Bill and Nicole recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary. They have three kids (girl, boy, girl) ages 6, 3, and nine months. They love each other and they love the Lord, but something’s not right. Work has never been busier for Bill—he’s doing great at the company and making more money every year. He travels a few nights most weeks, but he’s on the path to becoming a partner in a few years. He has some good friendships, but as work gets busier, so does the rest of life. Between soccer and t-ball games, his weekends are shot along with the rest of the week.
Likewise, life’s never been busier for Nicole. Between responsibilities as the kindergarten homeroom mom, potty training their three-year-old, and occasional sleepless nights with their baby, she’s had it. She’s thankful for her community of friends (most of whom are also moms of young kids), but she knows there’s a growing gap in her marriage with Bill.
Change the names and change the details, but Bill and Nicole look like countless couples I’ve met over the last 12 years in marriage ministry. As the kids get older and life gets busier, many couples drift apart. Their once-adventurous lives are now marked by boredom, apathy, and complacency. They go from being best friends and setting records in the bedroom to roommates who pay bills and raise kids together. And by raising kids, what I really mean is that they take turns running carpool, driving kids around to activities, and doing their laundry and baths. They roll along from one week to the next, and the slow fade sets in, week after week drawing closer to divorce or a lifeless marriage.
On the outside, they look like they have it all together, but on the inside, they’re falling apart. The focus is no longer on the Lord or each other, but on their kids and maintaining an image. Sure, their marriage isn’t nearly as bad as some of their friends, but at the current drift, they’re not far behind.
We’d never guess this cautionary tale could become our story as well.
We need to stay engaged in our marriage.
Last month I did a reader survey and asked the following question:
What would you ask me if you were sitting across the table from me?
One of my favorite responses/questions was this question: “How do you and your wife stay engaged?” Several others asked similar questions or expressed their challenges with staying connected with their spouse. It’s a whole lot easier when we first get married, but when you add kids, weekend soccer games, and birthday parties, the opportunities become much less prevalent. The tyranny of the urgent wins out, and the margin to connect with your spouse gets crowded out.
You may not have children but can still find yourself disengaged from your spouse in your marriage. You can either react down the road and try to fix your marriage, or you can be proactive. Today I want to share with you 10 ways to proactively stay engaged in your marriage. Nothing I share is new or different and it’s not rocket science. But, if you don’t stay engaged, you’re just a few small steps from the marriage you never wanted.
1. Daily connection with your spouse.
Make time, every day, to connect with your spouse. Whether it’s intentional communication time, bible study together in the morning, or a walk around the neighborhood at night, find the time to be together with your spouse every single day.
Be curious. Ask your spouse questions. Be a student of your spouse. Here are a few fun questions/examples:
- What movie do you want to see and why?
- What are you reading right now for fun?
- What’s your favorite part of the current season (i.e., spring)?
- Where do we want to go on our next vacation (with kids or without)?
- What made you smile or laugh today?
- What’s God teaching you right now?
- What’s one restaurant you really want to go to on our next date night?
2. Have a weekly meeting.
We’re such big advocates of the weekly meeting. Every Sunday, Kristen and I sit down together and go over our schedules for the week and make decisions about who’s bringing which kids when and where. We still connect every day, but the weekly meeting allows us to proactively get in tune with our schedules and marriages.
3. Engage with others.
Don’t do life alone. We’re in a community group with four other couples who we love and who love us. We challenge and encourage each other and ask each other hard questions. When we struggle in our marriage, we bring in our community group because we know they love and care for us. If you’re living life apart from community, you’re missing out on one of God’s greatest gifts (see Proverbs 13:20).
4. Reach out to your church for help.
At Watermark, we started re|engage to help couples reconnect, reignite, or resurrect their marriages. Many couples come to re|engage after infidelity or other marriage crises. But, it’s also a safe place for any couple to improve and enrich their marriage. Is there a re|engage class near you? Perhaps your church offers other resources to support and encourage your relationship with your spouse. Why would you not take every opportunity possible to grow your marriage?
5. Pray with your spouse, as often as you can.
One of the most beneficial and healthy habits of happily married couples is they pray together, often. I know it’s tough and can sometimes be awkward, but one of the best ways to prevent your marriage from entering into the slow fade towards boredom and complacency is to pray together. When we pray, we engage each other’s hearts.
Check out the free ebook 5 Habits of a Healthy Marriage, by Ryan and Selena Frederick of Fierce Marriage. One of their top five habits is to pray for each other, out loud and together. Grab each other’s hands and face each other, praying for any and every or your spouse’s cares, concerns, and dreams.
6. Laugh, have fun, and date one another.
If you’ve read my posts for any amount of time, you know I love to talk about the importance of dating your spouse (see Ecclesiastes 9:9a). We’re all so serious and uptight. I’m the chief sinner in this regard! A regular date allows you time to have fun and enjoy the gift you have in your spouse.
Along these lines, make sure you’re not dominated by your cell phone. Create time and space for conversation and fun with your spouse, and pay attention to each other by putting those phones away (preaching to the choir here!).
7. Feed your marriage.
Just like you water your plants and feed your pets, you must tend to and feed your marriage. What are you doing to grow your marriage and to provide it with the fuel it so desperately needs?
You can read books (might I suggest something like Cherish by Gary Thomas or Fierce Marriage by Ryan & Selena Frederick), study the Bible together, or go to a marriage conference or take a class together as a couple. Find ways to strengthen and grow your marriage.
8. Have sex, or said in a better way, make love. Often.
One of the most effective ways to better engage with your spouse is to make love, often. We connect in such a unique way when we’re physically intimate with each other. There’s nothing like sexual intimacy in marriage. It may only take up 0.625% of married life, but it’s an integral part of the marriage relationship.
9. Serve together.
Use your gifts to serve, host, and care for others. We serve together in a few different ways, but our favorite is leading a small group of newlyweds. Every week, six newlywed couples come over our home and we talk about marriage, life, friendships, and so much more. It’s one of the highlights of our week and is a great way for us to pour into other couples. In the process, we’re forced to work on our marriage so we can help lead others well.
10. Be on mission together.
Our marriages are supposed to be a picture of God’s love for the church (Ephesians 5:31-32). One reliable way to stay engaged in your marriage is to have a united vision and mission in your marriage. As a couple, we seek to love others, raise our kids, engage neighbors, share our faith, and so much more. When we work together on a common mission, we realize life is about so much more than our selfish desires or comforts.
You and I both know we don’t drift towards one another or towards engagement. Rather, in our laziness and lack of intentionality, we drift towards isolation and disengagement. What can you do, today, to move towards each other?
I’ve given you a list of 10 ways and I know there are more. Today, choose one way to engage your spouse. The last thing you want is to one day down the road realize you’ve drifted far from the Lord and far from your spouse.
How can you disengage from your spouse? Easy. Do nothing (or do the opposite of the 10 ways listed above).
What else would you suggest? How do you and your spouse stay engaged with each other so that you don’t drift towards boredom and complacency?
A version of this post originally appeared on ScottKedersha.com and was republished with permission.
Scott Kedersha is the director of premarital and newly married ministries at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, TX. He’s a loyal husband and father to four boys.