James and Sara came to a Marriage Intensive after thirteen years of marriage. She felt like she did not have a voice anymore in the marriage and that he would not listen to her. He felt like she did not put any effort into the relationship and would rather spend time with her friends than with him.
Near the end of the first hour, it was obvious what had happened. As soon as they married, they stopped doing the things that made them fall in love in the first place. No more dates. No more long conversations discovering each other. No more checking in with each other about what is going on in their worlds.
Over time, in the absence of emotional connection, they began to shut down. Not doing the things that connects your hearts leads to a barrenness and absence of warmth. Lack of heart connection is the foundation for negative interaction. The longer the lack of connection, the more frequent and intense the pattern of negative interaction.
We believe that almost every broken trust in a marriage can be traced back to a pattern of negative interaction that started with disconnection of the heart.
Five Questions That Will Connect Your Hearts
Linda and Dan had over two decades of marriage under their belt. With one child in high school and the other in middle school, this should have been some of the best years of their marriage and life. When they called us, Linda was considering separating because she could not “stay in a passionless marriage one more day.” We met them in a full day Marriage Intensive solely focused on improving their relationship. Dan seemed clueless that there was any problem.
Change is especially difficult in our most important relationships You will find challenges in implementing a new way of interacting with each other over the issues that cause you and your spouse so much pain. It is normal for you to struggle with the change, and in fact it can be even more difficult to make the change stick.
Change is difficult!
You did not always know how to tie your shoelaces. In fact, there was a time when you did not know that you did not know how to tie your shoelaces. You were fine with not tying shoelaces. You were unconsciously incompetent at tying shoelaces.
Don and Libby were sitting in our office in a Marriage Intensive in the aftermath of an affair. Libby had contacted a divorce attorney and they agreed to go to counseling for the first time ever in their 22 years of marriage. Don was wrong to have the affair. But as you know from reading our articles, an affair or financial mistrust rarely happens in healthy marriages.
Somewhere in the midst of describing all the pain, Libby said, “I still can’t believe that he took that job. I told him that I didn’t want him to take the job and he took it any way.” The job he took was over 12 years ago.
As the day progressed, it became obvious that her resentment in those early years had created a negative pattern of interacting between them. Libby’s resentment and bitterness kept her from truly connecting with him emotionally. She began to talk bad about him to other people, eliminate kindness toward him, and use the threat of divorce when they were in an argument. And their emotional and physical connection began to deteriorate to the point that neither really liked the other any more.
Donna complained that her “so called” Christian husband was a “hypocrite”. Her heart was hard and critical because she did not experience him as the spiritual leader in the home that she had always expected. When asked about how her frustration was impacting her and how she interacted with him, she shared that she does not want to be around him, she has long periods where she does not like him, and she has little interest in being physically intimate with him.
God changes you, your marriage, and your relationship with Him when you pray for your spouse!
Cindy was sitting on the other side of the couch with tears running down her face. “When I told my best friend Lisa about my unhappy marriage, she told me I should look into what it would cost for a divorce and handed me a phone number of the attorney she used.”
“All I wanted was for Lisa to give me some support.” Cindy made that call to the attorney’s office who’s sales focused incoming calls receptionist talked her into a face to face, no obligation, free meeting with them to learn more about it. During the appointment, the divorce attorney’s staff focused on the problems in the marriage and encouraged her to proceed with signing them as her representation just in case things ever proceeded.
There are huge differences between men and women when discussing the concept of emotional intimacy. To most women, it usually means sharing secret things of the heart, talking things over, and affection such as cuddling.
There was a long running beer commercial where a man was alone out in nature, fishing or hunting, and as he opened his drink he would proclaim, “It just doesn’t get any better than this.” But most men would disagree. It could get a lot better, if his wife would join him and enthusiastically share in the activity.
Men are bent toward action and they feel emotionally connected when doing things together. Husbands feel closest to their wives when they are working together on landscaping, going to see a movie, enjoying a recreational activity. According to William F. Harley Jr., (His Needs Her Needs) “Spending recreational time with his spouse is second only to sex for the typical husband. “
Couples Who Play Together Stay Together
Daniel called for a marriage intensive. His wife of 39 years had moved to their lake house to think about whether or not she was going to stay or divorce. He had recently took an early retirement package and was struggling with the transition.
When we met with Daniel and Liz, we discovered a huge disconnect between what each thought retirement years would look like and what roles they assumed each person would have. Daniel struggled with finding a new purpose and identity. Liz felt suffocated and smothered by his desire to be with her all the time.
Another Family Transition Stressor
There are several major family transition times that create stress for marriage. Like having a baby or moving into empty nest season, retirement puts pressure on the marriage relationship. It is one of the times in marriages that either pull spouses toward God and each other, or move them away or against each other.
Tips For Surviving Retirement Transition
Leo did not know what to do. He has slipped into a brief affair. When Sylvia discovered it, he lied and tried to cover it up. Two weeks later he broke and confessed all. She was devastated. Thankfully she contacted us for a Marriage Intensive.
Trust break of any kind are significant traumas to the relationship. The natural reaction is a long period where nothing the betraying spouse does or says is accepted in truth. In fact, the betrayed spouse reviews all the memories of the relationship to date, questioning whether the betraying spouse was lying all along.
The Truth About Rebuilding Trust
- Affair recovery is possible. We have worked with hundreds of couples in our marriage intensive, one couple at a time, who have moved through the recovery process and now have a stronger and better marriage.
- Affair recovery is a process, not an event. It will not happen all at once in a meeting. Forgiveness and reconciliation is not possible with a single conversation. There are no magic words, or magic pills, that will automatically bring trust back into the relationship.
- The affair recovery process takes time. Forgiveness and reconciliation will take an average of two to five years. Like any trauma, reactions to triggers will vary in length and intensity. Every data point related to the affair will serve as a possible trauma trigger.
‘All of you should treat each other with humility, for as it says in Proverbs, God opposes the proud but offers grace to the humble.’ I Peter 5:5 (VOICE)
Betrayer’s Trust Building Responsibilities
Every year the Super Bowl becomes an anxiety producing event for married couples. She’s worried about what to wear and whether or not the right mix of people will work at the party. He’s worried if he will get the best seat and have his favorite foods and drinks. He’s worried that she will talk through the game and interrupt the festivities with drama. She’s worried that he will drink too much, ignore her or embarrass her.
What if the Super Bowl was something that could move you toward your spouse? We started this game a few years ago and began sharing it with other couples. You and your spouse can play this game “on the down low”, without any other couples knowing what is going on. Or you can invite all of the married couples to play along.
The Super Bowl Marriage Game
- Kiss every time either team scores.
- Hug once second per point scored.
- Give each other one compliment or appreciation for every point scored in the game. This can happen after the game at another time.
- Plan at least one date in the next twelve months for every time your team scores.This can happen after the game at another time.
- Plan one weekend getaway for every safety.This can happen after the game at another time.