Struggles in Marriage: Signs of Burn-out and How to Re-kindle That Spark
If you’ve been married for any number of years, you’ve probably experienced, at one time or another, a season of dried up love for each other.
Perhaps you’ve just experienced a season of post-partum depression in your life.
Perhaps a job loss has left you feeling hopeless.
Perhaps the death of a family member has made it difficult to cultivate affection for your spouse.
Difficult life circumstances may be succeeding at ripping apart the seams of marriage, draining out love and leaving a hollow emptiness in its place.
Situations arise in life which, understandably, can make love for our husbands seem a distant memory. It can subconsciously encourage us to seek intimacy elsewhere through another mechanism (food, alcohol, shopping) or by another person (affair) instead of pursuing the intimacy once created between you and your spouse.
I’ve been there.
When my husband and I married nearly 10 years ago, the newlywed bliss soon fell away, revealing deeper issues wreaking havoc on our marriage: hardships with my year-long battle with depression, stressors with limited finances, and miscommunications by each other which felt like attacks in our marriage. All of these things drained our intimacy tanks for each other, pulling our hearts in opposite directions. We continued to think this was “just a stage” and it would “soon pass,” but it only deepened as we lacked addressing and identifying the deeper struggles going on in our hearts.
It would have ripped us apart completely; it nearly did. Yet, once we both became honest with ourselves, admitting issues going on in our marriage that we were both responsible for, it opened up the healing steps towards restoring our marriage. We began seeking help through counseling, reading marriage books together, and other things to, slowly, re-build our marriage. Through this, our relationship began to take healthy root and blossomed into something greater than we ever expected.
Perhaps there are things in your life that are ripping at the seams of your marriage?
Were you feeling down a moment ago by something your spouse said, which jump-started your binge eating habit, something you fall into whenever those feelings arise?
Did you already have a hard day at work and came home to an unsupportive spouse, making you feel less-than-loved, so you recklessly jumped on Amazon to buy things you justified necessary (like 3 new purses and 5 pairs of shoes) but you really didn’t need them nor had the money for them?
Are you being plagued with dismal thoughts of your less-than-perfect-post-pregnancy body, creating lack of intimacy in the bedroom with your husband? Did this result in perusing an ex on Facebook later on because you remembered a memory of him telling you how beautiful you looked?
By allowing our hearts to fall into this negative cycle—letting our emotions direct us in negative ways as we seek to numb the pain—we close down further intimacy to be cultivated with our spouse and do further damage on our own hearts as well.
SO WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF INTIMACY BURN-OUT IN MARRIAGE AND HOW CAN WE RE-KINDLE THAT LOVE SPARK?
1. Lack of physical intimacy. It’s no surprise that when my love tank feels low, intimacy for my husband wanes. Sometimes it’s caused by me and my own negative thinking. Other times it’s caused by my husband’s lack of attention prior to connecting intimately. But most of the time it’s a combination of the two. (Be aware though, it could be a personal hormonal imbalance that is leading to low libido levels which needs addressing.) It could be your husband is stressed at work so he finds it difficult to engage with you when he’s home. It could be you don’t feel loved by your husband in the way you like to be loved (read The Five Love Languages book), therefore you retreat and isolate further from his touch. He senses you retreating from intimacy, so he leaves you alone and turns on the T.V. instead. Which then frustrates you more due to his lack of attention for you, leaving you feel less-than-loved. Do you see what’s happening? There is a negative intimacy cycle birthed, which needs to be halted.
When I find myself in this negative cycle with my husband, the answer is not to retreat further or give him the cold shoulder. This becomes a wake-up call for me to PURSUE HIM. Women, we are not the only ones that enjoy being pursued. Have some fun by surprising him in lingerie one night. Cook his favorite meal. Leave little love notes around letting him know you care. When I decided to put a stop to this negative cycle begin pursuing him in love regardless of how I felt, an amazing thing occurred. He started to show me love as well, in the ways I’d been yearning to feel loved. The negative cycle stopped. Healthier lines of communication between us was established. The deeper issues were unveiled promoting healing and growth in our relationship. Ladies, seek to understand your man. Communicate with him. Pursue him gently to restore intimacy in your marriage. Simply ignoring the symptoms will only bring further divide in your relationship. (Eph. 4:26, 1 Cor. 7:5)
2. Flirting with other men. Do you find yourself lingering and feeling giddy with your friend’s spouse when you chat? Do you send messages to a man via Facebook letting acknowledging how much you appreciate him? Are you beginning to tell this other man how he makes you feel? You are beginning to engage in the first steps towards having an affair on your husband. Flirting with someone else creates emotional ties to another. For most women, we become emotionally attached to man first before becoming physically intimate with them.
Stop flirting right now with this other man! Cut ties with him. Let this other man know that you cannot allow this communication to continue because it is interfering with the intimacy that should be shared with your husband. Instead, begin flirting with your husband! What a crazy concept you say? No. There is psychological chemistry which is built upon flirtation. So go ahead and plant a big juicy kiss on your husband when he gets home and whisper something sensual into his ear. Give him a squeeze when you pass by him in the kitchen. Even holding his hand again in public (if this is lacking) as you sit on a park bench can help bring the bonding sensation back to your relationship again. Never stop flirting with your spouse. It will do wonders towards building a healthy marriage. (Mat. 5:28, 2 Cor. 2:22)
3. Criticizing your husband, in private or public. This is a big no-no. I have had so many married friends who do this in conversation without even recognizing the damage its doing on their marriage. They complain about how their husband is lazy and only watches T.V. all day. They get frustrated that he is always on his cell phone right when he walks through the front door. They discuss only the bad parts about their spouse, and leave out the good. While these things about your husband may indeed have some truth, gossip is never healthy, especially about your husband. This will lead to further rifts in your marriage.
Have you ever heard the saying, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? This can and should be applied to our marriage. Try to concentrate on the positive aspects and qualities of your husband. Write down a quality you admire in him each week, and then seek ways to affirm him in this. I understand there are times when venting to your best friend about your husband feels necessary. However, the more we dwell on our husband’s negative qualities and characteristics, the more your marriage will weaken and eventually crumble. (Eph 4:29)
A final tip: PRAY TOGETHER!
I’ve noticed the times I lack praying together with my husband, our relationship begins to drift and intimacy wanes. Walls go up, intimacy is lost, and we begin to pass each other by like zombies in the night. There’s something about praying together. It opens up our spiritual hearts towards God—which when sharing this time with our spouse I believe enhances more intimacy, love and companionship in our marriage as well. Perhaps you don’t have a spouse that is a believer in prayer? He could at least sit with you in silence while you pray holding his hand. Over time, he may gain the courage to pray with you as well.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecc. 4:12, NIV)
If you cannot pray together, don’t give up hope! Keep praying for him. Keep praying for your marriage. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. God desires for us to experience a love and intimacy in our marriage beyond what we dream possible.
Today, I’m experiencing a love and intimacy with my husband that I never dreamed possible. To those still doubting, have hope. Be encouraged. Believe that a vibrant marriage is still conceivable and that it is God’s desire for you.