I’ve seen it happen again and again. Especially to people who have been together for a long time. Their relationship was solid at the beginning. And they still love each other. After all, they’ve been through so much together. And yet, they are slowly drifting apart. Neither one can point to any clear moment when their relationship started to unravel. But it clearly has.
Why does it unravel?
There’s a really popular idea that once you fall in love, you’ll stay that way, unless you’re one of the unlucky ones who don’t. Of course, when you’re in love, you never think that could be you.
Unfortunately, this type of thinking supports being passive when it comes to your marriage. And that is a very dangerous idea. Because instead of actively tending to the relationship, you may think that if you really love each other, it will be okay.
Things become even more precarious when you’re angry with each other. Instead of kissing your husband as he heads off to work, you may ignore him instead. He might retaliate by working late and skipping the typical family dinner. The next morning, perhaps he extends an olive branch by reaching over and touching you in the morning. If you’re not ready yet, you may turn your back to him, registering a rejection on his end.
This back and forth can continue, slowly unraveling your daily relationship rituals. Add the stress of kids, work pressures, or money problems to the mix and you have a perfect recipe for the connection coming part. Until, you are now going to bed at different times, only discussing the daily tasks that need to be completed, and barely touching each other anymore.
Are you the frog?
It’s easy to end up like the frog in the boiling water. If you haven’t heard this story, it’s about putting a frog in some tepid water and then slowly increasing the heat. If you heat things up slowly enough, the frog will adapt to the changing temperature and won’t realize the danger surrounding it.
It’s the same way with your marriage. Thousands of small interactions over time strain your connection. if you don’t repair the hurt in a timely way, your relationship can come apart. All without your fully understanding why.
How to keep it together
Here are a few quick tips to keep your relationship strong as the years go by:
- Remember to tend to your marriage like you would a living plant, making sure you are both getting what you need.
- When you hurt each other, repair the damage quickly. Focus your energy on the big problems. Let go of the small annoyances that are coming up simply because you’re stressed out.
- Exercise discipline about keeping positive relationship habits in place. If you normally give him a quick kiss when he leaves, do it. Yes, even if you’re mad and don’t feel like it. Why? It’s easier to give a half-hearted kiss than to stop kissing him and then try to get back into that habit again. Tearing things down takes just a minute, while building them back up is much, much harder.
Remember the words of Simone Segnoret:
“Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.”
Make sure your actions help preserve the connection. To learn more about other ways you can strengthen your marriage, consider picking up a copy of my book, Strong Women, Strong Love.