Karen couldn’t pinpoint when she and her husband started to drift apart, but she knew they were heading toward danger. She remembered how she used to anticipate her husband’s return home from work. Now his arrival seemed like an intrusion.

She used to look forward to talking to him about her day. Now, although they lived side by side peacefully, they existed in different worlds.

Brent and Kylee noticed a similar drifting in their marriage. They knew their relationship wasn’t what they wanted it to be, but they were juggling jobs, kids and church ministry. For the sake of efficiency, they had learned early in marriage to divide and conquer. But that meant household and parenting responsibilities were divided between them, always taking them in different directions. They gradually became less involved in each other’s interests and activities. Even on their date nights, they had no energy left to invest in their relationship.

Distractions can lead to drifting apart

When couples start out together, their marriage is usually their primary focus, but then kids, jobs and household chores begin to compete for their attention. All these distractions pull them from the helm of their marriage, and they drift away from each other. The drift can be so subtle that by the time the couple realizes what’s happening, they are already miles apart.

The subtle effects of marital drift can make couples susceptible to unfaithfulness. For both Karen and Kylee, the increasing distance ultimately led to extramarital affairs. But even among couples who remain faithful, gradual drift steals the joy and harmony of marriage.

How to take back your relationship

All of us experience some drifting at times. The key is to recognize when this begins to happen and to take action. Here are some ways to take back the helm in your relationship:

Don’t view drift as inevitable. Couples often think they have to put their marriages on the back burner because of the busyness of their particular season of life. But the truth is, you cannot afford to put your marriage on hold. It is twice as hard to rebuild a neglected relationship than to keep it strong in the first place. Carefully nurture your relationship – in every season of life.

Make time. When you see your marriage suffering, ruthlessly cut back on other commitments to give your marriage the dedication it needs. Having the obligatory date night is not enough if you and your spouse are too tired from your hectic schedules to make it a meaningful time together.

Overlap your lives. Creatively find ways to be a part of your spouse’s world as much as you can. Meet for lunch, accompany your spouse on an errand or do household chores together. Re-establish the pursuit of common interests, whether it’s reading a book together or playing tennis. Remember the great lengths you went to in order to be together when you were dating; find ways to do that again.

Understand differences. Not appreciating the differences between men and women in general and between you and your spouse in particular can lead to drift. Something that doesn’t feel important to you may be critical to your spouse and, thus, to your marriage.

End negative cycles. If you sense that something, no matter how small, is not quite right in your relationship, don’t wait until it becomes a big problem before you talk about it. You might just say, "Honey, are you feeling frustrated with me? I just don’t feel as though we are relating very well." Sometimes a comment like this will root out small resentments that your spouse wasn’t consciously aware of.

Focus on fixing yourself. It is easy to find faults in your mate and play the "if only" game. But this feeds discontentment, self-righteousness and unforgiveness. Determine to be the best husband or wife you can be regardless of your spouse’s faults. Many times you will find that this attitude is contagious, and nothing is better for getting a marriage back on course than two committed spouses working to be the best they can be.

Teresa Turner Vining lives in the Kansas City, Kansas area, where she tries to avoid resorting to “The List.”

© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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