“Rarely does anything get properly cooked on the back burner.” Susan Gale
Back when most of us got married, it felt like some sort of an accomplishment. We checked that box with a buoyant optimism and then quickly got busy with the other important life goals and building a life together.
We build a home together and buy new furniture.
We get a pet.
We often operate on stress and fumes as we achieve at work, reaching for greater and greater success each in our own way.
At some point, we begin creating a family together and bring new life into the world. We slowly, but surely, pour all of our time, attention, love and energy into caring for this little human being. Midnight feedings lead to kindergarten and play dates, which then leads to elementary school and birthday parties. The kids need your help running them between multiple activities, meeting increasingly higher expectations at school and remaining safe in a hyper-connected and sometimes unsafe world.
Maintaining all of that, on any given day, leaves very little energy remaining for nurturing the relationship with our spouse. We’re exhausted at the end of most days, falling asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.
We unconsciously stopped investing in the marriage.
We stop making deposits.
We stop courting one another.
And we placed the relationship essentially on a shelf off to the side, while our time, love and energy is funneled elsewhere – naively assuming the marriage would take care of itself.
We’ve been taught that love is enough to sustain the marriage. But love alone without any real investment or attention causes a slow, steady deterioration of our connection to one another. It’s so subtle that it goes unnoticed for years until it becomes undeniable.
If you’re ten years in with young children, you might be able to just take the marriage off the shelf, dust it off and place it in the center of the room in order to make the relationship feel good again.
However, if you’re 20-30 years into the marriage and the kids are all but grown, it’s going to take more than a little dusting off. It’s going to take new ways of being together and relating to one another. It’s going to take some compassion, trust and tenderness. It’s going to take some energy and focused loving attention.
Regardless, nothing thrives on its own with no attention or effort.
If your marriage has been placed on a shelf, it’s time to take it down and show it some love.