I was seven years old when I asked my brother Gerard if he would be the best man at my wedding some day. He responded enthusiastically, and asked me if I would be his as well. Eighteen years later, only three months apart, we both got married, with each other as the best man by our side.
I share this, because from my earliest years I can remember desiring marriage with all my heart. At seven years old I was already sorting out the bridal party! Seeing the way in which mum and dad loved one another and cared for one another moved me to want the same thing. I believed that because I wanted it so bad, I wouldn’t run into the common struggles many couples face. 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?
The Marriage Shock
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 some day), 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 for a short time and talk about the day. I realised, six weeks into my marriage that I had already started heading toward the slippery slope of marriage destruction called “Complacency”.
Complacent about Being Complacent
Complacency is an attitude of indifference and disinterestedness toward your spouse. It normally begins with one spouse relaxing intentional time and effort, and the hurt this causes will encourage the other to withdraw. Complacency is something that you will suffer the destructive consequences of unless you fight against it with a passionate determination! Married women have shared with me how hurtful it is when their husbands act with disinterestedness or indifference towards them. Often characterised by the phrases, “I don’t care” or “Whatever”, to just about anything they are asked. The shrug of the shoulders, the television switching on and the crushing response of “Good”, to the question, “How was your day”?
These may sound like little things, but they can be the start of a divorce 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!
Intimacy is Key
The key to a great relationship and one that resists complacency is intimacy. Intimacy must not be reduced to physical closeness. Intimacy is primarily developed through a strong spiritual, emotional and psychological bond. 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, an important connection is missing. If you cant be vulnerable and open up to your spouse for fear of being criticized, walls will go up that protect you from pain, but also 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 the lacking intimacy. Ask any wife (and husband) who does not feel close emotionally, spiritually or psychologically to their spouse, 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 elements.
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 for all the extra time you would get with your beloved when you got married. Right? Wrong. When a couple move from dating to engaged, engaged to married, married to parents, the availability for quality time begins to shrink. You need to intentionally carve it out! 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 yo handling the work and family balance at the moment”?
I guarantee it will change your relationship! Do this every week for the next four weeks, and I hope you will email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to share how this has changed your relationship for the good!