Are You Drifting Apart?

Illustration of a husband in a row boat reaching out to his wife in another boat and she is reaching toward him
Jess Golden

Sea otters sleep holding hands — or holding paws, to be more exact. It ranks up there as one of the most adorable things in nature.

And why do otters do something so over the top with cuteness? That way, they can't drift apart. Sea currents can cause them to drift for miles while they sleep, and if they're going to move, they want to make sure their loved ones move with them.

The natural pull in life is to drift apart. None of us gets married thinking we'll end up half a world apart, yet if we aren't intentional like those sea otters, we will likely wake up one day, look at our spouse, and think, Who are you?

I've attended so many weddings I've lost count. All the couples looked so in love. And yet we've all heard the alarming divorce statistics.

How does a relationship with such promise turn into a disaster?

The couple stops being intentional. Oneness is the goal of marriage, but oneness is not automatic. Let's look at how to stay intentional with our spiritual and emotional intimacy.

Being intentional: spiritual intimacy

Prayer stops the drift between the two of you, and prayer is powerful. For many of us, though, praying out loud ranks with public speaking as one of the scariest things to do.

How can we make prayer less intimidating?

Start by asking your husband if you can pray for something specific with him. Saying, "Can we pray together?" is more intimidating than "Can we take a moment to pray about Johnny's bullying situation at school?"

When you do pray about that specific thing, stick to it. Keep prayers short and simple.

If praying out loud is still too intimidating, what about using prewritten prayers? I've discovered that prayer-book prayers are truly beautiful.

Your spiritual life should be something that keeps you together, like holding paws, not a current that drives you apart. But which one it is will depend upon your attitude. Are you approaching your husband with the expectation that he'll behave in a certain stereotypical way, or are you leaving room for God to do something that may be outside your expectations?

Being intentional: emotional intimacy

Once couples stop communicating, laughing and sharing, then the only thing that binds them together is the children. And eventually this shared connection is not enough.

Friendship in marriage is the glue that keeps you together. When you're friends, you build up positive goodwill.

Some of us were in the habit of building goodwill when we were dating because we spent a lot of time hanging out with our future spouse. But after the wedding, life became busy and we settled into routines that included much less time with our husband. We still loved our man, but we never really did anything with him. How do you build a friendship with your husband now?

Men, in general, tend to communicate side by side, when they're doing something together. Women like to communicate face to face. But communication happens either way! So instead of saying, "I want to spend 15 minutes talking," why not say, "Can we take a walk after dinner to get a little exercise and fresh air?" The effect is the same — 15 minutes of talking — but it's a different dynamic.

Just being together, even if there's no agenda, can reap major benefits.

When you walked down the aisle, you might have believed this man was going to make you happy for the rest of your life. You've probably realized by now that he doesn't have that power. But if you're intentional — if you start taking responsibility for the things in your control — you'll find that your spouse is a beautiful blessing indeed.

This article is taken from Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, copyright © 2015 by Sheila Wray Gregoire. Used with permission of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House.
This article first appeared in the April/May 2016 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was originally titled "Are You Drifting Apart?" If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Thriving Family, a marriage and parenting magazine published by Focus on the Family. Get Thriving Family delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

Copyright © 2016 by Sheila Wray Gregoire. Used by permission.

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