What If I Don't Feel the Way I Used to Feel Toward My Spouse?
My wife and I have been married for 10 years, and we have two children ages four and six. I have to admit that with kids, work, family commitments, and other responsibilities on our plate, sometimes things just get stale, and we are super tired. What if you realize that you no longer feel the same way towards your spouse that you once did? How can we bring back the fun, friendship and passion in our marriage during this busy season of life?
Signed, Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
When couples start having children they often begin investing all their time, energy, money and attention in the children and neglect investing in each other. Beware - this is a marriage killer! While you may think this is “good parenting,” one of the best things you can do for your kids is to take care of your marriage and thus provide a stable, loving environment for them to grow up in.
Ask these two simple questions…
First, one of the most effective ways to reconnect with each other is to start each day with these two simple questions: “Honey, how can I help you today?” and “How can I pray for you today?" Then follow through!
These two little questions pack a BIG punch relationally. First, it shows you’re aware of her busy schedule. Second it conveys your empathy and the sense that from your perspective, you are on the same team; you’ve got her back. And third, it demonstrates care and concern for her well-being. Who wouldn’t respond positively to that?!
Plan prolonged time away together
Second, you need to realize the importance of uninterrupted time together. In a busy season of life you and your wife need time to get away. Find a trusted person to keep the kids, possibly overnight if you can afford it. Maybe you just go spend an entire day inside the hotel room, and never leave. You read a book, you sit there and have breakfast in bed. You just hang out together and recharge. It can be so energizing to spend some time away with your spouse without the kids.
Plan regular, shorter time together
Next, you still need those small, regular pockets of time to connect, too. And while we like the idea of slipping away and having relatives or friends watch the kids, sometimes that's just not practical, and it’s certainly not enough. In that case, utilize the time that your kids go to bed each evening to carve out some quiet time together. If they’re old enough, send the kids upstairs, and say, “Hey, watch this 45 minute DVD. Go ahead and watch two shows of Barney or Dora the Explorer." Instead of watching TV or doing chores, maximize that 45 minutes downstairs to make a some coffee and simply debrief and talk together. For instance, ask open-ended questions that tap into each other’s hearts and minds, like, “On a scale of 1-10, how did life treat you today and why?” Or, “What was the highlight and the low light of your day?” This would be the perfect time to follow up with the two simple questions you ask her in the morning!
The power of a kiss
And finally, never underestimate the power of non-sexual, physical touch every morning before you leave and every evening when you get home. King Solomon knew what he was talking about when he wrote, “The kisses of your lips are honey, my love, every syllable you speak a delicacy to savor.” (Song of Solomon 4:11) Kissing or hugging goodbye in the morning sets the relationship tone for the day. Put your arm around her in the movie. Hold her hand when you’re walking side-by-side. Every evening, greet each other with a bright smile and warm hug, saying, “It’s so good to see you!”
Research shows that our emotions tend to follow our behavior. So even if you’re not quite there emotionally right now, by following these four steps, you will not only role model for your children how to love a spouse well, you may soon find that you’ve found that lovin’ feeling once again!
Christopher Grace serves as the director of the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships and teaches psychology at Rosemead School of Psychology. He and his wife, Alisa, speak regularly to married couples, churches, singles and college students on the topic of relationships, dating and marriage. Grace earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Colorado State University.
Tim Muehlhoff is a professor of communication at Biola University and author of several books, including I Beg to Differ and Marriage Forecasting. His most recent publication, Defending Your Marriage, speaks to spiritual warfare in marriage and how to equip yourself to defend your relationship. For the past 18 years, he and his wife, Noreen, have been frequent speakers at FamilyLife marriage conferences. Muehlhoff regularly writes and speaks for the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships. Follow Dr. Muehlhoff on Twitter.