Have you been criticized for being emotionally lazy? Perhaps not. We don’t talk about emotional laziness as much as we should. Most of us take for granted that others will relate to us in an emotionally honest and respectful manner.
What do I mean by emotional laziness? Consider physical well-being: this requires weaving exercise into our daily life. Consider spiritual well-being: again, this requires weaving spiritual practices into our daily life. Emotional well-being is no different—it takes intentionally weaving this into our daily lives.
Nearly anything we want to excel at requires focus, constant attention and ongoing self-discipline. Given this understanding it is not surprising how many of us are emotionally lazy.
George and Caroline came to me in relational distress, common to many who come to me seeking help. They admitted to me that they were undisciplined when it came to relational fitness.
“We just can’t seem to stick with it,” Caroline admitted during a recent Marriage Intensive. “We both know we need to practice tools we’ve learned at church, marriage counseling, and marriage retreats. But, we don’t stick with it. We get lazy and then our marriage suffers. That’s why we’re here.”
George chimed in.
“It’s not that this is not important to both of us,” he said. “We love each other and know we have to dust off some of the tools we’ve learned earlier in our lives. We know that if we don’t our marriage will continue to go downhill. We’ve reached a crisis point and it’s too bad it has taken that to bring us to you.”
“Why do you think you quit working on your marriage?” I asked. “Certainly you both feel the impact of intimacy beginning to fade. Or do you?”
“Actually,” Caroline added. “We’ve been married 30 years and take each other for granted. Neither of us has made any serious threat until recently. But, I’ve reached a point in my life where I want things to get better or I just might leave.”
“That got my attention,” George said, looking sternly at his wife. “I don’t like to hear her talk like that. I always figured she’d be there, but now I’m not sure. I’ve been lazy and it’s time that I wake up.”
George and Caroline continued to talk about their marriage. They shared how they had been happy for most of their marriage, though had been through “typical ups and downs.” What was most notable about them, as I’ve seen in many other couples, is their failure to take the emotional and relational health of their marriage seriously. I recommended the following to them and perhaps to you as well:
1. Take a regular Marriage Checkup.
You cannot know how you are doing unless you have some mechanism by which to measure your marital health. Develop a list of questions you will ask one another on a regular basis that will reveal how you are doing, such as how you feel about your emotional connection, your physical intimacy and the time you spend with one another.
2. Be honest with yourselves about how you are doing.
You cannot make progress if you are not candid with one another. Give each other permission to “speak the truth in love.” Be clear about how much energy you are actually giving to your relationship. Have you become lazy? Do you give good energy to your marriage? Be clear and honest with each other.
3. Get away at least every three months to set new goals for your marriage.
There is something special about ‘getting away’ and lazing about while talking about your relationship. Give time and good energy to focusing on your marriage. Set cell phones, televisions and other distractions aside while you are honest with each other.
4. Develop clear goals and tasks to reach your goals.
Every relationship can be improved upon but improvement requires clear intention, specific goals and then action steps needed to reach those goals. Make it a goal to sit down with your mate and discuss emotional and relational fitness. What goals do you want to set for your emotional and relationship development?
5. Ask another couple, or group, to hold you accountable.
We know that goals proclaimed to others are more likely to be kept. We also know that discussing these goals to others, sharing setbacks and accomplishments help us stay focused. Agree with your mate to find an accountability partner, couple or group who share similar emotional and relationship goals and notice your improvement.
Do you struggle with emotional laziness? Do you have clear goals for your emotional and relationship development? We are here to help. Share your feedback below or send me a confidential note and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center. You’ll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.