You know that adage “You never miss what you never had”? Even within the context of relationships, that’s true. If you’ve never had a good relationship, you don’t know what to look for, and when you’re treated poorly, you don’t realize it. Because you don’t know what you’re missing, you have no context to include, or protect, the elements that make a marriage great.
Think about this: You wouldn’t say that swimming in a kiddie pool was real swimming. But, if that’s all you’d ever known, when you heard people talking about swimming, that’s what you’d picture. You would have no concept of what the deep-end was like. Or the ocean. But, you’d call yourself a swimmer. You get wet. You enjoy it. You splash around and have fun. When you got tired of it, you’d stand up and step out. That’s a little like calling “chemistry” the same thing as “emotional connection.”
If you are like many of the couples I counsel, you may find yourself confused about how to regain that sense of “rightness” about your relationship with your spouse. You remember those days — early on in your relationship when you couldn’t stop thinking about her, couldn’t imagine not being with him, and everything felt so deep and so right. Now you’re at a place where you can’t begin to understand this person standing next to you, you can’t figure out why there is so much disconnection, and it’s difficult to feel any attraction. And for the most part, you don’t have much hope that any connection can be rebuilt.
However, the hope comes in knowing that what you had in “those days” wasn’t real connection, no matter how deep it felt! That implies that with a little know-how, you could totally turn this marriage into something different and better than you’ve ever had. It also implies that you have a clean slate in front of you, because you’ve never really experienced deep connection before, so you have nothing to compare it to. When you don’t have preconceived expectations clouding your perception, you are able to recognize the extra strokes and breathing techniques you’ll have to learn in order to swim in the deep end of marriage.
The real point is that if you keep trying to fit “emotional connection” into the paradigm of “chemistry,” you will never see how to change your approach. And every time your “chemistry” fades in a relationship, you’ll keep jumping out of the kiddie pool, never experiencing that thrill of diving into the deep end.
If you are looking for practical ideas on how to dive in, here are some suggestions to make love a choice and to actively participate in building deeper emotional connection:
• Start in your own head. Make the choice to protect, pursue, and honor your spouse. This also means taking captive every thought and reframing them to honor God.
• Eliminate destructive behavior and habits. It doesn’t matter what those habits or behavior are, if they are bringing destruction to your connection, get rid of them.
• Identify your values. Let what is important to them become important to you, even if you don’t understand why.
• Establish a date night. Schedule time to talk about the things that matter (and make a rule not to talk about work-related stuff on your date!)
• Be real/authentic. If you don’t offer a real you to relate to, you won’t have real connection. Vulnerability is what leads to connection.
• Act out love as defined by Scripture! The self-sacrifice inherent in loving like Christ loved is the biggest key to opening the door for real, deep emotional connection.
You might feel completely overwhelmed and hopeless about bringing connection into your marriage. If that’s the case, just start with one thing and go from there. As you step toward honoring God in your marriage, He helps you to see more clearly and can give you the courage to take the next step. If you would like knowledgeable help, any one of our counselors would love to come alongside you to navigate the steps together. For more information, contact us here, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 206.219.0145.