Once upon a time, you couldn’t stop making out with each other and struggled to keep it cool. Now, well, the struggle is you’ve settled into being more like business partners running a demanding household. We long for those passionate days again, but we don’t know how to get back to them. Is it even possible, or are they lost in our youthful past?
It is totally possible for you today! I am convinced.
So, what happened? To put it simply – stress. It’s been piling up on you and squeezing the life out of the things that matter most.
The first step on the road back to a passionate marriage is to acknowledge the cumulative effect from the stress you have been holding for the past several months. I have been a pastor for 15 years and this is the most stressful time I have ever seen people endure. You have been stuck at home with the kids, that’s stressful. The fear of a pandemic infecting you and your loved ones, stressful. Millions of people have lost their jobs and maybe yours could be next, stressful. Tensions around race, stressful. Throw in there one more thing, like the normal stresses of work, or moving into a new house, or the AC breaks down in your car and well, you’re living in struggletown. It’s just simply too much and we can’t hold it all.
Marriage experts, John and Julie Gottman explain that having conversations as a couple about the stressors and their impact is foundational. It will deliver emotional intimacy as you both validate each other’s experiences and show regard for the struggle (for more on regarding well, see the Mill City blog post “The Most Destructive Dynamic in a Marriage”). The temptation will be to try to convince yourself that you can handle it or jump ahead and brainstorm solutions to relieve the stress.
My guess is that when you consider sharing your emotions it will feel like walking face first into a wall (thump!). For some you’re thinking, nope, not my thing, I don’t know how to talk about my emotions…Besides, I’m fine. Or, for others it seems counterintuitive. As in, sharing my problems just adds another problem to the pile, how can it help? Gottman continues to explain that staying emotionally hidden causes couples to disengage as a whole, robbing them of romance, sex, and passion (10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage). Yeesh! It’s not worth hiding when you think of it that way.
Three steps that will help you with having a discussion on your emotions:
- Define the emotions, stressors, and the impact. Don’t feel bad if it’s hard to name it, that’s a common challenge. Google “The Feelings Wheel” and use it to help clarify what you are feeling. The basic emotions are: mad, sad, glad, surprise, fearful, and disgusted.
- Lament the losses. Grieving is a God-given pathway to healing from heartache. Determine an amount of time and keep yourself in the difficult emotion. Crying is a good thing.
- Invite Jesus in. Pray together to the one who is the best leader (Ps 23), who is compassionate (Luke 6:36), and who loves to give good gifts to his children (Matt 7:11).
As we commit to having these conversations, there are a few ideas that will help reduce stress. First, reinstitute those essential habits. Most of us respond to stress by giving more, and that’s helpful for the survival of your family. It becomes a problem when it extends past the crisis and develops into a lifestyle. It usually looks like less spiritual habits (prayer, scripture reading, silence and solitude, etc.)., sleeping less, cutting out exercise, and coping by giving in to bad habits like overeating or watching too much TV. What we do physically has significant impact on our emotional and spiritual health. So, get to bed early so you can wake up early. Find a good plan for spiritual habits, put boundaries on the things that compete for your time, and commit a specific time each week to date each other. For us, we set a daily reminder at 9:00 p.m. to alert us that it’s time to start the bedtime routine. Seems insignificant, but just about every night I’m like “oh…ok” and find it helpful. Next, I found a workout plan that was easy to say yes to (see below for more details). I have put boundaries on how much I will work, on cell phone usage, and on watching TV. And, we have carved out Sunday evenings as our date night where we participate in an online marriage group (details below). Additionally, we try to protect 15 minutes of talk time when I get home from work where we just simply share about our days. It comes before playing in the bounce house or playing catch in the yard, my excited kids just gotta wait.
Your marriage can be passionate and really, it’s a non-negotiable. Passion starts by sharing with each other on a deeper emotional level, but that won’t likely come easy. You will have to push through some hesitations and stay anchored to the practice, knowing that it takes time for it to grow into something beautiful. Reduce some of the stress by putting healthy habits in place. As emotional intimacy increases, you will find it impacts your sexual intimacy as well. Your overall one-ness will grow, reflecting God’s intent when he designed marriage.
Helpful resources for your plan:
- “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” – John Mark Comer
- “Seeking God’s Face; Praying with the Bible through the Year”
- Exercise App: “8 Fit” Customizes short, but awesome workouts for any fitness level and includes a meal plan too.