Throughout Gen 1 we are told numerous times that when God saw what He had just created it was good! In fact, when God surveyed all that He had created in Genesis 1:31, He said it was very good. The only aspect of creation that was not good was for man to be alone. The only aspect of creation that was not good was man’s aloneness. Man was designed for relationship and closeness with his wife.
The same is true today. It is not good for either spouse to be alone. When couples allow distance to creep into their relationship and the pain of loneliness gains a foothold, it is not long before one or both of the spouses slip into destructive behaviors to try and soothe the pain. Before a couple knows it, the cycle of hurt, anger, attack and withdrawal leads to a cold distance between them. Sometimes this distance can last for days, sometimes weeks, months or even years. Marital distance and disconnection is a killer. God said it in Genesis and He is still saying it today.. “It is not good for Man(or woman) to be alone.”
1. Fight for connection
We have to fight for connection. The enemy has come to kill, steal and destroy. He wants to destroy our marriages. There is a battle raging and the enemy of our souls is going after our marriages. We need to put on the full armor of God and stand firm against his schemes. Don’t take distance in your relationship with your spouse lightly. A little distance today can grow into an almost insurmountable chasm in a short time if it is left unattended and unresolved.
2. Initiate connection:
When there is distance between you and your spouse, you have to take the initiative close the gap. Whether you are the one feeling distant or the one sensing distance from your spouse. After the fall, Adam and Eve hid from God. Did God wait for them to come back to Him? No, He went looking for them. He called out to them, “Where are you?” We have to do the same when our spouse is hiding and distancing from us.
Not long ago, my wife woke up in an unusually quiet and withdrawn mood. In the past, when I picked up disturbances like this on my faulty, out dated man radar, I would skip the shower, dress in yesterdays clothes and sneak out the back door as fast as I could. Opening a jar of female emotions never seemed to go right. I usually ended up with “my fault” spilled all over me.
But I decided to do something different this morning. I knew my wife had gone through an extremely emotional situation the day before, so I walked up to her and used the same exact words as God used in Genesis and said to her, “ Where are you this morning?” Wow! Unbelievable. You should have seen her reaction. She melted right before my eyes. She softened up, smiled and leaned into me. After about 10 minutes of pouring out her heart, she went away a different woman. She even came home that night and told me how much that interaction meant to her. Take the initiative. Don’t wait for your spouse.
3. Respond to connection
One of you is probably better at connecting than the other. That is true for most marriages. It is usually the one who tends to withdraw who needs to work on this aspect of connection. Be attentive. When your spouse comes to you and makes an attempt to bridge the gap, turn toward them, drop the paper, turn off the computer, give eye contact and engage. Nothing is more discouraging than a bid for connection that is rejected or ignored.
4. Be vulnerable
Vulnerability is the key to connection. Nothing draws a couple together like the freedom to be vulnerable. In the garden, before the fall, Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed.” They were completely vulnerable and naked before one another and felt no shame. Our hearts long to be in that kind of relationship with our spouse. We long to be known in a deep and meaningful way.
Being vulnerable ourselves and allowing our spouse the freedom to be vulnerable in return, creates an environment of closeness. As I share my hurts, needs, wants, fears and uncertainties with my spouse, she feels closer to me and I feel closer to her. If I drop my defensiveness and stop judging and criticizing, my spouse will open up and let me in. We feel closest to those we can bear our soul to without the fear of being judged or condemned. Create an atmosphere in your home of grace and acceptance and watch the connection grow.
Loneliness in marriage is very painful. Closeness does not just happen. It takes time and effort. Start today. Take a hard look at your marriage and ask God to show you what you can do to close the gap between you and your spouse. Small steps today will pay big dividends in the future.
Terri Haley, MFT