Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What is getting between you and your spouse?

(Submitted to Xenia-Gazette)
Most couples begin their marriage journey full of optimism, joy a certainty that they will go the distance. Rarely would a couple exchange vows and rings while thinking, “My life is going to be absolutely cruddy from this day forward.”

Marriage was designed to be ongoing. When Jesus replied to a question on divorce from religious authorities, he proclaimed: "Haven't you read . . . that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:4-6 NIV)

The picture of being united in marriage is like two pieces of wood being glued together. One would think there is no way they could ever come apart.

But they do. Not all at once. But gradually, incrementally and almost imperceptibly the two who were joined together experience marital creep, often from a small gap to a vast chasm. Why and how does this happen?

Two friends of ours, Tim and Linda Buttrey, have developed a diagram on The Journey to Disconnectedness. They are “experts” on disconnection, for they have experienced it themselves. After a near fatal extra-marital affair Tim and Linda found healing and restoration, returning to the original design of marriage that includes fidelity, unity and commitment. They founded Restoration Resources (http://www.restorationresources.us/) as an avenue of strengthening marriages and promoting intimacy.

The following stages from The Journey to Disconnectedness illustrate the progression from connection and intimacy to total disconnection and lack of intimacy.

Fatigue – Many demands from work, children, family, finances, health issues, etc. result in things coming between us.

Irritability/Insensitivity – Responses to each other are characterized by yelling, shutting down, criticism, sarcasm and cynicism, resulting in moving against each other.

Aloneness – Lack of physical and emotional closeness, transparency or honesty, fear of rejection and deep loneliness result in moving away from each other.

Arrogance and Alienation – Descending into self-pity, self-absorption and self-seeking results in a mindset of blaming each other.

Adulteries of the heart – Engaging in pornography, flirting, workaholism or fantasizing results in an emotional or mental filling of the void.

Addiction – Engaging in sex, drugs, shopping, food, work, excessive exercise or an external relationship results in a total replacing of the original relationship and intimacy.

Each stage of disconnection is progressively more extreme, carrying increased dangers of actually “burning bridges” behind you. While all married couples can relate to the first two stages of fatigue and irritability, the remedies of acquiring rest and expressing apologies can keep disconnection from progressing through the more advanced stages.

Two other friends of ours, K. Jason and Kelli Krafsky, have just authored Facebook and Your Marriage. With the explosion of Facebook users, especially in the age 40-55 demographic, online flirting and emotional affairs are on the rise. The Krafskys bring wise well-crafted boundaries for couples to implement as Facebook users. The book can be pre-ordered at http://www.fbmarriage.com/.

Would you commit to becoming more aware of what has gotten between you and your spouse? That is the first step. Then seek out resources to help you regain the connection and intimacy you once had. We agree with God that your marriage is worth going the distance.

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