The woman on the other line exploded Diana’s life with one question: “Did you know your husband is about to meet my daughter for a rendezvous at the next NASCAR race?”
When Ken and Diana’s daughter made some horrible decisions, Diana made their teenager her number one priority. Then the computers went down at Diana’s workplace. As the IT manager, she made getting the computer network back up her second priority. She stayed at the office late and brought work home.
Ken was barely hanging in there at priority number three.
You can understand Diana’s mindset. When your child is in crisis, it’s not easy to think about marital romance. When everyone at your workplace is begging you to fix a problem because work has all but stopped until you do, it’s hard to see keeping your marriage intimate as similarly urgent.
And, for a while, the drift didn’t seem to come with any particular consequences, or so Diana thought until that phone call shocked her back to reality. When she confronted her husband, he confessed that he and this other woman hadn’t ever actually met, but they were planning to. He said he still “cared” about Diana but didn’t “love” her anymore.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to predict this one: extreme pressures at work, serious problems with a child, no sex, and little communication. Of course one partner began to feel as if he were no longer in love. “If you don’t water your plants,” Diana admits in retrospect, “eventually they’re going to die; you have to nourish your relationship.”
Diana owned up to her busyness, but then called Ken back to the covenant of marriage, reminding him that, while she shouldn’t have ignored him as much as she had, the last thing their daughter needed was the additional stress of a broken home. She was willing to start moving back toward him if he would move back toward her.
Her courage, grace, and winsomeness won Ken over. But Diana knew they had to make some changes to stay together. One of the things they had allowed to go wrong was a slow drift when it came to entertainment. For years, Diana went off to watch romantic comedies, while Ken watched NASCAR races. Ken thought the romantic comedies were too predictable; Diana never understood the excitement of watching cars drive in circles and occasionally stop for gas. Though they didn’t mind having separate hobbies, over time they began feeling lonely. When Ken found another woman online who was as enthusiastic a NASCAR fan as he was, an emotional affair erupted.
Ken and Diana’s story typifies what happens to so many couples: they never plan to grow apart, but they stop making plans to keep growing together. At first the drift is slow, almost imperceptible; but given enough time, the slide can become a fatal relational avalanche.
Life with Lisa
Our kids have often remarked that Lisa and I don’t seem all that “compatible.” We don’t like the same foods. We have different definitions of “vacation.” But what outweighs these differences by a ton is the fact that we are as committed as a couple can be to seeking first the kingdom of God. We share articles on various issues, pass around books, talk about sermons and podcasts.
When it comes to entertainment, we’ve settled on walks and bike riding, usually (on vacation) fit around my running. And we’ve developed over the years into finding television series we can watch together. We may watch more television individually than as a couple since Lisa doesn’t do sports and I have a definite limit about how much HGTV (approximately 30 minutes) I can consume without losing my mind, but we make sure that several nights a week we’re watching something together.
Don’t focus on where you don’t match up very well. Find areas where you can and build on those.
A Different Marriage to the Same Person
Instead of signing divorce papers, Ken and Diana took a twentieth anniversary trip to Vancouver and Victoria British Columbia to see the sights and the whales. They toured Butchart Gardens, had high tea with “the best strawberry preserves,” drove up the coast and saw the tide pools, and renewed their love.
They realized that they still loved each other; they just suffered a relationship that had been starved. They learned the secret that just because you’re dissatisfied with a disconnected marriage doesn’t mean you won’t be satisfied with a marriage to the same person when you’re in a connected marriage.
Diana, despite herself, became a NASCAR fan, with her own favorite driver. And Ken agreed to join Diana for some weekend movies, even making the popcorn. They found out that marriage is much better when you enjoy each other’s “fun.”
If you truly love and cherish your spouse, you can enjoy the pleasure they get out of something in a way that gives you pleasure. I’m not a big fan of the sand, but Lisa is so happy walking on the beach that it makes me happy to walk beside her.
Before you change your spouse, try changing your marriage. Ask yourself if your daily schedule and focus is regularly bringing the two of you together or whether you’re allowing life to pull you apart. If you can’t remember the last time you laughed together or made love together, you’re already in the midst of serious drift. Lonely people in lonely marriages make bad decisions they often wouldn’t make otherwise.
Either we make plans to grow together, or we will “accidentally” grow apart.
This blog post is based on Gary’s book Loving Him Well: Practical Advice on Influencing Your Husband.