They were good people. They had made it known that divorce was not an option for them. Yet here they were, going their separate ways and leaving a path of confusion and chaos behind them.
There was no love affair to blame, no abuse that had been hidden. Just a slow erosion, a drifting apart, a building of resentments until one felt there was nothing left. Broken hearts. Broken people. Broken home.
Divorce certainly is an option these days. The courts are filled with those who once never expected it could happen to them. The resulting damage in lives, children, extended family, in finances, and self-esteem is creating havoc in our culture. Maybe you have entertained the “D” word yourself or even said it out loud. Yet before you set your foot on such a costly path, consider another “D” word which could be at work in your relationship – drift. Paying attention to it can help you move back from the brink of destruction that divorce will undoubtedly bring.
Busyness and the demands of work and family can leave a couple, though once deeply in love, passing like roommates in the hall, drifting away from one another and from home. Steps can be taken to ward off drift or pull the relationship back when drift has happened.
Ask yourself if your relationship has drifted. There are ways to anchor your marriage securely and to soften hardening hearts so your marriage can be an enjoyment and even a treasure. Naming drift when you see it is the first step. Choosing to do something about it is the next. The important thing is to know that DRIFT happens and you can overcome it.
D – Do things together
Make time together. “History together is built one event at a time.” In order to grow together you must spend time together. If your schedules are taking you in different directions with little time to experience life together, then stop! Shift togetherness to a new priority. Run errands together, go for lunch, plan a date night. It can be simple but be intentional about stopping the drift before it happens.
Eat together. Have at least one meal together daily. Get up 15 minutes early to have coffee/prepare dinner together. But you need to plan – it won’t just happen. Don’t eat all your meals together in front of the TV. Limit technology. When you do have an evening at home together, set a time to turn off all electronics and visit. Make tea, or have a glass of wine and just be together.
R – Romance one another
Choose to be in love. Remember that this is the person you chose to spend the rest of your life with. Choose to love this person deeply. Choose to be in love. Just as you can choose to focus on the negative you can also choose to focus on the positive. Let loving-kindness be a daily goal. It’s your choice.
Make love-making a priority. The sexual bond is much more than just a physical connection. It is a bonding of two souls. It’s glue in a good marriage. It is meant to be fun, fulfilling, and frequent. If this is an area of tension in your marriage, then get some help. Past sexual experiences, including those of abuse or promiscuity will bring their own baggage into your marriage. Keep porn out! Plan intimate times.
Attention, affection, appreciation. The greatest sex advice I've ever heard is to make it a priority to give your partner genuine attention, affection, and appreciation. You will be amazed at how these three things will impact what happens not only in general but also in the bedroom.
Touch. Give lots of non-sexual touching too. When a relationship becomes strained, all touching often stops. A hand on the arm, a quiet taking of the other’s hand, a kiss on the forehead can help melt tension and show you care.
I – Invest in one another
Get away together. Whether it’s for an evening, a weekend, or a holiday, save time and resources to make “get-aways” a reality. Give yourselves the gift of couple time to focus on each other in a special way that day to day doesn’t allow.
Pursue each other. Keep courting each other. If the pursuit of each other’s heart has long gone by the wayside, begin again to find small creative ways to say, “I want to be with you.” Recall things from your dating days; go for a picnic, even start with an evening walk. Pursue the one who once captured your heart.
Celebrate one another. Be your partner’s biggest fan and cheerleader. Celebrate small victories. Intentionally show that you support him/her. Make bedtime count. As often as possible make bedtime the same for both of you. Lots of things can get in the way of this, but make sure it happens often. One of the best things about marriage is going to bed together at the end of the day. This is a connecting time that should not be overlooked.
F – Fight right
Remind one another that you are on the same team. Differences of opinions are a healthy thing. Don’t be afraid of them. Choose how you will deal with them. When issues develop, choose a time when the “heat” has subsided. Each one gets the floor to express his or her thoughts on the issue. Flexibility and cooperation are the foundation stones to move forward.
Grow a heart of gratitude. Don’t let the daily rubbing and irritations rob you of seeing all the good. Take note of the things your partner does for you, for the family, and for the upkeep of your home. Say “thank you” not just for actions but rediscover intentionally the great things about your partner and express appreciation. Value your partner! When differences come this outlook will impact outcome.
Be a safe place. Assess your own attitude. Are you nagging, being critical, or treating your partner like a child? You can begin to change the atmosphere in your home. Make it a safe place for your partner to share and be, without fear of criticism. You can start the pattern to change.
Accept your partner. Neither of you is perfect. Find some good in your partner every day and be thankful for it. Pray about the challenges. Plan a time to thoughtfully approach concerns with caring solutions in mind. Be open-minded to change. Be willing to be adaptable. Guard against a disapproving attitude. The subtle attitude of disapproval is deadly to your marriage. Pray together. There is infinite wisdom in the advice to pray with and for your spouse. Going to God together with the complexities of life and sincerely and humbly inviting His power in to influence your home is life changing. If you can’t pray together yet, pray for your spouse daily. It will also help keep your own heart soft and depending on God as your help.
T – Talk
Share thoughts and ideas. Share interesting things from your day or your reading. Share your reactions to the things in your day because this is a way to share feelings too. Encourage your partner when he/she shares. Ask questions but don’t “interrogate.”
Listen. If one of you is not feeling “heard,” then communication will eventually shut down. Resentment can filter in. Listen and don’t try to fix. Be interested. Be intentional about building communication that has drifted. There may be unresolved hurts or there may just be a “drifting” into your corners. Listen with ears that hear and eyes that meet. If communication has all but stopped, be patient and do your part to begin sharing and listening again.
Face the drift that may be happening in your marriage and don’t let divorce become your option. Put these steps into practice. Become that change you want to see in your marriage and you will keep drift away and divorce a non-issue.
I think that’s what God had in mind when He introduced marriage. Jesus says in Matthew 19:4-5:
“The Scriptures record that from the beginning God made male and female and said ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’.”
Here's a prayer to put God’s power into action in your home:
Father God, today I invite You into my marriage and into my heart in a fresh way. Thank you that You are the one who gives the power to change our home. Come and change me. Change my attitudes and my actions. Help me to be wise in re-building where we have drifted apart. Help me to be wise in my daily choices. Please restore, renew, and replenish my love and passion within my marriage. Thank you for (name your partner). Turn my partner’s heart toward You and toward me in new ways as well. I ask this with thanksgiving in the powerful name of Jesus, amen.