to connected.
Feeling like you’ve lost the romance, passion and excitement in your relationship also isn’t that uncommon.
The world has a sneaky way of creeping into our relationships and taking over. Who’s got time or energy for passion when you are trying to keep your head above water at work and you’re the taxi to all of your kids’ activities? Nevermind household chores that need to be done! It’s exhausting just thinking about the “have tos.” Why would you add anything else onto your plate?
Well, let me tell you—intimacy in your relationship functions kind of like rebar in a house. It reinforces the foundation and it’s really important. A house built without rebar will not stand for long. A marriage without intimacy will struggle to last very long, too. The older our daughter got, the harder it was to find time to be together where we wouldn’t be interrupted or she wouldn’t hear us (her bedroom was right across from ours). We started scheduling middle-of-the-day rendezvous in order to spend time together. Even figuring out how and where we would meet created anticipation and made our time together even better.
But what if we are just so totally opposite on everything? We have nothing in common anymore.
You and a bunch of other couples are in the same boat. Remember when you were dating and you both loved that you were so totally opposite? You probably even said something like, “They bring out the best in me because we are different.” And, that made you happy. BUT, not anymore. Here’s a tip for you—the angst you feel isn’t really about you being opposites as much as it is letting that get in the way of learning ways to enjoy being with each other.
Happy couples who are opposites figure out ways to look past the differences in order to find ways to spend time together. One woman didn’t really enjoy golf, but her husband did. She decided to learn to play golf, but it wasn’t one-sided. He also spent time doing things she enjoyed so it was a win for both of them. I know I’m meddling here, but did you ever really have a ton in common? Or were you just willing to do anything because it allowed you to spend time with your love?
Last but not least, is it possible that it feels like your marriage is in trouble because you have trained your brain to see the worst in your spouse?
I’m a stacker. I could care less if my car is clean on the inside or outside for that matter. I go to bed at 9PM because I’m toast at that point. I’m perfectly fine with leaving dishes in the sink overnight. I’m a list-maker and I can accomplish a lot in a day. I could go on.
Here’s the thing, over 31 years I am 100% positive more than one of these things drives my spouse crazy. It would be really easy for either one of us to start making notches in the wood for the things that drive each of us crazy—BUT—a wise person once told me, “You know you train your brain about how to think about your husband right?” I looked at her like, say what? She said, “Seriously, you train your brain what to believe about your spouse and the more you go there, the more you go there.”
The more I thought about that, the more I realized she was totally right. That day I decided to start thinking differently.
How have you trained your brain?
If you have been solely focusing on all the things your spouse does that irritate you and all their inadequacies compared to everybody else’s spouse, one way to get your marriage back on track is to train your brain differently. Even if you can only find one or two positive things, that’s a start. You might be surprised how you feel 30 days from now.
In over three decades of marriage, we have for sure had our challenges. Both of us have probably wondered more than once if our marriage was in trouble (especially the time my husband walked through the door and I said, “Divorce is absolutely not an option, but we need to talk”). Fortunately, we had some people speaking into our marriage who would remind us that we were creative and smart enough to navigate through whatever the moment was. Asking for help from people who are further down the road than we were was a good move for sure. And, deciding early on that throwing in the towel wasn’t an option helped us focus on getting to the other side of whatever we were experiencing.
Researcher and marriage expert, Pat Love, shared with me one time that 80% of couples who divorce say they still love each other. What I have found in my own marriage and in working with couples over time is that it usually isn’t the big stuff that causes a marriage to be in trouble. It’s normal things that happen in many marriages, but they go unchecked for extended periods of time.
Back to the car—because you value your car, you won’t let a rattle go on forever without being checked. The same should be true for your marriage.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***