Most days I just get into my vehicle and start driving, not giving much thought to what’s going on under the hood. Thankfully, a convenient check engine light has been installed to alert me when issues need my attention.
Unfortunately, the indicators in our relationships are not as evident. They often come with subtle feelings and small shifts in behavior. For instance, feelings of resentment and bitterness might be lingering just beneath the surface, leading a spouse to emotionally shutdown or withdraw affection from the other.
If we never tune into these experiences we miss their warnings. They alert us when something is off and needs attention in the marriage and/or within ourselves. It seems many couples drive for years with these subtle warning lights on, but never stop to look under the hood.
Part of the issue is that we have not been taught or encouraged to cultivate a deep, meaningful gaze inward, maybe due to fears of selfishness or narcissism. Instead of attending to the inner and private side of life’s experiences, our focus tends to stay outward, sometimes focusing on how things appear more than how they truly are.
As such, a couple might be so focused on building careers, raising children, and social engagements that they miss actually caring for the marriage itself. On the outside, they may look like a very well put together couple, but the inside story might be very different.
When the primary focus is outside of the marriage, even with good and related things, and the marriage itself is not cared for, the marriage can, and will, eventually die. Spouses might become basically roommates. Even when they remain friends, it is without the unique passionate oneness of marriage. For others, there is no longer a friendship, and they are simply familiar strangers in the same house.
A spouse and lover does not become a “roommate” overnight. It comes after months and years of ignoring the check engine light of the marriage, from failing to look under the hood and see what’s going on beneath the surface.
When was the last time you truly checked in on your marriage? Consider these questions:
Who are your spouse’s friends?
Who would they like to get to know better?
What are they looking forward to in the near future?
What are they dreading?
What is the purpose of your marriage?
What are the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of your life together?
If you do not know these things, it is time to tune back into the marriage. Go on a date with the sole purpose of connecting with each other. Focus on the private side of your marriage and spouse, not letting external concerns keep you from this inner work.
Even in marriage, wisdom seeks to find a proper balance between the focus inward and the focus outward.
Have you and your spouse become just roommates? If you need help finding balance between the inward and outward focus of your marriage, schedule your appointment today.