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TheRelationshipCafe 10/23/07

Distracted from an Intentional Marriage

This was a typical week. I had a full schedule of clients to see in my two offices, conducted a psychological evaluation, practiced my piano lesson and wrote the first chapter of my next book. I squeezed in several workouts at the gym to stave off the “love handles” and made it to church on Sunday--barely.

My wife, Christie, a busy Interior Designer, and I went out for pizza tonight as we watched our struggling Seattle Seahawks lose to the New Orleans Saints. That was our night out, and it was eked from a busy day of writing and home care.

Sound familiar? From the letters and emails I receive, too many couples are allowing their marriage to take a second or third place to other activities and responsibilities. Many couples are involved in “good” things, and so justify being busy. After all, what are you going to do about the kids being in soccer practice, and you singing in the choir while both you and your mate hold down full time jobs?

But, if you let up, even for a moment, on focus and intention regarding your marriage—you’re in trouble. Don’t believe me? Listen to this story from a young man who wrote to me.

Dear Dr. David. My wife came to me recently and told me she no longer felt attracted to me. She said she ‘loved me, but wasn’t in love with me.’ I hated hearing those words. When I think about it, I didn’t really see it coming, but can understand it given how busy we are. We’re raising two little girls and both my wife and I are professionals who work full time plus. My wife has complained about being tired and irritable, and I can look back and see that we haven’t been making time for each other. I know it’s a crummy excuse, but we’ve just been too busy raising a family and creating a career to take care of each other. Is there anything I can do now?

Who can’t relate to this story? We’re a nation of people who are underslept, over-worked, tired, cranky and walk in the door at night with bad moods. Then we wonder why our marriages and families fall apart.

While there are no simple answers, I think it’s time we became more intentional and focused regarding our marriages. Let me offer an example.

I’ve recently taken up playing the piano after a fifty year hiatus. My teacher, ten years younger than me, repeatedly tells me that if I want to get better on the piano, which I do, I’ll have to practice. Practice. Sounds simple enough, but not if I want to keep my career, my house and my wife. I’ve discovered, by way of more than one disastrous lesson, that I have to make time for the piano. Looking at it doesn’t help. Touching it isn’t useful, and thinking about it hasn’t worked at all. I must be intentional about my desire to play the piano, and that requires that I make time for it, letting go of other things that can drain away my time.

To answer this man’s plea for help, we must ask what can be done to save your marriage? First, you’ve heard the alarm, and now it’s time to respond to it. Take necessary time to prayerfully consider your situation. This may involve making some sacrifices you hadn’t thought of making. For example, maybe we’re trying to cram too much into our days, leaving little energy and enthusiasm for our mate. Spend time really listening to her. Consider making some changes in your life so you can date your mate. Think back on what used to make her interested in you. Why did she fall in love with you? Get hold of those actions and do them again.

While your wife doesn’t have the same affection for you as in the past, she’s not telling you it’s over, suggesting there may still be a chance to revive it. Ask her if she’d go to counseling with you, being ready and willing to make necessary changes to bring the “juice” back into your marriage. Be careful, however, with your expectations. As you “plant seeds and pull weeds,” it will take some time for the garden of your marriage to bloom again. With a little work, focus and intention, however, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how things can change.

What problems are others having in making time for love? How are you coping with busy schedules, challenges of raising children, and keeping the love fires burning? I’d like to hear your ideas on this subject. Have you found some creative ways to date your mate while coping with the normal complications of family life? Share them with us.

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