When you and I really think about it, this is true. When we first got married intimacy and affection were at an all-time high. Slowly, however, that began to change. Maybe not after the first year, but by years 3 and 4, a shift had occurred. Why? It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? Why did something that is such a need (in one way or another) for both men and women, become such a lost art? And how did the woman who was once so into you suddenly turn in to a human being you sleep next to every night, instead of with every night?
When you first got married you were a combination of broke, on your own in a new city, and at home a lot because you had no kids and lots of time on your hands. What else was there to do? Watch non-cable TV and eat Ramen Noodles? Not exactly a life-sustaining model to live by. Plus, you were still hung over on infatuation from your dating years.
Life changes quickly. You begin to have kids, you move to a new city or take a job with more demands. You learn to deal with each other’s idiosyncrasies. It’s a big adjustment. Time alone with one another begins to decrease because life takes over. We no longer spend quality time together because we don’t have time. And each night we’re just lucky to make it into bed, and nab 6 hours of sleep, before it all begins again the next day.
But, there’s something else at play. Something that we men need to be aware of and pay close attention to. They are things that subtly begin to play in the background of our marriages. They are so easy to overlook, but end up becoming big problems down the road:
- She’s an afterthought. I was having coffee with a good friend, the other day, when he confessed something to me- “My days are so slammed that I don’t have anything left to give my wife and kids when I get home each day. I’m mentally spent!” I completely understood where he was coming from. When I worked in an office where the demands were high and the pace was lightening fast, my brain-power was sucked dry. There were so many days where my wife was an afterthought. I had nothing left, mentally, to give. But the closer I reflected on it, it was more of a choice I was making because I was giving too much thought to other things and other people.
- Your affection is divvied up. Slowly, but surely, we start passing out our affection to lots of stuff over the years- our favorite sports team, golfing with our buddies on the weekend, fishing trips, projects at work, tinkering around in the garage or our home-office every night after the kids are in bed, writing (eh-hem), etc etc. Before we know it, we’ve passed our affection out to so many other things, of less importance, that we have little to none left for our wives.
- You’re not paying attention. Between our iPhones, our iPads, email at work, what’s going on on our Twitter feeds, or the video that so-and-so posted on Facebook, we just aren’t paying attention to her. Our attention starts going to ESPN.com or the CBS sports ticker on our phones. She’s an afterthought because she’s not in our attention-scope any longer. Newsflash- a woman doesn’t desire intimacy with someone who’s not even aware she’s around.
- You’re cheating on her. I’m not talking about a sexual affair. Surprised? We always go to that place when the “A” word is used, but more times than not, we’re not cheating on our wives with other women. We’re cheating on them with work. We’re cheating on them with our hobbies. We’re cheating on them with our interests. We’re passing out our time, attention, affection, and energy to everything else besides the woman who promised to never leave our side. We’re choosing to cheat on her with all the stuff that has peaked our interest and captured our attention.
- You’re putting yourself first. If your wife is a stay-at-home mom, she works way harder than you ever will. And, she routinely enjoys a gourmet blend of oatmeal and peanut butter and jelly, dashed with some cold coffee, and a crusty finger printed iPad screen to boot. To add to this, her conversation outlets go back and forth from the dog to the 2-year old who constantly tugs on her pant leg. Her days are all-consuming. Yours are too, but you’re with adults. It’s easy to get home and keep your focus on what you need, instead of dialing in to what she needs. Even if your wife works outside of the home, she’s exhausted. I’m not saying you’re not. She had demands and deadlines on her as well. It would go a long way to seeing more physical intimacy if you and I put her needs at the top of our list when we arrived home each day! Remember- submission is a two-way street. It’s about serving one another and putting each other’s needs above our own.
Here’s the good news- unless you’ve passed the point of no return (meaning- you’ve flipped the emotional breaker and your wife is completely detached from you after years of neglect), you can change the direction your marriage and intimacy is headed. But it takes work. And, it’s not an overnight fix, or even a one week or one month fix. It takes time and intentionality.
The most important thing you can do is intentionally guard thought-space, affection-space, attention-space, and servant-space in you, daily, that is only for the woman you love. Nothing (or no one) else. This is a choice only you can make. This needs to be the majority of each, not your left-overs. The second most important thing you can do is do this consistently. You’re not going to be perfect but you can be consistent. The way you mend your marriage, and attain a deeper level of intimacy, is by choosing to do things differently, consistently, over time. Things will change, she will notice.
Then, you will start sleeping with her, instead of next to her!
Have you experienced this in your marriage? Share your story and how you’re working to change.