Today’s question fills me with a heavy sadness. Yet I know this wife isn’t the only one with this kind of marriage.
I’ve been married for almost 10 years. It’s been rocky for 8. We have two beautiful children and love Jesus and we both want things to be better but almost don’t know where to start. We are at a place where we exist like roommates. It makes me so sad. I can’t remember the last time we had sex or even kissed. I still have hope though. As dumb as it sounds I don’t even know how to get “us” back. Please help. Or give me tips. I know we can’t be the only couple who has been stuck like this.
How does a marriage reach this point? Some marriages simply drift, as spouses pursue different paths and their romance and relationship are neglected. Others experience deep conflict for years, until the spouses are so weary they stop fighting and move to a silent stalemate.
But when we vow to love, cherish, and honor our spouse “till death do us part,” we don’t imagine a lifetime of sharing quarters like roommates. We want more.
How do you turn things around? How can you discover, or rediscover, that passion and intimacy you desire?
Do you both want to work on it? What happens next depends somewhat on whether you’re both on board with the plan. If you sit down with your husband, explain how you want greater closeness and passion in your relationship, and he agrees that things need to change, you have more to work with. The two of you can then talk about what you both want, what would make each of you feel more loved and happier in the relationship, and even pursue marriage counseling if needed.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Please don’t make conversations like this a complaint-fest about the past. Just trust me based on my hard-learned lessons: This is a sure way to escalate unhappiness, defensiveness, and conflict.
You can appeal to the past for things that worked well and ask about reintroducing them. You can talk about how you see your future. You can point out what the Bible says about marriage and how God wants His dear children to have loving relationships and deep intimacy. Lay out what you long to have for your marriage and the benefits you, your children, your church, and your community will reap when you nurture that covenant bond.
Whether he’s on board or less eager, make an effort to . . .
Renew your courtship. Remember when you first met and flirted and spent time together and anticipated seeing one another and shared those initial kisses? You started at zero and revved things all the way up to marriage before — why not do it again?
I recently listened to a replay of an interview with Willard Harley, author of His Needs, Her Needs on Homeword with Jim Burns, and he made the point that four of the top ten needs in marriage are most important to continue throughout he marriage: Conversation, Recreational Companionship, Affection, and Sexual Fulfillment. With the exception of sex, you get all of the others when you simply date your spouse.
That’s a great place to start: Asking your spouse out on a date. You don’t need to announce it like that. Consider what you used to do together or what your hubby loves doing, and then make plans to do just that. Be willing to try new things — some marriages have been strengthened by her learning to fish or him going to a craft convention. It’s not only about the activity, but finding ways to spend more time with your spouse and remember what you enjoy about one another.
Renewing that courtship brings positivity to the relationship and makes the little things around the house or even some big things around the house fade to the background while you get to know one another again. This isn’t the time to discuss big issues between you, but rather court one another and enjoy time together to refresh your romantic feelings.
One more thing about this: If some habit of your spouse drives you nuts while you’re out together, plan around it to making the date experience work for you. For instance, my husband holds the World Record for how long it takes to pick out a light bulb at Lowe’s. True(ish) story. Point being that he is a super-slow shopper, and this impatient wife used to get a bit unnerved during our shopping excursions — until I downloaded a crossword puzzle app onto my phone, and now while he’s taking his sweet time I step off the side and enjoy a word game. Everyone leaves happier.
Even if he’s not on board . . .
Shower him with love. We live in a culture that promotes falling into passionate, can’t-live-with-you love before even considering marriage. But having spent quite a bit of time in Scripture studying the topic, that’s not what the Bible says about good marriages. Couples came together in marriage for all kinds of reasons, but God’s prescription for a healthy relationship is showering one another with love — the sort of love described in 1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 5:21-33, and Song of Songs.
Head to the Bible for inspiration on what active love looks like. Memorize some of the “one another” scriptures and pray for help in living those out. Remember the “Golden Rule”: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Learn how to speak your husband’s love language. Many talk about “unconditional love,” but the phrase I’ve adopted that helps me to know what this looks like is extravagant love. When you feel that extravagant love from someone else (the kind of love Jesus showed for us), it draws you in.
Honestly, of everything I tried, the daily work of extravagant love made the biggest difference in restoring my own marriage.
A lot has been made recently about husbands needing respect more than love, and I agree. To many men, they flat-out won’t feel your love if they don’t feel your respect, your admiration, your support. So make sure that “love” you show includes respect for the man God made him to be — whether he’s there yet or not.
Initiate sexual intimacy. If you’ve been physically disconnected, start slow — with small touches, hand-holding, hugs, soft kisses. But at some point, you want the whole dance of marriage — including some mattress mambo.
I could give you all kinds of ways to make hints and set up your bedroom and work yourself slowly back into lovemaking. However, if you and your husband invest more in your friendship, your courtship, and extravagant love, you’ll likely both have interest in getting back into that groove. Guys are notoriously in favor of straight talk, so just tell him: I want to make love.
You can say it in all kinds of ways — using euphemisms, body language, etc. — but make sure you’re straightforward so he can’t play does-she-or-doesn’t-she in his mind. Odds are he’s missed that aspect of your marriage too, but if that remains a problem, check out a bunch of my other posts or sit down with a Christian marriage counselor to work on deepening your intimacy.
It’s ambitious to hope that a 1200-word post will help you move from roommate status to that thrilling so-in-love feeling you long to have with your husband. Yet I believe this is a start. Blessings to your marriage and other struggling with this situation.