By: Misty Smith
Why do we get married? Why do we stay married?
Girl meets boy. Girl finds boy attractive. Girl and boy date. Girl and boy fall in love. Girl and boy become husband and wife. Girl and boy have children. Then what? Life gets busy….really busy!!! Jobs, kids, bills, dance lessons, soccer practice, responsibilities…ugh! Girl and boy grow apart without even realizing it has happened. They once spent all of their time together. They kissed, they hugged, they partied, and they had sex…not just the “once a week (or month) obligatory sex,” they had the “all-in, mind-blowing, all-night sex!” When did THAT stop?! 5 years in, 10 years in, after kids? I don’t even think most people realize it is happening until they are there, and, unfortunately, it might be too late.
So what do you do when it IS too late? Do you stay for the sake of the kids? Do you stay because you have no other choice? Do you stay because it’s “complicated”? Do you choose to endure the passionless, uninspiring relationship you call your marriage? If you make this choice due to convenience, does your spouse know? Are you both making the choice of convenience together, or is one half of the partnership still laying their heart on the line and hoping for reciprocation? If you are choosing to stay in a marriage due to convenience, where is the harm in trying to find that love again?
I know this article is FULL of questions, but this is all I can do right now…ask questions. I have seen so many people lately who fall into this situation, and all I can do is ask these questions. I do believe that a “marriage of convenience” can be the best thing in many situations. If it is beneficial to the kids’ well-being, if the parties can function as friends only, and if the stability of the home can be maintained, then this “marriage of convenience” may actually be a good idea. There is a HUGE problem with this though…the lack of passion and true love that one or both may be able to find elsewhere if not in the “marriage of convenience.” Is it possible to be in a loveless relationship forever, or is it better to cut your losses, and find the new love of your life? Then one might ask themselves the question, “Is this as good as it gets?” As I speak to these couples both personally and professionally, my heart breaks for them. The idea that they have fallen so far from the roots of their relationship, and have let the mighty oak tree fall in the forest is very sad to me. But is it too late to stop that mighty oak from falling? Can you water those roots and revive the tree? If you are going to stay in the relationship, what’s the harm in at least trying to make things better? What’s the worst that could happen…things stay the same???
While the options may lead you in one direction or the other, is it possible to change the situation and better your marriage? Over the years I have seen couples succeed at rekindling the fire, but all too often I seem them let the fire burn out because they just don’t try. Much of the time, it is a case of too little too late. For the successful couples, it comes down to a positive attitude. Love is a feeling, but love is also a choice. The successful couples choose to make a “good faith effort,” and they really put forth 110%. They aren’t out there searching for greener pastures because this man/woman WAS the greenest pasture when they committed themselves to the marriage, and quite frankly.. the grass isn’t always greener on the other side! If you find yourself having lost that “loving feeling,” try “starting over.” Girl meets boy. Girl and boy date each other again. This is one of the most common mistakes that girl and boy make when they get married. They stop dating. They stop trying to impress one another. They live in the same house, and there are so many things that we do as “roommates” that we did not do during the dating process that are JUST NOT SEXY! Be romantic. Get a sitter. I have seen people in marital crisis who haven’t had a night away from their kids in 1, 3, 5, 10 years -since the first child was born, and then they are wondering why they aren’t “in love” anymore. Of course you’re not, girl and boy had kids and decided that parenting was the most important thing in their lives, or at least one of them did. Guess what? IT IS!!! However, those beautiful little babies that girl and boy made are going to suffer a lot more when they are splitting time and holidays than they would from their parents taking a couple of romantic weekend getaways each year and having a date night once a month or even once a week.
Intimacy is almost always necessary for couples to really keep that “in love” kind of feeling. It creates a connection that separates you from the “roommate” category. So, if you think it is worth trying to save, here are some suggestions I have. Girl and boy need to hold hands more often. Girl and boy might try putting kids to bed early and snuggling on the couch with a movie and not with their smart-phones. Girl and boy definitely need to start kissing every day. I can’t remember where I heard it, but I like it—what happens in the first four minutes that you and your spouse see one another in the afternoon sets the tone for the night. If you walk in and start griping, it’s probably going to be a bad night. If you walk in and kiss your spouse passionately (even if you are not in the mood), you will most likely have a much better evening. SEX…girl and boy actually need to have it and maybe more than once a month!!! I know this is going to sound a little harsh, but, if you think that sex isn’t important to your relationship as a couple, expect that your partner will probably be getting that need met by someone else at some point in time. Priorities. Think about them!
Do you have any amazing ideas for rekindling that in-love feeling when things seem completely hopeless?
About this column: Please be aware that this column potentially addresses sensitive issues that might, at times, be considered offensive. Feel free to send your relationship-related questions to my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be aware that email is not a secure method of transmitting personal information so it’s best to keep your questions general. If your question is featured in the column, your name and email will not be published. Submitting a question does not constitute a professional relationship in any way, and this column is not meant to substitute for face-to-face therapy. If you feel you’re doing the best you can and still need help, it may be time to seek counseling services from a professional. You may also join in on the conversations over on her Facebook page.
Misty Smith, Ph.D. is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She owns a private practice, Smith Counseling Services, Inc. She obtained her Master’s degree in Counseling from Jacksonville State University, an Educational Specialist degree from The University of Alabama, and her Doctorate in Counselor Education from Mississippi State University. She provides counseling services in the following areas: couples/marriage, family, stress management, employee assistance services, time management, divorce, and other major life changes. She generally focuses on solution-focused brief therapy, as well as, behavioral and cognitive-behavioral techniques, but feels a flexible approach to therapy is necessary because all people are different. She is a wife of 10 years and a mom to a 5 year-old daughter, a 3 year-old son, a 19 year-old step-son, a 16 year-old step-daughter, and a 20 year-old Russian exchange daughter.