Why do marriages fail? There are perhaps many answers, but one reason stands out as a major cause of marital difficulties. Many couples are not even aware of this threat to the marriage relationship until they are in real difficulty. Indifference is the enemy we have in mind. Think back to the beginning of your own marriage. Your probably did almost everything together. Unfortunately, in many instances this doesn't continue, but instead, something else begins to happen. Something that is not good, but is so subtle that it is difficult to put a finger on it. Each partner becomes involved in his own work, club activities, and other worthwhile causes. You begin to spend more and more time apart. You are simply too busy to talk together and to be together. After a while you find that it doesn't even bother you to be apart so often. Complete indifference now characterizes a once vital and growing relationship. Obviously this is not what God had in mind when He said: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife" (Genesis 2:24). The word "cleave" suggest a close, intimate, cultivated relationship.
When flowers are not watered, they die. The same is true of marriages. When husbands and wives become indifferent - when they become dull to each other's minds, spirits and bodies - the marriage is deprived of life-giving water. As a result, it withers. However, husbands and wives do not have to succumb to the devastating effects of indifference. A few simple principles can be applied to prevent indifference from growing to dangerous proportions. Simply being aware of the possibility of indifference is the first step in combating it. Know some of the danger signs, such as becoming too busy to spend time together, communicating less frequently, and having separate goals and activities.
A second step is to work together toward common goals. What happens when family members stop working together toward common goals? Husbands and wives begin to go their separate ways. Each becomes self-centered and concerned only with his or her individual interests. When a common objective is pursued with one's partner, there will be interaction. You must look at each other. You must spend time together. You will grow together instead of apart. Thirdly, create more joy experiences. Have you lost the art of enjoying life? Many of us apparently have, since thousands of couples allow their marriages to get in a dull rut. This is unfortunate because there is great potential for the marriage relationship to be one of the most joyful experiences in life. How can you make joy happen in your marriage? One way that joy and vitality can be added to your marriage is so simple, yet so seldom practiced. Sit down with your spouse and list the things you must enjoy doing in life. Then ask yourselves how often you actually do these things. Make an effort to increase these fun things in your life. You will find as you seek for different ways to make each other happy that you will add to the beauty of your marriage and to the pleasure of your life. Another way to strengthen your marriage is to renew it. Sit down together and decide what you do and do not like about your marriage. Make a list of the behaviors you would like to change and those you would like to increase. Agree to eliminate those things that are causing dissatisfaction or distance in your marriage. Put more emphasis on the positive aspects of your relationship by participating more often in activities and behaviors which make each other happy. The result may amaze you.
One of the quickest ways that you can improve your marriage relationship is by getting genuinely interested in your spouse. Show a keen interest in your partners work. Encourage each other to talk about situations that are of great concern to you. Ask questions which will let your partner know you are interested in his or her activities. Above all, be an attentive, interested listener. There is no better way to fill a person's need for respect than by being a good listener. You will discover the truth of the Roman poet, Syrus, who said, "We are interested in others when they are interested in us". Last, avoid extreme fragmentation. Our world today is complex. It is fast paced and we are pressured to become involved in many different activities. Occupational, community, and social demands pull us in several different directions at the same time. The result is that we feel pressured. We become terribly busy, too busy to say hello to our neighbor, too busy to spend much time with our marriage partner, and too busy to say, "I love you". The Bible says: "Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband". This is I Corinthians 7:3. It is from the New American Standard Version.
Now the apostle was discussing the sexual relationship in this context; yet what is true of this intimate act is equally applicable to all of our needs. When you get so busy you are not enjoying each other, so occupied that you are constantly fatigued and irritable, and so involved that you rarely see each other, there is no way your marriage can be the type of relationship God intended it to be. No relationship in life has more potential for bringing happiness than that between husband and wife. Surely then it would be beneficial to take steps to prevent our marriage from deteriorating into indifference. By practicing the principles already mentioned it is quite likely that your marriage will once again become the vital, growing, and very happy relationship it was intended to be.