Q: I've been married for almost four months. My husband and I have grown accustomed to doing everything together, just the two of us. But last weekend he made plans to go to a game with a couple of his guy friends, and says he intends to do more of that. Should I be concerned that he doesn't seem to want to be with me as much?
Jim: There's a common misconception driven by romance novels and movies that are marketed and sold on the idea that "my spouse is my everything." The truth is that couples who buy into this belief -- and won't let go of it -- are generally apt to be miserable.
It's simply impossible for one human to meet our every need. I learned that the hard way. When my wife, Jean, and I were first married, we spent tons of time together. We traveled to high schools all over the country with a program encouraging youth to avoid drugs. It was a great season in our lives. And since I'm a true extrovert, I loved the constant interaction.
However, my beloved wife is an introvert. Jean enjoyed the work we did in schools as much as I did -- but she felt drained from being around people all the time. One afternoon, she headed out the door for some groceries. I started to tag along when she stopped me with: "Jim, I love you, but I'd really like to be alone." I was hurt at first. Then I realized that she needed time alone to recharge her emotional batteries. Once I learned to give Jean some breathing room, she felt healthier all around and our marriage improved dramatically.
Your spouse can't meet your every need -- and vice versa. So, strategically talk about other healthy ways you can each fill those spaces. Build good friendships, pursue your respective hobbies, or just enjoy a little solitude occasionally. Give each other reasonable room to breathe, and you'll find your times together will be even richer.
Q: I do the same things for my wife every year for Valentine's Day, anniversary, etc. I feel like I'm in a rut, operating more out of obligation than anything else. How can I change my mindset?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: I think most of us can easily get into a pattern of doing many things regularly out of obligation -- with few things in our lives that are defined by passion. Of course, especially as adults, we have daily and weekly tasks that simply have to get done. But problems can begin when our responsibilities overshadow our deeper passions.
Duty and obligation are like bread and water; they allow us to survive. But to really thrive, we need passion. And that's particularly important in marriage. We wed for love, dreams and romance. But as the practical demands of life overtake us, soon intimacy is replaced by busyness -- and the passion we once knew can get lost to the duty of jobs and paying the bills and doing the laundry.
The good news is that passion can be restored to your marriage. It can be as simple as spending a few minutes sitting on the couch and talking with your spouse about the best parts of your day. Take a walk and hold hands. Recreate those first dates that drew you close. Discover (or rediscover) your respective "love languages" and adjust your interaction accordingly. The bottom line: Find ways to connect with your wife's heart and watch her -- and your marriage -- come alive with passion.
If I may, I'd humbly recommend a book I wrote with my wife, Erin. It's titled "Reconnected" and is available at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at jimdalyblog.focusonthefamily.com or at Facebook.com/JimDalyFocus.
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