My phone buzzed in my pocket just as I was handing out a round of coffees at a team meeting. It’s a text message from a friend and it’s not good news: his wife has moved out and gone to live with her mother. I’ve known this couple for several years, and I didn’t have any inkling that they might be having even a few troubles, let alone serious ones. It’s a total shock and I’m very sad to hear what has happened.
I met my friend, the husband, later that week. He was a broken man; full of regret, contrition, and all of a sudden feeling totally alone. And more than that, he was embarrassed – ashamed that deep down he’d known his marriage was drifting in the wrong direction but that he’d been too complacent and, perhaps, apathetic, to halt it. “I just didn’t think it would ever get to this point,” he told me. “I thought it would sort itself out.”
That was a little while back, and I’m pleased to say that over the last twelve months this couple have begun to turn things around. They’re back together and are starting to re-forge the connection and intimacy between them. It has been, and continues to be, a tough slog at times, but they are fighting to stay together, plugging away at it bit by bit.
They’re sticking together because, when all is said and done, they don’t want their marriage to end. They care about it; they really, deeply care. It reminds me of the words of Elie Wiesel: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
It strikes me that the things that most threaten my marriage – our marriages – are not always disagreements, differences or even dishonesty, but disinterest. It’s when we take our loved one for granted that we can run aground. When we are indifferent to the most important relationship in our life we can suddenly find ourselves in an empty house.
I find this thought challenging and inspiring in equal measure. When I proposed to my wife I didn’t do it half-heartedly. I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, and I hoped she felt the same. She did! So I went for it, heart on sleeve, knowing that it was worth it. That belief in our relationship hasn’t changed. I try to relish every day of our marriage, however I know how easy it is to slip into indifference. The challenge is to keep feeling as I did all those years ago – to purposely do everything I can to keep our marriage strong and lasting.
I recently heard another man speaking about the lessons he learnt in his marriage. He remarked:
“I started putting my wife first. Everything before then had been about work, children and me. My wife was part of the story, but not the central character. But then things began to change.”
So what does it take to avoid indifference? Here are some tips that can help: