In the first part of this series, we explored what it means to respect our spouse’s eternal mystery, the importance of regular conversations, and how prayer blesses a couple’s emotional life. Now let’s go deeper into how to support a spouse’s changing interests, without feeling like we are losing him (or her).
Respect their freedom to cultivate new interests and skills
Sometimes we lose interest in life because God is calling us to mature. We stop listening to the songs we liked as a teenager. Movies become dated. The things we liked as a kid often are not the same things we like now. Interests change as our lives change. That’s okay and to be expected.
Under that premise, we should then respect and encourage shifting interests by our spouse. We should not feel confused or threatened by that, because it means that they are growing and learning new things about themselves. I want Kristin to expand her knowledge and I want to share in that with her. If we respect that freedom, are curious about the things they are learning, and commit to regularly asking questions about those new things, that will perpetuate the “Getting-to-Know-You” phase of relationships. We should not presume that any marriage is above dating. Yes, this can be hard, especially when our spouse makes a dramatic life change or becomes interested in something we just do not care about. (As a caveat, I am not talking about anything immoral here. We should not engage in immoral behaviors, even if it is with our spouse.) Here is an example of what I trying to say:
Hypothetically, if a couple meets while working on a sales team for a technology company, naturally the things that they are going to first connect on are related to their jobs: conversations with potential buyers, success over securing big clients, learning about the latest company products, office politics, etc. As they live life together, these conversations would continue to be regular. However, the husband might realize after ten years that he hates his job and is ready to quit. Is his wife supportive of that? Are they ready for this big change in the identity of their relationship? Is their marriage more than shared conversations about work? These are hard questions but if they have been regularly connected, then the wife would not be surprised by her husband’s desires and they would have already been discussing potential next steps so that when the decision is made to quit his job, the husband knows that he has his wife’s support. This is certainly better than if he kept his angst a secret and suddenly informed his wife that he was quitting. Again, it takes regular commitment to have these reconnecting conversations and praying for the grace to respect and understand our spouse.
Remember why you fell in love
If you have been married for a few years and find yourself coasting in your marriage, the first thing to do is remember why you fell in love you with your spouse. If you have lost any spark, it is important to remember when you had it and when it was lost. It is good to recall the beginning of your relationship; what it felt like to talk and date, to remember that you had meaningful conversations and shared time together. It is okay to have an ache for that connection again, that means you still care and desire it.
Just like it took time the first time to build connection, so it will again if it has been lost. Share with your spouse the longing in your heart, not in an accusatory way, but in a way that invites connection. Make time to start talking again. Go on a date and ask the type of questions you would ask if it was the first date. The basic stuff: Tell me about your day. Tell me about your work. What’s your family like? What’s your favorite movie? Which musicians are you listening to? How are your kids doing? What do you like to do in your free time? How do those questions get answered in light of who your spouse is today? Not yesterday. Not last year. Today. As I said earlier, no marriage is above dating. Rekindle the feeling of first dates. That sensation of new-ness causes butterflies because we are sharing about ourselves and not fully sure how that will be received. We desire to be accepted by the other and fear their rejection. How much more do we desire the acceptance of another when we have given them 20 years of our life?
When I was in Tallahassee, one of the counselors in that practice was celebrating a milestone anniversary with his wife (I think it was 30 years) and they went to a cabin in the Appalachian Mountains for a week-long getaway. When he came back, he said the funniest thing about the trip: “My wife kept saying, I feel like you are having an affair…and I’m the other woman!” If you knew him, you would know that this irreverent humor was right up his alley. Of course, he is not condoning adulterous relationships, but what was sparked was a renewed sense of wonder about the person, they tapped into a long-dormant newness in the other and reconnected in a way they had not for a long time. What a gift!
Hope you are enjoying this series. Part 3 is coming soon!