I’ve had times in my marriage that I wanted to leave, times when I wasn’t happy, and times when I wondered what my role was in our marriage.
That being said, we are still together. My husband and I have been married for over 15 years. We have been together for nearly 20 years. Something must be working.
One of the main things that kept me from leaving was to reread my marriage vows. We promised to love and support each other no matter what. In sickness and in health. For richer for poorer. As long as we both shall live or until death us do part…
Remembering the promise I made has given me peace and comfort that our marriage, built on love and mutual respect, will keep on growing and last forever thanks to the Lord’s guidance.
We have been through many ‘phases’ in our marriage. The romantic phase at the beginning. The realisation of the reality and communication required for a successful marriage as we discovered our differences once the rose coloured spectacles of romance were removed. We had children. That one decision changed a great deal for us. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about the two of us. Now there were three, then four, then five of us.
Health became an issue in our marriage. My husband contracted Hepatitis A from a work situation and was very ill in bed for 6 weeks. We weren’t allowed to go near him and all of us had to have injections to prevent us from catching it. He turned yellow and lost 12kg that he didn’t have on him to lose. I moved into a new role as carer. The dynamic in our marriage changed.
He was always exhausted. His liver was affected for a long time after the initial 6 weeks in bed. He became depressed. For years afterwards, we just didn’t communicate effectively, I was tired of caring about his health all the time. Even when he was healthier, something was different. We moved into a new phase of marriage where we drifted along side by side like passing ships. Passion and intimacy disappeared from our relationship.
However, since the first moment we met, we have had a connection neither of us could explain. We have always been best friends. We then developed a strong love for one another. We care deeply for each other. Therefore, I took this change in our level of intimacy to be a sign that our marriage was coming to an end. That he no longer cared for me in the same way that I cared for him.
I panicked because I felt that I had done something wrong. Perhaps I didn’t pick the right partner after all. Perhaps, he doesn’t love me the way I love him.
We fought. We disagreed. We discovered differences that we hadn’t noticed before. I concluded that we must be growing apart. Things just weren’t the same anymore… Perhaps I should leave…
I read lots of books and articles telling me what to do when the flame of romance is no longer present in a relationship. Many offer suggestions on how to rekindle that romance: Making more time for each other, planning more time away, or date nights. I tried, but I didn’t know how to have any kind of meaningful conversation that didn’t end up in us digging up the hurt.
Some of these things worked, most didn’t. I was too embarrassed about my situation to even mention it to my friends. What if I’d failed? How could I talk about my lack of intimacy in my marriage.
But I did talk – actually it sort of burst out one day. Followed rapidly by a flood of tears. My friends did not judge me. They hugged me and let me cry. They told me that they had times like this. That I shouldn’t leave.
I realised that we both had our own journeys, our own path up to that point that needed to be faced in order for us to move forward.
So I took a step back and assessed the situation. I armed myself with as much knowledge as I could about the normal patterns of change in relationships. I stopped beating myself up and actually listened to my husband and looked at how our lives had changed and the roles I needed to play.
I spent too much time in my head imagining all the things that could be wrong with me. I hadn’t stopped to accept that these changes in our marriage were the result of a circumstances mostly beyond my control. We were two unique human beings thrown difficult circumstances, both equipped to handle life differently. Therefore, it was natural that our relationship would go through different stages.
Throughout our marriage, there have been different dimensions of closeness – physical, emotional, and intellectual. It is normal for each of these to wax and wane like the moon. I noticed that even though physical closeness may have decreased, our emotional and intellectual closeness had increased. At other times when we haven’t felt like sharing words, we would just share hugs.
We redefined what ‘intimacy’ meant for us. We both delight in each other as individuals, as companions, as friends and as a result we enjoy a steadier love and a stronger bond.
I read one article which resonated strongly with me and so I put the idea to the test. The article talked about warm hello’s and warm goodbyes. Making the effort and taking the time each morning and night to greet each other warmly. My husband leaves for work and we hug and say goodbye. When he comes home I run to hug him and welcome him home.
It was hard at first. I was resentful. I felt that he didn’t value me anymore. But I learned that this wasn’t the case. He is in a stage of his life where stress is a huge factor and I was adding to that stress. We haven’t ignored the question of intimacy, rather we have started to redefine what it means for us now. We take one step at a time. We now look forward to our warm hellos and goodbyes and miss them when one or the other of us isn’t around.
One thing we both cherish most of all is the promise we made to each other – till death do us part. No matter what obstacles life throws in our path, we are in this together. Sometimes we just need to take a step back and reassess where we were, where we are now and where we are going. We know deep down that our spiritual growth and marriage work hand in hand.
On explaining my situation with my marriage many years ago, my dear friend drew a diagram for me explaining the fundamental relationship between a married couple and God.
She drew a triangle with GOD at the top and then Husband and Wife at the left and right hand corners at the bottom of the triangle. She explained the degree that a couple looks towards God, they will strengthen their marriage. Each person’s journey will not be the same length, or involve the same obstacles. Each regenerates at different rates. But each is inspired by the spiritual growth of the other and in doing so, both grow closer to God.
I have always remembered this diagram at those times when I need to take a step back and reassess. I ask myself what I could be doing better. I pray and I ask for guidance. Together my husband and I read from the Word. We find comfort and closeness in doing so.
As I have come to understand the need for regeneration as an individual and in our marriage, I no longer panic when I notice us growing apart. I have come to understand, through reiteration of the promises we made, that these phases in our marriage are an opportunity to redefine our relationship in a new form that can recapture or even surpass the closeness we had in the past.
I have realised that the level of intimacy in our marriage changes. Sometimes we are closer, sometimes very far apart. This is part of the normal cycle of growth and development – physical, emotional and spiritual. To reach our full potential as human beings and as a couple, we need to be able to balance our needs for closeness and union with times of reflection, where we turn inward to grow and develop as individuals and look to the Lord for guidance, love, and support.
“The qualities of true love are innocence, peace, tranquillity, inmost friendship, complete trust, a mutual desire to help each other. What comes out of this love is blessedness, happiness, delight, pleasure and heavenly joy… It is the nature of love to share with another person, to give joy to another person, and to seek one’s own joy through that endeavor.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Conjugial Love 180)