I will always remember one November day in the practice where I worked as a family lawyer. A man came in looking as grey as the day itself. I asked him how I could help and without uttering a word he reached into his pocket, pulled out a brown envelope, and pushed it across the desk towards me. Inside was a crumpled piece of paper; it looked as if it had been read time and time again. It was a letter from his wife..
“I’m sorry it’s had to end like this, but I can’t carry on. We’ve both changed, and I don’t think I know who I am anymore. I’ve tried to talk with you, but you haven’t wanted to listen. It’s as if we don’t know each other anymore. We’ve stopped talking about things that matter.”
In the early years of marriage, I imagine this couple would have spent hours just talking, but over the years they had somehow ‘lost’ each other. There had come a point when they either couldn’t or wouldn’t communicate.
Lack of connection with each other doesn’t usually end a marriage overnight; more often, couples simply begin to drift apart.
Lack of connection with each other doesn’t usually end a marriage overnight; more often, couples simply begin to drift apart. Different experiences during the day, parallel lives in the evening, and few points of connection mean that they begin to lead separate lives. And when one finally looks up and reaches out to the other they find that the love between them has died.
In her book ‘The Best Kept Secret’, psychologist Janet Reibstein looks at what it takes to sustain love during marriage. “A lifetime of love,” she says, “can mean an awfully long time.” She has found that couples who keep their love alive do so by connecting together and enjoying each other’s company. “From sharing books, theatre, music and travel, to sport, gardening and mutual friends, these couples spend a good proportion of their lives finding fun and pleasure together. They have a shared sense of humour, built up over shared experiences.”
Whether couples have been married for two months or twenty years, it can often be the little things that make a difference. Small, everyday points of connection over time can weave themselves into the very fabric of the marriage.
Try some of these ways of building up shared experiences in your marriage:
With busy schedules, microwaves and convenience foods, it can be difficult to find time to sit down and eat together as a couple. Try ditching the TV dinners for at least one night a week, lay the table and talk to each other over the meal.
Traditions can be built up over time and can be many and varied. Visits to memorable places, special ways of celebrating birthdays, Christmas or anniversaries and roast dinner on a Sunday, are all powerful ways to foster togetherness.
Shared activities, whether cooking, gardening, sport, or just sitting down together to watch a DVD, give a point of connection. Look back and remember the things you enjoyed doing when you first met or find a new activity you can enjoy together.
The daily routines of family life – tea in bed on a Saturday morning, a weekly date night, walking the dog or, for some, praying together – can all build that sense of connectedness.
Connect together through taking a long-term view. Talk about the future, set some goals, dream dreams, and have a vision for your marriage!