Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. —Ephesians 5:21
Most marriages that die do so in small increments. It’s not always the big things like adultery or addictive behaviors. Sometimes we kill relationships by deciding to pay more attention to the Internet, TV, our careers, or even our children than to each other. Time together is spent talking about the kids’ homework or insurance or home improvements—subjects that usually don’t bring couples together.
Connections die if we don’t consider our partner with the big decisions, and we deal a relational death blow if we don’t focus on our spouse and have regular date nights, for example. If marriage is important, then we must pay attention to the marriage and take time to nurture it. When Cathy and I looked at dry spells in our relationship, it was almost always when we began to neglect the basics of connection in our marriage.
One of our friends and mentors for marriage was the late Dr. Dave Stoop.* At a marriage conference we participated in, Dave said, “Love is a continual process of seeking and losing emotional connection and then reaching out and finding it again. It is a living thing, and if we don’t attend to it, it begins to atrophy.” Nobody told us before marriage that it was going to take so much work to keep the fires burning in our relationship. Creating connectivity in a relationship is so much more about emotional connection than sexuality. Emotional connection centers on trust and security. Trust and security come from being willing to invest time and energy to your relationship.
We have found that couples who are connected tend to talk about their relationship. They bring up both the positives and the negatives. They give up the need to be right all the time. Trust comes from yielding to the other person’s feelings and thoughts. Connection also comes from nonsexual touch. Some authorities say it takes eight to ten meaningful touches a day for a couple to thrive. It’s often the little things that bring connection.
Too many couples ignore nurturing their relationship. They drift from the basics, and then one day they realize they have lost the connection. Remember that your love relationship is an active, living organism that needs to be fed and nurtured to stay healthy. As a physical therapist once told us, “I can tell you what to do to bring strength and health to your life; I can’t do the work to make it happen for you.”
• How would you finish this sentence? “I feel most connected to you when you ______________________.”
• And this one: “I feel least connected to you when _________________________.”
• What can we do to nurture our relationship more effectively?
A STEP CLOSER:
A PRESCRIPTION FOR CONNECTION
Together write out a prescription for closeness and connection. What can you do as a couple to nurture more connection in your relationship? As you follow your prescription, review how you are doing on a regular basis and adjust accordingly. Most people know what their marriage needs, but they don’t always make the necessary changes.
(Excerpted from Closer: 52 Devotionals to Draw Couples Together by Jim and Cathy Burns; Bethany House, 2009.)
*Dr. Dave Stoop was a marriage and family therapist who, along with his wife, Jan, wrote several great marriage books, such as Forgiving the Unforgivable; Just Us: Finding Intimacy with God and Each Other; and When Couples Pray Together: Creating Intimacy and Spiritual Wholeness.