I have found myself in times of feeling apathetic in my marriage. I mean, after many years, we can move from being proactive to being downright lazy. After all, sustaining a healthy, connected marriage is hard work. But, without constant attention, the easier it is to fall into apathy.
Apathy is damaging. Left unchecked, it is usually the start of the total disintegration of the marriage. It’s relational cancer.
Leo Buscaglia, also known as “Dr. Love,” was an American author, motivational speaker, and professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Southern California. This is what he had to say about apathy: “I have a strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate – it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn.”
Apathy is indifference-an I don’t care attitude. And if we are indifferent in our marriage and don’t care anymore, what hope is there? None.
Signs of Apathy
- There is a lack of physical intimacy and affection in the marriage. Intimacy in a healthy relationship is both emotional and physical.
- Any kind of dating and romance no longer exists. You don’t take the time, or time out together is perfunctory. Think of the couple you see at a restaurant looking at anything but each other or looking at their phones instead of engaging in open dialogue. They stare down at their food eating and, when they are done, get the check and head home.
- You are doing your own thing. Yes, we all need our space and our own interests, but it is a sign if that never includes your spouse. Healthy couples are those that engage in their own interests and have common interests they engage in together.
- You no longer spend any time in deep conversation sharing yourself or opening yourself to your partner’s world. Dinner is eaten in silence, the tv goes on, or the book opens, and one or both of you check out.
Apathy should frighten us.
If you or your spouse or even both of you find yourself in a state of apathy, you must turn it around. You know apathy usually starts small. We start letting the little things slide. It comes in degrees as it progresses until the gulf seems insurmountable, but it doesn’t mean it is hopeless. It is never too late to turn back to caring for your relationship.
Steps to Connection
Step 1: Own your part. It is much easier to blame our spouse for our apathy than to accept the fact that we too have gotten into a place of indifference by giving up, by accepting the status quo, and resigning ourselves to just getting by because it seems like the easier way. I wouldn’t be so apathetic if they weren’t. That attitude will not bridge the gap.
Step 2: Realize and accept the fact that if the apathy in your marriage continues, your marriage will probably not make it, or if you choose to stay anyway, both you and your spouse will be living separate lives of total disconnection. I don’t know anyone who wants to live like that.
Step 3: Address the issue. Have the conversation. Don’t wait for your spouse to notice and bring it up. Once you become aware of it, be vulnerable enough to talk about it. Someone must get the ball rolling. Be open and curious. Listen without judgment to how your spouse sees the relationship. Ask questions for clarity. Share your feelings. Talk about how you have gotten where you are.
Step 4: Set time aside each week to do something together. Get to know each other again. Ask questions like, What are you finding is the most challenging part of your life right now? What’s something you haven’t done you’d like to do? What is the greatest fear you have for the next phase of your life? Ask about the details of your spouse’s daily life. Listen carefully. Talk about the relationship and where you are. What can we do to feel more connected to each other? What kinds of things can we do to have more fun? Talk about what you need from each other. Even do things together you may not have before. Go to the grocery store together or the hardware store—just tag along with each other more. You don’t have to have a big event to connect regularly. Even setting Saturday or Sunday mornings aside for coffee and connection is a great way to start.
Step 5: Get back to sharing affection daily. A simple kiss goodbye, making eye contact, and telling them to have a great day. A genuine hug when you meet at the end of the workday. If you are watching TV together, sit closer. Discuss the show. If your spouse has had a tough day, a simple rub on the back with, I know that must be hard, is warm affection.
Step 6: Get back to romance—a simple sweet post-it note on their mirror. I text during the day saying you are looking forward to seeing them when they get home. Or even a flirty text. When you tell your spouse you love them, look straight into their eyes. Take a walk and hold hands. Break up the monotony of sex by numbers by mixing it up a bit. Take turns giving each other massages. Make out like teenagers, but don’t have sex. Just build up the anticipation for the future. Do things out of order or something you haven’t done before. Talk about spicing it up a bit.
And finally, if you can’t do it alone, get help. Sometimes we need a seasoned professional to help guide us in the process of getting the marriage that not only stands the test of time but enriches your life. This is something I help couples do in my Midlife Marriage Break-through Program. It is a 6-month intensive program designed for midlife couples who find themselves crossroads in their marriage. If you want to know more about my program, you can go to my website at http://www.reviveyourmidlifemarriage.com on the work with Deanna page https://reviveyourmidlifemarriage.com/work-with-deanna/ and you’ll find a questionnaire to get started. We will have a 1-hour discovery session to assess where you are, where you desire to be, and how I can help you get there.
That’s all for today. Make sure to consider if your marriage is showing any warning signs of apathy, and start turning back by prioritizing the health of your marriage and doing the necessary work.