“Our Journey Back to Love”
For years Jack and Gloria felt like they ran full speed ahead week in and week out in trying to keep up with the schedule of having four children. Three of the children were in sports, and the fourth and youngest excelled in the marching band at school. Jack worked full-time at the office and part-time three evenings each week to make ends meet. Gloria was a stay-at-home mom who was very involved as a volunteer at their local church and the hospital in their community.
What two different personalities Jack and Gloria possessed! Gloria was the eternal procrastinator who was ‘going to get around to’ finishing more projects than imaginable. Jack was just the opposite. Organized and driven, Jack became more and more aggravated at Gloria’s disorganization. Tension grew as the very organized came up against the very disorganized in the daily operations of the house and marriage. In spite of the tension, nothing changed except that Jack and Gloria threw themselves into work and volunteering as well as parenting.
Years flew by. Their children grew older, and the schedules became more hectic. Jack and Gloria focused less and less on their marriage. The problems became less talked about, and eventually the conversation nearly stopped entirely. The hurts became masked as they talked less and less with each other. Slowly but surely they became little more than housemates. They shared the same mailing address. They ate at the same supper table. They sat in the same pew at church. But they grew more and more distant.
Married couples are involved in building projects. It’s not just Jack and Gloria. You and your spouse daily either build a bridge that connects you more deeply or a wall that isolates you. Bridges develop closeness in marriages. Walls push couples apart. When you think of it, walls are great for prisons but not good for marriages. Jack and Gloria built walls over the years. Maybe you and your spouse have built a few walls yourselves.
Here are some of the causes for walls being built in marriages.
- Expectations that are not realized. Whether reasonable or unreasonable, an unmet expectation will result in a wall that is built, pushing spouses apart.
- Promises that are not fulfilled. This destroys trust, which is essential in good marriages.
- Conflicts not resolved. This leads to bitterness and resentment which are poisonous dangers in any relationship.
- Schedules that are not wisely managed. When there is little to no time to invest in each other, couples must perceive that their marriage is in serious trouble.
- Actions which are unthoughtful. These hurts quickly push spouses apart.
- Communication that is hurtful. The old adage that says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” is so untrue. Hurtful words are wounds which take a long time for the spouse to get over.
Jack and Gloria lived for over thirty-two years with walls slowly being built. Then it happened one day! Walking back to their car after leaving their youngest child in the dorm at college, both Jack and Gloria felt a sense of isolation. The drive back home was miserable. Most of it was spent in silence. They had been married for decades, and now they were empty-nesters. They didn’t have anything to talk about. Empty-nesting was supposed to be so wonderful, but they didn’t even know each other.
Two nights after the miserable drive home, Jack and Gloria sat in their family room and started to talk. “What has happened to us?” Gloria asked Jack quietly. “To be honest, while you are my husband, I don’t know you. In fact, I don’t know if I even like you or not,” she said as she began to sob. “I never feel like I live up to your expectations,” she continued. “I know that this is not how the Lord wants us to live,” Gloria spoke softly.
“I don’t want to be a stranger to you,” Jack responded, “but that is just how I feel right now. You are a stranger to me as well. Who are you even?” Jack asked. The tone in his voice came out so humorously that Gloria stopped crying and slowly but surely started to chuckle. Jack laughed at her chuckling at him, and she laughed at him laughing at her.
“Let’s get to know each other again. We used to love each other,” Gloria said as she came over to where he was sitting and took his hand. “I mean, we really loved each other. When did we stop, or at least when did we begin to stop?” she continued.
“I’m not sure, but I have a feeling it started a long time ago, Honey,” Jack said quietly. “I don’t want to be a stranger to you. I really do want to start over. I guess it’s kind of like taking a journey back to loving you again,” he said thoughtfully.
That night was the start of the journey back to love. They prayed and invited the Lord Jesus to step into their marriage. They confessed to Him that they had practically ignored Him over much of their married life. They promised Him as well as each other that things were going to change.
Within the next several weeks, Jack and Gloria made an appointment with their pastor. He encouraged them with his words and prayer. Over the next months, Jack and Gloria began to consistently read the Bible together. They prayed and asked the Lord to help them to grow in their love once again. The day came when their church had a family conference that they gladly attended. The speaker gave the couples the challenge to reach out to the other and to remember the eight things that they could do to connect with their spouses.
1. Connect by touching in ways that are reserved only for you and your spouse. Be deliberate in physically connecting, such as holding hands, hugging for longer periods of time instead of the quick hardly-hugging-at-all embraces, and kisses that are more than a quick peck on the lips. Don’t let intimacy become a thing of the past. If there is difficulty in this area, speak with your pastor about it. He may recommend that you seek medical help. On the other hand he will offer good spiritual counsel. Take a moment to read “They All Moved Out—What Now?” in this same section of my website.
2. Connect by talking with your spouse. Speak in ways that communicate the value and worth of your spouse and the appreciation you have for your spouse as well as marriage. Reconnect each day by talking about the details of the day. Talk about things that may sound very unimportant. Of course talk through important situations, discussing options before making significant decisions, and be on guard when anger begins to grow. Volume and tone of words can be very harmful.
3. Connect by remembering the little things that you can do which will demonstrate to your spouse that he or she is on your mind. These don’t have to be big, expensive, or flashy. It may be a phone call, an email, or a note that your spouse will find which conveys that your spouse is important to you.
4. Connect by watching how thoughtfulness goes a long way to building bridges in marriages. These acts of thoughtfulness are such an encouragement in growing closer to each other.
5. Connecting by sharing moments together is a precious gift. This is how you give yourself to your spouse. One of the wonderful things in marriage is that sometimes neither of the spouses will be talking, but being together and enjoying each other’s company is a great bridge-builder.
6. Connect by making memories together in shared activities, secrets communicated, and the things that will be significant to you and your spouse which will cement your relationship into a permanent bond.
7. Connect by blessing your spouse with little surprises that demonstrate the freshness of your relationship and love. Christ blesses His people by the things He says and the things He does. What a good pattern for you and your spouse.
8. Connect by reminding your spouse often of your love, which is not only a wise thing to do, it is the Biblical thing to do. It is what the Lord Jesus would have you to do.
For Jack and Gloria, it was a journey to return to the love they once enjoyed, but it was well worth it. They are glad that both sensed the walls and both started to build the bridges. How about you and your spouse? Are you growing closer and becoming better friends now that you are in the empty-nest era?