I was seven years old when I asked my brother Gerard if he would be the best man at my wedding someday. He responded enthusiastically and asked me if I would be his as well. Eighteen years later, and three months apart, we both got married, with each other as the best man by our side.
I share this because I can remember desiring marriage with all my heart from my earliest years. At seven years old, I was already sorting out the bridal party! Seeing how mum and dad loved one another and cared for one another made me want the same thing. I believed that I wouldn’t run into the common struggles many couples face because I wanted it so bad. Such as getting ‘complacent’ in marriage.
I was sure that I would never stop pursuing my wife. Being creative with ways to make her feel cherished and loved. After all, I had been reading theology of the body books, drilling married couples for advice and praying about becoming a great husband! What could possibly go wrong?
Six weeks into marriage, I received what I call “The Marriage Shock”. I came home from work, dumped my bag at the door (which mum always warned me would annoy my future wife someday), gave Madeleine a quick kiss hello, made myself a coffee, grabbed some biscuits and parked myself on the recliner lounge with a book. Madeleine looked at me with a shocked look on her face and said, “Well, that didn’t take long”!
She would later explain what “didn’t take long” was me already abandoning a daily practice to eagerly encounter her at the end of each workday with a kiss and long embrace. Make her a coffee, sit down with her briefly, and talk about the day. Six weeks into my marriage, I realised that I had already started heading toward the slippery slope of marriage destruction called “Complacency”.
Complacency is an attitude of indifference and disinterestedness toward your spouse. It usually begins with one spouse relaxing intentional time and effort, and the hurt this causes will encourage the other to withdraw. Complacency is something you will suffer the destructive consequences of unless you fight against it with a passionate determination!
Married women have shared how hurtful it is when their husbands act with disinterestedness or indifference towards them. They are often characterised by phrases such as “I don’t care” or “Whatever you want” to just about anything they are asked. The shrug of the shoulders, the television switching on, or the crushing response of “Good” to the question, “How was your day”?
These may sound like little things, but they are the signs of major intimacy issues and the beginning of a divorce ten or twenty years down the road. Over time, if a spouse is treated this way and feels unloved and unseen, a deep rift will form between the couple, and an emotional divorce occurs. The couple goes from lovers to friends, and eventually to roommates. Days can go by without an intimate conversation or affectionate touch between spouses.
Complacency is something that will naturally occur unless it is intentionally resisted. Sadly, many couples are complacent about becoming complacent in the future, or worse, about being complacent now. If you are not actively doing something to grow in intimacy, you are sliding into complacency!
The key to a great relationship and one that resists complacency is intimacy. However, intimacy must not be reduced to physical closeness. Intimacy is primarily developed through a solid spiritual, emotional and psychological closeness. Intimacy is not as much about how close two naked bodies are together but about how deeply you know and trust that person.
If you do not pray with your spouse, a meaningful connection is missing. If you can’t be vulnerable and open up to your spouse for fear of being criticised, walls will go up that protect you from pain and prevent you from intimacy. If you cannot share hopes and dreams, how is your marriage supposed to flourish?
Sadly, many couples ignore the need to bond on these three elements of intimacy but turn to the physical element to make up for what is lacking. Ask any wife who does not feel emotionally, spiritually or psychologically close to their spouse, and sex is often the last thing on their mind! The physical element is a powerful way to perfect the intimacy already established in the other aspects but not a substitute for them.
There are two very simple ways to counter complacency in marriage. In order to thrive, your love needs intentional time and effort. If you are like me, you were excited about all the extra time you would get with your beloved when you got married. There was more time right? Wrong.
When a couple moves from dating to engaged, engaged to married, married to parents, the availability for quality time begins to shrink. You need to carve it out intentionally! And with that carved out time, be intentional about how you spend that time.
A simple way to implement intentional time and effort is date night. Date night is a scheduled night once a week, on the same night every week, where you and your spouse set aside two hours for each other. You may have a date night in, or go out to a restaurant or do an activity like bowling. Don’t just go to a movie and stare at a screen together for two hours! Do something that involves you reconnecting through conversation. Have fun and laugh together. Reminisce your love story. Invest in each other. Begin with questions like, “How are we doing”? “What do I need to ask forgiveness for this week”? “How could I serve you better”? “How are you handling the work and family balance at the moment”?
Great conversations stem from great questions! Do this every week for three months, and tell me it hasn’t changed your marriage!