When I talk with engaged couples or couples that have only been married for a few years I hear a common desire. They want to be comfortable with their spouse. They describe an environment where they can be relaxed and not have to worry about every little thing that they say and do. I’ve heard it said, “My spouse should be the one person that I don’t have to put on an act around. I can be completely myself around them without any worries.” There’s a lot of truth in that.
Contrast that with couples that I speak with that have children and have been married for several years. In these cases I hear a very different theme. Often times with the pressures of life and raising kids they begin to complain about their relationships. “It’s as if we’ve become roommates, living independently in the same house and occasionally crossing paths.” They’ve become so comfortable in their lifestyles and routines that they’ve begun to take each other for granted.
The problem with comfort is that it tends to be very “self-focused”. My comfort is about how I personally feel. When this becomes our focus, we tend to shift our attention and our efforts away from our spouse and place them primarily on ourselves. Once each partner makes this shift, they begin to drift apart without realizing it. Over time, they reach the roommate scenario described above. While we want to be comfortable around our spouse, it’s important to realize that it is a fine line between comfort and complacency. Complacency is a state where neither partner is concerned enough about the relationship to intentionally change anything. “Things are okay, they could be worse I guess…”
The other day I met with a couple that was older when they married. I asked them to give some words that described their ideal marital state. The husband surprised me when he listed the word “confident”. I asked him to unpack that for me and he did. “I want to know that I am in a committed relationship for the long-run and that my wife feels the same way. I don’t want to worry about doing or saying something inadvertently that can do undue harm to our marriage.”
I thought about that for a moment and it occurred to me that having this confidence is very comforting. Contrast this with being personally comfortable and you can see that investing in the relationship over time will serve to increase confidence as he described. I’m going to use his word moving forward and encourage couples to seek confidence over comfort.