I feel like this is a common enough topic that you’re not looking for another “Here’s 10 things you can do to rekindle your Marriage.” Though those articles have some great tips, I feel like a deeper perspective is needed.
If you think back to the days when you were in a dating relationship with your wife, if they were anything like mine, they are filled with happy, euphoric thoughts. I can recall the first time I held my spouses hand. The ice cream shop where I asked her to start dating me is actually just a few miles from where we live. Coincidentally, we were there with the kids when the local McDonald’s $1.50 Sundae machine was broken. As my wife was getting cones for everyone, I showed the kids the picnic table where we sat at. I remember being high as a kite when she said yes. They were good times.
But now you lay on your side of the bed, staring at the wall, wondering if she was the right one. You just fought again,and the argument got to the point where you weren’t even sure what started it, because you were bristling and attacking at that point. All you know is your spouse is being completely unreasonable. How can you be so different on every point? If someone asks you and your spouse what direction to go, chances are if you say left, she’ll say right.
You probably know that the time during your dating relationship was totally artificial. Both of you are on your best behavior. Not only are you typically not seeing each other’s dark sides, even if you do, it’s new to you, and overcome by all the wonderful feelings you have. It’s a simple survival tribe instinct: to protect this bond you have, because you love this feeling and don’t want to let it go. There aren’t as many outside pressures. You haven’t been squeezed and pressed together to see what really manifests.
Maybe you’ve simply resigned yourself to it being the way it is. Life is tough, and marriage is just part of it. Medical bills have to get paid, your car has to get fixed, Billy has to get dropped off at school. Your both different people, and that dating spark was a young lover’s fantasy.
I’m here to tell you, that’s a total lie. Not that your different - everyone is different. But accepting that you can't be different but still in love, still close and communicating, arm in arm through the challenges of life? That's the lie.
I can recall a time when I'd be in a group business meeting, and there would be someone in the room where I couldn't stop thinking, “Man, this person is so dumb.” Their ideas went down a totally different path, interrupting the task at hand, and throwing a wrench in a project that was already pressed for time. “Can they just shut up and let us keep to the plan?”
Granted, simply filling a room with people who feel they all need to be heard and calling it a business meeting can be incredibly unproductive. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve concluded a project, and realized it finished in a better place, simply because other people challenged me with having a different perspective. And that’s usually all it was – simply a differentperspective. Sometimes ignorant or mistaken, but usually armed with a different set of a thinking, a different approach, different life experiences, and therefore, coming to a different conclusion.
How can you expect any different from your wife?
Not only did she grow up in an different environment than you with different life experiences, she has a completely different mind, with different emotions and thought patterns. Did you expect her to be like you? To always come to the same conclusion?
And just like in business, being different will force you to work together to come to a better place. Both in your marriage, and personally. Your strengths will grow stronger, and your weakness will become evident and require attention.
So realize, you may have been able to finish each other’s sentences when you were dating, you were still very different. It just didn’t have the opportunity to present itself yet. And let's be honest, did you really want her to be exactly like you? Nothing different, fresh and exciting? Different interests, different takes on how to have fun and live life?
When I say it like that, you probably agree. "Of course I want her to be different from me", you're thinking. "But we aren't just different. We are diametrically opposed to each other. But she can be downright mean. She doesn’t listen to me. She just shuts down or starts berating me.” That leads me to my second lie:
Wow, that escalated quickly. It’s the conclusion though, and you were probably thinking it. You are at odds with your spouse. Everything is an argument, or just resigned to a cold, co-operative coexistence with each other. There is no way sex is coming from that.
Why bring up sex? Sex in a marriage is a strong symptom of relationship health. And why's that? Because our wives don't crave sex the same way we do, so if they're wanting it, our marriage is in a special place.
Rewind to when you were dating. Without even knowing it, you filled each other’s needs. Obviously this is all stereotypical, but your wife (then girlfriend) wanted to know she was loved. She wanted to feel it. She wanted it expressed in little gifts, or sweet notes or texts. In the subtle hug or the gentle squeeze. She wanted that security of being in a loving relationship.
And you, too, felt loved when she listened to what you had to say, or when you had a cold and she warmed up some chicken noodle soup. Sure, you loved the gifts and hugs too. But you loved the security of being in a loving relationship, and feeling respected in it.
Your needs were filled in two ways. You spent time together, and you communicated. Sure, your conversations may have been more carefree, not based in the challenges you experience in real life today. But you communicated your love and respect for one another, and it was great.
Fast forward back to today. She’s mad at you about….well you’re not even sure what she’s mad about, because what she said she was mad about didn’t make sense to you. Work was rough today, and you shouldn’t have to put up with this, so you let her have a piece of your mind. Sex is the furthest thing from her mind.
Men, I want to share something I heard once that has stuck with me, and it’s this:
Sex starts in the kitchen.
And no, that doesn’t mean your wife likely wants to make love on the tile floor. It means sex consists of being in a secure emotional relationship so much more for your spouse then it does for you. Let’s be honest, as a man you’re ready for time in the sack at a moments notice. But your wife desiring sex comes from a place of deep emotional connection and security. From when you came into the kitchen and put an arm around her, then whispered you love her. When you are both putting together meals, and pause for a moment to say, “Did you know you’re beautiful?”
You're probably thinking, "I had that at one point. When we first got married, we were super close."
Consider this – it takes 5 positive experiences to make up for a single negative experience. We all have off days, but generally, do you know why your wife is snapping at you? Because she associates you with negative experiences. Maybe it’s not cleaning up after yourself, or not pitching in on the household chores. Maybe it’s because her heart is crying out for some affection, a warm look in your eyes, just something. Something when you walk in the door that makes her feel the relationship is secure, that she matters to you. No matter what she does during the day, she’s likely had a long day too, and she wants to let her guard down and be at rest in your relationship. The distance didn’t happen overnight. It happened over days of neglecting and safeguarding that loving security in the relationship.
You’re both very different. You always will be. That friction makes your marriage sharper, or it makes it burn and melt.
She doesn’t want sex with you because you don’t put herself in a place of love and security to make her want to have sex with you. And that manifests itself in how she communicates with you.
“I hear you”, you say. “But this isn’t all on me. And when I try to show her love, she doesn’t show me any love (or respect) back.”
I get it – it takes two to fight. But consider this. Let’s say you buy a pair of nice jeans from your favorite online store. You researched the best pair, set aside money, and bought them. When they came in, they were awesome. You wore those jeans a few times a week for 2 years before they started to wear out.
So you decided to buy another pair from the same company. This time, the jeans came in and they felt noticeably lower quality. The seams weren’t as sturdy, the denim was thinner, and the zipper would get stuck. You called them up, “Hi Jean company, this is Frank. I love your jeans, but this latest pair aren’t very good.” The lady that answered the call responds, “Sir, sorry to tell you, all sales are final. There isn’t anything we can do.” You ask to speak with the manager, but the lady stonewalls you, and you get nowhere.
A few days later, you get an email from the Jean company, with the subject “Hi Frank! As a valued customer, here’s 50% off a new pair of jeans.” Do you think you’ll come running back to jean company? “Oh thank you, Jean company! I love you again! I trust your new Jeans are perfect, and this will be a great experience!” Yeah, I doubt it.
See the connection? Remember the image from when you were dating? You spent time togetherand communicated.When is the last time you truly communicated about something other than meal time and when to drop off Sally? I’ve been shocked to find when my wife and I have finally gotten around to doing a date night, we would often times bicker and have an argument. We function pretty well together getting day to day stuff accomplished, but the meat, the stuff the really holds the marriage together, is easy to neglect. And once you’ve neglected it, your wife isn’t going to suddenly feel loved by a couple positive gestures. When your marriage is at a stalemate, you have to be a man, swallow your pride, and put in the work to get it where it needs to be. The work won’t be done overnight. But just like you regressed a little each day, you’ll Renew yourself each day, and fight for some closeness in your marriage again.
And though sex is a great indicator of health in a marriage, just cause you got some hanky panky one night, doesn't mean your marriage is now in a perfect place.
Let me tell you, after 10 years of being married, despite so many ups and downs, I wouldn’t trade what we have now to be in a place of euphoria when we were dating. Those days will never exist again, but that's how it's supposed to be.Real daily life is full of chaos and stress. I have to fight for communication and closeness daily, swallowing my ego, and seeking reconciliation. Even if she was the primary instigator in a fight, I guarantee I didn’t respond in a way to show her I love her. Remember that it takes 5 positive experiences to outweigh a single negative one? You can’t avoid problems or differences. They happen, and they are a negative experience. Even if it’s simply working through a budget together, it’s not a positive experience.
Fill your marriage with positive experiences, so when someone asks you (or your wife), “Hey how’s your marriage?”, you can feel a grin come to your face and reply “it’s great.”
Marriage is a big ship. If you’re moving the wrong direction, you’ve been doing it a long time. Create those positive experiences - a little bit of footing and change everyday will get the ship to turn the right direction. Your wife may resist it, or be confused or suspicious. Still love her in it, as a Renewed Man, fighting to shed his old selfish ways, and fight to better himself a little more everyday.
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