The early years of marriage can be so exciting! You are on a new adventure with your spouse, learning each other, devoting your time to one another. The first year is full of new experiences and goals as you set out to create traditions for your new family. Your extended family is generally patient during the first year as you learn to make room for both sides of the family. You are still on the high of new love and the little irritations do not yet get under your skin.
As time passes by the high of new love starts to fade and the reality of life sets in. Responsibilities steal your time for romance. The toll of balancing work, friendships, family relationships, and children puts a strain on every relationship. Eventually, you find yourself in a slump. You realize that the person who once made your heart flutter now makes you feel sick to your stomach. The irritating habits stand out and grate on your nerves. You recognize that there is nothing new to the conversations you have with your spouse. There are no new stories, nothing new to discover. Things start feeling dull. When you realize that the love you once felt has dwindled and you are no longer satisfied with your marriage. What do you do? Is it time for a divorce?
Feelings of dissatisfaction in your marriage can be scary. Most people fear staying in the marriage and feeling this dissatisfaction for the rest of their lives. I believe this situation often prompts divorce. I want to encourage you to hang on for a while. Life is a roller coaster. It is full of ups and downs, leaving you in a tailspin. It is normal to experience periods of dissatisfaction in your marriage. It is not cause for concern, but a call to action. It can change, but it requires work.
One reason the marriage drifts into a slump is when the couple is distracted and does not make time for each other. This could include having children who require constant care, a demanding job, or too many hobbies. It could be anything. If there is not a deliberate decision to make time for the marriage, the marriage will suffer. It can take a while for the emotional toll to hit, but it will come if the marriage is neglected.
Another reason the marriage can hit a slump is due to disagreements on how to live life. Are you and your spouse at odds about how to spend/save money? Do you have a different opinion on religion, politics, or parenting styles? These need issues definitely need to be addressed to find common ground. It is possible, but it takes work!
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The main point it would like to make is that emotions cannot be trusted. You may feel angry, rejected, and alone. You may feel like your spouse is your enemy and that the relationship is beyond hope. I encourage you to hang in there. Emotions can change almost instantly. Be willing to devote some time to address the problems and see what happens. Life has a normal ebb and flow, many ups and downs. Marriage is no different. So you’ve hit a slump, it’s OK.
Couples who persevere past the slump realize that their relationship has become stronger. They develop a deeper sense of trust. Rather than the thrill of new discovery that you felt early in the relationship, the deep knowing of your spouse becomes a comfort. Instead of talking about past stories and learning about each other as you did early in the relationship, you recognize that all the stories are now about your life together. You start to find comfort in the predictable nature of your relationship because you know you can depend on your spouse to always be there. Even sex becomes better with time because fear is gone. Over time you no longer worry about your insecurities because everything in the relationship has been exposed.
There are steps you can take to renew the love and passion in your relationship. Here are some things to try:
· Make consistent time to spend with your spouse. I would recommend no less than 30 minutes per day without distraction so you can talk.
· Go on a date at least once per week. If you have young children or are tight on finances you may have to be creative, but you can make it work!
· Get physical. Skin-on-skin contact will cause your body to release oxytocin, the bonding hormone. Without it, you will continue to feel emotionally separated from your spouse.
· Make a plan to address different values. Most premarital workbooks will include how to discuss finances, communication, work/life balance, parenting, etc. If that is not enough, consider seeing a marriage therapist.
· Readdress expectations of one another. When a couple first marries, they will usually figure out how to divide responsibilities. As time goes on roles change which leads to a need to readdress expectations. The addition of children makes this a frequent necessity. As the children grow they can start to take on some of the responsibilities.
· Seek counsel from an older, trusted couple. Find a couple that you respect and admire and ask for their help. They will be able to impart wisdom and encouragement. I’m sure they will also testify to ups and downs in the marriage and to hold on for the ride!