If your spouse feels like you don’t prioritize your relationship, you will stop being a priority to your spouse and that could result in losing your spouse
Whatever you prioritize in life you can keep. Many people are planning to prioritize their marriage–once the kids are raised, once they get their promotion, once they finish their college degree, and so forth.
Many people who put off prioritizing their marriage like this will no longer have a marriage by the time they finish what they are prioritizing now.
The fact is that marriage relationships can not be put on hold for very long. People tend to know this when they are single. If you stop dating someone, they will feel like you are not emotionally invested in the relationship. They will ask what is wrong and if you don’t ramp up your attention again, they will break up with you.
Whatever is true for single relationships is true for married relationships as well. This is because getting married doesn’t change the essence of who we are or what we need.
If you stop dating or spending time with your spouse, no matter what your reason, your spouse will fall out of love with you. Your spouse will then try to fix your relationship and if you don’t ramp up your affection and keep it up, your spouse will give up on your relationship.
The time from falling out of love until separation or filing for divorce is typically two years. It is much less if this happened to a spouse in a previous relationship.
Do you currently have the right priorities? Are those priorities reflected by what you do? A priority which is in your mind, but not your behavior is useless. It is similar to the Bible when it says faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Claiming a love for God without showing a love for God is evidence of a lack of love for God. God isn’t fooled by that and your spouse won’t be fooled if you are not showing the love you believe you have.
Evaluate your priorities
Is there anything more important to you in this world than your relationships? Perhaps having enough money? Perhaps having good health? Perhaps living longer and doing what you want to do? If it is money, how much will you enjoy your money if your wife or husband does not love you, if your children no longer contact you, if you have no friends to share your time with?
If it is health, how will you enjoy your health if you don’t have good relationships? What good is it to really live longer if you have no one to share your life with? How fun will that next toy really be without your spouse? Or that next trip? Can you really enjoy your life, can you really find meaning, can you really feel that life is worth living without close relationships?
If something is more important to you than your relationship, then my guess is that your marriage has problems. I recommend you either work on them or end your marriage. Maintaining a bad marriage is not a Christian idea and is even more foolish for everyone else.
People like to say God hates divorce, which is true, but often disregard God’s command to love one’s spouse. If you really care about what God hates, you will love both Him and your spouse and behave in loving ways. (If you don’t know what those are, there is a long list of them in I Corinthians chapter 13).
Make your relationship a priority to have more meaning in your life
It is my life’s work to help people to have good relationships. To help people put the most effort into what matters the most – loving and being loved by others. To get the most loving bang for their buck.
Monday through Friday I work with people who have come to the point in their relationships, unexpectedly and surprisingly, where they find that their spouse is rejecting them. Almost all of the time, they have put time and effort into things that seemed important – to the neglect of their spouse.
They made the assumption that their spouses loved them unconditionally. That was a very destructive belief because it took away their fear of losing their spouse and it relieved them of responsibility to maintain their relationship.
The belief in unconditional love is another false teaching of our times that leads to the breakdown of the family. The truth is that you have to maintain your relationships or you will not be loved anymore. You will be rejected.
The good news is that you can learn how to prioritize your relationships and build them.
Understand how your spouse identifies your priorities
Let’s look at a few examples to see how easy it is to tell what someone’s priorities are.
A wife spends her free time with the children, refuses to go out with her husband because of the children, and sides with her children against her husband. Is her priority her husband or her children? If you said her children, you are right. One day she will have her children and another woman will have her husband.
A husband spends most of his time at work, he comes home and does solo activities. On his days off he goes out with his friends. He occasionally goes out with his wife, but spends a lot of that time using his phone. Is his priority his wife, his job, or himself? If you said himself, you are right. One day he will be looking for another wife.
A couple work together and spend all of their conversation time talking about work. They have sex, but have given up dating and doing one on one activities. Is their priority their work or their relationship? If you said their work, you are right. They will eventually divorce, but stay friends in order to keep the business going.
If someone was to write a description of what you do and how you interact with your spouse, what would they conclude is your priority?
The three key behaviors for maintaining a good marriage
I ask my clients during their first session about three things they have or have not done over the past two years with their spouse. Their answers tell me about the amount of emotional connection in their relationship.
The three indicators of good emotional connection in a marriage are:
- Weekly dating
- Daily time together
- A sexual relationship they and their spouse both enjoy
All three are needed to maintain the marriage. People may have have had understandable reasons for not doing all three, but the reasons really don’t change the result.
Good reasons do not reduce the requirements for care.
I am a gardener and I also have health issues. But, no matter my health, if I don’t take care of my garden, it will become sick, overgrown with weeds and pests, and then die. I need to drag myself to my garden sometimes, even if I have pain or am weak, in order to keep it doing well. If I don’t, I just have to let it go and give up on it. And, I’m not willing to do that. And, my marriage is more important to me than my garden. I will do whatever I have to do to keep it going well.
That is the kind of mentality that is required for having children, having friends, having good family relationships, and for having a good marriage. You need to do whatever is needed, no matter how hard it is financially, physically, or emotionally, to tend to your relationship.
Doing these things requires not only the right values, but also determination and willpower. You have to take the time and show the love, even if you don’t feel like it, and even if there are pressing things you need to do. You have to. It is not an option, if you want to maintain your marriage.
Many things you can do to prioritize, and show you prioritize, your spouse
I am believer in overlearning. In school, I always used more textbooks than the professor required. I got them from the library. I learned more than was required. When I do something, I have a plus one mentality–I do what is required, plus a little extra. I recommend that you have a plus one mentality toward your marriage, or even a plus two or plus three.
Here are some things you can do:
- Listen to your spouse without fixing your spouse
- Make your spouse feel intelligent, without training your spouse to do better
- Make your spouse feel attractive, without giving beauty advice
- Make your spouse feel capable, even when he or she does things poorly
- Every face to face interaction use soft eyes, a soft voice, and a nice smile
- Treat your spouse like you would treat a friend
- Stop whatever you are doing when approached by your spouse
- Point out your spouse’s accomplishments in social interactions with others
- Invite your spouse out at least as often as you go out with others
- Make your spouse right by sincerely agreeing, even when your spouse says something you don’t like
- Learn more about your spouse’s interests, even if they don’t interest you now
- Always be on your spouse’s side, not your kids, parents, or others
- Plan events and activities far in advance that you will do with your spouse
- Talk to your spouse better than you talk to patients, clients, or customers
- Make sure you are loving and honest rather than open and honest with your spouse
- Thank God every day for the benefits your spouse brings to you
- Ask God to help you love your spouse more, despite whatever your spouse says or does
- Learn how to be a good sexual and romantic partner
I feel like I could go on and on with this list and list a thousand things, but this is a good start. Once you develop a loving mentality and learn to enjoy making your spouse feel loved, you will discover other things on your own.
Two caveats for expressing your love
Most of my clients, whose relationships are already distant, want to do all of these things but will be rejected if they try. They need to follow two important guidelines to build their relationship back to the point where they can:
- Do not get ahead of your spouse’s feelings for you, and
- Do not give your spouse more than he or she wants.
Doing either of these things will trigger resistance, distance, and rejection.
I grow plants from seed. When they sprout, they are tiny. They need just a small amount of water, but regularly, until they grow bigger. Then I will provide water and nutrients, according to their needs. So it is when we just meet someone. We have a little contact, are friendly, and validate the other person. As our relationship grows, we express more feelings and do more together.
When your relationship has become distant, your spouse won’t want much, if any, attention from you. You must just start with the soft eyes, soft voice, and friendly behavior. And you give just a little. As you slowly and gently nurture your relationship, not expressing feelings more intense than your spouse, your relationship will start to grow stronger.
Some free help for you
Prioritizing is really about putting the right actions in the right order and having balance. It will go better if you have good relationship skills. I have a free download on my website that will help you get started with five methods for helping your spouse to enjoy talking with you again. That would be a good place to start if you have been having the wrong priorities. And, if you need a little extra help moving your relationship forward again, I would be happy to work with you one on one.