Roommate or Spouse?

Just a heads up: This is not a discussion on should romantic partners live together or not. Instead, this is for any married couple that at some point has felt like they have a roommate instead of a spouse. First of all, it happens to us all. Secondly, it doesn’t have to be like that!

Falling into Roommates

We all have a great story about how we fell in love with our spouse. But the story we don’t want to share is how we slid into being roommates. Over time life can become so routine that we can feel like we live with a roommate instead of a spouse. Conversations are focused around schedules and to do’s instead of hopes and dreams. The spark has dwindled, the butterflies are gone. Date nights keep getting pushed back and rescheduled. You lay in bed as you each do your own thing, in your own world, by yourself with a roommate who happens to sleep next to you. This describes every marriage at some point…so how do you get a spouse instead of a roommate?

Pursue

While dating…the game is on! It is a game of pursuit! Everyone loves being and feeling pursued. We like it when others ask us questions and are interested in what we are interested in. The pursuit makes us feel valued, needed and loved. But once you get settled into married life the pursuit tends to become less and less. The lack of pursuit tends to be the common denominator is  all “roommate marriages”. The rest of this article will unpack how to continually pursue your spouse. Pursue your spouse often and in different ways: through the questions you ask, the way you act, the way you touch, and even the way you look. Do your words and actions say, “I am pursuing you; I love you, I want you, I need you” or do they say “I already have you, so it doesn’t really matter”? You are never married long enough to stop pursuing your spouse!

Work Hard

Dating could also be called, “the hunt”. It’s during the dating stage of a relationship that the guys are trying to capture and ladies are trying to be caught (yes, this sounds somewhat crass and primal but is generally true). The point here is both are TRYING! Guys go out of their way to be on their best behavior and to play the romantic as they sneak up on their prey while ladies bat their eyes and seem to be interested in anything and everything her pursuer says and does! We all do a little fibbing and masquerading while dating. But once a dating couple becomes a married couple…the hunt is over, the excitement and thrill of the hunt is done. Guards are let down, the facade is dropped and the effort decreases exponentially…maybe not at first but over time. We think, “why try anymore, I already have him/her.” The reality is marriage is work, hard work! Without putting the necessary work into your marriage you will undoubtedly sink into a marriage that feels and looks more like two roommates that share a bed. Working on your marriage means the hunt is still on! You go out of your way for her, you listen intently, you share ideas, dreams and goals, you make time for dates and open the door for her. Working hard means you go back to dating…except this time it takes even more effort, time, and intentionality.

Make Time

One of the top problems I hear from couples regarding their marriage is time, or lack of time. “We just don’t have time”, “life gets too busy”, “there are so many other things that need to get done”. While I am sure these are all true, I cannot think of anything else (other than your relationship with God) that would be more important or worth spending your time on than your spouse! Andy Stanley wrote a book titled, “Choosing to Cheat” in which he asks, “when it comes to your time who do you end up cheating?” We only have so much time in a day, week, month and year…and so who gets the short end of the stick at the end of the day? Do you give more to work and therefore cheat your spouse and family? Because we cannot just add more time to our day we are left with a choice…who or what will get our time, whether it be quality or quantity of time. Roommates do not have a priority to make time for one another. Roommates are there when they are there, no priority or promises given. In a marriage, we must make time for one another.

Side note on making time for one another: it will be vital that the time you give your spouse be the kind of time that they need! For example, does your spouse need your undivided time, time spent talking together, time spent being active together, etc…What kind of time and how much time does your spouse need?

Not I

Selfishness extinguishes the flame in a marriage. Does it feel like the spark just isn’t there anymore? Has that once burning flame of love dwindled to smoldering ashes? Most likely, acts of selfishness have slowly been suffocating your romance and love. Love means to “meet needs”. To love your spouse means to “meet the needs of your spouse”. As I mentioned previously, that is somewhat natural in the dating stage of a relationship but tends to change over time in marriage. Reignite the romance and love in your relationship by humbly and selflessly loving your spouse as you probably once did. Being humble isn’t the idea of thinking less of yourself, it’s not thinking of yourself at all! Roommates have no real obligation to one another than a few respectful rules and paying rent on time. Going out of your way for a roommate is a nice thing to do on occasion but not needed. Selfishness is make-it or break-it in a marriage! Try it! What you say, do, even think…does it love, encourage, help your spouse or you?

Pillow Talk

How is it that the person you once had so many things in common with seems to be a stranger to you now? How did the person you once found interesting and fascinating seems normal and dull. Did they change? Did you change? Probably, we do change as we go through different life stages but that isn’t the deeper issue. I would encourage you to take an honest look at your communication in your marriage. We fail to see commonalities because we fail to talk deep enough to discover and rediscover our spouse. However those types of conversations usually don’t take place on the way to work, while making dinner or in front of the TV. Those deep conversation require time, no distractions and a level of intimacy.  We must continue to rediscover who we married! We all have dreams and goals and those dreams and goals can and most likely will change over time! Just because you asked the question when you got married doesn’t mean they have the same answer today! We all want to be known! Be intentional about getting to know your spouse, to give time and effort for pillow talk.

Reality Check

I have a car that looks pretty nice on the outside. In fact, it’s only a few years old and has very low mileage! Even on the inside, the interior is in great shape! In many ways, it still looks semi-brand new! But if you were to start-up the car, the first thing you would notice is the odd engine vibration. Then you would see the check engine light on and a few other dashboard notifications telling me that something isn’t quite right. If you put it in gear and pulled out of the drive way you would notice the oil leak stain where the car had been parked. The reality is my car is in pretty bad shape but I’m hesitant to take it in to the shop because A) I’m afraid of what they will tell me and B) how much it’s going to cost me!

We treat our marriage the same way. From the outside, the relationship looks pretty good, maybe even really good compared to some others! But if you were to step inside their home or be a fly on the wall you would see some warning lights that indicate things aren’t as healthy as it would seem. When was the last time you had a reality check in your marriage; a “marriage check-up”?!

1. Reality Check: You go to the doctor for your annual physical, you take your car in for a tune-up and oil change, you do spring cleaning. You do those check ups regularly because if something is wrong you want to be able to catch it early to fix it before it becomes catastrophic or life threatening! Why are we so hesitant to do regular “check ups” in our marriage? Maybe we are afraid of what we might discover? If you don’t know the true state, the reality of your marriage then how do you know what to work on, fix or adjust? And if you don’t know what to work on, fix or adjust the problem will not go away but continue to get worse and worse until it falls apart. Keep in mind, this is not an opportunity to point the finger at your spouse but share how you feel and to ask your spouse how they feel and to see what they see. This requires much grace, love, understanding and humility!

2. The Cost: One you take a reality check of your marriage and you and your spouse have had a loving, honest and candid conversation on the state of your marriage you can begin to take the next steps in growing the health of your marriage…but it will cost you! Are you willing to pay the price, are you willing to sacrifice for the health of your marriage and your spouse? (Remember, selfishness will suck the life out of a marriage). This is a chance to show that your spouse is more important than anything else in your life!

Marriages are work…all relationships require work, time and effort! There is a cost. There is never a point when you can hit the auto-pilot button and coast on through. The result will be a gradual but inevitable slide into spouses becoming roommates. The good news is that it is never too late! Start today! Begin to pursue and rediscover your spouse! Make time and take time to have the conversations you once had. Be honest with yourself and your spouse about the current state of your relationship and approach your spouse with humility and selfless love!

My Marriage This Month: May

Marriage is a relationship and relationships require work and effort. Here are practical ways for you and your spouse to continue to work on and put effort into your marriage throughout the month that relates to what was discussed at the last Adventures in Marriage!

Adventures in Marriage: Getting to Know Your Spouse (Click for a Recap)

Week 1: Personality (May 11-17)

Why are you the way you are? It’s not a question we ask often or ever really have an answer for. The reality is our personalities play a major role in not just who we are but how we go about life and relationships. Gaining insight into your own personality and the personality of your spouse will better help you both understand and communicate with one another. Remember, the goal here is to learn and understand…not try to change your spouse! So this week…take a personality test and share it with your spouse!

Here’s a few recommended assessments:
http://16personalities.com (free assessment)
https://www.discprofile.com ($$)
http://strengths.gallup.com ($$)

Week 2: Love Language (May 18-23)

Are you loving your spouse the way they feel loved or the way you feel loved? We tend to show love in ways we naturally feel loved or want to be loved. Gary Chapman has identified 5 love languages that will change the way you think about showing and receiving love with your spouse! This week, take the love language test and discuss with your spouse. Then work on loving your spouse in their love language!

Take the Test: http://www.5lovelanguages.com

Week 3: Replenishment Cycle (May 25-31)

You are constantly pouring into others and being drained by some. Relationships and life take so much from us it is vital that we find ways to get refilled or replenished! If you do not maintain your replenishment cycle you will be running on fumes and will not be able to love and give to those you care most about. It is important to not just know your own replenishment cycle but also for you to know your spouse’s to help them stay healthy and refueled. This week, fill out your replenishment cycle and share it with your spouse!

Click Here for Replenishment Cycle Chart

Week 4: Future Dreams & Goals (June 1-7)

Take time to get out of the every day, normal conversation and dream together! This week share what the ideal would look like in each of the following relationships in the next 5 years. You can also share what you would like to see, do, accomplish, etc..in 1, 5, 10, 20 years

God, Self, Marriage, Family, Friends, Work, Church, Finances, Society/Community, Enemies

 

From Adventures in Marriage, May 8th

7 Things You Should Know About Yourself and Your Spouse

1. Personality

Knowing your personality and your spouse’s personality gives you the “oh, that’s why are you the way you are”.

Some great personality assessments are the DISC and StrengthFinders (both cost $$). A good free personality assessment is online at: http://16personalities.com

2. Love Language

Gary Chapman has identified five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, Physical Touch. Once you discover your top two love languages you will understand what makes you feel loved and how you naturally show love to others. Knowing your spouse’s love language will allow you to discover how he/she FEELS loved!

Read more and discover your love language online at: http://www.5lovelanguages.com

3. Replenishment Cycle

We have multiple relationships that require us to give and pour out. We give to our jobs, coworkers, friends, kids, family, neighbors and of course our spouse. But what happens when you give and give and give…and are left with nothing left to give? We cannot have healthy relationships if we are running on empty, personally speaking. It is vital to your marriage that you as an individual remain healthy and “full”. Knowing your replenishment cycle will allow you to continually be filled up which then allows you to continue to pour into others. Knowing your spouse’s replenishment cycle will allow you to identify why she comes home moody, or he is irritable…it’s probably because something(s) are missing in their replenishment cycle. For more on the replenishment cycle click here

4. Family of Origin

If you were involved in pre-marital counseling, this probably came up. If you haven’t had these conversations…what better time to start that now!? If you have had this discussion it can still be valuable to revisit. First understand that the past does not define you but it does influence you. We are all products of our past…for better or worse. Whether you had a great or terrible childhood…both have influence on who you are today. It is important that you are aware of those influences as well as your spouse. We carry a lot of baggage into our marriage, many times unaware and unintentionally. So take the time to share and discuss your Family of Origin. Here are some links that will help you start the conversation:
http://www.foryourmarriage.org/family-of-origin-exercise/
http://timwoodroof.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Family-of-Origin.pdf

5. Expectations

We all have expectations. The question isn’t IF we have expectations but rather have we expressed and vocalized our expectations. Most conflict in marriages can be traced back to a lack of communicating expectations and misalignment of expectations. Make it a point to share your expectations and ask your spouse about their expectations. This gives the opportunity to align your expectations which keeps everyone on the same page.

6. Personal Systems

A system is a set of multiple components making up a whole. A personal system is the “how” we each do things. We have systems for just about everything from how you get ready in the morning, how you make decisions to how you deal with stress. Most of our systems are so ingrained and natural that we tend to not even notice. When you know your own systems and the systems of your spouse you will be better work together and communicate. This also gives an opportunity for your spouse to help you adjust or even change any unhealthy systems. This becomes even more important in parenting. Every system you have will be observed and adopted by your kids.

7. Future Dreams & Goals

When was the last time you and your spouse dreamed together? Remember when you were dating…you would sit and talk for hours about what your life would look like, where you would visit, what you would be doing. But as life goes on our conversations get cluttered with the everyday. Even if we don’t talk about our future dreams and goals…that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. When you ask your spouse about their future dreams and goals you are pursuing their soul. This takes you beyond the typical end of the day conversation. A great exercise for you and your spouse to do together is to answer the following question:
“What would the ideal look like 5 years from now in each of the following relationships”:
God, Self, Marriage, Family, Friends, Work, Church, Finances, Community/Society, Enemies

From Adventures in Marriage, May 8th